Room prices rocket in Rio as landlords dig for Olympic gold

By Juliana Schincariol

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – With hotels mostly booked, landlords are charging a pretty penny for tourists still seeking accommodation in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics in August — asking as much as $2,305 per night for a three-bedroom apartment far from venues and beaches.

With 97.3 percent of hotels full, according to price-comparison site Trivago, visitors are resorting to room rental websites like Airbnb to find lodging.

From penthouses in the plush beachside neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema to bare brick homes clinging to the hillsides of Rio slums, or favelas, lodging of all types is on offer.

But some Cariocas, as Rio locals are known, appear a little overeager to turn a profit.

Taxi driver Vitor Hugo Alves is trying to rent out his three-bedroom apartment in the traditional neighborhood of Cosme Velho for 8,000 reais ($2,305) per night during the games.

The apartment has a view of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, but is 8 km (5 miles) from Copacabana beach and 35 km (22 miles) from the Olympic Park.

“I haven’t managed to rent it out yet,” Alves told Reuters. “There’s been less interest than I’d hoped.”

Across town, 37-year-old Filipe Passos seeks to rent out a one-room apartment near Galeao airport for 20,000 reais ($5,764) for the 17-day event.

“The price reflects that the apartment can take 8 people,” said Passos, describing multiple bunk beds not pictured in the listing.

For the same price, Marcelo Tepedino Hernández managed to rent out his three-bedroom apartment in Arpoador, a coveted beachside area, popular with surfers and famous for spectacular sunsets, between Copacabana and Ipanema.

The Olympic price hikes come despite a steep drop in the broader Rio real estate market. Property prices have fallen 10 percent over the past 12 months in the city, according to FipeZap, a realty index.

Hoteliers have also greatly expanded the local room stock in recent years in efforts to get in on tourism for the Games. The number of rooms in Rio climbed to 58,000 from 30,000 in 2009.

“It’s the biggest demand the city has ever seen, with the largest number of tourists,” said Alfredo Lopes de Souza Júnior, President of Rio’s Hotel Association, about the Olympics.

Airbnb said 30,000 people have found accommodation for the games using their website. Average rentals through the site consist of a three-person group staying for just over a week.

(Reporting by Juliana Schincariol, Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Editing by W Simon)

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