4 Tips to Save Money on Maintenance and Repairs Between Renters

by | BiggerPockets.com

One of the biggest downsides of high rental property turnover is that it costs money to clean, repair, and touch-up the property in between tenants. Knowing how to save money on these processes can be a lifesaver.

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4 Budget-Friendly Maintenance and Repair Tips

As a landlord, you need to focus on cash flow, profitability, and ROI. Unfortunately, there are several speed bumps that often stand in the way of reaching these goals. One of the most troublesome is the stage that takes place after a tenant moves out and before the next tenant moves in.

In this critical window of time, which you want to keep as brief as possible, there are repair and maintenance jobs that need to be done. If you aren’t careful, the costs can quickly add up and leave you reeling.

The good news is you don’t have to go broke in between renters. There are plenty of cost-effective and budget-friendly steps you can take to save money and provide future renters with housing that’s comfortable, safe, and clean.

Here are a few suggestions you may want to implement.

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1. Do jobs yourself.

When you call someone out to perform a maintenance task on a rental property, most of the cost is labor. For example, a $500 plumbing fix probably only costs $75 to $100 in parts. The rest is going towards the plumber’s time.

You don’t need a background in home construction, carpentry, or plumbing to handle simple home maintenance tasks. With a little practice, there are plenty of odd jobs you can do yourself to save some serious money.

Related: 8 Tips for Cleaning Your Rental Kitchen Between Tenants

YouTube is your best friend. Whether it’s replacing a toilet, installing flooring, fixing a plumbing leak, or anything in between, the popular video site has millions of videos from qualified experts. Spend some time watching these videos and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn.

2. Use coupons and discounts.

Never purchase expensive parts or tools without first looking to see if there are coupons, discounts, or group memberships that can save you money.

For example, Costco and Sam’s Club require annual membership fees, but offer a variety of products and services at heavily discounted prices. Sites like Promocodes.com frequently promote coupons for leading retailers and service providers, including Overstock, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Home Depot.

3. Touch up (rather than replace).

There’s often a lot of wear and tear when a tenant moves out—especially if they’ve lived in your property for a lengthy period of time. If you’re on a budget, you need to know when to repair versus when to replace.

Sometimes it’s best to just touch something up rather than totally replace it. Take a drafty door, for example. While you could replace it now, it might be more cost-effective to invest in some weather-stripping and caulking.

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4. Use the tenant’s security deposit.

Remember that security deposit you took when your tenant signed their lease agreement? If the property has been damaged beyond normal wear and tear, you’re within your rights to take some or all of this money and put it towards repairs. (Just make sure you document how much you’re keeping, what it’s going towards, and how the work will be done. The more details the better.)

Related: 12 Tenant Nightmare Stories I Swear Are Actually True

Enjoy Higher Profits

You aren’t in the business of landlording because you enjoy unclogging toilets, installing door locks, and chasing down rent. It’s the opportunity to garner a positive return on your investment that you like. But to maximize your profits, you must keep expenses down.

Hopefully the budget-friendly maintenance and repair tips discussed in this article will help you keep more money in your pockets (while still watching out for the safety and satisfaction of your tenants).

What would you add to this list?

Comment below!

About Author

Larry Alton

Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to online media outlets and news sources. A graduate of Des Moines University, he still lives in Iowa as a full-time freelance writer and avid news hound. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing.

6 Comments

  1. Cindy Larsen

    The most important thing I would add is that before doing any repairs and maintenance, you need to advertise the property for rent. That way, the cost of repairs and maintenance is deductible from your rental income for the year.

    Second, in addition to memberships that give you discounts on materials, use a cashback card to pay for materials. The cash you get back is not taxable income: it is just a discount, and 2% of your material AND labor costs, if you pay with that card, can be significant.

    Third, if you have to replace something, and you are a buy and hold investor, it makes sense to upgrade to more durable materials. It cost more up front but you save with less material and labor costs every time a tenant moves.

    So, if the tenant trashed the carpet, consider replacing it with porcelain tile with PEI rating of at least 3, and install it with epoxy grout: this floor is almost completely tenant, kid, and pet proof. Set aside a few extra tiles in case they drop something heavy so you can replace one if needed.
    I am also about to tenant-test luxury vinyl tile with a 12 mil wear layer as an alternative to tile. it will be interesting to see how tenant proof it is. installation costs are less, and tenants like the wood plank look.

    Tile is beautiful and very durable: don’t buy cheap tile, buy one that you will still be happy with 30 years from now. It will probably still look great. Not everyone likes even beautiful tile, but either you or your future tenants can always get an area rug to put on top of the tile if they like carpet.

    I also like tile with epoxy grout for countertops: much more durable than laminate, and much less expensive than solid surface or stone.

    Don’t repaint with flat paint: use eggshell or semigloss instead because it needs to be repainted less frequently. You spend a little more for the paint, but recoop on less materials and labor over time.

      • Cindy Larsen

        Thanks Benjamin. I wish I had time to to that, but I am agressively expanding the number of units I own right now, and it is taking basically all of my time. One more tip, in addition to setting your units up for success with strategies like Larry suggests, and like I suggested above.

        Tip: minimise turnovers by getting great tenants in place. As a buy and hold investor, I upgrade my units to be both durable and as beautiful as I can make them to attract the highest rents from the top 25% of renters (my target market, because they are more likely to treat my property with respect). I use mysmartmove + in person interview + calling rental and job contacts, to screen renters and I require 3 monts rent to move in (1st, last, security deposit). If they don’t pass my criteria I don’t rent to them. Once I find the great tenants for my great rental, I treat them right: friendly, professional, responsive, and fair. My goal is that they NEVER want to leave, and will be happy enough to accept yearly market rent increases. I then inspect every unit every 3 months for maintenance issues as well as lease violations (mainly is it clean and smoke free)

  2. I put a third bedroom and second bath in the basement, all with the knowledge from YouTube videos.

    Also, don’t forget to raise that rent to market rates (or just beyond if you can) for that new tenant.

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