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7 Steps for Writing Effective Rental Listings

7 Steps for Writing Effective Rental Listings

By Laurie Mega


According to ApartmentList’s 2020 National Rent Report, rent growth has flattened over the last two months, a time when rental activity usually begins to heat up. Rising unemployment and shelter-in-place orders have made it nearly impossible to move or even think about moving.

But as the restrictions are eased and the economy slowly opens, the rental market is expected to wake up again.

If you have leases that are ending or vacant homes you’ve been sitting on (although we sincerely hope not), now is the time to get your listings ready.

Rental listings are a fundamental part of your marketing strategy. A well-thought-out, well-written listing will attract the kinds of tenants you’re looking for.

That’s not to say that you’ll be picking and choosing your tenants based on any demographic. That would be discriminatory and against the law. But a good listing can attract the kinds of tenants that are really looking for what you have to offer.

After all, you don’t want to waste an applicant’s time if they need to be near a public elementary school, and there are no public schools in your area.

To create a dynamite listing that attracts the right kinds of applicants, we’ve put together some tips.

  1. Know Your Audience

Before you do anything else, research your audience, the kinds of tenants your properties attract.

Begin with your current tenants. Who are they? Are they older or younger? Do they have families or are they single professionals? Get a good demographic picture.

Then ask them why they chose your property. Their answers will help you highlight the right features and amenities of your homes.

Knowing your audience will also help you determine where to post your listings. You probably know that younger residents (millennials and Gen Z) prefer the convenience of mobile. They’re more likely to use a mobile app like Zillow or HotPads to search for a place to rent.

Meanwhile, Gen X and baby boomers are the biggest demographic on Facebook, and 25 percent of users on Craigslist are between the ages of 25 and 49.

Age isn’t the only demographic you can use for posting. Location, income, job type, and marital status, among others, can also influence where you post.

Just remember, you’re posting to the audiences who are most likely to rent your properties, not to the audiences you would choose to rent your properties. As we said before, that would violate housing discrimination laws.

  1. Know Your Neighborhood

Before writing your own listing, check out listings for similar properties in the same neighborhood, particularly for management companies that are filling vacancies successfully.

Study how they talk about their features and amenities. Look at their pictures to see how they’re presenting their properties. Finally, look to see if there’s anything missing that your property has; something that makes you stand apart.

Perhaps your rent is less expensive for the same size unit. Maybe your unit has a good view or space for an in-home office (a feature that has become more popular as people work from home).

Bottom line, keep up to speed on the kinds of properties available in your area and how you stand out among them. Those qualities that make you unique should be featured in your listing.

Also, know what your neighborhood has to offer. Are you close to public transportation? Are there a lot of big employers near you? What about good schools?

Whatever your audience is looking for, if your neighborhood has it, feature it.

  1. Know Your Property

This one may seem pretty obvious, but if you manage multiple properties, it can be pretty tough to know details and amenities for every single one. Take the time to refresh your memory by doing a walk-through of vacant properties, or reviewing old listings.

If the unit is still occupied, ask if you can set up a time to take a walk-through. Better yet, ask your current tenant what they like best about living there.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell

Then, write a listing that gets straight to the point. Show your audience how great your property is instead of telling them.

For example, don’t start a listing with something like this:

This is a lovely single-family home that’s perfect for young families.

Instead, try this:

A 1,800-square-foot single-family home with a finished basement, large back yard, and space for a nursery or home office that’s close to nationally ranked schools.

Include as many of those features your audience is looking for to give them a good picture of your property.

  1. Be Descriptive

English teachers hate it when students use words like nice and good in their work. That’s because these adjectives don’t really tell you anything.

The same is true of apartment listings. A nice view doesn’t tell the reader what’s outside the window. Good lighting doesn’t help, either.

That goes for superlatives, too. Words like best, biggest, and closest don’t really do much to describe your property.

Take these examples:

This house has the best view in town.

The bedrooms have the biggest closets.

The unit is the closest one in the neighborhood to public transportation.

Think about it. Your property could have the best view, the biggest closets, or is closest to public transportation compared to other properties. But that doesn’t mean the view is great, the closets are big or you’re really that close to the train.

Instead, try this:

This house has 180-degree views of the lake and surrounding park.

Walk-in closets are big enough for two full wardrobes and feature built-in shoe racks.

The unit is a 15-minute walk to the nearest commuter rail stop.

Those sentences tell your audience a whole lot more about the kind of property you’re renting.

  1. Include Really Great Photos

You may be tempted to take photos as part of your walk-through, but don’t. Wait until your property is empty, the walls are repainted, and the whole unit has been professionally cleaned.

Remember, you want to put your best foot forward in your listing. For great pictures that help you do that, follow these tips:

  • Take several pictures from different angles in each room.
  • Take your pictures when you have the most light available.
  • Opt for a wide-angle lens instead of a fish-eye lens, which distorts pictures.
  • Take high-quality images and use a tripod to avoid blurry or pixelated images.
  • Don’t include people in your shots.
  • It’s best to wait until a property is vacant, but if your tenant hasn’t moved out yet, make sure the property is tidied up and that personal items have been put away.

Never include a listing without images, or with just a few shots. It gives the impression that your property has something to hide.

  1. Consider a Listing Widget

Creating listings for each property and posting them to the right platforms can be time-consuming. There are tools that can help you streamline the process, however.

A listing widget, for example, can help you create consistently branded listings that prospective tenants can search and filter easily. And you can post your listings simultaneously on several platforms with just one click.

Finally, a listing widget makes your listings mobile-friendly and allows prospective tenants to apply online.

Your listings are the foundation of your marketing strategy. They are your audience’s direct line to your available properties. Writing a listing that features the best parts of your properties and cuts out all the fluff will help you attract tenants and build your reputation as a provider of fantastic rental experiences.

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