Why Isn’t My Property Renting? Part I: Marketing Evaluation
Did you know you can market wrong before you ever start marketing?
You can imagine that every property manager gets this question on a regular basis. And we do! Yet, somehow, there’s not a whole lot of information on the subject out there. So we’re going to give you a short series this month on exactly why a property might not be renting. We’re starting today with a little bit about the Marketing Evaluation phase of the Marketing Process.
Every property goes through the cycle of tenancy. It starts when the property is empty, either because you just purchased it or because the previous tenant just moved out. The next steps, in order, are:
- Inspecting the property to see what needs to be fixed and what opportunities for improvements can be taken advantage of.
- Deciding if the property is in good enough condition to advertise while some minor repairs are being made, or if it’s so trashed you’d be embarrassed to show it to a bum!
- Getting necessary/approved repairs made and/or improvements built.
- Having pictures taken of the property that reflect its current appearance.
Every one of those steps takes time and may actually be a process in and of itself. Rushing through these steps and marketing a property when it’s really not ready, may result in so much negative feedback that the property takes much longer to rent – often at a lower than desired rent.
So, let’s go through each of the steps:
It’s fairly easy, when walking through a property, to look at everything obvious and decide whether the house can you’ve got a pretty decent house in front of you. But there are always things that aren’t obvious, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can overlook something that will render the house unrentable between your inspection and the first showing. Common examples include (but are hardly limited to!):
- Missing a drip under one of the sinks that causes the undercarriage of the cabinetry to swell up and either warp hideously or rot out,
- Not checking inside the garage, only to have the first open house reveal that the prior tenants left it roof-deep in trash,
- Not walking the perimieter and center of each room and thus missing a soft spot or noticeable slope that will scare away a potential renter, or
- Not opening the fridge and/or oven — same deal as the garage, but much more disgusting.
Again, it’s a cinch that many managers reading this have an attitude that if the contractor has been out there and they say the job is done, it’s done and marketing pictures can be scheduled. Obviously, the photographer will catch anything that’s clearly not actually done, right? –Well, no. Unless your photographer also happens to be a property inspector, they’re quite likely to notice the aesthetic details but completely miss something ‘behind the scenes’ like the fact that the contractors failed to reattach the left panel of that stunning 15-foot-wide mirror in the living room, and it’s just sitting there loose and waiting to fall on an unsuspecting applicant at the first showing.
At the minimum, require your contractors to send you video evidence that the job is done and the cleanup is complete. We’ve seen too many jobs where the contractor declared the tasklist complete, but we had to order a second contractor to come in and do a trashout before we could show the place — asking for video evidence almost entirely eliminates that.
Certainly that same photographer can’t really do the same kind of damage to your advertising process that a bad contractor or a inattentive inspector can? That’s correct — they can do far worse. On most sites, a surfer sees the ‘main’ picture of your property before they even see your headline. Also, many home hunters have learned through painful experience that words easily lie, but photos have a much harder time of it; they give pictures far more weight than they give text.
This means that marketing pictures — especially the ones that get the most attention (front-of-house, kitchen, bathroom, basement, and garage) — will cripple your chances of getting a tenant in quickly if the pictures are bad ones. And there’s only so much that you can do with Photoshop after the fact! Every photographer needs to be familiar with the basic concepts of
- Establishing a shot free of unnecessary clutter (forget staging, “no trash” is more than enough),
- Arranging lighting so that there are no massive shadows that disrupt your pictures,
- Shooting every angle of a room so that the ad writer can choose shots that convey as much as possible about the space, and
- Holding their camera (phone, most often), perfectly vertical and taking each shot with their breath held and elbows tucked in to avoid blur.
These are the problems you really don’t want to have crop up during the Marketing process, as each of them requires you to take several steps back and re-start something you thought was done (and paid for!) Engage yourself in making sure that these steps get cared for in their entirety the first time through — parts II and III are a little more forgiving.