All landlords are constantly looking for ways to increase their bottom line. Increased cash flow gives them the ability to do a multitude of things with the surplus. As great as saving money is, you need to know where to draw the line.
There are a handful of home improvement projects that almost any landlord can do such as mowing the lawn, painting or repairing a clogged toilet. However, once you get into specific niche repairs you open up a can of worms. Even if you are handy or have experience with the niche, it is not the same as doing it yourself. What typically happens is that you put a band-aid on the problem instead of getting to the root of the issue. In fact, you usually end up paying more for someone to fix any work you did. Saving money and watching the bottom line are essential but you need to know your limitations. Here are five property tasks you are better off outsourcing.
- Electrical. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t attempt to do anything that could potentially burn your property down. Just like there is no such thing as minor surgery, there is no such thing as minor electrical work. One false step or mix up can cause legitimate potential major problems. Even if you have some background working with electrical it doesn’t make you an expert. As they say, a little bit of knowledge on a subject can often be the worst thing for you. For the relatively minor cost of hiring a licensed electrician it is worth every penny knowing you don’t have to worry about the property at night. There are plenty of things with the property you can do to save money and cut corners, but electrical items shouldn’t be one of them.
- Roofing. There is a difference between getting on a ladder to clean the gutters and getting on the roof to repair some shingles. Admittedly, it can be a pain in the fall to go to the property, lug around the ladder and clean the gutters. As much of a pain and nuisance as this can be, it is a relatively simple process. Once you start talking about going on the roof it is a different ballgame. Even if you are comfortable with heights and walking on the roof isn’t a problem, there is a big difference with working on it. You need to be able to carry heavy bags on shingles on the ladder and then perform whatever task needs to be done. Additionally, the roof is too big of a fix not to outsource. Any inspector or potential home buyer will notice shoddy work with the roof. If they see lazy or unprofessional work on the roof it leads them to think there are other issues with the house that are done in the same manner. Not only for your safety but for the bottom line of the house, you need to hire a professional roofer for your property.
- Chimney cleaning. A fireplace is a great amenity in any property. In some rentals it can be one of the items that attracts interest and helps fill vacancies. Like most other things in a rental property, your tenant will not take care of things the same way a homeowner would. This isn’t to say they will trash the fireplace, but they certainly won’t clean and maintain it the same way you would as the owner. Every winter you should have the fireplace professionally cleaned. A professional cleaning is not the same as vacuuming up the remnants of last year’s soot and debris. You may think you are cleaning the fireplace because it looks nice from the living room. However, with every fire there are particles and even chemicals that attach to the flue. Unless you stick your head up the fireplace, you can’t get a gauge just how clogged and dirty it may be. You don’t want to have your tenants lighting fires unless you know the flue, and fireplace, are professionally cleaned.
- Drywall. Anyone can repair a patch or hole in a wall, right? While most people probably could it doesn’t mean it will look good. There is a definite skill in repairing nicks in the wall to look smooth and clean. A blemish in the living room wall will stick out like a sore thumb. Additionally, you would be shocked at just how much work goes into replacing even one piece of sheetrock. Not only are the pieces heavy, they can create quite a mess. There will be dust and debris everywhere and if you are not careful you can spread it all over the property.
- Plumbing/sewer. Minor plumbing repairs like unclogging a toilet is something every landlord should have in their tool belt. However, like everything else on this list you need to know where to draw the line. If you are not careful you can create bigger, more expensive, problems. A slow drip in a sink or a running toilet can literally add hundreds to the water bill. Fixing one thing may lead to additional problems. If there are pipes that need to be cut or fixed in the basement this should be an automatic call to a plumber. Even if it is just a patch job, you don’t want to do it wrong and get a call from your tenant in the middle of the night telling you the basement is flooding.
As a landlord there are a handful of items that you should expect to pay for. Know what you can do and understand when you should pay to have things done right.