If you’re a landlord with a vacancy or two, fall can be a difficult time or year to fill them. Coupled with the renter’s market we’re in, you could need to think more creatively to turn those vacancies into occupied rentals. Here are some great ideas to try if you want to attract great tenants:
Lower the rent: lowering your rent might be the last thing you want to do, but sometimes it’s necessary. Do you know what the market rents are for similar properties in your area? If you haven’t checked them out lately, you may find that they’ve dropped—while you’re still asking a previum for your property. HUD publishes the Fair Market Rents for every metropolitan area in the United States, which is accessible on their website: http://www.huduser.org.
Landlords can also check out rentometer.com, which uses a proprietary algorithm to tell you if the rent you are charging for a property is too low, way too high, or reasonable. Just enter the address, number of bedrooms, and rent you are considering, and you’ll get an idea of what other units in the neighborhood are renting for. Smart tenants know. You should, too.
Waive one month’s rent: If your rent is where it should be, or you don’t want to set the precedent of lowering it, offer a free month’s rent to a qualified tenant. Mathematically, it could work out the same for your bank account, but psychologically, “free” is a major enticement to the tenant. It’s up to you to give the free month up front, in the middle, or at the end of the lease.
Upgrade or pray the utilities: If your rental property has basic cable, offer to pay for an upgrade to premium. Or give the tenant high-speed wireless Internet access for six months or a year. You could even pay the water bill, with a monthly dollar limit to discourage waste.
Replace the carpet, blinds, or an old appliance: If you have a great prospective tenant that you’re afraid will walk away, offer new carpeting if your unit needs it, or upgraded mini-blinds, or install a new stove or refrigerator. Most of these upgrades can be amortized over several years’ worth of tenants—but might be just the thing to entice one to move in now!
Staying on top of the landlord game can be tough. Sometimes it helps to know just where to get a question answered, or to check out a contractor, or even find good used appliances! Here is a wrap up of some websites you may find helpful:
Zilpy is a address-based rental facts site. Zilpy for Landlords helps landlords determine how much a property can rent for simply by plugging in its address. Zilpy generates comparable rents, as well as demographic information about the neighborhood and city. Figures include population, median household income, education and ethnicity, and crime rate.
RealEstateMarketingBlog.org is targeted more toward real estate agents, but many of its insights are applicable to landlords, too. Especially if you manage several properties, REMB’s advertising and social media tips can be translated for renting, rather than selling, homes. From Search Engine Optimization to email marketing, you’re sure to find useful information to help you stay competitive in today’s rental market.
Craigslist.org is arguably the web’s largest classified ads site. There is a lot to like about craigslist! All classified ads are free, photos can be uploaded at no charge, and it’s extremely popular! Craigslist is organized by city; just check out the main website to see if your town has a local craigslist site. Then follow the instructions to post your “For Lease” ads. And if you need to replace appliances in your rental unit, craigslist is a great resource!
Angie’s List is a popular review site for contractors, handymen, plumbers, and other service providers. Angie’s list is a paid, members-only site. For a monthly fee, you can check out unbiased reviews by other members. Contractors are not allowed to pay to be featured in any way. If there are no reviews for your city, you can join free for a year and help build the list of reviews in your area.
Bankrate.com is chock full of mortgage, CD, credit card, and loan rates, along with articles covering current happenings in the financial world. There are even advice columns covering small business, retirement planning, financial literacy, and debt management. It’s always good to know what’s happening in the credit and mortgage industry—and bankrate.com is a good place to keep up!
BiggerPockets is an online community for real estate investors and professionals. It offers groups, networking, and information, and membership is free. You can post questions in the forums and search by keywords to see if your question has already been answered. Handy tips, advice, and a place for landlords to talk to other landlords make BiggerPockets a lively online community.
For more landlord resources
, including forms and information on tenant screening,
turn to E-Renter.com.
You’ll know that you have the best possible tenants when you prescreen tenants
Do you have a property you can’t seem to rent? You cleaned and repainted after the last tenant moved out. You advertised it well, and even showed it a few times to prospective tenants. But it’s still not leased.
Perhaps it’s been a couple of years since you’ve had an empty unit. There is a lot of competition for rental units right now. Even if you think you’ve done everything right to get your property ready for its next tenant, you might need to put in some extra effort.
Ready to ramp things up a bit? Try these ideas to make your property and your lease offer more appealing to prospective tenants.
Check out the curb appeal of your property. Look at it from the street, with an objective eye. What can you do to make it more appealing?
1. Paint the front door. Consider painting the door a welcoming or unusual color, such as bright red. Think paint with “punch.”
2. Plant new shrubs or flowers. This is a small investment that can really make your place look well-cared for and inviting.
3. Replace any cracked or broken glass or screens. Even if they are not noticeable from the inside, you can be sure people are noticing them from the outside.
4. Does the building need painting? This can be a large undertaking. You may be able to sign tenants with a promise to repaint once you they move in. Be sure to follow-through on any such agreement.
5. How about just the trim paint? It doesn’t take much money or effort to scrape off the chipped paint and repaint the trim. And it makes a big difference in appearance!
6. Are the windows outdated? Not only do old windows look bad, they are less energy efficient.
Incentivize your tenants to sign a lease. Of course, you don’t want to give away the store. You still want well-qualified and properly screened tenants. But if you find a great tenant, offer them a little something extra if you really want to get your property rented.
