Best Practices for Marketing Your Single-Family Rentals

How investors can appeal to this fast-growing group of residents.

Single-family rental properties are among the hottest investments in real estate today. This product, which includes everything from one-off rental homes to entire communities of houses that were specifically built to rent, is attractive to mom-and-pop investors and institutions and everyone in between.

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There’s good reason why SFRs are so popular. First, the underlying fundamentals for this property type are strong. Multiple demographic groups are driving demand: from young professionals who can’t afford to purchase a home because they lack a down payment to families who have been priced out of the for-sale market to empty-nesters in search of a “lock and leave” lifestyle. There are also the so-called baby-chasers–grandparents who desire to be closer to their children and grandchildren but who prefer to rent.

Returns on SFRs are attractive as well. According to property-data firm CoreLogic, single-family rent prices hit double-digit growth in September, with a national rent increase of 10.2 percent year-over-year, up from a 2.6 percent year-over-year increase in September 2020. Moreover, CoreLogic reported that since the SFR market faces supply challenges similar to the for-sale market, continued increases in rents should be expected, especially among high-end rentals as renters seek more space.

But despite the strong demand for SFRs, owners and managers of these properties need to market creatively and effectively in order to attract prospective residents, which, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, have larger households, more children and higher incomes than those who live in apartments. Hence, the marketing strategies are different than the ones owners and operators use to attract apartment residents.

Farm Haus
A three-bedroom home at Farm Haus, a single-family rental community in San Antonio by AHV Communities. It has luxury features such as quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, LED lighting and attached two-car garages. The home, which rents for $2,300 per month, also has a fenced backyard that makes it both family- and pet-friendly. Photos courtesy of AHV Communities

Knowing your target

Single-family residents have a profile similar to homebuyers. Since they are more likely to have families, they are seeking spacious homes with a back yard, safe neighborhoods, a varied amenity package and good schools. Many have pets.

“They care about the same things as homebuyers, and their motivations for wanting to move into a home are similar,” said Todd LaRue, managing director of RCLCO, a real estate consulting firm.

That’s why AHV Communities, which operates three single-family-rental communities in Texas and Washington, touts their pet friendliness, as well as amenities that would appeal to families, when they market their SFR properties.

“We do market as pet-friendly and focus on design, including private yards and common area amenities that feature walking trails and pet parks,” said Gene Kim a principal of AHV, a privately-held developer, builder and operator of luxury single-family and attached-home rentals that feature Class A property amenities. “Emphasis on location, safety and schools will help draw prospects.”

Kim said that AHV’s target residents are families, working professionals, young adults and active adults and that the company primarily uses digital marketing strategies to attract prospects, including SEO campaigns, social media and online listing services such as Zillow, Apartments.com and Apartment List.

“A combination and good balance of all has proven to be the most successful,” Kim said.

Multiple marketing channels

SFR marketing strategies vary depending on the product type, location, type of resident you’re targeting and the budget. As a result, many owners and managers opt for a broad approach, casting a wide net to maximize their reach to prospective residents across various demographic and geographic locations.

Dallas-based Invitation Homes, a publicly held, single-family-home leasing company with a portfolio of more than 80,000 homes in 16 markets across the country, has an average resident that is 40 years old, has one or more children at home, owns a pet and has an average household income of about $120,000 a year. The company uses a variety of channels to reach that resident.

“Invitation Homes has approved listings for available houses on our website, where future residents can search by location, neighborhood, size and price,” said Kristi DesJarlais, a company spokeswoman, who said approved listings can also be found on Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Rentals.com, Apartment List, Apartments.com and Zumper.

DesJarlais said that Invitation also uses on-site leasing agents, social media, targeted digital ads and, occasionally, radio, to market its homes.

The power of free advertising

Marketing budgets clearly impact the type and extent of outreach available to a SFR owner or manager. And, since institutional ownership comprises just 2 percent of the single-family rental market, with 85 percent of SFRs owned by investors with 10 or fewer properties, according to investment firm Amherst Pierpont, that means that the vast majority of owners have to cope with limited funds to apply toward marketing. So, creativity is key for these mom-and-pop owners.

David Dweck, a real estate agent in Boca Raton, Fla., who invests in single-family rental properties in Florida and North Carolina, has found Facebook to be his best source of new residents. He places free ads on Facebook Marketplace and researches Facebook groups where his target audience would likely be found. He actively markets his properties in groups such as “What’s Up Boca Raton,”  “South Florida Buy and Sell” and “Gotta Guy in Boca.”

Dweck recently purchased a single-family home in Sylva, N.C., and used Facebook to market it to prospective residents. “It was nothing fancy,” he said. “I was going to do some minor fix-ups, but I thought I would put it up on Facebook Marketplace for $1,200 a month and see what happens.”

Within one day, Dweck had 2,000 views and received hundreds of inquiries. He had multiple showings, and everyone who visited the property wanted to rent it. He ultimately chose an army veteran to rent the house.

“Facebook is disrupting real estate because everyone can post their own property,” he said. “Social media is the most powerful vehicle at the moment for getting properties rented. Market your property on social media and save your money. Whether you’re institutional or mom-and-pop, Facebook is your friend.”

Read the January 2022 issue of MHN.

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