When Your First Home Isn’t Yours – Your Fixer Upper & Rental
It’s hard fixing up a home that you don’t plan on living in forever – especially if you plan on renting it out in the future! There’s tons more to think about – things like figuring out a balance between using material you love and what is practical for a future renter! That’s definitely the hardest part for me! And then you have things like choosing paint colors, appliances and flooring!
But lots of us are doing it.
We buy our first home but in the back of our heads we know it’s just thats… a first home. And lots of us hope that by the time we go to buy our second home, we’ll be able to keep the first home as a rental property… am I right?
Well I’m sure this scenario isn’t everyone but a lot of us are in this boat! The current fixer upper we’re working on fits the above situation perfectly.
So now the only problem is when we go to do renovations, or pick paint colors or decide on finishes we have to keep it in the back of our minds that we aren’t going to live there forever so A) we don’t want to spend too much and B) we should pick something that works for the future rental property as well as our current needs.
So below I’m going to go over the things we’ve come across that we’ve had to put extra consideration into because it will be a rental property at some point in the future.
Things to Consider – Your Current Home/Future Rental
Counters for Your Fixer Upper & Rental
When it was time to choose counters I immediately thought GRANITE! Because who doesn’t love granite? But do I really need to spend that kind of money on stone when I won’t be the one enjoying it for years to come? I mean, I’ll enjoy it for a few years but at $55-85 sq/ft do I really want to spend that? (No, no I don’t.)
So my personal opinion on the counters is that you should find a balance between costs, aesthetics and practicality. Don’t spend too much on something too pretty and don’t pick something that won’t last.
For a future rental property you want something that is durable, won’t scratch or etch and won’t crack. For most rental properties, a laminate counter is fine (unless you’re in a million dollar neighborhood) but I personally don’t want to live with laminate countertops for the few years before we rent it out. So what options are left?
There are Butcher Block Countertops
We’ve decided on butcher block countertops for our fixer upper and future rental property. I know there are tons of myths out there about butcher block counters, like they harbor bacteria or aren’t scratch or heat resistant. But while this is true for untreated butcher block, there are tons of products out there to finish butcher block that will protect it from knives, scratches, water and bacteria! The best part about butcher block countertops is that if they do happen to get a scratch or burn mark, it’s one of the easiest counters to fix – just sand out the damage and re-finish!
We’re also incredibly lucky because we’ve found a local place that sells “seconds,” which makes the counters a lot less expensive than going to a showroom. We actually used a piece of butcher block as a “breakfast bar” for our rental property and it’s working out great!
What About Concrete Countertops?
As you can see in the picture above, in addition to a butcher block counter we also did concrete counters in our rental unit. So another option for a first home/rental property is concrete counters! This is what we did in our rental property and they’ve been a hit! Better yet, if you DIY them like we did, they are on the cheaper end of the price spectrum. However, if you plan on contracting out concrete counters, they are considered a custom counter and contractors jack up the price (which is fair because they are extremely time intensive) – so they may be cost prohibitive if you aren’t a DIYer.
Concrete counters, just like granite and butcher block, needs to be sealed every year which might suck with a tenant but it literally takes like 10 minutes and dries fairly quick so it’s not too much of an inconvenience.
Also just like butcher block, concrete countertops can be fixed! Scratches and nicks can be easily sanded out and then resealed. How cool is that? I don’t see anyone touting the fact the granite can be fixed (probably because it can’t!)
Truthfully, the only thing that will be totally low maintenance is going to be laminate counters – just remember that you can’t fix scratches or dents and they warp incredibly easy if subject to lots of heat or water – but they are also cheap to replace.
Paint Colors for Your Fixer Upper & Rental
Unless you plan on repainting before you move out and your tenants move in, you have to think about the paint colors of the house now!
Even though renter’s are a lot less sensitive to paint colors than home buyers, renters aren’t going to want crazy colors. So stick with neutrals in the beige family, white family or better yet (and more in trend) the grey family!
I don’t allow my renter’s to paint because I am soooo particular about the quality of the paint job – I can’t stand to look at drips, smudges and missed areas. So the paint color is something I think long and hard about… will the color go with most home decor? Will it be “in style” for years to come?
I also think about the finish of the paint (matte, satin, semi-gloss, etc.) I personally love a matte finish but it’s much more difficult to keep clean but the upside is that a matte finish is easier to touch up. So my next question is, will a tenant even try and clean up after themselves or should I make it easier on myself when it comes time to flip the unit and use a matte finish so it’s easier to touch up? I’ve usually gone with a satin because it’s a middle of the road paint – not too hard to clean and not too bad to touch up, if you have the knack – and I have a knack for touch up (is that even something to brag about?)
