This is the Landlord Gurus ultimate guide to advertising property for rent. Learn about ways to advertise property for rent, how to create your rental listing, and where to list your property advertisement. If you have wondered whether you should list a rental on Zillow or what your alternatives are, read on!
Table of Contents
You have just received that dreaded message from one of your long-term tenants. They love the place, but unfortunately, they have decided to move on at the end of the month. Maybe they are now buying a home of their own, or they are relocating to new location for work. You congratulate and thank them for being a good tenant, schedule a move-out inspection, and then realize that you now have to start the lease-up process all over again. In addition, you will need to determine where and how to advertise property for rent to attract the best tenants for your home or apartment.
Finding a new tenant for your rental can be a painful and exhausting process. This is true whether you are a new landlord or you have done this many times over. Add the pressure of minimizing downtime between tenants when you do not receive any rental income, and many landlords feel overwhelmed.
From experience, we all know filling vacancies with high quality residents is one of the top sources of stress among rental property owners.
First, you inspect the property and have it ready for rent. Then, how do you attract the best potential tenants? How can you let them know it is available to them?
Ways to Advertise Property for Rent
There are a wide variety of options for advertising your property for rent. Some are traditional, while others leverage new advances in technology. In other words, it is a rapidly changing landscape. Therefore, getting your rental listing in front of the right audience determines how easy or difficult it is to find your new tenant.
Newspapers & Classified Ads
In the not so ancient history, landlords advertised their rental property in the classified ads of the local newspaper. Due to space constraints and listing fees priced by the number of characters, creating rental property advertisements looked like a jumble of words and characters. Tenants would scour these cryptic messages filled with abbreviations to determine location, price, size, and any features or amenities.
Additionally, the local newspaper was the main resource for matching landlords and tenants. Landlords would field dozens of phone calls, answering the same questions repeatedly before even showing the unit. Having never seen the property before, tenants would often be disappointed when they eventually did see that the rental did not meet their needs, meaning back to the drawing board for both parties.
For Rent Signs
Often used in conjunction with a newspaper advertisement, and still sometimes seen today, is the For Rent sign. This is placed on or in front of the property itself. Because only people nearby see the sign, the landlord reaches just a small group of potential tenants. Additionally, many of the people may not need an apartment to rent at that moment. As a result, this type of advertising works best if the rental property is where many people can see the sign. Additionally, yard signs don’t funnel leads through an online software platform. As a result, it is more difficult to pre-screen, take applications, and receive screening reports.
Rental Listing Sites and Services
Today, landlords and tenants are more likely to advertise property for rent on the internet. There are also numerous rental listing sites where you can advertise rental property. Some of these also let you advertise rental property for free. Similarly, property management software offers listing services through their platforms to their own as well as partner websites. These products also offer other property management and rent collection tools. Above all, these help streamline management – from advertising and tenant screening all the way through lease signing and rent collection.
The most common listing sites and services include:
We will discuss rental listing platforms in more detail and evaluate which is the best rental listing site.
In addition to these platforms, most property management software products provide landlords the ability to create listing ads. While each is different, they also syndicate your listings to various sites in the Apartments.com, Realtor.com, Zumper, and Zillow networks.
Social Media: Advertise Rental Property for Free
Social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram are popular options to advertise property for rent. Therefore, take advantage of your social networks and post your listings where they can be shared and spread to a wider audience. You can also join relevant landlord and tenant groups and reach thousands of potential tenants there. Furthermore, if you can find a group specific to your rental property’s location, you might have access to a hyper-targeted audience to get your listing in front of.
How to Advertise Rental Property
Once you have determined where you will advertise property for rent, it is time to craft your listing to attract the best tenants for your rental. Here we discuss the steps to create the best rental listing ad.
Before writing your rental property ad, first determine what type of tenant might be interested in your space for rent.
Next, think about the amenities your rental property has to offer.
The answers to these questions will help you understand who your potential renters are. You can advertise your rental property to attract them. As a result, the most successful rental advertisements match tenants to the apartments that are best suited to their needs.
