Author Topic: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?  (Read 12754 times)

kendallf

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Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« on: July 24, 2013, 10:16:32 PM »
I'm struggling with just how much work to do to our current house before trying to rent it out, hopefully later this year.  At a minimum, I have to put a roof on it, some drywall in the garage (ceiling), some cheap carpet, paint, and some cabinet floor repair under the sink.

Obviously, the less money I spend, the better, and the less work I do to it, the sooner I can rent it out and start receiving income.  I just don't know where the point is when people say "Wow, that's ugly enough to be a deal killer!".  :-/ 

We have lived in this house for nearly 20 years, and left numerous things alone that were low on the budget and priority list.  The kitchen's the worst; it has some extremely ugly fake brick on the kitchen walls (no, I don't know what the previous owners were thinking either..), formica counter tops that are showing their age, a built in old mustard yellow stove that dates from the 70s but works fine, and the dishwasher has been broken for years (hey, I have daughters!).

Potentially the most expensive potential issue after the roof is the A/C.  It is at least 30 years old.  Seriously.  I have replaced the air handler fan and motor, a transformer and cleaned the coils recently, but the outside compressor unit dates from the 80s and looks like it.  The A/C still works, although we don't turn it down below 80 most of the time.

Experienced landlords: would your attitude be "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" or would you try to hit the glaring stuff while it's vacant and easier to work on?

Another Reader

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2013, 11:08:50 PM »
Properties are easier to rent when they have been maintained and functional obsolescence has been cured.  Good renters want their spaces to look nice and you want to attract good renters.  Obviously the roof is a deferred maintenance issue and must be done.  But in your shoes, I would strip the fake brick and install sheetrock, install a new range and microwave/hood combo, replace the dishwasher and countertops, and do paint and carpet throughout.  The A/C should be replaced when it breaks.

Be sure to check out the competition.  Call on for rent signs and ask about the features, look at Craigslist and the on-line rental sites, and look at for sale open houses to see what sellers in your neighborhood are doing to make the properties marketable.

You won't do granite countertops, stone floors and shower surrounds, or stainless everywhere, but you can achieve some of the look and feel with less expensive products.

DoubleDown

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2013, 09:35:07 AM »
^^^

Good advice from Another Reader IMO.

kendallf

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2013, 10:38:05 AM »
Thanks for the input.  Ironically, the house across the street, a foreclosure that sat empty for 6 months, was just bought by a guy who's turning it into a rental.  I've been watching his initial steps to get it ready; they've done some drywall repair, textured the walls/ceilings, and pulled out all of the carpets.  I want to see how much they end up doing to the kitchen, baths, etc. and then what it rents for.

I am leaning toward doing more work rather than less, but since I'm doing all of the work myself and don't have a budget to hire it out if I wanted to, that means months of delay before I can rent it.

freelancerNfulltimer

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2013, 12:21:46 PM »
Another Reader's advice is very good.

One thing I wanted to add is my Garage apartment was completely renovated for around $30,000. It really needed the work but we ended up doing some more expensive choices that aren't that usual for the rentals in my area (garbage disposal, in-unit washer/dryer, central AC instead of window unit and dishwasher) It about almost doubled what I can charge for rent.

I was a little wary about whether I would actually see the increase in rent I was expecting and about getting it rented quickly once I was ready to put it on the market.

I rented it in less than a day to a very desirable tenant who was exactly what I was looking for. Based on the deluge of applicants I got I probably could have asked for even higher rent.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2013, 12:39:30 PM »
As a renter with a stable income, who pays bills on time (i.e., the renter you want), the deal breaker is the dishwasher. If you don't want to buy a new one, don't have the broken one staring your renters in the face and taunting them. I won't even consider a place without a dishwasher (I also won't consider one without W/D hookups, but some renters aren't that picky).

Looks are important, too. You don't need fancy updates, just ones that look clean and maintained. My past 3 rentals have the same, bottom-of-the-line stove and I couldn't care less as long as it works and looks clean. Same goes for all the countertops and cabinets in my past 3 places.

Dicey

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2013, 12:54:18 PM »
I must admit that your post left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I was so surprised at this reaction that I read it twice more before commenting.  I may be misreading it completely, and I apologize if this is the case. Here are my thoughts, FWIW:

Why have you delayed routine maintenance and updates? Do you realize how much money has been wasted with 30-year-old A/C sysyem? Newer models are so much more efficient that replacing it would have paid you back long ago. Same for the stove. You didn't mention a refrigerator. Is it also old and inefficient? A broken dishwasher? Have you even bothered to price out a replacement? Appliance prices are really competitive these days.

