With Montgomery County rentals becoming increasingly competitive, you need to find ways to make your property standout without losing your shirt.
Many property improvements are too complex or expensive to complete between renters.
The key is to invest in improvements that are simple and have a high return on investment.
Below are four cheap investments that will make a huge impact on potential tenants.
Install Low Maintenance Landscaping
There’s a reason real estate agents are always talking about curb appeal.
The first impression potential tenants get from your property’s yard can make or break their decision to rent. It’s also next to impossible to rely on tenants to keep up with complicated landscaping.
Hiring professional landscapers keeps the property looking nice. But the more complicated the landscaping, the higher the landscaping fees and the lower your profits.
Fortunately, you can both improve curb appeal and lower your yard maintenance costs by installing some low-cost, low-maintenance landscaping. The best landscaping options for rentals don’t need a lot of water and are durable. You don’t want anything that needs watered by hand or that is too sensitive to temperature changes.
Grass is one of the worst things from a cost and maintenance perspective. It has to be mowed regularly, and without proper care it quickly yellows and turns into an eye sore. While you may not want to completely eliminate the lawn, you can limit its size and instead install bark or rocks with small bushes to make the area more attractive. The Grey Owl Juniper is an especially hardy plant that requires little care.
Another low maintenance landscaping tip is to plant a few low-water perennials. These will bloom every year without any help and don’t need much water. They provide nice color, but don’t need a lot of pruning or nurturing. You can even find a variety of different flowers native to Maryland that will bloom at different times of the year. Flowers that work well include Dutchman’s Breeches that bloom in spring and Black-eyed Susans that bloom in late summer and early fall.
Use the Right Indoor Paint
Every landlord knows that part of owning a rental is doing a lot of painting. Tenants are often rough on the interior walls and many landlords make it a habit to always put on a fresh coat of paint after a tenant moves out.
There is no doubt that a fresh coat of paint keeps a rental looking brighter and makes it easier to rent. But, landlords often make the mistake of simply buying the cheapest paint they can find because they know they will just have to repaint in a year or two.
The problem is by using the cheapest paint you may be spending more money then you need to do. Cheap paint often doesn’t cover as well as even moderately more expensive paints, and you not only end up using more paint, but you also end up spending more time painting.
Even if you do the painting yourself, the extra time you are spending could be better spent on something else. You also don’t want to buy premier paint that is designed to last ten years because you will have already repainted several times by then.
While everyone will have their own preferences, there isn’t any reason to pay more than $20 for a five gallon can of paint, but anything less than $15 for five gallons should be tested before you buy it in large quantities.
Another way to save time and money on paint is to pick a brand and color and use it for every room in all of your rentals. It also works best if you use a color that comes premixed. This eliminates problems with finding a perfect match or buying the same paint mixed by different people and having the results be slightly off. It also gives you one less thing to worry about. If your paint goes on sale, you can save more money by stocking up.
One landlord experimented with several different brands of paint and reported his experiences on the Bigger Pockets blog.
Buy Flooring Before You Need It
After paint, the next most common thing landlords have to repair or replace is flooring, especially carpet and linoleum.
While the flooring probably doesn’t need replaced between every tenant, it certainly won’t last as long as the flooring in your own home.
Just like with paint, because it needs to get replaced frequently, there is no need to buy the most expensive flooring on the market. But, unlike buying paint, getting the right flooring for your rental is a much more labor-intensive process, and it can be difficult to find flooring at a good price when you need it.
One way landlords can have more control over the price they pay for flooring is to always be looking for deals on carpet and linoleum and buying flooring in sufficient quantities when it is cheap and storing it until you need to replace the flooring in your rentals.
When looking for the best flooring options, the best choices are always going to be surfaces that are easy to clean. Carpet is a popular choices for rentals, but landlords can save money over time by installing tile or laminate flooring in areas with heavy foot traffic. This costs more up front, but these surfaces are easier to clean, harder to stain, and are more durable. Buying it on sale and saving it for when you need it can lessen the up-front cost.
Replace Sink and Bath Fixtures
One of the easiest ways to improve the look of a bathroom or kitchen is to swap out the sink and bath fixtures.
Instead of spending time cleaning old faucets of fixtures, you can replace them in less than five minutes.
Bath and sink fixtures run the gamut in terms of cost and durability. Much like the flooring, these things will be used every day, and can take a lot of abuse. Spending a little more up front for higher quality fixtures will pay off in happier tenants and less frequent replacement.
Depending on the storage space available, buying several pieces of the same model of sink and bath fixtures can save you time and frustration when replacements are needed. You will already having the matching fixtures on hand if only the hot water knob breaks. You will also save yourself an extra trip out to the rental and to the hardware store.
If you don’t want to keep loose fixtures around you should keep a written record of what you purchased in a spreadsheet to make it easier to buy replacements as needed.
Investing a small amount in improving your rental can pay big dividends by decreasing periods of vacancy, reducing maintenance costs, and saving yourself time and aggravation.
If you are unsure of what improvements would work best in your specific Montgomery County rental, ask a reputable property management company