The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true for property management as it is everywhere else in life. It’s much easier to take simple steps to keep yourself from getting sick than it is to cure an illness once you’ve contracted it. It’s easier to just put things away where they belong when you’re finished with them, rather than letting them build up in the wrong places and then facing hours of cleanup to do at some point in the future.
Unfortunately, humans aren’t very good at seeing the labor savings in the future from actions taken in the present. What we are good at seeing, to our own detriment, are the labor “savings” in the present from not taking any action in the present. So we end up making things much harder on ourselves in the future in order to avoid working in the now.
If you’re a property or facility manager, this is a habit you should work to break. Because it’s bad practice and bad business. Not performing preventative maintenance may seem like it’s saving you time and money, but not maintaining your facility makes future failures far more likely, and those failures far more spectacular than they might have been otherwise. The result of not taking the actions you need to now can cost you far more time and money in the future.
One common statistic holds that for every dollar spent on preventative maintenance, five dollars are saved in other areas. This isn’t a hard and fast rule and certainly changes from business to business, but it illustrates the principle we’ll be talking about in this article. Preventative maintenance costs less than reactive maintenance, and allows assets to last longer, driving down replacement costs, long term repair costs, and can have a positive effect on future revenues. So with that, here are eight of the biggest reasons why preventative maintenance is so important for your building. We’ll then look at five services that are easy to keep up and will save you a lot of future time and money.
1. Preventative Maintenance Costs Less Than Reactive Maintenance
Many property and facility managers use a “run to failure” approach to building maintenance. This means that they wait for things to break and then they fix them. This seems a reasonable approach to them. After all, if something is working, why spend money to confirm what you already know? Instead, they assume, you can save all of the money you might spend on preventative maintenance and only fix things when a problem occurs.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an effective system. Mobile data solutions company Mintek released a report which said, “a company can save between 12% and 18% using preventive maintenance versus reactive maintenance.” When facilities are maintained, and their constituent parts kept clean and operating properly they can last far longer than they would otherwise. This means the costliest expenses, replacement expenses, are delayed as long as possible. According to the Marshall Institute, a Washington D.C. based think tank, all things considered, reactive maintenance costs two to five times more than preventative maintenance.
2. Preventative Maintenance Can Be Planned
Let’s imagine you allowed the HVAC system in a building you oversaw to simply run to failure. You know it will fail one day, but it’s impossible to know when. There’s a very good chance it will fail at an inopportune time, costing your tenants money, hassle, and upsetting them severely.
Instead, if you followed a scheduled maintenance plan you could choose when to take the HVAC system temporarily offline to replace aging parts. It can be done after hours, minimizing the impact on your tenants. Instead of upsetting them with random failures no one can plan for, they’ll see you as proactive, working hard to prevent these sorts of failures. Preventative maintenance is far less obtrusive and damaging than reactive maintenance.
3. Preventative Maintenance Helps with Tenant Retention
Happy tenants are far more likely to renew their leases than unhappy ones. If you operate based on a reactive, “run to failure” maintenance model there’s a very good chance your tenants have already experienced random building failures, unreliable fixtures, dirty, uncared for facilities, and a general feeling of neglect. These are not going to be long term tenants, and they’ll likely have a foot already out the door before their lease runs out.
The flipside to this is a well-cared for building, where preventative maintenance is consistently carried out, scheduled to minimize tenant impacts, and is used as a tool to keep systems running smoothly. Buildings like this tend to hold on to their tenants, which means less frequent turnover, saving the high costs associated with finding and installing new occupants.
4. Preventative Maintenance Raises Property Values
Paint gets dirty over time. Siding grows algae and moss. Weeds infiltrate gardens. Gutters fill with leaves. All of these things, unchecked, detract from the curb appeal of your property, and an unattractive property is worth less to prospective buyers. And if you wait long enough these issues can become intractable problems that require expensive interventions to fix.
Being proactive with your maintenance keeps your property looking its best at all times. As we said, this helps attract better tenants, and better tenants tend to care more about their surroundings. Good tenants may help you with maintenance issues, taking it upon themselves to do some of the common preventative maintenance work you may otherwise need to do.
In this way, preventative maintenance is a positive feedback loop. It keeps your facility in premium condition, which attracts good tenants who actively assist in maintaining the property, which adds additional value through increased rents and further gains in property value.
5. Preventative Maintenance Helps Your Building Command Higher Rents
People will pay for value. If your facility seems well-cared for, is clean, attractive, with systems that work properly, you’ll attract tenants willing to pay for the value you’re offering. The “run to failure” approach says to tenants that you don’t care to involve yourself with your property until something goes wrong. This doesn’t inspire confidence and it tends to scare away quality tenants that feel they deserve better.
A proactively maintained building gets better tenants that pay more, and holds onto them longer, avoiding turnover costs. In this way, preventative maintenance not only saves money over reactive maintenance, it also makes you more money with positive impacts to your bottom line.
6. Preventative Maintenance Utilizes Your Resources More Efficiently
Let’s imagine you have a ten person maintenance crew and five properties. With a scheduled, preventative maintenance plan in place you can efficiently assign crew pairs to cover maintenance in all five buildings, each pair performing small maintenance procedures to help avoid larger problems. Each crew has work to do, and all the work gets done for the cost of their salaries plus materials.
Contrast that against a reactive maintenance model. If you wait for systems to fail your resource utilization will be far less consistent. If nothing is going wrong you’ll have crew members sitting, doing nothing. They’ll still be pulling a salary but have nothing to do. Or if they’re hourly and you send them home often because there isn’t work, they’ll likely leave for a job that pays more consistently and you’ll be faced with replacing them.
