Savvy Ways to Renovate Your Rental Property Kitchen

Renovate Your Rental Property Kitchen

As the owner of a rental property, you are probably constantly asking yourself how you can maximize return on your property. There are many ways you can do so, including increasing square footage by adding rooms, having the yard and land professionally landscaped, or even remodeling from the outside in. But these things can be really expensive, and may not even be possible if you own an apartment, condo, or townhome. 

Kitchens are excellent sites for renovation in rental properties because they provide more opportunities for creative upgrading as they inherently demand more built in amenities, requiring cabinets, countertops, lighting, appliances, and more. Further, surveys have found that kitchens have more influence on renters when it comes to their decision to rent than any other room in the property. This is also true for buyers, so renovating the kitchen could also be key if and when you decide to sell your rental property.

One thing to have in mind as you plan your renovations is your budget. The point of renovating is to make more money, not lose money. It is important that you calculate, perhaps with a financial advisor, what your “sweet spot” would be in terms of spending and return of investment. Utopia Management, who have managed rental properties for 30 years, share some simple ideas to freshen the look of the kitchen, as well as some strong advice for investors on how to handle the big upgrades.

Here are some ways you can renovate your kitchen:

1. Tiling and Backsplash 

Installing backsplash tiling along the walls of your kitchen not only is a great way to protect the walls from foods and liquids while cooking, it also instantly elevates the look of your kitchen. There are endless options as far as which tiles you can choose, but subway tiling in particular seems to be growing in popularity. 

Subway tiles are typically 3 inches by 6 inches, and are laid horizontally so that the edges off each tile meet the center of the tile below and above it (referred to as 50% offset), but they can be arranged however you would like. Subway tiles are also known to be one of the more affordable options for kitchen backsplash, and are also easy to find. 

You may also choose to do natural stone tiling, or funky spanish tiling, for example. Whatever you end up choosing for your backsplash, it is key that it pairs well with your cabinetry and countertops, as it is meant to enhance an aesthetic scene, not disrupt it.

2. Fixtures

Upgrading the faucet is a very inexpensive update that sets a quality tone for the whole kitchen. Choose something modern or classic to fit the look. Opt for the type with a pulldown or pullout sprayer, as they are functional, popular, and up to date looking. Be sure you choose a finish that matches the appliances and accents: polished chrome, shiny chrome, brass, and other finishes must match or you’ll lose the visual appeal the new faucet brings to the room.

3. Countertops

Replacing kitchen countertops can be a bit more expensive than installing backsplash, but countertops are literally where people do their kitchen work.  Upgrading them to make them more attractive and functional is worth the cost, especially if they are dated.

Quartz and granite are the two most common materials for countertops, and for good reasons. Quartz and granite are both available in many colors, are more affordable than other countertop types, and are very popular among renters and buyers alike. Quartz does not need to be sealed, and is super easy to clean and maintain. Granite is a bit harder to maintain as it is porous, but because it is a natural stone, each slab of granite is unique, and would instantly add something special to your kitchen. Granite is also available in more colors than quartz. If you are between quartz and granite, quartz is recommended for rental properties because of its durability. 

Other materials for countertops include wood, cement, marble, and more. Prices obviously vary depending on many factors, so if replacing your countertops is something you are considering, go ahead and visit a local showroom to see your options in person and get a better sense of what would work for your space and your budget. 

4. Cabinets 

Renovating cabinets is one of the most expensive kitchen projects to take on. But there are upgrades you can do without replacing them all.

Replace door hardware. It’s surprising how dramatic the effect is from installing updated, modern-looking handles and knobs. Ranging from $3-6 on the low side translates to an inexpensive face lift. Some sleek gold or silver cabinet handles will instantly modernize a kitchen. Similarly, little glass or stone knobs on cabinets will add a bit of charm. 

Paint cabinets.  This won’t be appropriate in  many situations, but wood cabinets can be painted or refinished. 

Replace just the doors. If the kitchen is in dire need of an update, consider door fronts only. 

If you do need to get all new cabinets, some materials and styles are more affordable than others. In general, pre-made cabinets are the better option for rental properties because they are more affordable and easier to install.

Shaker cabinets are very popular because they are basic enough to complement most home styles, but not so basic that they are boring. Shaker cabinets are rectangular and minimalistic and feature a smaller rectangle engraved on the main panel, giving the cabinet a framed look. As for affordability, shaker cabinets can be quite affordable, but if you add special features such as glass paneling, or require custom cabinet work, the price can jump up. But this is true for all cabinet types. Other common cabinet types include raised panel, slab, and beadboard. 

It is important to also note that replacing countertops and cabinets should be done by professionals. Because they are such large and dominating forces in a kitchen, an improper install can affect functionality and attractiveness greatly. 

5. Flooring

Kitchen flooring might seem like a larger project to be concerned with when it comes to a rental property,, but if the kitchen has old and worn down tiles, hardwood, or vinyl flooring, it can make the kitchen feel less clean and detract from its overall appeal. 

A quick fix is to buy very sturdy and attractive kitchen mats, the type that have a cushion for back pain will end up feeling like a ‘plus’ to a tenant. And the mats will detract from the visual mars on the flooring. 

But replacing the floor in general is a longer term investment that can save money when done wisely. If you replace the floor, choose something long-lasting and durable which will pay for itself.  In general, vinyl flooring or tile is considered the best for rental property, because it is affordable, durable, and aesthetically versatile. Avoid hardwood as it is expensive and  will warp if there is a leak or other water damage.  

6. Lighting

These days, people are all about light and bright. If the kitchen is dark, or does not have a good source of natural light such as an east or west facing window, it is very important to upgrade the artificial lighting so that your kitchen feels welcoming and fresh. After all, a kitchen is for cooking, and no one wants to cook in a dark kitchen. You can also add lighting strips to the undersides of the upper cabinetry to highlight the countertops underneath. Both of these are inexpensive upgrades.

Whichever upgrades you decide on, stick to design choices that are versatile and can attract all kinds of tenants. Stay neutral. And stay modern unless the home has a distinct vintage feel. Upgrading wisely will attract the most tenants and keep your property in great shape for longer.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.