Many investors take a “wait and see” approach to repairs and maintenance: Wait until it breaks and then see if there is any possible way not to fix it or maintain it.
There are a couple of reasons for this attitude—some investors feel that tenants may well undo any maintenance that is done to the property. Others simply defer maintenance in order not to affect their cash flow. Some simply cannot find the time to get the repairs and maintenance done.
The hazard with this type of thinking is that by deferring maintenance (or worse, needed repairs), you will negatively affect your resale value. If you want or need to sell the property, you will either have to dump money into it to make it salable, or take a lower selling price. Obviously, both will cost you money.
Maintaining Your Rental Properties: Impacting the Value
If you plan on continuing to rent the property, houses that need maintenance and repairs will rent for less than those that are in good shape. You can further negatively impact your financial situation if neighbors follow your lead and ignore maintenance on their homes, bringing down the quality of the neighborhood and home values with it.
Have you seen neighborhoods where the majority of homes need roofs or the exteriors repainted? It didn’t just happen that way. The mindset is pretty simple: why beautify our house when the ones next door and across the street look like pig pens? The general look and feel of the neighborhood suffers, and both values and desirability suffer with it.
In addition, landlords that ignore maintenance and repair issues always seem to be turning their properties over to new tenants. The reason why is obvious. With houses owned by landlords who do maintain their property available, where do you think the tenant will choose to live (usually at a higher rent)?
Maintaining Investment Property: Minimizing Vacancy
Having to re-rent the property causes problems of its own, as there is always the possibility that the house will sit vacant for a period (costing you the landlord money) and the chance that the move-in and move-out may do damage to walls (when furniture is moved) and yards (when trucks pull right up to the front door).
Make a Maintenance Schedule
Whether you have one investment property or 50, a coordinated maintenance program almost always will end up saving you money (and usually time). The small amounts you will pay out for things like minor roof repairs or window caulking shrink in comparison to the cost of re-roofing a house or replacing 15 windows because the caulking has deteriorated.
The only way you will know when such items need attention is if you draw up a maintenance schedule and stick to it. Your tenants will love you, your rental neighborhood neighbors will love you, and you will love yourself when it comes time to sell the property.
Know Who to Call
Most landlords have had the following happen to them at some point in their investment history: It’s 10 p.m. on a Sunday night, and a frazzled tenant with no hot water calls you. You tell the tenant you will arrange for a plumber first thing Monday morning… and you frantically look for the name and phone number of the plumber!
You can avoid such hassles by taking a few minutes to draw up a sheet of “who to call” and keeping it in a readily accessible place. You may also want to make a similar sheet for your tenants so they know who to contact—with your approval—if they have a problem.
Continue reading through this section for more expert advice on real estate investing and landlording:
Next article: Pros and Cons of Real Estate Investing