If you own or manage a residential property, you know how important it is to stay on top of any and all potential issues. If a pipe bursts or a house requires new roofing, such issues will greatly affect not only your business, but the lives of your tenants.
Whether you’re responsible for a condominium community, hotel, apartment building, or individual homes, you can’t properly care for a property without keeping it well-maintained and up-to-date. Doing so will ensure that occupants remain both safe and satisfied (and more likely to continue renting and recommending your properties down the line).
In this article, we’ll explore the specific duties and benefits that go along with property maintenance. But before we cover these, we’ll need to start with something much more basic: what exactly is property maintenance?
Property maintenance is best defined as any preventive or reactive maintenance action taken to keep a property fully functional, and operating in its best condition.
Property maintenance includes a wide range of responsibilities and requests. A few of these might include responding to a tenant’s maintenance requests, maintaining landscaping, servicing and repairing HVAC systems, performing pest control, or even cleaning or painting common areas. Safety inspections are also an important component of property maintenance, as malfunctioning equipment (i.e. alarm systems) or unsafe conditions can be a major liability.
Failing to perform property maintenance can result in serious consequences; thus, as you might imagine, there are several advantages to implementing regular property maintenance. We’ve listed out a few of them for your consideration below.
Benefits of property maintenance includes:
- Reduction of equipment breakdown and failure—as with any type of preventive maintenance, property maintenance ensures that your buildings or property experience fewer instances of failure. Regularly checking major property assets, such as HVAC units, elevators, and boilers, ensures that your most costly equipment operates as optimally as possible.
- Avoidance of liabilities—if property maintenance is performed on a regular basis, this will reduce the number of onsite potential accidents or incidents, which will help you steer clear of liabilities and lawsuits.
- Increased property value—a well-maintained property retains its market value. A property that suffers from neglect will inevitably decrease in value and detract from rental prices over time.
- Happy tenants—if your tenants are satisfied, they’re much more likely to continue renting from you, and will also be more inclined to recommend your property to others. This will help you achieve or maintain full capacity in your buildings.
While the disadvantages are few, it is worth noting that some downsides of property maintenance may include:
- Costly expenses—if your business depends on rent payments to stay afloat each month, property maintenance may be too pricey to afford—particularly if you were to hire a professional on a part-time or full-time basis rather than case-by-case.
- Reduced control over your property—as with anything, handing over the reins to a property maintenance professional means you’ll have less of a say in which assets are inspected, repaired, or updated.
Property maintenance is typically performed by a combination of four professionals: a property manager, a maintenance technician, a janitor or custodian, or a facility manager. Even though any of these individuals may perform a property maintenance action, each of these fields has distinct roles, responsibilities, and salaries, and often requires different training and certification processes.
Here’s a brief, professional overview of all four careers:
- Job description: a property manager is hired in a part-time or full-time position to inspect, oversee, and maintain a property’s assets, utilities, tenants, and more. Ultimately, he or she is responsible for ensuring the property is in optimal condition as a place that tenants will want to live.
- Responsibilities: assigning cleaning tasks; submitting work orders (from guests or tenants) to maintenance technicians; ensuring contractors are paid and expenses are tracked; maintains rentals by advertising and filling vacancies.
- Salary range: Approximately $53,683 a year according to Glassdoor.
- Job description: a maintenance technician may be contracted out, or hired on a part-time or full-time basis, to make repairs to mechanical systems around a property. They often work hand in hand with the property manager to keep a residential facility up-to-date and running optimally for occupants, though they usually report to the property manager (who assigns the maintenance technician work orders). Their scope of duties may also include performing preventive maintenance on machines and equipment.
- Responsibilities: managing or supervising repair processes; maintaining and repairing HVAC systems, boilers, chillers, and more; scheduling and performing maintenance from work orders; assisting and supervising installations and equipment updates.
- Salary range: Approximately $39,995 a year according to Glassdoor.
- Job description: a janitor is hired typically on a part-time basis to clean and maintain the hygienic standards of a residential property. A janitor or custodian is typically responsible for cleaning, tidying, and disinfecting all shared domains, such as common areas, public restrooms, gyms, and lobbies.
- Responsibilities: cleaning and disinfecting various surfaces; sweeping and mopping floors; vacuuming carpets; washing windows; disinfecting bathroom surfaces and restocking hygienic items (i.e. toilet paper, soap, paper towels).
