Today I’m showing my Kihei Alii Kai listing to the buyers who are under contract.  They bought it sight unseen and it is always a little scary to have them see it for the first time. As the listing agent and with my inclination for good design, I always see the positive.  I decided to share my thoughts on how I would approach the upgrade of  this or any of the thousands of very dated condo units we have in Maui.  These photos are of the before; I know the new owners have plans to upgrade so I’d love to see the after photos.  

Primary Steps To Transform Your Maui Vacation Rental

20120221-IMG_0553 1) Take inventory.   Look at what is there.  Annotate what is worn and dated and what is useable.  Look at everything from the appliances to the furnishings to the linens and inventory.  You may want to categorizing items into one of the 4 “options” described below. Highlight what is really good about your condo compared to the many you looked at. 

2) Understand Your Potential Returns. Will you be upgrading and selling immediately or are you looking for better returns in rental income?  Look at rental numbers. Compare rental numbers to a totally renovated unit with similar views and amenities.  Don’t expect to double your rental rates just because you’ve upgraded the unit.  I would go out to and look at other similar units and what they are charging per night/week.  Make sure to also check their occupancy because some units with high rates have very low occupancy. Figure out how much it makes sense to spend to get a place you consider a decent vacation home or your dream Maui home.  Remember that vacation renters want luxury and will pay a little more for it.  Even better, if they like a unit they will return year after year.

3) Understand Your Own Limitations.   We all have some limits of time, money, skill and desire!   How many people really want to spend their vacation time remodeling a condo?   Do you have another $50,000 to hire someone to do all the work?  Or will you make small updates over time.   If you are hiring someone, make sure to check references.

4) Plan Out Your Options.  I’ve come up with the options that I think about whenever I see an outdated condo.  Sometimes the smallest changes will reflect huge increases in rental income.  If you come up with an option I’ve missed, share it below!

The Options for Transforming Your Maui Vacation Rental Condo

Here are strategies to consider.  Choose one or choose them all.

20120221-IMG_0556The Freshening 

For sellers, this addresses the things you should consider to get your condo ready to sell!  They offer the best ROI possible. Do a deep clean. Paint in a soft muted color that is selected to brighten the area; consider how the sunlight enters the unit (or not). Remove all junk – anything that is old, worn, dirty or whose function is unknown or obsolete.  Get rid of “SWAG chandeliers or ceiling fans”.   There is no reason to keep that  boombox with a CD player or tape cassette. Buy new “luxury” linens; they don’t have to be expensive. Update light fixtures and noisy fans.  Buy a few new accessories like throw pillows and faux plants or a nice dining table centerpiece. If tub/shower is gross, have it professionally cleaned, re-caulked and resurfaced.

20120221-IMG_0556The Polishing

Update selected furnishings. Pick the style you want to transform to and plan strategy to gradually transform. An updated living area or dining room will be noticed more than a bedroom. But guests will not return if the bed(s) is not comfortable! Don’t scrimp when buying a mattress! Updating or adding trim or crown moulding is easy and inexpensive but can really change the feel of a place.  A best investment is to buy a flat-screen TV and get rid of the “TV center” that we all see in many units. Replace flooring if needed – carpet change is easy. Update draperies if needed; use blackout curtains in the bedroom. Check if you can update kitchen and bathroom cabinets with paint. I saw one condo where cabinets were painted in stainless steel metallic and looked great! Add one new large dramatic art piece. Don’t forget the lanai! Patio furnishing is relatively inexpensive to buy but can add a level of luxury to the unit.IMG_0531  Who doesn’t love lounging outside when in Maui?

The Vacation Period Transformation 

You’ve decided to dedicate your 2 week vacation period to update your kitchen or bath.  Or you have your contractor friend who is willing to work in exchange for staying in Maui for a few weeks!  Make sure to check with your condo rules as many have limited “work hours” or blockout periods where they don’t allow any updates. Verify that you won’t require any special permissions or building permits.  I really understand  condo rule after staying in unit when visiting the Big Island where the upstairs condo owner was removing tile – the noise just would not stop!  If you are doing major changes, you might want to let your neighbors know in advance! 

Choose just one area to focus on like the kitchen or bath. If you are updating the floor, choose something durable and easy to clean. Some Maui cleaners will charge more for tile than carpet. That seems counter-intutive but carpet hides a lot more imperfections.  If you are taking out old carpeting be prepared to remove tons of sand.  Some laminates will stand up to salt and sand than real wood.  Tile is a good option for durability but deep cleaning and resealing grout every few years is important  Look at updating cabinetry and/or counter-tops. Although I wouldn’t want granite tile in my home, so few people really cook in a vacation-rental condo that it is an inexpensive option with good return; you can still say that there are granite counter-tops in your ads.  Replace older appliances. If you can’t afford to replace all appliances to match, don’t opt for the new stainless refrigerator; keep them all matching even if that means boring white! If you are replacing all appliances, spend the extra money to get stainless. 

The Major Renovation

These are the things that if you must do them, plan time and money and expect issues. In a perfect world, you would start here!  

Remove popcorn from ceiling; beware of asbestos and check with your AOAO to see if other owners have tested it.  You might want to just drywall over popcorn but every 1/2 inch makes the ceiling feel lower and more dated.

Resurface walls.   Many people assume that condo walls are easy but no – most of them in Maui are concrete block.   You can add drywall over them if you like that finish.  Or resurface them.   Either way it is a pretty big job and you still won’t be able to hang pictures easily!

Reconfigure spaces  — Consider creating an island if the kitchen is big enough to support it. In a vacation rental, people don’t need tons of kitchen cupboards so remove the wall to open up the space!  Add a laundry area if there isn’t one and the association allows it.  Look at how hallway areas are configured and see if you make more effective use of space by eliminate hallway space or reconfiguring unusable closets.

All new furnishings  –  This is the time to upgrade all major furnishing.  Here’s a few suggestions to really make it nice for guests. Raise the bed so that suitcases can be stored underneath easily.  Get a good quality sleeper bed for the living area if you don’t mind extra guests. Think about your condo layout and where guests would hang and spend their time.  That is where to spend money on quality.