You can either use the traffic of others or generate your own.

That’s the case for real estate marketing channels (actually the case for all marketing channels),

However, strictly speaking, there isn’t much difference between the two approaches.

Because if you use your traffic, you have likely built it already.

You did it either by:

  • Investing your time
  • Investing the time of others, as in the case of content marketing and SEO
  • Or having paid for it and then retaining it through an email list.

Of course, the email list should also be used in the case of content marketing.

So, the main difference is time.

The question is whether you start from scratch or if you already have an established website that you can use.

A large, unordered list of various marketing tactics and ideas can feel overwhelming.

Yet, there are only a few marketing channel categories.

I have discussed them in various articles, such as the one about real estate lead generation.

Below, I will discuss each marketing channel.

And for each, you want to find out whether your ideal clients or target group use them and also which product and service awareness level they have.

You will target more cold or hot real estate lead types depending on the product and service awareness level. The hot ones are closer to a real estate transaction, and the cold ones are farther away.

Additionally, you want to estimate the lead time for each one.

Let’s say you have a short-term income goal.

In that case, you don’t want to deal with marketing channels with cold but cheap leads and a long lead time.

“Lead time” means the time you need until you can make an apartment advertising campaign work.

But now let’s get to the marketing channels.


Outbound Real Estate Lead Generation (paid and “free”)



Database Marketing

  • Past client direct mailing
  • Past client marketing
  • Past client retargeting via ads on search and social media
  • Email marketing
  • Sphere of influence marketing


Inbound Real Estate Lead Generation (paid and “free”)


  • Content marketing on your website (publishing blog articles, videos, downloadable whitepapers, free giveaways, etc.)
  • Content marketing on social media (posting on Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, etc.)
  • Answering questions on social media, forums, Quora, etc.
  • Lead magnets (often combined with email marketing and nurturing campaigns)
  • On-page SEO
  • Webinars (with strategic partners)
  • Guest-posting (however, not Google’s favorite anymore)


  • Publishing content in larger publication channels (local and national newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  • Organizing a housewarming party
  • Organizing an open house event
  • Organizing educational events


Real Estate Referral Marketing


Free and Partially Free Property Portals to Advertise Your Apartment

In some way or form, all the rental property portals are free.

You might get a free posting in many. But your visibility will likely be suboptimal without paying additionally for advertising.

So, below, you will find a collection of the most well-known ones, which I categorized as free and partially free.

Ultimately, I analyze them to find out which would be the best, so you are not left with just a long list of property portals you can use for advertising.

4 Really Free Rental Property Portals


12 Partially Free Rental Property Portals


1) Craigslist

Only a few real estate professionals don’t know about this popular classified platform.

I’m sure you know that already.

It’s a classified advertisement website where you can post completely free classified ads in sections such as:

  • Jobs
  • Housing
  • For sale
  • Services
  • Items wanted
  • Gigs
  • Community service

The overall monthly traffic is 351,500,000, with a rental property inventory size in the U.S. of 1,500,000.


2) Oodle

Oodle is kind of a copy of Craigslist and is also an online marketplace. It was founded in 2004.

You can also advertise completely for free. The monthly traffic is 1,830,000, and the property rental inventory size is 1,094,237.

The property rental inventory size is 1,094,237.


3) Rentdigs

On Rentdigs, you can also advertise property rentals for free.

The difference between the first two is that it doesn’t offer a wide variety of sections and only focuses on different rental properties.

According to SimilarWeb, the monthly traffic is 697,870. Inventory data wasn’t available.


4) Rentberry

Rentberry is another free rental property platform similar to Rentdigs.

Their focus is also on available international rentals and not that much on the U.S. market.

According to SimilarWeb, the monthly traffic is 668,950.

I requested the inventory size from the provider, and they reported having an inventory size of 125,000.


5) Zillow’s Rental Manager

I already covered Zillow in depth in this, this, and this article.

It’s a pretty well-known platform. Real estate professionals and independent property owners can advertise their properties on it.

Zillow’s Rental Manager combines different tools and information to help you manage your rentals.

When you post your rental property there, your listing will be displayed on Zillow, Trulia, and HotPads.

In terms of pricing, the very first posting is free for the first year.

According to SimilarWeb, Zillow gets a monthly traffic of 256,600,000 and has an inventory size of 54,709.

