The Real Estate Investing Authority®

Painting Costs At Turnover Don't Feel Like "Happy Accidents"!

Painting During Apartment Unit Turnover:  Anyway You Mix It, The Cost Gets Sticky





There are two basic objectives when turning an apartment unit over after it’s been vacated: 1) Add as much value so you can collect the most possible rent and attract a tenant with greater financial flexibility; 2) do it as quickly as possible so you can start collecting rent as soon as possible.  The longer your turnover takes, the more zeroes you end up with in terms of rental income so quite literally, time is money.


There are several reasons why your turnover is best handled by a professional and objective 2 (above) is the clearest reason.  Property managers worth their management fee will have their own in-house rent ready teams.  This branch of their maintenance division spends all of their time doing “Rent Readies” so they are always prepared and able to save significant time (often with a team of 3 maintenance workers per unit) and save on supplies by purchasing in bulk.  The goal is to provide greater value than the property owner could do on their own, in far less time.


[Learn More: The Best Real Estate Investors Treat Turnovers As Opportunities ]




So here’s the situation: a tenant is leaving and you’re eager to get the apartment ready to be rented again as quickly as possible. You communicate proactively with your property management company because you know that time is money and you want them in there as soon as possible so they can take advantage of this opportunity to add value to your property.  If they’re good, they can finish the Rent Ready and get a qualified tenant in there in about 30 days and you’ll only miss out on one month’s rent.  You’re eager to get the process started and two days after the original tenant leaves you get a fully narrated video of the condition of the vacated property along with a quote for the work needed...but...the quote is WAY HIGHER than you’d hoped!


[ Learn More: The Most Common Mistakes Landlords Make During An Apartment Turnover ]




Here’s the short of it: about 85-90% of the time, vacated units need to be fully or nearly fully repainted.  If your tenant didn’t pay the last month you can rest assured they knew they weren’t going to get their security deposit back and you’re going to have to repaint the unit on top of other repairs.  To attract the tenants you want next time around, you simply can’t skimp and advertise a unit with dirty/patchy/subpar walls.  


But painting is really expensive.  It will always eat into your profits (whether in the form of expenses to pay a professional or the time and hassle for you to do it yourself) and a long term lens is necessary to digest the fact that painting can make up 60-70% of your entire turnover cost...but it’s typically worth it.




Painting is naturally labor intensive.  Between taping and prep along with gathering materials, painting is expensive even before the first brush stroke.  To provide value that will attract quality tenants, you can’t just slap some paint on some of the wall.  Every wall, corner, and edge needs to be painted with great attention to detail.  On top of that, paint itself is not cheap and apartment sizes are relatively large (1,000-1,200 square feet on average) in New England.  Call it $25/gallon (conservative estimate) and a gallon/400 square feet, you’re starting at about $100 for just the first coat of paint on a wall, never mind trim, baseboards, ceilings, and any additional coats.  On top of that, New England apartments are typically far older than those in other parts of the country.  With that comes more ornate design, more curvature, and more built in elements that require more paint and labor.  We just don’t live in an area with the boxier homes that became more and more common after WWII.  Check out the Learn More link below for additional info on how much you can expect to spend on painting.


[ Learn More: How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Room? ]


rent ready




If you get a quote that is higher than you’d like, see if you can find someone else to do the work.  Much of the apartment turnover process can be done with unskilled labor if need be.  From cleaning, to clearing debris, to painting, much of this can be done (if you’re not concerned about quality) by someone who is willing and able who also has a flexible schedule.  It might take you longer to get the job done, but if saving money on painting is important to you, this is a way to still provide value and keep some more cash in your pocket (up front).  Just make sure you can find someone before you decommit from your property manager...wouldn’t want to add even more time to the process if you can’t find someone and then need to go back to your property management company to do the job.



This is obviously an option, but it’s not our favorite and certainly not recommended.  Perhaps you could get away with just wiping down the walls or giving them a good cleaning.  It’ll certainly save you a significant amount of money.  Maybe you’d prefer to just patch any holes and sand them down when it’s dry.  Maybe you try to spot paint...or hang a picture over eyesores?  For Nexus to advertise a unit for rental, it needs to meet a certain quality, but from time to time you might be able to make it work by just adding some lipstick to the pig.  Again, not our favorite choice (and not likely to meet Nexus standards) and it certainly won’t help you attract tenants that are most likely to meet the rental price you’re hoping for...but it is an option if need be.


IMPORTANT POINT:  Never lie to tenants or misrepresent completed work.  Telling a tenant that their unit was painted when it wasn’t can lead to huge problems down the road.  Creating and maintaining a relationship based on trust is far more important than saving money during turnover.  In the end, an angry or spiteful tenant is far more costly than the price of turning over an apartment.



The best option might be combining the work of your property manager’s Rent Ready team with a separate painter.  Whether it’s you yourself, a handyman that is available, or a professional painter that you think can do the job for cheaper, this could be a good compromise for you.  If you’re a Nexus client, you know that the majority of the work done will be of the highest quality and then once our team is done, paint can be added by you or whomever you choose as a final step.  Will the savings be worth the effort of finding someone, aligning schedules, and risking lower quality?  Maybe, maybe not...but ultimately that choice is yours and it might be worth it to you to explore.


[ Learn More: From Trash To Class-A (Timeline & Turnaround Of A Property In Rough Shape ]




Nexus Property Management® recommends full paint every time because we’re always trying to focus on the long term.  Sometimes you get lucky and only need spot painting, but the perceived value for tenants that comes with a fresh coat of paint can’t be understated.  It’s like comparing visibility from an LED light to that of a candle; bright and inviting vs. well...the opposite.  Your goal is to attract a higher paying tenant so seeing that quote, with the painting included, is less intimidating when seen as an investment in long term tenancy.  Additionally, and this is a big advantage to keep in mind, come tax season, you can write off this entire expense as an improvement on your rental property (Learn More below).


[Learn More: Guide To Rental Property Tax Deductions ]


Working with a property manager is not for everyone but if you’re interested in owning more than one property it’s well worth your time to do your homework and become more familiar with the benefits.  If you’re looking to grow your assets and take the next steps in real estate investment, reach out to Nexus to gather more information.  The whole team is here working tirelessly to add value for our clients and to provide experience-based advice to anyone in the real estate world.


[ Watch More: Check Out More Informational Videos From Greg And Our Nexus Team ]



Mick Lefort is the Vice President of Operations for Nexus Property Management®. A National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.


Your Property, MANAGED®

The Real Estate Investing Authority®

Connecting You To Better Living®


You Could Own A Nexus Property Management® Office For Less Than You Think!


Property Management Franchise Opportunity

Fall River MA Property Management Office

Worcester MA Property Management Office

Pawtucket RI Property Management Office

Natick MA Property Management Office

Add new comment

Nexus Feedback

Mikalai is the gentleman who helped apply for my current apartment. He was very informative and professional. If you need anything, he always there to help you out. I am really happy that I got the opportunity to rent out my first apartment. Thank you!

06 Aug 2020

David did a great job fixing our ceiling fan, which was shaking violently.

21 Sep 2021

Nexxus is great with us. The calls are answered and Tom Morris always gets in touch with us to touch base about whatever the situation is. He's always pleasant and knows exactly what needs to be done. He is quick to answer and fix the problem in a timely manner the same day. Which is great because it's usually an emergency. Tom M. let's me know what the problem is and what he has to do to fix it. Which I appreciate greatly. Always happy to have him work out the problem.

15 Dec 2019