Far too many owners put money into things that they should not bother with, yet fail to put money into things that they should be putting money into. Some upgrades are a complete waste of money from a "return on investment" standpoint, while others offer a lot bang-for-the-buck!
Choosing the right professional property manager can help alleviate much of the anguish associated with renovations and upgrades, as the right manager can act as your experienced and trusted guide in the process.
If you are self-managing your rentals, then these tips can help you to get your property rented faster and for more money. Here are some tips, pointers, and best practices regarding do's and don'ts when upgrading your Sarasota and Manatee county residential investment properties.
Rule #1: Thou Shalt Not Waste Money!
A rental property is a "business." It is not a hobby. It is not a charity. It is not an outlet for your "inner Picasso." When a business-owner makes spending decisions (HINT: as a rental owner, you ARE a business owner) they consider the following:
- Is this expense necessary for the efficient operation of the business and satisfaction of customers?
- Is there a sufficient R.O.I. (Return On Investment) to justify spending the money (i.e., is the reward worth the effort)?
When renting houses, apartments, and condominium units the fundamental rule is that the property must be, "clean and habitable" -- beyond that, you have a lot of discretion as a landlord.
One thing that the rental does not have to be is, "Perfect in every way, down to the minutest detail." More owners than you might think go way overboard and put money into their properties that they will never see a profitable return.
[By the way, these suggestions also apply to your North Port, Venice, Englewood, Bradenton, and Lakewood Ranch rental homes and condos]
Before considering specific upgrades, keep these general guidelines in mind:
- Clean, clean, clean, clean! Dirty houses do not rent for top dollar! Have the property professionally cleaned, to include: all appliances, window-sills, shelves, cabinets, counter-tops, carpets, and floors.
- Fresh paint is always a good thing -- be sure to include baseboards and doors. Light neutral colors - blues, greys, tans - are best, with contrasting white trim.
- Caulk everywhere it is needed - nothing leaves a negative first impression like dirty gaps around windows, sinks, tubs, and toilets. Caulking is cheap, it protects the property from water damage, looks good, and pays off in the long-run.
- Get rid of old and worn window treatments and replace with new. Forget curtains, but do get updated mini-blinds or verticals.
What Upgrades Do and Don't Make Sense For Your Sarasota Rental?
Read just about any book, article, or blog post on the topic of best upgrades for your rental property (Sarasota, or elsewhere) and these "big three" are likely to be mentioned:
- Curb Appeal
You ask, "Why do these items consistently come up as the top three best upgrades?" Because it's true! These are the things that make the most significant first impression on prospective tenants when previewing rentals and the leading drivers in their deciding to rent your property, or not. Let's delve into specifics.
Curb appeal has everything to do with what the property looks like when a prospective tenant first drives up. Is the yard free of debris? Are the lawn and shrubs neatly kept? Do the exterior walls, roof, driveway, and walkways look clean (pressure-washed) and in good repair? Are the windows free of cracks and, are the screens in place and in good repair? Are there visibly peeling paint and rotted wood on the eves and fascia? Is the siding in good condition? These are all things to consider.
Especially noteworthy is the five feet surrounding the front entrance! Does the front door need to be painted (HINT: the answer is almost assuredly yes)? Is everything clean and tidy? Does the porch-light have bulbs in place and a spotless "globe/cover"? Is the walkway swept? Does the doorbell work? All of these seemingly little things matter -- they matter a lot!
What do you think when you walk into a kitchen, and there are old Formica countertops with burns and chips in them? I'm not saying that your rental has to have the latest granite countertops (unless, of course, it is a higher end rental where the expectation is that it will have granite countertops) but you DO need nice, clean, presentable countertops. Same goes for appliances. They do not have to be brand-new, but they do have to be modern, clean, efficient, free of rust, and quiet -- antique clunkers should be removed.
Is the flooring 30-year old linoleum? If so, you must get rid of it and replace it with modern flooring (I like vinyl-plank flooring for its durability and eye appeal). Are the light fixtures old and outdated? Then you must replace them too.
How do the cabinets look? If the cabinets are still solid and sturdy, you would likely be amazed at how having them professionally painted, and all of the hardware (knobs and handles) replaced with shiny and new, modern alternatives can completely revitalize a worn outlook. If the underlying "bones" are in bad shape, you will have to replace the cabinets.
So, to recap -- when updating kitchens -- 'must do' items include:
Replace the word "appliances" with the words "bathroom fixtures" (tub, sink, commode, medicine-cabinet/mirror) and the list of upgrade items to pay attention to is the same as for the kitchen:
- Counter-tops (sink-top)
- Bathroom Fixtures
- Cabinets (vanity and shelving)
Did you know that you can buy a modern, oval commode for around one-hundred bucks? They used to make commodes smaller, round, and about 6-inches lower to the floor than they do today. Upgrading to a modern toilet if you have an older one is a true "no-brainer." If the faucet on the sink is old and leaky get a brand new one -- they are relatively cheap -- and while you are at it, don't forget to get rid of that old and scaly shower-head and replace it with a shiny new one.
Vanity mirrors are also relatively cheap, are very easy to install and freshen up the look of an older bathroom. Same goes for the light fixture above the vanity mirror. Also, if you have an old (and loud) exhaust fan, consider replacing with a modern and quieter alternative.
You don't have to break the bank when upgrading your rental home or condo unit. Pay attention to eye-appeal and serviceability. Everything does not have to be brand new, but if it is outdated and behind the times you should seriously consider an upgrade.
If you have a good, professional property manager, they can give you helpful advice on what you should and should not spend your money on. If you need help, we at Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee can offer advice. Feel free to give us a call at 941-216-0005 and download our free guide, "Your Guide to Finding the Best Sarasota Area Property Manager."