Everyone deserves a decent, safe, warm and comfortable place to live. Even if you specialise in social housing, as a good landlord, you should provide a home in which you would feel comfortable living.
Getting a distressed property up to such a standard can be a major headache if you have no guidelines and are unaware of the legal requirements.
To help soothe this headache, here are some important refurb tips that you should know, whether you’re an accidental landlord, a landlord with a handful of rental properties, or a big-time property investor.
Assuming you’ve already taken possession, changed the locks on the doors, and contacted your council about any major changes you plan to make in the property, you can begin striping out and preparing the property.
Stripping Out and Preparing the Property
- Organise a skip large enough to contain all the rubbish you’ll strip out. Do check if you need permission from the council or building association to park it. Always check with neighbours too, just to make sure you’re not placing your skip in someone else’s parking space. Good landlords are considerate of the neighbours, even though they don’t live next door to them.
- Think about getting cheaper labourers to strip and clear out the property instead of skilled tradesmen. You don’t need to know your mist coat from you finish coat to rip out carpet.
- If you have an ugly artex ceiling to remove, check out this guide; 5 Ways to Deal with An Artex Ceiling.
- After the clear out, the property is ready for the skilled tradesman to start work by addressing all the rough wood-work, insulation, and cable runs. When these are finished, your professionals will address the more detailed building work. If you don’t already have tradesmen in mind, check Mybuilder.com. It’s an incredibly useful tool for finding good professionals, seeing examples of their work, and reading reviews from their previous clients.
Kitting Out and Decorating
So, you’ve cleared out the property and have carefully considered the safety features you’re required to employ. Now you can have some fun doing the decorating.
It’s important to have your building work done in the correct order, as it will be mighty frustrating – and expensive – to have the electricians turn up after the walls have been plastered.
- Electrics and plumbing are done before anything else because they’re messy and may require floorboards to be lifted etc. Your plastering, doors & windows, painting, bathroom & kitchen fixes should all be done before the flooring.
- External cleaning, painting and gardening can be done last, but you want to make sure you leave a full couple of days to do snagging and a major deep-clean before your tenants move in.
- Paint in neutral colours.
- All woodwork should be standard white gloss. This is not only aesthetic, it’s money-saving too, because white wood-paint is more affordable and available when it comes to repainting and upgrading in the future.
- Don’t skimp on undercoat. A great base, as with everything in a rental property is worth its weight in gold. Touch-ups in the future will be child’s play, if your undercoat is of a good quality.
- Use Matt on ceilings and new plasterboard to prevent light reflection, and to hide imperfections. Check paint suitability for all other areas, especially kitchens and bathrooms before buying. This Interior Paint Buying Guide by B&Q gives very detailed paint advice.
- Remember to buy paint in bulk. If you have multiple properties, this helps you to cut down on costs. If you use a standard paint colour for each room – of each house – think of how much money and storage space this will save when you must redecorate. For future-proofing, always make a note of the colour, as you want to be able to buy (or mix) the same paint.
- Painting is a relatively simple task you can take on yourself. If you plan on painting your own walls and ceilings, make sure you follow these 27 top tips on how to paint without leaving a huge mess.
Pro Tip: become a member of LNPG (landlords national property group) and benefit from discounted materials (and some services too) across a range of brands from Johnstone’s paint to Magnet kitchens.
Safety in your Property
Good landlords safeguard not only their investment, but their tenants as well. These key factors are essential to protect the life of your property, and the lives of the people who live there. It is imperative that you read, download and make yourself familiar with the Government regulated HHSRS before even thinking of buying investment property.
If you already own an investment property, do check this out, as you’ll be held liable if your property does not adhere to the regulations in the link above. If you’re aware of them before you refurbish, it’ll be cheaper, more efficient and easier to incorporate the features when the work is being done.
- Smoke alarms are vital and compulsory for rented accommodation. There should be at least two separate units installed in a two-story house– one in the upstairs landing, and the other in the downstairs hall. Modem smoke alarms are linked so that when one goes off, so do all the other connected units. Note: The rule for HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) varies, depending on councils.
Rental properties should also possess:
- A Carbon monoxide detector near gas sources such as a gas boiler.
- Fire doors - especially in HMOs. If your property already has fire doors installed, do NOT remove them like I mistakenly once did. Either replace with new fire doors or leave the originals in place if they’re in a good condition. In my case, I reinstalled the originals, gave them a fresh lick of paint and replaced the door hardware.
- Electrical and gas safety certificates
- A heat detector in the kitchen. Heat detectors are better suited for kitchens than smoke detectors, as they won’t go off every time you burn your bacon.
- Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. This will extend your property’s life and will also protect the health of your tenants. Kitchens and bathrooms are main areas for efficient ventilation. If you’re replacing windows, make sure the new windows have trickle vents so that all rooms can be properly ventilated, even in winter.
It’s now illegal to rent a property which is rated below E, on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPG). This approved assessor will help you decide how your property fares on the scale, and what actions you need to take to raise your property’s rating.
Note: Insulating floors, the loft, external walls and windows will make your property more energy efficient. In certain areas, there are government grants to help you raise your property’s energy rating. Contact your council to find out if you qualify.
Future-Proofing your Investment Property while you Refurbish
There are several ways a good landlord can save themselves the pain of constant refurbs. There are many new developments in the world of laminates and PVCs, that extend the life of various fixtures & fittings.
Bathrooms and kitchens are notorious for needing constant upgrades, but there are ways of getting around these potential headaches safely and efficiently. Here are a few:
Pro Tip: Pay builders a fixed price, NOT by the hour. Always get at least three quotes. Try mybuilder.com and check reviews, so you are tempted by the cheapest quote.
External and Security
As a good landlord, you know that you’re responsible for giving your tenants peace of mind when it comes to security.
Plan and budget for the jobs below when you’re doing your refurb. Your electrician should easily be able to fit a couple of external lights when he/she does the re-wiring.
- All external doors – including patio doors – should be fitted with deadlocks. This insurance company puts it more in perspective, and gives extensive details on the subject of security.
- Have motion lights installed for peace of mind for your tenants, and as a deterrent for potential burglars. Read more about security for your home in this article.
- Exterior paint is very important when it comes to curb appeal or attracting good tenants. A good-quality paint can last for up to 10 years, so don’t skimp on exterior paint. Remember that not everyone likes bright colours, so for your property to have the widest possible appeal to tenants, go for light, neutral colours. This Exterior Paint Buying Guide by B&Q provides some good advice on buying exterior paint.
Once you’ve finished your refurbishment and followed all the tips above, you’re ready to stage the property. Hire a professional to take detailed photos that you can use for advertising. This attracts more potential tenants and alleviates the need to take pictures after each tenant moves out.
Now that you’ve taken care to efficiently and safely refurbish your property, you’ll want to keep it looking good for a long time to come. We’ve given you many ideas here about how to do so, but we would love your input too. Do you have any top tips not mentioned in this list? If so, please add them in the comments’ section, and together we can build a definitive list that I wish I had when I started my property journey.
If you’d like to learn more about home improvement, please head over to PropertyWorkshop.com and check out our step-by-step guides and tutorials.