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Easy Kitchen Upgrades That Help Boost Rental Value


Kitchens are more than just the heart of a home; for rental properties, they are a huge selling point. That said, if your rental has an unstylish kitchen showing its age, you may wonder if it is holding your property back from its full profit potential. Unfortunately, full-scale kitchen renovations can set landlords back tens of thousands of dollars without guaranteeing your selections will bring in more renters. So, join us below for a list of kitchen upgrades that can boost rental value without wiping out your budget, along with which renovations to avoid.

Which Kitchen Upgrades Add Value to Your Rental Property?

Beyond the overall bedroom and bath count, prospective tenants look at other key areas of a rental unit. One area likely high on their list is the kitchen. Upgraded and stylish kitchens have the potential to lease your property faster and for more money. However, choosing which kitchen upgrades to splurge on and which to skip over is critical. So, check out our suggestions below for getting the best ROI –

New Energy Efficient Appliances

The look of appliances makes a large impact on the overall appeal of a kitchen. Old, dated, or worn appliances can translate to more frequent repairs or higher energy costs – both of which will concern a new tenant. Another consideration when upgrading appliances is what equipment the property has. Typically, including a refrigerator and stove are the standard. However, the addition of a dishwasher or built-in microwave is a huge plus for tenants and adds to the property’s resale value overall.

  • Average Cost to Add a Dishwasher – $250 to $600
  • Adding a Microwave to Your Rental Property – $50 to $250
  • Installing New Energy Efficient Appliances – $1,000 to $4,000

Also, keep in mind that the best kitchens have appliances in matching colors or finishes. Stainless steel has long been a popular favorite, but the top of the line is not necessary for a rental – instead, favor durability. The best way to ensure ROI is to create a functional yet stylish kitchen that will stand the test of time.

Swapping Out the Hardware and FixturesSwapping Out the Hardware and Fixtures

An instant way to bring your rental kitchen into the 21st century is through modern hardware and fixtures. In fact, swapping out hardware is a budget-friendly DIY job that any landlord could complete. If you see a style you like at the local hardware store, shop around online as well, you may find a better deal. In addition to swapping out cabinet and drawer pulls, do not neglect other outdated fixtures like the faucet.

  • Average Cost for New Kitchen Hardware – $2 to $20 per knob or pull depending on style and material
  • Estimated Cost of a New Kitchen Faucet – $80 to $300

Changing or Adding Light Fixtures

Simply changing the light fixtures can completely transform the look of a space. Plus, this is generally an easy DIY project with little experience. However, if you plan to hire a professional electrician, plan of adding anywhere from $50 to $100 an hour onto your budget. Light fixtures in various styles are readily available at home improvement stores and through online retailers like Amazon. Costs can vary widely depending on what you choose, but it is typically a modest investment that creates a large impact.

  • Estimated Cost of an Upgraded Light Fixture – $50 to $250 per piece, not including installation

Another consideration is adding accent lighting under cabinetry or over a kitchen island or breakfast bar. While not necessary, this is one of the kitchen upgrades that makes a statement while adding value to your rental.

  • Typical Cost Range to Install Pendant Lighting – $80 to $250 per light
  • Average Cost of Under Cabinet Lighting – $250 to $800

Add a Tile Backsplash

Nowadays, adding a backsplash to your rental kitchen is easier than ever. While not essential, a backsplash gives the kitchen an instant elevated and overall finished look. Yes, skipping a backsplash or using a peel and stick option is the cheaper route; nothing beats genuine tile.

The key here is to not go overboard with luxury finishes or overly personalized style choices. Instead, keep it simple and focus on wider appeal, such as monochromatic and cost-effective subway tiles. According to Thumbtack, average backsplash costs are as follows –

  • Porcelain Tile – $3 to $10 per square foot
  • Ceramic Tile – $2 to $8 per square foot
  • Glass Tile – $3 to $15 per square foot
  • Natural Stone – $5 to $15 per square foot

Refacing Worn CabinetryRefacing Worn Cabinetry

The kitchen cabinets are arguably the biggest surface your tenant will see in the kitchen. After all, cabinetry in a rental suffers a lot more wear and tear than a typical owner-occupied home. Therefore, if cabinets are worn, broken, or damaged, it can be a real turn-off.

