Free Is Good


Once upon a time, well, not that long ago, most of the landlords I knew used a couple of tried and true ways of filling a vacant unit: print ads and yard signs.

In college, I worked part time in the classified ads department of a major metropolitan newspaper. There was no such thing as taking Friday night off, because that was the last opportunity for people to get their Sunday ads in before the deadline. We were there until 9 and the phones never stopped. After all, didn’t everybody consult the Sunday classifieds when the were looking for apartments? Cars? A used drum set?

We’ve all heard how the daily newspapers are struggling to stay afloat. The Internet has become the “go to” place for many of us for news, weather and a calendar of happenings.

I learned this the hard way. That’s where renters are looking too.

For weeks I advertised a unique property in the local paper: to the tune of $100/Sunday (and they wonder why nobody’s advertising). On a good week, I’d get two calls. I spent hundreds of dollars trying to chase down a tenant. Nothing. Not only was I out the ad money, I was out rent too.

Out of desperation, I tried Craig’s List. I had over 30 inquiries in a matter of hours. Close to 100 overall. And it was free. The downside? Fielding all of those e-mails (the property wasn’t right for everyone).

Since then, I’ve spoken with a number of friends and clients who own income property. They’ve all had remarkably similar experiences.

The lesson? Why pay for terrible when free works better?