How To Rent a Property in Eight Weeks for $42.50
After many years of commuting from Hopedale, MA to @DynInc in Manchester, NH, we were finally able to make a move up North. The commute went from 1 hour and 15 minutes down to under 20 minutes, and has been a most welcomed change.
When we made the decision to move back in December 2010, we decided to try our hand at renting out our 3 bedroom townhouse. Our goal? Find a tenant by May. Man did we overachieve.
We had our tenant moved in by March 2011. Our rental property was only vacant for 2.5 weeks. How’d we do it? Quite simply really… by figuring out what was the problem with nearly all apartment and rental listings as-is:
They didn’t help you envision what it would be like to call a place home.
Our solution? Hop over to http://DynDNS.com, register a domain, fire up an instance of WordPress running on a server in the basement, and launch http://liveinlaurelwood.com dedicated to helping you envision what it would be like in your new home.
Based on our experience, here are the 4 lessons learned in renting out a property as first-time landlords.
Lesson One: Be Different
We chose to be different. We didn’t list the townhouse on a rentals web site; we dedicated an entire web site to the single townhouse.
This really made us stand out from the rest. Where others were trying to cram a whole description into two sentences in the newspaper and then hope for a phone call, we told everyone to visit the site, peruse around, and let us know if they wanted to see more in person.
Lesson Two: Photos, Photos, Photos
Every rental listing I looked at had the same old boring, over-hyped description with a single photo of a generic looking apartment. How are you supposed to decide whether or not that’s the place for you?
To help our prospective tenants, we uploaded 72 photos to the site, showing the whole property (inside and out) in beautiful detail. In the end, our tenant said she chose our property because of the photos, and how well they helped her imagine what life would be like living there.
Lesson Three: Promote, Promote, Promote
We promoted in three main ways:
- A flyer hung up in the post office of the development (not to mention local pizza shops)
- A Craigslist rental posting pointing users to the web site
- Leveraging our networks via Facebook and Twitter
The flyers were a big hit. We went through six sheets in the post office alone.
Pro-tip: When using flyers with tear-away tabs, always tear away one of the tabs before you hang up the sheet. People have a hesitance to be the “first” one to tear off a tab from a fresh sheet, but seeing one already removed provides social proof that it’s OK to remove a tab.
Ultimately, it was our Craigslist posting that drove our tenant to the site, but we did get quite a few hits from other sources:
Lesson Four: Do Not Print Pricing
Being first time landlords, we weren’t really sure where to price the unit. To give us maximum flexibility, we didn’t print a rental price anywhere, and only discussed pricing one-on-one over the phone or via email with prospective tenants. In the end, we came to a fair negotiation on price that worked well for both parties!
Summing It Up
We launched the site in mid-January, and had a tenant moved in by early March.
Total time? Eight weeks, with only 2.5 of those weeks with the townhouse empty after we moved out.
Total cost? $27.50 for Custom DNS on http://DynDNS.com, and $15 for the domain registration on http://DynDNS.com as well. We already had the server in the basement for hosting WordPress, as well as the printing supplies, bringing our total out of pocket marketing expenses to $42.50.