By Craig Giammona
NEW YORK — Thomas Knight saw a chance to make some extra money by renting out his apartment in Brooklyn for Super Bowl weekend, asking $300 a night. Just days before the game, he hadn't gotten a single call.
"I'm not too hopeful," said Knight, 28, who listed the one-bedroom unit in Williamsburg on Airbnb about three weeks ago, after making plans for a ski trip. "If someone was going to come, I think they already found a place."
The Super Bowl has turned out to be a disappointment for many New York and New Jersey residents who sought to profit from football fans swarming the area by offering homes for rent. They're getting few takers, with frigid temperatures deterring travelers and plenty of hotel rooms still available in Manhattan and across the Hudson River near MetLife Stadium, where the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will play in three days.
Flight demand for the Super Bowl is down 20 percent from last year, when the NFL championship game was played at the Superdome in New Orleans, according to vacation-planning website Hopper.com.
The private renters are competing with hotel prices that have been dropping as the game draws closer. As of 9 a.m. Thursday, nightly room rates in the "stadium area" of New Jersey, including towns such as East Rutherford and Secaucus, averaged $181 for Super Bowl weekend — a 53 percent plunge from last week, according to Orbitz Worldwide Inc.'s "Big Game 2014" travel tool, which updates price information every hour.
In Manhattan, the average price for a room was $268 a night, down 18 percent from last week, Orbitz data show. A search on Orbitz.com turned up 307 out of 449 hotels with empty rooms for Friday through Feb. 3.
"The room capacity in New York is so much larger than we've seen in other host cities," said Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of STR, a travel-research firm based in Hendersonville, Tenn. "When you have the Super Bowl in New Orleans or Miami or some other place like that, it's like the event is almost bigger than the venue, and here it's the opposite of that."
With at least 109,000 hotel rooms, New York has almost triple the number than New Orleans, where the average rate for Super Bowl weekend approached $400 last year and rooms were 97 percent booked, according to STR.
Homeowners in New Orleans benefited from the demand, with properties listed on travel website HomeAway.com going for an average of $1,200 a night, up from $450 in the same quarter of the previous year.
"You can see aggressive increases in prices when you have an event in a geographically concentrated area," Jon Gray, senior vice president at Austin, Texas-based HomeAway, said in a telephone interview. "The availability of hotels in the home market is a big part of that."
Listings for rentals in HomeAway's "gateway" region of New Jersey, which includes towns just outside of New York City such as Hoboken, Jersey City and Montclair, have jumped 64 percent since last week and traveler inquiries are up 80 percent, according to the website.
The average nightly rate for a Super Bowl weekend rental in the New York City area slipped to about $1,500 from $1,586 last week, according to HomeAway.
Leslie Cavrell listed her family's 4,000-square-foot house in Demarest, N.J., on HomeAway for $5,000 a night. While the lifelong New York Giants fan has never had an overnight guest there, she's gotten $3,500 a day renting the home, located 14 miles (23 kilometers) from MetLife Stadium, for commercial shoots.
Cavrell has had about 10 inquiries since offering the home in December, all for Christmas week or dates in March or July, none for the Super Bowl. Cavrell, 60, took the listing down this week.
"At this point, with the time it would take for me to lock everything away and get the place ready, it's not worth it," said Cavrell, who also has a place in Hunter, N.Y., that she rents out regularly using vrbo.com, a sister site of HomeAway. "Now, I'll put a fire in the fireplace and not travel anywhere that day."
Some residents have lowered their asking rents in the hopes of snagging a last-minute booking. Tyson Thorne, 37, originally listed his newly renovated basement in Lodi, N.J., less than 6 miles from the stadium, for $1,000 a night on HomeAway, Airbnb and Craigslist. When he got no calls for the space, which can accommodate four guests, he dropped the price to $389.
Larry Kennedy, 26, got one inquiry and no takers for his two-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village, which he listed on Craigslist last week. He cut his price twice, dropping it from $750 to $650 a night, then again to $495.
"The lowest I'm willing to go is $350," said Kennedy, who will be skiing in Utah on Feb. 2. "Below that point, the risk doesn't seem to justify the reward."
Among successful rentals was a one-bedroom suite at the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Manhattan's Central Park West. Elite Destination Homes, a luxury vacation-rental service, listed the unit for the Super Bowl on HomeAway in November and got no interest until Jan. 20, the day after the teams were settled in the conference championship games. After receiving five inquiries, Elite found a renter who agreed to take the 700- square-foot apartment for three nights at $1,419 a night, said Garin Hamburger, the company's vice president of marketing.
The Super Bowl has drawn fans of the participating teams to the area, with six of the 10 most popular domestic flight routes last week coming from either Denver or Seattle to New York, according to Hopper.com. Demand for air travel from Seattle was up more than 50 percent from the previous four weeks, while the increase from Denver was about 39 percent, according to the website. The Seahawks and Broncos are sharing 35 percent of the tickets available at MetLife Stadium, which seats about 82,500.
"People from the rest of the country aren't looking. That's the weak area," said Patrick Surry, chief data scientist for Hopper.com.
Football enthusiasts from outside Denver and Seattle may have been discouraged from making the trip because of the well- below-normal temperatures that have gripped the New York area in recent weeks, according to Bowers of STR and other travel analysts.
"There's typically a lot of people who go for the parties and like to hang out, but as far as the games goes, if it's snowing and 20 degrees, forget it," Bowers said. "The weather plays a big part in it, people don't want to be out in that."
The National Weather Service has called for warmer weather, with a high of 45 degrees Fahrenheit in East Rutherford for Super Bowl Sunday, a forecast that may push some ticket buyers off the fence. About 30 percent more tickets were sold on the secondary market in the 48 hours through yesterday than in the two days immediately following the conference championships, according to SeatGeek, a resale-market aggregator. The average daily price paid for a ticket climbed to $2,282 after reaching a low of $2,002 last weekend.
While the improving weather may prompt some local football fans to make a last-minute decision to attend the game, they probably won't need a place to stay, according to Bowers.
"It might give people from the area a chance to go," he said. "If there's any kind of rush at all, it will be walk-up crowd."