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Interior Design for a Rental Property

I love the cross section of real estate investing and interior design because it forces you to get more creative in terms of looking for budget-friendly design solutions that you would have to if you were designing your own home or a wealthy client's home. However, if you are just starting to invest in real estate, you have to make sure your product is appealing enough for others to want to live there. I am a firm believer that everyone should be able to rent a home and feel that same sense of pride of ownership, even if they don't actually own it. And if they do feel this way, they will certainly take better care of your investment property!

Neutral walls so that anyone can see their belongings in the space

So here's the conundrum I come across all the time: how can I turn my class C property into a #pinterest show piece on my shoestring budget? Well there are many things you can do that cost little to nothing, if you're willing to put in the elbow grease yourself.

Let's take my upcoming project as an example:

First things first. Curb appeal.

My next project is located in a quiet fairly cute neighborhood but it is not the cutest house on the block... yet.

It has a gabrel roof, which adds a bit of character. But it also has these huge green metal shutters covering the windows and blocking out all the light. There is some worn out green outdoor carpet on the front porch and the leaves from the fall are still piled everywhere making the yard look a bit messy.

Front of house that needs some clean up

So here's my plan for updating the exterior of the rental property on a very minimal budget:

I'm going to...

  • Give it a good ol' power wash since the siding is aluminum and just a little dirty.

  • Remove this weird mesh found over two of the windows (Not even sure why it was put on in the first place)

  • Clean up the yard by raking up the leaves and trimming the bushes.

  • Paint the door with a pop of color (very #pinteresty!)

  • Remove the awnings to update the look and allow natural light to flow in. I plan to sell them to a local salvage yard so they don't go to waste.

Awnings I will remove

  • Add a planter pot out in front with flowers in bloom. Make sure the color of the flowers compliments the door. Again, this will send the message that you as a landlord care about the aesthetics of your tenant's home and that you go the extra mile to make them happy.

These are all super low cost fixes that honestly anyone could do on their own over the course of a weekend. And the transformation for the exterior will be under $150 bucks!

Next up: Interiors.

I always choose charming little houses that are a bit older because they tend to attract renters who are okay with quirks (Check out my previous blog post on Getting Started in Real Estate Investing to check out the first adorable little house we purchased). If it's a rental, the less money you put into it, the more ROI you get. So I enjoy catering to people who, like me, love an old house with lots of charm! I look for kitchens that are in good enough condition that they just really need a coat of paint to make adorable again. And if there is carpeting, I always look to see if there are hardwood floors underneath. When I find them, it's like finding money in my pocket! It just tickles me pink! :)

So here is my budget-friendly design plan for the interiors:

  • Paint the walls a neutral grey color throughout the house. Why grey? It will last longer. If you paint it white, you will definitely have to repaint it between each tenant because no matter what, the dirt will show. Grey covers up a slight amount of dirt and gives you a shot at possibly saving that expense in the future.

  • Paint the trim and kitchen cabinets white so they pop. Plus the white and grey combo is the new go-to neutral.

Cabinets I will paint

  • Update ugly appliances. As appliances and light fixtures wear out, I will update them with a cuter model. For example, the stove I have in this new place is super old, still functioning but ugly. Looks matter. I will try to get an all white one online and cheap, or maybe even hit up a store to see if I can pick up discontinued floor model at a discount, and then sell this brown and tan one to offset the difference. If I can't find a great deal though, it will remain until it goes kaput.

  • Re-caulk and reglaze the tub. This is a DIY that I will tackle myself. It's not an amazing tub in the first place, but it is small and quirky and I'll be hard pressed to find one of equal size to fit into the space without having to custom order one. So I've youtubed a few videos, done a bit of research and will tackle this in an afternoon. Although drying time will take a couple of days, I'll arrange to do this earlier in the project so it has plenty of time to cure.

  • Rip up the carpets and refinish the wood floors. (Now I admit, this is pricey. But there are ways to cut down the cost. Ripping up the carpet yourself and removing all the tacks and staples can help cut a lot of the labor costs. If you can do that, it will cut the bid in half. I will say this though, if you are not a master floor finisher, don't attempt this one on your own. Get a professional. It's like trying to save money by waxing your eyebrows. One mistake and you are done-zo! Not worth it at all!

  • Paint the kitchen cabinet handles. Because it's an older home, these little touches are charming and cute. Older knobs could be a real selling feature. I'll just give them a little update with a coat of paint and fix them back to the cabinets. Maybe I'll even be bold and do a pop of color!

Cabinets I will paint

  • Add in some decorative element that is memorable: And although I'm not exactly sure what this will be yet, it could be an amazing light fixture in the dining room or a wallpapered focal wall. Just something that will make it stand out in the renters mind when they are visiting several homes. Remember to keep it within reason in terms of taste. You don't want to push too far outside the norm. But you do want to make it stylish enough that it will attract a renter who has good taste and cares about how a place looks. The more into aesthetics your renter is, the more likely they are too take care of your investment property.

All this (minus the refinishing of the floors) is cheap and easy enough for anyone to do. However, painting the entire interior of a house will take time, more time than you realize, but if you have more time than money, go for it. Sometimes hiring local painters just to get it done in a weekend is a better choice if you are trying to get it on the market during a quick turn around.

If I can leave you with one thing: Do not over improve it your rental property. Make it clean, cute, and neutral with one or two designer elements that will stick out in a renter's mind after a long day of touring multiple houses.

Fight the urge to spend money on all the upgrades you would like to fix up if you were living there. You're not living there. You will not get your money back if you do that, which defeats the purpose of taking the risk and investing in the first place. And you are never guaranteed that your tenant will take amazing care of the property. So save your major design strategies for when you invest in a property you plan to flip, not rent out long term.

Feel free to send through any tips you have for sprucing up a rental property and stay tuned for my before an after pics that are coming soon!

Happy investing and designing!


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