Many of the older customers of Empire may recognize this title. It dates back to a time when our lead property manager and founder was a one-man show and wrote his own newsletter. That time was characterized by flamboyant and memorable titles, such as the original Bathrooms: How to Keep From Falling In, and Pink Flamingos: The thin line between tacky and tasteful. This month, we will be revisiting one of my personal favorites:

Only A Rich Man Can Afford Cheap Paint

While there are accidental landlords, ie. those that inherit the property or are unable to sell their previous home, most of us are in the business through deliberate intent. We worked for those rental units, carefully saved and planned. They are our retirement, someday.

But maintenance is expensive. Fixing the fence is expensive, especially when the neighbors are unwilling to help. Replacing the roof is extremely expensive. And of course, there is painting the house.

Painting the house is expensive. And it is a pain in the neck. Vendors are unreliable. Even the best vendors have unreliable employees, and horror stories abode. My personal favorite tale of paint and woe (not from an Empire property) is when a certain vendor had an employee that decided to use a sprayer to paint the handrail of a balcony. A balcony that overlooked an entire row of residents’ cars.

But sooner or later, delayed as far as we can, the property does need to be painted eventually. When we can put it off no longer, we then run across another hurdle. What kind of paint?

Never buy the cheap paint. It is cheap, and that is hard to resist. High-quality paint comes with a price tag that makes a landlord gag. But that cheap paint you see at the local hardware store is sticky or runny, sometimes an interesting mix of both, and it won’t be long before it fades and starts to peel. In contrast, the expensive, high-quality paint normally only requires one coat, is applied with ease, and lasts for years.

Choosing the Contractor

Do you know what else landlords can’t afford? The contractor with the rates that are too good to be true. Your cousin’s friend’s brother may be willing to give you a great deal. But is he qualified? Will he do a good job? And will that poor, mediocre at best paint job take him the next two months to finish?

Required Certifications and Licenses

Any landlord with an older home also needs to be careful to hire a lead-based paint-certified contractor. This part will be expensive to mess up. An infraction has the potential to suck the profits out of your project for a long time. Vet your contractor carefully, while understanding that even the best contractors can have thoughtless employees and mistakes can happen. Consult with local experts, such as your property manager. We deal with these issues many times, every year, and we’ve seen almost everything. We have a list, sometimes a very short one, of contractors we trust to do the job properly.

Do your due diligence, vet your contractor, keep your sense of humor, and maybe someday, you will be able to afford cheap paint. Until then, Happy Landlording.