Next, look at Craigslist to see how other rentals in your area are currently priced. You can also go to Avail to compare your rent with other local properties using their rent estimate tool.
It is also important to familiarize yourself with your local landlord laws and the Fair Housing Act. Housing discrimination is illegal in nearly all housing, including private housing, public housing, and housing that receives federal funding.
Optimize Listing Content
Once you are ready to write your rental property advertisement, you need to make your listing stand out from the rest of the crowd. Be descriptive and highlight the amenities that will attract the pool of potential applicants you have identified. Also use language that engages your audience and allows them to imagine themselves living in their new home. Of course, be realistic. You do not want to waste time showing your rental to applicants who will not be interested once they see your place.
Include Pre-Screening Criteria
While you would like many potential tenants to see and love your rental listing, not everyone is going to be a good fit. You can reduce the number of unqualified applicants by including some pre-screening criteria in your rental listing. Document your screening criteria and include some of them in your ad. Examples include:
Just make sure the criteria applies equally for everyone. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of:
Create Your Rental Criteria Checklist
As a landlord, you already have a lot to take care of. When it comes to screening prospective tenants, be prepared with the right questions so you can seamlessly move through the process of determining if the applicant is qualified. Creating and using a rental criteria checklist will ultimately save you time, money, and frustration. You’ll be glad you undertook the task when you discover how effective it is in finding the right tenants for your rental property.
While your rental criteria checklist will help you select the best applicant, you should prepare your criteria before you even begin to advertise your rental property. This ensures fairness through the entire process, including the pre-screening of applicants in your rental advertisement. Additionally, some jurisdictions (like Seattle) require your rental criteria be included in the listing advertisement.
Reasons to Have A Rental Criteria Checklist
Your rental criteria checklist is a guide to help you streamline the approval process. It can also protect you in the event of a discrimination claim, and it ensures your tenant selection process is fair and consistent across all properties and applicants.
Some landlords will share their rental criteria checklist upfront with prospective tenants. As discussed earlier, this may be required in some places. This allows them to communicate key criteria before meeting and screening prospects who won’t qualify. Generally, if a prospective tenant understands your expectations up front and realizes they cannot meet your minimum criteria, they will focus their search on other places that may be more suitable.
Of course, the goal of any landlord is to find and retain great tenants. But the Fair Housing Act means landlords must exercise caution when screening applicants.
In 2018, there were more than 31,000 reported acts of housing discrimination, according to the 2019 Fair Housing Trends Report. Having a clear guideline helps you choose predictably good tenants while avoiding discrimination in tenant screening and selection. Being clear, detailed, and concise in your tenant screening checklist means every potential tenant is held to the same standards.
Additionally, the key to having a rental criteria checklist is to apply it to everyone. This means that you should make no exceptions. Specifically, you will use the tenant screening criteria list to determine if a prospective tenant will:
The way to do this is to incorporate an in-depth, thoughtful rental criteria checklist that helps you narrow down the number of applicants to only those that are qualified.
Take Great Photos
Pictures are a great way to show prospective tenants what your rental is like before they schedule a showing. Cameras on most mobile phones these days are so good, there is no excuse for not including quality photos when you advertise property for rent. In addition, open the blinds, pay attention to lighting and composition, and you will be able to snap plenty of representative shots for your audience to have a good idea what your property looks like.
3D and Virtual Tours
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the sudden shift from in-person to virtual hit nearly every industry. Residential real estate was no exception. Renters depended on in-person tours to help visualize their life in the home and measure it against other options. Now these same potential tenants expect 3D and virtual tours to replicate, or at least supplement the live tour.
Property owners often invest money into the amenities of their buildings with the expectation that these spaces attract potential tenants. With the rise of virtual showings, the same effort needs to be put into presenting this experience online. Failing to do so chips away at the value of your listings and diminishes the potential renter’s impression of the space.
The pandemic has accelerated innovation and forced widespread and immediate adoption of new technologies in how you advertise property for rent. It has also opened the door for new and creative ways to reach potential renters. As a landlord or rental owner, you need to ask if you are best positioning yourself for these changes now and in the future. If not, it’s time to make some changes. In conclusion, be proactive and don’t fall behind the curve!
