A lot goes into making and managing a property investment and landlords sometimes make the mistake of thinking that their work ends with finding a tenant and handing them the keys to the door or even easier, having a letting agent do it.
However, a rising number of landlords are not hiring letting agents and cutting down their management costs.
An essential part of property management is property maintenance services. Property maintenance, (also loosely referred to as building maintenance or block management at times) aims to preserve the property’s value and ensure that it offers good living conditions. Why is it essential?
For starters, you would want to keep your property in a presentable state. A ragged property neither lands good rental rates nor good tenants. A tenant, no matter how great and with how excellent tenant referencing, is never really able to treat your property as their own because they have no stakes in it. It is also really the only way to ensure that you don’t find yourself burdened with liability claims.
Property maintenance services can include external and internal area repairs and inspections, pest control, safety checks, and more and it is important to stay on top of these problems before they worsen and further create problems around the property.
Many of these are typically outsourced to property maintenance services companies (discussed later on) via a property manager. In the case of private landlords not using agents, a landlord will have to vet and hire the property maintenance services company themselves.
Why Is Property Maintenance Important?
Do you remember how our elders always said to do things on time or they pile up to be one big burden? The same goes for property maintenance. If you do not upkeep a property when minor problems surface, they will not go away but rather re-surface together, putting a huge financial burden on your pocket at the worst of times.
It is also a general rule that applies to almost everything in life that it is more expensive to fix something than prevent it from happening. Even if property maintenance services hurt your pockets at the moment when there is no obvious issue visible to you, they will generate great returns. If you keep your property maintained and conduct regular inspections for any possible problems, you may save yourself hefty costs in the future with little preventative property maintenance.
More importantly, investing in property maintenance services can be worthwhile because the aesthetic appeal adds value to your property. A well-maintained property allows the leverage of charging higher rents than the typical market rates at the time. Property maintenance services also allow real estate owners to receive a high price at the time of resale. For landlords planning to move into the property themselves one day or pass it down to their future generations, property maintenance services are an important preference.
What Do Property Maintenance Services Companies Offer?
An unsteady staircase, peeling roofs, and old pipelines, despite appearing like minor inconveniences that could be fixed in a flick of a switch, these small problems when aggregated might make your property look ragged. Or worse, they could be safety hazards of today that could turn into legal problems and hefty compensation tomorrow. For a landlord handling multiple lettings at once, these problems could compound further, generally becoming impossible for them to take care of maintenance on every property by themselves.
Property maintenance services companies generally get hired for long periods of time at a set rate and during their contract, fix up both regular and specialised problems whenever they pop up. These could also be a smaller part of property management companies that deal with more than just property maintenance services for landlords. Property maintenance services companies offer plumbing as one of the primary aspects of their help.
Licensed and certified plumbers perform tasks such as septic tank inspections and repairs or sediment removal, ensuring that plumbing all around the property is leak-free and the water is not getting contaminated. This service is considerably cheap when compared to the plumber’s hourly rate or average daily rate a plumber is. Secondly, property maintenance services offer electrical repairs and upgrading during inspections of the property or when a hazard is reported.
From the primary switchboard of the property to every single bulb, property maintenance services companies’ work guarantees that your electrical system is not overloaded and the property is safeguarded from a chance of electrocution. Again, property maintenance services companies allow you to save yourself from the hassle of having to find an electrician much like having to find a plumber.
Property maintenance services companies also take care of external window cleaning to ensure that the property always appears clean and presentable. External window cleaning constitutes expensive equipment and dangerous working conditions which would cost a rather significant charge if an independent contractor was to be hired compared to property maintenance services companies.
During winters, the weather tends to be harsh in the UK and snowfall can often create hazards. This is why property maintenance service companies offer snow management with plough trucks instead of having to find a handyman. This is to generally clear out the outside part of the property such as gardens, patios and parking lots.
Property maintenance services companies bring your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) up to date throughout the year’s seasons. They do so by replacing or repairing broken, inefficient, or outdated systems around the property.
These companies also offer landscaping services that keep your gardens and flowerbeds up to the mark with cutting, fertilising and pruning your landscape. In addition to these major works, property maintenance services can also take care of plastering, furnishing, fittings, and locksmithing around the property.
While landlords often take care of major repairs discussed above, these fleeting and mildly inconvenient repairs can go unaccounted for on both the landlords’ and tenants’ end therefore, property maintenance services may be worth a shot.
Property Maintenance Services for Landlords
A landlord can either hire a person for repairs or take help from a property maintenance services company to streamline some of their responsibilities. The first option often leads to the time-consuming hassle of finding the best fit for the work due.
Hiring a person for singular tasks over and over can also put a strain on your budget since you will typically not be getting any discounts out of the deal.
This is where property maintenance services companies come in. Property maintenance services companies hire vetted and qualified individuals with highly sought-after skills and training that serve as a testament to their credibility.
We are also looking at cost and time savings here. Moreover, property maintenance services tend to be quick and flexible in their timings and may be able to accommodate you considerably better in their schedule compared to an independent contractor whose schedule might not clear up for days. This is particularly important when managing emergencies.
This is one of the main reasons why independent contractors may not be suitable for problems that require quick repairs such as gas leakage or broken pipe which require an immediate fix.
There are other alternatives for landlords besides these that may or may not be feasible depending on the situation such as enrolling in property management courses, setting up a property management system in place, and having property management software or a property management app like Lofti.
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How Do You Find The Best Property Maintenance Service?
Because property maintenance services companies are such a crucial aspect of keeping a property up to date, it is important to find the right company for yourself. Why we said the right company “for yourself” is because your property maintenance services needs and budget will differ from everyone else.
