Part of being a landlord is preparing in advance for issues such as planned maintenance and vacancies. In case your tenants vacate, landlords should always be aware of what they need to do to ensure properties are in the best condition, in order to rent again, with minimal vacancies to new quality tenants. It goes without saying that the more proactive the landlord, and better presented the property, generally the better quality the new tenant will be.
Often the winter period is the quieter time of the year for the rental property market (as less people are moving at this time) so just prior to winter all landlords should be prepared in advance to take steps to ensure their property is ready to market to new tenants. Winter is when competition is the highest for tenants so there are specific issues to consider when for planning for this period. Property owners need to be on their game to ensure that their properties stand out from the crowd and will appeal to prospective tenants.
Generally your property manager sends you periodic inspection reports on the condition of the property and any issues to be addressed either now or at some stage down the line. The reason for this is that landlords hate surprises and your property manager’s communication gives you the time and resources to plan for any maintenance and improvements in advance. As a property owner you should begin planning for these issues prior to tenants giving notice and properties becoming vacant. This means taking steps to collect quotes, organize work where necessary and budget for the work in advance. Landlords who wait until properties become vacant are those likely to experience far greater vacancies between tenancies as the process grinds to a halt as they wait for quotes and tradesman.
All properties generally rent quicker in the summer months. This is due to many reasons including a higher demand for property in general. There is also the fact that almost all properties look better in the summer months when the sun is shining, the smell of the cut green grass is appealing and most properties show little sign of moisture or dampness. Winter months require addressing specific issues which I have noted below that may not matter so much in the summer. These important issues should be addressed when tenants give notice (not when they have vacated, but in the last weeks of their tenancy). Remember that all properties are generally marketed while tenants are still in occupation so often you can’t afford to wait until the property is vacant. It is also important to understand that tenants are only required to present a property to a “reasonable standard” so they will never address exterior issues 100% and owners need to be prepared to address the rest.
Trees, Gardens & Hedges: As all prospective tenants usually do a drive by from the outside of a property prior to viewing the inside so these issues require special attention. All trees/hedges should be trimmed back as much as possible which will improve sunlight on the property and though windows (less dampness) and stop leaves gathering around the yard. Gardens should be given a mini spring clean just prior to tenants vacating. Usually outgoing tenants will only maintain a garden to 75% so owners may need to complete this to maximize presentation. Lawns & edges should be attended to. By weed matting all gardens and clearing weeds not only do gardens look tidy but combined with the above issues, the entire property will appear to be LOW MAINTENANCE which is what all tenants look for.
Insulation: Winter brings this aspect of properties to the front of prospective tenant’s minds. Often some tenants will not rent in summer as they want to see a property in the winter first. These days insulation requirements are a lot stricter so many older properties may have poor or sub standard insulation. When prospective tenants are inspecting properties they will be looking at walls, ceilings, nets, curtains and windows for evidence of mould and moisture. The increase in recent media reports about poor insulation and education on heath risks, have driven tenants concerns. It goes without saying that generally the better insulated properties, will be the ones that rent the first in winter. Chattels such as heat pumps, HRV ventilation units and bathroom fans, will also assist in reducing moisture, and making properties more appealing. Subsidies are now available from the government for landlords insulating rental properties, and if you have a current tenant who is a beneficiary then extra subsidies apply. Better insulation and less moisture is also an investment in your chattels, such as curtains and nets which will last longer in a better insulated property. If surfaces show signs of moisture then they should be painted.
Lighting & Security: Often tenants who are viewing properties after hours in winter, will visit a property in the dark. This is when lighting and security becomes important. All properties should have security sensor lights/bulbs installed which pop on as soon as the tenants walk down the driveway or path. This gives tenants a sense of personal safety and security as soon as they step on to your property. Not only will they see what they have come to look at, but they know that if they lived there, they could feel secure. Alarms will also provide the tenants with additional piece of mind and help you compete with other properties.
Next time you receive an inspection report from your property manager identifying potential issues at your property, it may be worth getting the ball rolling ASAP. If you manage your own property then you should be inspecting quarterly or six monthly to assess the presentation and any issues yourselves. Start organizing quotes so you can budget for the work. Make a list of all issues in advance so if tenants give notice you can begin without delay. Any professional property manager will tell you that their role is a combination of systematic processes we follow each day or week to ensure that the property or portfolio performs well. We are not only managing as of today but planning for the future. In this day and age it is not possible to be re-active and only get involved when a tenant moves out or doesn’t pay the rent. The performance of the property is a direct result of how proactive the landlord is so you need to be prepared and plan for the future. A landlord with a plan is definitely the man/woman!