10 tips for writing a winning rental property listing

Sara Thompson
Sara Thompson | 6 min. read

Published on November 22, 2013

Craigslist.org saw more than 71 million unique visitors in September of this year. Other sites, such as Zillow and Lovely, also draw millions to their online rental listings.

Based on this information, it’s no wonder why so many landlords and property managers are going online to advertise their rental properties. While property management software like Buildium makes it easy to do rental listing syndication, they’re only tools — you still have to craft compelling ads.

When using Craigslist, Zillow, and other tools, how you present your properties can make all the difference in your ability to attract the kind of tenants you desire. Making your ads as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible will save you time and money by attracting only those who are truly interested and ready to move in. The following items are “must haves” for the most effective ads.

#1: A Compelling Headline

What makes your listing different from every other property? Tantalize classified surfers with unique features and benefits that will grasp your audience’s attention. This has to be riveting just to get people to click on your ad.

#2: Photos

The photos of your property will make or break your advertisement. Many renters won’t even look at a listing if there aren’t any photos, so be sure to include at least one. Many websites have a limit on how many photos you can use, so prioritize the ones that show off the kitchen, living room, bathroom(s), and the exterior — especially if the grounds are landscaped. When taking these photos, allow for as much natural lighting as possible and try not to use the flash unless you have to. To give the feeling of spaciousness, back into a corner of the room to get the widest angle. Also, be sure the rooms are either nicely staged or completely clean and free of clutter before taking any photos.

#3: Specs and Amenities

At minimum, always list the property’s square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms it has. Expand upon the specifics of the rental with details such as appliances, floor coverings, closet space, and so on. Desirable items you’d want to highlight might be an in-unit washer and dryer, lots of windows, or an outdoor space, if you have them. Great adjectives to use include accommodating, charming, new, or updated. It’s also a good idea to describe any improvements that have recently been made. This should be followed by a link that directs to a property-specific landing page within your website, an online application, or your contact page.

#4: Rental Fee and Security Deposit

Cost is often the most important factor when people look for a rental, and because of this, listings that leave out the monthly rate are almost always passed over. If you are flexible on your rate, explain the range of amounts you are willing to accept. Also include how much will be required for the security deposit, which can be expressed as a dollar amount or as “one and a half month’s rent,” for example.

#5: Date Available and Length of Lease

Be sure to mention the date the property will be ready for a new resident to move in. If you are listing your property well in advance, including the date of availability will save you from getting inquiries from renters who are looking to move in right away. It’s also wise to state the length of the lease you will be asking the new tenant to agree to. You won’t want to waste your time with applications for a month-to-month arrangement if you’re looking for a long-term tenant.

#6: Location

Location is a big priority for most people. If you have an existing tenant in your rental, you may not want to list the street address in order to protect their safety and privacy. But, if you feel good about listing specific location information, see if you can embed a digital map within your ad, and have the unit clearly pinpointed. This gives prospective applicants an idea of the property’s proximity to their work, schools, highways, and shopping centers. If you choose to omit the address, do your best to describe the neighborhood and what is nearby. Renters will want to know about parks and any other points of interest within walking distance.

#7: Utilities

Most renters know that there will be more monthly costs involved than just rent. If you will be managing some of the bills, explain which ones will be included in the rental amount and which ones won’t. For example, you might say, “we pay water/sewer, you pay garbage.” If all additional costs will be the tenant’s responsibility, make sure to mention it. This is important information for them to have, and although it may be a downside, it isn’t always a deal-breaker.

#8: Pet Policy

Studies have shown that a vast majority of renters have a pet of some kind. So, whether or not you allow pets will likely be as big a factor as price and location. If you allow pets but you have breed or size restrictions, or if you don’t allow fish tanks, say so. Make your pet policy as clear as you can in your listing to avoid confusion or conflict later on.

#9: Screening Process

It could save you a considerable amount of time and money if you are upfront about the fact that you intend to run a credit check or a background check on applicants. Likewise, if you explain that you will require references from previous landlords, you might weed out those with poor rental history.

10. A Call To Action

Don’t forget to tell prospective tenants exactly what they can do to move forward. Finish off your ad with a call to action. Ask them to call you, email you, or give them a link to your online rental application. Urge them to act or they may just keep surfing!

If you can cover each of these items in your ad, you will provide rental seekers with all the information (and links) they need to become your next tenant. You will also be less likely to attract those who wouldn’t be a good fit.

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Sara Thompson

Sara Thompson works for Zenith Properties NW in Vancouver, Washington.

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