The next would be HotPads, but this platform is part of Zillow.

This platform offers its users a different view of the data Zillow already has, such as, for example, a certain map view with a focus on apartment rentals.

Technically speaking, it’s basically Zillow’s data filter for apartment rentals.


6) should also be quite well known, and it’s another real estate listing platform providing property for sale and rent.

The only ones able to advertise or list there are realtors and brokers.

So, as a direct apartment owner, you will need to work with a realtor and be ready to pay a commission.

According to SimilarWeb, the monthly traffic is 136,570,000, with an overall inventory size of 202,012.


7) Padmapper/Zumper

Padmapper can’t be mentioned without mentioning Zumper Pro.

It’s a rental property portal solely focused on apartment rentals, and Zumper bought it in 2016 (source).

Padmapper’s mission is to make apartment hunting almost fun.

Apartments are displayed on a big map, and potential tenants can filter them according to their needs.

So since Padmapper is actually Zumper, the monthly traffic for Zumper is 707,130, and the inventory size is 195,479.


8) is another rental property platform and apartment search engine.

Its focus is rather on millennials, and it was founded in 1999 as

The monthly website traffic is 9,780,000.

I also requested the inventory size from the provider without a response yet.


9) Airbnb

This one is a well-known rental property marketplace specializing in vacation rentals.

Its specialty is to help property owners or people with access to a property who Airbnb calls “hosts” share their places with “guests.”

Airbnb’s monthly traffic volume is 58,340,000, and the overall inventory size is 4,400,000.


10) is an online apartment listing website. And several other rental property websites are part of its networks, such as:

The monthly traffic volume of is 38,620,000, and its inventory size is 120,049.


11) Nextdoor

Nextdoor’s focus is not just an apartment rental platform. It’s also a facilitator to connect neighbors and everything else in the neighborhood.

So, apartment rentals are just one of many things you will find on that platform.

The monthly traffic volume is 121,210,000, and the inventory size is undisclosed.

I requested it from the provider, but the response is still pending.

Although the monthly traffic is 121,210,000, you will have to consider something else.

You not only share this traffic with others offering rental properties but also other items, services, etc.

While this is not direct competition, it’s the same traffic you will have to share.


12) Walkscore

I find quite inspiring the concept of walkability score.

This rental property website provides potential tenants with the classic search function and a particular colored map overlay for the area they are searching for.

The different areas are rated in terms of walkability scores.

Having the green color means being close to or at a 100 walkability score, and being in the red color range means coming close to a 0 walkability score.

Walkscore is part of Redfin and has a monthly traffic volume of 928,420.

I also requested the inventory size from the provider with a pending reply.

The data generated by Walkscore can also be used on other websites. That’s to further promote certain neighborhoods and properties.

For that, they offer a widget you can include on your website.

Now, let’s analyze the portals regarding their traffic. 

To do that, I analyzed them with a reasonably accurate tool called

This tool can analyze the monthly traffic of a webpage.

Where this tool couldn’t be applied, I used secondary data from further research on the web.

So, after having this traffic data, we can just compare the monthly traffic of the different websites and sort out the one with the most traffic. Right?

Well, not so fast. 

There is also a second step involved. 

You also need to consider the competing rental properties you will be up against and with which you will be sharing the overall monthly traffic. 

So, we need to determine the average monthly traffic one rental property listing will get. 


Because if you know this number, you can apply a certain conversion rate.

You can then estimate the number of leads the particular platform may generate for you. 

And if monthly costs are involved, you can also determine your cost per lead or acquisition.

You will find below-average numbers, so they need to be taken with a grain of salt. 


In some geographic areas, you might have fewer competing rental properties and thus get more overall traffic per listing.

In contrast, this competition could be much higher than the average in other areas, and you will get less traffic per property.

Or the demand in certain areas will give certain sections of an apartment rental website above-average traffic.

I have another side note before I present you with the results.

Not all of the above rental property portals reasonably disclosed their inventory size, so I could use it in my calculation.

From some, I could get the inventory size at once (disclosed on their web pages).

Or I could at least check each geographic area one by one (kind of laborious work) and sum up the total number of listings.

