10 Home Improvements You Can Do to Your Rental

In this article

    As we start a new year, businesses and offices remain closed in many parts of the U.S. The companies that have managed to remain open during the fray have grounded employees at home, with work from home (WFH) measures sweeping the American labor force. 

    Companies are quickly realizing that WFH measures are paying off in a big way. One Stanford study found not only a vast improvement in work satisfaction, but a 13% increase in performance, while employee software company Prodoscore reports a 47% increase in productivity compared to 2019.

    But with much of the nation shut down, it feels like there’s nowhere to go but home, which is why it’s more than important that home is a healthy and happy place to be.

    If you’re a renter,  many of these changes can lower even the best renters insurance policy and can positively affect other areas of your life, as well. When you rent your home, there are many temporary but effective ways to help your living space better support your productivity while quarantining.  

    Before you start

    Landlords require that tenants obtain approval before making permanent or big changes to the property, such as cutting holes in the wall. Other landlords may grant approval with specific caveats attached, like allowing you to paint if you agree to repaint when your lease is over. Some may stipulate that whatever additions are made to the home will then be considered permanent property of the landlord, even after you move out. 

    Renovations or temporary additions should always require landlord approval in writing first. Thankfully, there are many other non-permanent ways to give your home a necessary upgrade without violating the terms of your lease. 

    Before you proceed with any home improvements, you should first consider the financial investment that they will require. When you begin planning, consider these steps to make sure all of your bases are covered.

    Consult your landlord

    It’s important to reach an understanding with your landlord before you proceed so major concerns are settled. In addition to obtaining permission, you should discuss which costs will be covered and by whom. This should address these issues at the time of installation and any costs and repairs or restorations that will need to be made when you move out.

    Check your renters insurance

    It’s also a good idea to check with your renters insurance provider to see how your changes could impact your insurance coverage. Most landlords require that tenants carry renters insurance to protect their belongings and any personal liability. You could also potentially receive discounts on your renters insurance policy if you are making improvements to your home that make it safer. 

    Keep it simple

    It only takes a few minutes on Pinterest to get swept away in the world of home improvements, but try to exercise some restraint. Sometimes, even the most simple upgrades can bring the most joy, such as adding feng shui to the room to uplift your mood and boost productivity to create a far less stressful environment. Try to find projects that feature low-maintenance upgrades that prioritize budget.

    Make a budget

    There are many changes you can make that will provide effective results without breaking the bank. Before you get started, create a budget sheet that fully lists your expenses so you know what items you need and where you can afford to splurge.

    Jump on the DIY bandwagon

    While tempting to hiring someone to complete your upgrades, there are many simple DIY projects that you can complete without extra help. By adding these upgrades yourself, you can save not only in labor but also the third-party markup on supplies. 

    Home improvements to consider

    There are countless DIY home improvements that you can use to bring more comfort, style and productivity to your home. 

    When considering which home improvements to make to your rental property, these are some fun, affordable, and effective ways to refresh your home on a budget.

    Use contact-paper for your old cabinets.

    It’s like stickers for your cabinets, with peel-and-stick paper in a variety of colors and patterns to give your cabinets an instant facelift. You can purchase contact paper from almost anywhere, with major retailers like The Home Depot, Target and Amazon joining more niche suppliers like Etsy and Joss and Main. Pricing varies, but there are plenty of options of contact paper rolls on Amazon for under $10 each.

    Swap out cabinet knobs.

    It’s one of those minor DIY home improvements that make a statement. All you need is a screwdriver and perhaps a drill, and you’re good to go. Amazon, Wayfair, Joss and Main and Lowe’s all offer sets below $20 for a stylish purchase that won’t break the bank.

    Tile a temporary backsplash.

    You can purchase a temporary backsplash in a number of patterns, such as herringbone, tile or even reclaimed wood. These can get pricey, depending on which options you choose, but you can find some options for under $10 with retailers like Lowe’s, Amazon, Wayfair and Home Depot. Plus, these are removable, so you can take them with you when you leave and restore the cabinets to your landlord’s original pick.

    Sticker over a bad kitchen floor.

    For a minor investment of under $25 per roll, you can sticker over an outdated or old floor for an instant mood booster in any room. Specialty vendors like Quadrostyle and Etsy offer custom designs, while big-box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s also offer plenty of affordable options.

    Paint the walls.

    A new wall color can instantly make a room feel more cozy or bright. It can uplift your mood or help lull you to sleep. Choose a pre-made color or customize an original hue at retailers like Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and Lowe’s, or opt for quick delivery from Amazon or Walmart.  

    Install a new showerhead.

    A new showerhead can accomplish several things: it can save you money on your water bill, provide a more luxurious shower and add a little character and flair to your bathroom. For under $75, there are adjustable, handheld options, or you can opt for a multi-function rainfall or massage option to make your showers a more enjoyable experience. There are many options for shopping, including Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair and Bed Bath & Beyond.

    Swap your switch plates.

    The light switch plates are an oft-overlooked area of the home, but this is an easy way to add a punch of color to the room. Choose from decorative options under $10 at stores like Wayfair, Etsy, Lowe’s, Amazon and Home Depot for an easy and quick home improvement.   

    Replace the faucets.

    Whether it’s your kitchen or the bathrooms, consider swapping out your faucets for a more eco-friendly and decorative option. Prices can top for $100 for the fancier options, but you can also find several options for well under $50 from Wayfair, Lowe’s, Amazon and Home Depot. 

    Use removable wallpaper.

    Peel-and-stick removable wallpaper is far less messy than painting your walls, and it’s even easier to remove when it comes time to shop. Choose from tons of beautiful, colorful options like linen, tile, patterned and ink-proof designs. You can buy a roll for under $50 from retailers like Etsy, AllModern, Wayfair and Joss & Main for creative designs that will instantly add character to your home.

    Swap out lighting fixtures.

    Visit a local retailer to support small businesses, or shop online at Home Depot, Lamps Plus, Lowe’s and Bed Bath & Beyond for a new lamp or chandelier to add the natural benefits of light and reduce eye strain in work areas. Prices run the gamut, depending on how intricate a design you would like, but there are plenty of attractive options for sale under $50 at retailers like Amazon and West Elm.

    Finally, don’t underestimate the power of sunlight. Adding more natural light to your workspace and living areas is an easy, effective way to boost productivity, promote healthier sleep and prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can strike especially hard this time of year.  

    Be sure to make use of your home’s natural light wherever possible. If no or little sunlight is available, consider a light therapy lamp to bring these positive effects to your favorite space.

    Bottom line 

    With so much extra time being spent at home, there is no better time to make home improvements to give your home a quick and affordable facelift. These home improvements not only serve as a mood-booster but can also save you money on your utilities and renters insurance. Just be sure to check with your landlord first so you avoid violating your rental lease while you’re designing your perfect work-from-home space. 

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Lena Borrelli

    Contributing Writer

    Lena Borrelli is a Tampa-based freelance writer who has worked with leading industry titans, such as Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and Simon Corporation. Her work has most recently been published on sites like TIME, ADT, Fiscal Tiger, Bankrate and Home Advisor, as well as many other websites and blogs around the world.

    Reviewed by

    • Andrea Perez
      Andrea Perez
      Personal Finance Editor

      Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar who leads our news and opinion coverage. She specializes in financial policy, banking, and investing.