When it comes to the Super Bowl, the three most important words in real estate apply: location, location, location.
With nine months to go before Super Bowl XLV, a number of North Texas residents have already listed their houses on rental Web sites such as superbstays.com and sportseventrentals.com, with asking prices anywhere from $325 a night to $30,000 a week.
And the shortage of hotel rooms near Cowboys Stadium might help Arlington homeowners benefit the most. Six of the current listings on the sites are in Arlington.
Home rentals are common for major sports events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics, as well as for annual sports events, concerts and even parties. But the Super Bowl represents the first big event-rental opportunity for North Texas.
The game and ancillary events are expected to draw more than a half-million Texans from outside the market area and 147,000 non-Texans, according to an economic development study commissioned by the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee.
"Event renting is very new here, and people are seeing green," said Martha Dent, chairwoman of the Arlington Board of Realtors. "They think it looks easy until they get into it. You can make good money, but you may come back and have to renovate your property because of damage."
Giving the keys to the house to a stranger can be risky business.
Sharon Whittington said she almost rented her southeast Arlington house to a California woman for the NBA All-Star Game weekend but backed out because she had a feeling she might be getting scammed. One red flag was that the woman never called from the same phone number twice, she said.
In retrospect, she said the offer was probably legitimate, but she didn't want to take any chances.
It hasn't discouraged her from trying to rent her four-bedroom house, which is about 41/2 miles from Cowboys Stadium, during Super Bowl week.
Whittington is asking $1,200 a night and $8,000 for the week for her home.
"I'm new to this," she said. "At first I was asking $120 a night, but I did some research and saw what others were asking, so I raised it by a thousand. I don't want to rip anyone off, but I think my price is still pretty low, a bargain."
Paulette Francis, who lives with her three children in a four-bedroom house six miles from the stadium, said her 21-year-old son suggested renting for the Super Bowl, but she had to give it some thought before agreeing to list for $12,000 a week.
"I'm not going to lie: The money is important and will pay a big chunk of my mortgage," Francis said. "But my main reason for renting is to be part of history. It's the first Super Bowl here and something the kids will remember."
She said she has done due diligence and consulted with her insurance company and a friend who is a financial adviser.
"My kids are excited, but at the same time a little leery," Francis said. "We're doing research, and we'll do background checks. We want to make sure we rent to the right people who won't burn our house to the ground."
Protecting the neighborhood
Mayor Robert Cluck said Arlington is concerned about disturbances and worse, such as a renter accidentally setting a house ablaze.
"You don't want problems with the neighbors," he said. "You might rent to a couple, and then they have a hundred people over for a party. But we have to be careful about freedom of choice. I can't tell or suggest what homeowners should do."
Cluck said he would not rent out his house.
"This is not the mayor's opinion, but a personal one -- I wouldn't do it," he said.
"I've been to Green Bay [Wis.], where homes around the stadium are rented for every game, and the risk to homeowners is that when they get their house back, it is frequently in shambles.
"Items are broken or stolen, and the house often needs an extensive cleaning. You can make nice money, but expenses and things not covered by insurance can add up to a lot of money."
Dent recommends that homeowners use real estate professionals, "a company that sets guidelines and boundaries and has a bona fide real estate agreement."
A real estate agent, of course, would get a commission, which would reduce the homeowner's take. She said there is no standard percentage on event rentals.
Todd Brenneman, who founded sportseventrentals.com, suggested that homeowners speak to the prospective renters and meet them if possible.
"I've rented my home a few times and could tell right away if the people interested were the type I wouldn't want in my home," he said.
His Web site launched in November, in time for the Super Bowl in Miami. He charges $99 for a listing.
He said one way to calculate how much a homeowner should charge is to check hotel room rates. And he encouraged homeowners to list their property early.
Among the 30 people who rented their houses on his site for the 2010 Super Bowl, most listed three to four months before the game.
"Since we're new at this, we're still figuring it all out," Brenneman said. "When people list, we give them a follow-up call to get a feel for how they are doing and make sure they don't get scammed."
The possibility for scams has given pause to novices in the renting game.
Donna Williams, whose family lives in a 5,300-square-foot house in Carrollton, about 19 miles from Cowboys Stadium, prefers a corporate renter and is asking $30,000 for Super Bowl week, or $5,000 a night.
"We're cautious and wary about it," she said. "I'm not going to rent to the first person who calls or wants to write a check."
Dickey Shrum has listed his 4,400-square-foot Flower Mound house for $25,000 but concedes, "I'm just flying by the seat of my pants, and I haven't talked my wife into it yet."
The former season-ticket holder at Texas Stadium has, however, won over his 15-year-old daughter.
"I promised her we'd go on a trip to Cabo for a week," he said.
PETE ALFANO, 817-390-7985