Riverside Property Management Blog

Preparing a House for Rental: 7 Effective Ways to Attract Residents

Friday, November 24, 2017

“Oh My Goodness, I’m about to have a vacancy in my rental. What to do, what to do?!” Well, you’re in the right spot, right now, as we’re about to tell you the seven most effective ways to prepare your house for rental.

You can look at a pending vacancy as a bad thing, but why do this to yourself? Isn’t life stressful enough? Traffic, taxes, yadda yadda… You can also look at a pending vacancy as an opportunity. Follow along with us as we simplify it.

The items below are things we at Management One touch day in and day out, year after year, as in 31 years of processes and thought patterns, so follow along, we’re happy to share!

preparing house for rental

Done Right, Rental Preparation is Simple – and a Good Idea

Nothing is really as hard as you think it will be. Except for brain surgery, that is hard.
First, let’s start with the basics, and work our way up from there. Ask yourself these questions to set the process in motion.

  • Driving past the house, does its curb appeal give me an emotional response? In other words, does it look striking?
  • Is that response positive? Negative? Meh?
  • How long has your resident lived in the property?
  • What was done to the property before the current residents moved in? Example, what was the actual condition of the property before moving in? How old was the flooring at that time? What was the type of flooring? How old is the paint inside and outside? Cabinetry and counters were they in good condition, and as importantly, attractive?
  • What is my budget?
  • Fixtures, were they, or are they, dated? And again, how about cabinets? Yes, I’m harping on this, both the exteriors and the interiors. Your resident will too.
  • Popcorn ceilings, does the rental have them?
  • The surrounding homes, and are there “bad actors” next door or on the street? No, I’m not talking Keanu Reeves here, I mean folks who have no compunction about tossing trash over your fence from their yard, or parking on their yard, or leaving mounds of trash on the street.
house for rental

First Thing’s First

The frame of mind is everything, or at least the start of everything. I other words, perception is 90% of reality. I’m sure there is some meme out there which contradicts this, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. In fact, some quantum theorists will tell you “that which you perceive creates reality.” No, I’m not going metaphysical on you, but look it up, it’s true.

#1 - Rental Preparation – First Impressions Count!

I would like to ask you think back, to staying at someone’s house, or better still, staying in a hotel or motel. What is it that good lodging focuses on?
First impressions. You only have the first few seconds of ANY encounter with which to indelibly imprint a good impression. A top-flight inn will pull out all the stops right off the bat, the cleanliness, the “Fung Shui,” if you will, that is, the way lobby furnishings are set up. Also, the background music is no mistake, but did you know that many establishments also use odor emitters? Even Disneyland!
See this article: Disney’s 5 Coolest Park Secrets

However, you likely will not want to go to this extreme, the point being that the impression does indeed count. Hotel rooms which look and smell neat, clean, fresh, will always give a better lasting impression than one with worn carpets, bedding, dirty mirrors and such. This is a no-brainer, you may be thinking to yourself, however, pause to think: you’re offering up a long-term residence for rent. How is it any different? Actually, it isn’t, except you’re asking someone to live there for a year, or five.

house for rental

#2 - Curb appeal

We have addressed this in several articles, such as
Landscaping Your Rental Property Yard: Why it’s Important.
Yes, the landscaping is an important factor, but so is the overall paint, the condition of the driveway, walkways, porch, etc. If your house gives off a negative vibe or makes you feel “meh,” what sort of resident are you going to attract? And how long will it take to rent? I cannot understate the importance of curb appeal.
Here is a before picture of a troubled property that underwent an extensive transformation.

rental property

Here is an after picture of the same property. Of the two, which would you rent? You see? Curb appeal matters!
rental property

#3 - Interior Paint- How long has the leaving resident lived there?

While it is not a perfect means of determining what may need doing, both inside and out, the length of time a resident has occupied a home can determine, to an extent, what may need doing. At a year or less, the home will likely need a good thorough cleaning at the very least, and probably some touch-up paint.

On cleaning, I mean cleaning to take the home to Move In Ready. Everyone has a different definition of what clean is, so to frame this, think high-end hotel room clean.

And on paint, use only semi-gloss paint, you will thank us later!

At 2 years the home will also likely need a thorough cleaning and is more likely to need a full paint inside. Not always, but as a rule. This would be determined once the resident moves out, and you can clearly see all the walls. There will probably be some blinds that need replacing, and some screens may need attention.

3 to 10 years, the cleaning usually will be needed, a full paint is almost a sure bet, and at 10 years the ceiling probably needs paint too.

If occupied for 10+ years, there’s a fair bet the home will need updating light fixtures, maybe cabinets.

house for rental

What was done to the property before the current residents moved in?

Proper record keeping is paramount. Say you have a resident who lived in the house for less than a year, any painting needed is at their expense, IF said areas which were painted prior to the resident moving in. Say you only painted one wall before the resident moved in, if that wall is not being painted this time, you cannot charge the resident for any paint. That’s the law in California, be sure to check your local laws to know what applies.

Was the flooring new when they moved in? Is it damaged now? Then you can charge the outgoing resident a pro-rated amount for that floor replacement. If you have no record of the floor’s age, you cannot charge.

