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Creatively Upgrade Your Unit on a Budget

If you're a landlord, you know the importance of keeping it up-to-date and attractive to potential tenants. While it is true that in some more competitive markets, it is more important than in others where there is a significant housing shortage (such as in many Canadian cities), differentiating your product from the competition always has its benefits. In many cases, you'll be able to find higher quality tenants who will treat this space as their own and will pay a premium for the nicer unit. It will drive behavioural changes in your tenants who will take better care of your unit which in turn saves you money in maintenance and long term improvement costs.

That all sounds great but unfortunately, remodeling a unit can be quite expensive and time consuming. There are however a few creative improvements that will make a big impact on your unit without breaking the budget to drive profits and reduce or even eliminate vacancies. In this article, we'll explore cost-effective methods for upgrading your unit on a budget to ensure that it is appealing to potential tenants.

Install new light fixtures

If you're looking for a creative way to upgrade your rental unit on a budget, installing new light fixtures is the first thing that you should do. Not only are they an affordable option, many modern light fixtures can be purchased for $50-100, but they will greatly modernize an older room while drastically improving the lighting in a dark and dingy room.

To remain on trend, we typically recommend sticking to black accents against brighter walls and floors because it'll make the fresh lights the accent of the room and draw attention while distracting from minor imperfections around the rest of the room.

Lighting plays an important role in creating an inviting atmosphere for potential tenants. Installing beautiful light fixtures not only helps set the mood of your space but also improves functionality. For example, adding wall sconces on either side of a mirror can make getting ready in the morning easier by providing additional lighting. If done right, this small investment can pay off big time by helping you attract more renters and increase monthly revenue streams with higher rent prices.

Refresh The Space With A New Paint Job

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to upgrade a unit is with a fresh coat of paint. A new paint job can completely transform the look and feel of any space, making it more attractive to potential tenants. Not only that, but choosing the right colours or painting techniques can help highlight certain design elements and make them stand out even more. Furthermore, it is not very expensive or labor-intensive to have done – so if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to freshen up your rental unit without breaking the bank, this may be just what you need!

Wallpaper or accent wall

While you're at it, why not opt for an accent wall to add some character to an otherwise plain and boring run-of-the-mill unit. Changing up the colour on one wall or adding some wallpaper for texture can draw attention to architectural features such as windows or doors, creating an interesting focal point in any room.

If you're opting to paint an accent wall we would typically recommend not leaving it to choice by simply selecting two shades darker on the same paint chip that you will be using for the rest of the room. This will ensure that the underlying tones match and that there is no conflicting colours in your room which can be seriously detrimental to your unit.

On the other hand, we tend to prefer wallpapers because they are available in many different colours/patterns so you can choose one that fits with your desired look for the space. They'll also be able to cover any imperfections in a wall which might otherwise be highlighted with a fresh coat of paint. Many varieties are even removable if you're looking for something temporary or want to switch things up more often than just when transitioning tenants. And there are plenty of pre-pasted options that don't require glue, making them easy enough to apply yourself without the assistance of a professional handyman.

Replace old light switch plates

That new paint job and accent wall won't live up to their potential if you just go ahead and reinstall the same 40 yo light switch plates that have turned yellow and in fact, they'll just stick out even more against the new fresh coat of paint. unfortunately, they are often overlooked but they are necessary for any quick facelift.

Light switch plates come in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes and materials so you have plenty of options for creating a unique and attractive design. From classic white plastic to modern brushed nickel finishes, there’s something for everyone’s taste. For an extra special touch, choose something with interesting details like etched glass or metallic accents.

In many cases, they can be purchased for a couple bucks each and can be installed by anyone in less than a few minutes, so why not splurge while you're doing everything else?

Add additional storage and be creative on shelving

One of the most effective ways to increase profits and rent out your apartment or house faster is to add additional storage. Storage space is an amenity that prospective tenants look for when renting out a unit and it can also help reduce clutter within a living space, making it much more inviting.

Adding additional storage on a budget requires creativity and resourcefulness but can be done with minimal expenses. Start by assessing what you already have available - do you have any furniture items with drawers or shelves? Utilize these items as best you can by reorganizing them so they are more functional and provide even more storage than before. Closets and cupboards (depending on the room) are always going to be the holy grail but they can be more expensive to install so if you already have some and you are considering removing them to make additional living space, strongly reconsider the cost benefit from the perspective of a tenant who may only have their unit to store all their belongings.

Shelves are a great way to inject personality and style into any room while also providing storage solutions for everyday items. Try adding floating shelves or wall-mounted cubes in strategic places throughout the unit – this will create more visual interest than traditional bookcases and cabinets, while still being highly functional for renters.

If you have a small apartment, try finding free or cheap items that can be repurposed as shelving units. By doing so, you'll drastically transform any outdated space into an inviting and modern living space for renters. Be creative - you never know what you'll find!

Install new hardware

Installing new hardware is a great way to upgrade the doors and cupboards throughout a unit and they can be done quite quickly on a pretty strict budget. As a matter of fact, you can actually save money by following this tip if you have thought about replacing doors or cupboards because they are looking outdated. A simple hardware switch on the old ones will quickly bring them into 2022 in most cases.

When updating or replacing existing hardware, there are several factors that need to be considered. For example, if you’re going for an aesthetic update then selecting the right materials and finishes that match your decor will help create a cohesive look. Additionally, considering things such as door thicknesses and security features can also help enhance safety while ensuring compatibility with current locksets and door closers is essential.

Don’t Forget About The Exterior

When looking for ways to upgrade your rental unit on a budget, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing solely on the interior. But don’t forget about the exterior of your unit! Making small improvements to its appearance can work wonders in increasing curb appeal and making it more attractive to potential renters both when they are viewing the online ad and when they first arrive. It's also the last thing that they will see when they leave so you want to make sure that they can picture themselves coming home to this entrance.

Creating an inviting outdoor space doesn't have to cost a fortune. Start with some simple upgrades like replacing worn shutters, adding window boxes filled with colorful flowers, painting a front door with an accent colour, replacing a doorbell, or stringing up outdoor lighting. These little touches will help your unit stand out from the competition and make it more memorable in a prospective renter’s mind. Additionally, fresh paint is always great way to spruce up any property's exterior while also protecting it from wear and tear over time.


For us, tenant turnover represents a great opportunity to rapidly increase the value of our properties and bring in higher quality tenants. We follow these tips to ensure that the improvements can be done as cheaply and quickly as possible to not affect our monthly income.

If you still have questions about any of these tips, please contact us and we'll be more than happy to help you decide which improvements you should make to your unit and how it might help you. If on the other hand, you want to learn about how ReDeal can help you reach your financial goals, one of our investment specialists will be more than happy to explain how you can start investing in real estate on autopilot.


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