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13 renovations to lure millennials to any rental property

Real estate investing

“Every year, preferences change and we make new renovations to meet the needs of our owners and tenants,” says Billy Wardlaw, former senior operations manager at Mynd and head of its construction services division. Gray countertops were popular recently, but white is now the color du jour, and open spaces dominate new remodels across Mynd’s portfolio of properties.

In this article, Wardlaw outlines the most popular renovations his construction team has completed or will complete for millennials in 2021. Here they are: 

  1. Open floor plans

  2. Smart home configuration

  3. Kitchen upgrades  

  4. Bathroom upgrades

  5. Hardwood floors or hardwood-floor alternatives 

  6. Recessed lighting  

  7. Larger baseboards 

  8. New wall-plates

  9. Electrical panel

  10. Windows

  11. Window coverings

  12. Exterior upgrades

  13. 3D printing technology 

1. Open floor plans are most appealing

The open-floor plan concept is the most popular renovation among millennials, explains Wardlaw. Tenants prefer to have fewer walls and abundant open space throughout their homes for gatherings and day-to-day activities.

“During a party, our residents want to see their wife or husband from the living room while they’re cooking in the kitchen. This open space is a huge value-add for an owner, and while it may cost more up front to open your space up, in the long-run it will help you rent your property easier,” he adds.  

2. Smart home configurations become commonplace

Property owners are turning their rental assets into smart homes, especially luxury home owners. A complete smart-home renovation allows the occupants to turn on their home with the flip of a single switch.

Some owners are installing elements one at a time, such as smart thermostats like Nest, smart sensors in the bathroom, and smart exhaust fans. “While the smart-home configuration can be found in many higher-end homes, in 10 years, smart homes will be the standard,” says Wardlaw.

smart home

For high end homes, smart home investments are a must right now. For everyone else, smart home investments are a way to stay ahead of the curve. (Credit: Getty Images)

3. Kitchen renovations offer tremendous upside

As an owner, the biggest value in terms of renovations will be upgrading the kitchen and the bathroom, making these areas great places to start.

Some popular kitchen upgrades include:

  • Stainless-steel appliances as opposed to white or black appliances
  • Soft, recessed-lighting instead of top-mounted light fixtures 
  • Shaker cabinets 
  • Tile backsplash with white, gray or splashes of a bright color
  • Bronze hardware instead of brushed nickel 

4. Bathroom upgrades add value 

Owners can add additional value by making improvements to their bathrooms, especially if the upgrades are designed to conserve water. This will save your tenant money on water bills, appeal to the millennial desire to protect the environment, and enhance your property’s resale value.  

Here are some popular bathroom upgrades among millennials:

  • Low-flow toilets 
  • Low-flow shower valves and fixtures
  • Natural tile in the shower and/or throughout the bathroom 
  • Stand-up shower with dual shower heads instead of a bathtub 

5. Replace carpeting with hardwood or hardwood alternatives 

Most owners have stopped installing wall-to-wall carpeting in their homes. While carpeting is still a sound choice for bedrooms, most millennials prefer hardwood flooring, laminate floors or vinyl-plank flooring. In fact, vinyl-plank flooring is the most popular alternative to hardwood flooring due to its durability and affordability.

These hardwood alternatives are also good for the environment:

  • Bamboo
  • Laminate
  • Cork
  • Vinyl plank 
  • Wood-look tile
  • Hemp wood 
  • Concrete 

6. Recessed lighting shines

Recessed lighting is becoming extremely popular among millennials. This type of room illumination allows an owner to add light without adding a fixture that extends downward and takes up space. Recessed lighting is a great solution for smaller homes and apartments.

A recessed light has a bulb contained inside an inverted cylindrical canister that is mounted flush with the ceiling. Some recessed lighting is so unobtrusive that it doesn’t compete with the decor inside the room. 

7. Baseboard updates make a huge difference 

Owners are increasingly updating the baseboards in the rooms of their rental properties. The baseboard is the trim that covers the lowest part of an interior wall. “While changing the baseboard may seem like the smallest thing in the world, it can have a major impact on the entire home from a decor perspective,” says Wardlaw.