And when something does go wrong, it will fail unpredictably and potentially catastrophically. Instead of one crew pair maintaining the building you’ll need to send far more people, and it will take them far longer. And if something else fails while your resources are committed you’ll now have to hire extra workers or contract with outside companies, all of which greatly increases your costs. Preventative maintenance helps avoid this scenario.
7. Preventative Maintenance Improves Safety
Moss growing on walkways and stairs is a slipping hazard. Tree roots pushing up pavement is a tripping hazard. There are many instances where not maintaining your property verges on negligence. Legally, this is a liability you want to avoid. Ethically, you have a responsibility to your tenants to help assure their safety while they rent from you. Preventative maintenance is a positive step you can take that helps with both of these while also saving you money in the long run.
8. Preventative Maintenance Improves Health
Regular janitorial maintenance is important to cut down on illness in your facility. During allergy season an uncleaned space can become overrun with allergens. And kitchen and toilet facilities, and any other spaces that see a lot of human-centered activity need to be cleaned regularly to kill germs that can build up otherwise. Buildings already have health challenges because of their closed air circulation systems. Performing regular janitorial maintenance can help keep your tenants from getting sick and generally makes your building a nicer place to occupy.
5 Easy Services to Keep Your Property Up to Date
To start you on your path to improved preventative maintenance, here are five areas where performing the required work is inexpensive, while the payoff can be large. Once you’ve taken care of these you may be inspired to take on large proactive maintenance projects.
1. Regular Window Cleaning
Your tenants stare out your windows every day. If they’re dirty or badly streaked they will detract from your tenants’ experience of your facility. So you certainly want to keep them clean. But do you clean annually or quarterly? You might think once a year is less expensive, but you would be wrong.
The longer windows go uncleaned the more hard water deposits cling to the glass. These deposits are labor intensive to clean. Cleaning quarterly gets the windows before these deposits form. Annually you’ll find yourself spending nearly five times as much as you would have with quarterly cleanings because of the additional time and labor.
And if the hard water deposits have etched into your glass the costs climb even higher. Badly etched windows can cost upwards of $140 to fix. Contrast that against paying $2 to $6 to clean the window and you can see why preventative maintenance saves money in the long run.
2. Pressure Washing Sidewalks and Building Entrances
Maintaining a clean exterior helps with the ever-important first impression. Prospective tenants can be immediately turned off by dirty pavement and paint. You could lose a good prospect before they enter your building. Pressure washing isn’t costly, and it pays for itself in terms of netting higher-paying tenants.
On the practical side, pressure washing is far less expensive than repainting. If you pressure wash regularly dirt will never sit on surfaces long enough to get “baked in”. Once dirt stains your paint you won’t be able to wash it off and repainting will be your only option to refresh your building’s exterior. The cost of repainting can be ten times higher than pressure washing.
3. Paint Quickly When Painting is Required
Pressure washing will help your paint last much longer than it otherwise would but eventually, it will start to break down. That’s inevitable. When this happens, don’t put off repainting. Get it taken care of quickly.
Paint isn’t just cosmetic. It protects exterior surfaces. If it’s left to peel and flake, exposing wood to the elements you may find that eventually not only will you need to repaint, you’ll also need to replace rotten wood, and scrape old paint off completely, which increases the cost of your paint job.
4. Use Proper Janitorial Cleaning
This one is a no-brainer.
The CDC estimates that the flu alone causes 15 million missed days of work per year. Making sure that your janitorial team is bulking up on disinfectants and sanitizers during flu season is an easy way to keep your workplace healthier.
Keeping desks and work areas cleaned, as well as computer keyboards, kitchen surfaces and other areas frequented by people, will help cut down on illness transmission, which means fewer sick days for workers and a happier, more efficient, present workforce.
Asphalt is a strong material, but left untended it can break down fairly rapidly. The lifecycle of a normal parking lot is between 20 and 30 years. However, with proper maintenance, this can be increased to 30 to 40 years. Consider that replacing a parking lot can cost between $2 and $4 dollars per square foot. However, performing proper maintenance over a four-year cycle costs between 14 and 16 cents per square foot. The savings are obvious.
You should be sweeping your lot at least once a year. This removes small pebbles and other debris that car tires will grind into the surface of your lot, wearing it down. You should have the surface pressure cleaned regularly to remove oil and other contaminants that can stain and degrade the surface. This is more involved than just hiring anybody with a pressure washer. Most parking garages and lots will release tons of contaminants and oil that your pressure washing company should be reclaiming in order for your property to avoid fines. A proper reclamation system will filter all the contaminants out and Northbay Maintenance’s custom water reclaim system is able to recycle and reuse up to 95% of the water they filter for a green cleaning pressure washing service and oil spill recovery.
Finally, you should fill any cracks or gaps quickly. Water intrusion, particularly in cold climates, is the biggest threat to your lot’s surface.
Preventative Maintenance Saves You Money
It should be clear now that money spent on preventative maintenance actually saves you more money than it costs in the long run and can, in many instances, allow you to make more money than you could have otherwise. Ignoring these maintenance tasks will negatively affect your bottom line. In the end, a regular, scheduled, preventative maintenance plan is far superior to the reactive method of “run to failure” and should be the preferred method of building and facility managers to run their businesses.
So what you do you think? As a property or facilities manager what has been your experience with preventative maintenance and did I forget to mention anything?