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Web Site Lets Home Owners Turn Homes into Hotels

By Brittany Anas, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August 10, 2009 - BOULDER, Colo. -- A new Web site lets Boulder property owners turn their homes into weekend hotels for University of Colorado alumni coming to town for a Buffs football game, or visiting parents who don't want to couch-surf at their students' apartments.

The site -- www.CollegeWeekends.com -- connects college town visitors with the property owners -- a lodging alternative for when hotels are booked, or when visitors want a genuine college town experience.

Gordon Sutton -- who earned his master's degree in business administration from CU in May -- started the company in 2004. Boulder is among the newest towns on the Web site's menu.

Sutton said Boulder is an ideal market because of the crowds CU draws with football games and other events, as well as vacationers who come to ski or professionals in town for conferences.

Since Boulder made its debut last month, only a few houses in the market are listed. They are within a mile of the CU campus and range from $50 to $200 a night.

"We operate totally as an advertising medium," Sutton said. "We don't manage the bookings, and we're not a rental company. We're more of a directory."

Owners registered with the site pay $179 a year for base listings on the site and $229 a year for premium listings, which partly allows them to show more pictures of their properties. The Web site also offers a free trial and provides owners with a rental agreement that CU's law clinic helped develop.

Sutton said property owners range from developers with vacant investment properties to young professionals with mortgage payments who stay with friends while they occasionally rent their place out over the weekends.

"It can really help people make ends meet in hard times like these," Sutton said.

The company first tested the waters in Charlottesville, where the University of Virginia draws weekend visitors. There are about 45 listings in that college town.

Sutton said CollegeWeekends.com is focusing its efforts on Boulder and college towns that have teams in the Southeastern Conference, since there's a big football draw.

Joyce Kinde, assistant director of CU's Office of Parent Relations, said 5,500 people are registered for Family Weekend, which is in mid-October. Her office -- because it's a state entity -- can't recommend hotels, but directs families to www.boulderlodging.com.

Kinde said CollegeWeekends.com sounds like an interesting business model and there could be a need for extra housing during the busy weekends.

"The town does fill up," she said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.

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Copyright (c) 2009, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

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