Can you renovate a rental property on a shoe-string budget is a three-part series by Hank Rossi, our Ask Landlord Hank, a veteran landlord and property manager, on his rental renovation and how to reduce material costs and labor.
By Landlord Hank
In part two of the series we look at flooring.
On my rental renovation there is lots to do on the interior to get this place rent ready. In my mind, it’s better to focus all your energy on one unit so it can be bringing in rent and then you can switch your work to the next unit.
As long as the building looks good from the exterior, tenants will want to move in the rent ready unit even if you are still working on another unit.
I decided to tackle the flooring next so I and workers could be able to walk in the unit to do the work.
Also, I prefer tile to other flooring since it looks great, is relatively inexpensive and is extremely durable.
I want my floors to have a timeless look so I now use tile that looks like wood.
Tile that looks like hardwood
So many people see the floors and assume they are hardwood when they are really tile.
When this project was done, wood-looking floor tiles weren’t available yet at any kind of reasonable price. The big box stores and tile stores had decent looking tiles at good prices but I found them boring and thought I could find what I needed for less.
I was replacing carpeting in five bedrooms.
First, I needed a tile guy. My first stop was referrals. I asked around and couldn’t find anybody so my next stop was Craigslist.
Next, I found a tile layer that had great references and a reasonable rate.
Then, I went to Craigslist again for tile. I found someone that had left over tile from a project that was very nice but was only enough for two bedrooms. I bought that for very little and then found tile that was almost an exact match for other existing floor tile, for the remaining 3 bedrooms.
Again, almost a give away price. I paid about $1,400 for a professional tile job, labor and materials, in 5 bedrooms- both sides of duplex-the largest bedroom being 18 X 13.
There is no way I could not have carpeted those rooms for that amount of money. No more carpet cleaning between tenants, and no more worn, stained carpet needing replacement every few years.
Just a great look that is easy to take care of and will be there for a long time.
Let me diverge from this rental renovation for a few minutes to discuss a topic that could save you lots of money on renovation and maintenance, if you are able to use some of these ideas.
Where can you get supplies other than “the store?”
Where can you get needed supplies for your projects other than “the store”?
A little personal history before we get to that information.
When I first decided to get into real estate rentals, I knew I would not be buying brand new properties as I didn’t want to pay top dollar.
I knew that if I could buy a nice rental that needed work I could get a tremendous discount because many people don’t know how to do what is needed to repair a property. Don’t want to do it. Or, are afraid it is going to cost too much money to have professionals do the repairs, bingo!
I knew one area I could save money would be to buy needed supplies cheaply. BUT, I knew I was going to need storage for my supplies and luckily I had a section of my basement that was garage accessible and about 1,200 square feet so I could do some serious storage.
Craigslist can work in a rental renovation
I lived in Atlanta at the time and there is always building going on there. I started going to yard sales looking for things I could use. Folks would buy a home and personalize it-maybe change out appliances to stainless steel-I could sure use spare appliances, or light fixtures, ceiling fans, chandeliers, carpeting, tile, doors, etc. You name it, great renovation supplies on sale every weekend.
Then there is Craigslist! If you live in a large market like Atlanta you almost don’t need to stock anything. You can search “materials” for what you need and often can find it almost immediately, at a huge bargain.
If you live in a smaller town, then you’ll need to look more and it will take longer to find what you need or maybe it would be worth it to look in Craigslist for a nearby larger city. Please see attached ad.
Landlord Hank’s search for low-cost appliances
I needed a dishwasher (white) for a unit, looked on Craigslist, found an ad and made arrangements for pick up. I was going to buy the stove and refrigerator too, but I told the seller the appliances needed to look good at they were going in a rental. The seller disclosed some dents on front of refrigerator that photo doesn’t show, so I didn’t buy that but did purchase the stove and dishwasher for $100.
A key to rental renovation on a shoe-string budget
I’ve been using Craigslist for at least 10 years and have never been cheated. I’ve seen articles that had defects the owners didn’t know about or that didn’t show up in photos. I make sure appliances work before I buy them, I try all switches, lights, etc.
For microwaves (over the stove) I make sure the bracket is there to hang on the wall and the bolts from upper cabinet are there too.
For refrigerators, I make sure all shelves, brackets, door gaskets are intact and look good. I have bought some refrigerators that didn’t work for very long but they were working when I bought them.
My thinking is, if I pay $100-150 for a refrigerator and I have to replace it, then I’ve paid $200 to $300 for an item that could cost $500 and up new.
Most times I get lucky and a refrigerator lasts years. I usually pay so little for my appliances, that if it fails or something breaks that is not an easy fix, I will scrap it and buy another.
Always buyer beware though
Always, buyer beware. Make sure you are inspecting what you are buying very well and you know what you are buying works and functions as it is supposed to. If not, forget it and look elsewhere. If an appliance fails, I usually strip it of all usable parts.
Appliance parts are very expensive if you have to order. If a refrigerator goes down, I often take shelves, brackets, handles, light bulb, etc. Pretty soon you have your own appliance parts warehouse.
Make sure you are organized in your warehousing so you can find what you need when you need it.
If you only have a little storage area, this strategy may not work for you. Builders supply stores-these establishments have used supplies-canceled orders from builders, overstocks, etc. with discount pricing. Also Habitat for Humanity Restores infrequently have some deals, connections you make by talking to people-I met a guy that owned a used appliance store and he was the contractor receiving appliances that were returned to Lowe’s-maybe had a dent in the side, etc. that Lowe’s couldn’t resell.
Another time, I found someone selling their home to a developer. The home was being torn down so many new homes could be built on that site. I was able to strip the house of usable items.
I bought 11 almost new energy efficient windows, sliding glass doors, interior doors, toilets, etc. We had to do the work of removing the items-but when I pay $200 for items that cost over $10,000 new, I’m a happy camper.
If I am buying a property and I know for sure it is going to close, I make my renovation plan prior to closing and in that four to six weeks I start securing materials I’m going to need.
I’ve purchased very few brand new appliances, for my own rentals.
Read Part 1 in the series:
Can You Really Renovate A Rental Property On A Shoe-String Budget?
Renovation Of A Rental Property On A Shoe-String Budget Part 3
Ask Landlord Hank Your Question
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