Do you know how shockingly easy it is to remove brick veneer? Why do you need to replace drywall in your garage? A leaky roof perhaps? Ditto for the kitchen cabinet. An unrepaired faucet leak? Maybe you just do not like making repairs and doing home improvements, in which case you not likely to enjoy the landlording experience.

As a long-time landlord, I can attest that an attractive, updated home tends to attract tenants who take better care of the home and stay in it longer. It's best to aim for at least middle of the road when outfitting a rental property. "Cheap" selections tend to look, well, cheap, and don't last as long.

I suggest you think long and hard about why you want to be a landlord and what you are willing to contribute to be successful at it. If you still wish to go forward, go to HGTV and watch as many episodes of "Renovate to Rent" as you can find. Those guys have the right idea and are very successful at what they do.

Best of luck to you, whatever you decide.

kendallf

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2013, 05:54:14 PM »
Freelancer and Stan, thanks for the input.  I should have clarified that I do plan on replacing the dishwasher.  :-)

Diane, yeah, you've missed the boat but since I found your post abrasive and not particularly constructive, I'm not going to waste time elaborating.

zinethstache

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2013, 01:52:06 PM »
Great advice from others. Here's some actual input to help you decide what to do and not do. I am a new landlord. We've bought 2 duplexes this year. One did not need much work and came with renters and the other was empty and needed some work. When we got the keys for the second unit, I did a walk through with my PM asking about a variety of possible fixes and changes, here was his input for you to consider. We are in the Puget Sound area so I could see that in other markets these answers might not apply.

W/D hookup is key, and if you have basement or garage hookups do not bother to supply the appliances, if the hookups are up in the unit where you DONT want to risk any issues and water leaks, provide high quality W/D appliances. It's the hook up that is the rentable factor. the appliance decision is more a factor for your own sanity:)

Counter tops. both of our units had formica, I asked if we should consider updating or not. One unit had very light old formica but it was neutral in color and in good shape. The other unit had been updated more recently, and was also formica. PM said both are perfect rental material and color, no change. I was inclined to redo the old white formica...followed PM recommendation and left it. I asked specifically about granite because we are good at installing tile. I was thinking the 12" squared would be great. PM says nope it will be high maintenance and won't be enough to change the rent. Since this unit has hardwood floors I was considering upgrading to tile in kitchen and bath with the granite. All was given the thumbs down.

Pantry in 2b had 3/4" plywood shelving they were in the back of the long deep pantry, you would never see whats in the back of the pantry. The worse plywood I've ever seen, I could see splinters in fingers in my landlording future. PM gave a thumbs up to buying the wire shelves. I put in shallow long shelving 6' x 12" x 4 shelves now its a true walk in where you can actually see everything.  the 3b already had nice mdf white shelves in it so we left it.

The 2bed unit has an 18" dishwasher. We really wanted to cut into the cabinet and replace with a full size. PM said not worth it, the smaller one is white and works. Left it. This unit does have a white fridge and white D/W but a fancy black digital stove/oven. I was really bothered by the mismatch, all appliances are in great shape, PM said not to worry... we left it.

One unit has low counters, 1925 height with a rollaway dishwasher. The rollaway is newer, white with butcherblock top. PM said no need to change. We are still bothered by the low height and rollaway, but followed our PMs lead. We have plans to redo the cabinets after 5 years and will replace a bank of drawers with an in cabinet dishwasher, we will then replace the rollaway with another storage solution. This kitchen is huge with great character as is so we will milk it first.

One unit had very old wiring, were talking fuse boxes exposed on the posts/walls down in the garage. My husband is a licensed electrician. He confirmed these were no longer in use and removed them. PM requested all old wiring/fuses removed. DONE. Use a licensed electrician for this work.

We noticed daylight between the two units basement garage spaces. PM agreed to fill with insulation and sheetrock/board up each tight. It made those spaces look so light and clean.

Bedrooms, the basement bedroom in the 2bed side has dated floral wainscot height band of trim. someone then sponged dark green on the floor and ceiling moulding. I really, really wanted to remove the wall paper trim and repaint the green to white. PM said no need its just fine... that was tough for me to leave, but I did. Next vacancy Im going to neutralize that room. the rest of the unit is really nice and updated.

