Making the decision to rent out a property usually means worrying about finding a good, trustworthy tenant who pays rent on time and treats your home with care and respect. The worry doesn’t end when you find one; then you just worry about your ideal tenant moving out. This worry is not baseless; the wrong tenants can cost you a lot of money or, in the worst case, take you to court. Knowing how and where to find the right renter can eliminate one stream of worry from your life.
Not so long ago, you’d advertise a property by putting a For Rent sign in the front yard, which meant your only prospects were people who walked or drove by your home and stopped long enough to write down your phone number. The internet changed the rental game. Now you can get your listing seen by millions of people. You can screen tenants from your phone while you’re sitting on the couch. You can schedule a showing through an app or give tenants access to virtual tours so you don’t have to schedule any showings at all. One service even lets you find, screen, and sign a renter within 24 hours.
But when there are so many websites and apps to choose from, how can you be sure you’re listing your property on the right one? This is a central question in the age of information. We’ve done the research for you so you can be sure you’re fishing for renters in the right places. We put together a list of 10 popular listing options and included their pros, cons, and points of difference. These are not the only options, but each stands out for a particular reason. We know every situation is different. We hope this list helps you to discern the best option for your situation.
Zillow is the most trafficked rental website. In the first quarter of 2021, Zillow Group’s apps and websites reached a new height of 221 million monthly users.1 More than 100 million homes and apartments are listed on Zillow, which also posts its listings on its other sites, Trulia and HotPads. The platform’s comparative advantage is the volume of viewers it reaches. It’s also user-friendly and allows you to present your property nicely, using a mix of photos, 3D videos, and text. Through the Zillow app, you can also screen tenants and collect rent. The downside is that as of recently, it’s no longer free to list your property on Zillow; after a free trial, you pay $9.99 per property per week the listing remains posted.2
Avail, a platform acquired by Realtor.com in late 2020, identifies the “DIY landlord” as its target clientele. It offers more tools for screening tenants than other sites: criminal background checks, credit histories, eviction reports, and other data the tenant has to pay for. You can use the site to schedule showings, collect rent, and track repairs, at no cost. For $5 per unit per month, you can access other features, such as next-day rent payments and customized lease agreements. You can also access customizable agreements through eForms.com, so be sure to visit us when you reach that step in the process. One drawback of Avail is there’s no app.3
Through Apartments.com, prospective tenants have to pay $24.99 plus tax to apply for a rental. This means whoever is looking at your property is serious about it; the old adage about not valuing things you don’t have to pay for can explain the draw of this site. You won’t have to waste your time talking to renters who aren’t confident they’ll qualify. Another advantage of Apartments.com is it’s free to list, and your listing gets syndicated to 10 other websites, including ForRent.com and ApartmentFinder.com. You can use the Apartments.com app to schedule tours, screen tenants, sign a lease, and collect rent. Some customers have complained about the app’s interface.4
Cozy is arguably the easiest platform to use. The platform’s revenue comes mostly from screening reports that prospective renters pay for, so it’s free to list your property. Your listing also gets promoted on Realtor.com and Apartments.com. Applicants create a profile on Cozy that gives you relevant details about income, employment, and pet ownership, so that you can narrow your search based on your preferences. The website also allows you to track expenses and receive rent payments with ease. Cons associated with this platform include the lack of a mobile app.5
Zumper’s point of difference is speed. If you’re between tenants and stressed out about losing even a few days’ worth of rent money, Zumper is a quick, efficient option. You can find a tenant within one day using the platform’s Instarent service, which offers virtual tours so you don’t have to schedule showings and fast-tracks the screening process so it takes less than 24 hours. However, the Instarent service only applies to some metropolitan areas in the United States.6 The service also costs $99 — a price that covers a no-vacancy guarantee ensuring Zumper pays you $250 if you don’t rent out your property within 45 days.7
You might be surprised to find Craigslist, the site that has become a hub for scammers, on this list. But it has stood the test of time and it’s endured for a reason, or several reasons: it’s free, easy to use, and has widely popular appeal. Craigslist might not look pretty, but it’s one of the most well-known sites on the internet, used in 70 countries, and still effective.8
TurboTenant is free management software that caters to the needs of property owners. Everything is free for landlords — advertising listings, screenings, collecting rent, and managing legal matters. Renters pay for credit, criminal, and eviction reports, as well as for credit card processing. Listing with TurboTenant gets your property posted on popular sites like Facebook Marketplace and Realtor.com, too. You can also narrow your search down to the right leads by requesting specific information about prospective tenants before you screen them.9
Renotomer makes it easy to access rent comparisons, or price comparisons between your property and other similar rental properties. The software offers every metric you could imagine, from charts that show moving trends over three-year timeframes to rent breakdowns per bedroom. After a free trial, you can purchase plans ranging in price that allow various levels of access to features. Renotmeter also allows you to list your properties for free through its app.10
9. Social Media
On Facebook Marketplace, where you can find everything from a car to an apartment, you can advertise your rental property free of charge. The advantage of using social media is it can often give you a lot of information about a possible tenant. Since Facebook partnered with Zumper and Apartment List to pull listings, Facebook Marketplace has become a popular forum for advertising properties.11 It’s also worth advertising your property on your own social media platforms in case someone in your networks is looking for a place to rent, or knows someone who is.
Particularly if your property is in a small town or a more rural area, it’s worth taking out an ad in the classified section of a local newspaper. In places with a strong sense of community, local papers are still a trusted source of information — and no firm yet has invented a marketing method more enduringly effective than word of mouth.