In the old days when you needed to find a good tenant you called the local newspaper and spoke to a sales rep who’d help you craft a catchy phrase or two for a listing in the classifieds. Hardly any renters are reading the paper nowadays, so we landlords are on our own.
Below are my thoughts on how you can become an effective Craiglist marketer. While I use Craiglist a lot because it works well for property management in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara, California, the tips I share below apply to other social media as well.
To compose an effective Craigslist ad you must put yourself in the shoes of a potential tenant. If they go to Craigslist in a mid-size city they will be faced with hundreds of new rental postings each day. If they live in a metropolitan area like Los Angeles, this can reach thousands. There is no way a prospective tenant will sift through that many listings to find your property. Therefore, there are two requirements for successfully writing a Craigslist ad. The first is easy, you have to renew the ad as often as Craigslist allows in order to stay on top of the pile. The second is to write an ad with a lot of search terms (aka keywords). Prospective tenants enter specific items they are looking for in the search box and if you are lucky they will make it through 30-40 ads. Being in the top 30-40 ads of a search results page will determine if you wrote a successful ad.
Below are keyword categories related to location that I would highly recommend including in your ad:
- A local college or school if one is nearby
- Nearby parks
- Beaches, lakes, recreation areas
And here are some keywords related to the condition of the rental and its amenities to include:
- Granite counters
- Hardwood floors
- New carpet
- New paint
- Patio, yard, balcony, fireplace
Also, you should always use the word “Pets” if you allow them in your rental. Simply checking the “pet friendly” box in Craigslist isn’t good enough. Also, list nearby transportation such as subways, buses and trains.
Here’s an example of a poorly written ad:
Nice 2 bedroom 2 bath property located close to everything. The property was upgraded and has many amenities. Owner pays water and trash. Ready now. Available for 2,000/mo.
Here’s an effective ad:
Large remodeled 2 bedroom 2 bath house located in West Beach. Close to downtown, shopping and restaurants. The unit features a fireplace, large yard with patio, new paint and hardwood floors. Small pets ok. Available now for $2,000/mo.
Notice the liberal use of search keywords which I underlined above. The difference between these two ads might initially seem minimal, but the results they produce are substantial. The second ad was written with 16 keywords that tenants search for.
This is one of the reasons I think most people who want to rent out their homes benefit by having a professional property manager. A few simple techniques learned over time can save a lot of money. Maybe in another post I’ll discuss how to screen out the good potential tenants from the bad ones in the dozens of replies good ads get on Craigslist. In the meantime, remember that each day a property sits vacant represents lost revenue. And the benefits of being free of the stress of owning a vacant rental home are priceless.
Justin Egerer owns Sandpiper Property Management, a full service property management company whose portfolio includes single-family homes, apartments, condos and commercial real estate in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles, California.