“how much do you think these features would add to the cost of a rental?”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Dave Kleinschmidt

“Dear PoPville,

I’m dealing with some landlord issues and thought this could be a good crowdsourcing question:

In general, how much do DC renters/readers think that features add a premium to rental. In other words, two apartments being otherwise equal, what would be the rental difference between the two if one of the units had the following features:

Central air and heat (as opposed to window units and radiators)
Ceiling Fans (as opposed to exposed-bulb fixtures)
Garbage disposal
updated bathroom with vanity (as opposed to old bathroom with no vanity, just sink hanging on the wall)
security system”

47 Comment

  • Central air and heat (as opposed to window units and radiators) – $25/mo?
    Ceiling Fans (as opposed to exposed-bulb fixtures) – 0
    Garbage disposal – 0
    Dishwasher – $5/mo.
    updated bathroom with vanity (as opposed to old bathroom with no vanity, just sink hanging on the wall) – $5/mo.
    security system – depends on area, type of apartment, etc. for my dupont walkup, maybe $25/mo if service is included

  • Central air and heat definitely add a premium…frankly, I wouldn’t live without it.
    Dishwasher…also adds but to a lesser extent. Especially good for a small kitchen or grouphouse situation.
    Security system…have there been a lot of break-ins nearby? Are you a basement/1st flr? I think you’d get more value in those scenarios but generally not a big draw.
    Dispoal, fans, updated bathroom…don’t think these matter much at all. Some people care about a vanity, I guess, but I don’t think it would make more break a place.

    So you should expect to pay a little more for the central AC/dishwasher, but I dont think the increase should be super expensive. The other things are hit or miss and while they add value I think it’s only to some people not enough to pay much more to get.

    • For numbers sake, maybe $100 for the lot.

    • I’m sorry, but unless the unit is a tiny studio or one bedroom most renters EXPECT a dishwasher and garbage disposal… Especially for group houses.

      • Well, most renters are very entitled then. As owner of four 1 bedroom apartments with small kitchens, I’d rather give my tenants an extra 6 cubic feet of storage.

        • Accountering

          Not to quibble, but a dishwasher is 24″x24″x24″, so if you are really talking cubic feet, it would be 8.

  • $200-$300

    • And to clarify – I don’t think you should raise rent by that much. Just if you were re-renting, you could raise it by that amount and be able to justify it.

    • OP here, I’m actually the tenant. My view is that my place is worth at least $200 less than the places that have been updated/have the listed amenities. These are 2BRs in Glover. Mine hasn’t been updated ever I’d guess.

  • Location, location, location. All things being equal, a huge chunk of the discretionary price of rent is going to come down to location and that’s all. The differences you outline could make a big difference in a low-end area, but once you start talking prime areas like Georgetown, Mt. Pleasant, DuPont, & Logan it won’t really matter.

    My recommendation isn’t to negotiate with your landlord once you’ve moved it, it’s to do so beforehand.

    • Exactly – location is number one. Then general cleanliness & upkeep and knowing you are dealing with a good landlord. W/D is a big plus, Dishwasher good, but not as essential. No one should ever have bare light bulbs! Garbage disposal will help you as the landlord more than anything as you won’t have plugged-up sinks to deal with. Vanity vs. sink on the wall – people do like storage. If you don’t want to install a vanity (simple) at least have storage. Central AC vs. window units not so important if units are functional and quiet.

  • The only things on that list that really add any value to me are central heat/air and a dishwasher, everything else wouldn’t even get noticed. How much value? Not all that much, to be honest, but I’m able to hand-wash dishes just fine.
    I would add garbage disposal to your sink regardless, however. Just think of all of the calls for plumbing service that you could avoid with the simple press of a button.

