Multimedia, Property Management

Rental Listing Platform Comparison – Video Extra

In this video, Landlord Gurus Founders Chris Lee and Eli Secor do a rental listing platform comparison and discuss where their leads come from.

Topics discussed in this video:

  • 1 bedroom apartment [1:56]
  • 4 bedroom house [4:24]
  • 2 bedroom apartment [5:33]
  • 1 bedroom apartment [6:11]
  • Changes in Zillow [8:06]
  • Leads from property management software [11:18]


Chris Lee: Hey there, everyone. Welcome back to another Landlord Gurus video. I’m Chris. We’ve got Eli here as well. Today we’re going to talk about where to list your vacancies, your vacant apartments. We get this question a lot. We see this on message boards and people asking around, like, “Where are you listing your, units these days?”

Because it changes quite frequently in terms of which ones maybe are more popular. Maybe there’s new ones out there. I think a lot of it does probably depend on your location and the size of the apartment, what type of listing you have. But, it’s a good question to discuss.

We think about this all the time and we’ve got our vacancies and where to list. Whether it’s Zillow and the prices change to list often, they come up with different plans. Zillow, Craigslist, one of the property management software products like Avail or

So, I did this a while ago. I’ll share the post that I did about that, in the comments, comparing some of the platforms. Eli’s had a bunch of vacancies recently in the last several months. He’s been kind of keeping track of where these leads are and where they’re coming from and has some observations.

Welcome Eli. We’ll get into your sort of your situation, where you’ve been listing, and where your successes have been from. 

Eli Secor: Yeah. Thanks, Chris. Unfortunately, I’ve had, like Chris said, quite a few vacancies over the last 8 to 10 months. First of all, one observation is that I think people are now moving. Now that COVID’s kind of settled down, when I had very little activity. I’m seeing some shifting there. Just a disclaimer, this is pseudo-scientific and part of that is that I did change the way I was using platforms kind of midway and I’ll try to allude to that. I’ll go through the vacancies.

I’ve had 5 of them over the last 8 months or so, one by one. I’ll give you kind of an idea of where I was getting my leads and some observations. So the first one was a 1 bedroom and this was in May of last year. For this one, I got an overwhelming number of leads from Zillow. One note is that on all of these, I have started to pay for Zillow premium advertising, which I’ve always been reluctant to do. That’s a flat fee of $29 for 3 months worth of premium featured, higher visibility listings. 

CL: So in theory, that would put your listing kind of at the top of the list. When someone is searching for, say, a 1 bedroom in a particular neighborhood in Seattle, your listing might come up in the top handful. 

ES: Yeah. 

CL: Otherwise it would just get lost, theoretically, just kind of lost in the shuffle and who knows where it would show up. 

ES: Right. Yeah. So actually, Chris, let’s come back to that, at the end. Maybe we can talk a little bit about the pricing of Zillow and what’s happened over time there because it’s confusing.

Anyway, I got 21 leads from Zillow on this one. I got 10 from a combination of the sites that Avail syndicates to. So we’ll put together a list of the sites that Avail and TurboTenant, which are the two other platforms that I’ve been using, where they all syndicate to. There’s a lot of overlap there, but I’ll also talk about where the listings from those sites have come from. 

internal link Also Read: Avail Property Management Software Overview

And then Craigslist brought 8 of those leads. I believe that unit was filled from a lead from Zillow. 

The next one was the same timeframe. Chris, you got a comment there? 

CL: Yeah, so I was going to say, just to clarify that when you have a vacancy, you’ll make a listing. Basically, it sounds like you’re making 1 listing kind of in 3 different places.

You’ll upload that listing to Zillow, you’ll upload that listing to Avail or TurboTenant, whichever one you’ve chosen, and you’ll upload that listing to Craigslist. 

ES: Exactly. And the Avail and TurboTenant listings get you lots of different places, right? And that’s the benefit there. And as we’ve seen many times before, it really pays to list all over the place, even though it’s kind of a pain.

