Tenant Management

Best Free Online Ways To Advertise Property For Rent

advertising photo of shiny new apartment

Any landlord knows that having rentals sit vacant will quickly turn the ink on their balance sheet from black to red.  Reaching and attracting new prospective tenants is the first step in filling vacancies. Online property management software products can dramatically streamline the process of marketing empty units.  As you’ll see in this and other articles we’ve written, we believe strongly that these products improve the ease and profitability of managing rental property.  We take a look at leading software providers, many of whom offer free online ways to advertise property for rent.

We are considering the following criteria in evaluating each service:

  1. How widely is your vacancy advertised?  
  2. What features are available to help sell your unit, and how attractive is the presentation?
  3. What is the cost of online marketing, to the landlord?
  4. Are applications integrated into the marketing materials so that prospective tenants can apply seamlessly?
  5. Is applicant screening integrated?
  6. Extra Credit: Does the product help schedule showings?
  7. Extra Credit: Is there a tool to help calculate a fair and attractive price for your rental?

Also Read: Using Avail Landlord Software to Find a New Tenant for My Rental


Our Winners: Best free online ways to advertise property for rent

Best Overallavail property management software logo
Best For Large Portfoliosbuildium property management software logo
TenantCloud property management software logo
Best for Mobilerentredi property management software logo
Click here for full scoring

Our Contenders:

Avail

Once you’ve created a rental listing on Avail it will automatically be posted to 11 rental advertising sites. (Note: Now that Zillow is charging $9.99/listing/week, an payment account is required before they accept listings from any platform.). Avail is an end-to-end property management software that helps small landlords create online listings, view a complete profile and history of potential tenants, collect rent, and get instant access to lawyer-approved leases and electronic signing. It does a lot of the work for you, including contacting former landlords, so you can fill vacancies quickly with qualified tenants.

Avail
Advertise your property, find and screen tenants, sign leases, collect rent, and e-sign custom local leases, with tools built specifically for DIY landlords. Strength: Complete Solution

Buildium:

Buildium property management software supports the larger DIY landlord and property managers. The software includes tools to help with accounting and bookkeeping, lease & document management, maintenance tracking, applications and screening, and more. For additional information please read our Buildium Overview

Buildium
Whether you manage five doors or five thousand, Buildium provides a simple but sophisticated property management platform to help you grow and improve your business. Strength: Complete Solution

TenantCloud:

TenantCloud is a full-service property management software tool that does a very nice job of meeting the needs of a landlords managing anything from a single home to several hundred units. There are features relevant to owner-managers as well as property managers. From rent-up of vacancies, to financial reporting, to maintenance coordination with service providers, TenantCloud offers valuable solutions.

TenantCloud
End-to-end property management solution. Receive payments online, advertise properties and screen potential tenants. Robust accounting and maintenance features. Strength: Complete Solution

Rentec Direct:

Rentec Direct offers property management software and tenant screening solutions for landlords and real estate professionals to manage properties, tenants, and accounts online. Subscribers can collect rent payments, post vacancies, screen applicants, collect rent, and more. For additional information please read our Rentec Direct Rental Property Management Software Overview

Rentec Direct
Designed to address the needs of DIY landlords as well as property management companies, Rentec Direct includes all the tools necessary to manage and rent your properties. Strength: Complete Solution

RentRedi

RentRedi is particularly appealing to landlords who operate on-the-go, and have tenants who do the same. Their attractive & intuitive app enables landlords to post vacancies, ask pre-screening questions, request information, and accept or deny applicants from their mobile devices. Listings are posted to the RentRedi site as well as the heavily trafficked Doorsteps.com and Realtor.com.

