One of the major concerns for property management is a plumbing system on the property and the rising cost of its maintenance. Plumbing issues can pop up at any time, and it can be as minor as a leaking faucet to a major repair of broken underground pipes.
Proper Plumbing Strategies
Resolving plumbing issues quickly would be considered one of the important skills for a property manager; however, this is often a daunting task and sometimes the cost could eat off a major portion of the profits. Here are some tips on preventive plumbing maintenance that can help in improving response time and curtailing costs of plumbing maintenance.
A property manager should be proactive in detecting plumbing problems before they are likely to occur. For this, he will need to carry out periodic inspections of the plumbing system on the property with a special checklist. This will provide early warnings of possible plumbing issues, and the matter can be resolved before it develops into a major problem. Here are some of the most important points that should be included in the special checklist.
Try to detect signs of visible pipes that might lead to leakage. Such signs could include water stains, or small puddles on the floor. Additionally, focus on spots where the pipes enter walls or run underground to the building foundation.
Keep track of corrosion and signs of rusting. These may seem minor when they first appear, but if they are not repaired, the corrosion can cause poor connections and leaks. Look for corrosion signs such as orange or yellow stains on steel pipes, or green stains on copper or brass fittings.
Check water pressure to make sure the water is flowing with the correct force when it is coming out of showerheads and faucets. If the water pressure seems to be low, it could be due to buildup of sediment in the fittings. If sediment clogs are suspected, remove the showerhead, check for signs of sediment, and have them cleaned. Sometimes low pressure could be due to more serious problem of leakage in the underground water line, which will need major repair. However, first clean all the sediment clogs to see if the pressure is restored.
Check the speed of water draining from kitchen and bathroom drains. When the drainage is slow, check the vent and drains for clogs. In an unclogged drain, the water will swirl fully, while in clogged drain you will notice bubbles forming while the water is draining. A gurgling sound on the other hand could indicate a potential issue in the vent.
During inspection, flush the toilet in every unit to ensure it is working properly. Check the flush assembly externally and internally for missing, broken, or corroded parts. The water should stop when the flush is filled, and if it is still flowing then it could be draining into the toilet or if there is a leak somewhere that needs to be fixed. Otherwise the water bill will be much more than it should be if this is what is happening.
Water heaters are another major cause of plumbing problems and should be given thorough checkups periodically.
Incidences of intense weather seem to be happening more frequently across the country, and these incidents have a direct impact on utility costs on properties. Therefore, keeping track of utility data and monitoring usage is important for property management for identifying spikes and managing utility costs.
Monitoring energy usage should be a continuous process and should not be only implemented when the weather is severe. Sudden variances or spikes in energy consumption can happen due to various reasons, and they can go unnoticed if you do not have a regular system for tracking usage. Here are some of the common issues property management can avoid with the proper tracking of utility data.
Malfunctioning Delivery or Equipment
Energy spikes are common in old building stock but it is possible even on new properties. Property management cannot become complacent even when the project is LEED certified. Here is an actual example where property management was able to correct the problem because they noticed frequent spikes and crashes in their utility data. The data showed sudden surges in usage, even though the condensing boilers were certified efficient. A technician was sent to find out the cause of the sudden surges and he found the boilers were not condensing because the gas line pressure was not adequate. The utility provider had to be contacted to correct the issue.
On another property, the tenants were complaining of overheating and the consumption was peaking as well. In this instance, the technician found the controlling valve of the thermostat was stuck on fully open. Once all the valves were replaced, the energy consumption was back to normal levels.
Water consumption on a property can spike due to leaks, and some leaks can be hard to find. For instance, on a property, when the water consumption increased abnormally, all the units had to be inspected, but no leaks were found. The maintenance staff then had to do a thorough check of the pipelines and found a major leak in one of the underground pipes. The leak was costing the property over $2,000 every month, which would have continued if there was no utility tracking and time intervention.
You might feel that since everything is computerized, there are no chances of errors happening in utility bills. However, billing errors are more common than you think. For instance, a property management company having more than 200 buildings in its portfolio noticed a spike in gas consumption on one of the properties after they had implemented a utility tracking platform online.
The typical usage of the property was around 100 therms per month, but the bill showed consumption of 1,000 therms on a particular day. Property management immediately contacted the utility provider with the details, the error was detected, and the property was refunded the extra amount that they had paid.
There can be different reasons for energy spikes and many could be due to sudden changes in weather. However, it is important for property management to track utility data since it significantly helps in saving unnecessary energy costs and in an age where not any business is getting any help from Uncle Sam, energy savings becomes all the more important.
