Properly Winterizing Rental Properties

As summer becomes a memory and fall comes into full swing, it is time to think about preparing your properties for winter. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling for another harsh one, so do you know the tips and tricks to try to help you make it through another frigidly-cold winter with as little issues as possible?

Gutter-CleaningOn the exterior of your property:

  1. Cover any air-conditioners so that you ensure they are protected from the weather and thus will have a better chance of not needing serviced in the spring due to debris etc. getting into the unit.

2. Detach and store away any outdoor garden hoses. Turn the water off to the spigot from the inside of the home, but leave the faucet open on the outside as long as there is no water dripping.

3. Clean the gutters. As we move further and further into the fall there will be more and more leaves and debris hitting the roof and potentially getting into the gutters. Get all of the gutters cleaned out and checked thoroughly for problems so that the water can smoothly move through the system and away from the foundation of your home.

4. Check the roof for problems. While you’re up there cleaning the gutters, why not do a quick visual inspection of the roof to identify any problem areas. Once the weather takes a turn for the worse you will not be able to get someone up there to fix it so you’re better served to have small issues taken care of now before they become any bigger.


On the interior of your home:

1. Get the furnace checked. Have a HVAC professional come to check the system now before they’re overloaded with no heat calls and you have a hard time getting on the schedule.

2. Check the furnace filter. While you are checking that the furnace is fully operational, also take a look at the furnace filter. Does it need changed? If it does, you might as well do it now since a clogged filter will affect the effectiveness of your furnace. Continue to check the filters every few months to be sure that they aren’t getting clogged and need changed.

3. Insulate those pipes. Do you have exposed pipes that are on the exterior walls of your home or that are subject to the cold air coming in? Insulate them with pipe wrap insulation to prevent them from freezing when the cold temperatures hit.

4. Have the water heater checked. It may need to be flushed to make sure that it will continue to work at peak performance. While you are doing this, do you have a hot water heater blanket on it? This is another good idea to help control your energy consumption costs and allow your water heater to not have to work as hard to keep the water hot.

5. Install storm doors. By removing the screens and installing a storm door you will prevent the cold air from coming in but still allow the light in. Also remove any window screens that you can so that they don’t get destroyed from the harsh winter weather.

6. While you are working on the windows and doors, why not install some plastic and weather-stripping. Not only are both low-cost, but they will help keep the cold air out while still being essentially invisible.

7. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is a good time of year to test them to make sure that the batteries are in good working order and that the units aren’t broke.

8. Check that your basement windows are closed especially the glass block vents. The cold air that comes in through those windows could cause pipes to freeze.


WinterizedToiletDo you have properties that will be vacant over the winter? Not sure what to do to winterize them in addition to the normal checklist? Here are a few tips:

1. Turn the water off at the exterior. Make sure that the water is completely off at the supply and open all of the faucets and drain the waterlines including the toilet. You can also use plumber’s antifreeze to keep the drains from freezing up. DIY Network will explain how to do it.

2. Turn down the thermostat but DO NOT turn the heat off. The temperature should be no lower than 55 degrees to keep everything from freezing up causing you even more problems.

3. Unplug all the appliances once they are cleaned out. If the electric is left on, you can unplug all the electric appliances once they have been cleaned out. No one wants to open a refrigerator to leftover food that’s been sitting with no power for months.

4. Clean out all of the cabinets and remove all the garbage. Do not leave anything in the unit that could be considered appetizing to rodents and pests. While you’re at it, consider leaving insect and rodent repellent under the kitchen sink.

5. Either stop the mail to that unit or go past regularly checking it. As the mail starts to build up that’s a clear sign to thieves that no one is living there and to break in.

How Poor Credit is Affecting the Real Estate Investment Industry

good credit bad credit sign


As real estate investors, when you rent units to tenants it is common practice to run both a credit and a criminal background check so that we know who these people are before we give them the keys to a unit. What we may not consider though is just how hard it is for those “innocent” people that have big black marks on their credit reports to get it fixed and move on with life. We tried to do some online research about who to turn to for help, what to do and what not to do and what the typical process is and the information is mind-boggling.


Google “credit repair” and the entire first page is dominated by sites that are either dedicated to credit repair or improving credit scores. The only site that seems not to be completely self-serving is from the government, but try to understand what they are telling you to do and how to do it and you may be even more lost.  This 60 Minutes story truly brings to life how hard of a problem this is to deal with.


Why should we care? After all, it’s not our credit score that’s affected and we don’t want to rent to someone that seems to have a history of not paying their bills. Because we may be missing out on some great tenants, simple as that. Those people that may have a poor credit score may just be as confused as we were by all of the information out there that they don’t know where to turn so they just continue to try to continue on with a poor credit score.


If you are going to rent to or consider these people as a possibility for a rent to own program, have you thought about connecting them to a reputable credit repair service and building a completion of their program as a term of the lease?  Would you even know where to turn to do this? We have a network of reputable credit repair companies that can help. Just reach out to us and we would be more than happy to give you some references.

Are “Free” Estimates REALLY Free?

We received a call the other day that really got me thinking…remodeling-estimates

Although it is common practice to request estimates for large projects, we got a call that really got me thinking more about the people that are making these calls and if they really know the questions they should be asking and what they should be looking for when evaluating an estimate since no two estimates are really equal.


