The Secrets of Writing Rental Listings
On average you compete with over 100 other rental properties at any given time. You’re competing for the attention from prospective tenants. Of course, competition could be even higher depending on your neighborhood and if you’re listing during peak seasons. This applies even more directly to your online apartment listing where a tenant will spend on average 3 seconds looking at your listing before deciding to dig deeper or move on to the next one.
When making a decision that quickly, it all comes down to just three things for that tenant: 1) the catchy headline; 2) the short description; and 3) the photos. These are the three factors that make your listing competitive in attracting eyeballs and we’re going to help you with each of these. We’ll even provide a formula you can follow to draft both your headline and the description. If you’ve played madlibs before, this will come naturally.
How to Write The Catchy Headline
The headline is the most critical component. It’s unfortunate that most people think the headline is icing on the cake. It’s not – it’s the whole cake. If the headline doesn’t show your prospective tenant what they’re immediately looking for, the rest of your listing is simply a waste of time – no matter how good it was written. Fortunately for us, the headline doesn’t need to be all that creative. It just needs to let the tenant know that they’ve found what they’re looking for and they should click to view the rest of the listing.
A tenant is looking for a specific number of bedrooms, bathrooms, price range and location. Those are the things we’ll want to put in our headline. In addition, we should include one feature of the apartment that is unique or enticing.
Here’s our formula:
$$$$$ – ## Bed / ## Bath apartment|house|condo|duplex in neighborhood with great feature.
Let’s get started with the first part and then come back and add in the extra feature. Just follow our template above. You’ll obviously need to substitute our hashes and extra dollar signs for actual numbers. And be sure to select the type of housing.
You should get something that looks like:
$2,500 – 2 Bed / 2 Bath condo in Old Town Chicago.
Now just add the enticing feature to the end and you’re done. You can skip ahead to the next section for ideas on what features to include.
Here’s our example headline:
$2,500 – 2 Bed / 2 Bath condo in Old Town Chicago with skyline views of the city and lake.
And read about how to set your rent price here.
How to Write The Short Description
1. START WITH THE BEST FEATURE
Differentiate yourself from the competition by telling potential tenants what makes your unit unique. Help them visualize themselves in your apartment. This should be the one feature that stands out the most and will often be the nickname tenants use to remember your place. Choose from our list or create your own.
Upscale and Urban
Perfect for Entertaining
City Skyline Views
We’ll write our own description with you. For our example, we’ll say we have “City Skyline Views”.
2. CHOOSE 2 DESCRIPTORS FOR THE APARTMENT
Lots of Open Space
Good for Entertaining
We’ll go with “charming” and “naturally well-lit.” So now we have “City Skyline Views: Charming, naturally well-lit…”
3. GIVE THE BASICS
Next, let the potential tenants know how many bedrooms and bathrooms your unit has. So far, we have “City Skyline Views: Charming, naturally well-lit 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment”.
4. MENTION THE NEIGHBORHOOD
If your city has well-known neighborhoods, like they do in Chicago, you can mention the specific neighborhood rather than using the descriptors above.
For us, that means “City Skyline Views: Charming, naturally well-lit 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment in Old Town neighborhood”.
5. TELL THEM WHAT’S NEARBY
For us, our property is located close to one of the best train lines to get to work.
So now we have “City Skyline Views: Charming, naturally well-lit 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment in Old Town neighborhood. Close to the red line, shops and nightlife on Well’s Street, and walking distance to the Whole Foods.”
6. GIVE ONE EXCITING DETAIL
Don’t use the same one that you used to open the ad. You want to give the tenant as many enticing tidbits as possible.
“City Skyline Views: Charming, naturally well-lit 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment in Old Town neighborhood. Close to the red line, shops and nightlife on Well’s Street, and walking distance to the Whole Foods. Balcony for entertaining, hardwood flooring throughout.”
7. GIVE MORE INFORMATION
Finish up your ad by specifying a few things that will help your tenants decide if they should contact you at all, reducing your screening time. You should include the rent amount here. We recommend including these here since most tenants have already filtered for properties within their budget.
Pet-friendly or not
Security deposit amount
Utilities included or not
Contact Name and Number
“City Skyline Views: Charming, naturally well-lit 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment in Old Town neighborhood. Close to the red line, shops and nightlife on Well’s Street, and walking distance to the Whole Foods. Balcony for entertaining, hardwood flooring throughout. Pet-friendly. 1500/month, 1 month security deposit. Utilities not included. Call John at 888-8888.”
Feel free to use the above phrases to form your own ad, pulling whatever you think best describes your unit. And don’t be afraid to add in your own phrases!
Ok, we can’t script this section for you. After all, pictures are worth a thousand words and that would take forever to read. Instead, we’ll provide some tips to make sure your listing is noticed and giving it the best edge possible, using photos.
1. Always include photos, several of them. With so many online listings, if you don’t include photos, tenants are going to skip to the next listing immediately. In fact, many sites offer filter criteria on the photos and tenants can elect to not even be shown listings without photos. If this isn’t clear enough, we’ll state it simply: include photos or forever have a vacant property.
2. Include photos of all the major rooms. There should be a photo for each bedroom, bathroom and living space. There should be at least one picture of the kitchen, but more is better. If there are special features, like the skyline views, washer/dryers or outdoor space, have photos of those as well.
3. Show your property in its best light. Literally. Turn on the lights and open curtains.
4. Take professional photos. This doesn’t mean you have to be a professional or hire a professional. Just make sure what your photographing is clean and orderly. Try to take pictures from an angle that gives your photos their best appearance.
One Extra Bonus Tip:
If you’re a Rentalutions landlord, be sure to mention that in your listing. Besides trying to plug ourselves, there’s actually a benefit to you. Tenants do fear having a landlord they can’t trust. They want a landlord who takes responsibility for their property. Let your tenants know you are a quality landlord because you use Rentalutions.
Add in the following text to give yourself some extra credibility:
“This property is managed by a responsible landlord using Rentalutions Landlord Software.”
And last, be sure to set the right rent price. Read our guide to learn exactly how to set your rent price.
Our online rental software helps do-it-yourself landlords be the best they can be by providing tools to screen tenants, create leases and collect rent, all online. Learn more by visiting Rentalutions.com. Plans are completely free for landlords with one unit.