In the Portland area, the most important place to advertise a rental vacancy is on Craigslist. Some homeowners are surprised to hear this, but it is where the vast majority of tenants are looking. I can employ a wide variety of advertising methods, but Craigslist is where the majority of my calls will come from, regardless of where the house is specifically located.
Craigslist is deceptively easy and inexpensive (free!) but it comes with a wide variety of challenges for a landlord to overcome so it is important to put careful thought into your advertisement. Here are some of the most important things to consider when posting an ad on Craigslist:
Craigslist has a certain unsavory stigma in some circles. Sometimes it is based on a bad experience with a Craigslist transaction in the past, sometimes it is based on a fear of internet-based ads, and sometimes it is based on rumor. Regardless, it is important to recognize that it exists. When posting your ad, it is important that you project professionalism. An ad with poorly worded copy, typos, or one that is too brief to get much information across looks suspicious and uninviting. The same applies to photos. Make sure that your photos are well lit and project a professional image. Your ad represents you and your product. If your pictures or copy look scary, intimidating, questionable, or uninviting, your ad isn’t going to get you far with the tenants you are trying to attract.
You are in competition with other properties. Never forget that the rental market is competitive. As tenants are perusing the ads, they are weighing a lot of factors: price, location, amenities, and value are all things they are thinking about. Check out your competition and see what they are putting out there and how you can do better. The more information you can provide that helps tenants make their decision, the better your odds are of drawing that person in. Is the property spacious? Communicate spaciousness by posting room dimensions, and using photos that show off the space. Is the space really homey/inviting? Help tenants see a comfortable atmosphere with well lit pictures and copy that describes how inviting the space is. Is there some feature or amenity that makes your property special? Make your unique aspects prominently known.
Pictures are your biggest asset. Tenants skim the ad, but the pictures are where you will really capture interest. You know everything there is to know about the house, but keep in mind that the people reading your ad only know what you post. Since pictures communicate the most about your property, ask yourself, “Do these pictures give an accurate representation of what the house looks/feels like?”
Accurate ads help you stay productive. Making your house seem better than it is will certainly get you more attention, but do you want to spend your time doing tours for people who are turned off to the property before you can make your pitch? People get a mental picture of what a house is like before they arrive. If their mental picture is way better than what they will see when they get there, you have probably lost that potential tenant. Also, addressing drawbacks to the property directly in your ad give you a chance to make your case up front. For example, older houses are known for being expensive to heat. Can you brag about something that offsets this concern (wood heat, new windows, etc)? If the bedrooms are tiny, are there big common areas that offset that? For example, some families are fine with tiny bedrooms if there is a place they could use as a play room for the kids. Not only will accurate ads help you make your case, it will help project your image as an honest, upfront landlord. That is one of the biggest selling points of all.
Do what you can to prevent pirating of your ad. Whether you post your ad on Craigslist, Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, or any other online site, there are risks of your ad being pirated. People will copy pictures that you post, then use them to create their own ad for your house on other sites for much cheaper than your house would actually rent for. Then when people respond to that ad, the person claims to be out of town and tries to get the potential renter to send money to secure the house. This can happen to anyone, and you don’t even have to post an online ad for it to happen (anybody can take a picture of your house and advertise it that way) it just happens more online. To prevent this from happening there a few things you can do to try to thwart them. 1) Put a prominent watermark on your pictures you post online. Most picture processing software programs will do this for you. Put your name and phone number as a watermark on the picture in case somebody tries to steal it (they probably won’t since you took that step). 2) On some sites like Craigslist, you can list the general vicinity of the house, but say that interested parties have to call for the specific address. If you go that route, you probably won’t want to post a picture of the front of the house either. Option 2 isn’t entirely necessary if you have done option 1, but it might be a good option if you are living in the house while advertising it.
If you use online tools like Craigslist wisely, you can find excellent tenants. Just be sure that you are making the most of your advertising effort.
Image courtesy of freeimages.co.uk