This is the first article in a series of three from Ownersite Technologies about ensuring the maintenance of a secondary property, including vacation homes and rental dwellings. The topics include maintenance tips, owners’ rights when renters do not take care of a property, and how to work with tenants to maintain a home and maximize its value.
It may be exciting to have the second home tucked away for vacations or as an investment that will pay off years down the line, but it is just as important to maintain that dwelling even if you are not there to do so on a daily basis. While it may be the furthest from your mind until you receive the mortgage bill in the mail or any other related expenses, your second home should be viewed the same as your primary residence in terms of its investment value and need for maintenance.
The type of maintenance your second home needs depends on the age, location, type and frequency of use, and the materials used in the construction process. Obviously, if you rent the property out full-time, it will need certain kind of maintenance versus a home that has weekly or weekend rentals or that you use infrequently for your own holidays.
Vacation Home Maintenance Tips
If you opt to rent your vacation home out by the weekend or week, you may want to consider hiring a cleaning team through whatever property management company you utilize for the rental. You can also opt to do the work yourself. Look at the maintenance as you would if you owned a hotel, motel, or lodge. Here are some ideas that may or may not apply, depending on the type of vacation home you have:
- Do a housecleaning service after each booking that includes vacuuming, bathrooms, linen and towel cleaning, and kitchen cleaning as you would do in your own home.
- Clean out the dryer vent regularly if you have these facilities on-site.
- Vacuum the condenser coils in your refrigerator.
- Change furnace/air conditioner filters at least once a month.
- Regularly check and clean your furnace/air conditioner.
- Clean faucets and shower heads, especially in areas that use wells or have particularly hard water, to avoid build-up that can affect water pressure.
- Clean out sink and drains regularly.
- Wash all blankets and comforters at least once every 10 rentals.
- Keep an inventory of items that are stocked in the vacation rental, such as dishes, silverware, cups, etc.
If your vacation property is located in the mountains or on a lake where a view is part of the package, it is very important to focus on keeping the landscape under control to not block the beauty spots around the home. The best time to tackle this job is in the late fall or early winter time when you do not have renters and the leaves are off the trees, making easier work for you.
In adding to your vacation property investment, you should think about spending money on amenities that differentiate you in the rental market. Depending on what you are willing and able to spend, you may fill out your rental property schedule by adding a hot tub, pool table, an HD flat screen TV, or even a high-end espresso and coffeemaker so that guests feel that your property fits their vacation desires as a home-away-from-home. You can also enjoy these when you choose to stay at your second home.
Rental Home Maintenance Tips
When you rent out your second home on a lease basis where a person or family lives there full-time, you can become a full-time landlord and maintenance becomes a much bigger issue. Because the property is being used continuously, it tends to require a greater amount of maintenance. Many of these tips also apply to a vacation property and can be done on a yearly basis as well. Listed below are just some of the tasks that you will want to stay on top of so that your investment is maintained or – better yet – grows:
- Remove leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Pressure-wash wood siding to prevent mold.
- Maintain exterior paint and caulk on siding and windows.
- Clean air-conditioning unit.
- Check the foundation.
- Trim trees and bushes and look for any problems with the sprinkler system.
- Inspect the roof, window screens, fences, gates, and automatic door opener.
- Look for any termites or other pest problems, such as gophers, wasps, or insects.
- Clean and seal tile and grout in bathrooms and kitchen.
- Check and repair leaky faucets or any other plumbing problems.
- Check the attic and ceilings for signs of moisture that could indicate that there are leaks.
- Have a chimney sweep clean out the fireplace and flue.
- Test circuit breakers.
- Inspect and replace fire extinguisher or batteries in smoke alarms.
Between renters, you may have a lot more maintenance to do, depending on how well your tenants took care of your investment. This could involve painting, fixture replacement, appliance updating, and new flooring. These are all expenses that you should keep copious records on for tax purposes (See our article on tax records for home owners and investors).
Maintenance Reminder and Inventory Service
While all the above tips are helpful, they are not any good if you forget them because you get caught up in the daily grind. That’s why it helps to keep a home maintenance schedule with e-mail alerts to your e-mail, PDA, or cell phone when it is time to take care of certain tasks that will keep your second home in top condition. Having this maintenance record can also be an invaluable tool when you go to sell your second home because it can show that you have regularly repaired and cared for the property.
Services like Ownersite Technologies, which offer this convenience, can also provide you with an online depository to keep all types of information about your second home, including an inventory of each room to ensure nothing has been stolen. If you do have a loss, you can send a report directly from the site to your insurance agent.
Build Substantial Value
A well-maintained second home can generate income because vacationers and renters will want to stay at your property. This regular rental profit becomes a good selling tool when you are ready to cash-in on your investment. Prospective buyers will not only be impressed by your maintenance record, but they will also be attracted to your regular bookings or long-term tenants. It definitely pays dividends to invest in maintenance on your second home.
Be sure to read our other articles about how the maintenance work is divided between you, as the landlord, and your tenants as well as how you might partner to build substantial value into the property that is mutually beneficial.