So your tenant has moved out of their rental unit that you own, and the lease has come to an end. You have returned their deposit and it is time for them to move on. The next thing you have to do is go into the unit and really give it a good look, so that you can have it prepared and looking good to show to the next prospective tenant. How your rental unit looks depends a lot on you and your standards. It also may have something to do with the market or town that you are in. For example, in a college town, rental units may be able to be turned over fairly quickly, without a lot of work, as most students are not very particular and will be messy tenants anyway. On the opposite end, if your rental unit is a vacation rental at a ski or beach resort, your tenants will be paying more, and will also be much more discriminating. It will be in your best interests to have the rental unit looking its very best to please the renters, and to encourage repeat rental business.
The first thing that you can do that will make the unit look nice is to paint everything. If you can do this job yourself, it should not really be that expensive. Basic white paint always does the trick, and brightens up the room. Buy your painting supplies such as brushes, paint, tarps, roller brushes and paint pans at a discount store such as Big Lots. If you do the work yourself, and don’t hire a painter, you will save a ton of money. The white paint works well because it is basic and cheap, makes rooms look bigger and cleaner, and can go with any furnishings. Then later, if the tenant wants to personalize the place and paint it a different color, they can ask you for permission.
Examine the carpet and flooring. If you have carpet, it likely will be showing some dirt. You can spot clean this yourself if it is minor, using soap and water, or a special spray-on stain cleaner. If the dirt is deeper, then you can rent a steam cleaner from a hardware store to help you take care of it. This is usually a fairly cheap rental price, and will freshen up the carpet and make the place smell better, too. You can also hire a company like Stanley Steemer to do this type of work for you, but they will charge you much more, and I do not think it is worth it.
Another way to have things looking nice is to make sure the kitchen and bathrooms are clean. These are biggies with me, and I would think, with most people. Everyone wants to have a clean looking kitchen and bathroom, and you don’t want any reminders of anyone who was there before you, especially in the way of food crumbs, hair, etc.. So make sure that you do a really good job of cleaning these two rooms. In the kitchen, spray oven cleaner inside the oven, because it will for sure be dirty. Let that soak in for a while and then you can wipe it down. You will also want to clean out the refrigerator. You can clean this with soap and water, or a vinegar and water mixture. Make sure you wipe it all down and that it is really clean. Then, if the power is off, leave the refrigerator doors open, so that the inside won’t smell and grow mold. You don’t want a prospective tenant to open up a closed refrigerator and get a whiff of an unpleasant smell. In the bathroom, wipe down the counters, clean the sink, scrub the toilet really well and spray down the shower with a good cleaner, and then wipe it down. You want the faucets and chrome to shine and not have spots. This applies to the mirrors as well. Make sure you look in the cabinets and drawers, and that they are clean, and no little belongings have been left in them such as earrings or ponytail holders.
As a rule of thumb, if the apartment looks basically alright and does not need repairs, then you do not want to spend a lot of money to prepare it for the next tenant. Do what you can with what you have, by painting walls, vacuuming and sweeping, and cleaning bathrooms and sinks. This should cover your basic essentials. However, if it is a type of situation where you are going to have to go in and do tons of repairs, fix ceilings, replace doors, get new appliances, then likely your unit will look pristine after you are finished. At that point, you will want to consider whether or not all your repairs will merit an increase in your asking price on rent, which would likely be the case. At any rate, a clean, neatly kept unit is always going to be sought after and will rent quickly. Keep your rental units clean, and in the move-in condition you would want for yourself and your family, and you should have a great success rate in finding new tenants.