If you want to find good tenants, you have to promote your rentals effectively. There are three main ways to find prospective tenants: Find them yourself, hire a real estate agent, or hire a property management firm. Each method offers its own advantages and drawbacks.
Find Renters on Your Own
If you’re a new landlord who prefers the do-it-yourself (DIY) route, then you’ll be personally responsible for identifying suitable tenants. You’ll have to market your property, take inquiries by phone and email, show the property, and screen prospective renters to make your selection.
One easy way to find renters yourself is to use Avail. In minutes, you can list your available units on a dozen top sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Apartments.com. Plus, Avail lets you screen prospective tenants, run background checks, create and manage leases, and accept rental payments online. Try Avail for free for 30 days.
The more you promote your available units, the greater the pool of applicants from which you’ll have to choose. There are eight solid ways for a DIY landlord to promote rentals.
1. Use ‘For Rent’ Signs
As simple and old school as this sounds, using a “For Rent” sign is still a good way to find prospective tenants. You can place a sign in a window of the property, in the yard, and/or on strategic corners near the address. Be aware though that placements may be governed by local or community ordinance, so make sure you research restrictions for sign placement.
Posting property listings online is undoubtedly one of the best ways to reach potential tenants, and Craigslist tops the list of online resources that people use. Posting rentals to Craigslist is free, and you can list both apartments and rental houses on the site.
3. Advertise on Rental Websites
Landlords also have a huge selection of property websites where they can advertise their units, including Trulia, Rentals.com, Apartments.com, Zillow, and HotPads. Renters likely will use their smartphones or tablets to search for housing, and rental sites like these are almost always optimized for mobile browsing, delivering your rental listings in their preferred format.
4. Your Own Website
If you are an investor, particularly with multiple properties, having a real estate website for your available properties also can be a good idea. A website shows prospects you are professional and are willing to provide necessary information like location, neighborhood, and even pictures or videos to help them make their selection.
5. Social Media
Various social media sites have groups formed around geographic areas, with some as small as single neighborhoods. Facebook groups and Facebook Marketplace, in particular, are popular places where locals advertise items for sale, including housing available for rent. If you have a property for rent, you may be able to join one of those groups and post your available listings there. Be sure to follow group guidelines.
6. Print Media
Local print media like newspapers, local free-press publications, and community newsletters are another avenue for landlords looking for renters. While they won’t outshine online options like Craigslist or rental websites, they do remain a viable option, particularly when you recognize that older generations still rely on print publications and may prefer them to online sources.
7. Word of Mouth
Word-of-mouth referrals can provide you with some of the best candidates you’ll ever find because the referrer can vouch for the prospective tenant. Of course, as with any applicant, referrals can sometimes turn out badly. That said, it’s important not to let an unfortunate experience with a referral destroy an otherwise good relationship with a friend or family member. Some landlords pay a finder’s fee for referrals. Your existing tenants are also a great source for referrals.
8. Use Property Management Software to Find Renters
Property management software can be a big help for do-it-yourself landlords. Companies like Avail provide landlords with tools to market their vacancies across the web and leads come straight into your inbox. This keeps rental applications organized and allows landlords to screen out renters who may not be qualified. Once you publish your listing, it’s syndicated on sites like Zillow, HotPads, and Trulia.
Property management software also allows landlords to customize the details of their rental listing. Landlords can list the rent, terms, available dates, and payment methods right in their online rental listing.
Property management software is an affordable way to handle most landlord responsibilities, including marketing property, screening tenants, signing leases, and online rent collection. Online property management software makes it easy for both the landlord and the tenant. Listings, applications, leases, and rent collection can all be processed from your mobile phone or computer.
Pros and Cons of Finding Renters on Your Own
Not having to pay a commission for securing a tenant
Writing listings, creating advertisements, and fielding calls and emails are your responsibility
Personal control in every step
You’ll need to know where and how to market your property, have a good tenant application, and understand lease agreement terms
First-hand due diligence when choosing prospective tenants
Advertising, signs, and rental websites are not free
Hire a Real Estate Agent to Find Renters
Real estate agents usually charge the equivalent of one month’s rent for renting your vacancy. In exchange for that fee, the agent advertises the property, responds to inquiries, shows the property to prospects, screens applicants, and secures a signed lease. Agents can advertise your vacancies on their website, through the multiple listing service (MLS), and can syndicate on popular sites like Realtor.com, Trulia, HotPads, and Zillow.
You only pay the commission when a tenant signs the lease. Agents also are familiar with local market conditions so that they can price your rentals effectively. Agents who specialize in rentals may have qualified prospects available for your unit, which might reduce the time your property sits vacant. Since agents do thorough tenant screening, they can help you avoid being taken advantage of by shady renters.
Pros and Cons of Hiring Real Estate Agents to Find Tenants
Benefit from their expertise
You will pay at least a one-month commission when they secure a qualified tenant
Leverage their connections, particularly with potential renters
Some charge an advertising fee, either in lieu of or in addition to the commission
Saves you time and headaches
Lease renewals will generally cost you, even if the agent didn’t have to do much work
Gain access to robust forms of marketing for your rental
Hire a Property Management Firm to Find Renters
Where real estate agents merely provide the marketing and tenant placement, property managers not only list the property, find the tenant, and get it leased, they also take on the day-to-day responsibility of managing the rental for you. In addition to securing qualified tenants, property managers offer long-term oversight of the rented property.
Property management fees vary between 4% and 10% of gross monthly rental income, plus additional fees for leasing, advertising, and lease renewals. Similar to real estate agents, property managers will advertise vacancies on their company website, through the MLS, and syndicate on rental websites. They may also list vacancies in the local newspaper and place for rent signs.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Property Manager to Find Tenants
Avoid day-to-day responsibilities
It can be expensive, often including a monthly management fee plus additional fees
Benefit from the property manager’s experience in areas like marketing and tenant screening
You have to trust someone else to handle your investment in your best interest
Leverage their connections, particularly with potential tenants seeking available units
You could lose some control over decisions being made regarding your rental
Use their maintenance crews for time-sensitive repairs
Writing a Good Rental Listing Helps You Find Renters
Whether you are a real estate investor trying to find renters yourself or use the services of an agent or property manager, your property is competing with many others on the market. Either you or the professionals you employ need to prepare a well-written listing. At a minimum, the rental listing should indicate:
- Neighborhood of the rental
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of baths
- Whether the property has features like a basement or garage
- Any amenities, such as a pool or nearby park
When preparing a listing, pictures are essential. You should have multiple exterior shots and good, enticing pictures of each room. Today, linking to video clips is also a good idea as video is one of the most preferred forms of content.
Finding Good Tenants Involves Screening Candidates
Part of how to find a good tenant involves screening the incoming applicants. Landlords are inviting disaster if they accept tenants because they appear able to pay rent and cover your mortgage payment. In the long run, a bad tenant generally is more costly than no tenant at all. This makes it worth the effort to find a well-qualified tenant who will pay their rent on time and take care of your property. A strong screening process will help identify these candidates.
Tenant screening involves looking at prospects’ income, job history, credit, criminal history, and previous tenant history. You or your agent/manager can use tenant screening software to handle those background checks and make the process effective.
There are three options to find renters for your property: DIY, using a real estate agent, or using a property management firm. Each option has distinct benefits and limitations. Whether you do it yourself or work with a professional, your goal is to effectively build a pool of qualified candidates from which you can select the best tenant.