Burt M. Polson - Commercial Real Estate Broker

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The maintenance money pit - part 1


In the 1986 comedy “The Money Pit,” Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, play a young couple who just bought their first home paying an unbelievably low price for a beautiful mansion. They soon discover significant problems and deferred maintenance throughout the home which creates a debacle not easily fixed.

Unlike the movie, real estate investors create a plan to keep up on the maintenance of their properties to maintain happy tenants and high property value. A preventative maintenance plan will keep you out of a “maintenance pit” because once you are in deep, it can be costly to climb out.

A custom preventative maintenance plan is crucial for each property type. A single-family residential rental would have a somewhat simple plan compared to a high-rise office building in a downtown city. However, no matter the simplicity a plan is essential.

You may have a property manager or possibly an entire in-house maintenance department with several specialized crew members to handle your preventative maintenance. In either case, you need a system that works for you.

The more complex buildings have procedural manuals with employees handling specific tasks implement by customized applications. Smaller commercial properties, apartments or rental houses need a check list, task list, and calendar at the minimum. A spreadsheet and online calendar would work well for most.

The following is is a general preventative maintenance plan with six sections:

Roof and roof elements

You will find a variety of roofing systems with each having their own recommended maintenance intervals and requirements to keep the warranty valid. Plan on inspecting your roof twice a year while having a roofing contractor perform maintenance annually sealing any susceptible areas and addressing all failed parts.

As a part of roof maintenance give particular attention to anything that penetrates the roof such as vent pipes, conduit, chimneys, skylights or antennas. Check for a tight seal as well as corrosion of the elements themselves and the metal flashing.

Check all cornices, fascia, and soffits for loosening, cracks, missing flashing or areas water could infiltrate. Keeping gutters and drains clear of all debris is one of the easiest and worthwhile things you can do.

Exterior walls and trim

Peeling paint and weakened caulking could cause further deterioration of the substrate if not addressed. Paint and caulk are your first line of defense against the elements. Be sure to caulk all cracks in the wall or separation in trim pieces.

Check exterior ceilings on overhangs, decks, and porches for signs of water infiltration, mold or wood rot. Be sure of a tight seal where the floor of a porch or walkway meets the wall.

Inspect doors and windows for solid panes and a tight fit with proper weatherstripping and sound caulking.

Check that all penetrations through the walls are caulked and tight, and wire mesh is covering any vents for the crawlspace or attic. Doing so helps limit the areas to potential insect or vermin infestations.

In part two we will review the preventative maintenance of the grounds, interior spaces, attic & crawlspace and mechanical, plumbing & electrical systems.

Burt M. Polson, CCIM, is a local real estate broker specializing in commercial, luxury estates and wineries. Reach him at 707-254-8000, or burt@acresinfo.com. Sign up for his email newsletter at BurtPolson.com.

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