How to set your multi-family apart from the rest on the block? Rehab materials?

Hi everyone,

In case you don’t want to read all of this, here are the basic questions:

Does anyone have any insight for specific materials to use in rental rehabs (beyond the basic “the cheap stuff”)? I would love some been there, done that advice.

Is there something specific you ALWAYS put in when you need to rehab one of your rentals?

Is there something you seemed like a good idea that backfired and your tenants made a mess of it quickly?

Which products stand up the best to renters?

Any other great rehab advice for a newbie? :slight_smile:

If you are interested, read on…

I am working on my first deal (offer not yet made, but if this isn’t my first, another soon will be!) which is a fourplex. It is in a neighborhood with lots of multi family units. Not the best area of town, but not terrible. Mostly just lower income families and college students (less than a mile away is a university).

The place is totally gutted to the studs because of a fire. New wiring and windows are in along with new insulation and that is pretty much it right now (cheap tub surrounds were installed too).

This is what I am dealing with (taken from second floor): See all those multi-family units?

I want to make sure our apartments are rented first, and I think we are in a unique situation because we basically have a shell. So does anyone have any suggestions as to what materials we might consider or what features we might want to put in that can set us apart? Of course, it all comes down to cost, but I would love to at least weigh options.

For example, I want to run cat-5 through the units. I think that would be a big plus for college students or anyone who uses the internet, really. Thoughts? It would be SO easy to do right now because everything is exposed, and I am sure no other unit in this neighborhood has that (built in the 80s). I also want to put in recessed lighting wherever possible.

Also, I can get granite countertop slabs for $10/sq ft (just the slab - they need to be cut to spec and installed, but labor is cheap here) - should I consider using this? It is pretty indestructible provided it is sealed regularly, but is this crazy to consider in a unit that rents for $575-$600? Would that “sell” us? I sure love granite over laminate, but I don’t want to be silly. For so cheap, I would consider it if it would keep our units in demand.

Any other ideas? Laminate floors versus carpet? I am trying to find out exactly what is in the other buildings, so I know that is a place to start for my specific project, but generally speaking, does anyone have any insight for materials to use in rental rehabs? Is there something specific you ALWAYS put in when you need to rehab one of your rentals? Is there something you tried that backfired? Which products stand up the best to renters? Do you have a certain price range for each material that you use?


Laura in Texas[b][/b][b][/b]

i always put in laminate flooring in my kitchens and usually tile the bathrooms. I put in fairly cheap cabinets that look good. If you can make your kitchen look nice, as well as the bathroom, you can usually get them rented out. You can also usually get nice carpet installed pretty cheapily from a discount carpet outlet. the rest is just paint and trimwork which doesnt cost much if you do the work yourself. As far as the granite countertops, i dont think you will get more money for the units, or necessarily get them rented out just because of that. Granite is a luxury and IMO shouldnt be installed unless it fits into the rest of the home/unit. Its like, would you buy a rusted out 1979 Ford Pinto running on two cylinders with a brand new luxurious Mercedes Benz interior? Probably not… Also i am not sure what Cat 5 is, but i like the idea of providing Wireless internet in the building. I do think that would be an attraction especially to prospective college students. Just divide the bill among the number of units and hide that into their rent payments.I know that in our 4-plex, i have my own wireless internet and can walk a half block away and still get good connection, and thats only $40 a month. Good luck and let us know what happens

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Cat-5 used for T-1 connections? With wireless routers commonplace and cable internet the norm I don’t see the need for it unless you’re wiring a building used for commercial use. Is there even T-1 access the building from a provider? I love the idea of making it more ‘college friendly’ but I don’t know that it’s any better than digital cable coax.

Granite countertops are a big no-no to me. I’m going to use my own experience when I was in college to give my answer. I was 20 years old when I married my wife so I wasn’t into living in trashed out apartments in college (although all my buddies didn’t care). Even with a wife that was more particular than myself, we still were concerned with ONE thing only. Price. Back then if having granite countertops would have cost us more money per month, it wasn’t worth it at all. We even gave up Central Air for a cheaper place one semester (and remember this is in Baton Rouge at LSU where it’s HOT and Muggy all the time) because the place was cheap and close to campus.

College students care about cheap and close to campus without fail. (Perhaps this is different in more affluent areas but for the most part with state schools that’s the case). For a college apartment to rent I would suggest go supremely cheap but CLEAN and lower your rent $10 less than the apartments accross the street and you’ll always be full.

That’s strictly from my experience in college.

Cat 5 is basically high speed “telephony” wiring…it is 4-pair and can run gigabit (1,000 mbps) speeds if the runs are 100 meters or less…

Because it is copper it can also be used for expensive phone wiring.

A T-1 runs at 1.544 mbps, so…yeah, you can run a T-1 on it (and then some for short distances.

I would think about a wireless network to a Cable access point. Then you can rent with high-speed internet/cable ready…or just have the cable outlets and let them deal with the cable provider…



Thanks for the input all! That deal actually isn’t going to work out because the city may require a teardown (way out of my league), but this post is still relevant for future project, for sure. Please keep the tips coming!

