Texts (who makes phone calls anymore?) from tenants are rarely a good thing. Since I own 3 rentals that I self-manage, and manage an additional 3 properties for clients, I get my fair share of texts from tenants. When that name pops up on my phone, I immediately wonder “How bad is this going to be?” That’s not because I don’t like to do work, or don’t want to be notified when there’s an issue. I like to plan things out as far in advance as possible, within reason. Obviously tenant issues are unplanned, so I’m immediately curious as to what the text message is about to disclose, and what it means for my plans immediately going forward. I got one such text this past Friday afternoon, stating that the washing machine was full of water but not draining. The tenant said the city was doing some work on the street out front, and wondered if maybe that had something to do with it. I initially thought she could be right; A couple weeks ago the city sent a notice saying they were replacing the sewer lines as part of a neighborhood upgrade within the next couple of months. Seems plausible if they were out front working in the street, it could be the sewer line replacement, which could of course cause a temporary backup in the line into the house. But the more information I got (Are the toilet and sinks all draining? “yes”; Does the washer turn on at all? “no”), the more I felt it was probably unrelated. Even though I am not an appliance repairman, I knew there were certain things I could check myself before calling in my appliance guy (you should have an appliance guy, a plumbing guy, an electrician, and HCAV guy (or gal) on speed dial, more on that in a later post). Since I didn’t feel it was beneficial to have the tenant try these tests and report back to me, I decided to stop over and do a quick inspection, as well as to get the washer’s model and serial number in case I needed a part or to give to a repairman. First I checked if the outlet had power; if it was on a GFI circuit, or if the breaker was tripped, that would be an easy fix. There was power to the outlet. This would not be an easy fix. I turned the knob on the unit, nothing but the metal clicks. No motor turning, nothing. The washer drum was full of water, so once I got the model # (it was a Whirlpool, mfg. in 2003) I googled the symptoms. It’s amazing how many people had had your exact same problem, and documented the outcome for you. It turns out the likely issue was either a defective lid switch or bad motor, so it was time to call my appliance guy, Jeremy. He was able to come out the next day, advised me that it was a bad switch, the washer was otherwise in good condition, and it would be $140 to repair. I could try to fix it myself, buy a new (used) washer instead of sinking $$ into this one, or just pay and have it repaired.I chose option 3, mainly because the tenant had been unable to use the washer for several days by now, and options 1 and 2 would take additional time. $140 was worth it to get her happy, and save me time and the legwork for the alternatives. Within an hour the repair was done, and all I had to do was leave the key in a lockbox on the front railing for Jeremy. It really is good to have solid repairmen/contractors!
While a main goal of being a landlord should be to reduce vacancies, turnover in a rental property can be a good thing. How, you ask, is not making money via a rental payment a good thing? Well…
1. It allows you to inspect the property inside and out. Although you should always have routine inspections (I recommend once a quarter on average, maybe more for new tenants or if you suspect there could be issues), an empty house allows you to really go top to bottom. Tenants won’t always be eager to tell you they broke something, or even care if a sink faucet is always dripping. Things I find helpful in identifying any issues include flushing the toilets to make sure they don’t run; run the dishwasher, washer and dryer to ensure they all function and don’t leak; run the a/c or heat depending on time of the year to ensure they work properly; change out any light bulbs; do any general maintenance that you have been putting off. Things like trimming bushes, or hammering in any loose deck boards.
2. Take pictures of the house if you make any updates or simply don’t have them from your prior listing. Especially if you only had a few shots, since the more hi resolution pics you have in your listing the better. If a prospective renter sees grainy, random photos where they can’t really tell if the counters are granite or Formica, they will just click onto the next listing. Make filling vacancies as easy on yourself as possible. High quality pictures matter.
3. You have the opportunity to make any updates, big or small. If you have carpet in any of the rooms, maybe it’s the perfect time to replace it. I have had to get the porcelain finish on a metal bathtub reglazed, something that takes an entire day (and costs around $475 by the way). But kitchens and bathrooms are usually selling points for a rental, and no one wants to shower in a flaking tub.
Welcome to “Landlord on the Side,” a new blog all about my journey as a landlord and residential property manager “on the side.” What does “on the side” mean? Well, I have a 9-5 day job! My foray into landlording began as a way to add supplemental income to my wife any my finances. My goal with the blog is to tell all about my real-life experiences, successes, failures, and basically all the trails and tribulations of learning on the job, how to be a Landlord.
First, a little about myself: I’m 36, married, with one daughter who is not quite 2 years old. We live in Baltimore, Maryland and currently own 3 rental houses in the area that we self-manage. I also manage 3 additional properties for friends, also in the city. The blog posts will go into not only the current, real-time issues that pop up with all 6 of these rentals, but also past experiences.
So again, welcome, and I hope you enjoy the journey!