Decorating your property well will mean you get more interest from tenants & increase the chances of them staying longer. In addition, a well decorated property opens the door for higher rental income. Our landlord’s guide to renovating will help you ensure you’re maximising your properties potential.
When we say renovating, we mean more than just a lick of paint.
We’re going to cover all the avenues landlords should look at to reap the most rewards from their rental property.
Property renovations can be cheap & quick, or take a long time with high costs! It all depends on the state of the rental property & your aims as a landlord.
Skip to our Renovating Cost Calculator, choose or topic or start from the top. Our renovating guide will have you covered!
Property renovation calculator
We’ve put together the property renovation calculator below to help you estimate the costs of your renovation.
The costs are of course assumed, based on averages in the property industry. Of course the costs will fluctuate depending on your tastes & preferences. Therefore it may be worth adding a % of contingency to protect your finances.
Painting your property in a renovation
The first port of all landlords looking to improve their rental property is the paint job. A lick of paint is something most of us can do.
When painting your rental property, remember you’re not painting the property for you to live in. You may love bright pink and have it colored on every wall in your property. But for your rental property, you want to attract as many tenants as possible.
The paint you choose should be as neutral as possible when renovating. Staying away from stand out colors that may deter some tenants is key.
A neutral setting creates the impression for tenants that they have a blank canvas to move into. This makes it more likely that they will feel at home.
Tenants feeling better means the property is likely to be treated well and the tenants stay longer. Saving you the effort in the amount of times you’ll need to find tenants.
Should you get the property painted professionally?
Generally, if the property is a “normal” property and you have the time, you should do this yourself. You can limited spillages and paint on appliances by the use of coverage sheets & applying masking tape to fixture & fittings.
If you haven’t got the time, then find a professional painter to help when renovating a property. In addition, if a property is high end, a professional is the way to go.
A professional will do a better job and not cause any damage to your furniture in your rental property. Getapainter allows you to search for painters in your area and compare fees. Job prices state that a typical cost of painting a property will be £300-£500 per room. Use the property renovation calculator to work out the costs for your own property
Should you let your tenants paint themselves?
There are pros and cons letting tenants decorate the property themselves when renovating. If you are going to let your tenants decorate that will go a long way to making a tenant feel it’s their home.
In making the tenant feel as if the property is their home, they’re likely to care for the property more and also stay longer in the property.
This results in you reducing the amount of times you need to look for new tenants. However you need to make sure that you agree a colour scheme with the tenant beforehand. The tenant may wish to colour rooms in a way that will deter other tenants from wanting to move into the property in the future.
This will mean you will have to redecorate the property yourself once that particular tenant moves out. Therefore if you are planning to let the tenant paint the property, a prudent approach will be to make sure any colour schemes are agreed upon tenancy agreement.
Furthermore the tenancy agreement should also include who will pay for the paint work. You as a landlord my front the bill yourself, you may ask the tenant to pay or decide on a 50/50 approach.
As a landlord you will also be concerned with the quality of work undertaken. It will be very difficult for you to assess if the tenant has enough skill to paint the rooms at an adequate level.
Secondly if the tenant hires a contractor to paint the rooms, you should vet the contractors previous work history to make sure they can do a good job.
Take a property inventory when renovating
Another way to safeguard yourself is keeping a property inventory. A property inventory is normally taken when the tenant moves into the property.
If you have an inventory it can be referred back, in order to assess any paint damage. You want to ensure if any of the property is damaged you as a landlord can recoup the costs from a tenants deposit.
If you’ve got bumpy or damaged walls, you may need to plaster your walls first.
If you haven’t done plastering before and want a nice finish, doing it yourself may not meet your expectations. Plastering will take around 3-5 days which will impact the start time of work. You can expect to pay between £600-£800 for a medium sized room.
Renovating & getting new appliances
Appliances are some of the largest expenses a landlord has to undertake.
From fridges, microwaves, cookers to TVs, appliances are for sure going to be needed by your tenants and a better furnished property will help attract more tenants.
The cost of new appliances
As appliances can be very expensive, landlords have a very difficult decision to make If you opt for cheap appliances, you run the risk of them breaking down quicker therefore needing to be replaced quicker.
This defeats the purpose of buying cheap in the first place. However on the other hand, if you buy expensive appliances and the tenant doesn’t look after them properly, it’s money down the drain.
Another factor to consider is that some appliances are essential for living. For example if a cooker breaks down at an ungodly hour, you may find yourself receiving calls from a complaining tenant to do something about the problem.
