Renovating a Rental Property: 16 Upgrades That Won’t Break the Bank

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As a landlord, maintaining and keeping your property updated is important to ensure you stay competitive and attract potential renters. Plus, renovating a rental property will help it increase in value and serve as a great passive income opportunity! From adding a fresh coat of paint to updating the kitchen countertops, these 16 tricks for renovating a rental property will help you increase rent for your side hustle. 

Bathroom Updates

modernize the bathroom

Having an up-to-date bathroom with modern touches is something that tenants look for. Here are some easy upgrades to implement in any bathroom.

1. Add More Bathroom Storage

A bathroom seems to be the one place in the home that never has enough storage space — this is a highly sought after feature for renters. Thankfully, landlords can easily add more storage in order to make the most of a small bathroom. 

To do this, you can add wall hooks to hang towels or robes, or put in a towel rack. If the bathroom doesn’t already have one, install a shelf either above the toilet or on the back of the door to store linens and other toiletry items. To further increase storage, install a medicine cabinet above the sink.

Approximate cost: $100 – $300

Tip: Stack multiple shelves on top of each other for maximum storage opportunity.

2. Switch Out the Vanity

It may be time to update the vanity in the bathroom. Whether a fresh coat of paint gets added to it or it gets replaced completely, changing up the vanity is a quick and easy way to transform the look of the space and give it the modern touch it needs. 

Approximate cost: $300 – $2,000 

Tip: Some bathroom vanities, such as a wall-mounted vanity, may require new plumbing work to set up. 

3. Update Lighting Fixtures

Outdated light fixtures in a bathroom do nothing to enhance the appeal of a home. It’s easy to update the lighting in a bathroom without the need for an electrician — pain-free and low cost. Some simple options include spray painting the fixture itself, installing wireless fixtures, or adding fabric shades over the bulbs.

Approximate cost: $100 – $400

Tip: Switch out traditional bulbs for LED ones to save energy and appeal to eco-friendly renters.

4. Modernize Your Plumbing Fixtures

Over time, bathroom fixtures such as toilets, sinks, and faucets become crusty and out-of-date. An easy fix is to swap these out for a more modern and refined look. Think about installing finishes such as brushed nickel, bronze, or copper. 

New fixtures will easily add a sophisticated touch to a bathroom and will wow potential renters. When installing, ensure that all of the new fixtures match for a cohesive look. 

Approximate cost: $250 – $1,500 

Tip: No matter the condition of your plumbing, you should prioritize changing them out after 10 years.

Living Room Upgrades

update the living room

The living room is where tenants spend a lot of time. Ensure the space is updated with these simple renovation ideas.

5. Update the Floors

If the property has carpeted flooring, update to a more upscale material, such as laminate, stone, tile, or hardwood to boost value. Switching out old carpet is not only more appealing when it comes to looks, but it also makes it easier for landlords and tenants to clean and maintain. In some states, it’s mandatory for landlords to swap out your carpet in rental units after a certain number of years, so check in with your state laws first.   

Approximate cost: $3,000 – $10,000

Tip: If you decide to install hardwood flooring, maple, hickory, and oak are the most durable wood species and are ideal for units with a lot of foot traffic and pets. 

6. Update the Windows 

Based on how old the property is, the windows may be due for a change. The windows may need to be swapped out once they show signs of moisture build up between the panes, air is coming through when they’re closed, or the frames are beginning to decay. 

The most common window fixtures are double-hung windows. Not only do they help a property feel light and bright, but they are important for temperature control as well. Additional upgrades that landlords can make include installing windows with blinds or blackout shades. 

Approximate cost: $150 – $650

Tip: Install double-pane windows for better insulation and outside noise control. 

7. Add Fresh Paint

Nothing changes the look and feel of a living room more than a fresh coat of paint — not to mention, it has the highest return on investment for small budgets. When ordering paint, ensure you order in bulk so you can get it at a lower price, especially if you have more than one unit in need of an upgrade. Landlords should opt to paint their properties in a neutral color, such as white or tan to appeal to the largest population of potential tenants.  

Approximate cost: $100 – $1,000

Tip: Choose low or zero VOC paint to ensure indoor air quality is not impacted.

8. Replace Doors 

Doors tend to show the most wear and tear in rental properties, usually because they’re in highly trafficked areas and can be easily affected by the climate. Luckily, doors are an easy swap when upgrading a property. New doors can change the look of a space dramatically and won’t break the bank in the process. 

Approximate cost: $500 – $5,000

Tip: For cheaper installation, ensure the new door will fit the already existing door frame.

Upgrades for the Kitchen

renovate the kitchen

When renovating a rent property, keep in mind the kitchen is where people spend their time cooking and sharing meals with loved ones. Be sure to renovate the kitchen to wow potential renters.

9. Make Room for More Storage

Not only is storage important for a bathroom, but it’s equally valuable for the kitchen area. Add more space by installing additional shelving inside the pantry, switching out your cabinets for ones that stretch all the way to the ceiling, or adding stylish railings for hanging storage. 

Approximate cost: $50 – $800

Tip: Add pull-out shelving inside the cabinets to make kitchen items more accessible. 

