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.
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.
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!