By Tracey March
From a property owner’s perspective, what are good qualities in a rental property? For many, the answer is easy: the best properties are the low-maintenance ones. It is a fact that occupied properties get damaged. But there are products you can use and steps you can take to minimize the damage and make clean-up easier when your tenants move out. Here are a few:
Get rid of the carpets. Some rental property owners estimate that carpets last only three years before they need replacing. At a minimum, between tenancies, carpets require costly and time-consuming steam cleaning. They get stained, they smell, they can rip. They never look as good as the day they were installed. Instead of carpet, consider concrete, tile, vinyl, or laminate flooring. Stains will be easier to remove, they will show less damage, and they’re not much more expensive than carpet when you take the frequency of replacement and cleaning into account. If you install the kind of flooring that comes in a box, always buy extra so you can make spot repairs.
Remove luxury, non-essential items and systems. Examples include water softeners, humidity systems, reverse osmosis systems, Malibu lighting, security systems, and swing sets. If installed and functioning in a rental at the time tenants move in, your renters will expect you to maintain and repair them if they break, which can be costly. Unless you’re renting out a luxury residence, the removal of these systems generally won’t limit your ability to rent your property.
Design and install low-maintenance landscaping. Many people lack the motivation to maintain the yards they actually own; maintaining yards they rent is even more challenging. Your tenants may intend to stay on top of yard work when they move into your rental, but the reality is that lots of people, including your tenants, are busy; when they finally get to the weekend, the last thing they want to do is maintain the yard. Plant native, drought-resistant plants and grasses that require little water and are slow growing. Make use of gravel and mulch. Also consider installing drip irrigation on a timing system so you don’t have to rely on your tenants to keep plants and grasses alive.
Paint walls with satin or semi-gloss paint. Matte finish paint looks great, but it’s difficult to remove marks and stains. Satin and semi-gloss paints can be cleaned easily—some even claim to be “scrubbable.” They also hold up better to chips, humidity, and scuffing. Using only one or two colors throughout your rental will make any necessary repainting easier.
Install door stops and closet door bumpers. Not many people think about these items, but they go a long way in reducing dings and dents.
If you need to replace a roof, consider installing a metal roof. Metal roofs are low-maintenance, come with a lifetime warranty, provide better storm protection, and may help you qualify for an insurance discount. Try to avoid having skylights (which have a tendency to leak), and stay on top of repairs.
Create a mudroom or changing area near exits to the outside. Make it easier for tenants to keep your rental property clean and organized by providing storage for wet coats and muddy boots near access points to the outdoors.
As a property owner, you want to maximize the income you’re getting from your rentals, and minimize your expenses. It sometimes makes more sense to spend more money upfront (such as on metal roofs and tile flooring) so you can cut down on repairs and maintenance in the long-run.
Do you have any favorite strategies for making rental properties lower maintenance?