Renting a home in the winter? Don’t panic!
Fall and winter are my favorite time a year. The air is crisp, the holidays are upon us and ski season is getting started. However, as a real estate agent that represents landlords, this time can be stressful. Maintenance issues can intensify; roofs leak, storms hit, gutters clog, and pipes can freeze. Beyond these issues, winter is perceived as a horrible time to rent a home, so many landlords live in fear of a winter vacancy.
Here are some winter tips for landlords:
Do not panic. First off, if you are renting a home in the winter, do not panic. Panicking can cause a landlord to do things they know they should not do. Such as renting to an under qualified applicant because they are afraid they will not be able to get the property rented. If you are offering a nice home that is priced correctly you will be able to find a qualified tenant to rent the property.
Panic is a reaction to fear, and we should not manage our rental [or any investment for that matter] in fear. It is true days on market do tend to increase during the winter, but properties do still rent all year long. I have managed hundreds of rental properties for over 16 years and our experience and tracking numbers show that on average winter increases days on market by 7 in fall and 10 between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. So, if we average 18 days on market [which is our current number as of writing this post] then we can expect our fall days on market to increase to 25 and our holidays days on market to increase to 28 days. While this shows it is better to rent in the spring and summer, it also shows it is not impossible to rent in the winter. So again, if you are renting a home in the winter, don’t panic.
Panic might also entice you to think about renting for less then the property should rent for. While it is important to be willing to adjust pricing quickly if the activity level is low on your marketing, you should resist under cutting yourself on rent.
Do your best to make sure the home is well lit. Properties show better in the spring and summer, because they look better. When you pull up to a home to take a tour and the sun is out and the birds are chirping, it looks better then if you pull up and the sky is gray and the rain is pouring. While you cannot control the weather, you can improve the lighting, both inside and outside the house. If the home is dark it does not give off as warm a feel and therefore is less likely to get rented.
Make sure your entry is well lit, this will help when you are showing the home at 4pm and it is already getting dark. If the entry is dark it can look uninviting or even scary. Go through the place and replace any burnt out light bulbs. This will not only help show the home better it also helps get better marketing photos as well.
Before showing the place or before taking your marketing photos, be sure to turn on all the lights. There is nothing like the first impression and you want your prospective tenants to have a good first impression. Having the home bright will make it more attractive and will improve the experience for the person viewing the home.
Market aggressively. It is more important when renting a home in the winter to aggressively market the property. Posting a for rent sign in the yard and calling it good, may not cut it. When days on market are going up, it becomes even more important to market the property to prospective tenants. Doing some or all of the following will help improve your marketing of a rental property.
- Facebook or other social media posts or ads: Posting on Facebook marketplace can help get exposure. You can also run targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram putting the property in front of prospective tenants.
- Posting on multiple websites: When it comes to posting a rental property, the more sites the merrier. There is not one site that everyone goes to for rental properties, so posting on multiple sites is essential. We for instance post rental properties on over 31 different web sites.
- Video walk through: Many of the sites you can post your available rental property on, also allow you to post a video walk through. This can be a good way to show what the layout of the property is and might help a prospective tenant who is out of the area see a little more detail about your property.
- 3-D Tours: An even better option to video walk throughs are 3-D virtual tours. These are interactive for the prospective tenant and allows them to see the property in great detail.
- Digitally enhanced photos. The sky is really the limit on what can be done with digital enhancement of photos. For an inexpensive cost, photos can be enhanced. Exterior photos can have a gray gloomy sky replaced with a bright blue one. Clutter can be removed and or the property can even be virtually staged. Doing these things defiantly makes the property more attractive to prospective tenants and therefore increases the odds of renting faster.
Keep the property warm. Sometimes property owners will want to “save money” and will turn the heat way down on their vacant unit. No one wants to look at a property while freezing. I have too many times showed a property and shivered in cold the whole time. This only makes you want to leave and get warm, not stick around and move in. Now it does not need to be a sauna in the home, but it needs to be comfortable. Keeping it too cold will not save you money, it will cost you in prolonged vacancy. Turning the heat on will also help keep the property in better condition. It will be hard to fill your vacancy if a pipe freezes and bursts water all over.
Bottom line is that if you are renting a home in the winter there are tangible things you can do to improve your chances of renting it quickly and limit your vacancy time.