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Property Hawk

WRITING A RENTAL ADVERT

How to write a winning online rental advert

It’s easier than ever to advertise a rental property to thousands of prospective tenants.  To get the maximum impact landlords need to make a property stand out.  Online rental advertising means that more than ever to let a rental property quickly it’s all about having a good quality set of images showing off the buy-to-let in it’s best light.  Most tenants will now look to one of the big property portals like Rightmove or Zoopla as a starting point for finding a place to live.  Remember, increasingly tenants will view the rental advert on their phone.  This makes the importance of the image critical.  When tenants scroll down an endless list of buy-to-let property details they are looking for something that jumps out at them and ticks all the boxes.  This is not always easy when it comes to ubiquitous nature of the typical rental property.  One neutral interior will tend to look exactly the same as all the others.  If the rental property is in a block of apartments with literally hundreds of buy-to-let property then a landlords ad could be one of a long line of property that are pretty much identical in looks and price.

How to make a rental property stand out?

1. Use great images for your rental property

The secret to a striking online rental advert is a good set of sharp images.  Too often a photo taken quickly on a landlords phone looks like it has been taken underwater.  No good! It has to be sharp and bright (remember to use the flash!)  Turn on all the lights including the sidelights even during the day and that will help prevent the buy-to-let apartment looking as if it is in a cave or dungeon.   Make sure that a decent camera is used whether it’s on the phone or not.  Phones don’t have a zoom feature and that will limit a landlords scope when it comes to good quality images of a rental property.

The convention is to have an outside shot as the main image.  This is not wrong….but use some discretion.  If the property is not much of a looker and has zero kerb appeal, then an inside shot of a high spec kitchen or sumptuous bathroom might be more sensible.  Here is the difficult thing for many hard pressed landlords. The reality is that a staged or properly furnished interior will always look better than an empty buy-to-let shell.  Not always easy if a landlord is letting their property unfurnished or part furnished.  When looking at the shot, think about staging the photo with some brought in furniture or even a vase of flowers.  Tenants now will spend a fraction of a second zipping through the ads so make sure the images of the rental property have a wow factor in order to secured a viewing.

2. Location of property

It’s essential to tell a prospective tenants where the rental property is. Be sure to include the post code for all those tenants that can’t navigate and rely on their Sat Nav or phone.  Remember often new tenants will not know the area if they are from out of town.  A lot of the marketing websites will allow a landlord to post an online map with the ad to help tenants to find the property and will use the postcode to locate the property so make sure it’s right.

3. Furnished or not furnished?

This can be slightly confusing to some tenants.  Part furnished means not furnished
(apart from cooker, dishwasher & fridge freezer) . Unfurnished does mean without anything apart from the very basics like carpets and perhaps curtains.  Furnished does mean that the property has the basic level of furniture and appliances such as sofas, a bed and for students obviously a desk, even if they do all they studying lying on the bed with the laptop.

4. Price & conditions

Don’t forget the all important numbers such as the rent (what does it include or is it exclusive of all bills) Landlords need to also talk about the deposit.  Some tenants will balk at paying more than a month as a deposit.  If that’s the case a landlord should let them be somebody else’s tenant.  A letting shouldn’t be entered into with less than 6 weeks rent, preferably 2 months otherwise a landlord will be exposing themselves to unnecessary and an unacceptable level of risk of loosing money.  The property needs an EPC to be marketed by law.  Not that many tenants express any interest in their contents.   Often letting websites will include an availability date for the rental property.

5. Access and amenities


A lot of tenants will be without a car.  If they have a vehicle then it would be useful to mention whether there is parking available at the property.  Tell the tenants if the property is near shops and pubs.  They might be from outside the area.  Being close to a tube station or bus stop and routes is a big bonus so be sure to include these details in the rental advert.

6. Big up the property


Make sure that the rental advert draws attention to the properties positives.  If the property has an outside area such as patio, balcony or sitting out area this is a real bonus for a lot of tenants.  Does the property have a style that might help to sell it to a tenant?  A modern property & contemporary style is always a positive.  Some tenants will be bowled over if the property has a wealth of traditional features such as sash windows and cast iron fireplaces.  Landlords might be surprised that there might even be 70s style buffs so this might also be a plus.

