Canada’s rental market is booming.  Not only is the average rent going up, turnover rates are going down.

Yet, finding and attracting new tenants remains the toughest challenge of a small landlord.  There’s a lot of fish in the sea, but the perfect one never seems to bite.

In this article, we’ll go over some creative ways to attract new tenants and give you practical advice on how you can implement these strategies.

Use Old School Techniques

The internet plays a pivotal role in our lives.  We use it for everything.  However, most landlords have forgotten the old ways of attracting a new tenant: classified ads in the local paper, posting ads on telephone poles and the classic “For Rent” sign.

While this strategies have a much smaller reach than the internet (a potential tenant has to physically see the sign), they’re not competing with the rest of the rentals in the city.  Physical advertisements only compete with what’s around them.  And guess what, people that notice your ad are likely the ones that are looking for an apartment in that area.

So what “old school” techniques still work best?

The “For Rent” sign remains the most cost and time-efficient advertising tool in a small landlord’s tool bet.  Just buy it, write your phone number and post it somewhere visible on the property.

Advertise Where Potential Tenants Hang Out

This strategy is a mix of the “old school” techniques from above but with a bit of creativity sparkled in.

If your property is near amenities or entertainment that make your neighborhood a desirable spot to live in, why not advertise in or around those establishments?  The people who visit those spots are the same ones that would want to live in the area.

Many coffee shops, co-working spaces, theatres and even restaurants have bulletin boards at the entrance.  Ask the owner if you can post a sign in their business (most will say yes).  If there aren’t billboards available, put up signs on telephone or electrical poles in the area around your rental.

Ask Current or Past Tenants for Referrals

Ask your past (or even current) tenants to refer the property to some of their friends.  Of course, this is assuming you’re asking tenants that aren’t/weren’t problematic and with whom you built a positive and professional relationship with.

Why is this an efficient strategy?

For the most part, similar people attract and socialize with each other.  If you didn’t have any problems with the previous renter, odds are you won’t with one of their friends.  Of course, you still have to properly screen every potential tenants.

That said, small landlords should avoid lucrative incentive strategies for referrals (ie current tenant gets one month’s rent free).  This can incentivize tenants to refer friends who aren’t the right fit.  Worse yet, you may get too many referrals.  You’ll waste  your valuable time showing the property and screening potential tenants.

Advertise on Online Rental Listing Platforms

Gone are the days of listing rentals on sites like Kijiji or Craigslist.

You’re advertising real estate, not a used waffle maker!

Here’s why online rental listing platforms like are better than general market places:

  • They’re free for small landlords.
  • They get tons of daily traffic and repeat visitors.
  • They generate more leads than the alternative because:
    • Tenants can screen by area, property type, price.
    • The platforms are optimized for user experience.
    • They work on mobile devices (a large number of tenants do their apartment hunting during breaks and on their phones).
  • They connect potential tenants directly to landlords.

Compared to the alternative, creating a listing is easy.  Just fill in the form, upload pictures of the property and you’re on your way.

If you’re new to writing listing descriptions, or aren’t sure what works or what doesn’t, you can learn how to advertise your property.

Emphasize on Experience, Not Just Hardware

Millennials are the largest demographic and seek experiences above material belongings.  They also prefer renting real estate over owning it.  If you’re not considering them in your rental strategy, you’re missing out on a large number of potential tenants.

Yet how many times have you read (or used yourself) a line like “spacious brand new 1 bedroom for rent” or “1 bedroom condo for rent in (insert area name)”?  The problem with those listings is that they describe hardware, not experiences.

So ask yourself what the best features of your property are.  Pick one or two and plug directly into the listing title.  Looking for inspiration?  Here are a few one-liners you can use:

  • Walking distance to metro.
  • Right next to [university or college]
  • Looks onto water.
  • In the heart of the action.
  • Steps away from [area that’s fun].
  • Loaded with amenities.
  • Great for hosting.

Then for the rest of the listing, each bullet point or sentence should invoke at least one experience or sensation.  Here are a few adjectives you can use to achieve this: bright, vibrant, exciting, unique, unforgettable, social.

Hire a Drone Video Photographer

If you’re renting out a property on a large parcel of land, or adjacent to a park or woods, you can highlight that desirable feature by including a short drone video in your listing.

While a picture is worth a thousand words, it can’t capture a landscape the same way as aerial video photography.  Drone footage creates a sense of scale and does a great job at showing distances and depth.

Drones are decreasing in cost every year and finding drone photographers is as simple as a quick Google search for your area.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your drone video:

  • Keep it short: no more than 30 seconds.  You aren’t producing a feature film!
  • Re-create the experience (ie waking up to the landscape), then show the general layout of the property.
  • Avoid overproduction.

Get a 3D Tour of the Property

Similar to drone videos, 3D tours are becoming an increasingly popular feature in rental listings.  They’re dropping in price every year and an increasing number of photographers are offering them as a service.  Some rental sites like offer 3D tours as part of their listing services.

3D tours generate more leads because they give a potential tenant a true sense of scale of inside the property.  However, this doesn’t mean every listing needs one.  3D tours are great for:

  • Large rentals with many rooms.
  • Rentals with unusual layouts.
  • Units with many hallways, or where lines of sight are broken.

In other words, a rental like a condo loft or a bachelor condo pad don’t really benefit from one.

Booking a 3D photographer is as simple as a Google search in your.  Once you’ve found one, here are a few considerations:

  • The unit should be staged or include furniture.
  • The rental needs to be well-lit.  Book the appointment around noon.
  • Take extra viewpoints over niches or unique features of the property.
  • Include viewpoints looking out of the unit.

Wrapping This Up

As you can see, attracting new tenants isn’t difficult if you think outside the box.  With a bit of creativity, you can do better than putting up a boring listing and hoping for the ideal to show up at your doorstep.