9 tips for getting your property ready to rent

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in appliances, edited, For Landlords, heating and cooling, landlord, Maintenance & Renovations, move-in, Move-in/Move-out, paid, painting, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

Things to do when prepping a rentalA turnover gives you a little time to spruce up a rental in a way you can’t while it’s occupied.

You may not need to do a major cleanup or repair, but you can take care of some of the small but important details that make a rental attractive to quality tenants and ready to rent. You should always make repairs necessary to satisfy habitability requirements, but don’t stop there.

Here are 9 tips for getting your property ready to rent.

4 essential and inexpensive tasks

Once your rental is empty and disrupting tenants is not an issue, seize the opportunity by completing tasks that affect habitability, such as checking the smoke alarms and making sure all the electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures work and are safe. While you’re at it, pay attention to the following four tasks:

1. Test and service appliances

  • Turn on the oven to verify that the temperature on the dial and that recorded by a thermometer inside are the same.
  • Check the water heater pilot to make sure it’s steady and blue.
  • Wash a load in the washing machine and dry it in the dryer.
  • Clean out the dryer vents.
  • Perform any repairs that your tests indicate are needed.

Related: How to test appliances before a tenant moves in

2. Clean and deodorize

The entire unit needs cleaning after a lengthy tenancy, but especially the kitchen and bathrooms.

  • Grease buildup in the kitchen may call for a strong detergent, such as TSP, for removal.
  • Use liberal amounts of disinfecting cleaner in the bathroom.

Also clean the carpets. Unless the tenants who just moved out were particularly conscientious, they will probably need shampooing.

Related: How clean does my rental need to be when I move out?

3. Search for and eradicate mold

Look for mold in the following places:

  • Dark corners of the laundry room
  • Bathroom tiles and fixtures
  • Closets

Scrub mold with soap and water, but don’t try to scrub mold out of drywall. Unless the mold is clearly only growing on the surface paint, the only way to eradicate it is to replace the affected drywall.

Related: Is a Landlord Always Responsible for Mold Remediation?

4. Re-key or change the locks

It’s a good idea to change locks between tenants. If you can’t re-key the existing locks on the entry doors, replace them. This might be a good time to install keypunch locks that you can simply reprogram during the next turnover.

Related: 4 Considerations When Choosing Locks for Your Rental Properties

5 important jobs that may cost a bit

If you’re prepared to devote a modest sum—in the neighborhood of  $1,000—toward getting your unit ready to rent, the following items should be high on your to-do list so that you can attract quality tenants who’ll pay top dollar.

5. Paint the walls

Repainting a rental unit before occupancy is a good idea, but it isn’t something you always have to do to get a unit ready to rent. However, painting freshens up the space in a way that cleaning can’t. Professional painting costs from $400 to $700 per room, but you can reduce this cost by more than half by doing the work yourself.

Related: Save money by learning to paint

6. Spruce up the landscaping

If you’re renting a detached unit, pay some attention to the lawn, garden, and entryway.

  • Trim back foliage that covers windows or hangs over the roof
  • Edge the walkways
  • Plant a few decorative plants

You might even consider paying a contractor $100 to $150 to paint the front door, which Realtors advise is the easiest and most effective way to upgrade the exterior of a home.

Related: 5 hardscaping features that attract renters

7. Clean or replace curtains and window screens, and wash the windows

  • Take the curtains down, and put them in the washing machine or have them dry cleaned.
  • Remove the window screens, and wash them or replace them if they are torn or the frames are bent.
  • Consider having the windows professionally cleaned to bring light into the house.

8. Service the central air system

A vacancy provides a golden opportunity to bring in a technician to do a furnace and cooling system tune-up. It will include checking the seals in the compressor and blower, replacing the filters, and inspecting for small other small problems that could turn into big ones at some inopportune moment when an emergency repair is the last thing you need.

Related: Is My Landlord Required to Provide Heat and Air Conditioning?

9. Restore hardwood floors

A floor restoration, unlike a refinish, doesn’t involve sanding off the finish. Instead, you merely scuff up the finish with a floor buffer and apply a refresher coat. It costs a fraction of what refinishing costs and can make a floor in good shape—but dulled by years of traffic—look new again.

Don’t be afraid to spend money to make a unit ready to rent

The amount of time and money you have to invest in getting a unit ready to rent depends on the rental market and the condition of the unit. In a community with rental shortages, you may not have to invest much money or time at all. Things are different in a competitive market, but don’t worry if you need to make a small investment.

By working to attract renters, you’ll reduce downtime and future maintenance costs, thus recouping your investment and keeping your books in the black.

