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As anyone in this business will tell you, rental property is a great investment—and a lot of work. Even if you repaired your rental, marketed it, found those high-quality, long-term renters to keep it in good condition, you still need to handle an ongoing home maintenance work routine. In this article, we will review three topics:
- crucial aspects of rental home maintenance
- how to prioritize your home maintenance projects
- when to call for professional help
- When it comes to marketability and appeal, not all aspects of your rental property are equally important. You can run your rental business just fine if you do not provide a washing machine, but you definitely have a problem if the HVAC is not working. And the list goes on. There are also time constraints to consider when deciding what repairs are needed. In reality, you will not be able to get to everything every season. It is important to prioritize your to-do list so that the most important and essential projects get done first. Keep in mind this home maintenance checklist when renting your property:
- The HVAC system
- Roofing and siding
Let’s see what are the issues linked to each of these aspects, and how you can address them in an efficient and cost-effective way.
The HVAC system is the topmost important asset on your rental when marketing your property. HVAC issues are also among the most frequent and serious problems tenants report, and a constant source for tenant discontent and early lease termination. A well-working, reliable HVAC system is not hard to achieve, but it requires constant attention on your side and timely maintenance.
We have written before about how important it is to change the air filters regularly, as timely replacement prevents filters from getting clogged and further damage to the engine, which would lead to a premature replacement of the HVAC system. You can either provide filters to your tenants and ask them to replace the old ones, or do it yourself.
Many DIY landlords are used to taking problems into their own hands, but we can reassure you that the HVAC system is best left in the care of professionals. It is beneficial to work with a specialized vendor and ask for regular inspections of the HVAC system. Vendors are able to perform preventative maintenance and can save you thousands and thousands of dollars by solving relatively minor issues such as replacing capacitors, repairing the exterior coil, the drip plate, ducts, or wires for a fraction of the cost of more serious repairs. If left unattended, each of these small issues can have dire consequences for the HVAC motor parts and require a very costly replacement.
If you think inspections are not for you because they are expensive, then think twice. They are far from costly! HVAC inspections range anywhere between $100 and $200 depending on vendor pricing, the number of units, and the type of appliance. Basic repairs such as capacitor replacements, coil cleaning, and wire replacements stand at comparable prices in the range of $100 to $300. With two HVAC inspections per year, you will look at an extra expense of a few hundred dollars, or this sum is at least tenfold smaller than what you would pay for replacing your HVAC. Besides that, regular inspections also prolong the functional life of the system for many years to come.
Roof and siding maintenance
Roof and siding repairs are some of the most expensive projects on your rental property. Most damage is caused by water infiltration, which can damage the roof, drip inside of crawl space, and cause mold and further damage to the walls. You should be inspecting the roof and the exterior of the house twice a year, in autumn and spring, just before the weather changes. Ask a specialist to inspect your roof, particularly the gutters, since water accumulating in clogged gutters can easily drip on the siding and infiltrate the walls.
It is true that a good-looking lawn will increase the curb appeal of your rental, but you also need to consider the level of care it requires before making decisions about improving the yard. In order to keep your landscape as easy to maintain, simplicity is your best ally. A simple lawn with bushes on both sides is enough to boost the appeal of your rental property, but if you decide to plant other perennials, make sure you choose species that are native to your region, as they are well-adapted to the climate and do not require a lot of extra care and watering.
It is important to schedule maintenance work for the landscape at least twice a year, in autumn and spring, in order to keep up with the regulations of your HOA or townhall. It is best to work with a specialist company, as they will have the tools and infrastructure to clean and dispose of bushes, trees, and other plants that may need to be removed. Inquire, however, with your HOA and townhall, as you may already have a contract with them to provide such services.
Our recommendation is to install laminate or luxury vinyl flooring for low- to medium-priced rentals, and hardwood floors only if your budget allows it, or if you own a high-end rental. There are many reasons for these recommendations. You will change tenants once in 2 to 3 years, on average. In addition, most tenants own a pet, and many have families with children. Overall, there will be increased traffic on your rental compared to a normal, owner-inhabited property, and your flooring will likely deteriorate faster. Therefore, it is wise to buy sturdy, solid, and easy to clean flooring. As opposed to hardwood floors, the natural wood of which can easily stain, catch mold or dirt, vinyl, and laminate flooring have a plastic coating that blocks staining that makes them easier to clean, and does not require periodical re-finishing and re-coating. Since laminate and vinyl are more affordable compared to hardwood, if the floor needs total or partial replacement after an accident, you will not end up with a huge hole in your pocket. Also, these synthetic flooring solutions prove to save money on the installation side as well, as they require less expertise to be installed. If you are on a tight budget, you can even install them on your own with a bit of training and practice.
Simple white or off-white paint is the best solution for most rentals because it is appealing to most tenants, behaves well over time, and is cheaper to maintain. If your renters just vacated the unit and you need to repair it before a new tenant moves in, you will likely need only one to two coats of white paint, a considerably cheaper solution than colored paint, let alone wallpaper or other wall finishing solutions.
Preventative home maintenance is key to success
Let us switch focus to more general suggestions. The first general underlying argument we have followed above is that preventative home maintenance is your best solution for running a successful, healthy rental business. Preventative home maintenance in the core areas above can help you avoid some of the most expensive rental property repairs. Having to fix or replace a leaking, failing roof could cost you tens of thousands of dollars, wiping out months—if not years—of rental income. Replacing an air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace is similarly expensive.
Call in the professionals
The second idea that is recurrent above is that when the stakes are high, it’s not the time for a do-it-yourself approach. Instead, call in a professional. Even the most experienced and handy property owners will eventually run into an issue or a repair that’s beyond their expertise or needs specialized tools they do not have access to. Knowing when to bring in a professional contractor can be the difference between a repair that is done right and a complete disaster.
If you decide you are not willing to administer your rental property, you may want to look into calling a property manager. A high-quality property management company can really be a difference-maker for your rental, as it gathers specialists in maintenance and a wide network of specialized vendors ready to deal with the seasonal flow of rental home maintenance for you and takes the stress and headache out of owning a rental property.
Interested in knowing more about how management companies deal with maintenance issues? HomeVault Property Management is using the team’s experience to produce informative articles about maintenance, so feel free to ask us more about this.
Guest post by Victoria Sanders from Reimer Hvac in collaboration with HomeVault Property Management.