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Dos and Don’ts of Renovating Your Rental Home
Renovating a rental unit is a great way to increase its rentability and get it occupied fast, reducing the time it spends vacant (and costly). A freshly renovated unit will also have a greater chance of retaining renters, who typically don’t last more than a few years in one rental.
However, there is a wrong way to renovate your rental. If you don’t pay attention to costs, you might find you have expended too many resources for too little payoff. If you aren’t thrifty where it counts, you’ll end up paying for things you didn’t plan to.
The truth is this: there’s no guarantee a vacant rental will be occupied if you renovate it. Just like all aspects of real estate investment, there’s a little bit of risk inherent, so you want to keep your operating costs, your invested time, and your invested effort as low as possible, while still improving your chances of attracting the right tenant. The property managers at Utopia in Reno have compiled some pieces of advice for what to do, and what not to do, when renovating your rental.
If you can help it, don’t replace a thing! Replacing old fixtures and appliances means not only having to purchase entirely new ones, which can quickly add up, but also throwing away what might be perfectly good ones that haven’t yet outlived their value. Replacements should be kept to a bare minimum, to keep costs down. Plus, when you replace one thing, doesn’t it mean you should replace everything? That just won’t do.
Update! Instead of replacing appliances and fixtures, update them. Let’s take wooden kitchen cabinets as an example. Some landlords might feel compelled to replace old cabinets with brand-new ones. Instead, update the cabinets with new knobs, and do something about the finish. That doesn’t necessarily mean paint. Rather, you could remove the existing paint, sand the wood, and use an inexpensive oil finish for some rustic appeal.
Renovating a rental unit: Laundry
All tenants love having onsite laundry. It is sometimes the only thing that compels them to choose one rental over another. However, it’s not necessary, and it’s even disadvantageous, for you to purchase and install your own laundry machine and dryer. These machines are expensive up front, and as time goes on, so does the cost of their maintenance.
Instead of installing a laundry machine and dryer, have hookups for these machines installed in a space that can accommodate them. Many prospective tenants will appreciate the possibility of installing their own washer/dryer, and you’ll have a huge leg up over the scores of rental units that don’t have such a feature. Bonus points if you have a closet space that fits a stacked washer/dryer combo!
The outside of your rental unit should look as presentable and attractive as the inside, or more so. However, working with professional landscapers is costly, and traditional landscaping is expensive to maintain. While it may seem tempting, and almost like a requirement, to have traditional, professional landscaping at your rental, it’s not exactly worth it.
Instead of the tried-and-untrue practice of laying sod that requires constant watering and treatment, try an alternative landscaping style that you can do on your own. Forget lawns; gravel is now in fashion. Gravel doesn’t need water, doesn’t get cooked by the sun like grass, and is easy to maintain. In addition to gravel, think about the plants native to your region. In drier climates, succulents and cacti will survive on their own. In tropical climates, lush native foliage is affordable and adds excellent curb appeal and style to a rental.
Renovating a rental unit: Paint
Don’t get too creative with your paints. When renovating a rental unit, paint is usually first or second on the agenda, and for good reason, since regular use of a space will often cause slight damage and discoloration of walls, whether it’s from cooking, steam from the bathroom, or something else. But don’t think that since it’s time to repaint, you should think outside the box. Fanciful or unique colors may look fun to you, but they will just limit the number of potential tenants who will get the appeal.
Paint your walls a neutral color, like white or off-white. In fact, off-white is the best, since blemishes and small discolorations will blend in and be more difficult to notice, especially under normal lighting conditions. Always use the exact same color for all of your walls, and when it comes to the trim, no, that’s not your time to shine with unusual colors. Stick to off-white, and always remember which shade you used – catalog it somewhere, ideally – so in the event that you have to repaint only one wall, you won’t end up having to paint the rest as well.