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Out of all the hats you wear as a property investor, organising maintenance and repairs is one of the trickiest to navigate. Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making common maintenance mistakes that can cost you time and money.
Along with picking the best tenants and selecting the right property manager for the job, maintenance can be a major headache (and expense) if it’s not handled correctly.
There’s plenty of insights you can learn from landlords who’ve done it all before. So, let’s walk you through the top five mistakes landlords make when it comes to property maintenance (and how to avoid them).
Mistake 1: Not having a process for handling repairs or maintenance requests
Imagine this scenario: your tenant notices their laundry tap is leaky and they want to alert you to the problem. They try calling your property manager, but reach their voicemail. They send an email, but 48 hours later they haven’t received a response.
By the time the property manager responds to the issue, the leak has worsened and now the entire tap needs to be replaced, costing you more than you needed to spend.
This kind of miscommunication and slow response times are what can happen if you or your property manager doesn’t have a plan in place for handling repair requests. In fact, some property managers can take up to 30 days to get a repair request sorted.
Without a clear process in place, your tenant’s might start to feel ignored or unhappy with the way their rental is being managed and might start to think about moving elsewhere (rather than renewing their lease).
Plus, slow communication and delays in booking tradespeople can decrease the quality of your rental property and turn small repairs into big, costly problems.
How to avoid not having a process for handling repairs or maintenance requests?
By putting a process in place for handling repair requests doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s two practical steps you can take to avoid this landlord mistake at your investment property:
- Have a single way of communicating with your tenants: by using only one form of communication, your tenants will always know how to get in touch with you or your property manager. The fewer hoops they have to jump through, the more likely they’ll be to report problems as soon as they spot them.
- Keep everyone up-to-date throughout the repair process: by providing regular updates every one can check the status of repairs jobs without having to pick up the phone or email their property manager.
Alternatively, you can also put in place timely property maintenance inspections on your investment property and crop out any issues that may arise in the future. The easier it is for your tenants and property manager to get in touch with each other, the quicker you’ll get repairs and maintenance jobs sorted and the sooner your property will be back in top condition.
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Mistake 2: Failing to gather a range of quotes for each maintenance job
Typically, house maintenance sets owners back $2,661 a year. But, how do you know you’re getting the best price when it comes to maintenance and repairs?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to compare prices from handymen and tradies online. That’s why the next most common mistake landlords make when it comes to maintenance is not gathering average prices, customer reviews or quotes before booking a tradie.
And if your property manager doesn’t give you a range of quotes or standard price lists to help you compare costs, you could easily be ripped off for a simple job.
How to avoid failing to gather a range of quotes for each maintenance job?
The best way to avoid spending too much on maintenance and repairs is to do your research and make sure you understand what is a fair rate for each type of repair.
The best property managers will give you access to average price data so you never get ripped off. For example, at :Different we give all landlords an estimate of what they should expect to pay based on our national network of trusted tradies and maintenance companies.
If our data tells us that 80% of maintenance requests for a blocked sink cost $524 or less, we will never charge you a higher price for the same service.
Mistake 3: Focusing on reactive not proactive maintenance
We know repairs can feel like an annoying expense for investors. In fact, 25% of property owners we surveyed mentioned professional property management and maintenance as one of their three biggest challenges.
But avoiding maintenance altogether (and only responding to emergencies and urgent repairs) isn’t a wise move either.
By being reactive (not proactive) you’ll end up spending a lot more on maintenance over the long-term. Take this example: by addressing moisture build-up in bathrooms and installing a new exhaust fan ($100) you can prevent mould from moving into your rental (which can cost thousands to fix).
Plus, tenants are more likely to move on and start paying rent elsewhere if their rental isn’t well-maintained and their repair requests are ignored.
How to avoid focusing on reactive maintenance?
The best way to steer clear of this common landlord mistake is to take a proactive approach to maintenance and repairs].
That means working with an experienced property manager to schedule regular property inspections where you can catch early signs of problems and fix them proactively. Plus, it’s worth booking preventative maintenance measures (like annual pest inspections) or seasonal maintenances that ensure your rental remains in good condition.
Not only will you reduce the chance of vacancy by giving tenants a well-maintained property, but you’ll even be able to set a competitive rent rate that boosts your rental yield.
Mistake 4: Not setting a budget for home maintenance or renovation projects
The reality is that every piece of real estate is unique, and that amount you’d expect to pay for maintenance depends on the size, condition and age of the property.
While there’s a few different ways to budget for maintenance, the most common renovation mistakes landlords make is not setting a budget at all.
Without a budget or formula in place, it can be easy to overspend on maintenance and eat away at your rental income.
How to avoid not budgeting for maintenances or renovations?
Naturally, the solution to this common mistake is to get a framework in place to allocate your maintenance budget. Here are three ways to help you forecast your maintenance costs:
- The 50% rule: this means you shouldn’t spend more than 50% of your rental income on operating expenses. That means if you’re charging $1,000 a month for rent, you should only be spending $500 per month on maintenance.
- The 1% rule: this means you shouldn't spend more than 1% of your property’s value per year on maintenance. If your property is valued at $400,000 then your annual house maintenance budget should be $4,000.
- 5x rule: this means multiplying your monthly rent by 1.5 to find your annual house maintenance expense costs. If your monthly rent is $2,000, you’ll have an annual maintenance budget of $3,000.
With a budget allocated for maintenance and repairs, you know you’ll avoid any cash flow problems, skip unwanted maintenance issues and safeguard your rental income, too.
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Mistake 5: Not vetting maintenance and repairs requests thoroughly
You only want to be spending your rental income on legitimate repairs and maintenance, right?
Unfortunately, one of the most common mistakes landlords make when it comes to maintenance is not having a process in place to vet and verify repair requests.
Unless you know the right questions to ask and the signs to look out for, it can be tricky to know the best course of action to take when a repair request comes through. And if your property manager is reviewing these requests on your behalf, you can easily overspend on unnecessary repairs.
How to avoid not vetting maintenance and repairs requests thoroughly
The key to getting property maintenance right is to work with a good property manager who can review requests on your behalf.
By validating all potential repairs and asking for clarification and all the information up-front, you know you’re only paying for legitimate repairs and maintenance (not tenant damage).
Plus, the best property managers will be able to make an expert recommendation about the best way of addressing the issue (without blowing out your maintenance budget).
When it comes to avoiding the most common landlord maintenance mistakes, working with an experienced property manager is a great way to take a proactive approach to repairs. They’ll be able to conduct routine inspections, vet maintenance requests and give you a clear set of benchmark price data so you know you’re not paying too much.
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Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this blog post are for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon. We have not taken into account specific situations, facts or circumstances, and no part of this blog post constitutes personal financial, legal, or tax advice to you. You should seek tax advice from your accountant, specific to your situation.