5 hardscaping features that attract renters

Written by Megan Wild on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, hardscaping, landlord, landscaping, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, Step 4 - Renovate & Decorate

If you’re having trouble attracting renters to your investment property, you might have a curb appeal problem.

Landlords typically compete for renters who might also be looking at condos and upscale apartment buildings that have professional landscapers. Renters want beautiful outdoor spaces that create a place to escape after a long day.

Consider adding some attractive hardscaping, the hard, permanent elements in your landscaping, such as concrete walkways, stone patios, or small ponds.

Why invest in hardscaping?

Property managers point out that an unkempt yard can attract less-than-ideal renters. An ugly outward appearance can also make it difficult to find renters for a property.

Related: Top 10 amenities renters can’t resist

Keep it as low maintenance as possible

The key to adding hardscaping to a rental property is to choose elements that require as little maintenance as possible. A small concrete bench with a clay flowerpot to the side filled with seasonal flowers is a nice touch, for example. You can easily and inexpensively swap out any plants that don’t do well or wither.

But you might want or need to do more than just putting out a nice bench. Whatever you choose to do, have a maintenance plan that either your tenants will be responsible for or that you will take care of, typically for a fee.

Find out which specific hardscaping elements are more attractive to renters and can even help you get higher rent for a property.

1. Decks and patios

Having a space of your own to entertain friends or relax on the weekends is very attractive, especially to busy working professionals. If your rental property features a small yard, add a deck or concrete patio to enhance the space and make it more usable. Another option is to install a patio made of pavers, which is often less expensive. These hard elements will last for many years, and the return on investment is about 70%, depending on the materials you use.

2. Retaining walls

Since you won’t be present at a rental property to assess any damage from rain or other natural elements, adding in features such as a retaining wall can protect your investment and add visual beauty to your yard. Retaining walls are made of a variety of materials. You can use stones, bricks, wood beams, or stamped concrete. Allow some space to add softscape materials for a pop of color from flowers or plants.

3. Plants

There should be a pleasing visual aesthetic between hardscape and softscape elements. A landscape that has an imbalance of mostly hardscape elements can look harsh and uninviting, and too many plants often create an unkempt look. As you create a hard and soft picture with a variety of elements, make sure there is adequate drainage between the hardscape and the softscape elements. A beautiful design that floods every time it rains isn’t attractive for long and could damage your property.

Related: 6 yard hacks to make your property more attractive

4. Water features

Adding a fountain creates a relaxing element to your landscaping. It can help attract renters because it makes your rental property unique. Water hardscaping can include fountains, which is probably the easiest and least expensive water feature to add to a rental property. However, it can also include a small pond. Whatever water feature you decide to add to your property, make sure it is clean, free from algae, and well maintained.

5. Swimming pool

Whether a swimming pool is the right choice for your rental property depends on where in the country your property is located. There are some liabilities with a swimming pool, so keep in mind increased insurance costs before purchasing a property with a pool or installing one. 

However, a swimming pool may be an attractive way to attract renters who are willing to pay more to have additional amenities. The key is to weigh the payoffs against the costs and risks, and then decide whether a pool will attract enough renters to make it a worthwhile investment.

Related: 6 considerations when renting out a house with a pool

A landlord’s guide to swimming pool maintenance and liability

When a potential tenant pulls up to your rental property, they should immediately feel at home. Hardscaping affords the opportunity to make an excellent first impression. It can also give you a leg up on other rentals in the area. 

How to find a contractor you can trust

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in contractor, edited, For Landlords, landlord, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

Planning a large remodel? Needing someone to make an emergency repair? Looking to complete the support team for your rental business? If so, you’ll have many contractor options, but choose wisely.

Hiring someone who has few skills, manages time poorly, or is dishonest wears on your time and resources.

A trustworthy contractor usually has a network of tradespeople who can step in when the need arises. Find the right person and you may never have to search for qualified maintenance support again.

Related: How to build a little black book of contractors

1. Look for a trustworthy contractor

You can always find a contractor, but your goal is to find a good, reliable contractor you can trust. Here are some ways:

Through people you know

The No. 1 place to start searching for a trusted contractor is among your friends. Many of the best contractors stopped advertising long ago. They rely on satisfied customers to do their advertising for them. If you’re looking for someone to complete a particular task, find friends who have had that type of work done and ask for recommendations.

Neighborhood review websites

Join a neighborhood discussion group. When you ask for recommendations on sites such as Nextdoor.com, you usually get several leads, phone numbers and all. Yelp is another resource, especially for contractors who specialize in large-scale projects.

Online classified services (Craigslist)

Search the Services tab for your area, or post a job opening. If you post, be prepared to screen responses carefully because scammers are a fact of life in the world of online classifieds. Accept email replies only, ask for contact information, and initiate further contact yourself.

