The following is from Laura Finney, a property manager. She likes to write about the things that work best for her. You can find her articles on many real estate and property investing sites.
The biggest problem with rental properties is dealing with repairs and renovations. If you own rental units, you’re probably already aware of this, but what can you do about it? Plenty.
Treat Your Rental Unit As You Would Your Own Home
Most landlords don’t treat their rental units as nicely as they do their own home. Their attitude is “it’s just a rental,” and therefore they don’t have to spend a lot of time or money on it. Bad move. When tenants don’t get the impression that you care all that much about your property, they’re not going to care about it.
This is when the inevitable happens: the tenants wreck the place. Of course, some tenants will do this no matter what you say, do, or how well you keep up the place. But, if you’re doing a good job qualifying them, you shouldn’t be constantly fighting people over paint on the walls, unauthorized changes, or damage to the property.
Treating your rentals like your own home generally means being proactive about maintenance and repairs. Don’t wait until things break before you do maintenance on them.
Hire A Property Manager
One of the best ways to relieve the regular headaches of property management is to outsource it. It’s not an option every landlord wants to take advantage of but if you own more than a few rentals, this will not only save your sanity, it can actually be cheaper than doing things yourself.
Plus, if you’re outsourcing day-to-day management and maintenance of the property to a property management company, you can take advantage of these special tax breaks for landlords. Most of the expenses associated with owning real estate come from regular maintenance – things like mowing the lawn, gardening and landscaping, cleaning, collection of rent when tenants can’t or won’t pay, inventory management, replacing windows, replacing or fixing water heaters, replacing or fixing air conditioning and heating systems, and doing odd jobs around the unit or units.
Property management companies take a percentage of your rental income for their services (sometimes, a substantial percentage) and in return, you basically don’t have to do anything except collect a percent of the rental fees. They’ll even handle the legal hassles of taking tenants to court for non-payment of rent, collect rent, interview tenants for you, and establish and negotiate rental agreements.
Give Tenants Motivation For Keeping The Place Clean and Tidy
When tenants move in, or even before they move in, have a vision for them. Often times, a tenant is thinking, “can I see myself living here?” If the answer is “no” or “maybe,” you probably won’t earn their business. Or, if you do, they’re not going to be very motivated to maintain it for you.
But, if you show your tenants that you have a dream for the property, and that they can be part of that vision, they’re more invested in the outcome of what happens to the unit. In other words, there’s more motivation for them to keep the place clean and tidy.
Repair Before Replacing Anything
Landlords carry a nasty stigma with them that paints them as “cheapskates.” But, the reality is that repairing things is often cheaper, and makes more sense, than buying new. So, for example, if a rental unit has a malfunctioning dishwasher, try to have it repaired before you go out and buy a new one.
If you purchased an extended warranty for the appliance, it’s probably cheaper to just fix it. Even if you didn’t, it’s probably cheaper to fix it. Of course, when it isn’t, you should opt to replace it.
Do Clever Landscaping
Landscaping can make the difference between owning a slum and owning a resort or “spa-like” rental unit. If you want to command high rents, it makes sense to spend time and money on landscaping.
Even minor landscaping projects can turn a property around. If your rental has a modest front yard, consider planting a flowerbed or sprucing it up in some way. Mow the edge of the grass before a potential showing and spread some fresh mulch down to make it look fresh and new. If there’s already a garden there, tend to it.
Get those weeds out of the way so that the flowers can be seen. If there’s a great view in front of, or behind, your rental, make sure nothing is obstructing it. Finally, make sure that everything on the perimeter of the property is safe and clean.