Rental Listing Headlines that Fill Your Vacancies Fast

Written on May 9, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Rental Listing HeadlinesI’m going to deviate from my normal topic of making money through rental property to emphasize one important point: a rental listing title — the ad headline — is so critical when trying to find a new tenant.

And too many landlords are messing up!

So I have to go rogue! I’m going to teach you how to get the click that brings you cash!

When you have a vacancy to promote, you’re in a full-blown war to get attention.

But First the Back Story

Did you blink? Did you miss it? Years ago, there was a silent yet gigantic change.

It used to be that landlords posted “For Rent” ads in the classified section of their local newspapers for a fee.

Then Craigslist came along and popularized free online rental listings. At the time, it was basically an online bulletin board, but since it didn’t cost anything to use, the platform scaled.

Now, Craigslist and other online platforms are a lot more sophisticated. They have introduced numerous subcategories to help users quickly find what they are looking for.

Titles are invitations, not court orders.

For example, if you are looking for an apartment that allows pets, then you can select an “apartment” type and “pet” as search criteria, and the website will present only the matching contenders.

That’s a big time saver for renters, but it makes competition more fierce for landlords.

Related: The Landlord’s Guide to Marketing With Craigslist

How Not to Choke in Front of Your Prospects

Let’s assume your ad made it through your prospective tenant’s filtering process. Congratulations! Now your online prospect just needs to click on your ad to so you can wow them.

So here we are … will they choose you? You’d better hope you wrote a good headline. This is your time to shine!

You’ve got an empty unit sitting there. If you don’t find a qualified renter, and find one quickly, you’re going to have to pay for the mortgage out-of-pocket. And that’s a lot of money.

Now is not the time for your headline to choke. But that is exactly what happens! And it’s painful!

Too many landlords aren’t paying attention and make these amateurish mistakes:

Top Amateur Headline Mistakes:

Bad Craigslist Title

Mistake #1: Don’t state the number of bedrooms your rental has in the headline – that information is automatically presented in the subheading. Why say the number of bedrooms twice? Why clutter up your headline with repetitive information?

Here’s the typical Craigslist headline: Lincoln – 6 Bedrooms x 3 Bathrooms House $1975 / 6br – 3547ft – (Lincoln)

Mistake #2: Don’t try to screen tenants in the title. For example, don’t say, “For low income only …” That’s just tacky. Who aspires to be “low income?”

Mistake #3: Don’t restate your square footage in your title. It’s automatically stated in the subtitle. For example: Beautiful 4 Bedrooms/3 full-baths 3,100 sq ft home $1995 / 4br – 3100ft

Mistake #4: Don’t make a call to action in the title, such as “Call Natalie NOW.” Titles are invitations, not court orders.

Mistake #5: Don’t use worn out phrases like “must see,” “spacious,” or “beautiful.” These terms have lost their flavor.

Instead, you can edge out your competition with the following simple headline formula:

(desirable primary quality) + (building type) + (nickname location)

Related: Always Include Pictures when Posting on Craigslist

Steps to Crush Your Competition

Spend some time thinking about who would be a perfect match for your rental. What size family, where would they work, what are their interests, what problem can you help them solve?

Develop a couple of avatars. Give them names, and make them come alive in your mind. Then use the following system to write a few titles. Your goal is to attract your ideal tenant (or avatar) and annoy everyone else.

With one avatar in mind, take the following steps:

  • Step 1: List the No. 1 feature that would appeal to your avatar. Is it your two master bedrooms, your infinity pool, or on-site gym? Pick only one feature per ad.
  • Step 2: List your location’s nickname. What do the cool kids call it? If you said, “Close to Travis,” would your ideal tenant know what you meant?
  • Step 3: Name your building type. Is your rental a cottage, house, apartment, or condo?
  • Step 4: List some interesting adjectives that describe your rental, and try to elicit some emotions. List five words that describe your offering. Do the hard work. Don’t go with overused descriptors. Think hard – brainstorm.

Related: Add HTML Symbols To Your Craigslist Ad Titles

Pull the Rental Listing Headline Together

My best performing title was this one:

“Ultra-Quiet Apartment near Med Center”

It follows a (desirable primary quality) + (building type) + (nickname location) sequence.

But if street parking were an issue, I might write:

“Quiet Apartment with Off Street Parking near Med Center”

The sequence is not sacred; you can arrange your title components however you choose. What’s important is that you try to include all four elements. Get it?

That’s how you’ll increase your odds of getting that click that brings you cash.


When you have a vacancy to promote, you’re in a full-blown war to get attention. That’s why you should not slop through writing your ad’s title.

Your title is the virtual front edge of your landlord business; spend some time crafting it.

I hope these do’s and don’ts help you write better rental listing titles. After all, even if you get a 1% edge on your competition, that’s all it takes right?

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10 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jimmy Moncrief

    Al – this is a great post!

    I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t think about headlines enough in my listings.

  • Lisa Finelli

    I, too, try to think “outside” of the box!

    But, thanks for the interesting scenarios!!

  • carto

    Good article. You make writing a rental post almost as fun as filling in a MadLib.
    _______fab adjective________ _____what kind of place______ ________location location location_________.
    Brainstorm the words and keep a “clip list” of them. I have one document that I cut and paste from for just these situations. I keep the prose fresh – but I don’t have to reinvent the actual phrases.

  • Cameron Harki

    Al, thank for all the information. I’ve listened to your bigger pockets podcast, and I just wanted to let you know it was my favorite one so far! I can’t wait to listen to your other podcasts. Thanks again man!

  • Krista

    Thanks for these helpful tips! I made the mistake of listing the # of beds/baths in the title. I just re-worked my Craigslist ad to reflect some of your tips. Fingers crossed I’ll get more hits.
    Thx again!

  • Lisa

    Thanks for your email!

    What state are you working property management? I am in Los Angeles. Be consistent and you will get these units rented!

  • Yaneke Buchanan

    I need assistance obtaining corporate renters. Do you offer a paid consultation session. I cannot afford the annual mentor-ship.

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