cheap and easy renovations
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Cheap & Easy Home Renovations

Appearance is everything when it comes to your home or rental property. Friends, family members, and tenants alike judge your place based on looks first and foremost and create their opinion of your place. This is why we take the time to do some cheap & easy home renovations to make them look newer, cleaner, and nicer. As a result, this increases our tenant pool, reduces vacancies, and gets us more rent in the long run. Also, we think it makes people prouder of the place they live, which is important to us as landlords.

Take these cheap and easy tips from our 10+ renovations and apply them to your own place! Whether you want to appeal to more buyers, renters, or just feel proud about your house that you’re in, we’ve got you covered. We aren’t talking multiple thousands of dollars or a few months invested in this. We have less than $500 and a weekend worth of work invested in these cheap and easy renovations. Find out how we do it below!

Property Background

When we purchased our second duplex for $49,000, it was fully occupied at $350 a month for each side. For the mathematicians out there, that works out $700 total which put us at 1.4%, easily surpassing the “1% rule”. Even though those numbers are okay, we knew going into it that we could increase the ROI pretty easily. The units were dated, but in decent shape, and in an area that we expected to see some serious gentrification. Once one of our tenants put in their notice to move, we were ready to roll up our sleeves and improve this place.

Cheap & Easy Renovations

With one unit empty, Emily and I got to do what we love to do to our rentals: make a few cheap and easy home renovations and raise the rent. Typically we do all the work: demolition, flooring, plumbing, painting, changing out countertops, swapping in newer appliances. You name it, we do it.

However, this time, we weren’t feeling as motivated for some reason and decided to hire part of it out. Below, we cover what we hired out, what we did, how much it cost us, and how much more we are going to be making in the future.

Paint the Walls

There aren’t many cheaper or easier ways to make your space look fresher, lighter, cleaner, and newer than a fresh coat of paint.

We had just finished painting another unit and weren’t interested in immediately jumping into another one. So, we paid a friend of mine from high school to paint the interior for $300. We are more than happy to help support people’s side-hustles (we should probably add painting to our list of Fitness Side Hustles) and we desperately needed the interior painted from this ugly, weird, purple-brownish color.

Top Landlord Tip: buy 5-gallon buckets of paint and keep all your rentals the same color. It’ll save you a ton of headaches in the future when you have to touch up, paint a new place, etc.

Paint the Cabinets

Kitchen

Another cheap & easy home renovation that can completely transform your kitchen or bathroom.

Luckily, we’ve done this kind of thing before, so we knew what we were getting into. Earlier in the week, we bought these Paint Brushes* & Paint Rollers* from Amazon so that we could hit the ground running on our cheap and easy home renovations. Thank you Prime 2-day shipping!

I dropped by the property after work on a Friday to get the place ready. An hour and a couple of beers later, all the cabinet doors down, taking the hardware off of them, and getting them prepped for paint. The next day, we divided and conquered.

Armed with General Finishes Queenstown Grey Paint*, I painted the cabinet faces while Emily knocked out the cabinet doors. A couple of light coats and we were ready for the Rust-Oleum Polyurethane* sealer. All that was left was installing the new Satin Nickel Cabinet Hinges* and Satin Nickel Cabinet and Drawer Handles* and we were ready to reassemble.

Bathroom

After we finished the kitchen, our focus turned to the bathroom cabinets. The good news is that the bathroom only has 4 cabinet doors, and two drawers, so the process was much quicker and simpler. Additionally, we used the same paint and cabinet hardware in the bathroom, again making the home renovations cheap and easy.

Process:

  1. Take the cabinet doors off, remove the drawers, and remove the hardware.
  2. Place the doors on a paint-safe surface. (we use some old plastic sheets)
  3. Use the deglosser and go over the cabinet faces as well as the back and fronts of the doors, and the fronts of the drawers, to get them ready for paint. (make sure the area is well ventilated, and you are wearing gloves)
  4. Start painting. Use the rollers first to get large areas, and then go back and touch up with the brush. Wait for those to dry, and go over with a second coat. Make sure there are no areas that need touching up if so, go ahead and do that now.
  5. While the touch-ups are drying, you can go ahead and flip the doors that are finished and dry so you can paint the other sides. I suggest starting with the backs and then moving on to the front of the cabinet doors. Paint the other side with 2x coats and repeat the process for touch-ups.
  6. Now you are ready for the topcoat. Usually, only one coat is necessary for the topcoat, we don’t want ours to look too glossy or shiny.
  7. Once you have done the topcoat on the fronts and backs, we are ready to hang the doors, if you are using new hardware, now is the time to get those out and ready.
  8. We like to put the hinges on the doors first, and then hang them on the cabinets, but you can pick your poison. Once you’ve got the hinges on the doors, we suggest hanging the top cabinet doors first while you are fresh and less frustrated. The bottoms are typically easier, so we save those for last.
  9. Once the doors are hung, you can put the door pulls on, and you’re on the home stretch.
  10. The hinges should’ve come with little felt or plastic bumpers that you can put at the top and bottom corner of the cabinet doors and on the top two corners of the drawers.

