Four Best Rental Upgrades

As finances allow, I try to improve my rental units, adding value where I can. Here are the four best places to put your money, if you’re looking to “up your game:”

  1. Flooring: if you’ve done carpet in your main traffic areas, upgrade to ceramic tile or a sturdy laminate. I prefer ceramic because it’s more durable, if it’s installed correctly. Most of my tenants still prefer carpet in bedrooms (it’s warmer), but I like tile in living areas, kitchens and baths.
  2. Kitchens: if your cabinetry is well built, but just dated, prep it and give it a face lift with some semi-gloss white paint and new hardware/drawer pulls. Cheap but effective! Also, the big box stores sell granite look-alike patterns for replacement counter tops. Nice look, easy on the bank account.
  3. Bathrooms: I’ve been replacing my flimsy tub surrounds with porcelain tile. Longer lasting, nicer looking, and easy to clean. And for $250 or less, you can replace your tired-looking bath vanity and counter top.
  4. Exterior: I probably should’ve put this as number one! If the outside of your unit looks like crap, the better applicants may just drive on by. I’ve been working on sprucing up my exteriors. Installing new windows, washing vinyl siding, planting perennials and some shrubs, painting window trim, etc.

If you improve your rental, you can demand higher rent, and you’ll also attract tenants who are looking for those upgrades. So, you’re getting higher rent, tenants are getting a nicely appointed apartment … everybody’s happy!

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Cheap and Effective

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I often use Easy Off oven cleaner (fume free) to clean porcelain or fiberglass tubs and showers. I can spray it on and come back the next day to finish up the job. But I’ve also found this product works extremely well, in less time.

The Works can be found pretty much anywhere … Walmart, dollar stores, Menards and other big box stores, etc. The secret is to spray it on and let it sit for five or ten minutes before you clean it off. Make sure you totally coat the surface.

As you can see from the picture above, this tub had a mother load of dirt, soap scum and hard water build-up on it. I was actually able to get most of it off with just a terry cloth rag! For the worst areas, I did use my Scotch Brite dark green scrubber, but didn’t have to use much “elbow grease” at all.

I’m definitely adding The Works to my bag of tricks … I’d suggest you add it to yours as well … less time at work means more time to play. ¬† ūüôā

Onward and upward!

Deck Renew!

FullSizeRender 2 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†I do lots of work on my own rental properties in Indianapolis and somehow manage to neglect some items at my own house! It had been years … and I do mean YEARS … since I’d treated or even power washed my deck. It was grey and tired-looking. My friend Jerry brought his power washer over, even though I had one I thought would do the trick. He had bought it a few months ago at Costco for around $300. and it was so much more powerful and effective than mine!

I’d bought some Krud Kutter deck wash solution, but we didn’t even use it. (Check out this video.) His machine is a Subaru gas-powered unit with an electric start. Fabulous! Anyway, I was really impressed with the results and how quickly the job got done using the Subaru.

I’ll let the deck dry out for about 36 hours and spray coat it with Rain Guard, which came well recommended and got excellent reviews. My deck is only about 400 square feet of total surface, and a gallon ($10) covers about 80-100 square feet, so this is a cheap face lift for a very tired-looking deck! Woohoo!

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Don’t Throw it Out!

When one of my tenants moved out of my Indianapolis rental property¬†— it was a bad scenario — he left a filthy apartment behind, including a grease-caked stove top. My handyman suggested I throw it out, but I knew I could save it. Here’s what it looked like half-way through the clean-up:

IMG_2197[1]My handyman was astounded! LOL

Here’s what I used to produce this miracle result: the day I went in there (after the eviction and after the judge had ordered¬†my tenant¬†out) I sprayed the entire stove top with Easy Off (fume free) over cleaner. I also sprayed the outside of the refrigerator with it.

I then proceeded on to some other tasks … painting, small repairs, etc. I didn’t touch the stove again that day.

