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Tips For Writing Killer Rental Property Ads

by Chris Clothier on April 15, 2014 · 16 comments

  
Rental Property Ads

The most expensive season in real estate investment is…when your rental property is stuck with a vacancy.

No one wants an extended vacancy.

With extended vacancies can come even more problems and more problems can mean a full year’s income wiped on a property in one quick hit.

There is a high turnover rate for rental properties during the late spring and summer months – from May to September. During this time, college students are moving in and out of apartments near campus and many families opt to move because their children are out of school for the summer.  Vacancies are simply part of the business and a necessary hazard if you want to be a buy & hold real estate investor.

This turnover can be blessing or a curse for you as a real estate investor.  On the one hand, if your tenants move out during a dynamic rental market, you will probably have an easier time finding new tenants to take their place.  On the other hand, you may have to wait some time with a vacant property before new renters move in.

To compete with other rental properties on the market, making your rental property stand out in the crowd with effective publicity is essential.  Marketing real estate takes time, effort and money to do well, but it is a worthwhile investment to solidify your positive cash flow.  A bad property listing won’t do you any favors. You’ll have spent your resources on producing an advertisement that readers won’t give a second glance.

Related: The Two Most Painful Words a Landlord May Ever Hear…

Property Listings – Only One Piece of the Puzzle

Usually, an article like this is going to just run right over the top of good ideas and a quick list of how-to’s when it comes to marketing your properties.  For today, I am going to focus primarily on one small piece of the marketing puzzle – the property listing.  Know what makes a good property listing, can help you to minimize the gap between tenants and keep your real estate investments profitable.  Consider all aspects of your property listing, from the quality of your photos down to the grammar of your description and even the specific words that you use.

So what should you include and avoid when writing an online listing for your rental property?

Effectively Marketing Real Estate and Rental Properties

What are the necessary elements of a property listing? Even if you already know what to include in your rental listing, there may be something holding you back.

Property Photos

Many people won’t seriously consider a listing if it doesn’t include a picture.

In print, you may be limited to how many photos you can use. In fact, you may only be able to have a single photo. If that’s the case, make it a high-quality exterior shot. Online listings, however, often allow for photo galleries. While you don’t need to have 80 photos of every nook and cranny of your property, having detailed photos of the exterior and major rooms and amenities will increase the appeal of your property. Aim for 15 to 20 quality photographs of your property.

The Making of a Quality Professional Photo

A good property photo looks professional. If you’re not a professional photographer and not prepared to hire one, take these tips for making your photos count.

  • Remove time stamps and dates. Not only do they look unprofessional, but they’re a reminder as to how long your property has been on the market. Keep your photos evergreen and ditch the date.

  • Take multiple shots. Having a variety of photos to choose from when you’re looking for the best to showcase is always better. You can weed out any blurry or under/overexposed photos. Take your time with each shot to get it right.

  • Show the whole space. Avoid cramped photos that show only a corner or side of a room. Viewers want to get a sense of the space, which they can’t do with a narrow photo. Take your photo from a corner of the room, or outside of it, preferably with a wide-angle lens.

  • Use light to your advantage. Time your photos for when the property receives the most soft natural light from windows – often morning or late afternoon. Turn on interior lights to brighten things up and beware of mirrors that could reflect flash if you have to use one.

  • Delete bad photos. Blurry, small, overexposed and underexposed photos won’t show the best of your property. Get an in-focus photo at an acceptable resolution.

  • Avoid photos of cluttered or unfinished rooms. We know you want to market your property as soon as you know it’s going to have a vacancy. For the sake of your listing, though, remember the importance of staging your photos. You don’t want to photograph a cluttered room with the current renter’s belongings scattered everyone. It’s also not a good idea to take pictures to advertise your property in the middle of renovations. Renters want to see a property that’s move-in ready, not a work-in-progress.

Related: 3 Little Known Factors to Help Minimize Vacancy Rates

Good Grammar Matters

You won’t find a “walking closet” in our listings.