Much of what you will be doing in getting a property ready will depend on not only the current condition of the house upon move out, but that will also be influenced by what was done prior.

“What is my budget?”

Your budget is what you determine it to be, in a laid back, perfect world. With a rental property, however, realistically, it ought to be that which needs to be done in order to get the property in excellent condition.

Remember, if your house looks shoddy, you will almost certainly get a shoddy resident. Funny how that works, no?”

Let me, delicately, move in an odd direction here. I don’t want to scold or anything, but myself, I’d try to put away at least $200 a month as a hedge against unexpected repairs, or unforeseen and expected rehab costs. Do that, and you’ll have the average amount of a rehab sitting in an account ready to go with little to no heartache. However, if you have deferred maintenance on your property for any length of time, you will need more than that. Why? Carpet alone, on an average home, can run $2100+ alone!

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#4 - Fixtures and cabinets, are they dated?

Like clothing, items such as fixtures go out of fashion, and back into fashion, all the time. If it works and looks nice, don’t mess with it! That is a good rule of thumb to follow.
On another note, if your kitchen counters are “Butcher Block Formica,” you may want to update them. These are not coming back into fashion. Ever. Yet if you to tell me you were going to replace them with granite, I’d tell you to stop right there! It makes ZERO sense to pop new granite counter on old cabinets! Think about it – you’re upgrading and downgrading at the same time! If you’re doing one, do the other, it is that simple. Otherwise, consider glazing your counters, even Formica. See, spend $650 on the counters now and get 2 to 5 years of life out of them is more cost effective than slapping $2500 of granite onto 25-year-old cabinets.
Here are some examples – Before and After, 1st a kitchen, and a bath. The bath sink and counters had heavy crazing and were just plain ugly. These are actual examples we have improved.
preparing a house for rental

preparing a house for rental

preparing a house for rental

preparing a house for rental

Another word on cabinetry: If the wood exteriors are in poor condition, it may be best to simply paint them if they are not being replaced.

Bear this in mind as well: up to 40% of your rehab costs can be written off. 30% Federal, 10% State. Also, should you throw $20k in your kitchen, you will likely see about a $25k or more increase in the property value. Sure, that goes unrealized until you sell the property, however, YOU know it’s there, and your resident does as well.

#5 - Popcorn ceilings, does the rental have them?

If so, just lose them if they need any work. Follow the cost-effective route and leave them be, or maybe paint them if they are in pretty good condition. However, if enough of the ceilings are damaged, it may be best to remove the popcorn. Water damage, nicotine, heavy dust, none of which are good, and ought to be taken care of on a case by case basis.

#6 - Surrounding Properties and Bad Actors

This is a very subjective a topic, yet you will know it when you see it: the slob neighbor with the pickup truck hood on your property, yeah, that guy dumping motor oil in the gutter, while wearing nothing but his dago t-shirt, red heart imprinted white boxers and cowboy boots. Him, the guy with the free-range Pitbull dogs. That guy with the garage band, yeah, him. You know, the one that parks on the lawn? But what can you do?
Lots.
Code enforcement is your friend. And that guy, he is not. He is costing you property value, and he is quite possibly costing you a good resident. Hobos tend to stay with other hobos, the way bad residents tend to live among their own.

Palm trees with lots of dead fronds hanging on his property? You do know those house rats, right?

Dead yard? Guess what that breeds? More dead yards. People behave as their neighbors do.

Overgrown yard? Not only is that dangerous, but it is an eyesore.

In other words, take a picture, and call it in! You may not live at the property, but you certainly do pay the property taxes.

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It rented, now what?

Getting you, a quality resident is what we work on for you daily, but care does not really end there. Day to day, month to month, anything can happen. Once the property is rented there is still always room for improvement, and things will need attention. Just in general maintenance plan on spending about 800 to 2200+ a year. Zillow states “Plan on spending 1% of the property value a year in maintenance.” That means a house valued at $300,000 ought to have $3,000 thrown at it a year. I think that number, just on maintenance, is a little high, however, if you include rehab costs, this is probably a good solid number to work with.
Zillow: https://www.zillow.com/blog/investing-101-estimating-rental-property-expenses-94824/

#7 - Appliances

This is a late addendum. Refrigerators, washers, dryers. Don’t do them! In other words, while it may feel nice, like the right thing to, but we advise you, very strongly, to not do this.
A refrigerator, a washer, and a dryer are three independent items which will, given enough time, WILL cost you service calls. It is inevitable. You absolutely may have it in the rental agreement that, while you are supplying said items, but the resident will have to service them, when that time comes you will have a resident who feels slighted, even if they knew going in that these items would be their responsibility to fix should they break. It is renter think. “It isn’t mine, why should I go out of pocket o\n this thing that I will not be taking with me?”

You are far and away better off NOT supplying these items, trust me.

Final words: Take care of your rental property, and it will take care of you.

If you are struggling to get your property rented for top dollar and keep long-term residents, just fill out the form to the right. A dedicated member of our team will be happy to help you.