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Empty Unit? Use These 8 Marketing Tips to Rent Your Property Quickly

by Chris Clothier on March 5, 2014 · 20 comments

  
Renting an Empty Unit

A vacant rental property is expensive. If you have a mortgage to pay on your property and no tenants, a few months can create big financial losses. To keep the window between tenants to a minimum, your marketing strategy needs to be top-notch. You want to attract good, lasting tenants. In a sea of vacancies and a slew of competition, your property has to stand out in the best way possible. Marketing real estate is a serious business, and it’s not one that you can afford to neglect. Much of real estate investment is a people business — communicating, relating and relationship building. A lot of those interactions shine in how you choose to market your properties.

Maybe you’ve been doing everything that you can think of to attract tenants but, for some reason, none of your advertising efforts seems to be bearing fruit. If you’re frustrated by marketing your rental, let us offer a few tips to get your property off of the market and back to making good returns.

Tips for Marketing Your Rental Property

Professional Photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of real estate, a picture can be worth a few thousand dollars. In this day and age, you must have attention-grabbing photos of your rental property in order to attract interested parties. Whether they’re going online or in a publication, though, you need to make sure your photography is effective — which means it’s professional.

Having professional photos of your property not only encourages people to look longer at your property, but can boost your asking price. Even if you don’t hire a photographer, there are a few tips that can add a lot of polish to your property photos.

When using photos, always consider the following:

  • The exterior shot is the most important: The first photo should always be an exterior shot, which is best taken either half an hour before or after sunset, or in the early morning. Twilight shots can pop with the exterior lights turned on. A good exterior photo should be the hook that gets prospective tenants eager to see more.
  • Keep photos straight: Get a tripod. A wide-angle lens on a quality SLR camera will help your photos out, too. And no smart phone cameras. They aren’t wide enough to capture smaller spaces and will leave your space looking cramped. In most cases, you’ll need a wide-angle lens around 28mm. A travel tripod will assure that you have straight photographs. Few people will keep looking at a property that seems like it’s going to sink into the earth. If not a tripod, get a bubble level and use it to keep your photos perfectly horizontal. 
  • No flash: Keeping the flash off lets the natural, existing light in the property (whether that’s from windows or lighting fixtures) shine and maintain the atmosphere of the space. Flash photography can overexpose, which can not only make your property seem uninviting and misconstrue depth, but it can highlight any and all visual flaws. 
  • Think hard about which photos to show: Studies show that online real estate hunters spend 60% of their time on a listing looking at the photos. You can’t afford to have throw-away photos. Blurry, unfocused or sloppily taken photographs are out of the question. Photography is an art and so is marketing rental property. If you hire someone to take your photos, know what to avoid and how to best use photos to attract renters. Your photos should convey that you care about presentation and your property. They speak not only for your property, but for you. The reputation you’re building should be that of care and undeniable professionalism.

A Detailed Listing

Don’t make your prospective tenants work to find details about your property. Most people looking for a rental in this day and age are looking online and want to quickly be able to make comparisons. If you are unclear on things like monthly lease (or you require an inquiry to find out what it is), pet policies or amenities, that’s a strike against your property for someone looking. People want to know as much as possible about a property before committing to a serious pursuit.  I would encourage you to be as specific as possible and skip the flowery language.  It does not work as well online.  Instead, stick to your message of quality and service.  If you plan to offer a great property and responsive service to their needs, then tell them!  But lose all the flowery language about the beauty and tranquility of the area unless you have a babbling brook running through the backyard.  Tenants want to know what they are getting and they have hundreds (usually) to choose from.

Internet Savvy Advertising

Speaking of this day and age, it will hurt you not to be up to snuff on your Internet advertising. If you’re advertising your property on a website, make sure they’re well-timed. Studies show that listing put up on a Friday get more views and, for homes, sold faster than those put up on other days. The same can be said of rentals. Don’t be afraid to post your listing more than once, either!

There are other strategies for your online property marketing beyond posting a listing. You could, for example, record and post a video tour of your property on YouTube, letting prospective tenants see and grow interested in your property from the comfort of their homes.

Taking the time to market your property effectively is well worth it for your overall investment. It can revolutionize your entire image for the better, meaning more tenants and a healthier, more profitable investment for you.  What about other specific marketing ideas that may not fall into traditional thinking?

Related: 5 Tips to Attract Tenants Using Online Advertising

Understand Your Demographic

If you’re targeting a very specific sort of family or individual to rent your property, you need to keep that in consideration in any and all advertising. If you’re targeting families with children, for instance, make amenities in your property that will appeal to children take the spotlight when you talk and write about your rental. Talk about the spacious backyard, put up a tire swing in a tree. The same sort of consideration should be taken into account for every audience. If you’re targeting seniors, find out what seniors want in a property and highlight those features. Market your property at local recreation centers and workout facilities where you are likely to have families see them.  Place advertisements on local grocery store boards and even at daycare centers near and around your property.  A simple request of the owners may be all it takes to have your property marketed directly to families in your area that may love the amenities for families that your property provides.

