Low maintenance equals high value for both landlords and tenants alike and one of the best ways to ensure maintenance costs are kept to a minimum is to buy correctly at the very beginning of your investment journey.
“Buying a low maintenance property means that deterioration will be kept to a minimum and repairs are likely to be minor,” says owner of Belvoir Boston Donna Burrell. “The kind of properties that generally fit this brief are new builds, or those that have been built in the last couple of years and are in a good condition and have been well looked after.
“When viewing a property to buy for investment purposes look at the condition of the roof, age of the boiler, condition of the electrics and quality of carpets. If the property has double-glazing make sure there are no existing problems with it, plus bear in mind that wooden window-frames are going to cause more maintenance issues than modern alternatives. Look in the garden too and make sure there are no over-sized trees with roots that could potentially damage the property in years to come.
“Of course there’s no such thing as a completely maintenance-free property, but it is possible to buy a property which is likely to need only low-cost restoration and repairs throughout your investment period if you buy savvy.”
Once you have a tenant in place, tackling repairs and deterioration as they arise will help reduce rising maintenance costs in the future.
“It’s essential that you visit your property on a regular basis, perhaps four times a year, to give you the opportunity to assess the condition of your property and commission repairs if needed,” says owner of Belvoir Tamworth Angie Allgood.
“Ensuring maintenance is carried out as soon as a problem is spotted will prevent costs escalating later. Bathroom leaks, guttering issues and blocked drains can all start off as small problems but end up with big price tags to rectify if left unresolved. If you ignore maintenance problems today it can wipe a lot of value from your investment tomorrow.”
Between inspections, ensure your tenant is briefed to let you know if any maintenance issues occur so these can be dealt with swiftly before your next visit.
“Tenants don’t always realise that they should report everything so make sure that they are aware of what’s expected from them,” says Angie. “If a maintenance issue seems small, such as a dripping leak, it can sometimes be ignored because the tenant doesn’t want to inconvenience the landlord or be inconvenienced themselves.
“Explain to your tenant that you would like to be informed of any issues, how ever small or inconsequential they may seem, plus provide out of hours emergency contact details if you can.”
A contacts book bursting with the phone numbers of reliable contractors you can trust is a valuable asset for any landlord – and if you’re loyal to them and use them on a regular basis they are likely to be loyal to you too.
“Build up a base of plumbers, electricians, builders and other trades people that you know you can rely on,” says Angie. “This may take a number of years, and will involve a certain amount of trial and error, but the long-term gains will be many-fold.
“In the first instance, give someone a job, assess the fairness of their fees, and then visit the property to ensure work has been carried out to your expected standard and all rubbish has been removed.
“You can go through quite a lot of contractors before you find those who you can rely on moving forward… but having a key set of trustworthy trades people who you know will do a job well – and at speed during an emergency – can help stop issues escalating out of control and getting very expensive.”
If your property has outdoor space make sure this is also low maintenance and easy to manage.
“A well planned and efficiently executed garden can make your rental property more appealing to tenants – and most will thank you for a less labour-intensive space to look after during the tenancy,” says owner of Belvoir Evesham Melanie Carter.
“Laying a patio rather than lawn, so it doesn’t need mowing, is helpful, as is having adequate gravel and membranes to prevent weeds.
“Fast-growing trees and shrubs that need to be pruned regularly should be avoided. If your tenants aren’t experienced gardeners and don’t know how to keep them under control the garden can start looking very messy very quickly.
“Also ensure fencing or boundary walls are in a good condition and repaired when necessary to avoid more extensive damage occurring, either to your own garden or a neighbouring one, if they collapsed. Make sure all fencing and trellising are treated with the appropriate outdoor wood treatment to prevent rapid deterioration too.
“Tenants will want to know that the outside space is enclosed, secure and safe – so, if your target market is a family, then water features and ponds are not a good idea either.
“Outdoor space can be a real asset to a rental property but the more user-friendly it is the better.”
If you’re looking to minimise major maintenance costs and add pounds to your profit, then a professional letting agent can help.
“If you ask an agent to manage the property for you they will keep an eye on your investment from a maintenance perspective and do all of the above on your behalf,” says Donna.
“They will advise on the initial investment, carry out regular inspections, make sure the tenants are briefed about getting in touch when maintenance issues arise, commission reputable trades people with reasonable fees, and ensure that the work has been carried out to a satisfactory level on completion.
“During your investment period an expert agent can help ensure minor maintenance doesn’t escalate into a major maintenance bill… and that your asset holds its true value.”
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