Different sources tell different tales about the Super Bowl hotel situation: Bleacher Report in December found "budget" rooms going for $1,000 per night, while Newsday recently found a market flooded with rooms, including a Courtyard Marriott in Chelsea for less than $300 per night.
But fans looking for something outside the traditional accommodation box can still rent a full six-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom house in Rutherford, N.J., complete with a personal chef, maid service, and a wine cellar containing 600 bottles, for $17,000 per night on Super Bowl weekend.
That's just one Super Bowl rental that is still available at VRBO, a popular online vacation rental site where homeowners can rent out rooms or full homes to travelers. According to Homeaway, the parent company of VRBO and other rental sites, the home is among the most expensive accommodations it has available for the Super Bowl. Another option for $16,000 per night has already been booked.
It's by no means representative of the current average Super Bowl rental available from the company – that price is at around $1,568 for places in the New Jersey Gateway Region and $1,740 for rentals in Manhattan, just across the river. Still, those prices are nevertheless greatly boosted by the Super Bowl. In December, before the Super Bowl teams had yet been winnowed down, the average price for accommodations in the area was $890 per night – itself more than three times the usual, non-Super-Bowl cost of $260 per night.
It's not just Homeaway; rental competitor Airbnb likewise has some posh homes up for grabs. One home in Newark is going for $7,625 per night (not including a $915 Airbnb service fee). And Kevin Jonas (of Jonas Brothers fame) has listed his New Jersey home for $20,000 per night. The company declined to provide average prices, but Airbnb does anticipate high demand, expecting bookings to be 50 percent higher in the New York-New Jersey area than they were at the same time last year. However, an Airbnb spokesperson said in an email that some of this growth is attributable to broader company growth, and not just traveler interest in the Super Bowl. Likewise, Homeaway says it has seen a 111 percent increase in traveler inquiries in the area around East Rutherford, N.J.
Greater demand often means higher prices, as anyone learns in Economics 101, but excess supply can keep those price increases in check. Homeaway itself has a larger jump in supply than demand, with a 260 percent boost in listings compared to the same time last year, alongside a 111 percent increase in inquiries.
The fact that lots of homeowners (or just a few) can list their homes anytime they want is something Airbnb calls "flexible inventory," and it means supply can shift dramatically over time.
"Flexible inventory works really well for mega-events, which exceed a city's normal capacity," says Natalie Gerke, a spokesperson representing Airbnb.
Thing is, New York's "normal capacity" is huge, even without VRBO and Airbnb proprietors. There are an estimated 82,000 hotel rooms in Manhattan, according to USA Today, which like Newsday reports plenty of rooms still open. Homes and hotels alike could easily find themselves booked well below capacity.
What it means is that homeowners in New York and New Jersey may not be able to reap quite the windfalls from Super Bowl Sunday that they'd be able to get if they (and the game) were in a smaller city. That also means travelers could benefit from waiting to see if homeowners or hotel owners reduce their prices next weekend.
"Considering that the N.Y./N.J. region has a much larger inventory of hotels than many markets, it is unlikely that vacation rental inventory will be 100 percent booked by kick-off on Sunday," says Adam Annen, spokesman for Homeaway, in an email. "As a result, travelers who are doing some last-minute planning for the game may benefit if owners lower their rental rates as Sunday approaches."
Otherwise, somewhere in Rutherford, a personal chef and a maid might suddenly find themselves with an idle Super Bowl weekend.
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Corrected on Jan 29, 2014:
This article originally used an incorrect title for Natalie Gerke.