10 Steps To Refurbish An Old Apartment

PropertyGuru Editorial Team
10 Steps To Refurbish An Old Apartment
By Gavin Liew
Imagine this: You’re hunting for some properties. You log on to PropertyGuru and you find this great deal – an apartment downtown, which is 10% below market value.
It has full facilities, complete with swimming pool, a gym and is located in a very convenient location.
It’s surrounded by amenities such as F&B outlets, grocery stores and banks, to name a few. The investor in you shivers with excitement.
You decide to do a little more research. You check the rental rates for that apartment and you realize there are not many units available for rent.
The apartment itself looks like it has been around for 10 years or so, and you figure that occupancy rates in the development should be quite high, considering the lack of advertisements.
The asking rental rates are pretty decent too.
With the help of a mortgage calculator, you compare your instalment payments for this particular unit against the rental rates. Not bad. At this price, the yield makes perfect sense.
With much excitement, you click on the agent’s contact details and give him a call.
You can’t believe your luck. You just found a property 10% below market value, with a decent yield, and it comes with cabinets!
That’s a huge saving in terms of renovation costs. Built-in cabinets often cost a lot. The next day, you decide to arrive at the apartment an hour earlier to check out its surroundings.
The access roads are convenient, there are lots of commercial activity around and you feel it’s generally a decent place to live in.
The exterior of the building looks slightly dated since it was probably designed more than 10 years ago.
So far, all the signs have been positive, albeit the old and dated exterior. The agent arrives and brings you to the unit. The door opens, and the excitement you felt earlier suddenly vanishes.
The interior is dim, dull and is in a mess. The cabinets look like it was designed in the 90s. The previous owner had some weird sense of style and the walls had some really funky choice of wall tiles.
You see tiger striped wallpapers. The lights are dim and dull, and it really gives a dreary ambience to the unit. You even notice a dead bird carcass on the floor.
“Who is going to rent this place? This unit is a turn-off!” you say out loud, interrupting the agent’s sales pitch about how fantastic it is.
Now, the biggest question is, should you buy it, or should you give it up? If you do buy it, how do you give it an effective makeover?

Here Are Some Of Our Tips And Guidelines To Make Your Apartment Look Better!

1. Assessing The Costly Repairs

101540991 - close up of woman hand calculating her monthly expenses with calculator.  debt.
The biggest deciding factor on whether you should or shouldn’t buy this unit lies here. Although the unit looks like a mess, cast aside your emotions and check for the real trouble makers.
Decide on what is a cosmetic problem (which can be solved easily), and what is a big problem, which will require extensive repairs.
Watch out for water leaks, as these can range from minor to major repairs, depending on the cause of the problem.
Some water leak repair works may even require repairs performed in the unit above, or below, and will require tiling works to access the leaking pipes.
Termites can also be a big problem. Watch out for signs of termites and how badly infected the unit is. Flooring costs can also be pretty painful if the affected areas are big.
The same goes for wall tiles. Do check and ensure it was installed properly and the tiles aren’t hollow.
Switch on as many lights and electrical points as possible to evaluate the overall condition of the power supply throughout the unit.
Determine the condition of the built-in carpentry and check if it’s reusable with some minor repairs or if it’s totally unusable.
Once you have inspected these, do evaluate these repair costs against the 10% below market value price you’re getting and see if it is still feasible and worth the trouble.

2. Give It A Fresh Coat Of Paint

Couple, woman and man, choosing color of wall paint in decoration department of hardware store
Giving the unit a fresh coat of paint does wonders to lift the ambience and comfort of the unit. Choose light colours to make the unit look bright and clean.
Sometimes, choosing the right colour combination for walls and doors, door frames and skirting is all you need to refresh the look of your unit and keep it in-trend.

3. Dispose Unwanted And Old Furniture And Remove Clutter

34462753 - green hotel room with sofa and kitchenette
Dispose the unwanted furniture as soon as you can to remove the clutter and you will immediately see improvements in the unit’s transformation.
Remove old fashioned furniture and replace them with newer in-trend designs, while keeping costs low.

4. Maintain Built-In Furniture Whenever Possible

Built-in furniture can be tricky. Design trends change and while the built-in furniture can be in terrific condition, it might not be pleasant looking any more.
The general rule of thumb is to maintain these whenever possible, depending on its condition.
You can refresh its look by replacing its doors or handles to something more relevant to today’s design trends.

5. Keep Wet Works To A Minimum

36113767 - home improvement, renovation - handyman laying tile, trowel with mortar
Often, we’ll be tempted to knock down walls or give the unit a new set of tiles to refresh its look. From a design perspective, it’s a great idea.
From an investor perspective, do cover the higher priority essentials first. If you have additional budget after covering the essentials, then go ahead.

6. Replace All Bulbs And Ensure The Unit Is Brightly Lit

A dimly-lit unit always gives a dreary feeling. This is worse when the bulbs are of different colours, which is very common in old apartments.
Bulbs burn out one at a time, and it gets replaced one at a time, resulting in a mix and match of different bulb brightness and colours.
Replace every bulb to the same wattage and brand to keep the lighting comfortable. You may opt to use a higher wattage, if there are insufficient lighting points. This is fairly common in older apartments.

7. Replace Curtains To Full Height Whenever Possible

Photo 9-15-15, 14 11 18
Curtains play a huge role in ambience and design. Always use full height curtains whenever possible. Replace the old dusty curtains to plain, neutral coloured ones.

8. Ensure The Unit Is Clean

After all the refurbishment works, make sure your unit is clean before allowing tenants to view your unit. Make sure it smells nice too!

9. Design Your Interior Based On Existing Structure And Built-In

Photo 10-6-15, 13 18 44 (1)
Interior design is always about the combination of colours and concepts in a single space. It doesn’t make sense to incur too much cost with wet works and built-ins as mentioned earlier.
Plan your interior design based on the existing colours.
There is a suitable and matching concept and colour theme for everything. Find what’s suitable and enhance your interiors based on what is already existing in the unit.

10. Outsource To Professionals

Client and Contractor discussing plan to renovation house.
There are service providers out there who can help you strategize, perform a cost effective makeover, and assist you in marketing your unit along with providing professional photography.
What’s more important is that these professionals are property investors first, interior designers second.
And that’s it!

We hope you found the above tips & guides useful in giving your old place a fresh new look. If you’re going to rent out your place for the first time, do check out our guide on 5 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Landlord and 4 Risks to Renting out Your Property so that you know what you’re getting yourself into!

Disclaimer: The information is provided for general information only. PropertyGuru International (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information, including but not limited to any representation or warranty as to the fitness for any particular purpose of the information to the fullest extent permitted by law. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate, reliable, and complete as of the time of writing, the information provided in this article should not be relied upon to make any financial, investment, real estate or legal decisions. Additionally, the information should not substitute advice from a trained professional who can take into account your personal facts and circumstances, and we accept no liability if you use the information to form decisions.