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12 Rental Property Improvements You Can Make for Under $500

Jul 22 2017

Need to upgrade a rental unit on budget? Here are 12 improvements landlords can make for under $500 each.

12 Rental Property Improvements You Can Make for Under $500

1. Paint

You may not be able to paint a whole house for $500, but you can enhance key rooms and create accent walls. Trending colors this year may include grays, beiges, greens, and pinks.

2. Change Out Flooring

The same applies to flooring. In cheap rentals, you may be able to use vinyl or focus on small, key areas of flooring. Putting new flooring in small entry areas and bathrooms or replacing the carpet in that one ugly bedroom could make a big difference in renting quickly and for more money.

3. Patch the Roof

Roof leaks can cause major havoc with rentals. They can quickly deteriorate your asset, cause ballooning repair bills, add to the maintenance interaction burden with tenants, and can lead to damage of renter belongings, which you may be on the hook for. In many cases you don’t need a new roof, just patches.

4. Add Smart Home Tech

Add some trendy new tech to make renters feel great about their choice. That could be smart locks or smart thermostats, better wifi, or new Google Home devices.

5. Bring in a Bar

You may be able to expand countertops or bring in a standalone bar, which really adds to the excitement and emotional appeal of a place.

6. Resurface Cabinets

Replacing kitchen and bathroom cabinets can be expensive and a lot of work. Instead, look at options for resurfacing existing ones.

7. Add a Backsplash

Kitchen backsplashes can make a massive difference in the appeal and perceived value of a home.

8. Consider Flex Office Space

Working from home is fast becoming the new norm. Many remote workers soon find that working from the sofa isn’t as effective as they expected. You may not want to reduce bedroom counts by turning one into a home office. However, you may be able to create some flex space with a cabinet, pantry, or Murphy bed that enables quick changes between daily living space and the office.

9. Finish the Garage

Finished garage spaces add a big “wow” factor and more value. Even on a tight budget, you may be able to finish walls, add flooring, install storage, or put in office furniture.

10. Replace Hardware

Replacing front door and cabinet hardware can have one of the best returns of any home improvement.

11. Stage the Home

Staging can be powerful for marketing rentals. You can do this virtually for less than $500—or bring in some extra furniture or rented furniture temporarily.

12. Replace Appliances

Appliances are a big deal to renters. Replace microwaves or dishwashers that are broken, consider adding a washer-dryer, or lease new appliances as a staging move. You can choose whether or not to include the appliances for the duration of the lease.

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If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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