Attracting the best tenants starts with getting their attention in the first place. Diane Bukowski explains how you can do this with minimum fuss and cost.
The days of print classified advertising for rental properties is just about over – it’s all online. And there are a few tricks to preparing an effective online listing. Renting a property can be very competitive so landlords need to do all they can to attract enquiries. Failure to do so risks having the listing ignored, which means a longer vacancy period and a potentially significant strain on cash flow. So what can a self-managing landlord do to attract the best tenants to their online listing? To answer this, we’re going to take a look at the three Ps: property description, photographs and presentation.
1. Property description
Property descriptions for rentals are deceptively simple things. The trick is to find the balance between too little and too much information. Between 150 and 200 words is ample for most properties.
Too little information frustrates prospective tenants. Why will they contact you when a competing internet listing contains the information they need? You do not want to create the impression that you have something to hide. The biggest trap landlords can fall into with regard to too little information is the decision not to advertise the address.
By not including the address you are automatically requiring the tenant to make contact to get it. Many tenants simply won’t bother. Frankly, it is a misconception to think that withholding an address is a clever marketing tactic. Instead it will only succeed in discouraging potential enquiries and wasting the time of both the owner and the tenant.
Providing the address means the tenant will know for sure how far the nearest facilities are – if it really is just a three-minute walk to the station; if the location really is ‘central to everything’. They will be able to ‘do a drive by’ before booking an inspection – another time-saving strategy for both owner and tenant. It is also a good idea to use a ‘For rent’ sign in order to attract passing traffic.
Excessively long property descriptions can be just as damaging. We’ve all read advertisements from real estate agents that are filled with pointless adjectives. Be concise and practical. Also, it is not necessary to describe in words things that can be clearly seen in the photographs or the descriptor icons. For example, if your photographs show that the house is two-storey brick, there is no need to take up space in the text describing this.
Here are some pointers for writing an effective property description:
- Remember that good clear photographs are an effective communication tool.
- Use the title to give a clear summary of the property, eg: ‘Family home close to local primary school’. ‘Spacious unit – walking distance to train station’.
- Use the title to advertise a bonus of the property, eg: ‘Great yard – garden maintenance included in the lease’. ‘Fully air-conditioned home’. ‘Pool maintenance included in the lease’.
- Have the text in a logical order, keeping similar points together: Describe kitchen, family and entertainment areas, then bedrooms and bathrooms, followed by outdoors – yard, garage, etc.
- Explain positive features about the locality, such as: Proximity to shops, schools and public transport. Is the property near a cafe precinct? Is there a park nearby?
- List features that are important to tenants, eg: Fenced yard, security features, storage.
- Always make a clear statement about pets.
- Use bullet points to list features, rather than lengthy paragraphs.
The property photographs are more important than the property description. That’s why the best websites will not list a property without a photograph. Typically, when a person is searching for a rental property online they will use the system’s search parameters: suburb + price range + number of bedrooms. From here the photos are the next search criteria.
There are three ‘minimum musts’ for property photographs:
- They must be clear. No blurry phone camera photos please, and use a flash.
- They must not show mess – no kitchen benches or bathroom vanities covered in stuff.
- There must be a photo of the exterior of the property, even if the property is a unit in a building. Without it, the tenants will automatically think it must look terrible.
Here are some pointers for taking effective property photographs:
Photographing the exterior
- Remove items that distract from the property, eg cars in the driveway and rubbish bins.
- If the exterior of the building is not the most visually appealing, try taking the shot on an angle rather than directly in front of the house.
- Try to keep the sun behind your left shoulder.
Photographing the interior
- Do not take photographs of items that are not included in the lease, eg furniture.
- Turn on the lights when taking interior photographs, use the flash, and open the window coverings.
- Avoid having the camera flash reflected in the shower screen and the mirror. Try standing on a chair and looking down into the bathroom.
- Close the toilet lid.
- The best room shots are often gained by having the camera at a lower height than eye level. Try using a camera tripod at a lower height, or sit on a chair to take the photograph.
What about using video to advertise a rental property? At this point in time, it is not a common practice. In fact, most online services don’t even have the capacity for it. This is where the advertising of rental properties differs to those for sale. Effective photographs and a description that provides the practical information tenants want is all that is needed
You’ve had success with the online listing, and people are inspecting the property. The presentation of the property is part of the marketing process and is the most influential factor for tenants in their decision to apply. Poor presentation will undermine your position in the lease negotiations.
The property needs to be spotless inside and out. A rundown, unkempt property sends a negative message to tenants. If the owner can’t be bothered looking after the property, why should the tenants?
Never underestimate the power of new paint. For interiors, a fresh coat of a neutral colour will really brighten a room. Peeling paint on the outside of the home will significantly reduce the rent you can charge.
Trim overhanging trees, weed garden beds, and keep the lawn mown. Empty garden beds can be greatly improved by a layer of mulch. You don’t necessarily have to go to the expense of replanting.
Another important element to presentation is to fix anything that is broken. Look at it from the tenant’s point of view: why would they choose the property with the broken stove and the security doors that don’t shut properly? When tenants see things broken, they assume they are going to have issues having any repairs and maintenance carried out. Aside from a means of attracting the best-quality tenants, having everything clean, tidy and in good working order at the beginning of the lease will avoid ambiguity at bond refund time.
Let’s boil down the discussion to the main elements to help self-managing landlords find good tenants and find them quickly. Here are our top five tips for marketing your rental property:
- Have a concise description giving practical information.
- Include the address in the advertising.
- Use a ‘For rent’ sign.
- Make sure you have good photographs, and always use an external shot.
- Make sure everything about the property is clean, tidy and undamaged.
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