It’s time to fix up your old rental

Wednesday April 5 2017

Solar water heater on a rooftop. Green building techniques such as having solar water heaters will make your apartments more appealing. PHOTO | FILE

Solar water heater on a rooftop. Green building techniques such as having solar water heaters will make your apartments more appealing. PHOTO | FILE  

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With the ongoing housing boom, competition for tenants has intensified, so if you have an old rental, it might be a good idea to spruce it up to attract clients.

“If your house looks good from outside and is located in a clean environment, not a single day will pass without someone asking for a vacant room in the apartment,” says Mr Michael Juma, the technical director at Extreme Renovators, a home renovation company based in Ngong Town.

So, given that the exterior is the first thing that draws prospective tenants, how do you boost curb appeal?

“Some of the most important things to bear in mind are the exterior finishes, the colour scheme, and the balcony design and additions,” says Mr Juma. “For instance, you might decide to have a canopy over the balcony but allow a clear view of the outside,” he says. 

Mr Juma adds that having a house with a neat and attractive exterior, but whose interior is poorly done, is like cleaning the outside of a cup that has mud inside.

“Do not decorate the house according to your taste; put yourself in the shoes of a tenant,” he advises. What colour scheme would appeal to tenants? What kind of ceiling, kitchen or bathroom installation should I do without breaking the bank? These are the questions you should ask yourself.

It is also important to have experts survey the property and submit a quotation for the task.

“The renovation can be more expensive than putting up a new building if you don’t get the right person for the job,” says Mr Juma. So he suggests that you get a number of renovation companies to take a look at the property and give you quotations.”

However, he cautions against those that bid for the work but do not clearly state how they intend to go about it.  “Lack of a clear action plan means something that was not foreseen or budgeted for might come up and disrupt the renovation. That is one of the ways in which the cost of a project gets out hand,” he offers.

He says possible renovations  include sinking a borehole, or installing a water recycling plant, DStv or Wi-Fi, which are particularly attractive to city dwellers.

“With the recent water rationing in the city, sinking a borehole is a major benefit,” he says.

But even with a borehole, it is important to have  an efficient water management system.

He, however, points out that the authorities are concerned about the rising number of boreholes being sunk in the country, hence their insistence on being consulted before you sink one.

But having a water recycling plant in your compound could soften their stand, he says.

“You need an underground tank that collects waste water from the house apart from the one from the toilet,” he says. The waste water is then filtered and purified before being re-channelled for use in the building.

“For health reasons, the recycled water should be used only for bathing and doing the laundry. This means you need several tanks on top of the building to help you channel water to the right tank,” he says.

For instance, tap water provided by the local water authorities or water from the borehole can be pumped to a reservoir tank and then supplied for use in the kitchen while the recycled water is supplied from a different tank for use in the bathroom. Mr Juma says that green building techniques such as having solar water heaters will make your apartments more appealing.

“Even though the initial installation of a solar water heating system is expensive, in the long run, it is a worthwhile investment,” he notes. “The minute people realise you have a solar water heater in your apartments, which means lower electricity bills, they will come running.”

The staircase is also an important thing to consider. “A poorly-lit staircase puts people off before they even get into the apartment. So ensure that the staircase is well lit and has hand rails,” says Mr Juma.

Alternatively, you can have a skylight above the staircase.