23 Totally Awesome Life Hacks for Landlords (To Save You Time, Stress, and Money!)

by | BiggerPockets.com

Everyone loves a good “life hack,” right?

Well, let’s first get on the same page about what a life hack is, for those born before 1985. A life hack is simply a tip, technique, or strategy designed to simplify or manage your time and resources more effectively.

Life hacks can be found all across the internet, offering tips on everything from house organization, food preparation, travel, and more. (For example – when you go to the beach, store your money and keys inside an empty sunscreen bottle that has been cut in half. No one steals sunscreen!)

So… I started thinking, why don’t we compile a list of “life hacks” just for real estate investors?  After all, life can get especially busy for real estate investors who are trying to juggle their investments, their family, and often their full time job.

Therefore, I reached out to the BiggerPockets community in the Forums and asked everyone “What is Your Favorite Landlord Hack?” and the response was overwhelming!  Below are a few of those tips (I couldn’t fit them all!) designed to make your life just a little better!

One last thing before we get to the tips: Although I am offering 23 landlord hacks here, I’d love to make this list longer, so please add your favorite landlord hack in the comments at the bottom of this post!

Related: How to Hack Your Housing and Get Paid to Live For Free

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23 Totally Awesome Life Hacks for Landlords

1. Never Forget a Paint Color Again

This hack comes from my good friend Darren Sager, who suggests writing the exact paint color/brand used for every rental lease agreement. This way, you will always know what paint was used when the tenant moves out and the property needs touching up!

Alder-Creek-Living-Room2.jpg (720×480)In a related tip from  Sylvia B (and something I also do,) use the same color paint in all your units. No need to remember what color each place is painted that way, and no partial gallons of leftover paint sitting around – it just gets used on the next rehab.  I also use the same color on both walls and ceilings, which allows the painter to “spray” the entire unit rather than roll, cutting down the costs significantly (tip: choose a very light color if you are going to do this. No one likes a dark ceiling!)

Related: What Is The Best Interior Paint for Landlords and House Flippers? (Hint… It’s Not What You Think)

2. Save Money on Mini-Blinds

Alder-Creek-Dining-Room.jpg (480×720)We like to make sure all units have clean, white mini-blinds in every window. When buying those miniblinds at Walmart or Home Depot, they typically cost around $4 for blind up to 36″ in width and $20 for blinds that are wider than 36″. Rather than spending $20.00 on each window for blinds, we simply use 2 blinds, side by side. Not only does this still look great for half the cost, it also makes it cheaper to replace just one side in the future if a blind gets damaged.

3. Forget the Mini-blinds Altogether

iPhotoWhile I love using mini-blinds, they do get destroyed easily by kids and pets, plus they are a nightmare to clean. Here’s a tip from Dawn Anastasi – Put up a 99-cent curtain rod and some cheap curtains from Goodwill or eBay (like $4). This way, there are multiple benefits:

  • Cheaper than the $8 mini-blinds for every window.
  • Makes the place look nicer and more of a home feel.
  • When the tenant departs they can be washed and rehung – no more throwing away damaged miniblinds that wind up in a landfill.  Then you don’t have to buy more mini-blinds either. Better for the environment and saves money on turnover.

4. Easy, Low Cost Carpet

iPhoto-4I’ve tried a lot of different methods for getting carpet installed – from doing it myself to hiring contractors on Craigslist. However, for me, nothing has come close in terms of cost or convenience to just have Home Depot install it. In my area, Home Depot’s contractors will usually install a whole house of carpet for $37 (flat fee) if you buy the carpet through them. Carpet prices vary, but I typically spend under $1.00 per square foot for the carpet and choose the “72 hour guaranteed install” option. It is easy, simple, and cheap. Plus, I can order it, schedule it, and do 90% of the work online.

5. Angry Tenants+Hollow Doors=Easy Fix

Maybe I just live in an angry part of the world, but I have a real problem with holes getting punched in hollow-core bedroom doors. Maybe it makes them feel more powerful knowing they can punch through 1/16″ thick piece of cardboard.  However, I’ve discovered a great fix for this.  Rather than replacing (or trying to patch… which never works), just buy a $6 mirror at Wal-Mart or Home Depot (they are about 4 feet long and 12 inches wide, like this one) and screw it to the door. Not only does it hide the hole, it makes the hallway look larger and ads some decoration to a boring space!

Another similar suggestion from Jared Kemper: If you have a bad spot on the bottom half of your interior doors just go buy 2 cheap square metal vents (look like hvac return covers) and cut out the square almost the same size to fit one on each side of the door. It also helps airflow in the home.

