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 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.
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.
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?