Landscape maintenance is one of those tasks that often make property managers shudder a little inside. It can be costly, and you’re never really sure whether it’s worth the expense. Sure, potential tenants pay attention to landscaping when they’re deciding whether to apply to rent your property, but you’re often left wondering: Wouldn’t you be able to rent the property without so much effort and expense?
The fact is that the state of the landscaping and yard maintenance at your properties says a lot about the properties — and it also sends a clear message about your property management company as well. Take a look at some tips for maintaining high landscape maintenance standards while minimizing expenses.
Upgrade Your Landscaping to Attract Good Tenants
Tenants who take good care of properties tend to be tenants who look for properties that are well cared for. A property with minimal landscaping — or worse, a property whose yard and landscaping have been neglected — are going to attract tenants who don’t mind a little neglect. Sure, those two sets of tenants may look similar on a rental application, but once they’re in your property, you’ll notice the difference.
That means that when you’re about to put a property on the market, it’s time to spruce up the outside as well as the inside (which of course you’ll do automatically). If your area sees high turnover during a certain time of year (for example, if you’re in a college town), time your landscaping work accordingly.
Make Safety Issues a Priority
Tree limbs that grow low, impeding walkways and causing pedestrians to have to duck, are more than unsightly — they’re also a safety issue. Overgrown tree limbs can also block visibility of traffic or cause damage to parked cars when they reach out into the street fronting your property. Make arrangements for regular tree trimming a couple of times a year to avoid unwanted incidents that could cost you. Pay particular attention to palm trees, if you’re in a warm climate, since the heavy fronds can cause great damage to people and vehicles if they fall.
Trees aren’t the only safety issue on your property, of course. Direct your maintenance crews to pay extra attention to broken sprinkler heads or ground light fixtures that can cause tripping hazards, and keep walkways in good maintenance to avoid having to deal with potential lawsuits.
Upgrade Your Irrigation System to Save Money
If you see water running down the sidewalks and gutters when your sprinkler system is on, you’re pouring money down the drain (literally). Especially in drought-prone climates, a modern evapotranspiration irrigation system can make a big difference in your bottom line. Check with your local water district to see if you qualify for rebates to minimize your upfront costs.
The high-tech controllers that are part of this kind of system allow you to maintain your lawn and plantings while reducing water consumption by as much as 50 percent. Consider this type of irrigation system particularly if you’re leasing properties where the tenants have control over watering. They’ll appreciate the fact that they don’t have to think about the lawn, and you’ll appreciate the savings and the chance to be environmentally responsible.
Mulching, Plant Replacement, and Other Cost-Effective Landscaping Maintenance
Sit down with your gardeners and maintenance crews to establish seasonal routines that keep your landscaping looking fresh and well cared for. Regular mulching may seem like one of those extras that you can skip, but it actually provides some of the best improvements in curb appeal for the money spent. Focus on the fronts of buildings and on common areas to minimize costs.
As shrubs and flowers grow, they can start to get crowded and messy. Sure, you can keep pruning back, but if you add up the maintenance costs for all that pruning, you’ll often find that replacing overgrown plants is actually a more attractive and more cost-effective choice. Look for smaller plants that don’t require much maintenance and that grow slowly to stretch the time until the next replacements are needed.
Don’t Let Maintenance Problems Build Up
If you have ongoing maintenance needs, create a schedule to keep everything up to date. Spending a little extra to clean drains on an ongoing basis is definitely more cost-effective than dealing with an emergency flood (which of course is most likely to happen on the weekend, when they always seem to occur).
Other ongoing maintenance also tends to be more cost-effective if you stay current with it. Add new wood chips to your play areas, replace dying plants, and keep soil healthy on an ongoing basis rather than courting injuries or larger maintenance problems by delaying them. As a bonus, your property will look great year-round, attracting the kinds of tenants you want.
When finances are tight or the market takes a downturn, landscape management might be high on your list of potential cutbacks. However, keeping landscape well-maintained is actually one of the most cost-effective choices you can make as a property manager. Make landscape maintenance a priority to enjoy the win-win of benefiting your current tenants, attracting excellent future tenants, doing good to the environment, and benefiting your own bottom line.