When it comes to finding a good renter, it helps to have plenty of applications to choose from. While this statement doesn’t warrant the next Nobel Prize in physics, some would have you believe a Zillow, or Craigslist, or even the venerable Los Angeles based Westside Rentals has you 100% covered.
Each of these outlets has their pros and cons and none can fully do the job on their own. Let’s take a look at a few popular choices:
Zillow has become something of the laymen’s resource for all things Real Estate. It’s user interface is often mimicked in design, and browsing the site is intuitive and easy. Zillow shines from its nationwide reach and extensive marketing campaigns, as well as in its incorporation of many regional MLS databases. While MLS listings are an important component to painting the picture of what’s out there, it misses the vast majority of the market. Not many landlord elect to use a Real Estate agent to market their property, so the listings on Zillow tend to skew a bit expensive. Zillow is also not intended for deal closing, and its web app reflects that. You can easily browse and make initial contacts, but it falls short of making you feel like you have made a handshake with a human after a perspective tenant has reached out to a property. All-in-all, despite its traffic for people browsing for properties they will never, ever buy, it isn’t a very good outlet to find your next renter.
Craigslist is the master of human traffic (not to be confused with human trafficking… I think?). What I am referring to are real, everyday people looking to accomplish something. Buy a used computer. Find a new job. Get a new car. And obviously, secure a new residence. But the intention when someone visits Craigslist is, more often, to get the deal done. This has made Craigslist a go-to for everyone from DIY to agents. With all that traffic, and the painfully obvious note that Craigslist wasn’t designed to showcase Real Estate, you end up with drawbacks. Let’s start with the double-edge sword that listing with Craigslist is easy. This has made them the juggernaught they are today, but has lead to a lot of “gaming” of Craigslist system. Scams are a dime-a-dozen. When you browse their listings you trust no one, and you feel like you are one wrong email away from identity theft. It makes for a guarded, and ultimately, stressful experience. And let’s face it, properties just downright look bad on their platform.
Westside Rentals (aka your local hero rental company):
Westside Rentals has come as close as I’ve seen to a good system for finding a renter. They land somewhere between an agent, and a DIY platform. Using a rental specialist has many great advantages. They know their market, and can help you price and advertise effectively. They have the reputation to lift your property to a more exclusive status than the wild-west atmosphere of Craigslist. They can act on your behalf similar to an agent. This help comes at a price for you or your renter. In all likelihood they will take some piece of the initial move in costs as a fee, and in the case of WSR demand the browsing public pay a subscriber fee for access to their listings. If all this gets your unit filled with little effort, then I would say money well spent. But what you don’t know when you subscribe to these services is that they are leveraging the same resources you could do on your own with a little bit of research and elbow grease. In fact WSR uses Craigslist along side of their platform to gain extra exposure.
DIY Property Management Applications:
DIY property management has the potential to unify some of these characteristics into a single ecosystem, but in most cases lack the traffic needed to act as a strong outlet for finding a new renter. Companies like Swan or similar platforms like Cozy all have their own take on how the future could look for modern property rentals. The advantages to using one of these new property management applications is the ability to make a property “avatar” that is more readily shareable across social media platforms and Craigslist. This could give you a leg up on the Craigslist marketplace to lend a sense of security to the mind of a shopper. It could tell them that your property has been vetted by another system. It also makes sharing your property with your personal social connections a lot easier and more attractive.
At the end of the day, we still don’t have a one-stop-shop for all things rental property. Finding the balance between computer and human is one that will be an evolving and highly personalized matter. Take advantage of each systems pluses, and mitigate the drawbacks by cross pollenating across all the major arenas.