An additional Kitchenette a liability for landlord?

25 Replies

Folks, I need some suggestion/advice/thoughts on what to do with a kitchenette hook up in a split level single family property that I am about to close on for buy & hold. 

The upper level has a full kitchen and the rehab work is mainly in the lower level which basically only has finished dry walls. Down there I need to finish just about everything else from flooring, trims, to windows/door frames. 

There is a kitchenette hook up by the lower level exit door with tiles put down.  My thought was to cover it up somehow and NOT to make it accessible because all I can think of as a landlord is a liability feature having an oven/stove upstairs AND downstairs for renters. 

It's a 2000+ split level home so it COULD be an attractive feature for renters with big family (maybe like a in-laws suit). If I do that I will probably buy a whole kitchenette set to finish it off. However, I can't get over the thought of grandma or auntie fee forgetting to turn off the stove down stairs and setting the place on fire.

What would you do?

If it's unfinished, and you plan to rent the entire home as one rental, I think I'd take out the kitchenette.  If a family moves in, they won't want the kids downstairs possibly burning things.

If it's not set up as a separate little apartment, with separate entrance, then it would just be weird to have a kitchen downstairs, in my opinion.

Rental amount with Kitchenette? Rental amount without Kitchenette? If they are close to the same rental with or without the Kitchenette I would remove it as appliances are very trouble prone little money eaters 

I'd likely look into use as laundry room.

If there's already laundry room, then use only as wet bar or snack bar.

In any case, would not include 2 stoves/ovens in a 1 family rental unit, whether it be a house or an apt.

How many bathrooms total?

Sue - agree. And to your point I actually thought of converting it into a duplex but that is another topic all together!  It unlikely that I will concert that but its doable and I am calling the zoning just to check it out that possibility.

Darryl - I have no clue how much difference it will make. I was hoping folks can tell me :-) Its kind of like the question of upgrading the bathroom & kitchen will add value, I was wondering if anybody had experience of kitchenetting to add value, if any.

Neil - that was one of my first thoughts to move the laundry room there instead but laundry is all set up in a room close by. Its a 5 bedroom unit. 2 beds 1 bath down stairs with laundry room, and kitchenette hook up. Upstairs kitchen, 3 beds, 1.5 bath but no laundry room hookup.

There are a fair number of houses in my area where they became a duplex by using an upstairs and a downstairs apartment.  They cash flow better than renting them as a single house but you get a lower quality tenant and much higher turnover.  There are usual issues like only one furnace etc that you can work through, but they are a pain.

Oh, given the 2000 ft, 5 beds, and 2.5 bath, if there's only one gas/water/electric meter I can totally see u marketing it indeed to big families (these days multiple generations often combine households and rent out a whole house) as huge house with suite downstairs for extended family does seem attractive and likely brings in a rent premium; DC can't be too far away is it?

Jerry - great points. I think at this point I rather aim for quality tenant and avoid the hassle of splitting utilities. I am going inquire about zoning Monday just for my own education and future reference. Thanks for the insight!

Neil - ha, are you thinking now that a kitchenette is a good idea then? DC is not too far but folks probably would choose north of river than this location, which is south of.

@Wei Huang

Your market will dictate whether you turn the split into an up-down duplex or keep it as an SFR.

Here, we have student house where we have a kitchenette in the basement which has everything but a range and dishwasher (i.e. sink, fridge, microwave).  Placing a range in the basement would necessitate fire separation between the basement and main floor, so we simply exclude the range.

I think there are some scenarios where that could be a useful feature. Actually if it were a bit SMALLER house you could have an older couple living upstairs in the main house and live-in assistant living downstairs. But for that size it's probably more suited toward a large family overall. I like the way that @Roy N. describes a trimmed down kitchenette. Something more like you would find in a suite hotel. The other way to think about this is what else would you do with the space. Considering the part of the house this is currently taking up what else would possibly fit there? If you can think of something more useful then that's your answer. Also, you say this is for buy & hold but for how long? If you do plan to sell in a few years it could be worthwhile to have an agent take a look at it to give you their thoughts. Best of luck!

You certainly do not need a stove in a kitchenette.  You have an undercounter refrigerator.  A compact Microwave and you could have a Toaster oven.  It should have a high counter acting as a Bar so you don't see the appliance when you re in the family room or studio.  No one wants to go down to the basement to do the laundry any more.  It should be upstairs where it is more available and easier to access.

@Wei Huang

Not a bad idea to check to see if zoning would permit a re-classification to multi-family in that area, then weigh cost vs benefit.

That could be a bit time-consuming. So to your point, prob best to get an efficient rehab done and meticulously select your tenant.

With that in mind, I agree with @Barbara G. . Keep the integrity of the area as a kitchen- just don't go overboard with appliances. You've got to think long term, and with it being a 5/2 there is good resale potential down the road. When that time comes you could put a fancier bar in, utilizing the high countertop idea.

