Paint or Siding for Rentals? Charleston Property Managers Weigh In

February 02, 2023 | By Charleston Property Company

Updated February 2, 2023

When spring arrives, your thoughts should turn to the exterior rental property maintenance Charleston investment properties need.

Taking time to implement specific projects that can greatly increase the curbside appeal of investment properties in Charleston, allowing you to attract high-quality tenants and improve the value of your rental homes.

Today we focus on the true costs of painting a rental property when choosing paint instead of siding. Keep reading to learn what our experts think!

Exterior Updates Can Provide a Much-Needed Facelift

Updating the exterior walls and trim of your rental property in the Charleston area can provide one of the most dramatic facelifts you could possibly hope for. An old, drab, worn-out house can be quickly transformed into smartly-updated rental property sure to catch the eyes of potential renters—all with a few gallons of fresh paint or new siding.

The answer to "siding vs. paint" will depend upon you, your plans for the property, your budget, and your own personal abilities as a do-it-yourself property owner.

For today's property management insights, we'll work through a hypothetical project to paint or add siding to a 2,100-square-foot, one-story single-family home in Charleston's largest zip code, 29412. We'll also assume that only high-quality supplies and materials are to be used and that the home is in good physical repair and only needs cosmetic revitalization.

One caveat: As with any home maintenance or improvement project, there are always cheaper ways to do something—usually by cutting corners or using low-quality supplies. The figures quoted are from recognized industry experts and reflect the cost of doing the job right the first time.

Each choice has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so let's look at the renovation from the painting perspective as expert Charleston property managers.

The Pros of Painting Your Rental Property

What are some of the benefits of adding a fresh coat of paint to a rental home? From costs to colors, a property manager will tell you there are plenty of good reasons to upgrade the exterior with paint.

Low-Cost Options

By far, the biggest reason to paint your rental property in Charleston instead of installing siding is the cost of the initial investment. Painting a home costs a fraction of adding siding—especially if you are doing it yourself.

It can cost (on average) about $5,200 to paint a home's exterior with the dimensions we mentioned earlier, with most property owners paying between $2,000 and $8,000. We'll go into greater detail about costs in a moment.

Color Options

Exterior house paint is literally available in any color you can think of. There are several dozen standard colors from which to choose, and custom color mixing is available. Even better, painting gives you the flexibility to change things up and vary the color from time to time.

There is almost no limit to the color combinations and techniques you can use to highlight the various attractive features and details of your Charleston rental property and make it stand out from other rental homes.

Woman painting the wall and holding a color guide

However, this advantage is tempered somewhat because it can be a bad idea to go with color choices that are too outlandish or gaudy. For example:

  • Property owners should avoid colors that might invoke strong negative opinions and alienate some potential renters. After all, you may have always wanted to own a pink-and-purple house—but that would probably scare away many tenants.

  • At the same time, going too 'conservative' can be boring and nondescript. Avoid painting everything 'landlord white' just for the sake of convenience. The psychology of color can give clues as to which colors might project the right impression.

Public tastes change constantly, and the latest color trends might seem dated in just a few years. However, property management companies can tell you that if too many other homes in the neighborhood are using a similar color scheme, your Charleston investment property might not stand out enough to catch the attention of potential renters.

When choosing paint over siding, the color you pick for your property does not need to be a permanent decision. Instead, you can modify that decision whenever you want.

Skill Level and Painting

Although it can be labor-intensive and time-consuming, painting a home does not require a high degree of maintenance skill to complete. If the proper steps are taken, moderately-capable do-it-yourself property owners should be able to consistently achieve good results—especially if they have kept up with touch-up maintenance and repairs.

Painting can also be done in stages, according to your schedule, without having to worry about damage. If you are an independent investor with more than one rental property in the Charleston rental market, you don't need to be 'locked in' to a project if one of your other properties demands your attention.

The Downsides of Painting Your Rental Property

Paint is an excellent option, but it's not without some drawbacks. Here are a few things to keep in mind before getting ready to paint.

Hidden Costs Can Add Up

A do-it-yourself investor who lacks exterior painting experience might significantly underestimate the cost of painting their Charleston rental property. This is one advantage of working with a Charleston property management company: we can share our insight with respect to these types of project costs!

Assuming one gallon of high-quality paint will cover approximately 350 square feet. Since the home's exterior will require two coats, a 2,100-square-foot home will need 12 gallons of paint.