Should You List a Rental on Zillow
Zillow Rental Manager is a popular real estate platform for property owners to list rentals on Zillow and its partner sites. The properties are often well-presented using photos, 3D videos, descriptions, location, and price. Some landlords consider it the best rental listing site for those reasons, though there are several alternatives to Zillow, each with unique offerings that garner the attention of both landlords and tenants alike.
Zillow receives an average of 34 million monthly views across its three listing platforms: Zillow, Trulia, and HotPads. Zillow Rental Manager previously offered free listing services, but it has recently implemented listing fees for all properties. As a result, landlords and property owners may be asking if they should continue to list a rental on Zillow. They may also be looking for a better alternative to Zillow Rental Manager.
Related: Should You List a Rental on Zillow?
We discuss below the pros and cons of listing a rental on Zillow, how much Zillow Rental Manager costs, and if there are other property management software options that landlords should consider.
How Much Does Zillow Rental Manager Cost?
Zillow Rental Manager originally started rolling out weekly rental listing fees in select markets, especially when there was no better alternative to Zillow. It appears this has now reached the entire United States when a landlord lists a rental on Zillow. They have chosen to charge for listings on a weekly basis. Zillow Rental Manager costs are as follows:
You will not be charged to manage your off-market properties or to access any of the additional Zillow Rental Manager property management tools such as tenant screening or online rent payments.
However, there are additional Zillow Rental Manager costs to consider:
Zillow Feed Connect
For landlords who use another rental listing site or property management software that will list their rental on Zillow (and Trulia and Hotpads), Zillow Rental Manager has a product called Zillow Feed Connect which integrates 3rd party listings across Zillow’s network. For example, subscribers to Avail, or TenantCloud can list their rentals on those platforms. These listings also automatically syndicate to Zillow, Trulia and Hotpads. However, to use this service, landlords must connect their accounts to Zillow using Zillow Feed Connect at a cost of $2.45 per listing per day.
Related: What is Zillow Feed Connect?
Why You Should List a Rental on Zillow
When you list a rental on Zillow, your property is syndicated to three different sites (Zillow, Trulia, and HotPads). Many renters in the US look to one or more of these top rental listing sites when searching for their new home.
Zillow claims a database of more than 110 million homes in the US, including those for sale, rent, and homes not currently on the market. With over 34 million visitors each month, Zillow’s popularity guarantees excellent exposure to your listings.
Landlords can list a rental on Zillow relatively quickly and easily. It takes just a few minutes to create a listing. You just add property details, write a great description, upload photos and videos, and publish.
Zillow also offers a free 3D home tour app that is useful in boosting your listings. The app is free to use, and you have the freedom to upload as many listings as you like. You can also capture videos using your iPhone or any other camera, download the video on the app, and the app will create 3D tours.
Additionally, the site can help you list your rental at the best price with their “Rent Zestimate” tool. Simply enter your property’s address to begin. The tool will look at the property’s physical attributes and amenities, comparable properties in your market, plus any other property facts and public data to come up with a useful starting point for your ideal rental price.
Property Management Resources
Zillow Rental Manager also offers some property management resources for landlords. These include tenant screening, lease uploads (customization is available in some states) and electronic signing, and online rent payment.
Zillow also offers support to ensure a hassle-free troubleshooting process, feed support, listing inquiries, and reporting. You will also receive weekly email updates to stay informed of your portfolio-level performance.
Zillow Listing Syndication
Zillow Feed Connect allows landlords and property managers to list a rental on Zillow through other software platforms such as Avail, Rentec Direct, TenantCloud, and others. While there is now a $2.45 daily fee involved, landlords can still utilize the benefits of their existing property management system while accessing the Zillow Rental Manager listing network. Leads will still be sent to the landlord on their platform of choice.
If you list your property through one of these software products, your Zillow listing will receive a verification badge. The verification badge helps tenants identify listings from a credible source, bringing increased exposure and lead volume. Zillow claims this has led to an increase in leads of 34% in Oregon and 16% in Colorado.
