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For Want of a Nail

Remember the children’s rhyme, for want of a nail… the kingdom was lost?  Taking care of the small details can save you lot of money, and keep good tenants happy and in your home and building your wealth.

Follow-through is an essential part of looking after your rental properties.  It can be easy to forget to do property inspections because you are busy, or the tenants are nice, or they have been there a long time.  And it can be easy to forget to do those minor maintenance things, but neglect can cost you a lot more in the long run.

Someone I know did not check up as often as they should have on their tenants of 8 years.  When the tenants finally moved on, the owner had a good look through and discovered some worrying things.

For want of cleaning the condensation channel on the aluminium windows, the water had first pooled on the custom-wood sill, causing it to swell, then dribbled down the wall, damaging the gib and paint.  This always annoys me.  It takes a couple of minutes every few months by the tenants, and this minor task can save a major headache.

Also, his tenants had been using the shower without a shower curtain.  A simple thing, a shower curtain.  Without one, the bathroom door was splashed and became pink with mould and soap scum (not the only scum there, I should add).  The door frame began to rot.  The vinyl lifted, the chip board floor rotted out as far as the hallway.  The carpet in the hall rotted as a result.  Which would you rather spend?  Twenty bucks on a good shower curtain or lots dosh making good the rest of it?  This is one landlord that no longer complains about the money spent on those little touches.  He also asked me to take care of the property from now on.

A word of advice: Don’t bother with those flimsy plastic excuses for a shower curtain you can get for $2.  They last all of 5 minutes, and will cost you the new floor, carpet, vinyl… need I go on?  Get a decent, fabric style shower curtain with weighted bottom the right size for the gap.  They can be chucked in the washing machine, or soaked in bleach and they come up looking good as new.  I know they last more than 5 years with only occasional attention, so I’m convinced the extra money well spent.

I love it when a place is pleasant to use, and I am sure tenants do too.  Rentals don’t need to be overly flash, but need to have all the door handles working properly, the doors closing smoothly, locks that click open and shut as they should, windows can be operated easily, and clotheslines that don’t scream like a banshee.  I can hear one clothesline that needs some love all the way across the valley from my home.  Oh the sounds of Summer, rusty rotary lines screeching with the breeze.  A good dollop of grease on the top of the pole and you’ve saved ears and nerves, and prevented the top rusting off completely.

Speaking of clotheslines – are the ones in your rentals functional?  Is the wire rusty and tears and stains clothes?  Does the wire sag, or zig-zag irrationally?  Do broken lines hang down into the lawn, threatening your mower?  Fix them, or replace them – either option is fairly inexpensive.  If not, your tenants will get annoyed at the state of their clothing and add it to the reasons to move on.

Drapes can make a place look cheerful and loved, or sad and neglected.  Making sure they are hooked onto the track as they should be is a good start, or they will get torn, or the track bent.  When they sag and gape, it sends a message that the owner does not care, so why should caring tenants want it?  It takes a little time, and minuscule cost to sort this issue out, so why wouldn’t you?

Horrible, obviously second hand, stained, torn, or mildewed drapes just don’t cut it with the good tenants anymore.  Part with the money, and put up some decent ones.  If that is not within your belief system, at least wash and mend them (hand wash thermal ones, or you’ll ruin them).  When you see the horrible colour the wash water goes, you will know you made that property, and the world, a better place.  I manage a house which at first smelt doggy and unpleasant.  The carpet had been cleaned, but the smell persisted.  Washing the curtains reduced the smell considerably.

Marks on walls make the paintwork look poor, and even if they are subtle, send a subconscious signal to prospective tenants.  In my experience as a property manager, it is an absolute myth that tenants don’t care what a place is like, and they won’t treat it as well as the owner would.  I took on a property the owner was moving out of, and it was in such a state that prospective tenants remarked ‘gosh, you’ve got some rough tenants there’.  Er, well yes, the occupants could be better.  Fortunately, I was the one choosing who came next, and everything is much better as a result.

So, wash the walls occasionally between tenants, or get tenants to do so after themselves.  A very gentle abrasive can remove stubborn marks, bleach deals to mould, and sugar soap is the champion of everything else.  I recently saw someone working wonders with engine degreaser on the walls - they swore by it.  I recently tried one of those magic white cleaning sponges - it removed pencil, crayon, and pen marks from walls, so I was impressed.  Washing walls saves repainting frequently, and a bucket of paint is a lot more expensive than a bucket of hot water to achieve a good result.

A word about smelly sprays and other perfumes to cover odours: Don’t.  Remove the source of the smell, don’t mask it.  Tenants are smarter than that, and will assume the worst.  If you have a damp mouldy smell, investigate the cause and you will inevitably spend less money than if you wait for it to be obvious later.

The last thing I will mention is blocked spouting.  Whether the spouting has moved and is covering the downpipe, or there is a whole ecosystem thriving in detritus blocking water egress, it is something you want to remedy.  Get the gutters cleaned out, or shoved back where they belong.  I know of more than one house that has had the foundation undermined by overflow from blocked gutters – it’s not cheap to re-pile – believe me, I own one of them.  Mouldy ceilings, damaged soffits, rotten gib, damp interiors are all side effects of blocked spouting, and all far more expensive than sending someone to sort it out, and good tenants will not want to stay long in that kind of mess.

So, keep on top of all those little jobs to save yourself a chunk of time and a whole heap of money, as well as attract and keep good tenants, you know, the ones that make you money and increase your wealth.  Put in a nail or two in the right place at the right time, and save your kingdom.


Our Philosophy

We are honest and act with integrity.  We think it is necessary to love what one does, leave things better than they were found and take time to enjoy the world while we walk it.   We bring quality to others in our dealings and treat people with respect.  
We think it is essential to have fun, so humour is always welcome at Rental Results.

Awards & Associations

We are a member of the Independent Property Managers' Association (IPMA), and Leading Property Managers of New Zealand (LPMNZ).

We are also members of the Wellington Property Investors Association and Jackie Thomas-Teague is the former president.