Man burning money

As a landlord, one of the biggest challenges you face is rental property vacancy. When your property sits unoccupied, it not only results in a loss of income but also incurs various expenses that can quickly add up. Understanding the true cost of vacancy and implementing strategies to minimize vacancy rates is crucial for maintaining a profitable rental business. In this guide, we will explore the concept of rental property vacancy, calculate vacancy rates, analyze the average vacancy rate, and provide practical tips to reduce vacancies.

What is Rental Property Vacancy?

Rental property vacancy refers to the period when a property is unoccupied and does not generate rental income. This can occur when a lease expires and you are searching for a new tenant, or when a tenant unexpectedly moves out or terminates the lease agreement. Vacancy can also arise when a property requires maintenance or repairs that render it temporarily uninhabitable.

Vacancy rates are used to measure the extent of rental property vacancy. There are three types of vacancy rates: physical vacancy rate, economic vacancy rate, and market average vacancy rate. The physical vacancy rate represents the amount of time a rental property remains vacant over a year. On the other hand, the economic vacancy rate measures the total rent lost due to vacancy as a percentage of the property’s total gross potential rent. The market average vacancy rate provides insights into how a property performs compared to the average vacancy rate for similar properties in the market.

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Calculating Vacancy Rate for Rental Properties

Calculating the vacancy rate for your rental property is essential for monitoring its performance.

For single-family properties or apartments, you can calculate the vacancy rate by dividing the total time the unit has been vacant by the total weeks in a year and multiplying by 100. For example, if a unit has been vacant for two weeks in a year, the vacancy rate would be (2/52) * 100 = 3.84%.

For multifamily properties, the vacancy rate is determined by dividing the number of vacant units by the total number of units and multiplying by 100. For instance, if a six-unit apartment building has two vacant units, the vacancy rate would be (2/6) * 100 = 33.33%.

To calculate the economic vacancy rate, divide the total rent lost during the vacancy period by the total potential rent that could have been earned within a year. For example, if a property charges $1,300 per month in rent and has been vacant for 15 days out of a 30-day month, the economic vacancy rate would be the lost rent ($650) divided by the yearly gross potential rent ($15,600) multiplied by 100, resulting in a vacancy rate of 4.16%.

Simply though, many landlords want to see what their actual dollar amount lost is during their vacancy period. Taking the above example, if a property is charging $1300 per month and the home has been vacant for 15 days, that’s a yearly loss of $650 – (1300/30) * (Vacant Days). Without swift action, this number could easily double, triple, or quadruple resulting in devastating losses for the year. While you may be looking at a one-year time period as a 12-month lease, landlords need to understand that their income is based on standard government taxable years. Major loss in rental revenue can be detrimental to your yearly taxes and your ability to offset expenses, receive tax incentives, or take other loans.

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The True Cost of Rental Property Vacancy

Rental property vacancy incurs various costs beyond the loss of rental income. It is crucial to understand the true cost of vacancy to accurately assess its impact on your rental business. Here are some of the expenses associated with vacancy:

  1. Loss of rental income: The primary consequence of vacancy is the loss of rental income. Each day that your property remains unoccupied, you miss out on potential earnings.
  2. Operating expenses: Even when a property is vacant, you still have to cover operating expenses such as utilities, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs. These expenses continue to accumulate, further impacting your cash flow.
  3. Advertising and marketing: To attract new tenants and fill vacancies, you need to invest in advertising and marketing strategies. This may involve listing your property on various platforms, paying for advertisements, and hiring property managers, all of which come with associated costs.
  4. Property maintenance and repairs: Vacant properties require ongoing maintenance to ensure they remain in good condition. This includes addressing any repairs or upgrades that may have been postponed while the property was occupied. These unexpected expenses can quickly add up during a vacancy period. Think of things like cleaning and lawn care that will need to be maintained.
  5. Potential property devaluation: Prolonged vacancy can lead to a decrease in the property’s value. A property that remains unoccupied for an extended period may be perceived as less desirable, potentially affecting its market value and future rental potential.

