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Preparing a Vacant Rental Unit for Showing to Prospective Tenants

by Kevin Kiene

Just like Elton John’s “Circle of Life”, there is of course a cycle to tenancies; new tenants come, stay a while, then move on (hopefully without doing too much damage to the property), and then it is time to find the next tenant to make your rental property their home.

The recent tenants have vacated your property, and you’re now paying the mortgage and anxious to find new tenants to occupy your vacant rental unit.  Where do you begin?

First, are the gas and electric still on?  If not, contact the utility company to turn them on immediately.

Second, call in a contractor or handyman to make any necessary repairs (a new paintjob is usually advised).  Quality, trustworthy, affordable contractors and handymen are difficult to find – see our article for tips on finding good contractors.

This is also a good opportunity make upgrades that will attract a higher-quality tenant base, such as modernizing the kitchen and/or bathrooms, or adding “wow” amenities such as a wifi-enabled “smart” appliances or a hot-tub (see our article on upgrades that can pay for themselves in higher rents).

Attracting higher-quality tenants is not just about higher rents (although those are nice), but also about tenants who are more likely to pay the rent, less likely to damage the property, and more likely to stay for a long time.  Vacancies are expensive and time-consuming, and whenever possible landlords should try to attract and select tenants who are likely to stay long-term.

As you’re brainstorming property upgrades, one inexpensive and practical one to consider is smart door locks controlled by your mobile phone.  You can grant temporary access to contractors and inspectors, so you don’t have to meet them in person or give them a key, and it’s a nice glamour touch for attracting renters.  The best part is that they cost less than $200.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the exterior of the property, as it is the first impression prospective tenants will have of the property.  Landscaping, fresh exterior paint and even a few potted plants by the front door can work wonders in drawing rental applications from prospective tenants.

Once all other repairs are complete, consider replacing the carpet or flooring if it shows signs of wear and tear (which most do, after Fido and Little Terror Timmy are finished with them).  If you’re thinking about hardwood floors, take a moment to consider bamboo flooring instead; it’s both cheaper and more eco-friendly, but tenants love it and most don’t know the difference between it and hardwood.  It also doesn’t scratch as easily, giving it better longevity.

It is often not a bad idea to start advertising before the repairs on the rental property are finished, as it can speed up the process and often prospective tenants are impressed to see the progress of the work being done on the property.

Which, of course, brings us full circle back to advertising the unit for rent, and showing it to prospective tenants!

For more direction, consider starting with this article on the Top 5 New Landlord Mistakes to Avoid, and browse our extensive library of Educational Articles for Landlords, Real Estate Investors and Property Managers.

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