Whether it is a hot rental market or not, marketing your rental properly and doing it aggressively will likely result in more and higher quality potential tenants and could result in higher rental prices. Most landlords just stick up a “For Rent” sign and hope for the best. Some of us might actually put it on Craigslist too, but for most, that’s about as far as it goes. We do the minimum and hope for the best. Occasionally you may get lucky, but don’t always count on it!
In addition, we want to try to turn our rentals from one tenant to the other as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Vacant rental times mean lost income and where exactly does the shortage come from? It’s from out of your pocket; that’s where!
Before we get into marketing rental properties correctly, let’s first say that if you already have a quality tenant, spend some time and money attempting to retain them! Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Be proactive in screening good tenants. The effort truly is worth the time, effort and cost.
- Keep the property well maintained and respond to your tenants’ issues in a timely manner, as long as they are valid concerns.
- Reward your tenants for the time they have spent renting and taking care of your property. Little things such as gift cards and reminders of their anniversaries go a long way.
- Always keep in mind, that they are paying the mortgage off on your property!
The Setup. Any real estate deal will move along much better if you have a good foundation in place and it is set up properly in advance. Rentals are no different. Here are a few things to keep in mind along the way:
- Make sure that your rental is in good shape and stays that way. Ensure that it has good curb appeal and that everything is neat, clean, safe and functional.
- Take good pictures/video of your rental when it is empty and freshly cleaned or painted. These media will come into play a bit later when you market the property.
- In your lease have a clause that requires your tenant to give 45-60 days written notice to vacate (where legal) and that the lease terms allow you the right to market the property for a new renter as early as possible during that period. Before we started doing this, we had often found the right tenant but we had a renter moving out of the property in a couple of weeks and this new “ideal” tenant had to give 30+ day written notice to their landlord. (which you want them to do) The result was that we would go for a few weeks or a month with no renter. With additional time to market the property, you can minimize your “down” time.
- Make a list of the amenities near to your property and be sure to keep them in mind when advertising your rental.
Marketing Your Rental. So aside from a “For Rent” sign and a possible Craigslist ad, what lengths should a landlord go in order to get the best tenants and the highest rents? We believe that the harder you market the property, the better. The more folks that see your marketing, the more possible tenants you may have to choose from. Here are a few strategies that we have found successful:
- Put a Free Ad on Zillow Rentals. As of this writing, these ads are free and you also get a free listing on their associated sites, Trulia and Hot Pads. It’s easy to do. Just Google “Zillow Rentals” and it will give you a template to add your rental info. It also allows you to add pictures and videos. The more info, the better!
- com. This site will cost you some money, but we have had great luck with it. For an additional $35 it will also link your ad to 20 other rental sites known as the Rent Path Network. You can print flyers directly from this site and it will also track your leads. There are, of course, other websites but we have had great luck with this one, particularly in tough rental markets.
- Let the Neighbors Know. People love to have folks that they know and love; live close by. By letting the neighbors know that you have a vacancy, you just might get lucky with a referral.
Showing Your Rental. Now that you have possible tenants calling, they will hopefully want to see your rental property. As a new landlord many years ago, I would make an appointment for someone to see the property, only to find that in about 40-50% of cases, you have no-shows! We have found that by scheduling open houses with limited hours such as 10 am-noon or 1 pm on a Saturday or Sunday, that we get the serious folks to show up rather than the proverbial “tire-kickers.” (We sometimes make exceptions for folks visiting out of state with limited time to see properties. Although not always true, we have found that most of these folks are professionals making good incomes and make quick, solid decisions; and most importantly, they tend to show up for the appointment when they say they will do so.)
Holding an open house allows us to have several folks at the open house to assist with showing the property, answering questions, helping with paperwork, etc. For the potential tenants that are attending, it can also cause a bit of a “buyers’ frenzy”, which is not a bad thing.
If the rental is still occupied, we ask the current tenant to leave the house in neat and clean condition and to lock up any valuables beforehand. We also meet with them the night before to make sure all is in order. If the current tenant complains about the open house, we ask them if they would rather experience people showing up at the property at odd and inopportune times or just to be inconvenienced for a couple of hours. We have found that about 85-90% of the time we will find a tenant with the open house as long as we aggressively marketed beforehand to drive them there.
Being a successful landlord, requires, time and effort, good people skills, organization and a willingness to do “above and beyond” what a normal landlord will do. Best of luck with your next vacancy! Look at it as an opportunity to get an even better tenant and a higher rental rate