Little-Known tricks and secrets of marketing rental property
to attract top tenants in good times and bad.

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Thank goodness for rental owners and managers because without them about 40 percent of the people in this country would be camped out, staying in someone’s basement, or living under a bridge somewhere.  But they aren’t because we sprung for rental property.

I remember when I started in the rental property business in 1983.  I had gone to a no-money-down seminar.  You remember those.  That’s where you learned how to acquire a property without spending a dime of your own money.  So you did.  Then the wallet started to empty because the rent didn’t cover the mortgage payments, taxes and insurance.  Fortunately, you made up for that when you filed your taxes and got the double-declining, 15-year depreciation plus the other tax benefits for owning rental property, and all that money you put out went magically back into your wallet to start dribbling out again the next year.

I decided I wouldn’t play that game and refused to buy any property that didn’t at least break even.  And I found some.

You see, the non-money-down seminar taught me how to buy property but not now to make money on it or even manage it so it made money.  I learned that through hard work and diligent study.  Then I began writing and publishing two newsletters, The Northwest Landlord and the Rental Property Reporter, to share what I learned with other rental owners and managers.

I also went border to border coast to coast speaking about, teaching about, and doing seminars on managing rental property. One big benefit I got was that the rental owners and managers I spoke to taught me as much or more than I taught them, not to mention the great stories.

The common problem was the dearth of good tenants applying to rent.  Eventually even I figured out why that was.  And that’s what this book is about: the common problem these rental owners and managers had was poor marketing. A lot more about that is coming up.

Here’s the problem and a preview of solutions

The Census Bureau published “The Property Owners and Managers Survey” several years ago in which it analyzed rental owners and rental properties. The study found that “Overall, 58 percent of multifamily properties made a profit or broke even. About 27 percent had a loss, and for 16 percent the owners did not know whether they made or lost money. About 58 percent of small and medium size properties had a profit or broke even, compared to 51 percent of large properties.”  Think of that; just over half of multifamily properties did not lose money.

Notice the figures are for making a profit or breaking even.  We can deduce from that that fewer than half of the rental owners made an actual profit.  But a telling figure is that 16 percent of owners, one in six, had no clue if they made any money or not (and they’re in business?).

I heard one thing consistently in the 25 years I traveled around the country giving speeches and seminars and conducting trainings for rental property owners and managers,  “I can’t get enough good tenants.”  That puzzled me because some 95 percent or more of tenants fall into the “good” category, and they are going to live somewhere.  What were these rental owners doing or not doing that kept them from getting top-notch applicants?

Why they didn’t draw enough, or any,  “good tenants” who wanted to rent their properties? As I eventually sorted out, it was because of poor marketing.  They simply had no clue about how to do a proper job of it. In fact, the one thing they did do is the least effective method, and they didn’t even do that well.

I have been a student of marketing for over 25 years and wrote about marketing tips and tricks regularly in the Rental Property Reporter, which I published until 2014. I have put marketing articles, teleseminars, and material from seminars together into one place, and added and edited so they flowed logically and well to create Get It Rented.

It answers all the marketing questions I can think of, though in spite of my obsession with trying to think of everything, I might have missed one or two. I organized them logically in an easy-to-read, technique-filled book.  It includes templates and forms that I will make available on one of my websites for those who are wise, or desperate, enough to buy the book.

Whatever factor prompted you to buy something, we will discuss it in this book. It has to do with marketing.  And it’s more than just the advertising, believe me.  Many people believe that marketing and advertising are the same thing, but advertising is just one piece of the marketing picture. In fact, advertising may have had nothing whatsoever to do with why someone ends up buying.  We will look at how each factor affects getting a unit rented.

Do all these work every time?  Of course not, nothing works every time.  Will you need to use every one of these techniques to generate the kind of traffic that you deserve as result of your expertise and experience in rental property management?  Of course not, you pick the techniques you are most comfortable with and use them.  Some techniques work better in conjunction with others, but you’ll be able to figure that out easily.  Try the things that work for you and see what kind of results you get.  Few of them cost much money and some none at all, so you have no risk.

