How to Create a Rental Property Listing Geared Towards Top-Notch Tenants


You’ve found the perfect house to buy. The negotiations go exactly as planned, and you get the price you want. Closing is flawless, on a sunny day. Your contractor can begin on time — and ends on time, on budget. You’re able to remove all the terrible dog smells out of the “dog room,” the 40-year-old carpet is gone, the badly stained wood floors are redone. The kitchen cabinets were the right call, and bathroom is redone with modern but timeless tile and a killer vanity. On-point colors adorn the exterior, and the shutters you’ve dreamt of putting on the exterior are purchased on sale and installed without a hitch.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the rehabs went like that?

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Know Your Market

The first part of marketing is knowing your market. We don’t put granite in every house, but we do put them in some rentals. We also don’t put tile in every house, but we put it into ones where it makes sense for the area, comparable properties, and the type of client (tenant) we want to attract.

The rehab sets the tone for everything. No matter how great of a photographer you have, when the potential tenant drives to the house and then walks in, what is their first experience? Is it clean? Are the lights on? Do the plugs and outlets, fans, or light fixtures look dated or dirty? Does the home smell of cleaning products and fresh paint or of the last tenants bad smoking habit and dirty socks?


Take Killer Photos

The saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words. Pictures also tell the truth (usually).

To me, the pictures are just as or more important than anything else. Most people now search online for their rental home and likely from their cell phone or tablet. For most of our properties, we even choose to have a professional photographer take pictures of the property so our listings have the best possible pictures.

If not, there are a few things to remember as you are taking pictures yourself. You can likely get amazing pictures with your cell phone, as cameras and filters have gotten quite good. You might want to pick the first part of the morning to take pictures so you have nice (but indirect) light in the property.

Related: 4 Tips for Finding World-Class Tenants for Your Rental

I like the listing to lead with a picture or two of the front, usually one from the front of the home and one from the side angle of the home. If it doesn’t show well with the picture, first ask yourself why and investigate whether you should be doing something with the property itself. Let’s say the house just doesn’t frame up well in the picture with the neighbor’s house in view, or it’s a duplex and the other side is pink. Use the next best picture. I like the overall order to go like this:

  • Front of home
  • Front of home, at an angle (if it’s a helpful addition to first picture)
  • Inside of living room or entryway — wide angle shot showing floor to ceiling, including light fixtures/fans
  • Kitchen shot
  • Kitchen shot showing more details of appliances, wet bar, whatever is specific and special
  • Hallway (floor to ceiling again, square in the shot, showing finishes and possible transition of flooring/color)
  • Bathroom
  • Bathroom, second shot (if necessary — huge shower, large space, etc.)
  • Bedroom 1 (usually the master bedroom — large, nice picture, wide angle of entire room, floor to ceiling)
  • Bathroom 2 (if nice and near master bedroom)
  • Bedroom 2
  • Bedroom 3
  • Basement (if decent, clean shot is available)
  • Garage (only if really special; people know what a garage is — they aren’t really ever pretty)
  • Deck/backyard
  • Contact info for rental

You don’t need 25 pictures. Ten great pictures trump 20 bad ones all day. If you can get a great shot of the floors in the third bedroom but you have pictures of the other bedrooms that look similar, leave it out! You don’t need it. The potential tenant can read how many bedrooms and bathrooms the property has from you listing.

The main goal with your pictures is to give as close to an actual visual representation of the property as is possible to the potential renter. They experience walking the property via the pictures, letting them get attached to the beautiful bathroom, kitchen, or large, open kitchen.

Write a Stand-Out Listing

Hello, pet peeve land. I am a pretty picky guy anyway, but the writing of these listings is so important.

If you are using Zillow rental manager or something like it, you have the opportunity for a title line, then the description, and then additional information or instructions.

The title line needs to stand out, be 4-8 words, and be specific and “sexy” as possible.


Sharp Hyde Park 4/3 Two Blocks to Central Park

Totally Renovated 3/1 Mid-Town Charmer Near Restaurants

PERFECT 4/2 With Massive Walk-Out Basement in the Northland

To the point.

Paint a Picture.

Not too many words.


Nice House

Lake house

Rent me

Doesn’t tell a story.

Boring, uninteresting.

Gives the viewer off a bad first impression of your offering.

Make them want it. Dang, I want to live in mid-town, and this house is totally renovated? WOW! That’s what you want the tenant to be thinking.


Related: What’s More Costly: Rental Vacancies or Filling Rentals With Subpar Tenants?

In the body of the marketing, use real words, actual punctuation, and explain about the home:

This totally renovated 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home in the heard of Raytown sits on the end of a dead-end street and has a massive yard and room for the whole family. Prepare to cook your favorite meals in this cook’s kitchen, and then spend the evening playing a friendly game of soccer in the yard. 

Our extensive rehab includes a totally redone kitchen, new bathrooms, neutral Pottery Barn colors, and dark hardwood floors. If you are looking for a safe, functional, healthy home (that’s perfect!), then welcome home. We have the best properties, best tenants, and best owners in the city.

Our properties don’t last long, so please contact us today to schedule a showing. We can’t wait to meet you.

