Friday, April 1, 2011

Preparing Your Condo Investment Unit for Lease

Did your last tenant leave your condo looking a little tattered and torn?  Has your unit seen better days?  If you have a vacant condo rental unit that isn’t quite “move-in ready” – and this can apply to a newly-built suite – there are some simple steps you can take to prepare it for market before beginning your search for a tenant.

If your unit requires any maintenance or renovation, you’ll want to complete such updates before marketing it to optimize your showings.  While you may be thinking along the lines of “minimum effort, maximum gain”, you’ll want to balance this mindset with a long-term investment strategy.  Making more substantial changes can not only make your unit more appealing to renters, lower your vacancy rate and potentially command a higher rent per square foot, but with the right updates, you’ll ultimately increase the market value of your unit. 

In assessing what updates should be made, you’ll want to consider what’s available in the surrounding area.  If you happen to be in a neighbourhood where many newly-built condo units are readily available to renters, keep in mind that this is essentially the competition in your search the right tenant.

Sweep & dust

You’ll want to ensure that your rental unit is free and clear of any dirt, dust and debris.  While this may seem obvious, landlords often forget that even a brand-spanking new suite almost always needs a good cleaning.  In fact, the amount of sweeping, dusting and cleaning you’ll need to do is often higher in a newly built unit than in one that’s already been tenanted.  This is due to the amount of dust and dirt that naturally collects during construction.  Even when the unit itself is complete, continued construction on the exterior of buildings and windows, in hallways and even neighbouring units can bring a fair amount of dust into the condo.  Add to that the dirt and debris dragged in from individuals coming and going, wearing heavy construction boots or shoes during inspections and other follow-ups and you can imagine how dirty a “new” suite will get!

Clear the air

If you’ve ever visited a unit and noticed the smell of it before you saw what was inside, then you know exactly what we’re talking about.  A bad odor can be the greatest turnoff for a prospective tenant.  It’s something that the eyes can’t see, but is often the first thing that a visitor notices. 

Be sure to clear your suite of any bad smells or odors caused by cooking, food, pets or otherwise.  You don’t want to lose a prospective tenant before they’ve even stepped foot in the door!  Conversely, use odor-neutralizers or air fresheners very conservatively.  You may love your ‘coconut-infused-fresh-island-breeze’ room spray, but keep in mind that not everyone has the same taste, and scent overload can act as an allergen to sensitive individuals.

Update your walls

The easiest, most cost-effective way to revive any space is a fresh coat of paint.  Stick with solid, neutral colours for the broadest level of appeal. 

Hints & Tips:  If you don’t want your tenant to paint the unit during the term of their lease or want to ensure that if painted, they return it to the state it was at the beginning of the tenancy, be sure to include such a clause in your tenancy agreement to ensure you’re on the same page.

Improve your flooring 

If your unit is finished with broadloom or otherwise outdated flooring, consider updating to a high-quality laminate.  Today’s laminate flooring comes in a wide variety of colours and styles, is cost-effective, and looks modern and clean.  If possible, consider carrying laminate through to bedrooms as this not only is the current trend, but tends to be more resilient than carpeting.

If updating the flooring isn’t an option, consider having the carpets professionally steam-cleaned if this hasn’t already been done.  Remember, most tenants are looking for a place where they can simply pack their bags and move in, so an apartment that’s clean and move-in ready will always hold greater appeal than one that isn’t.

Hints & Tips:  You can always negotiate for your tenant to either have the carpets cleaned or pay for the cost of a professional cleaning at the end of their tenancy.  If this is the case, be sure to put it in writing to avoid any dispute.

Maintain doors and windows

Ensure that all doors, windows and locks are functioning properly, and be sure to fix any outstanding issues.  Clean windows and doorways, including ones that lead in and out of a balcony or terrace where applicable.

Hints & Tips: As many condos operate with key fob or card access, be sure that your key fobs are functioning properly and consider making a note of fob serial numbers.  This also applies to fobs or cards used for garage access.

Clean filters and lint traps

Be sure to change the filter in the return air panel or furnace and remind your tenant to do the same every few months.  Proper maintenance of your furnace or unit will ensure fewer maintenance issues in the long term.

Also ensure that any lint traps in and around your washer/dryer are properly cleared and again, remind your tenant to do the same.  This will keep your dryer functioning at its best and again will help to prevent future maintenance issues.

Change light bulbs

Simple yet overlooked, you’ll want to be sure to replace any light bulbs that aren’t working.  This includes any fixtures found in showers and closets.  As condos typically lack in the lighting department to begin with, you’ll want to ensure that the lights that are there actually work!

Remember, taking a little time to improve your rental space will positively reflect on your quality as a landlord, and in turn, help you attract a similar quality tenant.