When I returned the following morning, I sprayed the entire stove top with my trusted Krud Kutter and got to work. I used a flexible, 2″ putty knife. All of that crusted-on grease came right off … no scrubbing! Afterwards, I used a Scotch Brite (dark green) scrub pad to get the remainder and voila!

I get my used appliances cheaply, about $160 for a stove like this. But why¬†spend that money when you don’t have to?

Investing in real estate is an income-producing journey. If I can put more money in my pocket by contributing a little sweat equity, I’ll do it!

Onward and upward …. ūüôā

Removing Cigarette Stains from Sinks

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Here’s a sample of what I run into when a tenant moves out of one of my places. Not everyone is a smoker, of course, and most people won’t put a lit cigarette on the edge of the bathroom sink. But when they do, this is what I’m left with … a nasty stain, or several nasty stains. Ugh! For years, I tried all sorts of products to remove these brown marks scattered around the edges of my sinks, to no avail.

Then, one of my contractors, who’d been employed by an large apartment complex for a few years, gave me a wonderful piece of advice … “Go get some plumber’s screen!” I didn’t even know what that was, but Bill told me I’d find it at any hardware store, so off I went.

It comes in smallish sheets — I bought a 12″ square piece, which will last me several years — and it’s very inexpensive.

I cut off a small piece of it and simply rubbed the stain out. Voila! The sink looks nearly new. If the light catches it just right, that area has a little less shine than the rest of the sink but it’s not really noticeable.

A quick, easy fix for an annoying problem! Get some plumber’s screen today … I plan on using it for other tough stains/cleaning challenges in the future!

Putting Lipstick on a Pig?

This second bath in one of my rentals has been an eyesore.¬† It has¬†cement block walls that always look dingy.¬† It’s¬†in an otherwise decent basement that has a nice living area and extra room next to it.

photo[1] (2)I did a little research and came up with a product that might take care of the problem permanently … swimming pool paint!¬† Actually, it’s not really paint.¬† It’s a rubberized coating that applies like paint, and totally seals the walls.

It sounded like a great idea, and the guy at the pool store thought it would work well.¬† It’s the consistency of paint and you apply it with a roller and a brush, just as you would paint.¬† Fortunately, I only needed one gallon, because the stuff is costly … about $70/gallon.

Here’s a photo of the can:¬† It’s called Smart Seal SR Pro 7.

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Here’s the “after” picture:¬†photo 3[1] (2)what a transformation, right?¬† I’d definitely recommend this product.¬† HOWEVER, this stuff is really toxic!¬† I had to wear a mask — which I hate doing — to be able to tolerate being in the area long enough to get the job finished.¬† And also, Smart Seal is an oil-base product, so I bought cheap a roller sleeve, pan¬†and trim brush, and threw¬†all of it¬†away when I was finished.

Now the bath looks presentable, and I can charge appropriate (higher) rent!

I’m always looking for inexpensive updates I can do at my rentals … things that will make them more attractive to applicants without costing me an arm and a leg.

Inexpensive updates, attractive results, coupled with attentive landlording … a win/win for everyone!

Another Painting Tip

As you know, I’m all about saving time and money.¬† I’ve done a few posts on painting tools, tips and techniques.¬† As an entrepreneur, I enjoy watching the TV show Shark Tank (ABC) and they featured a great new product I’d like to share with my readers:

Paint Brush CoverIt’s called The Paint Brush Cover.¬† Whether you’re a landlord, real estate investor or homeowner in the middle of a painting project, you rarely finish it in one session.¬† So, what do you do with that brush?¬† I’ve usually wrapped it tightly¬†in Saran Wrap and it’ll keep for hours or even a couple days if need be.

Well, this product is air tight, made of plastic, and holds almost 100% humidity!¬† Therefore, it’ll keep that brush moist and ready to use for weeks if necessary!¬† Truly a time saver!¬† And it accommodates brushes up to 3″ wide.