Paint and Supplies

A gallon of exterior paint can cost between $20-$80, depending on where you get it. So, twelve gallons for a home's exterior can cost between $240 and $960.

However, that's not even close to the final cost of the job.

  • First, most professionals recommend that you add up to 20 percent of your estimated need for any areas or materials requiring extra paint. That can add up to $192.

  • Next, your project will require the purchase of additional painting supplies—especially if this is the first painting process that you have undertaken.

    • To properly paint your rental property in Charleston, you will need brushes, rollers and rolling handles, a paint sprayer, buckets, drop cloths, paint hands, painter's tape, caulk, sandpaper, scrapers, and a ladder.

    • Depending on the home, you may also need a power washer and scaffolding.

    • The supplies alone can easily run several hundred dollars, and even more, if you opt for high-end power equipment.

    • The good news is that the cost of the equipment can be spread out by using it over several properties or projects.

A home is much more than a vertical wall: there are also a number of exterior features that require painting—typically in accent colors, not normally bought in bulk. Painting these other trim areas adds expense, even if you do the work yourself, including:

  • Doors

  • Fascia

  • Gutters and downspouts

  • Porches

  • Shutters

  • Window sashes

Even going with mid-range estimates, these items can add thousands of dollars to the cost of repainting Charleston rental properties.

Your Home's Materials Can Add to Costs

Finally, be aware that the construction material of the home's exterior will also affect the project's cost. Different materials require increased preparation, different techniques, and more paint. If you opt for the services of a professional, be prepared to adjust the budget accordingly for labor.

  • Concrete: Requires special sealers, primers, and paints.

  • Metal: May require cleaning, repair, or replacement.

  • Stucco: Extensive prep, including caulking and filling in cracks.

  • Vinyl: Possible, but changing the finish isn't recommended.

  • Wood: Price includes staining or painting.

Additionally, if your Charleston rental property was built before 1980 and you use a professional, you will be required by law to have the home tested to see if lead-safe containment practices will be necessary. If so, then the price will increase.

Investment on Black-Golden Watch Face with Watch Mechanism. Full Frame Closeup.

The Time Commitment

Preparing and properly painting your rental property in Charleston requires a time commitment that should not be taken lightly. If you try to cut corners here, you could end up shortening the effective life of the paint job—or worse, have an unsightly eyesore that is difficult to even consider rent collection for.

When planning your project timeline, consider the following:

  • You'll need to power wash the exterior to remove any accumulated dirt, dust, or other residue. Power washing should also remove any loose or chipped paint.

  • Be sure to repair or re-nail any loose or broken boards, fascia, trim, or soffits beforehand.

  • You'll also need to remove loose paint with a scraper or paint stripper.

  • Using a pad sander or sandpaper to smooth any rough spots will make the process easier.

  • You should take care to fill in any holes with caulk or putty.

  • Applying primer and a first coat of paint will require drying time.

  • Once you apply your second coat, you'll need to allow this to dry too.

  • The last step to preserve your paint job is to apply sealant.

It is very possible that correctly painting your rental property in Charleston could take up to two weeks or longer if you have to parse out your time.

Painting Is a Temporary Fix

By far, the largest negative associated with painting your rental property in Charleston is that it is temporary. Even when all the steps are followed and the best-quality paint available is used, the home can start to look weathered due to fading, chipping, and peeling in as little as seven or eight years.

On the other hand, if you try to save a buck and purchase cheap, low-quality paint, you might have to repaint everything again within two or three years. Those costs add up.

If you plan on owning a particular piece of rental property in the Charleston area long-term, eventually, the cost of painting and repainting will outpace the one-time expense of correctly installing siding.

Find Property Managers and Expert Advice Before Choosing Paint or Siding

Whether choosing paint or siding to update the exterior of your rental property in Charleston, be aware that this particular cosmetic project can often be the most significant determining factor on whether or not renters can see themselves living in that home. Your property's first impression is greatly influenced by your choice of paint or siding and an excellent application of either option!

Making smart upgrade choices can improve the return on investment you can achieve from your rental properties. So, before you lay a coat of paint or purchase tools, get in touch with our Charleston property managers! We'll run a free rental analysis on your property to show where you could be losing money—and which updates will best benefit your rental homes.


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