The Best Appliances to Boost Your Rental Property’s Value—and Bonus Tips For Saving Money

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Rental properties come in all shapes, sizes, and prices, as do many of the appliances that go in them. Assuming, however, that your rental is not a sprawling Beverly Hills mansion, a luxury condo in Manhattan, or, conversely, a trailer in Ohio, but rather a quality middle-class home or apartment of around 1,000 square feet in a decent neighborhood, choosing the right appliance for the home can be confusing. 

Here are some things to bear in mind.

Cost

The appliances in your investment property should suit the rental price. You are not going to put a $100,000 La Cornue range in a $1,500-per-month rental apartment. The key to choosing the right appliance for any rental is to find one that looks stylish and works well without spending a fortune. All tenants want to see modern stainless steel (or some version of such) appliances in their homes, which means staying away from basic white or black appliances.

Design Your Kitchen Around Your Range

The good news is that dozens of cost-efficient appliances fit these criteria. Expect to spend anywhere from $800 to $1,300 for a solid, good-looking range. Multiple companies offer these types of standard 30-inch ranges that fit these criteria. GE, Frigidaire, and Whirlpool are among the most popular for rentals. 

The New York Times Wirecutter is a good, impartial place to start researching appliances. Although they have links to retailers and receive commissions from sales, the writers themselves—to quote the Times—”are never made aware of any business relationships with retailers, and products are recommended (or not) independent of all business and financial interests.” 

Having written a blog for an appliance retailer in the past, I cannot say that is true for other reviews on the web. I still fondly remember the free meals in a luxury appliance manufacturer’s plush Manhattan showroom—not to mention the closet full of free promo materials!

As your range is the centerpiece of your kitchen, around which the main action occurs, I’ve always found it best to choose my other appliances around it. It’s also cost-effective and easy, and online stores offer appliance packages once you have chosen one item at deep discounts compared to buying each item individually.

Cooktop or range?

Generally speaking, ranges (also called stoves) are cheaper than cooktops, which sit on top of the counter and usually need slabs to be cut to accommodate them. Slide-in ranges are convenient, cost-effective, and easy to clean, service, and replace for rentals. 

Gas or electric?

Unless you’re renting to Gordon Ramsay (in which case, congratulations, you’re rich!), having a naked flame in a rental unit is not a good idea. Electric ranges are easy to clean, present far less fire hazard, and are usually reasonably priced. Electric ranges are also better for the environment.

It’s also worth noting that the world is trying to move away from fossil fuels, and some American cities have outlawed gas ranges entirely. Regardless of where you stand politically on the issue, the tide of change is undeniable. In 10 years, electric cars will be the norm, as will fully electric homes (unless you own a wood-heated log cabin). It’s best to save yourself the hassle of buying new appliances and get with the electric program now.

Induction or not?

When I first started putting induction ranges in my rental units a few years back, contractors and other investors looked at me as if I had antennae sprouting from my head. 

Induction cooktops and ranges look and function like typical glass-top electric models, except they cook via a magnetic field. On most 30-inch induction cooktops, the field is concentrated into four spots (or elements). This means they do not emit heat like conventional electric cooktops but rather cook through a magnetic field when a pot or pan with a compliant circular pattern on the bottom (most have them) is placed on top.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. They cook like with an electric cooktop—just without any heat (you can put your bare hand on an element when it is turned on and not feel a thing). However, in a country often resistant to change, they have not taken off in the U.S. to the same extent as they have in Europe, where their use is widespread. 

There are obvious advantages:

  • Safety: No risk of fire or burning. This could result in reduced insurance premiums.
  • Energy efficiency: Induction cooking is 10% more energy efficient than conventional electric cooking.
  • Fast: Waiting for a pan to heat up is not an issue, as the moment a compliant pan is placed on top, it cooks the food.
  • Easy cleanup: There is no danger of food getting burned on the top of the cooktop because it never gets hot.
  • Peace of mind: Landlords have one less thing to worry about since a stove fire will not happen in their rental unit.
  • Make venting easier: Since naked flames are not a risk in your kitchen, there is no need for an industrial-sized vent that looks like it belongs in a commercial kitchen. 

On the negative side, induction ranges are generally more expensive than conventional electric models (expect to pay around $1,300 for a standard model that would suit mid-priced rentals). Also, some tenants might find using them takes some getting used to, and if you are switching from gas, rewiring your kitchen could be costly.

With Refrigerators, Beware of Ice Dispensers

Choosing an applicable refrigerator usually comes down to kitchen space. Measure before you buy.

However, steer clear of fridge freezers with exterior ice dispensers. While these might suit a personal residence, I never use them in rentals. Tenants are not meticulous about how much ice they dispense or the cleanup when some of it lands on the floor. Despite your waterproof tile or vinyl plank flooring, excess water on the floor is never a good idea. Also, they can be prone to leaks and malfunctions and be challenging to repair.

Washer-Dryers

As the world moves away from gas, your choice of dryer to accompany your washer will be limited to electric. Like stoves, many people swear against electric drying, but if you have a choice of bringing gas lines into the house and the inherent risk they pose, along with the opportunity to future-proof your rental business, electric dryers make sense.

Regarding the brand or size, stackable or side-by-side, there are hundreds of choices, and yours should be based on budget, size of the rental, and number of tenants. won’t get into the minutiae of all the configurations. However, I will offer a few broader brush strokes of advice. 

Stay away from all-in-one washers and dryers. They are just not that efficient yet, particularly when it comes to drying.  As a last resort, if you are space-challenged, you might be forced to buy one. Frankly, though, a clothes rack would prove a less frustrating experience.

Short-Term Rentals

If you have short-term rentalsas I do, my advice is to opt for a commercial-grade washer and dryer. They might not look as fancy as residential-use ones, but with a high volume of laundry and guests who are not concerned about the upkeep of your appliances, a commercial-grade combo is the way to go. 

Speed Queen has had this market locked down for decades. They are durable workhorses with great warranties. 

Frigidaire and Whirlpool

From my experience in the appliance business, two brands dominated the mid-range rental and flip business: Frigidaire and Whirlpool, for the reasons I stated earlier—they look good, work well, and are reasonably priced. While higher-end brands such as Miele, Bosch, and Thermador come with a certain amount of glamour and prestige, unless you have luxury rentals, it’s not worth spending the money on luxury appliances.  

Final Thoughts

Appliances are often their last thought when outfitting a rental for many landlords. For tenants, appliances are often their first thought. That’s why many landlords opt to buy used appliances. Used appliances can save money in the short term but prevent you from charging higher rents and not having warranties for new appliances. 

Other things to bear in mind:

  • Cost segregation: Under tax law section 179, landlords may deduct the cost of appliances on their taxes.
  • Include the upkeep of new appliances in your leases: Your rental lease should have a clause that lists all included appliances and stipulates any special maintenance requirements or responsibilities. This will hold tenants accountable for their upkeep.
  • Energy rating: Many tenants move because of high utility bills. Low costs through energy-efficient appliances are good for your bottom line and the planet.
  • Appliance warranties: Choose appliances with excellent repair warranties. You can often negotiate an extended warranty with the retailer, particularly if you have multiple rentals and offer them ongoing business.

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.



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