Landlording & Rental Properties

7 Budget-Friendly Ways to Dramatically Enhance Your Rental Property

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance
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Rental properties come in all levels of rent-readiness. If you have a rental that is unattractive, it’s going to take longer to rent out. People want to live in nice places, and properties that were last renovated in the ’70s and ’80s won’t rent quickly or for nearly as much money as more up-to-date properties.

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If you are strapped for cash, time or both, it can be difficult to get it rent-ready. Here are 7 ways to freshen up your rental and get it rented quickly.

7 Budget-Friendly Ways to Enhance Your Rental Property

Start With Curb Appeal

What does the outside of your property look like? Dead grass, dying trees and scrubby weeds don’t say “welcome home.” A few plants and flowers can take your yard from tired to lively, quickly and inexpensively. Purple fountain grass rapidly grows to about three feet wide and tall. It’s a lovely, rich shade of purple and is drought resistant, which means if you or your tenant forgets to water it, it isn’t going to die. Snapdragons are a gorgeous way to add color, they spread like wildfire and are also drought resistant.

Do you have an ugly chain link fence? Morning glories are your best friend here. They’re a quick-growing vine with beautiful leaves and colorful flowers that open in the morning. They re-seed themselves and need almost no water.


Color Those Walls

A fresh coat of paint looks clean and crisp, especially if you’ve done it right. White or cream used to be the go-to paint color for landlords, but adding a splash of neutral color can help your property stand out. Light to medium grey or tan creates a richer, more contemporary look, while costing you nothing extra. Pro tip: The smaller the property, the lighter you should go. Dark colors tend to suck the space out of a room. And make sure you paint the ceiling white; it just looks better.

Related: The Top 5 Items to Replace or Upgrade in Every Rental Property You Buy

One way to save on paint is to buy the five-gallon buckets. It costs less per gallon than individual gallons. Another way to save is to shop the “oops” paint section. These are mis-tinted gallons of paint that are sold at a steep discount. Prices vary by location, but my local store sells them for $7 each. If you can find similar finishes and colors, you can buy an empty five-gallon bucket with lid and mix the gallons together to get the amount you need.

Paint is absolutely your best bet for brightening up a property on the cheap — just make sure you use neutral colors. It would be disappointing to spend a lot of time painting, only to lose renters because the vivid paint you put on the walls clashed with their furniture. Remember, you aren’t living there. Choose colors that appeal to the widest array of renters.

Freshen Up the Kitchen

A lot of rental properties have an older style oak cabinet in the kitchen. When clean, they don’t look bad. Shiny or dull brass handles or knobs make them look outdated and can bring the whole kitchen down. The big box stores sell understated, classy door hardware in bulk packages of 50 for $45.

Do you have a backsplash? Tiling is a very inexpensive way to brighten up a room, and I have seen quality glass/stone mosaic tile at Costco for less than $5/sq ft. Another inexpensive option is to use beadboard or wainscoting. Cut it to fit the space and paint with a high gloss paint for ease in cleanup. You can pick up some 4′ x 8′ sheets for about $20.

Update Your Light Fixtures

Shiny brass was super popular back in the ’80s, but it’s horribly ugly now. Swapping out an old light fixture is a fairly easy process, and your room can only look better afterwards. Keep in mind that all finishes throughout a room — and ideally throughout the house — should match, so if you’re swapping out the brass light, make sure the door handles, etc. are changed out as well.

Electricity isn’t something to be taken lightly (seriously, no pun intended). While changing out a fixture isn’t a tough task, if you aren’t comfortable with it, hire this job out. Have all the fixtures you want installed ready to go, and pay one service call for the whole house.

Don’t Forget the Bathroom

The old, grungy shower head may still work, but a newer one will look better. A high-efficiency shower head can save water and money. Changing out a shower head isn’t very difficult; you simply unscrew the old one and twist the new one on. (Turn off the water before you start, and make sure it’s on tight!)


