With less than two weeks until the Coachella music festival, the traditional last-minute panic to book someplace to stay is pushing hotel room prices up an average of more than 70%.
Expect to pay $343 a night for a room at a cramped one-star hotel near the annual two-weekend bash at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio. And that's one of the best remaining deals within 10 miles of the event.
Critics complain that the festival, officially named the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, has morphed from a free-spirited mixture of sun and song into an exclusive orgy of spending and celebrity sightings.
The spring-break-inspired blowout always triggers a mad rush for lodging, with fans booking hotel rooms and vacation homes well before the musical lineup is announced in January. Just to get into the festival, the cheapest one-weekend pass costs $375 — they're long sold out — and resort-quality VIP packages run many hundreds more.
For the first time, artist and Indio resident Randy Friedman is renting out his three-bedroom home within walking distance of the festival grounds, charging $1,000 a night.
"You can make so much money, so I said why not give it a try," he said. "Everyone is just flocking here. You can just name your price."
As of Monday, the average price of home rentals for the first weekend, April 10-12, was $669 a night, according to data analyzed by home rental site Tripping.com.
For the record
March 24, 11:43 a.m.: An earlier version of this article failed to attribute the information on home rental prices to Tripping.com.
That's down 16% compared with this time last year because so many local homeowners wanted to get their piece of the lavish festival spending.
But the rate is still 65% higher than average year-round rates for area home rentals. And most of the homes have been snatched up, with only 12% of the rental properties within 10 miles still available for the first weekend.
Among the priciest homes still available is a four-bedroom house about two miles from the festival grounds. It has a loft, a saltwater pool with a Jacuzzi, a theater room with arcade games and a pingpong table in the garage. It is renting for $3,000 a night plus a $250 cleaning fee.
Prices like these prompted Eric Nadera, a 26-year-old analyst with a frozen food company, to reserve a campsite with a couple of friends for the festival.
During past trips to Coachella, the Diamond Bar resident has spent between $600 and $1,000 to stay at hotels during the festival.
"My past experiences were outrageously overpriced," he said.
Besides camping, Nader said he would advise music fans who plan to attend the festival to book a home — at least one year before the festival.
On social media sites, one of the most popular topics for Coachella fans was hotel price.
"Hotel prices for Coachella will officially make me bankrupt," @Santanasky posted on Twitter.
"I thought Coachella tickets were expensive....The hotel prices are killing me," tweeted @m1k3car50n.
A forum on the Coachella.com website generated 210 pages of comments about camping and lodging for the music festival, with subject titles like "need somewhere to crash" and "anybody want to adopt 2 girls for camping?"
Music fans who want to book a hotel can still find many rooms available, but the prices will be steep.
For the first weekend of the festival, hotels within 10 miles of the festival still have up to 33% of their rooms available, according to the travel website TripAdvisor.com.
But the average nightly rate for those available rooms is $569 a night, compared with $330 for the rest of the year, according to the website, for a 72% increase. At this time last year, no rooms were available within 10 miles of the festival grounds.
Within 30 miles of the festival, the available rooms average $473, about 75% over the average last year of $270 a night, according to TripAdvisor.
"Hoteliers are naturally raising rates for that event," said Lynn Mohrfeld, president of the California Hotel and Lodging Assn. "That's simple supply and demand."
Unlike home rentals, the supply of hotels near the music festival has not grown substantially. In fact, an 89-room Holiday Inn Express that opened in Indio last year was the only new hotel in that city in more than a decade.
At the Best Western Date Tree in Indio, general manager Aaron Segal said he is renting rooms for $300 to $400 a night during the festival, about 3.5% higher than during the same time last year. The same rooms rented for between $119 to $179 in the three months before the festival, he said.
The Best Western was 100% booked by October of last year, and he expects that about 80% of those who stay at his hotel during the festival this year will book a room for 2016.
"The rates have gone up a little bit," he said. "They can only go so high before it becomes insane."