Fix it before it breaks

It never ceases to amaze me how investors can spend hundreds of thousands even millions of dollars when they purchase a property, complete their due diligence, building inspection, LIM reports and do thorough tenant checks and then simply ignore basic maintenance issues thereafter.

I see properties every week where a simple gutter clean or roof inspection would have saved the owner thousands of dollars.  If your gutters and downpipes are not clear of leaves and debris they become clogged and ineffective.  The damage to your property can be huge, including overflowing rainwater around the house whenever it rains, which leads to basement and foundation damage.  The risk of a water-soaked roof or fascia results in wood rot and rusting iron.  Eventually your gutters become so heavy that they will literally separate from the roof, requiring replacement.

This winter’s atrocious weather conditions have proved very expensive for many investors who have failed to carry out basic maintenance causing damage to properties, sometimes major damage and many have also suffered the misfortune of having an inadequate insurance cover.  Or they find themselves embroiled in a battle with an insurance company that takes the high ground on negligence by the owner.   More often than not the excess on their claim is twice the amount needed to provide total annual maintenance for the property involved.

The one claim that has stood out for me was a two bedroom block and weatherboard unit on the North Shore of Auckland where the owners had had water issues in the lower level floors prior to my involvement and had engaged a “builder friend” to make repairs that had clearly not worked.

The dampness on the inside of the property was one meter high in places when I visited site and the concrete block base was crumbling like Weetbix.  The insurance company declined the claim as the problem had been happening for over two years and the owners had been aware of it. Because the unit was tenanted the owners felt they did not need to act on the issue.

Then the tenant left and the flat was unlettable.  Quotes to repair the problem were substantial and the owners had no way of borrowing the money for the repairs.  No rent, huge repair bill and insurance that was not accepting the claim.  An investor’s nightmare.  Time and again I see landlords not acting on a “potentially “serious maintenance issue either because they don’t understand the consequences or it’s not financially viable or they are too busy. The end result is usually the same.

The same maintenance that you undertake for your own home is what you should carry out on your investment properties.  If you use a property manager, make sure he or she understands the importance of regular maintenance and is proactive when it comes to sorting these issues out.  Ignorance is not bliss and as most of us will hold our properties for the foreseeable future you need to future-proof your investments.  There is a great independent website called Consumer Build with an excellent link to property maintenance on it.  There is a free downloadable form on the site that takes you through the maintenance that your property will require, when it will need attending to and more importantly, whether you should tackle those jobs yourself or engage a professional.

If you cannot afford to carry out regular maintenance on your properties sell them now, as you are simply eroding the value of your property daily.

This is the time of year for water blasting properties, cleaning gutters, checking roofs, booking the chimney sweep and keeping your tenants happy and your properties as viable investments for the future.

Never underestimate the value good maintenance has on prospective tenants including painting the fence, the letterbox, tidying gardens and lawns.  Also don’t expect a prospective tenant not to notice the leaky tap in the kitchen or the mould or condensation in the bathroom, or the broken window at the back of the house.  There are plenty of well maintained rental properties available in this market so you can bet they won’t choose your property unless you drop your rent (and fix all the issues).

On a final note, do you know what state your properties are in?  If you don’t, then find out soon?  For those of you who simply want a professional to guide you through your needs you can acquire a maintenance inspection report on your property from a licensed house inspection company, which will details what maintenance issues your properties have and when you need to carry out repairs.

So the moral of the story is ….fix it before it breaks.

Tip
Now is the perfect time of year for completing maintenance