The Secret Rental
May 1, 2012
Are you keeping a secret? If that two-line classified ad you ran in the newspaper is lost among the other 2-bedroom ads, you might be keeping a secret. If the For Rent sign in front of your property is so small no one can see it more than 20 feet away and is covered by overgrown grass and shrubbery, you might be keeping a secret. If you are waiting patiently for “the right person” to show up, you might be keeping a secret. In fact, if you are doing any or all of those things, you may be joining the numerous landlords with a similar secret-keeping ability.
We want the place rented. There are dozens of ways to avoid keeping a secret of our rental properties. But let’s just look at the three I just mentioned..
First are those classified ads. If your properties are in larger cities, the cost of a two-line classified ad can be upwards of $100 for a weekend, assuming you are even allowed to run just two lines. Some newspapers I checked, such as the Denver Post, have a four-line minimum. Of course, four lines has more impact than two lines, but not if it is in the midst of other similar four-line ads. Do properties get exposure from a two- to four-line ad buried among the others. Yes, but is it enough exposure to avoid it being in the “keeping a secret” category? The problem is, the cost of those ads is a big hit and a few weeks of them can use up a month’s rent. So for the actual return on the ads, we are almost stuck keeping a secret.
A better choice is one or more of the online rental ad sites. The newspapers have taken a huge hit from those internet sites because so many people use the internet to look for rental properties. And they are a boon to landlords as well as tenants. Craigslist, for example is free in most cities and you allows you as much copy and as many photos as you want. Others are inexpensive. Rent.com is $49 a month for as much copy and as many photos as you want. Rentalads.com provides unlimited listings and up to 12 photos along with email alerts to tenants who have expressed an interest in your type of property for $49 a month. Check with other sites to see what they charge.
With an online ad, it’s harder to keep the secret of your rental. But when you run an ad on those sites, figure out which site is providing you with the most traffic, letting your secret out most effectively.
I know money is tight. But is it so tight that you can’t afford a For Rent sign that someone can actually see and pay attention to? I know, Home Depot gets $9.00 for a sign 18 by 24 inches. They do have a cheaper one for 97 cents that is 8 by 12 inches. Then you nail it to a piece of wood and pound it into the ground. We have two issues here. First is the sign, of course, and second is the fact that it may be hiding among overgrown grass and weeds.
Good tenants like to rent from good landlords. Two ways they judge whom they consider to be good landlords is by the professionalism of the marketing and the way the property looks. A professional-looking sign tells prospective tenants that this landlord is a professional. But a messy property it tells prospective tenants that the landlord doesn’t care about the property thus negating the message sent by the professional sign. That, interestingly enough, also tells bad tenants that the property is an ideal place to start looking.
Of course, a poorly maintained property and yard is no secret. But a sign that requires searching in the front of the property is a secret, which brings us to the third way of keeping a secret.
Some landlords, many of whom have been in the business for decades, apparently have a magical power to determine a good tenant just by talking to him or her. They also believe that “the right person” will show up and be eager to rent his or her vacant property. For those of us who are landlords who do not have that magical power, who have no wands to wave and crystal balls to consult to determine the quality of tenants and when they will show up, we need to get the word out as many ways as we possibly can. We ought not be keeping secrets.
All of that means conscious marketing. Conscious marketing means taking advantage of any and all opportunities to avoid keeping the secret about our outstanding property, the one that any good tenant would be proud to call home. Run ads that someone will notice in places people look. Put a professional-looking sign in the front yard. Make sure it’s no secret that you have a property available.