5 Essential Rental Unit Upgrades

Investing in rental property is a great way to secure a steady income. Upgrading certain aspects of your rental property makes it more attractive to prospective tenants. It also increases the property’s value if you intend to sell it down the line. Several affordable and convenient upgrades can maximize your rental income from the property. Many of these upgrades can be completed with general tools, allowing you to tackle them yourself without the help of a professional contractor. These five simple rental unit upgrades can help maximize your rental income.

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1 Switch the Flooring

Upgrading to a high-quality hardwood floor enhances the aesthetic appeal of your rental. Compared to other flooring materials, it is easy to maintain and can last decades. Although a plush white carpet looks great in photos and gives your living room a luxurious feel, it isn’t a wise investment for a rental. A spilled glass of red wine or a pair of muddy shoes can cause permanent staining. Oak, ebony, or bamboo are popular wood varieties that stand up to significant wear. While hardwood floors can be expensive, they are long-lasting and easy to keep clean. Minor scratches, fading, and slight cracks can even add character to your space.

Laminate flooring is an excellent cost-effective alternative if your budget doesn’t stretch far enough for natural wood. Modern laminate can replicate various flooring styles like wood or tiles. Laminate tile looks like hardwood flooring but doesn’t come with the required upkeep of natural wood flooring. You can easily install the laminate flooring yourself to keep the installation cost down. Although this may seem daunting, quality tools make the job relatively straightforward. Rip up the carpet and the staples, prime any areas that may need repair, and allow them to dry.

Starting from the longest stretch of wall, lay the laminate boards in individual rows and tap lightly with a mallet for a smooth and even fit. Ensure the end joints are secured tightly, leaving no gaps. Once all rows have been installed, apply a sealant to prevent holes or cracks from developing.

2 Install Ambient Lighting

Lighting has a tremendous effect on the look and feel of a space. Ambient lighting sets the mood in a room and makes the space seem bigger. A poorly lit room creates a dull and uninviting atmosphere, reducing the appeal to potential renters. However, strategically placed ambient light fixtures provide a cost-effective way of transforming a bedroom, living room, or dining room without reinventing the space.

Ceiling mounted light fixtures double as a light source and stylistic feature. Circular designs provide warmth in a cozy living room, while linear shapes may suit a more minimalist or Scandinavian-themed room. Wall sconces are eye-catching additions, simulating mounted candles you might see in a traditional Victorian home. If you’re looking for a budget option, consider installing accent lights around a TV or painting. Many accent lights can change color, allowing you to set the desired mood. Use energy-efficient bulbs to keep monthly electricity costs at a minimum.

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3 Modernize the Appliances

Everyday household appliances account for approximately 13% of a home’s total energy consumption. Old or outdated systems can significantly decrease a property’s efficiency, contributing to energy waste and high utility costs. Aging appliances often lose efficiency over time and are more prone to break down. Upgrading to energy-star-certified appliances is a great way to add value to the property. Look for equipment with Energy-Star certifications from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. Energy-efficient, smart appliances can save you or your tenants hundreds of dollars on their electricity costs every year and are environmentally friendly.

For more appliances that can upgrade your rental unit and signs they are failing, please see the resource below.

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Upgrading household appliances can be a gradual process. Start by replacing the appliances that consume the most energy. Heating and cooling systems are the biggest consumers of power in a home. Geothermal heat pumps and furnaces are among the most energy-efficient systems available to property owners. They produce very little waste, ensuring the energy they use goes directly into heating or cooling the property. Other major energy consumers include:

  • Water heaters
  • Washing machines
  • Dryers
  • Refrigerators
  • Dishwashers

4 Update Cabinetry Hardware

Replacing outdated hardware fixtures, such as cabinet and drawer handles, lends a contemporary look to your rental unit. This simple upgrade instantly updates the space. Costs to replace cabinetry hardware vary, ranging from $100 to several thousand dollars for an entire kitchen. Ceramic handles can cost between $1 to $15 each, while bronze, copper, and iron handles can cost up to $200 each.  Depending on your upgrade budget, you can choose the option that gives your unit a stylish look while still giving you a return on your investment.

Stainless steel handles offer an industrial, urban feel, while black, white, or wooden hardware lends a modern, minimalist feel. Shop around for handles that fit your existing cabinetry or consider painting the cabinets to create an entirely new look.

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5 Add a Tile Backsplash

If you don’t want to retile the floors in your rental unit, you can opt for a smaller, tiled backsplash instead. A tile backsplash costs between $600 to around $1,350, depending on the materials used and the size of the space. This makes adding a backsplash a cost-effective way to improve the look of your rental unit without a full-scale overhaul.

To install your tile backsplash, you’ll need high-quality tile tools, such as a tile saw or manual tile cutter, that give you a precise cut on your pieces. Opt for white or tan rectangular tiles for a subway tile or brick look for a rustic look. If you prefer a more colorful look, opt for larger tiles with bold patterns and colors. For intricate designs, go for mini tiles in various colors that you can customize for each rental unit.

Maximize Your Rental Property Income

Owning a rental property is a great way to earn a passive income. Investing in a few simple upgrades can help you maximize your rental income and attract quality tenants. But it’s also essential to ensure you remain within a budget when upgrading your rental unit.

Consider which upgrades will have the biggest impact both financially and visually. Updates like new flooring, smart appliances, and ambient lighting instantly change the feel of the property and add value.  

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