The Top 7 Upgrades Tenants Seek When Searching for a Rental

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Finding the perfect rental depends on many things, and sometimes it’s not all about what you can see. How does it fit into your lifestyle? Does it have the amenities you crave? Do you feel comfortable in the environment?

When I look for the rental that matches my personality the most, these are the things I look for. Many of these little extras are easy to implement, inexpensive, and can easily allow you to raise the rental price.

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The Top 7 Upgrades Tenants Seek When Searching for a Rental

Dishwasher & Garbage Disposal

Not everyone feels the need to rent out a property that has upgrades, but for some renters, these amenities a must! I have lived in many locations when I was younger that didn’t have a dishwasher or a garbage disposal, which was fine for me at that time. However, now that I am older, they are both things I need. I host people more often, I cook more often, and I spend more time in the kitchen than I ever used to. When I was in college, those perks weren’t necessary because of my lifestyle — but a lot has changed since the days when pizza boxes and beer cans littered my house and I rarely cleaned a plate.

Related: 9 Low-Cost Ways to Dramatically Increase the Value of Your Rental Property

Updated Kitchen

I think a house or an apartment can rate on a whole other side of the spectrum if an updated kitchen is in place. Having stainless steel appliances, nice countertops and some sort of recessed lighting makes a home worth living in. If you put any extra money into your rentals, this is where I would start. Having an upgraded kitchen affords the opportunity to leave the rest of the property a bit more mediocre, affordable, and less upgraded. A nice kitchen gives any home a luxurious feel, and I personally think it’s the number one seller in any rental.

staging-a-house

Washer & Dryer

Every rental is different, and it’s very understandable that not all can hold a washer and dryer room, but if you can, do. I once lived in a one-bedroom apartment where they installed a stacked washer and dryer in the corner of the dining room, which they hid very well with a wood divider that they kept in the home. It made such a difference not having to leave the comfort of my apartment to use the communal laundromat down the street. Granted, it was a little more than the average apartment in the area, but worth every cent in my opinion.

Hardwood Floors

What a treat these are! More and more often, renters are becoming wary of renting from homes with carpet, unless it’s brand new. No one likes the idea of living with the same carpet as someone else, and more people are finding hardwood floors to be affordable. You can purchase cheap flooring that still looks great and is easy to keep clean, especially when you have pets or children. Not only does a hardwood floor make a home look more expensive, but it eliminates worrying about the stains that might damage a newly carpeted floor. No one wants to see mistakes someone before them made.

New Paint

I’m not sure how often people think about this perk, but a lot of renters do. Paint color and upkeep means a lot to a new renter, and it can up the price of a rental easily. A new coat of fresh, light-colored paint makes a home look clean, new, and refreshed — who doesn’t want that? No renter wants to move into a new place and see marks all over the wall that they now have to hide with a painting or a piece of furniture. They want their new home to be theirs and not feel like it should be directed by how the paint has been left by a previous renter.

how-to-stage-a-house

Crown Molding

Sounds fancy, looks fancy and creates visual interest and depth that excites anyone who sees it. Best part? It’s super simple to install. You can purchase pre-made pieces at Home Depot to be cut to the lengths you need, and with just a few simple staples from a staple gun, it adds an extreme sense of elegance to any rental for a low price.

Related: 6 Things Every Landlord Should Do to Win Over the Hearts of Tenants (A Renter’s Perspective!)

Blinds

This can make or break the feel of a rental for a tenant. I can successfully say I have absolutely said “no” to a rental based on blinds alone. I absolutely refuse to live in an apartment with vertical blinds. They look tacky, outdated, and extremely ugly. Finding a nice wood or clean and crisp white blind is worth the time and effort, and your tenant will thank you.

Renting shouldn’t be a hassle for a new renter; it should be an exciting new time where they feel right at home and are proud of the place where they live. You should strive to have a renter who wants to show off their new home and to showcase the beautiful features their property has. The more perks you add to a rental, the more you can raise prices, be picky about who you approve to rent out your property, and ultimately choose the tenants who truly care about where they live.

Landlords and tenants: What upgrades do you value in rentals the most? 

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Hilary Catton

I am the Director of Member and Public Relations for BiggerPockets! My expertise encompasses different aspects of strategic communications, where I observe member analytics, and grow our audience by developing and executing strategies that are intended to create and uphold a positive public image for our company. I manage and oversee our quick and amazing support team, and make sure our members have the best experience while interacting on our site. I directly work on forming relationships with various members of the media, government, and the general public to generate new business opportunities for the growth of BiggerPockets!

