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Property Check Up

It’s the perfect time of year to run a full check-up on your property portfolio, and Caleb Pearson has 10 tips for getting your property in top shape.

By: Caleb Pearson

30 November 2020

It doesn’t take long for a year to roll around, and we are back into longer days and time at the beach. But it’s also a great time to schedule a review of your rental investments – so that they too are being cared for and ready for the next four seasons.

Different properties require different levels of care and investment, but to neglect or be oblivious to this can create bigger issues down the track. A routine maintenance item may end up becoming a complete replacement. A simple fix now may require a much greater investment later. While this doesn’t have to be costly, it is prudent to put aside time and money each year to check and maintain your property to ensure its longevity and that it meets Healthy Homes requirements.

Not only will this ensure you attract and retain quality tenants, it may also save you money in the long term. It’s important to be a good caretaker of your assets and provide good environments for tenants to enjoy.

Here are my favourite ways to maintain and freshen up your property for summer, and make a plan for the coming year.

1 Check Up

If you or your property manager haven’t completed this recently, you should start with a full inspection of your property. Just as you would visit a doctor for a check-up, it’s good to give your property a check-up to find out which areas are healthy and which are not. It will highlight areas of neglect which need some care to avoid deterioration and, if something’s broken, it enables you to take immediate action to set it right.

Regular inspections are the best way to keep on top of this and avoid surprises. Either you or your property manager should keep a log of maintenance items required and records of what has been completed. It is also worth having a discussion with your tenants to understand if they have identified any areas of concern.

2 Make A Plan

With an inspection complete, you will end up with a list of repairs and maintenance items to deal with. If you haven’t done this before, don’t get overwhelmed if you end up with a long list in front of you. Now is the time to make a quick plan to address these items. Go through your list and categorize based on urgency, complexity, as well as the investment required. Not everything is urgent and requires action this year, and some projects may not be immediately achievable depending on the cost.

Projects such as an exterior house repaint or roof replacement require some significant investment. This scale of project is better planned well in advance to make sure you have sufficient funds. Create a checklist with target dates to action for yourself as a reminder to manage immediate, annual and long-term projects.

3 Pay Attention To The Top

You need to maintain the roof of your property to keep it healthy and ensure its longevity. Roofing materials are designed to last, but they won’t last forever. If there is loose roofing or flashings, rust, exposed areas, deteriorating silicone, don’t wait – get it fixed immediately. A roof leak can be very costly.

Pay attention to the spouting too. Clear out any leaves and blockages to make sure that the spouting drains freely. If there are damaged areas or incorrect falls, replace your spouting to fix the problems. Luckily, replacing spouting is reasonably straightforward.

4 Regular Repairs

In most cases, there will be fittings and appliances within your rental property that require an annual or regular service. Like servicing your car, ignore these and it may keep working fine in the short term, but neglect will catch up on you and something is bound to break. If you don’t already have a comprehensive maintenance plan, now is a great time to think about carrying out the following activities.

• Chimneys need an annual sweep and inspection.

• Check and test smoke alarms.

• Heat pumps and ventilation systems will have filters that can be checked, replaced, or cleaned to ensure they run correctly and efficiently.

• If your property is recently built and still has warranties, these often have regular maintenance requirements to maintain warranties.

• Exterior house wash to remove dirt, moss, and mildew. It’s good to attend to driveways, decks, and other services while you are at this.

• If you have water tanks, sumps, or stormwater facilities on your property, check and maintain these. You may even have a stormwater maintenance covenant on your title you are unaware of.

• Wasps or ant problems? Regular pest maintenance can keep these under control.

5 Sweat The Small Stuff

It’s easy to overlook the small repairs because, well, they are small. They often don’t get attended to as they can seem like too much effort. If that’s the case, identify several items to make the most of a repair visit, or add them to other tasks to reduce the number of visits needed. These are often easy wins and can make a big difference to the tenant living on your property.

This list can be lengthy but common items include dripping hose taps, loose handles, fence palings fallen off, rust or corrosion appearing, loose fittings, old silicone, and gaps in window putty.

6 Ac And Air Flow

Many older homes are far from the current design and living standards for a new home. And the introduction of the Healthy Homes standards has brought in mandatory requirements for landlords to provide warmer, dryer, and healthier homes. Whilst air conditioning is not a requirement, if you are reviewing the heating, consider a heat pump to provide the ability to cool a property. It’s a great value addition to your property for the summer months.

Security stays on windows will allow occupants to leave windows open a fraction to allow fresh air through the house over the summer months, without having to worry about security. They also ventilate the house, thereby removing interior moisture.

7 Open Up

Doors and windows are some of the most regularly used parts of your house as they tend to be used daily. Check doors open and close smoothly and for noises or squeaking hinges. Timber joinery can expand over winter with moisture, so summer is the perfect time to let it dry out and make sure any exposed wood is sealed and painted. Check for gaps and install draught stoppers or seals where needed.

8 Plant Plans

With dryer and more predictable weather, it is a great time to give house exteriors and gardens some attention. Spring creates a lot of growth, and an annual summer landscaping session helps keep on top of this. Trim hedges, trees, and plants that require it. In particular, look for plants that are near or hanging over the house, fences, overhead cables, or where cars are parked. Trim back vegetation that is growing up against your house or baseboards to allow air and light to get to these places, to keep your house dry. Deal with weeds on your property to avoid them taking over. Make sure surface and groundwater drain properly – either into the stormwater system or away from your house. Doing all of this will keep your property neat and tidy, which makes it more attractive.

Landscaping is something that does require regular work to stay on top of. If you prefer low maintenance, look for ways you can simplify the exterior. Use hardy and low-growing shrubs that require minimal attention; mulch your planting to minimize weed growth, or add in more hard landscaping elements.

And if there are plants that create regular issues (blocking spouting; roots creating damage to paths or services; require too much maintenance or plants too big to maintain) consider removing them completely.

9 GREAT OUTDOORS

Having some friends over for a BBQ is a favourite Kiwi past time. Having an outdoor living space is a valued addition to any property as it effectively adds an extra “room” to a house. If space and money allow, look at adding a defined exterior living area to your property.

There are many options available, with decks and paved courtyards among the most common. Work with your existing area and constraints to plan a space. Consider how the space will connect and flow to the house and other external areas, shelter and protection, privacy and exposure to the elements. A pergola or shade sail can be an extra step towards creating a usable space all year round.

‘It’s much easier to maintain or repair things as issues arise, because if an issue is ignored, the problem may escalate, resulting in additional damage and cost’

Use trellis and hedging to help define the area, create privacy to outdoor living spaces and block wind. There are many simple and cost-effective ways this can be achieved – have a browse through Pinterest to find some ideas and inspiration.

10 Setting The Standard

The Healthy Homes standards aim to raise the quality of rental properties by creating warmer, drier and “healthier” homes.

Check through the requirements of your property and see where it stands against the requirements set out in the standards. Remember they cover heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture, drainage, and draught stopping so these are all areas you need to think about. You’ll also need to make sure you complete the required compliance documentation.

Now is a great time to address these items before another winter comes around. That’s because from July 1 next year, landlords must ensure their homes adhere to the standards within 90 days of any new tenancy.

It can be easy to fall into the “set and forget” mode with a rental property and overlook regular repairs and maintenance items. While not all of these tasks are necessary or urgent every year, a regular freshening up of your property is a great practice to get into.

It’s much easier to maintain or repair things as issues arise, because if an issue is ignored, the problem may escalate, resulting in additional damage and cost. Keep on top of your property maintenance and ensure a better standard for your tenants and a greater return on your investment in the long run.

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