Understanding the true cost of vacancy emphasizes the importance of minimizing vacancies and implementing effective strategies to attract and retain tenants.

Rental Property Vacancy Calculator

Vacancy is one of the most expensive losses a landlord will incur. Our free, no-email-required, calculator gives landlords instant results on their vacancy expenses.

Strategies to Minimize Vacancy

Reducing vacancy rates is crucial for maintaining a profitable rental business. By implementing the following strategies, you can minimize vacancies and increase tenant retention:

  1. Set competitive rental rates: Research the local rental market and set competitive rental rates for your property. Overpricing your rental unit can deter potential tenants, leading to extended vacancy periods. Consider factors such as property location, amenities, and market demand when determining the appropriate rental rate. 2023 especially is seeing an increased need for landlords to be competitive in their rates. Renters are looking for better quality homes, in better areas, and for better rates as they too are trying to combat the rising costs of living.
  2. Maintain good tenant relations: Building and maintaining positive relationships with your tenants can increase their satisfaction and likelihood of renewing their leases. Respond promptly to maintenance requests, address concerns, and communicate effectively with your tenants. Showing that you value their tenancy can encourage them to stay longer.
  3. Advertise effectively: Utilize various advertising platforms and strategies to effectively market your rental property. Take advantage of online listing websites, social media, and professional networks to reach a wide audience. Highlight the unique features and benefits of your property to attract potential tenants.
  4. Streamline the application process: Simplify and streamline the tenant application and screening process. Implement an efficient system for collecting and reviewing applications, conducting background checks, and verifying references. This will help you find qualified tenants quickly and reduce the time between vacancies. Most importantly in this process, ensure that youre keeping clear open lines of communication. In our many years of experience, residents cite our communication to be one of the reasons they’ve chosen to work with us and stay for so long.
  5. Maintain property condition: Regularly maintain and update your rental property to ensure it remains attractive to tenants. Address maintenance issues promptly, conduct regular inspections, and consider making improvements or upgrades to enhance the property’s appeal. A well-maintained property is more likely to attract and retain tenants.
  6. Implement effective property management: Efficient property management plays a crucial role in minimizing vacancies. Consider hiring a professional property manager to handle day-to-day operations, tenant inquiries, and property maintenance. A dedicated property manager can focus on optimizing occupancy rates and reducing vacancy periods.
  7. Stay informed about market trends: Stay up to date with market trends, economic conditions, and changes in the rental industry. Understanding the demand and supply dynamics in your market can help you make informed decisions about rental rates, property improvements, and marketing strategies.
  8. Continuously assess and adjust: Regularly evaluate your property’s performance and vacancy rates. Analyze feedback from tenants, monitor rental market trends, and make necessary adjustments to your strategies. Adapting to changing market conditions and tenant preferences can help you stay competitive and reduce vacancies. At MoveZen, we suggest reducing your rental rate every 7-10 days if little to no traction is happening. This will keep your property fresh on listing sites and boost enthusiasm in potential renters.

By implementing these strategies and maintaining a proactive approach to managing your rental property, you can minimize vacancy rates and maximize the profitability of your investment.


Rental property vacancy poses significant challenges and costs for landlords. Understanding the true cost of vacancy and implementing strategies to minimize vacancies is essential for maintaining a profitable rental business. By calculating vacancy rates, analyzing average rates, and implementing effective strategies, landlords can attract and retain tenants, reduce vacancy periods, and ensure a consistent stream of rental income. Continuously monitoring market trends and tenant preferences, maintaining good tenant relations, and investing in property maintenance are key factors in reducing vacancy rates. With proactive management and strategic planning, landlords can optimize their rental business and achieve long-term success.

Remember, rental property vacancy is inevitable, but with careful planning, effective marketing, and responsive property management, you can minimize its impact and maintain a thriving rental business.

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