Small Unit Turnover Cost $2400. Need advice/help

13 Replies

Looking for some feedback for what I consider a pretty bigh bill for apartment turnover: $2400 for a 800sqft 3bed 1 bath apartment. It has a small living room. The apartment is in Springfield Massachusetts area. Lower level of a triplex.

1.Paint:

Walls and ceiling 3daysx3worders=9 man-days of labor $1080.

Materials : Paint and caulking= $260

Total $1340

2. General repairs:

Remove old caulking and apply new to bathroom

Replace door locks to front and back entrances

Install 2 batteries to smoke alarms

Install 9 miniblinds

Clean windows and install 5 window screens.

2 daysx 2 workers= 4 man-days of labor $480

Materials= $146

Total= $626

3. Replace carpets

Remove and replace carpets from 2 small rooms

Trash and debris removal $50 labor

2 days x 1 worker= 2 man-days of labor $240

Materials $201

Total $491

Total $2400 for a small apartment turnover.

I dont think this is a sustainable cost given that the unit only rents for $1050 and there would be turnovers every other year.

These are the hidden killers of cash flow.

I think the labor is cheap but very inefficient. It should not take 9 man-days to paint a small apartment. There were only a few holes to patch. Only one big one.

What are your thoughts on what I was charged?

Next turnover, I am contemplating getting a 5gal bucket of ceiling paint and hiring a guy from craigslist or thumbtack and painting all the walls, ceilings and trims white. I dont think the class of tenants I serve care about having the walls yellow semi gloss.

Anyone know a good reliable and reasonable handyman in springfield? I am thinking of having a handyman on call for bigger repairs/turnovers.

I will tell my property manager to call him to do anything that exceeds $100. Has anyone done this?

Thanks in advance.

This seems pretty standard to me, maybe the prices are different where you are.
Most turnovers will cost minimum 1-2k and that’s if it’s basic paint touch up and cleaning.

You shouldn’t have to repaint the full unit every turnover. You should be able to do touch up. Paint should last 5ish years at least unless your tenants are trashing it.

When was it last painted?

Also you shouldn’t turnover every year, you should find rentals where tenants stay multiple years.

Also this is why you need a lot of rentals and then should pay those off with the cash flow as quickly as you can. Otherwise you won’t have a lot of buffer

Item 2 seems like it is  1 person day over and item 1 could be a little over but it depends on how many coats and the cut out ect. I advise don't paint the ceilings unless you have to and just replace the miniblinds with the same brand if the old brackets  are intact  you stick them right in there, if not you replace the brackets.  You are stuck with it now

Sounds like the place was in rough shape, you should not normally need that much work to turnover a unit.  Window screens for example should last through multiple sets of tenants.  Carpet should last more than 1-2 years but I'd replace with some sort of pre-finished hardwood or even tile if possible.  Like someone mentioned above paint should last 5+ years.  Do you not hold Security Deposits?  I'd have billed back what I could to the tenants if everything that had to be repaired was new when they moved in.

I wouldn't go with plain white for walls ever it will show every last smudge or defect.  An off-white shade like Linen White will work better.

It shouldn't take 9 man days to paint an apt, but they are also only charging $15/hr. Either the workers are illegals getting a 1099 for $10/hr or.. yea, that is the only way that number works. The hours/days it took are ridiculous but the price isn't. Keep the extra paint on site and use it for touch ups between turn overs next time. Patches and hole repair should come out of the tenant's deposit as long as it was written into their lease like it should be. So the prices are normal, the hours are not but you get what you pay for.

@James Denon   Seems a little high to me for such a small unit and for a tenancy that sounds like it didn't last very long.  Was there a lot of damage? 

Normally when I turnover a property, I'll patch a few holes and touch up a few spots on the wall.  If there's a lot of holes/repairs on one wall, I might paint the entire wall.  But why did the whole unit need re-painting?  And the ceilings???  I'd certainly question the need for that unless there's some information you're leaving out.

The cost of some of the other things you listed (i.e. 5 window screens, 9 miniblinds) sound like they're due to damage, so if it were me I would be deducting the cost of those line items from your tenant's security deposit.  After doing that, your total cost probably doesn't look quite as bad.

