Best Improvements For Rental Properties

When it comes to investing in upgrades for your rental property, not all investments will be equally beneficial. Sometimes the amount you spend on an upgrade is not worth what you will get back. If you are thinking of making a few upgrades to your rental property, check out the best improvements for rental properties here and learn which upgrades you should avoid.

Investments Worth Your Time

Easiest & Quickest

To start off, we are going to take a look at the improvements and upgrades you can perform around your property that are simple, quick, and cost-effective. Most of the items on this list are things you can probably handle on your own. With a quick trip to your local Home Depot or Lowes, you’ll be set to improve your property in a matter of hours.

rental bathroom property upgrades

Toilet Seats

A toilet seat might not be the first improvement you think about for your rental property, but it is an extremely cheap, but effective upgrade. Old toilets can look extremely unappealing to potential renters, but often the actual toilet itself is still operating just fine. Don’t waste hundreds of dollars replacing the entire toilet if it’s not necessary. Instead, purchase a brand new toilet seat, install it within minutes, and for under $20 you can upgrade the appearance of an older bathroom.

Light Fixtures

lamps hanging from ceilingA simple way to make an older home look newer is by replacing outdated light fixtures. Not only do many older fixtures look dated and deter from the appearance of the home, they can also be a hassle to take on and off when a light bulb burns out. Cut down on how many “my lightbulb needs to be changed” phone calls you get by installing affordable, modern looking light fixtures. Make sure they are easy to take on and off without the use of any tools.

Bonus tip: While you are at it, consider upgrading from standard light bulbs to LED. Although LED lights cost more up front, they often last for years. This cuts down on maintenance calls and saves you the hassle of buying new bulbs between tenants.


Many older homes feature outdated, small bathroom mirrors. They often have a metal frame that tends to rust over time, which lends to a grungy appearance. A quick fix is to remove the entire mirror from the wall (cabinet included if it is a medicine cabinet style mirror) and to replace the mirror with a large, flat wall mirror. These can be purchased at your local Home Depot or Lowes and can be customized to the size of your bathroom. If you opt for a large, flat mirror, the project only requires you to glue the mirror to the wall and will save you from investing in repairs to the wall.


faucet upgrade in a rental propertyIf your rental property has a less than attractive kitchen or bathroom sink, instead of replacing the entire sink, you can invest in new faucets. These fixtures will upgrade the appearance of your property without requiring a large investment of time or money. For example, a new, sleek stainless steel kitchen faucet will pair well with an old stainless steel sink.

Not only will replacing faucets make the entire sink look better, it will also cut down on maintenance requests centering around leaky faucets.

Cabinet Handles

Along the same lines as the above tip about faucets, new cabinet handles can revamp outdated cabinets. A fresh coat of paint, brand new hardware, and viola, your outdated cabinetry can go from drab to fab. Check out the example below. The same cabinets are present in both photos, with the simple addition of paint and hardware.

Light Switches

Nothing gives a rental property more of a horror movie vibe than old light switches. This is particularly true if the light switches are old enough they have started to act up. Putting in new light switches will help liven the room and save you from electrical repairs down the road.
DISCLAIMER:  **Keep in mind that in some states, any electrical upgrade must be performed by a licensed electrician. Check with local laws.
Graphic with before and after rental upgrade list and rental property images

Most Worthwhile

New Carpet & Fresh Paint

Two items worth noting as some of the most worthwhile upgrade investments you can make are new carpeting and new paint. While these present a more costly and time-consuming process, they are well worth their money.

For paint, white is a classic go-to. It won’t clash with anyone’s decor and is always readily available for touch-ups. If you want to make the property stand out, choose one accent color. If you own multiple properties, stick to the same color schemes to make painting simple. Adding a fresh coat of paint will not only improve the appearance of the rental, it will also help with any lingering odors from previous residents.

For carpeting, choose a stock carpet that is extremely durable. Avoid white or any color that will show stains easily. Putting in new carpet goes a long way in improving the attractiveness of your property. This is particularly beneficial in highly competitive rental markets where you need an extra edge to stand out.

