Switch Plates, New Doors and Handles, Trim
1. New Electrical Switch Plates – This is such a minor, yet overlooked improvement. Most rental owners and re-habbers paint a unit and leave the old ugly switch plates. Even worse, some even paint over them. New switch plates cost about 50 cents each. You can replace the entire house with new switch plates for about $20. For the foyer, living room and other obvious area, spring for nice brass or nickel plates. They run about $5 each – not much for added class.
2. New or improved doors – Another overlooked, yet cheap replacement item is doors. If you have ugly brown doors, replace them with nice, white doors, (you can paint them, but unless you have a spray gun, it will take three coats by hand.) The basic hollow-core door is about $25. It comes pre-primed and pre-hung. For about $10 more, you can buy stylish six-panel doors. If you are doing a rehab, the extra $10 per door is well worth it. For rentals, consider at least changing the main floor doors.
3. New Door Handles – In addition to changing doors, consider changing the handles. An old door handle (especially with crusted paint on it) looks drab. For about $15, you can replace them with nice nickel finished handles. Replace the guest bathroom and bedroom door handles with the nicer “S” handles (about $25 each.)
4. Paint/Replace Trim – If the interior of the house does not need a paint job, consider painting the trim. New, modern, custom homes typically come with neutral colored walls and bright white trim. Use a semi-glass bright white on all the trim in your houses.
Front Door, Tile Foyer, Shower Curtains
5. New Front Door – You only get one chance to make a first impression. A cheap front door makes a house look cheap. An old front door makes a house look old. If you have a nice heavy door, paint it a bold color using high gloss paint. If your front door is old, consider replacing it with a new, stylish door. For about $175, you can buy a very nice door.
6. The Foyer Entry – After the front door, your next first impression is the foyer area. Most rental property foyers are graced with very cheap floors. Consider a nice 12” tile. An 8’ x 8’ area should cost about $150 in materials.
7. New Shower Curtains – It amazes me that many landlords and sellers show properties with either no shower curtain or any ugly old shower curtain in the bathroom. Don’t be cheap – drop $50 and buy a nice new rod and fancy curtain.
Kitchen Cabinets, Window Shutters and Mail Boxes
8. Paint kitchen cabinets – Replacing kitchen cabinets is expensive but painting them is cheap. If you have old 1970’s style wooden cabinets in a lovely dark brown shade, paint them. Use a semi-glass white and finish them with colorful plastic knobs. No need to paint the insides of them (unless you own a spray gun), since you are only trying to make an impression. Americans spend 99% of their time in the kitchen (when they are not watching TV.) A fancy, modern faucet looks great in the kitchen. They can run as much as $200 but not to worry – most retailers (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) often run clearance sales on overstocked and discontinued models. I have found nice Delta and Price Pfister faucets for about $60 on sale.
9. Add Window Shutters – IF you have ugly aluminum framed windows, consider adding wooden shutters outside. They come pre-primed at most hardware retailers and are easy to install. Paint them an offset color from the outside of the house (e.g., if the house is dark, paint the shutters white. If the house is light, paint them a lovely contrasting color that is darker.)
10. Add a Nice Mailbox – Everyone on the block has the same black mailbox. Stand out. For about $40, you can buy a nice colorful mailbox. For about $60 more, you can buy a nice wooden post for it. People notice these things…and they like them!