And here are my results, also including pricing information:

Website/ PortalPricingTraffic per MonthInventory SizeTraffic per Rental per Month
Zillow Rental ManagerFirst posting for the year free, then $9.99/ week256,660,00054,7094,691
Realtor.comCommission based136,570,000202,012676
Apartments.comListing free, advertising from $50 per month38,620,000120,049321.7
Hotpads (is actuall part of Zillow Group)First posting for the year free, then $9.99/ week7,160,000202,76535.3
AirbnbListing free, service Fee from 3%58,340,0004,400,00013.3
ApartmentListProvider reply pending4,800,000624,4327.7
Sublet.comFrom $14.99 for 90 days, depends on location417,11059,3477
Padmapper/ Zumper ProFree for one rental property, commission based, inventory information pending.707,130195,4793.6
Trulia$29 per month53,600,00054,709,0001
Live LovelyProvider reply pendingn.a.Provider reply pendingn.a.
Rent.comListing free, advertising $80 per Month9,780,000Provider reply pendingn.a.
Rentals.comProvider reply pending2,330,000Provider reply pendingn.a.
Rentdigs$0697,870Provider reply pendingn.a.
ApartmentFinder by Apartments.comListing free, advertising from $50 per month4,190,000Provider reply pendingn.a. by Apartments.comListing free, advertising from $50 per month1,530,000Provider reply pendingn.a. by Apartments.comListing free, advertising from $50 per month150,990Provider reply pendingn.a.
NextdoorListing free, advertising fee-based, costs undisclosed121,210,000Provider reply pendingn.a.
WalkScore (part of Redfin)Free for basic listing, from $100 per month for 5000 views per day928,420Provider reply pendingn.a.

So, from the available data, we can make out two winners in terms of best when it comes to traffic per rental property listing.

In the free category, the winner is Craigslist, with an average monthly traffic of 234.3 page views per listing.

Zillow’s Rental Manager is the winner in the partially free category, with 4691.4 page views per listing per month. 

 Now that you know about the whole range of different marketing channels, I wanted to remind you of the infographic from above.

Also, just picking one without considering the other factors (e.g., your goals, constraints, etc.) isn’t wise.

This leads me to….


Assess Your Goals and Resources (Constraints)

Picture assessing your goals and constraints as a journey—your personal real estate odyssey. 

Just like any journey, there are some vital things you’ll need to consider. 

Think of these as your travel companions:

  • Your gross commission
  • Brokerage commission split
  • Income tax rate
  • Average income from each apartment deal you seal. 

With these pals by your side, you’ll be able to figure out how many successful closings you’ll need each year and even each month to reach your goal.

But the journey doesn’t stop here, does it? 

You’ll need to set your timeline. When do you want to reach this net commission milestone? In a year, two years, or maybe three? 

The answer might surprise you, as it can rule out some of your marketing channels immediately.

Imagine feeling spry and wanting to sprint towards your net commission goal within 12 months. 

But you’re also contemplating content marketing, also known as inbound marketing. 

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s akin to trying to win a marathon on a Pogo stick. 

It’s fun, sure, but it’s likely to take you longer than 12 months to see results, even if you’re pretty experienced.

Next, you’ll want to consider your monthly marketing budget. 

Knowing this and the average cost per lead is like having a map for your journey. 

It helps you figure out if you can drum up the necessary monthly leads to reach your annual net commission goal.

Also, consider whether your timeline is realistic in the first place.

And what about your “sweat-equity” budget? 

This is when you’re willing to invest in lead generation methods that may not cost money but do cost something even more valuable—your time. 

Your monthly budget isn’t exactly overflowing.

In that case, the answer to this question will determine if you can generate the needed monthly leads within your desired timeframe.

The next question you need to ask is how well you know your ideal real estate clients or target audience

Also, do you need more apartment buyers, sellers, rental leads, or all three equally? 

This depends on your real estate niche and the USP I discussed earlier.

What does the answer to this question determine?

The marketing channels you should use to target the particular apartment buyer, seller, and/or rental prospects. 

Finally, what is your advertising or lead generation skill level for each potential marketing channel?

For instance, let’s say you are highly skilled and have already had experience with one or more.

It can shorten the lead time to get to a reliable lead-producing apartment advertising campaign.

Picture you cooking for the first time vs. the master chef in your family.

The master chef knows a receipt by memory.

Or they can improvise something with the remaining ingredients from your fridge in twenty minutes.

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

Tobias Schnellbacher