Vacation Rental 101: Property Maintenance

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
November 1, 2016

We tend to only perform maintenance in our own homes when something breaks. Heater not firing up? Better see what’s wrong. AC busted on the hottest day of the year? Time to replace it.

That strategy won’t work for a vacation rental, because the guest may only be in the property for the two days it takes to fix the problem at hand. Instead, you’re going to have to go on the offensive, and perform routine maintenance every six months whether you think your property needs it or not.

Here’s what we recommend to stay ahead of common maintenance issues.

General Inspection

You bought this property as an investment, and you’ll want to be sure it’s in good condition overall. This part of the inspection usually won’t matter significantly to your guests, but it will reveal problems that could be costly later on if they aren’t caught early – and of course you don’t want anything major to go awry while you’re renting.

Perform a walk-through of your property the way a home inspector would, looking at the “big picture.”

  • Are there any cracks in your walls that imply the foundation may be shifting?
  • Is your roof in good condition? When was it last replaced? (Most roofs need to be replaced every 20 years.)
  • Are there any signs of water damage in your attic, basement, laundry room, kitchen, or bathrooms?
  • Does your plumbing make any unusual noises when you turn it on? (We recommend getting your sewer line cleaned once per year.)
  • Are there any overarching issues with your electricity, such as frequent outages?
  • Are there any large trees nearby with roots that encroach on your foundation, or branches that threaten to scrape your roof or damage the property?
  • Are there any signs of pest damage?

Usually, this part of the inspection will go quite quickly. It’s a brief walk-through, and it shouldn’t take longer than half an hour to visually inspect everything. It’ll be well worth the effort to get ahead of a serious plumbing or foundation problem, as you’ll be able to pick your own time to fix it, and avoid inconveniencing guests.

Vacation Rental Necessities

These are the items that need to be in place for every single guest. Your six-month inspection is a good time to ensure you have all of these items stocked and that they are working properly. (This does not include cleaning everything, which we covered in the Vacation Rental 101: Cleaning post – this is about what items need to be replaced or checked to be sure they function.)

First things first: replace all the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors – whether they need it or not! Nothing will ruin a guest’s stay faster than a beeping battery alarm at 3 am, and that problem is readily avoided by making it a habit to replace the battery every six months.

The same goes for your lightbulbs. These may not need replacing as often as your batteries do – an LED bulb can last for up to 5 years – but we recommend you put all new bulbs in every fixture when you start renting, and setting a reminder for yourself to replace them one year before the bulb manufacturer says they will need replacing.

If the package on your bulbs says they will last for five years, for example, replace them at four years. If you make it a habit to replace all your bulbs at the same time, it’s very unlikely a single bulb will burn out unexpectedly.

You should also check that the following safety items are available and in good working order:

  • Fire extinguishers
  • First aid kits
  • Smoke/CO detectors

Finally, check to be sure your audio/visual systems and electronic devices are working, as guests will definitely be distressed if any of the items they wanted in a rental aren’t available during their stay. Again, it’s best to replace these items well before they’re likely to break. Check on your:

  • Televisions
  • DVD/Blu-ray players
  • Stereos and speakers
  • Video game consoles
  • Internet router and modem

Interior Maintenance

Inside, your property needs a bit more of a cosmetic touch. You’ll want to look through each room for any signs of basic wear and tear – a bit of paint that needs touched up, a set of blinds with a broken panel. Here’s what we recommend looking for:

  • Floors – Wood floors may need to be refinished or treated, carpets need to be shampooed and cleaned (and sometimes replaced), and stone floors may need to be resealed.
  • Windows – Replace any cracked or damaged windows
  • Doorknobs & Cabinet Handles – Check and tighten all the screws to avoid rattly handles that can eventually work their way loose
  • Furniture – Leather furniture may need to be conditioned, fabric furniture may need repairs or cleaning, and wood furniture may need to be refinished or treated.
  • Plumbing Fixtures – Double-check your water pressure and drainage for any problems, and replace any fixtures that are looking worn or loose

This is also a good time to check your vacation rental kitchen appliances. If you’ve frequently had complaints that the microwave doesn’t heat food efficiently or that your oven runs too hot, you might want to consider a replacement.

Do a quick round of the kitchen supplies as well to see if any items are looking worn. Your pots and pans may need replacing more often than you think!

Finally, your six-month maintenance is a good time to be sure all your supplies for guests are in good order, particularly your linens. Check your sheets, duvets, blankets, towels, and curtains for any signs of wear and tear, and replace them as necessary. (And, of course, give them a good deep cleaning, as recommended in our Cleaning 101 post.)

Exterior Maintenance

The first thing you’ll want to do every year is assess whether your house needs to be repainted. “Curb appeal” is one of the first things your renters will see when they arrive, and you want to be sure they have the best possible impression of your house.

We recommend repainting every five years or so, but take the time during your six-month inspection to see if paint needs to be touched up anywhere.

You should also look at your landscaping for any improvements or changes that need to be made – your guests will definitely notice if your front or back yards aren’t looking pristine.

Beyond aesthetics, you should also:

  • Clean your gutters and downspout and check that drainage is working as it should
  • Check your pathways for any damage that might make them difficult or dangerous to navigate
  • Assess your patio furniture for necessary repairs or maintenance (wood patio furniture may need resealing, for example)
  • Check your sprinklers to be sure they’re working properly and watering your lawn, rather than the sidewalk
  • Trim your trees away from the home to be sure they’re compliant with fire standards in your area
  • Aerate your lawn if necessary

Major Mechanical Systems

No heat in the winter, no cooling in the summer – these are the kinds of problems that can ruin your guests’ vacation, and you definitely want to avoid them. Every six months, change the filters in your major mechanical systems and do a visual inspection for any problems.

We highly recommend scheduling your six-month check in just before a new season begins so that you can be sure the mechanical systems you’ll need are in good working order. For example, you’ll be able to check that the boiler is working properly right before it’s time to turn on the heat for fall or winter.

Be sure to change the filters in your:

  • Furnace
  • Air conditioner
  • Dryer
  • Ventilation system

One place to double-check is the bathroom! The exhaust vents in bathrooms often get far more clogged than other places in the house, so be sure you specifically take the cover off and take a look around in the vent pipe. If it looks pretty clogged in there, clean it thoroughly before replacing the cover.

Call in the Experts

These are the tips we recommend to our owners when they’re performing routine maintenance on their vacation rentals — and we have a lot more insight to share. In fact, our vacation rental experts help owners just like you start, manage, and grow businesses across the country.

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