What special touches/amenities do you add when you renovate?

107 Replies

What special touches or amenities do you add when you renovate?  I'm not talking about paint color or flooring until you do something special like an accent wall in red or cork floors.  I have some upcoming projects, so here's my list...

Some are things they would like, such as #3 and others are things I do simply to protect my home, like #1.  And some I only have to do once, like #1 and others I do every time I renovate and possibly at every changeover like #5.

1.   Apply varnish under sink cabinets to prevent water damage in case of leaks.

2.   Add door stops to protect walls.

3.   Add 1 USB outlet to the kitchen and each bedroom.

4.   Label the electrical panel.

5.   Flush the water heater.

6.   Check every door for squeaks, loose hardware, or sticking and fix them.

7.   Be sure the address number is on the street, mailbox, and house.

8.   Provide a fire extinguisher for the kitchen.

9.   Provide a stick stopper for all sliding glass doors.

10. Ensure all properties have gutters and gutter guards.

11. Trim dead limbs from trees.

12. Seal all holes in exterior of house such as around water faucets.

13. Aerate lawn and apply fertilizer, lime, and weed killer as needed.

14. Ensure there is a drain pan under the water heater.  (Some of these things are for newly acquired properties.)

15. Run lye water down all drains.  (I make soap, so I have lye, but any drain cleaner would do.)

16. Ensure all cabinets have moulding on top.  (I go for higher end rentals like granite counters.)

17. Depending on the property, consider crown moulding in the living room.  (Probably a waste, but I love it!)

18. Ensure bedrooms and den have ceiling fan lights.

19. Add night light switches (lighted light switches) to bedrooms and bathrooms.

20. Add a programmable thermostat.

21. If property might have water problems, created raised planter beds (among other things) to direct water.

22. Service HVAC.

23. Pressure wash house, driveway, etc.

24. Add motion sensor lights so they can see to get in the house when they drive up.

25. If needed, update faucets and replace all hoses, pipes, washers, seals, etc. if I do.

26. Replace exterior faucets with frost proof ones.

27. Add grab bars in showers and tubs when needed/possible.  (Supposedly you can't to fiberglass ones.)

27. Landscape variations include perennials around the mailbox, dwarf blueberries, and always a tea olive grown from a cutting from my mother's house in memory of her.

I can do a lot of this work myself.  I realize I'm spending a lot of money I don't have to, but a lot of the items are only a 1x (or rarely) expense and I think it subconsciously adds perceived value to the homes, making my renters happier and hopefully more willing to take good care of the home and hopefully pay higher rent.

What do you do to make your property stand out, to protect it, or that perhaps you believe others simply don't?

I don't have rentals, only flips, however I always do crown and light rails on the cabinets, nice tiled backsplashes, shower niches, accent walls and wainscotting in most of the living space and bathrooms. I spend a little more to do this, but feel like it makes the houses stand out some, and people do love the touches.

I plan to steal some of your suggestions from that list however!!

I like your list, @Brian Pulaski .  I can see how that would really draw in a buyer.  If I ever have to rip out a shower, I'm totally putting in a shower niche!  I also believe tiled backsplashes.  I try to add something special to the tiles, like in the duplex I'll be redoing this spring, both kitchens will get a decorative tile accent over the sink since there is no window.

It's a good list. Couple of things I would not do:

1) Fire extinguishers. I do not want tenants risking their lives fighting fires and do not want to be liable for training tenants on the proper use of a fire extinguisher.

2) Add electrical such as night light switches. 

3) Add USB outlets. Tenants can get wireless themselves.

4) Add grab bars in tub

5) keep landscaping to a bare minimum. Shrubs, mulch.

Other items dependant on class of property.

What I do primarily is make sure everything is working properly, service what is necessary and protect what I can.

Great list @Jody Schnurrenberger !

A step further to bullet-proof rentals under sinks and dishwashers (and fridges that have a water line) I like to do is install a vinyl remnant that runs up the back and sides a little bit. 

Something a little cheaper and easier than a USB outlet I just discovered is a surge cover that has multiple plug and usb ports. 4/2 or 6/4.  Plugs right in to grounded duplex receptacles.  $10-$18 depending on size. They light up and are very attractive!

@Thomas S. , I'm talking about small fire extinguishers like I've always been given in my apartments when I rented, not ones large enough to fight a several foot fire, but something for a fire in the microwave, for example.  My current apartment has one, I just checked.  lol  (I don't like my area well enough to buy here, so I rent while I'm in the area temporarily.)   Also, I just got out of the Army and we were always required to supply fire extinguishers for barracks with kitchens.  (I was a barracks manager for a while.)  I just got used to it.  I hadn't thought about training the tenants or liability doing so.  I'll ask my PM anything is covered for new tenants.  