Research shows that grammar in a real estate listing matters. Photos are most important, but people are less inclined to consider a property that has silly spelling and grammatical errors in the descriptions. You can’t always rely on spell check to catch your mistakes, so make sure to read and re-read your description before posting it. Reading out loud may help you as well.  I am a horrible speller and I love typing out articles quickly while my brain is working on over-drive.  However,….that leads to mistakes such as grammar errors, spelling errors and silly sounding sentences.  I try to have someone else read over everything I publish, just to help me catch those mistakes and even then, some still get through.  You can not rely on the goodwill of someone who does not know you.  You have to use good grammar if you want a prospect to follow your ad.

Beware of homophones, incorrect or lacking punctuation, and writing in all-caps (hint: don’t do it. The Internet reader interprets all-caps as shouting.) Also avoid obtuse, industry-specific jargon and abbreviations. You don’t want to alienate potential readers with confusing terms.

Energetic and positive words are an absolute must.  Careful though, be sure you are accurate!  A prospective tenant reading your ad wants to read how much you love the property and believe in it as a property.  If they arrive for a showing and find a dump instead of the glowing review you gave the property in your ad, you can kiss that tenant good-bye.  Be accurate and you should be fine.

Including all of the right details in your property listing won’t do you much good if those details are poorly delivered. Never underestimate the impact of good photographs and competent descriptions. Keeping your listings polished and professional will keep the gaps between tenants small and your investments going strong.

What tips do you have for posting rental listings?  Shoot ‘em to us in the comments below…

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy April 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm

I always mention that it’s a “quiet neighborhood” or “quiet building” and that a background check is required. I want to avoid wasting time showing properties to party animals who will destroy the apartment and drive out the other tenants.
Notice I said “quiet”, not “quite”, which is the most common spelling error I see in real estate listings.

Reply

Chris Clothier April 15, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Great comment Amy! Thanks for sharing the spelling error on quiet. I am notorious for misspelling words that pass spellcheck!

Thanks again for your comments.

Chris

Reply

Jonna Weber April 15, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Related to pictures: for my last two SFH vacancies, I invested in professional real estate photography. The houses looked beautiful, and now I have those 25 pictures to showcase if the homes turn over again next year. I will continue to do so for my higher end rental homes as the they turn over. The online listings are a reflection of my company, and I want to come across as professional and highlight the very best in each property.

Reply

Chris Clothier April 16, 2014 at 7:23 am

Jonna –

That was a really good point. As long as no major changes have occurred with you property, those pictures can be used again and again to market your property.

Great comments! Thanks for taking the time to leave them.

Chris

Reply

Dawn Anastasi April 15, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Make sure your rental ad doesn’t contain discriminatory words and phrases! You want to read the HUD guide as some things you would think aren’t discriminatory ARE considered such.

OKAY: “Located near 68th and Main Street”.
NOT OKAY: “Located near St. Peter’s Church”.

http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/part109.pdf

Reply

Chris Clothier April 16, 2014 at 7:23 am

Dawn –

Thank you for sharing that great resource and leaving that example. I can imagine that a vast majority of those posting ads had no idea that you could not say a property was located near a church.

Again, thanks for the comments.

Chris

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Patrick Flanagan April 15, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Hi! Great tips and will come in handy for my first rentals. Thanks for your time. Pat

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Chris Clothier April 16, 2014 at 7:31 am

Pat –

That is awesome! Go make it happen. You can find a ton of great information here on the blog and in the forums.

Thanks for taking the time to read the article and to leave your comments. Hopefully, they help you get started and moving in the right direction!

Chris

Reply

Adrian Tilley April 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Good tips. I’m always amazed at how many listings I see with terrible pictures.

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Chris Clothier April 16, 2014 at 7:33 am

Adrian –

Sometimes we are all guilty of moving a little too quickly and not being patient enough to get all the details right. Pictures are an important detail and reminder ourselves and each other of the importance is always helpful. Like you, I am often amazed at some things I see that are too often taken for granted.

