At every party, no matter what size the crowd, there’s always a second mini- gathering happening in the kitchen. That’s because kitchens are magnetic: they draw us in, bring us together and create a sense of home and family. Get the kitchen right in a house and you make it exponentially more appealing and liveable. “Think!” says Mark Trafford, owner of Maintain To Profit. “Don’t just go in all guns blazing. Don’t get personal about it. You need to put in the right kitchen for the right tenants.” The first step is considering your target market. A million-dollar house will need a smart kitchen to attract a high rent. A house at the bottom of the market won’t need such a fancy kitchen. It’s also vital to consider your time-frames. Are you doing up the kitchen to sell the house? If so, you might be less concerned about longevity of the finishes. But if you’re going to own it for another 10 years, choosing cut-price finishes could be shooting yourself in the foot.
“Do you see it as an expense or an investment? If you see it as an expense you’re going to spend as little as possible, but if you see it as an investment, it’s not a lot of money to get lasting finishes,” says Nelson Tkatch, owner of Kitchenmakeover.co.nz. He says he sees people taking the cheap option and finding themselves having to do the job again a few years later, spending more than if they’d done it properly the first time. Take a hard look at the kitchen – how bad is it? Does it really need to be replaced entirely? New cabinetry is a major expense, so assess carefully whether you can get a good result
by repainting the existing cabinets, replacing the handles and putting in a new benchtop.
“Don’t walk in and pull the whole kitchen out, that’s the biggest mistake,” says Trafford. “It’s a real catch for new players. They smash everything out and you think, ‘What did you do that for?’ Have a look at your options.” The lacquer finish used by Tkatch’s company lasts for 10 to 20 years, and he says a kitchen makeover, rather than new cabinets, will reduce the cost of your total renovation by around half. It’s a great option in a rental, “if everything’s in good nick, it’s pretty sound and the ‘bones’ are there, and provided the cabinetry surfaces aren’t falling apart or destroyed by water damage.”
KEEPING COSTS DOWN
Keeping what you can also applies to the layout. Moving sinks and dishwashers means much higher plumbing costs; if you can also leave the electrics in place that’s an extra saving, too. Trafford says a kitchen refresh on a rental property typically costs around $2,500 to $3,000, provided you’re not trying to move any appliances. The next level up is a basic flat pack kitchen – install it yourself and you’ll spend around $4,000. A renovation that includes new cabinetry (but not appliances), installed in your kitchen, generally starts from around $6,000, and if you wish to replace the appliances you can expect to spend at least $10,000. That will include the tradies, which is where the costs start to mount up: this almost always includes a plumber, a sparky, a tiler and a painter. But spend $10,000 on a kitchen renovation you should be able to increase the rent by
$25 to $50 a week, Trafford says, adding, “people will rent a house based on the kitchen a lot of the time.”
A user-friendly kitchen is one that is laid out with easy access across the ‘kitchen riangle’ of the oven, the fridge and the sink. Tenants will want to see a dishwasher, so if your rental property hasn’t got one, now’s the time to fix that. When shopping for appliances, consider the cost of servicing and parts – the expensive brands are also expensive to service. You don’t necessarily need to buy new appliances. Reconditioned
appliances can work very well and have a surprisingly long lifespan, so talk to your
local appliance repairperson.
When it comes to new cabinetry, you want to avoid anything custom-fitted. The range of off-the-shelf cabinetry means there’s a range of sizes and shapes to fit almost any kitchen layout, from galley to corridor to L shaped. Cupboards are cheaper than drawers and plain cupboards are cheaper than pull-outs and corners; selecting fewer large plain
cupboards will keep your costs at a minimum. Obviously, these choices also have an impact on functionality, so you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons.
Laminate benchtops are ideal for rental property kitchens. They look great and cost around $200 a metre. There are plenty of other options, including acrylic, timber, stainless steel and bamboo, but laminate is the cheapest and easiest choice in most cases. Laminate is also a good flooring choice, along with vinyl. Both materials have improved immeasurably over the past decade and work well in a kitchen. Wood-look vinyl planks are very smart and slightly more hard-wearing than ordinary vinyl; the
planks start around $30 a metre, while roll-out vinyl starts at about $20 a metre.
Laminate planks are also available from $20 a metre, though check you’ve picked
a style that’s suitable for wet areas. Cork is around $30 a metre, but a less modern
look, and tiles look luxurious but cost more, too.
COLOUR IT NEUTRAL
When it comes to colours, the safest choices are the neutrals, says Karen Warman, marketing manager for Resene. “Even though white is popular, it’s not that practical,” she says. “It shows up every single mark. I’d go for a light grey, beige, greige – that’s a grey-beige. Something with a little bit of colour but not too dark. Maybe Thorndon Cream or Truffle, they’re pretty timeless.” No other cosmetic renovation will make as much difference to the tenant ability of your investment property as the kitchen. Taking the time to plan and research your kitchen makeover to ensure you get it right and get the maximum value from every dollar.