Eight Ways To Make Your Rental Property Stand Out, Without Breaking the Bank

Rental properties are more than just an investment – they’re a means of ensuring a steady stream of income as well as providing for the future of the homeowner. But this investment or income stream is only effective provided you’ve got either a long-term tenant or you’re able to limit the amount of time your unit sits empty; two things that can be difficult in a renter’s market.

The key to making your rental property stand out (and maintain consistent tenancy) is to make sure that your property adds the kind of value that other units don’t. If you aren’t careful, adding value can come at a significant financial cost, reducing your return on investment. Thankfully, there are options that won’t break the bank – here are eight of them.

1. Spruce Up the Kitchen and Bathroom

If you don’t have the budget to update the kitchen and bathroom as much as you might like, it’s still worth giving these areas a little TLC. That’s because these are two of the areas that tenants pay particularly close attention to when deciding on whether or not they’ll choose to live somewhere.

If your kitchen cupboards (or bathroom vanity) are dated, a fresh coat of paint and new knobs can easily breathe new life into them. Re-grouting the ceramic tiles in the bathroom can eliminate a grimy, dirty look from the room that has the highest ROI associated with it.

Horizontal image of modern kitchen detail. Showing a kitchen sink and faucet with water running from the faucet, and potted herbs behind on window sill. Space for copy.

Adding a beautiful glass tile backsplash in your kitchen can really help to sell a modern feel to your unit. Best of all, this update can be done on the cheap if you ask your tile supplier to see their discontinued stock.

2. Create the Impression of Demand

While this tip isn’t necessarily about adding value, it is one that can help you land a tenant quickly, and may even help you get a few more bucks for your unit. The next time your unit is vacant, treat it as an open house when creating your ad. Instead of setting individual appointments with prospective renters, set aside a three to four hour viewing period on a Saturday. Nothing inspires people to jump on a property faster as much as perceived competition does – and who knows, you might even benefit from a bidding war!

3. Paint!

Some property owners don’t see the value in painting their rental property. To them, using builder’s paint makes the most sense because it’s cheap. Tenants for their part, abhor builder’s paint – it simply doesn’t hold up to everyday life. It’s easy to scuff, requires constant cleaning, and frankly, it just looks terrible. When choosing paint to brighten your space, you can save some money by looking for closeout sales or choosing flat or semi-gloss paints rather than designer high-gloss options. Also, try to look for a paint that includes a primer. While it might cost you a few extra dollars to paint your rental property, it’ll help prospective tenants to more easily see themselves living there.

4. Pay Attention to the Windows

While your average metal blinds will keep the sun at bay, they’re more at home in a college dorm room than they are in a grownup rental property. Install a nice set of cellular shades – not only will they perform the same function as cheap window blinds, they’ll also likely go much better with your tenant’s décor.

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5. Break Out the Windex!

Nothing makes tenants like your unit more than new appliances. If your appliances aren’t new, you should try a few tricks to make them look as new as possible. It goes without saying that you should clean the inside of your fridge, microwave, etc. with an all-purpose cleaner, but don’t forget to also clean the outside of the appliance. Nothing brings out an appliance’s shine like a glass cleaner. Don’t forget about the washer and dryer!

6. Make Space

If your rental agreement stipulates that your tenant is responsible for paying utilities, they’ll undoubtedly appreciate the cost savings that a tankless water heater offers over a conventional water heater. In addition to being much more energy efficient, these units also take up only a fraction of the space; a marketable feature that’ll allow you to promote additional storage space and square footage in your rental ad!

7. First Impressions Count

Want to add value to your rental property that literally won’t cost you a cent? Take your role as a landlord seriously. Dress nice, have pens and applications at the ready, as well as garbage schedules, a timetable of maintenance schedules, and even a business card with all of your information. If tenants know that you take your responsibilities seriously, they’ll be much more likely to sign a lease with you over someone else, all things considered.

8. Don’t Forget About the Outside of the Property

If you’re showing your rental unit in the spring or summer, make sure that the grass is nicely manicured and any outdoor communal areas are free of trash and other debris. If showing the property in the winter, clear the driveway, parking areas, and walkways of snow and ice – make it evident that you regularly lay down salt or sand for traction.

