Understanding Deferred vs. Preventative Maintenance

For most property managers, doing more with a smaller budget is one of the greatest challenges in their position. Shrinking budgets often inspire a delay in general maintenance of the property. System upgrades and repairs to apartments aren’t cheap, and skipping out on routine maintenance is indeed tempting. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management understands the allure of delaying or even indefinitely postponing maintenance until more funding becomes available.
Unfortunately, deferred maintenance comes with a cost. Too often, repairs become replacements. Consider a broken door knob that needs repaired. When a fix is not in the budget, it is tempting to leave the door knob as is until next month. After all, the door still works, folks will just have to be gentle with the knob until it can be repaired properly.
The reality? That door knob will still be used daily. Chances are good that the door knob will become even more broken and perhaps even require replacement rather than a simple repair. Replacing a broken door knob, window or lock is much more expensive than your average repair might have cost. Staff productivity will also take a hit, as replacing such items will likely take longer than it would take to repair instead.
When repair projects are put on hold, the cost of deferred maintenance can multiply to extreme costs. That’s why preventative maintenance is so critically important for successful property managers. Prevention can save time and money and helps property managers avoid replacing costly materials. When planned in advance, preventative maintenance is the most affordable and least disruptive form of care for an apartment complex possible.
Just how much of your budget should you allocate for preventative maintenance? Experts say between two and six percent of your annual operating budget should allow for routine maintenance. Periodic assessments of a building’s condition can help inform maintenance budgets and decisions. Take a look at the mechanical and electrical equipment as well as interior structures, finishes and the building’s shell.
Of course, most property managers would rather invest in preventative maintenance, but budget cuts are often the catalyst for deferred repairs. In order to convince stakeholders that the budget should be increased a little, remind them about the increased risk of liability associated with delayed repairs.
Showing the financial ramifications of delayed repairs can also bolster your argument. Work up a comparison of the costs of preventative maintenance versus deferred maintenance and have an honest conversation about expected outcomes for each. The reality is that the faster a repair is taken care of, the better.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management
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Fill Your Vacant Unit Tomorrow With These 5 Tips

Vacancies are a bummer. They’re a drain on your wallet and on your resources. There’s no need to struggle for tenants forever, Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi says. Check out these five recommendations on how to fill your vacant unit as soon as possible:
1. Price check your rent. If you’re charging too much, you could be scaring off potential applicants. If you’re charging too little, you could discourage the kind of high quality tenant you’d like to attract from looking into your rental. Check out your competitors and make sure you’re falling in the “just right” rent category.
2. Update the unit. Be honest with yourself: is the rental aesthetically pleasing? Would you want to live there? A minor splurge on new paint, carpeting or appliances can go a long way to update a unit that is past its prime. Yes, it requires some out of pocket expenses, but you’ll quickly recoup the cash from the rent money you receive from a tenant.
3. Allow pets, if you don’t already. Animal lovers aren’t willing to sacrifice members of their families for cheap rent. Tack on a pet fee or pet rent if you must, but allow folks to move in with their beloved cats or dogs. You’ll appeal to a much wider range of tenants if you do so.
4. Ask for referrals. We all have our favorite tenants: you know, the ones who pay rent on time and never keep neighbors up with loud parties or music. Chat those tenants up and ask if they know of anyone looking for a place to live. Chances are good, their friends will be just as respectful and reliable, making this tip a no brainer!
5. Take better photos. Are your advertisements lacking in the photo department? If you don’t have great photos, you won’t convince anyone to click over to your website, let alone apply to live on your property. Shell out the cash necessary to hire a professional photographer. The results will pay in spades!
However you decide to take initiative and fill the apartment, resist the urge to lower your standards. Great tenants will come. Saddling yourself with a messy, unreliable tenant for the next year just isn’t worth it!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Creating Raving Fans Out of Tenants

