The ultimate guide to rental property marketing - Total Landlord Insurance

May 31, 2023
The ultimate guide to rental property marketing - Total Landlord Insurance

Read an interactive and user-friendly version of this guide below.

Whether you’re letting out one or two properties or managing a buy to let portfolio, you’ll need to plan how to market and advertise your rental property to find and keep the best tenants. Finding the right tenants should be a key part of your business plan. Creating a business plan might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be – you can download our handy business plan template here.

In our first article in our ‘landlord lifecycle’ series, The ultimate guide to buy to let property investment, we saw that to succeed as a landlord you need to invest in good quality property in an area with strong rental yields and sustainable tenant demand. When it comes to rental property marketing and attracting the best tenants, you need to be thinking about how to meet that tenant demand and reach your ideal tenants. Who are they? How does your rental property meet their needs? Where will you find them? And how will you keep them? The answers to these questions will depend on your rental strategy, which in turn will inform your marketing strategy and help you decide where and how to advertise your rental property.

But where should you begin? We’ve identified seven steps to your rental property marketing so that you attract and retain your ideal tenants.

How to market your rental property to attract and retain good tenants in seven steps:

1. Identify your tenant profile

When it comes to traditional long-term letting, the first step is to identify your target market. Ideally, by the time you come to marketing your property you should already have identified your ideal tenants. For example, you may have chosen to invest in a buy to let in a university town with a view to renting to students. But you may be an accidental landlord, who has perhaps inherited a property which you are now looking to let out. If you’re not yet sure who is likely to be interested in your property, the first thing you need to do is identify who your ‘ideal renter’ would be. This will help you to understand their needs so that you can tailor your marketing effectively. Let’s say your rental property is a three-bedroom semi-detached house in a quiet neighbourhood near schools and parks – in this scenario it would make sense to focus on targeting families. But if you own a studio flat in a city centre, your target tenant is more likely to be a single professional or a young couple. Once you understand who is most likely to be interested in your property, you can start to build up a clearer picture of how to present your property to appeal to their needs and where to advertise your property, depending on which websites and social networks they are likely to use. One of the most important considerations for tenants will be rent affordability. Look at the rent of similar properties in the area to make sure that you remain competitive to your target tenant.

2. Prepare your property to meet your tenant’s needs

The next step is to prepare your property to meet your target tenant’s needs, be it families, young professionals or students. This is a topic we cover in depth in the second article in our ‘landlord lifecycle’ series, The ultimate guide to preparing your property. As well as making sure you’ve got all the legal obligations of being a landlord covered, this is your opportunity to think about what your ideal tenant will be looking for in your property. Let’s say you’re targeting students, you’ll need to make sure you have provided high speed WiFi, a dedicated study space and double beds. Are there any ‘quick wins’ you could invest in to make the property more appealing? For example, could you add any security measures to help your tenants feel safer, particularly if your rental property is in a city. Or are there any green energy or eco updates that might appeal to increasingly environmentally conscious younger tenants? Is there anything you can do to improve kerb appeal and enhance first impressions? When preparing to rent out your property, avoid over-personalising and aim to create a blank canvas. This way, potential tenants will be able to visualise themselves living there and stamp their own mark on the property.

3. Market the features and benefits to your target audience

It’s no use spending time and money preparing your property and including features that you know will appeal to your target market if you don’t highlight them in your marketing. You need to position your property for your audience, so consider the features and benefits that are most relevant to your target tenant and focus on emphasising these in your marketing and advertising, by distilling them into a catchy title and description supported by high quality photographs and, ideally, video.

Photographs of the property will be the first thing that attract tenants, so use high resolution images taken on a bright day with lots of natural light and take time to tidy and rearrange furniture to photograph the best angles. It’s also a good idea to create a video tour or a 360 degree picture – this will make your rental property stand out and will also help you target a wider range of prospective tenants from out of the area. It may also help reduce time on viewings as prospective tenants will be able to assess more accurately whether the property is right for them.

In the description, highlight any key selling points that are unique to your property or will specifically appeal to your target audience. For example, if you’re looking to rent to families with children, point out that the property is in the catchment for an outstanding school and in a friendly neighbourhood with lots of children. Detailed and precise descriptions that are targeted at your specific audience should reduce time wasted on appointments with viewers who arrive only to discover the property is not what they are looking for.

In addition to highlighting the top selling points for your target tenant profile, it’s important to be aware of current trends. For example, preferences for outdoor space and areas for home working are more popular since the pandemic. There has also been a bit of a boom in pet ownership in recent times and this has been accompanied by a shift in government policy to make it easier for tenants with pets to find properties to rent, with an update to the Model Tenancy Agreement which means that landlords have to provide ‘good reason’ to reject a tenant’s request to accommodate pets. Despite this, surveys show that only seven per cent of landlords advertise their properties as suitable for pets, while 40% of UK households own pets. Permitting pets could make commercial sense and offer you a unique selling point when marketing your property, opening the door to a greater number of tenants and making your property more appealing, encouraging loyalty among tenants. This approach may not be suitable for your property and of course there are other considerations in terms of higher wear and tear, but it’s worth thinking about, especially since the Renters (Reform) Bill supports responsible pet owners in the private rented sector - to keep up to date on the latest legislation regarding pets visit our Renters (Reform) Bill hub and read our article, 'Renters (Reform) Bill: will landlords have to accept pets soon?'. You can also find out more in mydeposits guide to lets for pets.