1. Is it a free estimate? Many times free estimates mean you submit the exact details you need and the potential service provider will give you an estimate or exactly what you asked for. If they are coming out to the property, make sure to ask if there is a trip charge involved even though they tell you the estimate is free. Keep in mind that if the job that you are looking to get an estimate on requires a technician to do any troubleshooting to tell you what needs to be done the estimate more than likely will not be free since the person doing the troubleshooting has to be compensated for his work.


2. If there is an estimate charge, will it be credited towards your final bill? Some companies will happily agree to credit their estimate fee towards your final bill if you give them the job.


But ask yourself if it’s really

3. How will the estimate be delivered? Sometimes you will have a company want to come out to give you your estimate when all of the homeowners are there so that they can get all of them to sign off on the contract that day. Keep in mind most companies will not give you a hard copy to review at your convenience unless it is already signed. So you wouldn’t really be able to shop with it.


4. What is included (or excluded) in the estimate? Read the estimate carefully and the real information you need is in the details or the omission of details. Read all the fine print. Some of the special pricing they may include doesn’t apply to rental properties.


5. Read the estimate carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are not expected to be an expert. If you don’t understand something in the estimate there should be no issue with you asking a question for clarification.

KDKA recently did a story on this issue focusing on estimates. You can read it here.

Buyer Beware; Avoid Hiring a Bad Contractor

Buyer Beware

As buyers, we need to do our research before jumping into any agreements.

As consumers we hear a lot of offers for both products and services that make us question if it is too good to be true. Many times the answer is buyer beware. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

People make careers out of researching, testing and reporting on this stuff trying to save us the headache. And yet, we still buy into the hype.

In the world of real estate, the place that investors get hit the most is through contractors either taking your money and not doing the job or taking short cuts and then refusing to fix it because the short cuts were a part of your low price. There was a recent story where a woman found a painter on Groupon, hired the guy at a ridiculously cheap rate and allowed him to paint the inside of her personal home and then found out afterwards that he came in and took off with her jewelry.


So how do you be sure that you are going to hire a reputable person or company? Do your research. Don’t just hire based on the 1st interview, but on research.

What should you be doing when you’re doing your research? Here are a few things that we suggest.


Magnetic Car Sign

Removable car magnets with a cell phone number may be a sign of non-commitment.


1. Is their company vehicle a personal truck with a peel-off magnetic sticker with a cell phone? It might be a sign of a lack of commitment. Look for literature about their business and physical location.



insurance policy

Make sure to ask to see their certificate of insurance.


2. Ask to see their current certificate of insurance and be sure that it covers EVERYONE that works for them. What’s going to happen if they have insurance that just covers them and then they bring Joe from around the corner to help and Joe falls off the roof of your house? Chances are pretty good Joe will be looking to come after you.





Make sure you check the references of anyone you may be looking to hire.


3. Ask for references. Customers they worked for from their last several jobs. Why? Because anyone can give you the names and numbers of people that like them.





Visit the job site

Don’t be afraid to visit the potential contractor at a current job site or their offices. It will show you how they truly operate.


4. Visit them at their facilities or job site if you can. This will give you a better feel for the infrastructure they have built and how they operate when they are on the job.







The more research you do the more confident you can be that you aren’t hiring someone that is ultimately going to let you down.

If you are interested in OneSource’s repair and support services, feel free to visit us online at and please feel free to come past and visit us anytime. We love visitors!

Daycares and Anything with Toilets are Our Sewer’s Worst Nightmare


Don’t flush anything but toilet paper.

The other day when I went to pick up my daughter from daycare she had to go to the bathroom before we left so as usual the teacher took her into the bathroom to help her go. I happened to peek over the ½ door to see how she was doing only to be shocked that the teacher was wiping her with one of her baby wipes and then throwing it in the toilet to flush it down. They ARE NOT flushable and who knows how many of these daycares are doing the same thing day in and day out. Think about it…this rather large daycare may have at least 3 rooms of potty training kids with 4 or 5 kids per room and a potential total of 5 trips to the bathroom per child per day. Then multiply that number times the number of daycares in our country. That’s A LOT of wipes going into a system that isn’t built for them!

We can’t tell you how many plumbing calls we get that were caused by flushing “flushable” wipes. Manufacturers of these premoistened cloths claim that they are good for flushing and that they will break down like toilet paper. The fact is that they don’t and this industry is bringing in $5 billion a year, but is costing municipalities millions and homeowners thousands to try to handle.

Bunched up "flushable" wipes

“Flushable” wipes bunch up and cause plumbing problems across the nation.

As NBC Washington noted in their recent story, local municipalities are being forced to either bring in additional manpower or install new equipment to break down and dispose of these wipes. These aren’t the only culprits though. Renters and homeowners alike are flushing everything from Q-Tips to dusting and cleaning cloths that aren’t meant to be put in the toilet causing even more of a problem.

Why is this such a big problem? Add up the costs of municipalities across the country spending millions to handle these wipes and the costs homeowners and real estate investors spend clearing pipes from stuff that doesn’t even make it out of the property. Where do you think that municipalities get the money to pay for this additional manpower and equipment? Look in the mirror. That’s your tax dollars and bills at work.

Check out the NBC Washington news story “Wipes in the Pipes” and share your thoughts and stories with us. Have you experienced problems as a result of these unflushable “flushable” wipes? If you are a landlord, how are you handling this issue with your tenants?