Fundraising season is in full swing! Supporters of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and a host of down-ballot candidates have opened their homes to bring candidates within proximity of contributors' pockets.
You may see motorcades race by your home and wonder about throwing your own hat in the ring to host a political soiree. Are you truly ready to host fanatical, sweaty hordes flashing "Dump Trump," "Liberty, Not Hillary," or perhaps even a few misplaced "Feel the Bern" signs? Are your neighbors ready for you to do it?
Moreover, is your home ready to hold a fundraiser?
As with most real estate topics, the determining factor boils down to location, location, and location, says Will Milligan, whose Washington, DC, company, Will Milligan Events, runs hundreds of political fetes a year.
The nation's capital is consistently awash with fundraisers, and members of Congress sometimes attend multiple events a night. That's why a host home near the Metro or within walking distance of the Capitol is key for DC.
In other locales, host homes should be accessible by public transportation or have plenty of parking options (a valet perhaps?) for guests.
"So many attendees have multiple events per evening. They'll do two receptions and finish up with a dinner at 7," Milligan says. "To have the best attendance, you have to have a great location."
Host houses also require plenty of open space inside the home, so tiny houses or boxy Colonials with lots of small rooms need not apply. According to the experts, your party space must comfortably accommodate the following:
- Supporters who want to mix and mingle without feeling too cramped
- Room to set up drinks and food
- A place where the candidate can address a crowd
- A space for catering prep, either half of a garage or a large mud room
- Registration or name tag area
Milligan says that 800 to 1,000 square feet of flowing, open space inside your home will comfortably hold a 20-person event, which won't feel crowded or puny.
As we've all learned, good optics are critical in modern political campaigns, and fundraisers are a part of this. "Having a good crowd is part of the visual success of the event," Milligan says. "You want to feel like there's interest and energy."
Most political fundraisers have a 15- to 20-person guest list; any more and you're envisioning a gala that might spill into your backyard, which opens a whole other can of worms.
Backyard events require a tent, which adds significantly to the event's cost. In mosquito season, you'll have to spray to keep bugs from eating guests. And if you're near a train track or busy road, ambient noise can drown out stump speeches.
"There are a different set of rules if you try to go outside your home," Milligan says.
That's why it's better to plan a fundraiser inside, preferably around lunchtime, well after morning rush hour traffic but before guests will be yearning to go home after a long day.
Here's how to host
Small (10 to 20 people) political fundraisers in a private home will typically run a host from $700 to $1,500. That outlay covers the cost of a few passed appetizers and a round (or two) of chardonnay for your guests. The party will last one to two hours, so your guests aren't likely to starve.
Your open house is considered an "in-kind" contribution to a campaign. So be prepared to record it in compliance with federal and local campaign finance regulations.
If you really want to host, contact the candidate's campaign chairman or finance director about a month before the proposed event and offer your home. The campaign will probably send an advance team to check out your place. Single-family, detached houses and townhouses are better sites than apartments where guests must be buzzed in or recorded by a doorman.
Also, make sure ample parking is available, either through a valet service or on the street. If easy parking isn't available, make sure you tell the campaign and guests who can then plan to take a car service or public transit.
Back to the neighbors issue: If it's a small party, you may not need to notify them. But if you're planning on having more than 20 people in attendance, you may want to give your neighbors a heads-up. And if they're of a similar political persuasion, extend an invitation! If not, well, good luck with those block parties in the future.
Good selling strategy
We're not suggesting that home sellers hold a fundraiser instead of an open house, but it's never a bad idea to bring lots of people with fat wallets into a home on the market. The party offers guests a look at your home at its best and helps them envision it as an entertainment space, which is key for many buyers.
"It would highlight the versatility of a home," says Mulligan, whose wife is a DC real estate agent. "If the buyer is looking to entertain, and they look at a house that easily accommodates 20 people for a reception, that's a plus."
And no matter who's elected to office, you'll come out a winner. And at least in 2016, that's no small feat.