How to advertise a room/property/flatshare

I’ve recently been looking for a room to rent. This is made more complicated because I’m unemployed and need to find someone who accepts that. However, some people seem so clueless when placing adverts, and I’d have some of the same issues if I was an employed person. I’ve actually advertised several rooms before – on behalf of a very hands-off landlord – back when I lived in a shared house a few years ago, so I feel I can safely judge you all for your bad adverts. Ha.

Here’s a list of 15 common mistakes I’ve noticed over and over again (in no particular order):

1. Room location not stated – ground floor/first floor?

I’m not just talking about the area of the city (although some people do miss this out. I ask you – who wants to rent a room in “Bristol”? Or for that matter – “London”? “Leeds”? Where IS it? The rough area of the city is needed, at very least.) but where is it in the house? Upstairs/downstairs?¬†Some people probably don’t care, but I’d guess some do. I’d like to know I’m living in a more-secure loft room, if it’s in a poor area of Bristol. If it’s next to a busy street, I might not get any sleep on the ground, but I’ll be fine from the second floor at the back of the house. In a nice area, a higher up room might be a selling point as you probably have a better view, but in some places, being part of a ground floor flat might mean you get near-exclusive access to the garden.

2. Smoking or non-smoking?

I’m non-smoking and can’t live in a smoking house, because it’s disgusting, unhealthy and it smells. Cigarette smoke gets in your clothes, your hair, and the furniture.
I think it’s horrible. I’ve actually come back from some viewings this week, taken off my clothes and aired them outside (I put other things on first. I didn’t just get naked in front of the neighbours).
BUT some people enjoy it. And good for them, recklessly laughing in the face of proven links to lung cancer. Surely if you’re a smoker though, you’ll want to live with other smokers who share your habit and not the sort of wankers who are now partly to blame when you’ve got to stand outside Yates’ in the cold/rain, while they keep warm looking after your bags inside?
If 3/4 tenants are smokers, then advertise the fact, even if there’s no-smoking in the rooms because the landlord doesn’t want fag burns in the carpet and a constant stale smell of death in the air.
Likewise, if it’s non-smoking, advertise it as such. Non-smoking people (and extremist ex-smokers) will want to know this.

3. Student?

I’m amazed by the number of people advertising student flats in the professional section. Stop it. You’re an idiot. Do you think professionals looking will ever consider a student property? Or maybe you think students looking for a student property will be happy to shun other students and pay one of the higher rates of council tax in the UK? You’re just wasting everyone’s time.

4. Advertise a houseshare, as a houseshare.

Nobody looking for a 1-bedroom flat wants a bedroom in a houseshare. Nobody looking for a houseshare can afford a 1-bed flat. Don’t deliberately put it in the wrong category (time and time again). It’s mostly agents doing it too. You’re helping nobody, agents.

5. Who else is living there?

It’s a 5-bed house, but if you’re renting 2 rooms, then what are the current 3 tenants like? Just age/sex will do, and if they’re related/linked. Most people will expect a house to be unrelated individuals. The first place I viewed this week, I was expecting it to be one room in a shared house of individuals. When I got there, I found there was 3 other occupants – a married couple and a small child. That sort of thing might be important to potential renters.

6. Put some bloody pictures on.

The general consensus among my friends seems to be that when you don’t put pictures on your advert, it is assumed that it’s because the house is an absolute shithole. Almost every mobile phone has a camera. Cameraphone pictures will do if you have nothing else.

7. Put some bloody relevant pictures on.

Nobody is expecting professional shots, but content-wise – if you’re advertising a double room, try putting some pictures of the room on. If it’s the only picture you’re using, that’s the one people need to see. Do that, before you start doing the kitchen, other tenants, the garden, the dog, etc.
And if it’s a ground floor room, don’t put pictures of the second floor bedroom on, and hope nobody notices you can see the tops of trees and chimney pots out the window.
What absolutely nobody needs is 5 pictures (presumably you think by having that many, you’ll stand out) consisting of 1 of a row of buildings (with no clue as to which one you’re renting), 1 of the kitchen window, and 3 of the letting agent’s logo.