I’m going to order one at http://www.paintbrushcover.com.¬† And by the way, when you’re totally done with the project, don’t forget to clean your brush the right way.¬† Paint brushes are expensive … around $10-15 if you get the right brand.¬† (I recommend Purdy or Wooster.)¬† I use warm soapy water (or my trusty Krud Kutter) and a stiff wire brush to remove all the paint from the bristles.¬† Start in the spine, up close to the handle and brush down to the tip of the bristles.¬† A good brush should last for years if you treat it with love and kindness.¬† ūüôā

Happy painting!

 

 

Almost Like New…

photoThis is my mom’s golf cart.¬† She bought it used, about five-seven years ago.¬† We’re moving her from FL to AZ (she’s 90, and it’s time to get her closer to several family members).

Anyway, it’s been sitting outside all this time and has collected so much dirt and, of course, mold.¬† I bought a bottle of CLR Outdoor Furniture Cleaner on the recommendation of the people at her neighborhood hardware store.

I can’t say I had much faith in the product, as I’ve tried other CLR products and have been less than impressed with the results.

But I’m pretty amazed at the difference this is making!¬† I sprayed it on and spread it evenly, allowed it to sit a few minutes, then scrubbed it with a stiff wire brush and voila!¬† I think she’ll be able to get the most out of the resale when I’m finished.

I’m wondering what other items it may address … like vinyl siding, etc.?¬† I’m going to find out, when I get back home to my rental properties in Indianapolis!

Throw it Out?

When confronted with a stove that looks like this, many landlords would pick up the phone and just get a new one delivered:

BeforeBut not this landlord!¬† My tenant at this rental went down quickly.¬† She’d been with me almost a year and had been fine, but within a couple months, her baby got deathly ill, her car needed major repair and she got laid off.¬† Everything caved in on her at once, and she followed suit … stopped cleaning and stopped paying rent.

So, she was gone, but the baked-on grease and grime on the stove top remained.  Ugh!

But this is no challenge for the likes of Easy-Off (or the generic equivalent) oven cleaner.¬† I use the fume-free type, spray it on and let it sit for at least a couple hours, while I do other chores at the rental.¬† Then I use my small putty knife to scrape off the crusty stuff.¬† Follow that with a healthy spray of Krud Kutter or Awesome! (I’ve done separate posts on each of these products because they’re so effective.)

A little final scrub and you’re done.¬† Whenever I scrub something, I use the dark green scrubber pads made by Scotch Brite.¬† They’re sturdy and get the job done quickly.¬† And the finished product looks brand new, right?

AfterI’m all about saving/making money.¬† That’s why I do a lot of my own work.¬† Why pay someone else to do what I can do?¬† Of course, since this is my full-time work (along with Realtor stuff and my property management company), I’m able to¬†devote the time.¬† Those who have a full-time job and try to own/manage rentals on the side have time constraints and by necessity, hire out much more.

Within a couple days, this duplex apartment was ready to rent again.  All it took was some cleaning, carpet shampoo, touch-up paint here and there, and a couple of minor repairs.

My new tenant loves the unit and is treating it well.¬† Of course, things can change quickly in this business but for now, all is well …

Onward and upward!

Another Shortcut

As you know, I’m always looking for ways to save time and money at my rentals and my own home.¬† My friend Carrie was helping me at one of my rentals and came up with the shortcut you’ll see in this video.¬† As you watch, take note of the kitchen counter!¬† My last blog post dealt with countertops, and the kitchen in this rental needed a little face lift.¬† We painted the oak cabinets with white semi-gloss paint, and replaced the countertop with laminate — a dark fleck that resembles a granite look.¬† Durable, fresh, crisp look, but inexpensive.

Here’s the video:

I had to shorten¬†the video¬†a bit, but you get the point!¬† I don’t like doing baseboards, and if you use a lightweight mop, this job goes quickly.¬† Carrie had all the baseboards and window sills in this 1200 sq. ft. home done in about 10 minutes.¬† Gotta love it, right?

When applicants walk into a home that’s clean and well-maintained, they’re more likely to keep it that way.

And as I come across more tips, tricks and techniques, I’ll continue to pass them on …