Posted by: phillipsre | October 31, 2012

Maintenance Scheduling Will Help You Operate Your Rental Efficiently

By: Julie Johnson, Phillips Real Estate Services, Director of Residential Group

Of course, the minimum expectation when owning rental properties is to provide safe and habitable housing by following all the applicable codes & requirements. However, a good maintenance plan and replacement schedule ensures your rental property operates efficiently for the long term and puts more money in your pocket over the period you own the property.

By focusing on property maintenance, you will have a distinct advantage over the vast majority of your competitors, making it easier for you to rent out your property as well as sell when you’re ready to do so.

In general, a good rental property maintenance philosophy entails:

  • A checklist of regular tasks
  • Replacement/Upgrade schedule
  • Random, periodic drive-by inspections and full perimeter inspections
  • Annual inspection of whole property, inside units and outside
  • Quick response to all tenants’ maintenance or repair requests

As a self-managing owner it is important to establish a regular maintenance routine for your rentals. It is then very easy to create tasks or reminders in your calendar so you can ensure they are getting done.

Create a spreadsheet, a Property Maintenance Checklist, which lists all the items that need to be done and then put those items into categories of Spring, Summer, Winter. (As a property manager I visit in the Fall as well, but as a property owner I skip Fall because I think having the property owner going out the properties three times a year to do all of your routine maintenance is adequate, especially when you are responding to tenant requests throughout the year coupled with conducting random drive-bys and one full annual inspection.)

You can create a customized list very easily – give yourself a head start, Google maintenance checklists and cut and paste to customize your list with the tasks relevant to your property. Here’s an example of a property maintenance checklist for a single family home rental (this isn’t a full list but it will give an idea of how to start your own).

The second thing that is important to create is a Replacement Schedule for appliances and other building or unit components that need periodic replacement. This will allow you to budget for the replacement of items that have reached the end of their life-cycle as well as allow you to add these items on your maintenance schedule. You will also then have a record of when items were replaced so that you can charge a tenant appropriately if you note damage has occurred to the item at move out.

Out of all the different spreadsheets that help operate your rental effectively the replacement schedule is invaluable. It may take some time at first to put together the list in appropriate detail but once it is done you can operate on auto pilot and have a newly found forethought to plan to pre-fund those projects before their life expectancy passes.  A no surprises approach.  Here’s an example for a rental home:

Please note the life expectancy of items listed above are for the sake of example only.  You can establish a fair estimate of the life expectancy of your property’s elements using various sources (ie: from manufacturer or product guarantees, published industry standards, architectural/engineering specifications, IRS depreciation schedules, your CPA, etc.). Remember just because an item reached its life expectancy doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced immediately. Annual inspection will lead you to that determination. I’ve heard of appliances lasting for 10-15 years with minimal repairs.

Owning rental properties is not easy and requires owners to expend some effort to protect their asset. Once the replacement schedule has been reviewed for the upcoming year; finalize the rental property maintenance plan. Then ensure it is followed and plan your finances accordingly.  You may not need to accomplish every task every time, but as long as you do some things on a regular basis; your properties will be better maintained and you should be increasingly prepared financially for the next projected expense.

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