Preparing a unit for turnover: 5 steps for property managers to take

Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts | 3 min. read

Published on January 12, 2009

For better or worse, preparing units for tenant turnover is part of every property manager’s job. There’s good news, though. Just a few simple strategies can go a long way toward making the turnover process more efficient and cost-effective. Best of all, chances are that turnover will ultimately generate a higher rent rate for your unit.

Step 1: Take a Final Walk-Through

Believe it or not, readying your unit for the next tenant actually began when your current tenant moved in. Yup, you read that right: Before the current tenant (we’ll call him Tenant A) moved in, you likely walked though the unit with him, preparing a written report on the condition of the property. Since Tenant A is now leaving, it’s time to do a walk-through again, taking note of any work required before re-renting the unit.

Most likely, you’ll find only normal wear-and-tear issues. If anything abnormal is discovered, you and Tenant A will need to discuss a reduction in their security deposit refund.

Step 2: Schedule Vendors in Advance

You’ll want to touch base with your vendors as soon as Tenant A submits his notice. Try to schedule any necessary work for the week right after the tenant moves out. This allows plenty of time to cover the basics: a professional-grade clean, carpet shampoo, painting, and any other improvements or upkeep that you deem necessary. Something as simple as lining vendors up in advance will allow you to get your next tenant in as quickly as possible.

Step 3: Time for Some Improvements?

If you’ve been contemplating making improvements to the unit, this might just be the time to do it. New light fixtures, additional electrical outlets, and other relatively simple renovations can potentially generate a higher rent from your new tenant. This is also a great opportunity to get exterior work done so your tenant won’t be bothered with construction in the future.

Step 4: Re-Key… It’s Worth It

It’s tempting to skip the re-keying process during a unit turnover—but even if it seems like a hassle or unnecessary expense, you should absolutely have the locks re-keyed. It’s much cheaper to re-key a lock than to pay for a lawsuit resulting from unauthorized access to the unit. There are even do-it-yourself kits—Change-A-Lock has a great selection for locks of all types.

Step 5: Keep Careful Records

It’s probably not the most pressing part of your job, but keeping a careful record of unit expenses is another little thing that goes a long way. If you happen to be dealing with a unit has a high turnover rate, cleaning and basic upkeep costs can accumulate quickly. By tracking expenses, you’ll know exactly where you stand and can avoid over-spending in cases where it’s simply not necessary.

Good records will also give you quick access to the information you need to make good business decisions in the future. For example, if you’re considering raising rent but are worried current tenants may vacate as a result, knowing exactly how much unit turnover preparation costs can help you make the best, most profitable decision.

Unit turnover is unavoidable; but with an efficient strategy in place, a smooth, cost-effective transition from one tenant to the next is just a few simple steps away.

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Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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