I have been having lots of discussions lately with both my partners and my customers on ways to reduce rental turnover costs. While collecting rent and keeping your properties full is one very important aspect to making money with your rentals, it can pale in comparison to how much money you can spend on turnovers. Here are some ideas on where you can reduce/eliminate your rental turnover costs:
- Standardize on your paint color. Figure out your standard paint palette and stick to it. I am amazed how many owners don’t have a standard color. I swear they just paint whatever color they are in the mood for. I recommend a khaki color in an Egghshell. Flat (or Matte) finish will mark up just looking at it. Satin and above will show every time you touch up the wall. Consider also finding a color that is factory mixed such as Behr paint from Home Depot. They sell a Khaki color that is mixed in 10,000 gallon vats which should allow you to touch up with less chance of noticing the repair. Paint your ceilings the stock flat white for easy touch up.
- Stay away from light colors on all surfaces. While light-colored grout or white woodwork looks beautiful for the first 24 hours, it gets dirty and looks terrible very quickly. This is not just in rentals, as I look at the light tan grout that my wife chose for our kitchen and I regret that decision. Throw kids, dog, spilled liquids, Minnesota winters and any light surface is going to show every problem. All tile should be grouted with charcoal or dark brown. Painted trim can be painted with a shade or two darker than your khaki walls (and looks very impressive).
- Invest money in items used heavily. How many exterior doors have you seen in your rentals with a broken door frame? I swear they make those $100 doors from Home Depot with balsa wood for frames! Upgrading to the same door with a steel frame will cost an additional $90, but eliminate the constant repairs of door frames. Kitchen faucets are another place where cheaper is not better. While I am not suggesting putting a $200 faucet in your rental, the plastic ones for $29, are junk!
- Stop replacing door locks. For years I have kept boxes of deadbolts around. On every turnover, I would remove the old deadbolts and swap for others from another building. Huge pain as it never worked perfectly. That house had 2 doors, this has 3. I don’t have keys for this set. UGH! Now for every turnover, I am replacing the locks one last time with Kwikset Smartkey. It now takes about 30 seconds per lock to rekey a unit. Instead of hauling around locks or paying your property manager $100 to rekey a unit, it can be done in a minute.
- Use proper flooring. I know that flooring can get expensive. Replacing a whole house of carpet can be $2-4,000. There is not one size fits all for this comment, but more that you should consider some options with flooring:
- Spend extra and put tile in the bathroom. Reduces water issues and damaged flooring.
- If the kitchen is small, consider tile in the kitchen. Never worry about ripped vinyl.
- Do not use the cheapest laminate flooring you can find. It never lasts and after it is washed once, it looks terrible.
- Spend money on quality carpet if your tenants will have heavy usage, but will not damage it (burns, tears). If they are going to drop the iron on it, spill red Kool-Aid on it, consider going cheap.
- In Minnesota, make sure you have a large tiled entry for wet boots and shoes. I see many rentals that have carpet immediately inside the front door!
- If you have hardwood floors, use them. Even if the wood has stains and doesn’t look great, sanding it down and staining dark will help the appearance and will last longer than carpet.
- Get the turnover done quickly. While this isn’t really a cost for the turnover, taking 6 weeks to get your turnover done costs you money in terms of lost rent.
- Touch up instead of repaint. Many people think that you need to repaint entirely between tenants. If the tenants were kind to most of the property, you may be able to simply touch up the marks and wash the other areas.
While this is not a comprehensive list, it is some quick ideas that may help you reduce your rental turnover costs in the future. If you have more ideas, drop them into the comments section.
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