Where to Spend Money on Renovations
Update 9/7/17: I love re-reading older posts. The apartment we remodeled rented in 3 days and we got our asking rent which was $250 more per month than we originally thought we’d ask! So this post is GOLD – read through it to find out where to spend money on renovations (that add the most value!)
Hey there favorites! I wanted to share an update on the progress of the renovation of the apartment above the garage of our fixer upper and throw in a lesson about where to spend money on renovations that add the most value. I know I said about 37 posts ago that the next post would be about how the apartment was rented and how we started recouping our renovation costs – which were TRIPLE the original budget, mostly thanks to plumbing issues.
As usual we’re behind schedule on everything with the apartment renovations… but you know what? I’m okay with it. To be honest, 2016 was an anxiety ridden year and I’ve vowed that 2017 is going to be a calmer, simpler year for me – so as long as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and as long as I keep moving towards it (even if slowly) I’m not going to let the things I can’t change bother me.
For instance. I’m not going to let the fact that every single thing we went to do in the apartment turned into a bigger project than we originally anticipated. Because everything that held us up were either necessary or something that added value (which means more in monthly rent and a higher property appraisal).
So that’s what this post is about – the two renovations we did that added the most value to our property (which also means we can ask for more in rent!)
Where We Spent Money on Renovations (To Get the Best ROI)
The original plan for the kitchen renovation in the apartment didn’t change so much as it became more expensive because we kept adding to the design. The boyfriend and I really want to attract the ideal tenant and after watching my parents do it for 29 years and being a property manager for a larger company for 4 years I think I’ve figured out that extra touches go a long way.
People will pay more to have nice countertop; they’ll pay more to have nice cabinets; and they’ll pay more for nice flooring (like the luxury vinyl planks we installed in the apartment). This goes for renting out the apartment as well as selling a home! People like things that look nice and are done right.
So how did our ideas keep getting bigger? Well my original idea to do concrete countertops on the only countertop in the kitchen grew into doing the concrete countertop on the left hand side of the kitchen and adding a butcher block breakfaster bar to the right hand side. BUT THEN when we were measuring to order our RTA cabinets, we realized there was only going to be two upper cabinets, one above the microwave and one above the fridge, which renders them useless for cups or dishes.
So the butcher block breakfast bar turned into the butcher block breakfast bar with upper cabinets. Guys, this is adding hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to the budget. But I care about where the tenant is going to put their cups and plates and I’m hoping the tenant cares too! Because you know what I imagine when their dishware doesn’t have a home? I image bowls and plates with piles of uneaten food in them laying on various surfaces throughout the apartment and a pile of dirty dishes in the sink – all of which only get washed when needed.
I didn’t want to use Home Depot cabinets because the quality of them isn’t up to my standards. I also hate the idea of paying for someone else to put them together when I can easily do that myself. So we purchased RTA cabinets or ready to assemble, meaning we had to put them together. The thing is though they have solid wood doors, 3/4″plywood boxes, and soft close doors and drawers for just about the same price as assembled MDF cabinets from Home Depot and all you need to put them together is wood glue and maybe a screw driver.
Overall, things took a lot longer to get to this point and I’m still not going to give a time frame for when I think we’ll be done. For at this moment in time and for the foreseeable moments in time, we’ll be okay if we don’t get the apartment rented out immediately, so there’s no use worrying and there’s definitely no sense in working ourselves to death. Someone recently gave us the best advice “slow down.”
The original plan was to simply replace the toilet, refinish the tub, get an ‘off-the-shelf’ ready to go bathroom vanity, top and faucet, and use the same flooring as we did throughout the apartment (waterproof luxury vinyl planks). We wound up replacing the tub with a small shower so we could fit a small washer/dryer unit, replacing and moving the toilet, tiling the floor and shower walls, and doing a semi-custom vanity with concrete countertop and vessel sink.
