Last modified on July 11th, 2022
By Brittany Benz
Maintenance is one of the biggest headaches and most time-consuming workflows for property management businesses. As a property manager, you can make maintenance less cumbersome for your team, residents, and maintenance techs (and less expensive for property owners) by streamlining your processes. With property maintenance, there are some things you can’t control, but with an automated system, even unpredictable maintenance issues can be handled efficiently and effectively.
There are four main challenges most property management businesses will encounter when it comes to maintenance. Below, we detail them and provide practical ways you can overcome them and gain control of your operations once and for all.
Challenge: Too many maintenance requests
Generally, maintenance requests come in from residents every day, but there is usually an ebb and flow in the number of requests you receive. Some seasons (like summer) will have a higher number of requests. Your busy season may vary from other property management businesses based on your geographical location and the types of residential properties you manage. The age of the properties you manage and how well they have been maintained also impacts how many requests your business may receive.
The size of your property management business and how you assign roles and duties to team members also play a role. Smaller businesses with fewer employees handling these requests can quickly become inundated and fall behind or sometimes even miss a request entirely. When employees spend too much time dealing with maintenance requests, other important work gets placed on hold or deprioritized, which can affect efficiency and productivity. Additionally, when you take too long to respond to maintenance requests and resolve them, it can lead to unhappy residents and an increase in resident and owner turnover.
Solution: Empower residents to self-serve
One way to streamline the maintenance request process is to enable residents to submit maintenance requests right from their phone or computer. Having a digital system with everything in one place makes it easier to maintain visibility into your operations, so nothing falls through the cracks and you can get work done faster. In addition, online maintenance requests also free up your team to focus on providing customer service and fixing the problem rather than answering phone calls.
Challenge: Finding reliable maintenance techs and vendors
Finding qualified maintenance technicians and vendors seems to be harder than ever for most property management businesses. In fact, according to a 2021 Angi Skilled Trades Report, 77% of skilled tradespeople believe that there is a labor shortage in the skilled trades, which is an increase from the year before.
Maintenance technicians and vendors have new expectations for their workplace on top of there being a nationwide labor shortage. Vendors commonly complain about not having visibility into a project, not getting paid on time, and not having clear expectations, which are all factors that have driven them away from the trades and into other industries. These pains have been felt by property management businesses as well. According to a recent AppFolio survey, operational inefficiencies are the second greatest challenge to the property management industry, with finding high-quality vendors being the top challenge within the category.
Solution: Stand out from the crowd with automated tools
To attract and retain quality maintenance technicians and vendors, you need to differentiate your business. One way you can stand out from other property management companies is by offering automated and mobile tools. This is where moving to online maintenance requests and work orders can help you beyond just streamlining and making things more efficient.
For instance, AppFolio Smart Maintenance is a powerful tool that takes maintenance requests from residents and automatically converts them into work orders for pre-approved vendors. With a digital, automated system like Smart Maintenance, you can give your vendors the ability to access information instantly and check on the status of maintenance, whether they are out in the field or at the office. This increases flexibility, consistency, and transparency and strengthens your relationships.
Challenge: Dispersed properties
Maintenance technicians spend a lot of time driving from property to property to facilitate repairs. And if you have single-family homes in your portfolio, this can be even more apparent, as most rental homes are spread out across a city or region. Without a mobile system, the only way for technicians to avoid driving to and from the property management office is to be on the phone for long periods of time to get information from your team, update the status of the job, or ask questions, which leads to inefficiencies. Additionally, when you have dispersed properties, you often need to have multiple vendors, which can make it even more difficult to keep track of work orders and requests.
Solution: Move to a fully mobile system
One way for you to overcome the challenge of having dispersed properties is to move to an entirely mobile maintenance system that gives your team and vendors the ability to instantly access information and complete workflows remotely. Maintenance work can be completed faster and much more efficiently when maintenance technicians and property managers can communicate quickly, check the status of requests, and access work orders in the field. Another advantage of having a fully mobile system is that it can simplify working with multiple vendors by providing you with visibility into what each company is working on at any given time.
Challenge: Uncontrolled and unexpected expenses
Unexpected maintenance expenses can hurt your bottom line and net operating income. Whether you have apartment buildings, single-family homes, or both, chances are each property was built in a different year and has unique maintenance needs, which makes the likelihood of unexpected expenses higher. Without a good system in place for your employees to track expenses for maintenance repairs and understand what each property needs, costs can quickly get out of control.
Your property owners also have the expectation that your business is keeping track of and controlling maintenance expenses. If expenses go beyond what is expected and you don’t have clear insight as to why, it can foster distrust in owners and cause them to look for another management company.
Solution: Take a proactive approach
Costs have been soaring in every industry lately, but you can help prevent maintenance costs from spiraling out of control for property owners and your business by being proactive. Keep track of and carry out preventative maintenance for every property you manage year-round to ensure maintenance problems don’t get worse. To track maintenance costs effectively and efficiently, rely on software designed to help manage spending, budgeting, and unit turns. A feature like the AppFolio Unit Turn Board can help you keep track of all the work that is necessary to minimize the time that a unit is vacant. By closely tracking your maintenance expenses, you’ll be able to know what maintenance repairs will cost in advance, and there will be fewer unexpected expenses eating up your maintenance budget.
Maximize maintenance efficiency
You owe it to your team, owners, technicians, and vendors to maximize efficiency in all areas of your business, especially when it comes to maintenance. By automating maintenance requests, moving to a fully mobile system, and being proactive with repairs, you can overcome these challenges and stay successful. Once you have streamlined processes in place, you will be better able to attract and retain top-of-the-line maintenance vendors and offer a better experience to your renters and owners. To learn more about how you can optimize your maintenance operations, listen to this podcast episode.