Landlording & Rental Properties

6 Tips for Saving Money During Tenant Turnover

5 Articles Written
Home Improvement / ladder, paint can and paint roller

It's common knowledge that one of your biggest costs as a landlord is the turnover process. (Or if you didn't know, then now you do.)

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Every landlord hates it. You have a unit sitting vacant for a few weeks while you’re paying the utilities, and you need to do repairs, advertise, meet new applicants, and screen tenants.

Having a tenant move out is just a headache. While it’s going to happen no matter what you do, here are some ways I reduce the cost of turnover.

How to Reduce the Cost of Tenant Turnover

LED Lightbulbs

This may sound like a small thing—and it is—but it will save big bucks. LED lights save electricity, so when you’re paying the utilities after the tenant moves out, it’s already saving you money to have these in place.

LED lightbulbs last between 25-50,000 hours, so this means less changing lightbulbs for you or your handyman. This little step can save you money and headaches.

Plus, when an old bulb burned out, usually the tenant would change it. But in the past, I’ve experienced situations where a tenant will either not put the glass back over the light fixture or will even pull the ceiling fan off the ceiling—just trying to put a lightbulb in! By using longer lasting bulbs, this will help prevent tenants from breaking things.

Power save LED lamp changing

Master Key System

This is something I do on every apartment complex I buy. Get a master key system. This way, you only have one key, and you don’t look like a janitor walking around with a giant ring of them.

Yes, it is expensive to set the system up, but after that, it’s a game changer. Where I live, I can have a new deadbolt rekeyed to my master key system cheaper than if I went to Lowe’s for a new lock.

The bonus is that, if the tenant loses their key, they call my property manager, who contacts the locksmith. Then, the tenant has to go down and pick up the new key AND pay for it there.

Related: 4 Tips to Decrease Tenant Turnover in Your Rentals

One Kind of Paint

I buy pallets of paint in five-gallon buckets. This way, I’m saving by buying in bulk, and there is no question what color of paint goes in which apartment. This saves me a ton of time and money by just doing some touch-ups instead of painting the entire room.

Of course, in some markets and higher-class properties, two-tone paint is preferred—and maybe this is what you like. Either way, stick to the same brands and colors of paint.

I also like to keep extra paint in each rental unit just in case.

No Carpet

In almost all of my apartments, there is no carpet. This is because carpet is a huge waste of money and the number one thing I have found that needs to be replaced.

Instead, I use luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring, ceramic tile, or snap together flooring. These types will stand up to large amounts of wear and tear, which will save you thousands of dollars over time. Plus, they are easy to clean and maintain.

Conceptual image of home cleaning. Close up of human hand with yellow rubber glove showing ok sign with thumb up. Clean kitchen countertop and rag with brushes on it

Cleaning Crew

Although this one might not seem like a money-saver, it will pay dividends. I use the same crew to clean each apartment complex.

The crews I use are so streamlined in their process that there is no need for me to micromanage them. They have a certain method and checklist of what to clean/repair when they are in there. They know exactly what I expect and exactly how the apartment needs to look for the new tenant.

By doing this over and over, my crews not only cut labor costs down but also reduce the turnover time considerably by getting in and out as fast as possible.

Related: Raising Rent (& Risking Tenant Turnover) vs. Playing it Safe (& Missing Out on Rent): Which Wins Out?

Mini Blinds

This one is more of a pet peeve of mine. I hate when tenants decide to try to hang their own curtains or nail up a blanket over windows. Then, they move out, and there is always drywall that needs to be repaired. Occasionally there’s even a window or two that needs replaced—not to mention the fact that blankets over a window just don’t scream quality living.

This is why I install mini blinds on all of the windows. It’s a clean look, and the tenant doesn’t have to worry about screwing up the curtain brackets (they’re never level!) or nailing a (floral!) blanket to the window frame. I find this small step not only helps make the property look nice from the inside and out, but also helps rent the place out faster because of that one less expense the new tenant has to pay for.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, reducing turnover time and expenses is your goal, so do what you can to achieve it. There are dozens of other strategies out there, but these are some of the “out of the box” ideas I like to use.

