The thought of renting to a family with young children spooks some property managers - IRO or Multifamily. Crayola artwork on the freshly painted walls. Juice spilled on the carpets. Although it is illegal to discriminate against them, property managers have been known to find creative ways to give preference to other prospective tenants who don’t have children.
However, there’s a good reason to want families as residents. For instance, parents with children are often farther along in their careers than younger, single tenants, so they’re probably collecting a steady paycheck (and higher earnings). Families also tend to stay put. Moving year after year is burdensome for anyone, but it’s particularly challenging for families with children. Families like to keep their children rooted in one place, especially if their children attend local schools.
Moreover, quite frankly, some rentals are better suited for families with children. Many real estate investors picked up single-family homes during the foreclosure crisis and have held onto them as rentals. Single-family homes – particularly those with several bedrooms, bathrooms, and backyard space – are ideal for families with young children.
So, all of this said, if you want to attract families to your rentals, how should you go about it? Appealing to families with children requires a unique approach.
Highlight neighborhood amenities
The quality of local schools is usually one of the first things parents take into consideration when deciding where to live. If your rental property or community is in a particularly good school district, say so! Also, show where your apartment is in proximity to local schools. It might be useful to print out a map that shows the school bus route or the path children might take to walk to school.
It’s also helpful to provide information about other neighborhood amenities that might be appealing to families: parks, playgrounds, a community pool, recreation center, local library, etcetera. Point out features like extra-wide sidewalks or jogging/bike trails. This will help parents envision all of the activities they can do outside with their children if they move into your rental unit. It can’t hurt to show prospective residents where the closest grocery store, daycare center, and hospital are, either.
Showcase your property’s kid-friendly features
When property managers think about the features that appeal to families, their minds tend to jump to multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and big back yards. However, many other features can be appealing to families. For instance, a unit with extra sturdy door stoppers will prevent holes in the walls, and walls painted with a satin finish are better able to withstand high traffic. These features might not seem like much at the outset, but they can go a long way toward protecting a family’s security deposit (and your unit!).
Property managers with rental units in larger complexes might also point out kid-friendly features like a clubhouse, game room, movie theater, swimming pool, or playground. (This is also a great time to point out how the maintenance for all of these spaces will be taken care of by the management company – freeing up parents to spend time with their children instead of worrying about mowing the lawn!).
Make small investments to become more kid-friendly.
If your home isn’t particularly kid-friendly as of now, you can make some relatively modest changes to better appeal to families. For example, you can’t change the number of rooms in your rental unit, but maybe you can add a closet to a den or study to transform it into a bedroom. You might also maximize storage by adding closet organizers, built-in bookcases, or a shed in the backyard. If you have a back yard, consider fencing it in (mainly if the home is on a busy street) and adding a heavy-duty swing set. Moreover, of course, you can’t overlook the importance of a laundry area. Families tend to do much laundry! At a minimum, you should offer washer and dryer hookups. Ideally, you’ll be able to provide an in-unit washer and dryer in their own dedicated space.
Be open to furry friends
Welcoming children and their pets into your home seems like a double-whammy. However, if you’re trying to attract families to your rental properties, it’s certainly something worth considering. Owning a pet is a rite of passage for many children; owners who are open to families with small pets will be more appealing to families. They might not have a pet now, but the option to have a pet down the road is beneficial – especially for families that hope to stay for several years.
Pay close attention to safety and security
Renters with children want to know that the home is safe for their children. Safety takes many forms. At a minimum, this includes a house that has proper fire and carbon monoxide detectors, deadbolt locks, and outdoor spaces that are well secured. The latter might consist of an outdoor fence around the backyard, patios or balconies that have well-secured railings, and a swimming pool with a childproof gate. These features will give parents peace of mind while their children play outside. Of course, there’s more to safety and security. For instance, you’ll want to point out that your rental property is located in a low-crime area (assuming that’s the case). You can also emphasize the local neighborhood watch program or community safety events if those exist. Often overlooked is the benefit of off-street parking. This is an amenity (convenience) for parents, but it also promotes safety. On-street parking requires children to get out of the car in an area where cars may be passing by quickly – posing a hazard for children who are not aware of their surroundings. It’s easy for an accident to occur, mainly if your tenants are parking in a highly-trafficked area.
If your rental property and the surrounding area seems like it would be well-suited for families, it’s time to get the word out! Marketing to families is different from marketing to young professionals or couples. Families don’t have as much time to tour homes or units, so start by creating robust marketing materials that include pictures of every room and an accurate description of all the family-friendly amenities you’ve just identified. Post online like you would with your other listings. Then take it a step further: distribute copies of your listing around town at places families tend to visit –the local library, bookstores or the community center. If the local schools have a bulletin board, see about posting a copy there, as well.
If you are a landlord or property manager responsible for multiple listings, you may want to invest in some spreadsheet or database that allows you to track amenities easily. When you’re managing several units, it can be hard to remember the highlights of each property – mainly if you’re overseeing the rental of multiple single-family homes since they can vary so drastically.
However, you ultimately decide to go about attracting tenants, remember this one thing: discriminating against households with children is 100% illegal. Make sure you understand all local, state, and federal laws as you advertise, screen, and select tenants for your rental properties.