Has your rental property been on the market longer than you think it should be? A house without tenants is costing you money, so if your ad has been up for 2-3 weeks and you are not getting any serious enquiries, it is time to rethink your strategy.
Having a house that is not getting any tenants can drive any property owner crazy. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results has always been a good definition of insanity, so it is time to make some changes to your ad.
There are hundreds of rental ads out there that are not getting any interest for their own individual reasons (price is not everything). However before we look at how to generate interest in your ad, it’s important to look at how successful property owners find a tenant.
1. Tenants see your property listing (typically online)
2. Tenant is interested enough to make an enquiry to inspect
3. Tenant views the property and applies
4. Landlord/agent screens tenant to make sure they can pay the rent and look after the house
5. Lease signed
Knowing the process of attracting and securing the right tenant will help you to understand where the problem is so you can apply the right fix.
Let’s start analyzing your tenant finding problems with two important questions:
1. Are you getting enquiries from potential tenants? (Less than 5 per week is not good).
If you are not getting at least 5 calls or emails per week for your ad, you probably have a problem in stage 1 or 2 of the process. This means that potential tenants are not seeing your ad OR they are seeing it and are just not interested or impressed. You can get your house listed higher on the list on realestate.com.au or you can make the ad itself more appealing. We’ll discuss both in a minute.
2. Are people inspecting your property but not applying? (If 5 groups inspect your house, you should get at least 1 application)
Here we see a problem in Stage 3 of the process. If people are coming to see the house and not applying, either the house is just not ready for inspection (dirty or not maintained) OR your ad is appealing to the wrong sort of tenants.
A while back, I had a beautiful 3 bedroom house listed. I had a professional photographer take pictures for the ad and I listed it as SPACIOUS FAMILY HOME. I started getting calls within half an hour of putting the ad up, and in short order I had ten groups of people making inspection appointments. I am thinking, this is going to be easy to find a tenant.
Out of the ten groups who turned up to my inspection, I didn’t get a single application, but the phone kept ringing. I set up an open inspection two days later and was pleased to have 7 different groups through but still no applications. “Holy Buckets!” I thought, and decided it was time to start over.
I had been to enough inspections to know that this house was clean and well presented, and I knew that the ad was good because of all the attention (calls) I was getting. The feedback I was getting from the inspections was “Gee, I thought it would be bigger”. The pro did a such a good job with the photos that the rooms all appeared bigger than they were.
Rather than have the pro come back for new pictures, I snapped some shots with my iphone and I changed the heading to RENOVATED HOME. The basic photos and removing “SPACIOUS” from the heading made the house seem more modest, but increased its appeal for couples and small families (looking for a smaller and lower maintenance property).
I held another open inspection. This time there were only two groups through, but BOTH put in applications. One of them turned out to be great tenants.
Now, all five stages of the tenant finding process are important in their own right, but if you are successful in the first two stages, the last three pretty much take care of themselves, and you will have a choice of great tenants rather than feeling forced to take whomever comes along.
Lets take a look at improving your experience in those stages.
Stage 1- The Tenant finds your ad
Obviously, if potential tenants don’t find and see your ad, nothing is going to happen. At a minimum you absolutely need your property on realestate.com.au and Domain (and allhomes if you’re in the ACT).
Step one is to make sure it’s on those sites. Secondly it should be prominent so you might need to consider upgrading on realestate.com.au if your property is in most metro areas. There are 3 types of upgrades – Feature, Highlight and the best is a Premiere listing.
As a general rule if you cannot find your listing on realestate.com.au on the first 3 pages you absolutely need to upgrade. Even then, it might be worth upgrading to help your ad attract more interest and find a tenant sooner.
This is a good place to mention another thing that makes ads ‘invisible’: not putting the full address in the ad. Some owners don’t want to display the address for privacy or security issues but I have personally never had a problem with this. A lot of tenants get turned off. The location is one of the most important factors so it seems strange to leave it out. Would you enquire about a car for sale that didn’t the make and model on the ad? No, you would just move onto the next one.
Besides being less than welcoming, houses without addresses do not show up on Map Search. A lot of tenants like to look for houses via the map search (“location, location, location”), and if your property is not there it might as well be ‘invisible’.