4. Advertise your rental property

Once you’ve identified your target tenant, prepared your property to meet their needs and tailored your messaging, you need to find your tenants. But how should you reach them? Gone are the days when the main forms of advertising a property to rent were a ‘To let’ notice outside the property or a generic advertisement in the local newspaper. That said, these more traditional forms of advertising may still have their place – it all depends on who you are targeting - but you need to tailor your approach. If you’re hoping to reach students or young professionals, for example, digital and social media marketing are likely to be a more suitable approach than print marketing. The other key consideration is whether you’re planning on using a letting agent to find your tenants. First, let’s take a look at finding tenants without an agent.

Finding tenants without an agent

If you are opting for a ‘do it yourself’ approach rather than using a letting agent to find your tenants, you will need a targeted and proactive strategy along with a solid understanding of the local neighbourhood. This approach may be less suitable if you are not in the same area as your rental property as you’ll need to be available to respond to queries and take prospective tenants on viewings, unless you arrange for someone else to do that for you.

Set up a website

If you have a portfolio of rental properties, it may be worth setting up a website where you can list the details of your properties with good quality images and floor plans. However, unless you can do this yourself, this will incur the costs of a website designer and you will also need to think about how you are going to attract traffic to your website. All of this is likely to cost more money, so you need to weigh up whether it would be cheaper and more convenient to use an agent.

Advertise on property listings sites

You can list your property for free on platforms such as OpenRent, who, for a fee, will also advertise it for you on other property sites where landlords can’t advertise directly, such as Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation. For DIY landlords who don’t want to use a letting agent, the fixed-price advertising deals offered by third parties can be a cost-effective means of reaching a wide audience.

If you are targeting students is the UK’s number one student accommodation property portal. As a landlord you can advertise directly to students across all UK university towns and cities and you don’t need to use a third party to advertise, so it’s a cheap and convenient way of reaching your target market.

Advertising a short-term or holiday let

If you are marketing a short-term let or a holiday let, you’re likely to be using a third party platform, such as Airbnb, to market your property. Customers visiting the site will be looking specifically for a short-term let and you’ll need to make sure you highlight the unique features of your property and present it in the best light to stand out from competitors. All you need to do is upload your photos and you can personalise your listing to suit your needs. Airbnb makes its money by charging a service fee when someone books your property. Good quality photos and excellent reviews are the key to success when using Airbnb, so prioritise outstanding customer service and excellent communication by being responsive to guests.  Read our ultimate guide to short term let and Airbnb insurance for more information.

If you’re renting out a holiday home, remember that standard home insurance and most standard landlord insurance policies will not provide cover. At Total Landlord, we can offer a tailored UK holiday home insurance policy that provides comprehensive cover, whether you use your home purely for your family, or you let it out for short term holidays. Our UK holiday home insurance provides comprehensive cover for up to 10 paying guests, including accidental and malicious damage.

Use social media

Social media can be a very effective way for landlords to advertise their rental property – it’s free, quick and a great way to share photos and videos (which often rank higher than still images) of your property. However, always bear in mind who you are targeting and focus your efforts accordingly. Younger people tend to use Instagram, which also has the advantage of being very visual, while the middle aged and older people are more likely to use Facebook. Once you’ve set up social media accounts for your properties, make sure you keep them updated and encourage friends and family to share your listings. You might also consider some paid for advertising to boost your posts, otherwise, unless you have a high number of followers, you won’t reach that many people. However, remember that you can also post on local buy and sell groups in your area and keep your posts active by responding to comments and adding high quality photos of the selling points.

Advertise in the local press

Advertising property to let in the local newspaper used to be a no brainer. But in today’s digital age, where nine out of 10 tenants start their search online, the local press simply can’t compete when it comes to reach and engagement, and neither do they offer the opportunity to share videos and multiple images of the property. However, depending on where your property is located and who you are targeting, an ad in the local paper might be worth doing alongside other activity. For example, this might be appropriate in a rural area where you are targeting an older tenant.

Word of mouth

Asking friends to share details of your rental property both online and in person, and encouraging word of mouth is another way to get your property noticed. For example, if you have a family house to let, you could ask friends with children to spread the word in local schools and playgroups.

To let sign

Don’t rule out the simple ‘to let’ sign outside the property. It might just work!