Again choosing whether to buy expensive or cheap appliances can come down to the type of property you are renting out. Luxury high-end properties need to have appliances that match that criteria.
On the cheaper end of the scale, appliances that cost less may be more fitting. Second-hand appliances and purchasing appliances that specialise in products with small defects are good options for landlords looking to save on costs
Cleaning appliances to look like new
In the event of a tenant not maintaining or cleaning appliances particularly for kitchen appliances a landlord may need to purchase replacements.
Alternatively there are many cleaning companies that specialise in deep cleaning appliances. The results are often appliances looking brand new. The cost of a deep clean may be cheaper than replacing that particular appliance.
Extractor fans – A landlords best friend
Extractor fans in kitchen and bathrooms can be a landlord’s best friend. They help clear steam and excess water out of rooms, which helps prevent the build up of mould. Secondly especially in kitchens, extractor fans and hoods and help get rid of nasty smells which can spread through the entire property and furniture. These are a useful tool to ensure your property is maintained after renovating.
Buying new appliances & warranties
Unfortunately a lot of the warranties that come with appliances aren’t as good as they see.
For example Hotpoint’s warranty of free parts for 5 years comes with a catch. In order to get the free parts you need to use a Hotpoint registered engineer which is likely to be far more expensive than someone you can find yourself.
This makes any cost savings from Hotpoint’s free parts service severely reduced or obsolete
Renovating your garden
The garden is the first impression a potential tenant gets of your property.
Usually on property portal sites like Zoopla and Rightmove, there will be an image of the front of your property.
A well-groomed and tidy garden will therefore attract more tenants.
As a result including your garden as part of any property renovations is a great idea.
Quick garden wins
Mowing the lawn and removing or reducing any overgrowth are quick wins when renovating. When renovating you should factor in maintenance. A garden with different plants and large hedges and trees will likely need a lot of upkeep.
This upkeep will need you to pay for a gardener on a regular basis or spend your own time maintaining the property.
Therefore renovating the garden to be easier to manage in the longer run is a suitable option. It should be noted that a garden can provide a valuable living space for your tenants.
Thus maintaining the garden will contribute to keeping the tenant for a longer period of time. Related to this point, a garden full of paving slabs may not be ideal for some tenants. If you’re targeting a family to move into your property, a garden full of slabs will be a deterrent.
Signature garden features
When renovating your garden, signature features should be avoided. A pond for example isn’t generally tenant friendly.
Especially with live fish! Firstly it poses a risk to young children and the tenant may not want the responsibility of the upkeep of live animals.
Finally there are a number of trees & plants that can cause allergic reactions. When renovating your property its best to stay clear of these for the benefit of your tenant.
Windows are a major feature of the front of your house. Similarly to the garden, they will be a big part of any photographs on portals that tenants will be visiting.
Starting with the aesthetics, good windows look nice.
Clean frames and simple designs are sure fire ways to improve the look of the house as a whole.
Window design & color considerations during renovation
The design and color of your windows is important, if you’re choosing to change them during a renovation. The color of the window frames should match the rest of your property.
For instance if you have a colored door, grey frames may look out of place. White is a safe color that avoids any clashes.
Stained glass features are perhaps now outdated. Clear windows, without any cross hatching features are by far the most popular and neutral.
Renovating your current windows (uPVC)
A good clean may avoid you needing to fork out on new windows. For uPVC windows, EYG Windows recommends the following:
- Mix 1 cup of vinegar with 4 cups of hot water and pour the mixture into a sprayer.
- Spray it on the uPVC and leave it to stand for around 10 minutes.
- Use a clean, dry and smooth cloth to wipe down and remove any excess liquid.
- If this doesn’t work, baby wipes are great for delicate cleaning jobs and will clean most things.
- Don’t use cream-cleaners or abrasive cleaning solutions because they will scratch the top layer of the uPVC and permanently remove the ‘shiny’ or ‘glossy’ finish.
If you find that this is not strong enough to remove a build-up of dirt, dead insects, cobwebs and grime; you may want to use one of the specialist uPVC cleaning products that are available to buy. The following products are all suitable for the task:
- De-Solv-It UPVC cleaner
- EverBuild PVCu solvent cleaner
- No-Nonsense uPVC cleaner
- Thompson’s UPVC Restorer
- Vistal Hard Surface Cleaner
Renovating your current windows (wood)
Your property may have wooden frames that have started to look fatigued. Depending on their age and condition, these may be able to be spruced up.
A quick sand down and re-paint may do the trick and avoid the bill of paying for replacements.
Consider sound proofing
For landlords with properties on busy rounds, sound pollution may be deterring potential tenants. Triple glazing can help.
