Location, Curb Appeal, Value for Dollar, Location. That’s more like it.
No matter what they want to tell you, it’s not just ‘location, location, location’ anymore. People looking for new homes are actually looking at the home itself these days, not just where it’s located. The term ‘curb appeal’ took off in the 80s, and we all know about it, and yet particularly among new owners, using the concept is a challenge. We’re going to make that a little easier — only we’re not stopping there, because prospects walk through a house, too. We need to add a little value inside the home as well with these cost-effective renovations.
We’re hoping that this is a no brainer for most of you, but just in case there’s someone out there who intends to rent out a property that’s exterior has junk laying around and the interior is cluttered with crap…don’t unless your goal is to be a slumlord. We’re not talking about construction materials, we mean whatever previous tenants left behind. If we can’t fit the debris in the back of a truck or the garbage men won’t take it, we’ll rent a dumpster. Now we have shown properties to tenants that we’re eager beavers to see them when they weren’t ready & on the market, and there are exceptions to every “rule”, but our goal is not to market a property until it’s cleaned up.
You don’t have to have an actual landscape to do some landscaping. Cut & trim the grass, add a few pavers or garden logs to define (empty) ‘planting beds’, and maybe some planters under the kitchen windows will do the job. The point, however, is that if you don’t take care of these basics, it looks like you don’t care about the house — and if you don’t, why would they?
This is the real ‘first impression’ — literal curb appeal is good, but the prospect is going to start looking critically at the home as they walk up. A fresh coat of paint on the front door and frame, some new address numbers, and (if relevant) some solid, good-looking stairs go a long way.
Now You’re Cooking
The kitchen is the heart and soul of the American home; most modern kitchens are designed to be used while hosting, with guests seated within sight and earshot. That means that some clean & matching appliances (no white fridge and stainless steel oven), scrubbed kitchen cabinets and counters, and no burnt out lightbulbs are the minimum. Be sure the paint on walls & ceiling, especially around the stovetop (where grease splatters), looks good. For a few hundred bucks you may want to put down a new floor – if you use peel & stick tiles don’t use the cheapest ugly stuff and be sure to use specific floor contact cement so they stay down and your new tenant isn’t calling and complaining after a month that the floor tiles are coming up! Make sure the kitchen is bright and inviting with light fixtures that aren’t just the cheapest you can find. Find a Habitat Restore or other resale shop for inexpensive, nice-looking used ones. Also be sure to address the area under the sink – if it looks crappy and dirty what’s a potential tenant going to think? For $20 we install a rubber mat that looks good, is easy to keep clean and protects the particle board base.
The next area that draws an excessive amount of consumer concern is the bathroom. Like the kitchen, a few small changes can really turn a bathroom from a dingy place where you wouldn’t want to touch anything to a place you wouldn’t mind doing a crossword puzzle. A new toilet seat, fresh tub surround caulk and the cabinet mat we mentioned for the kitchen are easy to do. Going further, an updated vanity, light fixture and mirror shouldn’t cost more than a couple of Benjamins, but the value they add is huge.
Let There Be Light
The last great (cheap) home upgrade that will get your rental filled quick is brightening up the living areas. If you don’t have a massive window, add lights with daylight bulbs. Tip: don’t show a property with all the blinds/shades closed (unless you need to hide an eyesore next door). If the carpet is dingy, replace it with something light-toned (but not so light that it will make dirt stand out). A coat of paint slightly less ‘off’ and slightly more ‘white’ can help quite a bit, too. Some contrast is also good, so don’t paint the ceiling & trim the same color as the walls! Bright rooms feel like big rooms, and you can completely change the feeling of the living space for less than a hundred bucks if you play your cards right.
With these cost-effective renovations in place, you can make almost any home feel like a place you’d want to live — and if you want someone to live there, you should strongly consider doing just that.