Before + After – Our First Rental

You might remember that last summer was an insane whirlwind for us.  We had another baby, finished a flip, bought and sold another one, bought and renovated two rental properties, and started another flip.

the insane summer of 2014

I sometimes question our judgment in undertaking all of these projects at once.  ;)

The rentals kind of got lost in the shuffle and were never blogged about (along with the 9th flip) – so it’s time to change that!  The first rental we purchased was a condo, and the second one was a single-family home.  For some reason I feel like talking about the house today, so let’s start there.

First things first – why we bought a rental instead of a flip.  Well, as you might recall, we occasionally send out mailers in neighborhoods that we like, scouting for anyone interested in selling their house to us.  The owner of this house reached out to us, saying that she liked our note and asking if we would take a look at her house.  Yay!  We loved the location of the house – it’s in a great school district and in a really awesome neighborhood – and the house itself.  So we bought it.

For the most part, the house was in great shape – and while you know we love to flip houses, this house was just begging to become a rental.  Quick cosmetic fixes would also go a long way towards making the house sweet and charming (and rentable), but if we wanted to resell this house we would have to put in some serious money, like for a second story addition or even just scraping the house and starting over.  Houses in this neighborhood are either tiny and affordable or huge and expensive.  This house wanted to stay tiny and affordable.  :)  Also, we’ve been wanting to start buying rentals so that we can have some passive income over the years.

So that’s why we bought a rental.  But now, onto the good stuff – the before and afters!  Most of the changes we made may appear small, but I think they add up.

First up – the front of the house.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The brick was great, with no signs of foundation damage, and the existing color scheme was cute.  All it needed was a tiny bit of landscaping and some fresh paint on the trim.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The house has a pretty classic layout inside, almost identical to our 4th flip, with an entry into the formal living and dining rooms.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

With a new chandelier, fresh paint and some recessed lighting, these rooms don’t look markedly different but now they’re bright and clean!

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

A pair of French doors (not pictured above) in the formal living room lead into the den.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The room was in basically good shape, but there were pet stains on the hardwoods near the fireplace that had bleached the wood and created gaps between the boards.  I was afraid that the floors were toast, but our flooring guy assured me that they could refinish the floor and no one would be the wiser.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

Hallelujah, he was right.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The kitchen can be accessed through those French doors above, or from the dining room.  Let’s head back to the dining room and check out the view from there.

The kitchen was a total hot mess, but it had the potential to be really cute.  All of those glass-fronted cabinets have a ton of charm!  The black and white checkered floor was adorable, but it was in terrible shape and was missing quite a few of the stick-on tiles.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

We painted everything, swapped out the lighting and hardware, tiled the floor, added new appliances, and upgraded the counters to granite.  I’m so glad we kept the cabinets since they are pretty charming, and the finished product turned out great.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

Here’s the original view from the other direction.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

(Note: I try not to post photos with the owner’s belongings in them, but I didn’t have another “before” shot from this angle.  My apologies to the former owner!)

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

Also, I’m kicking myself for forgetting to take a photo where you can see the gas range and hood – it’s just on the opposite side of the fridge, and you’ll just have to trust me that it’s there.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the laundry is in the kitchen.  Having the laundry in the kitchen isn’t ideal, but there wasn’t another spot in the house to put a washer and dryer, so in the kitchen they stayed.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

However, if they were going to take up valuable real estate in the kitchen you can bet they were going to be put to work!  We opted to add a countertop above the washer and dryer for extra counter space.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

We crossed our fingers that including fancy new front-loaders in the rent would take the sting out of that arrangement a bit.  Luckily, that gamble worked.

The two bedrooms and bathrooms are all on the other side of the house, accessed through a hallway that flows off the formal living room and the den.  The first bedroom you encounter is the master.

It was dark, and I’m pretty sure the fan would have started slinging blades at us if we’d turned it on.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

With some new paint and hardware and a non-lethal fan, the master bedroom started feeling a lot more welcoming.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

It’s a big plus that the master bedroom has it’s own bathroom – however, that bathroom is TINY!  We expanded an identical bathroom in our 4th flip, but since we weren’t tackling any major renovations on this home that option was out.  So, we made the best of what we had to work with.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The tile was in good shape, and I thought the wall-hung sink was pretty cute.  However, the medicine cabinet above the sink and the vanity light were heinous.  So, we switched out the light, painted, and added a sheet mirror to bounce around a bunch of light and make the space feel as big as possible.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

Just down the hall from the master bedroom, towards the front of the house, is the guest bathroom and second bedroom.  The bedroom had had a bit of a hard life and desperately needed a little love.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

After receiving the sprucing the bedroom deserved, the focus is finally on those great windows instead of the grimy walls.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The guest bathroom was already pretty great.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The retro tile was really cute and in awesome shape, so we really just added new paint.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The bigger transformation is on the side of the bathroom that houses the vanity.  Those mirrors were incredibly weird and awkward, as was the placement of the lighting.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

We solved those issues with a giant sheet mirror (these things can be lifesavers!) and by consolidating the dueling light fixtures.  Those changes turned out to be just what this bathroom needed.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

The last stop on this tour is the backyard.  It already had a fabulous fence and a two-car garage, so we were happy campers.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

We just repainted the garage, mowed the lawn and called it a day.