Paint Cabinets

I’m not a fan of oak cabinets from the ’80s. I think oak is ugly in general; however, it is a very sturdy building material. Those cabinets are probably in great shape and why spend money you don’t have to? If they just don’t do it for you, paint them.

This is a time-intensive process — there are many steps that must be followed or the paint will either not stick or will look terrible once it does. Steps include degreasing, stripping the old finish, and sanding. A LOT of sanding. My friends over at Frugalwoods detail the steps involved and show you how their kitchen cabinets turned out. If you are heavy on time and light on funds, this may be a great option for you.

Related: How to Best Prepare an Investment House for Rental (As Opposed to Sale)

Check Out the ReStore

Habitat for Humanity raises money for their program through their Discount Home Improvement stores called Habitat for Humanity ReStores. They sell new and gently used home improvement products at significantly discounted prices and can be a great source for unique items to update your home. Plus, you’re helping out a great cause. Win-Win!

A Little Improvement Can Go a Long Way

Walk around your rental property and take a hard look. What stands out as the biggest eyesore? Bring a friend with an objective eye and ask for honest feedback.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer members.]

What’s your favorite way to spruce up your rental properties?

Leave your tips below!

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for more than 20 years. She buys houses, moves in, makes them beautiful, sells them, and starts the process all over again. She is a licensed real est...
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    Deanna Opgenort Rental Property Investor from San Diego, CA
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Best stuff ever; Benjamin Moore makes a paint called “cabinet coat”. Not cheap ($50/gal) but SOOOOO worth it! 1 gallon did a full Island kitchen (15 linear feet of upper and lower cabinets, PLUS an island, + laundry) & there is probably enough to do at least one bathroom if not two. Note — it is not a “bright white”, and there may be some issues with tinting it. I had asked for a tan/mushroom color, but it came out almost exactly the same as swiss coffee (same as rest of house, so that worked out). Don’t know if it can go dark. It is a water-clean-up alkyd. It handles like an oil base, but cleans up with water. PLAN on 3 coats thin coats (DO NOT try to “cheat” and do thicker coats), but it goes a long, long. long way. Direction said to let dry some number of hours between coats (I did NOT do this, but had ideal painting drying conditions. No problems so far). I took the kitchen doors off to paint, but did the laundry ones in place. Hinges looked a bit neater with them taken off, but I don’t think I’d bother next time. Because the paint is so thin it’s prone to run, but simple to fix runs –just let the run dry, sand it down & repaint the door. Works MUCH better with foam roller than with a brush. Prep is minimal (TSP – no sanding). Dries moderately quickly, but plan on 7 days to finish curing to get a hard surface. After 3 months with (good) tenants it a few tiny, tiny scratches, and this was over wood-grain-printed manf home cabinets.
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks Deanna! I;ll have to check that out the next time I’m in Benjamin Moore.
    Allen Thomas Real Estate Agent from Austell, Georgia
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    These are great tips. I caught a great deal on mosaic tile once and bought a ton of it for $2 sq! I use it in all of my rehabs and the tenants love it.
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks Allen. If you have the space to store things, buy when you have a good deal. Great tip!
    Teniecha Cowart Real Estate Broker from Atlanta, Georgia
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Painting the cabinets seem like a really great idea. I clicked the frugalwoods link and those cabinets looked amazing once completed.
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    The Frugalwood’s cabinets did look amazing when they were done. But it took a LONG time to paint them right. Still way cheaper than replacing them all. Thanks for reading.
    Scott Walker Investor from Maplewood, New Jersey
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Excellent read Mindy!!!! I’m fully rented right now, but will be using a lot of these tips on my next purchase as well as the next time I have to rehab an apartment. Thanks again
    Keith Weigand Rental Property Investor from Cleveland, TN
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Great tips. Enjoyed the read
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Nice article with great tips! Painting the cabinets and curb appeal is really a great idea. I love the way which you are explained well about the article. Let me too try this tips. Thanks for the valuable post……
    Daniel Somers Rental Property Investor from Tiffin, OH
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Great article Mindy! Curb appeal definitely helps attract tenants. I will use some of the other tips here in the future for sure!