Alternatives to Listing Rentals on MLS in Houston Market?

12 Replies

I have a couple of rental properties in the Houston area that have done well over the past 2 years. Trouble is I can't seem to get my tenants to stay more than 1 year. That's a problem because I have been renting my properties out by listing them on MLS through my agent and in Houston each agent takes 1/2 month rent to lease a property out. Bottom line = I'm out a full months rent (out of my profit!) each year on each property.

Has anyone out there had success getting properties rented out by some other less expensive means?  Any success stories would be appreciated.  

You should start requiring all leases to be a minimum of 2yrs.  Get a decent deposit, maybe offer the first year rent slightly under market rent then make the 2nd year at or slightly above market rent.  Maybe no more then a $50 different between years. 

If your home is nice enough and in a good area it will rent. 

I would not advise a 2 year lease in houston. It gives tenants more rights and it can be a harder  eviction fight(personal experience). This is a tenant screening issue and possibly a rent issue.

if your rent is at market rent people may be able to find a different place. Try to keep below market rent. Best product best price is the thing I follow.

Using MLS for rentals is probably not the best place to bring in potential tenants. In my experience, and speaking with colleagues, it seems that other sites like Zillow and even Craigslist are better sources.

That doesn't answer the question about how to keep tenants for longer than a year. Are they seriously looking to buy a home? If so, there's not much you can do about that. Are life changes, like a job transfer, involved? Again, not much you can do about that.

What you can control are rent increases and keeping the property in good condition. If the tenant is happy in the house, and doesn't suffer from sticker shock when the lease is up for renewal, they would most likely sign for another term. 

I just purchased, rehabbed and leased up my first rental property in August.  I placed ads on Craigslist, Zillow and put a sign in the yard.  I probably had 15 inquires in a 2 week period and ultimately found a tenant with a 780 credit score and good history.  Will they stay more then a year?  i'm not sure.   I know they are here for school enrolled in a 2 year program.  They may move before the year is out.  My point in posting is, it was not that hard to find a renter in this market.

I also only had a one year lease signed for the same reasons mentioned by @Michael Ran  

all the best


I used Postlets, which puts the ad on multiple sites. It also can be placed on Craigslist. I got many responses and got a renter quickly. I would have had to pay 1 month of rent to the Realtor. 

I have six SFR houses in Houston and have never used a realtor. Just signs around the neighborhood. Of course it may depend on your area and monthly rent amount. Mine are only $1000 per month units.

@Robbie Pratt   What is the price point of this rental?  If its near the median home price or above we have a lot of people that qualify for mortgages at that price and they will be gone in a year.

I post my rentals on the MLS and they then get syndicated to zillow/trulia ect.

I have 4 houses and 3 apartments in Houston and have never used a real estate agent.  I normally use the Greensheet and a sign in the yard.  Generally 1 to 2 weeks in the Greensheet is all that is needed.  Since the middle of last year I have also started using Postlets.  The Greensheet runs me about $15 per week for a single distribution area and I get responses from both the hard copy edition and the their website.  I also use their website along with HAR and Rentometer to figure out rent comps.  

     Moving is a hassle and can be expensive.  Maybe you can send your last tenant a survey and a $5 bill asking why they moved, how much their utility bills were and what improvements could be made....for the next tenant  and say you regret losing a great tenant so they feel complimented maybe...self addressed stamped envelope for return.  

If you switch from using a realtor/MLS take into account that they should be screening their clients to avoid wasting their time on someone who will be turned down. So you'll need to be sure you are prescreening so you don't waste your or your applicants time.....have a sheet you can email or read off over the phone saying your requirements for tenants....income, no evictions, judgements granted to prior landlords, etc...and know the tenants with big problems want to find a ma and pop who they can talk into letting them move in--playing on a landlords desire to avoid vacancies and just get the process over with. Most tenants have little do most people.

I have toyed with using Creekview realty or some other flat fee realty next vacancy to get MLS exposure and see if I get higher quality tenants, but recently our market is hot and I have gotten tenants who actually want my neighborhood to remain in the same schools, which is my favorite reason to hear and has always worked out for me. Although my ideal tenants would be a male childless couple :-).

To answer your actual question, I think I get better tenants off zillow/hotpads.  But craigslist has a map function now so I will continue to post there...use very specific search terms so tenants can weed through the junk posts.

I'm a Realtor and landlord. I use the MLS, Postlets and craigslist when trying to rent one of my properties. You definitely will want to have your rental criteria predetermined and ask targeted questions to potential tenants before showing them your property. Have them drive the neighborhood and by the property before you meet them there. You'll get calls all day long from people wanting you to drop everything and show them your property. If you skip out on a soccer game or two to show the property to tire kickers you'll likely wish you just paid a Realtor. Sometimes I think about hiring another Realtor to list my property lol.

Some great freebie sites:  Craigs List.  .  .  I always use all 3 and get'em rented.  Good Luck!   I also have a $20 per year (total w/hosting site) for credibility (can also get free one - fairly easy to make VERY simple site - don't really need anything fancy).

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