In this episode Carla & Adrain talk about the importance of making vacant property checks a regular part of your schedule as a property manager or rental property owner.
Welcome to Canada's Property Management podcast, your number one resource for investing, managing, and maximizing the value of your real estate assets. And now here's your hosts, Carla Browne and Adrian Schulz, Canada's rental property experts.
Carla Browne (00:19):
Okay, here we go again, Adrian. Today we are going to talk about vacant property checks. We're going to talk about why they're important and why we need to be aware of them. Do you normally have vacant property? Or do you like... I don't know. I guess the market's so active, I would say we don't see a lot of vacant property. So I think people forget about this topic and how important it is that we're in there checking them every once in a while.
Adrian Schulz (00:45):
I think that all property investors, landlords, property managers, experience vacant units throughout the cycle of the year. Obviously, we want as little vacancy as possible, but it is a reality. And especially during the pandemic, I think we experienced some longer vacancy periods that we wouldn't have because people were just not moving, at least at certain parts of the pandemic. And I think it really brought forward the requirement to check vacant units, not just for insurance purposes, which I think you can speak on, but also to make sure that there's no flood or fire going on, right? Just that the overall risk from a repair and maintenance perspective.
Carla Browne (01:27):
Yeah. So COVID also did another thing there is that we weren't showing property as frequently. And some of us haven't necessarily gone back to showing on a regular basis. We're showing only when we have approved perspective tenants and whatnot. So we seem to be showing in those property is less. So then it becomes even more important that we have some kind of a scheduled property check that needs to happen. So the first one's due to insurance. I mean, an investor has an insurance policy. The insurance broker has hopefully gone through what that looks like. You got to let them know if it's vacant more than 30 days. And if it's going to be vacant, they want to know that somebody's in there checking it every so often. So we've seen some policies that are as frequently as 24 hours, which is really hard to manage by the way.
Carla Browne (02:12):
But then some are more that they have to be in there on a weekly basis to check them. If you have a property that has like a hot tub or something like that, it becomes even more pertinent, especially in the beautiful weather that you and I live in, in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the wintertime. So insurance would be the first one that I think you need to look at.
Carla Browne (02:31):
And then the other one that I always think about is that you want to make sure that the property is being looked like it's lived in. So that's for security reasons. You want to make sure snow is being shoveled, just like you would shovel your snow if someone was living there. That lawn is being cut, the mail is going somewhere. So you don't have flyers sticking out of the mailbox like these red flags, like I'm vacant, I'm vacant, I'm vacant. You don't want to walk into show one day and you got someone maybe that's decided to move in on their own.
Adrian Schulz (03:00):
You raise security. I actually hadn't immediately thought of that, but I'm reminded of on the weekend how there was a sale on a specific online website, selling smart plugs. They were down to $5. There was a sale on these particular smart plugs. And I think there's a neat opportunity to use technology to assist with that security, by having the lights go on and off at scheduled times. That's actually possible now for very little cost.
Carla Browne (03:31):
That's such a great point because I've thought of it. I haven't implemented it, but I thought about how can we be using some of these simple technology things that are out there so that we could actually be seeing what's happening or making the property look a little bit more lived in and less, I guess, obvious to people who might be looking by. And like I said, the market is so active across Canada. We don't see long times of vacancy anymore, but I mean, that could change. And sometimes the market hits, it's not abnormal where a property is vacant for a couple months, right?
Adrian Schulz (04:04):
Carla Browne (04:05):
But you want to be proactive. A few other tips, I think that we could throw out there to our listeners is if the property's vacant, turn off the water. Water pipes could burst for any reason and our water heaters could go, you just never know. It's not because it's being lived in.
Adrian Schulz (04:22):
At all the shutoff points, right? Especially the toilet.
Carla Browne (04:26):
Exactly. Just shut them off if the property's vacant. Turn them on when you got someone moving in and then that's one less thing that you really need to worry about. And I would highly recommend that when people, if they're self-managed, that they don't rely on friends and family to do property checks. It's just, we always think we can rely on friends and family. But unfortunately, when you're engaging someone in a service that is a paid service, they're more likely to be doing it on that scheduled time. So that's just a few tips and have a checklist of what you want them to check on.
Adrian Schulz (04:59):
And a log, right? Ideally in the suite. We put them on the fridge with a magnet and something that we do is because our properties have lock boxes. So any service provider that's at the site or near the site, we can say, "Hey, do you mind going to do a quick check for me?" They send us a photo of the suite so it's timestamped and that one check mark off the log. There are ways if you don't have the full infrastructure if you're self-managed, there are ways to achieve that weekly check as well by using some of your preferred vendor relationships that we've spoken about earlier as well.
Carla Browne (05:35):
Okay, so let's wrap this one up. Vacant property checks, essential to do. Talk to your insurance provider so that you understand what your requirements are because the last thing you want to happen is that you don't have insurance for something that might happen in that property when it is vacant. And Murphy's Law, if it's going to happen, it'll probably happen during that time. So you want to make sure that that's taken care of. Get your checklist, have your log, shut off your water. What else am I missing there in this wrap up, Adrian?
Adrian Schulz (06:08):
Well, just that doing a vacant property check is cheaper than a flood or a fire.
Carla Browne (06:13):
Yes. Most definitely. Most definitely. Okay. So that is real property management.
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