That said, replacing the cabinets is expensive and likely unnecessary if the assembly is free of water damage, mold, or other fatal damage. Instead, consider a facelift by painting or replacing the cabinet doors. This, along with upgrading the kitchen hardware we mentioned above, can completely transform the space for a fraction of the total replacement cost. Also, color matters, so consider light or white-colored cabinetry for a brighter and more spacious-looking effect.

  • Average Cost of Complete Cabinet Replacement – $2,500 to $10,000 or more depending on materials, size, and finishes
  • Estimated Cost Range to Reface Existing Cabinets – $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the material chosen

Upgrading to a New Countertop

Like cabinetry, adding a new countertop can quickly become a budget-busting endeavor. Thankfully, some natural materials are coming down in price, and while granite is a luxury standard, there are many options available. For example, quartz is increasingly popular for investment properties. It combines the beauty of natural material with resin which beefs up the durability and helps cut cost.

The key here is durability and simplicity. While many materials are offered in various bold colors and patterns, stick to neutral and timeless styles. Also, avoid jumping on the butcher block trend! This may look great, but wear and tear will quickly have this material looking shabby in a rental.

  • Typical Cost of Quartz Countertops – $40 to $100 per square foot
  • Estimated Cost of a Granite Countertop – $2,500 to $6,000
  • Average Cost of a Corian Countertop – $3,500 or around $40 to $70 per square foot

Take a Look at the Flooring

The flooring may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “kitchen upgrades”; however, it is important. Like other finishes throughout the property, it can be a turn-off to prospects if the flooring is old or poorly maintained. That said, not every material is well-suited to the spills and wear that a kitchen endures.

Hardwood and laminate are significant investments and do not always hold up well to spills. Instead, consider wood-look tile or ceramic options. They provide durability and come in a variety of finishes to suit any décor.

  • Cost Range for Wood-look Porcelain Tile – $3 to $35 per square foot
  • Hardwood Flooring Costs – $6 to $15 per square foot
  • Average Cost of Ceramic Tile Flooring – $15 to $20 per square foot, including installation

What Kitchen Upgrades May Not Be Worth the Money?

When it comes to kitchen upgrades in a rental property, there are a few things owners should avoid. Keep in mind the goal is a wide appeal that draws in the largest potential tenant pool to rent the property faster. Full-scale kitchen renovations can cost upwards of $30,000 to $50,000, and with an ROI of around 50-60%, this is not ideal for an investment property. Let’s review a few tips below on what to avoid when contemplating kitchen upgrades in your rental –

What Kitchen Upgrades May Not Be Worth the Money?

Spending More Does Not Mean Getting More

Luxury finishes are great, but only if the property and neighboring comps warrant such an exorbitant expense. Therefore, before embarking on any remodel project, check out other similar properties in the area.

  • What do they offer?
  • Are the finishes similar to your own?
  • Do properties with upgrades rent for more?

Often, the best ROI comes from surface improvements such as the ones mentioned above. However, if your investment property needs extensive work, choose your finishes carefully and remember to prioritize durability and mass appeal.

Do Not Over Personalize

Bold colors and trendy patterns are great on the cover of magazines, but for rental property owners, these choices can limit your field of potential renters. Successfully marketing a rental unit involves providing a stylish but blank slate for renters to easily make their own. So, stick to neutral tones and highlight the natural character in your home, such as exposed beams, stained glass transom windows, or an exposed brick wall.

How to Get the Best Return on Investment for Your Rental

Successful rental investment involves balancing a comfortable place for tenants to live while maximizing income potential. Kitchen upgrades are a natural part of that process, and how it looks can make or break a tenant’s opinion of the entire unit. However, even small changes can offer a big impact. Plus, durable materials ensure you get a long life from the products, your expense, and your efforts.

Savvy investors also know that one way to get the most potential from an investment property is by hiring local property management such as Bay Property Management Group Arlington. Whether it is advice on potential upgrades, thorough market analysis, targeted marketing, effective screening, accounting services, or efficient managing of daily operations and maintenance, the experts at Bay Property Management Group are here to help. If you want to know if your rental is as profitable as it could be, give us a call today for a free, no-obligation rental home analysis.