Single-family or multi-units, this book is for you

Whether you own one single-family rental or own or manage 1,000 units, this book is for you.  Every marketing technique you find here can be applied both to the small landlord and the multi-unit owner and manager.  It seems that some ideas work better for apartments, but if you own just a few properties, think about how you can apply those ideas and techniques to your management.  Some ideas work better for single-family and smaller properties. Sometimes it may be up to your imagination and creativity to get it rented with the techniques that work better for one type of property than another.  Each of these ideas will work in some way or another for every type of rental property.

My goal in this book is to give you the tools to market your property or properties in such a way that your marketing attracts good tenants and discourages less-than-desirable ones.  Good tenants appreciate landlords who run their rental investments like a business, who have policies and procedures designed to turn a profit and protect their investments, who appreciate their good customers.  On the other hand, the less-than-desirable tenants would rather rent from a landlord who maybe isn’t as business-oriented as the businesslike one.

Enjoy this book and “Get It Rented”!


Table of Contents


Chapter 1: What Marketing Is and How It Affects Renting Property

Chapter 2: Packaging Yourself and Your Property

Chapter 3: Do the Opposite

Chapter 4: Packaging Your Property

Chapter 5: Know Your Market

Chapter 6: Advertising

Chapter 7: Other Types of Marketing

Chapter 8: The Most Effective Kind of Marketing: Keeping Good Tenants

Chapter 9: Answering the Phone, Meeting the Public and Prospective Tenants

Chapter 10: Salesmanship

Chapter 11: Fair Housing

Section One
About Marketing 

It’s because of marketing anyone buys anything. 
When a tenant rents a new home,
it’s because of marketing a landlord did. 

  • Everything we do could be marketing.
  • Why People Buy
  • How to turn what we do to your advantage to “get it rented.”
  • Some tricks to think about marketing 

Chapter One

What Marketing Is, Why You Might Care, and
How It Affects Renting Property

Here’s one secret.  Top-notch tenants, you know, the ones who are considerate neighbors, who take care of their homes, who pay the rent on time, like to rent top-notch properties and rent from landlords who are businesslike and competent.  Bad tenants, you know, the ones with chips on their shoulders, who don’t care much about their homes, who pay the rent when the mood strikes, don’t expect to be able to rent top-notch properties and avoid businesslike and capable landlords like a power outage.

Do you have as many top-notch applicants as you want eager to rent your properties? Why not? How about units sitting vacant with no applicants or only unacceptable applicants? Why? If that’s your situation, you are far from alone.  Many other landlords face the same problem. Too many landlords can’t seem to “Get It Rented.”

What are they doing wrong?  Why don’t all those rental owners have full units with outstanding tenants?  One reason is sloppy, indifferent or NO marketing.  After all, good tenants are going to rent from someone, so why not from you? It is the marketing.

Our aim here is for you to get it rented, not just rented but rented to good tenants. As we will discuss in this book, effective marketing begins in the owner’s mind.  Effective marketing is a system, a system of always paying attention and doing the things that cost little or nothing but are more effective than an ad. So many rental owners think they only have to pay attention to marketing when they have or are about to have a vacancy.  Then it’s too late.  They end up like every other landlord who can’t figure out what to do to get that property rented.  They don’t know why the phone doesn’t ring and why it seems that nobody wants to see their property.  Or just as bad, they can’t figure out why everyone who calls shouldn’t be able to rent even a Barbie Playhouse.

Here’s how to adjust your thinking. If the other rental owners aren’t paying attention, all the better for you.  You get the edge that could mean that your properties make a profit every year, your bank account bulges, and you will be able to retire in comfort.  It begins with marketing.

A Second Secret

Here’s a second secret.  You don’t have to be infinitely better than other rental owners to shine.  After all, it only takes one stroke to win a golf tournament and one millimeter to win a race, but we remember the winners.  And in the rental property business, if somebody wins, somebody else misses out.  To win the best tenants, you only have to be a smidgen better than the competition.  That’s what you will learn in this book, the smidgens that win.  It’s only a tiny bit, but you will seem to stand head and shoulders above other rental owners.