I agree with your thoughts on the night light switches, but I like them, so I do it.  :-)

When you say not to add USB outlets because tenants can get wireless themselves, what exactly do you mean?  If you are talking about those charging stations where folks just lay their phone on it and it charges, not everyone has a phone that can do that...if that's even how it works.  None of my friends charge that way, but I'm older and from The South, so maybe we're backwards.  Hahaha!  In case you misunderstood me, I'm talking about outlets where you can plug in both a lamp and a cell phone USB cable like https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01L9IQP7I/ref=asc_df_B0...

Why would you not add grab bars in the tub or shower?  That seems like a liability issue to me...keeping in mind I haven't actually added any yet since I understand you can't to fiberglass surrounds and all of my units, by change, have fiberglass.

I like to think that my landscaping is low maintenance.  My tenants and PM have never complained.  lol  Everything is a perennial and I'm trying to be more mindful about plant heights than some original homeowners were so, for example, things are less likely to overgrow a window if someone isn't trimming like they should.

But I know my list isn't for everyone.  Thanks for your comments.  I'll talk to my PM about the landscaping, fire extinguishers, and maybe the night light switches.  ;-)

LED light bulbs, Philips ones from amazon for about $1.50 each.

@Steve Vaughan , while none of my units have a fridge with a water line, they all have dish washers.  Using vinyl that goes up the sides a little is GENIUS!  I LOVE it!  Ironically, I'm buying a house right now with a leak from the dishwasher.  (Thankfully, no real damage from it.)  I'm totally doing that!

Regarding surge protectors, are you talking about something like this?  www.homedepot.com/p/CE-TECH-2-Outlet-USB-Wall-Tap-... You said they are very attractive, so I'm not sure I'm looking at the same thing.  lol  They're okay, but "very attractive" isn't how I'd describe them.  ;-)  But, when looking up what you might mean, I found a whole house surge protector.  I'd never even heard of that!  When I'm in a place I own again, I'm totally getting that for my own house!  :-D  Here's one of the more expensive examples.  https://www.lowes.com/pd/Intermatic-Smart-Guard-Co...  

Thanks for the comments and especially the vinyl remnant idea!

@Nicholas W. , I've thought about this, but have you had a problem with folks stealing them when they move out?  Maybe I'd use them in places that are harder to get to and less visible so tenants don't realize they are there.  Just wondering if you've had a problem.  Perhaps I'm just paranoid because I once had a roommate move out and take a bunch of replaceable stuff, including the toilet paper from the holder in my bathroom.  How rude!  I was really angry with her!

@Jody Schnurrenberger Usb to me is a computer connection point or a location to connect equipment to a computer. I am not teck savvy so I may have it wrong.

When it comes to items like fire extinguishers I try to avoid anything that involves any implied responsibility. I do not want tenants to believe they are responsible for extinguishing a kitchen fire. I feel that adding a fire extinguisher implies that I expect them to be responsible in the event of a fire. If they are injured using a fire extinguisher I do not want it coming back on me as the landlord. Heaven forbid if it is due to the fact I did not properly train them in it's use.

As for grab bars it is simply something else that will likely be damaged so I do not add items that will unnecessarily require repair. I am 60 + years old and do not have them in my home so if a tenant does not request one I will not have them. If they request one I will install it at their expense.

I am not intending to suggest you change anything you are doing I just mentioned some items I would not do.

Originally posted by @Jody Schnurrenberger :

Regarding surge protectors, are you talking about something like this?  www.homedepot.com/p/CE-TECH-2-Outlet-USB-Wall-Tap-... You said they are very attractive, so I'm not sure I'm looking at the same thing.  lol  They're okay, but "very attractive" isn't how I'd describe them.  ;-)  But, when looking up what you might mean, I found a whole house surge protector.  I'd never even heard of that!  When I'm in a place I own again, I'm totally getting that for my own house!  :-D  Here's one of the more expensive examples.  https://www.lowes.com/pd/Intermatic-Smart-Guard-Co...  

Thanks for the comments and especially the vinyl remnant idea!

 Yes, exactly! The kind you just plug in / plug and play if you will.  Added bonus the renter/buyer could relocate to a different outlet if they want to.   

