Converting your home to a rental property can be a very profitable long-term financial decision, if done properly. Trust me, I know–my parents have been renting homes for 25+ years and encouraged me to do the same. I’ve now owned two rental properties (a condo and a duplex). But, before listing your home and signing a lease with a new tenant, there are a few things you must do around the house to have a successful rental property and make your house rental ready, especially as a first time landlord. While there are a few similarities with getting your house ready to sell, there are some important differences we’ll discuss here.
A house you’re readying to sell is a house that you won’t own in a few months. So, you might not be so worried about if the gutters are clean, or if your AC was recently serviced because that will no longer be your responsibility once sold. A rental home will always remain your responsibility first, then your tenants. So, if you don’t service your AC and it breaks 6 months later, you are the one out $8000 to replace it.
In this post, I’ll talk about what needs to be done to your house to make it rental ready based on my own experiences as a landlord and my family’s experiences.
Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item. The links are products I’ve used and loved in the past (or something very similar).
The most important thing in making your home rental ready is to ensure the property is safe. The last thing you want is to be sued because someone was injured because of your rental property. Working smoke detectors may be a no-brainer, but here’s a list of other important safety items you should make sure your rental property has:
- Working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (we have these Kidde Battery Operated Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors on each floor of our rental)
- Fire extinguisher on every floor in an accessible location (Make sure you have a kitchen fire extinguisher rated for grease in the kitchen–I have these Kidde fire extinguishers in our rental and our home)
- Railings the length of the staircase on each staircase, indoor and out. If you need help installing one, I’ll be posting it a how-to soon!
- Replace any corded blinds with cordless ones (love these Home Decorator Cordless Blinds from Home Depot–they were super easy to install and to use and you can get them in almost every size)
- All windows and doors are in working order
- All locks and window locks are in working order
Fresh paint goes a long way for a new tenant. It helps them forget that someone lived here before them. If you haven’t painted your home in a while (i.e. 2-3 years) or if you have non-neutral colors on the walls, take the time to paint your home. You’ll attract more renters and rent things more quickly.
Pro Tip: Order some extra paint for touch ups during your next rental turnover. And, make sure you write down the brand, color, and sheen of paint you use, in case you need to order some in the future. My parents paint all their rental properties the same color, so they only have to remember one and can easily keep some on hand.
Home & Yard Maintenance
Any outstanding maintenance, or any maintenance that will be due in the next few months, go ahead and take care of now while you’re making your home rental ready. Here are the ones we did for our duplex:
- Clean the gutters
- Snake any tub/shower drains
- Change the furnace filter
- Seal granite countertops (I used Rock Doctor Granite Sealant. It’s super easy to use and offers great protection for your countertops)
- Weed your garden beds
- Service the AC/furnace
- Overseed the lawn and patch any holes
- Replace the batteries in any electronics that are staying (smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, electric lock, Ring doorbell)
If you’re anything like me, the last thing you’ll want to in the first month of a lease, or even worse, while listing the home, is try to schedule a routine AC service call. Or, get a call from your tenants that the door lock isn’t working, and they don’t know how to change the battery. Make things as easy on yourself as possible and take care of these maintenance things in the weeks before listing your rental home.
That Finicky Light You’ve Ignored (or Whatever Other Small Problem You Have)
We all have at least one annoying problem in our house that we’ve learned to live with, or a quirk we’ve come to find endearing. I promise, that finicky kitchen light won’t be so endearing to your new tenant. Here’s how I learned this lesson the hard way:
My Very Patient First Tenant
About 4 months into my first tenant’s lease, she called to tell me the finicky fluorescent kitchen light I had warned her about (as it had been finicky since I moved in 8 years prior) had stopped working completely 2 weeks ago. She was extraordinarily patient and kind for 1. putting up with the light for 4 months in the first place and 2. waiting two weeks to tell me it stopped working. When she called, I felt terrible that I made her feel like she had to cook without light in her kitchen for 2 weeks.
I took a half day at work the next day to buy a new light and meet an electrician to replace the old one. And, after it was all said and done, I spent a total of $200 for the new light ($130 for the electrician and $70 for the light). I was left wondering–why did I live with that stupid finicky light for 7 years over a $200 fix?
I did not change this light out myself, as it was a large fluorescent light that I was nervous to work with. But, if you want step by step instructions on how to replace a light in your home, check out my post here!
Fix any nagging issues prior to listing your property to make it rental ready. If I had a less patient tenant (i.e. if I was the tenant and had a non-working light when I moved in), I could have been arranging for an electrician on Day 2 of the lease. Fix it before, on your schedule, to avoid the hassle in the future.
This is especially important as your nagging problem may be a sign of a bigger or damaging problem in the future. Tiny leaks or breakers tripping for no reason can lead to much more expensive, more damaging, more dangerous problems in the future, so make sure to take care of them before your tenants move in.
Check Local Code
All local jurisdictions have regulations about safe housing in rental properties. Some jurisdictions require business licenses for all tenants; others require annual inspections to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy; some have safety requirements for every rental property, while others only enforce those requirements for landlords who own a certain number of properties.
Since there’s so many variations, make sure you look yours up to ensure you are abiding by their rules and regulations. In the county I owned my condo in, I had to register my property and obtain a business license. In the city I own my duplex in, you don’t need either of those things, but there are a list of safety requirements that must be in place (how I learned I needed railings and subsequently learned how to install them).
Next Steps in Getting Rental Ready
Once you’ve completed all these steps to make your home rental ready, you’re well on your way to converting your home to a rental property. Now, you’re ready to tackle the next steps, like listing and marketing your home, generating a lease, and becoming an outstanding landlord. You can check out my other posts on all that goes into rental properties by clicking on “Rental Property” in the Main Menu, and follow A Girl’s Guide to Home DIY for more rental property posts in the future!