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Some homeowners look to cash in on papal visit

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By Christi Milligan

Visitors to Philadelphia may be willing to plunk down as much as $30,000 to stay in a one-bedroom condo near the art museum during Pope Francis’ historic September visit to the World Meeting of Families (WMOF). But the real-estate frenzy isn’t limited to Philly. Some Wilmington homeowners have already listed their pads on Craigslist for up to $8,000 per week, and it’s only March.

“We’re not encouraging people to rent out their homes,” advised Catholic Diocese of Wilmington spokesperson Bob Krebs.

But the diocese is encouraging parishioners to consider hosting families during the papal visit in partnership with the Philadelphia diaconate and the WMOF organizers.

According to its website, families who live within 120 miles of Center City are asked to consider hosting visitors, who are expected to number in the millions and come from across the U.S. and abroad. The third-party global travel company www.Homestay.com is building a database for hosting and visiting options. Other sites, like www.Airbnb.com, are also starting to list private rental options.

But officials from AAA Mid-Atlantic warn that, before you jump on the rental bandwagon and hand over the keys to renters, there are a few things to consider.

“You really need to look toward a third party, an insurance agent or a broker,” said Mary Ann Gorges, AAA insurance manager. “You want someone to help facilitate the relationship between a renter and someone who wants to be a temporary landlord.”

Gorges also recommends withholding your rental plans from social media, but alerting trusted neighbors that you will be renting your home. Other tips include stopping your mail and taking a home inventory through pictures.

“You could come back, and you’re looking at big things that might be damaged and might miss the small things,” said Gorges.

AAA officials also recommend:

  • Understand what type of homeowners policy you have and if it provides coverage for short-term renters or losses to your property because of renters.
  • Consider a security deposit.
  • Be sure to get all of your renter’s information and proof of their home, auto and umbrella insurance. Take a look at your liability coverage. AAA suggests that you should have at least $500,000 in coverage.
  • Remove valuables from your home.
  • “Chances are, this could all go very smoothly, but the idea is to protect yourself, just in case,” said Gorges.

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