From collecting rent to facilitating repairs, as a property manager, you juggle a lot when it comes to managing your business operations. Whether you oversee multifamily apartment buildings or single-family homes, it’s essential to maintain your properties if you want to keep your property values up and your residents safe and satisfied.
Here, we’ll explain why preventative property maintenance is essential, share some useful tips, and show you how you can streamline your processes to provide a top-notch customer experience.
Why preventative property maintenance is essential
You already know how important maintenance is, but keeping up with it can be challenging, which is why it’s important to have a preventative property maintenance plan in place. When you don’t have a plan, general maintenance can be easily overlooked, and the consequences can be costly and even dangerous.
Having a preventative maintenance plan can help mitigate the risk of potential hazards, such as injuries from falling building materials or fires from poorly wired lighting, and prevent costly issues like a leaking roof or burst pipe. No property manager wants to face claims of negligence in court, deal with skyrocketing insurance premiums, or experience bad press and negative reviews. To avoid serious problems, it’s essential to keep up with maintenance and take preventative measures.
Besides reducing the risk of property injuries for yourself, your team, vendors, and residents having a maintenance management system in place can be a competitive differentiator when it comes to attracting and keeping residents.
Here are a few more reasons why it’s vital to have a preventative property maintenance plan:
- Increased property value: A well-maintained property will hold its value or increase in value, while a lack of adequate maintenance will detract from the property’s market value and rental prices.
- Satisfied residents: Poor maintenance of buildings, appliances, and common areas will result in dissatisfied residents, which can lead to negative reviews, increased turnover, and more vacancies.
- Reduced costs: An efficient property maintenance plan can help save money by minimizing risks, extending the life of appliances and equipment, and freeing up your team to focus on providing higher levels of service.
- Fewer surprises: You already have plenty of work to do. By having a preventative maintenance plan in place, you can minimize unexpected maintenance issues that can cost your business a lot of time and money, and can cause frustration for your team and residents.
The three most critical areas of a maintenance strategy
The key to effective and efficient property maintenance is having a solid strategy in place. Whether you already have an active strategy or are looking to develop one, below are three critical areas you should focus on.
1.) Communication and transparency
Communication is a vital part of your property management business operations, especially when it comes to maintenance. You need to have clear lines of communication and visibility into your maintenance workflows, as do your residents, owners, and vendors.
Clear and consistent communication is needed every step of the way, from responding promptly to the initial request made by a renter and proactively communicating about the status of the repair to sharing the cost with the owner and scheduling the repair with the vendor and resident.
2.) Task management and workflows
Your maintenance operations have many moving parts, and it’s essential that tasks are completed in a specific order and that lag time is minimal. Having a system with automated workflows and task management rather than needing to manually input information or monitor processes can make it easier to keep things on track.
3.) Follow-up and feedback
Along with communicating and managing tasks effectively, it’s also critical to be proactive about checking in with residents to ensure they are satisfied with their maintenance experience. This not only shows you care but could also prevent someone from publishing a negative review because of a bad experience. Armed with residents’ feedback you can also gain valuable insight into your vendor’s performance and uncover ways you can improve your processes.
Ways to streamline property maintenance when residents move out
Whether a renter lived in a unit for one year or several years, move-outs always come with their share of maintenance. Turning your units as efficiently as possible is critical to your bottom line, and when you don’t have clear knowledge of the repairs needed for each unit or the status of each work order, efficiency becomes extremely challenging. To streamline processes and speed up unit turns, you should implement technology that gives you more oversight and control of the unit turn process.
In AppFolio Property Manager, to minimize the time a unit is vacant, the Unit Turn Board consolidates and tracks all the work involved in making a unit ready for a new resident. When a resident gives notice, a unit turn is automatically created in AppFolio so your team can begin planning to prepare the unit for the next occupancy. All turn board activity is trackable and updates can be made and viewed from anywhere, improving team and vendor visibility and reducing the need for in-person interaction.
A core component of a unit turn is the inspection process. Whether you’re assessing how much of a security deposit should be returned prior to move-out or conducting a final inspection before relisting, it’s critical that the state of the unit is well documented with notes and photos. Exciting improvements to AppFolio’s Inspections tool — including inspection templates, offline functionality, integrated work order creation, and enhanced photo management capabilities — allow you to seamlessly conduct on-site inspections in AppFolio without an internet or data connection. Once you return to connectivity, your notes, photos, work orders, and statuses are synced in AppFolio, eliminating all double-entry and keeping your processes flowing.
Advantages of using a property management maintenance software
The days of using pen and paper to write down important information are long gone. You can now keep your maintenance requests organized and in one place with the help of maintenance software. Issues may occur in off hours that need to be addressed immediately, such as slippery ice on walkways or a serious plumbing leak. With the help of maintenance software integrations, you can reduce the number of errors from manual processes and use automation to collect, track, and monitor all requests.
AppFolio Property Manager uses artificial intelligence to help your team spend less time managing maintenance requests and decrease the time it takes to respond to and resolve any issues. With AppFolio Smart Maintenance, you can intelligently manage maintenance requests that come in — no matter the time of day or night — and all on one platform. The Smart Maintenance service responds to your service requests on your behalf, via text, phone, or the online portal, providing your residents and team with a great experience.
Seasonal maintenance checklist
One easy way to stay organized and on top of maintenance for your properties is to create a seasonal maintenance checklist. Here are a few tasks you could add to your list, grouped by property type:
- Check for weather damage to buildings made by snow, wind, and rain. Determine whether there is any serious or significant damage that needs to be fixed immediately.
