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Property Management Blog

Published on Sunday, November 2, 2014

6 Fast Home Winterization Tips

An arctic blast earlier this year was especially costly for many in the U.S. Ed Wolff, President of Leasing Desk Insurance, says property owners and third party managers can help minimize the potential for damage from frozen pipes by taking some tried and true precautions when winter weather threatens.

“As we enter the cold weather, it’s important to understand what we can do to protect not only residents and their belongings but also the dwelling,” Wolff says. “In January, we were challenged by an arctic blast that impacted many people. Hopefully, we’ve learned from that.”

Below are tips from the IIBHS and other sources to help minimize disasters when cold weather extends its icy grip:

Caulk and weather-strip windows, doors and cracks

The best way to keep cold air out is to caulk and weather-strip where air can penetrate. Doors and windows are a good place to start, but also seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations, especially near water pipes.

Shut off and cover outdoor water faucets, let faucets drip indoors

Freeze prevention inside the home is just as important as outside. Let faucets in kitchens, bathrooms and wet bars drip with lukewarm water. Outside, shut off and cover water faucets. Unhook and drain hoses as well.

Wrap exposed outdoor pipes in insulated sleeves

Pipe insulation, which can cost as little as 50 cents per linear foot, is an inexpensive way to help keep water in pipes from freezing. Wrap exposed outdoor pipes, as well as those in areas of the home that are not usually heated.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow heat to radiate around pipes

Open cabinet doors that house plumbing for sinks, especially on outside walls. With the doors open, heat will circulate inside and reduce the likelihood of a freeze.

Set thermostats in vacant homes at a minimum of 55 degrees

When the home is left unattended for long periods of time, like resident vacations, make sure that the heat remains on at a minimum of 55 degrees.

Add insulation to the home

Insulate all attic penetrations such as partition walls, vents, plumbing stacks, electric and mechanical chases, and access doors that are not properly sealed. Also, recessed light fixtures in the ceiling below the open area that is directly under a roof, such as attic space, should be insulated to prevent the release of heat into the attic.

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Landlord Knowledge Base

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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