Dos and Don’ts of Rental Advertising

by Chris on June 29, 2020

With summer rental season in full swing, landlords are gearing up to find new tenants. A lot is riding on the rental ad. Not only do landlords need to attract good tenants, they need to avoid mistakes that increase liabilities and cause property management headaches down the road.

Consider these dos and don’ts as you plan to fill your next vacancy:

Don’t Overhype the Property

Want to generate a heightened sense of excitement and enthusiasm over your rental property? Are you sure?

When advertising a vacancy, avoid making a property sound better than it is. Be realistic or you might overinflate renters’ expectations. That’s a recipe for persistent complaints and bad reviews from an applicant who is disappointed.

The property doesn’t need to be “the most amazing”, have “super high-end finishes” or “scream luxury” to attract good renters, especially if those things are an exaggeration.

It’s okay to tell it like it is, and even to be upfront about shortcomings. Tenants prefer honesty and can tolerate minor issues. “It’s not that bad” is preferable to “This is not what I expected.”

If the property is overpromised, the tenant is forced to come down out of the clouds. On the other hand, if your ad is spot on, the property will be everything the tenant is looking for.

Don’t Mislead

Never use photos or content that is misleading. A recent ad features photos of a popular pedestrian mall under the heading “Walkable”, but the mall is 10 miles away in a different city. One ad touts luxury finishes that belong to a different property. Another shows a view from a window that is not visible from that unit.

If the ad is misleading, tenants go into the relationship not trusting their landlord, and that’s going to play out during the course of the tenancy. In extreme cases, this misinformation can constitute grounds to break the lease or even sue the landlord for damages.

Don’t Play Both Sides

Don’t waste space in the ad attempting to profile the perfect tenant. Obviously, choosing a preferred demographic of tenants — a “young” couple, a “small” family — often is illegal. It also is a challenge to target a preferred tenant pool without excluding another. One landlord recently tried to cover the bases by describing the property as “perfect for a professional, a family, roommates, or retirees.” Unfortunately, that excludes many qualified applicants who may be discouraged from applying.

But there’s a more insidious concern with profiling tenants: it provides scammers the perfect cover. Landlords who reveal their fantasy tenant in their ads give bad renters a script to follow. Want a professional? You’ll get a scammer in a suit. Want someone who works at the software giant down the street? You’ll get that, too, along with a fraudulent reference. Consider how easy it is to fake a reference right now. “My boss is working from home because of COVID. Here’s his personal (and unverifiable) cell phone number.”

Focus on attracting tenants to the property. If it helps to visualize, imagine a tenant mailing or dropping off a rent check on time every month, then going back to their tidy unit and living in peace and harmony with the neighbors. What that person looks like is of no consequence.

Do Spruce It Up

One of the most positive steps a landlord can take when filling a vacancy is to make sure the property looks good in the ad photos and in person. A tenant reports that she recently toured an expensive property only to end up with dog poop on her shoes after stepping off the patio. Another applicant describes seeing a mouse skitter out from under a bag of trash left on the front porch of a vacant rental unit. Inside, he was treated to bugs in the bathtub and a broken shelf. It doesn’t matter how much a property costs. People expect better.

Do wait to take pictures or run the ad until the property is ready to show, or you risk attracting the wrong tenants. Ask yourself, “Do I want a tenant who wants to live like this?”

Do Command Respect

The ad is the first impression most applicants have of the landlord, and from that the tenant will infer what the tenancy will be like. Consider what sort of impression you want to create.

Tenants balk at ads with strange requirements like “prefer tenant who will shovel the neighbor’s sidewalk”, “must weed the yard once per week”, or “landlord reserves the right to store items at the property” because it looks unprofessional.

The best tenants like someone who is professional and decisive. Someone who knows what they’re doing. Do be straightforward: “Available July 1. No-smoking property. Tenant Background Check Required.

Do commit to managing the rental property like a business, and you will attract and retain the best tenants.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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Across the country, rents are dropping, according to virtually all major analytic firms. How much depends on the locale, and how spooked landlords are about filling the next vacancy.

Given the economic fallout from the pandemic, that is not a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that the hardest hit landlords are those with high-end city properties.

It’s no secret that renters pay a premium to be downtown where the action is. When those tenants no longer need to be close to work or entertainment, there’s no longer a reason to pay top dollar, especially if renters are paying for amenities they can’t use.

The move to work-at-home has had an impact on the rental market, as more and more renters get a taste of what it’s like to stay at home and avoid the cost and hassle of commuting. Others are teaming up with friends or family and sharing space while they weather the financial uncertainty.

But it may be another factor that is prompting landlords to drop rental prices. According to experts at Zillow, the rental market stands to lose an estimated $725 million from the youngest renters. Zillow reports that 32 million Gen Zers — renters 18-25 — moved back in with family as unemployment numbers soared and college campuses closed their doors. That’s the highest number of relocations on record, and the ripple effects from this demographic alone could have far-reaching consequences for the market.

While it’s common for college students to return home in the summer, it appears that some college students made that move earlier this year as campuses closed, contributing to the jump seen in April. There were far more young people living with parents in April than during a typical summer peak, indicating the usual seasonal shift was super-charged by soaring unemployment. Recently unemployed young people moved back home at roughly the same rate as usual — about 60% of them typically live with parents — but that renter pool is bigger this year.

These renters may not be in a position to return for some time, as many are poised to remain at home with family and save money. Naturally, the cities with the highest populations of young renters — including Austin, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh — may face the most income loss while areas with more millennials and older renters, including Miami, New York and Los Angeles, are in a better position, according to Zillow.

How long-lasting this impact will be may depend on unemployment rates. If jobs return quickly, this could be a blip. But if some jobs disappear, that could free up rental units and drive down rents.

Another major factor is timing. As rents escalated in recent years, new apartment construction also spiked. Now, new apartments are coming online just as unemployment is hitting record highs, creating competition.

Zillow points out that many of these younger renters already were struggling with high rents before their industries were hit hard by pandemic-related layoffs. That has experts pondering whether this demographic will enjoy the comfort of staying with parents and use the opportunity to save for down payments to purchase rather than return to the rental market.

The current trend could impact the level of amenities the remaining tenants are seeking during summer leasing. For instance, the quest for fitness centers and pools may give way to internet connectivity, private outdoor space, and in-suite laundry.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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