4 Ways to Solve Second-Home Maintenance Woes

(This article originally appeared on Inman News)

Key Takeaways

  • With the tremendous growth of the market for vacation homes, owners are challenged by maintaining multiple properties.
  • There are multiple solutions to this issue, including hiring a property management company, scheduled maintenance or hiring a local hand.
  • The last thing people want to do in their vacation home is clean and do house projects – thinking about a solution beforehand can offput these woes.

Owning multiple properties is fairly common among high-end clients, and that creates some unique needs for that group. In fact, just over 20% of all home sales are for vacation homes, according to Forbes, and the market for vacation homes has seen tremendous growth in the last 5 years. Owning multiple properties presents a challenge when it comes to keeping everything in top shape, both at the second and primary residence, each of which may be vacant for several weeks of the year.

As we discussed in a recent piece on home maintenance for vacation homes, no one wants to spend their travel time on repairs and maintenance. At the same time, property owners don’t want to neglect the home that’s currently vacant. Caring for multiple homes is a very complex proposition, and for some it becomes hit and miss. This is unacceptable when there are options available that take the job off of the property owner’s plate.   

Option #1: The Property Management Company

Hiring a management company to look after a second home is one option. They can open and close the house, handle rentals (if applicable), and respond to emergencies. In most cases, the company can also arrange for cleaning and hire local maintenance workers to handle repairs so the home is in tip-top shape for your arrival.  

This is a popular choice for owners who live far away and want to rent out their property when not in use. Management companies generally charge a percentage of the rental price, and this can range from 20% to 60%.

If you’ve stayed in a vacation rental yourself, you know that these homes are not always maintained to a high standard. Sometimes minimal maintenance seems like enough. Many owners reason that they will be visiting several times each year, and can take care of some jobs themselves. This line of thinking ignores the fact that it’s much more effective to handle home maintenance proactively—taking care of routine tasks and small issues before they become problems.

Option #2: The Neighbor or Local Housekeeper

In some cases, owners pay a neighbor or local housekeeper to “keep an eye” on their property. This can seem like an economical approach, and it is useful to have someone there to check on things: turn on the faucets once a month or check for damage, etc. But this is a very minimal part of home maintenance, and it fails to address the really critical issue of prevention.

What about changing the furnace filter? Clearing the dryer vent? Repairing a loose board on the deck? Recaulking the bathtub? All of these small tasks add up, and more importantly, they prevent major problems from occurring. That bathtub caulk stops water from seeping into walls and floors. Left unchecked, the moisture will eventually cause rot and mildew. The cost for repairing the structural damage can be steep, not to mention the inconvenience.

Proper preventative maintenance is intended to circumvent these sorts of problems and keep the home in top condition, so it’s ready to use and enjoy.

Option #3: Owner Maintenance

For many people with multiple properties, taking care of maintenance themselves is simply not a realistic option. Keeping up with maintenance tasks for 2 or more homes is at least a full-time job, and the owners have responsibilities elsewhere.

Beyond tasks like cleaning and organizing, home maintenance can require several hours each week, even when things are running smoothly.  Depending on its location, a vacation home may actually require more maintenance than average, due to weathering in more extreme climates at the beach or in the mountains.

And, who wants to spend hours on home maintenance when on vacation?

Option #4: Scheduled Maintenance

Clients with multiple properties can benefit from a solution that provides regular, comprehensive maintenance that is personalized to fit their unique needs. Emerging service-based companies in this field, like Glasshouse, assign each client a local maintenance manager who ensures that preventative maintenance is covered. Regular visits are made. Routine tasks completed. And, emergencies are taken care of if the owner is far away. It offers the personal touch that allows second-home owners to keep maintenance out of sight, out of mind.

Making it Work

Managing multiple properties is a complex job, but it doesn’t have to be a headache for the owner. Regular preventative maintenance saves costs in the long run, and downtime for repairs can be all but eliminated when everything is kept in top condition. A proactive approach is best, and professional services can give your high-end clients some peace of mind.