  • Central air and heat- $50-$100 depending on the space and efficiency of existing window units
    Ceiling Fans – 0 to -$25, they’re usually ugly. Definitely not worth adding. Just add a regular light fixture. Exposed bulb shouldn’t even be an option.
    Garbage disposal – $10
    Dishwasher – $10
    updated bathroom with vanity – $50 if by updated you mean new fixtures, new tub/shower, new tiling. If you’ve just changed the sink, $0
    security system – $0-$30 if you’re in a high risk neighborhood. In my neighborhood, I could care less and it might even be a nuisance.

  • justinbc

    Can’t really comment on dollars without knowing the specifics of your unit, quality of items used, and location, but here’s my general take.
    Central air and heat (as opposed to window units and radiators): A lot.
    Ceiling Fans (as opposed to exposed-bulb fixtures): Moderate amount, more if you don’t have the AC.
    Garbage disposal: Nothing.
    Dishwasher: Decent amount.
    updated bathroom with vanity (as opposed to old bathroom with no vanity, just sink hanging on the wall): Moderate amount.
    security system: Nothing, unless you’re paying the cost to monitor, then it’s just whatever that cost is.

    • OP here. So what about just central air? One 2br without (and generally in worse shape–no remodels since the 30’s)’ one 2br with, also remodeled and in much better shape. You think $200 “a lot”?

  • emvee

    Everyone’s hating on ceiling fans, and I’m honestly a little biased towards them. If there’s no central air, then do not give your tenants just a sad light fixture. Sure, they’re ugly, but in the summer they make a world of different. Save the ceiling fan! Function over form!

  • Central air is a big win, but radiators are better than forced-air heat. $50/mo
    Ceiling fans vs what? Like a bulb hanging from the ceiling? Ceiling fans do help save $ on air conditioning in the summer. $20/mo
    Garbage Disposal – can live with or without it.
    Dishwasher – if it’s a rental for a single person, not worth much. Two or more people, worth more – $20/mo
    Updated Vanity – Nice but can that be quantified? $10/mo
    Security system – this is more hassle than anything -$10/mo

    Though really, all said you are probably looking at $200 more than an apartment without those things, assuming apartments in decent condition.

  • Prices based on a 1-bedroom apartment renting for about $1500. If you’re renting out a whole house, obviously the scael of these numbers may not be right.
    Central air conditioning: +$15-20
    Forced air heat instead of radiators: -$30 [that is a negative number!]
    Ceiling fans: +$0
    Garbage disposal: +$0
    Dishwasher: +$10/20
    I like ceiling fans, I wish I had another one in my apartment, but honestly, comparing two otherwise similar units, I’m not sure I’d pay a premium for it. +$10 per month is $120 per year; I could buy one myself and put it up for that and then not keep paying more for it every month as I continue to live there.

  • HaileUnlikely

    I think the main thing that any of these will accomplish is to expand the universe of who is willing to live there and retaining good tenants for longer. I don’t believe any of these improvements, except maybe central air, would merit a rent increase for a current tenant. I could be wrong, but I suspect that most tenants who don’t demand central air wouldn’t be willing to pay much if any premium for it, and for tenants who do demand central air, your place is worth zero without it. Similarly with the other things. If you already have multiple good tenants competing for your place, these will yield very little payoff. If you currently have trouble filling vacancies, the central air and dishwasher might help you to find good tenants more quickly. If you find that you have lots of well-qualified tenants competing for your place, that’ll give you some idea of what sort of increase you can justify.

  • From what I’ve seen between older buildings and newer buildings in the same location, usually the central air, dishwasher, disposal are all features that a newer building will have, and the older building won’t. I’d say for a 1BR the asking rent difference is about 400-600 per month between newer buildings and older. Of that, i think the biggest premiums are for central air, more than half. One other difference that you didn’t include is an in-unit washer and dryer. I think those two things are the real separators between buildings in the same location. A lot of people have central air and in-unit laundry as must haves, and those units command a lot higher prices, all else being roughly equal.

