1.) Eliminate the nonessentials systems
Eliminate any nonessential mechanical system that is costly to maintain and is likely to fail. This includes water softeners, reverse osmosis systems, those fancy shower heads, wall mount AC units, evap coolers (assuming that you have an central HVAC system), Malibu lighting, security systems, swing sets, and fancy blinds. Every nonessential system is just a liability waiting to steal your time, energy, and money. If you can’t charge more rent because the fixture/system is present, remove it! Few renters notice things like water softeners or Malibu lighting during the inspection. However, if those systems are in place when they move in they’ll expect you to maintain them.
2.) Pools – As a rule, we avoid pools like the plague.
They’re a tremendous liability (accidental drowning), costly to maintain ($85-$100 per month in chemicals and maintenance) and they don’t help the property rent faster or attract a better class of tenant. If you already have a rental with a pool heater consider removing the pool heater, diving boards, and slides. And make certain you meet all city and state codes related to pool barriers.
3.) Away with carpet
Do away with carpet in the home. Sounds crazy, right? You wouldn’t think of living in a home without carpet. Not true for tenants. We find that carpet is generally good for 1-3 tenants (3 years tops). Carpet gets smelly, stains, and rips. Ever wonder why hotel rooms have that commercial grade, short haired, multi-colored carpet? It because people are hard on carpet. At a minimum carpet needs to be cleaned between tenants. That’s another $200-$400 a year in lost cash-flow. Consider replacing all carpet with a natural tile, even in the bedrooms. We’d never had a tenant say no to the property because of tile in the bedrooms. If you can’t bring yourself to do tile in the bedrooms, find a ceramic tile that looks like wood. If you can’t bring yourself to tile period, then consider an engineered wood floor. Ceramic tile is easy to clean and will last 10-20 years. The initial cost isn’t that much more for tile and it will put another $4000 to $8000 in your pocket over a 20 year period.
4.) Landscaping – Do away with high maintenance landscaping.
If you have a choice, install rock vs. grass in the front yard. Grass has to be mowed, another $50-$100 a month. If you have a grass lawn you can try and make the tenant responsible for landscape maintenance. But how many tenants come with a lawnmower and trimmer? Eliminate the hassle and the cost. Install rock (i.e. desert landscaping in Arizona). Treating the rock twice a year with a good pre-emergent will keep the weeds from coming up and will keep the city inspectors, or worse HOA inspectors, off your back. If grass is a must do a cost comparisons with real grass vs. synthetic grass. We did this at one property which needed grass in the back. Breakeven was 2.5 years for synthetic grass.
5.) Roof Repair – The only thing harder on a house than a tenant, is water!
Make sure you have a solid roof on the home. If possible avoid, flat or low pitched roofs, they’re trouble! Repair any unnecessary openings in the roof. Example; many homes built in Arizona in the 1950 thru the 1970 had roof mount units. At some point the home owner has usually upgraded to split system ground mount units. Problem is… they typically only covered the roof hole with a piece of sheet metal. Remove the old access hole and patch the roof correctly. Sky lights are another problem area. They’re a magnet for roof leaks. Again, they don’t make you more money, they only cost you money! Remove them and patch the roof.
6.) Block Access to unauthorized areas
Few tenants that plan on renting for a year need access to the attic space. Nothing up there but a place for them to store junk (which turns into your junk when you get the property back). Again, I’m speaking about the small, non-finished, 150 degrees during the summer, attic space we see here in Arizona. If you have a shed on the property that you don’t want them using, put a lock on it. If you don’t want them messing with the electrical panel, install the type of screws that take a special tool to undo. If you don’t want them tinkering with the AC unit, secure it. If you have an automatic drip watering system that includes a timer clock that you want running on a regular interval, secure it. If you have sewer clean outs, make sure they’re covered and secured. We once had a tenant’s child fill the sewer line with rocks because child was able to remove the clean out cap by hand. $1500 lesson!