How to test appliances before a tenant moves in

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in appliances, edited, For Landlords, landlord, Maintenance & Renovations, move-in, paid

Landlords don’t have to supply appliances, but most do. After all, appliances make rentals more attractive.

If you furnish appliances, you’ll want to make sure they’re in good working order. You probably also want tenants to be able to use them to make their lives more comfortable and enjoyable.

Appliances don’t last forever, so when you’re getting ready to welcome a new tenant, test appliances to make sure they’ll last. Like people, appliances get sick, and when they do, they display recognizable symptoms. Looking for these symptoms when you test appliances usually doesn’t require any tools.

Related:

4 basic amenities that attract quality tenants

How long should appliances last?

The dryer

The dryer is the appliance that can cause the worst problems because it can overheat and start a fire. According to FEMA, dryers cause 2,900 fires in the U.S annually. After making sure the vent and lint trap are clean, dry a load of clothing you’ve just run through the washing machine and conduct these simple tests:

  • Turn the dial to manual and make sure the dryer starts. Check for excessive vibrations or squeaks, which could mean the drum belt is loose.
  • Set the timer to 60 minutes or the drying cycle to “Normal,” time how long it takes for the dryer to shut off. It will be 60 minutes if the manual timer is working. The timing is variable for an electronic dryer, but it should be close to 60 minutes.
  • Take out the clothes and feel how dry they are. If they still feel wet, the vent line could need a deeper cleaning. If you’re sure the vent is clean, it’s time to call a pro to check the burner or heating element on the dryer.

The washing machine

Like dryers, washing machines often malfunction because something in the outlet hose is blocked. In this case, the outlet is inside the machine, and you may have to have it professionally removed. But first, you need to know it’s there.

  • Do a load of wash and make sure the machine drains properly.
  • This test might also reveal strange sounds that could indicate a loose belt or a problem with the motor.
  • Doing a load of wash also gives you an opportunity to test the controls. If you hear any sounds, the machine vibrates excessively, or the controls don’t work, call a service pro. Most problems are fixable.

The refrigerator

Refrigerators also have moving parts, but they may make noise when they malfunction, and since a refrigerator is always on, you can probably hear it. The sounds are a warning to call a repair pro or get a new fridge. The gaskets, fan, and refrigeration system itself are also important.

  • Open and close the doors to check the gasket seal. You should feel a slight pull on the door when it’s almost closed. Replace gaskets that are torn.
  • Put a thermometer inside the fridge and turn the control to mid-range. Come back in 12 hours and check the temperature. It should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If it isn’t, turn the control to cold and check again in another 12 hours. Suspect a problem with the refrigerant if the temperature doesn’t reach 40 F.
  • Look for water on the ground or in the refrigerator compartment. It can indicate problems with the refrigerant or the controls.

The water heater

  • Turn on the hot water at every faucet and check the temperature.
  • Take a careful look at the color of the water. Cooler-than-expected water or a yellow or brownish tinge point to sediment and rust in the water heater.
  • Get it flushed before tenants move in to avoid water quality problems and premature water heater failure.

Related: The ultimate guide to “normal wear and tear”

The kitchen stove

The kitchen stove is probably the easiest to test.

  • Turn on each burner or heating element in turn and make sure it provides maximum flame or glow when the control is turned up all the way.
  • Set the oven to cooking temperature–about 400 degrees—and place an oven thermometer inside. Wait for it to reach the target temperature.

The other stove features are optional. They don’t have to work as long as you disclose that fact to the tenants.

Look for gas leaks

As you test appliances, be sure to listen for leaks coming from those that use gas. It’s a good idea to do a bubble test on each gas connection.

  • Make a 50-50 solution of dish soap and water and spray some on each connection.
  • If you see bubbles on any connection, tighten the connection.
  • If you can’t stop the bubbles, get a licensed gas technician to service the connection.

Check the lights, plugs, and smoke detectors

An outlet tester will come in handy. Plug it into each outlet to check for power.

  • Test GFCI outlets by pressing the bottom button on each one and verifying that the power goes off, and then press the reset button on the top to make sure the tester lights up again.
  • Turn on each of the lights to check for burnt-out bulbs.
  • Press the test button on each of the smoke detectors to make sure the alarm sounds.

Related: The long and short of smoke alarms

Give yourself time

As you test appliances, you may find problems that require professional repair. Give yourself time to make these repairs by conducting the tests at least a week before occupancy. That way, everything will be shipshape when tenants move in, and if anything goes wrong, it won’t be your fault.

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