Landlording & Rental Properties

7 Easy Tips for Filling Vacancies in the Dreaded Winter

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Flipping Houses, Business Management, Personal Development, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate News & Commentary
210 Articles Written

Fall is already here.  Kids are back in school.  Halloween is right around the corner.  Christmas is less than 90 days away.

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Part of me actually likes this time of year.  I look forward to the holidays and I’m finally going to get a break from the hot Memphis summer.  But part of me, along with every other landlord, dreads this time of year.

Why?

Because it is harder to fill vacancies during the winter.  The number of folks moving and looking for a place to live drops significantly in the winter.  Everyone is settled in to school or new jobs and who wants to move at Christmas?

These factors can make a vacancy in the winter difficult, but not impossible.  So here are some tips to help you through those lean, dark days of winter.

How to Fill Vacancies in the Slow Winter Months

Be Patient – Stick to your guns and especially your screening criteria.  It can be awfully tempting to relax a bit just to get that unit filled.  Don’t do it!  You will end up paying a lot more on the back end after a bad tenant than anything you collect in rent.  People still need to move during this time of year.  People switch jobs, make new years resolutions, get divorced, whatever.  The right tenant will come along.

Drop the Price, Not Your Criteria – If worse comes to worse and your place does not rent in a few weeks you may want to consider dropping the price a bit to generate some traffic.  But, I will say it again, stick to your guns and maintain your rental criteria.

Get Past the New Year – You may just have to wait it out until after the New Year.  Let’s face it. Nobody is going to be moving at Christmas (unless there are some extraordinary circumstances).  In fact, I would be extra cautious with anyone moving at Christmas time.  The New Year brings new jobs, new students, new everything.  Waiting until after January 1 may be a game changer.

Sweeten the Deal – Offer a few hundred off the first months rent.  Perhaps you can offer free cable or even a free TV.  Be creative and respond to what your market might desire.  That extra push might just get yours rented.  Plus, $200 or $300 is much cheaper than another month of lost rent.

Ramp Up the Customer Service – Be super responsive when the phone rings.  During this time of year you are the beggar, and beggars can’t be choosers.  Let your customer service skills shine.

Market Shorter Lease Terms – Offer a 6 month lease just to get you over the hump.  There are folks looking for just such a term at times.

Use Longer Lease Terms – Once you do get your places rented, why have the leases expire next winter potentially putting you back into the same boat.  If you can, use a 16 or 18 month lease set to expire in the spring and summer.

So don’t get the winter blues, just change your attitude a bit.  You may have to wait a while longer, but using these tips will help get your places rented.

Photo Credit: ansik

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.

