6 Common Advertising & Showing Mistakes Property Managers Make

by | BiggerPockets.com

Salutations, readers!

It’s time to take an in-depth look at some commonplace and avoidable mistakes that property managers make on an all-too-often kind of basis. This will be an ongoing series — because there are a lot of mistakes you can make when you manage properties.

Today, we’re going to start with the beginning: getting tenants to see your properties. That consists of two parts: advertising and showing.

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6 Common Advertising and Showing Mistakes Property Managers Make

1. Advertising Mistake: Spending Resources Unwisely

This is the modern world — information flows freely, emphasis on free.

If you’re spending a bunch of money to advertise in the big city newspapers, but you’re not putting in the 10 minutes of effort it takes to get your ads up on sites like Craigslist (and most of that is waiting for your pictures to upload), you’re doing it wrong. Free syndication services like RentLinx can multiply your efforts significantly with very little investment in time and energy.

On the other side of the same token, there are some costs that need to be paid willingly. If you’re using your own time and energy writing and posting advertisements, it had better be because you don’t have enough properties to keep you busy all day.

Related: 5 Ways to Stand Above the Competition as a Property Manager

You don’t necessarily need to pay for someone in-office — the Internet makes skilled virtual assistants available for a reason — but you shouldn’t be afraid to pay a decent rate for a native English VA with some sales writing skills.

2. Advertising Mistake: Incomplete Listings

No, I’m not talking about listings that are missing information like the address — let’s assume you’re better than that.

I’m talking about listings that fail to both show and tell the reader exactly what they’re getting into. The days of writing a vague ad just to get prospects to show up are over. If your ads don’t share enough info, they won’t get much attention.

Consider having your listings showing at least one picture of every major room in the house. Describe the key parts of the home that a buyer cares most about — the kitchen, bathroom, living areas, bedrooms, storage/workshop areas like basement or garage, and yard.

If your listings don’t weave a verbal and visual narrative into a picture of what life could be like in a home, you’re leaving money on the table. That means high-quality photos, descriptive text and finding the things about the house that someone will love, even if they’re not obvious.

The Fair Housing Laws might prevent you from directly targeting an advertisement at a family over a single person, for example, but a well-written advertisement will attract the tenant that best fits the house simply by conveying what the house is.

3. Advertising Mistake: Nothing Unique

There is going to be competition out there with plenty of other rental ads. How are you going to grab the attention of prospects? By fitting in and looking like everyone else?

Figure out a target market or two for a property, and gear your ad to those crowds. Try to emphasize something that makes your property different from others, like location, a great kitchen, yard size, etc.

4. Showing Mistake: An Unready Home

You’re a property manager — you’re used to looking at a home and seeing what it could be. Your prospective tenants, however, are not. They’re going to look at a home and see what is. Which means if you show them a home before it’s actually ready to move into, you could be wasting your time.

Usually this is tied to vacancy rates in the area of the property, as we’ve had some properties in specific locations in such high demand that prospects are putting down deposits sight unseen. We’ve also had properties with owners pushing us to market their property before it was really ready, and most prospects walk in and quickly walk out with the comment, “Call me when it’s ready.”

So do your homework, and if the market expects it, get all of the repairs done, all of the fresh paint and carpet in place, all of the appliances you’re planning on buying installed — then show the house.

5. Showing Mistake: Not Being Available

Most of us live in a world where yesterday isn’t fast enough for most people. Technology is setting expectations high for instant gratification. Telling someone interested in your property that they have to wait to see it puts a big damper on their motivation.

Related: How to Be A Prepared Property Manager in 6 P’s

Now, while no one’s available 24/7, keep in mind that the longer you make a prospect wait, the more likely they are to go elsewhere. So the quicker you can show properties, the better your odds of renting it quicker. If you have serious time constraints, consider self-showing services like Rently.

6. Showing Mistake: Waiting For the Perfect Tenant

It’s a bit of modern wisdom that “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” and boy howdy, is that true in property management.

If you want a tenant, you have to be willing to take the tenants that pass your screening — even if you don’t necessarily think they’re a great fit for the home. So what if a disabled bachelor veteran wants to rent the house that has a playscape in the back yard, a bedroom done up as a nursery, and a massive professional kitchen? You don’t know what he’s thinking, and his money is as good as the next person’s — don’t turn him down because you envisioned giving the house to a young couple with 2.3 children. You could also run afoul of Fair Housing Laws.