32 Comments

    • JT Spangler

      Crown molding adds a ton to the look of a unit, but be advised it’s not nearly as straightforward to install as presented here. Cutting it is finish carpentry, because of the compound miter cuts, which means it’s at the high end of the DIY range for most people. It’s easy to split it when nailing it in place, because it’s really thin a lot of the time. And simply nailing or stapling is NOT sufficient — you have to caulk top and bottom for a really nice looking installation. This is more work than any other part.

  1. Michelle Fenn

    Yes the disposal is a potential hassle but even I am getting talented on pulling out mystery objects. I own historical rentals in trendy parts of downtown Cleveland OH. The basements are all scary. The most important update I provide is a stacker laundry center within every suite. It has been well worth the initial investment in plumbing and equipment. My vacancy rate is virtually none.

    • Hilary Catton

      Michelle, I think a stack laundry center is such a great addition – especially with a scary basement. Been in a few of those myself. Worth raising the rent for, and most tenants probably agree its worth having a higher rent as well for such a perk! Nice Job!

  2. Dante Pirouz

    White blinds are well worth the extra costs! Plus the tenants won’t be tempted to ruin the walls and the new paint by trying to put up their own blinds. We install cordless horizontal cellular blinds cut to fit to the inside window trim in white and it makes my apartments show so well! If they get dirty or damaged we just pop another blind into the installed hardware. No more holes in my beautiful plaster walls. Hardwood is always a good choice too but we take out all garbage disposals because of maintenance as mentioned above. We always get top notch tenants (who are the type to pay on time) that way.

    • Hilary Catton

      Dante – I think all of your additions are awesome! I think I am what one would call a “top notch” renter, and take such good care of my rentals due to the upgrades I choose in my housing. I think the environment inside and outside the property can make all the difference on the type of person who becomes your new renter 🙂

  3. Matthew Sattazahn on

    It all depends on your rental niche.
    My focus is on “affordable rentals” while still investing in good neighborhoods. I have learned to look at everything based on maintenance and repair vs increased income.

    Blinds, Hardwoord (laminate) floors, and washer/dryer are a must.

    Painting is done often, but not after every tenant.

    No chance at a dishwasher or disposal. You might as well just throw $$$ into the sink and turn on your short-lived new disposal. Or regularly schedule your maintenance person full time to come unclog anything and everything out of them.

    crown molding – laughable. Seriously? Only if I am flipping. As someone who remodels all of my investments myself and has done construction work for 22 years…..crown molding is probably the hardest project for a DIY person to do. Sure, you can attempt it, but it will look like crap and will probably end up looking so bad you regret wasting your time and money. I seriously doubt the author has every picked up a nail gun or cut a piece of trim if they claim installing crown molding is” super easy to install.”

    • Hilary Catton

      Matthew – I couldn’t agree more that all of the above are based on the type of rental you are trying to achieve, and it sounds like you are choosing the ones that work best in your type of affordable rentals , and transforming them into very wonderful places to live 🙂 Your tenants are lucky! I’ve chosen to often live in some pretty run down locations (until my newest rental) and spruced up the locations myself, or most of my landlords have let me install my own upgrades and took money off the rent. My parents are house flippers, and my father owns his own finishing design company where he does amazing crown moldings! Granted you are correct in the statement that (intricate) crown molding is hard, but my father early on showed me how to install crown molding very easily and cheaply. It may not look like the type my father installs in his clients homes (or the type it sounds like you do as well,) but it is doable to have a lower end molding that does add a rather upgraded look. Maybe I will do a video of this soon? Thanks for bringing me that idea to be able to share with BP!

  4. Dawn Anastasi

    No tenant I have ever seen has turned down a rental because it didn’t have crown molding. What about a finished basement? In my market tenants LOVE a finished basement, even if it’s only partially finished. They will take a smaller house if it has a finished basement because it adds more living space.

    • Hilary Catton

      Yes Dawn! I agree! Another reason I chose the location I am in today – a finished basement. Doesn’t come around too often in Denver (that I have noticed) but boy did it make a difference on my choice of rental! If you can, do! Great addition, Dawn!

  5. Michael Boyer

    Yes, some of these may be more appealing to a buyer in my view and not necessarily worth the extra cost or hassle in a rental. For a higher end rental or when selling a unit, I may try to add all these, but most renters in the U.S. Are financially fragile (see finra financially fragile renters report) so I aim for affordable rentals.. And my tenants are mostly shopping on location, price, and terms( like pets, deposit amount, length of tenancy required, etc)… Zero ever asked for crown molding in 13 years, and none ask for dishwasher or hardwood floors if it is not there, but then those looking for this would not be my market….and I guess it all depends on your market…

  6. Alex Craig

    Reading the comments is interesting and certainly means every market is different. MATTHEW SATTAZAHN indicates the dishwasher is a waste of money, but washer/dryer a must. In my renting days, I never had washer & dryer come free, if I wanted it, then it was extra. However, dishwasher was expected. I provide dishwasher in every home. Disposal is 50/50. I agree on most except crown molding.

