Preventative, rather than merely reactive maintenance, is a must if you want your vacation rental business to be successful. Carefully planned, proactive prevention of problems is more efficient and saves money and time (and time is money).
Sudden loss of A/C or heating, plumbing backups or leaks, and other unanticipated headaches can result in upset customers and loss of rental income while rental units are unavailable during repairs.
Letting the condition and appearance of your property deteriorate can lessen its appeal for potential customers and leave actual customers underwhelmed or dissatisfied. And it costs less time, effort, and expense to maintain things in good condition than to repair them after they have degraded or broken down. In short, preventative maintenance is a smart way to go.
Top 10 Preventive Maintenance Tasks
- Plan. Establish your goals and priorities, determine what resources l you’ll need to achieve them, anticipate problems, and develop standard operating procedures (SOP) for doing what’s required.
- Think about the customer. You may want to set some particular goals specific to your unique situation, but the two most important overall goals for most people will be maximizing profit and attracting and pleasing customers. But since maximizing profit depends on attracting and pleasing customers, customer appeal and satisfaction should always be your main focus. It’s possible to try to maximize profit in ways that turn off and turn away customers – e.g., by maximizing price while minimizing services – so fixating on profit can actually be counterproductive. Putting yourself in the customer’s place and constantly keeping in mind what would motivate them to come and keep them coming is the best guarantee of success. So, what satisfies customers? Above all, a safe, clean, aesthetically appealing environment and convenient, quality, reliable services.
- Budget and inventory. You can’t achieve your goals without the means to achieve them. You need adequate money, materials, and personnel. To make sure you have sufficient financial resources, you need to manage your budget well – keep close track of available cash, anticipated costs of maintenance, and expenditures. You should keep a meticulous record of inventory as well and make sure you have adequate supplies and staff to handle all maintenance tasks and contingencies. You don’t want to commit to projects you can’t afford or can’t finish, and you don’t want to fail to keep up maintenance for lack of these most basic preparations.
- Staff training and outside help. Your staff won’t do a good job of maintenance if you don’t make them familiar with your SOP and instill a proactive mindset in them to address issues before they become big problems. Don’t neglect to train them well. You should also line up outside services (supply companies, cleaning services, etc.) so they’re readily available when you need them.
- Safety. This must be your first “service” priority. It’s your most important moral obligation to your customers and something without which, no one will be eager to use your services. Safety requires crime-prevention, protection against injury and other health hazards, and preparation for handling dangerous situations should they nonetheless come up. You’ll need security cameras and alarms, high-quality locks, and good lighting, fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, first aid kits, and clearly posted instructions for where customers can find things and what they should do in case of emergency.
- Keeping things in working order. From A/C and plumbing maintenance to changing out batteries in smoke detectors and TV remotes, you want to make sure everything is in working order. It’s a lot more expensive and disruptive to fix the A/C or plumbing after they break down than to maintain them in good working condition. Such disruptions are likely to leave customers especially unhappy, and they will render units temporarily unavailable for use, costing you potentially thousands of dollars in lost rental income. Avoiding little annoyances, too, like remote controls not working, helps prevent the kind of negative impressions that tend to stand out more to customers than all the things that work well.
- Cleaning. Trash and dirty or stained exteriors and interiors are a turnoff. You should keep the grounds free of trash, pressure wash exteriors, keep the indoors looking clean and smelling fresh, and do a good deep cleaning twice a year.
- Pest control. Possibly the biggest turnoff for customers is the sight of roaches or, God forbid, rodents. Exterminate every other month.
- Aesthetic appeal. Just how much you can put into aesthetic appeal varies, of course, according to budget, but if things “look nice,” customers will be more impressed with your property. Just keeping the grounds well-manicured, freshly painting surfaces at the first signs of peeling or fading, good lighting, and nice – looking furniture, counter space, and fixtures go a long way toward making a good impression. It’s essential above all to keep the bathroom looking nice. Bathtub, sink, and toilet stains or moldy tile grout can leave customers feeling grossed out almost as much as the sight of nasty pests, and gross-outs are very bad for business.
- Seasonal preparation. You want to be prepared for whatever seasonal changes your property’s location undergoes, including weather changes and peak rental periods. Plenty of warm blankets for cold winters, preparation for increased A/C maintenance during hot summers, lining up seasonal providers, and so on.
If we wanted to “turn it up to 11,” it might be good to add an item on giving attention to customer feedback and reviews. You can learn from these what customers are thinking and ideas for how to improve. Soliciting reviews and responding to reviews are worth your effort, both to enhance customer satisfaction and to build your clientele.
At any rate, the customer, if not necessarily always right, is always the most important concern for anyone who wants to grow their business and keep people coming back for more. Think like a customer, and everything else will fall into place.