Why Reserve Funds Are Important When Managing A Property

It’s 2AM and you receive a panicked call from a tenant: it’s raining in their living room! Upon inspection of the leak, it appears a new roof is needed. How will you pay for the new roof as well as the interior water damage? How much should you have in reserve funds?

While emergency maintenance is every property manager’s worst nightmare, having an appropriate amount of reserve funds can help nightmares from becoming an unpleasant reality. No one wants to end up filing for bankruptcy because one property sat vacant for 3 months while another needed major repairs, draining reserve funds and digging a hole deep into debt. As you may imagine, crawling out from such a place can be very challenging. Inadequate reserve funds or a complete lack of them could quickly snowball into a financial crisis for property managers.

Fear not! We have some tips to help you determine the appropriate amount of funding for your property portfolio.

Reserve funds are necessary to handle anything and everything from routine maintenance and upkeep to emergency maintenance and unplanned vacancies. So how much reserve funding is the appropriate amount for you? Here are our pro tips, compiled by experts, to consider when determining how much to keep in your reserve property funds.

Quantitative Factor

The number of properties within your portfolio is important to consider when calculating the appropriate amount of funds to have in reserve. Each property should have its own reserve fund. This will insure each property has its own coverage for maintenance and unplanned vacancies. Since each property has different costs associated with it’s upkeep and expenses, having separate accounts will help keep each property’s reserve funds available to that specific property only. Having multiple accounts allows you to focus on each property’s small picture and how it fits into the bigger picture of your overall property investment.

If you have multiple properties operating out of one reserve fund it is easy to disproportionately attribute more or less reserve funds to each of your current properties. This could end up leaving you in a risky position, under the right circumstances. It is our advice to maintain appropriate reserve levels for each property. Working with one account per property allows you to maintain those levels individually, and makes things easier on you come tax season.

Maintaining a separate account for each property has other benefits too! Cash flow from your property portfolio is also an important aspect in regards to building reserve funds. It’s wise to have a portion of each incoming rental payment invested into that specific property’s reserve fund. This allows for continual replenishment of funds, which were used while also allowing for saving towards future maintenance projects.

Set standards for your tenant pool, then make sure you screen everyone to the same standard. Some of the worst tenants around come from a friend of a friend’s mother’s cousin. (What even is that?) Do not bend your requirements and screen everyone equally.

Age Factor

The age of the property is an important factor to take into account when determining reserve funds. Older properties are more likely to need repairs and possibly more upkeep. Meaning the older the property, the more reserve funds are needed to mitigate property risks. For example an older property may need to upgrade the plumbing or electrical as the originals were installed in 1922. However, this wouldn’t be a foreseeable issue in a newer property featuring plumbing that was installed in 2002.

Reserve funds come in handy on all types of repairs, from the predictable to the unpredictable. For example, let’s say your reserved funds are $5,000 and you’re planning on replacing some of the outdated plumbing in one of your properties. So, you’ve been using monthly cash inflows to build your reserve funds account to pay for these planned repairs. Your account now has $6,500 in it— now the surplus of $1,500 in reserved funds can be used for your plumbing repairs!

Conversely, if an emergency situation occurs then the $5,000 in reserved funds would be used. For example, a stove in one of your properties has stopped working and needs to be replaced. You pick-up a new stove for $500, which comes out of your reserved funds. This brings your reserved funds down to $4,500. You will now use your monthly cash inflows to build your reserved funds back to $5,000.

As a landlord you are open to liability all the time. Ensure that you have enough insurance to cover you in case anything goes wrong.

Operating Factor

Paying monthly operating expenses while properties are occupied isn’t a problem, as rental payments cover these expenses. However, what happens when a tenant moves out and the property sits vacant? How will you pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes and other fees? If you don’t have reserve funds or your funds are inadequate you will end up paying these expenses out of pocket, which could get expensive if the property sits vacant for months on end. These expenses can also be compounded if the vacant property ends up needing repairs.

This is yet another time when reserve funds are needed to protect your investment. While you are working to fill the property your reserve funds can be utilized to pay the monthly fees that would normally be covered through rental payments.

Growth Factor

If you’re thinking about expanding your property portfolio or just beginning one, but are in need of outside funding from either investors or a financial institution, many will have specific reserve fund standards you’ll need to meet before being approved. These investment reserve fund requirements allow investors to insure their return on investment, thus protecting them from a possible loss.

For example Quicken Loans requires six months of reserve funds. These funds must cover rental payments (including taxes, insurance, and other fees) as well as two months of reserves for every property already in your portfolio. It’s also important to remember when working with investors that many will require proof of seasoned accounts, meaning the money has remained in the account(s) for 60 days. This further safeguards their investment in your portfolio.

When expanding into new property investments remember reserve funds should not be used for investing in new properties. These are not funds to purchase more real estate. These funds are safeguarding each of your current real estate investments so be sure to only use reserve funds for those specific purposes (i.e. expenses due to vacancies, maintenance). It’s important to remember these funds are reserves for a reason, they are there for your property’s protection and are an investment in the longevity of your property and shouldn’t be used unless necessary or planned.

Do you already have all your reserved funds up to par and then some? Kudos to you! However, if you’re a little worried about your property’s ability to generate the necessary cash flow to maintain adequate reserves, give us a ring! We truly would love to hear from you because here at Lofty, we love to help. It is our goal to take the tedious tasks of management out of your hands and free your time to live the life you deserve while maximizing your investment. Get in touch today to learn more!

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, live the life you deserve and let Lofty handle the rest.