12 Rental Property Improvements You Can Make for Under $500

by | BiggerPockets.com

Need to upgrade a rental unit on budget? Here are 13 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.

10 Landscaping Tips for the Family-Friendly Home

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.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

Which of these would you consider implementing on your rental? What would you add to this list?

Let us know your thoughts with a comment.

About Author

Sterling White

With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling currently manages over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $26MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Through the company he co-founded, Holdfolio, he owns just under 400 units. Sterling was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single-family investing and apartment investing to wholesaling and scaling a business.


  1. Please, please do not paint rooms or walls in “trendy” colors. A rental needs to be able to look nice with whatever furnishings, towels, bedspreads, etc the tenant brings.

    Increase the amperage and add more electric sockets, and yes, phone jacks even in this age of i-phones.

    I second adding a washer and dryer. BUT no front-loading washing machines. Stay away from side-by-side refrigerators. A frozen pizza does not fit inside.

    Add cupboards to the kitchen. Too many rental have minimal cupboard space but plenty of empty wall that could easily accommodate more cupboards.

    Improvements initiated by the landlords really make the tenant feel like the landlords wants to offer a nice home and not just clean out the tenants’ wallet. Tenants repay the respect shown them.

    • Top loaders generally require less maintenance. They cost less money. You can easily throw in a stray sock after the washer starts. They are not prone to mold and mildew problems. Tenants cannot damage them as easily by overloading.

  2. Mary White

    I could add some basic landscape work in as a suggestion. It’s amazing how much of a difference a truckload of landscaping rock or mulch makes. Or try hedges or other easy care plants that add privacy and organization to the yard. So many people are concerned more with how the outside of their property looks than the inside. Plus, there’s something to be said about curb appeal, even for rentals.

  3. John Dunham

    Great content, and great advice! I’ve met landlords for D class properties through A class properties, you’d be surprised what people will do. Someone even rolled the hardwood floor in brown paint instead of refinishing it. It’s all about the market.

  4. Sterling, thanks for the tips on economical rental improvements.
    As far as staging goes, I could not agree more. Staging is more than random furniture. It is a process of preparing the property, inside and out, addressing the appearance of the condition and to appeal to the buyer/ end user of the property.
    Actually, your entire list and then some constitutes staging. It is creating the lifestyle the future tenants aspire to.

  5. Edwin K.

    I personal wouldn’t add gadgets like wifi or smart locks because it might a learning curve to older clients, electronics are prone to breaking easily which would cost more money, cyber security problems, and becoming obsolete within a year or two.

    • Sterling White

      The gadgets addition will be based upon the investors target demographic i.e if their rental is in a community where baby boomers are known to live then this added feature may not be ideal.

      The learning curve may be too much as you stated. The renters will not use it.

      • Manon Sheiman

        Egads, is this ever insulting! I find that many baby boomers are as tech savvy as any young whippersnapper. (See what I said there?)
        Depends if they’re interested or not. They are not sitting in a recliner and knitting, they’re out hiking, traveling, in book clubs, writing meetups, French societies. You need to update your outdated preconceptions of your elders.

        OTOH, the young are generally deficient in vocabulary, grammar, and spelling skillz.
        I’m taking 4th year advanced French at the UC and am horrified at their ignorance. Too much texting makes for illiteracy, and the grade schools are not teaching even basic grammar terms any longer.

  6. ReLux Stage

    Hi Sterling this is Charity again. I don’t believe in virtual staging. Staging is about creating an emotional connection. This does not have to be expensive. Basic design principles coupled with psychological triggers create a lifestyle future residents aspire to. This cannot be done with virtual staging. The photos may show a little better and get a little better response but once they visit the property it’s still an empty box. Only 10% of people can envision themselves in an empty box. I am a professional stager.


    Get rid of carpeting and install vinyl planks with larger baseboards. Tenants love it. I like vinyl planks better than laminates as it can be used in kitchen and baths. Also, new vanities in the bathroom really help.

  8. What a great creative list! I love these ideas, smart also. Landlords always want to know what tenants would like. Improvements need to be made, its nice to know what to do first. Thanks Sterling

  9. Adding decent closet organizers in one or two key closets gives a nice wow factor. I like the Rubbermaid Configurations line, which looks a lot like the Container Store’s Elfa line but is quite inexpensive. Their kits with multiple rods and shelves are well under $100.

  10. Bernie Neyer

    My advice is to not even have appliances. Now, if it is a multi story apartment, that would be the exception, but otherwise don’t put appliances in the property.

    Appliances are the single most abused part of the premises. Tenant’s don’t clean or maintain them properly. When they break it is usually cheaper to replace them than fix them. It seems they always break in the middle of the night, and you get called.

    If there are appliances in the property, then all the tenant has to do is buy an inflatable mattress and they can set up house. Since they don’t own much if they can’t make rent, they’re gone and they leave the inflatable mattress. I find if they own the appliances, it ties them to the property, they demonstrate they earn sufficient money to afford them and they don’t want to leave them behind.

    • Making tenants buy appliances is just awful. Every apartment they will move to will have appliances, so what are they supposed to do with the appliances? It is not necessary to “tie” tenants to the property if you are a good landlord who treats them with dignity and respect, ie the golden rule. They will stay of their own accord.

      When I was a tenant, one of my main complaints was the lack of timely maintenance of the appliances. One of the first things I did when I moved into a new place was call the gas company to check all the appliances. The gas company always wrote a ticket for one or more appliances.

  11. Ali Rizvi

    Great ideas. I had already decided about the paint, switching out the carpets for vinyl faux-wood and changing out all electrical fixtures with combo usb jacks over the next year.

    However, are there any downsides to adding led lights/potlights everywhere? Since I pay the electrical, I figure bright lights make units and corridors look good and they would help with the lower costs.


  12. Manon Sheiman

    If you could add pull out shelves to at least two of the base cabinets, any tenant would be super grateful, and it makes the kitchen feel much higher grade. There is nothing so tormenting as the bottomless pit of a base cabinet. How much would that cost from Ikea, or could you install it yourself from Home Depot parts?

    And as I said already, I wouldn’t install usb outlets. An electrician is always more expensive than a simple usb extension cord. Not enough upside.

    Front loading washers, besides, do not clean as well, and thrash fabrics as if you had beat them on the rocks at the river. If space is at a premuim, a top loading washer/dryer combo that fit on top of each other works well.

  13. Allie Schraeder

    I disagree about using trendy paint. Not everyone likes a bright red accent wall just because it was on the cover of some magazine, and it adds another step to the tenant turnover process. I use standardized paints for all units bought in bulk. It may be boring, but it doesn’t turn anyone away either. If a good, established tenant wants another color on the wall, that’s something we can discuss.

    I’ve got some cheap things I do to make my units just a little bit nicer. I replace all light switches, outlets, and covers so they’re all matching and clean. It costs about $10-15 and an hour of work and gives me a chance to test everything. I replace almost all fixtures with LEDs bought in bulk. If a ceiling fan needs to be replaced, I get one with a remote. Any sticky or shaky door knobs get replaced.

    I’m still working these out, but I plan to do a little welcome basket for my next new tenants and something for the holidays for my existing tenants.

  14. PJ Muilenburg

    Only thing I would add is a security system. I put one of the basic simplisafe systems when I buy a house now; for about $160-200. As usual, some tenants never once set the alarm and others use it often and appreciate it. I feel it sets my houses apart in this particular area.

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