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A Low Cost, High Impact Way To Advertise Your Rental Property

The cost to advertise a rental home can easily wipe out several months of positive cash flow. When Rob and I advertised our first property, The Ranch, we took the blitzkrieg route. We advertised in our larger-circulation newspaper classifieds, suburban papers, and online. The property rented reasonably quickly (about 30 days), but our ad costs consumed months of positive cash flow. With the shift of prospective renters finding their next home online, advertising costs for rental property can be cut dramatically, while increasing the impact of your ad campaign.

A Low Cost Advertising Alternative

This last April, the first tenants moved, and it was time to bring The Ranch to market once more. This time we tried a different approach. We wanted to find out if the less-costly internet-only advertising would be effective. So, we started early. We contacted the tenants about sixty days before their lease expired. When we found out they were moving, we started running an ad on one paid site and Craigslist. By having the sixty-day lead time, if worse came to worse, we could switch gears and add traditional classified ads.

It turns out it wasn’t necessary. We were able to secure a tenant running one ad on one paid site, and one on Craigslist for free. We signed a new tenant to move in the first of the month after the first tenants moved–not a day of rent loss. Total advertising costs: $39.

Here are a few suggestion about advertising rental properties using this approach.

Start early.

Most paid sites offer a 30 day ad run for a flat rate, so even if you’re jumping the gun a bit on a property that won’t be available for 60 days or so, a 30 day ad will catch those ready to make a move. Rob and I are finding tenants are generally looking at the 60-day point for the most part anyway.

Choose The Right Online Advertising Service

Choose a site that already has a lot of properties listed in your area. We’ve used a few different sites and looked at many more. Some sites with national coverage just haven’t hit in certain local markets. Those sites may have two or three properties listed for your area and therefore, not a lot of traffic. Think car dealerships. They cluster together for the buyer to hit one after another. In this case, advertising among your competition is a good thing. Here’s a list of several potential sites to check out, along with base pricing. For the most part, pricing, setup, and search features of the sites are pretty similar, with noted exceptions:

Get The Most Out of Your Online Ad

Use the online ads for their intended advantage–to more completely describe the rental and its features. All of the ad sites allow more than enough space for this purpose. Yet I frequently see landlords use a description that sounds like print advertising, complete with stunted sentence fragments and abbreviations that require a decoder ring. We scrap the abbreviations and attempt a coherent thought or two–three if Rob doesn’t edit it.

Supplement with Free Advertising

Use free ad sites, but still use one paid service. Sure, I’d like to hit a $0 advertising budget, but I haven’t found that Craigslist or other free sites are up to the task yet. I’m getting responses from Craigslist posts, but not enough to sit back for 30 days and hope. There are also other free list sites available besides Craigslist; some of them local. You might try a search specific for your area to find some other free sites. Hey, the price is right. It can’t hurt to try.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Mr. Cheap November 20, 2007, 4:35 am

    Luckily here in Toronto, Craigslist seems to hit a pretty large number of potential tenants. I was able to rent out my condo without spending a cent (using just Craigslist and other free classified services).

    I definitely didn’t want to pony up the $200 it would have cost to get into the Toronto Star, but was going to if it didn’t look like it was going to rent…

    Abbreviations suck. Tons of information and pictures (and a link to a website I setup with more information and more photos) worked for me…

  • Mike-TWA November 20, 2007, 8:52 am

    Not a cent. That’s great, but then you are Mr. Cheap.

    Craigslist is used pretty heavily for listings of properties here, and I have gotten responses. But I just have not seen quite enough response after 3-4 attempts to forego the paid sites.

    Gd inf, Mr. C. I agr tht pix r a must. :)

  • Chris May 10, 2008, 9:39 pm

    I’m getting a fair amount of interest in a crowded market by advertising on craigslist, Google base and backpage.com. I may try a paid service if any of the next three prospective tenants don’t want the place.

  • Dan May 20, 2008, 4:41 pm

    Great List. I also humbly recommend:

    http://www.rentmarketer.com – Distributes rental ads to over 60 different rental and classifieds sites.

    http://www.rentbits.com – a free rental search engine

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