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How to Conduct an Inspection When Your Tenant Moves Out

Apr 03 2017

Your first impression when you pull up in front of the unit will give you a pretty good indication of how the rest of the property is going to look. If the flower beds and lawn are overgrown, you see broken blinds in the living room window, and there is a pile of garbage in the backyard, brace yourself before going through the front door. If it looks great from the get-go, then congratulations, the rest should be easy! 

When doing the move-out walk-through, inspect the entire property from top to bottom, just like when your tenant moved in. Take pictures (or a video) of everything, including up-close pictures of things you need to remedy; all your visual evidence will come in handy later on if any disputes arise from the tenant regarding deductions from their security deposit.

Things like dusting the trim, wiping down the walls, cleaning out the oven, washing the outside of the appliances, cleaning beneath the refrigerator, and really getting into the corners while deep-cleaning are some common areas tenants miss, so while doing your move-out walk-through, just remember to be thorough so you don’t get stuck with footing the bill for your tenant’s grime.

What to Look for When Inspecting the Unit

Here are few other things to look for during the move-out inspection. Some of these can be charged to the tenant—if it is damage or an expense they caused—and others are just general upkeep.

  • Unapproved alterations to the unit, such as changes in paint color
  • Strange odors
  • Evidence of smoking or pets
  • Holes behind doors (from slamming the door open)
  • Holes in doors or walls (we will never understand this one)
  • Fleas and other bug evidence
  • Missing or burnt out light bulbs
  • Missing smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors
  • Missing blinds

Assess the Property for Condition & Needed Improvements

In addition to looking for damages caused by the tenants, now is also a good time to look at the property’s condition and assess what you can do to improve it for the long-haul. You probably will not be able to charge the tenants for the upgrades below, but the tenant turnover period is a great time to improve the condition of your property to keep it running in tip-top shape. Therefore, while doing your walk through, keep an eye out for the following.

  • Does the caulk around the bathtub, shower, or sink need to be redone?
  • Are there any signs of plumbing leaks, roof leaks, or drippy faucets?
  • Are there any signs of mold?
  • Do all the doors open and close easily?
  • Are the carpet and other flooring in good condition, or are they at the end of their life?
  • Is anything outdated that can be replaced to attract more rent and better tenants, such as overhead lights, countertops, fixtures, cabinets, or appliances?
  • Is the exterior of the building in good shape? How’s the paint, siding, and caulking?

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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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