5 Steps to Get Your House Ready to Rent by Terry Sprouse

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Helen Keller

If you are following my suggestion and turning your old home into a rental house, or if you are just purchasing an investment fixer upper house, use these 5 steps to prepare your house to rent out.

 Step 1:  Remove Furniture

Move all of your furniture and personal belongings out of your old house. The absence of these items makes the house look bigger and the home is more inviting if it is not cluttered up with beds, chairs, food supplies, and toys. It also makes it easier to do a thorough job of cleaning the house.

This only applies to the first time you rent out your new rental house. After tenants leave in the future, they will take most of their things with them. Of course, some tenants do not follow the normal procedure, and they may leave in the middle of the night to avoid paying their last rent check.

(Occasions like this make it tempting to slip a magnetized GPS tracking device under the fender of the renter’s car.)

An incident like this happened to me a couple of years ago. Not only did the tenant leave a pile of clothing, bottles and boxes of cleaning supplies, cupboards of food, and a sofa, but also left behind a car that didn’t work. (So much for the GPS idea.)

Renters like this one are the exception. Tenants normally take all their things with them when they leave, making it easy for me to prepare the property for the next tenant, and without much effort, present an appealing yet empty house.

Step 2:  Clean Up

 Thoroughly clean the house. This includes painting walls (a fresh coat of paint makes the place look and smell good), washing floors, cleaning appliances (especially the oven), shampooing carpets, washing the windows, cleaning the bathrooms and checking the roof.

 Step 3:  Make Repairs

 Take care of all repair work. Leave nothing to chance and make all repairs before tenants move in. Change broken outlets and switches, patch holes, remove stains, replace cracked and broken glass, repair dripping faucets, replace missing shingles, and fix roof leaks.

The old saying that “Left to themselves, things always go from bad to worse,” is especially true with rental houses. It’s tempting to assume that that small leak in the bathtub, or a toilet that flushes most of the time, won’t bother anyone. But trust me, you will get that call to repair the bathtub or toilet at the most inopportune time.

This doesn’t mean that everything in the house has to be new, but everything should be in working order.

It is a rental house after all, and not Buckingham Palace.

For example, bedroom doors do not have to be replaced every time they have a crack or a hole in them. I rehabilitate the door with wood putty, and a fresh coat of paint. The guy in the “Easy Repair of Hollow Core Door” video below uses drywall mud to fill the hole, with equally good results.

 Buy used construction materials

Missing or broken light switches, outlets, covers can be replaced inexpensively with quality used ones. I have also purchased reliable doors, cabinets, stove tops, dishwashers, and toilets at stores that recycle construction materials, for pennies on the dollar. The Habitat for Humanity Store is one such place that I frequent for good used materials. There are 825 Habitat Restores in the United States and Canada. You can locate a store near you at www.habitat.org

Buy new or used appliances?

 If broken clothes washers or dryers cannot be easily repaired, our policy is to replace them with a quality used one, or with lower end new appliances (like the Kenmore brand from Sears).

 Buy bargain appliances before you need them

 Craigslist and yard sales are great places to find good used appliances at bargain prices. If I see a nice working appliance for a good price, I will purchase it, even though I don’t have any immediate need for it. I’ll just store it in our shed until I need it.

I bought a like-new furnace at a yard sale for only $40 and installed it into a rental house and it has worked great. For furnaces, there are very few moving parts to worry about, and the wiring is relatively simple. As long as the motor works, you’re home free.

I once literally picked up a clothes dryer from the side of the road that had a “Free Dryer” sign taped to it. I gave it a new home and it has been working

Low maintenance yard (in the southwest)

reliably for over 10 years now. The only repair, about five years ago, was that I had to change the on/off switch on the door.

Step 4:  Simplify Landscaping

The front yard of your rental houses must look great. Curb appeal gives the potential tenants a good first impression. Simple and neat landscaping gives the client  comfort that the yard is low maintenance and ecologically and economically low in water consumption saving the tenants money on water and saving you time later not having to replace a yard of dead plants.