So, of what, 40 leads that I got out of this, half were from Zillow, approximately a quarter were from Avail and then a quarter from Craigslist. Approximately, which is consistent with what has happened. 

CL: Sure. And, with Zillow, they also, have 3 sites in their system. So when you list on Zillow, you’re also getting it on HotPads and you’re getting it on Trulia. 

ES: Okay. So the next, listing was for a 4 bedroom house. So it’s very different in nature. Small-scale apartment building to a single-family home in a nice neighborhood.

So here again, we got even a larger percentage of leads from Zillow. And, my guess is that Zillow is particularly strong when it comes to single-family houses. And I think that probably comes from the fact that people are used to interacting with Zillow from kind of a real estate listing standpoint, you know, purchase and sale standpoint. So they’re used to going there and thinking about it for single-family homes. 

CL: Some of those people may have actually been looking for homes to buy at some point and maybe renting was better for them. 

ES: Yeah, this tenant had recently sold a house in the same neighborhood. So they were definitely in that kind of mentality. 

So we had 20 leads from Zillow on that house, 1 through Avail, and then another 3 from Craigslist. 

CL: Oh, wow. It’s a pretty high proportion. Almost all from Zillow, really. 

ES: Yup. Yeah, that really stands out there. That was in May as well.

The next listing was in October. That was a 2 bedroom apartment and, even smaller, a 6-unit building. On that listing, we had 7 leads from Zillow, 0 from Avail, and 7 from Craigslist. The 0 from Avail is, I’m pretty sure me. So, again, pseudoscientific, take that information for what you’re paying for it.

CL: Yeah, I was going to say, because usually we do pretty well with Avail, or at least, you know, get a number of leads from them. 

ES: Oh, for sure. I absolutely don’t mean that one shouldn’t list there. 

And, the next one was basically the same time, same building, a 1 bedroom unit. And on this listing, we got 16 leads from Zillow, 11 from TurboTenant, and then Craigslist was another 7. So you’re getting back to that 50, 25, 25 kind of. Roughly speaking. That was also in October. 

Currently, actually, I’m marketing a 1 bedroom in the 10-unit apartment building and I’ve been listening it since the beginning of December. I have not yet filled it. It’s the 10th of January. I’m being patient. I’m not dropping the price radically, yet. So I take it as this just being a really rough time. 

CL: It’s hard to do during the holidays for sure. 

ES: Yeah and my experience is if I drop my prices too fast, I often realize that it was just slow traffic. And, dropping the price didn’t make the difference. That’s again, just an anecdotal observation, which I often have at certain times of the year. It seems like April is another one that I’ve historically had trouble with.  

This listing is kind of abnormal actually in terms of the trends. So this listing, I’ve had 4 from Zillow, 12 from TurboTenant, and 7 from Craigslist. So, the leads from Craigslist are really consistent, actually, now that I’m looking at it. The balance, I think, between Zillow and the TurboTenant or Avail platforms, most of that differentiation, I think has to do with how I was using it.

But you can see there, Zillow is imperative. I’m getting roughly 50% on all listings from there. 

CL: Yeah, I think we’ve noticed that before and I’ve noticed that. Maybe that was indicated in my previous post that I had made where the majority do seem to come from Zillow. To be fair, I haven’t been listing on the premium listing. But still, it does feel that the Zillow is pretty ubiquitous. Everybody knows about Zillow. 

ES: So maybe we ought to touch on what the pricing trajectory has been with Zillow. Do you want to speak to that, Chris, about how it’s all shifted all over the place in the last couple of years? 

CL: Yeah. Well, it used to be free, which was great. Then they moved to a model where it was like $9.99 a week, right? Something like that. For everybody across the board, you had to pay the $9.99. So I probably paid for it when it was like that. 

ES: You had 1 listing for free. 

