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An Internet Dater’s Guide to Creating Irresistible Rental Ads

by Editor | ezLandlordForms

“Tired, 2-bedroom walk-up needing new carpet and a paint job seeks short-term relationship with tenant who will pay the rent at least some of the time.  You bring the low FICO score and loud friends, I’ll bring the banging on the door at 3 a.m.  If this sounds like a match made in rental heaven, please call any time day or night – I’m desperate.”

Not exactly the message you want to send with your rental listing?

Your rental ad will usually be the first impression a prospective tenant gets of your property, so making it sizzle can be the difference between a property that sits empty and one that has suitors lining up at the door.

Hot Ad Headlines

When potential renters are sifting through countless rental ads, the headline is what will make them explore a property further.  Although you’ll be limited by space constraints, you can pack a big punch with just a few well-chosen words.

Just like with a dating profile, there’s no point in trying to be coy – you can save that for the in-person meeting (actually you probably shouldn’t be coy then either).  Make clear the critical details about your property, including the rent and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.  This is key information that is non-negotiable for most people, so you might as well be clear up front.  Luring someone in by hiding the costs or the space available is a waste of time for everyone involved.

What else should you include in your headline?  Referencing the location is important (“Downtown Austin,” “Old Town Alexandria”), as is the type of housing (apartment, townhouse, detached SFD).  Finally, top it off with a quick mention of a couple of attractive selling points, such as “waterfront,” “country setting” or “historic charm.”

Pictures – Still Worth at Least 1000 Words

A better valuation of pictures is probably “views,” rather than words.  If the headline grabs people, the pictures will reel them in.  A Trip Advisor survey found that 79 percent of vacation rental guests were most attracted to the photographs of a property’s listing.  Zillow reports that homes with more pictures and page views sold more quickly, and it makes sense to apply these findings to residential rental properties as well.

You really can’t have too many pictures (although the publication or site you list with may limit how many you can use).  Like dating profiles, the photos you include should put the property’s best foot forward – its best angle, best lighting, best “dressing” and cleanliness.  The money shots are kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms.  If you have room to add more, consider including pictures of outdoor areas, amenities such as pools and even a floor plan.

Enlisting the services of a professional photographer may prove to be a smart investment as you can probably use the same pictures if you have to list your property again.  Be sure to view other work the photographer has done, specifically real estate photos, before you commit.

Take Your Best Shot

Don’t feel, however, as though a pro is the only way to go.  You can take perfectly good shots yourself if you keep a few things in mind.  Before you even start taking pictures, make sure the rooms are well lit.  Natural light is best, but you should turn on all of the room’s lights as well.  A camera flash can sometimes make things look a little funny, so try taking some pictures with the flash and some without to see which look better.  Digital photos make it easy to take a ton of shots, so don’t hold back.

Next, try to capture as much of the room as possible in the picture.  You may need to stand in a corner to get the best view.  Make sure that each room’s best features are clearly visible.  That may be a walk-in closet in the bedroom or new stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen.  Finally, make sure that there’s nothing to date the photos, including a date or time stamp or any sort of seasonal décor.

Video speaks even more loudly than photos.  Although you might not be able to add one to your listing, you can include a link to a YouTube video that you shoot yourself.  A quick 2-3 minute video tour will give potential renters the opportunity to walk through the property without your having to show up at all.

Property Descriptions that Pop

No one likes to trudge through paragraphs of text (with the exception of scintillating rental management articles, of course), so you your best bet is probably to keep your description short and sweet.  Start with an introductory sentence, trumpeting those yuppie buzzwords like “airy” and “bright” and “luxurious” and “stunning waterfront view”, but then get down to business with a list of features and amenities.  A bulleted list of features is easy to read and highlights what your property has to offer without all the fluff.

Anything that makes your property special and appealing is worth mentioning.  Your pictures won’t be able to point out everything that’s noteworthy, so your description is where you can fill in the gaps.  Additional details about the location can’t be shown in photos either, so if the rental offers easy access to public transportation, is in walking distance to shopping and restaurants or is close to parks, mention it now.  You should also list any additional fees or incentives.

The following are some of the most searched for rental amenities according to ForRent.com, so if you’ve got ‘em, flaunt ‘em:

  1. Washer/dryer in unit
  2. Air conditioning
  3. Washer/dryer hookups
  4. Furnished available
  5. Patio or balcony
  6. Hardwood floors
  7. Dishwasher
  8. Fireplace
  9. Walk-in closets
  10. Wireless Internet access

Make it easy for people to contact you.  Don’t bury your phone number at the bottom of the listing.  And the ezLandlordForms Grammar Police implore you to make sure your listing is error-free – proofread, run spell check and hunt down your high school English teacher if you have to (extra credit for spotting the grammatical faux pas in this sentence).  Typos and misspelled words can make your listing look unprofessional and you careless.  Take the time to get it right.

After your bulleted list of selling points, wrap the listing up with a conclusive sentence that hammers home why this property is such a stellar place to live.

Don’t Violate Fair Housing Laws

Your rental ad won’t do you much good if it gets you sued.  While fair housing laws are the subject of other articles, a quick summary is useful here: landlords may not discriminate (in any way) against these seven protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

It’s easier to run afoul of fair housing laws than you might think.  Have a tiny studio apartment that’s only appropriate for a single person?  You can’t say “perfect for a single person” in the rental listing or ad, else you are discriminating based on familial status.  Have a house in a heavily Jewish neighborhood?  You can’t only advertise the rental property in the local synagogue’s newsletter, or it’s discriminating based on religion.  Even words such as “exclusive” and “traditional” can sometimes be considered discriminatory.

For that matter, even convicted felons are sometimes protected by fair housing laws, as are hoarder tenants, but those are other stories entirely.

Happily Ever After

With rental properties, as with relationships, it’s often best to take things slowly rather than rush into a whirlwind romance.  And while we can’t offer you advice about your love life (well, we could but you wouldn’t want it), we can tell you that taking the time to create a polished ad is the first step in forming a long-term rental relationship.  Screen all tenant applications carefully, verify employment, income, credit history, criminal history, identity and housing history, and you may even find the perfect lifelong renter.

Related Reading:

How to Screen Tenants & Reject Bad Applicants – Without Running Afoul of Fair Housing Laws

More States & Municipalities Requiring Landlords to Accept Section 8 Tenants

Fair Housing Enforcement Expands & Evolves: What You Need to Know

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