By Robert L. Cain, from the upcoming book Get It Rented: Effective Marketing for Rental Property
Pat called me about her rental property. It wasn’t rented. It had sat vacant for three months while her property manager ran ads. She couldn’t understand why there was no renter, yet. I looked at the ad in the paper and knew immediately what the problem was. The ad was designed to get the phone to ring at the management company, not to encourage prospective tenants to see her property. This property should have rented easily. It looks inviting and is two blocks from the convention center in a nice area with an easy walk to downtown.
I knew how to fix the problem.
I told her to take pictures of the property with a digital camera and email them to me. She did and I created a flyer for her property. I emailed her the flyer and told her to print 100 flyers, get a flyer box, and put it up outside her rental. She got her management company to spring for the flyer box. The property was rented the next day.
Does it work that well every time? Of course not, but it is effective advertising.
Property flyers accomplish two things. First, they can qualify your prospective tenant. That is, they give him or her enough information to decide if this unit is one that he or she would consider living in. Second, they give a prospective tenant something to take home so he or she will remember to call you about the property.
Here’s what happens all too often when people are driving around neighborhoods wishing and hoping that they could live there. They see a For Rent sign on the front lawn of a property. They stop, try to find a pen or pencil in the car, then they try to find something to write on. All they can find is the white napkins they got from McDonald’s where they stopped for lunch. So they write the address and your phone number on one of the napkins. Then they drive around some more.
When they get home, they’ve pretty much forgotten about your place, and they stuff all the napkins into the bag they came in and throw them away. Into the garbage goes any chance of them ever calling you about your rental property.
On the other hand, if you have placed a box of flyers in front of the property, they get out of the car, look at the picture on the flyer, read about it, decide to take it home and, you hope, call you about seeing the place. Unless the property is not something they’re interested in, they won’t throw it away. In fact, even if they have no interest in it, they might not throw it away. It lays around their apartment, and one of their friends comes over, sees it and asks about it. Then the friends call you.
Realtors have used flyers for years for just the reasons I have described. They use them because they work.
Don’t know how to make a flyer? It’s simple. Here’s how.
If you’re even marginally handy with a computer and have a laser or inkjet printer, you can make an acceptable looking flyer. Your computer might have come with Microsoft Publisher or you might have another inexpensive desktop publishing program. Microsoft Word makes flyer creation easy, too, with ready-made templates, so all you have to do is type in the pertinent information and place the photo.
A picture is essential. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 40-unit building or a single-family house. One reason you use a picture is that it helps your prospective tenants remember which property it was. After they’ve driven by 10 or so, they all run together.
How to ensure the best picture
If you can get a decent picture of your property that shows its good features, that’s easiest to use. However, if the best picture you can get is of the garage, some trees or a trash dumpster, think of something else. One thing to do is hire an artist to make a line drawing of the property. A real estate artist can do it in less than an hour for under $50.
I got information from Don Kinunen, a Portland, Oregon, artist who specializes in drawing properties. He charges $45 for an 8 in. by 10 in. drawing that he also sends as a graphic by
email. You can put the graphic directly onto your flyer. Go to Don’s website at realestatesketch.com for complete information and to see sample sketches.
Once you have it on a digital camera, you can tweak it in a paint program on your computer. You can print them in color if you want, and that will be impressive. But black and white will probably be every bit as effective. The reason for the flyer is, of course, to advertise your property. But the advertisement is to remind your prospective tenants about the property.
The more professional looking the flyer, the better the impression prospective applicants get of you. A professional appearance encourages good tenants and discourages bad ones.
Silly as it sounds, make sure your name and phone number, the address of the property and the rent amount are on the flyer. You’d be surprised . . . Well, never mind. Just make sure all that is on the flyer. Just as important, proofread carefully. Make sure it says what you intended it to say and that there are no grammar or spelling errors. Grammar and spelling errors show that someone is not careful and meticulous, and that carries over to an opinion of management style in the minds of some people.
What other information goes on them
Other than the address, rent and your contact information, you want to put information on the flyer that will help your prospective tenants decide if this is a place they want to live. List only benefits and not negatives, except for a couple of exceptions.
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Square feet
- This wording at the bottom:
We are working with neighbors and other landlords to maintain the quality of the neighborhood. We want to make sure that our tenants are good neighbors. To that end we have a thorough screening process.
If you meet the application criteria and are accepted, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that other tenants in this area are being screened with equal care.
We provide equal housing opportunity. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, creed, color, national origin, marital status, sex, familial status or handicap.
That language also has the effect of screening applicants. Bad tenants don’t want you to “make sure that” your “tenants are good neighbors.” If they know you will check rental history, they’ll just go on to the next landlord. Aw, shucks. Good tenants are encouraged by language such as that because they hate living near bad tenants.
Things you might want to include:
- School district
- Special features about unit such as new carpet, updated kitchen, etc.
- That you allow pets (if you indeed do)
- That you rent to smokers (if you do)
- That you accept Section 8 (if you do and have a choice where your property is)
- Distance to bus or train (if it’s close)
- The fact that there’s off-street parking (if there is)
- Any move-in incentives
DO NOT include (none of these is a selling point):
- The phrase “No Pets”
- The phrase “No Smokers”
- The phrase “No Section 8”
- How much the deposit is
In other words, include only positives. If it does not help in selling the unit, leave it out. Prospective tenants will ask if those questions are important to them. Then you can have an answer that is already written out to respond to them. If they have no importance to the prospective tenant, you have not created a negative impression.
Get at least 100 copied on colored paper, preferably blue or pink, at a copy shop, NOT WHITE. Advertising agencies and researchers have found that blue and pink are the two most effective colors and white looks like a McDonald’s napkin.
Once you have the flyers printed, display them in front of the property. The best thing to use is one of the plastic brochure or flyer boxes that Realtors® use for houses they are selling. Office Max sells what appears to be a sturdy one for about $19.00. The most interesting one is at Home Depot where they have a box and stand that sticks in the ground for about $23.00. Check online under “literature boxes.”
Flyers get the phone to ring and they cost infinitely less and are infinitely more effective than newspaper ads. You can use the same information in online ads including the pictures you take for your flyer.
Get it rented.