Getting vacancies filled quickly is every property manager’s first priority. And, just how successful you are often rests on how well your property listings tap into what tenants actually want.
What Tenants Want
A recent study by Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) of more than 80 Canadian multifamily owners/operators, representing over 200,000 units nationwide, looked at amenities and other factors that have increased in popularity since the pandemic.
Tenants are spending more time in their homes, which has led to a noticeable shift in their preferences and requirements. In 2022 and the foreseeable future, tenants want a space that helps them juggle work and home, and feels safe. These amenities and features include:
• In-suite laundry
• Spacious balconies
• Walk-up access
• Dens or small home offices, to facilitate remote work
• Outdoor terraces
• Co-working spaces
• On-site fitness centres
Beyond the pandemic, other surveys point to perennial favourites, including:
• Updated and well-designed kitchens
• Primary bedrooms that can accommodate a king-size bed
• Smart technology (thermostats, lighting, communication portals, etc.)
• Automated maintenance requests
• Children’s play areas
• Dog runs or “wooftops”
How to Attract Good Tenants
Now that you know what tenants are looking for, here’s how to attract good tenants. In this section we will cover:
How to Create the Perfect Ad
How to Amplify Your Marketing Efforts
How to Prepare for the Showing
How to Weed Out Bad Apples
1. Create the Perfect Ad
Step 1 is to create an ad that’s honest, compelling and helps to drive lead conversions. Here are some basic rules.
It’s important to be straightforward about the basics –the price of the unit, mandatory credit checks, and what’s included and what is not. If renters can save a little money. Let them know! When utilities or things like wifi are included, be sure to say so in your ad. If the renter pays their own hydro or water bills, then it should be clear.
Use a headline that relays the benefit of the vacant unit, not just its features. Hone in on what makes your property stand out. Is it steps away from shopping and entertainment? Is there a park nearby? Is parking included? And, don’t forget to sprinkle in conversion phrases like “must-see” and “rare opportunity” as well, adjectives make all the difference: “stunning views”, “designer kitchen,” “light-filled open concept” etc. Keep headlines to between 5 and 8 words.
Make it easy for your ideal resident to visualize themselves in your property. Be sure to have plenty of photographs. At the bare minimum, have a photo of the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and living room. Take the photos from multiple perspectives in natural light to have the most appeal.
Use Video and Virtual
With the pandemic, more and more video is being used in advertising. Offer prospective residents video tours or 360-degree photos of available units. The interested tenant can then get a feel for the apartment or house without ever having to leave their living room. And, you can take shorter clips and use these video snippets to market the property on social media, digital advertising and ILS.
Use keywords that rental searchers look for, like neighbourhood and number of bedrooms. In addition to stating how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are, list all rental details, including the square footage and items of note.
Include All Amenities and Specs
If you have new quartz counters, let the world know! If the appliances are new, or there is an in-unit washer and dryer included, be sure to call that out. If the closets are large, or walk-in, point that out as well. From free locker space to an outdoor bike rack, list everything that makes your rental appealing to your target audience.
Are Cats Purrrfect?
People love their furry friends. If you have a pet-friendly policy – and even if you don’t – be sure to state whether or not cats and dogs are allowed. It will prevent any misunderstandings and will reduce the amount of time you field answering calls about whether Fluffy or Fido can call your vacant unit home.
Think “Lifestyle” Not Just “Unit”
It should be as easy as pie for your prospective renters to see themselves living in your property. Essentially, you are selling not only the building and the available apartment but also an image of what it would be like to be in that community. And, don’t forget to include how you make life easier for your residents. Highlight how you accept online payments. Talk about how residents have an online communication portal that can be accessed 24/7 by any device including mobile phones. Mention any concierge services or other conveniences.
2. Amplify Your Marketing Efforts
A well-written ad is just the first step. Now, you need to spread your message.
Automate your marketing workflow to reduce vacancies. Use property management marketing software to update all of your available listings without manual intervention. This allows you to streamline your advertising efforts by pushing out available units to ILS as well as your own website. While you’re at it, include a call-to-action in your ad to text for more info about a property. Within seconds, the prospect can have additional photos, pricing information and location details in the palm of their hand. It gives them everything they need to make a decision faster.
All of your vacancies should be posted on your social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any others. Research shows that renters check out online reviews and social media during their housing search. Tagging is how people explore content, so be sure to include hashtags, hashtags that relate to the city, neighbourhood and unit-type, for instance, #Toronto, #HighPark, #apartmentforrent. Be sure to invite your residents to tag you as well.
To amplify your message, engage your community by interacting with other local businesses as well as any current tenants you are connected to. Retweet the daily special of the coffee shop down the street. Look for events that your renters or prospective tenants might be interested in and post these as well. You might want to take advantage of Facebook or Twitter advertising to target a specific audience and boost the number of views your post/unit receives.
Build Brand Ambassadors
Build your brand ambassadors within your community of residents. Ask all of your renters to reach out on a personal level and tell people they know about available units. People are happiest when their friends and family are close by. A referral program builds bonds with your community, as you are partnering with your residents to share vacancies by word of mouth or in their social media circles. You can encourage residents to refer your property by offering a gift or rebate on rent if one of their friends or relatives converts into a new tenant.
