Advice and Opinion

Maximize rental return with ongoing maintenance of rental properties

In many cases where a landlord has not lived in the property he rents out, there will possibly be items that need updating or repair, but because he is not resident in the property concerned he might either not realize what is needed nor realize the importance of renovating, says Gail Cawood, rentals manager for Knight Frank Residential SA.

While renovating an investment property might be seen as “wasting money”, it is sometimes necessary to keep up to date with current tenant needs and while the landlord certainly will not want to over-capitalize, he should consider some of the cost effective ways of updating the property, in the process attracting a higher paying tenant which would assist in maximising his return on investment.

“The most important thing to remember is that even though most rental properties will find tenants”, said Cawood, the goal should be to get the right rental each month and the more inviting and live able the property looks, the better the chances of doing just that.

Simple things can be done to make a property more attractive and sometimes cosmetic changes can make a huge difference to its appeal. Things such as painting the interior a contemporary neutral color and updating the look of the kitchen cupboards (perhaps by changing the handles and painting the fronts of the cabinetry) and bathrooms (again by using paint and perhaps changing light fittings to more modern types) can create a lighter brighter looking home.

Carpets in some cases get “tired” very easily but often a proper professional clean might revive them to the point of looking almost new again. The owner might consider, however, replacing these when the time comes with a low maintenance flooring such as laminate wood or tiles.

Ceilings are sometimes forgotten and they can become yellow with age, a good clean with a commercial chemical cleaning solution or a steam cleaner might be good enough to revive it. Alternatively, one coat of paint is often the best and does not cost too much to apply, which could revive the look of a house completely, said Cawood.

Other items that should always be addressed are door handles that stick, toilets or taps that leak, any lighting or electric installation that is old and could possibly create a fire hazard, cabinetry that has lost its finish and has faulty hinges or latches, window latches that are loose, window and door frames that need sanding and treatment, and blinds or curtain rails that have broken parts, as these items, while small, could detract from a property’s being able to achieve a good rental each month, she said.

Most rental agents will keep an eye on a property they manage and will often notice items that need replacing or repair when they do their quarterly inspections of the home. These items should be tackled as and when they arise and the landlord should not wait until there are too many things to be done at once. A little money spent every few months in maintaining a property is better than a large sum having to paid out due to lack of continuous upkeep, said Cawood.