Q: How do property managers market rental properties?

Ask A Pro Definitive answers to your property management questions

Q: How do property managers market rental properties?

Q: How do property managers market rental properties?

What are the most common ways that property managers market rental properties?

answer-icon-masterHow do property managers market rental properties?As the saying goes, there’s nothing so good that it doesn’t have to be sold! One way or another, landlords need to get butts into beds – and that takes marketing. Any time a property comes vacant, or is expected to become vacant, the property manager needs to get busy with a marketing effort.

This doesn’t happen by itself: Even if the landlord has had someone expressing some interest, it behooves everyone involved to get some other bids. The more competition for a given property, the higher the price point the landlord is likely to receive in rent, or the fewer concessions the landlord will have to make.

Want to Find a Local Property Manager?

So what are the options out there?

1. Word of mouth. This is my favorite for two reasons: 1.) Good tenants tend to refer other good tenants, and 2.) because it’s almost free. Occasionally a landlord will give a small rent break to a tenant to refer a friend or associate. But the best properties don’t need to do that: The management and/or landlord keeps the property up and makes it a desirable place to live.

I also like this method because your current tenants know what it takes to qualify to live there. If they refer other potential tenants who are at all in a similar station with their careers – that is, if they are referring peers – chances are good your new applicants will qualify. This saves you valuable time, effort and money in screening and rejecting tenants.

Lastly, this method doesn’t result in a lot of phone calls, and it doesn’t result in a lot of false positives. Most of your applicants will be qualified.

2. Craigslist. The price is certainly right: Craigslist has put a hurting on a lot of local newspapers’ classified ads – and for good reason:

  • You can write longer, more compelling ads.
  • You can include photographs for no additional cost.
  • You can include a map to the property for no additional cost.
  • You can include qualification criteria for no additional cost.

If you doubt the savings, try composing your ideal Craigslist ad, with all the trimmings. Really make the property zing! Make readers want to live there! And then take the same ad to your local newspaper, complete with all the visual elements, and compare the prices. The newspapers simply cannot compete.

The downside, of course, is that it’s Craigslist. Or, as one frustrated realtor in Austin, Texas writes:

I’m not sure why any informed buyer, renter or seller would use Craigslist in Austin anymore, as it’s become a sewer of real estate scams and spammy garbage ads. If that’s not bad enough, Craigslist real estate ads in Austin represent the #1 subject of Ethics Complaints at the Austin Board of Realtors, as agents ignorant of advertising rules and the code of ethics try to market other agents’ listings. In short, the real estate section of Austin Craigslist has become a scourge and a menace to the Austin community.

Now, take a look at the real estate ads in your hometown, and make your own assessment. It seems to work ok in my city, but keep someone on the phone, or screen calls: It does generate quite a number of phone calls, and you’ll have to weed through them to qualify them as best as you can over the phone.

You see, sometimes, the cheapest route isn’t the best. If it’s easy and affordable to you, it’s also easy and affordable for a 419 scammer in Nigeria. And if enough of those types infest Craigslist and the user communities aren’t vigilant about policing them up, then the quality buyers and renters won’t be hanging out on there.

3. The newspaper. Ah, which brings us back to the newspaper. It costs money to place an ad, of course. But depending on the renter you’re seeking, it may be worth it – especially if you’re seeking a more affluent, literate group that is likely to read the newspaper.

Note: Newspapers aren’t just on paper anymore. Many newspapers have strong, prominent online classifieds – which means you can post the same photos and other information you would post on Craigslist – it just might not make it to the print version.

4. Local real estate portals. Most cities have their own real estate specific online portal, or you can search for your own city using a number of sites that are probably well known to readers. These have the advantages of Craigslist, but seem to have a lower scam quotient – typically because ads have to be approved by a live person, in most cases, before they go up!

As always, your local mileage may vary. I suspect you will get a more serious group of buyers from the population of people who are Web savvy enough to think beyond the local daily and Craigslist.

5. The local alternative weekly. For some kinds of properties, I like this advertising play very much. Take a look at the articles and ads, and imagine the kind of people who read them. They are likely to be younger urbanites who enjoy nightlife (music and art take up a lot of space in these papers). And the real estate ads don’t go on for 20 pages.

So if you have a property that might appeal to a young and socially active urbanite, the alternative weeklies may offer an impressive readership focused on your demographic, without a ton of competing listings.

With any paid advertising (and with unpaid advertising, for that matter), it’s always a matter of reaching the kind of people who you want applying. Think about the likely income levels and education levels of the people who would want to rent in your community – and advertise accordingly.

6. Specialty Publications. Got a place to rent right on the golf course? A house with a marina and a dock out back your tenant can tie a boat to? Try to reach golfers and boat owners! These are the kinds of people who will pay a premium for a property like yours.

In cases like these, you’re spinning your wheels advertising in a mass-market publication when you really want to attract a certain kind of renter. Use a rifle instead of a shotgun, and advertise in local publications that cater to the specific interest groups you want to attract.

7. Signage. You have to take a look at your zoning laws before you go crazy posting signs on the street out in front of the property. Most of the time, reasonable signage won’t be a problem. It’s usually cheap, and it will reach people who are already familiar with the neighborhood, of course.

8. Local bulletin boards. I see these a lot – tear off ads in local grocery stores and café bulletin boards with a description of the property. They tend to work better at lower price points, but again, the price is low. I don’t like this method for property managers, though – it just looks cheap.

This is something that seems more suited for individual landlords renting out a room or studio to an adjoining house. It seems to work in resort towns, beach towns and locations like that. Your mileage may vary, though.

Has anyone had success renting out a more substantial property using this method? Sound off in the comments!

This other Ask A Pro question might also be of some use to you: Q: How do you market your vacant rental?

Author Bio
Writing about personal finance and investments since 1999, started as a reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine and served as editor of Investors’ Digest. He now publishes feature articles in many publications including Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, and more.
Author Bio for Jason Van Steenwyk

Can't Find an Answer?

Submit a new question and
get a Professional answer