3. Prepare for a Showing
Recent studies have shown that while 360- and virtual walk-throughs have gained in popularity, most renters still want to see the available unit before signing on the dotted line. Here are some strategies for tipping the odds in your favour from lead to leasee.
First Impressions Count
When your prospective tenant arrives at your property, how does it look? Is the lawn well-maintained? If not, time to get mowing or re-sod the property. A window box or flowerbed can really jazz up the curb appeal. Does the building look tidy from the outside? Look to see if there is any garbage or clutter that needs to be removed. When the exterior of your building is attractive to potential renters, you’ve just upped your chance of renting it out. The same goes for common areas, like an entryway or hallway. These areas should be clean and highly presentable.
Create a Neutral Space
If the previous tenant had a penchant for orange walls, you’ll want to give the place a fresh coat of paint. Neutral coloured walls, like eggshell white, are best so that prospects aren’t turned off by an unusual paint colour or wallpaper pattern. It makes it easier for them to picture themselves in the property. Sometimes a feature wall in a complementary neutral shade (warm greys are very big now!) can help focus or frame a space.
Get Rid of Any Leftover Items
Sometimes the previous tenant will have left a few things behind, or personal items, like some clothing in the closet. Go through all the kitchen and bathroom shelves and cupboards and remove any leftovers. Take out anything in the fridge and freezer or pantry. No traces of the previous tenant should be left behind! (If you are showing while the tenant is still there, work with the current tenant as closely as possible on scheduling visits and keeping the place looking good for showing.)
Clean and Freshen Up
It goes without saying the whole unit should be spotless. Clean all kitchen and bath surfaces. Do a steam clean of any carpets, and ensure the unit doesn’t have any unpleasant odours. Do any needed repairs on things like leaky taps, or replace any chipped tiles. Now’s a good time for any paint touch-ups or complete paint-over! Replace any lightbulbs, and make sure all the doors and windows are in working order. And, don’t forget to shine those floors! If you have wood flooring, give it a good buff until it has a beautiful shine. Likewise, clean and polish ceramic tiles and vinyl flooring.
Set the Stage
If you are showing a vacant unit, bring in some pieces of furniture to help the prospective tenant see how the space could be used. Set up chairs and a sofa in a way that shows the best use of the space. If possible, set up some alternative use spaces, which are very popular with all demographics. For example, add a desk and chair in a nook under the stairs to show that it could be used for a home office.
Use Mobile Inspection Software
One of the best ways to keep your property looking good is to ensure regular inspections. Move-in, move-out and periodic inspections keep the value of your property. When you use mobile inspection software, you can instantly take photos and upload them into a central library. This way you’ll always have a digital record of how your property looked throughout the duration of the tenancy. And, it removes the effort and hassle of filling out paperwork.
Hold Open Houses
You can avoid the headache of no-shows by holding set-time open houses. Have a tablet on hand so you can capture the email addresses of attendees and send them follow-up details or a note about any other vacancies you might have. When prospects see other prospective tenants in a property they like, it encourages them to hurry and fill out an application to lease.
4. Weed Out Any Bad Apples
The final step to securing high-quality tenants is to weed out any “professional tenants” or folks that may not be the best fit for your building.
Before they even see an application, you should be pre-screening your prospective tenant. If you have a no-smoking clause in your lease, ask them if they smoke. A no-pet policy? Ask them if they have any pets. Repeat that you run credit and background checks on all applicants, and will need proof of employment and to see a valid ID. Let them know you will also need prior residence and landlord information.
Talk to Them
When they come to see the unit, interview them again. Be sure to be aware of the laws and what you can and cannot ask them. Get a sense of who they are as a person to see if they will be a good fit for your property. It’s the foundation of a good relationship together.
Capture ALL Data
Use a digital application form that captures all data. It guarantees that all needed information is captured in one spot. This way you can easily get the names of everyone who will be living on the premises, and any guarantor data as well. Secondly, you can save time and money by automating the application process. Eliminating manual tasks, like phone calls and faxes helps avoid delays and bottlenecks. It also ensures that high-quality prospects are accepted faster.
Run ALL the Checks
Never, ever skip the credit, background, employment and previous landlord checks. Even when a prospective tenant makes a very good first impression, these types of background checks are crucial to confirm that the prospect is financially stable and a good candidate. Ask for a pay stub to verify the employer and income, and get in touch with HR to make sure the person is still an employee. To get a complete picture, contact the current landlord for information on their payment history, reliability and character.
Make the Decision
You should now be able to determine that the applicant:
• Can afford the unit
• Has a stable work history
• Has a good credit record
• Has a good past landlord/residency history
• Does not have a history of felonies or misdemeanours
Now that you have all the information in front of you, you are in a good place to determine whether or not to accept or reject the applicant.
How Property Vista Helps
At Property Vista, we give owners and property managers the tools to help make more informed decisions and improve their bottom line. Our property management solution has at-a-glance dashboards to help tabs on KPIs and costs. It includes an owner and tenant portal to promote effective communication between the property firm, its residents and the building owners. Check out our pricing and book a demo.