If you own investment properties, you want them to look nice so you can charge more in rent. However, you don't want to blow through all your capital making improvements. Which upgrades result in the most bang for your buck?
Think about the things your tenants rely on daily. Every day, they use appliances, walk on floors and touch walls with dirty fingers. By making improvements to those items that experience the most wear-and-tear, you can save considerable time and money.
1. Upgrade to Energy-Star Appliances
Do you pay any utilities for your tenant? If you do and you're operating appliances that are 10-years-old or more, you're bleeding money monthly.
Today, all appliances come with an Energy Star rating that tells you how much the appliances uses in resources. Engineers know this, and as a result, today's appliances are twice or more efficient than their earlier counterparts. Even if you don't cover electric or water for your tenants, you can improve retention if they’re not slammed with costly bills each month.
2. Install Low-Flow Water Features
Did you know you could save up to 20,000 gallons of water each year by installing low-flow toilets if a family of four moves into one of your properties? You can multiply these savings by installing low-flow showerheads and faucets, too.
Leaky faucets not only cause water loss, but they also create unsightly rust stains and even mold. The latter can cause physical illness, especially if your tenant has a compromised immune system.
3. Replace Carpet With Durable Flooring
Carpet holds everything in, from the stench of cigarette smoke to pet dander. Plus, since tenants tend toward more transient lifestyles, they're not overly concerned about avoiding stains. While carpet is certainly an affordable flooring option, they require more frequent replacement and are typically unattractive to prospective tenants.
Landlords can make their lives a little easier by opting for vinyl, laminate or another flooring option that’s low maintenance and affordable — and still appealing. Laminate floors, for instance, can handle moisture and are invulnerable to many scratches and dents. If you do experience damage, you can repair only the disturbed area without replacing the whole floor.
4. Paint Walls, Doors and Cabinets
Stains and sticky spots are a reality of living. Children will always scribble on walls and kitchens will always suffer from the occasional grease splatter. But you can make cleaning up a little easier by being thoughtful about the type of paint you choose for your rental’s interior.
Choose a glossy interior paint as this proves more durable to ordinary wear and tear than matte colors. Paint your exterior and interior doors, as these tend to collect fingerprints. If you have wooden cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms, consider replacing the doors or painting them to upgrade your look (and justify rent increases).
5. Xeriscape Outdoor Areas
Some people are content to garden all weekend long, but many tenants choose to rent because they lack the time or the interest to maintain landscaping. Take the burden off tenants by xeriscaping your front and back lawns. Xeriscaping involves using native plants that are naturally drought-resistant and require little in terms of care.
If your property lies in a location lacking adequate rainfall, consider landscaping with natural stone and succulent plants. If your rental lies in an area of heavier deluges, plant some ivy on slopes to help prevent water damage and remove the onus of cutting grass from tenants. While you may need to invest a bit of money upfront to redo your lawn, it proves far less costly than hiring a weekly or biweekly landscaping service.
Improvements Increase Property Value and Minimize Headaches
Many landlords lament the high cost in terms of time and money when a tenant moves out and they need to make repairs. By prepping your property with certain upgrades in advance, you can minimize your labor efforts and justify charging higher rents.
Holly Welles is the editor behind The Estate Update, where she shares real estate tips and ideas for home fixes.