The “Curb Appeal” Factor
As a leasing agent, whenever I go to preview a new apartment, the first thing I look at is the curb appeal and exterior appearance of a building. You never have a second chance to make a first impression on someone, so make sure to keep the property in top condition:
clean the exterior of the property when it needs cleaning and paint it when it needs painting. I cannot count how many prospective tenants I’ve lost over the years
due to a property’s poor overall curb appeal. Close to half of the calls I get are from people who first want to drive by the property prior to scheduling a viewing.
Location, Parking, and Views Aren’t Enough
Having location, parking, and views doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep up your apartments and overall property in the best of shape. Every time prospective tenants walk through the interior of your property they are looking at the walls, floors, carpets, elevator interior, etc. If you don’t keep it clean, most people will be instantly turned off. When I take prospective tenants through a building, one that’s kept really clean, that’s the first thing about which they remark: “Wow, this building is really clean!” You can always tell a clean building when you walk in the back staircase of the property and it’s just as clean as the rest of the building.
Getting the Unit in Top Condition to Show
With regard to the apartment itself, here are some suggestions for keeping things in great shape without spending a fortune on a remodel.
- Repaint the entire apartment. Don’t just touch up—it doesn’t look good. Main access doors that get frequent use should also be painted—at least twice a year. Scuff marks on doors look terrible when showing an apartment. People really do notice these things.
- If you have wood floors, refinish them periodically when they look like they need it. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, be sure to chemdry or shampoo the carpets. If they’re showing their age, install new carpeting. It can make a huge difference.
- In the kitchen, caulk around the sink and regrout counter tiles as needed. In the bathroom, thoroughly caulk around the tub, shower stall, and sink. If the tub’s porcelain surface is chipped or worn, have it resurfaced. Specialists like Mr. Bathtub will do the job for around $500. Inform your new tenants that their new tub should never be cleaned with abrasive cleansers, give them a copy of the instructions from the vendor, and have them sign it. If the surface is damaged due to the tenants’ failure to heed the instructions, you may be able to hold them responsible for the cost of repairs.
- Are the unit’s appliances starting to show their age? Consider upgrading them. There’s nothing like new appliances in a clean kitchen to make a great impression.
- Clean the windows inside and outside. Even with sitting tenants, it’s a good idea to clean all the windows in your building once a year after the rains are over.
- If you provide tenants with a garage, keep the floor free of oil and dirt. I get frequent comments from my clients about how much prospective tenants appreciate garage, trash, and egress areas being kept super clean.
- Consider installing a washer/dryer if you don’t currently offer this service to your tenants. Just having one washer/dryer in a building is a huge selling point.
Should I do a Complete Remodel?
If you want to take things to the next level, and take advantage of the tax deductions that come with improving your rental property, you can always spend extra money and do a complete makeover of the apartment. Many of my clients are spending an additional $30,000 to get an additional $700 to $1,000 a month in income. The payoff can be huge: renovation costs are recouped in a few years (not even counting the tax deductions that accrue), downtime between tenants is reduced, the quality of the tenant improves, and they don’t have to deal with major work on the unit for many years to come.
Know the Tax Implications
In contemplating how best to approach getting a vacant unit ready for rent, every savvy small property owner should know the legal definition of an improvement versus a repair, and how the two are treated tax-wise. If you’re not clear on this important aspect of property management, definitely consult with your tax advisor.
Craig Berendt is the owner of Berendt Properties, a residential leasing firm in San Francisco. He may be reached at 415-608-3050 or visit the firm’s website at www.berendtproperties.com. Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News. For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at www.smallprop.org or call (415) 647-2419.