This yard went too low maintenance!

I personally like to utilize decorative rocks on our rental yards, and plants that don’t require any watering, like Mesquite and Palo Verde trees, which have long roots that tap into the aquifer.

 Step 5:  Re-key the Locks

 One other thing that I like to do before a new tenant moves in is to re-key all the locks. This is cheaper than buying new doorknobs, and it provides security for our tenants. This protects you and your tenants in case a previous tenant has surreptitiously kept an extra copy of a house key.


Related Posts

Remove that Garbarge Disposal Now!

6 Steps to Roof Maintenance (for the Home that will Turn Into a Rental House)

How I Evicted A Problem Tenant in 4 Steps

When to Hire a House Inspector – Radio Interview with Rich Peterson

Getting Rid of Bad Tenants

“Turn your home into a rental” on Mark Wayne Show

7 Reasons to Live in a Fixer-Upper House While You Repair It

6 Steps to Roof Maintenance (for the Home that will Turn Into a Rental House)

Our First Rental House Plunge

10 Most Frequent Problems Found by House Inspectors

5 Steps to Get Your House Ready to Rent by Terry Sprouse

5 Steps to take if your house is flooded

Some perfectly legal ways to maximize your rental profits

Add “Start a Rental House Business” to Your Bucket List

The 5 Rules on How to Lose Money and Get Your Rental Property Trashed by Tenants

Window Repair with #2 Son

Required Roof Maintenance for Fixer Upper Houses

Learn to Repair Your Fixer Upper Houses

How I Got Started In Fixer-Upper Houses

How to learn to operate a fixer upper house business

The Peaceful Warrior and Fixer-Upper Houses

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24 Responses to “5 Steps to Get Your House Ready to Rent by Terry Sprouse”

  1. Jason @ WSL says:

    These are great tips that I hope to implement some day! I didn’t know re-keying locks was an option…I’ll have to learn more about how that works.

    • Terry says:

      It takes a little practice to do, but if you plan to own rental properties for a long time, it’s worth the effort. You can usually buy re-keying kits for one lock at hardware stores. You can by a master kit for many locks on-line. Or, you can hire a handy man to do it for you.

  2. Good post Terry! We’re not in this situation, but they’re great points. One place we look for cheaper appliances or odds and ends for that matter is the Habitiat for Humanity Restore. It’s basically like a Goodwill, but with housing stuff. All of the stuff is donated and the proceeds go back to Habitat. You can usually find really good deals on stuff at really low prices.

  3. This really is great information Terry. You’re certainly an authority in your niche. You better be getting your own TV show very soon!

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  7. I never thought to buy appliance to “stockpile”. I’m sure the dishwasher will go out in our rental sooner rather than later, so I guess I should keep my eyes out if there is a good deal

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  10. Carl says:

    Hi Terry, I recently found your site and have been reading your blogs with interest. I have one question: Have you ever acquired, or considered acquiring, a “Fix em up, Rent em out” property using a Lease Option?

    • Terry says:

      Hi Carl,

      No, I have never delved into Lease Options. I can see the upside to it in being able to get into a property with less cash up front.

      On the other hand, there are some down sides to lease options, that make me a little wary of them. From what I have read, a high percentage of people who sign up for lease options fail to buy the home.

      • Carl says:

        Hi Terry,

        Thanks for the response. Actually, I was thinking more from the point of view of the investor entering the Lease Option with the intent of “Holding” the property, and then renting out the property for positive cash flow. At the end of the lease option term, the investor can either exercise the option, assign the option, extend (if possible), or walk away as a last resort having profited from the rent spead.

        I know there are potential pitfals, but if structured right with some precautions (like recording the deed), I think it could be one way to go.

        Anyway, this is something I intend on investigating a little more.

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