    • Absolutely agree with this. I live in an apartment building that’s about 100 years old on 16th and U st (read: great location!) with little to none of the things you have listed beyond having a bathroom with a little storage and ceiling fans in every room (big plus with window units and radiant heat), BUT the one thing I will say I would fork up more money for is an in-unit washer and dryer. Not the crappy all in one, but a really washer and dryer. Even at that though, I’d say maybe $100 more a month.

      I do have a full size portable dishwasher on wheels, so you don’t technically HAVE to install one. As long as you have the a-ok from your landlord to bring it in. I picked mine up on craigslist for $150 but retail price of the kitchenaid dishwasher is about $600. Food for thought.

  • Here’s a pro tip – it’s not worth it to install central air in a rental, or to remodel a bathroom. However, two of the features you listed are actually pretty cheap – the dishwasher and the ceiling fans. A pretty decent fan is going to run you $80-$100, and you can install it yourself in an hour or so (it is really super easy, I promise). I’ve put those in most rentals I’ve had, and just kept the old fixture in a closet (and taped the receipt for my new fan to the old fixture so I wouldn’t lose it). At the end of the rental, I’ve let the landlord take a look, and every single one has opted to buy the fan, at the price I paid on the receipt I saved, rather than have me take it down and put the ugly old fixture back up. Every. Single. One. So, I got to enjoy it for the whole time I rented there, and in the end all it cost me was my time to install it.
    The dishwasher is a bit more tricky – it requires you to already have a 24″ or 30″ cabinet immediately next to the sink on one side or the other. But, if you do, propose the following to the landlord – one of you pays to buy the dishwasher (best prices are usually Sears and Best Buy – you can get a decent one for around $200, and they fit in the back of any SUV or station wagon to save on delivery costs) and the other pays to install it (usually around $150-$250, but again, if you watch a simple YouTube video you can likely do it yourself – the plumbing hooks into the sink and is easy. The electrical is the only possible snag, if there isn’t anywhere back there already to link into, but that’s something the installer will run if needed). I’ve proposed this to two landlords – one agreed to split the cost with me and paid for the install and I bought the machine, the other one wouldn’t split the cost but would allow me to put one in, which I did, because for a two-year lease, it was worth $400 one time to have a dishwasher to me.

    • Hey anon @ 3:04,

      I’m thinking of doing exactly what you did – install a dishwasher. I do a lot of cooking and washing dishes is a daily life-destroyer. Did you hire an installer to take care of the electrical part? That’s the part I’m most nervous about doing myself. If so, could you recommend the person you used? If not, would you come over and help me? Haha, just kidding on that last thing (maybe).

      • @Tina – do it, it’s such a huge life-changer! If you own, it’s easier than if you rent, but if you rent, just get an okay from your landlord. If you already have a garbage disposal, you have the electrical in the kitchen sink cabinet already. It is likely just an outlet that’s up behind the sink. Many dishwashers you can literally plug the cord into that like a lamp. So, that part is not scary, unless you’re scared of plugging in lamps, at which point, invite a friend over to help you (and have them plug in your lamps while they’re there…)
        I didn’t hire an installer – the first time I put one in, it was in a house I had bought, and I was doing a gut-remodel of the kitchen anyway. I “hired” (aka bribed with pizza and a 24-pack of his favorite beer) a buddy of mine who was a professional electrician to wire the whole kitchen for me. I watched him doing it very closely, and took notes. The second time, the landlord okayed it and I installed it myself, but there was already electrical in the sink cabinet. The third time, the landlord paid to install a machine I bought, and had his guy do it. I think his name was Javier. That’s the most helpful lead I can give ya on the guy – sorry 🙁
        But, do it! Install the dishwasher. It is so so so so so worth it, even if you have to shoulder the whole $00 or so yourself. And spring for one with a timer setting, so you can tell it to turn on in 2, 4 or 6 hours (still only around $200). The first time you pop in a pellet and set it to wash while you’re away at work and come home to delightful, clean dishes, you will realize that instant this is so much better than the 10 $40 dinners out with friends you gave up to pay for it. It’s worth 50 dinners. Especially since you don’t have to wash dishes by hand those ten times you eat in now!

