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8 Winter and Annual Maintenance Tips for Landlords

Nov 30 2016

As a homeowner, you know that preventative maintenance is essential to keeping your property in good condition — and it’s even more important when you own or manage a rental property. Your tenants can’t be expected to stay on top of all the home repair and maintenance tasks, so there are several items you should check off your rental management to-do list before winter sets in (even if your rental is in a warmer part of the country).

1. Check up on the heating and insulation system
If you live in a cold climate, the heating system will be running constantly during winter. Now is the time to schedule a furnace or HVAC cleaning and tuneup, change or clean the filter, and check the condition of your crawlspace and attic.

If your rental property has a wood stove or fireplace, have it cleaned and make sure the flue is functioning properly. If you can’t think of the last time the chimney was swept, it’s probably time to call in the pros — don’t let a crackling fire turn into a fire hazard.

Insulation in the crawlspace and ceilings will keep the heat inside the living space and prevent warm air from escaping. Repair or cover any openings or holes under the eaves that could allow rodents to take refuge in a cozy attic. Use weather stripping or caulk to seal gaps around windows and doors — this will improve energy efficiency in your property, whether it’s hot or cold air you’re trying to keep out.

outside water spigot dripping and frozen with lots of ice

2. Prevent frozen pipes
Avoid frozen pipes this season — and all the collateral damage they can cause — by adding extra insulation to exposed pipes in the crawlspace, basement or attic. Damage due to frozen pipes is common but completely preventable. Exterior faucets and hoses should be drained and shut off. Educate your tenants about what they need to do when the temperature drops, such as leaving a trickle of water on overnight, leaving cabinet doors open and keeping the thermostat at a consistent temperature.

3. Keep branches at bay
Your landscaping may have gone dormant, but you’re not done with yardwork yet. Prevent damage from icy or gusty conditions by trimming trees and shrubs that are brushing up against the walls or windows, and check for dead branches that could be susceptible to falling during a windstorm.

4. Winter-proof the exterior
Regularly inspect your roof for the formation of ice dams, which can compromise your roof and cause water leakage. Look for damaged shingles or flashing, close any crawlspace vents in the foundation and seal any cracks that could allow small critters to burrow in.

While you’re thinking about concrete, check the walkways and driveway for cracks — and repair them while the weather is still dry — to reduce the potential for falls on your property.

5. Clean the gutters
Rain gutter full of autumn leaves

It’s a dirty job, but putting it off can result in water damage, clogs and a bigger mess come spring. Check downspouts for cracks or split seams and be sure they drain away from the foundation. Use extensions or splash backs to prevent water from seeping into the crawlspace or basement.

6. Inspect your deck and fencing

Wood is susceptible to deterioration in any climate. Check boards for rot or signs of insect damage, secure any loose steps or railings, and consider using a non-slip paint or epoxy to keep your deck, porch and stairs slip-resistant in wet conditions. Repair or replace damaged or missing fence pickets and make sure posts are secure — a windstorm can easily knock down loose fencing.

7. Test safety devices
The end of daylight saving time serves as a natural reminder to test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home and replace the batteries — especially since more people will be using their fireplaces as the weather cools.

8. Be prepared

snow-shovel A bad storm can result in a blackout or being snowed in. If your residents are taking care of snow removal on your property, move snow shovels and blowers to an accessible spot.


Remind your tenants to be prepared for power outages by keeping bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights and emergency phone numbers on hand.

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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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