5 Tips to Attract Tenants Using Online Advertising

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Real estate and the Internet is such a perfect match that it’s hard to imagine how people bought or rented homes before listings were online. To find a good deal on an apartment or home to rent, people scrambled to get their hands on the first copies of the local Sunday newspaper. By being the first to call a new listing, they hoped to be at the top of the landlord’s list. Late comers who slept in would miss the boat.

House hunters had to be intimately familiar with local neighborhoods and market conditions because real estate classifieds provided only an address, price and the barest information, since landlords paid by the number of words or the characters. You had to translate cryptic phrases written to save space, like “6 Rms Riv Vu,” which was also the name of a 1972 Broadway play about two New Yorkers looking for apartments. Because so little information was available, looking for a rental often involved wasted visits looking at places that weren’t even close to what you wanted.

Today the tenant has a wealth of online options available. In fact, there are so many advertising channels online; landlords often waste advertising dollars trying to attract the right tenant for their property. I work with investors every day to help them design online marketing programs that will get their single family rentals leased to quality tenants as quickly as possible.

But just like any advertisement, details are vital to success when it comes to online rental ads. Real estate agents become experts at delivering just enough information in an appealing way to attract a buyer. The same principles apply to a rental ad.

Here are Five Tips for Creating Online Rental Ads that Deliver:

  1. Write creative and inspiring content. Don’t just copy someone else’s ad. Emphasize the features that make your property uniquely attractive: garage, yard, storage space, views, history . Talk about the open floor plan and design features like skylights, fireplaces, open living spaces, patio, deck, counter tops, kitchen islands,. Be sure to discuss recent remodeling and upgrades, including bathrooms and kitchen, and appliances, AC, cable and heating. Talk about the neighborhood and its proximity to other retail outlets or places of interest. Also, give some prospective as to where local parks, and off street parking is located. Take advantage of the opportunity to provide detailed content in your online ad that wouldn’t fit in the bad old days of newspaper classifieds. The more you share about the property and its neighborhood, the more a prospective renter can identify and buy into your home being their next home.
  2. Take high quality photos. A study by the Redfin real estate site found that listings with better photos command higher asking prices. At the closing table, listings with nicer photos gain anywhere between $934 and $116,076–as measured by the difference between asking and final price–over listings using photos from point-and-click cameras. No photos or blurry photos often leads to consumers clicking “next” on your ad, choosing to only see those with photos or good photos. Don’t use your standard camera phone to accomplish this, but rather find a camera with zoom, a wide angle lens, and one with maximum pixels for clearest shot. Most websites now allow for picture crunching of too high quality photos without much reduction in picture quality. Consider hiring a professional photographer. The expense will pay off for years. Professional photographers start at about $100
  3. Make sure to provide multiple forms of communication. Nearly everyone has an email address and cell phone, so provide yours. Don’t risk missing a call or an email from a prospective tenant. The rule of thumb in real estate is always to answer your phone. If a prospective renter calls and gets voicemail, it’s likely they will move on to the next property with hopes of speaking to a live person.
  4. Keep the price and information fresh. Be sure that the rental rate and all terms including the deposit and utilities are clearly and accurately stated. Don’t post a lower price in hope of attracting more leads. It’s unethical and frustrates customers who might have been great tenants. Don’t lie, or exaggerate anything about your property, in time, this will show, leaving you scrambling to keep a deal alive. Trust works both ways.
  5. Don’t forget about craigslist! One of the most utilized pages on craigslist is their “for rent” section of the housing category. Make sure to have a presence. There are sites like Postlets.com, and RentFeeder.com that will allow you to post more visually appealing ads using HTML versus the typical plain text format most know craigslist to have. However beware of overdone ads; craigslist has a nasty habit of flagging html ads over plain text. When flagged, your ad is not shown to the general public. And don’t try to re-post your property every day. Craigslist has strict policies against spamming.

Good luck on your rental advertising efforts. May your ads keep your rental property always be filled with happy, responsible tenants.

Photo: AJMexico

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About Author

Brenton (G+) is a professional landlord and a serial real estate entrepreneur, with diplomas from Harvard Business School in Real Estate Management, and Entrepreneurial Development from Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT).