8. Furnished or unfurnished?

I’m amazed by how many people don’t say one way or the other on this. Are you renting an empty shell, or does it come with stuff?

9. What’s in the room/house?

Further to above, if the room is furnished, does that mean there’s just a bed? Or is there actually a wardrobe, chest of drawers, etc. too? It’s either a selling point, or a bit of a pain in the arse to the person who has an enormous bookcase they’d like to bring with them, but they’ll want to know either way.

10. Garden?

Loads of places don’t mention it at all, despite it being quite a selling point in one of the places I viewed, which had plants, room for a barbeque and a conservatory that opened out onto it – none of which I was really expecting.

11. Check the pricing.

“How much are the bills?” shouldn’t be a hard question. You already pay them every month, don’t you?

12. Don’t charge extra for WiFi.

I’ve seen this a few times in various forms: “Includes all bills except WiFi.”
You’re advertising online, in 2012. Your tenant will almost certainly want WiFi. If you think it justifies it, then either add it to the inclusive cost (and increase the total a bit) or separate the rest of the bills properly too.
Of all the bills to have separate, it doesn’t make sense to use this one. With most broadband plans, it’ll be the same cost even if the new person sits on it bit-torrenting celebrity-sex-tapes all month. If you’re going to do an “except” bill of anything, surely you’d do something highly prone to variation like the electricity and gas?

13. Don’t spam.

Gumtree lets you place adverts for free. But then some other total bastard places a free advert and your advert is no longer the most recently added one, and doesn’t show up at the top of the list. What do you do in that situation?
Well I’ll tell you what some agents do. They put the same adverts on every day. Over and over and over and over. And they don’t take the old ones off, so when I search for a double room in Henleaze, I get like 30 adverts all exactly the same, all advertised by “Jessica”, with a landline number. And to make it more annoying, sometimes they vary the picture that shows next to it, so they look like different places, when they’re actually the same house I’ve already discovered isn’t suitable. Cocks.

14. Be honest.

Advertising a flat on Gumtree by “Dave” with a 0117 number, which when googled, finds me a letting agent, makes me think you were for some reason trying to hide that it was a letting agent, to start with. Looks a bit shifty to me, given that trade adverts are also free.
If the room is absolutely tiny, you might as well be honest about it from the offset. Nobody expecting room for their king-size memory-foam-covered bed is going to rent a room barely big enough for a single, anyway. And some people don’t care. One of the rooms I’ve rented out in the past was *just* big enough for a double bed OR a single and a wardrobe (but not both). Some people treat a room as ‘just somewhere to sleep’ and don’t want space, but those who do won’t rent a tiny room, whatever.
On the opposite end of that scale, in one particularly large room, I actually went as far as listing the bedroom rough floor area (most bedrooms are roughly square). Why not, eh?

15. Reply to your emails.

If I email you and say “I’m unemployed”, “would you consider me?” and “I’d be grateful if you could let me know one way or the other, even if it’s a definite no because of my circumstances”, I’d actually quite like a reply, even if it’s 2 days after I emailed you and just a “sorry, no”. Completely ignoring me just makes me think you’re an arsehole, especially if you’ve chosen not to specify one way or the other regards ‘DSS’ in your original advert. I do get a tiny amount of pleasure from seeing someone advertising a room again and again, while also not replying to my emails. It makes me wonder if you’re ignoring other people asking other questions about the room, who you’ve deemed unsuitable.

And if you think this sounds like a lot of work, consider this:

When I advertised rooms, the only emails I got were from people wanting to view the room. Nobody pestered me asking whether WiFi was included, or how big the room was, or whether it was suitable for smokers, or whether they could bring a dog, or whether there was a garden, or whether there was a bed. All I ever got was “when can I see it?”

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