6. Replace Flooring the Quick and Easy Way

iPhoto-2If you have ugly vinyl flooring in a kitchen bathroom, or anywhere else, the demo can be expensive and messy. Instead, just install a floating vinyl right over the top!  My favorite flooring is called “Allure” made by TrafficMASTER and it comes in both a wood design and tile design. It works in the kitchen, bathrooms, or anywhere and anyone can install it in just hours. I can’t recommend this stuff enough!

I actually have actually begun to install it through entire homes, both for aesthetic reasons and because it lasts forever. This stuff can withstand kids, pets, spills, and anything your tenants throw at it.  It runs about $2 a square foot at Home Depot.

7. Appliances Looking Bad? Don’t Replace, Repaint!

iPhoto-7I learned this trick from a local appliance repair company.  If you have a stove or refrigerator that is showing signs of age, usually with small rust stains shining through, a $5 can of “appliance paint” from the hardware store can make your appliances look as good as new. I always keep a can of this handy when turning over a unit and am continually amazed at how great it works!

8. No More Slippery Stair Treads

If your rental properties have wood steps, it is easy for those steps to get slippery after rain. For the safety of your tenants (and to reduce your risk of being sued!) nail down strips of roofing shingles on your stairs with roofing nails. Trust me – it actually looks great (no one will know it’s a shingle) and is extremely cost effective.

9. Appliance Sale!

iPhoto-9Appliances go on sale at the big box stores around Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth Of July, so take inventory each year of what you need and plan your purchases around those holidays. (The same is true for paint!)

10. Quick, Easy, Cheap Lock Changes

Several BiggerPockets members recommend using either KwikSet Smartkeys, which allow you to quickly change a lock in just minutes, or LandlordLocks.com, which allow you to change the lock cylinder easily and for around $5 each time.  (This tip from Chris K.)

11. Use Apps to Simplify Your Life

Use those portable scanners that can quickly take receipts, leases, invoices, checks, etc and turn them into digital docs; Use tracking mileage apps, the flashlight app, and a Voip service — so voicemails can be delivered as files to your email inbox. (This tip from Kris Taylor.)

Related: Real Estate Apps: The 10 Best Mobile Apps for Real Estate Professionals

12. Save Your Cabinet Bottoms

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 2.33.36 PM“Put scrap vinyl flooring under the sinks and curl up behind the plumbing.  This way, if there’s a sink leak, it’s not ruining the bottom of the cabinet.  If the tenant has a cleaning supply spill, it’s not ruining the bottom of the cabinet. It also looks pretty nice too.” (This tip and photo from Dawn Anastasi)

13. Store Your Documents Online

“Use Google Docs so you can access your rental contracts at home or the office – easy and free!” (This tip from Brad Barney.)

14. Protect Your Walls Above the Shower

“I like to put small vinyl door stoppers on the walls above bathtubs. They let tenants know exactly where to put their shower curtain rod, and they also protect the walls from repeated installations.” (This tip from Ryan Swan.)

15. Money Saving Tip for Agents

“If you’re a licensed agent buying a rental for yourself, you probably don’t want to take a commission.  Instead, you should consider rolling the commission into the purchase price as a credit/discount.  In other words, if you’re buying a property for $100K and are entitled to a $3K commission on the purchase, ask them to knock the purchase price down by $3K (to $97K) instead. Commissions are taxed at ordinary income and profits when you sell the rental are taxed at capital gains rates. So, you’ll save money on taxes by taking the profit on the back-end (when you sell) than on the front-end (as a commission). Two caveats:

  1. If your marginal tax bracket is lower than your capital gains rates, you can ignore everything above.
  2. If you plan to hold the rental forever, you’ll likely be able to earn more on the commission reinvestment than what you’ll save in taxes (time value of money). But, if you’ll be selling in fewer than 5 years, rolling it into the basis is probably a better investment.” (This tip from J Scott)

16. Easy Tenant Retention Ideas

Stephanie W. offered several great tips for keeping your tenants happy and paying! She says:

  1. I send birthday cards to each tenant with a $5 Starbucks card
  2. I send a postcard to each ‘door’ once a quarter, asking them if there’s anything I can do for them.
  3. On a tenant’s one year anniversary, I give them an ‘upgrade’ of their choice, within reason. It’s usually something I would do when they move out anyway, I just get to do it with them there.

