Before I write an article, be it for Management One, or any of my portals, (yes, I'm a writing nerd), I first do a lookup on the given traffic a particular topic may generate. I mean, why waste an hour clacking away if no one is interested in the topic, right? So, I must admit, I was horrified when I searched out this topic relating to rental property preventative maintenance, and there was not enough traffic data to give traffic numbers at Google. That is so sad! What in tarnation do you folks out there use as a guide?!? I can tell you, from firsthand experience before working here, that many property owners seldom even think about maintaining their rental property. A lot do, but still, many don't!
“What? Steve, you want me to paint the fascia boards on my investment property, but why? It’s just a rental property; it’s not my personal home.” Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Investor, I highly recommend that we do preventative maintenance on your property to avoid huge surprises and costs later down the road.
Want to know how to have the money to pay for these repairs when they arise?
Check out this great article Are you robbing your own piggy bank? to ensure you are prepared when these repairs do arise, because mark my words, they will come up. It’s a fact of life.
I have my list of things that ought to be taken care of regularly on a rental property, shot these things should be done on your personal home as well. After all, regular preventative maintenance on your investment is important. Also, being a property owner, I'm aware that the sum of the parts of my house equates to a lot of money, both in materials, and perceived (market) value. Protecting that value is imperative. You'd be amazed at the damage a single tree can cause your investment, that is, beyond falling on it. Just touching it, at all, creates so many issues! Whenever I arrive at any property, the first things I ask are:
- How is the exterior paint?
- Is the landscaping attractive and cared for?
- How is the fence?
- Is the roof holding up, and how much more life does it have?
...and on, and on. There are so many items that I could literally bore you to death. However, I did a quick search to see what others had to say about preventative maintenance in general. I even found some helpful lists, and I am going to share some of this with you, you lucky, lucky reader.
My water heater went out!
That call is dreaded, for a couple of reasons. There may be a leak, meaning water damage. There is going to be an expense, and it could well be a significant expense, especially if there is water damage. I know the property owner is not going to be happy about the expense or any water damage. And the resident may be without hot water, pretty much a no-no.
"Well, it sprung a leak, it's inevitable, what can you do." Well, do bear in mind that any water heater ten years old or greater is going to fail, sooner than later. Further, if no preventative maintenance has been performed on it, it is going to fail way sooner. Example, regularly draining the water heater, say, twice a year, is a great way to extend its life. The goop that accumulates at the bottom of a water heater can cause early failure. Not only that but to heat the water, it must first heat the goop. You can drain that stuff out, but here's a little secret: when you go to close the drain valve, it may not seal, and guess what? You now have a leak.
Your home has flooring; my home has flooring, we all have it, right? But how long ought it last? Carpet, ten years, tile, 20+ years, if installed right, quality laminate, 15+ years, low-quality laminate, 15 minutes. Okay, 15 minutes is a bit of a stretch there, but get it good and wet, then tell me it's a good product.
Bear in mind, in a rental home, or your own, that wow factor of a nice looking, warm looking floor is psychologically beneficial. If your carpet is eight years old or more, plan on replacing it, and budget with longevity in mind. Preventatively, clean it regularly, and in a rental, require your resident clean it twice yearly. Or, conversely, you can pay for it. Don’t.
The king of all insects, when talking about preventative maintenance, is, of course, termites. Regular inspections ought to be carried out, and one should be on the lookout for wood rot (dry rot) as well. Caught early, the cost of eliminating termites and repairing the damage is WAY less than letting them run wild. Yes, it's still an expense, but welcome to owning property.
Spiders are not a big deal, unless you're a resident, especially with children. Ants are more a nuisance than a hazard. Yet, there's something about biting into a Nutter Butter Sandwich Cookie in the 2 AM dark and finding them covered with ants in the morning that you will never forget.
Carpenter ants though, they can be every bit as bad as termites, by the way.
To keep bugs at bay, we recommend that you provide bi-annual spraying of the home. This will keep bugs away and residents longer. No momma wants to find pests crawling on the same floor with her precious children.