10. Upgrade Your Countertops 

Although higher-end countertops may be more costly, cheaper and out-dated countertops may cost you more in the long run since they’re more prone to staining and disrepair. As a landlord, installing new countertops in natural materials such as granite, quartz, marble, or slate will instantly polish the kitchen and appeal more to potential tenants

Approximate cost: $1,800 – $4,000

Tip: For a more budget-friendly option, stick to ceramic tile or stained concrete countertops. 

11. Add Backsplash

Backsplashes can add value to a property quickly. Choose something simple like white subway tiles — these can brighten up any kitchen. For a more affordable alternative, opt for stick-on vinyl tiles to allow for more flexibility. 

Approximate cost: $150 – $600

Tip: To keep the kitchen looking timeless, choose a backsplash in neutral colors, and avoid trendy ones such as turquoise.  

12. Replace Cabinet Doors 

Replacing an entire cabinet fixture can be costly. Instead, just swap out the cabinet doors for new ones. Doors that are of higher quality and are made of solid wood are a good option if you’re looking to make your upgrades go further, and they can easily be painted to match the cabinet fixture. To elevate the look even further, add some sophisticated hinges and knobs as the final touch. 

Approximate cost: $1,000 – $3,000

Tip: Make sure to measure the cabinet fixture before purchasing new doors. 

Updates for the Exterior

boost the curb appeal

For many tenants, the outside of a property is almost as important as the interior. Make a good impression by adding some curb appeal with these transformative exterior updates. 

13. Get a New Roof 

After about 15 years, a roof needs updating. If this gets put off, it could lead to more costly repairs from damage due to severe weather and leaks. As a landlord, have an inspector take a look at the roof regularly. Not only does a new roof look great from the outside, but it protects all the renovations that have been done within the property. 

Approximate cost: $5,000 – 10,000

Tip: Architectural shingles are thicker and will last longer than three-tab shingles. 

14. Landscape the Common Grounds

Spruce up the outside of the property with some landscaping updates and without the need to hire anyone. To do this, add some new shrubs or flowers, take care of any overgrown weeds, mow the lawn, or trim any trees. 

Approximate cost: $100 – $500

Tip: Incorporate tall plants into the landscaping to add extra privacy to your property. 

15. Get a Pressure Wash 

Properly cleaning the outside of a property can instantly make a difference and give it the deep clean it needs. This can be done by hiring someone or doing it on your own using a long pressure washing wand. 

Approximate cost: $100 – $300

Tip: When using a pressure washer, avoid spraying the windows. 

16. Add Entrance Lighting 

Entrance lighting is one of the first things potential renters will see when looking at a property. If your property currently has outdated and dusty lighting, making the upgrade will give the front entrance of your property the special touch it needs. Not only will it look great, but it will add value to your property. Install a new pendant light or chandelier over the front door for a unique touch.

Approximate cost: $1,000 – $3,000

Tip: Lighting also provides additional security for a property, so ensure all entry points are also well lit. 

Pros & Cons of Renovating a Rental Property

pros and cons of rental property upgrades

When renovating a rental property, there are certain factors to consider before any changes are made: 

Pros

  • Affordable: If done correctly, renovations can be affordable and have a high return on investment.
  • Reduce maintenance and operational costs: Updating old appliances can save you more money in the long term due to the need for fewer repairs. Additionally, modern appliances are usually more energy-efficient, saving you on energy costs.
  • Attract higher quality tenants: If you renovate your property, you’ll likely be able to raise the price on your rent, thus attracting higher-earning tenants. Quality tenants that can afford higher rent are more likely to take care of the updates you’ve made to the property and pay rent on time. 
  • Compete with other rental properties: Making modern updates to your property will keep you up-to-date and able to stay competitive in the rental market. You’ll be able to attract a larger group of potential renters if you introduce tenant-friendly and sought-after updates into the property.

Cons

  • Uncovering surprises: Sometimes renovating properties, especially when they’re dated, can reveal some surprise updates that also need to be made. For example, there may be utilities that are not up-to-date anymore or hidden damage to something that may not have been seen before making the renovation. 
  • Time-consuming: Some renovations can take a long time to complete, such as adding a new roof or flooring. Make sure to think about the timeline before you begin renovating. 
  • Higher property taxes: Renovations may make the price of your property increase in value, but it could also result in you having to pay higher property taxes. Be aware of your tax situation and how it may change after the renovations are completed. 

Renovating a rental property to boost your rental income doesn’t have to hurt your wallet! These simple and easy changes add up, making your property deserving of higher rent and more attractive to potential tenants. If you’re a landlord looking to fill an apartment, visit our rental application and tenant screening services to help find the perfect tenants. 

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Calculate the ROI on a Rental Property

Whether you are a new landlord or a seasoned investor, calculating your return on a potential real estate investment is a necessity, we’ve got a free tool that will give you all the data you need to decide if a property is right for you. 

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BY SARAH STINSON

Sarah is the Director of Content and SEO at TurboTenant where she leads a team of experts to provide valuable resources to help landlords and renters. With over 10 years of experience writing in various industries, she has been featured in many top tier publications and is an expert in the real estate tech space as well as the property management industry.

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