Gilbert, a vacation retreat? Homes in the community, known for its family-friendly, small-town feel, have been going on the market in recent months as vacation rentals.
Listings for the homes, some of which are brand new, focus on the luxury of their homeowners associations' lakes or parks. Some are large enough to house more than a dozen vacationers.
The homeowners say they've found a way to make money on investment properties they can't sell.
Many still have rental openings, but some already are being booked into 2009 for weddings, vacations, business trips, winter visitors and families visiting for college graduations.
The rentals are providing new services in a town that has only one finished hotel, on its north end, and few places for weddings and receptions.
"Selling just isn't an option because everybody is losing equity so fast that if we were to sell we'd have to pay the difference," said Katherine Hesser, who with her husband Tom have been renting their $500,000 Gilbert home to vacationers. "This way allows us to ride out the market, so to speak, still make our payments and get along OK."
The Hessers' home comes with a large backyard pool, two game rooms and as many as 11 queen-size beds.
They plan to rent the home, and possibly a second home, for another year or two until they can determine whether they want to sell the investments.
So far, their guests have come from a variety of locations, including the East Coast and Ireland.
The rents for Gilbert homes on the vacation market vary, but tend to be around $2,000 a week, and allow for business or family groups who would have otherwise stayed in several hotel rooms for $500 or more each for a week, homeowners told the Tribune.
Bud Gragg also recently began renting out his $2 million Gilbert home on a one-acre lot, to guests from as far away as the Middle East.
"I'm doing great with it. It's my personal house," he said. "I've had people in for family get-togethers, or because somebody's graduated from (Arizona State University) so a bunch of family members are coming into town, guys coming in for work. It just makes sense for six to seven people to rent a nice, beautiful house rather than six or seven hotel rooms."
The Arizona Department of Tourism doesn't track vacation rentals, since homeowners list the rentals on a variety of vacation home rental sites online, and usually make the reservations themselves.
Linda Lang, president and CEO of the Arizona Association of Community Managers and a Gilbert resident, advised home-owners who do rent their houses as vacation spots to ensure they are following homeowners association policies, if the home is inside an HOA.
Many HOAs restrict renting for less than one month at a time, she said, and several HOA managers she has spoken to have said they're concerned about the use of homes as vacation rentals.
"I think that renting out short-term has almost a time share effect, and that lends itself to a lot of things that probably the neighbors were not agreeing to when they bought homes there," Lang said. "You have a number of unrelated people renting homes within two weeks."
Steve Ladowitz, who rents out his Gilbert home after the family decided to stay in California, said his HOA is supportive as long as he maintains his home and pays his bills.
"We were thinking we would eventually move to Gilbert," he said, adding that his real estate agent helped him get started on the vacation rental two years ago. "We like California. Right now it's basically holding its own."
While some of the homeowners say they're surprised Gilbert homes can get bookings, Ladowitz said its warm climate makes it a prime spot for vacationers, many from Canada.
"Canadians come here to get away from the weather," he said, "and for the nice golf courses, the swimming pools and the fun activities."