RentRedi
RentRedi is an all-inclusive landlord-tenant app. Manage vacancies, screening, and rent collection from wherever you are, on any device. Strength: Complete Solution

SparkRental:

With SparkRental’s landlord app, you can easily take care of everything from advertising your space to handling payments and sending notices. For additional information please read our SparkRental Property Management Software Overview

SparkRental
Property management software including online rent collection, expense tracking and ledgers, communications with renters, photo and document storage, and more. Strength: Complete Solution

Evaluation Criteria: Scoring the best free online ways to advertise property for rent

We graded each of the software providers on 5 key rental marketing factors, on a 10 point scale, plus two bonus features. Read on for more details, here’s how they stack up:

SoftwareAvailBuildiumTenantCloudRentec
Direct
RentRedi
Reach of
Listings
109.510107
Presentation9.5101089
Cost98989
Applications10101099.5
Screening9.591079.5
Extra Credit: Showings+2+2
Extra Credit:
Rent Research
+2+2
Total (out of 50):5248.5514244

Also Read: The Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords


Reach of listings

How widely is your vacancy advertised?  “Syndication” refers to how property management software companies post your vacancy ad on rental listing sites. There are many such sites, and each software service selects which ones to partner with.  Most services automatically post your listing on the Zillow network, including HotPads and Trulia.  We have used craigslist.com to advertise our vacancies for many years and. Other more flashy sites are gaining usership, however we believe that many prospective tenants are still searching for rentals on craigslist.  For this reason, we award higher scores to services that integrate with craiglist.  We also look at whether units are advertised through in-house marketing, where a site either gets applicants to sign up on their site in order to search for rentals. A trend we anticipate growing is the use of social media to reach potential tenants.

Note: Until recently listing rentals on the Zillow network, including HotPads and Trulia, was free.  State-by-state Zillow is now beginning to charge for listings.  The first listing is free and all subsequent cost $9.99/listing/week.  Landlords need to setup a paying account in advance in order to enable syndication to Zillow sites via the software platforms we’re reviewing.  This change promises to dramatically change the rental marketing landscape since Zillow has been one of the most-used platforms.

Avail: score 10/10: Avail gets your listings on virtually all high-traffic advertising sites. In addition to the Zillow network and Avail’s own site, your ad will syndicate to Zumper.com, Apartments.com, Padmapper.com, Abodo.com, Apartmentlist.com, Doorsteps.com, Realtor.com, and Walkscore.com. All this takes place as soon as you activate your listing on Avail.

Buildium – score 9.5/10: By listing a rental on Buildium you will automatically be placing the same ad on the Zillow family of sites, livelovely.com, apartmentlist.com, rentpath, and mynewplace.com.  Listings are also syndicated to craigslist.com.  While other services may offer a longer list of syndication sites, Buildium will get you in front of a very large percentage of rental shoppers.

TenantCloud – score 10/10:  TenantCloud boasts the longest list of marketing partners we’ve seen. Any listing will appear on all the Zillow sites, oodle.com, Aol Real Estate, ApartmentFinder.com, apartmenthomeliving.com, westsiderentals.com, and their own TC Rentals board.   TC also posts to social media, though it’s not clear which platforms.  This is an extremely comprehensive list of sites, which will expose your rental to many, many apartment shoppers.  The only element missing in our view is craigslist syndication.

RentecDirect – score 10/10:  Rentec Direct also boast an impressive of syndicate sites.  Among them are the Zillow sites, apartments.com, apartmentfinder.com, doorsteps.com, move.com, rentals.com, home.com, realtor.com, rent.com, rentpath.com, craigslist.com, rentbits.com, houserentals.com, rentals.vast.com, yakaz.com, hunt.com, and trovit.com.  Needless to say, listings should see a maximum number of eyeballs!

RentRedi – score 7/10: RentRedi’s mobile interface is handy for landlords who are posting listings, as well as prospective tenants who are shopping for a home. While RentRedi does not have as wide an advertising reach as some platforms do, they do get your listings on Doorsteps.com and Realtor.com, both of which have high traffic numbers.

SparkRental – score 7/10:  SparkRental has kept syndication, focusing on the far-reaching Zillow network. There may be a shift afoot, however, as there are two major changes going on:  SparkRental will be rolling out an entirely new software platform in the next few months, and Zillow has recently started charging for listings. Based on their “Coming Soon” page, it looks to us like they may be discontinuing syndication on Zillow sites and opting for landlords.com, forrent.com, “and others”.  We’ll update as we know more, but without craigslist or Zillow we believe listings will get limited exposure.

Also Read: The Best Online Rent Payment Service for Small Landlords


Presentation

Professional-looking advertising both helps a vacant unit look attractive, and lends credibility to the landlord offering it.  Here we evaluate the how easily each service helps property owners and managers present properties in an appealing way.

