Live in the Path of the Eclipse? Your Spare Room Could Make You $500/Night

geodesic dome in the Oregon wilderness during solar eclipse
Photo courtesy of Airbnb
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Call them the geographically blessed.

For the lucky 12 million Americans who live directly in the path of the upcoming total solar eclipse, Aug. 21 will bring a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical show.

If you’re one of them, your home is a potential gold mine. Got a spare room? Rent it out. The opportunities to cash in are simply out of this world. But you have to hop to it, because time is running out.

Tens of millions of people will be travelling and renting rooms in the solar eclipse path. They’ll flood hotels, campgrounds and Airbnbs listings. All for a rare taste of moonshadow.

Airbnb, the popular home-sharing listing platform, is seeing a huge spike in the number of people listing their spare rooms and entire homes on the eve of the eclipse.

You could be one of them. It’s not too late, if you follow our instructions.

Darkness in the Middle of the Day

First, let’s back up and get our facts straight.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, a total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, blocking all solar light.

They’re super rare. This will be the first one on the U.S. mainland in nearly 40 years.

On Aug. 21, the solar eclipse path will cut a diagonal 60- or 70-mile-wide swath across the country from Oregon to South Carolina over an hour and a half.

NASA has a useful video here, illustrating what will happen. Here’s another video showing the path in greater detail.

Everyone in North America will be able to see a partial solar eclipse. But those in the path of the total eclipse will experience total darkness for two long and amazing minutes.

Precious Real Estate for a Three-Day Weekend

Thousands of people who have a little real estate along the path of the eclipse are cashing in, with some parking spots going for upwards of $100. In Oregon, 30 campsites were recently auctioned off for a total of $60,000, or $2,000 per campsite.

“More than 40,000 guest arrivals have turned to Airbnb to book homes along the path of totality, and there’s still time to book,” Airbnb recently said. “From Oregon to South Carolina, we have nearly 3,800 homes available along the path of totality.”

Some of the most expensive Airbnb listings near the start of the eclipse in Madras, Oregon, have been priced at up to $3,000 per night. Someone’s spare room in a small town in Oregon was going for $500 a night.

A couple more points:

  • The Aug. 21 eclipse happens mid-morning on a Monday, so many eclipse travelers are making a three-day weekend of it.

Aside from the 12 million Americans who live in the path of the total eclipse, another 75 million people live within 200 miles of it, according to U.S Census data.

Even if you just live near the total eclipse, and not directly in its path, you could still try to cash in. The biggest crowds are expected in South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and Oregon, based on driving models.

Here’s What You Need to Do

Clearly, time is running out. But you can still do this.

Sign up here to be an Airbnb host. This doesn’t cost anything. Airbnb takes a 3% cut of what you earn when you list your home or spare room.

Once you create an account, Airbnb has tools to guide you through the process.

You’ll write a listing for your property, with an appealing but honest description of the place. Upload a few photos of it.

Then, you’ll set a price. Airbnb has tools for that, too. To get an idea of what other Airbnb hosts in your area are charging, Google “eclipse” and “Airbnb,” plus the name of your city.

A few other tips:

  • Be a good host, and make sure your place is stocked with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
  • Be personable. A lot of travelers turn to Airbnb for the personal touch they won’t find at commercial properties.
  • Airbnb handles payments, so you don’t have to deal with money directly.
  • Hosting laws vary from city to city. Understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.
  • Airbnb offers a “host guarantee” that covers damage to your property.

The Sky Snapped Over the Sun Like a Lens Cover’

The total eclipse will pass over or near Salem, Oregon; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City; St. Louis; Nashville; and Columbia and Charleston, S.C.

I’m told it’s amazing.

Here’s what author Annie Dillard had to say about it in her classic essay, “Total Eclipse.”

I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.”

And then:

“At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place.”

Act now, time is running out.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s thinking it’s time for a road trip.


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