The 6 Best Rental Listing Sites of 2020

Go from vacant to rent collection with ease

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According to the National Apartment Association, landlords experience an average 57% turnover rate in their rental properties, costing them well over a dollar per square foot in rental income. Landlords and property managers, therefore, are motivated to fill vacancies with qualified tenants as quickly as possible to minimize their temporary losses. 

Rental listing sites online and in mobile apps can ramp up exposure to renters on the move so that landlords can get their properties in front of, in some metropolitan areas, thousands of eyeballs.

We reviewed over 20 websites to see how easy they make it for a landlord to create an attractive and informative listing, how many application and screening tools they offered, and their costs. To help you minimize your vacancy losses, we’ve selected the six best rental listing sites to fill your properties quickly with qualified tenants.

The 6 Best Rental Listing Sites of 2020

Best Overall: Zillow Rental Manager

Zillow

Zillow

Zillow Rental Manager is the best rental listing site overall due to its sheer breadth of data and services. It has the largest inventory, the most site traffic, and offers services that take the landlord from marketing to rent collection.

Pros
  • The largest database of over 110 million listings so it attracts a lot of rental seekers

  • Built-in tenant screening tools

  • Easy to create an informative and attractive listing with images, videos, and amenity details

  • Simple three-step procedure to move through the listing and renting process

  • Mobile app lets landlords add, edit, and publish their listings, communicate with applicants, screen them, and collect rent payments

Cons
  • No option to categorize the property to a specific neighborhood

  • After the first free listing, the cost to the landlord is $9.99 per week for each additional listing

  • While rent can be collected through the service, landlords find it complex to manage security deposits, pet fees, and credits

  • Lease builder feature only available in Colorado, Florida, Oregon, and select portions of Illinois

Founded in 2006, Zillow Rental Manager and its parent company Zillow cover the entire United States. Landlords can help their property listing stand out by uploading a 3D view. In fact, applicants can even focus their search to see only listings that have a 3D tour uploaded. 

Beyond the basic amenities, landlords can also attract attention by checking off whether they allow large dogs, small dogs, or cats. If the renter is seeking a specific view, they can sort their search for city, mountain, park, and water views.

Zillow Rental Manager has made creating a listing a simple three-step process. Add property details and images, set your monthly rent price, and then publish the listing. Landlords can update the profile online whenever they want. 

The built-in tenant screening service keeps the process moving. Once the landlord receives an application that meets their initial criteria, they can use Zillow Rental Manager to run a background check and credit score report. 

Landlords have limited expenses with Zillow Rental Manager. Renters pay only a $29 fee which allows them to apply to an unlimited number of participating rentals for 30 days. The fee also includes the cost of their credit and background reports.

We chose Zillow Rental Manager as best overall because it has the most applicant traffic, the most listings, a three-step listing process, a rental pricing method, integrated application, screening and rent payment tools, and volumes of education about the daily responsibilities of being a landlord as well as pertinent laws and regulations.

Best for Screening Prospective Tenants: Avail

Avail

 Avail

Avail’s tenant screening process goes above and beyond criminal background checks and credit history, which of course it also does. Avail includes prospective tenant’s income and employment history, eviction history, previous addresses, and advanced criminal checks such as whether the applicant is on a terror list or sex offender list, to name a few.

Pros
  • More screening reports than other listing sites

  • Landlord can choose who pays for the screening reports

  • For landlords on the Unlimited Plus Plan,  there are no fees when tenants pay from a bank account

  • Allows landlords to collect rent easily

  • Transparent system for tracking property repairs, tenant expenses, and rent credits

Cons
  • No mobile app

  • Tenants pay fees on each payment when landlord is on the free plan

  • Multiple users with different levels of access are not available in the platform

  • Small listing inventory

  • Short list of search filters

Founded in 2013, Avail has created a rental management platform that serves every state in the U.S. and is our pick as best for screening prospective tenants.

Landlords create their listing with Avail, and Avail then syndicates it to Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Zumper, Padmapper, Walkscore, Realtor.com, Doorsteps.com, Apartments.com, and ApartmentList.  

In addition to syndication to other listing platforms, Avail also makes it easy for landlords to share their listing out to social media channels and use a custom marketing and portfolio site that includes a tenant portal. Avail enables the landlord to communicate with applicants from all 10 of the syndicated sites from the Avail platform. 

Avail is weak when it comes to creating ways for the landlord to highlight their property. There are unlimited image uploads, but the list of filters that applicants can use to search is short.

Avail offers a free unlimited plan for landlords, and its premium plan, called Unlimited Plus, costs the landlord $5.00 per unit per month. If the landlord uses the free plan, tenants would pay $2.50 per bank transfer. If a credit or debit card is used, a 3.5% processing fee is added to tenant payments regardless of the landlord’s subscription plan.

Avail provides credit history and nationwide criminal background and eviction checks for $30 each, or you can buy them as a bundle for $55. The landlord can choose to pay these fees or have the applicant pay them. 

