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May 25th, 2017 | Posted in Insights

We all want our kitchens to hold up to years of use and
be easy to care for. Those considerations are doubly
important when designing a rental home.

Unfortunately, tenants tend to be harder on properties they
occupy than homeowners. So, if you’re considering putting a
second home on the vacation-rental market or investing in other
rental properties, some practical advice can reduce headaches
while enhancing the appeal to renters.

Choose easy-to-clean cabinets and counter surfaces that
don’t readily show little dings or smudges. Kitchen designer Rachel
Jindra of Wilmington’s Markraft Cabinets recommends Ultracraft
cabinets that use textured melamine – a tough material, long
used in unbreakable kitchenware, that is now an easily washable
surface for cabinet boxes and doors.

“It has a texture that feels like wood,” Jindra said, adding it is
also well-suited to beach rentals. “It gives it that driftwood look.”
It’s wise to avoid fancier designs with moldings and details that
complicate cleaning, choosing instead a “plain Shaker door style”
that is easier to maintain, Jindra noted.

Another helpful tip – “We try to push going all the way to the
ceiling with our cabinets if possible,” Jindra said. That will maximize
storage space – always at a premium in apartments and condos –
and eliminate a place where dust can accumulate if tenants aren’t
diligent cleaners.

Many rentals still feature laminate counters, but there’s no
a compelling reason not to opt for the more upscale look of stone.
Granite is a great upgrade that can really update a kitchen. With granite
comes slight maintenance requirements, such as periodic sealing for
best longevity. Jindra suggests a “zero-maintenance” alternative if the
budget allows – quartz countertops.

Just as home buyers look for amenities that are both stylish and
practical, so do prospective renters. Convenience features like swingouts
and turntables in base cabinets or pull-out pantry shelves can
command better rent and attract a better class of tenants.

A weekly vacation rental you also use periodically can be full
of personal touches, but it’s better to go neutral when decorating
a house or apartment for long-term tenants. Whites and grays are
practical and create a nice, neutral palette, Jindra said. They won’t clash
with a tenant’s individual touches, such as curtains, furniture or dishes.
For properties near the beach, she suggests incorporating blue-greens,
to “bring out the color of the water.”

If you want to keep certain storage areas off-limits to tenants, builtin
cabinet locks are a cleaner, less-obvious alternative to a crude hasp and padlock.
Sometimes a small mishap can turn into a calamity if a tenant
doesn’t know what to do or ignores the problem. Jindra recommends
using solid plywood cabinetry under sinks. Lower-cost particleboard
cabinets are far more likely to swell or disintegrate if they get wet from minor plumbing leaks.
Spending a bit more upfront on plumbing fixtures can also save major costs in the long run.
Jindra warns against buying from “big-box stores” because their
faucets often have plastic internal parts that can fail, either gradually or
suddenly. Higher-end fixtures from specialty plumbing dealers are more
likely to feature all-metal construction in crucial places that don’t show.
Those who manage multifamily properties have additional concerns
about inevitable replacements of worn or broken components. To
simplify repairs, put in standard cabinetry, Jindra said, and buy extra
doors or cabinet “skins” to easily swap them out when needed. For
that reason, a large apartment complex might order a few dozen extra
of each common cabinet component.

Looking for ideas for your home or investment property?

Visit Markraft’s Design Center. The professional kitchen and bath designers consult by
appointment but drop-in visitors are always welcome to browse the
showroom. The Design Center is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday, at
2705 Castle Creek Lane, just off Castle Hayne Road.