In this challenging rental market, a rental property owner needs effective marketing tools. A website can be a great way to advertise your properties and reach more potential tenants than the competition.
Your website can be free. Using a blogging platform like WordPress is the most popular way to get started with your own custom website—at no charge. Take a look around WordPress’s site. You’ll find step-by-step instructions and tutorials that make creating a website easy for everyone.
If you are not technically inclined, be prepared to invest some money in your website. Contact several local web designers for bids. Make your choice based on the deliverables you’ll get for the price. A good designer will ask the right questions and narrow down your needs, which may be just a few pages.
Be sure you can add, change, and delete content yourself. Most web designers work with Content Management Systems (CMS), where the end user has access to a database and easy-to-use tools to keep content fresh and updated. There is nothing worse than a website you cannot update yourself, so make sure your designers offer CMS sites.
What should your website include?
- Photos of your available rentals. Take several indoor shots, especially of the kitchen and bathroom. For outdoor shots, try to choose a bright, sunshiny day—grey, overcast photos are depressing.
- Addresses and Google® maps of available rentals.
- Neighborhood information, including parks, schools, transit, and walkability.
- The Equal Housing Opportunity logo (easily downloaded from the web).
- Well-written descriptions of available rentals. Since you’re not paying by the word, like in a classified ad, be creative. Describe the apartment or home thoroughly, including number of baths and bedrooms, any appliances included, square footage, proximity to schools, grocery stores, restaurants, or shopping, amenities like new carpet, hardwood floors, or lots of windows, the size and type of yard, fitness facilities, or patios, and whether pets are allowed.
- Contact information, with a link to your email address.
Screening tenants on your website: it’s fine to inform potential tenants of your prescreening policy, including that all applicants are required to undergo background and credit checks. If you charge an application fee, say so. You won’t scare off anyone except tenants who are not a good fit for you.
What not to say: Do not use language that can be interpreted as discriminatory. For example, if your property is near a church, don’t mention it in your description because you could be seen as accepting only a certain religious group. It’s also not a good idea to specify that your property is “great for” any group of people—parents, single moms, small families, or active adults—because that can be interpreted as if you’re telling everyone else (big families, the disabled, child-free, etc) that they are not welcome to apply.
Finally, keep your website updated. As soon as a vacancy is filled, remove it from your website. If you refuse an applicant because you’ve already rented your property, but it’s still showing vacant on your site, they could claim discrimination.
Websites are easier than ever to maintain, and a great way to showcase and advertise your rental properties!