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Where Your Local Market Knowledge Really Counts

Every local rental market is unique, and understanding the nuances of yours will give you an advantage over your competitors. In-depth research is required, but the knowledge gained is critical for creating an effective marketing plan, filling vacancies and getting the best price for your property.

Do Your Research

Kimberly Smith, founder of AvenueWest Corporate Housing in Denver and CorporateHousingbyOwner.com, a website that connects renters with individuals offering furnished, short-term rental properties, uses spreadsheets to research local markets. She makes sections for furnished, unfurnished, apartments, extended stays and hotels in her area and then chooses four or five media to monitor, such as newspaper classifieds, online rentals sites and rental magazines.

“I track these sources for a few weeks so I'm better able to understand rates, building trends and know the marketing trends of an area,” she says.

Andrew Singer, a property manager in the D.C. metro area, suggests conducting market surveys to find out which competitors are succeeding in the area and why. He says to contact other local properties that have been deemed competitors in the market and anonymously inquire about weekly leasing statistics, which marketing sources or media are working best, and what specials each property is currently offering.

A property manager can also gather intelligence about competitors by posing as a potential renter to examine the sales techniques of the leasing agent. This is also a good way to find out what amenities and specials nearby properties are offering.

Marketing the Right Way

Once you’ve done your local research, incorporate it into an effective marketing plan. Research should be used to understand the best local advertising strategies and renter preferences. Your company can use these same strategies or preferences, but differentiate a property based on unique features and amenities.

According to the results of Smith’s market research, she found that renters in her area care most about location, parking, security, style and the size of a unit, so she emphasizes these aspects of a property when they are favorable.

Name the Price

Not only should amenities most important to renters be featured in marketing efforts, they also should be reflected in the rental price. For example, “if the property is located in an area with access to a local recreation center, this is very important and should be valued in the rental price,” Smith says. “It’s an extra feature and will save the tenant from paying for a gym membership.” This technique could be used in an area that values fitness, like one with many young professionals.

Vicinity to rec centers isn’t important to all renters, but this is where research of what is most important to people in a given market is so crucial. Not understanding what people value being near could result in inaccurately low rental prices and lost opportunities.

For properties in less desirable areas with fewer locally valuable amenities, you might have to lower your price. However, marketing access to public transportation is an effective way to make a property stand out, get it rented and possibly retain a higher price. In this case, a property manager may want to offer a transportation pass with the rental. Smith says she sometimes offers other added extras such as Internet, expanded cable or a gym pass for properties in these types of areas.

It might seem like the importance of understanding your local market is common sense, but failure to do so or becoming complacent with your research can have dramatic material consequences. Smith recently spoke with a property owner who was renting out a fully furnished 2-bedroom apartment and wanted to know how much above the standard $900 unfurnished rate he might be able to get for rent.

“Based on market research, he should be charging $1,800 a month,” she says. “However, he didn't take the time to research the market and was only charging $1,100 a month. He was leaving $700 a month on the table.”

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