Party house demand lifts strapped mansion owners

Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:50am EDT

A view of the backyard of a for sale, $37 million dollar luxury home at One Pelican Hill Road North is seen in Newport Beach, California April 13, 2012. REUTERS/Lori Shepler

A view of the backyard of a for sale, $37 million dollar luxury home at One Pelican Hill Road North is seen in Newport Beach, California April 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lori Shepler

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(Reuters) - If you've got a property with desirable attributes - a beautiful view, great location, big entertaining spaces, a manicured lawn - and you can spare it for a couple of days a month, you've got a chance to pocket some extra cash. Party planners are on the prowl for unique private properties where they can set up weddings, office parties and the like, and they say the demand for these non-traditional venues has increased.

"I rarely do hotels now," says Patricia Ann Gibbons of The Wedding Studio, a party planner in San Antonio, Texas, who says unusual venues account for at least half of the weddings she plans. A decade ago, she says, she rarely got requests beyond the traditional church wedding or hotel reception.

Party planners have a lot of challenges when they use someone's home for a party. But a property owner who has enough space for adequate parking, a dance floor and a line of portable toilets can go far toward meeting those challenges.

Hollywood Hills entrepreneur Adam Ames, 26, says he made a spur-of-the-moment decision to rent out the four-story 4,700 square foot home he leases. "I wake up and I decide to do things," he says.

The decision has proven to be a good one financially. Over the past couple of months, events hosted there have ranged from a bunch of old college pals getting together to drink and play video games to a high school party. He has charged $750 to about $4,500 per event. Since Ames says he travels a lot, it hasn't been an inconvenience and the extra cash has been nice.

Ames listed the property on a new site called Eventup.com, which allows those who have properties available for events to connect with those looking for a venue. It's free to list on the site, which collects a 10 percent to 15 percent fee on bookings. Eventup, which started earlier this year, has listings in California, New York and the Chicago area, but is in the process of expanding, Eventup co-founder Tony Adam says.

Properties on Eventup range from about $300 to $20,000 or more for a single event, depending on the size, location and type of event. About 3,000 properties are listed on the site and include both traditional and non-traditional venues. For a 200-person event, party hosts can expect to pay $5,000 to $8,000, Adam says, and $10,000 to $12,000 for the most desirable spots.

If you're renting out your property, be sure to have a contract that spells out the terms, Florida attorney Senen Garcia says, including the possibility of cancellation and potential damage. Those who have hosted events suggest requiring your client to pay a security deposit and to demonstrate that they have event insurance.

It's wise, when renting a home for an event, to move any valuables to a room that isn't accessible to party goers and can be locked. You should also check to see what would be covered by your homeowner's insurance.

New York real estate agent Steve Halpern, a senior associate at Citi Habitats, represents a residential property - a five-level townhouse in Soho - that has been the site of a lot of parties. It typically rents for at least $20,000, sometimes $30,000 or more. The bigger the party, the bigger the impact on the property and the more money you'll have to pay, he says.

"If you're going to have 400 people there, you're going to have damage to the space," Halpern says. But those who rent the place have to have "a hefty line of insurance" and a security deposit.

A crew is sent in afterward to clean whatever mess is left behind and repair any damage. Halpern says he gets more requests for spaces than he can fulfill. "There's a great need for it," he says. "It has been very complicated to find other event space."

Typically, a site would be rented for six hours for a four-hour event, Eventup's Adam says. There are other sites that feature event rentals, such as HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, and Realtor sites where you can also find such listings - although they are mixed in with the primary focus of vacation rentals.

When a homeowner and a party host make the right connection, it can be a win-win situation. Meryl Villas decided she wanted a special location for her 30th birthday party last month. It worked out well all the way around. The homeowner collected $1,700 for several hours use of the home (and threw in an overnight stay as a gift) at a location in the hills overlooking Los Angeles with a spectacular view. About 50 people attended, Villas says. "The venue was perfect," she says. "It worked out great."

(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here. Editing by Linda Stern and Dan Grebler)

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