    Jessica Sala-Bonin
    Replied about 6 years ago
    It’s so funny because I always have a rough time locating homes and apartments for rent in the winter!
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Jessica, I guess because no one is moving and every one is hunkered down for the winter. I know for us if we end up with a winter vacancy, it is much harder to fill. It takes much more time and effort. So why are you moving so much in the winter? When you find a place, are the landlords offering any deal or specials to move in? Just curious. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kevin
    Dawn Anastasi
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Funny, I’ve typically filled vacancies in the winter and didn’t have a problem. This was my first summer and had quite a hard time! I think it’s because I’m offering a quality product, and not many people out there are offering anything during winter like I am. So I stand out. Whereas in the summer, everyone and their cousin is renting out properties and so I’m just one of way too many. I guess we’ll see how it goes this winter.
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Dawn, If you offer a good product, they will pick yours first. Good for you for being on top of things. My experience has been just the opposite. It is harder in the winter. But, we also offer a good product, so it just takes a little more effort and time. In the summer, the rush of people seems to create more of a frenzy. So we are in a muc better position. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kevin
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    That’s a great list Kevin. You really have to do things differently when you have vacancies at this time of year. No one wants them from October to January so you have to get creative. I especially agree with this one – “Drop the Price, Not Your Criteria”. That always ends badly. You simply trade your current problem for an even bigger future problem. Sharon
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Sharon, Very true! In fact i think we had to learn that lesson the hard way a few winters ago. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, Kevin
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Sharon, Very true! In fact i think we had to learn that lesson the hard way a few winters ago. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, Kevin
    Lisa Phillips
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Thanks Kevin! I just got qualified tenants and deposits,but I just heard your biggerpockets podcast, lowered my price about 10%, and got quality tenants. So, your advice and experience was very timely! 🙂 Exactly when I love reading your articles,
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Lisa, Great! Glad I was able to help. Stay tuned for more articles. Thanks for reading and the kind words, Kevin
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Lisa, Great! Glad I was able to help. Stay tuned for more articles. Thanks for reading and the kind words, Kevin
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Lisa, Great! Glad I was able to help. Stay tuned for more articles. Thanks for reading and the kind words, Kevin Reply Report comment
    kathy
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Check your states local rules before using a lease longer than 1 year.
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Kathy, Thanks for this valuable information. Although I have not idea why the government would be concerned about a contract between a willing tenant and a willing landlord. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kevin
    kathy
    Replied about 6 years ago
    If I recall correctly, in Wisconsin if your lease is over one year (e.g. 366 days) you can only give 30? day notice instead of 5 day notice if tenant is not paying. This means it can take longer to get rid of a non-paying tenant. (I can’t remember the specifics. I just remember from all the landlord training classes not to make my lease longer than 365 days or I have to follow a different set of rules.)
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Kathy, Thanks for checking back in. I appreciate the info. Folks, be sure you know what your local landlord/tenant laws are. It is so important! There can be little thins like this that can easily trip you up. So find a copy of your local and state laws, read them, save them and reference them often, Kevin
    kathy
    Replied about 6 years ago
    If I recall correctly, in Wisconsin if your lease is over one year (e.g. 366 days) you can only give 30? day notice instead of 5 day notice if tenant is not paying. This means it can take longer to get rid of a non-paying tenant. (I can’t remember the specifics. I just remember from all the landlord training classes not to make my lease longer than 365 days or I have to follow a different set of rules.) Reply Report comment
    Shaun
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I have a vacancy on a place now and am getting anxious. Someone was set to move in the 1st but fell through. Had this one come rent ready after purchase late Oct last year and didn’t rent it until February. Hoping history doesn’t repeat itself…
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Shaun, I hope not either! I hope some of these tips work for you. 3 to 4 months of no income is a long time. Good luck and thanks for reading, Kevin
    Shaun
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Thankfully in this case we own it outright so don’t have to cover a mortgage on it. Still stinks to be out thousands of potential income but at least carrying costs won’t cost us a couple of years worth of cash flow if it does happen.
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Shaun, I hope not either! I hope some of these tips work for you. 3 to 4 months of no income is a long time. Good luck and thanks for reading, Kevin
    Alan Mackenthun
    Replied about 6 years ago
    We’ve had mixed results. The 1st property we bought ended up open at the end of October and we had no luck renting it at all. Ended up getting someone to sign a lease in January for February. Since then though, we haven’t really had any trouble. In fact, we’ve ended up with good rents and good tenants even in November and December. In the end, we’ve found that the 1st unit is always very difficult to rent unless we take section 8. We don’t like to do this, but that that local neighborhood simply requires it. It’s true that there are fewer renters looking, but there are also many fewer rentals available.
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Alan, Good points, Good thing you understand your market as well. Very important in this business. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Kevin
    Susan Cain
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Kevin, Your posts are always, Right On. Thanks. The few times I’ve had a tenant move early, I’ve had the next lease run longer to get back in sync. One of my condos competes with Equity for tenants. They almost always offer a free month. I offer a great reputation . My tenants who moved early surrendered the security deposit. Like Shaun, I have no mortgages, but I do have monthly maintenance fees.
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Susan, Thanks for the kind words! I also appreciate you reading and sharing your experiences. Kevin
    Susan Cain
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Kevin, Your posts are always, Right On. Thanks. The few times I’ve had a tenant move early, I’ve had the next lease run longer to get back in sync. One of my condos competes with Equity for tenants. They almost always offer a free month. I offer a great reputation . My tenants who moved early surrendered the security deposit. Like Shaun, I have no mortgages, but I do have monthly maintenance fees. Reply Report comment
    Susan Cain
    Replied about 6 years ago
    My leases expire July 1, but, if I had a vacancy in the winter, I would offer one free month and a new lease ending June 30. I will always go the extra mile for a quality tenant, but lowering the rent below “market” isn’t a good move. Since I live in Florida, winter is high season for both sales and rentals.
    Susan Cain
    Replied about 6 years ago
    My leases expire July 1, but, if I had a vacancy in the winter, I would offer one free month and a new lease ending June 30. I will always go the extra mile for a quality tenant, but lowering the rent below “market” isn’t a good move. Since I live in Florida, winter is high season for both sales and rentals.
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Susan, Good point! Winter is relative! Winter in Florida would be a good time to rent something, at a snowbird price too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Kevin
    Carol Williams
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I am retired now, after 30 years in real estate and property management. I never liked dealing with vacancies in the winter, so I started setting up leases so they did NOT expire in the winter. The tenants were very cooperative when we discussed this up front. If their lease expired prior to winter, As the leases expired, I would get a lease extension that carried them through the winter. It was easier to take winter vacations this way, too! 🙂
    Kevin Perk
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Carol, We like to try and do that as well. We will even do shorter leases if it just gets us through the winter. Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences, Kevin