Avail – score 9.5/10: Avail’s overall aesthetic is clean, casual, and fairly simple. While there isn’t a lot of flash to the listing presentation, we think the friendly feel is approachable and easy to take-in. Large urban apartment buildings may want a more glossy approach, but we think Avail’s design is a great fit for us independent owners and managers.

Buildium – score 10/10:  Buildium provides a free personalized marketing website.  It boasts a simple, clear, and attractive design and allows unit-specific descriptions.  Drop-down amenity lists make it easy to customize features for each unit.  Photos and videos are easy to add, making it easy to create attractive, professional listings.

TenantCloud – score 10/10:  TenantCloud offers a user-friendly website builder which enables you to create very attractive customized listings for each rental unit. The end product is a personalized listing site for each landlord, featuring a map showing properties, and a “Find a Rental” button so that applicants can browse your properties.

RentecDirect – score 8/10:  To our eye Rentec Direct is particularly well designed for larger-scale landlords and property managers.  The website builder is less slick and feels a bit less modern than other products we’ve used, however the functionality is broad and is a good fit if you’re setting up a site to present a full portfolio of real estate.  Essentially you’re setting up a property management company site. The resulting presentation is not the most stunning we’ve seen, but the capabilities offered are valuable if you’re managing a number of properties.

RentRedi – score 9: The RentRedi app has a very nice interface, which use easy to use for both landlords and applicants. Those who prefer to work on a browser may miss out on some of the design work that been focused on the appearance and function of the app.

SparkRental – score 6/10:  As we’ve mentioned before, SparkRental is going through a rebirth, completely overhauling their software.  Login to the current site is disabled at this point, so we can’t revisit their older rental listing offering.  We anticipate that their new product will be a welcome update, with upgraded user-interface. We’ll write more about new developments as soon as they happen – they’ve projected rollout of the new software in June 2020.

Also Read: The Best Free Property Management Software for Small Landlords in 2020


Cost

We look at costs from the perspective of a property owner or manager who runs a small portfolio of properties, under 25 units for example.  We assume this landlord will be looking for free or very low-cost means to advertise and fill vacancies, and that extensive financial, reporting, and communication tools are a lower priority. Highest scores go to the products that provide free online ways to advertise property for rent

Avail – score 9: Advertising as many units as you’d like is completely free on Avail. We have two small quibbles. In order to avoid rent payment transaction charges a landlord needs to subscribe to a $5/unit/month subscription. Screening is also a bit more expensive than some other platforms, at $55 for the bundle of credit, criminal, and eviction reports. The good news is that tenants can pay directly for all of these charges.

Buildium – score 8/10:  As we’ve pointed out in past articles, Buildium is designed for landlords and property managers with larger portfolios.  The entry-level subscription is $47/month, which will make sense for those who want a full service property management platform – including features such as financial reporting and maintenance tracking.  Landlords with even 25-50 units, or small-scale property managers, will probably want a less costly service.

TenantCloud – score 9/10:  Landlords can list up to 75 units for free with a Basic membership.   Even this subscription level provides access to their slick custom website builder, creating visually appealing and user-friendly listings.

RentecDirect – score 7/10:  RentecDirect does have a base-level subscription for $15/month, which includes the equivalent of one tenant screening report without additional cost. A landlord who averages one applicant per month will save money on screening with this subscription, and with a far-reaching syndication network this option may make sense for some.  We do believe RentecDirect offers good rental marketing tools, however we prefer services that don’t require a paid subscription.

RentRedi – score 9/10: We love the fact that listing as many units as you want is free on RentRedi. Our only complaint is that vacancies do not reach as many eyeballs as on some other sites.

SparkRental – score 7/10:  SparkRental will be attractive to a property owner who has one unit and wants an entirely free way to advertise, take applications, and screen potential tenants.  With the Free or Premium subscription levels all screening reports are paid-for by applicants, meaning the landlord bears no cost in filling the vacancy. Ultimate-level subscribers can choose to pay for reports or require prospective tenants to do so.  While we like free, we see the limitation of only one unit as a drawback.

