If you want good returns, you need long-term, excellent renters who will pay on time and treat your property with respect. Tenant screening will help you spot the best rental application in your pool of applicants, but how do you attract the biggest, highest-quality pool of applicants?

Here’s a formula you can use, to create absolutely irresistible rental listings and advertisements, to attract the best possible renters in your market.


The Headline

Your headline is the first (and often only) thing that prospective renters see. You need to make it contain as much information as possible in a few short words.

An ideal headline looks something like this: “$2,195 3 bd/2.5 ba spacious townhouse in Fells Point with jacuzzi on rooftop deck.”

Most online rental listing services will automatically include the rent amount and number of bedrooms and bathrooms, so we will set that aside for the moment. But double check before finalizing your headline that these are included automatically, and include them in your headline if not.

Next comes the property type, with a single adjective. The property type you have no control over – apartment, townhouse, single-family home, whatever. But choose the adjective wisely, because it’s an opportunity to halt skimmers and draw them in to click your headline. In an urban neighborhood where space is at a premium, “spacious” is attention-grabbing. In a suburban neighborhood where space is plentiful, “luxurious” or “sunny” or “renovated” are better differentiators.

The neighborhood is next – no leeway there.

Then comes one, or possibly two, standout features you can wrap up with. Choose wisely: this will either draw people to click your link and read further, or they’ll keep scanning the hundreds of other listings you’re competing with. What’s your property’s best feature? What does it have that the neighbors don’t?



Your rental listing should contain 12-24 photos, including one or two of each major room, several outdoor photos, and a few neighborhood photos.

This should go without saying, but make sure your property is spotlessly clean before taking any pictures!

Use the best camera you can get your hands on. If you don’t have a real camera, borrow one. Don’t use your phone’s camera.

Second, take photos during daylight hours. Avoid using the flash whenever possible, and allow in as much natural light as you can. Try to have the light source behind you.

Take photos from multiple angles, in each room. Corners are usually the best vantage point, and try taking shots from eye level, from a kneeling position, and from a high angle. You can choose the best later when compiling your rental listing.

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Use multiple photos of your unit’s best rooms, and only one photo apiece for less impressive rooms. Play to your property’s strengths!Bathrooms and kitchens matter to prospective renters. A lot. Try to include multiple shots of each, from different angles, that all make them look attractive.

If you have any intriguing details in your property, for example historical touches, include close-up shots of them. Don’t go crazy with these though – keep it under three “whimsical” detail shots total, in your rental ad.

Include photos of the front and back of the building, along with any lawn, deck, patio, garden or grounds.

Lastly, include a few neighborhood shots, that show off the best of the property’s neighborhood. Two to four of these is a good amount; any more and it gives the impression that the neighborhood is the selling point, and your unit itself is sub-par.


Listing Body/Description

Open with 1-2 short paragraphs, describing the property in attractive terms. This is the place for flowery adjectives like “airy” or “bright” or “cozy” – here’s where you can show off your property’s personality. If your property has been recently updated, include details here. If your property has exceptional security or technology or birdwatching or whatever, include a line about it here!

Then it’s down to business: list bullets of your property’s most important features. Square footage, number of full baths, number of half baths, standout amenities. If your property has a gas stove, here’s the place to include it. Likewise for features like “stainless steel appliances” or “his and hers sinks in master bathroom” or “smart home security” and any other property details you want to highlight. Include a bullet point for your pet policy (quick-reference infographic: Should Landlords Allow Pets?). Don’t forget to include any standout outdoor features, like a deck or patio or garden.

Follow up with short paragraph about how great the neighborhood is, then list a few bullet points about the neighborhood and what amenities are in walking distance. Bullet points might include “grocery market within 5 minute walk” or “9 restaurants within 4 blocks” or “Starbucks down the block.”

Wrap up with a short paragraph summarizing what makes the property such a great place to live. Remember, you’re selling something here! Don’t be sleazy about it, but you’re selling how spectacular it will be to live in this property. Write with enthusiasm and charm!



All right, you have a magnetic rental listing, now what?

You need eyeballs on it.

Start with a rental listing syndication service, like HotPads. They’ll distribute it to other rental listing websites, for maximum exposure.

Craigslist doesn’t accept syndicated listings, so you’ll need to add your listing on Craigslist manually.

In some neighborhoods, that’s enough. But some demographics largely prefer offline methods to find new homes; older residents, for example, are often less online-oriented. If you invest in lower-income neighborhoods, look deeper into how local residents find housing, because it may not be the same way you do.

You can try local circulars and newspapers. If the neighborhood is largely ethnic, advertise in the appropriate language, in addition to English.

Put yourself in the mindset of your target renter: where do they look for new housing? Their church’s circular? The local grocery store’s bulletin board? The neighborhood newsletter?

Advertise there.

If you want the biggest and best possible pool of rental applications coming in, you need to think like the kind of person you want to attract. Pitch your property and its amenities in ways that will appeal to them, and don’t accept any rental application that doesn’t meet rigorous standards. Bad renters cost massive amounts of money and headaches, so draw in as many applications as possible, and screen the heck out of them!

Have any tricks to fill vacant rental units? How do you add hooks to your rental listings? Share your secret tips!



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