As savvy rental property investors, our primary goal is to maximize profitability while minimizing unnecessary expenses. One area where we can significantly impact our bottom line is in managing maintenance costs. Essentially, you want to cut overhead expenses without compromising property quality or tenant satisfaction.

Let’s explore some key tactics to achieve this goal.

Saving on Finishes and Renovating Costs

Good property deals often require some maintenance and renovation. Keeping these costs in check is essential for property profitability. But, not everything is critical or necessary. In many cases, we want to, for example, replace all of the kitchen tops with granite – because it’s aesthetically pleasing. However, tenants will ruin the unbreakable. I’ve had to pick up toilet seats in the kitchen and had a tenant crack every single (new) stove plate. Therefore, go for durability, not fashionability.

I’m not denying that aesthetics are important – however, I’ve learnt to be selective with fixtures and aesthetics. For example, cornices, skirting and a layer of neutral paint can do wonders – rather than expensive door handles, kitchen cupboards and solid wooden doors.

Should I Maintain It or Buy a New One?

One common dilemma for property owners is whether to repair or replace malfunctioning equipment or building components. Let’s take the example of an old bathroom. Yes, the urine yellow ones like the ones your gran used to have. We maintained the bathroom for a while, but the toilet leak kept on coming back – and it wasn’t long before the bowl cracked. We could’ve glued it (with magical spells) but decided to redo the bathroom. This was a long-term strategy to attract better tenants as well as save on those R 1 000 per callout plumber fees.

Recognize the Most Common Areas for Overspending

We had another case where we had frequent maintenance callouts on a shower door. At the end of the fourth visit, we realised that it was time for this shower door, which looks more like the iron throne, to be fixed once and for all. We could check from our statements that the costs were just getting out of hand – and needed urgent attention. So, firstly, we put in a shower curtain, and secondly, we negotiated with the maintenance guy for a better rate.

Sectional Title Schemes and Overspending

Sectional title schemes are no different in needing to control maintenance expenses. And in short, the owners need to report issues as soon as possible to the body corporate as to resolve the issues fast.

I know that this sounds absurd, but hear me out. Here’s the scenario: You just bought a property. You get notified that all the drains and water pipes in the sectional title scheme needs to be replaced and you need to pay in a whopping R 100 000. To make sure this doesn’t happen, sectional title schemes need to have a 10-year maintenance plan in place. Every year, they can fix something in the plan to ensure minimal special levies are imposed.

Implement a Maintenance Program:

With freehold properties, you don’t have the 10 year maintenance plan that someone else executes on your behalf. But you can get someone to survey your property and put one together for you. I believe, especially for older properties that a bit of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Similar to a normal personal emergency fund, it is important to have one for your property too – in case the geyser bursts or a tenant damages your property.

Should I Have Insurance for My Property?

While property insurance represents an additional expense, it offers invaluable protection against unforeseen events such as fire, theft, and natural disasters. The rule of thumb is insure anything that you won’t be able to recover from. For example, sectional title schemes have compulsory insurance on the units – if it would burn down or get destroyed through an earthquake, the insurance paid as part of your levies will cover that.

For a freehold property, you would need to get your own insurance.


In conclusion, effectively cutting rental property maintenance costs requires a combination of maintaining the property well, having a property emergency fund and/or insurance when things go south. Remember, every Rand saved on maintenance expenses contributes to maximizing your overall return on investment. So, let’s be proactive, strategic, and diligent in managing our rental properties to ensure sustainable profitability for years to come.

Happy investing!