Triple glazing can effectively half the amount of traffic noise entering your home, according to Anglian.
If potential tenants have raised this as a reason why they are not keen on your property, this noise reduction method will work in your favour
The benefits of renovating your windows
We covered the visual & noise reduction benefits of better windows, in terms of attracting more tenants. Mould should also be considered.
There is nothing worse than seeing a black residue that’s made itself at home throughout a property’s windows. Black mould paints a picture of a wet and damp property.
For some people with allergies, this may be an immediate no no. Heat retention is also another benefit of renovating your windows.
If you are covering a property’s bills, then you’ll have a keener interest in keeping the bills as low as possible. With better insulated windows, the less heating is needed and costs therefore come down.
Changing the structure of your property during a renovation
You may have a large room that has the potential to be changed into 2 separate rooms.
The more rooms in your property, the more rent can be expected. If the property size increases and then falls within the criteria of a House in Multiple Occupancy, HMO, you may be required to get a HMO licence.
As well as a license you may also need to undertake a number of activities to meet safety & compliance guidelines.
Check out our Landlord HMO Guide to learn more. Structural changes of course aren’t cheap, but will increase your rental income as well as property value.
A common method to pay for structural renovation is through remortgaging. If your property has gone up in value since you purchased it, you can release some equity to use for the work to be done.
Structural renovations & the cost
Depending on your property, splitting up rooms with new walls can be done relatively cheaply.
This will cost in the region of £3,000-£6,000. Extensions to the property are much more costly. However landlords should be aware that any money spent is likely to be recouped as part of the increase to the value of your property.
For a standard property, a rear extension of between 3.5 metres to 5 metres will cost between £20,000-£50,000, depending on the finishes. A loft extension will cost between £30,000-£60,000, again depending on the level of fixtures & fittings.
As a landlord, you’d need to factor in the benefit of the property being vacant while large structural renovation takes place.
Extensions usually take around 3-4 months to complete. During this period, existing tenants may not be able to live in the property which adds further complications.
Of course if the property is empty, that makes it far easier. Once completed, a room in an average house in the outskirts of London generates between £700-£1,000 per month.
More rooms more rent
Using our estimated rent calculator below to see the impact of structural changes to your rental income.
Bathroom renovation in your rental property
The last thing anyone wants to see when moving house is a well used bathroom. When given the chance, a deep clean can go a long way to sprucing up a dirty bathroom.
The bath, shower, tiles and toilet should all be cleaned and sanitized.
Specialised cleaning equipment does a better job and removes horrible stains and mould than standard cleaning products.
Bathroom Renovation Cost
If however a deep clean isn’t going to do the job, replacing the entire bathroom may be needed.
A bathroom renovation will cost upwards of £3,000. As most property renovations, the cost is dependent on the fixtures and fittings.
Landlords can obtain a cheap bath from as little as £120. However the cost for a bath can cost £000’s depending on what you choose. Use the Renovation Calculator to see the costs for your own property For rental properties, landlords can save money by not including a bath.
Most people shower therefore for tenants it may not be a big miss. If the property is to be let to a family with young children, skipping out on the bath may not be appropriate.
Simply changing the toilet seat may go a long way to improve the look and cleanliness of the toilet. This can be done very cheaply.
How long does a bathroom renovation take?
You should expect your renovation to take between 5-10 days depending on the amount of work that’s needed. Adding features such as underfloor heating will extend the renovation time.
Re-wiring during a renovation
During a renovation or while you have a vacant property, its an ideal time to re-wire you property.
If the wiring in the property isn’t stable and has issues, it could indicate danger to the occupants.
Regulation & electrics
In 2019, 25% of UK house fires were related to electrical faults. In 2020, there are new draft regulations, focusing on electrical inspections. As explained by the National Residential Landlords Association: Once the electrical installation has been tested, the landlord must:
- Ensure they receive a written report from the person conducting the inspection, which includes the results and the required date for the next inspection
- Supply a copy of this report to each existing tenant living in the property within 28 days of the inspection
- Supply a copy within seven days to the local authority, if they request a copy
- Keep a copy of the report until the next inspection, and give a copy to the person undertaking the next inspection.
For new tenancies, the landlord must:
- Give a copy of the most recent report to a new tenant before the tenant occupies the property
- Give a copy of the most recent report to any prospective new tenant who requests the report in writing, within 28 days of receiving such a request.
Impact of rewiring during a renovation
For a period of time, the electrical supply will be cut. This makes it unfeasible for tenants to be living in the property at time.
