Rental Property Requires Upkeep

I am an accidental landlord.  Well, sort of.  I never said, “Oh, I want to own rental property!”  But we bought a house, and PCSed, and decided to rent it out.  Ten years later, we did the same thing.  We have been very fortunate that it has worked out well for us.  (Knock on wood.)

One lesson that was hard for me to learn is how much money goes into keeping a rental property in good shape.  Sure, you have to fix stuff when it breaks, but there is so much more to it.  Here’s a small list of things that need to be maintained:

  • walls painted
  • carpets replaced
  • vinyl or linoleum floors replaced
  • hardwood floors  refinished
  • windows replaced, if they are lousy to start
  • toilet seats replaced (ick!)
  • locks changed
  • new refrigerators
  • new dishwashers
  • new stoves
  • new ovens
  • kitchen overhauls
  • sliding glass doors replaced or resealed
  • wonky screen doors replaced
  • roofs repairs or replaced
  • fences kept in good condition
  • weatherstripping and/or insulation
  • hot water heaters replaced
  • heating systems replaced
  • air conditioning systems replaced
  • fireplaces and chimneys inspected and kept safe
  • exteriors washed
  • large scale gardening done:  pruning or removing large trees, pulling fast-growing vines off chimneys, etc.
  • exterior trim painted
  • front doors painted
  • electrical outlets repaired
  • shutters painted
  • concrete kept clean and in good condition

You know what is the most depressing thing about this list?  I know that I’ve forgotten a ton of things!

As a landlord, you can let some things go, some of the time, but it will all catch up with you eventually.  Personally, I’d rather fix one or two things each year than deal with an entire house in need of extensive repairs.

If you are considering becoming a landlord, or you are new to the property management business, be sure to consider these issues carefully.  I average yearly repairs at 10-2o% of our income.  Make sure to factor those costs into your figures when you decide whether renting is a good financial decision for you.  One bonus is that you can use repair costs to reduce your taxable income.

Being a landlord can be fun or frightening, stressful or super.  Having a full and realistic understanding of the maintenance costs of having a rental property can go a long way to decreasing the negative parts of being a landlord.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • 30yearsalandlord

    Our family became landlords in 1984 when we married. We each had a house and we were in the epicenter of the S&L crisis (Texas). The following year came PCS orders, and a deeper housing crisis. We dtermined we could afford to “carry the debt” – the rents did not cover the mortgagee (11-17%)The best advice I can give is find a good property manager. The money you spend (usually 10% of the rent) is well worth the headaches they have on your behalf.

  • Stan

    Don’t waste your time, not worth the headache unless you own them outright…they will nickle and dime you to death

  • guest

    We do the same thing, we buy the house, spend the first year gutting it (new paint, appliances, countertops etc) live in it for 2 more years, doing a couple of big things each year (fences, decks etc) a couple of months before we move we replace the flooring and anything else that needs to be done (all a tax write off) then each year we own the property we do one big thing and a couple of smaller ones (all tax write offs) to maintain it. We keep the rental houses 4-5 years on average then sell them. Where it’s profitable for us is that we ONLY use 15 year mortgages so we gain over 1k in principle per month. One thing you left off…maintaining million dollar rental home policies and umbrella insurance to reduce risk

  • James R Thorp

    Great article.