Let’s start with the obvious: the New Year is all about self-improvement. And though some people dread New Year’s resolutions, real estate investors salivate at the sound of “new”. After all, real estate investors improve things for a living. Now, improvement is wonderful, but all this betterment does take planning.
As Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
This is especially true when it comes to risk management. Many people think that they have created a bulletproof risk management strategy by incorporating or purchasing a robust set of insurance policies. But the fact is, incorporation doesn’t protect you from maintenance woes and insurance can’t – and doesn’t – cover everything that can go wrong at your property.
Taking responsibility for managing risk at your property will take some of your own sweat and muscle, but it may just make the difference between ending this year in the red or the black. So, what should you include in your risk management plan? To get your list started, focus on these key areas for each season.
Spring brings new life, but it also brings thunderstorms.
1. ROOF & GUTTERS: Check for damage to your roof and clean your gutters and downspouts.
Replace cracked, buckled or loose shingles, along with those missing any granules. Keep debris from accumulating in gutters, eliminate sags and dips and be sure downspouts drain away from the foundation.
2. TREES: Remove dead trees from your yard, and trim healthy trees and bushes back from utility wires.
Hire a licensed and insured professional to trim dead branches and cut down large trees. In addition to preventing damage to the house, a clean yard deters thieves.
3. HVAC: Have a professional inspect your air-conditioning system and clean the ducts.
Give your AC a look before the pros are busy during pool season. Check hoses for leaks, and make sure everything is draining properly. Clean or replace your HVAC filter on a monthly basis.
Summer is a time for fun in the sun. Be sure your tenants and their children have a safe place to play.
1. DECKS: Inspect your deck and make any necessary repairs.
Replace any broken or weak deck boards and inspect handrails and grab bars to prevent injuries from falls. Sharp edges, splintered or rotting wood, rusted nails or nail pops can also be a liability hazard.
2. POOLS: Bring swimming pools and spas up to current municipal standards.
A safe pool has a fence around the perimeter with self-closing and self-latching gates, anti-entrapment drain covers, the water depth clearly marked on all sides of the pool deck and all safety equipment (life preservers, pole, etc.) in good working condition. Check municipal guidelines for additional safety standards.
3. GRILLS: Remind tenants to inspect grills and make sure they are in good working condition.
Check gas grills’ burner jets for clogs and obstructions and be sure that hoses are secure. Clean charcoal grills of ash, and make sure they are free of grease residue. Tenants should not use grills on wood decks!
Fall displays beautiful colors and creates plenty of chores. Start early to finish them all before the first frost!
1. ALARM TESTING: Inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Make sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are installed on each floor of every one of your properties. They should be placed in each bedroom, main hallway, kitchen and basement. Units should be tested monthly and should be replaced after 10 years of use. The end of Daylight-Saving time is perfect for changing both clocks and batteries in your detectors.
2. HEATING: Give your furnace a tune-up.
HVAC systems should be checked at least twice a year – before winter or summer arrive. Have the ducts professionally cleaned to prevent fires resulting from dust buildup. Furnace filters should be changed on a monthly basis.
3. PESTS: Prevent bugs and rodents from entering your property.
Seal or caulk cracks, gaps or holes near baseboards, windows and doors. Cable, plumbing and electric service entry points should also have a tight seal. Any hole the size of a dime or larger may allow rodents to squeeze through.
Winter can be punishing on your property. Prudent preparation can get you through the season peacefully.
1. PLUMBING: Winterize all water systems.
Drain, disconnect and store garden hoses. Install a faucet cover to help prevent outdoor faucets and any connected plumbing from freezing. Drain your sprinkler system and swimming pool pump. Turn off the water and fully drain the plumbing systems of any vacant properties.
2. WALKWAYS: Repair cracked, broken or uneven driveways, walkways and stairs.
The expansion and contraction caused by freezing and thawing can lead to significant damage to exterior walkways. If left unchecked, these hazards can cause slips and falls. Be sure you specify in your lease who is responsible for clearing walkways and driveways of ice and snow. You may even want to provide a shovel!
3. HOLIDAY COOKING: Remind your tenants to use caution in the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of house fires.
Never leave anything you are cooking unattended. Water spreads grease fires – put a lid on the pan to smother the fire or use a multi-purpose fire extinguisher. Keep potholders, clothing and other flammable items away from open flames.
Develop your yearlong risk management plan now and take your RE business to greater heights this year. The extra effort will make your entire year go much smoother and may just show up in your pockets in time for the Holidays!