If you have a property to manage, maintenance is the top-of-mind focus that will keep your property running efficiently, and help you avoid unexpected maintenance and repair costs.
In this article, you’ll get a look at all things property maintenance including:
What property maintenance is and what the benefits are of doing it well
Tips on how to build your property maintenance team
Important tips for keeping your property in tip-top shape
How a CMMS can help you control the costs and time involved in maintaining your property
Let’s get right to it.
What is property maintenance?
Property maintenance is the process of preserving a residential, commercial, apartment, or hospitality building and its immediate surroundings through a set of specific maintenance activities.
Property maintenance refers to activities that are essential for keeping a building functional and comfortable for its occupants (which is why it is often used interchangeably with building maintenance).
Property maintenance activities include:
Cleaning the building’s internal and external common areas (including drains, roof gutters, corridors, etc.)
Rodent control and removal
Gardening and landscaping
Garbage separation and disposal
Servicing, repairs, and replacement for all mechanical and electrical systems (lighting, HVAC, water supply, water heating, etc.)
Safety checks (proactive routine inspections of mechanical and electrical systems, fire fighting installations, and safety inspections of the entire premises)
As a renter, you don’t want to worry about issues like a kitchen sink clogging, or toilets that don’t flush. Those often require the help of a property maintenance team. Minor tasks like light bulb replacement, however, are often the responsibility of the tenants themselves.
For a real estate owner, you want to ensure that your property value increases (or at least stays the same) over the years. You don’t want to spend most of your days attending to angry tenants, problems with the property — or worse, dealing with liability lawsuits that can (and do!) come from poor maintenance, code violations, and safety hazards.
Imagine you’re a property maintenance technician for a professional property management company that services multi-family residences.
Every day you’d be tasked with addressing a variety of maintenance requests for things like plumbing leaks, doors that won’t close properly, heating and air conditioning failures, broken garage doors, and slippery sidewalks.
You play an essential role in property management overall, and the list of things to maintain and keep an eye on can seem like they go on forever sometimes, but they’re all important.
Why should keep your property in top-notch condition
Having a nice-looking property is great. But if the property you’re maintaining is a real estate investment, your goals should go beyond it simply looking nice.
Here are a few of the benefits of maintaining your investment property well:
Save money with lower repair and maintenance costs
Preserve and increase the value of your property
Fewer unexpected repairs, disputes, tenant grievances, which result in less stress
Avoid legal problems, liabilities, and fines by keeping your property up-to-code
Following the International Property Code (IPMC)
International property maintenance code (IPMC) establishes standards for property maintenance. It is a set of regulations that specify the minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings.
The IMPC sets expectations for maintaining building components like the structure’s exterior, plumbing, mechanical, electrical fixtures, sanitary installations, and fire fighting equipment.
It covers the following chapters:
For example, it has specific water heating equipment recommendations, the ideal temperature of heated water, how water should be circulated, etc.
The IPMC is renewed every three years and is available for adoption and use by jurisdictions internationally. You can check full details of what the IPMC covers here.
Types of property maintenance workers and what they do
There are three leading players involved in property maintenance: property managers, maintenance technicians, and the custodian.
The property manager has a big load, especially in a large or complex community. Property managers are in charge of maintenance, either directly, or by leading the team that carries out the job.
Day-to-day maintenance activities for property managers might include:
From the more technical side of property management, a certification in apartment maintenance or industrial maintenance can be beneficial, like the one offered through National Apartment Association (NAA).
A certification like this can help you break into the industry, or help you start your own business and work independently. A background in real estate and general maintenance would be an added benefit here, too.
Commercial property maintenance vs. an in-house team
One important choice you’ll need to make will be how you want to build your property maintenance team. There are two basic options:
Outsource commercial property maintenance to manage their own team and maintenance tasks
Build an in-house team yourself to manage tasks
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. It often comes down to the time you have to commit to your property, the budget you have for outsourcing tasks, and the skills needed to make sure the job gets done right.
Hiring an in-house property maintenance team
If you hire your own property management team, this means that you will have direct supervision over the staff and the quality of performed work.
Managing your own team may offer you more discretion and flexibility in your maintenance budget. It may also give you better insight into all maintenance activities at your property. However, organizing a maintenance department requires some serious time and planning.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself when building your in-house property maintenance team:
What skills do my team members need?
Start by listing every maintenance activity your property requires (from cleaning to equipment repairs). This will help you determine who you need. (Think: cleaners, gardeners, HVAC and electrical technicians, etc.).
What roles should I fill and when?
Think about maintenance tasks you’ll need help on each day, week, and month. Those are the roles you should hire on your team full-time.
Some roles are not economical to fill in-house, so don’t eliminate outsourcing completely.For instance, you won’t hire a full-time elevator technician when elevators typically don’t require servicing as often as other systems.
How will our team operate?
Do you want a small team with more full-time members? A larger team who works shorter shifts, but with more flexibility in scheduling?