Could Everything Be Marketing?

We can’t escape it.  Everywhere we look, everything we see, everything we hear, touch or feel may be marketing. Much of it, if you aren’t up on the tricks they use, you may not think of as marketing at all.

Marketing is everywhere and we can learn things that work for our rental properties by watching not just how the pros do it but also what other techniques can be even more effective.  Everyone buys (or rents) for his or her own reasons, not ours.  So in order to be effective, we need to appeal to as many of those reasons as we can to hit the bull’s-eye of why a particular person buys. We’ll look at how to subconsciously enter the minds of prospective tenants to either say, “I’d love to live here,” or “no way I could ever live here.”

Product placement is one example.  Next time you watch a TV program or movie where someone uses a laptop computer, notice what brand it is.  Chances are it’s a Mac.  You can tell by the Apple with the bite out of it on the cover of the laptop. That’s in spite of the fact that Macintosh computers account for less than 10 percent of the computers in use.

Apple proudly announces that it doesn’t buy ads. But an article in Business Insider Aug. 7, 2012, reported that “Apple products appeared in 891 TV shows in 2011 alone. According to Brandchannel, iDevices were in 40 percent of movie box office hits.”  In fact, “Of the 35 number one movies in the U.S. during the course of 2014, Apple products appeared in 9,” reported a March 8, 2015, article in Digital Trends. That’s 26 percent for a product that doesn’t even sell to 10 percent of the market. From watching movies and TV programs, you’d think that most of the world used Macs.  Product placement is marketing that never enters our conscious unless we know what we’re looking at. We’ll look at how you can use product placement for your rental properties.  You think, no way product placement can work for rental property, but there are some things you can do that will work.

Why did you buy the house you live in? Your rental properties? How did you learn about them? How did you make the decision to sign on the dotted line? Possibly you saw an ad for an open house and visited, but that wasn’t what got you to buy.  Some other factor did.  It could have been the location, the way the property looked, the balance sheet of the rental property, or any number of other things.  I don’t imagine you called the owner or Realtor on the phone when you saw the ad and said, “I want to buy that. Where do I sign?”  Another factor entered in, and that other factor most likely had to do with marketing of some kind.

No matter what factor prompted you to buy anything, we will discuss it in this book. Why anyone buys has to do with marketing.  And it’s more than just the advertising, believe me.  Many people believe that marketing and advertising are the same thing, but advertising is just one piece of the marketing picture. In fact, advertising may have had nothing whatsoever to do with why someone ends up buying.  We will look at how each factor affects getting a unit rented.

Just so, almost anything could be considered marketing. Yeah, right, you say. We watch sports on television because of marketing.  Taking kids to a soccer game has to do with marketing.  Even brushing my teeth has to do with marketing? What we’ll look at here are first, how marketing permeates our lives, and second, how we can take advantage of that in getting it rented.

When you watch sports on television, you endure commercials, lots of them.  In fact, usually more time goes to commercials than the actual game. But during the games, you will see athletes wearing one brand of shoes, shorts, or using a brand of equipment or product.  That’s product endorsement.  Those athletes get paid to wear the shoes, use the products or equipment, or put on the shirts with the company logo.  More product placement.  After all, if a basketball player sees Stephen Curry wearing Under Armour shoes, he or she might be prompted to beg mom and dad to buy them, too.   Professional athletes often make more endorsing products than their own salaries.

And then, why did you choose to watch that particular team play?  Maybe you went to college there or it’s the team whose franchise is in your city.  And they got your attention all different ways, only some of them by advertising.

I watch the NCAA Championship basketball game just about every year, and the program lasts more than two hours.  But there are only 40 minutes of actual basketball in a college game plus a 20-minute half time break. I turn off the sound during the commercials because I’d rather not be insulted with their inanity and repetition, but pay attention and they provide lessons on what might work in selling ourselves and our product, our rental properties.  Years ago, though, when I was an account executive for an advertising agency, I used to watch (and listen to) all the commercials on TV and analyze the techniques the ad guys used to try to sell me stuff.

