How real estate investors can prepare for winter

How real estate investors can prepare for winter
by Brad Cartier, posted in Investment Strategy

Harsh winter weather can take a major toll on rental property in many parts of the country. Severe wind, rain, sleet, and snow can lead to costly, and yet often avoidable, repairs on plumbing, roofing, and heating systems.

That’s why it’s important to winterize your property before the first frost arrives. In this article, we’ll discuss how real estate investors can prepare for winter in ten easy steps. Then, we’ll provide you with important tips to get a jumpstart on preparing for tax season.

Winterize your rental property in 10 easy steps

Even though the leaves may have already started to change color, it’s not too late to get your rental property prepared for winter. Here are ten things you can do to winterize your rental property inside and out:

Exterior

#1 – Caulk and fill any gaps and cracks in windows, doors, conduits, and vents that can lead to heat loss and make it easy for rodents, mice and roaches to get inside the house.

#2 – Perform annual routine maintenance on the heating system. Many HVAC companies offer an affordable, annual contract for twice-a-year servicing of heating and cooling units to help keep little problems from becoming big ones.

#3 – Inspect the roof for gaps from missing shingles or tiles that can trap snow or rain.

#4 – Clean the gutters of debris like dirt, leaves, or branches that will create clogs and cause poor drainage.

#5 – Prune and trim back shrubs and tree branches near the house that will sag and break from snow and ice. Winterize in-ground sprinkler systems by draining the lines. Seal cracks in driveways and walkways to keep them from getting bigger from expansion caused by freezing water.

Interior

#6 – Measure the attic insulation and consider making your R-value higher, which is a method of measuring how well insulation resists heat flow. The U.S. Department of Energy has put together a helpful interactive map showing recommended R-values across the country.

#7 – Check the insulation around pipes and replace any cracked or broken foam insulation sleeves as needed.

#8 – Verify smoke and CO2 detectors are working and make sure the old batteries are replaced with fresh ones.

#9 – Clean the heating and cooling ducts if they haven’t been given a good once over in recent years. Cleaning them every few years keeps dust particles from building up and mold, mildew, and fungus from thriving.

#10 – Lower the water heater temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees. This will help your tenants keep their energy use in check and still provides plenty of hot water while reducing pressure buildup on pipes.

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How tenants can help you prepare for winter

Working with your tenants to prepare for winter creates a win-win situation for both landlord and tenant.

Landlords can avoid having to make costly repairs caused by water damage and frozen pipes. Tenants will also save money on their utility bills as temperatures drop below freezing.

The change in seasons provides the perfect opportunity to add value to your relationship by visiting your tenants in person or sending them an email with helpful tips and advice:

  • Keeping the thermostat set to at least 50 degrees when they leave for work helps protect pipes
  • Changing the furnace filter regularly reduces energy use and keeps heating systems from running more than they need and wearing out prematurely
  • Closing the chimney flue for homes with a fireplace keeps cold air out and prevents warm air from escaping up the chimney
  • Removing furniture from the fronts of air vents lets warm air circulate quickly so that the home heats up faster
  • Switching the direction of a ceiling fan to let the blades spin clockwise pushes the warm air back down

By reaching out to your tenants and making the extra effort to help them save money, you’ll not only make a great impression, but you’ll also let your tenants know that you care. When the lease comes up for renewal, you’ll increase the odds that your renters will stay, helping you keep turnover expenses and vacancy loss low.

Get a jump start on preparing for tax season

For real estate investors, winter is about more than just the change in weather. It’s also the best time of year to prepare for tax season. By starting early, you can get your CPA questions answered quickly before the March and April rush makes everything harder.

The rental property owners’ tax strategies guide from Stessa can help landlords understand tax filings, and prepare and minimize real estate investment taxes for 2019. By taking a proactive approach throughout the year investors can end up with favorable results come April 15th.

This guide includes actionable tax tips for rental property investors on items like:

  • Establishing a home office properly to secure a home office deduction
  • Selecting the right holding entity for your rental property
  • Keeping track of travel expenses that are ordinary and necessary to be tax deductible
  • Real estate tax strategies to help you pay as little tax on your rental income as legally possible
  • Repairs and maintenance can be classified as a regular expense or a capital improvement, but the difference between the two isn’t always clear
  • Depreciation deductions including cost segregation studies and 100% bonus depreciation to help reduce taxable net income
  • Passive losses and activity to help produce a net loss for tax purposes
  • Capital gains and depreciation and the strategies to use to help mitigate an unexpected tax bill when selling investment property
  • Short-term rental taxes owed from using internet platforms like Airbnb or HomeAway
  • Pass-through deductions that allow some business owners to deduct 20% of qualified business income
  • Casualty losses caused by property damage or loss and how to recognize potential gains or losses
  • New tax laws to know for 2019 and beyond
  • Tax checklist and key dates that all real estate investors should remember

Even if you’re not taking advantage of our free online system to track your entire real estate portfolio, all real estate investors can subscribe to the Stessa Weekly Newsletter.

Getting rental property ready for winter

With this ten-point winter weather checklist for rental property you now have everything you need to help protect your investment from the hazards of extreme cold, snow and ice.

By getting your tenants involved with preparing for winter, you can make a great impression, let them know you care, and improve the odds that they’ll sign a new lease when the time comes to renew.

Winter is also the perfect time to prepare for the upcoming tax season. By planning ahead, real estate investors can take advantage of the numerous ways to minimize taxable income and maximize actual cash flow.

Stessa gives both beginning and experienced real estate investors an easy way to track rental properties in one place. By accurately categorizing transactions, connecting bank and loan accounts, and keeping track of receipts, Stessa helps make tax time a breeze.