Flooring for Your Fixer Upper & Rental
I feel blessed that I don’t have to make a decision on this one this time around! Our current fixer upper has beautiful hardwood floors throughout (except in the bathroom where we just ripped them out, but that’s a story for another day) and it will cost us less than $200 to finish them ourselves – so that’s a no brainer. All we’ll have to do is sand down the original wood, apply stain and poly and be done with it. If it gets scratched in the future, we’ll just do it again!
But for those that aren’t so lucky and purchased homes with ugly laminate or stained carpet, you have some decisions to make. Personally, I hate carpet in rentals. My entire childhood my parents had rental properties and when I graduated college I became a property manager for a big corporate company so I’ve learned a thing or two. Most people think used carpets are gross and most renter’s don’t take care of carpet the way they should (or would if it were their own.) So I say HELL NO to carpet.
If you absolutely must have carpet, I say lay a durable flooring and then purchase huge area rugs. Most carpet places will bind the edges of carpet for you in any size you need! Then, if you or future renter’s stain the area rug – it can easily be lifted up and a new one put down in it’s place (and of course the cost would be assessed to the renter for damaging the carpet in the first place – but thank heaven for security deposits!) It’s much more difficult to rip up a permanent carpet and install a new one than just throwing area rugs down.
In our rental unit we decided to do a vinyl plank floor that looks like hardwood – and it’s beautiful!! We didn’t opt to do area rugs but the tenants that moved in had their own, so it all worked out!
Appliances for Your Fixer Upper & Rental
Almost all rental units come with appliances – it’s rare that a renter will be okay with bringing or buying their own. Unless you plan on moving all the appliances to your new home and buying new stuff for a future tenant, what you buy now will most likely be what you leave for the tenants (which means you get to pick out new appliances for yourself in the future! YAY!)
Of course I’d love to have a counter depth, stainless steel, smart refrigerator but I am not leaving that behind for the future tenant – nor do I feel like moving a fridge to a new house when the time comes. So I have to think about what I’d buy for a tenant and what I’d buy for myself. What I can and can’t live without. I drink a TON of water so a non-negotiable for me is that a new fridge must have a water and ice dispenser built into the door. Other than that, I am open to any type of fridge that will fit in the space! Lots of tenants are used to those apartment sized refrigerators anyway so I think anything with a water and ice dispenser in the door will be an upgrade.
But again, you have to think about your current needs and there even may be a few people out there who are willing to tote their refrigerator to a new house and buy a cheap apartment fridge when the time comes to rent out the home. I’m just not one of them.
Then there’s the stove… which most people don’t take with when they move. I would love a gas, five burner stove with a convection and regular oven – but after seeing the costs of those bad boys, I think I’ll hold out for my forever home.
Finishes for Your Fixer Upper & Rental
Lastly, I’m going to talk about the finishes throughout the house. There isn’t a huge price difference in the different doorknobs, hinges and hardware like that. However, there is still a huge difference in the prices of bathroom and kitchen fixtures! I don’t get it!
I would love to do black finishes in the bathroom (shower head, faucet, etc.) but they are literally 3 times the price at most places! So again, this is something I’ll save for when I go to renovate my forever home. For now, I think we’ll stick with chrome, because even stainless steel and satin nickel can run 2 times the cost of chrome!
But you have to ask yourself, will you be okay living with chrome fixtures for 2-4 years (or whatever your timeframe for buying your forever home and renting out your fixer upper)? If not, then I say splurge a little on what you want – at least it’s a one time cost and hopefully you only have 1 or 2 bathrooms to do anyway.
I hope this post helped in any small way… and let me know in the comments if you’re one of those people renovating a home that won’t be your forever home! Do you have any tips for the rest of us doing the same thing?!
Personally, I think it’s all about balance. You can’t totally cheap out and buy only things that will work for a future renter. But you also can’t go above and beyond and buy “the best of the best” since you’ll be living there for a few years – you’ll never recoup your money in the long run, if that’s your aim. The best advice I can give is set a budget and stick to it. You might have to give up a few things on your wish list – but just keep telling yourself you can have them in your next home! Right now this is just a fixer upper & rental property – and better yet, it’s setting you up for passive income for life!