It’s no secret that when the fall months hit, the rental market tends to slow down, especially as we creep in to the winter months. Kids are back at school. People have started new jobs. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays on tap, most people aren’t eager to pack up and move until at least the New Year. Even then, it can be hard to find great tenants.
Recently, we worked with a client that had a great property in a great neighbourhood and the unit sat, and sat, and sat. Was his asking price too high? How could he get these units filled? His carrying costs were starting to add up.
His frustration was understandable: filling your rental property in the slower seasons isn’t easy, but there are certain tricks we’ve learned over time that can fill vacancies faster—even in the dead of winter.
Update your Listing
Ensure that you are including pertinent information in your listings, and be comprehensive. Are utilities included? Is there on-site parking? Don’t put it on the prospect to track down information, particularly if you’re looking to lease during the off-season.
Add Additional Amenities
If you’ve been considering adding a washer and dryer, now’s the time to pull the trigger. Consider springing for a coin-operated washer and dryer that can be shared by residents, or if your space and budget allow, consider installing a stackable washer and dryer set in each of the vacant units you’re hoping to rent. Residents will be sure to appreciate the added amenity, and you can charge more in rent.
We know that most people aren’t looking for apartments during the holiday season, so if you’re looking to fill a vacancy quickly, you might want to offer an incentive. For instance, you could offer 25% off rent in December for anyone who leases before January 1. The costs will far outweigh that concession if a unit sits vacant. Getting someone in the door with a temporary discount is better than not having anyone at all.
Make Simple Upgrades
The two units the buyer was trying to lease were a bit out-of-date. The kitchen has traditional oak cabinets with outdated hardware. A coat of white paint and new hardware would give the kitchen a more modern, fresh look. Upgrading appliances too can go a long way—it’s easy to find a replacement stove on Craigslist, one that’s relatively new and in good condition, but is being discarded by someone who’s upgrading to stainless steel. Use the time to also swap out the light fixtures for a more modern look. These are easy upgrades that can be made in just a few days, but will present the vacant unit so much better.
Sweeten the Deal
Big apartment communities often throw in a few additional “sweeteners,” but it’s something that smaller building owners can do, too. Signing Bonus’ in the form of gift cards can make or break it for someone who’s comparing your apartment with others in the area.
Focus on Customer Service
When the phone rings, answer. When someone emails you, respond quickly. If someone has questions about your rental, get back to them with answers as quickly as possible. It increases the chances that they’ll choose your rental over another. In addition, enhanced communication will show prospects that you’re a reliable landlord, which bodes well for the future.
Don’t Lower Your Standards
If you’re struggling to fill a vacant unit, it’s tempting to accept the first person who shows interest. This is a huge mistake that can be costly down the road. Keep your standards high when screening prospective tenants.
Use the slower seasons as an opportunity to sharpen your creative juices and find ways to market your property. You need to find ways to differentiate yourself from others in your local market. This will be the way you get your property rented before they do!