2b Bathroom has TINY sink 18" on an oak cabinet. the wood trim in the bathroom is nice all matches, its just the small size of the vanity. PM recommendations.. add a shelf over the toilet. $5 fix. Ah another trick was how the over toilet cabinet opened, we flipped the door hinges so each side opens right to left, there is no door opening in front of the mirror and sink area... very clever solutions for little cost.

Since you are renting your own home, here's a tip. Check all the screens. We missed 2 screens in the 3b unit and my husband got to learn how to make them. You buy the materials at the DIY store, very inexpensive. Now he is all set to fix our old screen sliding door in the back of our own home...its just been a pain to work on them with renters in the unit, best to get it done before rented.

Both units rented quickly, in fact we finished up the larger unit a week after the smaller and the PM didn't even have to list the 3bed. he used the 2b callers to fill it. "Sorry the 2b is filled, but the 3b unit which is over 1550 sf just came up and is available the first of the month" bam, done deal. So when I got the call, expecting to be told the 2b was rented, I was told BOTH were rented.

A funny thing about this duplex, the garages are huge but the space for a car is quite small not very high or wide. My DH mows the large back shared space and reported to me that BOTH renters own Minis... which of course fit perfectly in the tiny car spaces. who'dve thunk it.

tryan

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2013, 03:16:43 PM »
If it's in the house, it has to work.  So replace the dishwasher.  Wait for the AC to break (which might be never).

I take a different view on the kitchen.  If it was "OK" for you, it's "OK" for the tenants.  Rent it "as is".  If you were selling and wanted top dollar, then do the counter top, stove ,  ect.  Renting, if it works leave it.  There will be plenty more "wear n'tare "  on the counter top when they leave (regardless of whether it new or old).

Fresh paint does wonders.  All the same color for easy maintenance.  I've been doing a gloss white on the trim and egg shell antique white on the walls.

kendallf

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2013, 04:04:19 PM »
Zine and Tryan, thanks!  You've given me some good things to consider.  I know I'm missing some screens, for instance.  Tryan, the kitchen is functional but I'm leaning toward at least doing counter tops on the existing cabinets, and moving two upper cabinets which would allow me to kill the fake brick.  I've just finished doing quite a bit of tile on the house I'm renovating, so I'm in practice.  :-)

Hamster

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2013, 02:04:59 AM »
You won't do granite countertops, stone floors and shower surrounds, or stainless everywhere, but you can achieve some of the look and feel with less expensive products.
If you can find a direct import from China, prefinished countertop place (they seem to be popping up everywhere), you may find that they will do granite, installed, for not much more than you'd pay elsewhere for laminate, installed.

AlmostIndependent

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2013, 09:31:04 AM »
If it's in the house, it has to work.  So replace the dishwasher.  Wait for the AC to break (which might be never).

I take a different view on the kitchen.  If it was "OK" for you, it's "OK" for the tenants.  Rent it "as is".  If you were selling and wanted top dollar, then do the counter top, stove ,  ect.  Renting, if it works leave it.  There will be plenty more "wear n'tare "  on the counter top when they leave (regardless of whether it new or old).

Fresh paint does wonders.  All the same color for easy maintenance.  I've been doing a gloss white on the trim and egg shell antique white on the walls.

I agree. Do the basics so it looks good. I don't know what the rental market is like in your area. If it's competitive you might have to do more. If its like the Bay Area renters line up to rent anything. It all depends. Do the basics, if you have trouble renting it then do some of the more difficult/expensive things.

Dicey

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2013, 10:57:25 PM »
Freelancer and Stan, thanks for the input.  I should have clarified that I do plan on replacing the dishwasher.  :-)

Diane, yeah, you've missed the boat but since I found your post abrasive and not particularly constructive, I'm not going to waste time elaborating.

Good thing I apologized in advance then!  You asked for experienced landlord's input and as such, I offered mine. As for time, I spent a lot of it and put considerable thought into your situation before replying. That you felt it "unconstructive" is sad and speaks volumes. Again, best of luck to you, whatever you decide.

HawkeyeNFO

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2013, 09:06:24 AM »
OP, because this is your current house, I'd find a way to (legally) ensure that the expenses of renovating go against the "rental" part of the property, and not against your "primary residence."  That way these costs will essentially be tax deductible.

MissStache

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2013, 09:42:27 AM »
Shitty house = shitty renters.