Remember that spending the money now and doing things the right way will save you money down the road.

Any other cost-saving measures you’d add to this list?

Share in the comment section below.

Matt DeBoth has been an active real estate investor since 2011. Matt served in the United States Marine Corps for eight years as a Force Recon Marine and has done multiple deployments to Iraq, Afgh...
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    Gino Barbaro Rental Property Investor from St Augustine, FL
    Replied 10 months ago
    Great article Matt. Thanks for sharing. Gino
    Domenick T. Investor from Springfield , New Jersey
    Replied 10 months ago
    Excellent tips Matt! Completely agree on the blinds. I like to use blackout shades. They are simple to operate, no strings, no blades to break, and they help keep bedrooms nice and dark. No need for a floral blanket!
    Marina Spor Investor from Buena Park, California
    Replied 10 months ago
    Excellent tips and well summarized. Thank you! For the keys, I use SmartKey by Kwikset, which works well for single family homes.
    Joseph M. Rental Property Investor from Sacramento Area, CA
    Replied 10 months ago
    True on the paint and the bulbs! You may want to add one more thing. I, for the most part, use the same style knobs & pulls for all my units' cabinet doors and drawers. When doing a new project, I make sure I have a few extras. Once you have done a few projects, you have enough to "fix" that faulty knob or pull handle on any property at move out without worrying about them not matching.
    Carol Jean
    Replied 10 months ago
    I installed identical Schlage keyless deadbolts in all rentals. Each unit has the same master access code. No more keys!!! Tenants love it too and set their own code. At lease signing I give tenants battery changing instructions.
    Jeff Cohen
    Replied 10 months ago
    Also I use the same faucet in kitchen and bath no need for different washers and spindles I they need to be changed
    Terry Lowe
    Replied 10 months ago
    I think vertical blinds work better. They don’t break as easily as mini blinds, and it’s easy to buy a few replacement slats. And charge it to the previous renter.
    Shawn Barga Real Estate Investor from Las Vegas, Nevada
    Replied 10 months ago
    Coudn't agree more. Mini take way more time to clean as well. And with verticals you can easily clean around the window seals and frames.
    Mark JOhnson Investor
    Replied 10 months ago
    Good article. I agree and utilize the miniblind and paint strategies. I recently bought a kit to rekey locks. I figured out how to so it with or without a key on quikset and others. I can rekey a set in 5 minutes. Plus I can make all keys match regardless to number of locks, age of lock, or type of locks. LVT flooring is good investment. I only use one version from Lowes @ $1.69 psf. I still use cheap bulbs but led bulbs will soon be only option. L
    Marc Alberto Rental Property Investor from Danbury, CT
    Replied 10 months ago
    Great article Matt! I’m going through my first turnover now and am taking your advice with the LED bulbs. I also know what you mean with the set of janitor keys...I must have 25 keys for my 4-plex!
    Henry Salinas from Concord, California
    Replied 10 months ago
    Here’s what I do to avoid having a unit vacant for weeks: on your next turnover, and it’s in show room condition, do a nice video tour of your vacant units. This way you can advertise your up and coming units to potential applicants during the 30 day notice to vacate. I use the same video during every turn over which allows me to rent my units before it even becomes vacant. Now you can save even more money by not allowing your units to sit vacant more than 3 days which is a doable turnover time and by not buying expensive LED lights, unless you are doing it to be nice to your new tenant, then go ahead and get expensive LED lights. I use cheap 99¢ light bulbs because it’s considered to be a maintenance expense, not a capital expense. Most of the time, maintenance expenses do not add value to your rentals, unless you are also adding a fancy light fixture with your fancy LED light.
    Henry Salinas from Concord, California
    Replied 10 months ago
    Also, read the box that your blinds come in, it says “LIFE TIME GUARANTEED “ !!! You are welcome Bigger Pockets!
    Cindy Larsen Rental Property Investor from Lakewood, WA
    Replied 10 months ago
    The box may say that, but I’ll bet you if you look at the warranty, you will find something very different
    David K. Investor from Attleboro, Massachusetts
    Replied 10 months ago
    Good article. First thing I always do in a turnover is change bulbs. But with LED I'm hoping this doesn't happen much since I've been going through the units.
