There are many ways to handle property management at your rentals. Knowing just a few landlord skills can save a lot of time and money. And give you a great sense of accomplishment. I do almost all of my own maintenance, and I actually feel good when it can be done, and I save a great deal of money.
You can hire a property manager (PM). That property manager will handle all of the tenant calls, and if work is needed make the calls to get it done. You will pay for the maintenance, plus a bit of extra added on top for the PMs minimal time and effort. Remember, property management is not really maintenance, but maintenance is part of property management.
You can handle the calls yourself, and you call the maintenance person or business. That saves the markup that a PM would add to the service. But you will pay for any false positive, that is a call where the company shows up and nothing is the matter.
You can learn how to do a minimal bit of trouble shooting over the phone, and solve some issues that way. And, if you have the ambition and tools, you can actually do the maintenance yourself, and save $50+ per hour, if your rental is close by.
All of my 24 rentals are within 8 miles of my house. Most are within three miles, and I have a Home Depot almost exactly in the middle of that three miles. I drive directly past it, with easy entry and exit back to my road. I almost have to drive through the Home Depot parking lot to get to my rentals. So it is easy to get most parts that I need for repairs.
Knowing a few troubleshooting skills is rewarding and can save a ton of money.
Garage Door Opener Repair
I had a call this week that a garage door was not going up. I was at work, so I could not get away easily. The family had an appointment to bring their kid to the urgent care center, and needed to get the car out. My initial thought was a circuit breaker, or other easy fix.
I explained to them that the garage door had a quick release rope so that they could raise the door manually. For whatever reason, they could not get the door raised, and still needed to get out.
I have a light switch that controls the garage door outlet in case one wants to ‘lock’ the door between tenants, or when someone is on vacation. Or it can be turned off by accident. It has a similar effect to unplugging the garage door, without needing a ladder. I had them check that switch. That too, was in the ‘on’ position so there was not an issue with the switch.
In my condo units, for whatever reason, the GFI breaker for the garage is in the bathroom, upstairs in the unit. So, if you trip the GFI in the bathroom, your garage outlets do not work. Not a great way to do it, but that is the way it is. I should change that at some point, and add a GFI in the garage… I advised them to check it, and they were able to reset the GFI, and all was well.
That would have taken someone a long time to figure out. Now that I think about it, I will be switching them over as tenants move out. If I was remote, someone might have wanted to re-wire the opener at a cost of several hundred dollars.
Simple Appliance Repairs
I recently had to change a dryer heating element. The dryer was spinning, but no heat was coming out. Assuming they have power to the dryer, there is a limit number of things that can be an issue. It can only be a thermostat or a heating element, or at least that is a 99% good guess.
So, I looked for the part on-line and saw that the heating element and thermostats were ~$55. A YouTube video showed it was a simple job, maybe an hour at most. Once you have a set of tools, and you are not afraid of them, it’s easy. I was able to remove and replace the thermostats and heating element. One thermostat required a pop rivet gun to install, but other than not having one in my toolbox, it was easy. I rarely use my rivet gun, so I keep it in my tool box at home.
Easily, this would have been a $250 to $300 repair.
Central Air and Plumbing
Recently, I was at a property that I needed to check out the Air conditioning unit. It had not been above 70 degrees very often, so it was definitely not an emergency… I was expecting to look at the thermostat and the inside circuit breaker and outside breaker. I would also look things over to see if anything looked amiss. Often, simple observation can uncover simple fixes and save a lot.
When I got to the property, I saw the central air unit was running. That was a great sign. So electrically, things were fine. I went to the basement to see the furnace and look for any issues there. The furnace and A/C was fine, but I noticed water ion the floor running to the floor drain. I suspected the hot water heater, but all was well. I saw water dripping from the ceiling, and found a copper pipe was rubbing against a ground wire attached to a galvanized pipe. A microscopic pin hole was leaking a mist of water. Not much, but a drop a second adds up. It was on the hot water line, so I immediately notified the tenants and shut the hot water off.
So back home I went to get more tools; I needed my soldering kit. I also stopped at Menards for a ½” copper shutoff valve. (I had some ¾” valves in my box, but not ½”.)
So, a few cuts in the pipe to add the new shutoff, and then a removal of the bad piece of pipe, and I was back in business. It might have been three hours including the initial travel time and shopping, but only about one hour of actual work. I re-routed the ground wire to avoid the issue in the future, and added a piece of pipe insulation to keep the pipes separated.
It would have been a $250 fix pretty easily. I can put that money in the bank. I am not saying a professional is not worth what they charge, but if you have the time, it can be a great feeling of accomplishment.
If you have windows, sooner or later you will have to fix a screen. Or make a screen frame. They are easy to make. All of the Home Improvement stores sell frame material, frame corners, screen and screen spline.
Cue the frames with a hacksaw, or use your miter saw for a perfect cut. it dulls the blade a bit, but make a very nice smooth cut. Add the corners, and put the frame together. Put the screen on the frame and secure it with the screen spline.
I just built a screen frame this week and installed it. That repair would have been $75 to $100, just for a screen. After all, it takes a bit of money for someone to just show up.
Have you ever called a ‘professional’, and found they fixed something you could have done yourself easily?