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Revitalizing Older Properties: Innovative Strategies for San Francisco Owners - Article Banner

How to balance modern design elements with historic authenticity when you’re revitalizing an older property and investing in some renovations? 

This is the struggle for a lot of San Francisco property owners today. 

With constantly increasing competition and high prices in San Francisco’s real estate market, older buildings and rental properties can sometimes seem like a liability. They don’t have to be. Even if it seems risky and the challenges are ever-present, we can tell you that renovating and revitalizing older properties can prove to be a smart investment strategy. 

You have to do it right, and you have to make sure you know what that means.

By implementing innovative strategies, San Francisco property owners can modernize older buildings, bring some upgrades and updates to rental units, and meet the high demands of today’s well-qualified residents who are looking for their next rental home. 

At Sharevest Property Management, we’ve been working with owners and investors in the San Francisco market for many years. We understand the buildings and the unique history that comes with a lot of older properties. We have some ideas to share from a property management standpoint. Let’s discuss some of the most effective strategies for revitalizing older properties and attracting higher-paying tenants.

First, Find Out if Your Building is Considered a Historic Resource

There are old buildings and then there are historic buildings. You have to know what you’re working with.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) says that all buildings constructed over 50 years ago could be considered potentially historic resources, especially if they possess architectural or historical significance. If your building does have such significance, you’ll have to have an environmental review before you make any changes to the building. 

The CEQA review is state-mandated, and it allows the government to decide whether your building is a historic resources and whether the changes you want to make will have a negative impact on the value of that resource. Before you even begin thinking about renovations and improvements to your older property, make sure it’s not in possession of any mandated historic status. If it is, there are some extra steps you’ll need to take during your process of renovations. 

You’ll need to talk to a Historical Preservation Technical Specialist for help in determining your rental home’s current historic status and the changes you’d like to make to it.

Maybe your property or your building is simply old, and not necessarily historic. Once you know that for sure, you can move ahead with your plans for revitalization without worrying about special codes, requirements, or permissions. 

Make Targeted and Strategic Renovations

When it comes to upgrading older properties, it’s important to focus on upgrades that make a substantial difference without annihilating your budget or destroying the historic charm that your property likely holds. 

As you’re deciding what exactly you want to do, prepare yourself for the potential challenges that are unique to older homes in San Francisco. Walking through the city, you’ll see a lot of older buildings and older Victorian homes. These can be difficult to renovate because they were built before modern building codes. The steps you have to take are not only going to be aesthetic, but functional as well. You’re doing more than revitalizing; you’re bringing older properties up to current standards. 

Let’s not forget that we’re in one of the most active earthquake areas in the world. Your property will certainly require significant earthquake retrofitting that may drive up costs significantly. It won’t surprise you to know that San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to renovate a property. 

Decide what you’re going to do, and prioritize what should come first. Maybe it’s a simple coat of paint that will bring new life into your aging property. Or, you might find that adding new light fixtures can make an older apartment feel brand new. 

Replacing old appliances with new energy-efficient ones can also be a great way to modernize a unit and save on energy costs. Smart home technology is extremely important to tenants today; perhaps installing a smart thermostat will be just what you need to make your rental home feel more modern. A digital security system or a video doorbell will also make a big difference. Is there wallpaper? Peel it off and give your walls a more modern look. Wood paneling should go. Shag carpet: out.

These are the obvious upgrades for any older property. Be sure to prioritize high-impact renovations and improvements that will allow you to rent out your property at a price that justifies your investment.

Focus on the Community When Renting Out a Multifamily Property 

Your property type will also influence the renovations you make and the way you make them. 

Renting out a single-family home? That means you don’t have communal areas to concern yourself with, but you still have a neighborhood, and that neighborhood likely won’t respond well to a home that stands out in a negative way. Think about this before you paint the exterior an attention-grabbing color or you decide on outrageous topiaries along the perimeter of your property. 

When tenants are paying top-dollar for a rental property, they’re not only renting a living space, but rather the surrounding community as well. As a property owner, it’s important to focus on the community feel of your particular rental space, including the common areas in any apartment buildings or units you’re renting out in a multifamily property. Updating your laundry facilities can help you make the property more modern without compromising its historic charge. This will also help you increase your rental values and retain tenants. Even better – consider in-unit laundry for all of your apartments. That’s a modern convenience and amenity that tenants will seriously appreciate. 

A big part of revitalizing an older property is making the community in and around the building more appealing to potential tenants.

Meet High Demands of San Francisco Tenants 

San Francisco is an expensive rental market, and the tenants here have some pretty high demands when they’re choosing a rental property. You want to meet those demands, because attracting tenants and retaining them is important for the success of the property and the money you earn. 

You have likely noticed that the demands of rental property tenants have significantly increased over the years. In buildings, they’re looking for top-of-line amenities like pools, gyms, on-site yoga studios, and clubhouses or community gardens. Depending on the property, you may be able to offer these types of amenities in a retrofit way. For example, by turning an old storage area into a fitness center or by turning a courtyard into a pool and patio area. By taking advantage of innovative solutions, you can make your property more desirable to potential tenants, and keep the revenue flowing in.

Keep Your Branding Consistent as You Revitalize a Property

When we talk about real estate, we’re talking about constant marketing. Real estate influencers have their own television shows, their design networks, and their social media sites. You have to understand that branding is everything in the world of rental properties. You probably know this from experience, whether you’re renting out one home or an entire portfolio. Your reputation matters, and the way you present yourself and your properties reflects that reputation. 

By revamping your rental space with a cohesive brand identity, you can attract more potential renters, make yourself more recognizable on the market, and ultimately bring in more revenue. If you are renting out more than one property or even more than one building, make sure that you’re consistent across each one. You can start by updating your property’s logo, signage, and visual identity, and then use those updates as the inspiration for your rental approach, including the design elements within each rental unit, the on-site amenities, and more.

Make Sure You’re Leveraging Technology While Revitalizing Older Homes

Technology in Real EstateTechnology has been important in real estate and property management for many years. Thanks to the software, the applications, and even the artificial intelligence that’s available, you can see what your renovations will look like before a single hammer drops. 

Tenants are aware of what technology can do, too, and that drives their expectations. 

Today’s tenants crave convenience and efficiency, and the best way to get there is through technology. You can modernize your property by using a property management software that streamlines tenant communication, billing, and more. Additionally, offering online rent payments, virtual unit tours, and other tech-enabled services can be an attractive feature for renters searching for high-end living.

If you’re thinking about revitalizing an older property, that’s a great idea. The changes you can make will ensure it’s safer, more attractive, and even more valuable. Such an undertaking requires a sound strategy, however, and a lot of knowledgeable people helping you along the way. 

With these innovative revitalization strategies, San Francisco rental property owners can transform older properties into units that today’s renters are looking for – living spaces that are modern, community-oriented, high-end, and highly accessible. By focusing on targeted, high-impact renovations, creating a cohesive brand, and taking a tech-enabled approach, rental properties can become profitable for years to come.

Let’s talk about your unique property. Contact us at Sharevest Property Management.