It's so easy for landlords to get the word out when they have a unit for rent. They simply post a description and photos online – usually for free – and get a world of tenants at their fingertips.
Why, then, are online rental ads often so unappealing?
Go ahead; choose any neighborhood, enter a few parameters and start going through the photos that pop up.
- Harrisburg, Pa. apartment complex: Two of the three shots are of the outside of the complex and the remaining picture is of a corner of a kitchen.
- Kansas City. Mo. apartment complex: Fifteen of 35 photos depict the outside of the complex – eight of them are of the complex swiming pool. Of the 20 indoor shots, a few show a bathroom and they are close-ups of a tub, toilet and sink. None give a wide view of the room.
- Santa Ana, Ca. condominuim: Ten of 15 photos of this new build with all amenities are outdoor shots.
Who bases a leasing decision solely on whether a playground has swings or whether a bathroom includes a shower? Most tenants want to know room sizes, locations of entryways and doors and, especially, whether the unit is well cared for.
Today's tenants are discerning consumers thanks to online sites that let them spend hours window-shopping before they ever set foot in a real property. Don't let poorly staged photos keep your rental from drawing the best tenants.
What to include in your photos and descriptions
Each frame should put your rental property in the best light... literally. Poor lighting makes your unit look dreary. Don't take pictures at night, or even at dusk. Open curtains and turn on all lights. Don't block light with your body, and make sure that you're shooting from an angle that eliminates glare.
If you don't have a wide-angle lens, take several photos of each room from all angles. Then, note the room's measurement so that potential tenants can see whether their furniture will fit. Don't know the room's measurements? Then get out a tape measure; give potential tenants something to work with.
Photograph the entryways, doorways and halls because, even though they may not be exciting views, tenants will spend time in them daily. They want to know if the kitchen is steps from the front door, or is down a hall and around a corner.
More is better. Don't skimp on photos. It's better to have too many than too few pictures and, for goodness sake, don't post any shots that are blurred. It costs nothing to take and post photos.
What to leave out of your photos and descriptions
The best rental postings offer photos of vacant or staged units. Tenants want to imagine their own furniture in a space. However, since there isn't always a lag between tenants, the trick is to be sure that pictures don't include clutter and mess from current tenants.
That means that the kitchen sink should not be filled with dishes, trash cans should be out of view and the bathroom should sparkle. If your current tenants are incurable slobs, hire a cleaning service and schedule a photo shoot for a time that current tenants will be out. If your current tenant makes poor use of space in your rental, do your best to photograph the best views while leaving out their clutter or poor furniture arrangements.
Before you aim your lens, ask yourself the following:
- Does the space look tidy?
- Are there items that are better left out of the shot?
- Have you removed cleaning tools such as brooms, dustpans and mops from view?
- Is the toilet lid down?
Extra steps for better presentation
Typically, walls are painted and other upgrades are made before each new tenant. If new kitchen cupboards aren't in the budget, at least change out cupboard and drawer pulls. Adding modern hardware takes years off an older kitchen or bath.
If new carpet isn't in the budget just yet, use one of the abundant products for removing stains or have rugs and carpets professionally cleaned.
Nothing dates a unit and deters potential tenants more than a worn out front door and foyer. Apply a coat of paint to the door and add a plant, mirror and rug inside the door. A welcoming entrance gives visitors that important first impression.
Don't cut corners when it comes to sharing the best images of your rental property. You may know that your units are better than other rentals in your market; but, if the photos don't project it, you won't get the interest you need to draw the best tenants.