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On The Beauty Of Models..... (Published in CCAA Newsletter 12/01)

by: John Smith, owner of John Smith Property Management

Most landlords approach the rental season with trepidation. We worry whether we are going to have vacancies. We wonder if weíre charging too much for rent. We fear that our apartments arenít as nice as our neighborís apartments. Well get ready to feel confident as you display one of the most beautiful apartments your prospects have ever seen!

The most significant factors in our showings are coming across to the prospects as likeable and competent, and presenting apartments that are attractive. After fielding questions about the September article on filling last minute vacancies, Iíve decided to discuss more in depth how and why to set up a model apartment to show off your wares.

There are two ways to even have the opportunity to work with a model. The first is because you are sitting on a vacancy. The second is that you have arranged to have a vacancy for just that purpose.

When you already have a vacancy, the only decision you need to make is whether you want to spend the money on decorations for the apartment. The decorations that I am going to recommend will, in most cases, cost less than one half of a monthís rent for decorations that will last for years and significantly reduce the amount of time that your unit sits empty. And, since the rent on your apartment reflects the perceived value to your tenant, your lovely model could also lead to higher rents without incurring any further costs beyond the initial investment.

During the summer leasing season, if you do not already have a vacancy to work with, it may well be worth the money to arrange to have one. When Iím working with a building that has many of the same apartment units in it (cookie-cutters) I arrange to buy one of my tenants out of their lease early. Usually, I choose the tenant with the least tidy apartment because otherwise that one would have been the most difficult to rent.

Now, after any cleaning and repairs that are necessary, I go about putting my decorations into my model. For a two-bedroom apartment, to follow my system, you will need the following from any discount store which I have broken down by room.

First, the living room gets a large sized candle, preferably scented like vanilla, on the coffee table. A fake plant goes on one of the end tables, and we can move on to the dining area.

Buy place settings for two instead of four. Two placemats, two plates, and two cups will look marvelous and uncluttered on the dining table, while leaving enough room for another fake plant or another candle (whichever is on sale).

In the kitchen, I place two richly colored potholders and a matching dishtowel as well as an inexpensive canister set.

In the bedrooms, put two pillows on the full-sized beds, as well as a colorful comforter. I like to have one of the comforters look masculine and one feminine. On the desks, I will fan out two or three attractive looking books that I bought for ten cents at a yard sale, and continuing with the greenery, I will put yet another plant on the chest of drawers.

The last room is the bathroom and this also gets decorated. I have two sets of towels that go in the bathroom, one is hunter green, and one is burgundy. Again, I use inexpensive ones without worry about fading because these are never going to see a washing machine. They go into my model, and then back into storage.

Matching washcloths are draped over the towels. A small decorative wastebasket on the floor, a hunter green shower curtain, and weíre done.

I have several sets of decorations that I use with excellent results both in my own units and also in units that Iím hired to fill for other landlords.

After the Christmas season is when you will find so many of these decorations at significant discounts, so go out and stock up! It will get your units rented faster, for more money, to a higher caliber of tenant.

Good luck, and happy renting!

John Smith has a Master's Degree in Education, is a real estate investment and management consultant and trainer throughout the state of Illinois, and has been a real estate investor and manager for over seven years in Champaign-Urbana. To contact John Smith, email him at or call (518) 851-7820.