I've definitely lived in situations where I thought "well, the landlord obviously doesn't care about this place, so I'm not going to go to any extra lengths to maintain it.  If bare minimum is OK with him, then I'll do the same and get out of here as soon as my lease is up."


OP, because this is your current house, I'd find a way to (legally) ensure that the expenses of renovating go against the "rental" part of the property, and not against your "primary residence."  That way these costs will essentially be tax deductible.

Nothing to add, but Hawkeye, your location just made me do a spit take all over my computer screen :)

kt

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2013, 10:04:48 AM »
as a renter two of the most important things for me with regards to the actual house are that things work and that i can clean it. however I have never stayed anywhere for more than a year which does affect how i look at things.
mainly i want appliances and things to work with no quirks (you know, oo, tilt the dehumidifier 45deg to get it started than slowly lower it down; kick the bottom of the door to shut it) and i want all surfaces to be in good condition with no cracks or chips which make them hard to clean and mean they always look dirty.
i'd agree that if the house is tired and 'dirty' (more lived in and a little unloved than filthy) then i don't try as hard to keep it nice. i just aim to keep it as i found it.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2013, 10:14:04 AM »
as a renter two of the most important things for me with regards to the actual house are that things work and that i can clean it. however I have never stayed anywhere for more than a year which does affect how i look at things.
mainly i want appliances and things to work with no quirks (you know, oo, tilt the dehumidifier 45deg to get it started than slowly lower it down; kick the bottom of the door to shut it) and i want all surfaces to be in good condition with no cracks or chips which make them hard to clean and mean they always look dirty.
i'd agree that if the house is tired and 'dirty' (more lived in and a little unloved than filthy) then i don't try as hard to keep it nice. i just aim to keep it as i found it.

You are a person after my own heart. Here and I thought I might be picky, but no, I have a kindred spirit! Cleanable is the key for me.

kt

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2013, 10:27:54 AM »
as a renter two of the most important things for me with regards to the actual house are that things work and that i can clean it. however I have never stayed anywhere for more than a year which does affect how i look at things.
mainly i want appliances and things to work with no quirks (you know, oo, tilt the dehumidifier 45deg to get it started than slowly lower it down; kick the bottom of the door to shut it) and i want all surfaces to be in good condition with no cracks or chips which make them hard to clean and mean they always look dirty.
i'd agree that if the house is tired and 'dirty' (more lived in and a little unloved than filthy) then i don't try as hard to keep it nice. i just aim to keep it as i found it.

You are a person after my own heart. Here and I thought I might be picky, but no, I have a kindred spirit! Cleanable is the key for me.

i'm not actually a very picky or clean person as such but i get really frustrated when i can't clean. i just get quite down and cross if my house feels grimy and there's nothing i can do about it (which can be the case if you don't want to spend money on a short-term rental). so cleanable is now one of my key criteria.

kt

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2013, 10:40:32 AM »
cjottawa  makes a fair point. it is worth knowing who is likely to live in your house.

i've always been in house shares with either a 12 month contract (no intention of extending) or a regular turnover in an HMO (someone moving out/in every few months or so). consequently i've never put money into a rental.

but it sounds like yours is a family place or somewhere people are likely to stay for longer. so it might be worth bearing in mind that people may want to make it their own to a certain extent. what are contracts like around you generally?

over here contracts regularly contain clauses saying you can't make any changes to the fabric without permission (i.e. nails in walls, painting, changing carpet) and therefore maybe people don't alter places so readily.

kendallf

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2013, 01:44:36 PM »
Some good points, thanks all!  I am trying to consider my target market.  The house is in a great school district with a park in back of the house; those were two big reasons we bought it in 1995.  I expect it to appeal to families with school age kids and would hope for a long term rental.  We have had pets and will probably allow them here, which may I hope will be a positive feature.

I went through the house across the street today.  It's an almost identical layout and they've done about what I plan on doing to mine.  Basic paint and drywall repair, new carpets and I think some new linoleum in the kitchen.  They're having to put an A/C unit in as the old one had been broken for many years, and a water heater, which I saw the last guy carry off in his truck.  They're putting a metal roof on it which is what mine's getting; I like this as it may start a trend in the neighborhood. 

Ironically, I have at least 3 people interested in renting it already even though we won't be moved into our new place and able to work on this one for at least two more months. 

AlmostIndependent

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #21 on: July 30, 2013, 02:46:56 PM »
In a SFH the upgrades (especially when the house is in a desirable location) tend to pay dividends when you rent the house. A nicer house will attract better tenants.

