As every property owner knows—or eventually finds out—managing a rental property is a lot of work. There are times when the property maintenance, upkeep, and constant needs of your tenant can feel overwhelming and make you question if owning an investment property is even worth it. If you’re struggling with your rental property, it’s time to slow things down and take a new approach. In this article, we’ll outline three ways to make maintaining a rental property more manageable.
Prioritize what’s truly important
Find any property maintenance checklist online, and you’ll see a nearly endless bulleted list of things to do. That probably isn’t helping with the feeling of being overwhelmed. While it’s true that most rental properties do require a fair amount of upkeep and care, not all of it is essential. Most of it can probably wait until your current renter’s lease ends.
Instead, narrow the list down to the most critical maintenance items. If nothing else, make sure these get done on-time:
- HVAC Maintenance: It’s essential to schedule seasonal preventative maintenance tune-ups for the property’s air conditioner and furnace. During a fall furnace tune-up, a licensed HVAC technician gets a chance to catch any issues early enough to fix them, ensuring that the furnace is ready for the fall.
- Roof Checkups: From the ground, keep a close eye on the roof—especially after storms. During your inspections, walk around the perimeter of the property and look for loose shingles, issues with the gutters or downspouts, or any other obvious signs of damage. Trim back tree branches that are growing out over the roof. If you do notice any problems, get a professional roofing contractor out for a closer look.
- Water Heater Upkeep: You should drain and flush the water heater at least once per year. While you’re doing this, test the pressure-relief valve to ensure that it’s working correctly.
Set a realistic budget for upkeep
Every rental property should have its own dedicated savings account—a fund you can pull from to pay for both seasonal maintenance and emergency repairs. To create this budget, start setting aside some money every month from your rental income. Many property management finance experts argue that owners should save at least 1% of the property’s value annually. For an investment property worth $250,000, that means setting aside roughly $2,500 per year.
However, there are limits to this methodology. As you well know, your property value is a function of economic conditions, not actual maintenance or repair needs. Using this approach, the owner of an older home in a cooler real estate market could end up under-budgeting. When in doubt, it’s always better to save more, if possible: the “leftover” money at the end of the year can roll over to the following years, eventually snowballing into substantial savings account for big projects, like remodeling the kitchen or replacing the roof.
When the going gets tough, call in a pro
Today’s property owners and managers have access to online home remodeling, maintenance, and repair tutorials and walkthroughs that past generations could have only dreamed about. This has enabled more and more of us to embrace a do-it-yourself mindset and roll up our sleeves. You can lay your tile, paint your walls, deep clean your carpets, and wash your gutters. You can potentially complete most of your property’s maintenance on your own, cutting down on overhead.
This DIY approach to property ownership and upkeep has its limits, however. Even the handiest property owners should steer clear of working on their rental’s pipes, electrical wiring, roof, or HVAC systems. There’s just too much risk—to yourself and your property—involved. Stop and call in a professional. Plumbers, electricians, roofers, HVAC technicians, and other licensed experts have the training and proper tools to address the problem or handle maintenance safely. If you feel like you’re in over your head, it’s time to bring in someone who can help.
Stay on top of your property maintenance needs
Whether you’re a first-time investment property owner or have managed properties for years, there are seasons where the cumulative maintenance and upkeep can feel incredibly stressful and overwhelming—especially when life outside is more hectic than usual. If you feel like it’s too much, slow down. Stick to your priorities and let your maintenance calendar be your guide. Use the upkeep budget you’ve set aside to bring in professionals who can help you keep up with your property’s needs. Do this, and you’ll put yourself in control of your property’s maintenance—instead of feeling like things are the other way around.
For even more ways to get more out of your investment property, be sure to check out this infographic.
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