10 Renovation Tips That Will Save You Time and Money

10 Renovation Tips That Will Save You Time and Money

5 min read
Chris Clothier

Chris Clothier began building his rental portfolio in 2003 as a successful entrepreneur looking to diversify his investments. He quickly gravitated toward passive investing, establishing a portfolio of over 50 single family homes in Memphis, Tenn. As an original client of his family’s firm Memphis Invest (now REI Nation), Chris experienced firsthand what a passive investor endures when purchasing out of state. In 2007, Chris moved his company and family back to Tennessee, wound down his brokering company, and joined REI Nation as a partner and director of sales and marketing.

Since joining REI Nation, the business has grown into the premier turnkey investment company in the country and a standard bearer for best practices in the industry, managing over 6,000 investment properties for 2,000 passive clients. In addition to managing the development and implementation of sales and marketing processes, Chris serves as an ambassador for the company, working with the team to help potential investors define their purpose for investing in real estate and educating peer companies on best practices.

REI Nation clients’ portfolios hold a value of close to $800 million in single family assets in seven cities. The company has been featured as a six-straight year honoree in Inc. magazine’s list of the 500/5,000 “Fastest Growing Companies in America.”

In 2019, Chris’ team assisted 600 investors with purchasing just under 1,000 fully-renovated and occupied turnkey homes. Chris led the re-brand of his family’s company on January 1, 2020, from Memphis Invest to REI Nation.

Chris is also an experienced real estate speaker and addresses small and large audiences of real estate investors and business professionals nationwide several times each year, including IMN single family conferences, the PM Grow property management conference, and the Ignite conference in Las Vegas each December.

Chris continues to hold a sizable single-family rental portfolio in both Tennessee and Texas. Along with his family, he owns several commercial buildings in the greater Memphis area.

When not working with the team at REI Nation, Chris is busy raising five kids, operating a racing company in Memphis, and serving as CEO for The Cancer Kickers Soccer Club, a Memphis-based 501c3 providing comfort and care for kids battling childhood cancers.

Founded in 2017 by Chris and Michelle Clothier, the non-profit organization focuses on providing a team environment for kids to find encouragement and strength in their battle. The company worked with over 500 children from six countries in 2019.

Chris has been featured in stories published in Money Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and DN News, as well as the Memphis Business Journal. In 2018, McGraw-Hill Publishing purchased Chris’ manuscript, The Turnkey Revolution, and worked with Chris to publish his first book in May 2018.

Chris also publishes two weekly blogs at ChrisClothier.com and REINation.com. Chris has also published articles on the BiggerPockets Blog since 2009.


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The impact of renovations aren’t always quantifiable.

While there are tried-and-true focuses and methods to see a good return on your renovation investments, you don’t have to break the bank to make positive changes for your rental properties.

Renovating a property is arguably the one line expense sheet line item where you can make what looks like the right decision and end up in the red.  Creating visually impactful changes to a property is important, but there is a fine line between smart renovations and wasted dollars.

10 Renovation Tips for Your Real Estate Investments

The following are 10 tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of spending to much and will help give you the most bang for your buck.

1. It’s Just a House

It’s not a home.

While you want your rental properties to be inviting and a place for tenants to be comfortable, they aren’t homes. Because of that, you don’t have to create a picture of perfection.

You don’t need everything to be top-of-line, especially if it doesn’t match the surrounding properties. Your tenants aren’t going to put a rental property under the same scrutiny as they would a home.

Related: 9 Incredibly Important Do’s and Don’ts of Flipping Houses

Whatever you do, don’t over-renovate your property. It doesn’t have to fit anyone’s vision of perfection — even yours.

2. Functionality Trumps Style

While a chic pad is nice, for your tenants, functionality will always win out over style.

It doesn’t have to be sleek, ultra modern and over-styled. Most tenants just want a comfortable place to spend their time and live their lives.

Choose function over style all day long, but that does not mean you need to choose boring or even have a blah looking house.  There are all kinds of little things that cost no money and catch the eye of renters and buyers.

