This article, outlines a few simple tasks that a busy property investor can do, to keep on top of their property. They are not time consuming, and if they were to be followed with a degree of diligence and discipline, they will hold you in good stead.
What do you suggest for keeping on top of managing a rental property? Is there a list anywhere of maintenance items that property managers may have to keep on top of their investments?
These are questions I was asked recently on a Facebook property forum, and I must admit they made me think. Life is busy for all of us and it is getting busier by the day! But after thinking long and hard, I did come up with a few fairly easy tasks, that anyone could do to maintain oversight of their property, without having to invest copious amounts of precious time… The list is not exhaustive, but a good start.
First things first though… I will start by admitting that not every investor has the time or care factor to want to keep on top of their property! The majority of investors, follow the “set and forget” strategy…. litellary! For those investors, my recommendation is to make every effort to find a property manager they can trust and can rely on. Look for one that has the capacity and the willingness to do the right thing for you and your investment. There aren’t many property managers around that still fit that description but, take my word for it, they exist if you look hard enough for them.
And then, you have the other type of investor, those that do want to keep on top of their property, except life always seem to get in their way.
For those investors, I have included below a few practical tips, that don’t take much effort/time to do BUT will make a difference.
1. Take ownership and plan ahead regular maintenance. This is a task you shouldn’t expect your property manager to do for you, because reality is that they probably wouldn’t. But what kind of maintenance is required? Well, there is no set list of what and when maintenance of a rental property is to be undertaken. And to be perfectly honest, every property, every owner, every tenant and tenant demographic, as well as the present market conditions will dictate what type of maintenance you should be doing.
Nevertheless, rule of thumb says that you should expect to have to replace carpets every 10 to 15 years (even earlier in heavily trafficked areas), you should expect to change kitchen cupboard doors or totally upgrade every 15 or so years, and a new coat of paint applied every 5 to 10 years. These are essential for older properties – especially if you are competing directly with new. Of course in a low vacancy rental market you could get away with delaying these, whereas in an oversupplied, high vacancy rental market, you will have no choice but to bring them forward.
Changing light fittings, replacing doors, installing A/Cs, regrouting bathroom and shower tiles, putting in built-ins will also be required sooner or later. It is a balancing act between doing what is required and when the time is right, but if you have a plan to begin with, which you assess annually, you have a baseline to go off.
2. Request access to your Owner Portal. Ask your property manager for access to the “owner’s portal” today! Most property management softwares do offer an owner portal these days. In a typical owner portal, you will be able to see reports, tenant details, your bills, past statements, all previously approved work orders, graphs etc etc. I am actually amazed that these portals are not already mainstream. I know they are available but I don’t see many property managers offer them to landlords and I am not sure why.
3. Send a “hello” email to your property manager. Send an email to your property manager to say “hello”… Ask them how the tenant is going, if everything is OK with the property and what is happening with the rental market. It will take you 10 seconds to do and you can even copy and paste from here! I can assure you, if as a property manager I received this kind of email, I’d be over the moon because they are very rare! There is no greater motivation for a property manager than knowing that the landlord cares, plus sending this type of email every now and then, is a great incentive for your property manager to take more interest for your property and to get a good insight into how it is tracking!
4. Check how the market is performing. Visit the realestate and domain websites, then under “properties for rent”, search for a property similar to yours in your suburb. It is very easy to do and it takes less than 5 minutes – even less if you save the search. In this day and age, it is inexcusable for anyone calling themselves “investor” to have their rent fall behind market value – but sadly it happens all the time as property managers don’t like to initiate rent increases. We recently started managing a property with a rent that was over $100 below market value and the owner had no idea. It had a long term tenant and when we looked back in the tenant ledger, the rent hadn’t been increased in 8 years! It took seconds to find out and anyone can!
5. Read body corporate reports. If your property is part of a body corporate, make an effort to read the minutes that come out of annual general meetings. They always contain great information, and that is information that neither a property manager or owner would ever come across otherwise.
6. Review Entry/Exit and Routine Condition Reports. Make sure to keep an eye out for condition reports which should be arriving every 3 to 6 months, and if you haven’t seen one in a little while, ask for it today. It is not unheard for routine inspections to fall through the cracks.
When you do receive them, go through them carefully. Pay special attention to photos as they will provide you with a lot more information that any written report ever will. In a good routine inspection report, you should expect to be seeing plenty of photos. Examine the photos, then ask your property manager questions: “What do you think about my carpet? The kitchen seems a bit dated… What is your suggestion? Did you get any other feedback from the tenant? What other maintenance would you be recommending?”.
Condition reports are REALLY important and the more diligent agencies, will actually take great care doing the reports, will take a lot of photos (hundreds) and provide recommendations. At our agency, let alone that it is standard practice to include numerous photos, we will take special care to make longer term maintenance recommendations…. For example, we will say things like “the blinds in the main bedroom, are reaching the end of their useful life. We recommend that in 6 months we replace them”… If you don’t see those kinds of recommendations in your report, initiate the conversation today!
7. Attend an inspection. Last but not least, I recommend that you ask to be present at the next routine inspection…. nothing wrong with that and you should make an effort to see your property at least once every year or 2. ONE request though…. go in with your property manager, take a good look, then leave so that they can take their time to do the inspection properly. It is a tedious process that needs to be done slowly and carefully so they probably prefer to not have the owner around. A 5-10 minute good look is more than enough.
So there you have it, 7 practical, non time consuming ways to keep on top of your property.
Who we are:
NextGen Property Mgmt (www.nextgenpm.com.au) is a boutique Real Estate licensed agency that specialises in property management. NextGen Property Mgmt are the best Property Management team in Sydney. Our differentiator is that we are landlords ourselves!
Our agency provides Property Management services in most areas of Sydney including the Sydney CBD and Inner West on the North, the Eastern Suburbs, St George and Sutherland on the South, the great Liverpool area and South West Sydney. We even have some clients on the Lower North Shore! We have properties in a raft of suburbs like Liverpool, Beverly Hills, Kingsgrove, Roselands, Hurstville, Kogarah, Rockdale, Penshurst, Bankstown, Canterbury, Dulwich Hill, Marrickville, Drummoyne, Newtown, Alexandria, Pyrmont, Coogee and Bondi Junction. We even have properties in St Leonards and Lane Cove! We are not worried about distance as most tasks these days are done electronically and remotely. We love using video conferencing if we need to and live and die by our desk research. If you are looking for the best property managers in Sydney look no further.
NextGen was created from its infancy to cater for investors as it was founded by investors who quickly realised that in a highly regulated industry like Real Estate – competence, expertise, care and service by property managers varies greatly.
As an investor, you need to have trust and to feel valued by your property manager. You need to know that your property and tenants are being looked after with minimal disruption, and you are getting maximum return on your investment. At NextGen we understand that, because we are investors living busy lives ourselves. Our promise to you, is that you will no longer have to worry about your most valued asset because we will make sure to take care of it as if it is our own.
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