Know when you’re in over your head
This is arguably the most common mistake new property owners make with their rental. With such a thin line between profit and breaking even in most months, there’s a strong temptation to take on complex repairs yourself. More often than not, this ends up being a mistake. Without the right training or tools, the average landlord is not equipped to deal with a roof leak, an electrical issue, or an HVAC system. You could end up causing further damage, not fixing the problem, or—worse—injuring yourself or causing a safety issue on the property.
In general, when it comes to the property’s roof, electrical wiring, plumbing, or HVAC system, bring in a professional. Doing so may cost you more upfront, but it can save you significant money down the road and help prevent a disaster.
Deal with leaks and other issues fast
The first year of owning a rental is overwhelming. You’re not only taking care of your own home, but another home that may be across town or even in another city or state. You are also navigating the finances, taxes, and regulations involved with owning a rental property. While none of this is easy, it’s crucial that you deal with any repair needs in the rental as soon as possible. Procrastinating or burying your head in the sand won’t make such problems go away.
For example, if your rental has a leaking drain underneath the kitchen sink, you might be tempted to put off getting out to the property to assess the damage and make the repair. After all, how bad could a small leak be? However, what you might not realize is that the leaking drain could be caused by failing plumbing, a leaky garbage disposal, or a problem with the dishwasher line. It could also be leading to water leaking into the cabinets, weakening their particle board and creating the ideal conditions for the growth of mold and mildew.
Landlord inaction has two consequences. First, the problem isn’t going to solve itself; in fact, there’s a good chance that things could get worse or the damage could become more pronounced. Second, there’s nothing renters hate more than an unresponsive or inactive landlord—even if the problem is eventually resolved, any procrastination or miscommunication on the issue could lead renters to wonder if they can get a better deal elsewhere when their lease is up.
Preventative maintenance is key
If the prospect of a rental disaster keeps you up at night, you should know that it’s not all bad news. Many problems can be prevented with the right maintenance and forward-thinking care for the property.
Take the property’s cooling and heating systems, for instance. Air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps require annual maintenance to keep them running effectively and efficiently. Some property owners take the approach that it’s the tenant’s responsibility to schedule tune-ups, but the truth is that—as significant investments you make in the property—you should be proactive and schedule seasonal maintenance yourself in order to extend the lifespan of these systems and prevent breakdowns.
Similarly, have a roofing expert out once a year or at least every other year to inspect the roof for any issues. This can identify problems such as loose or missing shingles that—if dealt with promptly—can prevent a roof leak and the ensuing costs of cleanup down the road. In the same fashion, a professional plumber can help maintain the property’s water heater and inspect its drains and sewer line for potential clogs.
Of course, not all property maintenance has to be completed by a professional. From repainting walls to replacing carpet and exterior landscaping, there’s plenty that you can take on yourself if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves.
Think from your renter’s perspective
Our final recommendation is that you take a step back from time-to-time and think about the property from the renter’s perspective. It’s easy to get so caught up in the work involved with owning a property that you lose sight of why someone might want to rent this place, and what makes it appealing to someone who actually lives there every day. When you consider this viewpoint, you can evaluate your property for both what it is and what it could be.
After all, eventually you’ll be thinking about making upgrades and changes—if you do so from the perspective of what will appeal to and attract long-term renters, you’ll be putting your property in a great position for the future.
Victoria Sanders is the communications director and senior writer at Reimer Home Services, a professional home repair & HVAC company servicing Western New York. She has been working within the home repair industry for almost 15 years and enjoys sharing her insights on home repairs with homeowners and real estate professionals. At Reimer, we understand that being invited into a customer’s home to perform a service is a privilege, and we take this responsibility very seriously.