, ,

Property owners look to cash in during the RNC in Milwaukee

Luxury homes are going as high as $7K a night during the week of the Republican National Convention

Milwaukee resident Jackie Berndt is renting out an Airbnb during the week of the RNC in Milwaukee. Evan Casey/WPR

Katelin and Mitchell Odom live in River Hills, a small village about 15 minutes outside of downtown Milwaukee. 

During the week of the Republican National Convention this summer, they plan to get out of the city and visit family in Michigan. Because they’ll be away, they’re looking to rent out their five-bedroom home for a group to use during the event. 

“This would be a way where instead of just having our house stand still, we might be able to put it to some use, give people a place to stay,” Mitchell said. 

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Through Powers Realty Group, the couple is listing their home as an “Executive RNC Rental.”

The price tag for a one week stay at their place during the event? $49,000. 

“We thought, why not give it a try and see if anyone would be interested in staying?” Katelin said, adding that the “cash flow” is also enticing to them.

Katelin and Mitchell Odom stand outside of their River Hills home, which they’re renting out during the week of the RNC in Milwaukee. Photo courtesy Katelin Mitchell

The Odom’s are just two of many people in the Milwaukee area looking to cash in during the week of the RNC by renting out their home or living space.

The Republican National Convention, which will take place July 15-18, is expected to draw 50,000 visitors to the city. Hotels from Janesville to Sheboygan to Madison will likely be booked solid.

Local realtor websites and rental companies are listing short-term rentals for as high as $50,000 during the week of the convention. Hosts on Airbnb and Vrbo are listing their properties for hundreds or even thousands of dollars a night. Some local colleges and universities are even hosting visitors in their dormitories.

The RNC is expected to have a $200 million economic impact. A spokesperson for Airbnb said “high-demand, peak travel times,” like the RNC, “will result in significant income for Hosts and the local community.” 

The RNC’s Committee on Arrangements finalized a list of 111 official convention hotels for delegations and other visitors, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. The event will also bring media, law enforcement and volunteers to Milwaukee and the surrounding area. 

Powers Realty Group has 18 properties listed on its “Executive RNC Rental” webpage. Some properties are in Milwaukee, but many are in the surrounding area, like Shorewood, Bayside, Wauwatosa and Germantown. The prices range from $3,500 for an apartment in Milwaukee to $49,000 for a four-bedroom Bayside home during the week of July 14-21. 

Katie Knighton, a sales executive for Powers Realty Group, said some homeowners reached out to them directly about listing their home as a rental. 

“It’s just a way for some of them (property owners) to make extra income,” Knighton said. “They’re very excited for people that are coming here. Everyone is just really hoping that this positively affects the city of Milwaukee — and it isn’t just Milwaukee, it is other communities as well.” 

Three homes turned into rental units are side-by-side on a sunny fall day. A tall business building is in the background.
The sun shines on residential buildings Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Angela Major/WPR

Suzanne Powers, CEO of Powers Realty Group, said they first announced they were selling homes for the RNC on their podcast.

“Then the phones started to ring with lots of past clients and lots of new clients who wanted to rent out their luxury home during this important time for Milwaukee,” Powers said.

Powers said the RNC rental webpage has been getting thousands of views every day. She said none of the properties listed have been rented yet, but she expects them to start going in May.

On Airbnb, there are still over 900 rentals available during the week of July 14-19, according to the search function on the app — with prices ranging from $50 to over $2,400 a night.

In Cleveland, where the 2016 Republican National Convention was held, the average asking price for a rental was as high as $1,200 per night. The week after the event, prices dropped as low as $81 per night.

Jackie Berndt operates a one-bedroom Airbnb in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. A one-week stay at her unit during the week of the convention currently costs over $300 a night. Berndt is newer to hosting on Airbnb and said she set that price not just because of the convention, but also because of other summer events in Milwaukee, including festivals and Summerfest. 

Renting across the political aisle

However, Milwaukee is a Democratic stronghold and many residents may not see eye-to-eye with the politics of the people they’ll be renting to. Berndt said regardless of political preferences, she wants everyone to feel at home when visiting the city. 

“I wouldn’t ever close my doors to business, because I can’t afford to, honestly,” Berndt said. “I would just really like to show people that we are a hardworking, working class community and we’re good people.”  

The Odom’s described themselves as “very liberal.” They’re planning to donate some of the money they make from the rental to local charities. 

“Though we may disagree with many, or most, or sometimes all things said on one side of the aisle, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t work or try and collaborate in some ways,” Mitchell said. 

The Fiserv Forum has signage for the debate on the walls.
Reporters are set up outside of the Fiserv Forum before the Republican presidential primary debate Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Dave Longwell is the CEO of Chicago-based Rent Like a Champion, which rents out homes and living spaces for major events. This year, that includes the RNC.  There are currently nine properties listed on the website for the RNC, many for around $1,000 a night.

“These are high-end renters, especially with the pricing for an event like this, you’re not getting a party house, you’re getting professionals that are coming into town,” Longwell said.

Longwell said prices are so high because of demand. Those listing their property with them can chose their own price, but Longwell said location and the number of rooms are the biggest determination for price. 

“It will be an expensive event, that’s why this is going to be a big moneymaker for locals for this week because … good luck finding hotel inventory as we get closer to the event,” he said.

Charles Bailey is the owner of Kinn Guesthouse MKE, a luxury hotel with locations in Bay View and downtown Milwaukee. 

“Prices are certainly higher than they would be in other weeks,” Bailey said. “There’s still a fair amount of interest out there.”

Bailey said he’s trying to rent out the entire property — that’s eight rooms in Bay View and 31 rooms at the downtown Milwaukee location. 

“We’re looking for someone to come in and take the entire property out,” he said.

Marquette University
Marquette University (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Some Milwaukee area colleges are also hosting visitors, including Marquette University, which is using residence hall space to host people during the week of the event. Lynn Griffith, a spokesperson for the university,  said most of those rooms will be used by law enforcement and media organizations. 

“At this point, our residence halls are at capacity for the convention,” Griffith said in an email.