Calendar icon February 6, 2023

How to Clean and Stain Your Deck this Spring

Which deck cleaners and stains are best for you, and how do you ensure a professional level clean without hiring a professional?


We have a Spring! Winter appears to finally be releasing its grip on most of the country, giving way to warmer temperatures, blooming plants, and the incessant need to clean. It’s what we call Spring cleaning, and undoubtedly you’ve heard the term.

If you’re ready to kick off spring cleaning but have no idea where to start, you’ve arrived at the right web address. With the weather warming and all of us itching to take advantage of the suddenly pleasant outdoors, preparing your back deck for usage is an excellent place to kick things off. So let’s do it.

Prep your deck

Chances are you haven’t spent a lot of time on your deck or porch over the last couple months, on account of the whole winter situation. Now that spring has sprung, it’s about time to take advantage of the milder weather that’s coming.

Now at this time of year, your deck is almost certainly not in the best shape of its life. If you have a wooden deck, the lack of use throughout the winter has allowed the wood to lose its color a little, become stained as a result of leaves and tree bark being left on it, and be victimized by the growth of certain mildews.

That’s normal though, and some spring cleaning will revitalize its look. Step one is to make sure that you clear everything off your deck. This includes any furniture, lights, or accessories that you may have out there. It also includes all the debris that has fallen during the winter and found a new home on your deck. Be sure to clear off leaves, tree bark, pine straw, or any other trash that nature left out there.

It’s a good idea to sweep your deck of this stuff throughout winter, as dead leaves and other junk are responsible for pesky tannin stains that leave you with more work come spring.

SN Tip: During this step, it may also be a good idea to move any potted plants near the deck away, as you will be working with chemicals.

Clean your deck

Step two is where you’re going to apply your deck cleaner. There are lots of different kinds of deck cleaners, but most professionals agree that a one-two punch of an oxygen bleach cleaner and an oxalic acid cleaner is the best and safest route.

Oxygen bleach will target mold that has grown on and in your deck over the cold months. It’s non-toxic and breaks down into sodium bicarbonate and oxygen, which is the long way to say that it won’t be harmful to you or your deck, unlike the more common chlorine bleach.

SN Tip: Apply cleaners to an inconspicuous area of your deck before covering the whole surface with them, so you can see what effect they will have without any risk.

Oxalic acid is the follow-up treatment for the visual appearance of your deck. While ineffective against mold, which is why you need a one-two punch, oxalic acid will work wonders removing stains caused by leaves and debris as well as brightening the wood and refreshing the appearance of the wood.

SN Tip: Oxalic acid is toxic, so be sure you know how to handle toxic materials and if you’re uncomfortable with it, consider alternatives, such as citric acid.

Apply the oxygen bleach first with a stiff bristle synthetic brush. A synthetic brush is always better because it will last longer amid repeated uses involving chemicals. Spread the bleach across the deck with the brush while avoiding pooling of the cleaner in any spots. After rinsing, repeat this step with oxalic acid.

We recommend this process, ending with a thorough rinse with a garden hose. You could also go the power washing route, but it’s critical to remember that most decks are made of cedar, redwood, or pine, all of which are softwoods. Softwood is, as the name implies, soft, making it vulnerable to scarring, stripping, and scratching.

The intense pressure of a power washer can strip off the top of the wood, leaving indentations across your entire deck. If you’re determined to go the power washing route, you need to make sure the pressure isn’t too much for the wood to handle.


It’s important to know what wood your deck is made from and what differences that may create


Adjust the angle of the nozzle to decrease pressure and wash in a sweeping motion to avoid a consistent stream of pressurized water on the same part of your deck. A 40 to 60-degree angle is recommended by professionals such as the folks at It’s also wise to pressure wash earlier in the year, as cooler temperatures will increase the wood’s density and make it slightly more resistant to the power of the pressure washer.

