Current market conditions have made investing in long-term rental property more appealing than ever. If you buy a few rental properties and self-manage them, you'll have several duties (in addition to cashing checks). One of the biggest is trying to keep your maintenance costs as low as possible.
The best way to keep maintenance costs low, often over 25% lower, is to visit your rental properties on a regular basis to make sure your tenants are taking proper care of them. But what do you actually do when you visit? Well, lots of things!
Let's get started...
First, take a look at the air conditioning filter. If that is dirty, it is putting a strain on your heating and air conditioning equipment and will shorten its life. It will also reduce the comfort of the tenant and increase his steadily rising utility bills. You should mention that. It lets the tenant know that you are on his side.
Check the faucets for leaks and check for leaks under the sinks. It's easy to make a plumbing repair when the leak is new, but if you let it go, you have a plumbing repair and also a carpentry repair, and we don't need any of that.
Look for trees touching the roof or the sides of the house. They can abrade the roof and start leaks. You can take a little of your paint along and do the odd touch-up when you are there, telling the tenant to "let me just pretty this up for you." Your concern for them and for their having a nice place to live translates into goodwill that you just can't buy anywhere.
Check the smoke alarms. Do it for the safety of the tenants. Do it because you don't want to have the house burn down. Do it because you don't want to respond to a wrongful death suit. Just do it. Smoke alarm batteries are cheap. Bring a full set of fresh batteries--one for each smoke alarm in the house about once a year.
Check the garbage disposal if there is one. Some folks don't use the disposal, and lack of use can cause the blades to seize up, and the unit will need to be replaced.
Same with the dishwasher. Some folks who live by themselves or with one other person don't feel it's worth running the dishwasher for a few dishes. When you don't run the dishwasher, the seals dry out and leak when you do run it again. Ask your tenant to run the dishwasher once or twice a month to keep it operating properly.
Poke your head up in the attic. Make sure that the tenant is not stacking his "treasures" around the gas furnace creating a fire hazard. Look for anything broken or damaged that could progress into a major expense. An example would be a roof leak around a water heater vent. Catch it now, and it is cheap to fix. Wait until the water is coming through the roof and into the house, and that's a different story.
If you don't allow pets and you see a dog on the porch, say something like, "Is that the neighbor’s dog?" It is disarming and gets your point across without making them defensive. Then you revisit your lease agreement with them and remind them that violations of the agreement will not be allowed.
Treat them right and enlist their help
Treat them nicely when you make your visit. You are in their home. Act like you would like your guests to act and keep everything positive and respectful. It will go a long way in enlisting their help maintaining your property.
Consider a management company
And if you're not interested in spending the time or energy to take care of your rental properties on your own, here's one final tip that will make your life much easier: Network with other real estate investors to find the best property management company in your city. They'll never manage your properties as well as you would, but they can sure help you to save your sanity!
[Doug Smith has bought and sold over 40 properties using almost every
method--wholesaling, rehabbing, landlording, subject to, lease
options, and more. He is the founder and president of MyHouseDeals.com,
a company that provides a constantly-updated list of bargain-priced
investment properties in some of the nation's largest metro areas.]