Stage 2. Tenant Wants to Inspect your Property
As your potential tenant is scrolling through the properties available in the area they want to live in, they will be comparing them to find the one which best suits their needs. The most important factors they are comparing are usually location, price, and number of bedrooms.
When you’re leasing your house out, you can’t change your house but you can change your ad to better suit your house. The main issues I see with properties that have been on for too long are Price & Photos.
If the price of your house is too high, tenants will pass it by every time. Tenants are always looking for the best value for their money. Yes, there is more to “value” than price, but it is the first and most obvious factor tenant’s have to compare, so it is a big deal.
Research your competition by jumping into realestate.com.au and search for properties similar to yours. They should be in the same area, be the same property type and have the same number of bedrooms. Look for houses in the same price range, ($50 either way). Now narrow the search even closer until you close the list to 2 or 3 houses. These will be your direct competition.
When setting your price, you will want to be equal or even a $5 dollars below the competition.
Hot Tip: Don’t compare your house to one that’s been on for longer than a month as that is most likely overpriced.
The first two things that prospective tenants are going to notice when they are learning about your property is the price and the pictures, and usually the lead photo will catch their eye even before the price. If your photos don’t catch their eye, you’ve lost them.
Here are my 3 most important rules to follow when taking photos of your house:
- The ad’s lead photo should be a “hero shot” of the front of the house.
- The photos should be bright, light and decluttered.
- Include pictures of the front, backyard, kitchen, lounge, bathroom and at least one bedroom in the ad.
Taking Action – Making the Changes
Before you get excited and start making changes, let’s develop a plan of action. As your house has been on the market for a while, you will need do more than just get it noticed by people who have just started looking for a place. You will also have to be different enough from your old ad to get notice by potential tenants who have seen the ad before. Here are the four most important elements that we can change:
When people remember your ad, they label it in their mind by price; “the one for $350”. Make at least a $5 change so it looks different that previous searchers won’t realise they have already seen it.
A new photo, even of the same view of the house, can make a big difference. The front of the house from a different angle or at a time of the day with different light can be a huge change.
We haven’t mentioned these two elements yet, but the headline and the description have a huge influence in attracting the right tenants to your house. The headline should be a simple clear message outlining the best benefit of your house.
I like to focus on the best benefit of the property that my target tenants will most appreciate about the house and use all-caps to make my headline stand out from the rest. Even if you already have a great headline, it is worth changing it to make your ad seem brand new.
Take a look at the illustration below. What’s the problem with the headline for the ‘before’ ad? It has “2 Bedroom house” taking up very valuable “real estate”! Notice how I just cleaned up the heading and made it a little more simple. ‘BRAND NEW HOME WITH POOL’.
When tenants are using the search results, they are only seeing the first few lines, so that is where we want to concentrate our changes. You only need to change the first few words to make it appear to be a whole new ad.
Here’s an example:
See how four little changes- new price, new lead photo, new headline, and adding four words to the description- turned it into a whole new ad? Now tenants who saw the ad before are going to think “Hey, this is new, we haven’t seen it yet”.
Two Final Thoughts to Find a Tenant
Make all of your changes at once. It would be educational to scientifically make individual changes to find out which element of your ad is keeping you from getting tenants, except for one very important thing- tenants who have already seen your ad will realise it’s the one they have already seen! Change the whole thing and get as much new interest as you can so you can get some great tenants now.
Don’t forget the value of a great FOR LEASE sign! Even though we have been concentrating our efforts toward your online presence, a great sign in the front yard does some terrific things for the property. It will not attract as many potential tenants as your ad, but it will help those tenants who saw your ad online to find your property. As most tenants will not be from your area, there’s sure to be more people at your inspections now that they can find your house. They are only $55 delivered and you can use them over and over again.
As I mentioned above, one of the best things you can do is upgrade your ad to get it back up towards the top of the list. The cost is generally equal to 2 or 3 days rent so if your house is vacant it’s not even worth waiting another 3 days to upgrade.
As frustrating as it has been to have your place advertised without getting much interest, do not fall into the trap of offering a lease to the first one who comes along. The changes we have made should help you get plenty of interest.
Download the simple checklist of what to do when you can’t find a tenant.