February 12, 2012 in Business

Tom Kelly: Money to be made in yard, driveway rentals

 

My father was a physician in a two-man shop. He was also a baseball fan. When he was “on call” and felt things were calm enough to attend a game, he went to great lengths to make sure he could get out of his parking place and, if need be, race to the hospital.

For example, when the Dodgers left Brooklyn and moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum, my dad paid a homeowner using his backyard as a parking lot an extra buck for allowing my dad to park his Chevy in the front yard next to the street. Their relationship lasted for four years until the team moved to Dodger Stadium in time for the 1962 season.

I took the experience to heart, knowing there would be at least some demand for parking convenience at the smallest of venues. As teenagers, we even set up an unofficial valet service in front of a Hollywood tennis club, promising drivers their cars within 90 seconds of handing us the keys.

Since then, I’ve known friends and acquaintances who have used or rented out yards and driveways to churchgoers, ferry commuters, bus, plane and train riders, and fans attending sporting events of every kind.

I’ve also known friends who have spontaneously knocked on doors to offer homeowners a parking proposal. In one case, a friend not only rented a parking space for a golf tournament but ended up renting the entire house in subsequent years for the weeklong event.

Some people have not only anticipated a parking demand in their neighborhood but taken it to another level. If you’ve ever seen Chicago Cubs’ games in person or on television, know that some of the folks sitting in roof-top seats also rent a nearby parking spot below.

So it came as no surprise when I learned that the entrepreneur trying to help consumers locate more consumer-run parking spaces while offering how-to suggestions and forms decided to put the concept in motion after an experience near a baseball stadium.

Anthony Eskinazi, a former student at UC-Berkeley, founded ParkatmyHouse.com in the United Kingdom in 2006 and recently launched in the U.S. The genesis came as result of his inability to find a parking spot near the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park before a game. When he saw an empty driveway a stone’s throw away from the stadium, he realized that there was a great opportunity for both homeowners and attendees – if only they could find a way of making contact.

“What I felt was missing and greatly needed is something that brings drivers and their vehicles together with property owners and their empty garages,” Eskinazi said. “Think about it as a matchmaking service where we help get the people started but then they take over.”

ParkatmyHouse provides space owners guidelines on how to price spaces from recent bookings in their area, the price of other spaces listed on the website and through a partnership with Parkopedia, a huge parking information database and another operation co-founded by Eskinazi. The site does not own or operate its own spots or offer incentives to visit a specific location.

“We do not manage any garages,” Eskinazi said. “We simply help drivers find and compare commercial, street and private parking on their computer or a mobile phone.”

The mobile aspect probably holds the most potential as consumers circle and compare parking prices near ballparks, arenas, museums and theaters.

Visitors to the site and users of the service say that price is as big a draw as location, safety and convenience. At some sporting events, the cost to park in a stadium lot is greater than the cost of a ticket. Commuters also are discovering that the constant increase in parking fees adds significantly to monthly household costs. And, fewer employers are providing parking stipends.

What has been Eskinazi’s prime example of a success story?

“A minister who runs a church near a major train station in the UK has earned over $180,000 from renting out eight spots over the last few years, contributing over half of the church’s annual income,” Eskinazi reported. “The spaces are more than 50 percent cheaper than the commercial parking lot close by, and drivers also have the good feeling of contributing to their local community.”

I’m sure priests with a church anywhere near a ballpark are already dialed in to the idea.

Tom Kelly’s new E-book, “Bargains Beyond the Border: Get Past the Blood and Drugs: Mexico’s Lower Cost of Living Can Avert a Tearful Retirement,” is available online.


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