WaPo Notes 'Inaugural Rentals Begging for Takers'

January 9th, 2009 11:55 AM

Noting that "supply has far outpaced demand," Washington Post staffer David Nakamura filed a story in the January 9 Metro section on how "Inaugural Rentals [Are] Begging For Takers."

While I wouldn't hold my breath for say Chris Matthews to notice, the story works against the mainstream media portrayal of the Obama inauguration as such a must-attend historic event that the nation's capital will be deluged with visitors hoping to get as close as they can to Obama's radiant aura (emphasis mine):

"I'm blown away by how little demand there is," said Tania Odabashian, vice president at Corporate Apartment Specialists in Northern Virginia.

"Initially, we were flooded with calls from people looking for [inaugural] housing. For about four or five days, the phone would not stop ringing. . . . But now we have apartments as low as $150 a night that we can't get rid of. I've rented one two-bedroom in Tysons Corner. We have six or seven apartments inside the Beltway that will probably end up empty."

Brokers cite several reasons for the sluggishness. Initial crowd estimates of 4 million people were far too high -- officials are now planning for half that -- and scared off many potential visitors. The difficulty of getting tickets to official events may have prompted others to stay away. And property owners who had visions of easy money priced their units way too high, often for more than $1,500 a night.

And perhaps another reason is that standing hours on end in the cold to get past a security cordon to hear a speech you'll forget soon after hearing it, well, it seems exciting at first, but less exciting the more you think about it.

Having attended President George W. Bush's first inauguration -- I had a great view of a line of port-a-potties and could only barely hear the piped in audio --and having volunteered for the second -- basically watching an endless stream of pooping horses and off-key high school marching bands -- I can attest that it's just as well to plop in front of a TV.

And hey, that's where the networks come in. TVNewser has more on ABC, NBC, and CNN's coverage plans. I expect the nets will do well in the ratings department, but that even there we may find the total viewership doesn't match the hype.