Putting things off until the last minute is, oftentimes, a really bad idea. Things that are swept under the rug have a habit of piling up and causing more problems later on.
The same is true in real estate. In the business of premier property management, maintenance and property managers should be very careful in planning their budget in order to have ample allocation for ongoing repairs. Otherwise, they face a steady and progressive deterioration of their properties. Putting off repairs may cost more in the long run compared to regular and proactive maintenance.
However, there are a few instances where scheduled maintenance rotations aren’t followed – NOT to be skipped over, just postponed until they can be addressed. The practice of postponing maintenance activities, such as repairs on both real property (infrastructure) and personal property (equipment and systems) in order to save money, meet budget funding levels, or realign available budget funds is called deferred maintenance.
There could be a lot of reasons for deferred maintenance. The most common reason is cost. With a limited budget, more pressing repairs are often addressed first and things listed in the regular maintenance rotation could be deferred in favor of an immediate issue.
Investment properties are rarely a case of build and forget. It is mostly a case of build and actively look after. No one wants to keep an eye out on HVAC or roofing. It’s boring and would need to be maintained day in and day out. However, little things like these need to be prioritized if the goal is to keep long-term costs down.
While deferred maintenance is a good approach when you’re pressed for time and money, taking a proactive approach is more prudent when it comes to maintaining your property. The key is to take a simple proactive approach to maintenance. Don’t try to do all things at once. Space them out over a period of time so as not to burden the maintenance budget.
Keep it simple with these 2 steps: Essential Care and Condition Monitoring.
- Essential Care
Essential care involves all the steps taken to ensure the prevention of deterioration, malfunction, failures, and other issues. Task like changing out air filters, cleaning gutters, giving your property a deep cleaning etc. fall under essential care. Basically, they are the things you do in order to keep your rental or commercial property safe, marketable, and in tip-top shape.
- Condition Monitoring
Task involving the detection and prevention of failures are part of condition monitoring. It means checking after the condition of your residential or commercial property in order to keep your assets in working condition. These involve tasks like periodic roof inspections, checking electrical circuits, testing water pressure, checking for leaks, etc. More often than not, these tasks involve specialized tools or equipment.
For example, in checking for water pressure, you will need a pressure gauge. In checking electrical equipment, you might need circuit testers, continuity testers, etc. depending on what electrical appliance you’re testing.
Ideally, this approach would involve an 80/20 planning maintenance ratio – with 80% of the maintenance planned and 20% on unexpected repairs or last-minute additions.
Proactive maintenance does involve a significant investment in time (planning, executing) and money (budget). But this approach costs less in the long run compared to repairs done after an asset failure as a result of deferred maintenance. In most things in life, taking the proactive route instead of a reactive one always ends in a better result. Instead of waiting for an issue or an accident to happen, it is best to take measures to prevent them in the first place.
If you have deferred maintenance work for a while, now is as good a time as any to get back on track. Here’s a sample checklist of how your proactive maintenance approach might look like for an apartment or condominium rental property.
Identify and document all deferred maintenance needs of the property.
- Check the exterior of the property for visible issues such as falling gutters or crack in the roof, windows, or walls that can cause water damage.
- Test your sump pump – otherwise you might find yourself in a waterlogged room.
- Check your water pressure – or risk buster pipes and fixtures.
- Drain sediments from the water heater – or risk damage and a shorter lifespan for your heater.
- Check for infestation – insects, bugs, mice, or other furry stowaways can cause damage to property and chew through wires.
- Clean your vents – otherwise you might be faced with complaints about “weird smells” or worse, health complaints.
- Check ground-fault circuit interrupters – or risk having appliances short circuit and cause a fire.
- Test smoke alarms and fire extinguishers – to make sure that you can put out a small fire in case of emergencies.
- Check for overgrown branches that might get snagged on electrical power lines.
Allocate resources towards maintenance and upgrades.
This step is where you need to draft a budget and a maintenance schedule. You also need to assign personnel and consider the season/weather. The point is to schedule maintenance well before you an issue occurs. For example, there’s no point in doing work on windows and roof during the rainy season as the water will undo any sealing and waterproofing work.
Prioritize ongoing issues.
Document issues that are ongoing and plan on addressing those first. For example, if the tenants are constantly complaining about the AC, plan to work on that first or consider an upgrade or replacement.
Follow up and execute preventive maintenance measures.
Prevention is better than cure. Also, practicality should take precedence over aesthetics. A huge tree may look pretty in front of your store and might even provide shade for your commercial property. But if the branches grow towards a power line and the roots break the storefront ground, then you should have that immediately trimmed or cut down. Make sure to get a professional to do it, or risk having a tree fall over you or over some cars parked under it.
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