CommonCents

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #22 on: August 20, 2013, 10:28:23 AM »
When I rented, if something was broken and not fixed, I would assume that the landlord would similarly treat anything that went wrong (e.g. busted pipe, not working furnace) when I was renting as a low priority and not fix it when I called.  So I'd run far away as that would be a deal breaker for me.  (Just like a sketchy landlord was a deal breaker for another female friend of mine.)

Some folks might overlook the stove, but honestly, it could be a deal breaker for others, particularly people who like to cook a lot.  It certainly wouldn't wow me, and all things equal, I'd choose another place over yours as a result.  I skipped on a cheaper place, but very pink bathroom w/a tablestand sink I hate once for that reason.  Counter top - if clean, not chipped or stained, is fine as is, unless you are looking for a premium rent and renter.  (If so, you'd probably need to upgrade multiple things like flooring, and not just the countertop.)

Daleth

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #23 on: August 20, 2013, 12:02:32 PM »
On the stove, I completely agree with CommonCents. Anyone who likes to cook will probably walk away from the apartment because of the stove. Anyone who doesn't like to cook, but wants a normal-looking modern place will also likely walk away. Some people will also look at that stove and think either, (1) I bet the utility bills are higher than they need to be (old appliances are inefficient--especially gas stoves with pilot lights), or (2) if this is how the landlord treats the stuff I CAN see, what shape must the stuff that I CAN'T see be in?!

You can get a perfectly good modern gas stove for $400-$500 new (check AJMadison, your local Lowes, etc.), and if you want, you can wow potential tenants by putting in a nice one (see DesignerHomeSurplus.com - it's high-end scratch-and-dent; I got a $1200+ stainless Bosch 5-burner gas stove there for $564 merely because it had some minor dings... and yes, I put it in a rental, and wowed the socks off the tenant).

Personally my baseline for gas stoves in rental properties is that they be a normal size (30"), less than 10 years old and have real grates (i.e. heavy iron grates) instead of the flimsy thin ones that almost look like wire. All our rentals have at least that and we always get positive comments about the stoves from potential tenants ("Oh wow, a real stove!" or "I think this [the kitchen] is going to be my favorite room," etc.). And so far the longest turnaround time we've had between tenants--I mean time between the end of the last lease and the start of the new one--is twelve days!

kendallf

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #24 on: August 21, 2013, 09:32:23 PM »
Good inputs -- Daleth, no gas at this house; it's not very common in north FL. 

I'm in the middle of putting the kitchen back together on the house I'm renovating, and it's not as bad as I feared it might be.  I gutted it down to bare studs, and just re-hung the cabinets Sunday night.  I'm doing a tile countertop and cut the base for it tonight; I hope to get it ready for tile next week after we fly to Michigan for the weekend..maybe I'll want to lay down and rest instead..ha!  I'm on a big push to get the house ready for move-in by the end of September, because I'll be back on some international trips for most of October.

All that to say that I'm leaning toward gutting the kitchen on this house when I get to it, as well.  I think it can be done pretty cheaply if I reuse the majority of the cabinets.  I've been keeping an eye on the stock at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore, as well.  If I do this, I'll put a new(er) stove in.



Daleth

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #25 on: August 25, 2013, 10:08:53 PM »
Good inputs -- Daleth, no gas at this house; it's not very common in north FL.... I've been keeping an eye on the stock at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore, as well.  If I do this, I'll put a new(er) stove in.

In case you care about my opinion (haha), if you're going electric, then smoothtop will win you renters over coils any day. So I would still look at places like AJ Madison and perhaps Designer Home Surplus.com, as well as your local scratch-and-dent. You can get a smoothtop electric stove for very little money, brand new and delivered. Like this one, $469: http://www.ajmadison.com/cgi-bin/ajmadison/AER5830VA.html

Another Reader

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Re: Where do you stop when fixing up a rental?
« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2013, 10:26:51 PM »
I don't put smooth top stoves in rentals.  Tenants are adept at cracking the glass cook top.  Once it's cracked, the range has to be replaced.  I also do not use stainless steel.  Inevitably, it will be dented.  My standard appliance package is a basic Whirlpool or GE group of black side by side fridge, basic black dishwasher, bottom of the line black self-cleaning electric range with coils, and a black microwave hood.  I'm hoping for a good Labor Day sale at Home Depot, as I just redid a kitchen that was 40 years old with cabinets that were disintegrating and appliances that were no better.