Advertising a rental property offline

Whilst the emphasis has shifted online to advertising for rental property.  There is still a world outside the Internet that landlords can access to promote their buy-to-lets.  Have a look at the options for writing and displaying a rental advert in the printed press and beyond.

 

Writing a rental advert for the local newspaper

Back in the olden days, in a time before the 'interweb' had appeared magically from the ether, landlords would place their rental adverts in the back of the local paper. This information largely stems from then, so if you are interested in posting a rental advert in "Ye Olde Local Paper Press" and for other general advertising hints read on. Alternatively, we've written a piece for landlords wanting a guide to online rental property advertising.

Cramming the details of a property into a rental advert in the newspaper is no mean feat. Getting it right is key to finding the right tenant. Here’s a quick run down of how to go about writing a rental advert to be placed in a newspaper, alongside a few tricks on how to make any rental advert stand out from the crowd.

To start with, advert needs to reference the location of the rental property. Landlords can sometimes be‘creative’ in identifying an area if they feel it wil be  helpful in pulling in tenants. For example: when a property is on the borders of a good and ‘dodgy’ area, it might be worth going with the former.

However, landlords need to remember that prospective tenants aren’t going to be too happy if landlords lure them to the less salubrious side of the tracks, only to present them with a hovel, so this approach will be more likely to work if the quality of the property out shines its marginal location. 

Having located the investment property, now its time for a landlord to describe and sell it.  For those landlords who are a little unfamiliar with press advertising, a landlord actually pay per line, hence the perpetual abbreviations.  There is a whole range of them for property letting adverts and I have listed them below:

COMMON ADVERTISING ABBREVIATIONS 

Fgch Full gas central heating Pt/furn Part furnished (appliances no furniture)
All mod cons Appliances – cooker, fridge freezer, washing machine Fully/furn Beds and other furniture
Pcm Per calendar month U/f Unfurnished (no appliances or furniture)
Pw Per week D/g Double glazing
Exc Exclusive of bills N/s Non smokers
Inc Inclusive of bills Pk Parking
Apt Apartment St Street
Prof Professionals P/p Per person

               
As I have said before, the aim of any marketing exercise by landlords is to deliver the right message to your customers, your potential tenants.  Inevitably a big part of this message will need to be factual such as: how many beds, does the rental accommodation have a garden, central heating, off street parking, etc. 

The next step for a landlord is to think how they might embellish these details and attract tenants by differentiating the investment property from the competition.  This is not easy; especially when a landlord is trying to do it in as few words as possible.  Landlords need to remember the old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ therefore where landlords have the option of a photograph, they should try to use it to represent their investment property’s best features.  This might be the ornate doorway, a lovely decked patio or even a captivating view.  Indoors, a minimalist bathroom or newly fitted kitchen always goes down well. 

The property description is probably the biggest challenge to a landlord.  Landlords should start with the state of repair of your investment property.   The expression ‘newly refurbished’ will give a good indicator that the investment property will be clean and tidy.  A landlord could suggest a more comprehensive programme of works by mentioning, the new, bathroom and Ikea kitchen.  Tenants like the word ‘new’, it reassures them. I often hear tales from tenants who have been relieved to find my investment property after parading around a whole range of dirty, shabby flats.  Therefore, even if you have just had a few walls repainted then a description of ‘newly redecorated’ will reassure many tenants that your property isn’t a hovel.  Increasingly, landlords are buying new investment property to rent out.  This of course is attractive to many tenants and this fact should be drawn to a tenants attention.  If a landlord’s investment property isn’t new then other stock phrases that give an indication of a reasonable condition are ‘clean’ & ‘well presented’.
 
How many words should a landlord use?  Obviously, less words means lower rental advertising costs although with fewer words a landlord is less able to ‘paint a picture’ of the desirability of their investment property.  Landlords should be able to get their message across in 25-35 words, unless their investment property is an upmarket or specialist let when it is probably worth a landlord spending a little more ‘announcing its’ existence’.

Another way that a landlord can make the printed lettings advert stand out is through the page layout.  Newspapers encourage landlords to spend extra on a more ‘eye catching’ layout by suggesting that they have a blank line above and below their lettings advert, or even a lined box around it.  This will certainly make a landlords lettings advert more prominent, but it is also likely to double the cost.  Is it worth it?  Personally, I remained unconvinced.  To me if a tenant has bought a paper to look for a specific type of rental accommodation in a particular area.  They will go to these areas and then scour through them picking out the ones that they like the sound of.  Unless there are hundreds of similar lettings adverts I think it unlikely that the layout will make much difference.  One time where it might is if the landlord has something unusual to let that might otherwise have been easily overlooked in the ‘sea of property details’. 
 

