Property owners keeping an older single or multi family home updated is essential for it to remain competitive and valuable in its area. When budgets and square footage don’t permit the array of bells and whistles you would wish for, you can still take other steps to attract attention and new residents.
Today, property owners may not realize that most renters value an affordable monthly lease and a clean, safe home in a location near mass transportation and shopping. So it makes sense to focus your attention on a few noteworthy improvements that make a good first impression, and to make these improvements between tenants. Ultimately, this will allow you to spread out the costs overtime.
But, which upgrades do you undertake first? You can get some clues by checking out what changes other single or multi family homes with similar size units and similar price points in your zip code are making. Its not always a new kitchen, kitchen appliances or bathroom as you may think .
So, what’s a property owners best strategy? You can start by surveying current and former tenants about their detailed likes and dislikes. Take that information into consideration when scheduling upgrades.
Here are some changes we came up with from our experience in the single and multi family market.
Cleanliness. As owner of Real Property Management Landmark I place cleanliness at #1 for a small fix that equals a big result. Lets be honest, Nobody wants to walk into a unit that doesn’t look or smell fresh. You’d be surprised how many places I’ve seen that don’t present well. You can’t take back that bad first impression. To add on to that, if potential renters don’t think a unit is clean, they may think the home or building isn’t well maintained, or the property owner is not a good landlord.
In-home laundry equipment. The convenience of having individual equipment, even if smaller and stacked, is considered a huge plus if the plumbing and ventilation permits. Making this improvement can allow you to add on an average of $40 a month.
Kitchen and bathroom fixes. While a totally gutted kitchen and bathroom may not be economically feasible, you can make changes in both rooms that provide significant visual and functional improvements.
- Kitchen appliances. There is of course the option to replace appliances with sleek new stainless steel models, but if that’s not in the budget, maybe property owners could add a dishwasher and microwave in the same finish as the existing appliances. also, if replacing a refrigerator, you might consider a smaller model with more features, then a larger model with none.
- Kitchen countertops. Good durable counter tops without scratches and dings are important. Granite still holds wide appeal, particularly for more affordable units while homes with bigger budgets now favor quartz. To invest in granite countertops now may pay off down the road with higher rents and longer lasting countertops.
- Bathroom walls and floors. Bigger tiles (6-by-8 inch bath tiles, for example) are considered more current. Porcelain tile is quickly replacing ceramic as a favorite because it’s highly durable and able to mimic other materials such as marble and even wood. Also an important item, pick medicine cabinets and vanities with ample storage.
- Cabinets. New cabinets can make a huge and favorable impression. More modern aesthetically and finished in lighter colors, from white to off-white, beige, and even pale gray, paired with sleeker knobs and pulls. For variety and when budgets permit, some with larger kitchens have two shades of cabinets, placing the darker ones beneath countertops and sometimes adding glass fronts to upper units. Good storage is always a priority, especially as square footage is downsized. When space allows in a kitchen, include a pantry-style cabinet with pull-out shelves and cabinets below the countertops with slide-out drawers that are easier to access than cabinets.
Flooring. Hardwood floors—either real wood, laminate, or porcelain tile—have advantages over wall-to-wall carpeting, and can help justify higher rents. When it comes to the bedroom wood is also preferable, though others prefer the warmth of carpet underfoot. For real wood, property owners should consider sanding and refinishing floors with an updated satin finish.
Good closets. With tight closet space in most older homes, having sufficient storage throughout is a challenging, yet important feature. Most tenants would rather give up space for a chair or two than space in a closet. While those in mid-priced and even some upscale homes don’t expect their closets to be fitted with elaborate shelving systems, they like having some wire systems as well as painted and maintained closet interiors.
Color palettes. For rental homes I would recommend going with neutral tones like white,off-white, cream, and pale gray. Be careful, choose the exact shade to work with the color of the flooring so the room “pops”. Also, consider the amount of light in a room and choose a color that complements it.
Landscaping. Remove half-dead trees and shrubs. Property owners should consider a simple low maintenance trees and shrubs that provide curb appeal for the home.
Finally, the guiding principle of any improvements you make should be to help your tenants take pride in where they live and want to stay. Small improvements should be done on a regular basis. If you do, you will be able to justify higher rents and increase the value of the property.
To find a property management professional in your area: Real Property Management
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