While we’re on sports, though, let me add one more thing.  Decades ago when my children played Little League and my son played Babe Ruth Baseball, every team had a sponsor. Every uniform had the sponsor’s name on it and every cap had the sponsor’s initials, at least.  Those kids wore the hats wherever they went.  My daughter played one year for a team sponsored by a real estate agency.  Whenever my daughter’s team played, there, prominently displayed was Jacqueline’s Realty.  I thought about sponsoring a team.  After all, it was only $150 for the season, but my business does not lend itself to consumer sales.  But $150 for not only the uniform, but the good will, and a little ad in the league program, what a deal!

My son, when he played Babe Ruth Baseball, was on a team sponsored by a State Farm Insurance agency.  The agency even supplied the hats with the State Farm logo.  So when the parents thought about insurance, who first came to mind unless they were already locked in to an agent?

When you drive your kids to soccer games, you most likely have the radio playing, maybe not to the station and music you prefer, but playing.  They play commercials on the radio that, unless you have satellite radio as I do, you have to either listen to or push the button to a station that isn’t playing a commercial right then.

And that brings up the question, why do I have satellite radio?  Why do I pay something over $20 a month for satellite radio in my wife’s and my vehicles?  It’s because I don’t have to endure advertisers’ and announcers’ inane blather.  What was the marketing that sold me that?  No commercials and no inane babbling, oh, and over 150 stations to choose from. The benefit to me was that I could listen to music not useless chatter and commercials.

One more question:  how did you decide to buy that car you’re driving your kids to the soccer game in?  I know it wasn’t by throwing a dart at a board full of pictures of cars. It had to do with someone’s marketing.  Maybe it was the ad but maybe it was because of something your father told you when you were growing up.

A Third Secret

A third secret is that the most powerful marketing has nothing to do with advertising.  It’s what others say about you.

I used to work with Al (name changed to protect the less-than-objective). He’s a “Ford Man.”  He considers any other brand of vehicle not worth his attention except to ridicule it, something he is eager to do, and accuse those who drive them as somewhat less than intelligent and possibly a danger to society, though his words are far more colorful. I used to kid him about what FORD stood for, “fix or repair daily” or “found on road dead.”  But his father was a “Ford Man,” too.  Al didn’t have a chance. He had Ford pumped into his brain from the time he was old enough to listen. So in spite of the fact that his car was in the shop once a month (I do not exaggerate), he still had a new Ford every three years when their leases were up. His father was the marketing that affected him.  That’s word of mouth to the extreme.

I drive a Toyota pickup.  Why?  Because of marketing.  What was the marketing?  Toyotas are reliable.  Just check the JD Power ratings.  I bought my current truck new 150,000 miles ago.  The only things I’ve had to do with it are buy a new set of tires, new brakes a couple of times, and a new battery a couple of times, plus change the oil.  The marketing that sold me was that I could depend on it.  It’s also good for bringing home stuff that would in no way fit in the trunk of a car.

My wife drives a Hyundai. We bought that new, too.  What was the marketing that sold us that?  Once again, reliability. They warranty them for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Several years ago we got a flyer in the mail from a local car dealer listing the most reliable vehicles as judged by JD Power and Associates.  Right at the top of the list was Hyundai. We weren’t in the market for a new car then, but we put that list on our refrigerator and left it there several years.  So every time we thought about a new car, what came to mind?  My wife also asked people at her work who drove Hyundais how they liked them.  The testimonials were 100 percent positive.  What was the benefit to buying those vehicles?  We weren’t inconvenienced by having to take them to the repair shops and we could depend on them to start when we turned the key, go when we pressed the gas pedal, stop when we hit the brakes, and get us where we wanted to go.

