Get Ready To Rent!
Affordable Advice for Updating Your Condo
By marcia Bradford, Condo Owner Magazine, April 26, 2013
The summer rental season is fast approaching and now is the time to freshen and update your condominium. As Patti Waldrop, owner of Posh Interiors in Orange Beach, Ala., pointed out, “The visual impact of a rental unit has never been more important than now, because the Internet allows vacationers to view photos and select the unit they want to rent.”
With this in mind, here’s some advice from area design and furnishing professionals on ways to keep your condocurrent and make it stand out.
Keep Colors Current
According to Waldrop, there are many inexpensive ways to give your unit a facelift. She suggested adding polypropylene indoor/outdoor rugs in vibrant colors and patterns. “They are so practical and priced as low a $119 for a 5 x 8.”
Recovering dining chair seat cushions is another recommendation. “It’s a simple do-it-yourself project that requires only a staple gun and a few yards of fabric, since you only need ¾ yard of fabric per two chairs,” Waldrop said. “Brighter Sunbrella fabrics are perfect for stain resistance and add a pop of color. Bright colors are really hot and photograph well, so if you purchase only new throw pillows, be sure to add some color.”
Interior Designer Karen Waterfield, president of Sugar Beach Interiors in Destin, Fla., advised owners to personally inspect their condo units, if possible. “The first thing you should look at when you walk in is whether the paint looks fresh and clean,” she said. “Make sure there are no spots or fading on the carpets and furniture.”
If there are areas where the paint needs freshening, she recommended trying a new, lighter color. “Softer tones of creams, light greens and light blues are in right now,” she said.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the accessories in the unit go with the color scheme and are of appropriate size, according to Waterfield. “Nearly all condo units have high ceilings and wide open spaces,” she explained. “I’ve seen lamps that are way too small for the rooms they are in and art on walls that is either too big or too small. You want to keep these things ‘in scale’ with the size of the unit or it looks strange.”
Adding new throw pillows in the bedrooms as well as the living area can make a big difference to the appearance of a condo, Warterfield added. “Fabrics that can handle outdoor conditions are a good idea since many renters like to take pillows out on the deck,” she pointed out.
Dress Up the Deck
Speaking of the outdoors, Kim Foster, owner of COCO Island Interiors in Orange Beach advised that condo owners invest in good patio furniture. “We suggest the heavy weighted recycled plastic,” she said. “The color goes all the way through, they have stainless hardware, and there are no splinters. These products also offer great warranties and clean up nicely.”
Sofas are some of the most noticeable items in a rental unit, so Foster recommended that owners make sure the sofa is kept clean and has up-to-date fabric. “The sofa sets the tone for a unit and is one of the most used pieces in a condo,” she said. “If the sofa is in good shape, and the artwork is old, replace the artwork and add new accessories. Sunbrella (brand) fabrics, which have been previously known just for outdoor use, are now being used inside as well. They are great for condos because they have a UV protectant on them, and they clean much easier than pillows made from other fabrics.”
Re-frame Your View
The single most important step condo owners can take to improve the appearance and utility of their window treatments is to replace vertical blinds, advised Roger Donohue, owner of Window Décor & More in Orange Beach, AL.
“Vertical blinds are very problematic, especially when the operators are renters who don’t know how to use them,” Donohue explained. They can become a money pit.”
Renters often break the head rail mechanism that operates the blinds, as well as the vertical vanes that get twisted and tangled because the chains and strings are confusing to renters, Donohue explained. Since most condo owners live a significant distance from their rental properties, they have to rely on the property management company to service the blinds, generating frequent, unnecessary and expensive service charges.
One piece decorative blackout draperies are an attractive, functional and affordable option, according to Donohue. They are comparably priced to vertical blinds and nicely combined with sheers.
Donohue recommended Architrac rods, which can be installed into the ceiling. “Installed correctly, they won’t come out of the ceiling,” he said. “We’ve installed thousands of these and never had a call about one coming down.”
If it is necessary to install into the wall, there are very durable and affordable wall mounted rods available, he added.
Since cleaning drapes can be very challenging, Melinda Laird, designer and owner of Beach Blinds, Draperies & More in Panama City Beach, FL, recommended selecting drapes in durable fabrics. “Drapes are not cheap and most condo owners need them to last,” she said. “At the same time, it’s difficult to find services that will come in and clean the drapes, it’s not a good idea to spot clean them, and taking them to a cleaner is very difficult and labor-intensive, plus you run the risk of shrinkage.”
Additionally, she advisedthat neutral colors be used in rental units, so they won’t conflict with the color scheme when furnishings or accessories are updated.
Another way to keep costs down is to install drapes that are less full, or even flat, according to Laird. “Using less fabric keeps the cost down and opens up the view,” she said.
“I also encourage the use of blackout drapes,” Laird said. “They protect the interior furnishings from sun damage and help insulate against heat and cold air.”
Donohue also recommended Averte woven natural folding panels which can price comparably to blackout draperies. They are a great value and renter friendly, he said.
Freshen the Floors
One easy way to improve the first impression of renters and to limit the sand brought into a unit is to replace the rugs and welcome mats in the entryway, advised Darlene Johnson, a decorator and manager at Gene’s Floor Covering in Gulf Shores, Ala.
“Tile is the best option for flooring, especially in this climate, but there is also a newer vinyl product available that looks like tile, is moisture-, stain- and scratch-resistant,” she said. “Additionally, since hard wood floors are not recommended for condos, but many people want that look, you can now get a tile product that has the appearance of hard wood.”
Whether your condo has carpeting, tile or vinyl, a good steam cleaning should be done at least every other year, Johnson recommended. “People who are spending money to come stay at the beach don’t want to walk into a unit with dingy floors,” she pointed out.
Johnson, who owns a condo that she rents out also suggested that people consider making their units family-friendly, by supplying items like cribs, high chairs and strollers. “Many renters appreciate not having to lug all of that stuff to the beach,” she said.
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