- Salary range: Approximately $24,038 a year according to Glassdoor.
There are two ways to implement routine property maintenance around your residential community: you can either hire a part-time or full-time property maintenance professional (or property manager), or you can contract out your property maintenance needs.
No matter which you choose, there are benefits and drawbacks of each, so you’ll need to decide what makes the most sense for your property. The pros and cons of an in-house property maintenance team include:
- More insight and familiarity with your specific property’s needs;
- More cohesive and streamlined communication among your property maintenance team and the rest of your facility;
- Control over maintenance costs based on steady salary payments, and increased budget flexibility;
- High-priority and unexpected issues can be more promptly handled.
- The hiring process may be more rigorous and intensive to build a maintenance team;
- Each property maintenance professional’s salary must be factored into the property owner’s budget;
- More pressure for the property to run smoothly and issues to be addressed promptly with an in-house team.
Likewise, there are pros and cons to contracting out property maintenance services, as well. These may include:
- Contracted property maintenance professionals are more likely to have extensive knowledge of local laws and regulations;
- Property owner doesn’t have to constantly focus on property maintenance;
- Better planning for capital expenses;
- Property owner pays a contractor based on need rather than on a regular basis.
- Can be more expensive than having in-house property maintenance;
- Property owner has less influence over the quality and speed of contracted work;
- Less streamlined communication among the property owner, the community, and contracted services.
Ultimately, your budget and regular property maintenance needs will play a large role in your decision to hire an in-house team or a property maintenance contractor. Whichever you choose, always ensure that your candidates are qualified for the tasks you need completed.
Perhaps the most popular type of buildings for routine property maintenance, residential communities require a lot of upkeep to ensure safe and satisfied tenants. From elevator functionality to energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality, property maintenance is extremely important for secure and comfortable living.
Assisted living facilities tend to be quite extensive, and require routine property maintenance to run efficiently. Since residents typically require extra care to maintain their health and safety, this makes property maintenance all the more necessary for retirement homes and assisted living—the last thing nurses and aids need is broken equipment, a malfunctioning thermostat, or other preventable failures.
Hotels, like residential communities, need to implement property maintenance to ensure the facility is compliant with health and safety standards, and that it adheres to a certain level of quality for guests. Regular property maintenance means a pleasant environment for customers—who will recommend your hotel to others—and optimized functionality for proprietors.
Now that we’ve covered exactly what property maintenance does for a variety of facilities, let’s take a closer look at specific instances of property maintenance at work. Examples might include:
- Checking for water damage and leaks;
- Testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors;
- Changing filters in forced air systems;
- Cleaning and inspecting gutters;
- Organizing garbage disposal.
Even if you’re currently a property manager, you may be considering further education or credentials to enhance your career.
Typically, the educational baseline to be a property manager is a high school diploma, but the competition can be fierce in any professional field. Whether you have your GED or a Master’s degree in maintenance engineering, there are several property maintenance certifications available that will help to set you apart from other property maintenance professionals. We’ve compiled a few of the most credible and popular options below:
We’ve started at the top, because the CPM program is one of the most esteemed credentials in the field of property management. Awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management, this certification will provide the necessary knowledge for you to optimize the value of any property, and can potentially help you earn twice the amount of an average property manager’s salary. Unfortunately, qualifying for this program isn’t exactly simple. Requirements include trainees to have a real estate license and two years’ minimum experience. Pricing is also high, falling between $7,500-$8,500 in total costs and fees.
The CAM credential is offered by the National Apartment Association, and is among the best programs you can take if you’re planning to deal solely with residential communities or apartment buildings. Among the requirements for this certification are a series of relevant courses, final project completion, and an evaluation test. Pricing for the Certified Apartment Manager credential is $865 for members of the NAA.
Similar to the CPM program, the Residential Management Professional credential requires trainees to have a real estate license, two years’ minimum experience in the property maintenance field, and have experience managing 100 units during their candidacy period. Extended by the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), this organization focuses on certifying property managers in ethics and professional standards of conduct. Pricing for this designation is just $150.
The CMCA program is awarded by the Community Association Managers International Certification Board, and is considered to be one of the most useful and practical certifications available to property managers. Members of the organization are regularly updated on property management and state laws to ensure compliance, and those who earn the certification manage condo and homeowner associations, co-ops, and resort communities, to name a few. The cost, covering the application fee, exam, and the first year of certification is $315.