Get Sleek Signage

Save the plywood and paint and get a real “For Rent” sign. While the kind you can pick up at a hardware store is acceptable, those signs are hardly unique. In a competitive market, you need to stand out — even in your signage. You can order custom, inexpensive signs online from places like BuildaSign.com. Include a few quick, substantial details like number of bedrooms, monthly rent, and whether or not utilities are included. Make sure to include a contact number and email address. Avoid real estate jargon that will muddy your message. When you put your sign out for the world to see, make sure it’s near the street. If you really want to go all-out, you can spend a few more dollars and try this tactic that we have used for years to bring in the street rents

Place more than one sign in the yard.  Place them starting from the curb and line them going back to the house and tell the prospective tenants why your place is best!  Beautifully Renovated!  New 4 Bedroom/ 3 Bath Home!  Use three or four signs with one of them telling the prospective tenants how to contact you.  The visual effect alone will catch their eyes and draw them to your property.  Make sure they are lined up straight.  Do not let the signs be placed all haphazardly around the yard.  If you are going to make an impression and try to grab the attention of a passer-by at least try to make it the best impression possible!  Get them to stop and take a look.

Roll-Out Incentives

Consider offering something special to your would-be tenants when they sign on for the long-term. That could be the first month rent-free, free parking, the spreading out of their security deposit over the lease, or any other perks you can offer to your tenants that commit to calling your property home. Not only do incentives help hook tenants in the first place, but they keep them coming back. Waived fees, gift cards, move-in specials…get creative!  I will say I am not a fan of the free T.V. crowd.  I would much rather install something useful like an alarm system than a T.V.  Just stay creative and try some different offers to bring in the eyes.

Open House

Throwing an open house can be a great way to garner exposure for your property. Open Houses don’t have the same stress on viewers as that of an official showing. Often, they’ll attract the unsure and the curious. If anything, getting more one-on-one exposure will also help with word of mouth. Let passersby see the inside of your property by pulling up the blinds and letting them take a peak.  Plus, if you have multiple properties for rent (such as a property management company), an open house allows you to put out flyers for tenants to see everything you have.  If they rent this property or that property does not always matter.  The point of the open house is to bring in eyes on your property(s).

If you want to hold a traditional Sunday afternoon Open House, time it well. Open an hour earlier or stay open an hour later than the open houses of surrounding properties. It may else help to have a plate of fresh-baked cookies or refreshments available for your visitors. You property can shine on it’s own, but small, friendly and personal gestures will help keep you and your house or apartment in their minds. Also, make sure you give guests an easy way to leave their information.  Have a registration for a free giveaway such as a book.  Something that will have some value, but nothing to break the bank over.  Then collect the registrations.  Send everyone a thank you email along with the winning announcement and ask them if you can send additional properties for rent.  It is a great way to communicate quickly with a group of very interested tenants.

Use Networking

We’re not talking Internet advertising here — not in the way of posting listings. One thing you can do is utilize social media to spread the word. With Twitter and Facebook you can reach people who are friends of friends of friends that would not have otherwise heard of you or your property.

Beyond the casual conventions of social media, which make for great free advertising, you can fall back on older, tried-and-true advertising methods. Put up flyers on community bulletin boards that can often be found in grocery stores, coffee shops and community centers. If you’re in a college town, you can even go for the student center to attract student tenants.

Think, too, about how to target the neighborhood. Send postcards advertising the property in its neighborhood — the people living close by likely know someone who needs to rent and they have an interest in making sure good people end up next door.  If you sweeten the pot a little with…say a gift card to a local establishment, you could find yourself with others renting your house for you.

Related: Networking: The Secret of Successful Real Estate Investing

Marketing rental property is not unlike marketing real estate. You need to be open to trying new things and certainly never feel you are above doing things a little zany.  Sometimes, it takes getting way outside of the established box for real estate to make things happen!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrian Tilley March 5, 2014 at 11:26 am

Good article. Another thing I would add regarding pictures is to put them in a logical order. I can’t tell you how many I’ve seen, on the MLS no less, where it goes: bedroom, bathroom, yard, basement, bedroom, kitchen, backyard, bathroom, kitchen, etc. Put them in the same order you’d show the house in so people can get an idea of floorplan, flow, etc.

Reply

Chris Clothier March 5, 2014 at 11:41 am

Adrian –

Thanks so much or reading the article and for sharing your tips! Those little details absolutely! matter if you want to get your property rented faster. Thanks again for sharing!

Chris

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Jordan Thibodeau March 5, 2014 at 11:33 am

Great post! I would say the video tour is number #1. You never know if your tenants are relocating from a different area and are unable to do an in person walk through. Now that almost all cellphones come with a video camera, take a quick video, and upload it into youtube.

