In my last blog of this series on rental properties, we took a brief look at some of the factors that contribute to accurate pricing of a rental unit. Supposing you have completely retrofitted your rental unit to be modern, clean and appealing to today’s average renter, you may have no trouble getting top dollar for it. If you own a home with an existing rental apartment, however, and are hoping to attract a high-paying tenant without having to completely renovate the unit, there are some easy ways to spruce up your property to help realize the highest rent price possible. I call them my Big Ten, and today I make them available to you! Here they are:
1. Outdoor Space: Although private green space may be a bit of a commodity in the city of Toronto, having a quiet outdoor area for your tenants to enjoy can help you bring in higher rent. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be theirs. A small balcony with patio set or a mini fenced in area attached to your unit’s separate entrance can provide just enough ‘outside’ space that potential tenants will feel they are getting much more value for their dollar.
2. Laundry on Site: No tenant wants to rent a space where they have to pack up all their dirty clothes once a week and haul it down to the neighbourhood Laundromat. Having a washer and dryer available for your tenant is a huge incentive. If your unit is in your home’s basement, the facilities can be shared, but they need to be in a secluded space so that both families can have access while not intruding upon each other’s private residence. Never never never offer free laundry to your tenants. Coin operated machines will help prevent tenants from racking up your utility bills by doing loads of hot washes with only one t-shirt in them.
3. The Importance of Light: To help make your unit appear larger, brighter and cleaner, avoid using window coverings when ‘staging’ the unit, and use clear shiny items such as mirrors strategically placed across from windows to help bounce light around the room.
4. Ensure All Trim is Spotless: Door frames, window frames, baseboards and crown mouldings if applicable should all be painted with a fresh coat of white paint. They should also be properly caulked to ensure no cracks or chips are in them. If tenants see dirty or cracked trim, they automatically think the unit is old. Nicely finished trim also attracts less dust, meaning for an overall cleaner unit.
5. A Lesson on Painting: A fresh paint job to your rental unit is a fantastic idea, but only if done professionally! In fact, it’s better to have older paint on the walls that looks neat and professional, than new paint that has been poorly applied leaving uneven spots, drip marks and unclean edges. If you’ve never painted before, you may need to get tough with yourself on this one, but keep this in mind too: If you hire a professional and they show up to start working without drop sheets, fire them immediately. They WILL make a mess that could potentially damage floors, finishes and look overall unsightly.
6. The Rule of 3: Tenants want to know that the unit has a living space, an eating space, and a sleeping space. Even if the unit is a 350 square foot awkwardly laid out bachelor, coming up with creative ways to define spaces within the unit will help prospective tenants see how they could live there. It could be something as simple as hanging a strategically placed curtain to define sleeping from living space, or a small breakfast table to create a specific eating area. The placement of wall photos in each spot can further help to define the space and make it appear more functional to renters.
7. Consider Staging: As an extension to the Rule of 3, staging can be especially beneficial in a small space as it can show tenants how they can make the unit work for them and their needs. Nowadays, this can be done cheaply and effectively with blow up matresses and other affordable furnishings at big box stores like Ikea. If you lack that ‘creative flare’ to get this job done, consider taking the advice of a professional Realtor or Stager. Staging consultations can be very effective and cost anywhere from $200 to $250 dollars.
8. How to Handle Older Bathrooms: Newsflash: Bathrooms DO NOT need to be new, but they DO have to be clean! Let’s start with the mirror. One of the worst impressions a prospective tenant receives is from looking into a dusty, chipped or rusted out bathroom mirror. A new mirror can be purchased for as little as $40.00 but can have tremendous impact on your unit’s rentability. The bigger the mirror, the better, and it should always be placed directly above the faucet. Also ensure that the tub and sink have been freshly (and professionally) caulked. To give the bathroom a more spa-like feel, invest in a crisp white linen shower curtain (no plastic), a fluffy white bathmat, and a few crisp towels. If you are a landlord to more than one rental unit, invest in these once and use them to stage your bathrooms every time a unit turns over. Finally, ensure that all fixtures and surfaces are sparkling.
9. Windows MUST be clean: This goes hand in hand with ensuring the unit feels bright and airy. Clean both inside and outside window panes, and just as important- don’t forget to clean the tracks. Use a vacuum nozzle to get hard to reach dust, or even a QTip to ensure no gunk in the corners of window tracks. If spending hours cleaning windows with QTips isn’t your cup of tea, hire a professional.
10. Uniformity Looks New and Modern: A final detail that often gets overlooked are items in your rental unit such as light switches, electrical outlets and doorknobs. By investing under $200, new switches can be purchased and easily installed without a professional electrician. Use the same color and style throughout the unit. Same goes for door knobs. Silver door knobs tend to be the most popular and modern looking, but whatever the color, just make sure they all match. New doorknobs can be purchased very affordably and can be self-installed in minutes for an instant facelift to the entire apartment.
Follow these tips and you should have no trouble attracting a high-paying tenant. If you want to implement some of these tips, but are having trouble getting started, working with a professional real estate salesperson can be a great benefit. Feel free to contact me any time if you need help.
Remember to stay tuned to my blog… up next I will be discussing tips and tricks for being an effective landlord.
– Trish Mutch