How to attract families to your rental properties

Amanda Maher
Amanda Maher | 6 min. read

Published on January 3, 2017

Why Should You Rent to Tenants with Children?

The thought of renting to tenants with children spooks some landlords. Crayon drawings on the freshly painted walls, juice spilled on the carpets… and then there are concerns over hazards like lead paint. For some landlords, the liability involved in renting to tenants with children seems too steep. Although it is illegal to discriminate against them, landlords have been known to find creative ways to give preference to other prospective tenants.

However, there’s good reason to want families as tenants. Tenants with children are often farther along in their careers than younger, single tenants, so they’re probably collecting a steady paycheck. Families also tend to stay put. Moving year after year is burdensome for anyone; but it’s particularly challenging for tenants with children, who like to keep kids rooted in one place, especially if they attend local schools.

In addition, some rentals are better suited for tenants with children. Many real estate investors picked up single family homes during the foreclosure crisis and have held onto them as rentals. Single family homes—particularly those with ample backyard space and several bedrooms and bathrooms—are ideal for tenants with children. These houses are a great match for families that might be saving up for a down payment on their own home, or who need to rebuild their credit after the housing bubble burst.

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So if you want to attract families to your rentals, how should you go about it? In order to appeal to tenants with children, you may need to tweak your standard approach.

Highlight Neighborhood Amenities & Kid-Friendly Features

The quality of local schools is often one of the first things parents take into consideration when deciding where to live. If your rental property is in a particularly good school district, say so, and show where your rental is in proximity to local schools.

It’s also helpful to provide information about other neighborhood amenities that might be appealing to families, such as parks, playgrounds, community pools, recreation centers, and local libraries.It can’t hurt to show prospective tenants where the closest grocery stores, daycare centers, and hospitals are, either. Point out features like extra-wide sidewalks or jogging/biking paths. This will help parents envision all of the activities they can do with their children if they move.

Landlords with rental units in larger complexes should point out kid-friendly features like a clubhouse, game room, movie theater, swimming pool, or playground. This is also a great time to point out how the maintenance for all of these spaces will be taken care of by the management company, freeing up parents’ leisure time to actually enjoy these amenities!

Make Small Investments to Become More Kid-Friendly

If your home isn’t particularly kid-friendly at the moment, you can make some relatively inexpensive updates. For example, you can’t change the number of rooms in your rental unit; but could you add a closet to a den or study to transform it into a bedroom? You can also maximize storage that parents will appreciate by adding closet organizers, built-in bookcases, or a shed in the backyard.

In addition, tile or wood floors are easier to clean, removing the risk of ruined carpeting. A home with strong door stoppers will prevent holes in the walls. Satin finish paint is better able to withstand wear and tear. These updates might not seem like much at the outset, but they can go a long way toward protecting a family’s security deposit (and your unit!).

Some more expensive investments might include converting unused garage or basement space into a family-friendly play area. If you have a backyard, consider fencing it in (particularly if the home is on a busy street) and adding a swing set. And of course, you can’t overlook the importance of a laundry area: Families do a lot of laundry! At a minimum, you should offer washer and dryer hookups; ideally, you’ll provide an in-unit washer and dryer in their own dedicated space.

Be Open to Furry Friends

Welcoming children and pets into your home seems like twice the risk—but if you’re trying to attract families to your rental properties, it’s worth considering. If a family doesn’t currently have a pet, they might want one down the road—so not only are you widening your pool of potentially great tenants, but you’re also helping to ensure that a family will want to stick around once they move in.

Pay Close Attention to Safety and Security

Tenants with children want to know that your home is safe. Safety takes many forms; at a minimum, this includes deadbolt locks and functioning fire and carbon monoxide detectors. Outdoor spaces might include a fence around the backyard, well-secured railings on patios or balconies, and a swimming pool with a child-proof gate. Beyond its appeal as an amenity, off-street parking removes the need for children to get in and out of the car in traffic, removing a hazard that makes parents uneasy. These updates will give parents peace of mind—and they could save a life.

If it’s applicable, you’ll also want to point out that your rental property is located in a low-crime area or emphasize the local neighborhood watch program or community safety events.

Market Appropriately to Tenants with Children

If your rental property and the surrounding neighborhood would be well-suited for tenants with children, it’s time to get the word out! Marketing to families is different than marketing to young professionals or couples. It’s difficult for tenants with children to find the time to tour a bunch of houses; so create robust marketing materials that include pictures of every room and an accurate description of the home’s family-friendly amenities. Post listings online just as you normally would, but then take it a step further: Distribute copies around town at places families tend to visit. Post them on bulletin boards at local schools, libraries, community centers, daycares, grocery stores, and other common destinations.

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If you are a landlord or property manager responsible for multiple listings, you may want to invest in a spreadsheet or database for easily tracking amenities. When you’re managing several units, it can be hard to keep each property’s attributes straight.

However you decide to go about attracting tenants, remember one thing: discriminating against tenants with children is illegal. Make sure that you understand all local, state, and federal laws as you advertise, screen, and select tenants for your rental properties.

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Amanda Maher

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a master's in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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