The nationwide terror and sex offender lists checks, eviction history, employment and identity validation, and full credit reports put Avail at the top of the list when it comes to finding the best tenant screening service for rental listings.

Best for Attracting Qualified Applicants: Apartments.com

Apartments.com

 Apartments.com

Apartments.com is best for attracting qualified applicants because it charges applicants to apply on its mobile app. This is a benefit to landlords because it makes an applicant look closely at a listing to make sure the property’s price, size, and rules are a good match before submitting their application.

Pros
  • Several map overlays for renters to pre-qualify their search

  • The website covers condos, apartments, houses, and townhouses too

  • To apply in the mobile app, the cost is $24.99 plus tax for up to 10 applications in a 30-day period

Cons
  • No crime scores or statistics

  • App users report updates and sorting capabilities are sometimes frustrating

  • Applicants can submit an application in the app, but not on the website

Apartments.com syndicates the listing over a network of five websites, offering the landlord leveraged exposure at ForRent.com, ApartmentFinder.com, Apartmenthomeliving.com, Apartamentos.com.

Apartments.com walks the landlord through its simple process to create a listing, which can be completed in minutes. The landlord can tag their listing by neighborhood to stand out for those applicants who seek a specific area of a city. 

Other ways landlords can capture renter attention on the platform is by completing the amenities list in the listing profile. It is the largest, which means there are more ways for applicants to find your property if you have what they want.

Apartments.com also facilitates online tour scheduling, application submittals, tenant screening for credit and background checks, lease signing, and rent collection.

Renters can research properties for free in both the app and on the website. We rated Apartments.com’s rental listing site as the best for attracting qualified applicants because applicants pay to apply in the app. That means landlords are getting fewer applicants that waste their time because the applicant has a financial stake, compared to listing sites where they can apply for free.

Easiest for Landlords to Use: Cozy

Cozy

 Cozy

Cozy’s listing features are so easy for landlords, it’s almost fun to use. Landlords can list, market, lease, and manage their property in Cozy’s intuitive and attractive dashboard design.

Pros
  • Provides an engaging dashboard and full suite of tools for landlords

  • Their blog, Landlordology.com contains landlord-related articles

  • Listings are syndicated to Realtor.com and Doorsteps.com

Cons
  • No mobile app

  • Online electronic signing of lease agreements not available yet

Founded in 2012, Cozy has been on a mission to make renting simple for landlords. It was bought by CoStar Group, Inc. in November 2018, and will be part of Apartments.com in mid-2021. Cozy is available in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico.

As a landlord, Cozy’s free listing can be marketed through Doorsteps.com and Realtor.com, and you can share a custom link through social media, email, and text. With desktop and dashboard control of your listing, it’s easy for landlords to upload new pictures, revise the property description, or add new amenities whenever they want, which helps make Cozy our choice as easiest for landlords to use.

Landlords can get a full credit report and score, including debt and monthly payment amounts, payment histories for credit accounts, public inquiries, and address and employment histories. The landlord can also see if the tenant has any prior evictions or a criminal background, including sex offender investigations.

The only cost to the landlord is if the landlord chooses an optional feature called Express Payouts, which speeds up checking account payments to three days for $2.99 per unit per month. Renters pay for the tenant screening credit report and background check, which cost $24.99 individually or $39.99 when bought as a bundle. True to Cozy’s mission, the landlord doesn’t even collect these fees from the applicant; the applicant pays Cozy directly.

Cozy is the easiest rental listing site for landlords to use because it is a full front-to-back solution that makes everything simple to do with easy access to listing, marketing, and property management tools in a visual dashboard.

Best Listing Site for Filling Vacancies Fast: Zumper

Zumper

 Zumper

Zumper has a process where you can potentially fill a vacancy within 24 hours. They’ve created a process, called Instarent, where an apartment-hunter can browse listings, place a reservation on a listing for a small fee to take it off the market, tour online, and sign the lease for a fully digital experience.

Pros
  • Instarent makes leasing an apartment almost as easy and fast as reserving a hotel room

  • Instarent reservation fee is small, ranging from $20 to $30

  • Virtual tour process makes it possible to lease an apartment without any human contact

  • Inventory is updated in real-time

Cons
  • Currently, Instarent properties are only available in 10 cities

  • Reservation fee is non-refundable

  • Monthly renter visits, at 13 million, is less than half the volume of the larger sites like Zillow and Apartments.com

Founded in 2012 and based in San Francisco, Zumper hosts listings throughout the United States and Canada. Its Instarent feature has been rolled out to New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Diego. Zumper plans to expand the Instarent feature into more metro areas in the future, and it is this unique feature that makes Zumper the best listing site for filling vacancies fast.

Landlords can create listings quickly and upload pictures and video tours. Applicants can search for priorities such as whether the listing has a 3D or video tour, if it allows online live tours, whether it has a leasing fee or not, if utilities are included, or if there is no security deposit required. You can also search specifically for student housing, senior living, income-restricted housing, current move-in specials, and for listings just posted today.