Local hardware and building supply centers

Here, you’re likely to find plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. Ask the customer service representative for business cards. They probably have several on file.

Related: 8 real estate professionals a landlord can’t live without

2. Ask questions…then more questions

Getting in touch with a pro who can handle your job is just the first step. You need to know more before you sign on the dotted line, especially if you’re contracting a big job. A trusted contractor can give you satisfying answers to the following questions:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Have you done this kind of work before and how often?
  • Do you have references?

The last question is the most important one. A reference should include contact information so you can follow up. When you call the reference, you’ll want to know the following information:

  • Did the contractor do the work in a complete and timely manner?
  • Was the contractor well organized?
  • Was the contractor easy to work with?
  • Did personal problems ever interfere with the work?
  • Did the contractor charge a fair price for the work? Were there “extra charges”?
  • Would the person ever hire this contractor again?

Related: 4 tips for first time landlords

3. Schedule a meeting

In the end, trust your gut feeling about a person you’re considering working with. Schedule a face-to-face meeting before you sign anything. During the meeting, you’ll want to go over details of the job, but let the conversation wander a bit to get an idea of the contractor’s attitude to work. You might ask such questions as:

  • How long have you been doing this kind of work?
  • Why did you start doing it?
  • What was your favorite (most troublesome) project?

Touching on appropriate personal issues—such as family—and trivialities—such as favorite movies—might reveal some shared interests, which is a good sign. A trusted contractor, like a friend, is someone with whom you share a certain commonality and who speaks your language.

4. Remember, trust is a two-way street

It isn’t a good idea to micromanage a pro, but it is a good idea to stay in touch and communicate any concerns that arise. Addressing issues such as work standards or punctuality at the outset prevents small matters from turning into bigger problems later on.

If you have an emergency, you need a competent contractor. If you want to create an effective maintenance network for your rental, you need a trustworthy one. In any long-term relationship, even with a contractor, trust works both ways. Be honest, communicative, and reliable, and that’s probably what you’ll get in return.

Related: 8 traits of an ethical landlord

Cleaning and repair rules when you move out

Written by Kathy Adams on . Posted in edited, For Renters, Maintenance & Renovations, Move-in/Move-out, move-out, paid, Security Deposits, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationThe last thing you probably feel like doing as you move out of a rental is cleaning the place. Like it or not, though, you’re expected to leave it just as nice as it was when you moved in.

If you leave a dirty place for your landlord, they can hold back the cost to clean up from your security deposit. After all, it is your mess. But the security deposit is your money. You want as much of it back as possible, right? So just what are your responsibilities?

Related: How to get your security deposit back

Read your lease

Besides typical cleanup duties such as washing the floor or vacuuming the carpet, the landlord expects you to do a thorough job of getting that rental back into shape. Move-out expectations vary, so check your rental agreement or lease to see what the landlord wants you to do.

Common cleanup duties

Common cleaning requests include wiping down baseboards, doorknobs, and light switches; dusting ceiling fixtures; washing the windows; and thoroughly cleaning appliances. Some landlords may expect a professional carpet cleaning as well. It’s definitely worth your time to read every move-out detail in your agreement, as some landlords levy extra fees if you don’t take care of an item on the list or if you don’t do it within the specified time frame.

Repair damages

Even minor damage to the rental must be repaired before you hand over the keys. A couple of nail holes may not seem like much to you, but if you don’t repair them, the landlord has to. That means they can bill you in the form of a deduction from your security deposit. Here’s a checklist of things to do:

  • Patch nail and tack holes with a small amount of spackle.
  • Erase scuff marks on walls and floors with a melamine foam eraser, aka a Magic Eraser.
  • Rub a walnut over scratches in wood floors, or fill them in with a wood marker that matches the floor color.
  • Replace anything you may have temporarily removed, such as cabinet hardware you swapped out for something that suits your own style.
  • Go through each room and closet, replacing any light bulbs that no longer illuminate.

Cleaning not your thing? Hire someone

If you choose not to clean and repair everything on the move-out list, there’s still hope. Hire a cleaning company to tackle your checklist. Just make sure you’re available to inspect the space afterwards to make sure they took care of everything. The same goes for repairs. If you broke a handrail off in a stairwell, for instance, and don’t have time to repair it, hire a handyman or contractor to take care of the problem.

Tell your landlord about any damages

Inform the landlord of specific items you can’t fix on your own, such as a broken handrail. Your landlord may ask to see the damage and assess whether they can repair it easily. If so, you may be off the hook. If not, expect a repair bill.

Informing the landlord of potential damage or cleaning concerns is always better than just skipping out and leaving the work for your landlord. If you completely bail on your responsibilities, you’ll probably not get some—or all—your security deposit back.

