Author Topic: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?  (Read 7065 times)

CentralOregonGal

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Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« on: May 12, 2017, 12:46:52 PM »
We have a 3 bedroom/1 bath rental that needs a little TLC when tenants leave next month. We're considering some upgrades to the house to attract really great tenants this time around. Aside from new paint what do you think are the most attractive/affordable upgrades that appeal to awesome tenants? We're thinking about:

-Refinishing hardwood floors (About $3500 to be done professionally. They're quite worn/scratched in the living room but fine in the bedrooms.)
-Installing a natural gas fireplace insert in the existing, standard chimney (between $800 and $2000 including installation, and depending on what kind of fireplace we buy) 
-New front door (existing is "retro" and needs refinishing)

The kitchen already has high-quality appliances.

What upgrades make the most sense, if any? Are there other options to consider? Thanks for your help! 

 

Frankies Girl

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2017, 01:09:39 PM »
I have no idea if this would appeal to anyone else, but I like it when the walls aren't blah white/eggshell. Where there is either a very light beige or cool gray and bright white trim. Seems to look more designer-y with the contrast, and less boring rental house/apartment to me. I might even try a very pale gray blue just to be a little different. But that might be highly controversial for a rental.

Along the same lines, the exterior of the house might also be something that could be cheaply done or easily DIY; the first impression would go a long way to selling it. Planting some pretty flowering shrubs, landscaping flower beds using stone/rock borders and placing fresh mulch and making sure it's been weeded and mown really nicely. I would suggest painting the front door/shutters (if it has them) in a pretty color might be a cheap but effective way of looking like it's been upgraded.

A nice backyard, with fencing, deck or patio would be nifty too. If it already has it, then great, but I'd probably pay attention to how it reads for a renter - does it look inviting or is it bare bones? Cause the fancier the landscaping/patio area, the more I'd say it would appeal to a fancier renter.

Really nice tile/bathroom fixtures would also be a draw. But that's kind of expensive territory unless you are good at DIY.

historienne

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2017, 01:13:20 PM »
If you can find the right providers, stainless steel countertops can be quite cheap.  They look nicer than laminate, and also will be significantly more durable.  As a renter, it would be a big draw to me - I hate having to worry about burning laminate counters.

Another Reader

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2017, 01:14:06 PM »
The location is the number one determinant of the quality of tenant you can attract.  Having only one bath limits your tenant pool significantly in most markets.

New paint, new/refinished flooring, bath(s) in good shape, and nice cabinets in the kitchen all contribute to the desirability of your property for most tenants.  Clean until everything sparkles.  The house should be bright and smell fresh and clean.

One thing we are running into is that younger renters turn their noses up at anything that doesn't look like it should be on HGTV.  Look at your tenant pool and what moves the fastest in your rental market to see what renters demand.

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2017, 01:27:40 PM »
What you want is low-cost, high impact changes.

IMO, cleaning is the #1 item on this list. A place that is free of odors (especially smoke), 100% cleaned top to bottom, scrubbed on your hands and knees, will attract the best quality tenants for the least amount of money. So clean until you could eat off the floors, the bathrooms scrubbed and shiny, all windows washed outside and inside, all carpets cleaned, all appliances shined with stainless polish. You get the idea.

Next would be paint, using trendy colors that appeal to a wide variety of individuals, both men and women. And it's imperative the actual paint job is done well. All holes spackled, and caulking should be done. The entire place should be sanded top to bottom, and 2 coats of paint applied. Also, all closets should be painted. 6 gallons of paint only costs $300 and is completely DIY.

Next on the list is taking good pictures, which has almost nothing to do with actually making improvements. Hiring a professional photographer or investing in a decent camera shows people a level of profession that is hard to come by for many landlords who won't bother. Also, nowadays where so much marketing is done online, having good pictures helps tremendously with advertising.

An uncommon one worth mentioning - closets. Remodeling closets is incredibly easy, DIYable, and can be a real selling point to new tenants. Having custom shoe racks, areas for jewelry, and tons of storage is very appealing.

Next is staging the apartment or house. Simply putting in furniture to make the place look good goes a long way. It helps people envision what their lives will be like.

In summary:
1. Cleaning ($100)
2. Paint ($300)
3. Pictures ($150, maybe more)
4. Closets (around $200 for all materials)
5. Staging (anywhere from $500-$3000)

Quote
Refinishing hardwood floors (About $3500 to be done professionally. They're quite worn/scratched in the living room but fine in the bedrooms.)
Completely unnecessary, IMO. If you spend a day scrubbing those floors chances are they'll look almost as good as a professional refinish. Then, if there's still major nicks and scratches, get a cool area rug.

Quote
Installing a natural gas fireplace insert in the existing, standard chimney (between $800 and $2000 including installation, and depending on what kind of fireplace we buy) 
I would not do this because it poses a liability risk for gas leaks and such.

Quote
New front door (existing is "retro" and needs refinishing)
Painting can go a long way without the need to buy a brand new door and have it professionally installed.

