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The biggest loss you may ever experience as a landlord is a prolonged vacancy.

Yet, in this economy, the tenant pool is shrinking, primarily due to high unemployment. According to researchers, even qualified renters who have jobs are fearful of committing long-term, and they are in a better position than ever to buy their own home.

Finding applicants is more complicated than it used to be. Why is that?

Newspapers are losing subscribers. To compensate, they may be charging more for ads, or following the trend to move online. In fact, most newspapers now have their own online classifieds, although they charge as though they are advertising to subscribers.

Take a look at this example:This sample ad: “Move in Now. For Rent. Great Deal. 303-555-1234″ as a plain text ad in the Denver Post Classified would cost $546 for thirty days, $176.75 for one week. Pictures are an additional $25 a piece, and bold text is another $10. Compare that to this Sample Ad that you could run online — in fact, you could run an unlimited number of them online for three months for $39.95. You can also link to this listing in other ads or announcements, or email it to applicants who want to find out more about your rental.

The job market is shifting geographically. New job seekers as well as laid-off workers are moving to where opportunity takes them, whether that is a new job or a new college. Rental signs alone miss a significant number of qualified applicants.

Many renters are advancing students, raised on technology. They get their news from the Internet. They don’t subscribe to a newspaper. They don’t even know where to get a newspaper. In 2008, 26 million people shopped for apartments online.

Many online apartment searches begin as research. Renters shop the ads to get a feel for the market in your area. Once they decide to move, those are the listings that stick in their minds.So how do you get renters in today’s climate: If you want to snag a good tenant, you’ll have to cast your net a little wider than before.

Keep the sign up. Focus on curb appeal. There will always be some number of applicants who drive by.

Look at local spots for free ads. Hit your tenants for referrals, advertise in local offices, health clubs, bookstores that have community bulletin boards.

If ads in your local paper are expensive, go directly online with your ad – chances are, it’s cheaper and more effective. Watch out though. Free services like Craigslist have come under some scrutiny after a few high-profile rental scams hit the news. Con artists take deposits for properties they never owned. Some apartment searchers are leery of getting ripped off. Tenant advocates suggest searching on paid sites – that eliminates many of the risks.

AAOA members have a great opportunity to save 50% on online rental listings on national databases, but for a limited time. You must subscribe by February 5th to get in on that discount. Click 50% discount. Once you register, enter coupon code AAOA50 as you check out.

See our feature, How to Write a Killer Rental Ad.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your commercial housing investment, including real estate forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at

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