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In-unit laundry facilities pose a constant conundrum for real estate investors. On the one hand, they'll probably make it easier to find tenants or flip the property, but on the other, they also come with high costs and inherent risks.
Are you unsure whether your recent investment property needs an in-unit laundry setup? This guide can help you decide.
Why include in-unit laundry?
From higher rents to better marketability, there are obvious perks to providing laundry facilities -- on both a property you intend to rent out and one you hope to flip.
Let's look at a few of these advantages more in depth:
An in-unit washer/dryer simply makes a unit more attractive to most renters. It means more privacy and more convenience, and if utilities are included on the property, it means less in monthly costs, too (at least for the renter).
Even if utilities aren't a part of the rent, in-unit facilities could still save renters serious cash over other options. Laundromats and community laundry rooms typically cost at least a few dollars per load. For a family of four, that means significant costs both monthly and across the year.
Because in-unit laundry facilities are such a draw for renters, they often mean you can charge a premium on rent, too. Depending on where you live, research from Trulia shows you could get as much as 20% more per month just for adding an in-unit washer and dryer. On a unit that would normally net you $1,500 per month, that means an extra $300 monthly and $3,600 over the year.
Better resale value
While you probably wouldn't include a full washer or dryer if you were just flipping a property, adding a spacious laundry room might be a smart move. According to a survey from the National Association of Home Builders, laundry rooms are one of the most in-demand home features for both first-time and second-time homebuyers -- more important than walk-in closets, garages, patios, and more.
In short? They could add a nice premium to your eventual sales price.
To keep up with the Joneses
Generally, if you want your property to command a decent rent and attract local tenants and buyers, you'll want it to fall in line with other homes in the area -- in size, in style, and definitely in amenities. That means that if every other rental in the neighborhood has in-unit laundry, you probably should consider it, too. This will allow you to stay competitive in the local marketplace, as well as demand market-value rents similar to those of other landlords in the community.
Drawbacks of in-unit laundry
Of course, in-unit laundry facilities aren't without fault. They're costly, they require more upkeep, and they also add serious risk to your property.
Here's a deeper look at some of the drawbacks of an in-unit washer and dryer:
For one, there's the cost to consider. Washers and dryers aren't cheap, and if you're footing the bill for the utilities, it will add to your expenses. When you throw in the annual maintenance and repairs you'll likely have to make, you're looking at a pretty hefty bill for adding those appliances to your property.
In-unit laundry facilities are going to require additional hands-on effort on your end (or, at the very least, from the property manager you've hired). There will be repairs to handle, regular maintenance to keep up with, and, of course, the initial install and setup of the appliances. If you have a large property with several units, that could amount to a pretty significant amount of work -- both upfront and on a monthly basis.
Potential for damage
Washers and dryers come with an inherent layer of risk. Water supply lines can break and cause flooding, dryer vents can get blocked and pose a fire hazard, and any number of issues can occur that threaten your property and cause costly or even permanent damage. If you do consider an in-unit laundry facility, make sure you have adequate property insurance, and always ask for a decent-size security deposit just to be safe, as this can help offset any damage the tenant might do to the appliances or laundry area.
An alternative: Community laundry rooms
If you're an apartment or multifamily property owner, then a coin-operated community laundry room can be a solid alternative to in-unit options.
These can not only provide a nice source of added income but also offer a place for renters to gather and socialize, adding to the sense of community on your property. This could even lead to more long-term tenants and fewer vacancies.
The downside here is that you'll need to maintain the room, including all the washers and dryers it contains. And because the appliances will get more use than traditional, in-unit ones would, they'll see more wear and tear. They also might require replacement more frequently.
What to consider
Ultimately, there's no hard and fast answer here. The decision to install an in-unit laundry facility (or a community laundry room) is a big one, and it depends largely on individual factors.
You'll want to take into account things like:
- Your budget: Can you afford the initial costs, as well as the upkeep and maintenance expenses?
- Your utility bill situation: Do you or your tenants pay the utility bills on the property?
- Bandwidth: Do you have the time and energy to handle the maintenance requests that could come with the washer and dryer? Does your property manager?
- Comparable properties: Do other properties and rental units in the area have laundry facilities?
Your future goals should also play a role. How long do you plan to hold the property? Is flipping or selling it in the cards? These can all influence whether adding in-unit laundry facilities is the right move for you.
The bottom line
Though in-unit laundry facilities can certainly offer some benefits for landlords and real estate investors, they aren't right for everyone. Before you opt to add one to your property, make sure you have a good handle on your budget, your bandwidth for upkeep and maintenance, and the state of comparable homes in the area.
And unless you're flipping the property, don't feel like you need to make the decision immediately. There's always the opportunity to add an in-unit facility down the line, either between tenants or during your next renovation. If you're not sure it's the right move now, make it a point to reevaluate six months from now or when your tenant's lease is up. Your budget, as well as the market around you, could change significantly by then.
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