Attracting the Right Tenant

By: Michael Peterson

Only 30% of Americans rent, which makes the rental market a specialized market with a variety of niches. If you want your suite, apartment or house to rent quickly and stay rented, the first step is understanding this market. Quite simply, a well-targeted unit will bring in more rental applications and stay rented longer because it gives people what they need. Even in a housing market that has a low vacancy rate, attracting good tenants is always a good idea.

Finding the balance between who the renters are and who you want to rent to will determine a number of things. Once you know the tenant you're attracting, you can evaluate whether or not your suite has what they'll be looking for. Should you upgrade? Divide your rental house into smaller units? Lower the rent? Raise the rent? Don't skip this step! You can always add features or change your tactics.

WHO ARE THE RENTERS IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

The following list describes some common tenants and what they typically look for. Use it to get an idea of where to start when choosing the right tenant:

THE SINGLE STUDENT

If you have a small suite in a good location, this renter can be a good bet. Your suite will have to be on a major bus route or close to the school if you want to be in demand though. Your rent will also have to be affordable. Other than this - the single student doesn't really need much. What they need:

>>Close proximity to college or university (walk or bike) OR Funky location along a major bus route

>>Cheap rent

>>Other bonuses include: internet connection, good cell phone reception, other students or social hub nearby, close to library, walking distance to grocery store, pet friendliness.

The single student doesn't really ask for much. Often the thrill of living on their own for the first time is enough. Drawback: Though usually stable through the school year (September - May) the student will often pick up stakes and move back home when the school year is over.

Where to advertise: Online, housing boards at colleges and universities, local papers.

THE ROOMMATES (3 or MORE)

Think of this group of renters as a pseudo family because that's often how they see themselves. Banding together for economy and companionship, the roommates are simply looking for a home. Though they are sometimes students, this group will be looking for more than the single student renter: features like yards, workshops or basements that can be used as common areas are bonuses. What they need:

>>Space (three bedrooms or more plus common areas)

>>Economy: Rent that's cheaper per person than a one bedroom or bachelor unit

>>Close to bus route or walk to town

>>A house or suite that has a good balance of style, flexibility or urban location. Internet connection and good cell phone reception are bonuses.

If the roommates have a strong leader that you communicate well with, this group can take care of and keep your property rented steadily for years. When the house line-up inevitably changes, the leader will make sure rent still gets paid. Keep an eye out for the groups who are looking for a 'home' as opposed to those who are looking to 'party.' The former will plant gardens and paint rooms if you let them, the latter will just trash the place.

Where to advertise: Online, local papers, housing boards at colleges and universities, outside the unit, on local bulletin boards.

THE SINGLE-PARENT OR YOUNG FAMILY

The single-parent family or young family can make great tenants. Usually stable, long-term renters that will not trash your house, these people are looking for a safe place for the children that can be afforded on a single income. What they need:

>>Space (two bedrooms or more plus common areas)

>>A yard or close proximity to parks, places to ride bikes, swim, hike etc.

>>Walking distance to schools

>>Rent that can be afforded on a single income

>>Appliances: fridge and stove essential. Unless your suite is next to a Laundromat, a washer dryer or W?D hook up is also essential. Dishwasher is a bonus.

A suburban location that students and young professionals are not usually attracted to will suit these renters. They will often (but not always!) sacrifice style for security, so if your house is in good shape but a bit out of style, consider these tenants.

Places to advertise: online, local papers, supermarket and community bulletin boards, outside the unit, local schools

THE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

The young professional and the young professional couple can pay a little more, but usually demand a little more as well. Fortunately, more is relative. These tenants don't have children which gives them great flexibility when it comes to space and location. They don't need a big property or lots of rooms. They don't need low rent. Studio spaces suit them fine. Luxury suites are nice. Rooms with views and atmosphere are attractive. Funky character suites are awesome. Rentals that are close to places to spend their money are good also. What they need:

>>Lifestyle through design: stylish living for these tenants is all in the details. Does your unit have high ceilings or a great view? Have you included extra appliances or high-end features? Is there a bidet, Jacuzzi or claw foot tub? Does the refrigerator make ice? These things matter and will allow you to charge a bit more. Do what you can to add beauty to your rental unit if you want to attract this tenant.

>>Lifestyle through location: an urban location is always an easy sell for this tenant. Usually close to work with access to nightlife and shops city dwellers may forgo design features in order to be close to the action.

Lifestyle is the number one criteria for this renter. The good news is that almost any unit can be renovated to attract them and rent can be raised accordingly. But do your homework! The competition here is fierce and includes starter homes and condos, which many in this group are ready to buy. Before you dump all kinds of money into renovations, make sure there aren't large numbers of "lifestyle" apartments and suites going un rented in your area.

Where to advertise: Online is very effective for this group especially when you include photos; local papers.

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