This is part 4 of our Landlord’s guide to Tenant Screening. If you’ve landed here directly, don’t worry — we’ve got everything you need to know about advertising your rental property below.
This is a critical point in the process of finding the right tenant.
Earlier in the tenant screening checklist, we discussed how increasing the number of applicants will increase your chances of finding “the one.”
Let’s take a minute to pull yourself out of your landlord shoes and into the parental shoes in the video below.
Without good advertising, you won’t generate enough interest in your rental, and it’s less likely you’ll find a good renter.
Properly marketing your rental property will increase your number of applicants.
This will increase the likelihood of you finding a great tenant.
Before We Jump To Advertising Ideas For Your Rental…
Let’s first figure out who might be naturally attracted to your rental.
It’s illegal to discriminate in your advertising, but we can still take an honest look at what type of renter your rental will attract.
Ask yourself questions about the rental such as…
Is my rental located close to a college?
Is my rental close to downtown attractions or tourist spots?
Is my rental located close to large hospitals?
When you understand who you’re likely to attract than you can make sure you don’t miss opportunities.
Let’s use the hospital’s question as an example.
You can make a good amount of revenue renting short-term furnished rentals to traveling nurses.
This niche of renter tends to find their housing via referrals and niche groups online.
You can go to Facebook and enter “Traveling Nurse” into the search bar to get ideas.
Just in this one search you can find several places to advertise and connect with your niche renters.
It’s important you understand WHO is likely to be attracted to your rental, so you can go find the places online that these people are likely to search for housing.
I Know Whom My Rental Will Attract… What Next?
Consider making additions to the rental based on your renter avatar.
College housing = USB electrical outlets
Elderly = Handrails and grab bars
Traveling Nurse = Semi-furnished
Millennial = Digital rent payments (this could be a deterrent for elderly but bonus for a younger renter)
Understand what your renter avatar looks like so you can cater the rental to their preferences.
… a Brief Mention for Traditional Advertising
Before we jump to online listings, let’s discuss a few traditional advertising methods.
- Placing a “For Rent” sign in the front yard
- Pinning rental flyers to bulletin boards around town
- Advertising in a local paper
There is value in these… but just not as much as it used to be.
If you have a busy street a “For Rent” sign can be helpful. It’s more likely to attract someone with familiarity with the neighborhood.
Perhaps you’re interested in traveling nurses, and you know someone who can pin up a flyer in the hospital break room.
There is value in these methods, but on the whole more renters are looking online more than anywhere else.
When it comes to online marketing…
Take Better Rental Photos…
There’s a reason Instagram sold to Facebook for a billion dollars, and people said it was a steal.
Pictures are valuable.
They’re easy to view and require little mental energy to digest.
The majority of us are not going to read an entire listing (rent or buy).
We look at location, price, and pictures.
Let’s talk about taking better pictures, so we have quality images to share on your listings.
Simply paying attention to framing and lighting can go a long way with your photos.
Watch the video above to learn how to take better photos for your rental listings.
Editing Rental Photos
Does a guy or girl in the dating scene wear the same clothes they wear in the house?
Of course not… they’re trying to be attractive, and 10-year-old sweat pants don’t get you a second date (usually).
The same goes for your photos.
You want to go the extra step and edit the photos to give them a nice touch.
In the video above we discussed paid and free options for editing your photos.
These photos can be reused if you’re consistent with your paint options and the rental is updated.
Where Should I Advertise My Rental Property?
This is a fair question because there isn’t a one-stop-shop solution that posts to every rental listing site.
However, Zillow can syndicate one listing out to several sites at once.
When you post via Zillow Rental Manager your listing will automatically be shared on the following sites:
- AOL Real Estate
- MSN Real Estate
The other usual suspect is Craigslist. We’ve heard from our clients that it really just depends on your market as Craigslist can be a little sketchy in some markets.
Let’s quickly show you how to post a rental to Zillow.
When you post to Zillow, your rental listing will be active for 30 days.
Posting Rental to Facebook Marketplace and Local Groups
Facebook has pros and cons when it comes to listing your rentals.
Some landlords don’t like the personal nature while others appreciate having insights immediately available through social media.
We do a weekly Live Facebook video called “Ask A Property Manager.”
In episode #30 we debated the merits of advertising on Facebook vs. Zillow and Craigslist.
Here are the questions discussed in this episode:
– Using Facebook Marketplace to market your rentals
– How much weight do you put on credit with a background check?
– How do you tell someone you don’t want to show property after pre-screening?
Here’s a link to Facebook Marketplace if you’re interested in checking it out.
We’ve also had other clients share that they’ve had success with local “For Rent” groups and other buy/sell groups on Facebook.
In episode #177 of our podcast “RentPrep For Landlords,” we talk specifically about using Facebook groups for marketing your rentals.