CentralOregonGal

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2017, 09:09:59 AM »
These are super helpful ideas, thank you! I'll skip the fireplace and floor refinishing for sure, then. The closet doors are old school hollow wood sliding doors. Would you just paint those white?

paddedhat

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2017, 06:36:34 PM »
These are super helpful ideas, thank you! I'll skip the fireplace and floor refinishing for sure, then. The closet doors are old school hollow wood sliding doors. Would you just paint those white?

Yea, as a pro. I strongly disagree on both claims. Worn hardwood floors look like shit since they develop wear patterns through the finish, exposing raw wood that looks worn and stays dirty continuously, regardless of how well they are  "cleaned" . Hardwoods are an asset, if you don't maintain an asset, eventually they become worn to the point that they are destroyed and your asset is lost. The comment about installing a gas fireplace and the supposed risk is simply ridiculous. Irrational fears are understandable, but allowing somebody else's phobias to cloud your decision making is just foolish. Great looking hardwoods and a gas fireplace are hot, hot buttons for many potential renters. If they make sense to you, when you run the numbers, go for it.

My kids are millennials with the money and desire to live in great apartments. They have places with things like hardwoods, subway tile, granite, stainless, high ceilings, and architectural character. They pay a premium for this, and cutting corners and not providing it means you have "just another boring apartment we looked at, before we found this one". Your choice, but following bad advice to save a buck isn't going to get you the best return on your investment.

Jon Bon

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2017, 09:34:14 AM »
These are super helpful ideas, thank you! I'll skip the fireplace and floor refinishing for sure, then. The closet doors are old school hollow wood sliding doors. Would you just paint those white?

Yea, as a pro. I strongly disagree on both claims. Worn hardwood floors look like shit since they develop wear patterns through the finish, exposing raw wood that looks worn and stays dirty continuously, regardless of how well they are  "cleaned" . Hardwoods are an asset, if you don't maintain an asset, eventually they become worn to the point that they are destroyed and your asset is lost. The comment about installing a gas fireplace and the supposed risk is simply ridiculous. Irrational fears are understandable, but allowing somebody else's phobias to cloud your decision making is just foolish. Great looking hardwoods and a gas fireplace are hot, hot buttons for many potential renters. If they make sense to you, when you run the numbers, go for it.

My kids are millennials with the money and desire to live in great apartments. They have places with things like hardwoods, subway tile, granite, stainless, high ceilings, and architectural character. They pay a premium for this, and cutting corners and not providing it means you have "just another boring apartment we looked at, before we found this one". Your choice, but following bad advice to save a buck isn't going to get you the best return on your investment.

Refinished hardwoods do make a place look a lot better. And yea worrying about a gas leak from a fireplace is a bit much. Most houses in this country heat their air and water with gas, and are just fine.

Moving on.

Honestly IMO if you have the basics (Laundry, parking, AC, disposal, legit kitchen, fresh paint etc) Then it pays to put in the little luxuries. I bought a rental house that had a sweet jetted bathtub. Personally I would never have put it in but potential tenants make a big deal about it at every showing. I think a fireplace would also go a long way, but that does not sounds cheap. Something like a nice kitchen sink and faucet or perhaps nicer bathroom finishes can make a difference.

At minimum if I was in your shoes I would refinish the hardwoods myself, its messy but relatively straight forward and you could probably do it yourself for $1 a sqft or less.

Dee18

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2017, 09:46:45 AM »
I am looking at rentals right now as I just sold my house.  The number one thing that appeals to me is a place that is spotless, with no signs of mildew.  I agree that refinishing the floor, at least in the living room, is a good idea.  I would skip the fireplace.  When you paint, go ahead and paint the inside of the closets.  Make sure the windows are clean.  I also agree with a bit of staging, such as hanging a shower curtain that looks good in the bathroom or a pot of flowers on the front porch.  Read Maria Killam's blog about paint colors before you repaint, especially if coordinating with tile or other fixed surfaces. 

Novik

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2017, 10:02:11 AM »
I'm coming at this from a tenant's POV so can't speak to affordability, but for me the things that make a rental better are things that make it feel like a house vs. industrial investment. If you want to do anything past Cwadda's list, that's what I would target.

For example, previous student rentals I lived in all had the most basic kitchen sink taps. Unbreakable, and fine, but occasionally frustrating. My new place has a tap on a pull out hose, with the regular and spray options. Even though the appliances and cupboards are pretty standard rental fare, that sink feature makes it feel a much nicer kitchen.

Similarly, there's "house" quality carpet instead of industrial quality carpet. Built in shelving in the closets. Ceiling fans and good light fixtures. Larger flat light switches instead of the most basic tiny switches. A huge mirror in the bathroom.

Things along the same lines that we don't have but would like: a shower head with additional settings or a second head, a better/stronger closet rack, more drawers in the bathroom cupboard instead of just a large space under the sink.

All this may be way less relevant to a 3 bedroom/1 bath than to my 1 bed basement apartment, of course. But for us it makes a huge difference in how much the apartment feels like a "starter" for people who were recently students vs. a home we could stay in for 3+ years.

MayDay

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2017, 12:23:59 PM »
As a high quality tenant myself who is currently renting a 1 bathroom, 3-4 bedroom house, I will answer.

For myself, the one bathroom doesn't bother me, but my H hates it. We don't care about a fancy bath, but he would kill for a toilet in the basement.

