No Second Chance for a First Impression
Whether you’re a novice investor wondering what to do with your first property or a seasoned property manager with scores of active properties under your belt, it pays to know exactly what it takes to get a freshly-purchased investment property ready to rent. Here’s our take on the issue: nine things that every house needs before its first showing.
Do ALL The Paperwork
Make sure that the property is free and clear, properly owned by the entity that hired you to manage it. As you do whatever maintenance and renovations you both agreed were necessary to make the place livable, document absolutely everything that happens. Record the time and money spent on every process. Record on video and in pictures exactly what the place looked like before you started, and exactly what it looks like when it’s ready to show. Use checklists to be sure you didn’t miss anything, and keep them as well.
Change the Locks
You have no idea if the existing locks have any ‘spare’ keys floating around — don’t take the chance. Replace all of the locks that take a key — even the ones on the garage — and change all of the passwords and combinations on all alarms and combination locks.
Clean Out the Vents
Change out the filters on your HVAC units, and use an air compressor or strong vacuum to clean out the ducts. If the resultant cloud makes a mess around the registers, be prepared to sweep, mop, or vacuum up afterwards.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a broken faucet in the second bathroom or a loose handle on a kitchen cupboard — nothing is too small to repair before your first prospect sees the home if you intend to get it rented in a hurry.
Perform Preventative Maintenance on All Appliances
The heater, A/C, dishwasher, range, stove, fridge, washer, dryer, and even the microwave all require regular preventative maintenance — and the probability that the previous owner kept up on those responsibilities is essentially zero. Make sure that a tech comes in and gives all of the appliances a once-over before the first tenant hits, or you’ll end up replacing the appliances much sooner than you ought to.
Clean Windows and Screens
Same basic idea here — not only are cloudy windows ugly, but munge on them can become slime mold on windowsills or can jam up the window’s tracks. Start them off clean, and nudge the tenant toward keeping up on them.
Freshen Paint and Flooring
You don’t necessarily have to repaint and re-floor everything before your first tenant — though it’s often a good idea! — but you do have to make sure that the walls and floors look respectable. Getting a professional carpet shampooer will save you a decent chunk of money in the long run, as will learning to do your own cleaning of the blinds. In the end, however, even if you have to pay for a professional to do the job, it’s going to pay for itself compared to the other option of skipping it altogether.
Hire an Exterminator
There’s no excuse for renting out a house with a pest problem — and if there isn’t a pest problem now, you want that documented so that you can prove it if the tenant complains later.
Care for the Curb Appeal
Weed the yard, remove garbage, repair or remove cracked or dangerous walkways, and freshen up the steps up to the doors. Straighten up the gutters, possibly repaint the exterior if it’s awful, and make certain that the external hardware — the house numbers, the mailbox, the knocker if it exists, and the screen door (with wind chain and closer, naturally!) are all in order.
With all that done, at long last, your property is ready to see its first tenant — good luck!