October is full of pumpkins and Fall festivities, but for landlords, the changing leaves signal the start of offseason. While the slower months are advantageous if owners want to focus on sprucing up their rental, marketing can prove challenging. In a time where leads are not pouring in as they did over the Summer, landlords must maximize any interest they receive. So, how can landlords avoid an offseason vacancy and fill them quickly when they do happen? Check out our tips below!
How to Avoid Vacancy in the Offseason
The best way to handle the offseason vacancy is to avoid it altogether. Doing so involves careful planning and proactive action on your part as the landlord. Below are our top tips to avoid the dreaded Winter vacancy.
- Extended Notice – Lease agreements specify the amount of notice tenants must give before they vacate. While landlords may be tempted to stick to a standard 30 days, longer notice benefits both you and the tenants. Instead, a 60 notice allows a greater time to prepare, schedule inspections, proactively anticipate turnover, and get the property on the market quicker.
- Strategic Lease Expiration – Knowing the local market is the first rule of real estate. While most peak season moves occur between May to September, areas with heavy college activity might vary. That said, staggering lease expirations to fall into peak season is a great way to avoid vacancy is slow months. For example, if you manage to fill a vacancy in December, the last thing you want is to deal with marketing it again during the offseason. So, instead of 12 months, try a 16-month lease to set yourself up better to be on the market and ready for peak leasing season.
- Consider Short Term Renewals – If tenants do have a 12-month lease ending in the offseason, consider offering a short-term renewal. A renewal of 5,6 or 9 months sets landlords up to be in line with peak season. If tenants decide to still stay after that short renewal, continue with a 12-month term to keep them in peak season. When they do decide to vacate – you will be in a much better place! This is a great option for stave off those offseason woes.
Tips for Marketing to Filling Vacancy in the Offseason
A potential vacancy is an anxiety-inducing thought for landlords any time of the year, especially during the slower winter months. Therefore, making the most of your marketing during this time is essential to filling a vacancy. Please continue reading for our top marketing tips for filling vacancy quickly in the offseason.
- Get Ready for Turnover
- Be Where Tenants are Looking
- Stand Out from the Competition
- Be Quick to Respond
- Provide Convenient Showings
- Prepare and Sell
- Follow Up
- Hire Professionals
Get Ready for Turnover
Once notice is received, landlords must hit the ground running because the clock is ticking. As soon as you can, get eyes on the property via an inspection. This will help you anticipate and preschedule any maintenance that is needed to prepare for new tenants. Remember, time is money, so the quicker you can turn the property around, the sooner a new tenant can take up residence.
Be Where Tenants are Looking
This is the age of online and mobile marketing. With most prospects turning to online searches to find their next home, take advantage of free listing sites. Popular sites like Craigslist, Apartments.com, Zillow, and Trulia offer access to a wide range of potential tenants. Other more locally targeted options, such as social media communities and college campus message boards, can also be beneficial advertising outlets depending on the local market.
Stand Out from the Competition
Top-quality photos are a must, along with a dynamic description to highlight the rental property. The goal is to be concise in accurately describing features while still selling the appeal of local amenities. Pictures will grab a prospect’s attention, but a well-written description ticking all of the boxes they are looking for will entice them to reach out for more information. Additionally, several free sites offer ways to create a custom 3D virtual tour of your listing, further adding to the appeal. Check out these quick examples of marketing descriptions below:
- Mediocre Description: 1 Bedroom Condo in Washington, DC – $2100/mo. Combined kitchen/dining and 1 full bath. Call to schedule a showing.
- Dynamic Description: Light-filled 1 Bed/1 Bath Condo in Dupont Circle with hardwood flooring throughout! Fully-equipped kitchen/dining combo offers stainless appliances, breakfast island, and granite countertops. Spacious bedroom with ample closet storage leads to a modern fully-renovated spa bath. Boutique building boasts 24hr concierge and walking distance to area restaurants, transit, and attractions. Check out our 3-D Virtual Tour or call today to schedule a showing!
Keep in mind, as a landlord; you are not just renting your property; you are selling a lifestyle. Neighborhood amenities are just as vital to the ones located inside your rental. Highlight local conveniences that will appeal to prospective renters in the area.
Be Quick to Respond
As prospective tenants search for their next rental home, they are likely reaching out to several listings at a time. If you are slow to respond as a landlord, tenants will move on. So, especially during slower months when leads are scarce, response time must be efficient and timely. Therefore, check emails or messages frequently and create personal responses. Personal responses start off on the right foot by connecting with tenants through the use of their names and addressing any specific questions they may have. Steer clear of generic cookie cutter replies or mass email blasts.
Provide Convenient Showings
Attention span in the rental industry can be fleeting, and as we mentioned, prospects are looking at more than one place. Be flexible enough to work with the client’s schedule as much as possible while making your trip worthwhile. Ideally, stack back to back showings to be convenient for you but also create a sense of urgency among those who come to the showings. This is a tip that is especially helpful if you have tenants still in place. Consolidating showings creates as little disruption as possible while still accomplishing a goal.
Prepare and Sell
Arrive early to showings to ensure the property temperature is comfortable, it is clean, smells nice, and is ready for tours. Additionally, bright spaces look more inviting, so open up the blinds and turn on lighting throughout the home. Once prospective tenants arrive, be friendly and energetic. Focus on the highlights of your rental property and why the location could work for the prospects. Fair Housing Laws in mind, make sure every tenant gets the same tour and information in addition to answering any specific questions they may have.
After tenants have come for a showing, do not forget to follow up! Reach out with a friendly and professional message to thank them for their interest, solicit any further questions, and invite them to fill out an application. This small gesture is important to extending the connection you have built up until this point. It shows prospective tenants that you, as a landlord, are attentive and professional.
Not every landlord has the time and energy needed to market a property effectively during the offseason or peak season. Following up on leads, conducting showings, managing ads, screening applications, and completing turnover tasks is a time-consuming endeavor. If you do not have that kind of time, consider hiring professionals. An established property management company will have both the support staff and know-how needed to rent your investment property efficiently. Professionals have more experience writing listings, taking photos, and getting the listing notice plus the time to maximize responses to every lead. Once the property is rented, the benefits do not end there.
Professional services handle scheduling repairs, inspections, rent collection, tenant correspondence, and compliance issues, just to name a few. Shop around and interview various companies to find the best services available within your budget.
Offseason Improvements To Your Rental Property
The offseason offers a good opportunity to improve your rental property if your time and budget allow. A slower time of year allows you to make some improvements to boost your investment property value while also making it more appealing to prospects. Consider investing in these upgrades below:
- Painting – Touchups are a necessary part of the turnover process, but a full repaint is necessary every now and then. A fresh coat of durable and neutral paint automatically makes your home seem updated and modern to potential applicants.
- Refresh the Baths – Even small changes can completely change the look of a bathroom. Replacing dated fixtures, adding a new vanity mirror, freshening the paint, or updating a light fixture can be small but effective investments.
- Flooring – Remove tired and dated carpeting and replace it as needed. If there are existing hardwood floors, simply buffing or refinishing can make a world of difference in overall appearance and subsequently appeal.
In the offseason, every lead counts. As a landlord, how you prepare for and pursue those leads will make all the difference. Are you feeling overwhelmed or concerned about maintaining cashflow through the Winter months? Reach out to a professional property management company ready, willing, and able to effectively market your investment property. Bay Property Management Group is the area’s leading authority on full-service property management in Washington DC as well as throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania. Give us a call today to see what our dedicated staff can offer your portfolio.