A Terrific Procurement System can Improve Profitability for Property Management
Property management has to procure services and products frequently for its properties, and if this system is non-standardized and inefficient, it can take a huge chunk out of the profits. Cost of services and products has a major impact on the overall profit margin, and therefore it is critical to have a procure system that not only reduces costs but also deliver quality goods. Here are certain points that can help a property manager devise afantastic procurement strategy.
Have a Separate Purchasing Department
Instead of procuring at the property level, it is better to have a purchasing department that controls bids across all the properties. The type of services required and specification of products will be accomplished at the property level, and the requirements will be sent over to the purchasing department.
This way there is a single window for receiving bids, and the purchasing department is left with the responsibility of identifying and determining the best value and quality. The purchasing department will develop a list of qualified vendors, thus avoiding unnecessary quotes and possible fallacious information, and saving the time of the property manager.
Procuring Discounts Based on Volume
Rather than compromising on quality, it is best to procure discounts based on higher volume. Vendors will be more willing to negotiate the price when there is a bigger volume at stake. Here again, having a purchase department will be beneficial because all requirements across properties will be routed through a single department. This will increase the needed volume of services and products, which in turn will give better bargaining power to the department.
Consistency of Products and Services
Since the purchasing department controls the actual purchase, even though it is based on the requirements of individual properties, the services and products acquired will be of consistent value and quality. If there is no single basis for bids, there will be inconsistency in costs as well as quality.
For instance, manager of property A might select more discounts by compromising on quality of paint, while property B manager might procure costlier paint being more interested in the quality. Hence, there will inconsistencies in the product used, as well as the amount spent across two properties. On the other hand, the purchase department would already have a set standard on the quality of paint to be procured and will entertain bids from qualified vendors based on volume.
A Working System for Tracking Warranty
It is important to know whether the product is still under warranty before replacing it since this can help the company save money. Many products and services are procured to maintain the property. But unless there is a computerized system for tracking the warranty, it would be almost impossible to know whether you should buy another unit or call for repairs or replacement.
It is best to have an internal system, where the property manager simply has to enter the identifying code and serial number of the product or service to know the warranty status. If the purchase department is maintaining records of all the warranties, then these records should be accessible at the property level.
Recruiting a new employee to join the property management team can be challenging task, especially when you have to focus on defining policies and roles, and assimilating the new member into the corporate structure. However, when proper measures are adopted for taking the new person on board, property management can cut out some of the training costs and reduce the possibility of friction and stress with existing staff.
Secondly, providing the new member with the right resources and tools will not only build morale but also lessen the employee turnover rate. Here are some important points that can help in making the recruiting process smooth and effective.
Detailed Job Description
To avoid future disappointments, it is important to provide a detailed job description to candidates even before the interview. Orientation programs and training sessions may help, but the candidate should be ready to fit into the position. Detailed guidelines could include comprehensive strategies, possible career paths, and earning potential.
Honest and Open Representation of the Company
Misrepresenting company culture, company policies, and required duties is a big mistake. The new employee will not only be frustrated when he or she finds out the truth, but will also become disillusioned about company expectations and policies after a few weeks on the job.
The new employee should be given detailed instructions about practically everything from company policies, management structure, dress code, to the place where he can and cannot park his or her vehicle. This can help the employee avoid embarrassing mistakes and he or she can have a clear-cut outline on what is expected.
Key staff members and supervisors must be given adequate information about the new employee, which may include a job description and resume. Arrange a semi-formal meeting, where existing staff members can discuss the overlapping of roles and allocation of specific duties for the new employee. It is always magnificent to have the new employee partner with an existing employee or supervisor, who can be a mentor. The mentoring role could include clearing doubts of the new employee, and helping him or her adjust to the work environment and company culture.
It is important to know how the new employee is doing and whether he or she is able to cope with the workload and existing company culture. Scheduling personal meetings once a week, in the beginning would be a prudent idea, and later it could be done monthly or bi-monthly. However, always have an open-door policy for encouraging comments and feedback from the new employee.
Pro-active Approach of Management
Property management should have a pro-active approach concerning new employees. Concerned manager or supervisor should be quick to reward the new employee when he has performed well, or when he has taken extra initiative. Management should also be vigilant about negative behavior and should make the employee aware of the consequences of continuing along such lines. Performance reviews should be held on a regular basis since this will not only bolster confidence, but also will provide a clear picture to the employee of what is expected of her or him.