So, you have an apartment for rent but wonder what the best way would be to advertise it.

There is a lot of content out there giving great advice on the existing different marketing channels, but the question about “the best way” is often a bit neglected.

That’s why this article will focus on “The Best Way” firstly and the different marketing channels secondly.

I will define the criteria for best, do a deep analysis of the different marketing channels there are in terms of traffic, and also provide you with information that has an influence on the conversion rates of your rental ads.

The Criteria for “Best”

Most of the articles you find on the subject of the best way to advertise an apartment for rent don’t have their focus on “best” but rather on the different ways there are.

They give you many different methods where and how you could advertise, but don’t conclude which the best way is.

In order to find the best way, we will need first to define what the criteria for “best” is.

To do that, we can go back again to the three essentials I already covered in my article about the 80/20 principle in real estate marketing.

These are traffic, conversion and economics/your offer.

So, when we look at the different marketing methods, we want to know the traffic it gets or can generate, estimate the conversion rate for new tenants and, of course, using the right offer (your apartment).

So, let’s first check what different marketing channels there are and analyze them according to the above criteria.

Available Marketing Channels Including Metrics – The Traffic Part

When it comes to real estate marketing channels (actually the case for all marketing channels), you either use the traffic of others or you use your own.

But strictly speaking, there is not much difference between the two.

Because if you use your own traffic, you have likely built it already in the past either by investing your time, the time of others (in the case of content marketing and SEO) or also by having paid for it, and retained it by using an email list.

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

So, the main difference is actually time and the question is if you start from scratch or if you already have an established website that you can use.

For the sake of this article, let’s say that you can’t count on traffic you already have to your real estate website.

In this case, when you use the traffic from other “web assets” you usually pay for it, but sometimes you can also get it for “free”.

Marketing methods where you pay for traffic that others already have are:

  • Property portals (in our case apartment rental portals)
  • Search engine marketing (e.g. Google Ads or Bing Ads)
  • Social media marketing (e.g. Facebook Ads)
  • Other PPC marketing (e.g. push advertising, native ads, etc.)

Let’s check first the free and partially free rental property portals there are.

16 Free and Partially Free Property Portals to Advertise Your Apartment

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

The thing is that although you might get a free posting in many, 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 in free and partially free.

4 Really Free Rental Property Portals

12 Partially Free Rental Property Portals

1) Craigslist

I bet there are not many real estate professionals who don’t know at all this popular classified platform.

Should you not know it already, it’s a classified advertisement website where you can post completely for free classified ads in sections such as jobs, housing, for sale, services, items wanted, gigs, community service, and more.

The overall monthly traffic is 351,500,000 and it has 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.

There, you can also advertise completely free and the monthly traffic is 1,830,000.

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

3) Rentdigs

On Rentdigs you can also advertise property rentals for free.

The difference to the first two is that it doesn’t offer a broad 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 international available 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 to have an inventory size of  125,000.

5) Zillow’s Rental Manager

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

It is a well-known real estate platform where real estate professionals and independent property owners can advertise their properties.

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 one would be HotPads, but this platform is actually part of Zillow.

What this platform does is offer its users a different view on the data Zillow already has, such as, for example, a certain map view with a focus on apartment rentals.

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

6) Realtor.com

Realtor.com should also be quite well known. It’s another real estate listing platform providing property for sale and for 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 it was bought by Zumper in 2016 (source).

Padmapper’s mission is to make apartment hunting almost fun. Apartments are displayed on a big map and potential tenants can further 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) Rent.com

The focus on rent.com is another rental property platform and apartment search engine.

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

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 also a quite well known rental property marketplace specialized in vacation rentals.

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

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

10) Apartments.com

Apartments.com is an online apartment listing website and has several other rental property websites as part of their network such as ForRent.com, ApartmentFinder.com, Apartamentos.com, ForRentUniversity.com, ApartmentHomeLiving.com, CorporateHousing.com, After55.com, WestsideRentals.com, and Cozy.co.

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

11) Nextdoor

Nextdoor’s focus is not being just an apartment rental platform, but rather a facilitator to connect neighbors with each other 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 take into consideration that you not only share this traffic with others offering rental properties but other items, services, etc. from the respective neighborhood.

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

12) Walkscore

I find quite inspiring the concept of walkscore.

This rental property website not only provides potential tenants with the classic search function, but also with a particular colored map overlay for the area they are searching.

The different areas are rated in terms of walkability score.

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

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 to further promote certain neighborhoods and properties.

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

Can we already conclude which of the above is the “best”?

Well, if we would stop here and only the cost would be the criteria for “best” we could say that the four free portals from above are the best.

But what about traffic?

What I did, and you might have noted it already, is that I analyzed all of them with a fairly accurate tool called similarweb.com.

This tool can analyze the monthly traffic of a webpage.

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

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

Well, not so fast.

There is also a second step involved.

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

So, we need to find out what average traffic per month one rental property listing will get.

Why?

Because if you know this number, you can apply a certain conversion rate and be able to estimate the number of leads the particular platform may generate for you.

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

The numbers you will find below are average numbers, so they need to be taken with a grain of salt.