Also, I would DL floor plan creator and include the floor plan in your ad so your tenant can have a better sense of the unit’s foot print.

I find that by doing these two things, it primes the tenants for what to expect, so their are no surprises during the in person walk through, which saves you time from having to show uninterested tenants your unit.

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Chris Clothier March 5, 2014 at 11:39 am

Jordan – Those are two great tips! That is the second time today someone has mentioned a floor plan creator as a tool to give more info. on your houses both for sale and rent.

Really, really good share on that one.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Chris

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James March 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Chris,
Thanks for the marketing tips. I have improved my online marketing with more photos. Wish that I had done it a long time ago. I also put the most attractive aspect of the unit in the heading, for example: 2 Bdrm Upper w/in-unit Laundry This results in a barrage of people wanted to see the flat. I start with photos of the outside and then quality photos of the rooms, focusing attention on the kitchen and bathroom w/washer and dryer. Here’s my question: I think that I am posting the rent too low, because I actually have people fighting to see it first before anyone else. Instead of offering discounts etc. would it be good business to say after the prospective tenants fall in love that there is a monthly water fee of $50.00 or something that can boost my lower rent or would that be false advertising? What do you suggest? I just posted the ad, so I cannot now change the rent per month. Thanks.

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Chris Clothier March 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Hey James –

Thanks for reading the article and for leaving your comments! As for your question, I am a big proponent of just being up front and promoting quality versus low-price. Just advertise your rent and go with it. That is my advice.

Chris

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lamac66 March 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I’ve found open houses to be most effective marketing. No waiting on a prospect running late, or cancels at the last minute. Let them all show up at once, pick up brochure and app. Sure, you’ll have tire kickers. Sure beats individual showings at the whim of prospects!

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Chris Clothier March 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I agree about open houses being highly effective. You can get a lot of traffic all without worrying if your time is being well spent.

Thanks for the read and the comments.

Chris

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Rodney Kuhl March 5, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Chris, awesome article! I will be using this information for my first rental very soon! Awesome stuff!

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Chris Clothier March 6, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Rodney – Be sure to let me know how that first rental goes. Would love to hear about your success.

All the best –

Chris

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Al Williamson March 6, 2014 at 9:58 am

Thank you Chris. I’m going to move on your non generic sign tip and save this post for sure.

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Chris Clothier March 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Hey Al!

Great to read your comments on the article. Thank you for taking the time to read and then to leave your thoughts. Let me know if I can help you in any way.

All the best –

Chris

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Russ March 6, 2014 at 11:30 am

I like to put up open house signs all day, and have a lock box on the door. I also put a note on the front door to call me for open house. I then give them the code and ask that they lock up and call me when they are done, so I can see how they like it and make sure they locked up. If they don’ t call me, then I call them. Either way I have their phone number and time of visit, in case there are any problems. Also, where I am located we are only allowed to have 1 sign in the yard, so check local restrictions before you proceed putting many signs in the yard.

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Chris Clothier March 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Russ –

You are right, you have to be careful and know your local laws before putting multiple signs up in the yard. You made some other really good points.

Thanks for taking the time to read and write on the article.

Chris

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Frank Iglesias March 6, 2014 at 11:32 am

I really think that its important to know your target market and to have a really good photo specially these days where in Social Media is really booming.

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Chris Clothier March 6, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Frank –

Good point about social media. need to be up on your competition and be prepared to be better than them at every turn – including taking pictures!

Chris

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Eric March 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I take all my own photos. I also put a video on YouTube for a virtual tour. I use Postlets and rentBits for mass merchandising of my apartments. And Craig’s. The others bring in as much as Craig’s.

If you cannot rent an apartment in a couple of weeks, you are either over-priced, or under-marketing.

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Susan Cain March 9, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Chris, thanks for another excellent article.
I use agents for everything. I prefer to let professionals do their thing, rather than do it myself. When I know an apartment will be available, I ask the current tenant to allow my agent to bring in a photographer, The online pictures get the job done quickly. I recently moved across the state and left my empty house for sale with a Realtor. It looked so good online, I almost reconsidering keeping it as a rental. Fortunately, I let it go. The house sold for cash in 6 weeks.

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Sharon Vornholt March 10, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Nice tips Chris.

I especially like the ones about using a good camera to get quality pictures and ditching the cheap signs. I really believe that two things attract a good quality tenant:

A quality property that is obviously well kept and maintained, and the image of the business that is projected during the “dating period”. You have really nailed all of the points on making your business stand out as a professional company.

Little things really do make a difference. If you and your property project a crappy image, you will most likely attract a crappy tenant. :)

Sharon

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Aston March 19, 2014 at 3:29 pm

There has to be a few post-production photo companies who do a good job with making your photos “pop.” That’s something to consider, too.

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