*This article first appeared in HMO Magazine - The Go-To Magazine for HMO Landlords, Investors and Developers
Knowing how to get your goods to market is vital if your business is going to succeed, and this is no exception when it comes to renting rooms. When Spareroom (the UK’s largest flat-sharing website) was launched, it changed the landscape for HMO property investors overnight. There is an argument that it enabled the sector (particularly professional HMOs) to grow exponentially as it allowed landlords and investors to have an immediate and interactive presence on the internet. Even if they had no website, marketing strategy or smartphone, the power of Spareroom was that it removed the pain of advertising for landlords, placing any room directly in front of a willing and ready buying audience.
Since its inception in 2004 Spareroom has continued to be top of the room-renting listings portals and has developed additional features and benefits for both tenants and landlords. There are a number of aspects of which you may not be aware, and in this post, I want to share some of those functions which may help you reduce room voids and increase your profits – particularly if you are not familiar with some of the newer and more dynamic features of the site.
Reduce room voids and increase your profits
Spareroom is an online environment which changes daily. It is a site where prospective tenants and aspiring landlords create profiles and upload photos and videos with ease. They get over 2 million visitors every month – that’s 11 times the circulation of the Guardian. Much like online dating, there are constant matches, suggestions and recommendations being made to tenants and landlords. Unless you are aware of the speed at which the site can change, you will probably miss out on potential tenants who could be ideally suited to your property.
Be active not passive
Unlike many marketplaces where you cannot see your customer, Spareroom helps connect you directly to people who may be interested in renting a room. In a busy marketplace where choice abounds and there are a number of good looking rooms to choose from, what sets you apart from the rest? Research tells us that tenants prefer to rent from private landlords or people that they feel they can connect with, and who they feel care about them. They don’t like to be treated just like a number (well who does)? They also stay longer in properties where the landlord takes maintenance, customer care and service seriously and puts tenants’ needs first. So rather than waiting for prospective tenants to contact you, you can carry out a search for your ideal tenants on ‘Rooms wanted’ by typing in your chosen location (i.e. the location of your HMO). This will bring up a list of people who are looking to rent in your area, along with their budget. Send them a friendly message, inviting them to arrange a viewing of your property (along with a link to the advert). This also allows you to decide on people who look like a good fit with your property and ensure they meet your requirements. The personal invitation to view is a great way to demonstrate your proactivity. Make sure you read their preferences first though otherwise it won’t look as if you really care if they’ve stated they want a large double ensuite room and all you have to offer is a single with a shared bathroom!
Statistics and measurement
One of my maxims in life is ‘Treasure what you measure and measure what you treasure’! If renting your rooms is valuable to you then it’s crucial to know how that well-crafted and beautifully photographed advert is performing (and if it’s neither of these please see below for further help and advice)! When you log into your account go to your advert management page (where all your ads are listed – called ‘My Placed Ads’). Halfway down you will see a small box named ‘Featured Ads’ and there is a clickable link- ‘Settings and statistics’ which shows the number of times your advert has been seen and clicked on in the previous week (or chosen period of time). One of the key components in keeping your advert at the top of the listings is how often you edit it, and how many click throughs you receive. Keep your advert fresh by occasional edits, changes and re-wordings. Ensure the photos show your rooms off to the best possible standards and please, please, please dress for success! Above all, don’t let your advert languish. Otherwise your clickthrough rate will rapidly diminish and you’ll end up on page 9. Where no-one goes …
If you are still struggling to get enough views of your advert, here is a brief explanation of the ways to upgrade and boost your chances even more:
Three additional services that you can upgrade to are:
- Early Bird
- Bold Advertising
- Featured Advertising
Early Bird status allows all new prospective tenants to see your advert as soon as they log in or create their profile. [Named Early Birds by dint of paying extra to see new adverts first. It doesn’t mean they are early risers – please don’t confuse the two]. If you have not paid for Early Bird status it will be a few days before your advert is placed before new tenants, losing you time and valuable viewing opportunities.
Bold Advertising enables your ad to be displayed with a lovely blue border around it this differentiating it from the standard grey border, and enhancing the placement of the listing.
For these services you can pay for a monthly, 3-monthly, or annual fee for a defined number of property adverts. If you wish to add further properties to the Bold Advertising pass this is possible too. Usually, Early Bird and Bold Advertising are purchased together.
Featured Ad status is a pay-per-click service. This works on the basis of a bid price which is calculated by Spareroom’s internal algorithm. It takes into account the number of rooms available in your locality, the level of competition for top advertising space, and the number of potential matches for your advert. As I mentioned earlier, Spareroom is a dynamic advertising environment which means that there can be rapid transactions taking place simultaneously. You can find that one day the cost to place your room advert at number one position is 80p and then a week later, £1.20. To understand the way Featured Ad status works and how to get to number one position, you need to go to ‘My Featured Ad’ page (which you get to by clicking on ‘Settings and stats’) accounts management page and click the tab named ‘Rankings’. Here you will be able to assess the current ranked status of your advert and decide how much you are willing to pay to be at number one in the rankings. You can then decide how much to pay for the privilege of number one position by going to ‘Individual Ad Bids’ (on the same page).
It is worth considering Featured Ad status if you have one particular room that you’re finding hard to shift. Avoid having a number of adverts all featured at once, or you’ll find you are bidding against yourself and then having the difficult choice of which one to prioritise.
Otherwise, remember the tips above to keep your advert fresh and current to raise enough interest to rent your room.
Information and advice
Spare room recognises that the site has many facets and if you are new to online advertising you may need some additional advice and help. If you click on the ‘Info and advice’ tab in the top right-hand corner of the site you can gain further access to useful information and examples about how to improve your advert, how to create a video, how to describe your room, how to market your property effectively, and much more.
Spareroom is a marvellous resource if you know how to use it. But it can be overwhelming and confusing too! For a free webinar with further information about ‘How to Harness the Power of Spareroom’ please visit my website www.hmosuccess.co.uk and register with your name and email address.