Set the tone for what you want tenants to experience and the kind of people you want to attract from the beginning. Have fun with the listing, be creative, tell the story, and let the words make the potential renters dream about the house and immediately desire to see the property. Interest creates demand, which then helps drive you to get the best prices.

In the 21st century with our technology and cheap but high quality photography, make your rental properties stand out, be perfect, show well on paper and in person, and crush the competition.

Investors: How do you ensure your listings stand out from the others?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.


    • Nathan Brooks

      Hi Michael … I appreciate you reading and commenting. I am not sure how effective that would be in the lease, the penalty is already there, so posting about not accepting late payments (which isn’t legal anyway …) would probably just make them think your crazy 🙂

  1. This is a great article! I just hired a photographer to take pics of our newly renovated property. I have a feeling it will be rented by the time she shows up though. I am looking forward to having some professional photos for future use!
    On a side note, this part of the article didn’t make sense to me “home in the heard of Raytown ” should the word be “heart”?

    Thank you so much again for this great article!

    • Bryan Otteson

      I wouldn’t say glaring omissions, since 1 and 3 have nothing to do with creating a good listing. For 2, unless you are very steady, have great lighting, and a good quality video, your video will most likely detract from your professional quality photos and make the house seem worse.

      • Nathan Brooks

        Hi Bryan, and thanks for the follow up comment. I personally, and totally agree with you … I would rather have a really clear, simple, few pictures … that tell the whole story. I think often the videos are cheesy, unprofessional, and detract from an otherwise great view of the property.

        With that said, I DO agree that an AWESOME video is a great idea … and we are actually working on finding a great camera and rig to take walk thru videos for some to test this theory.

        • Patrick Freeze

          I’ve found that using the photos as a slideshow is a great way to get the best of both worlds when video isn’t really an option (due to time, budget, etc.). Slideshows can create the illusion of moving through the home, without needing too much equipment or spending too much time having it edited.

  2. Kevin Dickson

    While I agree that smartphone videos generally appear amateurish, I think they answer so many questions about the house that they will save a lot of your time by eliminating folks who would otherwise schedule a showing.

  3. Awesome Nathan!

    Thanks for the timely article. We’re getting ready to list our latest rental and have already hired a professional photographer. Our property manager took pics of our other rentals and let’s just say they weren’t worth a thousand words ?

    Love the tips on the listing copy also – I’m amazed at the number of listings in our area that have a couple of blurry pictures and consist of something like “nice 3/2 in quite neighborhood” (intentional misspelling).

    I’ll definitely be using some of the tips in your article!

    • Nathan Brooks

      Hi Julie, you are so welcome! It’s a lot of fun to write about things I love to do, and hear other ideas and comments from other people. I have learned that some people just aren’t photographers, and I would agree OFTEN times there are just really bad pictures, layout, frame, color, focus … just not good at all.

      We’ve actually decided just in the last couple days to start doing professional pictures for EVERY ONE of our rentals in the property management company. Every one. Just because there is such a different for the photos from a novice, to a processional. We want the best, so we need to use/do the best.

      Thanks again, and great luck with your property!

  4. Deanna Opgenort

    For a long time one of the local slumlords was always identifiable by his odd, random pictures that show basically…nothing. A bedroom closet door? bathroom floor? corner of a bedroom? hallway? a toilet (I thought ALL rentals came with at least one!!). The ad copy was off-kilter as well.

  5. PJ Muilenburg

    I’m wondering after seeing the interior photo within the article…. Do you take photos with furniture if possible? I was in one of my occupied rentals the other day doing maintenance and noticed how nice their style was. I didn’t want to freak them out and start snapping photos though.

    Side note, I lead worship too! Awesome. Where do you do that?

    • Nathan Brooks

      PJ … I actually love this idea a lot, with one caveat. I love pictures like this for retail flip listings because the client can have a sense of what the house would look like with furniture, and especially if it has a strange layout or something that would be unsure for the new owner to know what to do.

      I think with the rental listings I prefer them to just show how nice the renovation is, clean space, make it their own … etc. Can very cool w/ the worship leading! It’s awesome … I don’t do it all the time anymore, but it is truly a blessing for sure.

    • Nathan Brooks

      I know … you get to 99% line you might as well get it all the way to 100% … it’s super important for it to show up well to the potential tenants, and then also for the general public to see how you show up in a professional sense.

  6. Kelly Arthur

    Great article. I’ve seen some really horrible pictures and dull copy in my area. It makes total sense to take the time to put something good out there to attract something good. It’s your investment!!!! No brainer!!!!

  7. Nikki Grizzle

    This is really a great article. Definitely got straight to the point while not leaving out any important details. Love the step by step process on taking the interior and exterior pictures. One thing I noticed, while shadowing an investor, is that she always brought a small pillow, sturdy stool and extension stick for her phone. This helped her take pictures from various angles.

  8. Wonderfully written. First impressions are so important and you can also get an idea of what kind of people the sellers are by the way they’ve created the listing. Professional photos can certainly get you buyers, but a presentable property is equally important. Thanks for the awesome advice!

  9. I really like the tip to make sure you know your market. I feel like this is the single most important piece of information to know when you’re putting together a listing for a property. If you know who you’re gearing it towards, you’re going to be more successful in making sound interesting for them. I loved all of your suggestions, but that was probably my favorite. Thanks for sharing!

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