To maximize rental cash flow you need to stay on top of your property year round. It is not enough to list your rental and wait for tenants to pour in. Even if the property doesn’t necessarily need updates it is always best to be a step ahead rather than a step behind. In competitive markets your property will be compared to every other one in the area. Often times it is the little touches that can make the biggest difference. You don’t need to give your rental a complete makeover every year but you should stay on top of it. Here are five things you should do to your property at the end of every lease.
- Paint. It is important to look at your rental through the eyes of a prospective tenant. Even though the walls may not be in terrible shape they are probably more beat up than you think. If you are like most landlords you use lighter paint colors for the high traffic areas. White or eggshell colors retain every handprint and stain throughout the course of the lease. You need to hit the walls with a fresh coat of paint at the end of every lease. You don’t need to be a professional painter to paint a bedroom. For less than a hundred dollars you can buy everything you need to paint a room or two. This may take you a few hours but will make a tremendous impact on the appearance of the property. A prospective tenant can often tell how well the property is maintained strictly by how clean the walls are. Take a few days every year and keep the walls looking fresh.
- Preventative Maintenance. Not everything you do to your rental is to attract tenants. A rental property should be treated like an investment. If you want your investment to hold its value you need to take care of it. There are several things you can do to keep the property as healthy as possible. Start with the major items like the furnace, water heater and oil tank. The furnace and oil tank should be serviced every year. You need to change the filters, run the lines and find any potential issues before they turn into larger ones. Not only will you keep these items running longer but they will also be more efficient. You should also take inventory of your appliances. The washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator and stove won’t last forever. Even if you have great tenants they will not take care of these items the same way you do in your house. Take a look at if there are any lingering repairs that need to be made or if they are due to be replaced. If you put a band aid to get you through the year you should prepare yourself to purchase something new.
- Floors. Tenant’s eyes go to the walls and floors upon entering a new property. If you are willing to paint the walls you need to do something with the floors. Instead of replacing the carpet every few years you should spend the money to have them professionally cleaned. A good steam clean can make them look brand new. The same is the case if you have hardwood floors. Instead of steaming there are plenty of inexpensive cleaning solutions that you can do yourself. Even if the floors are run down and scratched you can restore them and give them a good shine. The look of old, dirty hardwood floors compared to clean ones is night and day. This is the first impression that your tenant has. The rest of the house may look great but if the floors are run down your tenant may look elsewhere.
- Landscape. The floors and walls are important once your tenant enters your rental but what about the exterior. It is entirely possible that your tenant may form a negative opinion before they step food in your property. The curb appeal is a much bigger factor than you may realize. You don’t necessarily need the outside to be pristine but it can’t look like a jungle either. Any bushes and shrubs should be trimmed and neat. If there are weeds in the driveway you need to pull them up. A fresh layer of mulch is a must in the spring. The property should be free of any leaves and long grass. The next time you pull up to your property make a note of how the exterior looks. Anything that catches your eye will probably catch a tenant’s eye as well.
- Odds & Ends. You may be surprised at just how many little things impact a tenant’s decision. It is not an exaggeration to say that the little things can make all the difference. The little things can mean anything from replacing the shower curtain to cleaning out the garage. Something as seemingly small as a new welcome mat or updated switch plates can be what a new tenant remembers from the property. Many of these minor items are less than the price of lunch but will separate your property from everyone else. It is a good idea of have your spouse or someone you trust walk the property with you and tell you what stands out to them. If it stands out to them it will stand out to a tenant. Focus on these items before you start your new tenant search.
Even the best properties need a little work at the end of every lease. By spending a few hundred dollars you can attract better tenants and keep your property running as efficiently as possible.