For me:
-Easy to clean and nice floors (ie not carpet)
-Walls not a marked up
-Windows that open and close well and have screens
-Kitchen countertop that has an undermount sink is a huge nice bonus, same with kitchen faucet with pull down sprayer (we are actually putting in a new kitchen faucet on our own dime!)
-ample and not totally crappy kitchen cabinets. I would kill for a rental house that had cabinets up to the ceiling instead of having soffits.
-Yard in good shape. I don't mind yard work but I don't want to spend a bunch of my money on bushes/perennials and I don't want to clean up the jungle left by the previous tenant
-bathtub is not gross. Recaulk it. Scrub the crap out of the bathroom.
-put in a big enough bathroom vanity, to fit the space and provide bathroom storage. same with medicine cabinet. Don't buy the 99$ Lowe's special. Your tenant will curse you.

I wouldn't care about a fireplace. If the front door is nicely painted and opens and closes well I wouldn't care about that. I think refinishing the floors does have value, if for no other reason than to preserve the floors.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2017, 12:29:05 PM by MayDay »

srob

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2017, 01:06:19 PM »
Recessed lighting can be a great way to make an older apartment feel more modern. If you can DIY all the better, the parts are surprisingly cheap and it usually isn't very hard to do.

Novik

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2017, 01:37:37 PM »
-ample and not totally crappy kitchen cabinets. I would kill for a rental house that had cabinets up to the ceiling instead of having soffits.

Yes! (although we use that empty space for wine racks, it would still be better to have more cabinet space and less space for crud to accumulate.

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2017, 01:48:12 PM »
As another high-quality tenant who is about to move out as we finally bought our own place, I really like what another poster said about basically paying attention to the small things that make a place comfortable to live in long-term. Walk through slowly and imagine yourself in the space. Is there enough storage? Is the storage functional or rudimentary (like those awful cheap-a$$ closet "organizers" that are little more than a rod and a shelf above)? If you plug something into the wall, does it stay or fall out? Is there insulation? Are the windows double-pane? Do the screens fits? Is the heating system cleaned out and efficient? Is the washer/dryer reasonably decent and efficient? (If you don't have a washer/dryer, add one! This is huge.)

We put up with a lot of nonsense in this house because the rent and the location were both great, but I am REALLY looking forward to some luxuries when we finally move into our own place. Top on my list include: double pane windows, insulation, central heat, screens that fit so I don't have a house full of random bugs, floors that aren't freezing cold in the winter (ahem, insulation!), and nicer washer/dryer, TWO toilets, a bathtub, and more kitchen storage space.

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2017, 02:42:08 PM »
These are super helpful ideas, thank you! I'll skip the fireplace and floor refinishing for sure, then. The closet doors are old school hollow wood sliding doors. Would you just paint those white?

Yea, as a pro. I strongly disagree on both claims. Worn hardwood floors look like shit since they develop wear patterns through the finish, exposing raw wood that looks worn and stays dirty continuously, regardless of how well they are  "cleaned" . Hardwoods are an asset, if you don't maintain an asset, eventually they become worn to the point that they are destroyed and your asset is lost. The comment about installing a gas fireplace and the supposed risk is simply ridiculous. Irrational fears are understandable, but allowing somebody else's phobias to cloud your decision making is just foolish. Great looking hardwoods and a gas fireplace are hot, hot buttons for many potential renters. If they make sense to you, when you run the numbers, go for it.

My kids are millennials with the money and desire to live in great apartments. They have places with things like hardwoods, subway tile, granite, stainless, high ceilings, and architectural character. They pay a premium for this, and cutting corners and not providing it means you have "just another boring apartment we looked at, before we found this one". Your choice, but following bad advice to save a buck isn't going to get you the best return on your investment.

The things I suggested were because I interpreted the OP's wording "a little TLC" equating to simple repairs and turnaround, not dumping thousands of dollars in to bring premium rent prices. The OP never mentioned increasing rent, just attracting great tenants.

I'd be willing to bet the investments I mentioned will beat refinished hardwood floors and a gas fireplace every time.

You can clean, paint, make simple upgrades for storage (i.e. closets), stage the apartment with high-functioning furniture, and take amazing photos for easily less than $5000. Have your prospective tenants walk into an apartment like this and they will be fawning over it, jaws agape; chances are they won't even notice sub-par floors. Then you can offer it furnished for even higher rent. I hope my post didn't come across as arrogant or scummy, that's not my intention at all.

When it comes to selling? Yes, hardwood floors and a gas fireplace make a huge difference. Renting? I'd argue not. The floors get beat up. You can put an awesome area rug for $50 over the bald patches of wood. Yes, the gas fireplace fears can come off as ridiculous and irrational but it's at least good to think about.

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2017, 02:50:19 PM »
Quote
These are super helpful ideas, thank you! I'll skip the fireplace and floor refinishing for sure, then. The closet doors are old school hollow wood sliding doors. Would you just paint those white?
Yes, I'd paint them, and take your time with it. However if they are old I would first check if they are fire-safe. If not, you can definitely consider replacing them to get them up to code (if needed).