The reason for this is that in some geographic areas, you might have a lot fewer competing rental properties and thus could get more overall traffic per listing, while in other areas, this competition could be much higher than the average 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.

On another side note, before I present you with the results, not all of the above rental property portals disclosed their inventory size in a reasonable way to use it in my calculation.

From some, I could get the inventory size at once (disclosed on their webpages), 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 including also 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
Craigslist$0351,500,0001,500,000234.3
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
Rentberry$0668,950125,0005.4
Padmapper/ Zumper ProFree for one rental property, commission based, inventory information pending.707,130195,4793.6
Oodle$01,830,0001,094,2371.7
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.
Cozy.co by Apartments.comListing free, advertising from $50 per month1,530,000Provider reply pendingn.a.
ForRentUniversity.com 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 really free category, the winner is Craigslist with an average monthly traffic of 234.3 page views per listing and Zillow’s Rental Manager is the winner in the partially free category with 4691.4 page views per listing per month.

Advertising Your Apartment With PPC Campaigns

These marketing channels are a bit easier to analyze.

In my article “All You Need to Know about Real Estate Prospecting Conversion Rates”, I already mentioned that when it comes to real estate, you can expect an average conversion rate of 3.4% for Google Search Ads and a 10.68% conversion rate when it comes to Facebook Ads.

By applying some marketing math, I concluded that you can expect costs per acquisition of $69.7 for Google Ads and $16.29 for Facebook Ads.

This is what you will likely pay per lead when having a decently converting campaign on these platforms.

When it comes to native ads, you can achieve costs per acquisition of $6.66.

Now, let’s summarize this a bit and compare the costs per acquisition to rental property platform winners from above.

  • CPA of Craigslist: $0
  • CPA of Zillow’s Rental Manager: $0.85
  • CPA of Native Ads: $6.66
  • CPA of Facebook Ads: $16.29
  • CPA of Google Ads: $69.7

You may wonder how I came to the price of $0.85 for Zillow’s Rental Manager.

I first calculated the number of leads you may get with the monthly traffic per rental property of 4691.4.

Assuming an average conversion rate of 1% for real estate (source), this would mean 46.9 leads per month.

The costs per month per rental property are $39.96. If we divide $39.96 by 46.9 leads the result is $0.85 per lead.

When we now compare the different CPAs, we can already conclude that you may stay away from PPC campaigns to advertise apartment rentals and first focus on the two rental property platforms Craigslist and Zillow’s Rental Manager.

Once you have them exploited to their full potential, you may start with PPC advertising.

So, after comparing the above numbers, Craigslist and Zillow’s Rental Manager are still the winners.

How to Influence the Conversion of Your Apartment Ad

Traffic is not everything we need to analyze when it comes to finding the best way to advertise an apartment rental.

We also need to take into consideration what influences the conversion rate of your apartment ad.

So, what is it?

It’s again applying copywriting principles and the benefits of your offer (your apartment).

The two are of course connected, because without knowing the benefits of your offer and whom (the type of tenants) may benefit from them, you won’t be able to write a good ad copy.

So, we need to do some preparation work before we actually write the ad copy.

You will first need to do the following:

  • Collect or research needs, wants, motivations, and desires of your potential tenants.
  • Research also pains, hurts, and problems.
  • Collect the benefits and features of the respective apartment rental and ask yourself how they align with the first two points.

Some features and benefits are for example:

  • A convenient location (e.g. walkability, close to amenities)
  • New appliances and/or energy-star rated appliances
  • Oversized suite
  • Open concept
  • Modern design
  • A contemporary kitchen with granite countertops
  • Parking
  • Nearby highway access
  • Lots of natural light
  • Panoramic views or nice view
  • Air conditioning
  • Affordable rent
  • Friendly neighborhood

This is the rough overview of things you can do first.

There is much more to it, persuasion and psychological wise.

Some of it I already covered in my article about how to market a unique property and in my free copywriting checklist you can get when you opt in to my newsletter.

Further information you also may want to think about is the following:

  • The rent and security deposit
  • When the apartment will be available
  • Which utilities are included
  • The tenant screening process
  • Your pet policy
  • Your contact information

Once you have done the preparation work, we can start writing the actual ad copy using elements of the well-known copywriting formula AIDA (Attention, Interest/Problem, Desire, Action).

For a high converting rental apartment ad, the anatomy of applying the AIDA principle in a variation would be this:

  • An attention-grabbing headline (Attention/Hook)
  • Describing the “dream” of living in the apartment and neighborhood and contrasting it with the problems you might have found during your research about your type of tenant (Interest/Problem).
  • Adding a differentiator (Interest/Problem): How your offer and yourself compare to other competing apartment rentals or your overall competition.
  • Describing your offer and how it solves the respective problem of your potential tenants (Desire).
  • Motivate them to act and contact you for an appointment, which is the call to action (Action)
What is the best way to advertise an apartment for rent

Conclusion

So, the best way to advertise an apartment for rent according to my analysis is starting with Craigslist and Zillow’s Rental Manager where you get a decent amount of traffic per rental listing per month, and also creating a great listing ad by applying the above mentioned copywriting principles.

Once you exhaust the whole potential of these platforms, you can branch out to other marketing channels with a less favorable traffic volume per listing per month.

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