10 Comments

  1. Great information. One quote really stuck out for me. “The rule of thumb in real estate is always to answer your phone.” I can’t stress this point enough. I own and manage several rentals and when I have a property that’s available I’ll make sure to answer my phone every time it rings. I hear a lot of complaints from potential renters that they couldn’t get in touch with a property manager so it’s important to answer your phone and to respond to emails quickly.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. As an agent in my earlier days I was often poked fun at because I literally walked around with my blackberry, now Iphone in my hand all day. Basically glued to it, so I never missed a call. I mean really, the epitome of a successful real estate agent is a guy in a suit and on a smart phone. We know why this is now…

  3. Brandon Turner

    Hey Brenton,

    Great post about online advertising. I definitely need to pick up my online presence for attracting tenants! Question though: What are your thoughts on Postlets vs. Flyer vs. RentFeeder? Do you have a favorite?

    • I’m partial to RentFeeder.com as my company uses it, and sometime in the next year I will become the CEO, so you can imagine I’m a big fan. However I understand Postlets, and VFlyer have alot of visually appealing templates. The problem with the Postlets and VFLyers is they only syndicate to free sites, which in all my years they rarely drive traffic, excluding only Zillow or Trulia. However Rentfeeder, once signed up, you can build out feeds to premium content sites like Rentals.com, and RentalHomesPlus.com, and RentBits.com where I tend to see the most traffic.

  4. Chris Clothier

    Brenton –

    Nice post! Very good tips on there. We manage approaching 1500 homes and rent between 70 and 80 homes a month and online is the fastest growing rental segment in our business. So I can tell you from experience that your tips are spot on!

    Good stuff – Chris

    • Congrats. Thats a wonderful accomplishment. I got a little up on you, but I can honestly say I see very few people above the 1000 unit mark, unless they manage apartments, which I do not. I only handle SFR, TH, CONDOS.

      What market are you in? You and I should stay in touch.

  5. Thanks for the article. Yep, I’ve not had a vacancy in a while, but now that I do, I’ve noticed Craigslist clamping down hard – they don’t like my Postlets html anymore. Things change fast!

    And you’re so correct. I’m headed back to recreate my ad using the CL interface. I’ll use some cute symbols in my headline to help it stand out.

    Folks can check out http://www.CraigslistCodes.com to learn more about this tactic.

  6. Marc Jolicoeur on

    Last July I had great success using Craigslist. I am a new investor and this was my first property. I had good pictures and wrote a detailed, long description explaining why my property was better than all of the other similar properties. I had pictures of the local kids park and had pictures of the walking trails in the neighborhood.

    I used Postlets to create an ad and to post to Zillow and Trulia. For Craigslist, I took the postlets-generated HTML and modified it a lot, removing most of the postlets-specific HTML code.

    The result was a number of email leads from Craigslist every day my ad was out there. I was marketing even before I had possession of the home. Every 3 days or so, I re-posted the same ad.

    I had a renter willing to sign before she saw the home in person and before I got the keys to the unit! She signed the lease the day after we closed and we got top price for rent.

  7. I personally don’t want to deal with residents that are savvy enough to be able to go online or have an email address. I would not turn away a qualified person on this reason but I only do online advertising so it isn’t to likely I will have that issue.

    In my area at least I don’t know anyone that looks anywhere else or anyone that has any sucess with anything else (aside for the “For Rent” sign out front). Of course I also don’t think anyone uses anything than CL or one of the other major free sites so I cant even concieve of paying for online advertising.

    By the way I HATE talking to these guys on the phone as first contact since there are so many time wasters out there. In my text CL ads I don’t even put a phone number. I use postlets and the require one so I put in the ad to please contact via email. I let all the calls go to VMail and I will try to call back in a reasonable amount of time but they already have a strike against them.
    If they can’t understand and follow such a simple request then I foresee issues with them understanding policies and any rules and regulations they are given.

  8. It is surprising how little effort some agents make when writing ads. The last time I sold a property I rewrote the ad material my agent put together for my house AND took new photos because theirs were so bad. Just a little more effort makes a huge difference.

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