Finding a respectful, long-term tenant who makes prompt monthly payments is a rarity in South Florida, especially with the transient tendencies of the tenant population. So you can imagine my anxiety when an exemplary tenant of 5+ years gave notice of moving out.
Here are a few things an owner of a rental property can do after a long term tenant moves out:
1. Inspect the property!
You should pretend like you are the occupant and open all cabinets, run water, look at the walls for nail holes, open windows, flush toilets, etc. The goal here is to take good inventory now because not fixing the obvious things can totally turnoff a new renter. And even if someone likes it enough to put an offer, they are likely to ask you to fix these items any way.
2. Paint or Touch Up
Here’s a simple guide: If the paint color is not a turnoff and touch ups will take no more than 1-2 hour of your time, then touch it up. If the paint color is not desirable or it’ll take a while to fill in the nail holes, scuff marks and stains, then it’s time to paint. In my circumstance, I had a canary yellow paint throughout, paired with a plethora of nail holes and scuff marks upstairs and downstairs. It made perfect sense to paint the entire interior with a durable paint that is stain resistant. I chose an egg shell white. Being neutral, light and bright allowed the space feel larger than life and there was a sense of continuity, all of which are value adds for tenants.
3. Upgrade on the Cheap
Upgrading your home, whether it's in the kitchen or bathroom, can be quite expensive. A homeowner may have the best of intentions in keeping with a modest budget, but may realize halfway through a renovation that they are in way over their head. In my rental townhome, I had a very outdated kitchen with formica cabinets and counters, which as you can imagine is a huge tenant turnoff. Although a full kitchen renovation is ideal, for me it just was not worth it especially if it would cost me over 7500. A nice inexpensive alternative for me was to keep the well-maintained cabinets, replace the beat-up countertops with a cheap black granite and then install a very nice glass subway tile backsplash that tied the room and floors together. This alternative cost pennies on the dollar and still maintains the continuity of the home. In essence, the upgrades would freshen and modernize the space, attract more tenants and give me the option to raise the monthly rent.
4. Fix the Deal Breakers in Step 1’s Inspection
After you write down your inventory of the things that are not working properly, categorize which are highest priority. Obviously, things that are not operational and place your rental at risk (ie leaking water heater) need to be addressed ASAP. From there, you need to think of your tenants. What do they not want to hear or see or experience in the property? Things that come to mind are running toilets, doors/windows/sliders that are inoperable or difficult to open or close, discolored sinks or bathtubs, etc. In my townhome I had a professional recaulk all of the tubs and sinks, clean the gunk of a sliding door track, replace vertical blinds, remove the rust in a tub, and fix 2 running toilets.
5. Professionally Clean:
Many times owners skip this one because they think it’s an unnecessary expense. Unless you have fastidious tendencies and love to clean, please hire a professional. In my rental, I ensure that each window is cleaned by a window cleaning company so that the maximum amount of light is brought into the property. Additionally, if grout lines are really dirty and bleach will not remedy, then I hire someone to professionally clean the grout lines. It is also imperative to clean the inside of the oven and fridge so that they are spotless. Doing these things allows tenants to see themselves living in the property and enhance interest.
Doing theses 5 things (and others) allows the owner to put their rental property in the best possible light at a reasonable budget. In my case, the cost of improvements allowed me to increase the rent 15-20%, which is not only an incredible return on investment for me but provides my future tenant a better place to live -- a win-win for everyone!