Finding the Suite Spot

character_dessert_800_wht_17709We frequently get calls from frustrated landlords who have had their ads running for months and are wondering why their property isn’t renting. Although there are many excuses that can be made in this economy – we have found the simplest explanation is that most properties (excluding the executive rental market) have a sweet/suite spot, and the frustrated landlords haven’t yet found it.
How do you hit the suite/sweet spot?
To start, you need to ensure you’ve:

  • taken professional quality pictures of your property that show off it’s features and benefits, and placed them in a logical sequence (imagine you are walking through your property, pictures should follow the same flow)
  • written a compelling advertisement that appeals to the type of the tenant you want to live in your property (don’t write a boring grocery list – really think like the tenant, and have your ad align with and speak to their needs and wants, do check your spelling and grammar)
  • written a short punchy title that covers your property’s main selling features (i.e. You’ll fall in love with this trendy and bright furnished northeast condo, Have it all! Luxurious SW 1-bedroom condo with amazing amenities & location)
  • posted your ads in well trafficked online publications (Rentfaster, Rentboard and for lower priced properties – Kijiji)
  • fixed and cleaned everything in your property so that it’s in sparking condition (yes, there is a LOT of competition and a clean, well maintained property will rent over a messy/dirty property 100% of the time)
  • a timely system for answering email and phone inquiries (within a few hours)

Once you’ve completed your pictures and ads, monitor your ads – are they generating healthy viewing stats; 80- 100’s of views within a few days of posting an online ad? If so, you’re getting close.
If not – recheck your wording/have someone objective read it to give you an honest opinion. You may need to tweak the wording, or if the ad is well written, try switching your main picture.
We had advertised a suite with a great kitchen as the main picture, and weren’t getting much response. I decided to switch the main picture to the front entrance which boasted an eye catching red door and colourful wall hangings – people started calling.
Have people been picking up the phone to book viewings? If so, you’re getting closer. If not, you’ll want to take a closer look at your price; is it in the same range as other properties in the area? Try dropping the price by $50 increments/week until your phone starts ringing. Price makes a huge difference, when people search properties within a budget. Searches are done within $50-$100 range (i.e. 1600 – 1650 or 1700 – 1800). When you hit the right price, people will call.
We have friends who were renting their lovely 2 story home in a well-established NW Calgary neighborhood. They checked prices of similar houses in the same neighborhood and lowered their price to match, within 2 weeks over Christmas (the worst time of year for renting) they had it rented. They called to share their amazement with me, I said, clearly you found the suite spot on your first try. Well done.
During/after viewings, are people filling in applications to rent? If so – you’ve hit the suite spot! If not, listen to the types of comments people make when viewing the property – what are they saying? Old appliances? Bad smell in the entrance? Too pricey for the size? They’ll tell you – pay attention and fix those things or adjust the price. I would prefer to spend a bit of money on improvements and get more desirable tenants applying for rent. If repainting the entrance, replacing the carpets, or replacing a few older appliances with stainless steel gets your property rented and your tenants paying your mortgage, it’s worth the cost. As a landlord, I really don’t enjoy listening to negatives about my properties, however, paying the mortgage I like even less, so I choose to listen and get them rented!
A couple of years ago I was having difficulty renting a basement suite in my Fort McMurray property. I asked my property manager to call me back with the comments after each showing. The comments indicated there were larger basement suites for lower prices, and that the suite was cold. I had the property manager drop the price, change the wording from 2 bedroom to 1 bedroom plus den, and turn the heaters on an hour before showings, and yes, it rented.
Incentives are something else landlords frequently ask about – our experience has been incentives are not great for attracting tenants, We’ve found good tenants who wanted to take the property would take it regardless of the free cable, or $100 visa card. We prefer to offer incentives as rewards for great long term tenants (stay tuned for our next article), and yes you can and should mention that in your ad.
The long and short is that people are still moving for the same reasons people moved prior to the economic downturn – new jobs, divorce, marriage, downsizing, upsizing, desire to live closer to friends, family or schools/kids activities, or to live in a nicer neighborhood. Regardless of their reasons for moving, if your property is in the suite spot, it’ll rent.