If you don’t wish to go the pressure washing route, soaps and a regular garden hose will work great, and you’ll still have a product to be proud of without the risk of ruining your entire deck.

Stain your deck

The final step is to reseal if necessary. You probably stained and/or sealed your deck shortly after it was constructed, but it’s a smart idea to recoat it every two to three years.

SN Tip: While a deck seal and deck stain are not technically the same thing, a quality deck stain will seal your deck effectively and give it a nice coloration of your choice. If you wish to maintain the natural look of your wood, use only a sealer.

First, you need to test the current state of your stain. Drop a little bit of water on the surface of your dry deck, then closely examine the water droplets. If the droplets soak into the wood, it’s time to touch up your deck. If they just sit on top, there’s no need to break out the stain.

If you find that you need to reapply stain, the process isn’t overly complicated. The most important part is to make sure the weather doesn’t ruin all your hard work. You don’t want the temperature outside to be too hot or too cold, but since you’re probably doing this in spring, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Also, make sure you have a couple of days of dry weather and never apply the stain in direct sunlight. Rain will wash out the stain before it can set and a high sun beating on your deck will cause the stain to dry too quickly, stopping it from thoroughly permeating the wood and making the entire job a waste of time.

Now the fun begins. First, identify any trouble areas where your stain is peeling off the wood. If you have none of these, congrats, you’ve avoided one step of this process. If you do, you’ll need to strip off any loose stain and sand it down to remove any abrupt or sharp edges. This will allow for a more uniform replacement coat.



We talked earlier about power washers and how they can strip your stain and damage your wood if you use them on your deck without caution. Coincidentally, a power washer is a great tool when you actually do want to strip your deck. At the right pressure rating, your power washer will be able to rip off the loose parts of your stain without damaging the still functional parts of the coat. Use a power sander to sand down the area afterward.

After the area has completely dried, use a paintbrush to touch up the stripped area. Apply stain to the entire area and allow it to dry completely. If you only have one trouble area and the rest of your deck’s stain is still kicking, you can probably be done here, although recoating the entire deck won’t hurt.

If you have several trouble areas, it’s best to just recoat the entire deck. Use a paint roller to apply a thin coat of sealer to the top of your deck boards. Cover the entire deck while maintaining a thin uniform coat. Avoid pooling of the sealer and break out that paintbrush to ensure evenness in hard to reach areas.

After your stain coat has dried, you’re ready to enjoy the outdoors and the (hopefully) nice spring weather from the comfort of your deck.

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Chambers Theory Endorses Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package

Chambers Theory is a world-renowned property management team with clients in more than 30 countries worldwide. They specialize in serving the U.S. military, State Department, and Foreign Services families. Their motto “Real Estate With Intelligence” is more than just a saying. It’s on full display through the introductory videos for landlords and residents on their website in seven languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, French, Croatian, and English) - all spoken fluently by their own property management (PM) team. Since its founding in 2018, Chambers Theory has been achieving extraordinary performance benchmarks. They’ve led the marketplace in delivering the “Golden Triangle of Success” to their clients, which means the lowest vacancy, the highest average rents, and the highest quality of tenants of any property management firm in its same service area. They’ve also donated over $100,000 to local charities and community organizations, while also leading the way in promoting sustainability practices in real estate and property management services. Their outstanding team attributes their success to their ability to develop and utilize their emotional intelligence skills to capacity to care with all their interactions with both landlords and residents. That’s why they fully endorse the Resident Benefits Package at Second Nature! Find out more about what a Resident Benefits Package is, its benefits, and how it can help create a Triple Win for you, as well as your residents and investors. Related: The State of Resident Experience Report

Calendar icon July 18, 2024

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Investor Experience Platform™️ IXP™️

An Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP) in property management is a suite of products, services, and benefits offered by property management companies to property investors. Just like a resident benefits package is a way to drive value for residents, investors, and property managers, the IBP™️ is an innovative approach to property management that focuses on driving value for an investor's assets and turning that value into profit for the property management company. In this article, we’ll dig into the different features that an Investor Experience Platform™️ can include, and how those benefit not just investors, but property managers and residents, too. What Is an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP)? As stated above, an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP™️) is a comprehensive suite of services that offer property investors higher quality property management, stability, and profit. An IBP™️ typically includes concierge-level services beyond basic property management – such as property insurance policies, eviction guarantees, rent guarantees, maintenance plans, asset performance reports, etc. These services are aimed at maximizing the investor’s assets, stability and convenience, profitability, and peace of mind in managing their properties. They're commonly managed through an investor experience platform to securely manage and monitor the performance of these assets online, which we'll discuss later. The first step to outlining an IBP™️ is to define what your basic management fee means and covers. If the answer is, it’s collecting rent, handling maintenance, and general communication – does that include maintenance coordination or is that a separate fee? Does it include asset reporting or is that an additional service? In your management agreement, define what the management fee is, what it covers, and how much it is. An IBP™️ can be an effective tool for articulating the new and differentiated things that an investor wouldn’t be able to do on their own and that you are offering beyond basic property management. Articulate your unique and differentiated services (IBP™️) and use that as a tool for positioning and charging for what it’s worth. What’s Included in An Investor Experience Platform™️? An Investor Experience Platform™️ should include a range of solutions to help deliver consistency, insight, and asset protection to a property owner’s portfolio. After all, professional property managers don’t have to be functional managers of a home – they can be strategic partners in the management of financial assets. You might hear services similar to the IBP™️ called an “owner benefit package,” but at Second Nature, we believe that the “investor” term is useful in encouraging a longer-term mindset, and emphasizes the economic value professional property management can bring. According to Eric Wetherington, VP of Strategic Initiatives at PURE Property Management: “As property managers, we need to think more like asset managers. This client made an investment, and we should be guiding that client through managing that investment, not just collecting rent.” To build and manage a winning IBP™️, property managers need an Investor Experience Platform that unlocks scalable product and service customization, digitized onboarding, accounting policy automation, and more. In addition, Investor Experience Platforms provide transparency and convenience for your investors. Here are some of the most valuable services that property managers can offer through an innovative Investor Experience Platform™️. Property insurance program Similar to offering a renters insurance program through an RBP in the lease agreement, property management companies can offer an insurance plan to investors to cut costs and ensure the safety of their assets. Most management agreements will include the requirement that the investor carries insurance on the property and that the property manager is additionally insured. But what if you as the property manager could help manage that for the investor – at scale? Property Insurance for investors should have dynamic pricing based on individual investors’s property portfolio and needs. The benefit beyond flexibility is the savings they’ll see on their premiums while also getting insurance that’s tailored to the needs of their specific property class. At Second Nature, we work primarily with single-family rental properties and small multi-family residences. Property Insurance Programs can bring scale that will drive economic value for the investor over what they could get retail on their own. They’d still have the option to go get their own insurance that meets requirements, but they can pay you a small fee to manage it for them. Rent guarantee An IBP™️ can include a number of financial guarantees to protect property investors and drive ancillary revenue for PMCs. A rent guarantee, or rent protection, ensures a consistent rental income to investors by protecting them against resident defaults or non-payment of rent. If a resident fails to pay rent, the property management company covers the unpaid amount and takes necessary steps for eviction or collection, providing financial security and minimizing the risk for property owners. Rent guarantees work for professional property management companies that have enough properties to balance the loss of rent if a resident doesn’t pay. The risk is low and the additional profit from fees for this guarantee