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Six Steps to Prepare for Heavy Snowfall at your Property

Jan 16 2015

 Protecting an asset from heavy snow is difficult, and removing the white stuff can be just as cumbersome and even dangerous. Each year, workers are killed or seriously injured while removing snow or ice from rooftops, decks and other building structures.

The U.S. Department of Labor and other sources offer some helpful tips that property owners can consider when planning for snow removal. Here are some questions that the USDL recommends you ask before snow becomes a problem:

How can snow be removed without going on the roof?

De-icing materials and extended snow rakes or drag lines are commonly used to remove snow from roofs. In many cases, the snow can be removed without going on the roof. Snow rakes usually have a long blade to remove snow without damaging shingles and can be used standing from the ground with an adequate extension. De-icing materials can also be used while working from the ground. In some areas, it may make sense to install an electronic de-icing system on the home that will minimize snow buildup on roofs, valleys and eaves.

Where are hidden hazards on the roof that need to be identified?

Falls are the leading cause for most worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Workers can fall through skylights, roof drains and vents in addition to falling from ladders and aerial lifts. Before going onto the roof, identify any potential hazards.

How should the snow be removed to prevent unbalanced loading?

Before attempting to remove snow, assess the load – the weight of the snow, workers and equipment used – and the load limit of the roof of the home. Doing so is not easy but a flat and slightly pitched roofs are most vulnerable to heavy accumulations. Ideally, you should lessen the load on the roof, not necessarily remove all the snow. Do so by uniformly removing snow and avoid making big piles.

How should workers be prepared to safely remove snow?

Workers should wear appropriate fall protection equipment and clothing, and avoid using a snow rake or shovel while working from the ladder. Workers should protect against frostbite and hypothermia by wearing appropriate warm clothing.

Excessive physical exertion can cause exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries and heart attacks, which can lead to falls. Remove snow by scooping or pushing small amounts at a time. Use proper form for lifting. Take frequent breaks and drink fluids.

What fall protection equipment will be needed?

A fall arrest system typically involves a full body harness, anchor point and a connector that protects the worker from falling. Anchor points must be able to support at least 5,000 pounds for each worker attached, according to Occupational Safety & Health Administration guidelines.

How can snow removal equipment be safely elevated to the roof?

Snow blowers are good for removing snow but can cause injury if not properly used. Raise materials like snow blowers and other snow removal equipment using lifts, winches, pull ropes or other related equipment. Snow blowers should not be overloaded, and operated at a modest speed.

Homeowners should take extreme caution when trying to thin a snowfall from the asset.

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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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