Fans seeking affordable housing while visiting during football weekends are in luck as Rent Like a Champion, a rental company based in South Bend, Ind., expands to Ann Arbor this year.

Founded by Notre Dame graduates in 2006, Rent Like a Champion was developed as an effort to eliminate vacant properties around the South Bend, Ind. campus and put them to good use, according to Mike Doyle, Rent Like a Champion CEO. The graduates hoped to improve their environment by rehabilitating and renting out properties to families and students who are attending away athletic games and need a place to stay.

Since its creation, the website has become a resource for Notre Dame fans looking for a place to stay on game days.

After initially expanding to Penn State University in 2011, the company now lists rental housing for 27 universities, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State.

Doyle said Ann Arbor is an ideal town for his business because of the University’s large, loyal fan base.

“We think that Ann Arbor is going to be one of the most successful sites just because of the sheer number of people coming back,” Doyle said.

The site dedicated to Ann Arbor has seven rental houses listed. Doyle said there are about 130 houses listed in South Bend, and he’s hoping to expand the program in Ann Arbor by adding 20 houses over the next few years.

“Once people hear what the website does they’re generally pretty receptive to it,” he said. “Once people start making a couple thousand dollars every football season, they start telling their friends … and from there it really kind of takes care of itself.”

Doyle said the tough economy offers another incentive for owners to consider renting out their homes.

“This is something that allows them to make a significant amount of money,” he said. “People are able to pay off their mortgages for a year by renting out for six weekends a year.”

Though the website collects a 15-percent service fee for rented houses, there is no charge to list on the site. Owners determine the price they want to charge renters per event and standard check-in is at 5 p.m. on Friday and checkout is by noon on Sunday.

Doyle said though the business is focused on housing football game attendees, he’s open to listing rentals for other occasions as well.

“A lot of that actually comes from our homeowners,” Doyle said. “We’re definitely willing to help people put up their places for weekends in the spring or over the summer or anything like that.”

Ann Arbor resident Matt Grocoff, who owns Michigan’s first net-zero energy home — a facility that has no annual carbon emissions or energy consumption — with his wife, began renting to families this year. Grocoff’s house has been featured in The Atlantic, USA Today and My Ford Magazine for its ability to produce as much energy as it uses.

He said the site made him reevaluate his negative feelings towards rental sites and the bad experiences he has confronted in the past.

“I’m happy that there is a service that’s not sleazy available,” Grocoff said. “That’s the impression I always had of these kinds of services.”

Grocoff said he and his wife were also comforted that the website takes a safety deposit to ensure that any possible damage will be covered.

“It’s a great deal for everyone involved,” he said. “It’s kind of fantastic. We actually just added more games because we’re starting to see the kind of people that rent.”

Engineering freshman Chris Gresehover said he thinks the website is a good way to make money, but would be cautious renting out his home.

“I think that would be a cool thing to do, but I’d be worried about the after effects,” Gresehover said. “But it’s a good atmosphere to hang out with your friends.”

Washtenaw Community College student Michelle McAnulty said she wouldn’t be nervous about renting out her home for football games.

“I would like meeting new people and I wouldn’t mind doing it,” McAnulty said.

Fellow WCC student Emilie Jarret, an Ypsilanti resident, said she personally would never rent out her home.

“I just don’t like people that much,” Jarret said. “But it’s not a bad idea.”

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