Zumper is free for rental applicants to browse, and then they pay for their application, reservation, and screening fees when they find a property they want. Landlords can create a listing, advertise it, send messages to applicants, screen applicants, create and sign digital leases, and collect rent, all for free in the Basic plan. During the COVID pandemic, Zumper has made its Instarent plan free (normally $99).

With Instarent, landlords can do everything on the Basic plan, plus gain extra features called Search Boost, Property Pricing (which helps you price your property competitively), Premium Support from an account representative, and a No-Vacancy Guarantee (if you don’t lease your property within 45 days, Zumper cuts you a check for $250). 

Zumper has digitized the entire rental search and leasing process. In a hot market, it is possible to fill a vacancy within 24 hours through their online platform. Zumper’s focus has been on doing the things that will help a renter find a property, and a landlord to fill one, faster than any other listing site.

Best for Cost Comparables: Rentometer

Rentometer

Rentometer

Rentometer is our choice as the best site for finding cost comparables because of its proprietary technology that provides rent comparison based on input from other landlords.

Pros
  • Rent comparisons available in seconds

  • Easy and short form

  • Try it free for seven days

Cons
  • No mobile app in the Android platform yet

  • Monthly and annual plans charge a fee

  • No tenant screening function

Founded in 2012, Rentometer offers detailed rental comparisons nationwide. The site is used by landlords, agents, and renters—every time a renter inputs an address in your property’s area, your listing will appear on the results page. 

Property search results yield a robust report of key metrics, such as average rent, median rent, 25th and 75th percentile rents, map view, sample size, and sample radius. You can filter by age of listing, radius and distance, and by building type. You can analyze results by entering your property’s street address, your current location, a neighborhood, or a city.

Pro subscriptions, which currently cost $19 per month, $49 semi-annually, or $99 annually, provide even more detail. For example, all Pro subscriptions include three-year trend and moving average charts, average rent by bedroom charts, interactive map with street view, year built, tax and last sale data, and Excel and PDF reports.

However, listings show a little less information than on other sites and there is no built-in tenant screening service.

The quality, depth, and breadth of information Rentometer gives you when researching cost comparables is far superior to all other rental listing sites.

What Is a Rental Listing Site?

A rental listing site populates its website with an inventory of properties for rent. You create the home's online profile using the step-by-step process unique to each site. 

The rental listing site makes it easier for landlords to find a tenant because listings are sometimes syndicated across multiple sites. Rental listing sites help renters scan many properties from the comfort of their computer or phone, sorting by what features are most important to them. 

While listing a property, the owner should upload recent interior and exterior pictures of the property, 3D tours and videos if possible, and interior and neighborhood amenities that renters can use to segregate their search. 

How Can I Get the Most for My Rental Property?

To get the most for your property, fill vacancies as quickly as possible by using online rental listing sites that can expose your property to large numbers of potential applicants.

It’s important to minimize turnover. The most effective way to decrease your vacancy time is to not have any. Screen your tenants well, and then make it convenient for them to communicate issues with you as they arise, be transparent about fixing them, and offer convenient ways for them to pay rent on time.

Increase your rents for long-term tenants, but remain competitive within your neighborhood. Use cost comparison sites to make sure you understand your competition.

Be nice, but be firm. Late fees are a common way renters can take advantage of the kind-heartedness of a landlord. If the rent is late, make sure the tenant understands that the rent is not brought current until the late fee is also paid.

Consider adding coin-operated laundry and vending machines in your apartment building. If you’re renting out a single-family home, perhaps you can offer landscaping or house cleaning for a fee.

What Is the 2% Rule?

According to this guideline, the property is a good investment if the monthly rental income is at least 2% of the property cost. It’s important to remember that the 2% rule has limitations and should just be used as a quick guide.

Many rental listing sites help in recommending rental prices of the property based on several factors such as location and proximity to public transportation facilities, walk scores, crime statistics, and more. 

Is There a Cost for Rental Property Sites?

Most often, landlords are able to list their properties on these sites for free. In a few cases, listing more than one property costs around $10 per week. Most of the expenses, however, are allocated to the applicants. 

Renters browse rental listing sites at no charge, but they often pay to apply online or to order their background screening checks. These costs range from $25 to $60 depending on price breaks for bundled services.

How We Chose Rental Listing Sites

To select the best six rental listing sites, we reviewed 20 sites. We evaluated each on how large of a geographic area they served and whether landlords can provide listings based on communities because many renters search by neighborhood. We looked at how many categories a listing form included because we wanted to see that landlords would have ample opportunity to add details that would help their listing stand out.  

The listing creation process had to be simple and quick, with the ability to syndicate the listing to more than one website to maximize visibility. In most categories, we favored all-in-one listing sites that took the landlord from creating a listing to marketing, communication, application, tenant screening, lease signing, and rent collection. 

Finally, we analyzed their pricing models, paying attention to whether certain costs seemed prohibitive, justified, and in some cases, helpful in screening out casual shoppers.

Article Sources

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  1. National Apartment Association. "2019 NAA Survey of Operating Income & Expenses in Rental Apartment Communities." Accessed August 10, 2020.