Flooring

Now that we had the bathroom cabinet walls and cabinets squared away it was looking much better. But one look at the floor and you were speechless, and not in a good way. The flooring would’ve been right at home with some wood-paneling or shag carpet walls. The only course of action was to change it, and fast!

Luckily we had some luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring that we bought from Habitat for Humanity at a huge discount. This LVP was leftover from a previous renovation, but we’ve used Tivoli Vinyl Floor Planks* before and really like them as well if you don’t want to rummage around in a second-hand store. After a few hours of measuring and cutting (I used a pocket knife and scissors because I forgot my table saw and didn’t want to make the drive again), the bathroom floor was done. All we needed to do was tack down some quarter-round trim to keep everything in place.

The vinyl plank installation will depend on your current flooring and the type of planks you purchase. We were lucky enough that we could install ours right over the previous flooring and keep it held down with quarter round floor molding, and a few well placed shots from the nail gun.

Supplies & Costs*

  • Painter: $300. Painted the entire interior except for the cabinets.
  • Light Blue Behr Interior Paint & Primer: $44.68. We bought a 5-gallon bucket of ‘oops’ paint that was discounted.
  • General Finishes Queenstown Grey Paint: $29.95. 1 qt. covered all our cabinets.
  • Rust-Oleum Polyurethane: $5.32. 1 qt is $15.97 and we used 1/3 a qt.
  • Paint Deglosser: no clue. A few splashes on an old rag, and we were set.
  • Paint Brushes & Paint Rollers: $9.99 for the brushes, and $11.59 for the rollers, both of which can and will be used for future projects.
  • Satin Nickel Cabinet Hinges: $19.86 for 20 sets (40 hinges). Be sure to double and triple check your hinges, some cabinets are flat-backed, while others have a lip, and both will use different hinges.
  • Satin Nickel Cabinet and Drawer Handles: $24.80 for 20 pulls
  • Vinyl Plank Flooring: $22.50 total. Purchased from Habitat for Humanity for $15 a box, and we used 1.5 boxes.
  • Vinyl Quarter Round Floor Trim: $14.14 Purchased from Home Depot for $7.07 for 12 ft. I wasted a few pieces with shitty cuts, so I had to use two.

Total: $482.83

How Much Money are these Cheap and Easy Home Renovations Making Us?

As I mentioned earlier in the article, the area that we purchased this duplex in is appreciating very quickly due to some new builds and gentrification. We were beneficial enough to foresee this coming and picked up these places for less than half of what I think they would sell for today. Part of that is the neighborhood and the other part is the work we’ve put in to increase the value.

We listed the place and got a lot of interest. However, it didn’t rent. While the inside looked much better, we neglected to address the curb appeal outside. So, we rolled our sleeves back up and spent another weekend doing some work outside. After we finished our exterior project, we were practically having to beat people away with a stick.

We took two units that were renting for $350 apiece, and now have two units renting for $550 each. This means we are getting $4,800 more per year. Furthermore, when you figure how much we spent, and how much we are netting that works out to a mind-boggling 513% ROI in one year.

Just for shits and giggles, we calculated the difference over 5 years with a 5% rent increase. The $550 rent increased by 5% yearly makes us $26,100 more than the $350 over the same time period and rent increase.  Or, a 3,234% ROI.

What Are You Waiting For?

This concludes our easy, cheap, and fast weekend DIY home renovations. This is one of the many reasons why we love real estate. We could spend a whole weekend researching the market and trying to short stocks, buying options, or timing the market, and more likely than not, we are going to fail. However, spending a weekend with my wife, doing some easy DIY projects that could make us $4,800 more a year, sounds like a slam dunk for us. To continue the comparison, to be able to withdraw $4800 more per year, we’d need to invest ~$120,000 in the market instead of the $783 we invested here.

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3 Comments

  • Mr FIRE Ready Aim

    Nicely done, and it looks great. You may be able to save even a little more by using a paint called Cabinet Coat, typically available at Benjamin Moore stores. I have used it for refinishing furniture and painting homemade furniture, and have been very pleased with it. Dries smooth and hard. About $30/gallon. It’s considered a water based paint, but it can be painted over oil paint (as long as you lightly scuff the finish) and it doesn’t peel off. It’s been a godsend for painting our yellowing trim.

    • James @ Rethink the Rat Race

      Thanks for the compliment, Mr. FIRE Ready Aim! And we definitely appreciate the suggestion. We are in the middle of another renovation right now, and we are experimenting with a lower cost Rust-Oleum charcoal paint, but since we haven’t finished it yet, I didn’t feel comfortable suggesting it. We will definitely look into the Cabinet Coat though!

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