Layout and interior design are crucial in the Build-to-Rent strategy

When it comes to real estate, most people swear by the axiom “Location, location, location.” But, there’s one other element I think is equally important.

The kitchen, the kitchen, the kitchen.

The kitchen has long been a centerpiece of family gatherings, whether it’s a nightly family dinner, leisurely Sunday breakfast or an important conversation about family matters. Even when the pandemic ends, it looks like cooking at home will still grow. According to the research firm Hunter, people in the U.S. are continuing to cook more, with 71 percent saying they will continue to do so after the pandemic ends.

Kitchen renovation provides a solid return on investment. A $20,000 renovation brings an approximate 81 percent ROI, according to Zillow.com. My philosophy is why wait for a renovation? My company specializes in Build-to-Rent new construction and takes great strides to ensure the kitchens in our properties have more appealing amenities and layouts than kitchens in similarly priced homes.

Why? it’s important to give buyers what they want. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2018, 58 percent of buyers who purchased in the last 12 months said having their preferred style of kitchen was extremely or very important to their home-buying decision. Including stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and open layouts make homes even more attractive to buyers.

Turn to Professionals for a Critical Eye

To differentiate our Build-to-Rent subdivisions from our competition is to use professionally designed floor plans and interior designers. When you have working relationships with talented architectural and design professionals, your properties will appeal to more buyers or renters.

As investors, it is also important to control costs by creating economies of scale while at the same time creating enough unique options to differentiate each house. This strategy is used on a macro-level by major builders such as Pulte. When you build thousands of homes annually, it’s much easier to find economies of scale while still differentiating each home.

In my experience, it has been beneficial to rely on talented architects, builders, and designers to make subtle changes, allowing us to offer unique options. In one of my company’s developments, we feature 13 different floor plans, thanks to the great architects who were our collaborative partners.

Designers and staging companies are just as crucial. Getting a professional designer to pick out flooring, paint colors, counter tops and appliances, then pulling it together with all the right small touches will pay off in the long run. When potential renters walk into our staged model, we want to create an instant “Yes, I LOVE this kitchen.”

Also make sure to work with designers who understand local trends and tastes. Design tastes vary from region to region and it’s important to know that what flies in Nashville or Atlanta might not work well in Florida. The right designer will understand these nuances and design something that attracts local tenants.

I have seen the power of professionals work time and time again whenever I enter a new market. Start with a great architectural team who puts together an array of buildable and affordable floor plans then tie it all together with designers and staging companies who have a flare for finding just the right look.

When it all comes together, you will end up with kitchens where people really do want to come together. Kitchen designs are often what make or break projects.


Bruce McNeilage is the CEO and co-founder of Kinloch Partners and a partner in Harpeth Development.. He is a passionate advocate for housing affordability and homeownership and invests heavily in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as throughout the southeast. Learn more about his projects, including single-family built-to-rent communities and the Solo East and North condominium projects at  www.Kinlochpartners.net.