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7 Preventative Property Maintenance Tips

Sep 27 2016

Don’t wait until something is broken on your property to fix it. Catching a problem and fixing it when it’s small can save you thousands of dollars down the road. As a landlord or property manager, examine your units regularly for these minor fixes and take care of them before they become a huge expense.

1. Check for leaks

Identifying and fixing a water leak early means avoiding the chances of mold growth or wall and ceiling damage. Check around windows, doors, sinks, showers, toilets and water heaters in your units for signs of leakage. Look for water pockets on the walls and ceiling, especially after rainstorms or when the snow has started to melt.

2. Re-caulk showers and seal cracks in tile grout

Regular use of bathroom and kitchen surfaces mean cracks and loose tiles. Resealing these areas around the tub, sink and tiles will prevent water from getting into and damaging the walls and floors.

3. Update the wiring

Keep your building’s electrical system safe and up-to-date to prevent shorts, outages or electrical fires. Hire a contractor or maintenance person to help you examine your system on a routine basis.

4. Repaint your property

Don’t wait until your building’s exterior is peeling or the interior walls are damaged and dingy. A new coat of paint can help extend the life of your building and improve your unit’s marketability. A freshly painted home can also be a renewal incentive, and it’s generally a tax-deductible expense.

5. Replace the air filters

Neglecting your air ducts until they get clogged and then hiring a professional to clean them is costly, and may leave your tenants without heat or cooling while you wait for servicing. This can be avoided by replacing the filter in your central air or heating system on a bi-yearly basis.

6. Regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Schedule a time with your tenants to check these devices. A smoke or carbon monoxide detector that doesn’t go off in an emergency could not only lead to serious damage or injury, it could also put you in court. Replace batteries, check the wiring or buy a new device as necessary.

7. Check for pests

Dealing with a major pest problem can be costly. Tenants might need to temporarily move, and you risk losing them and facing more vacancies. Examine your property every month for signs of critter infestations and take care of it before it becomes a headache.

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If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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