Essential Maintenance Advice for Long-Term Property Owners in San Diego - Article Banner

Have you decided to invest in San Diego properties for the long-term? 

Good. We have been managing rental properties and facilitating real estate deals for many years, and while there are plenty of good reasons to sell when the market shifts, holding onto those investment properties for years and even decades will bring profits and financial rewards that far outpace the immediate earnings you might enjoy with other, shorter term investment strategies. 

As a long-term property owner, you will have unique challenges, however. Keeping your property modern and appealing to different demographics and tenants is one such challenge. The things tenants wanted 10 years ago are much different from what they want today. The tenants themselves are a lot different than they were a decade ago. 

There’s also maintenance. You need a solid strategy for preserving and protecting both the condition and the value of your long-term rental property. Maintenance is not just about fixing problems; it’s about improving and updating and watching for signs of deterioration. 

Regular maintenance can prevent small issues from ballooning into costly repairs. Focusing on preventative maintenance plans will sustain property value and ensure tenant satisfaction. 

Where should you focus your attention (and your resources) when it comes to maintaining your home over the many years you plan to own it? We are always helping owners determine which repairs and upgrades will give them the best return on investment and contribute to the longevity of their rental investments.

Here are essential maintenance tips tailored specifically to the needs of buy-and-hold real estate investors who expect to own their properties for many years.

Prioritize Preventive Maintenance

Owning a property for any amount of time requires a good plan for preventative care. As San Diego property managers, we can tell you that preventative maintenance is the centerpiece of a long-term investment strategy. By being proactive with the systems, functions, and even the appliances of your property, you can extend the life of those critical systems and prevent expensive emergency repairs. 

Schedule regular checks on the HVAC system, and make sure there are recurring roof inspections. You’ll want to continually ensure that your drainage systems are clear and functioning well. Regular servicing can prevent catastrophic failures that require expensive and inconvenient repairs or replacements.

This is also an excellent way to show your tenants that you care about your property and you also care about their comfort. Ongoing service calls to the HVAC means healthy air flow inside the home. Checking the insulation means that cold air doesn’t escape in the summer and warm air remains circulating in the winter. 

Example Preventive Maintenance Tasks:

Some of the things you’ll want to pay attention to when we’re planning for preventative maintenance are:

  • Cleaning gutters and downspouts annually. El Nino winters are known to deliver more rain than we typically expect in San Diego. It’s easy to forget the preventative maintenance that comes with wet climates. We don’t usually have to worry about gutters in San Diego. If you make it a point of checking and cleaning them annually, you’ll be in good shape as your property cycles through various weather patterns.
  • Having the HVAC system serviced biannually. By having your HVAC system checked for problems and potential replacement needs, you’ll extend the lifespan of this expensive system. Heating and cooling is important to your tenants. It’s also important to the value and sustainability of your property. Partner with a good HVAC tech, and your bi-annual inspections will result in fewer maintenance calls around air conditioning and heat. 
  • Keep plumbing up to date. The longer you own your property, the more likely your plumbing will begin to have problems. Make sure you’re in good shape when it comes to plumbing, because water damage in a property can quickly get expensive. Leaks and drips that are left unnoticed can lead to mold and mildew. When your tenants report that something is wet, discolored, leaking, or dripping – get a plumber out there right away.

Protecting the condition of the property that you’re planning to own for a long time takes a combined effort from owners, tenants, and property managers. Make sure your residents know you want all maintenance issues reported right away. Don’t let any repairs get deferred or you’ll eventually be looking at an expensive emergency repair.

Focus Maintenance Attention on High-Traffic Areas

You’ll have a number of different tenants moving through your property. The longer you own your rental home, the more tenants will be using it. 

High-traffic areas in a rental home, such as entryways, hallways, and living rooms, face the most wear and tear. You’ll want to think about your flooring, your doors, and your windows. Use durable materials in these areas. Invest in hard surface flooring so that you’re not cleaning or changing carpets between each tenant. Regular touch-ups with paint or floor sealant will also be important when it comes to keeping these areas looking fresh for each new tenant. This will also substantially reduce the need for more intensive future repairs.

Choose paints and finishes that are not only durable but also easy to clean or touch up. You’ll do a lot of painting when you own a rental home for a decade or longer. When you invest in quality paint, you’ll ultimately spend less in the long term.

Partnering with Tenants in San Diego

Unless you have one dedicated tenant for 10 or 20 years, there will be several different residents cycling through your property. It’s worth your time and energy to establish good relationships with each tenant. 

When you have a good tenant relationship in place, you can count on solid retention. You can also enjoy the peace of mind that they’ll help you take care of your property. 

This is important for long-term property owners. As we said earlier, you’re partnering with these renters to protect the condition and the appearance of your investment. 

Your tenants are your first line of defense when it comes to identifying potential issues. Encourage communication and respond promptly to maintenance requests. This not only addresses problems before they escalate but also fosters good landlord-tenant relationships, often resulting in longer tenancy periods and lower turnover expenses.

Tenant retention can be just as important as property maintenance for long-term real estate investment success.

Invest in Quality Appliances and Fixtures

You’ll want to make upgrades and improvements as needed. Not only will this protect your property, it will also ensure that it stays desirable to tenants as the years march on. It might be tempting to go for the cheapest option when it comes to replacements, but investing in high-quality appliances and fixtures can save you money in the long run. Energy-efficient appliances reduce operating costs for tenants and may make your property more attractive. In addition, quality fixtures tend to have fewer mechanical issues and may come with better warranties.

  • Educate Tenants on Basic Care

While you can’t expect tenants to perform maintenance tasks themselves, you can educate them on the basics of caring for the home. Provide clear guidelines on what they can do to keep the property in good shape, like how to properly dispose of grease to avoid clogs, or where the main water shut-off valve is in case of a leak. Small actions by informed tenants can prevent larger complications. When they know how to reset a garbage disposal, it’s one less maintenance request you have to respond to.

  • Make Regular Updates to Decor and Amenities

While the ‘bones’ of your rental are essential to the performance of your property, the features and finishings are what often attract and keep tenants. Consider regular updates to decor and implement modern amenities where possible. These actions can command a higher rent and attract tenants who are willing to pay for quality living conditions.

Update Examples:

  • Installing ceiling fans or smart thermostats. Tenants are increasingly interested in both smart home tech and sustainability features.
  • Updating cabinet hardware or lighting fixtures. Shiny new faucets can make a huge impact.
  • Implementing keyless entry systems for added security.

Set Aside a Maintenance Fund

Maintenance FundFinally, being financially prepared for maintenance is, of course, critical. 

Set aside a reserve fund specifically for property upkeep. This ensures that when an issue does arise, you’re able to address it swiftly without impacting other areas of your financial strategy. This needs to be a long-term budget that reflects both the current and future needs of your investment. 

Long-term ownership of your San Diego rental property requires a focus on regular maintenance and improvements. Maintaining your investment properties is a critical process that, when done correctly, can lead to considerable financial returns. Prioritizing preventive maintenance, focusing on high-traffic areas, listening to tenants, investing in quality appliances and fixtures, educating renters, regularly updating decor, and setting aside a maintenance fund are all practices that contribute to the success of buy-and-hold real estate investing.

For real estate investors looking to protect and grow their investments over the long term, we have plenty of other strategies and tips we’d love to share with you. Please contact us at Chase Pacific Property Management & Real Estate Services.