Tracy Whitsel figures cleaning out a few drawers and closets is worth what she hopes could be a $25,500 windfall.
Besides, when the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games come to the Kentucky Horse Park in fall 2010, the Georgetown woman not only hopes to lease out her home at a rate of $1,700 a day for some or all of the games' 15 days, she and her family are hoping to escape the crowds.
"We are going on vacation," said Whitsel, who is working with Equestrian Home Leasing in Georgetown.
Whitsel is among hundreds of Central Kentuckians already registered with services who are hoping to connect the games' international crowd with some homey accommodations.
In addition to individual real estate agents who might be brokering deals, several online services offer homes with prices ranging from about $200 a day for a modest one-bedroom to $4,200 a day for a historic Greek Revival with five bedrooms, 2 acres and a pool (heated upon request).
Yes, that says "a day."
Those are the numbers that are getting people excited, maybe a little too excited.
There are roughly 7,300 hotel rooms in the Lexington metropolitan area, according to the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. But organizers are expecting some 500,000 visitors to attend the games, scheduled for Sept. 25 to Oct. 10, 2010.
That appears to leave a lot of visitors in need of a place to stay.
"It's a great opportunity for a lot of folks. Especially in this socioeconomic climate, they are in now to earn some extra income," said Chris Barnett, who formed WEG Home Rentals in Lexington with several partners, none of them real estate agents.
Dana Martin, co-owner of Event Home Leasing, the officially sanctioned leasing agency for the games, said, "We have everything from vets who want to stay in a small, little house in Georgetown to people looking for five bedrooms. It is a very diverse group. We have so many people who are out there shopping."
Furthering the frenzy, those promoting leasing are suggesting that as the games approach, hotel rooms might not be found any closer than Knoxville, 174 miles away.
But those outside the leasing business urge caution.
"I really don't think that is going to be the case," Darlene Free said of anticipation of hotel room shortages. Her company, Short Travel, has been contracted to hook up WEG visitors with housing and entertainment. "I think that is kind of an urban legend floating around out there."
Generally, she said, visitors will first look to hotels before they consider home rental. And when considering that some people will prefer to stay in Louisville or Cincinnati because that is where they are flying into the country, there is enough inventory to accommodate most WEG visitors.
"We are trying to manage expectations," said Amy Walker, a spokeswoman for the games. Though she anticipates that the requests for leasing properties will increase as the games draw closer, the number of people seeking leases has so far not met expectations.
"We don't want every home owner in Lexington thinking they are going to be able to pay off their mortgage" by leasing their home during WEG," she said.
Because WEG is an unprecedented event here and 2010 is the first time the games have come to North America from Europe, Walker said it's difficult to pinpoint the interest more precisely until September, when hotels will begin accepting reservations for fall 2010. (Most hotels don't accept reservations more than a year in advance.)
Chris Barnett, with WEG Home Rentals, said, "This is frankly just new territory for everybody. As far as how much they can get per day, I don't think anybody knows that."
All three of the main groups leading the leasing charge — the officially sanctioned Event Home Leasing and Georgetown-based Equestrian Home Leasing and Lexington-based WEG Home Rentals — require a fee, but they offer various levels of service.
Event Home Leasing ($199 fee) and Equestrian Home Leasing ($125 fee) work out the rental deal and take a commission. WEG Home Rental ($295 fee) does not broker the deal but offers sample contracts and allows the homeowner and visitor to work out the specific details; they take no commission.
Amy Barron, who is operating Equestrian Home Leasing with fellow real estate agent Carrie Slone, said her group is concentrating on Georgetown but will list homes in other areas. She hopes to provide not only living space, but also supply visitors with advice on lifestyle issues such as where to eat or help finding a church.
"We want to take care of people," she said.
So far, about 30 homeowners are posted on Equestrian Home Leasing's site, she said, and 30 more have signed up and are expected to be on the site soon.
Martin, of Event Home Leasing, which has more than 100 homes listed, said she thinks the demand for homes could go into the thousands. Her company has previously leased homes during special events, including the Kentucky Derby, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and the 2008 Ryder Cup in Louisville.
What's being leased
Craig Robertson is confident he will lease his home. He's asking $3,000 a day for his 3,000-square-foot, newly renovated Lexington home via the WEG Home Rental site.
"How I came up with that figure was really based on what other people are doing, not only Chris's Web site," he said. "I just sort of gauged the market value of houses that I felt were similar."
Robertson, a lawyer, said he has already been contacted by a woman from California who is planning to come to Kentucky with seven friends. But he hasn't rented his home yet.
His parents also listed their 10-acre farm in Fayette County. If they both get rented, Robertson said, he plans to find a buddy who will let him crash at his house for a few days.
James Brown, who has listed his North Limestone condo for $1,000 a day, is hoping his rooftop view of downtown Lexington will help draw renters.
A frequent traveler himself, he urges people to be reasonable about what they can get.
"Don't expect to rent something average for an expensive price," said Brown in an e-mail from Costa Rica, where he is vacationing. "The customers are going to be intelligent and experienced world travelers."
Before considering putting a house up for rent, there are also some tangible considerations for homeowners (see box). That includes weighing what effort will have to be made to prepare a home against how much money can be made in the end.
Plus, some families, like Whitsel's, might want to consider leasing their homes and leaving town just to get away from what are expected to be overwhelming crowds.
Said Barnett: "There are a lot of people who may want to leave town when these people hit town."