by Mark Tarses
Photos. The #1 thing tenants want to see in rental listings is photos, high quality photos that show what the place really looks like - and lots of them. I am constantly amazed at how many rental listings on Craigslist contain no photos at all or have just one photo, and that photo is of the exterior of the building. Most photos in rental ads just get a small piece of a room in the picture, which is useless. Take photos of rooms with a wide angle lens camera to get a larger portion of the room in the picture. If you don't have a wide-angle lens camera, and most people don't, buy a clip-on wide angle lens for your cell phone. They are incredibly cheap and produce great pictures that get 40% to 50% more of a room in your photo! You can buy a good clip-on lens at Amazon for $20.00. They attach to any iPhone or Android phone. No technical skill is required.
Title. The wording of your title is important. Say something about your location, condition, or amenities that make your place look desirable. Avoid gimmicks that make you look desperate, like all capital letters, exclamation points, stars, or smiley faces. Avoid meaningless catchphrases like 'near everything.' It is surprising how many rental ads on Craigslist claim that an apartment is 'near everything'. Saying that your apartment is 'near everything' makes you look stupid! No apartment anywhere is really 'near everything.'
KISS. (Keep It Simple Stupid) Avoid complex formatting or a lot of HTML coding. Craigslist's computers see these things as evidence of possible fraud, in which case, they may delete your ad and freeze your account, preventing you from relisting the unit.
Be Honest and Tell the Truth! Don't try to play prospective tenants for suckers. There is no bigger turnoff to prospective tenants than arriving at a showing and then discovering that you lied to them in order to get them to come over and see the place. For example, a lot of ads overstate the number of bedrooms. That won't get you a tenant. That just makes people angry. Prospective tenants can count the number of bedrooms in an apartment. That doesn't require a PhD in math. Also, don't use deceptive language to try to make your place sound better than it really is. Don't say 'walk to shopping' when what you really mean is that your building is next door to a notorious liquor store where several people have been murdered. Don't say 'near transportation' when what you really mean is that Southern Pacific freight trains go through your property's backyard all night long. (I knew a landlord who actually did this.) You are not going to get tenants by treating people like fools. You are jut just going to make people mad at you.
Toot Your Own Horn. On the other hand, be sure that you have included in your listing ALL of the features and amenities that add value to your unit. Examples include a washing machine and dryer in the apartment, a dishwasher, off street parking, use of a bike shed, owner paid utilities, etc. These things have cash value to tenants! More value = more applicants and higher quality applicants and higher rent. Don't bother listing features that are important to you but that have no value and are of no interest to your tenants, like 'new roof.' Tenants don't care if the roof of your building is old or new, as long as it keeps the rain out.
Don't Get Yourself Sued! Be sure your ad doesn't include words that are evidence of discrimination or steering. Read and reread your ad carefully before posting it. Saying that you are looking for a 'mature tenant' in your ad is evidence that you that you don't want to rent your place to families with children. Saying that your apartment is 'walking distance to Saint Mary's Church' is evidence that you would prefer to rent your place to Christians. Don't use words like 'exclusive' in your ad. 'Exclusive' means that you exclude certain types of people. That is prima facie evidence of discrimination.
Anonymize Your E-Mail Address. Don't put your email address in your ad. Use Craigslist's email anonymizer. Otherwise, crooks may use your email address in their rental scams and you could get swamped with spam.
Be Sure Your Property Is Mapped Correctly. It is important that your building is shown in its correct location on the Craigslist's map. Many listings are mapped wrong. If your building is incorrectly located on the map, that could seriously affect how many people come to see your place. It is very easy to correct the location of your building on Craiglist's map.
Refresh or Repost Your Listing Every 3 Days. Craigslist policy states that the same ad may not be reposted within 48 hours, but don't let your ad become stale, falling to the bottom of the listings. On the other hand, don't relist your ad too frequently. Ads that are listed every day or several times a day look suspicious and make the owner look desperate. If you refresh your ad, it goes to the the top of the new listings. A lot of people don't look at the bottom of the pile.
Change Your Wording. Whenever you relist your ad, make small changes in the title or text to see what gets the best response. Also by changing your wording, it is less likely that Craigslist will delete your ad for duplication or excessively frequent reposting.
Delete Old Ads. Delete ads that are a week old. Old ads make people wonder if there is something wrong with your apartment. Why hasn't this place been rented yet?
Track Your Ad. You can find out how many clicks your Craigslist ad is getting by using a tracking service. The most popular seems to be Classified Ad Tracker. This site used to be called Craigslist Ad Tracker, but the company isn't affiliated with Craigslist, so they had to change their name. They have free and premium accounts.
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