Consider how many people you might need to hire based on what the shifts look like, and each role you’ll be hiring for. Depending on how large the property is, you may need a facility manager or a supervisor to coordinate the staff.
How quickly should we get started?
Don’t rush to hire. Conduct thorough interviews and check that your potential craftsmen are qualified for their intended roles.
If you prefer, you can safely hasten this process by outsourcing this step to a reputable maintenance staff recruitment agency.
What to look for in a property management service
Here’s a list of specific perks you can benefit from, if you choose to outsource commercial property management company.
1) Preventative maintenance planning and scheduling
A full-service property management company will typically have an established system for planning and scheduling every maintenance task your property requires. At a minimum, such a system should include:
Regular maintenance checks, inspections, and visits
Documentation of all maintenance performed
Recommendations for upgrades and improvements
Standard procedures for hiring and managing vendors and contractors
A quality commercial property maintenance service will keep your tenants happy while preserving and improving your asset’s condition.
2) Financial reporting
A property management service will create a maintenance budget for your property. They will also present you with reports about maintenance expenses on the premises – at least every month.
3) Handling tenants communication
Part of a rental property management company’s duties include communicating with your tenants and relaying only those issues that require your attention.
Often, this will include an online portal for rent collection and maintenance requests. All transactions and communications can be tracked online, so there’s no need to keep track of paper or worry about losing track of necessary communication.
4) Ensuring regulatory compliance
Similar to the IPMC, there are several other requirements that your local jurisdiction may require of property owners. A professional service is expected to monitor existing and new regulations on your behalf and ensure compliance.
5) Ensure the management team’s services fit in your budget
Property management companies can be a huge asset to your business, but they don’t come cheap. Most property management companies charge a monthly fee of between 8-12% of the monthly rent collected.
Some property management companies offer a fixed fee structure instead of collecting a fee based on the percentage of a month’s rent. Usually, the fixed fee is based on the property type (i.e., single-family, multi-family, etc.), square footage, and the property management services provided.
Property management fees are not always all-inclusive. Often, a property management company may charge for additional services above and beyond the monthly fee collected. Be sure to understand what these additional fees may look like before signing any service contracts.
6) Understand pass-through costs associated with 3rd party vendors
An established property management company will usually have an established network of trusted vendors or an in-house, full-time maintenance crew of their own. To work with them, they may require that you use their preferred vendors.
It’s important to know the costs of using your management company’s contractors and staying ahead of large projects (like roofs and siding). This way, you can plan and budget for these costs.
Most vendors offer management companies preferred pricing in exchange for the manager’s business. This can help keep repair and maintenance costs lower than what you could find on your own. But it is always worth comparing, as this can save you a lot of money and headaches when the time comes for bigger repairs.
How to find the right maintenance management services
This all sounds great, but you may wonder: where can I find a decent commercial property maintenance company?
If you only need someone to take care of the needed maintenance work, you can do some Google searches for specific maintenance services in your area and/or get in touch with other property owners you know and ask if they have someone to recommend.
Retaining your property’s value is the name of the game, and you can’t do that without regular upkeep. Here are some tips to give you the best shot at keeping your property in great shape over its lifetime.
Implement a preventive maintenance program
A preventive maintenance program is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to avoid large, costly repairs. Here are some examples of what your PM program might include:
Inspect plumbing fixtures and systems
Service air conditioners
Test smoke, CO2 alarms, and recharge fire extinguishers
Clean window wells and gutters to ensure rain can flow freely
Seal gaps in windows, doors, and walls to reduce the prevalence of pests
Seasonal projects like, properly winterize pools and other recreational equipment
Landscaping and maintaining large trees
Prioritize maintenance funding
When so many other issues in your property demand funding, it can be tempting to cut back on maintenance spending. But, this can lead to rapid asset deterioration and an uncontrollable deferred maintenance list which creates an ideal setting for safety hazards.
Usually, it is best to budget a minimum of between 2-4% of your property’s current replacement value for your annual maintenance budget. Every dollar you spend on maintenance should save you $5 in the long run.
Buy and use durable components
To keep your property in good shape, use replacement parts that operate safely and last as long as possible. When you stock your spare parts inventory with high-quality goods (fan belts, HVAC parts, light bulbs, motors, pumps, etc.), you’re investing in the longevity of your property.
Although very durable items may cost a little more at the onset, they help you save on future repairs and minimize frequent rework problems.
Enable regular property audits
Adopt a custom of regular facility condition assessments (FCA). An FCA will empower you with comprehensive baseline data about how the entire property and its systems perform. That information helps to highlight areas for improvement.
During an FCA, the inspection team will check things like the current condition of all the assets and identify any safety hazards for quick corrective action.
Automate maintenance management
No matter your maintenance team/service provider’s competence, it can quickly become challenging to stay on top of every single maintenance task. Especially in multi-unit properties, tracking everything manually is a recipe for inaccuracies.
