Any advice on how to inspect a townhouse, in terms of what to check, whether I should move tenants belongings around to see the walls and floors, what tools to bring, etc. etc.?
Thanks in advance!
Are you talking about a unit you own, and you’re doing a routine inspection, like I do, every 6 months? I ask tenants if there are any maintenance issues they’d like me to address. And I use my Move In/Move Out checklist. I’m not looking to fix the unit into move-in condition though. I’m mostly looking to see what kind of shape my tenants are keeping the unit in, and to fix real maintenance type issues. For example; I had a tenant that didn’t tell me about her shower diverter not working, until I did my semi annual inspection.
My wife does a video walk through every six months-long term tenants annually-she looks under sinks, checks alarms, looks for leaks etc. We give the tenants 2 week notice and it is in our lease. She dates the video and files in on her computer. If you or your PM are not inspecting it might cost you dearly-a lot more than you think!
During a walk through I'm looking for any red flags, unreported maintenance, cleanliness, and the general condition of the property. My primary goal is to catch anything in advance of someone's lease end date, mitigate ongoing issues, and anticipate future capital expenditures. I would make sure not to give the tenant to much more then the 24 hr notice. My intention is not to step on their privacy or that I'm untrusting but I want to see how they live not what it looks like after they know they have company coming over.
Check all the bigger items (furnace, water heater, roof, siding, carpets, paint) to ensure your prepared for future repairs or replacement. Look for any items that need maintenance. Check the furnace filter, make sure downspouts are attached/down, ensure tenant is caring for landscaping, check on smoke detectors, are there evidence of pests, does it look like more people are living here then indicated on your lease, and finally is there evidence of pets not on the lease. Regarding pictures, I only take a snap of everyone room as needed for future reference and take pictures of any items you identify as issues from the list above.
I also like to challenge myself to find one item that I could update for $200 or less that would either increase the properties value or tenant appeal. Sometimes its as simple as replacing a boring light fixture in a kitchen, adding a programmable thermostat, or removing troublesome landscaping. You can even keep these upgrades in reserve for right before or in negotiation for a renewal or rent increase. Hope this helps!
Inspections start at the curb. I work my way around the home first, if it's a single-family home. If it's an attached unit, I work my way from the front, through the home, and then end in the back.
Come up with a pattern to follow every time. This will help you avoid missing a room. For example, I work my way around to the right. I (kind of) follow the wall to the right and work my way through the main floor. If there's a basement, I do that next. Then I do the upstairs. If it's an attached home and I'm not able to inspect the entire outside at once, I will do the back yard last.
I also have a quick guide of things to check in each room:
- Light fixtures and/or fans
- Smoke / CO2 devices
- Windows, sills, and coverings
- Outlets and switches
- Baseboard or trim
Even these are broken down in more detail. For example, doors should be inspected on both sides, the spine (most common area to split from being kicked in) and the frame. Appliances are inspected outside and then inside. Every cupboard and vanity should be opened to ensure they are clean, shelves are not damaged, doors function, etc. Closet doors open and close. Lights on, fan on. Shades/blinds/curtains open and closed. Does the window have cracked glass, a dirty track, torn or missing screen?
You can search BP or Google for "move out checklist" and find some examples to build off of.
I used to do all the inspections myself to maintain consistency. Now we have too many properties so I'm handing the responsibility off to employees. To help keep them on track and standardize things, I signed up for zInspector which is an inspection app. It also produces professional reports I can share with Tenants/Landlords. Most private Landlords should be fine with a boatload of pictures or a simple paper checklist.