When people ask what is the most important factor I look at when looking at a potential opportunity, then answer, hands down, is always the location. Want more articles like this? Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox Sign up for free Before I even look at the rough numbers on the house, and look into whether it will perform or not, I’m looking at where it’s located – then I’m looking at the numbers! Once I’ve done the preliminary work, once I actually go visit the property my eyes are focused on something that us humans can’t live without: Water. Water is something we can’t go more than a couple days without or we can do some serious damage to ourselves and we’ll eventually die. Above all other issues that you have as a landlord with tenants, the absolute largest item that will cause havoc in most places we invest in, is water damage. Outside of any damage a tenant may do, water is the leading reason for any repairs necessary to a residence. Control water inside and out around the house and you will increase your ROI on just about any project! Remember that Water will ALWAYS take the path of least resistance. Your approach to all this is to make sure your investment will put up the most resistance to it. So what are the key areas you need to look out for when investigating a property when it comes to the exterior? The 4 Things To Look For When Water-Proofing Your Property In most cases its always best to take a top to bottom approach on things and with water it’s no different. So in your first visit to the property, grab yourself a bottle of water and let’s begin with: 1. The Roof Everything when it comes to water on the outside of the home is primarily protected by your roof. When properly functioning the roof is designed to guide the water away from your structure to certain points. So do your best to look at the roof itself. There are many different types of roofing materials however the primary one used in most applications is the asphalt shingle roof. And in this category they can be broken down into two types, flat roofs and “normal” roofs. A flat roof is used to describe a roof that has a pitch of 3/12 or less. What is that you ask? Pitch is the angle of a roof. The markers of 3/12, 6/12 or 12/12 are references in how high the roof goes up in inches for every foot it goes back away from the roof edge. So, a 12/12 roof goes up 12 inches for every 12 inches it moves away from the roof edge. This is a 45 degree angle and very steep. I try to position myself to look up the pitch of the roof (the angle) and see if I notice anything out of place with the shingles. They should be lying pretty much flat from top to bottom. If I see them start to curl it’s a warning sign a new roof will be needed soon. I also look to see if the roof is either vented properly or has an attic fan. This can increase the life of the roof dramatically. Click here to see the top things to look for. Take a good look at the edges of the roof where the shingles stop and come to an exterior wall. Try to count the layers (the number of shingles stacked on top of each other). The more layers can cause issues. It can cause the roof to retain heat much longer than it should and reduce the life expectancy of the shingles. If you see more than two layers of shingles it will mean in most cases the roof will require a full tear off down to the sheathing underneath when updating the roof. 2. Gutters Gutters perform the second and most important role on the exterior when it comes to water. Collect it and get it away from the home! Most landlords do not clean their gutters as often as they should and this will cause you issues. Issues with fascia boards, siding, foundations, etc. in most cases can all be traced with the gutters doing their job properly. Investing in a gutter guard can help cut down the amount of maintenance that will be required in properly taking care of gutters. My personal opinion is that the gutter guards that are solid and are based upon water adhesion (water running around a curve and pulled into your gutter) are a waste of money. The most cost effective solution is a heavy duty screen to keep the largest debris out of the gutters along with using over sized downspouts to help any smaller debris that still goes in to easily flush through the system. Don’t overlook your gutter system on a property ever. Most investors do. They almost ignore the gutter system on a house. Dollar for dollar in my opinion it provides the highest ROI on protecting your investment from other potential issues and repairs. Related: How to Avoid Water and Flooding Damage on your Investment Properties Make sure its functioning properly and stays clean. This in most cases needs to be done more than twice a year so get on a schedule with a reputable gutter cleaning company AND have them take pictures showing you the gutters are all clean after each job. Don’t take their word for it ever. After the winter check to make sure it’s not pulling away from the house. If so call in a repairman and have it fixed. It will cost far less to repair it than replace it. 3. Siding Always check the siding to make sure there are no openings or gaps. This is where water gets its chance to get inside and cause havok. The main areas your eyes should be drawn to are corners and windows. Whenever siding ends there’s a chance for water to enter. Depending upon the type of siding exactly what you need to look for will differ but again best to make sure that these areas are properly sealed up. Vinyl siding isn’t usually sealed at corners and near widows and doors because it actually “floats’ on the exterior surface. However look around window and door sills to make sure they’re properly sealed as well as above them and around the casement mouldings. If not properly sealed chances are at some point down the road you’re be spending money where a good tube of $7 caulk could have saved you thousands. Brands I like for long term sealing are GeoCel 2300 & 4300 or OSI Quad. So why spend the extra money on one of these when you can go down to the local Home Depot or Lowes and pick up a two tubes for the price of one of these? Simply quality. What causes sealants to give way and fall apart is their exposure to the sun. The UV rays break down the sealants flexibility over time and cause it to fail. The products I mentioned are supposed to last 50 years with sun exposure and not fail. At least that’s what they claim. Again when it comes to protecting my buy and hold’s I’ll spend a few dollars more not to have issues with water damage. Do yourself the favor as well and cough up a few more dollars and use a quality sealant. So now that the gutters and siding are doing their job and effectively collect the water and bringing it down to the ground what’s next? We need to get that water as far away from the foundation of our home as possible! 4. Drainage The last thing that you want to happen is have the water that’s coming off your roof empty out or fall down near your foundation. What we’re trying to stop is something called hydrostatic pressure. The best way to describe this is understanding that a pair of blue jeans weighs much more than a dry one. The more water that gets absorbed around the foundation can cause weight to push the foundation in an crack. It will also cause moisture to push through the foundation walls or through hairline cracks near the footing (the initial layer of foundation that touches the ground at the bottom). If your basement or crawl space has excess moisture it can lead to attracting creepy crawly insects, mold grown, termites and carpenter ants, etc. Make sure that the water coming down from gutters via the downspouts are channeled someway to at least 20-30 feet from the foundation of the home. Also around the exterior perimeter make sure the ground rises to the house, and falls away from it. This will keep any rain water or water that comes off the siding to naturally move away from the house. The pitch doesn’t need to be significant (dropping at least an inch per foot away from the house is best). Also be sure to not have dirt right next to the house. Either put mulch or plant something that will break the fall of rain and naturally absorb it. The reason for this is that the harder the surface around the house the greater the chance the rain will bounce up onto the siding and make it dirty and have more water get at it than it should. Dirt on surfaces of your home causes paint to fail which mean you’ll spend more money painting. It costs less to quickly power wash the house each year and your house will also have more curb appeal which means its more desirable for attracting renters! Same thing with your driveway: make sure it’s pitched away from the house. Also look at the edges of the driveway. Is there some type of made of cement or Belgian Block. If so your driveway will last significantly longer because water will not roll of the surface and cause the ground next to swell eventually breaking the driveway apart. Curbs also protect your landscaping properly channeling the runoff to a safe place again protecting your investment. Related: How to NOT Buy a Lemon: Investment Risk Mitigation with Due Diligence Funnel In Conclusion Remember that your battle with water will be never ending and best you keep it front and center in your mind. Do your best to control it. When you see a problem take care of it or else you will end up being Brandon, on a roof in the rain! When it comes to water damage an ounce of prevention is worth 100 pounds of cure every day of the week. Do you have any other water-proofing advice to add? Be sure to leave your comments below!