    Ryan Mayes Rental Property Investor from Albion, NY
    Replied 10 months ago
    The cost to run a few lights for 3 weeks or a month is minimal compared to the cost of bulbs. Your not saving any money, and electric is so cheap, tenants dont care they saved $20 in a YEAR in electric and wont stay or leave over that.
    Sean McCarthy
    Replied 10 months ago
    Don't buy LED's if your area experiences frequent power surges/outages. LED's can't handle it and fail/burn out quickly whereas the incandescent bulbs don't.
    Audry Linford from Rowlett, TX
    Replied 10 months ago
    I think that the LED bulbs are a great idea. If the bulbs last a long time, that's less to deal with than the tenant's now missing light cover or fan replacement. I, also, think the vertical blinds are a good idea, easy to open and close. Too often, mini blinds are not cut correctly width wise, and the length is so long, that when the little string is pulled, the blinds are too heavy, and they fall down.
    Sharon Thomas Investor from Houston, Texas
    Replied 10 months ago
    I use the 2 inch wood-look white blinds for a nice, clean modern look. They even come now without strings where you push and pull them up or down; therefore, tenant won't be breaking the strings. I also put all curtain rods up (black iron) in the position from the ceiling that I want, so that means no extra holes, etc. I put white linen-like curtains (Target Threshold) on the windows (tenant can replace with their own if they want, but they never have) and if tenant replaces, then they have instructions to fold and put in the linen closet. They are also instructed to never remove/reposition the rods or blinds or shelves. I suppose if they really wanted something different, I would accommodate, but would insist on my handyman/installer doing the work.
    Sharon Thomas Investor from Houston, Texas
    Replied 10 months ago
    And, yes, LED bulbs are the way to go. I leave some extra there, as well as I supply all the air filters. They never replace them themselves, so they're there for me when I change out.
    Christopher B. Rental Property Investor from Knoxville, TN
    Replied 10 months ago
    - flapperless toilet -sani seal no wax toilet ring - we don't install towel racks but hooks instead - easily accessible quarter turn shut-off valves - Only LVT (do provide carpet in bedrooms) - no hardware on kitchen cabinets. Buy with integrated pull. - no garbage disposals - no ice makers - qtrly maintenance program All of these save money in the long run for us.
    James Keane Rental Property Investor from Northeast Wisconsin
    Replied 10 months ago
    some of these are ok. forget mini blinds. they trash those too
    Wenda Kennedy JD from Nikiski, Alaska
    Replied 10 months ago
    Since I'm in rural Alaska, we don't have as many resources as you. I do some things similar. We have replaced almost all of the light fixtures with LED fixtures. Before we had tenants who stole all the light bulbs when they left. No more. And those fixtures last for years. We don't have good locksmiths in our area, so we use the Smart Key locksets that can be rekeyed in place. We buy them in a neighboring town at Home Depot. Yes, we use the same paint on everything. As we rehab, we use sheet vinyl on all of the floors. I too hate carpeting. The only exception to that rule is in the porches and arctic entries. We use "mud rug" with the rubber backing. It's expensive. But for our climate, it perfect for picking up the water and dirt off of everyone's shoes before that mess reaches the floors in our units. Good article.
    Stephanie F.
    Replied 10 months ago
    Regarding the light bulbs and ceiling Fan: As a tenant, I would unscrew light bulbs because I didn’t like it as bright (looking at you bathroom vanity and dining room chandelier ). When one went out , I would replace it with one I wasn’t using. It never occurred to me that I was leaving behind a chaotic situation that cost the landlord significant time or money . The ceiling fan ? Could be they replaced it with one that didn’t squeak, make a high pitches noise or a was a gentle DC fan, and took it with them when they moved . Maybe they forgot about the old fan and it got packed during moving so they couldn’t put it back? The first morning of my last move (4 bedrooms, 3 stories, 3 children ) . I left my husband to pick up the pieces and figure everything out. Lots of things were not fixed/corrected/replaced as I had intended. My point is, moving windows are very short and very stressful. The story that is written in your rental after a tenant has moved out is just a few sentences, stolen from the last chapter of a book you will never read.