In FengSway, HearSway

What if you could make money for being out of town? That’s what several Moore County residents have done or are trying to do by renting out their homes to tourists or workers during the week of the U.S. Open. After all, according to the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB, the event is expected to generate about $200 million for the 26-county region — and lots of people are wondering how they can get a piece. But before you rush to list your home online, cowgirl, you should know this ain’t a get-rich-quick type of rodeo. 

Questions around becoming a temporary landlord have been circulating on social media for months. In March, we asked what you guys were doing — and more than a dozen Swayscribers responded. Many of you have property listed or rented for the championship, while others don’t know where to start. Some of your HOAs did not pass the vibe check.

We talked to some of you, along with some rental companies. Here’s the intel we gathered:

‘The Market is Saturated’

Long-time realtor Charlotte Hagan has been working with the USGA since the U.S Open in 1999. That’s when renting private homes first became popular, because the area had far fewer hotels.

If you want to get into the game, Charlotte says you’re a few months late, especially if you were looking for a hefty pay out. “The big corporations book a year out … I’m turning down five calls a day from people wanting to put their homes on the market.” Charlotte has 200 properties in her inventory with about half booked so far.

Mercedes Palmer is working with Charlotte to rent her mother’s home in Pin Oak Court, Pinehurst, which is being renovated in time for the championship. “It’s the best of both worlds — word of mouth and someone who knows exactly how it works,” says Mercedes, who has a real estate license. She adds that working with a professional is easier because they can handle logistics like HOA regulations, contracts, fees and other details to plan for, like pets or multiple cars.

Working with a trusted real estate agency was Mary Bennett Doty’s first choice. She and her husband purchased a downtown Southern Pines townhome about a year ago with the goal of fixing it up in time for the U.S. Open, but rental property companies told her they were no longer looking for homes outside of Pinehurst. Mary, who comes from a “small town golf community,” says she’s relying on word of mouth to get their place booked.

Lisa Hecht was told by several rental companies that her home on Longleaf’s Magnolia Circle in Southern Pines, just five minutes from Pinehurst, was prime real estate. Last June, she started making plans with guidance from friends with years of experience renting property in the area. She called as many rental companies as she could, but many told her they already had enough inventory. Others put her on a waiting list.

Debbie Putz, a broker and property manager at Village of Pinehurst Rentals, says that checks out. Her company started previewing homes in February 2023 and stopped that June. All of their condos in Pinehurst and Southern Pines have been booked for some time. “The housing market for the U.S. Open is saturated,” she says. “It’s a different game than 2014.”

‘It’s Not as Glamorous as It Seems’

Property manager and home renovator Ashley Powell started May Street Retreats, a collection of short and long term rentals in the Sandhills, in 2020. She listed three properties for the U.S. Open last November and booked them all, two in Southern Pines and one in Sanford, by the first week of January.

Ashley Powell, owner of May Street Retreats and one of her Southern Pines properties.

Although there is money to be made, Ashley says renting your personal home isn’t “as glamorous as it seems.” Although she encourages anyone interested in property management to go for it, she also emphasized some serious forethought and planning ahead of a golf championship, and at least a year for an event like the Open. Ashley also wants people to be aware of the risk they’re taking on: home insurance may not cover all damage done to the property and Airbnb may only cover a fraction of it.

Plus, she adds, there are little details that add up, like the time it takes to check local housing regulations and the cost of a hotel while your home is occupied. Oh, and don’t forget to book cleaners in advance. Ashley says her decision to go into hospitality was easy after years of renovating old homes. “I loved highlighting all the quirky and unique things about older homes and really wanted to find a way to share these amazing spaces with everyone” and that it “brings in business for all of our locally owned companies.”

As for prepping the home for guests, all of the residents we spoke to plan on taking down the few family pictures they have, rounding up personal items and locking them away in storage on their property.

Your Tenants Could Back Out

While Lisa waited to hear back from a property manager, another friend (we love a social butterfly) helped put her home on Airbnb around July or August 2023. She finally did get a call back from a company in September 2023, but decided to stick with Airbnb to avoid the company’s required $500 nonrefundable onboarding fee to cover marketing and promotion of her home. Two months later, her place was booked on Airbnb by a party of four for 10 days.

Lisa Hecht stands in the master bedroom of her house, which she’s attempting to rent out for the first time the week of the U.S. Open. She had tenants lined up, but that fell through.

Her tenants backed out in April. But she’ll be sunbathing in Italy no matter what since she already had the vacation booked.

Lisa has had interest for three-night stays, although she has a five-night minimum. Since she took the property pictures and wrote the listing herself, her only real cost would be renting extra furniture to accommodate guests, like a pair of twin beds to put in her office which her initial renters requested.

Lisa says she could’ve been greedy with her asking price, but just needed enough money for a new roof and to renovate her master bathroom. She says she’ll probably also splurge on more spa days. “Maybe get a lip lift,” she laughs. She hopes to lock in a renter soon.

Debbie emphasizes that prices should be reasonable, something that first-time renters often misunderstand. “It’s easy to take the money…(but) there’s a responsibility to the tenant.”

There is a (Small) Chance for Last-Minute Success

Charlotte says the week after the Masters (aka now) is a particularly busy period in the rental game because players are qualifying for the U.S. Open. In fact, Charlotte says some players may not know if they made it until about 10 to 7 days before the championship. Things can get a little hectic but Charlotte says it’s a lot of fun and has enjoyed renting to the USGA for two decades now. Pro-tip: the more bathrooms you have in your home the better. Charlotte says big groups prefer suite-style properties. Ashley adds that if your property is outside of Pinehurst, you should consider lowering the price to attract ticket holders and people who just want to be in town for the vibes.

Just outside golf country, Kristen Johnson’s modern country home on 10 acres in Carthage is still on the market. It’s about 15 minutes from downtown Southern Pines. She says she got the idea a year ago after a conversation with her hairdresser and later lowered the asking price because of the location. “It’s a good time to get out of town. Maybe go to the beach as a family and fund the vacation.” Her property has been listed on Airbnb since January.

Once you’ve put the puzzle pieces together, Ashley says the key is to give renters a high quality experience. With so many homes on the market these days, renters can afford to be picky about the type of property and amenities. “They’ve already paid so much money, people are looking for the full experience.” That might even mean a fresh mattress or at least mattress covers (and not just so guests aren’t using your personal items). Ashley also suggests adding a thoughtful touch. Her Women’s Open guests were greeted with a mimosa kit. This summer, her U.S. Open renters will be treated to a six-pack of Southern Pines Brewing selections.

Kristen Johnson’s three bedroom modern farmhouse in Carthage listed on Airbnb.

CVB President Phil Werz says 250,000 people are expected for the week of the U.S. Open. That’s a lot of Peter Millar. The event will generate an estimated $22 million more than in 2014, numbers crunched by a North Carolina consulting firm who will hand in an economic impact report to the CVB this year too.

As you can probably guess, exposure from the U.S. Open will probably help grow the area even more. Now that Pinehurst Resort has been named an anchor site for the U.S. Open, you’ll get a chance to rent out your home to tourists at least once every four years. If that appeals to you, you better get started now.

Did we miss something? Are you planning on renting your home out for future U.S. Opens? Reply to hello@itsthesway.com and let us know.

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