LOTS of people rent. The reasons behind why they rent are as varied as the renters. Some are renting until something changes in their lives (like their credit score goes up or they have saved enough money for the down payment) while others are professional renters. They like having the flexibility of not being responsible if the hot water heater goes out or a tree falls on the roof. They also like the fact that if they don't like their house or neighborhood - they can move as soon as the lease is up.
The question in my title is not for the professional renters. This question was more for the folks who have moved into a rental and have no plans on living there for years and years. A student? Someone who has just moved to town for a job? Maybe someone who has gone through a divorce?
The answer to "If I rent - do I renovate" is pretty simple in my book. However, it gets asked A LOT. When I say renovate I don't mean knock down some walls and add a room - I mean doing permanent decorating. Decorating that you can't take with you when you move.
An example of that would be painting. You'd be surprised how many landlords are out there who don't mind if you paint - as long as YOU pay for it. Then there's the updating on the kitchen and baths. I don't care what the DIY shows and magazines tell you. You don't have to rip it apart and start from scratch to update any room. Sometimes all it takes is a new light fixture, back splash, tile accents and maybe even a new faucet you found on sale at the big box store. None of the things I mentioned are expensive and none of them require that you hire a professional to install. However, none of them can be taken with you when you move. Or at least not if you want a good rental reference.
The kitchen in my rental house had laminate counter tops that carried up onto the walls creating a laminate back splash. It looks pink. It was hard to clean and it was ugly. Below is a picture of the before.
Now the counter tops don't appear to have that pink tint to them that they had before. The tiles were super easy to apply. No glue, no grout and I used regular office scissors to cut them to fit. I highly recommend them.
Many people would be aghast that a renter would pay $100 for an improvement to a rental. I say this. If you are going to live there (rental or not) you want to be comfortable and happy in your space. You want to be proud of it when friends and family come to visit. You want to walk in at the end of the day and be glad you're there. So how much is that worth to you? If you are in a 6 months lease - maybe you can stick it out. but if you are going to live there for a year or more I say put some money into making it work for you.
My rule of thumb is this - not more than $300 per year on permanent decorating. That equals to just $25 per month. Most folks spend that much on Starbucks! You would be amazed at the amount of decorating you can do for $300!
Caution: Never ever do a permanent decorating job on a rental without clearing this with your landlord. Put in writing exactly what you want to do to the rental and include pictures and/or samples if possible.
An e-mail works great because when the landlord responds - you have his/her response in writing too. I've had good landlords and I've had bad landlords and trust me when I tell you that a bad landlord will swear they never gave you permission and when the time comes for your deposit - kiss it goodbye.
Now go transform some rentals!