By Kari Negri, Chief Executive Officer, SKY Property Management
Dear Kari, How can I rent my vacant units faster? Alyssa C., Sherman Oaks
I think with all the options out there, it is sometimes easy to forget some very basic things that are vital to renting your vacant units. One of the most important things you can do to rent your vacancies faster is to answer the phone. If you love your building, answering phone calls always comes across positively, and is one of the biggest reasons a person will rent from you – sometimes it’s just about how you handle incoming calls.
Answer the phone in person, be ready to give great reviews of the neighborhood and talk about specific places, know your building and unit amenities and when it will be available to look at. You should also let them potential applicants how long it normally takes to have maintenance addressed at your property as people often move when maintenance is not addressed. Last and not least, be sure to establish and follow your rental criteria and send to any prospect up-front so that you are not wasting their time or yours. Bottom line: be professional and train anyone showing your apartments to be professional in their communications, actions and appearance.
- Curb Appeal
Before we had the luxury of posting everything online, your property had to speak volumes for itself, and that is still true today. How your building looks when a prospective tenant pulls up to it is essential because they can take one look and drive away. It is imperative that it is at a minimum always neat and clean. Make a critical inspection of your property every 3 months and make small upgrades or changes so that your property stays relevant (important to neighborhood appeal) and noticeable. This can sometimes lead to a waiting list for any upcoming rentals.
Signage: Make sure to put “For Rent” signs with bright colors to attract the eye, banners, balloons, flags and open house signs. This is especially important for properties in high traffic / walkable areas. Something special or different like balloons around a sign or even a bush trimmed to look like an animal can make a huge difference and draw attention to your rental sign for very little money.
Landscaping & Exterior: Once your sign has grabbed the attention of a potential resident, look at the rest of the exterior of the building. This includes exterior paint, condition of the gates and rails, the landscaping and how well it is maintained, as well as the safety of the structure and all the factors that may affect it. Do not underestimate the importance of the first impression on a potential resident who may be driving by or be in the neighborhood for one reason or another.
- The New Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is now often called an online review. Talking about a property doesn’t necessarily mean a resident speaking to a friend anymore – we have the internet to thank for that. With online platforms, past, present and future residents or applicants can review your services. Remember that potential renters ALWAYS check reviews.
Yelp!: We are all guilty of leaving some good and some bad reviews at our favorite spots. As a property, you must keep an eye out for both. On occasion tenants feel as though their requests aren’t being met in a timely manner and take to Yelp before following up with the management first. Most of these can be fixed by paying attention and immediately reaching out. Do not respond negatively – that is the worst thing you can do but it is important to always respond. Remember that you can’t make everyone happy but you can at least take a positive approach that will hopefully get you more good reviews than bad ones.
Facebook: Like Yelp!, it is another place where consumers can share their opinion, whether it is correct / fair or not. More importantly Facebook, along with other social media, gives your brand a chance to display itself through campaigns and to keep your profile up to date. Potential renters aren’t just looking for a home anymore, they are looking for a lifestyle. And let’s not forget about all the online communities you can use to advertise your vacancies such as “LA Housing and Rentals”. After you submit a post, Facebook finds similar pages you can post the same advertisement to or post to the Facebook Marketplace!
- Non-Paid Platforms
Craigslist: One of the most favorite and familiar places to shop online, especially for housing. It’s free. It’s simple for the person posting and the person looking. With the filter options you can weed out what you don’t want and quickly find what appears to be the perfect apartment. Remember to refresh your advertisements every 72 hours if your vacancy doesn’t get rented right away and to include lots of good pictures. Dark, unattractive pictures and pictures that show an unfinished unit will hurt your traffic. The pictures also need to be an accurate depiction of what you are offering. It is alright to use a different apartment that has already been completed if you say so and the apartment you are working on will look basically the same. Craigslist allows you to filter ads by whether they contain pictures or not and most people use this option
- Paid Platforms
Zillow, Apartments.com and Rentpath are the top competitors in paid marketing and can sometimes make a big difference in the amount of time a unit remains vacant – so don’t be shy about reaching out for short term advertising for smaller buildings and for larger ones negotiate a longer term if needed. SKY as a customer of all three we have experienced a surplus of applicants, especially through programs like lead mail. In contrast to paying for a monthly spot, it’s a one-time email-blast to potential residents and it has proven successful with multiple leases. All the platforms offer different packages for monthly services through various websites including the most visited ones such as Apartments.com, Rent.com and Apartment Guide.
Property Management software places management and residents on the same platform, providing them with accounting tools, maintenance request forms and management can communicate with tenants by texting or emailing from their portal! There’s no need to give your personal contact information out! Many property management software options also provide marketing tools
Appfolio, Yardi and many others: Marketing is a great selling point for software. The dashboard can highlight upcoming move-ins and move-outs to keep your team on the same page. The vacancy section allows you to create advertisements from the marketing description, to rental terms and even pictures. Using a professional photographer and staging the unit will make a huge difference when posting an upcoming vacancy. Staging does not always require fully furnishing a unit. You can lightly stage a unit with about $100.00 at stores such as Ross and Marshall’s. They carry tons of faux plants, candles, towels, soaps and knickknacks to nicely add a “pop of color” to your vacant unit kitchens and bathrooms. With a click on “Post to the internet” your advertisement will be uploaded to several web platforms as well as your own property website. It helps cut the middleman out and cut back on some work. Guest cards created both automatically and manually help keep track of the traffic and create a list of potential renters.
Kari Negri is the Chief Executive Officer of Sky Property Management and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. For questions, you can reach Kari at Kari@SKYprop.LA.