What’s better than taking steps to improve your property’s value for free?
People who are homeowners and landlords sometimes treat their personal property differently from their investment property. However, when it comes to safety and energy efficiency, all properties should be treated the same, particularly when you’re looking at a long-term value perspective.
Here are seven free things you can do that will save you money and improve your property’s value.
1. Request a free home energy audit
Many landlords get a free home energy audit for their personal house but don’t do so for their rentals. This is a mistake because insulation is one of the highest ROIs of any home improvement project.
Additionally, most prospective tenants ask how much the utility costs are.
Bonus: Some landlords who use solar have no utility cost. And they can often sell the excess power back to the power company.
You can often discover leaks and areas that need more insulation, particularly in these areas:
- Around doors and windows
- Around electrical sockets and light switches
- In recessed lighting
- Around the attic hatch
- In the basement
- Anywhere ducts or wires go outside the house
2. Check for water leaks
Water can be extremely damaging to a property. Water can also cause mold and other issues to arise. It is highly recommended that you deal with water issues immediately.
Water damage can occur in multiple places. Here is a list of places to check in order of obvious places to check to non-obvious places to check:
- Water supply line
- Evaporator leaks
3. Get multiple bids on your insurance
Homeowners insurance can be a major annual expense for landlords. If you own 10 properties and average $400 in premiums per property, that’s $4,000 a year. If you own the properties for 20 years, that’s $80,000 over the lifetime of the property.
If you negotiated just a 10% savings, you would save $400. You would also save $8,000 over the lifetime of holding onto the properties.
Please note: that is just the one-time cost savings. Your savings would grow exponentially if you reprice your insurance every year.
Tip: Reprice your insurance every year to make sure everything is being insured well and to save money.
4. Check for attic insulation
Checking to see whether you need insulation is free. However, the actual insulation will cost some money. Spray insulation costs substantially more than the traditional kind, but it insulates better.
One product that is extremely cheap (and that many people don’t buy) is a water heater blanket, which improves the energy efficiency of hot water heaters. These blankets typically have a four-month payback period.
5. Unplug electrical appliances
Some people reportedly save between $20 and $80 in electricity cost per month by unplugging their electrical appliances.
The national average kilowatt hour is $0.11. This interesting table shows how much electricity each appliance uses.
The savings here would be if you use Airbnb for your rental properties, and you could unplug these appliances when they are not in use. You can also use this data for your own personal residence.
Buying a surge protector isn’t free. However, you can save a fair amount by using one for small appliances.
6. Test for lead paint
Lead was a common component of paint up until 1978 when federal regulations restricted the use.
Lead can be extremely dangerous if inhaled or digested.
This isn’t one of those issues that can be extremely detrimental to your property, but when you want to sell a property or have it rented, it’s good to have these disclosures to make the potential tenant or buyer for your property feel safe.
7. Test for radon (not free, but cheap)
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell, or taste. There is usually very little radon in the air outside, but sometimes an unsafe level of radon can build up indoors, especially in basements.
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.
Most people don’t test for radon, even though it’s an extremely dangerous and toxic element.
You can buy test kits at home improvement or hardware stores. To order a test kit over the phone, call the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON (1-800-767-7236).
Some of the ideas in this post have a higher return on investment than others do. But they are all free (or cheap), can improve turnover in rentals, and can ultimately improve the value of your property.
For some additional tips on improving your property with minimal cost, check this article: 11 Ways to be a Frugal Landlord