This summer, we put the breaks on our “big house” home rehab and dove head first into renovating our small rental property so that we could get it rented before I headed back to school. With so many projects still up in the air though, and many more in the works, we knew we’d have to pinch pennies as we spiffied-up our rental. That said, we still wanted to make it as nice as possible so that it would be a great place to live and so that we would add value to our property. We were able to do just that with some inexpensive and smart projects that helped us get the most bang for our buck. Here are five ways we transformed our property and added value without breaking the bank.
1. Paint is Your Friend – Use it Wisely in Every Room
To start, you should repaint all of the walls in your house in a nice neutral shade of white, light gray, or light beige to unify the space and make it more appealing to renters. But beyond the walls, you can do so much with paint to transform a space.
At our rental, we used used paint to touch up slightly rusted metal vent grates, to give a new dark black sheen to the mailbox, to create a nickel look on the bathroom fixtures such as the toilet paper holder, and to give a clean and uniform appearance to the basement stairs. We’ve even painted a refrigerator before, although we didn’t do that at this rental. Our most extensive paint projects at this property focused on the old oak kitchen cabinets and a damaged bedroom floor.
Our painted cabinets with the vinyl plank backsplash and the new white stove.
We transformed the stock cabinets into something cute and unique from other rentals in the area just by using a little paint. We were even able to paint them without sanding because we used an amazing primer. We kept them a nice neutral gray that we were lucky enough to find on the discount shelf at Lowes. Score! The paint also helped to unify the colors in the kitchen because we laid a gray checkered floor and used a vinyl plank backsplash in a faux gray wood finish. All in all, the kitchen look pulled together nicely, even though we kept the original tan countertops. When it was all said and done, we only ended up spending less than $40 on paint for all of the cabinets!
We also were faced with some incredibly damaged floors in the bedroom. They had some deep gouges and stains that wouldn’t have been fixed by refinishing the floors. We could have installed carpet, but that’s expensive and might not keep well with a renter. We decided instead to paint the floors with porch and patio paint. We went with gray again to keep it neutral and made sure to prep and prime the floors to make sure the paint adhered well. We cleaned them with a steam cleaner and then primed with Zinsser BIN. It only took two coats over the primer to create a cute, cottage-like, look to the bedroom. The entire room with the primer and porch paint came in at under $70 – so much cheaper than carpet and cuter, if you ask me.
We patched the floor with Durham’s Rock Hard Putty and then sanded it smooth, primed it with Zinsser’s BIN, and added a topcoat of Behr Porch and Primer Paint.
2. Add Living Space or Storage Space
Space is a premium when it comes to rental properties. With a home, you can sometimes find ways to increase that space either inside or outside with a little creativity. If you have an unfinished basement, look for ways you can finish it. If you can’t do that, at least clean it up and create some storage shelves that will make it more usable for renters. If you see any outdoor areas that could benefit from an extended patio or even a little walkway, look for ways to enhance those areas.
The private outdoor retreat, a perfect space for morning coffee, outdoor yoga, or grilling out.
For our purposes we created more space outside by adding a patio off of the kitchen. The back door for our property is in the kitchen and it originally opened out onto loose pavers leftover from the previous owner. We decided to properly finish the space and turn it into a functional and cozy patio that maximizes the dining and entertaining potential for the property. We used the pavers that were leftover from before, but even new pavers can be found for cheap.
We turned an awkward corner into a useful storage space with the addition of some simple built-in shelves.
We also added some storage by building shelves in an awkward corner in one of the bedrooms. Though we didn’t do it at this property, we’ve also created a built-in banquette with storage in a kitchen. It’s also a great way to maximize and define the kitchen space while adding storage.
3. Add Privacy
Though a house provides quite a bit of privacy, it’s always a great idea to create more private spaces where tenants could relax and get away from the prying eyes of neighbors. A privacy fence, or even shrubs planted strategically could help to create more privacy, but both can be expensive. We decided to be strategic about our use of fencing to create a smaller private area without having to put up an entire privacy fence.
The small run of privacy fence makes the backyard patio feel secluded and cozy, even though the fence doesn’t enclose the entire yard.
As I noted above, we were able to add an inexpensive patio off of the kitchen by reusing pavers from the previous owner. We also decided to put up a small run of privacy fence (16 feet) to make that area a little private oasis. It now almost acts like an outdoor room and we were able to create the feeling of a privacy fence without spending the amount of money it would have taken to fence in the entire back yard.
4. Work With What You Have
This seems obvious, but when you start remodeling a house it can be really tempting to replace items or start from scratch. We were able to reuse many of the items in the house even though some just were past their prime and did need to be replaced. For instance, we replaced our broken stove, but we made sure to buy one that would fit in with the look of our other appliances so that we didn’t have to purchase an entirely new appliance set. And, as I stated in the first tip, you can also use paint to refresh quite a few things that you might have otherwise needed to replace.
We also looked for ways to make things like our kitchen countertops, which were totally functional and in great condition, look a little less boring and ugly so that they would “work” better in the kitchen design. Luckily, the countertops weren’t that bad to start with, just a little yellowy. We tried to downplay the yellow by creating a color palette of grays in the kitchen. We painted the cabinets and added a vinyl plank backsplash to try to pull out the neutral gray tones and dull the yellow of the counters. If you think strategically about color usage, you can make the most of less-than-optimal fixtures.
We painted the walls and doors with the flat white paint that we already had on hand. In the end, it was neutral, clean, and didn’t cost us a penny extra.
We also made sure to make the best use of all of our supplies and tools. I would have liked to paint the walls in a light gray but we had half of a five-gallon bucket of flat white left from another project. We decided to use that to paint all of the walls. We also used leftover paint in an eggshell sheen for the bathroom. The patio used the old pavers from before and we also used leftover fence materials to build our small run of privacy fence. If you take a good account of your current supplies, you might be able to find some creative uses for them in an income property.
5. Clean, Clean, Clean, and Clean Some More
There is nothing more important to increase the rentability of your property than making sure it is clean and functional. Cute is great, but cute won’t cut it if it’s also dirty. A basic once-over won’t do it either. You have to make sure that every crevice of the house is as clean as it can possibly be.
The tub surround and the other bathroom fixtures were cleaned thoroughly to make them look new and shiny.
We really focused specifically on a couple key areas: Windows, Kitchen, Bathroom, and Floors. We scrubbed the window wells with hydrogen peroxide to get rid of any mold or mildew. We then cleaned the glass inside and out with glass cleaner. We scrubbed down the insides of cabinets and appliances in the kitchen. I took apart every part of the refrigerator and cleaned it thoroughly. We used an anti-iron product to clean the red stains of off the tub surround. We then used an acid to really eliminate any calcium and mildew buildup. The walls were sparkling white when we finished. Finally, we mopped the floors and even scrubbed some stubborn spots by hand.
Clean and neutral is the name of the game. No cobwebs, dust bunnies, or dirt. Also, the front door is painted with leftover cabinet paint, making the most of the supplies that we had.
Other than that, we gave the entire house a once-over, focusing on any part that could be dusty, dingy, or dirty. We made sure to clean off shelves in closets, clean out areas underneath fixtures, dust off light fixtures and fans, and clean the mini blinds. Make sure that every inch of the house has been cleaned before you show it to a potential renter.
So there you have it, some simple and inexpensive ways to maximize your rental property. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end.