17. Keep Things The Same

“We use standard paint colors, the same tile, same faucets, same toilets, same door hardware, same shingles, same ceiling fans etc on all of our rentals. When we need to do repairs, touch-ups etc it is obvious what the specs are. Leftovers don’t get wasted, just stored until needed.” (This tip from Walt Payne.)

18. Automatic Lease Extensions

iPhoto-5Lease clause that renews leases for another 12 months with a built in rent increase. Lease clause allowing tenant to buy out lease at any time for a specific dollar amount (my dollar amount is about 2x rent). Bill S.

19. How to Keep Cats Out of the Flower Beds

iPhoto-6“If you have cats in the neighborhood who have discovered your planting beds as a good place for their deposits, lay down chicken wire mesh on top of the soil and cover it lightly with mulch.  It is the only deterrent that has worked for us.  Plants can still be planted by cutting a spot in the chicken wire mesh.  You or your tenants can also place potted plants on top of it.  The cats try scratching once, get their claws caught on the wire and won’t come back.” Marcia Maynard

20. Easy Lease Signing and Storage

“Use Docusign for lease signings and file them away in Dropbox.” (This tip from Dawn Brenengen)

21. No More Broken Water Heaters

iPhoto-8“When you buy a property, if water heater is more than 2 yrs old then just go ahead and replace with a new one, sell the old one on Craigslist and you don’t get the 2 am call that unit is flooding!” (This tip from Kendall T.)

22. No More Broken Cabinet Drawers

Take out and flip over your kitchen drawers (bottom of the drawer facing upward). Take liquid nails or adhesive spray and apply the adhesive to all four inner creases where the drawers meet.  This will make the drawer stronger and should not break for years to come. (This tip from Marrio Barnes.)

23. Brighter Units

If you want your rental appear brighter and more appealing to renters.  Replace all the light bulbs in the home with the clear light bulbs that are usually meant for bathrooms. Renters will subconsciously remember your unit over the rentals that had poor light due to a cheap 40 watt bulbs. (This tip from Marrio Barnes.)

24…  ?

Alright, now it’s your turn. What is your best landlord hack?

Leave your comments below! If you don’t have a great hack, let me know your favorite from the list above.

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. Awesome List!

    Mine is using Evernote to automate a lot of your real estate investing.

    Specifically, file all your financial data and deal data in one Evernote folder, then share that folder with your banker (or investor) and anyone else. This get’s you out of email hell!

  2. Anything that makes saves money and makes life easier is great!

    Here is three of many.

    To prevent mold or mildew in bathrooms we install exhaust fans in all bathrooms. The Simple tweak is to wire the exhaust fan to the same switch as the light fixture. If the fan and light are separate tenants will never turn on the fan but they will always turn on the light. Wire them to the same switch and if forces tenants to use exhaust fan while taking a steamy shower. (check local codes for GFCI protection)

    Ask your paint supplier to print off an extra copy of the paint stickers they put on the top of the can. Stick these to the underside of a kitchen cabinet drawer, and label them with specific rooms, and dates. This way the info is never lost, and always on site. You can pop the drawer out and take it to the hardware store if needed.

    During your initial rehab make sure you have proper attic ventilation (through soffits and out ridge gable or other vent up high on the roof). Proper ventilation can increase your roofs life span 100%. unvented/poorly vented attics can cause mold and/or 200 degree temps in the attic that dry rot the roofs decking and shingles from the inside out (Ohio).

  3. #3 is far better than #2.

    #12 On the scrap vinyl under the kitchen stink, use screen trim 1/2″ x 1/4″ to keep the vinyl down. We also caulk all around the edges of the vinyl.

    #14 is one that I never thought of, good one Swan.

    When repairing a hole in the floor or wall, put the replacement piece over it and cut both at same time. Perfect fit every time.

    Nail holes, trim gaps use painters caulk to fill in and hide. We always caulk both edges of all trim, even floor trim to keep out dirt and insects.

    Install motion detector porch lights for about the same cost as regular lights, makes renters feel more secure and stay longer.

    You can install Formica over old after cleaning and filling in any damage areas.

    That’s enough for now. Good work Brandon.

  4. I just took position of my very first investment property today that I plan to rent out once I get it fixed up. This article is an absolute God-send I plan on using many of these life hacks on my first property.

    God bless you Brandon for sharing so much information with those of us aspiring to be in the real estate business!

  5. Great tips.

    All my units are the same color and trim color. Just pick up a bucket of paint and I’m set to go. All semi-gloss, so very seldom do I even need to paint.

