In today’s competitive rental market, property managers are wise to keep units modern and fresh to attract prospective leaseholders. Perhaps the most important step in owning and operating investment properties is ensuring buildings are structurally sound. In order for a property to be “rent ready,” it also must be clean and well-maintained on the surface.
After buyers inspect and close on their new purchases, they should prepare rental properties by following these eleven steps.
1. Document Everything
Make sure to document all maintenance and renovations completed, whether by owners or outside contractors. Documenting the time and money spent gives investors proof to withhold security deposits for tenant damages. Additionally, investment property owners should compile a “make ready checklist” to keep businesses organized when prepping properties for renting.
2. Change the Locks
Tenant safety should be of the utmost importance. New landlords are unaware of the criminal histories of past tenants or how many times keys were duplicated. Switch out all exterior locks, and set new garage door codes and alarm passwords. Change mailbox codes and keys in order to protect leaseholder privacy. Count keys for community areas (pools, gyms, etc.) to make sure no sets were accidentally withheld by previous owners or are unaccounted for in the future.
3. Clean the Vents
Rid units of any excessive dust build-up on filters and HVAC ducts, as grime has a tendency to block proper air flow. Reusable air filters are cost-effective but disposable filters are more sanitary and require less maintenance over time.
4. Fix Broken Hardware
Repair any broken knobs, handles and pulls in the kitchens and bathrooms of any outdated units. Not only do broken or improperly fastened fixtures serve no purpose, they tend to make a unit look unkempt which could potentially deter renters searching for new apartments. Fix broken light switch plates and make sure corresponding lamps and ceiling bulbs work correctly. Switch to energy-efficient bulbs; they help lower electric bills and have longer lifespans than regular lights.
5. Examine Appliances
Ensure all dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, stoves and ovens are in working order. Monitor temperatures on refrigerators and freezers; for food safety, refrigerators should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezers should always be kept at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, test ceiling fans and clean dust and debris from blades before showings.
6. Replace Window Screens
Nothing makes a unit look more dated than dirty, spotty windows. Sliding glass doors should also be cleaned thoroughly to allow for more natural light to stream into units. Not only are clouded windows and doors unsightly, dirt can cause jams in tracks and lead to repairs down the road. Frequent, deep cleanings prevent expensive and lengthy repairs.
7. Scrub from Top to Bottom
Some investment proprietors change out carpeting between leases. While costly, it ensures freshness for each new occupant. When new flooring isn’t a possibility, invest in a heavy duty carpet shampoo machine to eliminate prior stains. Any sign of dirt or wear and tear may discourage renters from signing leases. In addition to cleaning carpets, thoroughly scrub baseboards, refrigerators, blinds, wood floors and bathrooms. Many professional cleaning services offer extensive cleaning packages for multi-unit buildings at discounted prices. While do-it-yourself cleanings are more cost-effective, they can also be time-consuming, so consider hiring help as necessary.
8. Inspect Windows
Check windows to make sure they open and close smoothly without sticking or jamming. Landlords shouldn’t have to worry about prying windows shut in the middle of the night when it begins to rain. In addition to checking for proper mechanics, make sure windows are secured in place with the required insulation and trim. Replace broken screens or cracked glass to protect occupant security.
9. Paint the Walls
Fresh paint transforms even the most drab, dated units. Opt for neutral colors so future tenants can visualize their own style in the units, rather than their landlord’s. Incorporating minimalist design schemes into rental properties widens the potential market of renters. Additionally, shades of white, beige, gray and black suggest order and sanitation – two qualities welcomed in previously-occupied apartments.
10. Call an Exterminator
Cockroaches, spiders and other creepy crawlies are giant red flags for prospective renters. Not only is hiring an exterminator necessary for sanitary purposes, but spraying for bugs may eradicate future costly repairs due to pest damage.
11. Landscape the Yard
Draw lessee’s attention with fresh curb appeal and proper landscaping. Eliminate weeds, old flower pots, furniture and any garbage from the property. Dangerously-damaged walkways with cracks and divots should be repaved. Repair any broken gutters and patch small holes around buildings’ exteriors.
These 11 steps are great starting points for first-time rental property owners preparing to open their doors to new renters.