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Steve Chiotakis: Yeah the markets are a bit of a downer this morning, but think about the party they’re expecting in DC come January. It’s the typical every-four-year ritual where people descend on the nation’s capitol to witness the changing of the guard. If you’re mulling over a trip to see President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, take into account, hotel rooms are scarce. And what few are left are insanely expensive.
What’s a good patriot to do? Enter the free market. Washington residents are offering to rent, or even swap their houses. And they’re doing a booming business on Craigslist. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.
Nancy Marshall Genzer: Kathleen Cook decided to fly from Texas to Washington for the inauguration, after snagging cheap plane tickets. For lodging, she turned to Craigslist.
Kathleen Cook: I saw someone in Arlington is renting their couch — just their couch — for $100 a night. Haha!
So Cook decided to try a housing swap. Her family has a cabin in West Virginia. She put it up on Craigslist, offering a week at the cabin for downtown D.C. digs.
Cook: I need to find a Republican who likes the mountains and wants to be out of town.
But D.C. residents who are willing to swap houses, like Janice Pfeiffer, are picky.
Janice Pfeiffer: You know, my downtown, brand new, condo for your house — preferably in Europe, or near a ski resort.
Pfeiffer might also bunk with her sister in Baltimore and rent our her condo for inauguration week — for $6,000.
In Washington — but not renting out my house — I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.
Chiotakis: Keeping that entrepreneurial spirit in mind, passes to President-elect Obama’s actual swearing-in ceremony could go as high as $40,000 each. Problem is, they’re supposed to be free. California Senator Dianne Feinstein says she’s contacted Internet clearinghouses such as Craigslist and E-Bay to ask them not to allow sales of those tickets. She’s also planning on crafting a bill that would make it a federal crime to do it.
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