4 Maintenance Struggles Faced by Property Management Companies

Dakine property management maintenance

Listing, no problem. Vetting tenants, yes. Leases, got ‘em. Maintenance… that’s another story. Everything is running smooth until that service request comes in from a tenant who says they hear rodents scratching in their walls and they can see an opening in their rotten siding on the second floor, 20 feet above the driveway. Who do you call that will be willing to do a dangerous repair like that? In this situation you have two choices: call a cheap handyman you know and take the chance that they will be able to pull it off without walking off of the job site, hurting themselves, or causing more damage to the home. Or, you bite the bullet and call a main stream roofing company to fix the siding, call a mainstream pest control company for the rodents, and try to explain the ticket price as a necessary expense to the owner.

We don’t mean to blow situations like these out of proportion, but the point is that maintenance is invariably NOT cut and dry. And if you don’t have the right vendors, processes, and preconditions set in place, you are in for more headaches than otherwise necessary. Here are a few points that stand out to us as obstacles that can be overcome with a few simple adjustments to your process.

1. Communication

“What did you actually do?” Have you ever found yourself asking that question three months after paying a plumber to fix a leak that has now recurred? All you want to know is if it’s warrantied but now they won’t return your calls. And the owner is in your ear about the home warranty that they paid for but they’re not sure if their policy is still active. And we all know that the home warranty company is about as helpful as a 4 year old trying to give you directions.Examples abound of how communication or the lack thereof can make or break your ability to perform at a high level and deliver on all of the value propositions that you make to your clients when they hire you to manage their properties. This is number 1 on our list because communication is most certainly first priority in property management as far as maintenance is concerned. Requiring before and after photos is a must. Even better, a contractor with full time office staff that can reliably be reached during business hours. Obviously integrity is huge when it comes to go backs and warranty issues (they’re going to happen). Look for these attributes in a vendor you are considering. Include these as requirements when they apply to work for you.

2. Who ya gonna call?

The last thing you want to do is pay three trip fees to three different vendors just to find out that all you had to do was call the city to come reattach the power line to the side of the house. There are obvious plumbing, electrical, or handyman work orders. But there are just as many “gray area” work orders. And in these situations, it is highly strategic to have a trusted vendor who you can chat with about a situation “off line”. If there is one vendor who does six figures of work for you in a year, they should be more than willing to give you free advice on a situation. This can get you out of a bind in a situation like this. Or better yet, keep you out of one.

3. Scheduling

The handyman is on site for the appointment they scheduled through your CRM (property meld, appfolio, etc.) and no one is home! Now they’re calling you and as you pull it up in your system you see that the tenant asked for an alternative time last night at 3AM. The handyman clearly didn’t see it and now you’re nervous that he may want to charge you a trip fee for the missed appointment. We’re not dogging on property maintenance software. But if it’s not the primary way that that contractor communicates with their own customers everyday, it seems likely that the wires will get crossed from time to time. This is a huge barrier to maintenance running smoothly. Particularly if you use exclusively outside vendors.Look for a vendor that specializes in property maintenance for property managers. They will understand the idiosyncrasies of scheduling with tenants as well as the ins and outs of whatever software you use. Finding a specialized trade that primarily works for property management companies is a tall order. However, finding a general maintenance vendor that does is a much more realistic goal.

4. Timing Is Everything

Time is money. And while you most likely move as fast as you can once you have the information you need, that may not be enough notice for whomever you are calling for the work. It always seems like there isn’t enough time to get anything done in the time frame that the real estate industry demands. When you use third party vendors, you are at the mercy of their schedule. And if they are a service company, there is a very low chance they can get major jobs done at the drop of a hat.For this pain point, we have three recommendations. Firstly, send a move out list to whatever vendor you use for make readies. It doesn’t matter if they are going to do all of those make readies or not. At least they will know roughly when they are coming down the pike. Secondly, ask whatever vendor you use for make readies if they would be willing to do the final walkthrough with you in person. This will allow them to make a list and send you an estimate faster, and gives them the chance to gather the necessary measurements and specs for materials should the estimate be approved. Thirdly, we recommend that you specifically seek out a vendor that caters to property management companies in this way. Trying to use the same vendor that any home owner in town can call for service for your make readies on your timeline is an unrealistic expectation.

    Conclusion

    This list is by no means exhaustive. However, these are some of the most glaring and common issues that property managers are faced with related to maintenance. Hopefully with these nuggets of insight that we have gained by being a maintenance vendor in this industry for ten years in the Austin, Texas area, you will be able to alleviate a few of these headaches in whatever market you serve!

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