Finding qualified tenants is one of our biggest challenges. Last week, I talked about marketing empty rental units as a big funnel. Why a funnel? Because one end is an enormous group of people – the people who might rent a residential unit. The other end is just a couple of people – qualified prospective tenants who want to rent your unit. Your goal is to get the people you need from the top to the bottom of the funnel as quickly as possible.
Each level of the marketing funnel demands different tactics. The first step is finding people who want to rent a unit like yours, and eliminating those who definitely don’t want your unit. In last week’s post, we wrote an effective ad that included all the basics.
The ad said what kind of unit it was, laid out the basic features, and spelled out what would be required of tenants – a one-year lease, and passing landlord, employment, criminal history and credit checks.
Our next mission is to get this information in front of people who are looking for it. There are many ways to do this, and no reason not to use all of them. However, you want to prioritize well to minimize your time.
Thinking like a Prospective Tenant
What would I do if I was looking for an apartment in the area where I live?
- I’d look on the Internet.Maybe it’s just because I’m generally net-savvy, but this is always my first choice. Just for fun, I typed “NH seacoast apartments” into Google. The two sponsored links at the top were for a local property manager, and for www.apartmentguide.com. The first three non-sponsored links were for www.sublet.com, www.directorynh.com, and for Craigslist.Putting my landlord hat back on, I am really impressed with that local property manager. However, in order to have my unit show up on their website, I suspect I’d have to hire them as my property managers. The others are certainly worth looking at. First, ApartmentGuide.com seems geared toward big rental communities and doesn’t explain how much their charge on the web site. Sublet.com, on the other hand, is – free! I like free! (They do charge for some services, but you really can post an ad for free.) DirectoryNH.com is not free, but it’s not that expensive either, although their posting policies are a bit complicated.Of course, since you probably don’t have your rentals in the NH seacoast, you need to do your own Google search.
- I’d look specifically at Craigslist.Wearing my prospective tenant hat, I know that lots of people find what they want on Craigslist. Wearing my landlord hat, I know that listings are free unless I am renting in New York City. Craigslist’s two downsides are that it can be hard to search, and that I must repost every couple of days for maximum impact. These are not major downsides.
- I’d drive around. As a prospective tenant, I like driving around because it gets me out of the house. Unfortunately, it’s also often a waste of my time. I see “For rent” ads and I don’t know what the place is like, how much it costs, and so on.On the other hand, as a landlord, I like “For rent” signs because they only have to be put up once. I prefer really big signs because they let me put out some extra information (how many bedrooms, how much is the rent).
The only additional things a For Rent sign can show your prospects are the quality of the neighborhood and the outside of the building. This is actually really important to some tenants, particularly single women and families with young children – something to keep in mind.
- I’d read the paper classifieds. All around the country, newspapers are having layoffs or even going bankrupt. One reason for this is that they get far fewer classified ads as people switch to services like Craigslist. Wearing my prospective landlord hat, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the newspaper. After all, chances are I can find a place using the free services mentioned above.Wearing my landlord hat, I’m not going to spend any money on paper classifieds, with one exception. The one exception is that I might advertise in a very small weekly shopper that appeals to just one or two towns. My prospective tenants may very well pick up the weekly shopper, since it won’t cost them anything and they find it everywhere. But I will only run these ads if the shopper is free and it includes my town and at most one other. Also, I won’t run the ad for the first two weeks that my rental is available. I’ll focus on free listings instead.
- I’d check bulletin boards. As a prospective landlord, I like bulletin boards because they are free, will let me post a big, detailed ad, and will generally stay up for as long as I want them to. Also, since not many other landlords are advertising on them, my ad will tend to stand out.These tactics apply well to residential rentals. Of course, things will change in unusual circumstances. If you are aiming for college students, for example, bulletin boards (as well as signs taped to telephone poles, etc.) make a lot more sense. As you might expect, the rules are also completely different for commercial rentals – as we’ll discuss next week.