9186 Richmond Highway

This post was adapted from Rental Report: Rent It Faster With Perks. You can find the original post, here.

Not so long ago, an independent landlord in the D.C. Metro area could barely get the words, “I have a rental available,” out of his or her mouth before they had a line of applicants out the door ready to apply for their condo.

But these days, there are hundreds of new apartment units coming on the market every quarter, making it much more competitive for landlords. It is especially difficult when these brand new units come not only with shiny new fixtures, appliances and amenities, but also with offers of free rent, flat screen TVs and iPads.

Independent landlords need not fear. We have a few tips on what you can offer to attract renters to your property.

Based on requests we get from DC renters every day, here are our top recommendations. Before you consider all or some of these, we suggest you also research what specials the large apartment buildings are offering to get a sense of market conditions:

Utilities — If you can swing including utilities as part of the rent for your condo or row house, or even partial utilities, renters will love it. This is probably a top request and there are ways to control usage, including installing a thermostat with pre-set temperature ranges.

Parking — If you have parking available for your unit it is best to figure it into rent. Be sure to advertise “PARKING INCLUDED.”

Move-In Fees — Many condo associations charge a move-in or elevator fee to new residents. This fee is usually a few hundred dollars. Renters already have to come up with their first month’s rent and a security deposit, so covering even just these few hundred dollars is a good gesture, and it is attractive to potential renters. You can add value by amortizing it into the rent monthly.

New Paint — Offering to put on a fresh coat of paint is one thing, but offering to paint in colors the renter selects is even better. If painting the entire unit is out of the question, maybe just offer up the bedrooms. Make sure you have a signed lease before you break out the paint roller.

Housekeeping — Include house cleaning monthly. A cleaning service is very attractive to renters and it helps protect your investment. Some renters may pay their rent on time, but they might not be the best at shower cleaning.

Landscaping — If you have a yard or even a small space by the sidewalk, including maintenance is great. Many renters don’t like yard work or simply don’t have the time. Including landscape maintenance is definitely appealing, and it keeps up that curb appeal for when you need to start showing the unit again.

Security Deposit — By law in DC, landlords can collect up to one month’s rent for a security deposit, but it doesn’t mean you have to take that much. It is common for independent landlords to charge one month, but many multi-family properties in DC only collect a few hundred dollars. Knocking a few hundred dollars off for renters with excellent credit and landlord references is a great way to start off the lease. Just be sure you have the standards laid out ahead of time, such as a minimum credit score of 720 and a spotless landlord reference to qualify. You don’t want to appear discriminatory.

Get creative — Consider offering a gift card to the closest grocery store or a loaded Metro card.

Many renters are looking for a more unique property in DC and would prefer to rent from an independent landlord. But they can still be lured away with some free rent, so it can’t hurt to consider one or two perks to help turn your property over sooner.