What is walkability, and why is it important to include in your advertising for rental properties? Walkability means that a home is within walking distance to shops, restaurants, public parks, libraries, schools and other places that people frequent.
People like to live in walkable communities, and demand for this feature is growing. Younger renters are particularly interested in areas developed under “New Urbanism” guidelines, which cluster living spaces around open spaces, shops and restaurants. These neighborhoods encourage walking and bicycling, while reducing the need for a car.
Cities that are walkable are growing, are more vibrant and have higher home values. They also typically have higher rents and lower vacancy rates. The ability to walk to the grocery store, their children’s schools, public transportation and coffee shops appeals to tenants who would like to avoid congestion, parking issues and fuel consumption associated with driving.
If you own or manage property in a walkable neighborhood, you should mention it in your advertising, right along with the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, types of appliances and location. In fact, you can plug the property’s address into WalkScore.com and receive a walkability rating. The higher the score, the more walkable the neighborhood. The site even provides maps to restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, schools and outdoor spaces.
WalkScore.com also provides links to apartments for rent. You can have a featured listing on their site, get maps to add to your website, or download a badge to that displays the walkability score. You can then add the badge to your site or Craigslist advertisements.
The WalkScore site is easy to navigate and use, and the FAQ page should provide answers to most of your questions. If you’re competing for the best tenants, adding walkability score to your advertisements can help boost your visibility and response!
Have you changed the way you advertise your rentals? Or, are you still sticking to the simple, short description? Whether you advertise in print, on the bulletin board at the local Laundromat or online, you may be missing something: photos.
Your prospective tenants are a cross-section of the population at large, and as such, you can count on one thing—they’re visually focused. Think about it: everyone is filming everything they do, eat, drink, see, wear and buy. Photos of great-looking plates of food appear on Twitter and Facebook as soon as the server sets them on the table. Kids are taking pictures with mom’s and dad’s phones when they can barely speak. And every vocal or musical performance seems to be seen through the lens of a phone video camera than through the eyes of the beholders.
People like pictures. So, along with the basics: number of bedrooms and bathrooms, location, contact information and rent, you should definitely include as many photos as possible in your rental advertising.
Here are a few tips for taking photos of your rental property:
- Include outside shots: This will help prospective tenants find the property.
- Think about making rooms and closets look spacious. Stay in the corner and shoot from above.
- Keep the camera level by propping it on a box or counter whenever possible.
- Of course, the unit must be immaculate. Wait until the cleaners, painters and repair people have finished their work. You want it to look ready to move into.
- Pay attention to the light. Avoid taking photos during the brightest part of the day. Late afternoon or evening light is good.
- Be sure to take photos of any amenities, such as storage areas, swimming pools, laundry rooms or workout facilities.
- Place a large potted plant in the shot to add some interest. Make sure it’s healthy.
- If you have lovely grounds, nice landscaping, trees and flowers, be sure to include them in your photos.
- Don’t take photos of residents—especially children. You could be violating their privacy.
- Remember to avoid things that could be considered discriminatory. Don’t take photos of the nearby church or school, or you could be implying that you prefer churchgoers or families with children. However, it is perfectly okay to include a shot of the cozy coffeehouse down the street.
Even in a strong rental market, you need to be competitive in order to attract the best possible tenants. Write a strong ad and include photos, which is easy to do when you advertise online. And if you don’t know how to upload photos to a website, ask any young person in your family or neighborhood for help. Or, hire someone to handle it all for you.
What type of tenant are you trying to attract? Higher-end, luxury-loving people who demand the best? Outdoor types? Young families or professional singles? While the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against any group based on race, religion, family status and other factors, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your rental property stand out from the crowd so that your target market wants to live there.
For example, if your property is conducive to families with children, with playgrounds and three-bedroom units, you may not see as many single renters applying for leases. On the other hand, if you want to attract professionals (single or otherwise), you’ll want to provide amenities that they prefer, such as high-speed wireless Internet, online rent payment and maintenance requests, and flexible pet policies. They also may be looking for a little more character than a typical apartment offers. Features like hardwood floors, bright spaces, exposed brick and rafters, stylish appliances and modern lighting go a long way to attracting this crowd. Young professionals like to live in hip, cool—but not necessarily luxurious—spaces.
Obviously, if you want to attract a higher-end tenant, you’ll need to invest in luxury touches, such as marble in the bathrooms, quality fixtures, swimming pools, fireplaces, workout centers and beautiful landscaping. Give them plenty of room to park their cars, and storage for their skis, bikes, and other outdoor toys. Then respond to their requests for maintenance or other services as quickly as possible.
Think about whom you want to attract to your rental properties. Then think about what they want. Deliver it, and you could see vacancy rates dropping, and rents increasing.
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!
Part 1 of 2: Prepare Before You Advertise
As we pointed out in our previous post, the newest study on rents and occupancy rates showed that both were down overall for 2008. No big surprise there! What wasn’t down in 2008 (besides unemployment figures)?
Today we’ll show that you don’t have to be down about marketing rental property in this tough economy. If you’re sitting on vacant rental properties and tightening cash flow, we’ve got some practical ideas that won’t break your budget.
4 Steps to take before you advertise your rental property:
1. Check it out: Look at your rental unit through the eyes of a potential tenant. Even better—ask a friend to come along and suggest some honest, critical observations. You may not see things like they do.
2. Spruce it up: It doesn’t take a ton of money to put things in tip top shape! Is your rental property super-tidy, inside and out? If not, get busy. Scrub the interior and powerwash the exterior, make sure the entry or porch is spotless, and put out a fresh, new welcome mat. First impressions are critically important.
3. Clear it out: A prospective tenant does not want to see beer cans and lost dog fliers in the yard—so remove any trash from the premises. Cut the grass and trim the shrubs, sweep out the carport and haul it all away.
4. Make it safe: Repair broken or sagging steps. Check railings for security. Trim overhanging branches and out-of-control shrubs near windows. Check the exterior lighting, and install additional if needed. Finally, check all door and window locks to be sure they work properly and easily. You’ll make your prospective tenant feel safe and reduce your risk.
Your rental property makes impressions every day. Ask yourself, What does the public see? You never know who will refer your new tenant, so make sure yours is an outstanding property, ready to become the perfect tenant’s new home!
Get the best new tenants by preparing your rental property. Then screen them properly. Find landlord resources, including everything you need to know about tenant screening from E-Renter.com.
Next post: Cost-Effective Ways to Advertise Your Rental Property