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Renovating Your Rental Property? Here’s Where to Spend — And Where to Save

Written By
Belong on Dec 30, 2021
Self-managers are always looking for a deal when renovating a rental home. Sometimes though it makes sense to spend more upfront and save in the long run. Other times, the cheaper option is just as good – if not better!


The cliche “Time is undefeated” is most often applied to how the body ages —we lose a step the older we get, the creaks in our knees grow louder with every passing year. But really when you think about it the phrase applies across the board. Consider the sand-stormed monument imagined in Shelley’s poem Ozymandias , or how quickly and poorly special effects movies tend to age (Jurassic Park excepted). 
 
The phrase is certainly relevant to rapid aging – if not obsolescence – of home appliances and renovations as well. As anyone who ever invested in a washing machine knows stuff made today is built to break and be replaced. So even if you rent to residents who truly love and respect your home the way you do, wear, tear, and even breakage is inevitable, no matter how careful they are.  
 
The truth is, renovations and repairs are simply unavoidable when you own a self-managed rental property.  The question becomes, how much do you really need to spend on those repairs and renovations?  Where can you pay just enough, and where should you pay up?  Or put differently, when does the investment make sense in the long-term?
 
We’re so glad you asked. Without further ado, here are the top 3 places where you should pay up, and where you should Scrooge out.

 
3 Things to Splurge On:
 

1. Lighting
On a deep, primitive level we’re naturally drawn to light, open spaces: the brighter the room, the brighter and more optimistic we feel.  Conversely, the more cave-like the room, the moodier we get.  The external affects the internal, in other words: it’s the reason why people care so much about interior design and clothing, and why people like Marie Kondo and concepts like “hygge ” — the Danish belief in the power of coziness — are so relevant state-side. 
 
That’s why investing in good, bright overhead lights is such a worthwhile step. It will not only make it easier to attract renters, but because of the lights, residents will feel happier in your home.  And the happier they are, the more likely they are to stay put long-term. That matters – because as you know, renter turnover is time-consuming and costly.
 
 
2. Air Conditioning
This is one of those investments where you tend to make up any difference in the upfront cost pretty quickly.  A sophisticated, efficient air conditioner not only keeps your residents cooler (and happier) in the summer, it will cut down on your electric bills over the life-cycle of the unit.  And because the life-cycle of the unit is longer, those savings will accrue over a much greater length of time. 
 
Better units also need less maintenance — which means you have to spend less on AC repair guys.
 
The other thing with new AC units is how aesthetically pleasing they can be.  Our favorite — the Midea U-Shaped unit — looks like it was designed by Jony Ive (who is famous for his Apple designs). They also run so quietly you forget that you even have them on.

 
3. Showers
We aren’t saying that you should install one of those super pricey units that mist the air and have a thousand different settings and replicate the sensation of standing naked in a springtime rain shower in Fiji. But there’s definitely a happy medium between that extreme and the kind of shower units you see in pre-war buildings and prison movies. 
 
A bright, shiny, new shower system not only looks good, but it signals to potential residents that you care about their well-being.  Which means they’re that much more likely to treat your home with love and respect over the course of the lease.  Not only that, but the newer models are more efficient in terms of water usage without forcing you to sacrifice on the quality of the experience itself. Truly a best of both worlds situation!
You own a home.
We have someone to ❤️  it.
3 Things to Save On:
 

1. Flooring
A few years ago, we probably would have been singing a different tune in regard to flooring.  But the truth is that these days there are vinyl flooring options that so closely replicate the look and feel of wood, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference. That is, until you spill a glass of water or move your couch: then you’ll notice that vinyl is far more water and scratch-resistant than its organic counterpart. Not only that, but vinyl is easier to clean than wood. Vinyl especially makes sense if you own a family-friendly house with multiple bedrooms, or if you rent to pet owners: not only is it more cost-effective, but it’s better suited to the needs of your residents. 

  
2. Refrigerator
Sure, a shiny new Sub-Zero or Miele refrigerator looks great, but the price difference between those show-offy brands and a still-great but slightly-more-economical option is so huge that it will take years before the unit starts to pay for itself in terms of energy savings. And by that time, you’ll probably be in the market for a new unit anyway. 

 
3. Cabinets
Our thinking here is similar to our perspective regarding flooring: You can get new cabinet veneers that look much more expensive than they are, so you don’t have to sacrifice on aesthetics to get a clean modern look.  What’s more, many of the benefits of fancier cabinets can be replicated through DIY solutions: soft-close cabinets, for example.  So you can either pay a premium for a built-in solution, or you can buy a pack of 50 self-sticking rubber bumpers for seven bucks and deaden the sound that way.  It’s one of those situations where a little creativity goes a long way.
 

Installation
 
The great thing about working with Belong, the innovative, technology-enabled property management company, is that no matter what option you choose, you have access to their Pros when it comes time to install the product. Belong identifies the best contractors and craftspeople in the markets it operates and hires them – full-time – to work on the properties they manage. That way, the homeowners in their community have 24/7 access to the best in the business. Especially in this day and age, when good contractors are almost impossible to find, it is a major advantage to have Belong watching your back.
 
Curious to learn more about our pros?  Click here .
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