Why You Should Look for an Alternative to Zillow
Zillow Rental Manager Costs
Zillow Rental Manager started as a free rental listing site where landlords and property owners could advertise property for rent or to sell. However, they are now charging US property owners $9.99 per week per unit to list a rental. Zillow claims that most property advertised on their rental listing site gets rented within a week, however, many landlords note that properties often stay vacant for longer than that. As a result, the initial $9.99 listing fee can easily turn into $20 or $30, or even more.
Poor Quality Leads
Zillow offers a Lead Guarantee where if you don’t receive a lead within a week, it’s free to list until you do (for up to 8 weeks). However, we have found that while we receive a lot of leads from Zillow, many of them are not very high-quality leads. Zillow makes it easy for people searching for apartments to immediately request information directly from the listing. But in our experience, a follow up or response to the tenant often results in no further reply. As a result, landlords dedicate time and resources responding to these leads, but they often don’t lead to a showing or application.
While Zillow Rental Manager does offer tenant screening, rent collection, and limited lease signing tools, they do not yet have some common features that most property management software does. For example, Zillow does not offer reporting and accounting tools, nor any method for landlords and tenants to communicate and submit maintenance requests. Additionally, features such as lease customization and creation are currently available only in Florida, Oregon, Colorado, and select markets in Illinois.
Unwanted Renewal Fees
If you list a rental on Zillow, landlords pay a $9.99 weekly listing fee. If you do not find a renter within the first week, your listing will automatically renew, and Zillow charges your credit card on file for an additional week. When you do find a suitable tenant, landlords will need to remember to promptly deactivate their listing to avoid incurring additional weekly charges. Property owners are often busy at this point with screening, checking references, and creating a lease. They may forget to do this immediately, resulting in unwanted renewal fees.
Incorrect Map Data
I recently listed a rental on Zillow and encountered an issue with Zillow’s map data. I correctly entered the property’s location, but after publishing the listing, the property location showed up incorrectly on the map. In fact, it showed the apartment in a completely different city! The only way to correct this was to contact Zillow customer service online. The issue was eventually resolved, it is likely many potential tenants didn’t see my listing or dismissed it.
Inaccurate Rental Price Recommendations
Zillow’s Rent Zestimate tool is primarily based on algorithms using the property’s physical attributes, comparable properties, and other publicly available information. Thus, the method may ignore other variables and result in an inaccurate rent price. As a result, we recommend the landlord or property owner take a careful look at the Rent Zestimate and then set the prices accordingly.
Zillow does offer a comprehensive online help center as well as other resources for landlords. However, we have received negative reviews and complaints of poor customer service at Zillow. In most cases, it seems that there is no physical person available. Nor is there a phone number to reach someone to answer your questions and help with problems immediately. Rather, users must fill out an online form and wait for a response.
Alternatives to Zillow Rental Manager
There are a variety of other top rental listing sites that offer many of the same services as Zillow Rental Manager, and more. Alternatives to Zillow include software such as Avail, TenantCloud, Rentec Direct, or RentRedi. Furthermore, these products all offer free and premium plans. The following are some of the features you can find in most of these products:
Many of these Zillow alternatives also syndicate to Zillow Rental Manager, giving you the benefits of the robust software tools as well as the advertising reach from listing your rental on Zillow and its partner sites.
Alternatively, landlords can opt for an a-la-carte approach as an alternative to Zillow. For example, you could list your rental on Zillow, but then handle tenant screening with a screening-specific product like ApplyConnect or RentPrep, rent collection with PayRent, and accounting and reporting with Landlord Studio or Stessa. The result would be managing each aspect of the leasing process using your favored products where appropriate – sort of the best of all worlds.
Zillow has been a leading real estate platform – if not the best rental listing site – in the US for some time. However, the new Zillow Rental Manager costs for each listing might lead landlords to look at other top rental listing sites for their listing and advertising services. Discerning landlords find that some of the other alternatives to Zillow offer more complete services at a lower cost or even for free. Ultimately, we recommend that rental property owners and managers should carefully think about their own priorities and look for the products and services that are best suited for them.