        • Thanks for the encouragement!! I don’t have a disposal, but the fridge is plugged in somewhere on the same wall, so hopefully the outlet is a dual outlet so I could plug the dishwasher in there. If not, then I’ll have to start lurking in the aisles at Frager’s to meet cute with an electrician.

  • My partner and I cook every day, so a dishwasher was big for me. I eliminated apartments that didn’t have one (may have considered if everything else was great, but most dishwasher-less places are older with general crappy appliances) I would say, $50 a month for me.

    Central AC, probably also worth $50-$100. I hate my window units.

    Ceiling fans? If central air, no added value for me. Bathroom? Not that important, 3/4 of my DC apartments haven’t had a vanity, so I own my own cabinet, I imagine a lot of DC renters do. Security system? The value of the monthly contract I guess.

  • I’d gladly pay $100 a month more for a dishwasher. The rest of it i could take or leave. But I am SUPER lazy about doing dishes.

    • maxwell smart

      Depending on the size of the unit, I don’t see a Dishwasher being that valuable. I never understand Studio and small 1 Bedrooms that have a Dishwasher in a kitchen that is already very limited on cabinet space – how often is someone actually going to fill the dishwasher to justify running it? I had one once and I found that I generally ended up washing the dishes anyway.

      What I would never go back to not having though is in-unit washer & dryer. That to me is worth WAY more then a Dishwasher.

      • Yeah, I moved in November to a 1-bedroom with a dishwasher. I really wish it was cabinet space instead.

        On the other hand, I’m very happy to have a garbage disposal now!

  • I’d definitely pay a premium for central air (it’s not just about staying cool; it’s also about noise and not losing your windows) but not very much the other things. I LOVE ceiling fans, but if a landlord showed me 2 identical units, the only difference being a ceiling fan, and told me it was $1810 for the fan instead of $1800 I don’t think I’d pay even that $10 extra. On the other hand, though, collectively a place with central air, nicer bathroom, ceiling fans, dishwasher, garbage disposal vs. a place with none of those things is going to feel like a big difference. I bet lots of people would pay a $200 or $300 premium for the place with all the bells and whistles. Security system impossible to answer without knowing more about the setup- big difference between basement unit in Trinidad and apartment building in Glover Park.

  • Just install the garbage disposal, dude, and quit worrying about it’s value on the rental market. This is about the lowest-hanging fruit you can grab.

    Central Air is the real biggie. Without knowing where your rental is and how much it’s going for currently, I can’t tell you what it’s worth.

    The second most important thing is an in-unit washer & dryer. People will pay more for that than they’d spend at the laundromat, simply because going to the laundromat is such a PITA.

    Security system = bars and sturdy security doors.

  • saf

    Radiators are central heat.

  • The basic capex calculation for management companies is to amortize the cost of the improvement over a year or a few years, so central air would be valued very highly (especially in a big building a very $$ investment), while a vanity costs like $150, ceiling fan/garbage disposal are comparable, and they just require the requisite electrical (usually far more expensive than the actual amenity). Just turning over an apartment in an old building costs several thousand dollars, so adding a bit more for these amenities then charging more makes sense ($75/month upcharge for dishwasher, $75/month upcharge for stainless appliances, $50/month for built-in microwave, all usually contain the amortized $750 of new cabinets, $150 in new counters, $800 in electrical work). Also, it’s a handy way to help you not spend too much money

  • I’m curious — the OP says he/she is “dealing with some landlord issues.”
    Is the OP a renter who thinks the landlord is overcharging and is trying to negotiate him/her down? Or a landlord who’s trying to figure out how to price a rental unit?

    • OP is a renter whose LL wants to raise rent to a rate comparable to units that do have the listed amenities. My unit does not. So the question was geared to find out how much less my rent should be compared to the units that do have the amenities. I could have worded it better.

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