A lot of investors think of property maintenance as just another hefty expense. But, smart investors actually see maintenance as an investment (especially if you know what types of property maintenance can add the most value to your rental property).
The trick to getting property maintenance right as a landlord is to get to know the different types of maintenance and figure out which will work best for your investment property.
We’ve taken the guesswork out of property maintenance with this guide to the four types of maintenance landlords need to know about (and which type will give you the best bang for your buck).
What do investors need to know about different types of property maintenance?
Not all kinds of maintenance have the same impact on your investment property. Just like setting the right rental price and picking the right tenants, investing in the right type of property maintenance can have a big impact on your bottom line.
We get it: maintenance isn’t something you want to spend your hard-earned income on. In fact, 25% of property owners we surveyed picked property management and maintenance as one of their three biggest challenges.
But, you’re the one that stands to benefit from learning what types of property maintenance exist (and how to pick the right type for your property).
Here’s why it's worth getting your head around the different types of property maintenance:
- It can save you money: certain types of maintenance can help you spot small issues early and get them fixed proactively to prevent major, expensive maintenance jobs down the road.
- It can boost the value of your property: other types of property maintenance can actually boost the perceived value of your property (without costing you the earth). Not only can you charge a premium for a well-maintained property, but you’ll be more likely to score a capital gain when it comes time to sell your home, too.
- It can lower the chance of vacancy: focusing your attention on the right type of maintenance for your property type means you’re keeping your rental in good condition (and keeping your tenants happy and more likely to renew their lease as well).
Ultimately, keeping your property well-maintained is a good idea and makes financial sense as an investor. The stats show that maintaining and improving your property’s curbside appeal alone can boost your property’s final sale price by up to 7%.
But the key to getting the most out of property maintenance is to figure out which type of maintenance is going to deliver the best returns for your investment.
What types of property maintenance exist?
Not all types of property maintenance are created equal. To help you make an informed decision about where to spend your rental income, let’s walk you through the four key types of property maintenance you need to consider, they are;
- Proactive Property Maintenance
- Reactive Property Maintenance
- Seasonal Property Maintenance
- Capital Expenses
Proactive property maintenance
Whether you call it preventive maintenance or proactive property maintenance, the outcome is still the same. This type of maintenance is all about being one step ahead and addressing signs of wear and tear early to keep your property in top condition.
Instead of waiting for your tenants to report a problem, proactive maintenance uses regular routine inspections and annual maintenance jobs to safeguard the quality of your investment.
Take this example: booking in an annual pest inspection (a type of preventative maintenance) can cost as little as $80 per hour and will pick up any early signs of bugs, rodents or pests.
On the flip side, if you realise your property has a big infestation of termites, you’d be likely to fork out upwards of $2,500.
Pros of proactive maintenance:
- It prevents costly emergency repairs: prevention is always better (and cheaper) than cure, which is why one of the biggest advantages of proactive maintenance is reducing the chance of costly, urgent repairs. With routine inspections in place, you or your property manager will be able to spot the early signs of problems (such as mould, leaky taps and sagging door hinges) and fix them proactively.
- It allows you to budget for maintenance proactively: with annual home maintenance, you’ll be able to predict how much you’re likely to spend each year and allocate enough budget to meet your property’s maintenance needs (without overspending).
- It keeps your rental in top condition: the best tenants look for properties that are clean, modern and well maintained. So, the best way to secure and retain great tenants is to use preventative maintenance to keep your rental in good condition.
Cons of proactive maintenance:
- It requires extra planning and preparation: the only real downside to proactive maintenance is that it does require a bit of extra work to get routine inspections booked and regular house maintenance jobs lined up. That’s why 80% of investors choose to work with a property manager who can handle these proactive maintenance jobs for them.
Reactive property maintenance
On the flip side, reactive maintenance is all about jumping on urgent or emergency repairs to your rental property. As the name suggests, this type of maintenance is all about reacting to problems that arise in your rental property and trying to get issues sorted as quickly as possible.
Take this example: let’s say your tenant reports a leak in your roof. With a reactive property maintenance approach, you’ll have to quickly book in an urgent repair (usually at a higher cost of up to $10,500 if you need a full roof replacement) to get the problem fixed.
However, if you had a proactive maintenance approach in place, you could easily pick up the first signs of a roof problem and get it sorted for as little as $150.
