It’s not news to HMO investors that in many areas across the UK the market is slowing down, so understanding how to try and counteract the increased competition is critically important, and where we advertise our HMO rooms plays a big part in this equation.
Traditionally we stuck exclusively with SpareRoom. It’s reasonably affordable, purpose built for house shares, and most importantly, it supplied a steady stream of potential housemates.
We started to notice things slow down around 6 months ago though, and whilst this wasn’t the fault of SpareRoom (it was down to rapidly growing competition in a slowly growing market), we still needed to take action to avoid lengthy void periods.
Historically we’d trialed many alternatives including:
- Gumtree – pretty poor response rates, and very poor quality applicants. Typically we found the messages received were very financially driven (no deposits, no application fees, and reduced rent requests were common).
- Rightmove/Zoopla – good quality applicants, when we got any. These platforms weren’t designed for renting by the rooms, so the market just wasn’t there.
- EasyRoomMate – a platform similar to SpareRoom without the market reach, so results didn’t justify the extra effort to post and monitor here as well.
- Facebook Groups – good response rates but similar calibre applicant to Gumtree meant it’s not somewhere we regularly advertise.
So what were to do if we needed more applicants but our previous tests of other channels had been unsuccessful?
Recently we interviewed the CEO of uPad (listen to the interview with James here) and during our discussions about increasing the success of property adverts, he mentioned that they’d recently launched a service specifically catered to advertising individual rooms in shared houses.
uPad isn’t a portal in itself like SpareRoom, but it does publish your advert to other portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. I mentioned above that we tried this before without much success, but as with anything, times change and James was confident that not only are more and more people now searching for house shares on the more mainstream platforms, but there’s an added benefit of attracting people looking for somewhere to rent who hadn’t previously considered an HMO (SpareRoom really only targets people who are actively seeking a room in a shared house already).
We decided to give it a shot alongside our usual advertising and monitor the results.
We had a 6 person HMO nearing completion, so launched identical adverts on SpareRoom and uPad at the same time.
If you prefer to see the results in video, you can watch the video of our test here:
Within 24 hours we’d had 6 responses to our adverts – 3 from each platform – and over the course of the next 3 weeks we filled all 6 rooms before the house was even finished.
Based on the results, we’d only have filled 4 of the rooms in the same time period had we just stuck with SpareRoom, so whilst uPad wasn’t quite as successful as our traditional platform, helping us fill 1/3 of the rooms was still a huge boost.
Going forwards, we’ll definitely be looking at using both platforms as standard. It’ll cost a little more, but the benefits more than outweigh that.
To me the results of this test are clear. Pre-conceptions and previous results are dangerous to rely on in a fast changing market like HMO rentals. Rightmove and Zoopla may provide a needed boost to your lagging void periods, but it will most likely be area and demographic dependent, so keep testing and keep refining your processes to find out what works best for you.
If you want to trial uPad Rooms, then you can find out latest pricing and all the details here.