Our Second Rental - A Single-Family Home - It's Great to Be Home

How do you think our little rental turned out?  Do any of you own rental properties?

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  1. deb says:

    Love it!

  2. kristin says:

    Oh my goodness–The kitchen cupboards are adorable!! (I love cottage style.) And the master bath redo with just the mirror and light is sooo much better! And the larger bath is so dang good with the sheet mirror!How did you keep yourself from going overboard? I imagine it was so different to have to really draw the line on keeping the redo’s simple and inexpensive, when you are used to complete overhauls.

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      You are so right, it was tough to keep from going overboard! With each decision, I just tried to choose the most affordable yet attractive option, and also avoid changing things that didn’t absolutely have to be changed. Granite was a pretty big upgrade in the kitchen, but those counters were just horrible! To keep costs down, we opted to keep the original tiled counter in the guest bath. And our budget did wind up being higher than we anticipated (although still just a fraction of what we usually spend on flips) – it’s crazy how things just start to add up.

  3. Kate says:

    Great job, as always! Hmmm I’m wondering if we could be as successful in our city as you two. Y’all are inspiring!! Everything you do is so well thought out!

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Thank you! It feels like we’re flying by the seat of our pants most of the time. :) Ooh, that would be fun if you took the plunge!

  4. Lucinda says:

    Liz ~ I’m thinking a reality house flip HGTV show is in your future! Love this house reminds me of our first home on Blessing dr. not too far from you. This will stay leased easily.

  5. Eva Z. says:

    Love the makeover! You can see what some paint and elbow-grease can do! I have an idea for the washer and dryer…I think it’s awesome that you added a beautiful countertop, do you think it would be doable to add perhaps a fabric curtain under that counter to cover the two appliances? I saw something like it on Pinterest and I thought it was a great idea to disguise the appliances…especially since you can see them from the other room. Perhaps something like this but with more neutral curtain:

  6. Perfect example of how to work with what you got and make a huge impact. Looks great!
    Jen @ Restore + Style´s last blog post post ..The Power of Caulk

  7. Loved seeing a less expensive renovation today! Your flips are great, but it’s fun to see what fits in the budget of a rental. I’d love to see what your mailers looks like – it’s always tricky to approach homeowners and it sounds like you’re doing it right!

    My husband and I have a few rentals in Seattle, all of which have undergone substantial renovations. We’ve been landlords for ~7 years and our experience renovating, renting, and maintaining the properties has been really positive (knock on wood that continues!). We’ve found that focusing on quality properties (well they’re quality after we renovate them) in great locations attracts quality tenants and gets us top dollar. Of course Seattle has a really healthy rental market so that helps too! I’d love to hear more about your rental process: what you look for in a property, how you decide to flip or rent, what financial criteria it must meet, and the leasing process. Great post!

  8. qs777 says:

    Loved seeing this today! Any chance we could find out the dark colors used in the kitchen and bath?

    We have a rental (would love more but since we are only on one income – and in CA – it is hard) and these improvements you made will make all of the difference. Also, slightly underpricing will help get you the biggest tenant pool from which to choose.

    Not sure if you have this issue in your area but we are struggling with keeping the front yard looking good considering we are only allowed to water 2 days a week in summer. Any ideas besides ripping it all out in favor of drought tolerant plants?

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Hi! The paint colors are Hale Navy (kitchen) and Kendall Charcoal (baths) by Benjamin Moore, color-matched in Sherwin Williams paint.

      As for the landscaping, that’s tough – we also have a 2-day watering restriction, but we don’t have a huge problem keeping things alive, maybe because of sprinklers and decently high humidity? I think your best bet might just be to evaluate your irrigation plan and make sure that everything is being watered thoroughly during those 2 days.

  9. Alison G says:

    It turned out great. Nice to see you kept so much of it’s original charm. Great investment find. Yes we have two rentals, it’s our retirement plan :). You two are sure worker bees. Reading that list made me tired.

