Did you know that 37% of the United States rents their home or the equivalent of nearly 44 million households and over 111 million tenants? You can have your share of that demand if you so choose. But real estate agents usually want their cut too. Realtors will take a full month’s rent in commission between the renting agent and the owner’s agent (The property owner pays this, nothing comes out of the tenant’s pocket, depending on the state you own your rentals). In our case, one of our units had been vacant for 3 months before we got it rented again. To lose another month of income on top of that would have been devastating! I am here to tell you that you can avoid losing valuable rent, but you do have to put in the time to make it happen. There are a few tricks to getting this all done if take the correct steps. This post should guide you in the right direction.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
Get Your Unit on the Market ASAP;
Prepping the apartment to be viewed;
Effectively screening the tenant (We will cover this topic in more detail another time).
Don’t be discouraged by a lack of interest in your unit. You will find your ideal/almost ideal tenant; be patient and persistent. But make sure your unit is clean and move-in ready! This takes time and money, but if you have your system functioning efficiently, it can be taken care of in a matter of days with little profit lost. A clean and move in ready apartment attracts better tenants who will be happy to pay top dollar, on time, for an apartment they are proud to live in; this is exactly what we are looking for.
Get Your Unit on the Market ASAP
As soon as you receive notice that the unit is going to be vacant, begin marketing immediately and start showing it to avoid turnover time. The quicker people start seeing it and know it is available, the better chances you have of renting it with little-to-no turnaround time.
I recommend getting your listing on as many free rental sites as possible as soon as possible. People who are curious or serious about moving and finding a new rental are going to see your listing on one or all of these sites and send you a message to inquire for more information. Note: Not all of these inquiries are serious, but they are all worth perusing because you never know who you will persuade that your rental property is a better deal than the alternatives.
Some useful sites are:
Postlets.com will prompt and help you to create a professional looking ad with pictures. It automatically posts your listing to Zillow.com, Trulia.com and Hotpads.com. You can even use this site to copy and paste a professional looking ad on Craigslist.com. (This is recently changed to Zillow Rentals, but get you there anyway);
Craigslist.com. We all know the site well, and despite their sometimes foggy reputation, people looking to rent without a realtor usually start here;
Realtor.com is similar to the rest and makes it simple to list your unit while making the search simple for users;
Most towns or counties have local rental sites, so if there is anything like that or college rental sites nearby, I would also consider posting on those sites as well. Just type in the name of your town or county on a google search and add “rental websites” to the tail end.
Prepping the apartment to be viewed
You need to make your posting look as appealing and of high-quality as possible without lying or giving false information out to potential renters. Here are some important steps you should take to make your listing more effective:
I suggest buying or borrowing a good camera to take the best and most clean, clear pictures of your unit possible. It blows my mind how something as simple as taking the stuff off the floor/counter-top/bed in a picture can make a living situation seem like it is worth hundreds of dollars more a month. A lot of lazy landlords and even realtors don’t take the time to tell their tenants to clean up their mess before coming by or even taking the extra 30 minutes to pick up the pile of stuff, throw it in the hallway (or just out of the frame of the picture in general), make the bed, turn on the lights and actually snap an appealing picture. This small task can equate into more interest from potential renters, a quicker turn-around, and most importantly; more money in the long run.
Think of it this way: If you were choosing between contacting two identical listings with similar specs and condition; one had only 5 pictures and they were of a dirty apartment and 3/5 were of the outside of the building and only 2/5 were of the dirty kitchen and a bedroom while the other unit had 10 clean, well-lit indoor shots of the apartment; which would you be more excited to contact?
Description is also extremely important. You want to give as much information as possible to weed out the mildly interested people and cut right to the chase with the more potential suiters. Besides the obvious information; bedrooms, bathrooms, which floor the unit is on, etc.; Small things like giving square footage of the space, if there is a dishwasher, washer/drier, any and all extra features such as if there are new windows, carpet, vanity in the bathroom or even a new coat of paint can sway a renter. The money is in the details - the more you give the person viewing your listing, the less work you have to do in the long run. Even sharing information about who pays what utility saves them from having to ask and saves you time from having to answer.
Don’t skimp out on pictures or details, it could scare renters away or even put up red flags against your listing for being “dishonest.” Just consider what you would expect when you were looking to rent or even buy a house. You want detail and a good visual idea before even wasting your time making the trip.
Another quick tip: with technology becoming more and more accessible, easy-to-use and mandatory in today’s society, we need to begin taking advantage of these offerings. Virtual tours have become a big asset and my hunch is that in the not too distant future, instead of even visiting a property, people will make their decision on a unit by only looking at the virtual tour. These videos can make or break you, so again, make sure if you are creating these tours, it is in a clean and fully lit apartment. But as a little bonus to the listing viewer, a virtual tour will put your listing above the rest and save you time on answering a lot of questions. They will have the option of looking through the unit again and again without needing you or a realtor to show the actual unit itself. That also helps if you live out of town or if there are still tenants currently residing in the unit who don't want to be bothered. These tours have so many obvious and hidden benefits, but again, create these tours with caution.
Effectively Screening the Tenant
Make sure you screen your tenants thoroughly and don’t just hop on the first person who shows interest. Remember that you are going to be dealing with these tenants for a long amount of time and you don’t want to deal with them pestering you or not paying on time. Tracking tenants down to pay their rent is a full time job; avoid having to do this at all costs.
We will cover this in far more detail in a later post, since there is so much to cover on this one topic that it deserves it’s own post. But we hope you can take what we have given you so far and apply it to renting your unit faster. As always, we are here to offer free advice; it is just what we do.
Of course, renting your own unit is not an easy task to take on. It takes a great deal of time and effort. Using a real estate professional might be worth the money depending on your unique situation. Real estate agents have the resources and specialize in selling and renting property - if it is worth your first month’s rent to save you the trouble and cover your bases, by all means, I approve. But if you can handle the load of renting the unit yourself; it is something I think all investors should experience. If you are in the greater Fairfield County area, we work on one of the most successful teams in the area. Don’t hesitate to reach out for quality and hard work that we can provide you! Either way, good luck on your hunt for the ideal tenant.
Chris and Joe have years of knowledge, stories, and experience to share with you. This is where you can access their minds, to learn about what they do and how homeowners can be more effective when in tough situations.