Although rental properties can be great investments, they can quickly become security nightmares if you do not take the necessary steps to safeguard them.
Empty homes are the easiest to break into without anyone noticing. Property damage from a break-in will likely be costly. Stolen plumbing, appliances, broken windows, and property damage can eat away your property’s profitability quickly. It will also take time to repair the damage so that it is livable again. There are several vital steps that you can take to ensure that your investment is protected and able to be rented as soon as possible.
Locks & Door Reinforcement
The property should be properly secured at all times. Doors and windows should be locked with sturdy hardware. If you are purchasing a property or taking possession back from a tenant, you should change the locks or get them re-keyed. Who knows how many copies of keys could be floating around? Even with good locks, doors can still be kicked in. You may consider reinforcing the exterior doors to keep the bad guys out. Adding metal door jamb shields and hinge shields can make a world of difference. Securing basement windows is also critical as this often provides an easy access point to the house and to expensive housing components like water heaters, the furnace, pipes and wiring.
Maintain the exterior
Maintain the outside appearance of the house. The yard should be kept cut and clean. Trees and shrubs should be trimmed to avoid blocking views of the house and providing thieves places to hide. They should keep the mailbox from filling-up with “junk” mail as this is an indicator to a thief that nobody is at home.
Keeping a vacant property well-lit is a considerable deterrent for those lurking. Installing motion-activated exterior lights on the front and back of the property is a great start. Further, having timed lights on the interior and exterior of the home will create the illusion that there is a resident in the home. If lights are kept on 24-7, it can quickly become evident to a criminal that there is no movement at the home.
If you are self-managing your rental and are local, visit your property regularly. However, be sure not to visit at the same time, as this will show a pattern. Thieves are sneaky and notice these small nuances when targeting a property. Visiting regularly may provide a good opportunity to wave at the neighbors or get out and talk to them to build that relationship.
Ask Your Neighbors for Help
If you know your rental home will be vacant for some time, consider asking your neighbors to keep an eye on the property for you.
This is especially easy in areas such as Essex that have tight-knit communities where people tend to know each other, or in neighborhoods that have a Neighborhood Watch Program.
Ask them to report any suspicious people or noises to you or the authorities and be sure to thank them with a small gift around the holidays or by letting them park their car in your extra space.
Stop Advertising with Visible Signage
It would seem easiest to place a ‘For Rent’ sign in the window or yard of your vacant rental to advertise that the property is available. Yet this only signals to those wanting to break-in that you are not around and the home is free to rummage through.
A sign on the front window or in the yard indicating an alarm is monitoring the house is a great deterrent. Actually having an alarm is better, and you should urge your clients to get one that works best for them. Some alarm systems and components can be purchased for a few hundred dollars and there are a ton of choices. There are several portable systems that can be moved to another property once a vacant property is rented or from renovation to renovation as investors are flipping. Get a system that is flexible, does not require Wi-Fi and monitoring is set up on a monthly basis.
Hire a property management company
Even if you visit the property on a regular basis, consider hiring a property management company to maintain it. They can cut the lawn, rake leaves, remove snow from the sidewalk or driveway, and can even help you find a suitable tenant. Don’t think of a management company as an expense, think of them as an investment.
The bottom line? Don’t give anyone the idea that the property is vacant, or you will be inviting trouble. There are many ways to protect it from would-be thieves and criminals who make a career out of breaking in to homes and destroying property.
While the property is vacant, take advantage of this time to provide upgrades or updates and ensure it’s as clean as possible for showing to prospective tenants. You’ll also want to think about your rental rate. Now is the time to increase it if you like (just make sure it’s still in line with other similar property rentals in the area.)
If you advertise and take advantage of a management company’s expertise, your property shouldn’t be vacant for long.
Overland Management can help maintain all of your rental properties, and keep your vacant rentals safe from would-be thieves. Contact us today for more information!