Highlight what is new.  Leave tags on new blinds.  Leave the manufacturers label hanging on the pull cords for new ceiling fans.  Leave the energy efficient labels on all appliances so the buyer or tenant knows what is fresh and new.

3. Clean and Repair Before You Replace

It can be tempting to rip up all of the carpet in a new rental property immediately or toss out anything that looks old or worn.

In many cases, however, all things needs is a little TLC. A deep cleaning of pretty much anything — appliances, fixtures, carpets — can refresh things to make them seem like new at a fraction of the cost of replacing them entirely.

If you want to keep carpet, check out the condition closely. It’s probably fine and will look new with a deep, professional cleaning.  At the same time, if you think a good deep cleaning will work go for it, but if you determine on the front end that replacing is the only route to take, then replace it.

You usually have a low-cost option of cleaning first and then replacing, but when it comes to some items you have to be careful.  Carpet is one thing, but furnaces, AC units and water heaters are another.

Related: Appliances – To Repair or Replace: That is the Question

If they can accurately be tested and shown to be in high working order, then clean the units thoroughly and have them certified as working.  If they cannot be tested, replace them!

4. Don’t Overlook Landscaping

The exterior of your rental properties is just as important as the inside — maybe more important!

It’s what tenants, prospect and otherwise, see first. A little bit of thoughtful landscaping combined with a clean, well-painted exterior can add the perfect level of curb appeal to make a tenant want to live there.

Make sure, of course, that safety is number one. No cracked or broken concrete, steps, gates, fences, etc. Apart from that, a well-groomed lawn is powered. Before showing a property, have the lawn mowed and the flower beds freshened with new mulch.

5. Give Current Tenants Proper Notice

If you’re going to be doing major renovations, make sure that the property management gives tenants proper notice (at minimum, a month beforehand, though 90 days is even better.

Think about the laws that apply to eviction or landlord inspections). Major property renovations may mean that a tenant can’t live in the property while its being done. Generally, hold off on big projects until their lease is up and you have a vacancy.

Otherwise, help the tenant find temporarily accommodations and know that they don’t (and shouldn’t) pay rent until they can return.

6. Focus On the Kitchen and Bathroom First

Kitchens and bathrooms are what people notice first. They may love the rest of the house, but if the kitchen is stuck in the 70’s and the bathroom is full of pastel yellow tiles (complete with matching bathtub), they may have second thoughts.

7. Appliances First

If you can’t do an entire overhaul in one go, start with replacing the appliances.

A new stove or sink can fit in just fine with future changes. Opt for energy-efficient models to save on your bills and know that new appliances, by themselves, can lend the kitchen a more modern feel, even if the tile or cabinets are decades out of date.

8. Cabinets & Backsplash

Not all old cabinets need to be replaced entirely.

A new coat of paint and some fresh hardware can do just the trick. If they’re in desperate need of replacement, skip custom jobs and go for pieces from IKEA or hardware stores.

There’s a lot of variety out there nowadays, so you don’t have to break the bank to have a good-looking kitchen. If you want to try something different entirely, consider shelves in place of some cabinets. They’re less expensive and modern to boot.

Updating the backsplash, too, is a relatively cheap way to give a kitchen new life. Subway tiles are popular right now, but whatever you pick, make sure it matches the cabinets and is neutral in tone.

9. You Don’t Always Need Granite

Slab granite, for whatever reason, is a coveted feature in a kitchen.

Home shows, whether they have a renovation focus or are more in the vein of House Hunters, like to give the impression that anything short of a slab granite kitchen is utterly unacceptable.

Remember, again, though, that this is not a home. Especially if your property is not upper-end, you don’t need to spring for costly slabs. Look instead to cheaper alternatives — granite tile, modular granite, laminates and natural stone all look nice, last long, and can make a kitchen look nice.

10. Don’t Underestimate a Fresh Coat of Paint

Whether it’s in the interior, exterior, or a fun accent for the front door, a little paint can go a long way.

Aim to freshen paint every five years or so — it’s inexpensive and can give new life to your property. With any property renovation, take into account potential for wear and tear. You want things that last. Saving money is more about being smart than being cheap.

How do you save money with your property renovations?

Be sure to leave your comments below!