This means you’ll need to consider temporally re-homing tenants during the work. Alternatively if the property is empty, it’s an ideal time.
Remember that re-wiring will impact your walls and decor. Plastering over the work will likely be required.
Changing flooring during a renovation
Whether you’re going for carpets, tiles, laminate or vinyl, flooring makes a big difference to the look and feel of the house.
Choice of flooring when renovating
Carpets are the traditional choice. However fancy carpets in a rental property isn’t ideal.
The high costs vs the risk of wear and tear & stains isn’t worth it. In addition, carpets are a haven for mites & smells.
If you are going for carpet, consider hard wearing carpet in communal areas such as the hallways.
These areas will have heavy footfall so are likely to become damaged a lot quicker. A popular landlord choice is laminate. This flooring is cheap and installation is relatively easy. Laminate can be bought in different colors to match the rest of your property.
Furthermore laminate flooring is extremely easy to clean.
Vinyl is the expensive bigger brother of laminate. Vinyl is harder wearing, just as easy to clean and is closer to replicating real wood.
Tiles in some hall areas & kitchens are popular. However very expensive. In addition, without underfloor heating, they can be cold to walk on.
The cost of new flooring
As alluded to, the cost varies significantly depending on the choice of flooring. Our renovation cost calculator can give you some rough idea on flooring costs during a renovation.
Renovating your kitchen
A kitchen is a key contributor to the value of a property. In a rental property, tenants would want a clean & safe environment to cook in.
Nobody is going to want to live in a property with a tired, dirty and fatigued kitchen.
Modernising your kitchen is a sure fire way to impress tenants.
Landlords understandably so, may be thinking of opting for a cheap kitchen. However cheap units break very easy.
A good balance is too pay the premium for sturdy set of units.
Then the cost can be offset on cutting costs on the design. Instead of glossy (expensive) finishes, consider the bog standard, not so pretty matt looks.
With hot plates and foods that stain, worktops are always at risk of damage. Wooden worktops in particular are at risk of stains which cannot be removed.
While very expensive, granite options offer landlords a stain resistant, difficult to damage surface. Although the initial costs will be high, the longer term picture will mean the worktops keep their look and potential tenants aren’t deterred.
Kitchen designs during a rental property refurbishment
As with any design for a rental property, the aim isn’t to cater to your own taste.
The aim is to cater to as many people as possible, i.e. potential tenants. Colors should be neutral where possible. However white is risky as the smallest of stains will show up.
You should also avoid any bespoke/specifically designed units. In the future if tenants cause damage to units, replacements may be difficult to get hold of.
The best bet is to get plain looking units. In the future even if you can’t get exact match replacements, close matches can at least be found.
For rental properties that will cater for families, you will want to consider getting worktop edges rounded. With kids running around, sharp corners and small heads don’t mix very well.
Appliances add a lot of convenience for tenants. In addition, offer a lot of benefits to landlords as well. Hot taps are increasing being installed across properties in the UK.
Removing the need for a kettle, the hot tap attaches to the sink and offers immediate hot water. This means one less appliance on the worktop that needs replacing often. Hot tops are also far more energy efficient, helping that little bit to reduce electric bills.
Cooker hoods are good assets at getting rid of smells that can plague furniture and the rest of your property. Especially in HMO properties, you will get people cooking different things at different stages of the day. The cooker hood will help disseminate smells to outside of the property.
A dishwasher helps avoid the pile up of dishes which can annoy tenants (again, even more crucial within a HMO). A dishwasher is also more efficient on the bills.
Landlord tips when renovating a property – Things to consider
Before embarking on your renovating journey, there are many items to consider aside from what to renovate. Cost is of course important.
But there are other factors in terms of tenants, choice of labour, speed etc that need to be factored in.
Labour choices for your property renovation
Labour is a major risk when renovating. Firstly you’ll need to determine if you’ll be doing work yourself. If you’re planning to do the work yourself, you’ll need to ensure you have the time and skill.
Of course for lower expertise tasks you may not need to worry about much. However for big jobs, you’ll need to ensure your time is booked out for a period of time for you to conduct your property renovation. In life, things happen and your time may need to be spent elsewhere.
If delays happen during your property renovation, it will cost you money as that increases the time to get a tenant in.
This is assuming of course you’re doing your property renovation while the property is vacant. If it’s not, and you have tenants living in the property during your renovation, you’ll need to consider their happiness.
They won’t want to be living in a property for a long period of time where work is being done. Even worse, if the work is delayed due to other commitments, that will annoy them even further.