From coast to coast, Wardlaw has seen owners increasing the size of their baseboards from 2 inches to 4 inches. In some homes, owners have installed 10-inch baseboards.

8. Wall-plates enter the 21st century

‍Wall-plates, also known as switch plates, are the hard plastic covers used to protect outlets and light switches. They function to keep wires away from fingers and out of sight. For nearly five decades, almond-colored wall plates came standard in U.S. homes.

Today, owners are ripping these out and replacing them with crisp, white plates.

9. Electrical panel upgrades provide convenience

Upgrading your electrical panel, or circuit-breaker panel, can enable a number of preferred renovations to your home. The electrical panel is a metal box — typically with a gray door — built into a wall or out-of-the-way corner of your home. Inside the panel are the breaker switches that control the home’s electricity. 

For older homes, Wardlaw highly recommends that owners add a breaker or update the part of the panel that controls electricity in the bedroom. “It was very common for builders of these older homes to not install light fixtures in the bedrooms. So in order to see in the dark, your resident has to buy a lamp or some other type of light fixture.”Having the ability to flip a switch to illuminate the bedroom offers your tenant a more convenient solution.

10. New windows enhance a property’s value

If you have single-pane windows, it’s time to upgrade to dual-pane windows. According to Pella, double-pane windows have two panes of glass, many with insulating argon gas between the panes. Two or three panes of glass means more layers of protection between the weather and your rental asset. Some manufacturers even produce triple-pane windows for additional energy efficiency.

Single-pane windows should be removed from your home for perception purposes, says Wardlaw. “Tenants don’t want to see single-pane windows because they (*correctly) think that energy is being lost and that they’re losing money on energy costs.”

Double-pane windows also add to your property’s resale value. 

11. New windows need new coverings

If you’re adding beautiful new windows, don’t skimp on window coverings by installing cheap-looking, one-inch, white plastic blinds. Instead, opt for metal or wooden mini-blinds. If you have a bigger budget, go all out and install wide wooden blinds. Faux wooden blinds also work well.

Wood, faux wood or metal blinds make your property look classier and complement the open-space, modern layout millennials prefer. 

12. Conservation is key when making outdoor renovations

At Mynd, Wardlaw’s construction services team completes outdoor renovations for property owners year-round. “In certain locations, we are installing a lot of drought-resistant plants and fake grass, which saves money on water bills, while protecting the environment in areas with fragile ecosystems, such as California.”  

Some of the biggest outdoor renovations for millennials include:

  1. Updating sprinklers or the irrigation system to save water  

  2. Adding drought-resistant plants and grasses 

  3. Installation of high-quality turf or fake grass 

  4. Bright exterior paint colors

  5. Stylish, modern wood, fiber-cement or vinyl siding 

13. A high-tech renovation to watch 

3D home printing continues to increase in popularity throughout the United States, with New York, California and Texas companies cashing in on the craze. The companies utilize 3D printing technology to build an entire house. 

“3D printing of a home is great for the environment and the synthetic construction materials are just as durable as natural materials,” says Wardlaw. Builder who utilize 3D printing technology have used concrete, which is much cheaper than lumber right now.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the soaring cost of lumber has added $26,000 to the average cost to construct a home.

While building massive portfolios of homes using a 3D printer is probably a trend that’s many years away, it is a technology rapidly gaining popularity among millennials. 

Preferences shift nationwide 

A decade ago, Wardlaw says California property owners would be the first to embrace innovation with respect to renovating and remodeling, but today sees wide adoption of the trendiest renovations among millennials on either coast. This widespread adoption enables residents to move easily across the country, which is becoming more commonplace as the job market changes and remote work becomes the norm. 

“I’m seeing these renovations on the East Coast, in Texas, in the Southeast and in the Midwest. People’s mindsets are changing all over, not just in California, which attracts people — and entices them — to move across the country. They can expect the same high-quality products and renovations in their new home whether they’re in San Francisco or San Antonio.” 

‍“The only thing constant is change.” This quote by Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus applies to many aspects of life, including the most popular rental home renovations for millennial tenants.

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