CL: Yeah, that’s right. You had one listing free, but then it was $9.99 for a week for any other one. Then in the last year, year and a half or so, they’ve moved to this model that they currently have where it’s $29.99 for 3 weeks. Just straight up. So if you rent it in a day, you still pay the 30 bucks. If it takes you 20 days, it’s 30 bucks. So, yeah, that’s where they currently are with it.

ES: Another aspect of that, though, is what’s called Zillow Feed Connect. A couple of years ago, they were trying to partner with Avail and TurboTenant and some of these other syndication sites so that those sites would populate to the Zillow network as well. What they did is they had this—convoluted, in my opinion—system where to do that, you had to pay a fee. I think it was about $1.40 a day, for the privilege of doing that. (Getting your listing syndicated from one of the other platforms to Zillow.) 

CL: So you’d only have to upload it once, basically. 

ES: Exactly. So I never did that. I’ve always maintained my listings on Zillow, on Avail or other syndication platforms, and Craigslist all separately.

And keeping everything lined up in terms of any shift in pricing, you got to stay on top of it everywhere. 

CL: Communication would be in a separate platform and things like that. 

ES: Right. What I do now is I bring leads from Zillow or Craigslist into TurboTenant, which is the platform I’m using currently. 

So, that way I can get applications there, which is, how I proceed with screening and leases and rent collection. So it does help to bring it all into one place. 

Anyway, to go back to the Zillow Feed Connect, I’m not sure they’re doing that anymore.

So they’ve shipped it all over the place. At least the $29.99 is simple. And I think that’s why they’ve landed there. But, it’s not fun to pay it. 

CL: Yeah, it’s not. It does feel pricey, but at the same time, they’ve got eyeballs. 

ES: Yeah, you got to do it now. 

CL: But their current plan, you don’t have to pay that $29.99. They do still have a free option, don’t they? Where you can list, but like we said before, your listing may not show up at the top or, who knows, it might not show up at all. But, if the tenant is searching using the map function, they’re just looking at a particular area on the map, I think your listing will still show up in the right location. That’s just the difference though. But if they were looking in a list view, your listing would be behind all the other sponsored ones. 

ES: That’s consistent with too. 

CL: Right. Exactly. 

ES: So that’s a good lead into then, where my leads are coming from when I’m syndicating from property management software. This is just a sampling, but, one observation is I’m getting leads from Redfin, via TurboTenant. I think Avail didn’t syndicate there.

My guess is that people are new to searching on Redfin for rentals. I don’t think that that’s been a place that people have searched up until recently. It seems like they’re making some ground there.  Zumper has always been pretty strong, both through Avail and through TurboTenant. Apartments. com, I get about half of my leads from So even though has a similar model that Zillow does now—where you have to pay—and it’s quite expensive to get featured higher on If you list directly there, I am having success there without paying.

Then, just recently I have had a couple of leads directly through TurboTenant. They have their own listing platform, as does Avail. So those are a smaller number. But what I get is all my leads coming into TurboTenant from Redfin,,, and Apartment List.

And that works the same way on these different syndication platforms where it all feeds into one place. And that way, I communicate back from that platform and I don’t have to be communicating on the individual sites.

CL: Right. And like you said, it’s great then, at that point, if you can get your applications there, you can do your screening there, you can do your leasing there. And once they’re in that platform, then it’s all streamlined from there on out. 

ES: Right. And all those property management software functions that you just listed, most of those Zillow does, they do it in a simpler, less robust way. They don’t have nearly as many accounting features or more sophisticated rent collection. It’s a much simpler offering.

CL: Yeah. Last time I looked, the leasing was only applicable in a handful of states as well. 

ES: Right. They don’t have the 50 state leases, customized leases, like Avail and TurboTenant do, for example, RentRedi. Many of the sites that we talk about have kind of a broad function set, are much more robust in their offerings.

Zillow also has a phenomenon where it’s very easy to be a tire kicker there, where you look at a listing, you click a box, and you send it. Usually what I get is “I’m interested in this apartment. I’m wondering when I can come see it.” They’ve done no work to do that, it’s a click. 

