How to Improve a Mediocre Rental Property (Part 1)

May 07, 2013| 0 Comment

If you have ever seen a mechanic’s shop, he’s got many specialty tools for figuring out why your car isn’t working right. It’s a lot different with newer cars than one when I was growing up. Those were cars that you could work on. For the most part, they hook up the newer cars to a computer to diagnose the problem.

But then and now at the end of the day, there are only so many things that can be wrong.

The same thing goes for your rental portfolio. There are two factors that can create problems for rental properties. The first category, factors that you can change, are under your control. The second category, factors that you can NOT change, are not under your control.

In this blog post (part 1 of 3), I’m going to cover some of the factors you can change to improve your Oklahoma City rental property.

The construction includes how up-to-date the plumbing, electrical, and heat and air are.

If you own a property built before 1960, you’ll probably be suffering if you have original plumbing, electrical, or heating systems. At some point, the cost of trying to maintain old junk exceeds the cost of just buckling down and replacing them with new. In addition, if the tenants have to contact you over and over to solve the same problem, they won’t stay in the property.

Even if you have heat and air equipment that dates back to the 1970’s or 1980’s, this equipment is now 30 to 40 years old. However, heat and air equipment was designed with more of a 15 to 20 year lifespan, according to Don Rackler (jonwayneair.com). Once a heat and air system has reached an age of 25 to 30 years, it should be annually inspected by a heat and air company.

Here are some of the other potential problems:

• Home built before 1960 were most built with 50 and 60 amp services, some with fuses. Homes with less than 100 amp service usually are not adequate and will need to be updated to at least 100 amp service.
• Old wall-mounted gas furnaces installed in the 1950s are very inefficient. They use far more gas than modern gas heaters. They also pose more of a safety concern regarding CO poisoning.
• Water supply lines installed in the 1950s and 1960s were most commonly galvanized steel. These should be replaced because they become scaled on the inside. The scaling will lead to low water pressure in the house. It is best to replace them with pex, which is a high-strength plastic material.
• Water supply lines installed in the 1970s and 1980s were most commonly copper. These will function, but they are prone to breaking when they freeze. This can be a big problem especially if they are installed in a 2nd floor bathroom.
• Drain lines installed in the 1960s and earlier were cast iron and lead. The lead is prone to leaking. Anytime you have the wall open and expose lead, you need to replace it with PVC. You can leave the cast iron in place if it isn’t leaking, but eventually it will rust through, and will also need to be replaced with PVC.

This is not a list of everything that can possibly need to be replaced, but a list of the items which can most commonly cause problems in older homes. Your property management company should be able to point these out to you.

The ease of maintaining a property is also an important consideration. For example, if you own a property with a crawl space, is there enough room under the house to get at plumbing you need to work on?

In part 2 of this article, I’ll go into other important maintenance and functional improvements you can make to your OKC rental property.
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