As they always say, it’s a renter’s market. And one quick scroll down any of the properties-for-rent aggregator sites will show you as much. There’s sooo much choice for renters!
To stand out within the constraints of your location and price parameters, you need a thumb-stopping property.
One killer way to do this is with a newly renovated or refurbished home. But don’t be tempted to sacrifice an arm or leg to create an Instagram-worthy rental property that you’re going to let to… ahem… students. You must scale your renovation ambitions to your expected return of investment (ROI). Remember at all times that you’re not going to be living at this property, you’re just going to be collecting the rent.
So here are 12 top tips and tricks for buy-to-let landlords who are planning a renovation to their rental property. Rule of thumb: keep things smart for the viewings and durable for the duration of your tenants’ stay.
Remember: what’s the goal of renting out my property?
An assumption is that tenants in the UK don’t care as much about their home as a landlord but this is simply not the case. Ultimately it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the property is safe, warm, clean and practical to live in, and as aesthetically pleasing as their monthly rent affords.
With this in mind, you should find the most efficient and trouble-free ways of maintaining your property to make sure all parties are happy and that there aren’t frequent maintenance headaches. Here are a few:
1. Focus on long-term durability
You really don’t want to have to do a full makeover between every tenancy when these can be as short-lived as 6–12 months. It’s reasonable to do brief touch-ups between tenancies if you invest in durable materials and good workmanship in the first place. This involves more of an initial investment than you perhaps planned for, but it will help save you money in the long run.
2. Kitchens and bathrooms are key
Newly renovated kitchens and bathrooms particularly appeal to renters because they’re clean and untouched. They’re appealing to landlords because you can increase the monthly rent, according to the kind of demographic you want to attract.
A brand new kitchen or bathroom can cost several thousands of pounds, however, and can be long, arduous projects, so calculate that ROI like your life depends on it.
3. Schedule your renovation
The longer you spend renovating, the less rent you receive. All the while your property is vacant, it’s not giving you any return on your investment, so plan ahead and make sure you minimise the amount of time it’s empty.
Set a goal for your renovation, and a realistic timeframe, then work backwards, planning all the tasks that need to be completed and how long they will take. You’ll need to look at the time you have between tenancies and book any contractors you need in advance, hire or buy any tools and supplies so they’re ready to go before your renovation starts.
If you can get your outgoing tenants’ permission to start renovating before they legally vacate the property, this is ideal, but keep the disruption minimal to end the agreement in good faith. This way you’ll also be able to assess the inventory way in advance.
4. Do you need the full makeover, or just a facelift?
There are ways and means to make your kitchen look brand new without doing a full refurb. If your cabinets are fine but the doors are looking shabby, paint or replace them. If your kitchen worktop has seen better days, replace it with a harder-wearing one. If the worktop is solid wood, get it re-sanded and oiled and it will look a million times better.
How often should a landlord replace a kitchen?
If you think long-term about the durability of your fixtures and fittings, and keep the style fairly neutral, you really shouldn’t have to replace a kitchen for 10-15 years.
5. Don’t skimp on cheap, shiny fittings
Referring back to the fact that tenants aren’t as interested in ‘looking after things’ as much as you are; if something is cheaply made, in the hands of tenants it will break.
6. Go darker for more camouflage
A really good piece of advice is to go even more muted with your colour scheme. You may be of the white, bright and airy persuasion – this does look more spacious, but on a white or light background, scuff marks announce themselves to the world like a trumpet in a library. To avoid paying for wall repaints between each tenancy, try muted greys and browns. These can still look very stylish and they camouflage scuffs and marks better. They’re also neutral so they ‘go’ with everything.
7. Check your insurance re: Unoccupied/empty properties
Check your buildings insurance policy for a clause on how long your property can stay empty before your policy becomes invalid. Some buildings insurance policies become invalid if it’s unoccupied/ empty for over 30 days. You might need to get yourself some extra insurance so you’re still covered.
8. Apply for Council Tax exemption
If your property is unfurnished and it’s vacant during your renovation, you may be exempt from paying council tax. Contact your local council and see if you can apply for landlord Council Tax exemption.
Which fixtures shouldn’t landlords skimp on?
There are a few items you should consider investing in that will save you future headaches:
9. Tiles trump everything else
If in doubt, tile it. This goes for walls and floors in bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms – all the rooms that have plumbing and as they can get moist and prone to mould.
For walls, tiles last way longer than paint and they’re resistant to mould. Choose dark grouting – especially for floor tiles where dirt from shoes quickly turns light grouting dark everywhere, but the corners of the room, which looks terrible.
10. Mould-proof your property
In the UK, mould is a common downside to owning a property. It’s also a serious health risk for your tenants, so you must protect them from ill health and yourself from a lawsuit by having a strategy to fight mould. What you’ll need if your property is prone to mould:
- Anti-mould paint or paint additives
- Clauses in your tenancy agreement that make it mandatory for your tenants to air the bathroom and kitchen by using the extractor fans you’ve supplied.
For more guidance, read our How to get rid of mould article.
11. Spend a little extra on good quality flooring
Floors really make a huge impact on the feeling of a property. They obviously get the most kicking out of any of the features of your flat or house, so they’re the biggest receivers of wear and tear.
Where you can, tile your floors for the above reasons. Tough, dark laminate flooring is the second-best choice for hard floors and can be a good choice for bedrooms too.
If you feel you must carpet some of the rooms, make sure it’s thick. Buy a cheap carpet and you will have to replace it more often.
12. Call in the professionals when required
As always, we don’t recommend tackling jobs yourself when you don’t feel fully confident. If a renovating task is out of your skillset, get someone in who does it every day. It will probably work out cheaper than correcting your mistakes.
How do you renovate a rental property?
Keep your renovation project strongly tied to your projected ROI of renting to the type of tenants/monthly income you want. If you don’t expect well-heeled professionals, don’t completely renovate the kitchen and bathroom.
How much should I spend on a rental property renovation?
It depends on how much you stand to gain from a renovation. With a buy-to-let property you need to work out how much rent you can reasonably charge if you renovate. Renovations can cost £10,000 or more, so you need to do some cost-to-benefit calculations to help you decide.
Is it worth renovating a rental?
Yes, absolutely, if your ROI is sound. You can also make a big impact by carrying out lots of smaller, smarter changes like replacing cabinet doors, worktops or fittings, rather than going for a full renovation.