Home rentals doing brisk business for pope's visit

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If you're looking for a place to rent, or to rent out your place, when Pope Francis comes to town this September, you better move fast. Vacation rental sites HomeAway.com and Airbnb.com are seeing huge jumps in demand in all three cities on the pope's U.S. tour: Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.

Jon Gray, chief revenue officer at HomeAway, says 80 percent of the homes available on his site during the pope's visit are already booked. In Philadelphia in particular, demand for home rentals is five times what it normally would be, Gray says.

Technically, renting out a New York apartment to someone for less than 30 days if you're not there is illegal, but both Airbnb and HomeAway carry thousands of New York listing.

Quentin Fottrell, a personal finance reporter at MarketWatch, says some people get a thrill out of gaming the system and earning a little extra money. But, if you follow the rules or post a listing outside of New York, your home can pull in some pretty impressive pope-week prices, without any penalties. Fottrell says it all depends on the location and type of apartment you're looking to rent, but studios are fetching $150 a night.

To make your rental more attractive during the pope's visit, Fottrell says, be sure to leave your guests a binder with information not only about the pope's schedule and tidbits about New York City so that visitors can get to know the city better and feel more like locals.

Gray suggests signing up for a pay-per-booking listing on HomeAway if you're only looking to rent your property while the pope is in town. Those listings are free. You only pay a fee if your home is booked. In the headline of your listing, let people know your home is available during the pope's visit, so it's easier to find. And be sure to include great pictures and a detailed description.

Another option for you if you're dying to get away from all the mayhem when the Pope comes to town is a home swap. Let someone stay in your place while you stay in theirs -- free of charge.