One of my contractors showed me this recent addition to his “bag of tricks” and I immediately ordered one for myself, after checking reviews. When I list a home for sale, I often measure the rooms using a bulky 25′ steel tape measure. It’s accurate but rather time-consuming.
This Bosch digital device is lightweight and super easy to use. All you do is butt the back of it up to one wall, and press the arrow toward the opposite wall. When the red laser beam appears, the readout on the device gives you an exact measurement (i.e. 12’10”). It even gives you fractions of inches where needed. Then, take it to the other wall, without clearing out the first number, and press the arrow again, and you’ll have your total room size, i.e. 12’10” x 14’11 7/8″. It measures to 32nds, and up to 120 ft. So quick, so easy. Takes the hassle out of measurements of all kinds, including ceiling height, volume and area.
I bought mine on Amazon for about $79…money well spent!
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:”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Struggling with my Stanley utility knife, trying to cut through the stubborn plastic surrounding a new Kwikset door lock set — you’d think they were worth thousands of dollars! — I decided I just needed a new blade in it. Got the screwdriver out, fumbled around and installed the new one … annoying.
Anyway, the next time I was at my local big box store, I asked an employee which knife he’d recommend, and he immediately pulled his out of his pocket and gave me a demo on the spot. I was instantly impressed. Of course, I had to get the red one — it was nicer looking than the black one. 🙂 Here it is:
It’s ergonomic and lightweight, but strong enough to cut through thick plastic and other materials. And best of all, when the blade gets a little dull, you just press a little button on the handle, and it releases the current blade. You can turn it around and use the other end, or insert a new one, in seconds. No wasted time! And it was about $8.00. Money well spent, for sure.
Another great tool to add to my list of must-haves. Buy a Husky utility knife for your own tool collection, you won’t regret the purchase!
20 years ago, when I began my real estate investing career, I started using Walmart brand paint, satin finish. It was very adequate, covered well and didn’t splatter much. Through the years, it declined in quality and I switched to Behr, after checking out the comparisons in Consumer Reports.
I’ve really enjoyed their product. I don’t go with their top-of-the-line. I’ve used the Premium Plus satin and eggshell finishes and have been very impressed with the durability of each. Nice, thick formula, great coverage, for around $27/gallon. And considering the price of the Walmart paint had gone up to $18/gallon and I was having to recoat rooms and clean up splatters … totally worth the switch! I was frustrated with Walmart brand.
But then I came across a great deal at the Porter paint store near me. Their paints have always ranked highly as well, but I simply can’t justify spending over $40 for a gallon of paint! Then I found out that, if I opened a business account with them, I could purchase a gallon for around $28. What a fantastic deal! Definitely worth a try. So I’ve been using their Hi Hide satin for the past few months.
I’m going to stick with it, for sure. I can call them ahead and they’ll have it mixed and ready to go, and I totally love the paint. I think it more than measures up to Behr, and the friendly service and other great specials they run at their store are an added bonus. As a small business person myself, I seize every opportunity to support other small operations. “Here’s to the the little guy!”
Onward and upward …. 🙂
I’ve tried many primers through the years — Kilz is probably the best known, and most of the big paint names (Behr, Valspar, Sherwin Williams, Porter, etc.) have their own primer they recommend — but I keep going back to Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 water base primer.
What I love about it:
- It is a much thicker base than most primers, so it doesn’t splatter or drip all over the place.
- It sticks to most surfaces.
- I use the water-base product, and it’s a great stain blocker, and doesn’t have the toxic odor like the oil base primers do.
For spot treatments, I still prefer the Kilz oil base spray over the Zinsser product. It covers more evenly, and although there’s a definite odor, it dissipates after about an hour.
Happy priming! 🙂
Pictures of my best finds, in a caulk gun and water-base caulk:
I always try to save myself time when working on my rentals, and I’ve bought several caulk guns through the years. They leak caulk — even the ones that claim to be “dripless.” I end up with white caulk on my dark carpet. (Ugh.) They’re heavy, the handle isn’t user friendly, etc. This gun, made by Newborn, is excellent. The handle is ergonomic, allows you to work with the gun for a prolonged period of time if necessary. It’s also very light weight. It has a tip cutter, of course, and it really is dripless. I bought it at my local Porter Paint store (PPG) for about $14 and it’s been worth every penny!
