Not too long ago, property managers advertised a rental by purchasing an ad in the classifieds section of the local newspaper and sticking “for rent” signs in the front yard. Then, online rental listing sites hit the scene—and property managers could create customizable rental listings easily and at no cost. Likewise, searching for rentals was free and easy.
But the rental listing market has pivoted once again. Sites such as Zillow offer listings customized to all kinds of verticals within the rental market, and they charge property managers and owners for their services.
But Zillow isn’t the only one out there. It seems like new rental listing sites are popping up almost weekly, each one offering a different array of services, specializing in this vertical or that. So how do you adapt to an unpredictable market and choose the best rental listing sites strategically without breaking the bank?
We’ve compiled a list of the 12 best rental listing sites for every type of property manager and capped it off with some essential listing strategies you’ll want to follow.
Tenant Turner looked at inbound lead data from 2016-2019 and found that the vast majority of leads nationwide came from free online listing sites. Many of the free sites will post your ads automatically if you’re using a syndication feed, so it’s no extra work on your part. Below we’ve called out some of the best free and paid rental listing sites, based on popularity, overall polish, and the groups they serve.
#1: Your Property Management Website
Putting your current listings on your site serves two purposes. First, it’s an opportunity to display all of your vacant rentals in one place, with details and full-color images. Users can browse all of your listings in one place.
Second, putting listings on your site increases your SEO. If someone is searching for a property in your area through Google, your listing will appear in the search results, provided you’ve included the right keywords, and that person will find your site.
A couple things to keep in mind:
- Image files can be pretty big. Make sure you compress and resize your images so they don’t slow down your site.
- Images, and listings in general, should be mobile-friendly. Most people do their online searching via mobile.
#2: Facebook Marketplace
Over 800 million people use Facebook Marketplace each month, so you’ll want to pay attention to it. You’ll have to manually post your listings if you are not using Zumper or Apartment List to re-syndicate for you. Keep in mind, it doesn’t work like a traditional listing site. Search results follow the Facebook algorithm, so there’s no guarantee your listings will show up for any user at any given time.
#3: Zillow Group
The Zillow Group includes Zillow, Trulia, and HotPads. At the time this post was written, Zillow still offers free options but is slowly moving state-by-state to a paid model. More details on that can be found here.
While there are may free alternatives, paying Zillow does have perks. It will distinguish your ads over others by marking them as “Verified Listings” that appear at the top of search results. Zillow also offers paying customers premium support and nightly listing updates.
On the other hand, Zumper accounted for 36% of inbound leads in 2019—just as many leads as all Zillow Group sites combined, and is steadily growing. When you list with Zumper, your listings also appear on Facebook Marketplace and Padmapper, a site serving Canadian and US, where users enter a location and price and get a map of listings in the area.
The site has adopted a freemium model, so while a free option still exists, Zumper says a paid relationship will ensure active status on Zumper, as well as increased visibility on the product.
Apartments.com includes a network of 11 listing sites including recently acquired ForRent.com and sites specifically for niche markets, such as ApartmentFinder for the cost-conscious renter, corporatehousing.com for the corporate traveler, after55.com for seniors, and apartamentos.com for Spanish-speaking renters.
In short, there’s something for everyone. The sites accept syndication feeds, as well. So, there’s no extra work for you to expand your listing’s reach. It’s free for single-family rentals or buildings with fewer than five units. After that, you have to pay.
This site is well trusted and it’s been around since 1996. While Realtor.com is for both sales and rent listings, it powers another rental listing site called DoorSteps. Tenant Turner, however, found that just over 2% of leads came from Realtor.com in 2019.
One of the fastest-growing rental listings sites in the US, Dwellsy provides property managers access to local real estate agents, while also catering their offering to property managers who are leasing agents themselves. As of January 2021, the company had over 10 million listings on its site, making it one of the largest players to watch.
