There are a lot of things I’m not good at in life.
Or pick up lines (Do you have a band-aid? Cause I just skinned my knee when I fell for you...)
However, there are a couple things I think I’m pretty decent at – and one of those things is keeping my vacancy rates super low (the other is making balloon animals… which is a story for another day.) Over the past several years, I’ve kept my vacancy rates around 2%, and never had a unit sit empty for more than a month (usually much, much less.) However, I’m not offering incredibly low prices on my properties either – I’m actually on the higher end on the average.
So, since I can’t easily teach you how to make a cute balloon animal poodle via a blog – I’ll share my other talent – filling units. Today I’m going to share twelve tips that I have use to keep my vacancy rates low but maintain average or above average rent. If you have any tricks that you use- please feel free to share them in the comments below!
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Know the Market Rent
This is perhaps the most important factor in reducing your vacancy times. The truth is – tenants know what fair rent is so if you are priced too high – the quickest way to fix it is to simply reduce your rate. However, you don’t want it too cheap either. In my area, a 2 bedroom apartment rents between $495 and $550, so I typically charge within that range, depending on how nice the unit is.
I don’t need to go into a lot of detail on this one, but I will stress this: don’t simply throw a two-line description about your property up on Craigslist. Add multiple photos, talk about the amenities, describe the benefits of living in your rental property. Use a site like “Postlets” to automatically create beautiful looking pages for your Craigslist ads. For an excellent tutorial on using Postlets, check out this post from Sharon Vornholt.
Have a Website
I’m a huge fan of having a high quality website to advertise your rentals. I don’t believe a tenant is likely to discover your rental because of your website (though it could happen, especially if you can rank it for key terms like your city name and “for rent”) but a website is a great way to give potential tenants more information about the property and a chance for you to sell them on the benefits and features. A website doesn’t need to be complicated either – check out this post I wrote about How to Build a Website For Your Business in Under an Hour with No Technical Abilities.
Screen for Long Term Tenants
Perhaps the best way to avoid a high vacancy rate is to simply hold on to your tenants for the long term. (Check out this great post from Chris Clothier for some awesome tips on holding on to tenants.) When screening for tenants, be sure to think long-term – will this person be leaving in three months or will they stay for 3 years?
Use Google Voice and Answer Your Phone(s)
Answer your phone! It seems obvious, but one major reason that people have difficulty filling vacancies is because tenants do not always leave messages (when they are looking in the newspaper and have a list of dozens – they will often just move to the next!) Use a free Google Voice account and advertise with your free Google Voice number – which you can set up to ring multiple phones at the same time. This way, you have less of a chance of missing those calls. Don’t want to answer the phone yourself? Hire a friend or family member to take calls for you!
When I advertise a unit for rent, I want to let tenants know that this isn’t going to sit empty for long. I talk about my extremely low vacancy rate, allowing the tenant to know that they might miss out on a good thing if they don’t hurry. Fear of loss is a major source of motivation.
Offer Referral Fees
I like to offer my existing tenants a reward for finding me a good renter. Typically, I’ll offer $100 for any tenant who refers a friend who signs a lease with me. I figure – the $100 is much cheaper than unit sitting empty or the cost of a newspaper ad.
I love my sandwich sign. It’s essentially two pieces of plywood I painted and put together with door hinges. I then covered the sign with some cheap corrugated plastic “for rent” signs I made on VistaPrint.com. My live-in manager puts the sign down by a busy road in the morning and it does wonders. I get more tenants from that sign than almost all other methods combined!
Offer Move-In Bonuses
I personally haven’t had to do this one yet, but I’m not opposed to offering a “bonus” for a tenant to move in. A bonus could be a free microwave, a free month(or half month), a big screen TV, or whatever you want. I’ve heard both good and bad stories about offering incentives and bonuses – so be sure to research what is working in your neighborhood if you take this approach.
Have a Beautiful Product
Simply stated: nice tenants want to rent nice places. I always make sure any unit I am renting out looks nice and clean, from both the inside and outside. You’d be amazed at what a couple bags of bark mulch can do to the front of a house!
Don’t Just Show – Sell
This is a huge mistake many landlords make. They have a “here’s the place… take it or leave it” mentality and they wonder why they can’t rent their places out! Don’t just show a unit or tell someone about it on the phone… SELL IT. Talk about the benefits to living there, the great customer service you, as the landlord, provide, and why your property is the best property on the rental market. Read a book or two on sales if you need to – but sell, sell, sell that vacant unit!
The Best Way to Fill Vacant Units
Finally, the best way to fill vacant units is to experiment and see what works! The suggestions above, those things that work in my neighborhood, might not work in yours. The important thing is to just do something! Tenants are probably not going to emerge out of the woodwork to rent your place – and because vacancies are the same as throwing hundred dollar bills out the window – it’s important that you do anything you can to minimize that expense.
What tricks do you use to fill vacant units? Leave your comments below!