The ease of maintaining a property is huge when it comes to holding a rental property for long term (5 years or more). This is part 2 of a 3 part series looking at problems that under your control – that is, you can do something about them – as a property owner. There are nine upgrades presented in this blog post to improve your OKC rental property.

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. I have to cut through the floor of one of my properties in order to work on the plumbing. It is a huge pain in the rear!

This might seem like a problem outside of my control, but I have engineered my way around that by installing all new plumbing under that property. I’ve never yet had to cut the floor to work on the plumbing. I also could have dug “work trenches” if I were really determined to have a way to access the plumbing.

Another persistent problem that is under your control are the heating and cooling costs. Houses built pre-1960 were not designed with heating and cooling efficiencies in mind.

But times have changed. If a tenant feels like the heating and cooling costs are too high, they will move at the first opportunity (or sooner). Weatherization should be at the top of the list on these types of properties. Here is a list of nine things you need to be ready to address as a property owner:

1) Older frame houses often have too many windows. For example, some bedrooms might have 5 or 6 of the old wood-frame windows. It makes good sense to eliminate unneeded drafty windows. Five or six windows can become one or two windows, and not be any less functional by losing those windows.

2) The same holds for exterior doors…You only need two of them. Eliminate extra doors (that will also result in fewer doors that you need to maintain and weatherize).

3) When you install a window unit air conditioner in a window just by lifting up the window, it creates a lot of pathways to outside air. Many times, it’s better to eliminate the window where you plan to install the window unit. Frame it so you can install a window unit instead of just lifting the window to install it.

4)Attics should have enough insulation to at least cover up studs (about 5 inches). A 1,000 square foot house with no insulation will need about 25 bags of insulation blown in.

5) Sometimes it makes more sense to go ahead and gut a house so you can insulate exterior walls if they are not insulated. Certainly, anytime you have an exterior wall open, be sure to insulate it.

6) With central heat and air, your maintenance crews need to inspect duct work in the attic because the duct work can come apart. You can also get squirrels that chew through them. In either case, air will be moving into the attic and not into the house. If you have a tenant complaining about a high heating bill or a cold house, this should be one of the first things that you check.

7)Each room needs to have at least one window that opens. If you have the old wood frame windows, I recommend that the other ones be sealed up. If they are not, they will be pathways to the outside. If you have a house with windows that are falling apart you should consider replacing them with new double-pane windows.

8) Look for daylight around doors. Eliminate those cracks with weather-stripping.

9) Again, central heat and air equipment doesn’t last forever. If you have the original unit in a 1970’s or 1980’s house, have your heat and air guy check out the unit. The heat exchangers are prone to going bad. When they do, it presents a carbon monoxide poisoning risk to your tenants. You may also be paying out the nose for service calls to keep the unit running. Sometimes the best thing is to just bite the bullet, replace the unit, and get on down the road.

The layout can also be an issue in older houses. A common problem I see in pre-1960 houses is odd configurations for where the washer and dryer are located. Lets face it, a home built in 1935 was constructed before the days of the modern washer and dryer, so there was no space in the house for those items.

Another persistent problem in older houses are too many walls or walls that are in the wrong places. For example, many older homes have walls separating living areas from formal dining rooms that most families these days don’t use. Sometimes, just removing a wall to create a bigger living room can make all the difference in an older home. Tenants want enough room to have their jumbotron TVs and couches.

Your Oklahoma City property management company should be able to point these improvements out to you.

Correcting one of these problems will not boost the monthly rental rate, but it can have a dramatic effect on the vacancy of the property because tenants won’t be moving due to high utility bills.

Part one of the series talked about functional changes you can make to improve your Oklahoma City rental property. Part 3 of this series will deal with inexpensive cosmetic changes you can make to your OKC rental property.
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