After making his Coburg Californian bungalow more sustainable, finding his first set of tenants was “extraordinarily easy… We moved out on the Friday, they were in the on the Monday,” he explains, and “they’re regular paying tenants that are going to care for the property.” What more could you ask for?
Stan’s convinced that improving the environmental performance of a rental property is a good investment: “A lot of landlords think to have a green house you’d have to spend an extra 10 grand, to put in some solar units and some panels in the roof… But there’s a lot of stuff you can do that’s really low or no cost, that you could do initially, that will make the house much more comfortable, and that you could use as a bit of a marketing edge.”
Having that marketing edge has worked really well for Stan and his partner: “We were tossing and turning on whether we were going to act as landlords ourselves, or whether we were going to go through a real estate agent. We thought we’d do a little bit of networking first and test the water. The first people who saw it wanted it. We were actually taken by surprise, because they were lovely people. They were quite happy to pay the price that we wanted, because they could see that what they were renting was a home, not just a house.”
To green the place, Stan put insulation in the ceilings and walls, installed a water tank that’s plumbed into the toilet, got solar hot water, a dripper and soaker watering system for the garden and put a deck with bi-fold doors on the north side of the house to let in lots of sun in winter and to allow for good cross ventilation to cool the house in summer. He did the changes as part of a renovation, although most wouldn’t require renovation. It didn’t cost him any more than any renovation would, because he prioritised comfort and sustainability over size. Instead of building as big as he possibly could he made sure the renovation fitted with the existing house, and used the money saved to pay for things like the solar hot water. The result was a house which is comfortable – no more freezing winters and boiling summers – and which gets energy bills which are half the amount they used to be.
Stan says that he would certainly do it again:
“If you’re making a house appealing to your tenant, you’re going to attract the kind of tenant that you want.”
He also thinks the investment will make a real difference to the property value if he ever sells the house: “It’s a no brainer. If you had two houses and they’re the same, they look nice, someone’s gone through the garden and weeded it, it’s obviously a house that’s been cared for… and then you get all these other bonuses. You get a house that costs you half the amount to run. You know, who wouldn’t buy a house like that?”
It’s now almost a year since the renovation, and things are going well: “We recently conducted our annual house inspection and the house looks great, so we’re all very happy to extend the lease for another year.” These days Stan’s living in Western Australia, having a bit of a sea (and a tree) change. He’s running an environmental consultancy, called The Environmental Edge, and he knows that his rental property back in Melbourne is earning him a regular income and is being looked after by a good tenant: “We’re very happy.”