Upgrading a rental

marvelousmarvinMarch 29, 2007

Question for owners or landlords:

When you need to replace something, how do you walk the line between getting something so cheap that it will immediately break down and getting something too nice that's going to break down anyway because the tenants won't treat it as carefully as they would if it was their own. Do you go for quality, or the cheapest because you know it will break down anyways with tenants?

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What are you talking about?

Appliances, I buy from a very large company that sells scratched and dented items. Stainless steel fridge and a black oven cost me around $600! Not apt sized. Basically I got some premium appliances for the price of junk. The dents are not seen due to cabinets and the first tenant will put minor scratches in it anyway.

Flooring, I go for inexpensive ceramic tiles, (hard to break and dont burn or scratch like vinyl) Upstairs have carpet, mid grade burbur, groun floors have a inexpensive pergo like flooring. The pergo is about 1.5 times the price of carpet but I've never had to replace a unit yet.

I go cheap smoke detectors, CO2 detectors, light fixtures and water faucets. I pick everything out myself and wont but stuff that looks cheap or junkie.

Really depends on the product, repost with more specifics if you'd like more details.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 10:37AM
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Overall, I go middle of the road. As nfllifer said, depends on the project. I find it helps to keep a mental list of what will probably need replaced at any given property in the near future, if I come across a whopping good bargain while at HD or Lowe's, I'll grab that bargain. Light fixtures (interior and exterior), I get very inexpensive but nice looking (my biggest compliment I get from applicants is the house doesn't look like a rental ;) Two of the three houses have nearly all original hardwood throughout, but in baths/kitchens we have vinyl. Bathtub area walls are tiled. I put a tub surround in one house several years ago, never again. It looks terrible already. A plain white tile would have cost about the same and still be in great shape. Replaced a faucet early on in this job with a cheapie that looked nice and will never do that again, it sprang more leaks, after 3rd trip over DH bought a mid-line price Delta, no more troubles. Remember time is $$ too, so ask yourself if it's something you're going to be running over and repairing a lot and if a bit of an upgrade would require less repairs. Furnaces I replaced all with Trane, because weekend/night service calls can be astronomical ($90 just to show up). When I added up the cost of the service calls on the old ones, it was whopping. Outside AC unit I just tried a Goodman, it's only been in one year, but I saved several hundred, we'll see how it performs. If well, I will use that brand again. Paint, I go with Glidden or Pittsburgh mid-line. Repaint too much to pay $30/gal. Two houses have vinyl siding (done before I took over mgmt) so that helps, very low maintenance. But one house has white aluminum that still is sound, so we're leaving it. But one particularly destructive tenant banged it with his car door on several occasions, and after he moved neighbors told me his kids would stand outside and wail on that section of siding with sticks. I painted those spots with matching paint because it was silver siding showing through. (Was never so glad to get a tenant out, that bunch was so destructive.) Entry doors (which I seem to replace a disproportionately high number of times) are basic steel, half moon window, about $150. Storm doors, inexpensive. All 3 houses have electric garage door openers now. The 3rd house we didn't have one till last year (tenant didn't use garage for vehicles but as workshop with tools). Some idiots tried to break in and bent the overhead door panels trying to lift it, so we installed an electric opener and braced the panels with steel brackets on the interior side, so now the door won't budge if anyone yanks on it. (The 'burglars' did come back again, but didn't get in.) Counter tops are laminate. (I'm ratting through the list mentally, we completely overhauled one house while vacant several years ago, and another tenant is helping with labor on the place he's in, so I'm giving him a cut on the rent. That's working out well.)

It's tricky, because you don't want to sink top of the line into everything, or it will take forever to recoup the costs and you truly don't know how people live till you get them in the house. An ideal candidate on paper can be one who has a nasty temper when imbibing too much and punches holes in the walls or kicks dents in the door because he can't find his keys. It's a real pain replacing things after you've worked so hard to make it look nice.(With exception of 'involved' electric , plumbing and HVAC, we do as much of the labor as we can ourselves, so save $$.)

And we don't provide appliances (again, houses not apartments). It's never been a hindrance in renting. We stopped because of a) damage or b) appliances getting moved along with their belongings when they bolted mid-lease, middle of the night.

What type of work are you thinking of doing?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 7:26AM
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One thing I try to do is standardize. Every apt. and at one time I had over 100, got the same toilet, same faucets, same carpets, same light fixtures, same brand door locks (mastered), etc.. I only have 12 apts left, but if I get a call for a toilet acting up or a faucet drip, I know I only have to take one box of parts because I know exactly what I am going to see, Also, I can keep parts on hand because it is only for one brand.
I did't pick the cheapest light fixtures, but about mid range. I have used only Delta faucets for 30 years. I now have a supplier who furnishes faucets that look and act exactly like Deltas and use Delta repair parts. They are 1/2 the cost of Delta and I haven't seen any difference.
For years I put in only Mansfield toilets. When the US Feds mandated low water usage models, the ones that Mansfield put out didn't work well. I tried the cheaperst Kroler and have used them ever since....$89.00 at Home Depot.
Anyway, the method I use eliminates running around for parts and finding someone who knows how to fix something and it saves a ton of money in the long run.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 12:22PM
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I'm just trying to understand the thinking process others make when they're dealing with their situations.

Its a townhouse in Newport Beach, with partial ocean views and that's about a mile from the beach, which will probably be sold years from now. So, I don't think I could get away with builder grade quality but at the same time, we're ultimately talking about a rental which makes it tricky.

I recently had to replace the dishwasher, and was trying to figure out how much I should spend for that. You could spend just around two hundred to over a thousand dollars but I ultimately got the Kenmore recommended in Consumer's Report as its best buy. Mine was the higher end of Kenmore, and I wonder if I should have gotten the lowest end Bosch since that wasn't that much more expensive since Bosch has greater snob appeal recognition? Or, if I was going to get a Kenmore, should I have just gotten one of the cheaper models?

And, I'm thinking I might want to do something about the kitchen once the tenant moves out. I know last time, I had some problems renting it out because the kitchen is dated with a 80s vibe to it. And, that raises another problem with a rental, where you need to think ahead how well it will last and look years from now. If you were selling it today, you know you'd use stainless steel appliances. But, in my case, I got white instead and shied away from stainless because I didn't know how popular it would be years from now and how easily it will get dented by careless tenants. If I do something with the kithcen, how do I prevent it from getting outdated in a few years.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 6:17AM
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Everything gets outdated especially kitchens. Countertops are fairly cheap. I do them my self and a apartment costs around $150 and takes me 2-4 hours.

I have 5 dishwashers in my units. I have never replaced one in the 7-9 years they have been there. I bought floor models for around $100 and my nicest is around $200. In my area ($600-$700 for 2 bedrooms) tenants could care less about brand and more that its there.

Don't worry about appliances getting out dated. My last pair was a stainless steel fridge and a black oven. Yes I'm sure the black is a fad gone in the next 10 years... but it may need to be replaced then, may stay "in" longer, and for the time being I rent this apartment on its first showing and get an additional $25-$50 rent. One year of the additional rent pays for one new appliance. Same could be said for one month of not lost rent.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 12:26PM
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