When advertising your rental property, it’s important to use effective marketing techniques. Good marketing can make the difference between a stagnant vacancy and one that attracts desirable tenants. Advertisements should at the very minimum identify the property address, bedrooms, bathrooms, and monthly rent. Narrative or bullet descriptions effectively build upon the basic information, helping applicants visualize what the property has to offer.
Landlords and property managers should be familiar with both federal and state Fair Housing laws, which restrict discriminatory rental practices. The federal Fair Housing Act provides broad protection against housing decisions that are based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap or familial status. California regulations add additional layers to Fair Housing protections, as reflected by the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act. These state laws prohibit unfair discrimination against those classes referenced in federal law, PLUS protection for the following categories: age, ancestry, sexual orientation and source of income. It is imperative that your advertising and marketing not appear to be discriminatory.
So, given that you ARE in compliance with Fair Housing, how do you spread the word about your rental unit?
Although it is common to see “For Rent” signs in the window of rental units, DeDe’s Rentals has taken a different approach to on-site signage. In most instances, potential renters first see the available property through their car window as they drive by. Small, generic and/or poorly identified signs are easy to miss or dismiss. Instead, we use a professional-quality “For Rent” sign on the front yard of the property. Our own signs are similar in quality, construction, and size to the signs used by sales agents. The impression we intend to present is that we are just as serious, just as professional as those agencies – or more so. The name of our company is identified, and our phone number and website are both clearly visible in large print, giving our properties better visibility and better odds in attracting a reliable tenant. People and companies that use premium-quality signs provide a more professional impression overall, increasing the likelihood of appealing to better, more qualified tenants.
The impact of newspaper advertising has substantially declined in recent years, and now accounts for only a small percentage of the marketing efforts made by property managers and landlords. According to Dede’s Rentals in Sonoma County, newspaper advertising has become a “specialty item,” and is implemented only if requested by a particular client. Print advertising has been the traditional method used to reach audiences for the past century and more, but its use and effectiveness has been eroded, primarily due to the impact of the Internet.
Online Advertising and Social Media
Advertising vacancies online is a popular and effective way to reach a broad audience and showcase your vacant unit. Most websites allow a seemingly unlimited amount of space for photographs and descriptions, so you can be very detailed without paying a premium. There are a wide range of different websites that allow you to advertise your property, either for free or at a reasonable cost. The challenge lies in measuring results: a free website with few subscribers may ultimately be disappointing, whereas a “pay-per-listing” site with substantial readership could be well worth the initial investment. While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of rental websites, some of the more notable include: Rentals.com, RentalHomesPlus.com, Rent.com, RentalHouses.com, Hotpads.com, Zillow.com and Trulia.com. There’s also Craiglist…
Since there ARE so many choices, how can you reasonably measure the effectiveness of any particular website before committing your time and/or money on advertising?
Fortuitously, on the Internet there are specialized websites that measure the popularity and influence of OTHER websites. The best of these “evaluative” sites includes Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast. It’s worth taking the additional step, to determine whether any particular rental marketing website is likely to provide results.
Another online possibility is the ever-increasing popularity of social media. Facebook and Twitter have become tremendously influential, so it’s worth your while to make use of those sites. If you spread the word among your Friends and Followers, your promotional material could ultimately be shared with hundreds or thousands of potential applicants.
One final observation about online and social media advertising, and referring to a subject that we’ve covered in other articles: be wary of scams; there are many opportunities for BOTH applicants and landlords to get “taken” by online criminals. Just because someone has heard about your property from a friend of a friend on Facebook, or just because someone gushes profusely about how much they love the listing they saw on Craiglist, does not mean they are “pre-qualified.” Always maintain a comprehensive and consistent application process to avoid unpleasant surprises.
This is a low-cost, traditional way to advertise your property to a wide audience in the neighborhood surrounding your rental property. Great spots a landlord can place flyers to notify people of the vacant unit include college campuses, houses of worship, laundromats, the gym, local grocery stores and markets, community centers, and bulletin boards at libraries.
With the proliferation of low-cost, high-quality color printers available on the market, it’s incredibly easy to create an eye-catching one-sheet that can help rent your unit quickly. Especially if you don’t have direct access to some of the more expensive resources suggested in this article – i.e. your own website, professional signage – invest the time and effort to distribute a flyer. It will certainly be worth your while.
The immediate goal of advertising is not actually to generate a signed rental contract. There are still quite a few steps before that happens. At DeDe’s Rentals, we describe the purpose of advertising and marketing campaigns as being intended to generate “eyeballs and phone calls.” We want people to see our website, to call us, to visit our office. We want applicants to be INTERESTED in what we have to offer. Once we’ve made initial contact, we can then determine whether the property and potential applicant will be a good fit. We believe in the strategy of “hi tech, lo tech, no tech – our advertising efforts are designed to reach all potential applicants.” If you’ve never used a computer, we still intend to get your attention. Conversely, even if you live in Chicago, you’ll know what we have to offer, due to our online visibility..
For the best results, put your various marketing strategies together like a interlocking puzzle. Make sure every marketing platform cross references to your other efforts. In other words, flyers and print advertising should reference to your website or online presence, online advertising should reference the street address, and at the property you should have a clearly visible sign providing your contact information. When everything cross references, it enforces the impression that you are available and serious about renting: that you want to make it easy for prospective applicants to FIND the property, SEE the property, and APPLY for the property.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at DeDe’s Rentals. We will be happy to help you.