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Property Management Blog

Published on Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Property Maintenance Tips for this Fall Season

 

It may be wise to actually test the gutter system by running water through the gutters to make sure that there are no blockages.

Another thing you will want to check as soon as possible is your heating systems throughout your properties. Make sure that they work before the first cold spell. It may be the last thing on your mind during September, when the Indian Summer seems to rear its ugly head, registering the hottest temperatures of the year.

But winter really is right around the corner and it seems as if we have extreme movements in temps nowadays. So check every furnace to make sure it works. Often times, pilot lights go out during the summers and you don’t even realize it until that first cold front comes in. Then you and your staff scramble around trying to light dozens of pilot lights at once. Remove that insanity by being proactive: Check pilot lights in a systematized fashion by going around to each heating unit and checking.

Now is also a great time to replace furnace filters. Your heating units will work better (be more effective) and last longer (a free-flowing system does not have to work as hard to heat the air). It’s cheap insurance, too. Buying filters in bulk can save you a lot of money. If you have a large property or multiple properties, saving a dollar or two per filter can add up to substantial savings.

This is also a great time to change batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. You should change the batteries in these safety units at least two times a year and setting your property and staff on a schedule is the surest way to ensure that this critical task gets done when it needs to be done.

Fall is also a fantastic time to check exposed water pipes for proper insulation and leaks. Properly insulating any exterior water pipes can prevent a lot of serious problems down the road. It is far easier to inspect and remedy any poorly insulated pipes in the fall before the freezing temperatures of winter are encountered. Leaks can cause some pretty severe and costly problems, too, so you will want to check all of your plumbing for leaks.

Inspect your property for likely slipping hazards. Now is the perfect time to shore up any potential walking hazards before the ground gets slick.

Following just a few fall property maintenance tips like these can go a long way to insuring that your fall and winter seasons will run smoothly and cost you less money for expensive emergency repairs.

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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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