Thanks for leaving your comments.

Chris

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Jason April 15, 2014 at 10:51 pm

I like the ads with the bad photos and grammar. I can tell right away they aren’t professional landlords and they may be prime candidates for people who may want to sell.

In all seriousness, great points. People don’t realize they aren’t just simply listing a property but their really marketing a business.

Reply

Chris Clothier April 16, 2014 at 7:35 am

Jason –

Great comments! Thanks for taking the time to leave them. Like I said a little earlier, details are important. Your point about marketing a business or marketing yourself is very important. It is not a property but a business and becomes an opportunity for you as a real estate investor to improve your investment so your points are right on.

Chris

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Slinky April 17, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Positive, but accurate is an important one. When apartment searching, I once went and looked at a rental. I was skeptical because it looked too good to be true for the price. Sure enough, he used the same listing for all apartments in the building. Except this apartment was the “garden level” apartment. that means it was in the basement with cinder block walls, no windows and carpeting instead of beautiful, large windows and hard wood floors. Who wants to rent from a guy who starts out lying and using the old bait and switch?

There’s also a lot of words commonly used by real estate agents that may convey something you didn’t really mean. For instance, charming and cozy. Charm means something is weird, probably in a bad way, and cozy means it’s really small. “Country kitchen” means dated and probably ugly. “Charm of yesteryear” says stuff is old and probably in not so good condition. Otherwise it would be “Beautifully preserved historic gem” or something. Exclamation points often feel like you’re pushing the property too hard, which makes me wonder why. Especially when you lead with them.

Lastly, I’d say it’s better to focus on the positives and be straight forward about any huge drawbacks. The previous examples I found all in the same listing. They put in all the bad things, but added “good” adjectives to make them sound better. The “convenient” first floor bedroom is a shoe box. Why even mention it?? They left out most of the really good points entirely! It has beautiful original wood floors, a coved ceiling in the entry, a victorian era chandelier in the dining room, a spacious kitchen that is half windows, large picture windows with deep window sills for plants or a window seat in the dining and living room. The lot is lovely and wooded with a shaded brick patio and a fenced in garden. But hey, I’m super excited about that new water softener!

Reply

James April 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Great article, Chris!

It took me way too long to realize that advertising a space is a skill and can have a negative affect on cash flow if done poorly.

Since people looking for rentals spend about 1-2 seconds perusing each headline, I put the most attractive feature in the headline, i.e. ‘2Bedroom w/in-unit Washer and Dryer’ and the location. You are right about including photos. If you’ve ever been part of a dating site, who looks at the profiles of people who don’t post a picture of their face? No one! Why, because the assumption is that the person is not attractive or confident. Same goes for rentals…no photos, means: ugly apartment!

I have increased my photos of 2 exterior to include 5 interior. The people who show up for the open house pretty much know already that they are serious about getting the unit. It’s always nice to see people line up outside to see my listings!!! I have been able to find better tenants and increase the rents resulting in increased cash flow!

Thanks for your tips!

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Christopher Leon April 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Nice Article, Chris. Thanks for the tips; a couple I would add are the following: 1) Do not give all the info (E.G. Do not include unit number, full address, floor level, security deposit, etc). This is an advertisement so you want to draw your prospects in. If all the info is there, you give them no reason to call. 2.) Include surrounding towns in your ad and any other landmarks you may be able to think of so that you pool from those towns or people searching for specific locations.

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Cuong Le April 21, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Thanks Chris for the great article. This even applies to real estate agents who are suppose to be professional and show blurry/dark pictures taken with their cell phones. We’ve always turn on all lights to show everything working and it really helps show case a clean house. Investing the time to get good pictures and being able to reuse it later is invaluable.

For ads that can’t have pictures, putting a major intersection and/or subdivision in the title helps. Most ads you see all start something like “Beautiful 3/2/2; $1000/mo…” which doesn’t attract too much attention. Helping people visualize where your house is may get more inquiries.

Reply

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