Yours is a 2/2 for $9.95 - great option.  For $17.95 (vs the receptacles themselves with 2usb's are about $24 plus you have to swap them) we got some with 6 plugs and 4 USBs. Perfect for older homes with limited outlets! 

Originally posted by @Jody Schnurrenberger :

@Nicholas W., I've thought about this, but have you had a problem with folks stealing them when they move out?  Maybe I'd use them in places that are harder to get to and less visible so tenants don't realize they are there.  Just wondering if you've had a problem.  Perhaps I'm just paranoid because I once had a roommate move out and take a bunch of replaceable stuff, including the toilet paper from the holder in my bathroom.  How rude!  I was really angry with her!

Admittedly I am pretty new at this but it hasn't happened yet. My rentals are higher end so it's not something I'd expect to happen. Also most of my light fixtures are ones where the bulbs are not exposed, so it's less likely, but that's also the reason I use the LED's because I don't want them futzing with the fixtures. Honestly, if a tenant stole all of the light bulbs I would take it out of their security deposit and you can bet I wouldn't go out of my way to find a deal on them.

@Thomas S. , that's the same USB connection.  Many phone chargers allow the cable to be disconnected from the plug portion.  This connection is a USB connection so the phone can be plugged into a computer to download photos, for example.  Well, you can also use the USB connection to charge your phone off the computer if you ever need to.  (I have occasionally done this.)  Having USB connectors with outlets allows someone to still charge their phone even when both outlets are in use.  I TOTALLY know this is an unnecessary expense I'm putting on myself, but I only have to change them once.  (I only 1 in the kitchen and each bedroom.  I try to change the one that might be near where I think their nightstand might be.)  I think they are a nice luxury for a fairly cheap price.  :-D

@Nicholas W. , that makes a lot of sense to me.  I know I've had fixtures in my own home that I always dreaded when a bulb went out.  I'm especially liking the idea of LEDs in outside lights that I need a ladder to get to.

I make sure that each of my units are SPOTLESS, and sparkle like new pennies each time they turnover.  You would be amazed at how many rentals you go into that are filthy, smelly, have bugs, or are just dirty.  This is going to be someone's home!  I make sure it sparkles.  

I also have paint to refresh the walls on commonly "touched" walls like the kitchen, baths or living room.  

And I know that Tenants can bring their own, but I always provide a brand new shower curtain, at least the liner.

Originally posted by @Jody Schnurrenberger :

What special touches or amenities do you add when you renovate?  I'm not talking about paint color or flooring until you do something special like an accent wall in red or cork floors.  I have some upcoming projects, so here's my list...

Some are things they would like, such as #3 and others are things I do simply to protect my home, like #1.  And some I only have to do once, like #1 and others I do every time I renovate and possibly at every changeover like #5.

1.   Apply varnish under sink cabinets to prevent water damage in case of leaks.

2.   Add door stops to protect walls.

3.   Add 1 USB outlet to the kitchen and each bedroom.

4.   Label the electrical panel.

5.   Flush the water heater.

6.   Check every door for squeaks, loose hardware, or sticking and fix them.

7.   Be sure the address number is on the street, mailbox, and house.

8.   Provide a fire extinguisher for the kitchen.

9.   Provide a stick stopper for all sliding glass doors.

10. Ensure all properties have gutters and gutter guards.

11. Trim dead limbs from trees.

12. Seal all holes in exterior of house such as around water faucets.

13. Aerate lawn and apply fertilizer, lime, and weed killer as needed.

14. Ensure there is a drain pan under the water heater.  (Some of these things are for newly acquired properties.)

15. Run lye water down all drains.  (I make soap, so I have lye, but any drain cleaner would do.)

16. Ensure all cabinets have moulding on top.  (I go for higher end rentals like granite counters.)

17. Depending on the property, consider crown moulding in the living room.  (Probably a waste, but I love it!)

18. Ensure bedrooms and den have ceiling fan lights.

19. Add night light switches (lighted light switches) to bedrooms and bathrooms.

20. Add a programmable thermostat.

21. If property might have water problems, created raised planter beds (among other things) to direct water.

22. Service HVAC.

23. Pressure wash house, driveway, etc.

24. Add motion sensor lights so they can see to get in the house when they drive up.

25. If needed, update faucets and replace all hoses, pipes, washers, seals, etc. if I do.

26. Replace exterior faucets with frost proof ones.

27. Add grab bars in showers and tubs when needed/possible.  (Supposedly you can't to fiberglass ones.)

27. Landscape variations include perennials around the mailbox, dwarf blueberries, and always a tea olive grown from a cutting from my mother's house in memory of her.