Trying to rent out a property in a renter’s market can be tough, but showing potential renters the value of your space can be pretty easy if you take care of the little things and make an effort to give them extra bang for their buck.

Ontario Wants to Help you Save the Environment and Money!

For those who rent, the cost associated with heating and cooling their home is, generally speaking, of little consequence. In most cases, the landlord has worked in the cost of utilities into the rent itself, effectively sheltering their tenants from volatile utility pricing.
If you’ve recently become a homeowner for the first time, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by your home’s variable costs, and rightfully so; depending on the state of your home’s
heating and cooling unit, you might be paying much more than you should be each month.
If that wasn’t reason enough to bring in an HVAC contractor to get an idea of how an efficient system could work in your home, here’s another little tidbit that might peak your interest: the Government of Ontario has announced a $100 million plan designed to incentivize homeowners to upgrade their home’s most vital components: their furnaces, hot water heaters, and insulation.

Solar panels with wind turbines in the foreground leading back to a atomic energy plant against a clear blue sky

 

While this program is intended to help consumers foot the bill for these home improvements, there are other related goals that the provincial government is hoping to achieve: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and job creation. As the effects of global warming continue to be studied, the provincial and federal governments of Canada have committed to lowering their output of emissions. Incentives such as this one, are incredibly helpful in not only achieving those targets, but also in educating the public about the many benefits of reducing their home’s carbon footprint above and beyond what they’ll save on their bills each month.

Largely viewed as a step in the right direction and a sign of what’s to come (the money to fund this project is coming from a $325 million pool the province dog eared as a down payment on future revenue of their long term cap-and-trade plan), the details, like who can qualify and how much of a rebate they’ll receive remains to be determined.

What is known however is that approximately 37,000 of Ontario’s 4 million homes will qualify for a home energy audit to identify energy saving options. How does it work? Once a homeowner proceeds with the desired update(s), an audit will take place. Once the audit is complete, the homeowner is provided with rebates courtesy of the provincial government to offset the cost of the initial upgrade investment.

The lucky homeowners that qualify can expect to see real savings immediately; it’s estimated that for every dollar a homeowner invests to retrofit their home with energy efficient heating and cooling systems, they’ll save approximately $1.50 to $4.00 in natural gas consumption.

These kinds of real savings are great, but getting there can be difficult the older the home is. For instance, to be truly efficient, a century or even mid-century home would need to be retrofitted with new, energy efficient windows and insulation in addition to a state of the art gas furnace. For many, the cost to make these improvements on their own are simply too exorbitant.

Thankfully, it’s not just the government that’s on board with incentivizing homeowners to invest in better technology.

Some of the province’s largest purveyors of natural gas offer their customers rebates for completing a number of different installations. Enbridge, for instance, offers a $100 dollar credit to those that purchase and install a qualified smart thermostat by the end of the year! Granted, $100 might not sound like a lot, but these small improvements can add up, especially when considering that the smart thermometer itself is designed to save you money on your heating costs.

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Some programs can even see the homeowner receive up to $1800 in rebates provided they meet certain requirements and implement certain retrofits into their home. For example, Nationwide currently offers their customers a free Nest thermostat and tankless water heater when they upgrade to a high efficiency furnace.

Incentives aside, it is important for homeowners to plan and budget in advance for upgrades such as an eventual furnace replacement, or other improvements they would like to implement in the future. The crucial thing here is to make the improvements one way or the other even if you are not eligible for a rebate. Though it might cost you more money initially, your savings will be substantial over the long term.

Save Money and Go Green

Save Money & Go Green with Nationwide Home Comfort

Residential and commercial properties as well as industrial developments across Canada use a plethora of small, medium and large appliances. There are furnaces, boilers, water heaters, air conditioning or HVAC units, water softeners and water filters and an array of home, business and industrial appliances. Most appliances are a necessity.

Some are optional but they are still quintessential for comfort. When you rely on so many appliances, it is important to check its carbon footprint. Even if you are not too conscious of the environmental impact of your energy consumption and heavy use of appliances, you should conduct an energy assessment to figure out if you can save some money on your monthly utility bills.

