Taking care of your rental home is just as important as caring for the home you actually live in.
Yet, time and again, property owners either fall behind on general maintenance of their rental properties, or expect their tenants to handle everything – both of which are a bad idea.
Keeping your investment property in tiptop shape is one way of extending the life of your property, as well as avoiding any major repairs.
If you want your property to last, despite people of all kinds moving in and out of it over time, you must commit to implementing a routine maintenance plan.
Take a look at some of the very best ways you can handle rental property maintenance, so that your rental property withstands the test of time, and continues to generate a positive cash flow for you each year.
1. Choose the Right Property
It all starts with buying the right property. If you purchase a dilapidated house that was built in the 1920s and hasn’t been updated in 40 years, you’re asking for trouble. That’s not to say this type of property can’t be a good investment; however, it’s probably not going to be low maintenance in the early days.
A low-maintenance property should have good bones (solid foundation, fairly new roof, good flooring, functional appliances, and easy access to the crawl space and all major home systems). Durable finishes are also a plus (e.g. brick versus vinyl siding).
2. Perform Routine Inspections
This is a major one.
Routine inspections can have a profound impact on the longevity of your rental property, no matter the time of year you conduct them.
Check for things like water leaks, broken windows, rotting wood, or full gutters while inspecting the exterior of your property.
Tenants are likely to miss these kinds of issues during the course of their tenancy, especially if they are not taking an active role in property maintenance.
After all, many tenants that do participate in property maintenance assume that “maintenance” includes just the interior.
By regularly monitoring the exterior of your investment property, you will be able to spot problem areas before they become major issues.
This will not only help ensure the structure of your property stays sound throughout the year, it will prevent costly repairs down the line that may displace your tenants, and dip into your monthly rent collection.
3. Care for the HVAC System
One of the biggest repairs any Philadelphia income property owner can face is the repair (or replacement!) of an entire HVAC system.
This is why routine care is key.
Look at some things you can do year round to help maintain your property’s HVAC system, and prevent a major financial burden down the road:
Professional Servicing. Have the system professionally serviced at least once a year. This includes a full cleaning, and the maintenance of any parts that are outdated or worn. In doing so, you will save your tenants money each month on energy costs, improve the air quality throughout your property, and prevent emergency repair needs.
Help Your Tenants. It is not enough to simply tell your tenants they are responsible for maintaining something like the HVAC system. Instead, try providing them with replacement air filters so all they have to do is change them out each month. In addition, giving your tenant a welcome package upon move-in is a great way to slip in a routine maintenance checklist, complete with instructions on how to maintain the HVAC system and what to do in case something breaks.
Duct Sealing. Every few years consider having your property’s HVAC ducts re-sealed. This will ensure the system continues to work efficiently and prevent any “backdrafting” that may physically harm your tenants. In addition, it will prevent extreme temperatures from plaguing specific rooms, boost air quality, protect the environment, and of course, save you money in the long run.
4. Don’t Forget the Water Heater
Another rental property maintenance issue that is often overlooked is the water heater.
And, if you have ever had to replace the water heater in your Philadelphia rental, you know firsthand how expensive the actual heater is, as well as how damaging a flooded water heater can be to a tenant’s personal belongings, and the structure of your property.
Here are some easy ways to maintain your property’s water heater:
Adjust the thermostat to approximately 120 degrees to prevent scalding, and to save your tenant’s money on energy costs
Ensure enough clearance around the tank
Drain the tank a few times a year to remove sediment build-up and debris
Test the temperature-pressure relief valve yearly
Inspect the anode rod every few years
Insulate the heater, especially if an older model
Just remember, if you are uncomfortable with performing any of the above-mentioned maintenance tasks, call a professional to help service your water heater.
5. Use Low-Maintenance Landscaping Solutions
Landscaping is one of the most frustrating parts of owning a rental property. Because even if you set up the lease agreement to where the tenant is responsible for the yard, it’s hard to hold them accountable. And when it’s all said and done, this responsibility lands on your plate.
One way to cut down on landscaping is to use low-maintenance solutions like:
Use a no-mow grass seed mix. These mixes usually consist of fine fescue mixed with ground cover seed like clover, monkey grass, or mass. They only require watering in the beginning. After that, you’ll need to mow once a month or less (as opposed to weekly). No-mow grades are also extremely hardy and require almost no fertilizer or chemical to continue looking good.
Use hardscaping whenever possible. Rocks, stones, and gravel are easier to maintain than mulched beds and sensitive plants that require frequent watering.
When installing fencing or decking, use synthetic materials. These will last much longer than wood. They won’t fade, split, or need to be repainted.
6. Be Proactive With Maintenance
Don’t wait until there’s a breakdown to fix something. By taking a proactive approach to maintenance, you can address small issues before they become serious problems. This lowers the cost of maintenance and keeps your tenants happier.
For example, if your HVAC unit has a 10-12-year lifespan and was installed 15 years ago, you might as well replace it. The unit won’t last much longer, and trying to nurse it along with repair after repair gets expensive.
7. Purchase Quality Items
There’s a temptation with rental properties to buy cheaper items to lower costs and maintain profitability. However, if you plan on owning the house for more than a couple of years, it actually pays to purchase higher-quality items and upgrades. This goes for appliances, furniture, and even finishes.
When it comes to finishes, durability is important. For walls, high-gloss and gloss finishes tend to be the best. They hold up well and are easy to wipe clean in high-traffic areas. For flooring, avoid carpet or tile. Instead, use plank vinyl flooring (which is easy to clean and doesn’t scuff or crack like other hard surfaces).
8. Select the Right Property Management Company
There’s no sense in trying to self-manage your properties. A property management company will do everything from screen tenants and collect rent to schedule repairs and keep all of your accounting in order. The key is to work with a property management company that’s local. This ensures they understand the local market and have established relationships with trusted contractors and maintenance professionals.
If you own property and want help with routine maintenance of your rental, contact Overland Management today and have our professional, qualified, and affordable handymen and contractors help you out.
Not only can we handle any maintenance or repair requests your tenants make during their lease term, day or night, we can help you with maintaining your property in between tenants so that your property stays in great shape year round.