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How to Renovate a Beat-Up Rental Property
How to renovate an old rental property

2017 has been a year of renovations for our rental properties. We’ve acquired two new units and renovated five. And we’ve had tenant turnover like never before. In all but one of our suites, our tenants have changed. But that kind of turnover creates the opportunity to update your units if needed – silver lining. Before this year, I hadn’t had a tenant leave in nearly three years…

As a landlord, this year has been the most hectic, but fun, since I began real estate investing almost a decade ago. And our renovation crew has been doing a hell of a job bringing our suites into 2017 style. I’m very proud of the product we’ve provided tenants with after all the renovations this year. I’d be happy to live in any one of our rental properties (click here to read my article ‘Why Tenants Should Live Better than Landlords’). A testament to the quality of our product is the fact that no suite stayed on the market for more than 72 hours after listing.

Today I want to show you one of the toughest, nastiest renovations we did this year. It was an acquisition we made in a relatively lower-income neighborhood but has a ton of upside. As you will see from the ‘before pictures,’ this 50-year old house was largely neglected by the previous owner. I bet nearly everything was original in this suite but for the horrible laminate and linoleum flooring, cat-piss stained carpet in the master which was likely installed sometime during the 1980s, and weird pinkish brown paint. It was a disaster, but I picked it up for a song. And I knew it had potential despite its horribly choppy layout.

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From the awful wood panelled walls, which believe it or not are coming back in style but not in this wretched style, to the bowing drywall and terrible flooring, this was an aesthetic gut job. The wood panelling in the house was more creep-style than the rustic look millennials seek out today. So the panels had to go, at all cost. It also needed and new bathroom, kitchen, furnace and everything in between.

We replaced the entire kitchen, bathroom, baseboards, flooring (with a beautiful vinyl plank), door frames, doors, blinds, appliances, took out a wall and a bit more. Although we couldn’t totally get rid of the choppy layout, I think you’ll be impressed with our renovation. Total cost: CAD$22,000. Our money went a long way because we changed the right things. Structurally, the house was in great shape, but aesthetically it was a disaster.


Before and After Shots of the Latest Rental Property Reno

It’s important to keep a few things in mind before renovating your next suite – which you’ll notice in all my renovations. First, quartz is the new granite. The price difference is negligible for most kitchens and being able to advertise quartz countertops in your rental is a differentiator for tenants. Second, carpet is out. Tenants want wood-like flooring. I have used the same vinyl plank in all my renovations this year – and I think you’ll see why. Third, spend $1,500 updating all casings and baseboards. It transforms the look of your property and brings it into 2017. Notice the difference it makes. Lastly, cellular shades make for the perfect window coverings. They let in natural light while providing privacy and have a clean, sleek  modern look.

Rental property renovations
Bathroom before: Notice the elegant wood panelling and tasteful right angled mirror…
Rental property renovations
Bathroom after: A minimalist design for a tight space, but still modern and elegant with the reclaimed wood vanity. Put in a dual flush toilet and 6-inch square baseboards.


rental property renovations
Kitchen before: A tight, galley kitchen with poor lighting and minimal cupboard space. This was the toughest kitchen to renovate yet because we had such a poor space to work with.
rental property renovations
Kitchen before…
rental property renovations
Kitchen after: Quartz countertops, a more risky colour for the cabinets which picked up the accents in the quartz and big subway tiles with dark grout. We installed stainless steel appliances, LED pot lights, and also had to do some additional plumbing to install a dishwasher. The kitchen never had a dishwasher prior to our renovations!
rental property renovations
Kitchen after…
rental property renovations
Kitchen after: A nice touch is to install an undermount square double sink. Adding a high-end faucet is worth the extra $80 too.


rental property renovations
Living room before: This space was surprisingly not too bad. But still had room for improvement. Notice the pinkish paint colour. Yikes!
rental property renovations
Living room after: Changed the flooring, paint, baseboards and casings. Looks modern and fresh. Notice the improvement to the built-in shelf simply by installing beefy casing…


rental property renovations
Hallway before: Notice the lovely mix and match flooring. Linoleum and laminate with pink paint make for a lovely smorgasbord of interior design chaos.
rental property renovations
Hallway after: same flooring and baseboards throughout the entire suite. Keep it clean and simple. Also took out part of a wall to open up the previously narrow, galley kitchen.


As a rental property investor, otherwise known as a landlord, it’s imperative you invest in renovations wisely. While you always need to be cost-conscious, your money needs to be spent on certain sizzle factors as well. It’s important you stay up to date with tenant desires and interior design trends. But because you can’t be renovating your properties every couple years, and really shouldn’t more than once a decade, you need to go with decor and style that will stand the test of time.

Stay hungry,


P.S. Investing in real estate needs to be a passion. Subscribe to my newsletter below to learn more about how I manage rental properties and investments. Only my best content will land in your inbox.