You might be charged extra for damages

If the damage is beyond minimal, such as missing floor tiles, mold on the shower surround, or massive stains on the carpet, the landlord could charge you more than the amount of your deposit. For instance, if your security deposit is $900 and it will cost $1,200 to repair everything in your unit, you may owe $300 to cover the difference.

Rules for holding back a security deposit

Whenever a landlord withholds any money from your security deposit (including charging you extra), you are entitled to a detailed breakdown of charges. Check your state laws to ensure the charges are legitimate. Common sense also applies; for instance, a $250 charge to fill in three small nail holes is extreme and likely would not hold up in court.

Related: What to do if your landlord wrongfully kept your security deposit

All in all, taking care of a minor aggravation—cleaning your old place—is well worth your time. Besides, you agree to do it when you sign your rental contract. Once you’ve refreshed your old abode, you’ll get your deposit money back, as well as peace of mind, knowing you’re leaving on good terms with your former landlord. On to a fresh start!

Spring maintenance checklist for landlords

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, rental maintenance, spring, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationWhen March goes out like a lamb, it’s time for landlords and tenants to look at property matters that developed during winter’s deep freeze.

Spring maintenance items that affect habitability are most important, but it’s also the best time to address small defects that could turn into big ones, if they’re left unaddressed. Summer is coming, the best season to make repairs.

Warming temperatures create a good opportunity for landlords and property managers to inspect rental units and make a plan for spring maintenance. Tenants could handle some of the maintenance—especially in the yard or garden—but leaks, burst pipes, and other problems that affect habitability most likely need professional attention.

Related: 8 home repair tasks every landlord should learn how to do

Exterior inspection

Walk around the property to see the extent of winter damage. On this walk, try to do the following:

  • Check the roof and siding for deterioration. You don’t have to get on a ladder to see roof damage. Missing or broken shingles are usually visible from the ground.
  • Look for gutter leaks. Ice and snow are hard on gutters, and any leak you see should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent damage to the siding or erosion around the foundation.
  • Test the outdoor faucets. If water froze in the pipes, they may leak.
  • Inspect the walkways and driveway for cracks. This could happen from earth movements during freezing weather. These cracks need to be repaired or water will seep through them and cause further erosion.
  • Note any rot. Look on wood siding, trim, fences, or decking. A small amount of rot isn’t an urgent problem, but if the rot is extensive, now is the time to deal with it.
  • Pay attention to the condition of the lawn, garden, and surrounding foliage. Spring is the best time to prune back any branches that threaten to block windows or overhang the roof later in the summer.

Related: How to easily track maintenance requests and repairs

Interior inspection

If winter weather has caused any interior damage, tenants will probably know about it, but they might not let you know. It’s a good idea for a landlord or property manager to do a quick walkthrough to check a few things:

  • Assess the damage caused by roof or siding leaks. This could range from soggy drywall and mold to warped flooring or compromised electrical fixtures.
  • Note the condition of the floors and carpet. People tend to track salt-laden snow through the house on cold winter days.
  • Turn on the air conditioners. You want to make sure they work. Now is a good time to replace the filters.
  • Check for pests. Look for termites, cockroaches, and rodents. Critters tend to hunker down in the walls during winter, and they’ll still be there when spring comes.

Related: Ask Lucas 030: How do you perform an annual property inspection?

Handling spring maintenance

When it comes to repairs that affect habitability, such as major leaks and resultant water damage, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to do them or hire someone to do them.

The responsibility isn’t as clear-cut when it comes to defects that only affect the tenant’s enjoyment of the property. Peeling paint and displaced walkway pavers may be unsightly, for example, but they don’t stop life from going on. It may make sense to give tenants the option to make some of these repairs themselves. To avoid confusion over the issue of who’s going to pay, include a lease clause or amendment that covers it.

Lawn and garden maintenance is one area that the lease should cover. Many tenants like landscaping and may even consider a green light to do it themselves a perk of living on the property. But other tenants prefer this job be done for them. Landlords might consider charging more per month if they need to provide landscaping services.

General indoor cleaning is another lease topic for areas such as hardwood floors (that can suffer damage from salt and water), an unfinished basement, and the fireplace or wood stove. Whether it’s spring maintenance or year-round maintenance, it helps to clarify responsibilities in writing.

Related: Should a tenant be paid for doing yard work?

Get your game on

Once you’ve made your game plan, itemize the repairs you need to make with some urgency, and take care of those as soon as possible. Leave the others for later, but keep the list as a reminder. Priorities tend to change as the weather warms up and summer arrives, but winter will come again, and problems you don’t handle this year will be there next year. And they’ll be that much bigger.

 

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