Using a letting agent to find tenants

You also have the option of using a letting agent to find your tenants. Although this will cost you money, for busy landlords who don’t have time to manage their property, or live out of the area, a letting agent may well be the most suitable option, whether on a let only or a fully managed service. UK private rented sector legislation is increasingly complex and landlords who don’t comply risk hefty fines, so in the long run, a letting agent may turn out to be a cost-effective choice. But it is important to choose your agent wisely and carry out due diligence on the agent to minimise risks. Make sure that they are a member of a redress scheme such as the Property Redress Scheme and a client money protection scheme such as Client Money Protect, both part of the HFIS group.  Don’t just choose an agent because they are the cheapest – ask about their fees and what services they offer for the fee. Our Ultimate landlord guide to choosing a letting agent is packed with guidance to help you decide whether a letting agent is right for you.

5. Be prepared for viewings

You only get one chance to make a first impression so, once you’ve secured a viewing it’s important to make sure you’re available at a time to suit your prospective tenant. This may well be during an evening or a weekend. It goes without saying that you need to keep the property clean and aired, especially if it’s been unoccupied. Make sure you can answer questions about topics that tenants are likely to be interested in, such as where the nearest amenities are. You may find it helpful to create a checklist, looking at your rental property from the viewer’s perspective with fresh eyes - if a room is dark, leave a light on, if it’s noisy with the window open, close the window. Aim to provide prospective tenants with a blank canvas by removing your everyday personal effects.

While it’s important that you and your property make a good impression on a prospective tenant, the viewing is also an opportunity for you to assess whether they are suitable. Criminals and serial fraudsters will go to great lengths to portray themselves as the ideal tenant. Some red flags to look out for which you might spot during a viewing include offers to pay several months’ rent in advance and putting you under pressure, wanting to move in straight away, which can be a sign that they are attempting to circumvent the referencing process. It’s important to be mindful that if a prospective tenant is showing any of these red flags, you should listen to your gut instinct and, if in any doubt, don’t go ahead with the tenancy. Due to the current rental stock shortage there are in most areas more people looking for properties to rent than there are properties on the market, so the chances are you will have other tenants interested in your property.

A robust referencing process will actually reassure an honest tenant that they are dealing with a professional landlord so don’t be tempted to cut corners when it comes to vetting a prospective tenant. If a bad tenant causes malicious damage to your rental property, you’ll need to provide evidence that you carried out a robust referencing process.

Steve Barnes, Head of Broking at Total Landlord, explains: “Our Premier policy offers protection against malicious damage by tenants and their guests, as well as loss of rent resulting from the need to carry out repairs. But for a claim to be successful, you’ll need to provide evidence that you did all you could to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.”

You can find out all you need to know about referencing in The ultimate guide to tenant referencing.

6. Prepare a welcome pack

Your marketing efforts have paid off - you’ve successfully secured your ideal tenant and they’re ready to move in. However, tenants often only see a property once before they move in, and it can look very different with the previous tenants’ belongings gone. They may also be unfamiliar with the local area and if you’ve used an agent, they might not have a direct connection with you, the landlord. At Total Landlord, we recommend that you provide your tenants with a welcome pack – it will help to get things off on the right foot by establishing a healthy business relationship with your tenants and demonstrating that you are keen to provide a good service. A welcome pack should include a combination of legal and administrative essentials such as the tenancy agreement and the inventory, as well as useful advice and tips on the local area. You could also provide a few thoughtful touches like a bottle of bubbly or a bunch of flowers to make them feel welcome on move in day. For a comprehensive guide to what to include in a welcome pack read our article, Why you need a tenant welcome pack and what you should include. To take the hassle out of creating a welcome pack, we’ve designed an easy-to-use template.

7. Resolve issues quickly and communicate with your tenants

Providing your tenants with a welcome pack should have a positive impact on your relationship with them and may even encourage your tenants to stay longer. But as the tenancy progresses, it’s important to make sure you resolve any issues quickly and maintain clear lines of communication with your tenants. Remember, buy to let is a business and it’s important to treat your tenants as customers if you want to retain them. If they have a query or an issue, responding promptly and effectively is the equivalent of top notch customer service. Set parameters from the outset – let your tenants know how they can contact you and how quickly you’ll be able to respond. Then, make sure you stick to them.

We recommend inspecting the property within a month of your tenants moving in and then around every six months after that – this will give you an opportunity to check they’ve settled in and offer them the chance to ask any questions. Of course, you need to give them proper notice and not turn up unannounced, but other than that, try not to interfere.

A month or two before the tenancy expires, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your tenant to see whether they are planning to extend their contract. If you’ve followed the steps outlined here, there’s a good chance they will be happy to stay, but you could offer an incentive to renew before the tenancy ends, such as keeping the rent the same or offering to give the living room a lick of paint.

Having a clear strategy for marketing your property to attract and retain good tenants is essential for landlords looking to minimise voids and make a profit. Securing good, reliable tenants who are a perfect match for your property is key to a successful and stress-free tenancy and, ultimately, to your bottom line as a landlord. Once you’ve found a good tenant, it’s worth going the extra mile to keep them. For more information on being a good landlord, read our guide, The basics of being a good landlord.


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