    Other things as a Property Manager that I find are important:

    Fenced in back yard. I always do this
    Large master closets and additional closets (most of the time, this is a “is what it is”, either you have it or you don’t.
    Separate living room and den (again, either you have it or you don’t)
    Larger master bedroom (again, either you have it or you don’t)
    backyard function-able space. In my “A” class homes, I have built decks
    Landscaping
    Updated lighting, faucets and fans instead of the cheapest possible solution at Home Depot in each category
    HOUSE BEING CLEAN AND SMELLS GOOD—–VERY IMPORTANT!!!!!

    • Hilary Catton

      Alex, these are such GREAT additions to add to the list! I absolutely agree it matters where the rental is located, and the type of rental you are trying to achieve! Sounds like you have done some great upgrades, and have some nice properties to rent out 🙂 Love it!

  7. Roy N.

    In many places, garburators are being banned – they are hell on sewage treatment systems.

    That aside, in our focus market of student rentals, they are just a bad idea – students will put “anything” into the garburator.

  8. Paula R.

    I agree with so many other actual rental owners here in not liking garbage disposals! They have caused so much grief that our rental contracts on the units that have them now excludes owner repair of them for ANY reason. I also think there is just no good reason to put in crown molding, but agree with replacing carpet with more durable and cleanable flooring as needed. I also find that even if we don’t provide the washer & dryer, having in-unit hook-ups is a big draw for people. Dishwashers are, too, but not near as much as the w/d hookups! As usual, good food for thought here though.

  9. David Krulac

    We REMOVE garbage disposals. Lots of maintenance and for areas with septic some of the things put down the disposal can destroy the septic.

    On SFH we provide washer and dryer hookups, but let the tenant bring their own.

    Crown molding has been used in re-sale units, but not for rentals.

    Thing tenants like central air conditioning, and off street parking are bug tenant issues here.

  10. You lost me at \”Crown Molding\”….don\’t think I have ever heard a tenant turn down a property over Crown Molding. Just my 2 cents!!!! Hope everyone has a great 2016!

  11. Andrew Dunham

    I used to leave washers, dryers, garbage disposals and over the stove microwaves in my houses if they were in good usable condition when I bought the home. I have since removed these items due to most of my maintenance requests being due to these items.

    With a whole storage garage of all these items I have removed from houses, I borrowed an idea from another local landlord. I provide the washer and dryer hookups in the basement and always offer to bring in a nice washer and dryer for an additional $40 a month. I do this because I rarely ever have people take me up on this service. Many already have their own appliances or would rather buy a cheap used set instead and would just like to rent the house as cheap as possible.

  12. Dean Serrentino

    Regarding all of the negative response to crown molding, etc,.. I believe Hilary’s point is, that by adding these finishes, you’ll increase the desirability of your unit, and the rent along with it. While it’s true that no one will likely refuse a rental because it doesn’t have crown molding, upgrades like this entice renters to choose your unit over another. Where would you rather live?

    • Hilary Catton

      Dean, you are ABSOLUTELY right about the direction I was going with the crown molding! Thank you 🙂

      No one is going to “turn down” a rental due to the fact its not there, but it will add more desire for that specific location!

      Thanks for sharing your post!

  13. Deanna Opgenort

    The “no crown molding” folk may miss the point. No potential tenant will ever “refuse” a rental because of a lack of crown molding (or dishwasher, or disposal, or stainless steel, or whatever your local styles dictate). What will happen is that the most desirable prospects may keep on going, right past your rental ad because in the pictures it looks drab, unappealing, and substandard. If you are beating away premium tenant prospects with a stick, by all means skip the upgrades. If you are wondering why all you have is deadbeats and losers coming to your door….maybe time to take a critical look at what you are offering
    ps – not “for” or “against” crown molding per se- it’s not appropriate to every architectural style, but at least maintenance is pretty much zero.
    pps –

  14. Pyrrha Rivers

    I enjoy crown molding in my personal home. I hope to inspire my tenants to feel pride in their home, so I chose crown molding in my last rehab. It is a small, older home that without it did look quite drab and ordinary. The crown made it look a lot more “dressed up”. Prospects commented on how nice it looks, so although not a determining factor, I believe it does make the place more desirable. One thing I love about it is that the tenants don’t touch it, so it very rarely needs repair.
    I take all carpeting out of my rentals. I’m using the wood plank tile in hopes that it withstands tenant use better than wood. In bedrooms I do laminate or refinish wood if it’s there. I’m fairly new to this, so time will tell but I think anything is better than carpet.
    Thanks for sharing.

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