By Amy Tennery
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Augusta National, with its climate-defying azalea blooms and meticulous greens, offers plenty of attraction for visitors eager to catch a glimpse of the world’s greatest golfers at The Masters.
For local residents whose daily commute can often triple in length during the tournament, it offers plenty of reason to leave.
“I’ve been saying since we’ve moved here: We’ve got to get out of town; this is insane,” said Jessica Buffkin, an administrative assistant who lives six miles from Augusta National.
Buffkin is like hundreds of area homeowners who decide to skip town during the event and rent to tourists, as Augusta’s hotels bulge to accommodate the area’s temporary population boom.
Her three-bedroom house “got snatched up quickly,” securing a $650-a-night rental tenant by January on home rental site Airbnb.
Patrick Patterson — an Augusta native who’s quick to note that he enjoys the tournament — bought a property a third of a mile from the course to capitalise on the rental opportunities.
“It’s just a good investment,” said Patterson, a member of the military whose three-bedroom house he listed for $1,000 a night. “It’s really a supply and demand issue.”
Unlike other golf majors, or sports mega-events like the Super Bowl, which rotate between host cities and towns, The Masters calls Augusta home every year. It’s that yearly predictability that helps drive the local home rental market.
“There are few other markets that are as transformed by a single event as Augusta, Georgia,” said Bill Furlong, vice president of North America Business at Vrbo, an online home rental platform. “In Augusta, this is the event of the year.”
A week ahead of the start of the tournament 88 percent of Vrbo’s listings in Augusta included references to the golf course or the Masters Tournament.
This year has seen a rise in rental activity as well: Vrbo said there were 40 percent more listings in the Augusta area the week before the Masters than there were the same time the year prior.
Kelly Johnson, who works at her mother’s local housing agency Corporate Quarters, says she’s also noticed the increase.
“This has been one our busiest years,” said Johnson, who attributed the swell of activity to the inclusion of the inaugural women’s amateur event.
That could help perpetuate what’s become “a year-round business,” Johnson said, with homeowners itching to list their properties as soon as a week after the tournament’s end.
“All the homeowners get out of town for spring break,” said Johnson. “That’s obviously a tradition.”
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Christian Radnedge)