Advertisting (and the traffic counter miracle of 2006)

In past years, I’ve found that I get inquiries from much less qualified persons via my for-rent sign and the newspaper. It makes sense — at least for young people, the most gainfully employed you are, the more of your life you conduct online. That, and newspaper ads are so expensive it makes my head spin.

This year, I advertised on Craig’s List , and on the off-campus housing website for the local university. Both ads linked to a page on my own domain, where I included a thorough description, detailed floor plan, nine interior and exterior photos, and a list of trendy neighborhood spots within walking distance.

I also put a free traffic counter from Site Meter on the page, which worked well — as soon as I saw traffic dwindling, I knew it was time to re-post the Craig’s list ad. Voila, my traffic tripled, and I started getting more calls and emails.

The traffic counter served another purpose– getting to know my audience. My duplex is in a relatively artsy part of town, and that was reflected in my stats. I had 20% of my hits from people using Macs, the operating system of choice for artists and young hipsters. This tells me that aesthetics really count in this neighborhood, and that I should keep this in mind with the improvements and updates I make to the duplex, rather than just getting by with whatever’s cheapest at Home Depot.

My duplex is over a hundred years old, and has several charming quirks and/or obvious defects, depending on who you are and how you look at it (my boyfriend is of the obvious defect camp). There is a desperate lack of closets, the bedrooms are small, counter space and cupboard space are both lacking, and there is no dishwasher or off-street parking. But the place is charming as all get out. In past years, I had tried to downplay or not mention most of the negatives in the ad, concentrating on the good qualities, hoping that once people got here they’d think it wasn’t too bad. As a result, I had a large number of showings, but when most people got here, they saw the small bedrooms, lack of storage space, etc., and weren’t interested.

This year, I had all of the info online, good and bad and “quirky.” As a result, I had fewer phone calls and showings, but the people who came to showings were already pretty interested in the apartment, and weren’t surprised by anything. This resulted in less wasting of everyone’s time; most importantly, mine. Instead of 100 phone calls and 30 showings, I had a manageable number of inquiries and got applicants on the 9th showing.

It’s best for me to be as explicit in my ad as possible, show a lot of photos, and state any likely dealbrakers up-front. This resulted in less wasting of everyone’s time, and even generated some pre-showing excitement.

Figuring out how my target renter looks for an apartment, as well as what they look for IN an apartment will help me to know where to advertise, what I should point out about the apartment when showing it, and what sorts of improvements to make down the road.

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