This is an article from our regular real estate columnist Rachelle.
Essential to the process of attracting the best of tenants is preparing your house or apartment for rent. Great tenants have many viable alternatives to your rental so getting them to pick your place over the others is vital.
Whether I am in charge of filling a high vacancy building or filling one apartment, I always ask myself, “Why would I rent this? What is more attractive about this location?“ These are the points I will bring up to potential renters when I am showing the place.
Presentation is Key
The first point is that to successfully rent to our target tenant, cognitive dissonance needs to be eliminated. Cognitive dissonance is the awful feeling you get when you are asked to believe two conflicting ideas. In an apartment it can happen as someone tells you what a great space this is to live while showing you a dirty filthy place. That’s just one example. Our goal is a seamless presentation of your rental as a great place to live.
Avoid Showings on Garbage Day
I try to avoid showing a house on garbage day. Of course people know that garbage goes out every week, but as they walk down the street smelling everyone’s organic bin their subconscious mind is registering the entire street as messy.
Pay attention to the outside appearance. Are there unsightly weeds? Is your other tenant hanging out in front drinking beer and changing their oil? Is your railing rusty and require another coat of paint? Is there renovation garbage? Is the lawn mowed? Do you have nice bright flowers out front?
This is often a forgotten area. Is it clean? Is it in good condition? Is the flooring nice? Does it need paint? You don’t want to turn people off before they even reach the apartment. It has to be nice and clean and hopefully smell good. If you have a common laundry area it should also look bright and inviting. Any garbage should be removed and the machines should be clean inside and out.
The space must be clean and organized. I will show a place under renovation or with the old tenant still in the unit but the apartment must be clean and in good condition. Hopefully the old tenant has designer furniture and is a clean freak. A few months ago an owner convinced me to show a place with a motorcycle in the dining room andl DJ equipment in the living room. Not surprisingly, it didn’t rent. Unless you are in an extremely high demand area, if the place smells like old laundry and is not impeccably clean and look almost staged, you are just wasting your time. People renting have to picture their belongings and themselves in the space. If it’s disgusting, they aren’t going to do that. Of course, if they are being evicted from their last place they are willing to overlook just about anything.
Clean, clean, clean
I’m not sure you noticed but I’ve said clean about a hundred times already. I could probably say it another hundred times and not say it enough. Nothing will kill a potential rental as quickly as dirt of any kind. Your basement apartment doesn’t have to be the Taj Mahal but it does have to be clean. I’m not a neatnik myself, but I’ve seen “the look” of disgust cross people’s face enough times to know what I’m talking about.
Dirty baths are really high up on that list…. your potential tenant is imagining taking a nice long bath in their new apartment and sees that your tub has a nice dark ring around it and a few dead bugs in the bottom. Next thing you know the showing is over in a hurry.
Good to great tenants will not rent a place that is full of other people’s filth. They don’t have to. Cleanliness is the number one complaint I get about other people’s apartments. People will compliment me on the cleanliness of the apartment because I’ve already had this talk with the owner and the place is impeccable.
Here’s my list of spots people look and landlords overlook:
- Reglaze the tub if it’s gross
- Window sills are often a final resting place for insects
- Kitchen cabinets – inside. It’s not uncommon to find stains and dirt inside or bugs. Paint the bottom white.
- You’ve swept all the dirt into a nice pile… then you leave the pile and the broom just sitting there. Get rid of it.
- Bath tiles – These can also be reglazed if they are ugly for a lot cheaper than replacement.
- Bath cabinet – Under. Like kitchen cabinets paint white
- Closets – Every closet will be opened and checked out
- Appliance drawers specifically the one under the stove
There’s a reason that beige is the standard colour for apartments. Two-tone paint jobs bring into relief your trim and doors and generally make the place look nicer. If you have small baseboards you don’t want to draw attention to or it’s a basement then white throughout will make the place look bigger and brighter.
Beige is boring but it matches every colour out there and doesn’t offend anyone. Save your fancy paint design ambitions for your own house. Personally I love green. My house is a sage green colour that I find very soothing. There are people for whom living in a green house is the visual equivalent of nails on a chalk board. So choose a nice neutral light beige. I like a colour called Informal Ivory.
Your appearance also matters. Save the sweats and baseball cap for after the apartment is rented. You don’t need to be dressed up but your clothes and hair should not reflect that you’ve been cleaning spiders under the stairwell. Choosing something that would be appropriate at the office is a good guideline.
In a competitive market a seamless presentation is important. Lets face it – most apartments in buildings look quite similar. The devil is in the details and when you are seeing a place every single day, you don’t notice the little things anymore. It takes a conscious effort to notice. Small simple adjustments can mean the difference between renting this month or next. It’s the difference between ok tenants and great tenants. Excuses don’t matter just get it done.
About the Author: Rachelle specializes in renting property on behalf of landlords. She also works with investors to find good investments in Toronto and surrounding areas. Her passion is bringing multi res properties back from the brink and maximizing profitability. Check out some of her other real estate posts.