In a perfect world, new tenants would move in shortly after the previous tenants move out, bringing a steady stream of cash to your pocket. As any landlord knows, though, the reality is a little different. Managing vacancy is an unavoidable part of being a property owner. Nevertheless, if you want to generate an income from a rental property, you need to keep your units filled as steadily as possible.
Whether you purchased your first real estate investment property or your current tenants just moved out, advertising your empty units properly is critical. Not only do you need to find new renters quickly, but you also need to find the right ones.
Of course, you could hire a real estate agent to advertise your empty unit but beware that you will need to pay a realtor fee that would affect your profit. Fortunately, you can often do most of the legwork to find qualified tenants yourself.
Here is what you should do to quickly get your next signed lease agreement and keep your income rolling in.
1. Take High-Quality Pictures
Apartment hunting can be a bore. Most people go through dozens of listings before finding the right one. Before long, all descriptions look the same. There is, however, one way to make your property stand out: good pictures.
By nature, people are very visual and spend more time looking at the images in an apartment listing than reading the description. Therefore, the best way to make an impact is to bring particular care to your listing photos.
If you do not have the skills and equipment necessary (such as a high-quality camera, tripods, lighting, and so on), hiring a professional real estate photographer may be a worthwhile investment. Make sure to include as many angles as possible. Prospective tenants like seeing as much of the property as possible before setting an appointment to visit it. It allows them to eliminate from their search the properties that do not fit their needs, avoiding unnecessary showings for the landlords as well.
It is best to shoot pictures in natural light and to show all the rooms in the unit. Do not forget to include an excellent exterior shot of the building — now may be the time for a fresh coat of paint to sell the property. If possible, take photos while the unit is empty so that prospective tenants can picture their belongings in place. Besides, a vacant unit is easier to clean and will appear bigger than a cluttered, lived-in apartment.
It goes without saying that the property should be well-maintained and up-to-date to attract tenants. You may want to purchase a home warranty to help alleviate some of the maintenance costs in the long run.
2. Use Different Channels to Target Different Markets
These days, most people start their apartment hunt online. They may use real estate-specific websites such as Zillow or Apartment.com and also more general classified ads such as Craigslist. Ideally, you want to be visible on all these sites.
Social media is an excellent source of leads as well. For example, there is most likely a Facebook group for people looking for or offering housing in your area. Remember that you will probably need to post and refresh your listing often for it not to be buried, especially if your unit is located in a popular area.
Do not neglect “old-school” resources either, as they tend to attract older renters. Yard signs and newspaper ads are an excellent way to catch the attention of potential tenants over 55. You can also create a flyer to post around town or a direct mailing campaign to reach as many eyes as possible.
3. Reach Out to Your Personal Network
Word-of-mouth can be an excellent — and free — way to reach the perfect tenant. Use your network to let the world know about your empty rental. Don’t hesitate to mention that you are looking for a new renter to as many people as possible, and give them your contact information so anyone interested can easily get in touch with you.
Former tenants may also have friends and family members interested in taking over the lease, especially if they are already familiar with the property.
You can also reach out to local organizations, schools, churches, businesses, and so on. They may know of someone looking for a new place to rent, such as a member or an employee moving from out of town. Even if they do not have anyone interested, they may allow you to post on their bulletin board to attract prospective tenants.
4. Offer Some Incentives
Sometimes, the best way to attract the right person is to offer something extra, either to the qualified tenants themselves or the ones referring them to you. Incentives can take many forms depending on your budget and how difficult filling the unit may be.
You could offer cash or a gift card to the friends, families, or tenants from your other units who refer you to the right renter. You can also provide discounted services to make the unit you are offering more attractive. For example, offering the first month rent-free, free appliances, gift cards to local businesses, and so on may sway the balance in your favor.
5. Organize an Open House
Advertising your rental units can be time-consuming, especially if the existing tenant still occupies your property. You will need to organize showings and be responsive to any inquiries and notify the current occupants if applicable.
In most cases, it is often easier — both for the tenants and for yourself — to organize an open house. This way, the tenant will not need to keep their unit “show ready” on short notice, and you will limit unnecessary showings. During the pandemic, many landlords have resorted to organizing virtual apartment tours rather than in-person showings to limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Find a New Tenant Quickly
Owning rental properties, which includes managing relationships with tenants and dealing with vacancies, is one of the most involved forms of investing in real estate, which includes house-flipping and REITs. Although it can be rewarding and lucrative, it can also be time-consuming, even with a property management company’s assistance.
However, if you know how to advertise your empty unit successfully, one thing you won’t have to worry about is your rental property sitting empty for an extended period of time.