"We've seen where Harley-Davidsons
were rebuilt in the living room or cigarettes were ground
in the carpet," says Los Angeles-based real estate
investment adviser Lisa Vander. "A lot of my really
great thrifty and profit-minded investors are shifting
from carpet to tile and putting in throw rugs."
Randel agrees. "I
don't care how nice the people are and how big a security
deposit, there will always be carpet issues," he
says. "We used wood flooring; the worst thing you
had to do was re-sand and re-stain. In the kitchens,
you do tile or linoleum."
To keep kitchen remodeling costs down,
interior designer, real estate investor and author Sharon
Hanby-Robie suggests stock cabinets from a home-improvement
store. Also, if you're gutting the kitchen and have
some flexibility in the layout, visit the major kitchen
showrooms and ask if they're getting rid of any displays.
They change those out about once a year, she says. You
can also scour Habitat for Humanity resale stores for
interesting architectural details on the cheap.
You can make your rental unit stand out
from the competition, Hanby-Robie says, by installing
a basic dishwasher and offering a washer and dryer.
"Gals don't want to have to go to the Laundromat,"
she says. "That will make renting your place so
Of course, you can't get any cheaper than
free. Real estate investor Brent Knittel has eight condos
in Lake Tahoe, Nev., and has remodeled all of them on
his own. A high school special education teacher, he's
on a tight budget, so he keeps an eye out for used,
"If someone is upgrading to a new
appliance, I'll be there with my truck to take their
old appliance," he says. "I'll yank it, store
it and use it in the next remodel. I always take refrigerators,
and washers and dryers are selling points. A lot of
rental units don't have those."
That strategy is fine for rentals, says
Irwin, but it won't work on a resale.
"There have been huge changes in
appliances in the last 10 years," he says. "If
you want top dollar in a house, you have to replace
appliances with new ones that look good. There is a
level just above the basic one, but looks pretty darn
good, that's a good line to put into the property. They're
not expensive but they're expensive-looking."
One final way you can spruce up an investment
property is to update the lighting. New lights in the
hallways, bedrooms, baths and kitchen can make a world
of difference, says Steve Berges, a Lake Orion, Mich.-based
real estate investor and author of "101 Cost-Effective
Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home."
"You want bright and cheery,
not dark and dreary," Berges says. "In some
older houses, the lighting fixtures are so dated and
worn out. You can buy $500 worth of lights and dress
that house up on the inside."
Posted: April 12, 2006