- Get a specialist to inspect and clean your property’s HVAC heating system. Change all air filters on individual units to prolong the life of the system and maximize efficiency.
- Get a certified roof specialist to inspect the roofs of your properties for any damage or leaks.
Single-Family Homes and Condos:
- Check the gutters and downspouts for any blockages.
- Check for mold and mildew in the interior and use thermal cameras, if needed, to detect any cool spots between the floors and walls.
- Enhance your property’s landscaping with new flowers or shrubs.
- Inspect plumbing fixtures and systems and look for chipped grout and sealants that could lead to water damage. Inspect communal water fountains and public restrooms along with individual units.
- Service air conditioners — whether you have window air conditioners or central AC — and be prepared to make repairs and replacements.
- Test smoke and C02 alarms and recharge fire extinguishers to keep your residents safe.
Single-Family Homes & Condos:
- Clean window wells and gutters to ensure that rain can flow freely.
- Address any gaps in windows, doors, and walls to reduce the prevalence of summer pests like ants and cockroaches.
- Trim the grass regularly, maintain landscaping, and increase watering frequency for the hotter summer months. Consider mulching garden beds to help conserve water and spruce up your property.
- Trim trees to keep weak or dying limbs from causing property damage during stormy weather.
- Inspect outdoor lighting and make sure to adjust the settings for the longer days. Solar lighting is an excellent energy-efficient option that requires little maintenance once installed.
- Pressure wash and repair decks and patio spaces and clean any common areas to remove dust, dirt, or grime.
- Steam clean furniture and tile, wood, and carpet flooring of communal areas.
- Change the HVAC filters, thoroughly inspect the unit, and perform any routine maintenance to be sure the heater works properly for the coming winter months.
- Clean trash cans and replace any communal trash cans or recycling receptacles that may have been damaged over the summer months.
- Complete annual fire drills and safety checks with your residents.
Single-Family Homes & Condos:
- Check the roof of each building for leaks, obstructions, and wear and tear.
- Clean the chimney, check the flue, and inspect the grate and fire screen to prepare for cold weather.
- Clean the gutters and down-spouts to remove any excess dirt or debris.
- Update your flower beds and containers with plant varieties that can withstand cooler temperatures.
- Clear your property of all dead leaves, weeds, and branches.
- Blow out and turn off sprinkler and irrigation systems.
- Repair or replace any problematic HVAC systems to avoid any issues as the season progresses.
- Inspect vacant units regularly to ensure there is no snow building up on the balconies or burst pipes in the bathrooms.
- If your building uses natural gas, maintain and service the furnaces.
Single-Family Homes & Condos:
- Clean the gutters and address any concerns with the roof.
- Check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Insulate the water pipes near the windows and doors to prevent them from freezing.
- Stock up on materials such as salt for the walkways and driveways and gasoline for the snowblowers.
- Clear the walkways of snow or ice and salt surfaces to ensure residents are safe.
- Properly winterize pools, depending on your location, which may include winterizing your pipes or draining the pool altogether.
- Maintain and trim all trees properly to avoid any damage during a winter storm.
How to hire the right maintenance technician
Rather than hiring a contractor every time something needs to be fixed, or constantly having to check up on all your properties, it is often more cost-effective to hire a regular maintenance technician. Hiring an employee that you trust can make your job a lot easier, save you money, and ensure that your properties continue to run smoothly. Here are some tips for hiring the right maintenance technician without breaking the bank:
The first thing you need to do is make a thorough list of all the responsibilities that you would like your maintenance technician to handle. Many of these may be general, but it is also important to think about the unique needs of your properties to ensure that the employee you hire is properly qualified. For instance, if one of your properties has an old boiler system, make sure you hire someone with experience with similar systems.
Being as specific as possible about the responsibilities and unique challenges of maintaining your properties will allow you to find the most suitable employee possible. Furthermore, finding a technician with specific relevant experience for your properties’ unique requirements decreases training cost and time.
Advertise and interview
Once you’ve made a list of responsibilities, create a job advertisement and come up with a list of interview questions to ask candidates. The advertisements you put online should include any unique challenges about the position so you don’t waste your time interviewing someone who can’t meet the needs of the job. If you are referred to any potential new candidates by someone you trust, make these individuals aware of the unique challenges — you don’t want to skip any steps in the process just because someone comes to you as a referred candidate.
Once you have a number of applicants, make sure you go through your entire list of questions in the interview process. Make the interview as specific and practical as possible, giving specific scenarios that may arise in your properties. Ideally, your maintenance technician will be able to manage your properties without your explicit approval for every little detail, so testing their decision-making skills during the interview process is important.
Qualities to look for
You should look for someone with the right skills and experience to match your properties’ needs and someone you can trust to independently make sound, well-thought-out decisions. The more responsibility and independence you believe a candidate can manage, the more work will be taken off your plate. This will save you money in the future by reducing your need for expensive contractors when urgent maintenance issues arise.
Maintenance is an integral part of every property manager’s job. When you prioritize regular, routine maintenance, you can mitigate risks, reduce costs, keep your residents satisfied, and increase the value of your properties. A property management software system that has mobile maintenance tools built-in — such as online maintenance requests and work orders — can allow you to resolve issues quickly and help you keep your properties in tip-top shape.