It's the most wonderful time of year for football fans. Super Sunday is almost here!
This year, the Big Game is in Atlanta, where about a million people are expected to descend on the city for the championship festivities. Some of those visitors already have their accommodations booked, but others are now struggling to find affordable lodging options anywhere around Atlanta.
In some extreme cases prices are so high, visitors might be better off just signing an apartment lease – for a year.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the NFL snatched up 20,100 of metro Atlanta's 100,000 hotel rooms – in 2016 – for employees and sponsors of this year's game. A day before the AFC and NFC Championship games were played, Clayton County and Cobb County, the counties surrounding Atlanta, reported their hotels were 85 and 60 percent occupied, respectively.
And now that the teams for Super Sunday are determined, hotel vacancies are practically nonexistent. During our research for this article, we called the 15 hotels closest to the stadium – one room, two occupants, checking in on Friday, Feb. 1 and checking out on Sunday, Feb. 3 – and couldn't find anything.
So, we did what most visitors are doing – tried our luck on Airbnb.
There are plenty of options available here, but they come with a cost. According to Airbnb, visitors are paying an average of $170 for one room during the week of the Big Game.
Assume those visitors are flying in the Sunday before the game and leaving the day afterwards – that's eight nights of accommodations at $170 each night. That means the average room on Airbnb for the week of the game will cost $1,360 – which is about the average monthly rate for a one-bedroom apartment in Atlanta. However, many hosts are listing their properties for much, MUCH more.
And as it gets closer to the game, prices are expected to spike. Last year in Minneapolis, the cheapest rooms were going at $1,500 a night on the weekend of the championship game.
This got us doing the math and thinking, would it be more cost effective to just rent an apartment for a short-term lease or even a year relatively close to the stadium than splurging on an Airbnb rental?
We searched for Airbnb rentals (we tried to pick units that were in the middle of the available price ranges) in four popular neighborhoods around Atlanta and compared them to some of the more affordable annual rental options in the same area.
Here's what we found:
Castleberry Hill is an up-and-coming Atlanta neighborhood that borders Mercedes Benz stadium. In fact, you're really no more than a 10-minute walk from the stadium and Big Game attractions. This is a popular area for artists and has a number of popular bars and restaurants.
Searching on Airbnb, we found this listing for a bedroom in a condo – no kitchen access, no use of the washer or dryer and absolutely no partying – that will set you back $12,363 for the week of the Big Game.
In the same neighborhood, you could find a studio apartment at the Stonewall Lofts starting at $788 a month. Your grand total for a yearly rental comes in at $9,456, including access to your kitchen, washer or dryer and partying – responsibly.
Verdict: Snag the annual rental
One of the more desirable neighborhoods in Atlanta, Midtown is about a mile away from Mercedes Benz Stadium, but it has easy access to public transportation and a slew of popular bars and restaurants.
Airbnb has some steals here compared to rates in other parts of the city. We found a listing for a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Midtown – right between Georgia Tech and Piedmont Park – for $2,976 for the week.
The most affordable option on Apartment Guide in the same general neighborhood was at 921 Myrtle Street, where studio apartments start at $729 each month. The apartment complex does offer short-term leases, but anything longer than four months and you'll be in the red here.
Verdict: If you can't get a three-month lease, then Airbnb is the way to go – at least until prices spike as the game gets closer
Old Fourth Ward is arguably Atlanta's hippest neighborhood right now. Although it's a few miles away from Mercedes Benz stadium, the area is home to countless bars, restaurants and green spaces. The Eastside BeltLine trail runs right through the heart of the neighborhood and is a popular spot for people (and dog) watching.
This listing on Airbnb offers a luxury one-bedroom loft apartment in the chic Ponce City Market building. The unit sleeps two and is going for $11,376 for the week.
In the same neighborhood, but about a mile south near trendy Cabbagetown, you'll find 412 Todd Street SE. This unit is the exact same size as the Airbnb rental (850 square feet), but comes with a second bedroom. The price tag here: $850 a month or $10,200 for the entire year – a solid grand less than your one-week rental. Plus, if you go in with a roommate, you can cut that cost in half.
Verdict: Find a buddy and sign your one-year lease
One of the hottest areas for renters in Atlanta right now is just southwest of downtown – and about two miles from Mercedes Benz Stadium – in the city's West End. This historic section of the city is close to public transportation and new breweries and restaurants that are popping up along the neighborhood's Westside BeltLine trail.
Airbnb options in this more unknown part of the city to tourists were fairly affordable compared to some of the other neighborhoods we checked out. We found this listing for a four-bedroom house in Adair Park – right outside of the West End – for $4,055 for the week.
Just a few blocks away, we found a modest brick apartment building at 1043 Oglethorpe Ave SW with a two-bedroom unit available for $700 a month. If you were to sign a 12-month rental contract here, the apartment could be yours at $8,400 for the year.
Verdict: Try to negotiate a short-term lease and grab the apartment for six months
Prices and available fluctuate daily, so you might be able to find cheaper weekly rental options than the listings we highlighted in our examples. However, if recent history is any indication, these rates will only go up as we get closer to the Big Game.
The bottom line: If you're thinking about dropping a few thousand dollars on your lodging next week, do your homework. It might be more cost effective for you and your buddies to split an Atlanta crash pad for a year instead of borrowing someone's home for a week.