How can multifamily companies ensure their preventative maintenance work is worth the effort it requires? Operators tell HappyCo: mobile inspection software is a must to make this data meaningful.
“Using your maintenance teams’ time efficiently is imperative to keeping costs down, and preventive maintenance is the key.” In an interview with Multi-Housing News, Golden Mountain Real Estate COO Pamela Sullens pinpoints some of the most tantalizing benefits of preventative maintenance: saving time and cutting costs, all while boosting efficiency.
Venturing from abstract to concrete, a piece from Multifamily Insiders spells out these compelling perks of preventative maintenance: reducing “after hours emergency maintenance calls,” preventing fires “by verifying equipment like smoke detectors are operational,” leveraging the chance to “work on your schedule rather than reactively have maintenance needs manage you,” and, above all, reaping the benefit of resident retention as tenants “will stay longer if they are satisfied with the maintenance of their apartment homes.”
Despite all of these gains, Sullens admits to Multi-Housing News: “it often gets put on the back burner.” Needless to say, should operators start prioritizing diligent preventative maintenance inspections, commiting to a regular cadence, the benefits are considerable. HappyCo spoke with operators to find out what exactly preventative maintenance makes possible for their assets, teams, and most importantly, residents — especially with mobile software streamlining the process.
Building trust across the board: Habitat America’s perspective.
“Focus” comes to mind when you ask Habitat America’s VP of Learning & Development about preventative maintenance. In Ninette Patrick’s view, this kind of maintenance work centers on “ensuring the day to day functioning of our units and dedicating time to focus on everything being in compliance.”
Fortunately, Patrick says residents are really taking note of Habitat’s diligence. Indeed, she feels preventative maintenance is a powerful way to build trust — and consequently boost retention. “I think residents appreciate knowing their items are taken care of. Sometimes, it may seem like an intrusion, but the more times you come into a unit and there’s nothing to fix, people appreciate that you’re doing the job right.”
Additionally, Patrick feels this level of conscientiousness also makes life easier for Habitat’s ever-busy maintenance techs. As she puts it, “no one wants to wait until the last minute and see something break. Being proactive gives you more time to address pressing things. Plus, you get fewer after-hour service calls — a huge benefit.”
Importantly, Patrick believes mobile inspection software has been key to Habitat’s success in preventative maintenance. She says Inspections helps ensure Habitat’s techs cover all the bases during these inspections, wherein they’re “checking ceiling tiles, gutters, all of these areas where something major could happen if you’re not careful.”
Patrick says required fields in preventative maintenance inspection templates have been particularly useful, as they offer regionals “the value of knowing somebody definitely looked up — looked up at the problem area in question instead of having that tendency so many of us have to look down at our phones.” Additionally, Patrick says having this maintenance data at your fingertips in real time means “you’re no longer robbed of the minutes you once spent researching root causes much later down the line. Right in the moment, you can be sure there’s no important problem going on under the radar.”
Patrick also finds considerable value in the “sense of history” Inspector’s maintenance reports provide regionals. She explains: “if we see concerns about the aging of an item, then in budgeting, we can work on a 5-year capital plan for owners.” With “data at our fingertips,” Patrick says her teams can “can know quickly what might need replacing in two years.”
Whereas in the days of pen and paper Patrick says “people just couldn’t be on the same page all at once,” she now appreciates that “we’re saving time and improving communication — it’s absolutely huge to have that inspection process automated.” Above all, however, Patrick says her teams feel preventative maintenance is only worth the effort because their data is now rock-solid: “with mobile software that has time-stamped images, you’re not ever again going to mismatch photos with units.”
While the quarterly preventive maintenance process certainly takes time and coordination, Patrick admits: “I love going out on inspections and getting to see in person how someone takes pride in their unit, how they have framed pictures out and are excited to tell us about things in their lives, about their families, etc.” Indeed, Patrick says: “it’s nice to have that one-on-one interaction with a dynamic resident and you see them realize the value in choosing to live where they do.”
Ultimately, Patrick feels: “when you do this kind of [preventative maintenance] work well, it really builds trust — betweens teams and with residents.”
The smallest things matter most: Embrey’s view.
In the realm of preventative maintenance, Embrey Management Services believes the smallest things can matter most. As Regional Manager Sherrie Cameron explains, “Embrey performs routine inspections and preventative maintenance to ensure that the community and all the amenities are in excellent condition.” Embrey conducts these preventative maintenance checks every quarter, as the company wants “to be sure we avoid any type of major maintenance issue down the road.”
Yet, Embrey’s techs aren’t the only ones gaining peace of mind from preventative maintenance. Cameron stresses: “residents greatly appreciate that we are maintaining everything from exterior to the interior of units, that we take care of that in a diligent way.” She adds that residents who travel for work are especially thankful. “Since they’re away for a long time, they like knowing that our teams are checking out their space and ensuring there are no big problems that will surprise them.”
Embrey has found that this level of conscientiousness goes a long way in creating a positive customer service experience. As Cameron puts it, “because the apartment industry is so competitive, Embrey works hard in a range of ways to show we truly care — and it goes such a long way in retaining residents.”
Besides helping Embrey avoid leasing tour pitfalls, Cameron says preventative maintenance inspections can prove critical during property sale talks. She explains: “when we consider selling a property, buyers are really interested in knowing how often we’re doing preventative maintenance and the kinds of issues that come up on a recurring basis.” Additionally, Cameron finds that using mobile software with real-time data can transform the way teams collaborate. As she puts it, “using Inspections, we’re really thrilled to have transparency at our fingertips. At any given moment, we’re able to see what’s been done for a certain project — and make use of the data meaningfully.”
On the other hand, Cameron recalls how project managing preventative maintenance was a very different enterprise during the days of pen and paper. “When you rely on people to manually log information, it’s hard for a regional to know they’re doing what they’re supposed to. If you’re facing staffing changes, it’s especially difficult to keep track of paper put in a binder.”
These days, Cameron says Embrey teams are glad their inspection software can help them stop maintenance concerns before they become maintenance disasters. “We’re able to catch something before it becomes a big problem, and that’s so huge when you think about a slow leak under a bathroom sink, for example. That could be so damaging for the apartments downstairs or next door.”
Not surprisingly, Cameron says Embrey’s maintenance teams feel a strong sense of pride and camaraderie when they’re able to avoid this kind of costly circumstance. “Honestly, as a property management company, you feel a sense of reward, and happiness, when you’re able to head something off before it grows in scale.”
Glennis is a writer/producer from San Francisco. Taking the city’s trains and buses with riders of all ages and backgrounds inspired Glennis to go into journalism and share people’s stories for a living. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University in 2013, she worked at CBS San Francisco as a program coordinator, public affairs producer, and ultimately full-time news writer for the KPIX 5 Morning News. She’s excited to enter the bustling startup world and tell HappyCo’s stories across channels.