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How to Renovate Your Rental Property for Max ROI

As a landlord managing several investment properties, I’ve always advocated for, when needed, renovating your rental property with high-end finishings. What I mean by that is where there are laminate countertops, replace with granite. Linoleum in a bathroom, replace with tile, and where there are old appliances with that sexy yellowish tint, replace with stainless steel. Change hardware to a modern design (handles and taps). Paint tired cabinets, replace old and thin baseboards with six-inch ones; and remove dated flooring with the modern looking vinyl plank (looks good, is cost effective, durable and easy to replace a single plank rather than having to refinish an entire room if one little area is scuffed).

I strongly urge doing renovations right when the time comes because these days there isn’t a huge cost difference between high-end looking finishings and middle of the road.

Most importantly, by spending an extra $2,500-$4,000 on renovating a suite (approximate $20k job) with higher-end finishings, you’ve differentiated your property from the rest, which will enable you to charge a premium in a strong market; and allow you to quickly find quality tenants in a slow market. You’ll have to shop around for deals, of course, but treat your rental as a business – quality and uniqueness matter most.


Our Most Recent Investment Property Acquisition and Renovation

Our latest investment property acquisition was an inner-city, 40-year old duplex – purchase price roughly $360k. And this place was nasty when we bought it – hence the deal. It was beyond tired, with virtually all original finishings. I’m talking wooden toilet seats, rusted shower head, brass light fixtures, broken dishwasher, burgundy walls, etc. Other than a paint job back in the 80s, it didn’t appear anything had been done to the place since inception.

Previously lived in by a young bachelor, the house was filthy, which made it all the more pleasing. My initial renovation budget was $22k – virtually everything needed a face-lift. We replaced all appliances, countertops, took down a wall/weird built-in, changed all hardware, light fixtures, baseboards, casing, and most of the flooring. We also redid some minor electrical (the only surprise cost – inevitably every old home will have at least one) and installed new doors. Final cost was just over $26k.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so let me show you where we started and how our renovations finished. For $26k, we took this dump and turned it into a beautiful home near the downtown core. We received over 80 inquiries in the first 48 hours of listing it for rent.

Before our rental property renovations:

rental property renovations - before picture
Dark, dirty and dreary living room.
renovations on rental property - before pictures
A kitchen to remember… notice the lovely paint and mismatch appliances.
renovations on rental property. Before pictures
A tired kitchen in desperate need of a makeover. Tenants gravitate to the kitchen the moment they walk through the door for a showing. This just wasn’t cutting it.
rental property renovations - before pictures
The second bedroom reminded me of a prison cell…
rental property renovation ideas - before pictures
The master bedroom was the only decent looking room in the house. Flooring was original hardwood and in surprisingly good shape so we kept it.
rental property renovation ideas
Notice the rather useless partisan wall/shelving unit… we just ripped it out and opened the space up.
renovations on rental property - before pictures
The bathroom was just scary… the previous owner was kind enough to leave us a half-used roll of paper towel as a house warming gift though 🙂
rental property renovations - before pictures
Scary bathroom continued…
rental property renovations
I wonder who thought a wood panel toilet seat was a good idea?


After our $26,000 rental property renovation:

investment property renovations well done
New vinyl plank flooring throughout, bright paint, big baseboards and more. What a transformation! Can you spot what’s missing compared to the before pic of this room? No weird partisan wall/shelving unit. Opened the space right up.
rental property renovations
Beautiful new flooring and lighting. Notice the wall sconces – an elegant touch. Bright and light paint is key. Remember, if it ain’t bright in your rental, it ain’t right…
renovations on a rental property - tips
The kitchen is where we spent nearly half our budget. New appliances, countertops, backsplash, sink and hardware. It turned out great!
how to renovate a rental property
Stainless steel Samsung appliances from the clearance section.
How to renovate an investment property
Master bedroom. Notice the new light fixture, casing and baseboards. Makes a big difference!
how to renovate an investment property
The former ‘prison cell’ looking second bedroom.
How to renovate your rental property
The new bathroom. What an improvement.
How to renovate your rental suite
No more scary bathroom. New tub and hardware. Total cost of the bathroom renovation was roughly $5,100.

At the end of the day, you have to show some restraint with rental property renovations, because some improvements just won’t add to your ROI. But you can’t cheap out. Go with durability above all, but make sure whatever you do is trendy to your renter demographic. It pays to spend a little more on renovations than what the typical landlord would. It helps differentiate your suite(s) from the competition and enables you to find great tenants. The quality (location and thoroughness of renovations) of your rental, combined with its location and your ability to efficiently screen for good tenants, will make or break you as a landlord.

Don’t cheap out on renovations. The difference between a great reno and a mediocre one is often only a couple thousand dollars.

Stay hungry,


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