Okay, a word to the wise here:
In a rental property, do not supply any appliances that did not originally come with the home. Provide the stove, oven, dishwasher, furnace/AC. They came with home from the builder. So, nix the fridge, take the washer and dryer with you when you move out of your soon to be a rental property if that is what you are doing. Why? Because, even if you do NOT opt to service the fridge, washer, and dryer, you will, in some way, almost certainly be, or feel like you ought to, repair them when they go south. With that in mind, you may even feel obligated to provide preventative maintenance for these items. Trust me, most people renting a home have a washer, dryer, and refrigerator, and those who don't will buy what they need. You see, renting a home is a logical step towards home ownership, and folks looking to buy at some point will accumulate the things they need.
Put another way, would you leave a can opener for a renter? No.
Having said that, it is important to have the Furnace/AC serviced annually. This service will save you thousands of dollars down the road. A unit that is serviced regularly will last five or six years longer than a none serviced unit.
Onto some other lists:
Zillow has this handy guide: Click to see it!
It includes plumbing tips, wiring tips, smoke detector tips, and tips on air filter replacement.
This site has a list of items as well, such as servicing your fireplace/chimney, water management, landscaping, appliance replacement, and more. They even touch on rain gutters. By the way, my advice? Lose the rain gutters on your rental! It will reduce the preventative maintenance you have to do on them (cleaning them, mostly) and besides, your roof is already doing what it is supposed to do! It sheds water away from the foundation! "Well, my renter can clean them!" NO, thousand times no! First off, they won't. Secondly, if they do get up on that ladder and fall and must blow through a straw the rest of their lives to steer their wheelchair, you are going to get sued.
This is maybe the most comprehensive list I saw, but it is mostly bullet points. Nothing wrong with that, I prefer a little more meat on the bone.
The Bottom Line
A little preventative maintenance double entendre for you there. The bottom line denotes that I'm coming to the end of this article. However, a rental property is about more than income, but one also must keep in mind the cost, the bottom line, in other words.
Bang for the buck is one way of phrasing preventative maintenance, but it is only part of the picture. Sometimes a little paint and flooring can make a palace out of a home, other times the same is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. You can, but why?
It isn't rocket science. You keep a house looking good, and in good condition, it will reward you for years and years. Accrued value. Tax benefits. Rent revenue.
Spend when you must. Save when you can. Also, bear in mind that this big old world will mercilessly take much from you, whenever it can. On the flip side of that coin, however, sometimes cheapening out is the worst thing you can do. The yarns I could regale you with...
I will leave you with this thought.
One of our property owners, whom I will not name, recently received an estimate for a fence repair. It was for, like, I don't know, $400+ or so. I felt the cost didn't match the work being done. $200 tops, I felt, and I let him know I'd investigate this.
I spoke with the contractor and found out that he planned more extensive work beyond than what I requested. It didn't need so much work, and I instructed the contractor, again, what I wanted. You see, for less than $200, that owner would get 2, maybe three years or more, out of that fence. We're talking 125 feet of the fence here. The contractor agreed to adjust the estimate to what I originally asked for. I admire the gung-ho, but there's a limit.
In the meantime, said owner, a great fellow, emailed me that he was considering replacing the fence. Again, 125 feet. With vinyl, we're looking at well over $4000. Wood is about half the cost. It's less, but it rots and you will be doing it again in a few years plus it does not enhance the beauty of the property like a white vinyl fence does. The owner asked if we could get the neighbor to pitch for half of the shared fence.
This is where it all gets tricky.
Neighbors will always talk up a good game. "Oh, sure, I was thinking of replacing the whole fence just the other day..." yadda yadda. I can tell you, from personal experience, when it comes to money time, Fence Thinker Fred will suddenly be tough to find.
So my suggestion was this: Do the inexpensive fix, for now, get a few years out of the fence, and in the meantime try to build a relationship with that neighbor and see if something can be done in the future regarding sharing the cost for a new fence.
I greatly appreciate the gung-ho, as I said above, but sometimes the bottom line becomes the headline.
Interested in learning more about Investment Properties, check out “The Six Factors That Can Make or Break Your Investment.”