Ever walk out of a business thrilled with the way staff treated you? It’s such a rare experience in this day and age that chances are good, you wanted to tell all your friends about the service you received and recommend the business to them. Ever wanted to capture that same excitement in your tenants?
Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles’ classic business book “Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service” has become a favorite among entrepreneurs and managers everywhere. It can even help property managers create raving fans out of tenants. How?
The central thesis of “Raving Fans” is simple: know what you want, know what the customer wants and deliver that…plus some. Think about the premise in relation to your favorite restaurant. If you’re served amazing food by friendly waiters who go out of their way to ensure your experience was positive, you’re likely to return. If they throw in a coupon or freebie, you’ll be thrilled.
The takeaway? It’s not about the coupon or freebies. It’s about going above and beyond expectations. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends taking this approach with your own tenants. Understand what tenants want out of you and over-deliver. That may mean showing up for preventative maintenance more often or providing services on nights and weekends.
One way to create raving fans is to under promise and over-deliver for tenants who are upset. While you might initially dread dealing with an angry tenant, look at it as an opportunity to foster a better relationship. Ask the tenant how they would like the problem solve and then do so quickly, efficiently and well before their requested deadline.
Then, call the tenant to follow up. Make sure their concerns were fully addressed and that the solution is working out for them. Finally, follow up with a handwritten note apologizing again for the trouble and thanking them for their concern. This can be a great time to solicit feedback, so including a survey or a spot for reviews of the service is a good idea. Even encouraging reviews on Google and Yelp can be a great strategy for growing your reputation.
There’s no one way to create a raving fan, but start with this formula and you’ll be teeming with success stories in no time.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Controlling Garbage on Property

It’s not a glamorous part of property management, but trash management is critically important to the job. Without properly enforced rules about trash, recycling and large item pickups, your property will be looking like the junkyard in no time. While it’s true that most responsible adults like to live in – and therefore keep – their communities clean and safe, not all your tenants will be so motivated.
A litter filled community is something to avoid at all costs. Not only does it drive down your curb appeal, it makes more work for your maintenance team. While sweeping the parking lots once or twice a week is to be expected, picking up after tenants’s mess on a daily basis may be too much for some employees. Of course, tenants who aren’t contributing to the mess will be annoyed and complain to your office, too. You risk alienating responsible renters if you chose not to act.
So how does a great property manager handle an out of control trash situation on their property? Consider the root issue of why people litter: laziness. If your communal dumpster is overflowing, invest in another one you can place on the opposite side of the property for the tenants there. Another idea is to invest in trash concierge services. This kind of service allows tenants to place their garbage at their door for daily pickup. Though it can be pricey, you can pass some of the cost on to tenants and benefit from a cleaner property.
Another idea to combat lazy litterers is to invest in cameras to watch over the communal dumpster. You’ll be able to spot patterns among your tenants and see who is frequently to blame for the trash that doesn’t quite make it into the dumpster. For a slightly more aggressive solution, post signs reminding renters that 95 percent of people living in the community do not litter. This kind of peer pressure seems juvenile, but you’ll be surprised at how effective it can be says Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi.
Prevention can also help prevent this situation in an unlikely way. Carefully screened tenant applications (and calls to references) can help you root out the sloppy tenants from the mature ones.
No matter how you choose to handle an unruly garbage situation, do so quickly! Nothing drives away new tenants (or forces out responsible ones) like a trash-laden community.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Summer Maintenance Projects to Prep for Autumn

Can you feel that in the air? It’s fall. Well, maybe not quite yet, but there’s no denying that the daily high temperatures are trending downwards, the air feels crisper and store shelves are lined with back-to-school supplies. But what does fall mean for a property manager?
There is a certain level of maintenance expected for every month of your property management, but with fall just around the corner, now is the time to double down on summer chores. Since potential new renters will likely be shopping around for new places before the school year starts, your community has the potential to be overrun with prospective tenants. Get the place in shape before they arrive! Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends tackling these projects first:
Landscaping
Summer is a time of bright sun and heavy afternoon thunderstorms. Chances are good, your gardens are thriving right now. Perhaps they’ve even grown a bit faster than you can keep up with! Take on overgrown hedges and gardens full of weeds before the cooler temperatures set in. Not only will it look neater, you won’t have to worry about heavy tree limbs breaking or dying this fall and winter.
Fireplace Cleaning
For most people, there’s nothing quite like a warm fire on a cool autumn evening. If you’ve got fireplaces in your units, it pays to have them serviced between tenants. Call a chimney sweep to remove built up soot and clean the inside. It not only looks better, it provides a safer spot for fires all year long.
General Inspection
Though quarterly inspections of your property are always recommended, the end-of-summer inspection is perhaps the most important. After a summer of the HVAC systems working overtime to cool the apartment homes in your community, they could probably use a little TLC. While you’re at it, check out the condition of your roof, the gutters and check windows and doors for cracks. Truly thorough inspections will even include a check of the insulation in the home. Since insulation can wear down and become less effective over time, it’s important to check out its condition before the colder months come.
However you decide to maintain your property for the upcoming fall season, do so thoroughly and diligently. Your tenants, both new and old, will thank you!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Property Manager

