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Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - 11:08am

Rental Agencies Hopeful for Masters Week

People hoping to rent out their homes to visitors during the 2010 Masters Tournament may be in some luck, after the bad economy kept many renters away this year.

Some rental agencies say their bookings for the tournament next April are either flat or slightly higher than they were for the 2009 tournament.

The rentals are a huge and easy source of revenue for residents here. That one week can bring in thousands of dollars to each homeowner, and the income is typically tax exempt. Rental agencies typically do "repeat business" with renters.

Corporations often rent the homes, often paying thousands of dollars per home for one week. But the tough economy this year cut a chunk into the business and left many homes empty. Most notably, the 2009 tournament took place amid a federal bailout of banks and the auto industry, who sent their executives and clients to Augusta each year. One hospitality group estimated that rentals were 20-40 percent lower in 2009 than in previous years.

Golfers competing in the tournament, meanwhile, also rent private homes.

Despite the small increase so far, rental agencies say they're hopeful for more business in 2010.

"I do feel because of the recession last year, we might have some companies wait until after the first year to make their plans in case things do level out," says Diane Starr, director of Corporate Quarters in Augusta.

The tradition started when demand for accommodations outpaced the number of hotel rooms here. Augusta has built more hotels in recent years, which also may have cut into the rental business.