How to Write Rental Ads for Income Challenged Neighborhoods

2016-04-25

How to Write Rental Ads for Income Challenged Neighborhoods

Hint: low-income people are just like everyone else, but with less money.

a comic reading 'If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they'd punch you in the face.Advertising is all about matching the message you’re sending to the audience you’re sending it to. If you’re advertising a multi-million dollar villa on the French Riviera, you want your message to be focused on everything someone moving to the French Riviera wants: relaxation, culture, luxury, and so on. But what do you want your message to contain when you’re advertising to people whose primary concern is that they don’t have a lot of money?

The Three Foci of Low Income
When you’re low on money, there are three concerns that bubble up to the surface no matter what the other aspects of your life:

  1. Is this expenditure going to provide practical value?
  2. Is this expenditure going to make and/or save me money compared to my current circumstances?
  3. Is this expenditure going to fit within my conceivable budget?

Budgetary Concerns
To be honest, as a property manager, you run properties for clients that have specific ideas of how much money they’re going to make, and to a degree, you don’t have a lot of control over the amount of money they want to charge for the rent. You can manage their expectations somewhat, but in the end, they’re going to decide what to charge, and you’re going to have to let the home’s failure to attract a tenant teach them.

All this means that, when it comes to fitting a home within a limited budget, there’s not a lot of wiggle room: either it’ll fit, or it won’t.  So the only thing you can do in terms of advertising is ensure that the rent and other associated costs (application fee, security deposit, pet deposit, and so on) are prominently displayed on your ad and are non-negotiable.

Saving them Money
There are a lot of ways in which a move to a new home can represent savings to a renter. It can be nearer to their work and thus save gas money and car repair bills. It can have more efficient insulation and thus save heating and cooling costs. It can be in a neighborhood with lower water/sewer/garbage costs. It can be closer to amenities (groceries are the big one), and thus require less time and gas to obtain food, and so on.

You can convey these potential savings in a rental advertisement by clearly laying out the home’s proximity to certain features, including:

  • The nearest entrance onto a major thoroughfare, preferably a highway;
  • The nearest access to groceries, drugstores, and fast food;
  • The nearest elementary, middle, and high schools;
  • Whether or not any of the major utilities (esp. W/S/G) are included in the rent;
  • And so on.

Practical Value
Here’s where a low-income-oriented advertisement has a chance to shine. It’s hard to say exactly what ‘practical value’ consists of, given that every tenant brings a unique set of needs and circumstances with them. But then, it’s not your job to convince them of a specific practical value — it’s your job as the ad-writer to get them to envision their lives in that home. That will enable them to create their own sense of practical value.

By describing linoleum as easy-to-clean, a flat grassy lawn as low-maintenance, a formal dining room as guest-friendly, and so on, you can give the attributes of the home a form that will enable the reader to find the practicality inherent in any home. You might advertise a home on the French Riviera in terms of how relaxing it would be to sip a mojito on the balcony watching the sunset, but you want to advertise a home in Detroit in terms of how close it is to downtown (their job), how little time they’ll have to spend scrubbing the bathtub, and how convenient it’ll be to go shopping for necessities. These are the details that matter to people on a tight budget.

Ultimately, financial challenges create stress, and the more you can show the potential tenant how their home will relieve that stress by making life easier, faster, and less expensive, the more attractive your home will be to a low-budget renter. It’s that simple.

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