Also Read: Rental Property Management Software Overview


Integration of application

We love how online software products make the process of property management more efficient. Having an application built right into rental advertising saves the step of scanning, emailing, receiving, printing, and filing tenant applications.  (Or, worse yet, handling paper applications!)  All of these products allow prospective tenants to apply online.  We look at how easy it is to request and receive the information you want most.

Avail – score 10/10: It is free and easy to request comprehensive applications from prospective tenants. With a paid subscription ($5/unit/month – which gets you several other benefits) Avail give you tools to customize your application. The feature we like most is that the system will automatically email past landlords with reference questions.

Buildium – score 10/10:  With Buildium landlords build customized applications that integrate into their marketing websites, specifying what personal information they require from applicants.  Asking whether a tenant is a smoker, has pets, or information about their vehicles is also possible.  Creating a custom checklist for use when reviewing applicants streamlines the process of choosing the best tenants.  Applicants can also be charged and application fee, in addition to having them pay directly for screening reports.

TenantCloud – score 10/10:  TenantCloud also helps landlords customize the application they build-into their marketing website.  It is easy to add additional questions, charge application fees, and require that applicants upload particular files.  We believe this last feature is particularly handy in verifying applicant identity, or asking for proof of income.

RentecDirect – score 9/10:  For a property owner or manager with a significant portfolio – at least 20 units, say – RentecDirect offers a lot of valuable tools to manage applicants.  Applications are customizable, and there is a “lead tracking” function that helps match applicants with suitable rentals.  Once an applicant has set desired criteria the system can even alert them to suitable new units as they become available.

RentRedi – score 9.5/10: It is easy to request, review, and accept or reject applications on the RentRedi app. Asking for additional information, be they questions or a photo of an ID, is convenient as well.

SparkRental – score 8/10:  Prospective tenants can apply directly from rental listings on SparkRental.  The application does not appear to be customizable. Landlords may elect to have applicants pay directly for screening reports, however there is no way to charge an application fee.

Also Read: Manage Rental Properties While Social Distancing


Screening Integration

Again, we love efficiency! The products that score best in this category are those where potential tenants order and pay for screening reports as a part of the application process.

Avail – score 9.5/10: There are three levels of screening available through the Avail platform. All reports are paid for by applicants, unless the landlord chooses to pay themselves. The first is free and includes basic identity, residence, and employment history. The second costs $30 and includes everything in the free report as well as SSN verification and detailed credit reporting. The bundled report is $55 and includes everything above as well as local and federal criminal records, sex offender status, terrorist watchlist, and evictions history.

Buildium – score 9/10:  Advertising, applications, and screening reports are all seamlessly tied together with Buildium.  There are two screening packages to choose from.   The Basic level report can be paid-for by the applicant, and delivers a full TransUnion Credit Report.  The Premium package can be ordered without the applicant’s direct involvement (with proper pre-approval) and landlords can set criteria a prospective tenant needs to meet in order to get the green light.

TenantCloud – score 10/10:  From your custom marketing site potential tenants can complete your customized application, upload any documents you’ve requested, and pay for the screening reports you require.  Partnering with RentPrep for screening solutions, TenantCloud provides several a-la-carte report options.  We awarded RentPrep our top honors for screening services, and we’re glad to see their partnership with TenantCloud.

RentecDirect – score 7/10:  RentecDirect takes applicants from your marketing website to a custom application, however ordering screening reports is a separate step that must be completed by the property owner or manager.  From our perspective as owner-managers we prefer platforms that require prospective tenants to purchase reports directly.  We also don’t like having to take the additional step of ordering the reports.  The upside of RentecDirect screening offerings is that they are affordable and flexible, as there are several screening packages to choose from.

RentRedi – score 9.5/10: Applicants order and pay for screening reports, straight from their mobile device or desktop, and it’s quickly visible to the landlord wherever they are. Landlords send customizable responses at a tap, and can request additional information. Full credit, criminal, and eviction reports cost the applicant $35.

SparkRental – score 9/10:  We like the flexibility of SparkRental’s screening options.  When setting up listings and embedding an application link, landlords can elect to require one or more of four reports offered – credit, criminal, eviction, and rental history.  Depending on subscription level, applicants are charged directly (our preference) or landlords can choose to pay.   Flexibility is in screening options is a strength of the SparkRental offering.

