Every Seattle rental home will require maintenance. “This is a fact of homeownership,” says SJA Property Management; repairs and replacements will be necessary no matter who is living in the home. When you have tenants renting your Seattle rental property, you can expect wear and tear. Appliances will get old and systems will break down.
You need to be prepared, and you need to budget. How can you put together a reserve fund or a budget for the routine and emergency maintenance that will be required?
The budget will depend on the type of property you’re renting out. There are differences between how you maintain a single-family home and a multi-family property. You’ll budget differently and schedule work differently.
We recommend that you plan a maintenance budget every year. Take a look at what you know you’ll have to pay for (landscaping, pest control, HVAC service and inspection, etc.). Leave a little extra for what you can’t see coming.
Here are some of the best ways to budget and even plan for unexpected rental property repair costs that always seem to be more expensive than preventative maintenance calls.
Inspections and Evaluations
To decide what you’ll want to allocate towards maintenance, consider the age of your systems and their functionality. Seattle has a unique climate, and this will factor into how you maintain your home and what it costs. When you’re inspecting your rental property regularly, you’ll know how to budget because you’ll get an idea of how things look and how much longer they’ll be working for you.
A documented maintenance record will also help. Are you tracking when you repair each appliance, the plumbing, the floors, and the paint? By keeping good records, you’ll be able to estimate when you have to make big expenditures. That helps with budgeting.
We recommend you have your rental property inspected periodically. These inspections will tell you what types of large ticket items may be on the horizon. You’ll know when to expect roof repairs, HVAC systems, and new appliances. These rental property inspections will also help you address any unreported or deferred maintenance that needs immediate attention. Routine inspections allow you to budget, and they also protect the condition of your investment.
Planning for (and Avoiding) Unexpected and Emergency Repair Costs
You won’t know that your main water line has ruptured until your tenant calls to report that water is everywhere. You’ll have to fix it right away, and you can plan on spending thousands of dollars for an emergency that involves plumbing and water damage. If your rental property is not habitable, you’ll also need to pay for your tenants to stay elsewhere until the repairs are complete.
Heaters and furnaces can go out. Appliances can break down. Sewer systems can back up and trees can come crashing through roofs. When you’re responding to a habitability issue, it will need immediate attention. The cost will likely be high.
Avoid this as best you can with preventative maintenance. If you’re having your systems and functions inspected and serviced annually, you can reduce the likelihood of an emergency. That will save you money.
Emergencies cannot be entirely prevented, however, and you’ll need an emergency fund for rental property repairs.
Budgeting for Repairs vs. Replacements in Seattle Rental Homes
Should you fix it or replace it? This will impact your budget.
When a repair request is made or something breaks down, you’ll have to make a decision about whether it’s worth fixing or whether you should simply start over with something new. Your best decision will depend on what you’re dealing with. If it’s a washing machine or a refrigerator, for example, do some quick math. If the appliance has survived more than half of its estimated lifespan and repairing it will cost more than 50 percent of replacing it, you’ll find it’s more cost-effective to replace it completely.
Consider your rental property and it’s tenant retention strategy as well. If replacing a worn and dated dishwasher will keep your tenant happy and seem like an extra benefit, you may win yourself a lease renewal and avoid turnover costs at the end of the lease term.
Maintenance Budgeting: Review Vendor Relationships
When you’re budgeting for your Seattle rental property, you’re budgeting for a number of separate systems and potential events.
As you’re thinking about your budgeting process, you have an opportunity to evaluate the work your vendors are doing for you, and to explore other options if you feel you’re being charged too much or the quality of work is slipping.
Take a look at what it’s costing you to hire every professional you use, including:
- HVAC services
- Pest control providers
If you have a list of preferred vendors, you want to make sure you’re getting the value and service you expect as you’re budgeting for what you’ll be paying them over the course of a year.
You don’t want your maintenance budget to fluctuate too wildly throughout the year, otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to know what you’re going to spend.
If these service providers are giving you great value and you’re happy with their work, keep them around. But, if you’re not thrilled with the service you’re receiving, take a hard look at what you’re paying. Maybe you can find better service for less money elsewhere.
Seattle property managers can be a huge help here. We have relationships in place with a lot of the vendors and contractors you’ll need to effectively manage and maintain your rental property. It’s entirely likely that you’re paying more as an independent landlord than you’d pay as a property management client. This is due to simple economics; property managers provide a larger volume of work to vendors, therefore, we get better pricing.
We can also make referrals. If you’re looking for a new landscaper or a more cost-effective painting crew, we likely have those resources and connections.
If you’d like to talk through your maintenance budgeting, please contact us at SJA Property Management. SJA is a premier Seattle property management company serving Seattle, Seattle’s Eastside & the Greater Puget Sound region since 2009. We provide sophisticated, personalized, and comprehensive management services for single-family residences, luxury homes, condominiums, and multi-family buildings.