We have owned our duplex for just under four years and have thankfully had good tenants so far. The first tenant was a grad student and came with the apartment. This could be a scary proposition as we did not screen her but both she and her dog were very quiet, she always paid the rent on time, and would even help bring the trash bin back from the curb on trash day (it’s the little things, right?). She really was the ideal tenant and we were sad to see her go after almost two years but she headed out west for a doctoral program.
We kept the rent the same for our second tenants who were a referral from a friend so we did not even have to advertise the apartment. The only time we raised the rent in the almost two years they were renting from us was when our property taxes went up last year. Since we did not want to scare them away and they were good tenants we decided to split the bill 50/50 so the increase to them was only $25 per month.
This summer we were once again in search of new tenants as the current ones were buying a home. This we figured was a good time to raise the rent to current market rates so we increased it from $1275 to $1390 (one good thing about our area is rents are high). We first tried word of mouth through our friends and though we had some good leads, none of them worked out. When word of mouth and Facebook didn’t provide any good leads we posted the listing on a local forum that goes out to our neighborhood. There are quite a few people on the forum so we were hopeful this would work. We got some more leads and eventually found a couple who was interested and was a good fit for us. They loved the place as it is in decent shape, has plenty of off-street parking (and a garage), a washer and dryer, as well as a dishwasher.
Our new tenants don’t actually want to move in until August we ended up working out a deal where we would give them a reduced rate for the month of July, they could sublet it for the month if they wanted, and then the apartment would be theirs for August. So the good news is that we will still earn a little extra money over the year even with one month of reduced rent because the rent is increased for the rest of the year.
As the old tenants moved out mid month we had a couple of weeks to do some maintenance on the apartment before the subletter moved in. The wood floors in the bedroom upstairs are painted (why oh why would you ever do that?!) and the paint was peeling in a few places so having two weeks to change over the apartment was the ideal time to repaint it. As Mr. SFF does not work full time he spent a couple of afternoons over there applying primer and two coats of paint. The floors look so much better, are EMP compliant, and will hopefully be all set for at least a few year. Although the paint is dry it can apparently takes up to 4 weeks to fully cure so we are just hoping the sub-letter will be gentle enough on them to give them time to fully cure.
We also evaluated the wood floors downstairs in the living area and second bedroom and realized that the finish was almost completely worn off. As the floors are original to the house (cira 1890) they are pretty dinged up but beautiful in a old way. As our new renters will have a 80 pound dog we wanted to make sure the floors were protected. When Mr. SFF was finished painting the floors upstairs we decided to use the extra time to put a new coat of poly on the floors downstairs. When else would we ever have this much time in between tenants? We did not bother sanding or anything since they are not perfect anyways. But with just a simple coat of poly (and a second coat in really worn patches) they looked so much better when he was done and should hold up better now.
Another upgrade we made was to the kitchen faucet. The faucet that was there was very low, ugly, the sprayer didn’t work well, and made the kitchen look cheap. The faucet was also one of the first things we replaced when we moved into our unit 4 years ago so I know from first hand experience how horrible the existing faucet was. I asked Mr. SFF to replace it with a new higher one that would be more functional and also look better. I wanted to keep the purchase below $100 and didn’t care if it was a pull down sprayer or not as long as it worked well and looked better than the existing one. Thankfully Mr. SFF is pretty handy and replaced the faucet himself. It looks great and I think give the apartment a little more value.We also replaced a small pieces of molding in front of the shower as the previous one was rotten. It is amazing what kinds of things you can find that need fixing once you get into a space! The bathroom also only has a mirror instead of a medicine cabinet. We had not noticed this before and may replace it as well but will wait until the sub-letter moves out or confirm that our new tenants want one before making this change. Since the duplex was built in the late 1800s and storage is at a premium we know that every little bit of storage space can make a huge difference. I know if I was living there I would want one installed so this is likely in our future as well. And if these tenants are as good as we hope they are, we want them to be comfortable and happy enough to stay for a few years.
Overall, we are very happy with all of the work that we have done over the past couple of weeks. Although there was a little cash outlay to do the work we feel that the apartment looks great and is worth what we are charging. Plus, we at least did not have to hire out any contractors by doing all of the work ourselves so we saved hundreds of dollars there. Here is the total cost breakdown.
Paint, poly and supplies: $122.96
1/4 round for bathroom: $3.94
Light bulbs for track lighting: $20.29
2 hooks for bathroom: $6.54
Spring door stop: $1.97
Net first year additional annual income after rent increase and expenses: $734.30.
Now fingers crossed the sub-letter is gentle on the floors while they continue to cure and the new tenants are actually a good fit.