Are we anywhere near done talking about the mistakes the property managers make every day across the country?

Heck, no — but you’re going to have to wait until the next installment, when we’ll talk a bit about how easy it is to screw up the application and screening processes.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made as a property manager? What advice would you give to a novice?

I want to hear your stories — please comment below!

About Author

Drew Sygit

Drew is the manager of Royal Rose Property Management, a fairly high-tech solution for Detroit Metro area property owners & investors.


  1. Good post. Thanx.
    I have a solution to #5, Not being available to show a unit. REALTOR LOCK BOX.

    I have been using them for almost 10 years. I pre-screen any calls I get with a series of questions. Once they are “pre-qualified”, I give them the code to the lock box and let them see the house when THEY want to see it. No more no-shows, No more late shows, No more driving across town just to have them drive up and say they don’t like the neighborhood, color, garage size, etc (even though all that info is in the ad), No more wasting my time (the most important savings by far).
    I leave applications on the kitchen counter, have them show the unit to themselves and take an application if they are interested. I tell them DO NOT leave the app there as others may see their personal info. I want them to take it home, fully complete, gather their proof of income and the application fee and then call me when they are done and I will come pick it up so they do not have to waste their time bringing it to me. This way I get to see what their current home looks like 🙂 and thus begins the real application processing.
    After 10 years of doing this method of showing I have yet to lose any appliance or other theft or vandalism. The worst problems I have are people using the toilet and not flushing, not able to work the lock box to get in (possible screening item?), not able to work the lock box to put the key back so they leave it inside and lock the door preventing the next person from seeing it, liking the house so much they take all the apps on the counter so nobody else can get one.
    Try it. You will never go back to driving to show a house again.

    • Tim, this is an interesting idea. I am wondering what area of the world you are in? Do you ever change the code on the box, or just leave it the same until the unit rents? I know there are some lock boxes that have one-time use codes that are good for an hour or two. Do you use those, or do you just use the kind you can buy at the store?

      • I live in Rockford, IL. and I have been using the same code since the beginning, (the year my wife was born). I bought the first one at Home Depot or Lowes for around $25 and since then I have got them online. I code all of them to the same number (easier for me to remember). My cleaning person, carpet cleaner, HVAC guy, Sewer guy and all know my code, (no need to meet them there if they need access). Once the unit rents we take the lock box off and move it to the next unit we are working on.

        I use them on ALL my rentals, from the Hood (about $500/mo in my area) to my realy nice stuff (currently about $1,300/mo). As I said, I rarely have a problem and when I do it is minimal, ie: no stolen items and no sleep overs.

        I suppose you could buy high tech lock boxes that you can change the code from you phone and have it one-time use but why mess with a good thing. I look at it this way; if tomorrow, someone stole a stove, the $400 I lost (if i replace with a brand new one) is peanuts compared to the gas and time I have saved over the years. The members of the local club are amazed that I do this and I have explained it 2-3 times and I still get people who do not want to make the move.

        Do it, you will love it.

        • Drew Sygit

          TIM; great input! I know some investors here in the Detroit metro area that used to do the same thing on their properties in Macomb County.

          We would not recommend the practice for high crime areas like the city of Detroit though, as the property would be “professionally” stripped within days (maybe hours!).

          We’ve been hearing a lot of good buzz about Rently and their lockbox system that allows immediate code changes if you want and tracks who’s been given the codes. I believe tenant prospects have to give up a valid credit card number to get an access code and it’s all automated.

  2. Drew, I agree with you. We have never had a problem using a lock box. I think that if my house was professionally stripped, that would be a sign to me that I need to sell that house and stop buying in the “hood”. I sold all of my houses in bad neighborhoods, and it was the best decision I ever made. The neighbors would call me or the police if someone was doing something like that in the neighborhoods we buy in nowadays. Had a neighbor call the police about a person we hired to work on a property because the house was vacant and he wasn’t sure about whether the guy was supposed to be there.

    • Drew Sygit

      MICHELLE: in the Detroit area a team was just arrested targeting homes listed for sale in well to do areas. They pulled up in a moving van and used the lockbox for access and stripped the home.

      So, it can happen anywhere…

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