Ah, okay, I think I wasn’t clear enough… I wouldn’t charge more rent (maybe even a tad less, like you suggest) - I was just thinking along the lines of keeping the units more desirable to tenants. I can get granite so cheap that it wouldn’t affect the bottom line at all.

Oh, and on the cat-5 - yeah, it’s overkill. I have to apologize because in ‘real life’ we own a custom laptop business and we tend to overkill a bit. :slight_smile: I would rather overkill things that are buried in the walls like that since we can’t be sure what the future holds. My theory was that you could set it up so there was a jack in each room that would run back to the modem/router in a central location in the apartment. I do like the idea of paying for wireless - great selling point!

Thanks again!


Actually, if you have the walls down, I would recommend Cat5 (or even Cat5e or Cat6, if you can find it…). Computer speeds are going up not down. If the house is wired properly from the beginning, it is cheap to do. The difference between Cat5 and other wiring is pennies per foot – the real cost is in the labor to install and terminate and that has to be done regardless!


I guess my point is that granite will cost you more than laminate. So I’d think that even if it’s $5 less per month you could lower then rent and have the same bottom line by using Laminate. Meaning that in effect, the granite is costing the renter some money.

Does that make sense?

I see what you are saying. :slight_smile: Thanks for following up.

What is the average price per square foot for laminate?

Thank you!

Depends on the shape of the Kitchen.

For Galley kitchens you can get bullnosed seamless 10ft countertops from Home Depot here for $95. So that’s less than 5 per sq foot with install quite easy.

Your Granite that you talk about is $10 per sq foot + Labor. that labor is usually quite high. I’d guess you’re going to spend at least $35 a square foot after all is said and done. When doing an apartment building that’s alot of square footage.

I could be wrong on the estimates but I think your granite labor might be 2x the actual material cost.

Thanks - yes, I am actually looking for a fabricator/installer right now. I will post back once I have some figures in case anyone else is interested.

Laura :slight_smile:


Low income apartments are probably the most difficult rentals to deal with. So, first of all, I would recommend that you start with a SFH instead of multis. We have both and I can tell you for a fact that SFH are MUCH easier for a newbie and offer a much better chance of having a good first rental experience.

The tenants in low income apartments have absolutely nothing in common with tenants of SFHs. These people are on the lowest socio-income level and they often act like it! Prevalent among this group are the drug users, the drunks, the lazy, the criminals, and the other losers in life. DFWHoldings was absolutely right when he said that price is of greatest importance to this group. It would be absolutely ridiculous to put granite countertops in a low income apartment. In fact, the real question you should be asking is whether to put carpet in the apartment or to simply paint the floors. Believe it or not, low income tenants often steal the carpet if you put it in.

Many low income tenants do not work. They receive SSDI, section 8 housing vouchers, and other government assistance. I have found through experience that when a person is given everything - they appreciate nothing. They do not respect their property and certainly do not respect YOUR property. Therefore, the key to being successful with low income apartments is to do the minimum required to make them safe and clean.

When cabinets are ugly, we paint them white instead of replacing them. We don’t put carpet in low income apartments. Paint everything one shade of off-white. Use cheap paint from Wal-mart. Look for surplus and used materials for your low income buildings. If you’re down to studs, I would consider cheap white panelling that could be screwed to the studs instead of drywall. Tenants will often put LARGE holes in drywall which are a hassle to fix. With panelling, you can simply screw on a new piece. Obviously, you’ll take any damage out of their deposit (until their deposit runs out).

Obviously, these are NOT things that I would do in SFHs or upscale apartments or condos. However, they are prudent in low-income apartments. Remember, you’re not rehabbing these apartments for you to live in!!!

Good Luck,


I agree with PropertyManager, you are doing low income, not the Trump Tower. Do it for a little as possible. Now about the carpets, I have never had anyone steal the carpets, that’s a new one to me. Goto to home depot and look at clearence appliances and cabinets, the mark downs are incredible. Don’t do fancy. Granite in a low income rental? Well that is a sign that you want to fail at this. Your renters don’t care if you used Formica or Granite, heck a majority of them won’t know the difference. Now about Cat5e vs. phone wire, Cat5e can be had for $39 a spool, each spool is 1000 feet of cable, so it does go far. So its about 4 cents a foot, not too bad. But I buy it from an electrical distributor, not Home Depot (their price is about 12 cents a foot ouch). So in some cases Cat5e is cheaper than phone wire! But I wouldn’t go crazy and start installing phone/computer jacks all over the place, usually a phone jack in the kitchen, one in the bedroom and sometimes one in the living room is enough. I wouldn’t wire for computer lan since that will require a switch to be installed and maintained. Let them use their own internet provider and keep yourself out of that mess.

I personally wouldn’t go crazy, get it done within budget, no granite, no Italian Marble, no Cherry Cabinets. Keep it simple and cheap.

Every so often my local home depot has a free sale on all left over mismatched paint. Just take as many cans as you want. Last time I found 4 cans of exterior paint, green all the same, Yahtzee!