Four $2 Tools That Could Save You $$$ On That Next Maintenance Call

    Four small tools any landlord or property manager should have  for maintenance that you can use to save money and provide immediate customer service.

    By  John Wilhoit

    Property management companies that run efficiently have significant systems in place for each phase of operations. 

     Further, there is emphasis on responsibility centers that do not overlap (yes- we are leaving "cross-training" behind for the moment).  In so doing, the company maintains specialization and focus.  This is the way of the world for large well-heeled organizations.  Then, there is everybody else.

    The property management business is fragmented to the nth degree from ivory tower suits to Grandma acting as manager of her fourplex with three paying residents.

     Following is a reminder about small tools that anyone at the site level can utilize to save money and provide immediate customer service. Dollars saved means increased NOI.  A happy customer (resident) means less turnover and longer leases- a win-win. 

    Like with a medical situation, sometimes what is needed more than anything else is triage- stopping the bleeding “now” until the patient can receive better treatment with more proficiency. Sometimes it just a scratch and other times life threatening; distinguishing between the two is the first order of business.

    All manner of little things (and not so little) can break a budget; carpet, paint, light bulbs and batteries growing legs and walking off, silent running toilets, a neighboring property tying into your electrical panel for security light (hey- their contractor did not know or care it was the wrong panel).

    Some things that need repair are hard to find, others, not so much.  For those items that you can “find and fix” while a work order is the way of the world getting the fix accomplished is the thing particularly when it comes to stopping water, or removing a potential hazard to public safety. 

    Please note that use of these tools does not and should not represent elimination of a service call by your maintenance team or service provider every time. These suggestions are simply a way to provide some immediate relief for the matter at hand until addressed more fully.  .

    Here are four $2 tools for immediate maintenance

    Sometimes simple does the trick!

    No. 1 – Disposal crank

    It does not seem to matter who says it or how many times it's said, people put "everything" into the kitchen sink and through the sink disposal.  This simple tool un-sticks a non-turning disposal.  Or not.  If yes, then a formal service call can follow later.  This later time means we can schedule it with another related matter and more cost effectively address two maintenance request with a single visit- thus reducing our overall costs.

    No. 2 – Drain Fisher

    There are various kinds but they all do the same thing- seek and often find the thing stopping up a bathroom sink or tub drain.  Yes, it's usually some gunk where removal creates free-flowing water.  Again, you have eliminated an emergency service call turning it into a scheduled service call thereby reducing our operating costs.

    No. 3 – Flash lights

     Flashlights find things.  Namely, running water and other things we miss with the naked eye.  Most of the things found we want to know about so shining a little light on a dark corner can assist in avoiding a bigger problem from occurring at an inopportune time.

    No. 4 – Screw driver

    Loose socket covers, door handles, locks and closet knobs.  All done with a simple screwdriver in short order.

    In each case, you should still have the matter reviewed by maintenance to assure the issue is in order going forward.  These quick fixes provide immediate customer service by site personnel allowing management added time to schedule maintenance in the normal flow of operations while avoiding the higher costs of emergency and after hour’s maintenance calls.

    About the author:

    John Wilhoit is a real estate professional specializing in residential asset management and property management. John has an undergraduate Degree in Business and a Master’s Degree in Urban Studies.

    Listen to John’s podcast at  John Multifamily Insight is John Wilhoit’s blog about all things multifamily. Mr. Wilhoit is the author of three books: How To Read A Rent Roll: A Guide to Understanding Rental Income and Multifamily Insight Vol 1 & 2 – How to Acquire Wealth Through Buying the Right Multifamily Assets in the Right Markets