So while I was there, I decided I’d try their water-base caulk as well. It’s actually cheaper than the cheap Alex or DAP brands I’d been using. It’s called Top Gun 140 acrylic sealant. What a pleasant surprise! It’s a lot stickier consistency, but still went on smoothly and I’m thinking it’ll probably hold up a lot better than the others. It’s the same soap and water clean-up.
As I said, I’m all about making my life easier … hope this tip makes yours easier as well. Onward and upward! 🙂
Most of my rental properties are 100 years old. The major operating systems (heat, wiring, etc.) have been updated, of course. And with some of them, I replaced cabinetry along with the initial rehab. This duplex had older wooden cabinets that had a few good years left in them. I had ceramic flooring and a new bath installed last year, and after a recent move-out it was time to update the kitchen.
I used stock, pre-finished oak cabinets from my local big box store, and one of the formica “grant lookalike” countertops they keep in stock. I think they look fabulous, and this place should rent quickly.
My investment goal 20 years ago was to buy and hold, for income and long-term investment. And with each improvement I make beyond the initial rehab, Im:
- Making my rental more attractive to potential tenants, thus drawing a better quality renter.
- Improving the value of the home itself, thus making it a more attractive purchase to a buyer, when it comes time to jump into my exit strategy.
So, every improvement I make, I keep these points in mind. Is it adding value in the eyes of my next tenant? Is it adding value down the road, when I decide to sell? If so, then go for it!
I’m always looking for durable flooring to put in kitchens at my Indianapolis rentals — something easy to clean, easy on the feet, and a surface that won’t show dirt or scuff marks. I came across Amorim Sports Floors at Lowe’s and thought I’d try it in one of my smaller kitchens. (It’s not cheap, at around $100 for a 4×10′ roll.)
As you can see in the picture, it’s black with a little fleck in it, which makes it great for basements, playrooms, workshops, pet or utility rooms, and in my case, a kitchen! This floor comes with a five year warranty, and is easy to clean and install, with a utility knife and a straight edge.
You can lay it and secure it with double-sided tape, to keep it from moving around. I had my handyman do it for me, and he removed the quarter round, laid the floor and reinstalled the quarter round over it.
The floor’s been down for over a year now and still looks new. I’m done with sheet vinyl … it’s just not durable. I do have ceramic in a couple of places, but in homes that are sometimes 100+ years old, you often have to install a new subfloor before laying the tile, and it can be a very costly project. With this type of floor, it doesn’t matter if the floor isn’t perfect in every area. And it’s so easy on the feet!
I’m going to give it more time before giving it a 4-star rating, but it may be a great option for future kitchen, bath and laundry areas. Amorim may be the answer!
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!
It’s official … July goes down as the wettest on record here in Indianapolis. Farmers, golf course and other business owners, and homeowners everywhere are trying to stay afloat. It’s been tough.
As a landlord here in Indianapolis, this summer’s been a challenge for sure. Incredible amounts of rain have fallen throughout the city, and homes and basements have flooded everywhere. The ground has become so saturated, the water has nowhere to go and it comes right through cement block basements.
Years ago, I came across a couple products that helped seal cement block basement walls. They’re UGL Fast Plug, and UGL latex-base Dry Lok. The Fast Plug is a powder cement product that you mix with cold water and apply to the wall — quickly! This stuff sets up fast. You press it into the holes, and it even stops active leaks. But again, you have to work quickly. So, it’s best to mix small amounts at a time. I use a throw-away container to mix it. Your putty knife will clean up with water. Also, I wear thin latex gloves to apply the product.
When that dries, you can paint the entire wall with the latex Dry Lok paint product. It’s really thick, and it is also a sealer. I use a thick-nap, inexpensive roller sleeve — 1/2″ is good — and I just throw it out when I’m done.
These products are a good alternative to having someone come and dig down on the exterior to seal the block from the outside, which is hugely expensive. And I know, from experience, that it often works.
It takes a little time, but why not save some money and try the DIY route if you can? (And pray for a drier summer next year!)