Letting Advertisement – key headings

Location of rental property


Normally an indication of the area is sufficient.  Remember landlords should only be creative with the truth they really think that the tenants will be so impressed by the rental property that this will overcome the areas shortcomings.  Landlords shouldn’t deliberately mislead tenants as this will just waste their time and the prospective tenants time.  Is it close to somewhere important e.g. tube stop or somewhere the tenants may be interested in getting to e.g. university, large place of work or a city centre
Increasingly tenants are using the Internet to research an area particularly if the tenants are relocating.  The inclusion of a postcode will help them to do this. 

Features of rental property

A landlord should list things that the rental property has e.g.: garage, garden, full gas central heating (fgch).  Is the rental property furnished included as part of the tenancy?

Description of rental property

A landlord’s opportunity to impress; keep it brief but landlords should think how they can make it stand out.  Landlords can indicate the investment property’s condition, use the words new and fresh; this helps a landlord to paint a picture that is clean and inviting, see the tips below.

Rent amount of rental property

The amount of rent and of course the rental period – is it per week (pw), per month (pm) or per calendar month (pcm).  Does the rent include bills (inc) or does it exclude them (exc)

A means of contact for landlord

The landlord’s name and telephone number.  Landlords should remember by leaving their mobile number tenants will also be able to text.  An e-mail address is important.  More and more tenants use the Internet and e-mail to source property.  E-mail is particularly useful as it allows tenants to be able to correspond with landlords whilst they are at work without alerting their work colleagues as to what they are really up to.


Advertisement – example

Wimbledon sw19

Beautifully refurbished 2 bed 1st floor apartment in a Listed mansion block.  Pt/f with feature stone fireplace and bay over looking the common. Suit professional couple or sharers. No pets. FGCH, underground parking

£300 pw  exc

077100223445  mr.rigsby@propertyhawk.co.uk

Advertising psychology

Generally there is an automatic filter to the type of tenant that landlords are likely to get replying to their letting advert because of the duel influence of price and the area that the investment property is located in.  Landlords can attempt to set certain criteria a potential tenant must comply with i.e. suit professional couple, or state the sort of tenants you wouldn’t let to i.e. no students, DWP or smokers.  However, the sex & race discrimination laws means that specifying that a landlord wants a white female lodger for a house share would be contrary to both pieces of legislation, but because the age discrimination law only refers to employment, it is still perfectly legal for a landlord to specify the age of the tenant.  Despite constraints, it is still possible for a landlord to set the tone of a letting advert to facilitate the type of tenant.  For instance, a landlord can say:  ‘Room available for non smoking professional tenant in young female house’.  In this way landlords are not being overly prescriptive but hopefully the result is that the right sort of tenant self-selects.

The other approach is for landlords to engage in some amateur psychology.  It does work, believe me.  You may have discovered that men and women are different.  Apparently, women respond more readily than men to emotive concepts and phrases. Therefore, if a landlord really wants to attract a female tenant, for instance into a female flat share.  They should try to include the odd emotive adjective.  Instead of a property, a landlord’s property becomes a ‘home’.  Newly refurbished becomes ‘beautifully’ refurbish or ‘sympathetically’ refurbished.  Not only does it attract female interest but it should make a landlords letting advert stand out from all the competitors letting adverts.

My ‘poetic’ approach isn’t appreciated by everyone. It did once result in me falling out with my local paper.  They were convinced that my thoughtful lettings advert for a “beautiful white space” showed racist intent and refused to publish it.  I remain convinced that it was a piece of marketing brilliance that would have connected instantly with the type of tenant I was aiming for looking for a minimalist haven, but I could also see the potential misinterpretation.

