Cameron Cowan | Knowledge Steward
We've gotten some calls over the past few months with some people who have been having some trouble getting units rented both within Seattle and in the surrounding areas. However, this doesn't always signal a slow down turn in the market. Sometimes it just means that a listing needs a few improvements in order to make it really shine and get the kind of quality tenant that you're looking for in your rental.
List it in the right places
When people call into the Resource Desk here at RHAWA, panicked, because their listing isn't getting any attention, it usually has to do with the fact that they have only listed the house/unit in one location. In the past, just listing in the newspaper or craigslist was an easy way to get a tenant. Now, it is much more difficult. It's helpful to list your rental on Zillow (which also lists it on other sites like Trulia and Hotpads) and Rent.com. For multi-family, there's still Apartments.com, which is a great resource for that market. Just posting on craigslist is simply not enough for a successful placement of a tenant.
Lots of photos
One of the best ways to stand out is to have quality pictures of your listing. You should have pictures of every room in your rental. The best angle is in a corner at an angle from above. Pictures should be clear and well-lit so try to pick a sunny day (hard to do in our state I know!) and turn on the lights. You might also try to do some staging with some light furniture and other decor. Making the place look welcoming is far better than blank, sterile rooms. It's also helpful to take pictures of any amenities (sheds, garages, etc.) Exterior pictures are also important to make sure that people get a sense of the property and are attracted to it. Housing is essential, but good marketing is what attracts the best tenants.
Following up your great pictures with a good description is also a great way to get people to click on your list. Besides your rental criteria (required in Seattle), you'll want to list all bedrooms, bathrooms, and any outbuildings that might come with the property. You'll also want to cover things like parking (essential for city properties and multi-family), security and any required yard maintenance. You'll also want to list what utilities the tenant is responsible for paying. Every detail is important. This is a time to really get your expectations clear and is a good time to really sell the property. You will want to avoid any problematic language for fair housing. Keep things general and objective.
Have Your Policies Front and Center
Pet free? Smoke free? Mention those in your description up front. You don't want to get alot of calls from dog owners when you only accept cats or no pets at all! If you have other behavioral policies, you'll want to mention those right up front. This is also especially true for shared housing situatons like rented rooms, ADUs and DADUs. If you are clear in your expectations, you can find a tenant that you can really work with!
If your rental is in a multi-family apartment building, you'll want to really press home the amenities. These can include barbecue areas, exercise rooms, and building events. If your single-family house as a special amenity like extra parking, a large yard, bonus room/space, or hot tub then mention those things! Often, that can attract more clicks and more applications.
Letting people know where the rental is in the context of the city is important. Mention any neighborhoods it might be near and give helpful information about popular restaurants, attractions, and public facilities that might be nearby. People choose a place to live not only on price but also on what they can access within a short distance of their new home. Real estate is all about location, make sure to take advantage of the all that your rental's location might offer.
Creating a successful listing might take a few extra minutes to craft but the improved response and quick acceptance of an application will be worth the extra few minutes to create a listing that really attracts people.