    I always use Home Depot carpet anymore. 72 hours is fast, and they are super informative and do a tremendous job of following up.

    Vinyl under the sink I do as well. Just roll up a bit in the back and caulk the edges. Do it on vanities too.

    I very seldom get broken doors anymore. My screening standards keeps the bad ones out. And very seldom have a vacancy. Better tenants allow showing before the apartment is vacant, and new tenants can see that good tenants live there.

    I use Lowes for appliances. I always get 10% off the best sale prices. They pick up and haul away.

    If a tenant ever leaves anything behind, try to give it away on Craig’s first. Most stuff is picked up in hours. Water heaters go to a scrapper.

  6. I use canned responses through gmail to automate response emails to prospective tenants. It helps prescreen tenants upfront, and I’m not replying to a million emails everytime I have a unit available.

  7. If your local housing court post case files online as public information, just be sure to do a quick search of prospective tenants’ name. Last thing you need is a prose attorney-tennant with judgement for evictions and nonpayment will popup. Sort of like a free background check.

  8. We always paint with Swiss Coffee and we always use semi-gloss because it’s easy to clean. If we’ve had a fairly clean tenant often times we can just use a Magic Eraser to wipe spots and don’t need to paint the room when they move out. And, it actually makes the room brighter because it has a slight sheen.

  9. I painted an ugly, damaged counter-top with special counter-top paint from Home Depot. I never thought it would last, but so far it has lasted for two (very clean) tenants and counting!

  10. I also put door stoppers behind my doors, I would also recommend really looking to estate sales. I picked up 4 matching matching bathroom vanities and matching mirrors, with expensive bathroom hardware 2 expensive low profile toilets and hurricane panels for around 200. I put 2 of the mirrors in my personnel home, put 2 mirrors and expensive bathroom hardware in my personnel home as well. I put a matching mirror and vanity and expensive hardware in my rental, and then sold one vanity for 125. And 2 more vanities sold for 500 for both, toilets also were sold, and I sold some hurricane panels. So basically I got paid for free stuff.

    I also LOVE the allure floor, I put it in my rental house.

  11. Jerry Davidson on

    Have your tenants deposit rent directly into your bank account by using a bank with lots of branches near them. This provides convenience to tenants, alleviates “in the mail” excuses, and also allows you to accept cash payments with a record of the transaction. Make each rent rate a slightly different dollar amount to know exactly which tenant paid (e.g., $1245, $1250, $1260). Caveat: giving a tenant access to your bank account number could result in a partial rent payment and mess up your accounting, or worse, delay an eviction.

  12. Brandon,

    Great List. Here are a few of my own.
    – I have started installing artificial grass in the front lawn of my rentals. Always looks nice and only requires annual maintenance. Very good for desert areas like Colorado.
    -Find a good used appliance store. We have a great one in Denver. I can put in a top of the line stove for $200. In fact we bought Elite Fridge, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer for our own house for $2000. All in fantastic shape.
    -A new front door can change the appearance of an entire home. We put in $150 glass oval insert front doors. The look really stands out with a rental.
    -Do a sewer scope prior to buying a house. I can’t tell you how much I have paid to root out sewer lines that could have been done by the seller or seller concession. We also inform tenants that any clog expenses as a result of baby wipes, toys, feminine products, or diapers will be paid for by the tenant. Keeps many of those issues at bay.
    -If you have a brick rental, pressure wash the outside for a more vibrant look. Its amazing how much dirt collects in the brick.
    -Give a list of the exact repair costs of each item to tenants on move out. Its amazing how much a tenant will scrub to save $5 on their deposit. (Example: $3.00 to replace burner plates, $10 per blind, etc etc)

    Keep the list coming Brandon. I can’t wait to see part 2 of this post (hint, hint)


  13. Consider inexpensive laminate flooring instead of carpet for lower to mid-income units if you have a lumber liquidators near you. You can even order online to deliver to store or location.

    It can be purchased for well under $0.99/sqft. Durable, looks nice and cleans easy when necessary. No allergens, stains, and wear and tear. Can be easily repaired if need be.

  14. Brandon,

    regarding #7,(painting the appliance) ,
    do you mask the interior surface, remove the gaskets/handles?

    just curious from the “been there, done that” …

    Tony from Chicago

  15. Anna Watkins


    I am loving the TrafficMaster Allure floating vinyl plank flooring, in my own kitchen (blue slate) and one rental (some sort of Oak-look). Will use it again, and would definintely use in place of carpet if not replacing with hardwoods. Brandon Turner, didn’t you say it’s not so good for bathrooms? Can anyone comment on experiences with that?