Pros of reactive maintenance:
- It requires less planning ahead of time: obviously, not being proactive means you won’t need to plan ahead for routine inspections or annual maintenance jobs. However, this is a short-sighted approach as you’re relying on the hope that your rental won’t have any maintenance problems (which is rarely the case).
Cons of reactive maintenance:
- It can cost you significantly more money: as outlined in the example above, urgent investment property repairs can easily cost 10x the price of non-urgent or routine repairs and you can miss out on maximising tax deductibility, too. By waiting until big problems arise, you’ll be forced to book tradespeople at the last minute and outside normal business hours (and will have to pay a premium for it).
- It makes it tricky to stick to a maintenance budget: without routine maintenance in place, you’ll have no idea how much you’ll need to spend on maintenance each year. Plus, urgent repairs and emergencies mean you can easily overspend and blow out your budget (and reduce your rental income).
- It can cause unwanted stress and hassle: you don’t want to spend your evenings and weekends fielding urgent maintenance requests. But if you take a reactive approach, you’re more likely to receive these emergency calls from your tenants, which can cause plenty of avoidable stress and hassle.
Seasonal property maintenance
At different times in the year, your rental property might have different maintenance needs. And that’s what seasonal maintenance is all about.
Seasonal property maintenance involves planning your routine maintenance around different times of the year. This is particularly important for properties with lush backyards, homes in rural or regional areas as well as rentals in coastal spots.
Let’s take a look at an example: with a seasonal approach to maintenance, you’ll prioritise clearing gutters of fallen leaves in autumn, landscaping gardens during spring cleaning and mowing lawns in summer and repairing air conditioning units during both freezing winters and sweltering summers.
Pros of seasonal maintenance:
- It allows you to narrow your maintenance focus at different times of the year: by matching your repairs with the seasons, you’ll be able to prioritise what jobs you work on based on your property’s seasonal needs.
- It gives your rental property maintenance schedule a clear routine: with the same seasonal jobs needed to be done each year, you can book regular house maintenance in advance and make it easier to plan out your property’s routine inspections.
Cons of seasonal maintenance:
- It can mean you’re neglecting certain types of maintenance during the year: unfortunately, just focusing on what maintenance tasks are important for the current season means you’re not looking at your property holistically. This can mean that evergreen jobs (such as repainting, repairing taps and updating window fixtures) can be forgotten in the process.
The final type of property maintenance you need to consider is capital expenses (CapEx). Rather than fixing problems or repairing issues, CapEx is all about improving and enhancing the condition of your rental property.
Unlike regular maintenance expenses, CapEx involves a more significant investment of money upfront to boost the value and condition of your property.
Some of the most common examples of these kinds of expenses are:
- Replacing or adding new appliances
- HVAC systems (Heating system, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning)
- Water heating
- Remodelling bathrooms and kitchens
- Upgrading windows
Pros of capital expenses:
- It can boost the appeal of your rental property: a newly renovated property with modern appliances can attract the widest pool of tenants and boost your chances of securing a good, long-term tenant.
- It can allow you to charge a premium for rent: with a more desirable, modern property you can even lift your weekly rent rate by $10 to $100 per week, which means more income in your back pocket.
- It can help you earn a capital gain: kitchen overhauls alone can cost you just $10,000 and boost your property’s value by up to $60,000. By strategically investing in a few capital expenses, you can boost interest in your property and increase your profits when you’re ready to sell to home buyers.
Cons of capital expenses:
- It can make a big dent in your cash flow: investing in new flooring, remodelling bathrooms and replacing appliances can easily cost you thousands of dollars, which means you need a good cash flow buffer to avoid going into debt.
- It can be easy to overspend and overcapitalise: without a strategy in place, you can easily spend your money in the wrong places and overcapitalise on unnecessary improvements that won’t deliver a return on your investment.
Which type of property maintenance is best for investors?
With all of this in mind, what type of property maintenance is your best option as a property investor? In the majority of cases, proactive maintenance is a winning approach.
By scheduling regular routine inspections and booking annual maintenance jobs in advance, you can actually prevent maintenance problems from cropping up. And by working with a great property manager, they can take the logistics of proactive maintenance off your plate.
In a nutshell, preventive maintenance means spending less over the long term, keeping your property in great condition and keeping your tenants happy along the way, too.
By learning all the different types of property maintenance that exist, you can figure out which approach is right for your investment goals. No matter which approach you decide to take, working with a property manager is a great way to reduce the time and energy you spend on maintenance and ensure any maintenance issues are responded to and fixed quickly.
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