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Cost-Effective Ways to Prep Old Units for New Tenants

When new tenants walk through the door, they want to feel like they’ll be living or working in a first-class space. It’s important to impress them early on so they envision staying long term. Luckily, you don’t have to spend a small fortune to spruce up a dull, older unit.

Try these simple, cost-effective ways to prep spaces for new tenants:

Repaint Walls
“In my opinion, the walls are key,” says Fran Young, a property manager in Springfield, Mo. To satisfy general tastes, she usually keeps her units neutral in theme and color. When vacancies open up, she thoroughly cleans the walls, fills and sands any nail holes and adds a fresh coat of cream-colored paint.

As an added incentive, Young gives tenants the option to have one room painted the color of their choice. “Some people select the kitchen or bathroom, but usually a bedroom or a feature wall in the living room is chosen for a new splash of color — a color that reflects them, their choice,” she says.

Although painting is generally simple, Tony Rankin, facility administrator at Children’s Memorial Research Center in Chicago, says it’s still important to pay attention to details, such as using painter’s tape to avoid getting paint on the baseboards or switchplates. A sloppy job will leave a bad impression, he says.

Update Lighting
Lighting can make a huge impact on a rental unit, which is why Young considers overhead fixtures a top priority. It’s important to replace old bulbs because dim lighting can have a negative effect on the atmosphere, she says. It’s also relatively easy to find good deals on light fixtures. Replacing them can be a cost-effective way to improve the functionality of a space and add an updated touch of style. Young recommends getting fixtures with dimmers so tenants have brightness options.

Replace Cabinets and Vanities
When prepping for new tenants, it’s a good idea to replace cabinets, vanity mirrors and faucets in the kitchen or bathrooms — rooms that tend to endure the most wear and tear, Rankin says. It’s easy to find high-quality, inexpensive replacements that have the modern look most people appreciate, he adds. 

Freshen Up Flooring
Heavy foot traffic can take a toll on your floors, so it’s important to refresh them before new tenants move in. For hardwood or vinyl, use cleaning products made specifically for those surfaces. For heavily stained carpets, Rankin recommends calling a professional who can determine the best treatment and possibly save you the cost of replacement.

Using cost-effective measures to freshen up old rental units, you can increase tenant retention and overall satisfaction. “Because of the simple and modest efforts on my part, I have tenants who have become unusually loyal,” Young says. “Most stay for years and years, and often move from one of my units to another just to stay in my rentals. They also refer their friends when other units become available, making me a happy landlord.”


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