Cliff Notes of podcast guests
Justin from Scranton, PA – Likes being able to post multiple pictures, post to several group sites such as yard sales, renter groups, and personal page. He likes being able to see the background of their profile pictures.
Natalie from Illinois – Uses Facebook to market her properties and finds it very helpful. She likes to go to groups specific to her county. She recommends always to include the price and all details, so you’re not getting unwanted messages. She also has a rental with a large garage that has a nice workshop in it. She posts this rental to local woodworking groups.
This is a great example of understanding your rental and how it might be attractive to a certain type of renter. This, in turn, helps guide your advertising efforts.
Jennifer from Maryland – She uses Facebook rent groups and recommends trying to get engagement on the post as it will get more views. The more comments and likes you get the more reach your post will get.
It might be worth it to try and stir up engagement on the post and encourage people to comment on your posts in Facebook groups.
What To Include In Your Rental Listings
So we’ve covered a few options on where to post and how to take good photos, now let’s discuss what to write.
I figured this would be a great time to ask the advice of realtors.
Here’s some advice from some well-known realtors around the country:
Nothing can grab the attention of a tenant more than a listing’s description. You can make almost any rental sound attractive if you just use the right words in your advertising copy.
Skip boring and think attention-grabbing. Highlight the property’s features. Is it the located in a popular part of town, or does it have an open floor plan, or what about the fact that you have an inside laundry room opposed to being in the garage. Think of what is a plus and elaborate on it.
For example; Hate doing laundry in the garage? Then you’ll love the property’s interior laundry room.
Or how about: You’ll love the home’s open layout that is perfect for being together with family and friends.
You get the idea – it’s about creating a picture of what the property is like that would pique the interest of prospective tenants. Boring copy will have prospective tenants, skip right over your advertising. And by all means, if writing attractive words isn’t your thing, you’d certainly benefit by hiring someone to write a descriptive, appealing copy for you.
- Lynn Pineda – Imagine Your House
A legendary ad writer by the name of Roy H. Williams encourages you to write in second person present tense when writing an advertisement.
Your rental listing is nothing more than an advertisement to interested renters.
Here’s how Roy explains this on page 28 of his book The Wizard of Ads.
The most irresistible word in the English language has only three letters. The most powerful of all words is “you.”
“You” engages the imagination of the listener. It puts the action of your spot in present tense active. Skillful use of the word “you” makes the listener a participant in your ad.
Another thing Roy recommends is to use verbs because they are visually active.
These two sentences are talking about the same rental…
The kitchen is spacious with plenty of natural light
Your new kitchen features sweeping marble counters highlighted by cascading natural light
The first bullet point is descriptive but bland. It lacks any feeling of movement or possession.
The second bullet point is written in second person (Your) with present tense verbs (sweeping & cascading).
These little additions help the reader to imagine themselves in the rental. If you can engage the imagination, you’ll increase your response rate with your listings.
Include Some Screening Criteria In Your Rental Ad
Have you ever had a sales person call you and go right into a long pitch… meanwhile, you’re trying to find the time to tell them they have the wrong number.
If that salesperson started their call by confirming your name they’d save a lot of wasted calls on wrong numbers.
The same is true with your rental listings.
Some people are not a good fit and you don’t need to run a background check to figure that out.
Consider including some or all of your criteria below:
- Stance on pets
- Stance on smoking
- Your rent to income ratio
- Lease terms (are your terms non-negotiable)
- Do you run a background check
Here is a hypothetical listing that includes the following criteria:
A few standards and criteria for this rental:
- No pets are allowed
- No smoking is allowed in or near the premise
- We require the renter to make at least three times the monthly rent in income
- Our lease is for 12 months, and we do not offer month-to-month options
- We run a complete background check on applicants
The idea behind these statements is to weed out bad applicants from even expressing interest in your rental.
You’ll still get annoying emails that say “Do you accept dogs?” or “Would you consider a six-month lease?” but stating these items will reduce the amount of low quality leads you receive.
Stating that you run a background check will deter many renters with a questionable past.
As mentioned earlier, people tend to look at pictures more than the text.
That is why you’ll still get calls from people who should realize they don’t qualify.
Here’s a little hack to help deter unqualified renters who skim listings.
Include your screening criteria as an image in your listing.
This will bring your criteria to a more prominent location helping you to weed out bad applicants.
If you have a hot rental market, you can add your criteria as the second image.
If it’s a slower market, you might want to make it the last image, so the message doesn’t come off as strong.
Rental Ad Checklist
- Assess your rental and understand your renter avatar
- Take great photos of your rental & spend time (or money) getting them edited
- Post to Zillow, Facebook, and Craigslist and keep track of your results
- Write your ads in second person present tense “Your new kitchen features sweeping.”
- Include criteria in your rental listing to reduce bad applicants
- Generate inquiries and move on to the pre-screening phase
In the next chapter, we will discuss how you can start to weed out applicants. This is done through pre-screening tenant applicants over the phone.