If you’re a new landlord, there’s one thing you’ll learn faster than anything else on your new business endeavor: It does not pay to be cheap or hasty when it comes to selecting finishes for your rental. Though it seems counterintuitive—spend less up-front and make more in the end, right? —choosing durable, long-lasting flooring, paint, appliances and more is actually the wiser choice. Constantly dealing with repairing, replacing and concealing broken and weathered features is a time-consuming, costly and stressful way to run your rental business. Buying high-quality is generally also a much eco-friendlier and responsible approach to designing a self-sufficient and sustainable rental property. Here’s how to do it.
- Faux Wood Blinds—While real wood is great, you may be surprised to find that faux wood blinds are often more durable. Offering the same attractive look as genuine wood, faux wood is better at enduring in demanding and humid environments because it’s less likely to warp or swell when exposed to moisture. The great thing about this option is, unlike most things on this list, faux wood is actually the cheaper alternative compared to other kinds of window treatments, so you get top-notch style and durability without a higher spend when you go the faux route.
- Hardwood or Tile Floors—This is one of the more obvious ones on this list, but it’s not to be ignored! Hardwood floors certainly cost more up-front, deterring many landlords from the investment, but they have the potential to last for literally decades, with some hardwood floors sustaining for over a century. Sure, they’re not zero-maintenance, and you’ll eventually need to refinish and repair them, but they require significantly less attention than other types of flooring. In wet environments, go with porcelain tiles, as they’re the most durable, dense and heavy-duty tiling option.
- Simple Appliances—Don’t get us wrong, we all love playing around with the high-tech fridges in the appliance aisle, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense to install a complicated, Wi-Fi-enabled, touch-screen-equipped dishwasher in your rental unit. Manufacturers are still working out their glitches, and there’s usually more that could go wrong on these units. It’s best to keep things simple and straightforward when it comes to appliances. Oh, and get the warranty!
- The Right Kind of Paint—Welcome to the world of landlord-ship, where you’ll learn more about paint than you ever thought possible! First word of warning: don’t select paint based on price. Interior paints come in various finishes with various technical features that contribute to their overall durability and performance. In the rental, it’s a good idea to go with durable and long-lasting interior paints with a matte enamel or semi-gloss finish, as these are formulated for heavy, long-term use. Stop by your local paint store and talk to an expert about your specific rental environment, as moisture, temperature and other factors may play into which paint is best for your space.
- Door Stops—It’s such a small thing, but one that makes a big impact for property owners. Door stops prevent doors from opening too widely, which can put too much stress on the door and leave marks and damage on the walls or molding. Those springy, metal doorstops cost around $1, so you can definitely afford to sprinkle them throughout your rental in order to keep the walls and doors neat and clean.
- A Low-Maintenance Garden—Got a rental with a lot of grass? The very first thing you should do is to gut it and plant a low-maintenance, low-water garden, complete with evergreens, native grasses (which, when chosen properly, will require much less water because they’ll be suited to your climate), paving stones, gravel and other drought-tolerant landscaping. Cutting the grass, so to speak, can save you tons on maintenance and utility costs over the life of your rental. Note: You don’t need grass for livable green space if you replace it with artificial turf or an expansive patio.
- Composite Decking and Fencing—This is yet another unusual case where, shockingly, real wood gets trumped by the fake stuff. If you’re building or replacing your rental’s deck, fencing or shed, resist the urge to go for anything lumber-based. Instead, select a composite material—often made of wood fibers mixed with recycled plastic—for a more durable option. This material is highly resistant to stains, splintering, warping, rotting and splitting. In other words, it’s virtually maintenance-free, which is as good as it gets for landlords. The downside is that it’s more expensive up-front than lumber.
- Real Wood Cabinets—Why is it that solid wood is good sometimes and bad others? Like your floors but unlike your decks, your cabinets should be constructed from the solid stuff. The other options are typically medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or solid wood finished with a thin veneer, which is likely to peel or fade. MDF is not a terrible choice all-in—it doesn’t warp or crack like solid wood does in certain conditions—but real wood wins here due to the fact that, like hardwood floors, it can be refinished down the road.
When it Comes to Rentals, It’s Worth Spending More
As you can tell from the above list, price is not a good indicator of the best building materials. Sometimes, it actually makes more sense to go with the more affordable option—like in the case of window blinds, for example—while other times it is absolutely worth your while to shell out more for the “premium” option, so you save more over time. In the end, your goal should be to design a space that will last through dozens of tenants, so you should make selections based on what’s the strongest, most durable and most attractive option, not what’s the most affordable or the most expensive.