can have a very high ROI, while driving satisfaction and stability for the investor. Plus, if you’re using services in an RBP to help incentivize on-time rent payments, you’ll rarely find yourself out in the cold. Eviction protection guarantee An eviction protection guarantee also goes beyond the normal scope of property management services and can be used as a secondary source of revenue. Eviction Protection is a service provided by property management companies to property investors that offers additional security and financial protection in the event of an eviction. Under this guarantee, the property management company assumes the costs associated with the eviction process, including legal fees and court expenses. It helps alleviate the financial burden on property investors and provides peace of mind by ensuring that they are safeguarded against potential losses resulting from resident evictions. The eviction guarantee helps protect property owners from the complexities and potential costs associated with evictions, ensuring a smooth and efficient resolution to tenant-related issues. Pet guarantees & other guarantees A pet guarantee is a service offered by property management companies to property investors that aims to address any potential issues related to allowing pets in rental properties. It typically involves implementing policies and procedures to ensure responsible pet ownership, such as thorough pet screening, pet agreements, and collecting additional pet deposits or fees. The pet guarantee may also include services like pet damage insurance or assistance with pet-related issues during the lease term. It provides property investors with a framework to accommodate residents with pets while minimizing risks and maintaining the condition of the property. For many residents, finding a pet-friendly apartment increases retention and profitability. They’re willing to stay longer and pay more for a pet-friendly place. And–get this–pet damage is less likely to happen than damage from kids! It’s not a huge risk to the asset, but can provide a big benefit in terms of satisfied, longer-term residents. Maintenance plan Home warranties are a four-letter word for property managers. They’re a massive headache to deal with, and yet there’s high demand for them among property investors. Because of that, most property managers charge a fee for home warranties, for each they have to file. Imagine if there was a world where home warranties weren’t needed. Here’s the thing: Professional property managers already have the vendor network and the know-how to coordinate maintenance jobs. What they don’t usually have is a product that’s priced to give the investor the experience they want. Let’s say right now an investor is paying $50 a month for a cheap home warranty. The warranty only covers 40% of issues and it creates all these extra people and friction in the middle. For anything moderately significant that goes wrong with a property, PMCs generally must contact the investor for permission to get work done. It’s all a massive hassle and loses time in maintenance requests that leave residents frustrated. What if there was a product that costs, say, $150 to $200 a month but it actually covered everything? Instead of having sudden expenses and emergencies, this maintenance plan smooths out the experience and makes it more predictable for the investor. For PMs, it means taking the initiative on fixes without waiting for approval. Imagine a world where you didn’t have to get owner approvals for 95% of maintenance issues – because they’re already budgeted for and already paid for. For residents, it means better maintenance, and faster. Another Triple Win! Asset performance reports Another piece focuses on property managers as asset managers. Think about any investment app, like Robinhood, Acorns, etc. You can log in to these apps any time, 24/7, and see how your stock and investments are performing. In most investment classes, you can see in real time how your assets are performing. Why shouldn’t property investors have that as well? An IBP™️ can include exactly that: a dashboard or online portal that shows investors regular reports on how their property is doing. They could get updates on the value of their home over time, the home price appreciation, rent price over time, and project rent growth, typically maintenance costs and how they’re doing against that, and more. Resident Benefits Package Another piece to include in your IBP™️ is to highlight the benefits of your resident benefits package to your investors. Explain how features like a filter delivery program protect their assets and reduce HVAC repair costs. Show how a renters insurance program can ensure coverage and protection. Give numbers on how credit reporting incentivizes on-time rental payments and helps ensure financially stable renters. Explain how a movie-in concierge saves both time, headache, and money. Each of the pillars of an RBP is critical to encouraging better resident behavior, increasing renter retention and lease renewal rates, reducing vacancies, and more – all primary goals for a property investor. A note about Rent Advance Programs There’s been due buzz about “Rent Advance” offerings, though many advise caution when approaching this financial product. It works in some ways like cash advance programs, which can satisfy urgent needs, but not be more valuable for anyone long term. The way it works is PMs offer to send a year of