If you already have tried and tested reputable workers you can get in to do the job, you’re in a good position. For many however, good contractors need to be sourced.
There are many pitfalls for landlords when finding a good contractor. In terms of price, the fear is getting ripped off.
You don’t want to be paying over the odds for sure. However going for the cheapest option isn’t always the best idea either.
Cheaper could mean the quality of the job won’t match your expectations. Even worse, the cheapest options may result in other issues.
If the contractor has been over ambitious in his price, they may not be able to finish the job in the agreed price range.
This could lead to a halt in the work while more money is requested. Often disputes then happen and delays creep in. As a landlord, that means a loss of rental income.
How to find a good contractor?
Word of mouth is a strong indicator. If you know other property owners who can recommend someone based on passed work that will help.
Searching online for a contractor to do your property renovation is another good way to find a builder. Trust a trader will help you search for local builders and reach out to them to get prices.
On various builder profiles, you can also see previous client ratings & feedback. This will help give you assurances in getting the right person in.
Keep your builders happy during a renovation
During a renovation, whether big or small it’s good to keep builders on side. A better relationship creates better results. Some tips on how to keep your builder happy during a renovation
- Get a contract
After a few weeks or months, things get forgotten. Especially prices and durations. A contract helps ensure there is no confusion In the event of a future legal dispute, it can also be referred back to
- Pay on Time
Pay when payment is due. The contractor will have staff to pay potentially, delays may impact their ability to do that It’s good to arrange payment installments at key milestones if the property renovation is a large one. For example x amount will be paid once the foundations are completed, x amount will be paid upon completion of the new structure etc.
- Avoid paying upfront
Paying upfront puts you in a bad position. Agree with your contractor that you will pay at key milestones instead.
- Don’t Change Your Mind
Ideally, you want to be clear from the outset on what you need. Changing your mind could result in replanning and even worse, winding back already completed work.
Ensure if you’re unhappy with the work or something needs to be changed, you’re upfront about it. Don’t leave this sort of stuff to the very end of a job. Labour jobs are very tiring as well. Tired minds can result in tension when getting negative feedback. It’s a good idea to explain things calmly to keep the relationship healthy.
Council tax breaks during renovation
If you are conducting a major renovation in your property, there might be some tax breaks you can get. This will help lower your costs and lessen the impact of not receiving rent for a period of time. Emyprierce solicitors advice is:
Depending on the individual circumstances, you can apply for a Council Tax exemption if the property is unfurnished while the renovation work takes place (eg any furniture could go into storage). If the exemption is accepted you could receive a 100% exemption for the first six months and up to 50 % exemption for another six months after that.
Remember the objective
During a renovation, always remember it’s a rental property. When you enjoy renovation work, it’s easy to get too self invested.
Quite soon you may find yourself buying high priced fixtures & fittings to make the property look perfect. No matter how nice you make the property, tenants will not be interested in maintaining the property as much as you would be yourself.
You may find these expensive items quickly damaged. Keep reminding yourself that you will not be living in the property. The aim is to maximise profits and not make the property as fancy as possible.
When to start finding tenants during a renovation?
If your property or rooms in your property are vacant during a property renovation, you need to keep in mind when to start looking for tenants.
It’s not a good idea to wait until the property renovation is complete. As finding new tenants may take a few weeks or months, you could find yourself losing income.
Too early however and you also may be wasting money.
Some letting agents & property managers charge a fee for finding tenants, even if they don’t find you one. This is particularly the case for online letting agents.
Plan ahead on when you need to find tenants and give yourself a 1 or 2 week buffer. If you’re only slightly out, keen tenants may be willing to absorb the delay in moving in.
When you need to find a new tenant(s), Rent Round scans the market and compares letting agent fees & ratings. The service is completely free for landlords and helps save thousands in letting agent fees.
Always consider your neighbours during a property renovation
Neighbours can cause you a lot of issues if they are unhappy during your property renovation.
If the council is called, it could lead to inspections which can delay your completion date. Give notice of the commencement date to your neighbours so they feel informed.
Also make sure you aren’t starting work too early or finishing too late. Your neighbours have lives and need their sleep. An annoyed & tired neighbour can cause a lot of issues for your renovation work!
Add contingency for the duration
Property renovations always take longer than expected and cost more. When planning your dates & finances, add a buffer.
Add in a 15% buffer on dates and costs, even 30% if you want to be extra careful. If you fall within financial trouble during a renovation, it could cause you to need to sort some additional funding out. Credit cards & overdrafts take a few days or weeks to arrange. Having them prepared beforehand will work in your favour, should you need to use them.