Quote
Recessed lighting can be a great way to make an older apartment feel more modern. If you can DIY all the better, the parts are surprisingly cheap and it usually isn't very hard to do.
Another great call. You can find really cool lights that really make an apartment sell.

Quote
ample and not totally crappy kitchen cabinets. I would kill for a rental house that had cabinets up to the ceiling instead of having soffits.
Yup, this is very much achievable by painting and re-hanging them. Both of these "upgrades" are super cheap and high impact. You can also put really f****** cool wall paper inside the cabinets and line them with beautiful, clean paper. This costs maybe $100?

paddedhat

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2017, 03:28:46 PM »
You might be right about doing everything as cheaply as possible. That said, my market area is no different that two others where I recently helped my millennial kid, and a  late 60s boomer relocate to. Both had enough money to avoid the "this place is OK, but it looks cheap" and ended up paying at the top end of the market. For their extra cost they ended up with things like real hardwood floor, nice tile work, gas fireplaces, lots of character........ When I'm done being a homeowner, I have no issue with paying 40-50% more than the median to rent a nice apartment in a really trendy nearby city. That extra money brings a lot of the things that some of you avoid like the plague, new kitchens, refinished floors, top grade appliances, a nice fireplace, etc......

I can tell you that both of my kids put up with some real losers for landlords in college, and for one or two apartments after. They are both totally done with the kinds of owners who think that "paint can make it what it ain't" and repairs are done with the cheapest shit possible, whenever the owner (who hasn't got a fucking clue) or one of his buddies, gets around to it. JMHO, but if I am theoretically looking at two potential rentals, and one has a recent kitchen and bath, nice flooring, and nice details, the other was clearly DIYed by an owner who thinks that slopping a coat of paint on sixty year old cabinets, and strategically placing throw rugs to hide shit floors, is how to earn my business, I am willing to drop a few hundred a month for the nice one. As a landlord, I'm going to want the tenant who appreciates a really sharp place and is willing to pay for it. The tenant who is looking to save $50 a month and hope to qualify for your recently painted, dindgy old kitchen with the speckled epoxy sloped over the nasty old formica, and the $15 vanity you found at the Habitat store, is not nearly as desirable as the one who falls in love with your place and will spend a few hundred more than they planned to, since it's a cool place to live.

One interesting thing about this forum is that it's occasionally a venue for those who are really, really tightwads who seek and receive affirmation for all the corners they cut and in some cases, the sorry-assed sad looking DIY work they do. You may think that everything looks just awesome, but my guess is that all to often you become the, "remember that shithole we looked at over on Maple street before we found this place? That was one sketchy dump" conversation for a lot of great potential tenants you lost.

Naturally, a lot of this is market specific, and I realize that there are many cases where the market dictates the bare minimum to get the place in rentable condition and keep it that way. That said, I do think that there is no shortage of real tightwads here  that are shooting themselves in their own asses since they just can't crack the wallet open far enough to create a really sharp, desirable rental.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2017, 03:30:34 PM by paddedhat »

Another Reader

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2017, 04:35:15 PM »
You might be right about doing everything as cheaply as possible. That said, my market area is no different that two others where I recently helped my millennial kid, and a  late 60s boomer relocate to. Both had enough money to avoid the "this place is OK, but it looks cheap" and ended up paying at the top end of the market. For their extra cost they ended up with things like real hardwood floor, nice tile work, gas fireplaces, lots of character........ When I'm done being a homeowner, I have no issue with paying 40-50% more than the median to rent a nice apartment in a really trendy nearby city. That extra money brings a lot of the things that some of you avoid like the plague, new kitchens, refinished floors, top grade appliances, a nice fireplace, etc......

I can tell you that both of my kids put up with some real losers for landlords in college, and for one or two apartments after. They are both totally done with the kinds of owners who think that "paint can make it what it ain't" and repairs are done with the cheapest shit possible, whenever the owner (who hasn't got a fucking clue) or one of his buddies, gets around to it. JMHO, but if I am theoretically looking at two potential rentals, and one has a recent kitchen and bath, nice flooring, and nice details, the other was clearly DIYed by an owner who thinks that slopping a coat of paint on sixty year old cabinets, and strategically placing throw rugs to hide shit floors, is how to earn my business, I am willing to drop a few hundred a month for the nice one. As a landlord, I'm going to want the tenant who appreciates a really sharp place and is willing to pay for it. The tenant who is looking to save $50 a month and hope to qualify for your recently painted, dindgy old kitchen with the speckled epoxy sloped over the nasty old formica, and the $15 vanity you found at the Habitat store, is not nearly as desirable as the one who falls in love with your place and will spend a few hundred more than they planned to, since it's a cool place to live.

One interesting thing about this forum is that it's occasionally a venue for those who are really, really tightwads who seek and receive affirmation for all the corners they cut and in some cases, the sorry-assed sad looking DIY work they do. You may think that everything looks just awesome, but my guess is that all to often you become the, "remember that shithole we looked at over on Maple street before we found this place? That was one sketchy dump" conversation for a lot of great potential tenants you lost.

