Disadvantages of Being a Long Distance Landlord

Maytag Laundry MachinesIf you are a long distance landlord, minor maintenance issues can become an expensive repair.   It is near impossible maximize your revenue if you are paying for every thing the tenants complain about.  And to make things worse, lower quality tenants complain more.  When they are going to be late on their rent, complaints become almost non-stop.

It always helps if you can do some simple maintenance on your rental properties.  If you are able to troubleshoot simple issues, you can save a lot of money.  Often, just being able to look at the problem, and making a simple precursory look, you can even fix the issue.

Here is an example that I came across recently.  I could have handled it from a distance, but it would have been much more expensive and taken longer to resolve.

Most of my rentals are within three miles of my house.  If you are further away, this simple fix becomes exponentially more troublesome and costly.  I have written about managing property from a distance before.  It is possible, but sometimes you need boots on the ground.

I had a tenant text me about the common area washing machine being ‘out of order’ the other day.  I use Maytag front load commercial washers and dryers for my common area laundry machines.  They rarely go out, and are generally easy to troubleshoot or fix if something does happen.  The machines are set to ‘free’ in this building, so the laundry is included in the rent.  They can add .25 for a ‘super cycle’, but it makes no sense as they can just run a entire new wash cycle.

When I got to the machine, I noticed the following error flashing across the electronic display. “Out of order error F30”.  I should have taken a picture, but I forgot…

Once I saw the error code, I knew there was a problem.  I had never seen that error code before, I was actually expecting a different one.  One that I had already fixed and knew what I was doing…  A maintenance call from the local laundry repair place is ~$85, plus mileage, plus parts.  And the tenants are without a washer for as long as it takes for them to come out, likely a couple of days.  The machine was still under warranty for parts, but labor was not covered anymore.  So, my cost would have been capped at ~$125, most likely.

Since I was there, I had to attempt something.  The tenant came down to see what I was doing, so I also had to make it look like I knew what I was doing.  I attended a Maytag laundry class a couple of years ago. I actually took a day of vacation to attend the $30, one day class.  In the morning the instructor, who was from Maytag, took apart a washer, and put it back together piece by piece.  This was completed all by lunch time.

While the instructor was disassembling and reassembling the equipment, with minimal tools, he was giving interesting information about laundry machines.  Information on optimal wash times, how much the average family does wash, and information on the different option settings, etc.  It was a lot of great statistical information and laundry trivia.

In the afternoon, after the ‘free’ lunch that was provided, the instructor did the same thing with the dryer.  These pieces of equipment are not complicated at all.  It was a great learning experience.  And while I would probably try a few things even without the class, being through the calls gives me the confidence to know I can fix most items.

The first thing I tried was to unplug the machine, wait a minute or so, and plug it back in.  Many issues can be resolved, with many items, with this simple technique.  Even computer issues, network issues, modem problems, etc.  Unfortunately, this was not the case today.  The Maytag F30 error message came up as fast as the LED display could light up.

I have a ‘Smart’ phone, so I Googled the error message while the machine was unplugged for a bit.  That’s a huge benefit of today’s environment; there is a ton of information at your fingertips. No matter what your issue is, someone has dedicated their life to helping you solve it.

There were many results, and it indicated the dispenser actuator was somehow out of sync with the cycle.  The pages explained how to take three screws off the back of the machine, move the actuator, and try a few more things, etc.   Looking further, I saw there were several YouTube videos about the subject.  Whenever you are confronted by an issue, no matter what the issue is, you can find someone on YouTube that has dedicated their life to helping you solve it.

Reset Washing MachineRemembering from the washing machine class I took, there is a way to reset the washing machine.  I can never remember exactly how to do it, but the idea is to hold down one of the buttons while you open the service door on the washer.  There are six buttons, and I can never remember which one it is.  So it takes a few tries, but I get it done.

The machine then went through some reset process, all the LEDs lit up, and it shows all is well.  I started a cycle and everything appeared normal.  I had to wait 30 minutes for the cycle to complete, but there were no additional errors.  If I would remember how make the machine go into a short cycle mode, it would have done the entire wash sequence in about two minutes.  I will have to study (and remember) on the one…

Reset Washing MachineI texted the tenants to let them know the washer was back on.  One had already walked down and was talking to me while the cycle was finishing.  The tenant was impressed that within an hour after her text, I was already there with a potential fix.

So there you have it.  No expense for this fix.  Just a fairly quick reset and all is well.  The tenants were happy, and impressed.  That experience will go a long way at renewal time, when they have to make a decision on whether to go to a devil they do not know, or the devil they do know.

The machine has been working fine ever since!  Al these rental repairs save money, and get you closer to your goal of financial independence.

Do you consider yourself a handy person?  capable of fixing, or attempting to fix, most items?  Or do you call for help at the slightest issue?





11 Replies to “Disadvantages of Being a Long Distance Landlord”

  1. I have a team of people that I call, since I am now in a different state, but for me, my rental property is in my home town, so I know just about everyone that I could need to fix anything. And the important thing is that I trust all of them.

    1. Having a team, or even people you can rely on, is key. Just being able to inspect work after a contractor does work is a big deal. I have had tenants send pictures and then diagnose the issue, and sometimes the tenant can even do the fix if you tell them what to do.

  2. Very interesting post since I’ve considered buying rental property long distance. There is nothing within a 3 mile radius of me that is remotely affordable. If I decide to buy property farther away, I’d definitely have to have people managing it that I trust.

  3. Google and YouTube has saved my butt (time and money) on more than one occasion as well. What did we do before internet? hahaha

    1. Thank you for the comment!

      Google (and Bing), along with a Smart Phone, are worth their weight in gold. I can remember trying to find obscure addresses using a map book, and having to turn several pages just to find an address. Now we just listen and follow directions.

  4. Most of our rentals are local or managed by my father who lives in our home town in the next state. We do however have one property on the other side of the country. I would not recommend long distance landlording. The cost of hiring people to fix anything/everything that needs fixing is a big problem. Key problem I have is not having any control or visibility to whats going on and having to totally trust a property manager and contractors for everything. Now maybe that wouldn’t be a problem if we had a better property manager but finding a good property manager seems very hard. And finding a set of reliable, affordable and trustworthy contractors on the other side of the country is easier said than done too. Then how do you go about picking tenants? Just trust the PM to find a good tenant? Often they just want to fill the vacancy and may approve the first warm body that shows up. Long distance landlording may work perfectly well if your property has few problems and rents itself. But wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe I’ve just had bad luck but for us long distance landlording has been negative in almost every aspect. WEll I guess thats not 100% true on the plus side we’ve got the property manager to shield us from minor complaints and chase down late rent for us. Of course we have to pay for that and could do the same with local properties if we chose to.

    1. Your comment got caught in my Spam bucket. Sorry.

      When you are a distance away, everything becomes exponentially more difficult. I fell into a sweet spot with my rentals, but I may not have made the purchase it they were further away.

      If I had a PM, I would always pick the tenants based upon their credit score and income. I screen many tenants, and many I get in without ever seeing them. They are moving in from out of state, and I do everything remotely. So far, I have never had a bad experience, and I have had ~six tenants that way now.

  5. I love to fix what I can around my own house, and save some money while doing so, of course. I’m not going to risk making things worse, but it’s interesting to think about. We plan on moving within the next year, and while we could keep our current property and rent it out, we would be too far away for me to do anything with it, and I would have to have a management company handle everything. I’m still weighing the costs and benefits, so we’ll see. Thanks for giving me more to consider!

  6. I am not handy, but Google has just about all the answers. At least you can find out if it will be an expensive repair or something easy without having to call a repairman.

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