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Low Cost Rental Improvements

Guess what! The experts were right; it is possible to over improve a rental property. What a buyer needs, a renter may not covet or be willing to pay for. Here are a few worthwhile improvements.

Low Cost Rental Improvements

Guess what!  The experts were right; it is possible to over improve a rental property.  That granite countertop I installed is nice but doesn’t bring any additional rent.  The deck I built has never had a table on it.  The fancy landscaping I installed has turned to weeds. 

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t offer quality rentals.  On the contrary; renters want nice things.  It just that what a buyer needs, a renter may not covet or be willing to pay for.

The following are low cost projects that most landlords should consider to increase property value, renter retention, and income.

  1. Paint, paint, paint:  The number one thing renters want is cleanliness and there is no better way to cover those dingy walls and brighten a room than with a little paint. Don’t forget to caulk the cracks and paint the baseboards and trim.  The best way to paint a room is to start with the ceiling, then paint the trim and baseboards, and finish with the walls.  Just make sure that when you paint that you open the windows and/or use low VOC paint. 
  2. Repair or replace your flooring: Second to the walls, the floors make the biggest statement.  Potential renters do look down and they will notice your floors.  I am a big fan of laminate flooring in rental units since it is easy to install, durable, and relatively inexpensive.  Laminate holds up to renters better than hardwood or carpet.  Save the hardwoods for your primary residence.  If your rental already has hardwood flooring, consider refinishing it if it has wear spots or rough areas.  Be wary of floor tile since tile often becomes outdated within a few years.  If you do want to go with tile, consider tiles with gray tones.  The US market is gradually transitioning from tan as the neutral base to gray.   
  3. Install a new backsplash: there is nothing like a new backsplash to bring life to your outdated rental kitchen.  You don’t have to go with expensive decorative tile, either.  Subway tile is not only inexpensive but timeless.  Other simple and inexpensive solutions include tin ceiling tiles, wooden beadboard, wallpaper, and chalkboard or magnetic paint.  Just keep durability and maintenance in mind.
  4.  Give your Cabinets a Facelift: If the kitchen cabinets look dated but are functional, consider painting them instead of replacing them.  It can be a time-consuming project, but if done right, your kitchen will look brand new and you will have added considerable value to your rental.
  5. Install new hardware: Replacing cabinet hardware is an inexpensive and easy update. Find knobs and pulls that are the same size as the existing ones so you do not have to re-drill the cabinets and patch holes.
  6. Enhance the Entry: First impressions matter. Invest in a new front door or paint your old one; it can dramatically change the look of your rental and enhance curb appeal. Other exterior improvements include adding exterior trim, replacing the house numbers, and installing new outdoor lighting.  Plant low maintenance shrubs in front of your rental to add additional curb appeal.  Just make sure that they do not require significant maintenance since tenants are unlikely to take care of them. 
  7. Add Curtains: Shears and curtains add the homey touch renters are seeking.  Each window can be done for as little as $25.  Curtains are also a great way to highlight your new paint job and cover up unsightly views.  Tenants appreciate not having to shell out the money for curtains.
  8. Spruce up the basement:  Consider painting the 1970’s paneling and the concrete floor.  These improvements will lighten the basement and add tremendously to its feeling of cleanliness. Consider using epoxy high gloss paint for the floor since it wears better than other paints. 
  9. Change out old light fixtures and outdated switches: Most people can change a light fixture without the help of an electrician. New fixtures, cover plates, and switches are an easy and inexpensive way to make your rental look and feel updated. Consider removing ceiling fans in your rental since they quickly become dirty and dingy.  Yes, renters do like fans, but they do not like them when they look dirty.
  10. Spruce up your bathroom: Grout with mildew spots, outdated vanities and peeling paint are common bathroom problems that make your rental less than inspiring.  Small improvements in a bathroom go a long way.  It’s amazing how a new faucet or luxurious showerhead can add pizzazz, how a good scrubbing and new grout can add to a sense of cleanliness; and how a new vanity can make the whole bathroom feel remodeled.  Changing out the shower curtain is a great ways to add inexpensive color and a touch of style.  Consider replacing your toilet if it does not work property or is dingy; replacing it is not that expensive.  A little wax will make an old floor shine; all you have to do is mop it on.
  11. Stage your rental: A box full of bric-a-brac can go a long way in making your rental look more appealing.  Knickknacks have the great ability of taking a potential tenant’s eye off of small defects while adding the color and hominess that a rental needs.  Consider placing towels and rugs on the bathroom kitchen floors, putting decorative kitchen items on the countertop, and decorating the fireplace mantel. Staging is particularly important when you take photos; if done right, your photos can add to renter enthusiasm and interest.    

For additional articles on Montgomery County residential real estate, go to my blog, HouseInvestor.net.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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