Top Listing Sites to Advertise Property for Rent
Advertising rentals online has become essential. According to research, over 70% of renters who are shopping for a new home to rent use the internet as their primary search tool. As with virtually every other industry, technology is transforming the business of managing investment property. Knowing how important online presence is, many landlords are searching the best ways to market rentals online, and for an alternative to Zillow.
Because there is opportunity and growth in the world of online rental marketing and property management software, many big players are vying for market share. Many of us are finding that we need to manage advertising across several sites. In this chapter we look at the advertising platforms that get the most traffic, and briefly explore how to get the most eyeballs on your vacancy listing.
More eyeballs = more leads = better tenant candidates + shorter vacancies
Advertising Reach Across Property Management Software
Since the company started charging to advertise vacancies many landlords are searching for an alternative to Zillow. We believe the full functionality these products offer, as well as broader advertising reach, make them a great alternative to Zillow alone. We’ve assembled this table, showing the how the leading property management software tools broadcast your listings.
Major Online Rental Advertising Platforms Offering an Alternative to Zillow
There are many, many rental advertising sites on the internet. If you look around, however, you’ll find that only a few companies run the lion’s share of sites that get meaningful traffic. Most are grappling to be the best alternative to Zillow. Here’s our rundown of the main rental advertising platforms.
Realtor.com Network: A Strong Alternative to Zillow
Related: Is Zumper free for Landlords?
We believe a full-featured property management software product is an invaluable tool for any landlord. Beyond advertising, these tools streamline the process of screening, leasing, collecting rent online, managing maintenance, keeping financial records, and more.
Without potential tenants viewing your vacancies, however, none of the rest of this matters. We recommend searching for the product that combines broad-reaching advertising with other management features that matter most to you.
Best Alternatives to Zillow
Any landlord knows that having rentals sit vacant will quickly turn the ink on their balance sheet from black to red. Reaching and attracting new prospective tenants is the first step in filling vacancies. Online property management software products can dramatically streamline the process of marketing empty units. We believe strongly that these products improve the ease and profitability of managing rental property. We have examined some of the leading software providers, many of whom offer free ways to advertise property for rent.
Once you’ve created a rental listing on Avail it will automatically be posted to 11 rental advertising sites. Avail is an end-to-end property management software that helps small landlords create online listings, view a complete profile and history of potential tenants, collect rent, and get instant access to lawyer-approved leases and electronic signing. It does a lot of the work for you, including contacting former landlords, so you can fill vacancies quickly with qualified tenants.
Buildium property management software supports the larger DIY landlord and property managers. The software includes tools to help with accounting and bookkeeping, lease & document management, maintenance tracking, applications and screening, and more.
TenantCloud is a full-service property management software tool that does a very nice job of meeting the needs of a landlords managing anything from a single home to several hundred units. There are features relevant to owner-managers as well as property managers. From rent-up of vacancies, to financial reporting, to maintenance coordination with service providers, TenantCloud offers valuable solutions.
Rentec Direct offers property management software and tenant screening solutions for landlords and real estate professionals to manage properties, tenants, and accounts online. Subscribers can collect rent payments, post vacancies, screen applicants, collect rent, and more.
RentRedi is particularly appealing to landlords who operate on-the-go, and have tenants who do the same. Their attractive & intuitive app enables landlords to post vacancies, ask pre-screening questions, request information, and accept or deny applicants from their mobile devices. Listings are posted to the RentRedi site as well as the heavily trafficked Doorsteps.com and Realtor.com.
We considered the following criteria in evaluating each service:
- How widely is your vacancy advertised?
- What features are available to help sell your unit, and how attractive is the presentation?
- What is the cost of online marketing, to the landlord?
- Are applications integrated into the marketing materials so that prospective tenants can apply seamlessly?
- Is applicant screening integrated?
- Extra Credit: Does the product help schedule showings?
- Extra Credit: Is there a tool to help calculate a fair and attractive price for your rental?