What is the exterior access to the basement like?

My grandma has a split level and I'm imagining her house as you're describing it. In hers the lower level has 1 bed 1 bath and a "family room" type area. The family room has a slider to the back yard. So I could see having a kitchenette there would be great for BBQ's and stuff where you don't want to go down the exterior stairs from the main level when you have people over. 

When my uncle was in college (he was the baby by like 12 years) he lived down there, and it was nice having his own space. When he moved out grandparents rented the lower level as a separate "unit" though they shared the kitchen with the tenant. 

Great input guys - I am leaning towards finishing the kitchenette without the stove/oven as suggested, something like below picture. Thanks @Roy N. on starting that thought! The only thing I am trying to figure out is value-add vs. cost.  I assume it will cost probably 1.5k - 2.5k (contracted) while upping the rent like 100 - 150 a month?

@Shera Gregory laundry room was my first thought but it's already situated in another location. Being a roughly 10x12 open area at the lower level entry way leading into the "family room" area (like Matt mentioned) I am not sure I have many other options. I was going to make it into a over-sized mud room, which is probably not the best use of space. My intend is to keep it for long term buy & hold but I took your suggestion and emailed my realtor asking that question. thanks Shera (and I hope to meet you at the next REIA!)

@Matt Devincenzo. Only one entry way to the lower level, which is to this "kitchenette" space, 2x br with one of the br opened to a below-ground-level-closed-in patio (I know, hard to described and weird setup). I am imagining this is very similar to your grandma's house!

@Daniel Harnsberger I am calling tomorrow to check out the zoning!

For  little more input you should draw a lay out of the Basement showing the entrance way, the door to the outside, The outline  should show measurments and  size of the kitchen area.  It could be a good accessory apartment if there was access from the back

     Just a thought ,friend has a large kitchenette with patio door to a deck with two grills. It's real handy when entertaining.

Btw folks - meant to update this but was busy working with contractors.  The kitchenette idea may be shut because there is no pluming.  From what I understand making pluming accessible will be a hefty cost.  So that means no sink. If I don't do stove, oven, and sink, not sure how much of a kitchenette it will be.  Below is the picture of the area. The door is to outside.  Kind of back to square one.  Any thoughts? or am I basically stuck with a large mud room??

@Wei Huang

The lack of plumbing is the big factor.  I would advise against having a range (stove, oven) in a basement kitchenette in a rental - unless you already have proper fire separation between the floors ... or are planning to redo the entire ceiling on the lower level to implement fire separation.

It Looks Perfect for a kitchenette area.  Have Home Depot or Lowes help you with a kitchenette design.  Ask a Plumber what it would cost to put in a sink with plumbing and ask the kitchen designer over at Home Depot to design and price out a Kitchenette High Bar unit.   The problem, about cost  might be putting a small bathroom with a shower in that lower level.   You have a door to the outside so you are half there.  Figure out what you can get for rent.  $650.00 might give you an additional  $7,500  year less expenses.  That should pay for the renovation in a few years.  

Thanks @Roy N. without a Kitchenette, any idea what I should do with that area other than mud room? 

@Barbara G. It does... however, I am not sure the number will work out the way you're describing. I read as a possible $650 additional rent after installing the kitchenette? Right now I think I am looking at about 1300-1400 a month without a kitchenette. I am having a hard time picturing $2000 a month, unless that's not what you're alluding to. I think I can do $1500 top with a kitchenette. 

No plumbing and a mud room depends on the setup.  If it is close to a family room or more separated bedroom I would lean towards a minifridge and microwave if it is close to the main entry to the house I would put some built in cabinets for outer wear and shoes and a bench for putting the boots on but then I am thinking new England and lots of little kids in a 5 bedroom. not sure if whether that would be accurate.

I guess it would depend on whether it can be rented out as a seperate studio apartment.  Like a junior Duplex which it sounds like you might have been considering.

I think a kitchenette is too much trouble and you would have added areas for potential expenses later. 

Sure Mud rooms aren't sexy but you could put some nice prefab storage in that area and make it a functional mud room with storage. 

Everyone wants more storage and the long term cost of upkeep on storage is attractive.

I hope that helps.

@Colleen F.

It is between the entry door and the family room in the lower level of a split level home (there is one upstairs, too). so I guess you can do both! :) But kitchenette with all reasons listed above is quickly falling off the list

@Barbara G.

Agree - I think mud room it is for now and I can revisit the kitchenette in the future when I am thinking of selling.  Plus to think of it, this 5 bedroom unit doesn't really have much storage room available with no tool shed, garage, or walk up attic.  Might actually be a good thing to have for the type of tenants (large family) to have. 

Thanks everyone for your input!