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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.