It’s easier than ever to post rental listings online. But writing an effective rental ad is harder than you think. I’m currently in the middle of a housing search and some of the ads I see while scouring Craigslist every day make me want to reach through the computer and shake whoever wrote it. Here’s how to write an ad that will bring your ideal tenant to your doorstep.
Choose the right platform
There are a lot of places online to post rental ads and choosing the platform that your ideal tenant is likely to use is the first step to writing a rental ad that ends with a signed lease.
- Craigslist is popular all over the U.S. for rental ads, though it is more widely used and therefore more effective in larger towns and metro areas. In some metro areas, Craigslist users skew a bit younger because of the high level of tech literacy and comfort with online commerce among millennials.
- Zillow is an online real estate database with 90 million unique visitors that caters to both homeowners and renters, so a higher end rental might do better here.
- Trulia is a real estate site so similar to Zillow that the two merged in July of 2015, but remain separate sites up to these days.
Write a headline that matters
A good headline does three things: grabs attention, gives specific information about the property, and inspires curiosity. It’s up to you what info to showcase in the headline, but try to choose something likely to appeal to your ideal renter.
If you’re looking for a resident for a small hobby farm, showcase the amount of acreage and possibilities for gardening or keeping animals. If you’re looking to fill a student apartment complex that’s walkable to campus, highlight the easy commute in your headline.
Avoid all-caps, exclamation points, and overly cheery marketing language, as it makes a legitimate rental ad look like it could be a scam. The old internet wisdom is that all-caps is considered yelling, so I suppose these are intended to convey excitement. They don’t.
Pictures are an absolute necessity
Well chosen, clear photos taken of each room in the property will cut down on the amount of naysayers who come and view the rental and decide it isn’t right for them. Take photos from a corner of a room to show the space as completely as possible.
If the property has special features such as a garden, pool, or large porch or yard, include photos of those as well. Make sure your photos are in focus and well-lit. Nothing is more off-putting than blurry, dark pictures.
Give a clear idea of the location
To filter showings to serious renters, some landlords prefer not to give the physical address. However, location is the most important feature to a rental for many tenants. Including the physical address of a property makes it easier for a tenant to map a potential commute and research the neighborhood. If you’re uncomfortable giving out the specific address, giving street names is a good compromise.
I would also suggest you get a thesaurus, because for those who have moved at least once, words like “charming” or “quaint” have become synonymous with “tiny” and “cramped”. If the place is small, just own it. They’re going to find out when they see it anyway. Instead of trying to obscure the obvious, play up the advantages. No one likes to feel hoodwinked and if your ad is vague or even slightly misleading, you’re going to lose some potential tenants.
Details, details, and details
List the details of your property in clear, plain language. Include the number of bedrooms and baths, the square footage, the appliances that are included, flooring types, closet space, and any other details you think are important to your ideal tenant. Also highlight any desirable extras, like high ceilings, lots of windows, or a fenced-in yard.
Additionally, do yourself and anyone looking for listings a favor and be clear about your deposits. If you have a pet deposit and pet rent, list it in addition to your first and last months’ rent or other deposits. If you are deposit flexible, make sure you state that and be clear on where the wiggle room is.
If your tenant is liable for utilities or you intend to cover all or part of them, spell that out too. If you intend to run a background check or a credit report, include this information at the bottom of the rental ad. More details are better than too few.
State your lease terms
Most real estate websites make their listings searchable by price, so including a monthly rental fee is important. Price is often the most important feature for residents shopping for a new place to live. Include the rental fee and any deposits that are required before move-in.
Furthermore, indicate the date the property is available and the length of lease you are looking for. Stating your lease terms clearly saves time you don’t have to spend with applicants who aren’t a good fit for your property.
Are pets allowed?
According to a study done by the American Veterinary Association, half of all American households own pets. If you rental allows pets, be sure to specify what kinds of animals are allowed, any breed or size restrictions, and the amount of your pet deposit, and whether or not is fully or partially refundable.
Create a sense of urgency
The goal of any rental listing is to make your reader want to find out more about the property so a call to action (CTA) is vital. Put a link to your online rental application in the rental ad. Include all the pertinent contact information a potential tenant needs to schedule a viewing of the property or get further information.
Encourage potential tenants to act quickly by adding phrases like “Available now,” “Limited time offer,” or “Renting fast.” This creates a sense of urgency and motivates interested renters to inquire promptly.
More Options for Marketing Your Rental
Besides writing an effective advertisement, there are other innovative ways you can use to get word out regarding your rentals. In a dog-eat-dog market, landlords and property managers need to think outside the box to stand above the competition.
Brand yourself online
You have an awesome property, so talk about it! Many people worry about creating a professional appearance at the detriment of having any personality at all. You have a wealth of social media outlets that enable you to now connect with a wide array of potential renters and you should most definitely make use of them.
Check out our extensive write-up on social media marketing for landlords.
Along the same lines, networking with other professionals in the field can be very beneficial. Realtors, credit unions, and other merchants in the area can be very helpful in producing lucrative alliances for promotional purposes. Whether it’s simply allowing you to post “for rent” signs in the lobby or actively working together on charitable projects and otherwise, this is a win-win all around.
Use your existing residents
A good resident referral program can go a long way in both getting the vacancies filled and saving time. If you offer rental reductions for every qualified referral, you offer incentives towards a very personalized word of mouth promotion. Who better to tell other people about how great your properties are than those who live there?
Do you have other questions about rental investing? Check out this post for some common questions a real estate investor looking to rent out properties would be interested in exploring.