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15 tips to save money on repair and maintenance in between tenancies

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Most landlords have a natural aversion to the idea of vacancy. No wonder. The property is sitting idle while rent has stopped coming in - what's to like?! Still, you mustn't be too downbeat. These downtimes are excellent opportunities for you to carry out vital repair and maintenance work and get your property to tip-top shape for the next tenant. Here are some clever and budget-friendly tips to see you through rental vacancies time and time again. 

1. Use your notice periods wisely

Once you have received or given a termination notice, start planning your repair and maintenance schedule immediately. Remember, time is money. The goal here is to get all the R&M work done in the shortest possible time in order to facilitate the next tenancy. Start with a property inspection so that you know what jobs need doing. Go through your master job list to work out what you can do yourself and what to outsource. Get quotes, make booking inquiries, synchronise work schedules across various contractors and yourself as much as possible. This is all in preparation for move-out day so that you and your team can start working on the property as soon as possible. 

2. DIY as much as possible 

Only to the extent that your time and skill set allow, DIY as much as possible. At the very least, you are saving on call-out fees. These days it is super easy to pick up basic skills at just about anything, sites like Youtube, Lifehacker, and Wikihow are your friends. There are a couple of big riders that come with this tip though - never carry out any electrical, plumbing, or gas work unless you are qualified to do so and generally you will be better off long-term if you outsource finishing work to reputable tradespeople. More often than not, DIY jobs are simply not sufficient enough to ensure property safety and professional finishing - both important elements of an attractive rental!

3. Get quotes and testimonials 

Hiring the right professional is important. If you invest in tradespeople, the last thing you want is a botched job that takes away, rather than add-to, your rental. Unless you have a go-to tradesperson, always get at least three quotes. Most building and renovation trade rates do not have a conventional 'market rate'. Getting three quotes will give you a fairly good handle on what is a reasonable price you should be paying. Sites like NoCowboys and community-based Facebook pages are great sources for open and genuine client reviews. 

4. Don't be a jerk, pay people on time 

Start thinking of yourself as a long-term repeat customer. It is in your interest to build a good working relationship with tradespeople, especially the good ones. Being a decent customer (e.g. provide prompt access to the property, be helpful on sites without hovering, don't dilly dally with bills, give good feedbacks) makes people want to take your calls and work for you again. 

5. Standardise fittings 

If you own multiple rental properties, think about using the same paint colour, carpets, cabinetries, and appliances across the board as much as possible. That means avoiding seasonal colours and selecting standard/core product lines that have more staying power than new products. By standardising as many fittings as possible across the board, you will enjoy the flexibility of juggling stocks and parts between properties saving you a decent amount of money along the way. 

6. Rethink extended warranties 

Extended warranties on appliances are a lot like excess reduction on car hires - they are always trying to make a buck off you aren't they? But hey, when you consider how little control (or knowledge even) you have over how the appliances are going to be used by your tenants, getting your warranties extended may not be the worse idea in the world. For sure the warranties have to be priced well and have teeth enough to cover most eventualities. Read the fine prints! 

7. Save the spare parts 

You know how appliances typically come with a bunch of spare parts and fittings? Don't throw them away and most certainly don't leave them with your tenants. Label and file them away properly. You may very well find some appliances needing a bit of TLC in between tenancies. 

On that note, sometimes it is sensible to purchase a small stock of replacement parts especially if they are vital to the function of the appliance. Take for example home ventilation system filters: spending the money on a few filters you don't need right now can make your life infinitely easier down the road when the system becomes obsolete and its filters can no longer be procured. 

8. Only replace as a last resort 

Sometimes you could be so overwhelmed by the poor state of the property that you would be forgiven to think a flamethrower is the only way to make it all better. Before you rip everything out to start over again, take a closer look to see if a touch-up or repair job would suffice. Things like kitchen cabinetry can easily be sanded back and finished off with a coat or two of traditional gloss. Why replace the tap if a fresh set of washers would do the trick? 

That said if you must replace then invest in quality fittings that are durable and hard wearing. Not only will they be aesthetically pleasing to your tenants' eyes, they will also save you from having to replace again in the near future. 

9. Not all tiles are equal 

Tile as much as possible. Tiles offer the kind of longevity, mould resistance, and modern finish that paint simply can't. Be strategic when you select your tile and grout. Sheet tiles with minimal grout are easier to clean and maintain. Discolouration over time is normal for tiles and grout. For that reason, you may find yourself preferring dark tiles and grout to hide the wear. 

10. Neither are all paints... 

Make sure your paint products are fit for purpose. Enamel interior paints are becoming rather common and are excellent for bathrooms, utility rooms, or anywhere in the house that suffer from high condensation. Places like foyer area and stairways could do with harder wearing stain repellent paints. If you rent to young families then consider using paints that offer a wipeable finish. It pays to touch base with your local hardware store paint experts so that you are aware of the product ranges out there designed to make renting a breeze for landlords. 

11. Avoid fixing fixtures to tiles 

As much as possible move the 'functioning parts' of your plumbing fixtures away from wall tiles. When they are affixed to the tiles it makes replacing and repairing a big headache. 

12. Clean with everyday household items 

You may very find that there is no need to spend money on harsh chemicals or fancy commercial cleaners to get your rental clean. Baking soda, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, table salt, dish soap, rags, scrubbers, and Magic Erasers can take care of most of your in-between tenancy cleaning needs. Best of all? You probably already have all of these items lying around the house! 

Bonus cleaning tip - never use steel scrubbers on stainless steel, it could dull the finish and make the appliance/benchtop look grubby over time. 

13. Never skimp on home security 

While the property is your asset, it is your tenant's home and there is nothing more unsettling than an unsecured home. Change the locks and window latches if you ever have any reason to suspect that the property is less than 100% safe for your new tenants. If the front door has a smart lock then set a new password for every new tenancy. 

14. Fix first, clean last 

This one is for those of you suffering from a serious case of OCD. Don't double up your labour unnecessarily. Attend to maintenance and repair before you clean. The last thing you want is to be drilling into plasterboards over clean floors. When you do come to the cleaning phase, clean from top to bottom. Start from dry clean (dust) and finish with wet clean (mopping). 

15. Don't forget to advertise! 

While you attend to your property in between tenancies, remember to list your property for rent as early as possible. Many tenants are not in the position to move into your property at the drop of a hat. Your goal here is to minimise your property's downtime. The more you can overlap your vacancy with your new tenant's notice period the quicker your property can do what it is there for you - generate an income! 

Be realistics and professional about your vacancy R&M. Afterall, you did not become a landlord just so you can spend your time undoing what the tenant has done to your property. Keep in mind that you are simply bringing your property back to a state of desirability and rentabilty. The key here is to be strategic about how you spend your time and budget to maixmise the results you get. 

Have we missed any vacancy R&M tips with this list? Comment below to share yours! 


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