That is where Nationwide Home Comfort plays a pivotal role. Very few property owners are proactive with energy assessments. Homeowners often wonder why their energy bills or water bills spiked for a few months, leaving aside the obvious hot days and freezing weeks. Many business owners wonder if they can do something about their energy consumption.

The truth is that you can do a lot. You can initiate energy assessment to find loopholes or outright poor practices of using different appliances. You can change your air conditioning and heating systems or the HVAC unit. You can upgrade old infrastructure so you can benefit from state of the art technology, greater efficiency and better green ratings.
Let us just factor in an HVAC unit or an air conditioning system and show you how you can save money and go green with Nationwide Home Comfort.

  • An old air conditioning unit will obviously be powered by dated technology. It is no secret that the evolution of technology is not just rapid but becoming a perennial reality now. Did you know that a state of the art air conditioning system can save more than half the energy consumed by a decade old one? If you had purchased an air conditioner in the nineties or even if your HVAC unit dates back to the early years of this century, you should consider getting an upgrade.
  • There are many reasons why you should consider latest appliances. With an air conditioner for instance, latest models are powered by R-410A which is the hydro-fluorocarbon coolant used in air conditioners now. Older machines are powered by R-22. R-410A is not only greener but it saves you a lot more money on energy consumption while offering faster and better cooling.
  • Whether you want increased efficiency or enhance comfort, incentives, government rebates or you want your property value to  appreciate; you can save money and go green while achieving all of these with Nationwide Home Comfort.

E=CH4: Electric Versus Gas Hot Water Heaters

We all know that there are numerous ways to reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Some strategies, like turning off the lights when leaving a room or limiting the time you spend in the shower are simple measures that have been ingrained in most of us since childhood. The habit of turning off lights and taking quick showers means that each and every one of us understands that wasting energy equates to wasting money – but how many of us are equally aware of the negative impact wasted energy has on the environment

Thankfully, taking steps to reduce financial waste in the home can often have a positive cause and effect relationship with how green your household really is; turning the lights off when leaving the room will save you money, but it will also reduce the amount of energy that needs to be produced on your home’s behalf.

While people certainly purchase energy efficient appliances for the potential of a reduced utility bill, whether they know it or not, they are also making a decision that will ultimately mean their home will generate fewer greenhouse gases.

Energy Efficient Water Heaters: Where to Begin?

When it comes to purchasing a new unit, whether it’s electric or gas powered, a storage or a tankless water heater, a key determinant will be the unit’s energy factor (EF). Simply put, knowing a water heater’s EF rating will help you compare the annual cost (or savings) of operation as well as help to contextualize each unit’s impact on the environment (this is important because the majority of water heaters available on the market today can claim to be energy efficient to some degree – the question is, how efficient are they really?). It should be noted here that as far as EF’s are concerned, a higher number is better.

A water heater’s EF measurement isn’t strictly about the type or amount of energy it consumes; it also takes into account the unit’s ability to mitigate heat loss as well as its ability to efficiently transfer the source heat to the water. Combined, these two considerations are key to determining how effective your new water heater will be, how cost effective it will be to operate, and how low its environmental impact will be.

Do Electric Water Heaters Typically Have a Better EF Factor Than Gas Powered Water Heaters?

This just happens to be one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to water heaters. And while it’s an important one to ask, also it’s important to recognize that efficiency isn’t the only determinant when considering the environment.

Generally speaking, electric-powered water heaters are more efficient than the gas-powered alternative; and while that may mean a lower cost of operation to the consumer (depending of course, on current energy prices), it doesn’t necessarily mean that one can automatically assume that it is better for the environment. The reason for that has more to do with the method by which the electricity is generated, rather than used.

For example, some jurisdictions burn garbage or coal in order to generate electricity – in this instance, the energy your water heater uses has a larger negative impact than if it were powered by natural gas. If environmental impact is to be weighted equally to the efficient use of energy, one must take into account the way energy is produced in the area.

Of course, if your electricity is generated by a hydroelectric water dam, or by solar panels mounted on your roof, the energy is being produced by a supply of clean, sustainable energy.

What about a Tankless Water Heater?

