In 2008, Marcus Thompson built his five-bedroom, five-bath house in the River Island subdivision with corporate Masters renting in mind. The home has three fireplaces, an outdoor living room with a big-screen television and a game room.
“That’s what the big corporations ask for now,” he said. “Everything was thought about how we could entertain guests this week.”
Jane Fuhrmann, the owner of Tournament Housing and Events LLC, said the number of bookings and the rental prices are up this year. With just two weeks until the Masters Tournament begins, she’s on pace for her best year ever.
Fuhrmann said a traditional four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath house that previously rented for $8,000 to $8,500 rented for at least $500 more this year.
Some high-end homes rent for between $25,000 and $35,000, she said.
Thompson, who uses Fuhrmann’s company, earned more than $10,000 this year on his rental. He did not want to disclose the price but said it was higher than last year.
Executive Marketing Services, an Augusta-based hospitality and sports marketing company that sells customized packages for travel, housing and hospitality, rents several hundred homes during Masters Week. The business was up 15 percent compared with last year, spokesman Jay Norton said.
Norton said business has almost fully recovered from the economic recession, which hit hard the corporate golf-outing industry. Now, corporations have more spending flexibility and are again using sports events as a tool for attracting and retaining clients, he said.
“A lot of the companies that backed away for a few years have started to come back again,” Norton said.
For the first time since 2000, the Masters rental business was a homeowner’s market, said Dianne Starr, the president of Corporate Quarters Inc. Homeowners were getting their asking price rather than negotiating with renters.
“We no longer have to say, ‘Will you take the lower offer?’ ” Starr said.
The corporate rental comeback was partially spurred by a new, upscale hospitality venue at Augusta National Golf Club called Berckmans Place, Fuhrmann said. The venue, which offers high-quality food and drinks during the day but not housing, created a new source of renters.
“Large properties rented earlier this year,” she said. “Corporations were looking at coming in for the Masters earlier.”
Starr agreed that more corporate visitors are coming to Augusta with an interest in home rentals because of Berckmans Place.
Also, a strong year was due in part to Masters Sunday falling after Easter Sunday, which Fuhrmann said has traditionally meant more visitors come to town. The tournament will be April 8-14.
Fuhrmann said rental income is spent on mortgages, taxes and home renovations.
“Almost every single person puts the majority of that money back into their home,” she said. “Each year the home improves.”
Thompson has used the money for home improvements, such as painting, decorating and heart-pine flooring.
“It provides my family with a nice additional income that we use to take a nice vacation that week,” he said.
Masters Housing Bureau, a division of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, also saw a significant rental market increase this year.
Sue Parr, the president and CEO of the chamber, said there was new interest from Masters Week visitors getting tickets for the first time.
“I expect at the end of the day we will see a 25 to 30 percent increase in the number of bookings,” Parr said.
David Burton, a client of Corporate Quarters Inc., rented his 7,000-square foot home on Walton Way plus a cottage behind the house and an additional four-bedroom rental property next door. In 2001, he renovated the large house so it can be used as the host home for entertaining and dining.
“I have lots of bathrooms and the kind of large kitchen a caterer needs,” he said.
Two months before Masters, Burton begins organizing linens and sprucing up landscaping. The rental income, which he did not disclose, helps pay for taxes, utilities, yard services and general maintenance throughout the year.