Masters Week rental agencies optimistic

Rental agencies specializing in Masters Week housing say strong interest three months away from the tournament signifies that the market has recovered from a hard hit taken during the economic recession and slow recovery.

“Last year, I could see it was getting a little better. But this year, I can see it’s back to where we were in 2000,” said Diane Starr, the owner and president of Corporate Quarters Inc. in Martinez.

In the past decade, corporations cautiously watching spending after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and during the economic slump cut back on rental houses for sporting events including the Masters, Starr said. Some corporations never left but rented fewer houses, in some cases two rather than seven.

Not only have Starr’s clients returned, but new renters have been attracted to the 2012 tournament. An increase in demand has driven rental prices up compared with the past four years, she said.

Pamela Palmer signed a contract for $5,300 to rent her three-bedroom home in the Conifer neighborhood in west Augusta. She’s been renting almost 20 years, using Masters Housing Bureau for the past three years.

“When I get home, I honestly can’t tell anybody’s been in my house,” Palmer said.

For Masters Housing Bureau, operated by the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, the rebound has continued, but rental rates have maintained their level, said Sue Parr, the chamber president and CEO.

House listings and rentals are ahead compared to last year, Parr said. Homeowners can list until the end of the month with Masters Housing Bureau.

“This is the hot time. Once that Jan. 1 kicks in, everyone looks at the calendar and says ‘Oh wow, Masters is three months off,’” she said.

In past years, Palmer put the rental money toward her children’s school tuition. Now, it’s extra income for decorating, home improvement projects and travel to escape during Masters Week.

“It’s a great time for me to get out of town, too,” she said. “Our neighborhood pretty much rents and leaves. It fills with renters.”

Jane Fuhrmann, the president of Tournament Housing and Events, said her market grows bigger every year. When the final day of the tournament falls on Easter Sunday, as it does this year, Fuhrmann typically sees rentals decline, but that hasn’t been the case for 2012.

“I would say I’m looking at a very good year,” Fuhrmann said.

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