Rental upgrades: five improvements to increase your income

Published: 15/04/2021

The rental market has grown up. Tenancies are running for longer, and with stays of four or more years increasingly common, tenants have higher expectations around the place they're willing to call home.

This spells good news for landlords because those higher expectations come with a willingness to pay a higher rent. More than that, the right improvements will also increase the value of your property, giving you precious equity to finance and expand your portfolio.

But which improvements make the most difference?

There's a fine balance to strike between spending too little, spending too much, and spending where it counts. The key is to create a contemporary and timeless home that's durable and popular to give you wide and long-lasting appeal with minimal maintenance and repairs.

When we’re out on viewings, we see exactly what attracts people and excites them about their next home, and there's no doubt that investing in presentation is rewarded in the quality of tenant and the rent achieved.

Let's take a look at the improvements that will increase your income, attract high quality tenants and protect the value of your property.

From the second the front door opens, the condition of the walls will be staring your viewers in the face, creating their first and immediate impression of your property.

Scuffed walls look dingy and, despite being entirely cosmetic, have a deeply negative impact on viewings. On the other hand, a fresh coat of paint works wonders in any room and elevates everything around it, making it remarkably good value.

Although brilliant white is undeniably bright and a great reflector of light, some tenants find it a bit cold. It's also a magnet for marks! Choose an off-white, soft grey or other classic neutral to give the walls a welcoming hue, with matt white on the ceilings, and white satin or eggshell for the woodwork.

You’ll be pleased to know that not every kitchen upgrade means ripping out the old one and starting again. You can replace doors, handles, splashbacks or worktops for an instant improvement, so look carefully at whether the whole thing really needs to go.

Whether you’re choosing a total refit or replacing selected elements, follow these rules for an enduring, impressive and low-maintenance kitchen:

  • flat-fronted drawers and doors have sleek clean lines and are the easiest to maintain, with white and grey always in vogue and simple to accessorise;
  • brushed steel handles are modern classics and will complement any style and colour you choose;
  • metro tiles for splashbacks are eternally stylish and can add a burst of colour or a contrasting shade;
  • worktops in composite stone or high-quality laminate look smart and are low maintenance, while quartz and granite add a luxurious finish if you want to go higher end. Solid wood tops look great but they need looking after, and the regular oiling and extra work required can make them less practical or appealing.
The presence and quality of appliances attracts more scrutiny than it used to: a dishwasher is no longer seen as a luxury item; an old-fashioned electric hot plate makes cooking seem like a chore; and a washing machine with a small load capacity means continual washday blues.

Investing in well-respected and reliable mid-range brands like Bosch, AEG and Neff is a visible demonstration of your commitment to quality: they make living in your property more enjoyable and tenants love them. You’ll also have long-lasting appliances that need less maintenance and ongoing expenditure, which means less hassle all round.

Floors take a real battering. Everyone walks all over them; furniture sits and moves about on them; bags, suitcases, bikes, strollers and pets all take their toll.

While carpets are soft to walk on, they can become worn and accumulate lines of dust at the bottom of doors, or imprints from previous furniture. Cheap laminate can look good when it’s fitted, but often peels at the edges, lifts at the joins and chips very easily. All this can leave your property looking unkempt and uninviting, negatively impacting your rent.

Engineered wood floors in living areas, halls and bedrooms look smart, are hard-wearing and can make your property look bigger when laid throughout. With a top surface of real wood, they’re a more authentic and luxurious alternative to laminate, but don't come with the price tag of solid planks or parquet. They also last longer and can be sanded down when the surface becomes worn, giving you many years of service.

Medium oak is a classic, safe choice that will go with most people's furniture: it looks great with pretty much anything and your tenants can accessorise with their own choice of rug for some underfoot comfort. If your property is particularly bright, you could add some drama with a darker wood like walnut. Pale woods like birch and maple reflect the light, but they can be more susceptible to marks as well as showing dirt and dust in the joins.

Tenants regularly ask us if they can test the water pressure on viewings, so a powerful thermostatic shower is a priority - dribbling hoses with fluctuating temperatures no longer cut it. People want an invigorating shower experience to start their day, so put them in a good mood every morning, rather than looking for a new place to live.

If your bathroom needs replacing, a plain white modern suite, warmed by grey floor and wall tiles, will provide a timeless contemporary style with universal appeal. Don't skimp on the taps - you'll soon be replacing parts if you go for the cheapest option, and the costs of repairs will eliminate your initial savings. Choose metal finishes like chrome, brushed steel and nickel: they never go out of style and they’re easier to maintain than taps with coloured lacquers.

Storage is vital to avoid an ocean of products piling up, gathering dust and making life difficult. The ideal solution is a vanity unit with a cupboard or drawers below the washbasin, and a mirrored cabinet above.

A modern, inviting and low-maintenance outdoor space is a definite winner, even more so since Covid-19 made getting outside feel like a privilege.

You don't need to recreate the Chelsea Flower Show: in fact, keeping it simple and manageable will win you fans without presenting an overwhelming display of pruning duties. No matter how much they enjoy being outdoors, not every tenant is an expert gardener.

A patio or deck with a paved or timber surface provides a year-round usable space that’s easy to keep clean and looks way better than raw cement. Paired with exterior lighting, you’re effectively giving your tenants another room, day and night, for which they'll happily pay.

Add a few pots planted with spring and summer perennials that bloom again every year, and your tenants will have a colourful, seasonal space where they only need to add water (and much of that is taken care of by our national climate!)

In summary
With proper execution, making improvements to your rental property will increase your income, attract higher quality tenants, reduce void periods and future-proof your property's value. There's no one-size-fits-all amount when it comes to budget, but we're here to help you invest in the things that really matter.

Are you a landlord with a property to rent in or around Berkhamsted and Tring? Our lettings team can help you set the right budget and do the right thing to attract the best tenant and rent.

Berkhamsted office: 01442 863000
Tring office: 01442 820420