Dear Kari: What Are Some Inexpensive Things I Can Do That Will Add the “WOW” Factor to My Apartment Vacancies?
By Kari Negri, Chief Executive Officer, SKY Properties
First, I would like to say that although the apartment market in Los Angeles has always been very competitive, I think that it is going to be even more so now that newer buildings have been running specials and people are doing a lot of moving around these days. As apartment owners, we are going to need to step-up our “game” in order to be competitive in today’s market.
You cannot deny the importance of making minor renovations when renting your apartment building. Not only does doing so add a “WOW” factor to your property, but it may also increase the chances of renting your apartment faster and for much longer. There are various options available to you when it comes to renovating a rental property, and you can do plenty of things to make your rental property more appealing without having to spend thousands of dollars.
In this article, I have included some inexpensive, yet attractive cosmetic changes that you as a property owner can make to an apartment building to best attract potential renters. I think the most important thing to remember is that a “WOW” factor for you may not be a wow factor for someone else so try to stick with doing upgrades that will resonate with prospective tenants. Although I make some specific suggestions below on what is possible, every situation is unique, and as a result, the right solution is going to be different at every rental property.
Let’s start with my suggesting what not to do…Do not paint a loud accent wall. Paining a bold color could keep someone from renting your apartment. Right now, bold colors are in so I would suggest painting about 3 different color boards about 3×5 feet each and leaning them up in the unit so your prospective tenants can choose from them. You will want to look online to see what colors are currently popular and available but you also want to make sure that the chosen colors do not clash with your floors or other existing elements like tile or wood trim.
Never add elements to your rental units that will not generate more rent or make your units rent faster. Focus on things that make your units more marketable and on things that could bring more money if within your budget and readily possible such as the addition of a dishwasher or central air conditioning or even a washer and dryer in unit. These are items that definitely can get you more rent dollars, but many things need to be considered like the amount of power they need, how much water they use and so on. At one property, we added wine refrigerators to some of our units with a shelf above it to hold bottles and this was a huge “WOW” factor, a lot of fun to do and very inexpensive.
Obviously, remodeling a kitchen can get very expensive, but I have found that it is almost mandatory to do this type of renovation. How you do it will depend on your budget and how outdated a kitchen (or bathroom) might be, but these things just cannot be ignored – address them and get the work done. A very plain and very simple and clean kitchen can be sufficient with good lighting and some decorative accessories.
Now, here are some things that you should consider doing:
Upgrade Lighting. Most rental properties have a lot of competition. Properties may require essential repairs from rewiring to just minor upgrades. The question you must ask yourself is: “How can I make my apartment better and more attractive than the apartment next door?” Lighting is important in every rental unit and making the most of it can be simple or hard. Doing something simple like replacing light bulbs with energy efficient ones is easy to do and not that expensive anymore. However, many of my clients ask me, “Why I would replace bulbs where I do not pay the power bill?” The answer is that many residents now want to do their part in contributing to a green planet, and they also want to save money.
Changing the temperature and brightness of bulbs can completely change the look of your property. Consider replacing traditional light bulbs with smart bulbs as they save energy and I have read that meeting several energy standards is so important to many that they are willing to pay more to feel like they are part of a solution. Whether you agree or not, good lighting makes a vacant apartment look more impactful and livelier. This is where you can add a “WOW” factor to your rental unit by upgrading light fixtures. Fixtures are sometimes the only amenity available to change in some rental units, so spending a little extra here can make a big difference. Check for discount stores and sales and make choices that are appealing to a wide range of people.
Add Trims. Although this may be a minor change, it can also get very pricey, so be careful what and how you choose. Adding boarders can range from wallpaper to a paint design and can give your rental units an amazing and refined look. You can add border trim like crown molding or nice baseboard to change the look of your apartment units. According to expert home stagers, adding a depth and frame to your window frames or door faces instantly upgrades the feel and look of your property.
Make a Feature Wall. A feature wall is an interesting way to add some uniqueness and appeal to your rental property, and it is a little different than an accent wall. There is no need to make a feature wall in all the rooms – you can choose some front walls, such as the kitchen or living rooms, and create it. A feature wall is a wall that is decorated in a manner that does not only stand out, but also instantly captures the attention of potential renters. Try anything that suits your budget like a high bookshelf, a wall-to-wall back drop, or a plant shelf. This will surely add a “WOW” factor to your rental unit. In one of our units, we added three-dimensional blue butterflies, and it was an amazing look.
Upgrade Bathrooms. By making some simple changes, such as swapping out faucets, and replacing old shower heads, you can really transform the look of your bathrooms. Changing out small counters to granite or quartz can be inexpensive for small pieces or putting a tile between the sink and the mirror that is in style and can easily be changed is another idea. Small upgrades here can make a big difference here.
Some Final Thoughts. Try brainstorming, and you will come up with all kinds of ways to make inexpensive changes to your rental property and stay well ahead of the competition in rental market. Take a look at homes that are remodeled or new homes for ideas and always look at what your competition is doing, and just do it much better!
Kari Negri is the Chief Executive Officer of Sky Property Management and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. Do you have a question for me? Please send your questions and comments to me at Kari@SKYprop.LA.