But make no mistake about it, turnover is truly a cashflow killer in the rental business so anything you can do to reduce/eliminate it is really going to payoff in the end.  I actually ask the following question my initial rental application:

If selected, how long do you intend to stay in the property?

(circle one)  6 months....7-12 months....1-2 years....2+ years.

Now, there's no guarantee that if they circle 2+ years that they'll actually stay that long, but it makes it easy to weed out the ones that circle 6 months or 7-12 months.  For what it's worth, most of my tenants are going on 5+ years and I don't have a single one with me less than 3 years.

Of coarse landlording is going to be expensive and a source of added frustration if you gotta pay people to come in to to every little thing ! I was told by a seasoned landlord once that if you ever expect to do well at this and make a living you must do your own work

Those numbers jive here in North Carolina. However, I agree with others with regard to the amount of time for painting. I know from my experience running a small paint crew years ago it should take 2 guys about 1.5-2 days to paint an entire apartment. This is a bit of a mute point though since the price is typical for a 3 bedroom unit. I have priced this out with countless local vendors. The other prices you listed look fair as well. 

In my opinion, the days of finding decent vendors for cheap prices are long gone. You can certainly try hiring the "guy with a truck and ladder" approach but in my experience, they end up causing more headache than it's worth. With no reputation to protect, the random guy on craigslist is typically just not reliable. 

I know this is not what most owners want to hear but... IF you truly want to save money on your turns, plan a few days off from work and do the repairs, painting, and cleaning yourself. Then you can ask yourself... "How much is my time worth?" 

I once had a condo managed by the local PM and learned the pitfalls of tenant turnover costs.  The hourly rate of the maintenance team was reasonable but the scope was not. The PM even had all the installed CFLs removed and discarded and replaced with standard bulbs. The PM had different interest than the condo owner. First, the maintenance staff needs to be kept busy, and second, it takes less time for the PM takes to return the security deposit back to the tenantry and send the absentee owner a bill one month after the fact when a new tenant has already moved in. The owner will complain but probably still not take matters in own hands at the next turnover. 

Umm there is no way an 800 sq ft apartment should take a crew of 3 painters 3 days to paint it.  I could do it myself in 3 days.  Got ahead and buy a 5 gallon bucket of paint (ceiling paint does NOT work on the walls as it is a flat paint and walls are eggshell (or semigloss in kitchen and bathroom)).  You can use it for any touch ups that need to be done.  Many times washing the walls is all that is needed.

Same for general repairs, if it is installing miniblinds, caulking, etc with 2 guys they should be able to do it in a day, but if that includes all the costs for the screens and miniblinds...that seems okay.

The one place that I have handled with a PM, anything over $500 they have to contact me in advance.  The miniblinds should last longer than 1 year, so if the tenant was only there for a year, they should be billed for the replacement of those.

Originally posted by @Andreas W. :

I once had a condo managed by the local PM and learned the pitfalls of tenant turnover costs.  The hourly rate of the maintenance team was reasonable but the scope was not. The PM even had all the installed CFLs removed and discarded and replaced with standard bulbs. The PM had different interest than the condo owner. First, the maintenance staff needs to be kept busy, and second, it takes less time for the PM takes to return the security deposit back to the tenantry and send the absentee owner a bill one month after the fact when a new tenant has already moved in. The owner will complain but probably still not take matters in own hands at the next turnover. 

In my opinion, I would be cautious about PMs with "in-house" maintenance teams. The hourly rate issue can become a problem when it comes to "keeping the maintenance staff busy". I find that a fair rate ( per job vs. hourly rate ) from a vendor that gets a lot of work from your PM, is the best way to go. This way there are no surprises or concerns of maintenance guys taking advantage of the clock.  

It will always be more expansive when using a PM. $2400 is not out of line for a PM managed property. No effort is ever made to save money and supervising of contractors is not normal practice.
With no skin in the game a PM does not manage as a owner would. It will cost more.

In my experience, item 1 is costing you double what I pay and item 2 is costing you double what I pay.  However, item 3 is about half of what I'd pay.  So overall it seems on the reasonable side of fair if you didn't have to do anything at all or spend any time arranging anything.