Just want great screening reports? Check out RentPrep


Extra Credit: Showing Coordination

Advertising vacancies, fielding inquiries, and scheduling appointments is time consuming.  Buildium offers a tool that automates that process, and we’ve decided to award bonus points for this feature.

Avail – score 2/2: Landlords can set showing times when they publish listings, or respond to inquiries with times for applicants to choose from. From the Avail dashboard landlords set showing times for leads coming from any of the platforms their listing is syndicated to.

Buildium – score 2/2:  We really like the fact that Buildium allows landlords to setup a showing calendar, so that prospective tenants can see available times and setup times to tour rentals directly from a listing page.  We believe this convenience will lead property managers to show units to more potential applicants.  This feature also eliminates the time-consuming process of negotiating showing times that are acceptable to both the shopper and the landlord.

Also Read: Buildium Property Management Software Overview

Also Read: Avail Property Management Software Overview

Extra Credit: Market Rent Calculator

Pricing units competitively is crucial to filling vacancies quickly with good tenants.  We believe rent calculators are useful tools as they scan listings and summarize the competitive environment for similar properties in the area.  Having one of these features built-in is valuable-enough that we thought awarding bonus points is useful when considering where to list properties.

Avail – score 2/2: As with TenantCloud, Avail provides rent price analysis powered by RentRange. At $19.99 the report gives landlords a wealth of information, including; a rental estimate, high/medium/low benchmarks, days-on-market report, and 5-year rental trends.

TenantCloud – score 2/2:  TenantCloud partners with RentRange to offer robust pricing analysis.  “We are thrilled to introduce our Property Marketing Report, which provides an in-depth comparison of your property and other properties in the area. Property Reports provide accurate and reliable automated rent estimates”.

Sign up with TenantCloud for free rental marketing, rent collection and more.


Winner: Best Overall

Among free online ways to advertise property for rent, Avail wins Best Overall.

  • Vacancies are syndicated (posted-on) a broad range of rental listing sites, reaching a huge percentage of people searching for housing online.
  • The user interface is attractive and easy to use, and units advertised on your personalized listings website are presented in a professional, appealing way.
  • A customizable online application is a click away from your vacancy page.
  • Avail is the only service to score on for both of our Extra Credit categories: automated showing time scheduling, and a rental research feature.
  • There are three different screening reports to choose from. Landlords choose whether to pay, or require tenants to do so.
Avail
Advertise your property, find and screen tenants, sign leases, collect rent, and e-sign custom local leases, with tools built specifically for DIY landlords. Strength: Complete Solution

Winner: Best for Property Managers Or Larger Portfolios

If you’re asking us to recommend a great software product for advertising and managing larger real estate portfolios (25+ units??) we call a draw between Buildium and TenantCloud. Both offer robust features from vacancy listings through maintenance and financial management. While products such as Avail also support higher unit counts, we believe that the subscription pricing of Buildium and TenantCloud – though unappealing at first glance – become a good value once you have more than a handful of rentals.

Buildium
Whether you manage five doors or five thousand, Buildium provides a simple but sophisticated property management platform to help you grow and improve your business. Strength: Complete Solution
TenantCloud
End-to-end property management solution. Receive payments online, advertise properties and screen potential tenants. Robust accounting and maintenance features. Strength: Complete Solution

Winner: Best for Mobile

RentRedi’s app is truly convenient and enjoyable to use, for both landlords and tenants. Advertising your vacancy can be managed easily from any mobile device, and you can correspond easily with prospective tenants from anywhere, in real time. For landlords on the go, and renters who expect mobile convenience, we see RentRedi as a great tool!

RentRedi
RentRedi is an all-inclusive landlord-tenant app. Manage vacancies, screening, and rent collection from wherever you are, on any device. Strength: Complete Solution

Takeaway

Reaching and appealing to the maximum number of prospective tenants is the first important step in keeping your properties fully occupied with great residents. There are many free online ways to advertise property for rent, and we’ve evaluated the best products in order to help you choose the solution that’s right for you.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

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About Eli Secor

Eli comes from a family of real estate investors, dating back several generations. He currently manages his own multifamily property, apartment buildings for clients, and commercial spaces. He has particular expertise in the construction and maintenance arena, having spent almost 20 years in the construction fields.
View all posts by Eli Secor →

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