I can do a lot of this work myself.  I realize I'm spending a lot of money I don't have to, but a lot of the items are only a 1x (or rarely) expense and I think it subconsciously adds perceived value to the homes, making my renters happier and hopefully more willing to take good care of the home and hopefully pay higher rent.

What do you do to make your property stand out, to protect it, or that perhaps you believe others simply don't?

 Your list is pretty awesome! 

In our newest duplex we’ve added:

Ring Doorbells 

Niagra 0.8 gpf toilets (saves a ton of water - as we cover water for our tenants) (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Niagara-2-piece-0-8-GPF-Ultra-High-Efficiency-Single-Flush-Elongated-Toilet-Featuring-Stealth-Technology-in-White-77000WHAI1-N7714-N7717/205611735

LED lighting throughout (Costco has these modern ceiling fixtures for only $24 bucks) (https://www.costco.com/Altair-LED-14%22-Flushmount-Light-Fixture.product.100354669.html

Ductless AC/Heating 

Motion sensing light switch for the bathroom (Gives a lot of wow factor.. when potential renters were viewing the place they were always impressed by it) (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005WM3ALC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_HUglAbPNX8N92) 

@Cara Lonsdale , you're not joking about how some rentals are when they are supposed to be ready for new tenants. When I was transitioning out of the Army last year, I spent a few months in a month-to-month lease in an apartment with bugs and that smelled like wet dog and smoke. (I have a brain injury from Iraq and can't drive, so since it was going to be a month or 2 before my VA disability check came in, I needed something within walking distance from the VA, so I ended up here.) In their defense, they did warn me when showing me the apartment that whenever they mow (weekly), spiders will come in since it was a 1st floor apartment. They didn't mention the spiders were the size of quarters and the same color as the carpet, so you couldn't tell they were there until it was too late (they were walking on your foot). Also, considering the number of spiders, there was an oddly large number of other bugs in the apartment, including roaches.

P.S. I moved out when I was able to (about 3 months) and love my new apartment. I've been here a year and a half and it doesn't smell and I've have seen zero bugs. :-) (I'm temporarily here for the great VA. I have no interest in owning here, so I throw my money away on rentals instead. lol)

Originally posted by @Jody Schnurrenberger :

@Cara Lonsdale, you're not joking about how some rentals are when they are supposed to be ready for new tenants. When I was transitioning out of the Army last year, I spent a few months in a month-to-month lease in an apartment with bugs and that smelled like wet dog and smoke. (I have a brain injury from Iraq and can't drive, so since it was going to be a month or 2 before my VA disability check came in, I needed something within walking distance from the VA, so I ended up here.) In their defense, they did warn me when showing me the apartment that whenever they mow (weekly), spiders will come in since it was a 1st floor apartment. They didn't mention the spiders were the size of quarters and the same color as the carpet, so you couldn't tell they were there until it was too late (they were walking on your foot). Also, considering the number of spiders, there was an oddly large number of other bugs in the apartment, including roaches.

P.S. I moved out when I was able to (about 3 months) and love my new apartment. I've been here a year and a half and it doesn't smell and I've have seen zero bugs. :-) (I'm temporarily here for the great VA. I have no interest in owning here, so I throw my money away on rentals instead. lol)

 Isn't that crazy?  People, clean your rentals!!!  It's not hard to do, or have done, and makes SUCH a huge difference to people looking.  You can even get a higher rental rate because people will gladly pay more to live in a clean place.

BTW, Jody, thank you for your service!

@Peter Sinclair , thanks for the links.  :-)

Your duplex didn't have doorbells or you replaced them with newer ones?  Did you actually do the wired kind or wireless that plug into an outlet?

Before you put in ductless a/c and heating, did they just have window units?  You definitely upgraded them for sure!  I first learned about these types of units when I lived in Korea in the 90's.  They were really common there, though I'd never seen one here.  I'm sure the tenants will be much happier than with a window unit!

Funny that you mentioned putting a motion sensing light in the bathroom.  I JUST (like in the last hr) saw a video about ways to update your bathroom and that's one of their suggestions.  lol  My concern was 2-fold while watching the video.  1st, what about when I'm in the shower?  How does it know not to turn off?  If it stays on for a longer time, doesn't it waste power when I leave after just a quick trip to the toilet or do I just turn it off in those cases?  Too many questions about all that.  lol  2nd, I don't like turning on the light in the middle of the night when I go to the bathroom.  I have a night light and that's it.  (I'm a girl and don't need to see well enough to aim so long as I can find the seat.  lol)  For those reasons, I discounted the idea of a motion sensing light in the bathroom, but maybe I should revisit it, especially if I ever have trouble getting renters.  I can see how it provides a wow factor, as you said.  :-D  Good for you!  I hope they love it and aren't consumed by dumb concerns like I am.  lol

We paint everything. We use a premium white paint that looks good and can be cleaned. It's more expensive but it looks a lot better.

