When it comes to vacation rentals, upkeep can make or break a guest’s experience. Visitors expect everything to be in working order, and when they’re not, you’ll surely hear about it — as will any potential guests who check out your reviews. Routinely inspecting your appliances, windows, roofs, and other home features can save you money on costly home repairs or replacement down the road.
If you’re not handy and available to make improvements or perform maintenance, you’ll want to have access to someone who is, as well as a list of appliance repair people who can arrive on short notice. Guests will likely understand if the refrigerator breaks down during their stay, but they’re less forgiving if it doesn’t get fixed or replaced immediately. In the long-run, spending a little money up front can save you from spending more money on more expensive repairs down the road.
When you purchase a major appliance, windows, or electronic device, you’re offered an extended warranty and/or service plan on top of the manufacturer’s warranty. Tread carefully here – make sure you understand exactly what the warranty covers and what it doesn’t. You should also have a conversation with your homeowner’s insurance provider to see what’s covered and under what circumstances.
A home warranty is normally offered for the first year after you buy a property and typically includes a dishwasher and other kitchen appliances, electrical and heating-cooling systems, and hot water heaters. You’ll likely have an option to buy additional layer of coverage for washer/dryer and other items. It’s less necessary for new homes, which typically come with a builder’s guarantee and new appliances that have their own manufacturer’s warranties, but it could be worth it if your home is new and you’re unfamiliar with how well the items work.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has a handy chart that provides general guidelines about how long appliances and home features should last, depending on the usage they get, exposure to weather, and quality of work or item. One thing that’s universal – in order to keep the home running smoothly and to extend the life of your systems and appliances, keep everything maintained. Angie’s List has a good reference article that covers when to repair and when to replace.
Here are some common home amenities and what you can expect to spend over the years on maintenance and repairs:
- HVAC systems: The National Association of Realtors’ consumer publication, houselogic.com, suggests several touch points for keeping your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems running smoothly. For example – upgrade your filters and replace them every 90 days (and check for clogs monthly), inspect refrigerant lines that lead to the house every month, and every year, use a bleach solution to clean out the air conditioner condensation drain to stave off growth of algae and mold. According to an article on Angie’s List, a service contract for regular maintenance can run $150-$500 a month; for repairs, a service call ranges anywhere from $40 to $250; parts can run from small circuit breaker repairs at $50 to $1,500 for fixing a refrigerant leak.
- Jetted tubs and hot tubs: Deep cleaning intervals depend on how much use they get and what the manufacturer recommends, but you’ll regularly want to keep the system clean or risk your guests complaining about disgusting black gunk coming out from the jets. Home repair expert Bob Vila has a tutorial on cleaning using household products; you can also get special extra-strength cleaning fluid specifically for jets. There are lots of things that can go wrong with a hot tub or jetted tub such as hose failure, lightbulb or electrical problem, or pump and motor issues. A service call alone runs about $500; installed replacement pumps and heaters can run up to $500 each.
- Showers and faucets: If hard water deposits are impeding the flow of water, you don’t have to replace it right away: fill a plastic bag with a white vinegar and water solution and secure it around the shower head or faucet for about 15 minutes to break up deposits. If you need to go more industrial strength, use a CLR (calcium, rust, lime) solution. Replacing a shower head costs about $100 in labor, plus whatever the new piece costs – anywhere from $20-$300.
- Drains: Monthly drain maintenance can save costly repairs and unclogging in the future. Good Housekeeping suggests pouring a mixture of ½ cup baking soda and ¼ cup salt down the drain and chasing it with a cup of heated vinegar. Let it stand for 15 minutes and flush it out by running hot water down the drain for 15 to 30 seconds. A service call for a basic clog can run about $75; more complex ones can go up to $400.
- TV screens and monitors: Better to keep your screen free of dust and smudges the right way than have a guest take matters into his own hands and scratch it while wiping it down improperly. At every turnover, use a duster made from black feathers of male ostriches or microfiber cloth; if there are dark marks or grime, use a tiny bit of distilled water or vinegar/water mix, advises CNET. The cost to repair a TV hovers around $150 for the service call; replacing a screen usually isn’t worth the cost and you’re better off buying a new TV.
- Garage doors: Garaga, a garage-door manufacturer, advises observing the door to make sure it’s running smoothly and not making jerky motions or grinding/scraping noises. Tighten hardware and inspect the rollers twice a year and replace worn ones; check and replace weatherstripping when necessary; lubricate moving parts with white lifting grease; make sure tracks are clear of dust and debris; and if the cables show signs of wear, call in a professional repair person. In addition, keeping your garage door itself clean, in fresh paint, and clear of rust or wear can better protect it from the elements and extend its life. Repairs cost around $150-300; an average replacement will run a little over $1,000.
- Washers and dryers: When left unchecked, washers and their hoses can leak and cause major flooding; dryers can build up and vents and hoses can become obstructed, creating an easy environment for a fire. Houselogic suggests inspecting and cleaning hoses, gaskets, drums, and pump filters once a month, and clearing out the dryer lint filter with detergent to get rid of chemical residue. And then once a year, remove and clean out the entire exhaust duct leading from the dryer to outside to get rid of flammable lint and other debris. It costs $100-$400 to repair a dryer and between $100 and $400 for a washer. Replacing those appliances can run from $350 for a low-end unit on up.
Like any investment, the time and money you spend up front to keep your rental running smoothly will pay off in the end – not only with working amenities but also with happy guests.