Reach of listings
How widely is your vacancy advertised? “Syndication” refers to how property management software companies post your vacancy ad on rental listing sites. There are many such sites, and each software service selects which ones to partner with. Most services automatically post your listing on the Zillow network, including HotPads and Trulia, though a paid Zillow Feed Connect account is now required. We have used Craigslist to advertise property for rent for many years. While new, flashier sites are gaining usership, we believe that many prospective tenants still search for rentals on Craigslist. For this reason, we awarded higher scores to services that integrate with Craigslist. We also look at whether units are advertised through in-house marketing, where a site gets applicants to sign up on their site in order to search for rentals. A trend we anticipate growing is the use of social media to reach potential tenants.
Professional-looking advertising both helps a vacant unit look attractive and lends credibility to the landlord offering it. Here we evaluate the how easily each service helps property owners and managers present properties in an appealing way.
We look at costs from the perspective of a property owner or manager who runs a small portfolio of properties. We assume this landlord will be looking for free or very low-cost means to advertise property for rent, and that extensive financial, reporting, and communication tools are a lower priority. Highest scores go to the products that allow landlords to advertise rental property for free.
Integration of Applications
We love how online software products make the process of property management more efficient. Having the application built right into the rental ad saves the step of scanning, emailing, printing, and filing tenant applications separately. All of these products allow prospective tenants to apply online. We look at how easy it is to request and receive the information you want most.
Again, we love efficiency! The products that score best in this category are those where potential tenants order and pay for screening reports as a part of the application process.
Extra Credit: Showing Coordination
Advertising vacancies, fielding inquiries, and scheduling appointments is time consuming. Buildium offers a tool that automates that process, and we’ve decided to award bonus points for this feature.
Extra Credit: Market Rent Calculator
Pricing units competitively is crucial to filling vacancies quickly with good tenants. We believe rent calculators are useful tools as they scan listings and summarize the competitive environment for similar properties in the area. Having one of these features built-in is valuable-enough that we thought awarding bonus points is useful when considering where to list properties.
The Best Rental Listing Site for Landlords
We graded the best rental listing sites based on the criteria above. These are our winnders:
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Best Rental Listing Site – Overall
Among ways to advertise property for rent, Avail wins Best Overall.
- Advertise your property, find and screen tenants, sign leases, collect rent, and e-sign custom local leases, with tools built specifically for DIY landlords.
- Strength: Complete Solution
Best Rental Listing Site for Large Portfolios (Tie)
If you’re asking us to recommend a great software product for advertising and managing larger real estate portfolios (25+ units) we call a draw between Buildium and TenantCloud. Both offer robust features from vacancy listings through maintenance and financial management. While products such as Avail also support higher unit counts, we believe that the subscription pricing of Buildium and TenantCloud – though seemingly expensive at first glance – become a good value once you have more than a handful of rentals.
- Whether you manage five doors or five thousand, Buildium provides a simple but sophisticated property management platform to help you grow and improve your business.
- Strength: Complete Solution
- End-to-end property management solution. Receive payments online, advertise properties and screen potential tenants. Robust accounting and maintenance features.
- Strength: Complete Solution
Best Rental Listing Site for Mobile Users
RentRedi’s app is truly convenient and enjoyable to use, for both landlords and tenants. Advertising your vacancy can be managed easily from any mobile device, and you can correspond easily with prospective tenants from anywhere, in real time. For landlords on the go, and renters who expect mobile convenience, we see RentRedi as a great tool!
- RentRedi is an all-inclusive landlord-tenant app. Manage vacancies, screening, and rent collection from wherever you are, on any device.
- Strength: Complete Solution
Reaching and appealing to the maximum number of prospective tenants is the first important step in keeping your properties fully occupied with great residents. There are many ways to advertise property for rent, and we’ve evaluated the best rental listing sites and software products in order to help you solve the problem of how to advertise rental property. We encourage you to examine what your most important needs are for advertising your rental and test out the best rental listing site that is right for you.
About Landlord Gurus
At Landlord Gurus, our commitment is to provide expert advice on the complex and important issues faced by landlords and property managers. Together we have over 30 years of experience in residential property ownership and management. In addition to sharing our own expertise and experiences, we call on specialists in fields including maintenance, law, tenant management, and more. Where we see topics that require more in-depth discussion, we create insightful articles that provide valuable information and guidance.
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