Practical letting tips for landlords

Here is a list of practical tips for landlords I have picked up over the last 15 years of advertising property to let:

1. Landlords looking for students?

Landlords should try registering with their local university.  Landlords should have an accommodation list.  From my experience the universities will normally insist that the letting premises reach a certain prescribed standard of habitation and safety.  This will include adequate fire alarms and a means of escape.  Each bedroom is likely to have to reach a minimum size and contain certain items of furniture, such as a desk and bed.  As well as registering directly landlords could try advertising on one of the dedicated letting web sites such as www.accommodationforstudents.com .  It costs £12 per month per property and ensures that a landlord has national exposure for their rental property.  Landlords need to remember with student accommodation unlike most other types of rental property there is a definite season.  Students will generally start looking for accommodation for the start of the academic year from about the middle of August.  Once term starts in early October then the market will go quiet as most students will have sorted out their living arrangements by then.

2. Is there a large employer near by such as a hospital?

Is a landlords rental accommodation suitable for their staff?  Like any major employer there maybe a notice board or increasingly an intranet where a landlord can post details for free.  The only way to find out unless a landlord knows somebody that works there is to phone up and ask. It’s all about landlords being entrepreneurial.  After all what has a landlord you got to lose?  A landlord can never know they might just ‘bag’ the perfect tenant for free.

3. Has a landlord tried word of mouth?

Landlords might think it sounds like a long shot.  The reality is that there has been a number of times I have mentioned in conversation that I have a property to rent only for somebody to reply with:  ‘I’ve got a friend……’.  It happens so landords should be aware of the possibilities.  I know a number of landlords with holiday lets, who seem to get most of their lettings through work and social contacts. 

4.  Is the letting property in a small town or village with a shop or post office?

It’s always worth landlords having a look to see if they have a notice board.  These places are hubs of community activity.  Not much goes on without the shopkeeper or postmaster knowing about it.  Just by landlords mentioning it to them is as good as announcing it to the whole village.

5. Landlords should look out for the rental property supplements.

There is of course the tried and tested approach of advertising within the property section of the local paper.  Many of these have dedicated sections or supplements for property adverts published on certain days of the week.  It’s worth landlords finding out when, so they can time their letting adverts to appear in them. 

6. Maximise a landlords chances of getting an ‘inward locator’.

The dynamic of the modern employment market means that increasing numbers of people have to move to new areas because of their work.  This means that they often know very little about the area they are moving to and also will do all their accommodation finding on-line. Almost all these ‘inward locators’ will look to initially rent. It is therefore important that landlords get their property listed on one of the major web sites such as Rightmove or Fish4homes.  This can happen automatically, with some press adverts. Landlords should make sure that they know the score and ensure that they have their rental property listed on at least one decent website to ensure that they might attract an ‘inward locator’.
   

7. Is the landlords rental property something a little bit special?

For those landlords lucky enough to have a mansion or a rental property that is a little bit special.  The national and local papers have hundreds of column inches to fill each week in their numerous property sections.  As a consequence they are always looking for property articles on interesting buildings.  Therefore a speculative e-mail by a landlord may result in a feature in one giving your rental property an excellent free profile.

8. Landlords need to make sure they get their lettings adverts on-line.

Research shows that between 85-90% of property buyers use the web to find residential properties that they are interested in.  Increasingly it’s the Internet that tenants turn to first to start their search for a place to live.  Therefore it’s essential that landlords get their rental property on-line if they want to market their investment property.   There are literally hundreds of rental marketing sites.   Many of them will have only a few hundred, possibly as few as a few tens of properties to let.  Using one of these sites is a waste of time and money for landlords as the chances of one of their prospective tenants accessing a lowly ranked site is very small.  What you a landlord is  better off doing is to pay more to get on one of the major listing sites.

9. Remember letting property is a competitive business

Letting property is now a competitive business for landlords.  Ten years ago if a landlord had anything half decent then tenants would be literally beating the landlords door down to view the property to let.  Then after seeing numerous shabby neglected rental properties they would be falling over themselves to sign the tenancy agreement.  Now it’s different for landlords.  The arrival of buy-to-let and the increasing numbers of new apartments aimed specifically at residential investors and their tenants’ means that the tenant expects more and can afford to be selective.  The result is that landlords have to work hard & be pro-active in order to fill their investment property.  I have heard stories in some large city centre complexes of landlords going around touting for tenants by offering to undercut their fellow landlords.

10. Seasonality of letting property.

In much the same way as house sales tend to go flat over Xmas and the early part of the new year until February and also over the traditional ‘summer holiday’ months of July & August – property letting interest also tends to be at its lowest at these times.  Therefore, landlords should try and avoid having to re-let at these times wherever possible.

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