These days, tankless water heaters are becoming an increasingly compelling alternative for homeowners. While initially more expensive than a conventional water heater installation, tankless heaters require less space and energy to heat the water than a storage tank heater; especially in homes with few occupants.

Unlike a traditional unit, tankless models provide heated water “on-demand” which reduces the opportunity for heat loss that is inherent with storage tank models. As a rule, water heaters that heat water within a tank are insulated very well, but even with the most advanced insulation, heat loss is unavoidable. Heat loss, no matter how minimal, means that the water supply must continually be reheated to maintain a certain temperature.

Tankless heaters aren’t perfect, but if the goal is to install a water heater that will minimize environmental impact and help keep monthly utility payments reasonable, it may be the option for you.

Why This Tool You Never Heard of is a Must for Your Tool Box!

Radiator Condenser Fin Straightener Comb

Radiator Condenser Fin Straightener Comb

Before we get into all that, let’s be honest – how many among us have given much thought to the topic of our AC’s condenser fins, much less wonder whether or not they are in proper working order? As far as home maintenance goes, inspecting and servicing your air conditioning unit may be pretty low on the project list – but you should know that neglecting to complete some pretty basic visual inspection and upkeep may mean you’ve been paying too much to cool your home; all due to a common issue that plagues millions of AC units every year: bent fins.

Condenser fins share the unfortunate distinction of being one of your air conditioner’s most important elements while also being one of its most fragile – making them arguably among the most important elements that you’ll need to keep an eye on.

BlogPic_002How Bent Condenser Fins Cost You Money

Think back to last year’s dog days of summer; how well did you prepare your air conditioner for the trying months that lay ahead? Shockingly, many homeowners fail to take the necessary steps to protect their unit from the year’s most inhospitable weather.

If for one reason or another you find yourself as part of this camp, you might notice that this year, when the summer heat is at its most unbearable, your air conditioner may not be delivering the same kind of cooling power that it once did. That’s because condenser fins play a vital role in the system’s air intake, and consequently, effective heat exchange. When the system’s airflow is compromised, it means that the system has to work harder to keep the indoor environment at the desired temperature and that invariably translates into a higher than expected hydro bill.

You’ll be pleased to know that setting a bent condenser fin right is a simple, no nonsense project that any homeowner can take on.

The Quick and Easy Guide to Repairing Bent Condenser Fins

Thankfully, this is one job you can get done that won’t involve an expensive trip to the tool rental counter, nor will you have to force a friend or neighbour to sacrifice a swath of their Saturday to lend you a hand. In most cases, all you will need to get your AC unit drawing air at maximum efficiency will be a condenser fin comb.

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Generally speaking, a fin comb will set you back (at most) twenty dollars, and they can be found at just about any hardware store. You can even find one that has multiple spacer sizes in the event you decide to upgrade to a larger unit, or you know someone else that has bent fins in need of straightening.

How Do They Get Damaged in the First Place?

While the fins are made of metal, they are made of very thin metal. As a result, they are prone to becoming damaged from a variety of different sources.

One of the most common ways air conditioning fins can become damaged is by failing to properly secure the unit for the winter. Air conditioners tend to be sold with a protective grate that covers the top of the unit, but this grate does not offer comprehensive protection. Sure, it will keep large debris from damaging the unit’s vulnerable interior, but will provide little protection when it comes to hail, freezing rain, and punishing winds. When the summer heat begins to wane secure your air conditioner with a tarp or other waterproof covering to ensure it will be protected from the elements until it is called upon again.

Believe it or not, another way condenser fins get damaged is actually during maintenance. Come spring, many homeowners bring out the power washer to remove the vestiges of winter from their property, spraying windows, siding, and porches.

Eventually, their attention turns to the air conditioning unit, which has been sitting dormant for months. As a rule, high-pressure water and condenser fins don’t mix. While good intentioned, taking a pressure washer to your air conditioner can warp the fins and drastically impair airflow. If you want to spruce up your air conditioner, consider doing so with a vacuum cleaner or a canister of compressed air (like the kind you would use to remove dust from your electronics) – it just might save you an expensive air conditioner service call, unless you rent to own.