We install new lighting. We use all LED or CFL lights.

We've just started installing stainless steel panels in kitchen areas that might suffer abuse. 

Also, we've just started installing ductless units. We put seven into a small apartment building. It had a 47% efficient boiler so we will save a lot of money on gas, along with electricity to run the pumps, window ACs and electric heaters that one of the tenants has been using. The tenants are excited about the control that they are getting along with the AC and I'm excited about saving $4,000 per year on energy.

@Seth Borman , people keep mentioning LEDs.  I was afraid the bulbs would get stolen when folks moved out, but apparently it's not really an issue since so many folks use them.  I guess I will now as well.  :-D

What are you talking about when you say you install stainless steel panels in kitchen areas that suffer abuse?  In my mind, you wouldn't put them on appliances and cabinets have toe space at the bottom.  Explain what you mean, please.  I'm curious.  :-)

Congrats on the ductless unit plan!  It sounds like it was a wonderful choice for you all!  I can see how your tenants would be especially happy about being able to control the temperature.  I just got out of the Army last year and one thing I hated was being in the barracks and the powers that be had already changed the units from heating to A/C or vice versa, then we'd suddenly get a drastic change in weather and we are all freezing or cooking because the temps can't be adjusted the other direction for the rest of the season.  It sucked.  lol  Anyway, great move for everyone!  $4k in savings is certainly something to smile about.  :-D

@Dave Ramirez , a wine cooler?  What a neat idea!  I haven't bought anything with a large enough kitchen yet, but that's a cool idea.  I do buy and hold rentals and I think your idea is better for flipping.  So while I love it, I probably won't ever do it...until it's time to sell something with a large kitchen.  ;-)  But kudos to you for coming up with a unique way to make your flips stand out from the crowd!

You sell a 50-inch TV with your house???  I would have never thought of that!  Genius!  I'm sure you get a deal, but even if you paid full price, I'm sure it more than makes up for it in the way people get excited about it and your property.  Great idea!  I'm going to be selling something soon and will consider this as this property needs all the help it can get!  (Which is why I'm selling it.  lol)

Thanks for participating in the conversation!

Originally posted by @Jody Schnurrenberger :

@Peter Sinclair, thanks for the links.  :-)

Your duplex didn't have doorbells or you replaced them with newer ones?  Did you actually do the wired kind or wireless that plug into an outlet?

Before you put in ductless a/c and heating, did they just have window units?  You definitely upgraded them for sure!  I first learned about these types of units when I lived in Korea in the 90's.  They were really common there, though I'd never seen one here.  I'm sure the tenants will be much happier than with a window unit!

Funny that you mentioned putting a motion sensing light in the bathroom.  I JUST (like in the last hr) saw a video about ways to update your bathroom and that's one of their suggestions.  lol  My concern was 2-fold while watching the video.  1st, what about when I'm in the shower?  How does it know not to turn off?  If it stays on for a longer time, doesn't it waste power when I leave after just a quick trip to the toilet or do I just turn it off in those cases?  Too many questions about all that.  lol  2nd, I don't like turning on the light in the middle of the night when I go to the bathroom.  I have a night light and that's it.  (I'm a girl and don't need to see well enough to aim so long as I can find the seat.  lol)  For those reasons, I discounted the idea of a motion sensing light in the bathroom, but maybe I should revisit it, especially if I ever have trouble getting renters.  I can see how it provides a wow factor, as you said.  :-D  Good for you!  I hope they love it and aren't consumed by dumb concerns like I am.  lol

 I just placed the Ring Doorbells over the holes from the previous doorbells but I didn’t wire them. I gave the tenant the instructions and special tool for removing and charging the battery. So far it been 5 months and the tenants have yet to charge them... both are at 78% 

One unit didn’t have any type of AC and the other had a wall unit. The type of renters we aimed for prefer a luxury still of living lol 

As for the bathroom sensor light.. the sensor is only linked to the light fixture above the mirror.. there’s a separate switch for the light over the shower for that exact reason. 

I would implement all changes that I can do to address inspector report concern. When they read it show photos and paid invoice what you have done.

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