How about brushing your teeth?  Why did you buy that particular brand of toothpaste?  I think we use Colgate at our house.  I can’t be sure without going into the bathroom and looking, but I think the tube is red and white, Colgate’s colors.  We always buy that toothpaste. I believe my wife originally bought it because of the cap.  It flips up so requires no unscrewing and eliminates forgetting to put the cap back on.  Somewhere in the past undoubtedly Colgate had an ad or marketing that promoted their patented cap.  I do remember the colors and design of Colgate, though.  That has to do with branding.  We will discuss how you can brand yourself and your rental properties in the next chapter.

The toothpaste commercials never enter my consciousness. My point here is that we can’t know the factor, feature or benefit that will prompt someone to buy.  Fathers, reliability, no commercials,  or caps, we can’t predict what the selling point will be that tips the scales in favor of a product or service.  But it will be something, and maybe something we least expect.

 Why People Buy and a Fourth Secret

A fourth secret is that people buy for their reasons, not ours.  Effective marketers find out what that reason is or those reasons are and use them to show the benefits of their product or service, or in this case, property.

Geoff Ayling in his book Rapid Response Advertising (available from Amazon, but not as an e-book) provides wannabe guerrilla marketers with a full fifty reasons why people buy. There are really far more than fifty, but I have a feeling that these fifty will get your creative juices flowing.

  1. To make more money – even though it can’t buy happiness

  2. To become more comfortable, even a bit more

  3. To attract praise – because almost everybody loves it

  4. To increase enjoyment – of life, of business, of virtually anything

  5. To possess things of beauty – because they nourish the soul

  6. To avoid criticism – which nobody wants

  7. To make their work easier – a constant need to many people

  8. To speed up their work – because people know that time is precious

  9. To keep up with the Joneses – there are Joneses in everybody’s lives

  10. To feel opulent – a rare, but valid reason to make a purchase

  11. To look younger – due to the reverence placed upon youthfulness

  12. To become more efficient – because efficiency saves time

  13. To buy friendship – I didn’t know it’s for sale, but it often is

  14. To avoid effort – because nobody loves to work too hard

  15. To escape or avoid pain – which is an easy path to making a sale

  16. To protect their possessions – because they worked hard to get them

  17. To be in style – because few people enjoy being out of style

  18. To avoid trouble – because trouble is never a joy

  19. To access opportunities – because they open the doors to good things

  20. To express love – one of the noblest reasons to make any purchase

  21. To be entertained – because entertainment is usually fun

  22. To be organized – because order makes lives simpler

  23. To feel safe – because security is a basic human need

  24. To conserve energy – their own or their planet’s sources of energy

  25. To be accepted – because that means security as well as love

  26. To save time -- because they know time is more valuable than money

  27. To become more fit and healthy -- seems to me that’s an easy sale

  28. To attract the opposite sex – never undermine the power of love

  29. To protect their family – tapping into another basic human need

  30. To emulate others – because the world is teeming with role models

  31. To protect their reputation – because they worked hard to build it

  32. To feel superior – which is why status symbols are sought after

  33. To be trendy – because they know their friends will notice

  34. To be excited – because people need excitement in a humdrum life

  35. To communicate better -- because they want to be understood

  36. To preserve the environment – giving rise to cause-related marketing

  37. To satisfy an impulse – a basic reason behind a multitude of purchases

  38. To save money – the most important reason to 14% of the population

  39. To be cleaner – because unclean often goes with unhealthy and unloved

  40. To be popular – because inclusion beats exclusion every time

  41. To gratify curiosity -- it killed the cat but motivates the sale

  42. To satisfy their appetite – because hunger is not a good thing

  43. To be individual – because all of us are, and some of us need assurance

  44. To escape stress – need I explain?

  45. To gain convenience – because simplicity makes life easier

  46. To be informed – because it’s no joy to be perceived as ignorant

  47. To give to others – another way you can nourish your soul

  48. To feel younger – because that equates with vitality and energy

  49. To pursue a hobby – because all work and no play etc. etc. etc.

  50. To leave a legacy – because that’s a way to live forever  (Used with permission)

But two reasons override all others, fear of loss and hope of gain, with fear of loss by far the most “persuasive” reason.  People fear losing one of the buying reasons above.  We will discuss that in much more detail in Chapter Twenty when we work on advertising and writing headlines.


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