As a board member, one of your chief frustrations is probably surprise maintenance issues (and the costs that come along with them). Even those issues you can count on regularly – like ongoing landscaping and amenities upkeep – can take a toll on your finances. In fact, it’s not uncommon for maintenance fees to account for 25% of your overall budget.

That’s a big chunk. And there are a variety of ways to handle this expense. You may find some boards who opt to spend less by deferring essential maintenance issues. This is a mistake, because small problems can become bigger, more expensive ones if they’re not addressed. That’s the classic example of being penny wise and pound foolish, and it’s usually the path taken by inexperienced boards who haven’t partnered with a good community association management firm that can help them plan appropriately.
Aside from this obvious misstep, there are a few ways you can approach maintenance issues at your association. Let’s take a look at them.
Option One: Reactive
This approach can best be characterized as “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sure, there are upsides to this way of thinking. You can save a lot of money, but only in the short term. Most of the essential systems in your community don’t need to fall into complete disrepair before they require maintenance, but once they do, it costs even more to make them operational again. Yes, you can take this approach, but it’s similar to never getting the oil changed in your car...while you’ll save a few dollars on all those regular oil changes, ultimately you’ll have to pay more for a completely new engine.
Option Two: Preventative
This one is the deceptively intelligent approach. After all, if you’ve scheduled regular maintenance, what could possibly go wrong – especially if you’ve contracted with trusted vendors? The answer, unfortunately, is plenty. A rigid schedule of preventive maintenance tends to put your maintenance plan on autopilot, which may leave you blind to potential breakdowns that aren’t part of the overall plan. Further, this approach can present problems when one board is replaced by another... new boards may be remiss in carefully reading existing schedules and contracts, which puts them at risk of voiding warranties. Of course, you can mitigate this hazard by ensuring a seamless transition during a board transition, but focusing merely on prevention is still fraught with risk.
Option three: Predictive
Nobody has a crystal ball, and it’s impossible to predict every maintenance issue with 100% certainty, but the predictive approach gets you as close as possible to infallibility. It happens by conducting routine inspections and continuous monitoring of your community’s essential systems. With this important step, you can ascertain the exact condition of these systems and put a timeline to likely breakdowns. That means you can plan for their associated costs, too. Another upside is that this gives you the ability to think ahead in a way that enables proactive, money-saving solutions like green building practices and the replacement of outmoded systems with more energy-efficient ones. Time and again, this approach has proven to be the one that works best for most communities.

Now’s the time to make a choice – are you happy with preventive maintenance, or are you ready to take the predictive approach? You can get there, especially with the help of a good community association management company on your side. For more information on mitigating unpleasant maintenance surprises for your community, contact FirstService Residential, Pennsylvania’s leading property management company.
Thursday July 21, 2016