Landlording & Rental Properties

Tips for Renting Property During the Slow Winter Months

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Vacancies

The holiday season is upon us and while that brings with it a lot of joy and excitement – it also brings with the most dreaded season for landlords to fill their units. Simply put – people don’t like to move between Thanksgiving and the New Year so renting property can be both difficult and stressful. If you have any vacancies right now you probably know exactly what I’m talking about (I have two.) This past week on the BiggerPockets Forums there has been a discussion going on about strategies for overcoming this problem. I’ve decided to compile some of the different strategies used by seasoned investors here on the BiggerPockets Blog as well as some thoughts from other respected landlords I’ve reached out to about overcoming this problem. Without further ado, let’s hear from those landlords:

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Quotes from Landlords on Renting Property During the Slow Winter Months

“I time my leases to not end in the Fall, but December 31st is okay, because leasing picks up here in January. If I need to lease during this slow time, I crank up my marketing more than normal: Craigslist ads pointing to my YouTube video about the home, signs in yard, talk to neighbors. I will also run multiple Craigslist ads and keep renewing them every couple of days so they stay closer to the top. I haven’t had to discount, but I would discount the first month to get a good tenant in place if needed.” -Jon Klaus

“The best advice for landlords is to just wait it out and not take a tenant out of desperation. It will be far worse in the long run.” -Aly L

“I think it is easy to distinguish the “must moves” from the “I want to move” tenants based on income verification and leasing information (where are they at with their current lease). If they are desperate for relocation, I will hold off because it is more of a hassle in the long term, but if they legit want to move, I may make more repairs/upgrades for them… I would rather lose 3 months of rent to keep it vacant than get someone in and evict them down the road” -Dan S.

“An eviction can cause up to 6 months rent + the non-monetary issues (stress on yourself & your spouse). You’ve gotta think long-term. You can either A. lower the rent ($50 max) or wait it out. Each month the tenant pool gets bigger. Starting in March, you’ll see a lot more people looking for rentals. This is why the 50% rule is so important. No matter how long you’ve had a tenant, save 10% of your revenue for vacancies/evictions/nonpayments & put it into a separate reserve.” -Scott W.

“People always love offers. Free TV at move in, 1/2 off first month, $25 gift card a month to Starbucks, Target, or anywhere else. You name it. If your incentive or bonus is say 50% or so of your rent, it may sound far better than just offering half off. There are countless other possibilities ” – Josh Dorkin

“Get creative with the incentives. Example: pay the tenant’s heat for the first two months of the lease. In the lease, just make sure you cap the amount of the utility you pay to $150… or whatever.” -Chris Martin

“If you do annual leases, I would set the end of the first lease to be June ( + or – one month) to coincide with the school year” -Steve Babiak

“If you sign a lease with a new tenant that would otherwise end during this time period, it might be wise to change the term of the lease to something other than the standard 6 or 12 months (like maybe 13 months, for example) so that the lease doesn’t end during the holiday season. Another option would be to possibly delay closing if it’s a new property you’re acquiring. I’m doing this right now.” -Kyle J

“When you think you’re the worst marketer on the planet, or that you are totally out of touch with market rents and must have overpriced your units, or that everyone in town hates you, then stop. Look at the calendar. It’s probably from Mid-November to Mid-January or February, or March and it’s not you, it’s the weather. So hang in there, re-read some BP posts about lowering your rates, but not your standards, and spend the time you are not showing units, in marketing for renters.” -Ann Bellamy

What are your best tips for getting a property rented? Add your tips in the comments below!

Photo: Luis Hernandez

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.

    Al Williamson
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Big B – Thank you for the compilation of tips. I’ll put them to good use as I try to find a good tenant for the great apartment I have available.
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Cool Al, me too 🙂
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Cool Al, me too 🙂
    Todd Breen
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    The best tip I know to rent a home in the winter? Is to show the video walk through tour you shot during the warmer months! Leaves, lawns and light go a long way toward getting people excited about living in a property that’s cold, dark and snowy!
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Todd – that’s an excellent strategy! Thanks for sharing!
    Jeff Brown
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    The proactive timing of lease expirations is probably the best strategy, at least in my experience. Really good stuff, Brandon. You’ve no doubt helped countless landlords.
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    I don’t know if I added anything to this conversation 🙂 I’m just the messenger! And I agree. I only do month-to-month leases generally (lower income I find this better- do you? ) so it doesn’t work too well with me. But I agree in concept. Reply Report comment
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    I don’t know if I added anything to this conversation 🙂 I’m just the messenger! And I agree. I only do month-to-month leases generally (lower income I find this better- do you? ) so it doesn’t work too well with me. But I agree in concept.
    Amy Arata
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    I have a vacant unit right now and will use the down time to renovate the kitchen, which will hopefully attract better tenants. One caveat about offering incentives: I’ve found that people get really angry when they don’t meet my tenant criteria if I advertised an incentive. People in my area seem to feel they are entitled to rent an apartment regardless of their lack of qualification.
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Ha Amy that’s funny! Tenants are fickle people, eh? It’s a good idea though – use the down time to upgrade a unit. I think I’ll do that with one of mine now that you say that. Thanks!
    Cheryl
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Thank you so much for these tips! I have a unit that’s on the market. Property manager said there haven’t been any bites. I’m definitely not just going to pick anyone to have a warm body in the place!
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Yeah, we gotta be careful not to succumb to that “just fill it” mentality! Thanks for the comment! Reply Report comment
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Yeah, we gotta be careful not to succumb to that “just fill it” mentality! Thanks for the comment!
    James gleason
    Replied over 6 years ago
    i really try to not rent in the winter out of desparation but sometimes i do it month to month,…thanks for this renters advice
    Ryan
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    If you’re showing the rental, get there early and turn the heat on so the place is warm and cozy before the prospective tenants arrive. If the unit has a gas or electric fireplace, have a fire going to really make the space feel inviting. I live in Arizona, so this strategy isn’t as relevant here. I try to do the opposite in summer months by having the A/C on and the place cooled down!
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Great suggestion Ryan! Thanks!
    Dan
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Don’t believe a word your property manager tells you,,,verify,,,If their lips are moving they are lying…They are most likely not returning calls from potential Residents. Have a friend call about your apartment, most likely they will not get a call back
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Hey Dan – I actually need to try this strategy to make sure my resident manager is doing his job! Thanks for the tip!
    edita
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    We have a vacant unit right now, and I advertise on craiglist along with the property manager, and forward him the potential tenant’s questions. Property manager once emailed me stating he receives the same emails since we double advertise. I asked him if he preferred me not forwarding the questions since the same tenants already emailed him, and the PM said he did not care if I do. To my surprise, I received an email from a potential tenant stating that he left a voice mail a few days ago and this morning looking to see the property, and he hoped somebody gets back to him. I forwarded the email to PM, and he called the potential tenant back right away… I just wish PM’s picked up the phone and responded to potential tenants WITHOUT DELAY…
    Danni Black
    Replied about 3 years ago
    I really like the tip “get creative with incentives.” That definitely seems like a great way to get some more business to your rental property. My husband and I usually like to spend a few weeks in rental home so we will have to keep these tips in mind. Thank you for sharing!
    Deedee Lewis
    Replied almost 3 years ago
    I really like the idea of extending a leasing period so that it doesn’t the holiday period. The holidays can be such a stressful time for a lot of people and to add having to move out of a unit during that time can be a nightmare. I would imagine that a tenant would be appreciative of a landlord that is understanding of the hassles of moving during the holidays.