How to Write Rental Ads that Work

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How to Write Rental Ads that Work

Property Management

A few years back we had a vacancy in one of the units we own in Kelowna, BC. This property is right by the beach, steps from great shopping and dining, and was priced right, according to our property manager and our own research. The rental market was slow, but it was not getting any interest so we knew there was an issue.

Whenever we’re having trouble renting out a property we troubleshoot the issues in this order:

  1. How many calls / emails are we getting in response to our ad? If we are getting less than we should given the rental market conditions (e.g. vacancy rate) there’s an issue with our ad.
  2. How many people have viewed the property?
  3. How many have completed a rental application?

Each question can reveal major issues with your process. For example, if lots of people are viewing the property but not completing an application that can mean the property doesn’t show well, is overpriced for what it is, or that you’re marketing to the wrong people. If you have a lot of calls and emails but nobody is showing up to view the property, there’s an issue with how you’re handling your tenant leads.  (You might want to read 5 Steps to Rent Out Your Property to help you with the entire process or view our video on How to Show A Rental Property).

In the case of the property in Kelowna, we had only had two calls and one showing in almost a month. There was CLEARLY an issue with the ad. As it turned out, there were three key issues with the ad. First, the ad was placed in apartments when it was a suite in a house. It was also a horribly written ad with embarrassingly bad photos. No wonder nobody was calling!

Our realtor in Kelowna was generous enough to pop in and take some great photos for us and I rewrote the ads and posted them in all the appropriate places with directions to call our property manager. The place was rented in less than a week after that.

Obviously having your ads in the right place with the right message is fundamental to your success and that is what I want to help you with today. If your ads aren’t getting a very good response it means you need to do a marketing refresher and get good at writing copy.

What is copy? It’s simply the words you use to entice your ideal prospective tenant to want to see your property.

The biggest issue almost every rental ad on the internet faces is that they have not targeted a prospective tenant. They put a few facts out about the property, post a couple of mediocre pictures and call it a day. Then, after six weeks they wonder why their home is not renting.  Here’s an example I just found online. It’s not a horrible ad – it’s a typical ad. The problem is that unless you’re in a wildly hot rental market, typical ads aren’t going to work very well. You’re going to find yourself languishing on the rental market for over a month like this person’s ad has been (I know because I’ve seen it around for awhile).

What Not to Write for a Rental Ad

Large 2 Bedroom suite in a lovely house in great area.

Over 1100 square feet of quality living space with open floor plan.

This is a quiet home in a beautiful neighbourhood. Convenient to everything.

Suite has level walkout into the large fenced back yard.

$900 per month plus utilities.


Are you excited yet?

You need to create an ad that grabs attention and compels someone to do exactly what you want them to do. Conveying important information like rent, whether it includes utilities, the size and location of the suite are part of the process, but helping someone figure out if it’s right for them, helping them visualize themselves living there and getting them excited about this rare opportunity are part of it.

There’s a lot to the process and it takes me a few lessons to help our coaching clients write amazing ads, but there are some critical tips that will help you right now. I’ll share those in a minute. First, the best advice I can give you is:

DO NOT look at other ads for inspiration. 95% of the ads online are terrible. They will help you write a terrible ad. Once you start writing your own good ads, you can keep the ones that get a great response and look back on those for your own inspiration (one of my best performers is below for you) but don’t use the other ones on the market unless you want to be back where you started before you read this article.

5 Steps to Write a Rental Ad That Works

Before you begin you need to complete your market research. You have to know what your competitors are charging, featuring and saying. You also need to have a sense of who will want to rent in your area and why. Hopefully you did that BEFORE you bought the property – but if you didn’t – you absolutely need to do that before you try to rent out your property. Once you’re armed with the market intelligence you need here’s what you do:

Step 1: Know WHO you are targeting with your rental ad.

The biggest problem with the ads out there is that they are written for anyone. The reality is that almost every property has an ideal tenant who is best suited to live in and love the property whether it’s a single person, a student, or a young family.

Step 2: Create a PICTURE of what life will be like in this amazing home – make it powerful.

Write to that person and help them picture what life will be like when they live in your property. Know what their needs, pains, wants and problems are and let them know how this home will address many of those issues. When you know you’re targeting a family talk about how great it will feel to be able to watch your kids walk to the award winning school down the street, help them picture the cold winter nights curled up by the fireplace with their family or the romantic evenings on the deck with the ocean view watching the sunset.

Step 3: Explain WHAT they are getting with the home

The features of the home need to be included but they aren’t the way you start the ad. Usually I include them in a bullet point list after I have painted the picture (see example below). The important details are the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, parking information, appliances, costs they will incur in addition to rent (utilities for example), location and anything else of interest or importance (for example do you allow pets).


Sometimes this means you CANNOT take pictures when your tenant is there. Many tenants have a ton of stuff and the cluttered place just does not photograph or show well. We often wait until our tenants move out so we can clean up, repair and get great pictures. Most of our tenants stay for years so it’s worth the month of  vacancy to attract a fabulous tenant – especially if they will stay for 2 or 3 years at least.

But if you don’t want to wait (I totally understand the pressure to rent it out, it’s just that we are super picky these days and find that most places just don’t attract who we want until they are empty), ideally you have some photos from before the tenant moved in when it was vacant and looking good.

NEVER post cluttered, dirty or badly lit pictures. You will attract the kind of tenants you don’t want because I assure you the good ones are looking for bright, clean and cared for properties.

Step 5: Create an EYE CATCHING headline

This is not an eye catching headline “3 Bedroom, 2 Bath Home Recently Updated”.

That blends in beautifully with every other ad out there. Why not go straight to the pain that has them moving? Or start painting that picture for them in the headline. Here’s a few that have worked really well for us:

> > Sick of Sharing Utilities? This Sparkling Clean Home Is ALL Yours

> > Privacy, Space and an Ocean View! Darn Near the Perfect Family Home

> > Work From Home? This Great Home Has a Perfect Office Plus Space For Your Kids

In every case it is fairly obvious who we are targeting. And it gets the attention of everyone, not just that person because it’s different. Capital letters, symbols and other unique features in the headline also work well because few people use them.

There’s a lot more to renting out your property than just a great ad, but if you aren’t getting calls or showing it to anyone then you’re going to have a really big problem so getting this first step right is going to be critical to your success. A little creativity goes a long way. And if you post a creative ad and you don’t start getting calls or emails right away, double check your rent, and if you think it’s on target, maybe tone your ad down a bit. But don’t be afraid to test and try different things. You never know what is going to get attention and get your place rented!

Here’s two of our ads from 2012 that were top performers (some details have been left off either due to the screen display I could select from or to protect the privacy of our property).

Rental Ad Example One (click the ad to enlarge):

A Rental Ad That Works

Rental Ad Example Two (click the ad to enlarge):

Rental Ad Example


Looking for a secret strategy to get great tenants to CALL YOU and ask to rent your property? Become the known real estate investor in your area. Every single week we get a call from a potential tenant or someone with a friend who is looking for a place to rent … it’s all about creating a brand and becoming the known expert.



Image Credit: © Dean Bertoncelj | Dreamstime.com

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If you have questions about points raised in this post, or if you’d like to learn more, then send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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