When it comes to writing a listing to advertise your rental vacancy, the competition is fierce. Your listing and more than 100 others (on average) are vying for the attention of renters who spend roughly three seconds viewing a listing before deciding whether to investigate further or move on to the next.

With your potential tenant pool making such quick, at-a-glance decisions to “yea or nay” properties the burden to capture and hold their attention long enough to read the property details is on you.  Your challenge boils down to three elements that grab tenants’ attention: the catchy headline, the short description, and the photos.

Some listing sites like Zillow and Trulia have templates for listing headers and descriptions that leave you with no choice but to place the headline information where searchers will see it at first glance. They have nice layouts for the property descriptions and photos as well. The guidelines below will help you create and format online listings that combine principles relating to common eye-tracking and viewing pattern behaviors of online consumers with simple but compelling ad copy crafted to motivate potential renters to click on the link to learn more.

So, let’s walk through the steps to draft an eye-catching headline and description, and then we’ll talk photos.

Write a Catchy Headline

Would it surprise you to know that the headline is the most critical element for grabbing the reader? Many people who simply wing it assume the headline is merely ornamental, and they’re the ones whose listings get passed over. In fact, the headline should provide prospective tenants with five critical (if basic) details so they can decide, within three seconds, whether to click on the listing for more information or move on. They want the nuts and bolts upfront—the number of bedrooms, number of baths, housing type, price, and location.

What they don’t want is to waste time clicking on listings that may or may not be located in the desired area, in their price range or have the space they need. If they don’t see this information at first glance they’re on to the next listing.

The headline doesn’t need to be overly creative it just needs to let potential renters know whether or not the property meets their primary “must-have” needs.

So, let’s say you have a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath luxury duplex you’re renting for $1,925/month. Your headline would look like this:

2 bds, 1.5 ba duplex
22 Yawepe Street, Phoenix, AZ 85044

If you allow pets in your rentals, you might want to add that detail to the headline to attract more attention. So now we have:

2 bds, 1.5 ba duplex
22 Yawepe Street, Phoenix, AZ 85044

Write a Compelling Property Description:

Special Features: The first part of your rental description should whet potential tenants’ appetites enough to encourage them to schedule a showing. Mention qualities that set your property apart from others. You want to pique enough interest to get people visualizing themselves living in the home.

Example: Hardwood floors, private garden patio, walkable to shops and entertainment.Use Descriptors: Add a couple of descriptors that add to your listing’s appeal. Don’t stuff it full of pointless superlatives—just two well-chosen adjectives that evoke a nice image of your property.

Here are some examples (pick 2 max): Charming, quiet, spacious, bright, modern, elegant, private, welcoming,

Highlight the Basics: Here you should start by repeating the important property features you used in the heading (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.).

Example: Bright, spacious 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath duplex, garage, private patio.

Create a Bullet List of Amenities: Next, you should mention other basic but important information they want to know. Publishing this information in the listing can spare you from answering a laundry list of questions during phone interviews. Make a bullet list of the features and amenities that you think will offer the most appeal to renters:

▪    Garage
▪    Hardwood floors

▪    Large windows
▪    New appliances
▪    Internet

▪    A/C
▪    Workout room
▪    Community Pool
▪    Spa
▪    Community rooms
▪    Pet-friendly (or no pets)

If your rental property is a luxury apartment make sure to highlight any additional services provided to tenants such as pet walking, dry cleaning pick-up and drop off, discounted housecleaning, etc.

Talk About the Neighborhood

Offer some details about nearby conveniences and attractions. Walkability has become an important feature among renters. Be sure to highlight schools, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, parks, and public transit stations—places within walking distance (or a short drive) to the property. If there’s a great view, include it.

▪    Quiet community
▪    Walking distance to shops, restaurants
▪    Close to city bike paths and public park
    Three blocks to public transportation
    Paradise Valley School District

▪    (Mountain, lake, ocean, etc.) views

Top it Off

Finish up your ad by repeating the basic details to remind tenants why they clicked on your listing in the first place. (Attention spans can be short when you’re browsing a voluminous amount of information.) Reiterate the rent amount here and include the security deposit amount (and additional pet security if applicable), whether or not utilities are included, and your contact |information.

▪   $1,925/month
▪   1-month security deposit
▪   Utilities not included.
▪   Call John at  +1 555-888-8888

  ▪   Include photos of all major rooms. There should be a photo for the building’s exterior, living room, dining room (or area), kitchen, each bedroom, and each bathroom. If there are special features like a patio or balcony, washer/dryer/laundry room, office or garage/carport, include photos of those as well.

   ▪   Photograph your property in its best light (literally): Open the curtains to let natural sunlight stream in, and turn on the lights in spaces short on natural light.

Here’s a helpful guide that can assist even the most inexperienced photographers to take beautiful photos of their rental property to go with their listing.


Transparency in your listings sets the tone of the relationships you establish with your tenants. While it may be tempting to say your rental property has an ocean view, when in fact you need to be sitting on the roof to spot a sliver of blue demarking the shoreline, once people actually see the property your credibility is already on shaky ground and you’ve wasted everyone’s time, including your own. This practice of exaggerating in a rental listing description is called “puffing.” Focus your listing descriptions on cool features your property can deliver. If someone wants an ocean view, they’re not going to rent your unit anyway.
Transparency works in your favor since the people who show interest are looking for what is there.

View an Example of what your final listing should look like.

Final Thought

Know Your Market
Before you begin writing a listing for any rental property, make sure you know your market; the tenants it attracts, what those tenants are looking for in their next rental home, how much you should charge for rent. Doing your due diligence before you list a vacancy is critical to marketing to the right tenant audiences.
Property managers and landlords can attract their ideal tenants every time if they’re on top of the market research, conduct thorough tenant applicant screenings, and follow the guidelines above for writing an effective rental property listing every time.Remember, your rental listings set the tone for each of your prospective and new tenants’ experiences. Make sure your marketing efforts reflect a comprehensive understanding of what your target renters need and expect, what your competitors are offering, and what you can do to make your rental properties stand out. Good listings create interest, interest creates demand, and demand creates maximum return on investment for your investment property.