Naturally, a lot of this is market specific, and I realize that there are many cases where the market dictates the bare minimum to get the place in rentable condition and keep it that way. That said, I do think that there is no shortage of real tightwads here  that are shooting themselves in their own asses since they just can't crack the wallet open far enough to create a really sharp, desirable rental.

The problem with this is, while correct, if you drop too many dollars into the property, you increase the selling price far more than the rent.  I started out upgrading one of my rental houses between tenants at the end of last year, but after spending over $30k on the kitchen, flooring, landscaping and fixtures, it made more sense to sell it than to continue to rent it.  Sold it for top dollar in a rising resale market this spring and now there is one less rental in that rental market.

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2017, 08:13:56 PM »
Inside paneled doors with nice handles is something I prefer as a renter.  I hate old flat doors with big ball handles.  Also, I have no idea how expensive it is, but recessed lighting is huge for me.  Ceiling fans are nice.  New blinds or just a curtain rod, not vertical blinds. Fresh paint. No odors. No mold or mildew.  And clean clean clean. 

Paul der Krake

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2017, 08:44:42 PM »
If you have a spare wall, install a entry-level projector with a screen, entry-level sound system, and an HDMI cords where your tenants can plug their laptops.

You can do all this for maybe $500.

CentralOregonGal

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2017, 09:44:25 PM »
We could probably get away with not doing much to the property at all and still asking a pretty high rent--the rental is in Portland, OR where the housing market is just crazy right now. But at the same time I'm concerned with providing renters with a place that feels like a home, and to find people who will take good care if it.

And I know this is not super Mustachian, but I also feel obliged to keep the rent reasonable. I really feel for those who are being priced out of their rentals as landlords jack up rents higher and higher. That means upgrades to the place will need to be affordable for us as landlords.

We are about to dump a bunch of money into converting the basement of this same property into a separate rental apartment, so that's where the majority of our investment dollars will go.

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2017, 08:48:23 AM »
Quote
One interesting thing about this forum is that it's occasionally a venue for those who are really, really tightwads who seek and receive affirmation for all the corners they cut and in some cases, the sorry-assed sad looking DIY work they do. You may think that everything looks just awesome, but my guess is that all to often you become the, "remember that shithole we looked at over on Maple street before we found this place? That was one sketchy dump" conversation for a lot of great potential tenants you lost.

I'm working on a rental unit as we speak. How about I post pictures when I'm done with renovations? I'll post an exact budget, too. Completely itemized. ;)
« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 08:50:39 AM by Cwadda »

bacchi

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2017, 10:28:17 AM »
One interesting thing about this forum is that it's occasionally a venue for those who are really, really tightwads who seek and receive affirmation for all the corners they cut and in some cases, the sorry-assed sad looking DIY work they do. You may think that everything looks just awesome, but my guess is that all to often you become the, "remember that shithole we looked at over on Maple street before we found this place? That was one sketchy dump" conversation for a lot of great potential tenants you lost.

There's a big gap between sketchy and sloppy DIY. When I was renting (times have changed?), sketchy was finding a hole in the bathroom closet: "There's a hole in here. Ohhh, are those rat droppings?" Yeah, sloppy DIY looks messy and cheap but it's livable.

And you only need one tenant at a time. If the broskis-who-got-away find a rental with an updated, fancypants, kitchen, that's not a problem if you find someone else a few days later.

Quote
Naturally, a lot of this is market specific, and I realize that there are many cases where the market dictates the bare minimum to get the place in rentable condition and keep it that way.

I'm thankful that I live in one of those desirable areas. I'd hate to spend $20k for double-pane windows just to charge what I need to charge. Of course, older houses can get away with more compared to, say, an 80s tract house.

Jon Bon

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2017, 10:53:48 AM »
I feel like this tread is trying to answer two different questions.

1. What keeps renters happy?

and

2. What turns a prospective tenant into a tenant?



From what I read this thread is focused on question #2 attracting the initial high quality tenant. So in my experience as a landlord a clean place with basic amenities is the baseline. From there adding a single 'wow' factor is always a good idea.

Most potential renters are not going to make or break a deal based on how many closet rods a house has. Real estate like so many other things creating an emotional response is a great way to sell. So highlighting some specific feature of an house  that is an unexpected pleasant surprise is a good way to convert leads to renters.


Alim Nassor

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #24 on: May 16, 2017, 01:10:44 PM »
Generally, whenever I repaint the interior of a house, I replace all the switch plates and outlet plates with new, oversized plates.  It's VERY cheap, but makes a nice touch.  Also, if I've painted the interior doors, or the knobs are dingy, I replace all the doorknobs.   You can get nice brushed nickel or bronze at a big box store for 10 bucks a pop, and its a detail most people notice.

I was remodeling a house one time and at the local Foxworth store they had a ventless gas fireplace with mantle they had marked down from 900 bucks to 450.  I offered the manager 350 and he said " SOLD!!  I thought I was never going to sell that thing".  LOL  I kicked myself for not offering 250.   But we installed it in the living room and painted it white to match the wainscoting and it's the first thing your eye sees when you walk in the door, and prospective tenants LOVE it.

paddedhat

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #25 on: May 16, 2017, 02:03:14 PM »
One interesting thing about this forum is that it's occasionally a venue for those who are really, really tightwads who seek and receive affirmation for all the corners they cut and in some cases, the sorry-assed sad looking DIY work they do. You may think that everything looks just awesome, but my guess is that all to often you become the, "remember that shithole we looked at over on Maple street before we found this place? That was one sketchy dump" conversation for a lot of great potential tenants you lost.