The key to hiring the right property maintenance service company is to do in-depth research and consider discretion on all things. If you know landlords or tenants in your professional circle that have experience using property maintenance services, you can ask them for suggestions and reviews on companies. The Internet is also a great way to research because of digitalization which has led every property maintenance services company to create and maintain an impressive website that lists everything about them from their mission to their certified employees to their services to unfiltered reviews from customers.
You can simply put in “property maintenance services in (your area’s name or postcode)” in the search bar and access a multitude of options.
Problems of Property Maintenance Services
Property maintenance services companies are not always rainbows and sunshine. You can also end up with a myriad of problems with them. For starters, many people may not be comfortable with paying for days they are not using property maintenance services. Because when we take a realistic look, property maintenance services are typically only required once or twice a month in any property with appropriate housekeeping.
Secondly, a property maintenance services company, much like independent contractors may not have the resources to scale up their operations when you need them to if their employees are all booked up by other clients for the time being. Thirdly, you always have to work with what the property maintenance services can or can not offer you.
If they do not offer a certain service you are looking for or their employees turn out to be less than ideal for you, you can only either make do with the services or employees being provided or you have to go out of your way to hire an independent contractor on top of the property maintenance services company, having to empty up your pockets in two places.
Four Types of Property Maintenance
While we have come to equate property maintenance services with repairs, the word “maintenance” encompasses much more in real estate. There are four types of property maintenance services, all of which are crucial for an owner of the property to conduct if they are aiming to add value to the property over time and generate higher rental income or higher profits from the resale.
The first type of property maintenance service is repairs. This is a generally well-understood type of maintenance because it essentially just means that maintenance is conducted around the property only to fix things that are damaged.
A landlord only providing this type of property maintenance services will only offer specialist help when, for instance, the lock is broken and do nothing if the lock is old and has the potential of breaking down one day. These are reactive and bare-minimum property maintenance services that do not add a property to the value but only keep the value from diminishing.
Repairs may be preferred as the only kind of property maintenance service because there is no need for planning whatsoever in advance because problems are handled when they arise.
However, reactive property maintenance services can be considerably costly when compared to other types of property maintenance services because by the time something stops working or gets damaged, a long time of an internal issue persisting and not being fixed has passed.
It is also difficult for a landlord to predict their maintenance budget if they only repair around the property. Emergencies also tend to cause panic and may not allow the landlord to look for an affordable and specialist repairs worker, easily leading to either overpaying or poor maintenance and at times, both.
Not to mention, emergencies also create unwanted stress not just financially but also mentally, especially when a landlord is away from the property or is busy with something else at the moment.
As a landlord, chances are you have to deal with a lot already and progressing your portfolio is something at the top of your list. In comparison, managing the services in your property is a task that doesn’t necessarily bring you great rewards and is a constant need for your tenants. So being able to outsource this service is something many landlords find of great help.
2. Seasonal Maintenance
The second type of property maintenance service is called seasonal maintenance. Seasonal maintenance entails arranging maintenance of particular needs in different seasons of the year. For example, clearing up fall leaves where they can clog drains typically happens during autumn.
This type of maintenance is a great option because it allows for the organisation and division of maintenance tasks over a period of time, lessening both the mental and financial burden on the landlord. Seasonal maintenance also allows clarity and schedule which helps book in advance and find inexpensive and certified workers who do a good job of maintenance.
However, only conducting seasonal maintenance also means that you might come across things around the property that require maintenance during the year but need to wait until their relevant season. This could worsen the damage and increase the costs of maintenance or reduce the quality of service for your tenants.
3. Investment Maintenance
The third and most recommended kind of property maintenance service in real estate is investment maintenance. Calling this preventive or proactive maintenance would give more clarity on what it means. Planned preventative maintenance (referred to as PPM) basically means that you are always one step ahead of the problems, fixing their root causes before the problems appear.
Investment maintenance allows you to save costs on emergency repairs and having to fix them from start to end if you address the problem before it advances. Secondly, this type of property maintenance allows you to have clarity on how much you will have to spend throughout the year and keep an allowance separate for it.
Your property will also likely have more prime property management than other properties that limit maintenance to repairs and this leverage will help you charge tenants a higher rental payment. However, as the word proactive suggests, investment maintenance needs your involvement, time, money and energy. The planning is extensive and carrying out the maintenance or finding an eligible person to do it for you is hard work.
4. Capital Works
Capital works are the fourth and last kind of property maintenance service which refers to introducing a new thing in the property. This does not mean that a new door being put in place of an old door would be considered capital work.
The “new” thing in this context means adding something to the property that did not exist before. For instance, a landlord offering to include lawn mowing in their duties for the exact rental payment they were charging before would fall under capital works because a new feature is now in place.
Capital works are beneficial because they add value to the property in the true sense. Typically, the cost of maintenance generates two-fold or three-fold or even higher returns. These returns come in the form of high rental income and higher resale value (capital gain).
The aesthetic appeal makes the property more desirable for renting and buying. However, the cost of capital works can be high and may negatively affect your cash flow in the short term. Even the short-term can stretch until you have served notice period to your existing tenants and are now finding new tenants or selling your property when and finally start to see the value of the property maintenance you invested in.
Secondly, capital works are not specific because there is no list of things that need attention. You could add something as cheap or less as kitchen utensils or something as expensive or more as an LED TV and write it off as capital works. This creates a big issue of overspending if a landlord does not manage their money well.
Property maintenance is crucial for landlords to conduct, regardless of what scale they choose to do so on or what reasons they have for it. Much like the property itself, maintenance is a long-term investment that pays off when you do it with commitment.
A little effort goes a long way and at the end of the day, property maintenance often just comes down to taking ownership of your property and wanting to keep it perfect, down to minute details. And honestly, who wouldn’t like that?