How to keep your money machine, your rental property, running smoothly could also be called property preservation tips.

By Landlord Hank

Start with routine maintenance, then repair or replace, if needed.

Here is the order of steps I use for taking care of my properties and below I will touch on 4 things in particular to check on your roof.

I try to maintain the property and all parts of it, in great condition, but something is always needing repair or replacement, depending upon the number of units you have.

This is not something to be feared or worried about any more than taking care of your body by eating, etc.

This is a big part of the business of investment real estate

My first purchase was a rundown duplex that took two months of hard work to fix up. It needed siding, roof repair, flooring, plumbing, lighting, appliances, painting. You get the idea. It rented fast to great tenants, for the highest rent in the neighborhood, and in that first year, I had no maintenance calls at all.

That is because everything was repaired correctly, everything worked as it should and I was lucky.

A great way to learn about maintenance is to build yourself a library of books on home repair, improvement and remodeling. If you are unfamiliar with a problem, you can see how the experts handle the issue and maybe this is a repair you may want to tackle on your own.

Also, Home Depot and Lowe’s usually have knowledgeable staff who can give you ideas on the best way to repair or replace something. YouTube videos are another source of experience.

Decide what jobs you like to do on your rental

With my first investment purchase, the rundown duplex, it needed so much work that to save money I decided to do what I could. I had no real skills at that time but I knew I could paint.

After getting a painting estimate I thought I would paint the interior of the units myself.  I was working a full-time job at the time, so my time was in short supply.

I painted after work late in to the night for five nights and finally finished one side of my duplex. It looked great but I realized I hated every minute of that job. As easy as painting is, I found out it was not for me.

I wanted to like what I do. I decided then and there that I would do the jobs that gave me great satisfaction or that I didn’t mind doing, unless it was an emergency situation.

Keeping water out of your rental starts with the roof

Let’s start at the roof and touch on problems I’ve run into and how I’ve tried to use common sense to resolve them.

It is best to inspect before a leak is noticed on the inside of the building. Look up at the ceiling and see if any water is dripping of course. Or, are there are telltale signs of water like beige discoloration which could indicate water penetration through insulation and wood.

Don’t get up on your roof if you aren’t comfortable with the pitch angle, have a fear of heights, are clumsy, etc.

Use a safety harness. Even a one-story fall is a long way down and can cause serious injury or death.

You can inspect your roof with binoculars while on the ground or you can eyeball the condition while on the roof. What are you looking for?

4 things to check – start at the top and go down

  • Are the shingles (most common form of roofing is asphalt 3 tab shingles) worn and discolored, cupped, buckled or ridged?
  • Do you see any nails popping up, or cracks in flashing or sealant around vents or chimneys?
  • Are any shingles missing?
  • Are the gutters (if there are any) tight up against the building and empty of debris? Gutters must be tightly secured to the building, properly slopped and free of debris and clogs to take water from building and divert.

If all looks good, then proceed to the inside and check all ceilings for any sign of water penetration. The best time to do this is in heavy rainfall.

Now check the inside of the roof

Then if you are comfortable with this, you can get up in the attic. Watch your step. If you have to walk on beams, your head could come into contact with sharp nails that have penetrated the roof decking.

Take a very strong flashlight and look for water stains on the underside of the roof, rafters, insulation and listen for any water dripping through. On sunny days look for any sign of pinhole light shining through.

Also be mindful of the climate and time of the year when you do this inspection. Attics are VERY hot when outside temperature is higher. Best to do this kind of inspection in spring or fall and early morning to avoid the heat. It is also a good idea to wear a respirator.

Roof leaks are tricky business. Water always seeks the lowest point and sometimes finding the source of the water penetration is a real challenge.

You also don’t want trees overhanging your roof. Heavy winds can swing branches into the roof damaging shingles. Trees can also allow squirrels or other rodents or insects a nice path into your property.

Don’t ever allow cable or satellite companies access to your roof. They usually say their installations won’t cause a leak but I’ve seen many poor installations that have cost me money.

Also check, fascia board – what gutters are usually nailed to- which normally cover the ends of rafters and soffits, which are the underside of this area. All should be intact, with no missing pieces.

The goal is to keep water or rain out from the inside of the structure.

About the author:

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc , in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta. “ Visit Hank’s website here.

Photo credit diepre via istockphoto.com