1. Waive the rent. Offer to waive one month’s rent: first month, last month, or next February—it doesn’t matter when you choose. Be sure they understand this bonus comes only with a one-year lease.
2. Pay their utilities. Offer to provide free cable, or water for the length of the lease. This is easier on you if it’s a flat-monthly-rate utility, rather than electricity or gas, that you have no control over.
3. Buy them a gift. A new grill for the patio, a TV, washer/dryer, or wireless internet might just the incentive a prospective tenant needs. Of course, you get to decide whether it belongs to the tenant or stays with the rental property!
Don’t hesitate to look at your property objectively and to sweeten the offering in order to take down that “For Rent” sign as soon as possible!
When it comes to written communication, the “Two Cs” should be top-of-mind: Clear and Concise. This is particularly important when composing an ad for a rental unit. Follow these steps to an easy, effective ad:
1. Attract attention. Make your newspaper ad stand out by adding a border or bold headline. On Craigslist, the descriptor is short, so use creative language: “Amazing house in Oak Tree neighborhood,” “Best $500 apartment in town,” or “Hardwood floors, 3BR, super-quiet” are all ways to capture attention quickly.
2. Be clear. At a minimum, list the number of bedrooms and baths, the neighborhood, parking information, and the monthly rent. State that you check previous landlords, criminal background, and credit history. You can eliminate unqualified tenants easily with a well-worded ad.
3. Use photos. A picture is truly worth a thousand words. A photo can instantly tell a prospective tenant whether your rental property is the right place for them.
4. Don’t skip the details. Do you include utilities with the rent? Say so! Are you okay with pets? Put it in the ad. Are you completely against smoking in your rental home? Tell us! Tell readers about the schools, whether a grocery store is close by, and all about the beautiful landscaping. Brag about your place, and you’ll get enthusiastic responses. You want the most qualified tenants to act upon finding your ad.
5. Make it easy to respond. Put your primary phone number in the ad, as well as an email address. For Craigslist ads, all responses will be through the site’s secure email unless you add a telephone number in the ad.
6. State a good time to call. You can certainly list what time you will accept telephone calls from prospective tenants. And if a call is made outside that time, the caller either didn’t notice, or didn’t care that you requested otherwise. It’s a good screening mechanism to find the tenants you’ll get along with best.
An effective ad is the first step in prescreening tenants. You can eliminate the ones you don’t want and attract the ones you do by being clear, descriptive, and detailed in your newspaper or online For Rent ad.
For more landlord resources
, including everything you need to know about tenant screening,
turn to E-Renter.com.
You’ll know that you have the best possible tenants when you prescreen tenants
Part 2 of 2: Cost-effective ways to advertise
There is a lot of movement in the rental market right now. Renters living in recently-foreclosed homes are being forced to move. Homeowners who cannot afford rising mortgage payments are becoming renters again.
Now is not the time to be passive in your advertising efforts. The good news is you don’t have to spend a ton of money. Once you’ve prepared your property, get the word out with these cost-effective advertising tips.
Advertising is good; free advertising is even better: If you haven’t tried Craigslist yet, don’t let another day go by without posting your property on the site. Craigslist is free, easy to use and immensely popular—three very good reasons to check it out!Other websites offer free listings, too—but these vary. Some require that you pay for each subsequent contact. Let your budget be your guide as you Google “Free For Rent Listings.” Wherever you list your rental, include photos! Take the time to shoot at least one exterior and several interior pictures of your property. Include the kitchen and bathrooms, closets, and any unique features that will attract your ideal tenant.
Double your efforts with some low-tech methods, too. Write up your listing, and print it out. Repeat your phone number all across the bottom of the page. Cut strips between the numbers so interested folks can tear one off. Many grocery stores, coffee shops, and community centers allow fliers on their bulletin boards, so visit a few around your rental property to see how others post their rentals. Why reinvent the wheel when you can copy a good idea?
Local community publications are another good option for free or low-cost advertising. You might hesitate to advertise a downtown high-rise condo in a farm community paper, but the idea is to get the word out and let others do your advertising for you. You don’t know where your next tenant will hear about your property, so why not try a scattershot approach?
Don’t Forget Signage. Easy to read signs or banners will send the message that your property is available. While hardware stores carry the standard “For Rent” signs, you might want to investigate the options at your local sign and banner store. To make your contact info easy to read, you may need a larger sign or banner—and since they last for years, signs are a one-time investment.
Host an Open House: They’re free, and can be a great way to gather potential tenants all in one afternoon. The key is to advertise well in advance: again, use Craigslist, fliers, and signage to get the word out. Enlist some help so visitors are all greeted and shown the property. Have a contact sheet ready at the door to gather names, phone numbers, and emails for each person so you can follow up after the open house.
Utilize the Best Form of Advertising: Word of Mouth! Ask your friends and family, your hair stylist or barber, your manicurist and the home and garden store guy if they know anyone looking for a rental property. You may be surprised at the response this easy form of networking can bring.
After all your money-saving efforts pay off and you have some great possibilities, take the next step to ensure you’re choosing the right tenant. Tenant screening is easy and fast. Proper tenant screening also gives you peace of mind—and it’s impossible to put a price tag on that!