There's a big gap between sketchy and sloppy DIY. When I was renting (times have changed?), sketchy was finding a hole in the bathroom closet: "There's a hole in here. Ohhh, are those rat droppings?" Yeah, sloppy DIY looks messy and cheap but it's livable.

And you only need one tenant at a time. If the broskis-who-got-away find a rental with an updated, fancypants, kitchen, that's not a problem if you find someone else a few days later.

Quote
Naturally, a lot of this is market specific, and I realize that there are many cases where the market dictates the bare minimum to get the place in rentable condition and keep it that way.

I'm thankful that I live in one of those desirable areas. I'd hate to spend $20k for double-pane windows just to charge what I need to charge. Of course, older houses can get away with more compared to, say, an 80s tract house.

Yea, you emphasized my point, and it's a problem. Once you become a seasoned renter, you learn that the DIY self stick tiles, and the inch wide caulk joints in the bathroom (the ones that look like they were done by a toddler who troweled the ninety nice cent tubes of caulk in,using a paint stirrer) are red flags. They represent the same clown landlord who is going to avoid getting anything done professionally, and generally be a pain in the ass, every time there is an issue.  Sketchy goes way beyond holes and insect infestation, it's also the owner who is totally suited to surfing a cubical, and got into renting because it was "going to be great" and now they are in over their head. They know they need to make the place more desirable, they don't want to do it right,since they can't afford it,  and they delude themselves into believing that the crap they DIY isn't an issue. The problem with your concept of livable is, livable to who?  If you are in a competitive market,  sloppy  DIY, and lack of appeal can hold you back, and convincing yourself that it doesn't matter, or selling that line to others here, is only kidding yourself.  It's no different that being polite to the cashier as you leave a restaurant. She asks,"how was everything?" you reply, it's fine, even if it was far from fine.  How many of you watched a great potential renter walk out the door, and heard, "well, we will get back to you", and never heard from them again?  How many of those renters got out of earshot and said, "Jesus, what a shit show"? 
« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 02:07:33 PM by paddedhat »

Another Reader

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #26 on: May 16, 2017, 03:00:24 PM »
I did six panel doors and brushed nickel lever handles in the house I ended up selling.  Less than $50 a door.  Installation and paint brought the price to a little over $100 each for seven doors, including a bathroom, a walk in closet, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms.  The two secondary bedroom closets already had sliding six panel doors.

bacchi

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #27 on: May 16, 2017, 05:44:39 PM »
The problem with your concept of livable is, livable to who? 

Well, obviously, any landlord has their own concept of "livable" and also should know what kind of tenant they want.

Quote
How many of you watched a great potential renter walk out the door, and heard, "well, we will get back to you", and never heard from them again?  How many of those renters got out of earshot and said, "Jesus, what a shit show"?

How do you know what the potential renter is thinking? Maybe they want to live closer to work? Maybe they want to do laundry in their underwear and don't want to go outside to the detached utility room? Maybe they've been sold "stainless steel!" and are disappointed in your white fridge. It doesn't matter. You only need one lease.

Hey, I agree with sloppy DIY but it's important to know what kind of tenant you want and your market. Adding slate bathroom tiles is not worth it (professionally or DIY) if your rental is in a student slum. If you're trying to attract young professionals, you've got to remove the 70s wood paneling. If you don't care to rent to large SUV drivers, your low garage lintel made for cars in 1950 isn't a problem.

paddedhat

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #28 on: May 17, 2017, 02:41:37 PM »
The problem with your concept of livable is, livable to who? 

Well, obviously, any landlord has their own concept of "livable" and also should know what kind of tenant they want.

Which is why I was discussing the potential gap between those that want and need better tenants, and still think that the caliber of tenant they seek has any desire to lower their standards to the garbage the owner is offering.

Quote
How many of you watched a great potential renter walk out the door, and heard, "well, we will get back to you", and never heard from them again?  How many of those renters got out of earshot and said, "Jesus, what a shit show"?

How do you know what the potential renter is thinking?

How do you know that, in many cases, my observations are not spot on?
 

Maybe they want to live closer to work? Maybe they want to do laundry in their underwear and don't want to go outside to the detached utility room? Maybe they've been sold "stainless steel!" and are disappointed in your white fridge. It doesn't matter. You only need one lease.

If your standards are, "thank God I found a tenant that will hopefully they live up to the contract, and won't screw me over" (again)
then "you only need one" works fine. 


Hey, I agree with sloppy DIY but it's important to know what kind of tenant you want and your market. Adding slate bathroom tiles is not worth it (professionally or DIY) if your rental is in a student slum. If you're trying to attract young professionals, you've got to remove the 70s wood paneling. If you don't care to rent to large SUV drivers, your low garage lintel made for cars in 1950 isn't a problem.

I totally agree with your last paragraph.

adamcollin

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #29 on: May 19, 2017, 06:12:43 AM »
You can add new lighting, update the bathroom and add cabinets in the kitchen.