30 and sometimes closer to 50% of people just never follow up. So it’s just too easy. And for that reason, I also turn off the ability for people to apply through Zillow because it’s that easy for them to apply as well. They pay once and they can scatter-shot their applications out to a whole bunch of different properties. 

CL: Without even seeing it. Without even talking to you, without meeting you, any of that. 

ES: Which is really a problem in a place like Seattle, because we’re required to take the first qualified applicant. So if you get an application, site unseen, and they meet your criteria for acceptance, then you have to go with that person. The worst of it is that they don’t even know if they want the apartment yet because they haven’t seen it. 

CL: And you have to give them 48 hours to accept or decline.

ES: Right. So you’re locked up in the meantime. 

CL: Yeah, exactly. You can’t take any other applications. You can’t commit to anybody else and stuff. 48 hours and you do it again and it’s another 48 hours and who knows how long it’s going to take. 

ES: That’s part of my pre-screening: When do you want to move? 

internal link Also Read: Rental Criteria Checklist for Screening Prospective Tenants

And you don’t get that option when somebody can automatically send you an application.

Another observation I’ve had just recently, in the last 6 months or so, is that property management companies, or I think online marketing companies of some sort, are starting to respond to my applications. Essentially, they’re saying “Hey, I’d like to help you rent this out.” These are not potential renters. These are people that are soliciting me to pay them or somebody’s paying them to rent the apartment. I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it, but it’s something to watch for. And it’s very unwelcome in my mind. 

Another is the ability for people to send inquiries through the phone. I’m getting quite a few of those. I get basically a voicemail through Zillow. That’s really not the format I want to get it in. I want it to be in a written form so that I can have questions and that don’t have to take several more steps in order to get to that point. 

CL: And you can document when it came through and keep track of where everybody is in the process for sure. 

ES: One thing I’ve noticed that I am not a fan of is that TurboTenant includes my phone number on the listings. And in particular I then get phone calls. Again, even if it is legitimate, I don’t really like getting phone calls. I like written correspondence right off the bat. 

Yeah, that’s a minor one, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. I think Zillow must be including an encrypted phone number because I don’t get phone calls, I get voice messages. 

CL: Oh, interesting. 

ES: I guess my last takeaway is that people ignore the criteria. I get about 20% of people that either smoke or have animals, even though I say explicitly in my listings that I don’t accept either of those things. 

CL: I don’t know if that’s necessarily based on those platforms. I think that’s just in general.

ES: I think it might be a little bit more around Zillow because it’s so easy to just fire off inquiries. But no, it’s everywhere.

When they have animals, in particular, they hope to squeak past that because it’s harder. 

CL: Okay, yeah, great. Well, that’s really insightful. You know, it’s good to see the actual real numbers as far as where you’re getting leads from and which platforms are working.

And again, this is based on just our information that we’ve done here in Seattle. There are other markets where it might be different. Facebook Marketplace might be really good in some places or Craigslist is better here than other places. So, yeah, I mean, if you have your own thoughts and your own anecdotes, please leave them in the comments below.

We’d love to hear what platforms are working for you guys. Remember to like and subscribe and do all those things as well. 

Our final takeaway, and we’ve talked about this before is it’s just good to list your rental on a variety of sources. The more that it gets out there, I think the better. Even if it means you’re listing it several times and you have to change the price across different platforms, or you’re getting emails from different platforms.

It probably still makes sense just to get that out there, get eyeballs on it, get it rented. 

ES: Yeah, absolutely. 

CL: All right. Well, thanks for watching. And we’ll see you again next time. 

ES: Thanks. Bye.

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Here at Landlord Gurus, our commitment is to provide expert advice on the complex and important issues faced by landlords and property managers. Together we have over 30 years of experience in residential property ownership and management. In addition to sharing our own expertise and experiences, we call on specialists in fields including maintenance, law, tenant management, and more. Where we see topics that require more in-depth discussion, we create insightful articles that provide valuable information and guidance.
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