Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ways to Advertise a Vacancy - My Impressions

Here are my thoughts on cost and effectiveness for vacancy advertising, based on my limited experience and location:

For Rent Sign: Other investors have told me that this is the best bang for the buck; my HOA doesn't allow signs so I am limited to sticking it in the window - which was not effective. I also wonder about the security "smartness" of this idea.

Word of Mouth: Let everyone in your REIA know you have a place to rent, in case they know someone. Also, tell friends, nieghbors near the rental unit, and give your current tenants a $150 reward for referring a qualified renter. This can really cut down on vacancy time. I have not had this work for me yet.

Flyers: I posted flyers with rip-out contact tags on community bulletin boards at the library, food stores, drug stores, and park. I did not have any success but if you can find a high traffic area like a bus stop, you may do well with this.

Rental Agencies: While I am dubious about the service they offer (and would never use one as a prospective renter), they don't charge the landlord anything - so I say use them. I did get a few calls from agency clients. You may even want to call these agencies as soon as you are aware of an upcoming vacancy.

Newspapers: This is by far the most expensive advertising method, however, it did generate the most phone calls for me. You might want to try the other methods first, but if you are in a hurry, get an ad in the paper and try for a discounted rate.

Internet: I didn't have much luck with online newsgroups, Craig's list, and othe rental specific sites. In fact, I got two calls, both from out of state, of people not knowing how to use a search function! The other lead I got was via email and it was just the other day - the unit has been rented for over a year now! That shows that some sites never remove information unless you go and do it yourself.

Realtors: OK, this is one I have mixed feelings about. I actually got my current tenants via a Realtor, so I'm grateful for that -- but I would have to say I wouldn't do it again unless I was desperate. Here are the beefs I had:

  • They wanted 1 month's rent as a finder's fee (that's $1200).
  • They wanted a commission if I decided to sell the place to the renter
  • They insisted on using their application and lease since they are "protected" and understand it; even after I spent hours and hours fine-tuning my paperwork (this was the one that ticked me off the most)
  • This particular realtor tried to negotiate the rent on behalf of her clients, as if this was a house sale...Excuse me?

So how would I go about advertising a vacancy in the future -- Here are the steps I would take in order.

Before the unit is vacant I would:

  1. Word of Mouth - Tell tenants to recommend someone; tell neighbors it will be available; post message on REIA newsgroup
  2. Put up a sign - window (or grass if you can do it)
  3. Call Rental Agencies - let them know when it is available
  4. Put up a few flyers in key locations - but not go overboard since it doesn't pay off time-wise

Once the unit is vacant I would:

  1. List an ad with one or more newspapers (small local and "big" county paper)
  2. Maybe try a few internet posting, but keep track of where I list them
  3. If I get desperate - call a realtor (but make my demands up front)

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