Rental Property Marketing

No, that's not my number

One of the biggest fears people have about rental property is that they won’t be able to find a renter. People worry that the house will sit vacant and they will be stuck paying the mortgage for months on end. I think that’s probably one of the biggest motivations for paying cash, which as I illustrated in a previous post is a huge mistake.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a bold claim:

In today’s market, if you can’t find a renter within 3 weeks of marketing, then you probably did something wrong.

There are a ton of people out there who want to live in houses and if your house is nicely finished and appropriately priced, you’ll have people fighting over it to sign a lease. But to get to that point, you need people to know about it. That’s where your marketing strategy comes in.

The Ultimate Marketing Tool

It’s Craigslist. Alright, post over.

Go start marketing.

Ok, maybe it’s a little harder than that. To create professional Craigslist ads, we use a service called Postlets which lets you in all the details as well as a few pictures. When you are done, it will spit out the code for your Craigslist ad in addition to syndicating your listing to a bunch of different services including zillow, hotpads and a bunch of other ones I’ve never heard of.

But really, if you have a good ad on Craigslist, you will get 4-5 calls per day. No joke. That’s why you should set up a 24-hour voice mail box to handle all of those calls. When we both had full-time jobs, the voicemail box was an absolutely critical element to our strategy since neither of us was in a position to field all of those calls every day. Now that the Mrs is working from home, we still use it because it’s just that convenient.

We used to pay for voicemail box but recently we started using Google Voice which is absolutely free. You can even get a local number, which you can’t do with a lot of services.

Your voice message should include:

  • The address
  • The property details: beds, baths, garage
  • The rent
  • The expected availability date

By putting all of this information right in the message, you’ve done yourself another favor: the 24 hour voice box makes it so that you don’t have to answer the calls and the very detailed message means that only those who are truly interested will even leave a message.

Then it’s just a matter of listening to all the messages and calling people back.

The Sign

The second best marketing tool is a For Rent sign in the yard. Some people like to drive around the neighborhoods they want to live in and a good sign will catch their attention.

We use a pretty standard looking sign from Home Depot. It’s bright red with white letters, I’m sure you’ve seen it before. I think it runs for about $15 and on the sign, we put in big letters:

  • The rent
  • The expected availability date
  • The voicemail box phone number
  • See flyer on the door

We used to tape printouts directly to the sign so that we can tear them off and the sign again. We can get a good 2-3 uses using that approach but recently we started putting the paper into a sleeve, like the kind for a 3-ring binder.

On the door flyer, we put a lot of the same information as we put in the voice message along with a few pictures of stuff they might not be able to see through the windows. We like to leave the windows open so that people can walk around the premises and check out all the rooms. This lets us do fewer showings.

The Showings

If you have to do a showing, and you don’t always have to if you did everything right, always do a group showing. Our properties are across town so we don’t go over there unless we absolutely have to.

Group showings have the added benefit that they stimulate competition. If people like the house, they certainly don’t want other people to get it and not them!

When we did have to do showings, we always had at least one application to take home with us to do the background checks. By the time, we’ve got the application, typically people have already made up their mind and we usually have a signed lease within the next 48 hours.

Don’t Fear!

All of this is well and good, but I already gave you the biggest tip of all and it was in the first paragraph:

If your house is nicely finished and appropriately priced, you’ll have people fighting over it to sign a lease

That’s really all there is to it. All of this other stuff will make it so that people know about your product, but really it’s the quality and price of the product that get’s you a signed lease, not your advertisement or your flyers.

Photo by busbeytheelder

How about y’all? Ever had a hard time (or and easy time) leasing a property? What about from the renter’s perspective: what made you lease the house you chose?

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9 Comments

  1. Posted March 26, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    My last apartment was 500 sq feet but the agency didn’t mention that in the ads. It was tiny and they didn’t market that, maybe because the price wasn’t small at all. Being realistic and honest will cut back on time wasted for all parties!
    Daisy recently posted..I Got The Job!My Profile

    • Dollar D
      Posted March 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely! You never want your customers to feel tricked.

  2. Posted March 26, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Well, I agree. Craigslist is a valuable tool. When I was a landlord, I always focused on the quality of the tenant. I had 2 slip-ups with people who were borderline, but did check out. Unfortunately, those two situations caused me to raise my qualification levels for tenants forever.
    BusyExecutiveMoneyBl recently posted..Why Retirement Worth is more important than Net WorthMy Profile

    • Dollar D
      Posted March 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      We had a similar situation with the tenant we just evicted. She “ruined it for everyone” i guess as we would never qualify someone in her situation, ever again!

  3. Posted March 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    When we had a rental house, we used Craigslist to market it every time. Worked like a charm!
    Pollyanna recently posted..Smart VS Street SmartMy Profile

  4. Posted March 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I cannot wait to get into rental properties. From what I have been reading though, people buy rental properties extremely cheap (under 100k), where as I cannot find ANY houses that sell for under 150k in or around my area (50km). I do live near a big city, but I did not expect it to be this expensive.
    MyCanadianFinances recently posted..Save Money On CDs and DVDs with iTunes & AmazonMy Profile

    • Dollar D
      Posted March 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Not all areas make good rental areas. Here in north Texas, there’s a LOT of houses for under 100k (and even more foreclosures in the 60s and 70s).

  5. Posted March 27, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    this is way you’re the pro, DD and I’m left writing posts like my current series. ;)

    love the idea of group showings. hope it applies to our open house this Sunday and the place sells!
    jlcollinsnh recently posted..How I lost money in real estate before it was fashionable, Part IV: I become a Landlord.My Profile

    • Dollar D
      Posted March 27, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Good luck with your open house! I hope you get rid of it :)

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  1. [...] Rental Property Marketing by The Dollar Disciple – I’ve struggled in this department lately with my rental properties.  Great tips by DD! [...]

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