Have you ever wondered if move-in specials are worth using? Are they effective, or a waste of time? Will they attract low-quality tenants looking for a deal, or are move-in deals a viable marketing strategy to get and retain good tenants?

The answer depends on the strategy and details. If your current rental market is highly competitive, you might need to rely on creative strategies to make your properties stand out from the rest. Many landlords successfully use move-in specials when their vacancy rates are high, but it all depends on the specific deal and how it’s done.

Why move-in specials are effective

The right deal can provide several benefits to landlords:

  • Attract more prospective tenants
  • Get more applications
  • Stand out among the competition
  • Capture long-term tenants

How to start using move-in deals for your rental properties

Here are some move-in deals you can incorporate into your marketing strategy to fill your vacancies and get the high-quality tenants you want.

1. Waive your fees

Sometimes prospective tenants apply to a handful of properties at once and application fees can add up fast. Consider waiving application and/or background check fees to get more interested prospects. When you do, you’ll have a larger pool of people to choose from to fill your vacancies.

2. First month – free rent

There are a couple of ways to promote a “free month’s rent” deal. The first way is to offer a genuine free first month where the tenant doesn’t pay and you don’t make up for the lost rent throughout the rest of the year. If your property was vacant anyway, it’s not really a loss, especially when it brings in a tenant faster.

The more common way to run a free month’s rent special is to raise the rent and distribute the cost of the first month’s rent throughout the remaining 11 months. This type of deal is more like “one month without paying rent” rather than an actual free month.

Here’s how it works: If you usually charge $1200 per month, you’d provide the first month for free and then distribute the $1200 throughout the remaining 11 months, which would make the rent $109 higher. Your tenant will pay nothing for the first month, and then $1309 per month for the remainder of the year.

Most people won’t know you raised the rent to account for the free month, but even if they do, a month without paying rent is still enticing.

3. Low or no security deposit

You’ll attract more applicants by lowering or eliminating the security deposit, although it should be used with caution.

Typically, someone who can’t pay a security deposit is a risky tenant. However, not everyone who jumps at the chance to skip a security deposit is going to be late with the rent. Many people find it hard to move from one rental to another before getting their initial security deposit refunded, which can take weeks.

The key to making this move-in special work in your favor is maintaining strict and high standards in other areas, like credit score, income requirements, verifiable income, and no evictions on record.

If you aren’t comfortable with reducing or eliminating the deposit, consider letting tenants make payments to pay it in full. This would still be a great deal to many prospects.

4. Advertise and highlight free amenities

If you haven’t considered including electricity with the rent, it’s worth thinking about because covering utilities will bring in more applicants. Some amenities you can offer for free are: 

  • High-speed internet or Wi-Fi for the whole building
  • Free access to communal washers and dryers (or provide cheap loads)
  • Special parking spots
  • On-site storage units or garages

Think of relatively cheap, small amenities you don’t mind covering if it means getting your unit rented fast. You might even want to offer the installation of an air conditioning unit if you live somewhere hot.

5. Offer free stuff

Many property owners offer free items to new tenants, like televisions, gift cards, and event tickets. If anyone is trying to decide between your property and another, and there isn’t much of a difference, offering free stuff can ultimately seal the deal.

Offer what makes sense to you

There are plenty of move-in deals you can offer, but only you can know which one is the best fit. You might find offering specials brings in too many applicants, and if so, adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. Otherwise, move-in deals are an excellent way to bring in more applications to enlarge your pool of options. The more people you have to choose from, the more likely you are to find your ideal tenants.