Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Landlord Toilet Story with Numbers

When a tenant calls, I expect an issue

It's been almost five years since we acquired our first rental property. Still, every time a tenant calls, I hesitate before picking up the phone. I know that they wouldn't call me if everything was going smoothly. 

Tenants only call for two reasons:

1) They can't pay the rent on time
2) There is a repair or maintenance issue

Either way it's not a happy call. So I dread picking up the phone. I look at the phone display with the tenant's name. I count down in my mind.

Five, four, three, two, one. Then, I pick up the phone.

My skin is getting thicker.

After five years, I know that whether I pick up the phone now or listen to the voice message a bit later, the issue will need to be addressed. I also know that the sooner I resolve it, the least costly it will be. Rarely, I see issues resolving themselves. Unfortunately, most of the issues not only stick around but also worsen rapidly whenever I procrastinate.

However, I also learned that there are always different ways to resolve an issue. The easiest way is often the most costly.

Let me give you an example.

What's the Issue? 

O-oh! Hard water, ruined tap
A couple of weeks ago, my tenant called and let me know that they have a few problems: the shower tap is broken, kitchen and laundry room faucet leak.
I scheduled a local plumbing company. They visited and gave me a quote....

I always expect the worst. So I wasn't even in complete shock. But still... this specific quote made me nauseous.

It's January - the first month of the new year - and the cost of this repair basically wipes out most of my profit for the entire year. 

Any future maintenance issues at this place would eat away cash flow from other properties.

How is this possible? All it takes is a broken tap and two leaking faucets?

I reviewed the quote:

Service Charge   $49.99
Kitchen Faucet   $599.45
Laundry Faucet  $368.31
Shower Valve Remodeling Plate $192.33
Handle Wall Mount Tub & Shower w/ Valve $911.50
Become an Advantage Plan Member $99.99 and get 15% off
Member Discount ($248.60)
Tax $256.49

Grand Total: $2,229.46

We thought we could
handle the easy stuff 
That was the worst case. The best case quote was for $1,420.13. Better, but still bad.

The quote seemed high. I just got my own new bathroom faucet for $47 off Amazon. $599.45 for a new kitchen faucet seemed absurd in comparison!

I checked with my property manager. Does the price seem reasonable? He'd quote around $1,200 for the worst case. I called a different local plumbing company. They quoted $1,500 for the worst case.

My husband and I went to our favourite store. You guessed it right - The Home Depot.

We decided that we'd at least be able to get the easy stuff done on our own. Then, call the plumber for the hard stuff and save that way.

We showed the tap picture to a Home Depot staff member.

How do we go about it? 

In the best case, they told us, we'd be able to buy the parts and replace what's been broken. We just had to know exactly the brand and type of the faucet and taps.

In the worst case, we'd have to call a licensed plumber. They didn't recommend that we'd attempt to cut the tile on our own. We didn't look handy enough...

This time we were lucky!

My husband was able to replace just the broken parts. We decided not to worry about the laundry faucet for now as the issue seemed to be very minor when we examined it up close. So my husband fixed the kitchen faucet and the shower tap.

Actual Costs

My husband fixes our tenants faucet

Manor faucet    $79.98
HANDLE         $13.49
FLANGE          $5.92
FLANGE          $5.92
WASHERS       $3.94

Tax: $15.45

Grand-total: $134.26

Problem Solved!

All I can say is: Tenants are happy! We are happy! 


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