  10. Michelle M says:

    I love the “cosmetic” changes! It is amazing how they can improve things so much. I also made cosmetic changes to my brother’s condo to help get it ready for listing. He had an offer above asking within a week! This is the first time I have done something like this, and I used his place as practice. The biggest cosmetic changes happened in the master bath: All other posts are tagged with “Condo”. It was a blast.
    Michelle M´s last blog post post ..A Brief Escape

  11. Brittney says:

    Yall have really been busy. I love this rental and I’m sure the tenants adore it so much more.

  12. Uran says:

    The renovation project looks nice. I like before-after posts like this. They encourage people for diy. I wonder how you manage to write all these things. Very nice.
    Uran´s last blog post post ..Follow the Significant Points Prior To Kitchen Design Tips

  13. Lakeisha says:

    I loved the changes, my current house I hope one day to be a rental property. Where did you get the light fixtures in the bathroom?

  14. Kevin says:

    This is a great post. I always enjoy and am inspired by your blog. Thanks

  15. Christy says:

    It’s been really interesting reading through your blog from the initial flips to now rentals. We have a rental condo but since we moved out of state, we are selling it to free up some cash and buy a flip locally (Boulder). Love the simple updates you did to the house! Are you planning on additional Reno’s while the tenants are there or waiting until in between tenants if at all?

    And wondering how you went about vetting your tenants? I’ve heard some WILD stories (our renter was a family friend so we never went through a scouting process for tenants).

  16. Denise says:

    Love it. I would live there.

  17. Sasha says:

    This looks awesome! It’s amazing how little jobs make such a difference!
    Sasha´s last blog post post ..Plumbing Parramatta by Gladesville Plumbing

  18. Warren says:

    Wow, you guys are busy. You’ve done a great job, and the place looks fantastic. Its always best to spend any renovation costs on your kitchen and bathrooms and also outside in landscaping. They are the areas where you can spend money and get a return of probably 3 to 1, or even 4 to 1 for each dollar spent when it comes to reselling. Well done, I love the work you’ve done. Good luck for the next one
    Warren´s last blog post post ..AKDY Stainless Steel Rain Shower Panel AZ-T8727F Thermalstatic Massage Jets Rain Style Hand Shower System

  19. Valerie says:

    Adorable! I wish I could rent this house! :) I really like all of the natural light you brought in and the kitchen remodel.

  20. Jordan says:

    Love love love it! These are some great before and afters. I especially love the new kitchen – so cute! My only worry is that window – the one that’s in a corner like that. It seems like it’d be a pain to get curtains for. Any plans for that?

  21. Andrea says:

    I think I like your little rental renovation very much:). Nicely done. And yes I looked twice at the laundry in the kitchen but I’d much rather have the laundry in the kitchen than not have it:)!.
    Andrea´s last blog post post ..The Top Tips To Home Improvement And Where You Should Begin

  22. Claire says:

    Those are some impressive results – rentals are great for passive income, if they are positively geared.

  23. Pam says:

    I was wondering if you had considered the idea of short term rentals? My daughter and son-in-law make their living from them in Austin. Not sure how your market would be in Dallas, but the right location might be great. They obviously require more organization and management than a leased rental but there is also a significant financial gain. They are mainly furnished by Ikea (and Costco) which helps keep the costs down. Here’s a couple of their listings, units that have been refurbished by them:
    Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Darling homes!! Short-term rentals are something that we thought about but, to be honest, the hands-on aspect of the whole thing was a bit of a deterrent for us since it would take a lot of time for not being the main way we earned income. Maybe we’re lazy, ha! I do think it’s an awesome idea, and maybe something that we could look into further in the future. Never say never! :)

  24. acm says:

    Have stayed away from rentals mainly from not wanting all the capital tied up. Otherwise, they seem a great way to diversify.

    One question: how do you plan to deal with maintenance? That is, I imagine that contractors for full-home renovations are quite different from contractors for late-night broken-toilet issues. Do you take on handyman stuff yourselves, do you have one you’ve cultivated, or are you hoping that the rehab means not much will need doing? For me, ongoing responsibility for such things is a deterrant from the landlord life.

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      To be honest, it’s a deterrent for us as well – we’re hoping that we will have minimal issues because we did renovate the houses, and any issues that do arise can be dealt with fairly quickly with a few phone calls. Or at least that’s what we’re hoping. ;)

  25. Angie Walters says:

    Hey Liz,

    What a great post – and just in time for summer too! Since my family and I are moving to Wichita in one month, we want to make sure that out new home’s outdoor space is up to par for this summer – we plan on having a ton of family barbecues in our new backyard.

    While we already have plans to update our backyard, we had a second bathroom that we were not sure what to do with. However, the simple changes you made to yours are exactly what I was looking for! By simply switching out the vanity light and adding a larger mirror you made such a big difference.

    Needless to say, we will be doing similar (if not identical) renovations to our new home’s second bathroom. I will definitely be checking back with your blog to see what other fantastic ideas you have!