You can avoid this by automating maintenance management with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). A mobile CMMS will help you streamline and optimize every aspect of maintenance, handle repetitive administrative tasks, track safety, measure performance, reduce maintenance costs, and much more. More on this next.
Improve property management with a CMMS
Whether with an in-house team or an outsourced service, a CMMS is the best way to stay on top of all property maintenance activities. To make it even easier, a modern CMMS will allow you to automate much of the administrative work that slows maintenance down. Let’s look at how it works in Limble CMMS.
In Limble, you can organize properties as “Assets” in a hierarchy, first listing the parcel as “parent” assets, followed by the individual units as “child” assets. In a multi-unit property, you might have each building listed as a parent asset, and each unit within the building listed as a child asset underneath that.
You can create custom fields in each asset so you can track the information that’s most important for your business. This can include a unit number, tenant name and contact information, wall paint colors, and anything else that’s important for your maintenance team to access.
Each asset contains a historical log of maintenance performed on it. If there’s been a flood in the unit, that will be in the asset history. If there’s a door with a lock that’s often stuck, that might be in the asset history.
This information will help technicians do their jobs better and more efficiently. And, it will give you the tools and the information you need to keep your properties in the highest working order.
Chances are, if you’re working for a property management company, you are responsible for more than one property. With Limble, not only can you easily manage separate units, but you can also organize them easily into different locations.
You manage four different properties, all of which are apartment complexes. Each of the apartment complexes has several buildings within it, and each building, several units.
Within Limble, each property would be considered a “location,” each building would be a “parent asset,” and each unit, a “child asset.”
Here’s a scenario: You may need to replace HVAC filters for each unit on every property each year. But one property has HVAC systems that are much older than the other two, and those filters need to be replaced several times per year.
Setting up your property maintenance system this way not only helps you stay organized, but you can set up rules and automation that are specific to each property. On top of it all, you can track total costs, as well as compare costs and performance between different properties.
Once approved, work requests automatically generate a work order recorded in the unit’s history. You can set up custom required fields on maintenance request forms, so you can collect the information you know you’ll need.
Technicians can easily send status updates to tenants about their requests through Limble, making communication easier between tenants and the property manager.
Limble lets you keep track of all your parts and attach them to each asset (or property) where they’re used.
Say you’re a maintenance technician at a large apartment building where half of the units have recently been remodeled. They all have new fixtures, carpets, and new blinds that have specific components required to maintain them.
Managing your inventory with Limble would allow you to denote which units were the ones that were remodeled and attach the correct parts to them. So, when it’s time to complete service, you know which parts you need before you even do the work.
Automated preventive maintenance
In Limble, you can schedule automated preventive maintenance tasks for each unit and property. PMs can be set up to work on a custom schedule and automatically assigned to specific technicians.
Say you have separate teams of technicians that work only on specific properties. Team 1 works on Property 1, and Team 2 works on Property 2. We don’t want tasks for Property 2 getting assigned to Team 1.
With Limble, you can ensure that your teams are always getting the right work in the right place at the right time.
Property maintenance news and resources
Stay on top of the property maintenance game with these resources:
All Property Management: Find property managers, management companies and get connected with the latest resources on investment how-to’s and real estate opportunities.
Property Management Insider: Publishes best practices and innovative ideas for taking the building you manage to the next level of maintenance success.
PropertyWare: Free resources for single-family property managers
Whether you own it or manage it, good property maintenance is not something you can afford to overlook. It is required and regulated by law in most jurisdictions. But apart from obeying the law, the benefits of property maintenance are well worth the effort.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to take too much of your time if you stay organized. No matter how your team is organized, what matters is that maintenance is getting done, and done right.
If you’re thinking about using CMMS software to improve different aspects of your property maintenance, set up a demo or contact us — we’re always ready to chat.
"I can track my inventory and it sends me emails when I'm running low on an item. Also that I can track how much time I'm spending on certain jobs over an extended period of time."
— Cody Jensen
Very easy to use, access
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— Curt Waisath
Valley Salt LLC
It just works
"Honestly - the customer support has been fabulous. We had a minor feature request that was deployed within 24 hours - which is unheard of. Even better when you consider our business is located in a completely different time zone (somewhere in Australia). Limble is quite intuitive and I love the ability to have assets nested within each other."
— Ed Cronin
Great for smaller or larger facilities
"We haven't fully integrated Limble yet but we are already seeing improvements in our efficiency. As we fully integrate Limble we expect to see more benefits and increase our response and completion times. The customer support has been outstanding. The Limble team is very quick to respond to any questions and they are very open to suggestions."
— Mike Hill
Children's Home of Lubbock
Limble is the best thing to happen to this company
"Limble does such a good job at keeping track of what's been done and letting me know when and what I need to do next."
— Tom Jones
Little Giant Ladder Systems
Great product at a great price
"Terrific customer service, easy to use, and at a great value. Our old Maintenance software was very difficult to use and was very expensive."
— Brian Williams
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