Your property has certain selling points, and some of them probably seem obvious to you, such as a dishwasher, a walk-in closet, and a big backyard. You might think it makes perfect sense to highlight these amenities. But are these really what your prospective tenants are after? Just because you, as the landlord or the property manager, think a given feature makes a unit stand out doesn't mean that's actually the case. Since you view the unit from your unique perspective, you might be missing a truly standout feature that would make tenants sign a lease in a heartbeat.
How can you effectively identify a unit's marketing points?
Look at Comparable Units' Listings
Check to see what other landlords and property management companies in your area are highlighting in their units. Ideally, this will give you an idea of what tenants are looking for. After all, if properties weren't renting, their landlords would find other features to point out in listings.
Of course, following their lead can backfire. There's no guarantee that other landlords understand what their tenants want either, and if you follow other companies' listings too closely, you're not going to stand out from the crowd. Look at other listings to see what else is out there — and presumably renting out — but write your own descriptions.
Consult census and other demographic data on the area to learn more about the people you're renting to. When you do this, be careful not to fall into the trap of stereotyping your prospective tenants. Keep in mind that fair housing regulations ban you from writing listings that exclude a protected class.
If you look at the data carefully and with sensitivity, you can form some hypotheses about your prospective tenants. For instance, if your area is a college town that doesn't have a lot of married renters or renters with children, you might want to place less emphasis on how your unit has a big backyard.
Be Sure You're Being Accurate
Don't misrepresent your property. At the very least, it will get tenants upset with you and earn you a bad reputation around your community. At worst, you'll get dragged to court for violating false advertising regulations. It's always better to describe the good things your unit has rather than making up or embellishing information.
Consider touring the property yourself before you write the description. If you own several units with different layouts or features, or if a given unit's been occupied for some time, you may have forgotten some of its most marketable features. Walk through, and look at it from a tenant's point of view. What's worth getting excited about?
Talk With Other Landlords
You might consider other landlords or property managers to be your competition, but they don't have to be. Making professional connections is part of any business. If you have business contacts you trust, don't hesitate to ask them what tenants react well to in listings. Remember, you can't legally lie about your property, and you can't take that information and fabricate something with it.
Don't Forget the Intangibles
When you maintain a property day-in and day-out, it can be easy to forget about some of its best assets. It's easy to think in terms of things that you put into a property, such as stainless steel appliances, an in-unit washer and dryer, or natural light, but are these the most important? Ask yourself, "Is the property within walking distance of a business district? Is it accessible via public transportation? Is the rent affordable compared to the rest of the neighborhood?" These are things that matter to nearly all tenants, so don't hesitate to draw upon them when writing your listing.
Just Ask Your Tenants
Outright asking your tenants what they look for may seem gauche, but it can help remind your tenants that you care about their needs. As you're touring the unit, signing the lease, or when you're in conversation with your current tenants, ask, "What makes this unit stand out to you? Why did you choose to tour (or rent) this one, rather than another one? What's important to you when you rent? Why do you continue to stay here?" Be sure to ask a number of tenants so that you can get a complete picture of what they want.
If you phrase your questions carefully, you may see trends about what tenants don't want. What's being omitted from people's explanations of what they love? When asking follow-up questions, be polite, and don't make them feel pressured.
Unfortunately, there's no magic formula when it comes to discovering what your tenants want and how best to market your unit. You'll likely need to experiment to figure out what draws prospective renters in, and even then you might find that what people want changes over time as the neighborhood evolves. With the tips above, you should be able to make a good guess at what your renters want. From there, you can experiment and work to refine your listings until they're truly attention-grabbing.
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