What Appliances To Buy: Advice From An Experienced Landlord

buying appliances

A common issue among homeowners is determining what appliances to buy for the house. There are a nearly inexhaustible number of brands and levels of quality out there these days, and it can be tricky determining what the best is for your particular home. Fortunately, I have some advice from an experienced and well-informed connection in the real estate business.

Tom has been in real estate for more than a decade and oversees hundreds of properties in the Hampton Roads area. He regularly buys appliances for his rental properties and has seen the best and the worst of things. This is what he has to say about what is truly the best buy for homeowners:

Having purchased and loosely-tracked the use and turnover of literally hundreds of appliances over the past 10 years the advice I’d give anyone looking for an appliance is this.

If you are shopping top of the line, you will almost certainly overpay relative to the life of the appliance and practical functionality of it for the same period of time relative to the low-end, and especially lower mid-tier, options.

An $800 refrigerator in almost every case will last and perform as well as the $2000 alternative. A $600 stove is substantially the equivalent in performance of a $1000 stove, and only if you’re shelling out *real* money for a top-end residential, or a bottom tier commercial stove at around the $2500-$3000 range, is there any real major difference in performance, it’s almost all aesthetics and/or bragging rights. Don’t waste your money; buy something you can afford to replace because you will have to at some point.

While electronic interfaces might be cute, or even useful, they’re almost all proprietary and will shorten the effective life of the product by 20-30% relative to their “dumb” sister appliances. Proprietary software and computers mean three things:

1) There are more things to break

2) There are fewer people to fix them and

3) There are only expensive parts, when available, to fix them.

Keep in mind that many of the electronic integrations are essentially high-cost, low-return gimmicks that are not worked out to be robust enough to tolerate the generally-poor maintenance that most appliance owners give them and the generally stressed and over-worked environments they function in or produce. Fridges are cold, wet, and have hard-to-access fans; generally, those are conditions most computers just don’t handle well.

For washers and dryers, unless you’re running laundry every day or have some super compelling need to use Wi-Fi activate it, buy the lowest-end model and just dog the thing. Heck, even buy second-hand. Of all the appliances I’ve bought over the past 10 years, washers and dryers are together the most frequently-misused appliance in a household. Virtually no one I know of actually follows the recommended use and load guidelines.

By their nature (with the tumblers) they *will* break. Many models still use the belt systems along with a simple electric motor. *They will break.* Belts will snap, electric motors will fritz out or burn up. They are inherently mechanical and have parts that are put under a lot of frequent stress, and I hate to break it to you… Those ball bearings are not built to take more than 6 years of use. They WILL break…

Oh, and top-end models, they do the same thing. The only thing you should be deciding between is if you prefer a top-loader or a side-loader; high-end residential products here are a straight rip-off. The difference between a bottom-tier dryer and a mid-tier dryer (say between a $350 and a $600-$700) is virtually non-existent, save maybe $50 of electricity a year and maybe a cumulative 3 hours less of drying time per year.

In most cases, a stove should last 5-10 years. In most cases, a fridge should last 5-10 years. Washers and dryers should be about 3-6. Warranties themselves, while occasionally helpful, are essentially useless because the exceptions are a mile long, and especially with high-end products, the more complicated the system, the more likely what is broken *isn’t* covered.

Here’s the secret, go check the second-hand market for appliances check the interval of price difference between a new appliance and a used appliance. The secondary market tells us a few things as well:

1) The depreciation rate is high, used appliances are frequently sold for about ½, if not less, of the price of the same model new

2) For many appliances such as washers and dryers, a good used or refurbished appliance can be found at half the cost of a new one, and will last maybe a year less. That means you pay half of what you would for a new one for (assuming an average life of 5 years), and get 4/5ths of the use. That is an awesome deal and an excellent return ratio. Even factoring in the unpredictability of life, you can buy a replacement with the amount of money you usually save out the gate by buying refurbished or used.

Anyway, that’s my two cents for the day.

I appreciate Tom taking the time to explain some of the real functional differences between high-end, high-priced appliances and lower-end “dumb” ones. While smart appliances may be eye-catching and fun to use, it may not be a financially wise decision in the long run, especially if you are working on getting out of debt right now.

The dumb appliances don’t have as much “sex appeal,” but buying these appliances ends up less maintenance-intensive, and they may last longer than the super techy ones.

I will say this, Tom definitely has a point about looking for used washers and dryers. My wife and I stumbled across a landlord selling fairly new two machines for just $200. Since we did not have either a washer or dryer, we picked them up, and they’ve been great.

I hope you have found this information useful! When it comes time to buy your new fridge, stove, or any appliance, consider Tom’s input in your decision-making process. It could save you hundreds of dollars every time, and thousands over the years!

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