rent upfront to the investor in a big chunk, and collect monthly from the resident. The investor typically pays a 5-10% premium on the advance, which can be their entire expected return. So the question becomes, where do they put that cash to get a better return instead? Another thing to think about is who would actually use this product. Investors who don’t have enough cash on hand? How does that benefit anyone in the long run? What happens when there’s a big maintenance bill later? Does this encourage better decisions and practices by the investor? To date, there’s been pretty low adoption of this program, which is another sign it may not be hugely beneficial to everyone involved. But plenty of innovations start that way, evolve, and find traction. One case where it might be a value generator is if an investor is looking to take a cash advance and put it toward a down payment for another house. That would benefit the property manager as well, promising more business, and the PM could offer a lower rate for getting more properties to make the financing more attractive than hard money loans or other alternatives. The jury is still out here, it’s an interesting one to track. How Can Investors and Property Managers Benefit From an Investor Experience Platform™️? Investors and property managers can benefit from an Investor Experience Platform™️ in several ways. They’re also great for residents in the sense they build more stability and quality into the renting process. Here are just some of the benefits of an IBP™️. Enhanced investor attraction An Investor Experience Platform™️ provides incentives and advantages that can attract more investors. Financial guarantees and protections against the risks associated with evictions or late payments can increase stability, while services like a maintenance plan can ensure premium care of their property assets without increasing their workload. By offering attractive perks, property managers can differentiate their offerings and generate greater investor interest. Increased investor retention Both IBP™️s and RBPs help build loyalty with residents and investors. By fostering a strong relationship and demonstrating ongoing value, property managers can build trust and loyalty among investors, and retain them over the long term. IBP™️s help establish the stability, transparency, and asset growth for a real estate investment that an investor hopes to achieve. Improved property performance An Investor Experience Platform™️ can also contribute to improved property performance. For example, by offering discounted property management fees or access to professional services at reduced rates, property managers can help investors optimize their returns and reduce costs. Additionally, incentives such as rent guarantees or eviction protection can mitigate risk for investors and attract more capital to the property. Streamlined communication and transparency A well-designed Investor Experience Platform™️ facilitates effective communication and promotes transparency between property managers and investors. This can involve regular reporting on financial performance, property updates, and the sharing of relevant market insights. Transparent and consistent communication builds trust and confidence among investors, fostering a positive and long-lasting relationship. Competitive advantage A comprehensive Investor Experience Platform™️ can give property managers a competitive edge in the market. When investors have access to exclusive benefits and advantages, they are more likely to choose a property managed by a company that offers a compelling package – and to recommend it to others. Say hello to increased investment inflow and a stronger market position for your PMC. Should You Make an Investor Experience Platform™️ Mandatory? The first thing most property managers ask us when we’re talking about an RBP or an IBP™️ is: Should I make this mandatory for all investors or do I make it a flexible opt-in/opt-out program? Unlike RBPs, where best practices are more proven and established, different PMs are taking different approaches with their IBP™️s. Some have a mandatory level of service set at a flat price. Others may say they’re fine offering a base level of service without these differentiated products, giving investors the choice to simply pay a baseline management fee and opt out of the IBP™️ premium service. Some may offer a baseline to all investors and then give them the chance to opt in for premium IBP™️ services. There are a lot of ways to do it. With the RBP, we’ve found that making it mandatory does not generate nearly as much pushback as people expect – and can be a strong value add overall. Final Thoughts About an Investor Experience Platform™️ The Investor Experience Platform™️ is an innovative way to generate ancillary income and create more value for investors and residents. Similar to Second Nature’s premier Resident Benefits Package, the IBP™️ can deliver high-quality service for investor experience – and help create a triple win for investors, residents, and property management companies. The IBP™️ reinforces the value of a professional property management company for investors and helps differentiate you from the crowd. Stay tuned to learn more about the latest in the IBP™️ space, or learn more about how a resident benefits package can launch a whole new level of value for your PMC.

Calendar icon July 17, 2024

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