And I won’t get into how we wound up moving the bathroom wall a few inches and replacing every single pipe (which meant opening up the entire soffit in the garage to gain access to the plumbing) as well as replacing the main water line in the front yard, all for a cool price tag of $4,500 – more than my original budget for the entire apartment renovation!
We were basically forced to tile the bathroom floor because it was unlevel enough to cause a noticeable gap between the floor and the shower pan. You could also easily see the reveal was different from front to back of the shower base compared to the floor. By using thinset and tile we were able to blend the transition from shower pan to floor and make the reveal look even to the naked eye. Now that we’re done it looks absolutely fantastic, you would never know the floor is out of level!
Anyway, I’m not worried about how much we had to spend. I know this bathroom renovation will be a good return on our investment.
First, we opted to tile the bathroom shower as opposed to purchasing the glue on back walls because it was about the same cost since we didn’t have to pay for labor. So now you’re probably thinking, “well yeah it’s a good investment if you don’t have to pay for labor.” I still think if you decide to tile your shower walls even if you have to pay for labor, you’ll get a good return on your investment. Bathrooms are an area of your house where you can add a lot of “wow” factor on the cheap because it’s a small area – which means less materials and less in labor costs.
Adding a washer dryer was probably the biggest investment and also where we’ll see the biggest return on our money. We can charge a lot more in rent for simply having a washer/dryer in the unit… who wants to walk to the laundromat in the dead of winter?
As far the vanity goes, I don’t think it’s like “I can charge $15 more a month becuase I have this vanity” but it just flows with the overall finish of the apartment and because I got the materials to do the concrete counter for free, it wound up costing me only $150 which I’ll take because it’s actually incredibly difficult to find nice 18″ vanities on a budget!
Overall, this bathroom is nicer than some of the ones I’ve done in higher end flip homes so here’s hoping we can get enough in rent (and a really great tenant) to match.
If you haven’t gathered from the above jibber jabber here are…
Where to Spend Money on Renovations
You’ve probably heard it before but I’m going to tell you again. Kitchen and bathrooms are where you’ll see the biggest return if you spend money on renovations that appeal to the most buyers. This is as true for flipping houses as it is for getting your own house ready for sale!
2) The Bathroom
The bathroom is a small enough space where you won’t spend a fortune adding small upgrades that make a huge impact. Things like accent borders in a tiled shower and upgraded shower and light fixtures will really give it the wow factor people are looking for. Bead board on bathroom walls is a very popular trend right now or you can try tiling part way up the wall around the entire bathroom for a dramatic change.
Another, quasi expensive thing to do is tile the floor and shower! Instead of a laminate floor or plastic walled shower, pick out a neutral tile that will appeal to the widest range or people. Upgrading the cabinetry is also relatively inexpensive because it’s just ONE cabinet. So whether you purchase new or refinish the old one, at least you only have to deal with one vanity.
Don’t forget to think of your remodel as in investment and don’t do anything that is too custom (like green and purple sparkled counters) or you won’t appeal to as many buyers.
1) The Kitchen
The kitchen is a great place to spend money on upgrades, but can also get very expensive quick – especially when we’re talking about things like countertop choices which can range from $7-$85 per sqft. However, you will get a big bang for your buck in this part of the house as it’s the most frequently used area in a home and weighs heavily on a buyers decision to purchase.
There are a lot of simple and quick upgrades you can make to a kitchen if you don’t have a huge reno budget. For example, did you know you can get after market soft close cabinet dampers[link]? For about $50-$100 bucks you can add this sought after feature fairly easily to your existing cabinets – so long as they are in good condition this will be worth the investment.
The kitchen and bath are two areas of the home where you can be sure if you spend money on renovations you’ll get a good return on your investment. So go ahead and do that border in the shower, the border in the apartment’s bathroom cost $40… what’s $40 in the grand scheme of things? It’s all the small touches that add up, especially if you’re thinking about selling and want to impress buyers. Something I learned from observation is that you can charge more because something looks nicer. If you’re thinking about selling this translates into being able to ask more for your home because it looks nicer than the others on the market.