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Maximizing the rent potential of shotgun units

Shotgun-style units are a dime a dozen in South St. Louis. I don’t understand how anyone ever thought they were functional, regardless of the era they were built. Perhaps we can point to the invention of air conditioning and the fact that we take privacy for granted these days, for the changes in layouts. Regardless of why they were built that way, the question of what to do with these “less than ideal” layouts is always tough for property owners.

You can rent them as is, of course, but not having a private bedroom can be a major drag on your rent potential. Shotgun units also tend to take longer to rent, taking a further bite out of income. Seeing as this business is all about profits, that’s an important concern. One solution that a surprising amount of owners seem to fail to consider is reorienting the layout of the unit. If people no longer find a product compelling, simply change it. Since most shotgun units run bedroom-living-kitchen, the switch is pretty simple. And not really that hard.

The best option is usually to move the kitchen from the rear of the building to the middle. Depending on where the bathroom is, this switch can usually be done without changing how the toilet connections work very much.  By moving the kitchen to the center room, you will be altering the design to a much more functional living-kitchen-bedroom layout. Best of all, since the rear room is usually somewhat separated from the rest of the unit by the bathroom, the bedroom will likely have more privacy from noise in the unit. The bedroom will also be more removed from exterior noises since it is farther from the street.

The ideal time to do this switch is when you are already planning on redoing your kitchen and/or replace your drainage stacks in the building. Since you will be replacing a lot of the affected components of the change anyway, you can cut out the biggest expenses of changing the layout by doing it at this time. At that point its simply a matter of moving the sink attachment to the drain stack from the far end of the building to the middle, and moving kitchen components into the middle room. Even if you aren’t replacing the kitchen cabinets, moving them can often be easily accomplished without damage.

Though this change will cost money, the costs can be kept to a minimum if planned properly. When you’re done, the private bedroom will bring in higher rents and lower vacancies by making your units easier to rent and retain tenants. When considering the thousands of additional dollars provided through the change in the first few years following the work, the up-front costs are more than worth it. So the next time you do any work to the plumbing or kitchen in a shotgun apartment, make sure you take advantage of this great opportunity.

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