#8: Rental Beast
An up-and-comer in the space, Rental Beast differentiates itself through connecting rental listing databases to MLSs (Multiple Listing Services) platforms. In doing so, the technology allows leasing agents visibility and access into 8 million non-MLS listings—the largest number of verified rental listings available. This is a very attractive proposition for MLSs that have traditionally focused on home sales, and lacked the detail to keep up with the complexities and fast-moving nature of the rental market. On top of that, Rental Beast also sends your listings to Facebook for free.
Once the go-to site for classified listings of all types, Craigslist has become a haven for scammers. Many media outlets have declared it dead, having been overshadowed by Facebook Marketplace. Still, there is no fee to post, and people do still use it. It even gets more visitors per month than Netflix, according to Business Insider.
Posting, however, is a very manual, very repetitive process. Before you put your listings on Craigslist, take all of these pros and cons into consideration, then decide if it’s worth it for you.
#10: Social Media
Don’t underestimate the power of your social media platforms. You can post your listings as they become available across all of your accounts. If you use a tool such as Hootesuite, you can do it simultaneously, rather than reposting over and over.
Get creative with your posts. Post in Facebook groups related to your area. Stream walkthroughs on Facebook Live of IGTV on Instagram.
If you’re on Nextdoor, don’t forget to post there. Nextdoor is a hyperlocal social media platform, where users join their neighborhood. It boasts about 27 million users monthly.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of building an online persona and making it personal. Show your face, talk about your favorite aspects of a rental, and of course, be clear about how users can contact you. These channels may become increasingly important as online rental listing sites continue to charge.
Focusing solely on single-family properties, Rentals.com has been a paid rental listing site since 1999 and a tried-and-true way to boost lead flow. Rentals.com is a part of the RentPath group.
This is another RentPath paid site that targets first-time renters, coaching them through their first renting experience. If this is your market, then Rent.com may be worth the investment.
#13: Apartment Guide
Specifically geared toward multi-family renters, this site is also a part of the RentPath network. The aesthetic is slick, and attracts a renter seeking a more luxurious property. Apartment Guide also allows site users to leave reviews of certain areas, citing examples like: “This neighborhood is upscale and modern with entertainment options,” so other renters know what to look out for.
#14: Apartment List
If your target lead is looking for a white glove rental search experience customized to their personal preferences, Apartment List can provide that. The search functionality makes it easy for renters to find rentals near a university, in certain neighborhoods, or search by keywords such as luxury or cheap. Ads will also re-syndicate to Facebook Marketplace. Technically, it’s free to list on Apartment List, but if a lead from their site signs a lease, you will be charged a connection fee of $349.
Rental Listing Strategies for Efficiency
Measure Each Syndication Network’s Performance
What works on a national level doesn’t always work in your market, so it’s important to keep track of which online rental sites drive the most traffic for your business. Then, you can decide which are worth paying for.
If you haven’t started already, track your lead sources in an excel spreadsheet, or if you’re already a Tenant Turner user, simply pull the Lead Source report in your account to see where most of your leads are coming from.
Syndicate Listings to Save Time
The easiest way to get your listings on all the best rental listing sites is by using a syndication feed in property management software, which will post your rentals automatically on countless listing sites (free sites as well as any paid sites that you have an agreement with). Below is a recap in chart form of the best free and paid listing sites that accept a syndication feed.
- Best Rental Listing Sites Grid: Paid vs. Free Syndication Options. *Inbound leads tracked in Tenant Turner.
Pro tip: You may be able to continue posting to Zillow Group sites at no extra cost by syndicating from your local MLS. If you’re using software like Tenant Turner to respond to lead inquiries for you, you can set up email forwarding so that interested leads continue to receive instant responses.
No one has a crystal ball, but we do have data, and we predict that the listing site landscape will continue to change rapidly over the next few years. Other sites will follow Zillow’s lead and new freemium challengers will fill the gap. No matter the changes that happen, you’ll stay ahead of the curve if you track your own lead sources and only pay the sites that best suit your target audience while maximizing your lead-to-lease conversion.Read more on Marketing