Best Appliance Upgrades

If you want to make a larger investment, you might consider investing in new appliances. In reality, a lot of appliance upgrades or installations will not actually garner the best return on your investment.

The best appliance upgrade to consider is the fridge. Most tenants consider a fridge an extremely important facet of the rental property. An old, outdated fridge can become a deterrent. Opt for a fridge without an ice maker or water dispenser, as these items will cause more maintenance headaches than they are worth.

Safety Upgrades

smoke detector for a rental propertyWhen you are busy upgrading a rental property, don’t forget to pay attention to safety features. You should ensure you have new smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors before renting out the property. While these may not be upgrades that help sell the place, they are important for the safety of your tenants.

You can also upgrade the door handles to feature deadbolts that can only be locked on the outside with a key. This will prevent tenants from locking themselves out and can save you from late night phone calls about losing the keys.

Most Unique improvements

If you are looking for upgrades that are outside the box, the following improvements could help set your property apart. These can be particularly beneficial for landlords dealing with an extremely competitive rental market where properties tend to sit vacantly or a market where surrounding properties provide luxury amenities.

Tech upgrades

A quick tech upgrade that will be a fun selling point are USB outlets. You don’t need to install them in every outlet, but you can target a couple outlets that make the most sense.

Upgrading an outdated thermostat is also a great and small touch that can help your property stand out. Get rid of hard to adjust thermostats and opt for a digital one instead.

Smart improvements

Nest thermostat as an energy upgrade for a rental propertyIf your property could be improved by a better selection of luxury amenities, you can install smart features. Nest is a great example of a smart feature that helps your tenants save on energy bills. A Nest thermostat can be controlled remotely through smartphones and can “learn” the behavior of your tenants to adjust the home’s temperature accordingly.

Rachio is another great device for properties with a lawn the tenant maintains. These smart sprinkler controllers allow you to operate your sprinkler system from anywhere. They also read the weather forecast and delay watering on days when rain is predicted to fall. This smart device not only helps your tenant cut down on watering costs, it will help prevent your tenant from forgetting to water the lawn.

Worst investments

Some upgrades to your property may seem like a brilliant plan at first but will prove to be a money loss or worse, an added nuisance. Check out the upgrades that made our “worst” list.

Moving Walls

Don’t love the layout of your rental property? It might be tempting to start tearing down walls and moving things around entirely. However, this will be a huge investment of money and very likely will not increase the amount you can make back in rent. Unless there is something drastically wrong with the layout of your property, it is best to avoid major overhauls.

Appliances Requiring Ongoing Maintenance

ice maker in a rental homeOne of the worst upgrades you can possibly make is one that winds up costing you more time in maintenance than you were previously facing. For example, if you upgrade to a fridge with an ice dispenser you could wind up battling the ongoing maintenance these units require. Other high maintenance items include washers, dryers, dishwashers, and garbage disposals. Essentially, if it is on our list of the appliances tenants are hardest on, you should avoid upgrading the item.

Unnecessary Add-Ons

Sometimes the items you think make a nice final touch are actually unnecessary and a waste of both time and money. A shower curtain, for example, is an unnecessary item to provide. Items like this are often not valued by tenants and, in some cases, are even considered a nuisance. Fire extinguishers are another good example. Unless the law in your area specifically requires you to supply one, it is better to leave this add-on off as you could be liable for checking expirations and the functionality of the item.

Upgrade Your Marketing

While some of the above items are easy upgrades and require small amounts of time and money, others are a bigger investment. Depending on your budget and your future plans, you might decide to implement a lot of the items or just a few. Regardless, one of the best investments you can make to help fill vacancies faster is to upgrade your marketing.

If you are not marketing your property across dozens of listing sites, you are cutting down on the amount of interest you will garner. Opt for a free online marketing tool that allows you to syndicate your listing out across multiple channels at once. By creating an outstanding property listing and marketing it the right places, you can improve your tenant pool without breaking the bank.

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