Prevent and anticipate: The digital transformation of repairs and maintenance

About 80% of maintenance spend is planned, 20% is reactive, but 80% of time is spent on reactive issues

Data can help cut costs – and increase resident satisfaction

Unlike privately-owned leasehold residential blocks, the costs of creating amenities and their maintenance in Build to Rent (BTR) buildings are all borne by the freeholder, that is the investor(s) behind the scheme. 

That means BTR property managers need tight control over the operating budget.  

The net operating income (NOI) is the key indicator of a scheme’s profitability and investors see any overspend as cutting into their NOI.  Profit equals revenue minus cost. 

This basic but fundamental equation should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  A property management team should be on the lookout for wastage and inefficiencies, and support the investor in improving profitability.  Data plays a significant role in cost-cutting.

With higher rents demanded in most BTR properties when compared to traditional options, residents expect better living experiences in these schemes. 

Many BTR property managers have high-end hospitality backgrounds precisely because their residents expect great service.  Residents expect everything to be done for them, from dog walking to assembling flat-pack furniture to dry-cleaning; residents want a hassle-free life in exchange for a premium on rents. 

When it comes to repairs and maintenance, they expect to be able to report an issue online, 24/7, without having to get dressed and head down to the concierge. 

Meeting expectations should be a key tactic in any resident engagement strategy; those who do it well will have a much lower churn rate than those who don’t

Residents also want to stay in the loop of updates regarding repair and maintenance works both in and outside of their individual apartment, especially when engineers and contractors need to enter their home – but they don’t want to have to change their plans just to allow access.  

Meeting their expectations should be a key tactic in any resident engagement strategy; those who are able to do it well will likely have a much lower churn rate than those who don’t.

Obtaining data to ensure amenities are performing and worthwhile maintaining or repurposing

Do you monitor the usage of your amenities? It is not uncommon for BTR operators to remodel their buildings based on actual resident usage. 

If a cinema room is underused, perhaps residents would prefer to have it converted into another lounge or a bike storage facility.  By consulting residents before such a decision, operators show that they put residents first. 

An additional benefit is that the operating cost for a lounge or bike storage can be lower than that required for a cinema room, where AV equipment could be expensive and often need replacing.

Impact on Customer: The customer personas prominent in build to rent have high expectations of service levels because of their experience in other consumer sectors. They view real estate as a service industry.  Interruptions to service can lead to dissatisfaction with the process of reporting issues.

Impact on Project or Investment: Customer dissatisfaction should be resolved before typical lease events.  Obtaining feedback consistently is important.

Impact on Operators: Improved approaches toward handling maintenance can boost profitablity.

Improving workflows to reduce time-to-fix

Let’s take a look at repairs. 

If a resident tells their concierge that an appliance is out of order, the property team have little to no detail to go on to diagnose the issue properly.  They will likely have to look at the issue themselves or have an in-house or external trade operative attend to the issue. 

The time taken to inspect and diagnose could be spent on more value-added work. 

With more details and even videos available about the issue from the get-go, the first responder, here being the concierge or property manager, can more accurately diagnose the repair request. 

Without attending the apartment, they can send the right engineer or electrician to resolve issues with minimum call-outs.  In property maintenance, time is money.  The more time you save, the less money is wasted.  

Consistently ask for feedback

You don’t normally need to follow up with a phone call or email to find out what’s going on with your Uber Eats order.  However, you usually are asked to give a review.  This encourages a continuing high-quality service and leaves the service provider accountable to the consumer. 

Similarly, after the repair work is completed, you should collect feedback so you can monitor any decline in service satisfaction and promote notable improvements internally and externally.

Automation sets you free

Using a smart maintenance management software solution, property managers can achieve all the above with automation. 

They can empower residents to report reactive maintenance issues online. 

They can even automate common issues so that the right in-house or contracted operative can be alerted right away, without personal involvement. 

By automating manual, repetitive tasks surrounding reactive issues, not only can a sleeker resolution be provided, but it allows the team to focus on strategic planning and other aspects of running a building which would ultimately add more value to your residents’ living experience.

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