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Planning and Designing Homes for the Rental Market


Whether you are planning a new build or buying existing real estate, if your intention is to rent that home out as an investment, then careful consideration should be given to the layout and finish of the property. A well designed rental home will not only keep your tenants happy and hopefully continuing with their lease, but will make your property desirable to prospective renters when it is back on the rental market. How you approach the design of a rented real estate is often very different than when designing your own home and it is important that the property is planned so that it is ideally suited to its intended market.

Durability

One key point of consideration with many aspects of a rental home is durability. Although the idea of finding the perfect tenants who care for your property as you would for your own home is a nice one; it is very unrealistic, despite the rigorous tenant screening you may have undertaken. Even the best tenants are unlikely to care for their rented home as they would if they owned it and being a landlord means expecting wear and tear and occasionally damage to the property. Designing for durability is a sure-fire way to keep your rental property looking pristine for years to come.

Flooring

Off-white, thick pile carpets, however luxurious looking when installed will soon be a patchwork of stains and spills in a rental property. In fact, it might be worth dispensing with carpets all together if possible. Although hard wood flooring is expensive to install and isn't damage resistant, it will fare a lot better in terms of wear in comparison to carpets. Furthermore, when one set of tenants move out, a clean and polish can be much quicker than having to draft in a carpet shampooing service. Where wood flooring is not possible and carpet is a must, there are two approaches which can be taken: fitting a cheaper carpet with a view to replacing it every few, say five, years; or paying a little more for a thicker more durable composition of carpet. Either way resist the urge for light colored carpets and invest in decent quality underlay – this will keep your carpet lasting for longer regardless of which carpet you buy.

Kitchens

Kitchens can be big selling points for homes and the same is true to some extent for rental real estate. If your property is likely to appeal to young professionals who might be eating out more then you may well get away with a smaller kitchen than a rental targeted at families who obviously require a bigger kitchen preferably with space for a kitchen table. In terms of durability, while it might be tempting to install a cheap kitchen, consider how it will be affected by wear and tear; will hinges come loose or drawer mechanisms become less smooth? One aspect requiring particular attention is the durability and appropriateness of the kitchen work surfaces. Wood is generally not ideal for any type of rental property, being more prone to marking and damage than other surfaces. However, the more durable the surface, such as granite or composite stone, the more expensive. An important question to ask when selecting work surfaces is, what will happen if my renter puts a hot pan straight from the stove onto the worktop? This is likely to happen frequently in a rented property and should therefore guide your decision.

Maintenance

The best plan and design for rental real estate is one that lends itself to minimal maintenance while the property is occupied but also easy maintenance during changeover periods. One common sense aspect of maintenance is painting the walls throughout the property in the same color paint and a shade which is inexpensive, neutral and readily available (i.e. unlikely to go out of production). This way, slapping on a fresh coat in between leases can be undertaken quickly and easily. An often neglected part of rental properties when it comes to planning is the garden. A low maintenance garden is a must as they can quickly become overgrown and riddled with weeds during even a short lease. Consider minimal areas of grass and opt for larger decked or paved areas as an alternative. When selecting plants for any borders buy varieties which do not require considerable pruning or attention and which will not grow very large very quickly.

Cover Yourself

All this attention to design is important but you also need to ensure you have protected your property with the appropriate cover. If you are renting the property furnished you will not only need building insurance but also landlord contents insurance. To ensure that you get the right level of cover, compare landlords insurance and keep an eye not only on the price but what exactly is covered by the policy. Even if you decide to manage the rental property yourself, employing a professional company to take an inventory of the contents and the property's condition is vital to the successful resolution of any replacement or repairs that you feel the tenants might be liable for once their lease expires. Furthermore, make certain that you have a solid lease with the necessary provisions for the tenants' liability for damage to the property and its contents; as after designing the perfect rental the last thing you want is a dispute over damage.

by Evelyn Robinson