Vacancy dragging out - what are we missing?

20 Replies

We have a duplex in the Cayce area that's been completely vacant for a couple months now.  We handed the property over to a PM, and while she's had showings, virtually none of those are being converted to applications (though the viewers are taking the actual form and seem to have positive things to say).  We started at $700/unit, but have since dropped to $650, and are even considering waiving the application fee for those who are ultimately accepted.  These are 3/1 units, though on the smaller end from a sq ft perspective.  Units have had some light rehab (paint, flooring in some rooms, countertops replaced).

Looking for any insights on what we might be missing... I know it's hard to say for sure without more details, and I know we're getting into the slow season for moves.

Thanks.

Is it close to the river? Those should rent easily. If it's in a suspect area it might take a little longer but should still rent eventually.

Pete, we are having a similar situation in Lex County, with a duplex that rented fairly quickly back in March, but this unit came open in July and hasn’t had much traction from qualified applicants. I’m wondering if it’s a slow season. Next week we’ll be lowering rent about 7%.

@Adam Odom Not right next to the river, but not far.  It's just west of 12th street, on Taylor Rd.

@Chris V.   I know part of it is just the season.  Dec-Jan are the toughest to fill for sure... people tend to move during the warmer spring and summer months, before kids go back to school in the fall.  Always someone looking to move, but fewer inquiries.

@Pete Mathias While that is not the best part of town, its not the worst either given its proximity to Columbia.  I operate just over the bridge in the same rental class but in the Broad River area.  I have never had a hard time renting units and the only unit I ever had vacant for more than a month turned over on Dec 8th.  You may need to consider a new PM.

How are you advertising?  Its sounds old school, but I continue to have a lot of success with Craigslist in find applicants.  I have used Facebook marketplace, but I get a lot of window shoppers and unqualified there.  I tend to attract and have success with single moms and single income households.  I am not marketing specifically to that demographic, but they seem to find me and work out well.  

Also, its been awhile since I've been in Cayce, but it used to have a large Hispanic population.  If your PM is bilingual, you may want to consider having them place an ad in Spanish.  

It is not price.  $650 for a 3 bedroom is the absolute floor for rent in Columbia unless you are in certain parts of Columbia where I'm afraid to go in the day light. 

Tagging @Andrew Junquet

@Anna Buffkin   Thanks for the insights!  I have a hard time believing it's an issue with price, either.  Your understanding of the area/neighborhood matches our own... not the greatest, but not the slums.  We consider it a solid "C" area, lower-income residents mostly.  We had to evict one single mother already (she left willingly, just stopped paying after a month); other side went vacate right after we bought because the couple there wanted something bigger.

We've been relying on the PM for advertising, though we did throw a sign in the yard as well.  I will mention the Craigslist idea to my partners, though I'm not sure if we're doing that or not already.

If you don't mind sharing, what are your qualifications for prospective tenants?

Thanks.

Originally posted by @Pete Mathias :

Tagging @Andrew Junquet

@Anna Buffkin  Thanks for the insights!  I have a hard time believing it's an issue with price, either.  Your understanding of the area/neighborhood matches our own... not the greatest, but not the slums.  We consider it a solid "C" area, lower-income residents mostly.  We had to evict one single mother already (she left willingly, just stopped paying after a month); other side went vacate right after we bought because the couple there wanted something bigger.

We've been relying on the PM for advertising, though we did throw a sign in the yard as well.  I will mention the Craigslist idea to my partners, though I'm not sure if we're doing that or not already.

If you don't mind sharing, what are your qualifications for prospective tenants?

Thanks.

My qualifications are:

3X rent.  

Credit check.  I require no ongoing delinquencies other than medical debt.  Anything over 3 years old I don't worry about. I don't have a minimum credit score.

No evictions EVER.  You don't accidentally get evicted.  If my demand to pay or leave and the first court notice isn't enough to get you out, you are a risk to me.  

Criminal background.  No drug arrest or felony in last 5 years.  No sex offenders no matter how long ago.  

No pets. No smokers.

@Pete Mathias I believe I know the property as it's on the way in/out far from in-laws neighborhood of Edenwood. It has green metal roof/vinyl siding, correct? There aren't a ton of duplexes in that area so the address sticks out.

I know that area fairly well and I pretty much agree with your assessment. I think $650 for a 3 BR right there is very reasonable. I also think one of the biggest weaknesses of PMs in the Columbia market (and maybe everywhere) is the lack of urgency of renting properties. I'd probably recommend finding someone else if you're not happy with the amount of inquiries. A low number of inquiries could also be a symptom of bad property management as well. 

@Will Gaston   Yep, I think you know it. ;)  My partners have been handling the interactions w/ the PM for the most part, but I can't help but wonder whether we need to consider firing her and getting a new one...

Thanks.

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Supply, demand, price.  You have an issue.  Not sure what it is.  Lower the rent.  2 months is WAY too long.  You have already lost a bunch of money.  Get it rented asap.  Something (less than what you want) is better than nothing.  Even IF you got the 700 a month you want today, you are still 'behind'.  You've lost time.  :-(

What your out might be missing is popularity in that area or buying a SFH in the first place. Maybe raising money and /or getting a Partnership and buying a multiple units at an apartment complex may have been the way to go. No matter what your contribution is, you can still control.

@Pete Mathias   My opinion:  The rent is fine if not low.  We are renting a 3/1 sfh for 950 on Northland.  Street is better but not that much better.  Your property manager does not have your properties on their website or on their facebook...  I do see it on Zillow but your market is not looking at zillow for a rental.  Cantey Company handles my properties.  Check them out.  I don't think your property is the problem.  

You may also consider listing just 1 unit at a time.  people like what other people have.  When they see both units vacant they may wonder whats wrong with it. 

@Tina S. Still empty at the moment, unfortunately.  We ended up advertising it on a private FB group and got 50+ responses, though, so there's definitely interest out there.  We even got an application that passed muster, but PM has not heard back from the applicant after notifying them of the approval, so we're in a bit of limbo.

Pete

Personally, I'm pretty unimpressed with the PM's marketing abilities, if we got 50+ responses in an FB group.  Who knows how many of those are qualified, though. 

It is a bad time to have a vacancy in general--this is why most landlords structure their leases to end around late spring or during the summer.

Pete

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