Leasing A Single Family House With A Classified Ad

By: Wojciech Kic

Effective marketing of a single-family house for lease includes installation of a “For Lease” sign and placement of a classified ad.These two equally important steps will generate about 90 percent of all tenants? inquiries.The remaining 10 percent of the tenants? inquiries are best described as poor quality, tire-kicker interest. In other words, if a landlord does absolutely nothing to promote a lease, the property will still lease from simple word of mouth advertising, as long as the landlord can adjust the landlord’s terms sufficiently enough to meet the tenant’s terms.

But the purpose of the marketing effort is to lease the property on the landlord’s terms.The landlord’s terms can only be secured via the landlord?s commitment to lease to the one tenant who does meets the landlord?s terms.The installation of a “For Lease” sign (see Enricher August ’05) and placement of the ad in a newspaper signals availability of the property to the marketplace until it is leased.

Once a landlord places an ad, she will receive phone inquiries about the ad. Landlords do not find tenants. Tenants find landlords. Thus, the landlord must know in advance what prospective tenants are likely to read and what information to include in the ad.

The selection of a newspaper for an ad placement is determined by the answer to one essential question: “How many tenants am I trying to find with this ad for my one vacant house?” For landlords of single family houses the answer is always, although not always so obvious, the same. ONE.

The above answer clarifies the decision about in which paper to place the ad. In the Greater Houston area, for example, placing an ad in a newspaper reaching some four million plus readers when a landlord will be content with just ONE new tenant would be prohibitively expensive.The landlord’s advance knowledge that some 80 percent of tenants move within a neighborhood where they already live would make the placement of an ad reaching 1,000 plus neighborhoods also impractical.

An effective print medium for placement of a “for lease ad” is a neighborhood newspaper. Neighborhood newspapers effectively target specific geographic communities and generate a substantial number of inquiries. In addition, since neighborhood newspapers target small communities, in comparison to four million plus readers daily, their classifieds cost much less.

From the landlord perspective, resulting inquires may be qualified or unqualified. A qualified inquiry would be one that leads to an immediate lease. An unqualified inquiry would be one that causes no requests for showing a property or offers to lease it.
To the landlord, an unqualified inquiry should signal that the ad is not working.

But from the tenant’s perspective all ads are working. Remember that when tenants first call in response to an ad, they are doing so to decipher the content of the advertising message. The prospective tenants seek information about the location of a house, its condition, its size, the amount of rent and the amount of the deposit.

Basically, when tenants maximize their housing opportunities, they let their fingers do the talking and shopping.The worst ads typically generate the most calls and the longest conversations. Owners often confuse the number of calls and the duration of the conversations with a sign of great interest in the property. Slow leasing progress is blamed on the tenants for not knowing what they want.

The tenants, on the other hand, cause the long phone conversations with the prospective landlord to determine the landlord’s reasons for not including enough information about the house in the ad in the first place.

The prospective tenants, like all customers, always know what they want; however, they may be in the wrong place.Thus the prospective tenants use the poor ads as comparison benchmarks which assist the prospective tenants in selecting the best property among qualified landlords.

What are the ingredients of a successful ad? The ad must contain the information the prospective tenants want. At a minimum, a successful ad would provide the following information about the vacancy: the number of bedrooms and baths, the full address, the monthly rent, the amount of the deposit and the landlord’s phone number.

Also, the same ad should reveal the so-called negative information. For example, the ad would advise that a vacancy has window a/c units, space heaters and no garage. Tenants have no problems leasing a property without central a/c and heat or a garage.

Landlords who obfuscate such information from the tenants, however, communicate to the market the landlord’s true opinion of value. Therefore, to the tenant, the landlord’s poor opinion about the property is perceived as a shortcoming of the property.The final rent concession by the landlord to secure such a tenant is always higher than the rent would be if the tenants only knew in advance such essential information.

But no amount of advertising will generate a new tenant if the landlord does not answer the call and provide the tenant with necessary information when a phone call is made. The rental business is a fast and dynamic business. In an abundant rental market, an inquiry not responded to immediately equals a lost inquiry.Therefore a landlord must be available to receive phone calls during reasonable hours.

The shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line. When marketing a single-family house for lease, a straight line means an ad that allows the prospective tenant to make a decision to lease a property before calling a landlord. If the print cost of a straight-line classified ad is the same as an ineffective ad, why should a landlord have an ad that contains anything less?

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