Why invest in making your rental more durable? You’ll feel less stress and do less maintenance over the long run.
Or you might find yourself in one of these situations:
- You used your property for personal purposes, but you recently decided to turn it into a rental.
- You just bought a fixer-upper.
- You own and manage rental units that cost you too much to maintain.
In all these scenarios, you’ll want to make the most of your resources by converting the unit into one that’s going to withstand any and all types of occupants. Make your property easy to maintain.
While the initial cost might be hefty, the monthly savings generated by the conversion will be a welcome addition to your budget.
Converting a unit to be low-maintenance usually involves renovations, and smart choices can prevent future headaches. Make your unit comfortable, homey, and durable by using attractive and quality materials, and some simple tricks.
1. Install Durable Flooring
Shag carpeting and other plush flooring has to go, since you can’t always count on your tenants to properly care for it. That doesn’t mean the floor has to remain uncarpeted—you can require the tenants add carpet.
It’s common for landlords to include a lease clause requiring tenants to carpet 80% of the floors. Including this clause leaves you with the choice to install a more durable material that will withstand the ravages of multiple occupancies. Here are some great options:
- Laminate: It looks like hardwood, but is actually plasticized. Laminates can be installed in a single day, and they come in a wide range of styles. Because they float over the subfloor, you can install them over existing hardwood, linoleum, or even some types of carpet. It’s also easy to take up the laminate floor and use it somewhere else.
- Vinyl: We’re not talking sheet vinyl or glue-down tiles. Luxury vinyl tiles, like laminates, click together and float over the existing floor. They are attractive, water-resistant, and soft on the feet. And they absorb sound, so you may not need the carpets after all.
- Engineered Hardwood: It looks like solid wood, but engineered hardwood is a manufactured product with a wood veneer. Don’t want to nail it down? You can get click-together products that install as easily as laminate flooring.
2. Provide Practical Lighting
Every room needs a switched area light. In most cases, a dome positioned in the middle of the ceiling fills the bill. Avoid pendants, which attract dust and may not appear as attractive to tenants as they do to you. Here are two other options that provide lighting flexibility:
- Track Lights: Tracks lights are as easy to install as any other ceiling fixture, and you can add, remove, and redirect the individual cans at will. People who love to cook can get the light they need on the stove, while those who like to entertain can focus the light on the coffee table.
- Switched Outlets: Encourage renters to provide their own table and floor lamps by providing at least one switched outlet in every room.
3. Make the Kitchen Easy to Clean
The kitchen is the most-used room in the house, and a few smart choices can make it comfortable and functional while preventing wear and tear.
- Countertops: Wood is nice, but plastic laminates are better. Plastic is easy to clean, and the finish won’t wear unless abused. To prevent knife marks, be sure to provide an easy-to-access cutting board. You might consider installing one permanently next to the stove or sink.
- Splash Guards: These are a must behind every counter to prevent water damage to the wall and leaks. Consider also installing a stainless-steel guard behind the stove to make cleaning easier.
- Wood Cabinets: Real wood won’t delaminate in the hot and moist kitchen environment, and it’s easy to clean when finished with a durable clear finish or paint. When the cabinets show signs of age, you don’t have to replace them because they’ll look as good as new with some sanding and refinishing.
- Paint: Use gloss paint in the kitchen to make the walls easier to clean.
4. Pay Attention to Doors and Windows
Converting to a rental doesn’t call for a wholesale replacement of the doors and windows, but if any are damaged and need to be replaced, make the most of the opportunity.
- Exterior Doors: Steel or fiberglass doors look every bit as attractive as wood doors when properly painted, and they are virtually indestructible. They provide better security, and they insulate better.
- Interior Doors: Keep it simple by installing plain, hollow-core doors without panels or trim. Paint them with semi-gloss enamel, which can be easily refreshed when needed.
- Door Hardware: If you can rekey the locks on the exterior doors, you won’t have to change them between occupancies. Don’t break the bank buying handsets for interior doors. Cheaper models are functional and last as long as more expensive ones.
- Windows: Vertical or horizontal sliders are easy to operate and provide great insulation, especially with double-insulated glass. Avoid cranks or breakable handles.
5. Don’t Forget the Plumbing
Converting an older unit? There’s a good chance some of the faucets are past their prime, and one or more may be dripping. You can fix the leaks, but if you want to avoid calling a plumber—or being one for your tenants—take the extra step of replacing those old faucets with new, easy-to-fix cartridge faucets.
Drain stoppages shouldn’t be your problem. Clean the drains with an enzyme-based cleaner before occupancy. Then include a plumbing stoppage addendum in the lease, and leave it to the tenants to keep them clear.
Nothing Is Permanent
Smart renovations take little effort on your part, and they’re easy on the budget. The best part, however, is that they are reversible. Given that the nature of the universe is change, you may decide to reclaim the unit for personal use. If so, you can backtrack on all of them. Chances are, though, you won’t want to.