Dicey

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #30 on: May 19, 2017, 01:53:11 PM »
Hmmm, looks like my first reply early on disappeared, so I'll try again now.

DH and I BRRR homes. We have a two-phase plan. Initially, we paint, upgrade flooring, replace locks, doorknobs, cabinet hardware, towel rods, and toilets if necessary.. We replace appliances, faucets and lighting fixtures as needed. We clean the shit out of everything to make it sparkle. We tame any unruly landscaping and make sure the windows all have screens in good condition. Here's an example:

https://hotpads.com/38041-grand-oaks-ave-palm-desert-ca-92211-trdzy6/pad

Phase two will begin when DH retires. We will move in to each of our rentals in sequence and do major renos. In the example above, the wall between the kitchen and LR will come down. The FP screen will be updated and the hearth removed. The flooring will all be replaced so it's the same throughout the house. The cabinets will all be restained, counters updated and the master shower will be expanded. We'll live in it for a couple of years and then we'll sell it off. Lather, rinse, repeat until we're out of the landlord business.

We always make sure our houses are places we would be happy to live in. We get nice tenants that way.

Here's the real point of this post. We buy most of our hardware from 99centknobs.com. Yup, knobs and pulls for 99 cents each. It's an awesome resource.

Also, we try to avoid shopping HD and Lowe's for anything that shows. It saves us money and makes our houses a little more unique.




marble_faun

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #31 on: May 21, 2017, 02:06:19 PM »
I'm coming at this from a tenant's POV so can't speak to affordability, but for me the things that make a rental better are things that make it feel like a house vs. industrial investment.

Also a renter, and I strongly agree with the above.

Attention to the exterior may help a lot here. My current place is pretty sub-par in a lot of ways, but when I come home, it feels like "home" -- there's a bright yellow front door, cheerful plantings, etc.

If you weren't renovating your basement, I might suggest turning that into an orderly on-site storage facility, with good shelves and areas marked off for each tenant.

Another idea would be to allow cats and dogs. I know this may be controversial, because some dogs can be a bit destructive. But as a renter with a dog, there are fewer places available for me to rent, and I would be willing to pay more to be able to bring my pet.  You could also charge a pet deposit to cover damage or extra cleaning.

Features that to me would merit an automatic "no" on an apartment:

-- industrial carpeting (wood floors strongly preferred)

-- rooms that are basically just white cubes of dry-wall, with no character (even just painting the walls something other than white can help here)

-- overly-subdivided space (prefer larger rooms)

-- any hint of dirt or grime (learned this the hard way -- previous tenants in my current place left the place filthy, complete with mildew and rodent infestation -- landlord did not bother cleaning before we moved in)

-- anything about fixtures that seems broken (another lesson learned hard way -- our landlord hired bad contractors, who installed windows, electrical outlets, and faucets incorrectly)


We stay here because it is very cheap, allows dogs, has a convenient location, and is a temporary situation, but we really don't like it.  Would gladly pay a few hundred more dollars a month to get out of here, but we are planning to buy a house in another area soon and decided to just wait it out.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2017, 02:18:16 PM by marble_faun »

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #32 on: May 22, 2017, 07:50:24 AM »
Here's an example of an apartment I'm working on that uses the upgrades I was talking about.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2017, 07:52:30 AM by Cwadda »

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #33 on: May 22, 2017, 07:55:46 AM »
Last pic is the before pic.

Budget:
2 gallons of Benjamin Moore paint - $90
Replaced ugly commercial ceiling tiles with wooden sheets to match the colors of the room - $90
Bed that has 4 storage drawers - $230
Staging objects - $50
Light - $15
Blinds - $18
These photos were taken with an iPhone, not even a DSLR camera.

I'm also adding 6-drawer white dresser which will be $300 but has all the storage one could ever need.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2017, 09:14:54 AM by Cwadda »

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #34 on: May 22, 2017, 07:59:03 AM »
Another pic

mountainfamily

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #35 on: May 23, 2017, 11:45:19 PM »
Does it have a dishwasher? Do the sinks and tubs need to be re-glazed? Is the toilet efficient? Good tenants usually like things clean. I am a good tenant stuck renting in Seattle and I dream of a dishwasher, a bathtub I could clean, and a toilet that was less than 6 gallons per flush. Oh, and insulation...

clarkfan1979

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #36 on: May 24, 2017, 12:51:24 AM »
Laminate flooring instead of carpet, used stainless steel appliances, and fresh paint to make everything look new and clean. 

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #37 on: May 24, 2017, 09:07:22 AM »
Another picture of an apartment I'm working on.

Budget:
Sofa - $800. Has storage under where that blanket is. Also opens up into a full size bed, so for a 2 bedroom apartment, this functions as a 3rd bedroom guest bed.
Bamboo blinds - $75
Locker/TV stand (across from sofa, barely in picture) - $100
2 buckets of Ben Moore paint - $90
Staging items - $50. That canvas was $10 at Goodwill.

