If you plan to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July, and were hoping to rent a cheap place on Airbnb, your options are limited. The cheapest, at $200 per night, is the House of Wills funeral home; it sleeps 16 and comes with its own embalming room and crematorium. If that's not your jam, we hope your pockets are deep: on Airbnb, the average price of listings the week of July 18 is more than $1,000/night, with some nightly prices climbing up to $10,000.
If you're a Democrat hoping to attend the DNC in Philadelphia the following week, though, you will fare better. The average Airbnb rental that week runs just $300 a night—only a slight spike compared to usual.
These numbers don't just tell a story of supply and demand. They say something fundamental about how each party is perceived—about who, in a time when both parties are reexamining values, Airbnb hosts expect to show up. And apparently, Airbnb hosts think those Republicans coming to support presumptive presidential candidate Donald Trump are going to be flush with cash.
Curious as to how Cleveland and Philadelphia plan to welcome their respective political delegates, we crawled the cities' Airbnb data to examine how the conventions were impacting prices. What we found was a startling divide between the two parties: while the median price for a rental during convention week in Philadelphia was just $158, in Cleveland it was $818. Compared to the week before in each city, Cleveland's average Airbnb price almost doubled while in Philadelphia it increased by about a fourth. One "cool loft" in a "trendy" Cleveland area jumped from $69 a night to $1500.
In Cleveland, many listings cater specifically to RNC attendants. This five-bedroom house, for example, rents for $3,500/night, and boasts that "it is ready for RNC" with its Wii, WiFi, Netflix and swimming pool. This $1,500/night two-bedroom apartment advertises that it has the "perfect RNC view," which seems to just be a good view. A studio within 10 minutes drive of the convention center goes for $1,200 a night, along with a $2,000 security deposit. For, $10,000/night you can rent a "sprawling lakehouse," a three-bedroom bungalow or an entire dorm. Of the 300 listings we examined individually, the vast majority were marketed toward those attending the RNC, many noting that their home is only available during the convention.
In Philadelphia, meanwhile, there are far fewer units priced over $2,000—and most seem out of date, still aimed at people planning to come for the visit of Pope Francis, back in September. (In both towns there is now little hotel availability, but we did compare the prices at two equivalent Motel 6 chains: $180 in Cleveland and $130 in Philadelphia.)
There are a few potential explanations for all this. In our Cleveland data set, where there are a total of 1,764 listings on Airbnb, the number of available listings the week of the convention jumps significantly, suggesting that many Cleveland residents are putting their homes on the market just for the convention, hoping to simultaneously cash in on the demand and flee the hubbub. In Philadelphia, meanwhile, the number of the city's 8,443 units still available to rent the week of the DNC declines precipitously compared to weeks before and after, indicating that the city's usual stock of available Airbnbs were able to absorb the increased demand, rather than attracting new units to the market.
But wrapped up in the data is also the story each party is trying to tell about itself. For Airbnb hosts, a Trump voter is a voter that aspires to renting a $10,000/night, three-bedroom bungalow. Even while it remains vacant, its owner believes in the reasonableness of this fantasy—that with hundreds of less expensive units still on the market for the week of the convention, that kind of price tag will catch a lodger's eye.
Or, for many thousand dollars less, a Republican delegate who is less excited about Trump's being the new leader of the party could spend the night instead in a crematorium.
Daniel McLaughlin is a creative technologist exploring the 2016 presidential election. Before joining Fusion, Daniel worked at the Boston Globe and graduated from MIT with a BS in urban studies and planning.
Kristen is a technology reporter for Fusion. She enjoys tea, giraffes and the occasional app.