    I just found out about Kwikset’s SmartKeys and love them. However, my RE agent said that they are a bear to deal with if tenants ever change a lock on their own — locksmiths can’t get into them, and they whole unit has to be drilled out of the door. For that reason, I use one SmartKey set and one regular cylinder set (my houses have front and back doors), so there’s one way into the house that I have more control over, one once inside I can remove the SmarkKey set without damaging the door. Also, that makes it easy to rekey one entry for service folks during turnover while not giving access to the permanent key.

    Always use Satin finish on all walls. I think it reflects light better and makes a room brighter, plus it’s a lot harder finish and cleans up easily. I personally can’t stand painting every room the same boring color — I am creating my niche in small 2/1 SFRs with a “shabby chic’ kind of cottage vibe, and tenants like the more customized colors. But I do think it’s a good idea to use the same ‘stable’ of colors — one sage green, one faded blue, one creamy tan — and I’m going to start that routine on the next paint job. Thanks for the idea.

    Interesting fixtures from thrift stores and re/upcycled materials are also part of the vibe. The curtain idea is a good one — in the past I’ve made a curtain rod for a big picture window out of a copper pipe and end caps. Kind of cool, and cheap. I only have 2 houses right now, so it makes the customization much easier.

    Tip for vacancies — I have a few lamps and timers that I put in different rooms and set to different on/off times whenever I have an unoccupied house. It avoids the blackout vacant look, which helps me and the neighborhood both. At the holidays I put up lights on photocell plugs. Anything to deter mischief makers!

  16. Delon Hall

    Freaking Genius!!! I have been recommending my buy and hold clients as well as myself, probably 17 out of the 23. I wish I had more to add but through the post and comments, there’s nothing left but creativity. Great job, keep the ideas coming!

  17. Sarah P.

    EMAIL- I also use canned emails for prospective tenants on each property as well as canned emails for tenant inquiries to employers and landlords.
    VIDEO- Every time I acquire a unit, I take a quick video walk-through and send to a prospective tenant in case our schedules don’t line up for a showing. I have a few rentals near military bases and you’d be surprised how many times I’ve rented out properties without physically showing them based on these videos. It’s good to start with the outside so they can see the neighborhood and building, walk inside, highlight views out windows if necessary, etc.

    Love the lease idea, but I saw someone said to print the sticker and put on the bottom of a drawer. I just take a photo of the can of paint (side/top label) and file into that property’s folder for reference if I ever need it. That way I don’t need to be physically present to get the information.

    I use EasyRent.com to set up a payment system. It accommodates if you have rentals paying to your LLC/business account and personal accounts separately depending on what kind of set up you have. It’s a $1 convenience fee that you can elect to pay or the tenant can pay (pretty much 50 cents more than mailing something). Also wayyyy easier than using local bank information. It creates an invoice a few days prior, tenant pays online, and it’s in your account 2-4 days later. They also have great screening software, too. What will this cost you for each property? Nothing. It’s 100% free.

    That’s all off the top of my head for now!

  18. Keri Middaugh

    Love these hacks, especially the ALLURE. We also restain the wood windowsills to make them look awesome between tenants. Another hack: drape a flower garland (from Michaels or JoAnns) over a less-than-pretty window to make it beautiful. Another hack: wipe the counters and floors with a 1-1 vinegar/water solution to make the place shine and smell wonderful. We also replace the welcome mat for showings.

  19. Brent S.

    Gas hot water heaters – check anode rod and replace as needed. Anode rod is a sacraficial metal rod inside the water heater. After it disolves, the water heater tank rusts out. Note: the difference between a 3, 6, 9, and 12 year rated hot water heater? Hint: check the anode rod specs.

    Another tip: Annual inspections – identify issues that allows you to limit damages (Small issues like a leak can cause expensive repairs if not caught timely), allows you to keep the unit in decent shape to reduce turnover, allows you to make repairs during tenancy rather than between (reducing vacancy time).

    If you pay for hot water:
    1. 1.8gpm showerheads
    2. 1.2-1.5gpm kitchen sink aerators,
    3. 0.5-1.2gpm bathroom sink aerators.
    4. Flow controller for hot water side of kitchen sink (under sink) that reduces hot water flow to 1.0gpm)
    Hint: Neoperl has great, reasonably priced aerators.
    5. If you pay for got water, also try to get tenants to pay a portion of it: “$4-5 per occupant/month.

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