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #38 on: May 24, 2017, 09:18:36 AM »
@paddedhat

I can't wait to show you the kitchen and bathroom ;)

Landlady

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #39 on: May 24, 2017, 12:38:19 PM »
Here's what we did when we bought our duplex:
-added a dishwasher - this was expensive, but I immediately felt confident in increasing the advertised rent by $100 after install.
-got rid of the awful boob lights and replaced them with IKEA drum lights in the bedrooms.
-Used scrap lumber to make two simple raised beds. Now each tenant in our duplex has dedicated gardening space if they want it. This was a big plus in advertising the place.
-new ikea faucet in the bathroom - surprisingly makes the whole bathroom look new
-signed up for the local fiber program to get fiber internet installed. We now have techie tenants, possibly thanks to our advertising this feature.
-painted the old brown baseboards white along with the old vent covers
-painted the walls white dove benjamin moore with an occasional accent wall of color. So many tenants ask to repaint and we only allow them to if they book a professional painter and we approve the color.
-Making video tours of our units increased the pool of interested applicants which in turn increases the likelihood of quality tenants. I used my cell phone and imovie. It also increased the number of applicants who were moving to the area for a job and could not personally tour the place. These far-away prospective tenants all had very good, well-paying, stable jobs - exactly what you want as a landlord. Making a video is free!

Cwadda

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #40 on: May 24, 2017, 01:38:03 PM »
Quote
-painted the walls white dove benjamin moore with an occasional accent wall of color. So many tenants ask to repaint and we only allow them to if they book a professional painter and we approve the color.

White dove is a fantastic color and the quality of Ben Moore paint is excellent.

ysette9

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #41 on: May 24, 2017, 01:46:31 PM »
Quote
-added a dishwasher - this was expensive, but I immediately felt confident in increasing the advertised rent by $100 after install.
-got rid of the awful boob lights and replaced them with IKEA drum lights in the bedrooms.
-Used scrap lumber to make two simple raised beds. Now each tenant in our duplex has dedicated gardening space if they want it. This was a big plus in advertising the place.
-new ikea faucet in the bathroom - surprisingly makes the whole bathroom look new
-signed up for the local fiber program to get fiber internet installed. We now have techie tenants, possibly thanks to our advertising this feature.
-painted the old brown baseboards white along with the old vent covers
-painted the walls white dove benjamin moore with an occasional accent wall of color. So many tenants ask to repaint and we only allow them to if they book a professional painter and we approve the color.

These are fantastic ideas and make me interested in renting your place. :) Personally I set the requirement that our rental had to have a dishwasher and washer/dryer. After being a homeowner and living with those amenities, I was totally unwilling to take a step backwards. We ended up building our own temporary raised bed in the back yard of our rental; having raised beds there already would be a huge plus in my book.

The faucet thing is a good idea because cheap faucets suck and remind you that you are in a cheap rental, but good ones really don't cost that much. I am JEALOUS that you have fiber as an option for internet. Unfortunately we live in the sticks of central Silicon Valley where fiber isn't an option. ~sarcasm~ Yes, it is completely and utterly ridiculous that our neighborhood within biking distance of major tech companies and universities like Facebook and Stanford have no decent, affordable options for fast internet. Stupid USA.

marielle

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #42 on: May 24, 2017, 02:34:03 PM »
Overhead light with a fan in the bedrooms. No lighting makes it feel like crappy student housing, and it's hard to find table/floor lighting that adequately lights up a room. This may be obvious though.

ysette9

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #43 on: May 24, 2017, 03:43:34 PM »
Quote
This may be obvious though.

Good thing you stated it because it really isn't obvious. Our place has a severe lack of installed lighting and you are right: it is hard to light up the whole room with lamps.

Incidentally this is something I find incredibly annoying about hotels now. All the ones I go to have no overhead light and require me to walk into a mostly-dark room and switch on four table lamps to get any light. What is the reasoning there?

paddedhat

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #44 on: May 24, 2017, 04:43:43 PM »
Quote
This may be obvious though.

Good thing you stated it because it really isn't obvious. Our place has a severe lack of installed lighting and you are right: it is hard to light up the whole room with lamps.

Incidentally this is something I find incredibly annoying about hotels now. All the ones I go to have no overhead light and require me to walk into a mostly-dark room and switch on four table lamps to get any light. What is the reasoning there?

It might be fire safety issues. I was a construction supervisor on a new mid-priced chain hotel. Installing recessed lighting required a very elaborate, and labor intensive, on site fabricated, fire rated box, surrounding each fixture,. The box was essentially hidden in the ceiling, above the light. The box was a double layer of 5/8" sheetrock and all joints and openings had to be sealed with a special fire rated sealant.  After reviewing the requirements the owner eliminated most recessed lighting before we even started the rough in.

Villanelle

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Re: Affordable upgrades to attract quality tenants?
« Reply #45 on: May 25, 2017, 02:21:57 AM »
I don't know if this would be considered "affordable", but have you considered adding a bathroom, or at least a half bath?  The increased rent might make it worthwhile, if your floor plan would still make sense.  Three bedrooms generally means more than 2 people, and most people prefer more than one bath.  Heck, I know it's not mustachian, but as someone with a lot of GI issues, I'm not sure I'd ever rent a 1 bath place unless I was desperate, and it's just DH and me.