Being a landlord can be a full time job, especially if you manage an entire building or small community of homes. If you have a lot of outside obligations beyond your role as landlord, the daily tasks of maintenance, marketing and paperwork can quickly overwhelm you. That’s why Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management advocates for landlords handing the reigns over to an experienced property manager. Here are five reasons to hire a property manager today:
 
1. More free time. If you’re seriously considering hiring a property manager, this is probably on the front of your mind already. You’ve got enough to do without having to answer phone calls and emails all hours of the day and night. Hire a professional, and you’ll no longer have to struggle with your work/life balance. You’ll sleep easy at night, knowing you’re in good hands.
2. Higher quality tenants. Because a professional property manager has the experience and time to devote to screening tenants, you’ll see a huge boost in the quality of the folks living on your property. A good property manager will perform the background checks, interviews and reference checks needed to understand what a tenant is really life. When is the last time you had the chance to do all of that?
3. Fewer legal issues to worry about. A good property management company is updated on all the latest landlord-tenant laws and can easily navigate the legal waters when challenged by a tenant. Hiring an expert property manager means resting assured that you’re taken care of, from a legal perspective.
4. Fewer maintenance worries. As a landlord, you’re aware of all the things around your property that need maintained. From the lawn to the dishwasher to the plumbing system, it seems like one thing or another is always breaking down. A good property manager can oversee necessary maintenance chores and is usually in touch with excellent contractors they can call over at a moment’s notice.
 

 

5. No more faking it ’til you make it. Many landlords find themselves thrust into their job with little experience or background in the industry. By hiring a property manager, you hire an ally with the expertise you need to be successful.
So what are you waiting for? Start researching area property management companies before you need one!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Vacation Prep: Your Guide to Delegating

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We’re about halfway through the summer season, and if you’re like us, you’re ready to hit the road for a summer vacation with your family. Property managers can often struggle to find the time to take their vacation days, with maintenance duties, new tenants to woo and leases to renew. Without delegating, you’d probably never take a day off! Which is why the art and skill of delegation is so critical if you’re going to head out of town this summer. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management has tips property managers need before they take time off this season.

Choose Your Substitute
Just as your teachers would take days off and leave a substitute teacher in your place back in high school, you should be selecting one person to fill in for you. While it’s great if you have a whole team of people shouldering your duties, you should leave just one person with ultimate authority over helming your ship. Inevitably, there will be squabbles over who is in charge. Selecting just one person will put those fights to bed before they ever begin.
So who should you pick? Only you can answer that question, but we recommend selecting someone experienced, responsible and cool-headed. It should be obvious!
Notify Your Tenants and Contractors
Whether you make an official announcement or simply set your work email account to auto-reply to incoming message while you’re away, it pays to keep people in the loop about your absence. If you’re in the process of convincing a potential new tenant to sign their lease, be frank about your vacation and pair them with a responsible staff member who can take over the negotiations. People will be much more understanding than you’d expect! After all, who doesn’t love a vacation?
Create Your Backup Plans
If something goes wrong while you’re away, will your team be up to handling it? If you’ve trained your staff well, the answer should be yes. But if you’re feeling anything less than 100% confident, consider asking a colleague to serve as an emergency contact. This could be a mentor in the industry or even a manager of a neighboring property. Your staff should be running the show, but if something serious crops up that they feel ill-equipped to deal with, having a seasoned professional there to take the reigns can be a real life-saver.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management