1. Visit your properties
This is usually a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get into a groove where the cheques show up and you don’t get out to check on something that appears to be working fine. If nothing else, this is a great chance to drop off a Christmas card and gift (see #5 below). Make special note of what needs to be fixed, if you tenant needs extra supervision and try asking them if there’s anything they’d like renovated/fixed/replaced.
2. Get repairs done in the quiet time
This has been a mild winter, meaning trades are less likely to be running around dealing with cold-weather emergencies. This is also a good time get some work done since trades are less likely to be working on big jobs and may have time to slot you in. I’m a big fan of giving my trades as much latitude in terms of work/cost/time/material as possible, putting them in touch with my tenants to get time/access set up and trusting in their work. One of my mantras is that you get three options – fast, cheap or good – but you only get to choose two. The quiet parts of winter are the best time to get cheap and good, since you’ve got lots of time to give.
3. Decide how much money you want to make this year
Tax planning is a very large topic and generally beyond the scope of this blog. That said, you should have some idea of how you did in the past two years, how much money you’re likely to make this year, and then how much you’re planning to make in the next 2-3 years. For myself, I’ve started a new business this year which means I’m going to have a smaller taxable income this year than the next couple years (hopefully). If I can, I’m going to make sure that I keep as much income in this tax year as possible. The reverse applies as well – if I can push out expenses to next month (next tax year) then I’ll do so.
That said, there’s always an important consideration when it come to saving on tax. When you have a low taxable income, you also have low mortgage qualifying income. Brent and I spent an interesting hour with our accountant discussing a corporate structure that’ll save some tax when it counts, but also gives us the best possible income for mortgage qualifying.
4. Capital Gains and Losses
It’s almost tax time, so here’s some important year end tax stuff you should discuss with your accountant. Capital losses can only be applied to capital gains, so if you’re making a bunch and (for example) want to dump a stock you own but are losing money on, do it before the year end to get ‘er done. Also, when deciding what deductions to take and where/when to apply them, remember that home office expenses cannot be used to create a loss, but you can carry the deduction forward indefinitely.
5. Be Smarter than the calendar
While you’re doing things like checking the postal code of your property to send Christmas Cards, take a flip through your calendar and record important dates:
- Lease renwal dates
- Last/next rent increase dates and the notice period (90 day notices should be in your calendar 105 days before the actual increase so you remember them)
- Anniversary dates or other important dates
6. Start shoe-boxing now!
And you’ve got the files out, so now is the perfect time to start compiling your paperwork for tax time! Sort by income, expense (categorized/dated) and tax information. You should have an ongoing tax file so you have a history of what you’ve claimed against the property. A perfect example of this is Capital Cost Allowance (CCA, aka depreciation).
7. Send out Christmas Cards and Gifts!
Love your tenants! Make sure you send out a card – even a simple one. Gifts are always a good idea – keep it simple with gift cards or try nicer gift baskets like the ones we buy from Little Helpers. Remember, even a tenant paying $800/month for a little basement suite is still paying you almost $10,000 a year!
8. Write two ads
Even if you don’t have any vacancies, sit down and write two ads right now. Make one appeal to a family with a new baby; make the other appeal to an older couple looking to downsize. It doesn’t matter what theme you’re using, write a couple so you have some prepared for when you eventually do have a vacancy and are feeling less than inspired
9. Take a week off
Give yourself a full week with no phone. The week between Christmas and New Years can work, even thou you’re likely to be busy. A week in February is even better – go skiing and give the phone to someone you trust. You’ve got to sharpen the saw sometime.
Photo Credit: Aforeo on Flickr