Effective Property Management Partnerships: 5 Considerations

By Dawn Killough 06-14-2021
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Commercial property managers and owners should consider how to make the most of their partnerships in order to improve the effectiveness of their building management decisions. Partnering with manufacturers allows managers to plan for improvement projects and monitor their buildings' health even from a distance. Manufacturers can provide effective property management solutions that give owners vital information and save them money.

Chris Yeatts, Vice President National Accounts- Architectural & Engineering Services at GAF, works with large property management firms to plan improvement and maintenance work. We talked with him about what property managers should look for when teaming up with specific vendors as well as how vendors can help property managers save money.

1. Hiring Maintenance Contractors Who Leverage Data

Yeatts advises management companies to not just select a contractor based on their good reputation, but to ensure they look for contractors who use the most up-to-date technology and tools to provide building data.

Data is the cornerstone of building maintenance. Contractors that use technology to gather building data can provide owners with the information they need to not just react to repair needs but develop predictive maintenance plans. "There's a lot of subjectivity, eyeballing, and visual inspections, but no one utilizes a lot of scientific data or high-tech tools like infrareds and other types of diagnostics to help plan their maintenance needs. There's some up-front cost to those tools, but in the long term, it can help them save money by using science to help them plan for what's going to happen," Yeatts says.

Yeatts specifically mentioned using tools that can provide aerial roof measurements, such as QuickMeasure, to help managers get the data they need to make decisions on maintenance priorities and next steps. Some contractors may also have access to software that monitors weather conditions so they can identify when weather events such as hail or wind may have an impact on the roof.

2. Keeping Safety at the Forefront

Safety is an essential consideration for all contractors performing maintenance or remodel work. Contractors need to protect their own workers as well as subcontractors, building occupants, visitors, and the general public. Yeatts recommends selecting contractors who put a premium on their safety program. "It's one thing to talk the talk, but they need to walk the walk," Yeatts says.

Contractors should have a documented safety program that they feature in their primary sales presentation. Failing to mention safety is a red flag. "If I'm getting ready to contract with a contractor and they don't even bring up safety, that leads me to believe either they're not very proud of their program, they don't have one, or it's not a priority within their company," Yeatts warns.

Contractors should proactively share the details of their safety program in their sales message. If they don't, property managers should ask questions such as: "Help me understand your safety program, how do you approach safety at your organization, and give me some examples of how you use your safety program to help a building owner save time and reduce risk," Yeatts recommends.

3. Conducting Research and Collecting Data

Property managers always have to keep the bottom line in mind during maintenance projects. Yeatts believes the best way to address maintenance needs is to gather data about the building in question and research options. With the rise of aerial technology and infrared imaging, managers can easily view the status of a building's roof from the comfort of their office. The technology even creates the option to get a better understanding of on-site conditions by seeing underneath the roof.

Yeatts' recommendation to managers is to fully understand the condition of the building before making decisions on projects. The more research and data collected about the roof's construction (roof system type) and history of service, such as past leaks or repairs, the better the decision will be. "Gather as much data and information as you can from consultants, contractors and manufacturers, and then work with companies that can help you manage those properties through an asset management program," Yeatts says.

Owners are concerned about return on investment, and property managers need to be able to provide accurate information to help them make decisions. Yeatts recommends that managers, "gather and use information about the condition of the building to your advantage. The better prepared you are, the better you can plan. And the more realistic you are with your expenses and your future capital expenditures, the better chance you have to be in a favorable position in the end."

GAF helps managers assess the condition of their buildings with a range of tools, including on-site inspectors, territory managers, drones, and Google mapping. These tools can be used together to put together a comprehensive picture for a building owner. With this data, owners and managers can make better decisions about the timing and planning of future projects.

4. Monitoring Buildings Remotely

Managers are increasingly monitoring their assets remotely, and they need to rely on partners who can visit buildings and provide accurate assessments of the conditions.

"For example, at GAF, we have a network of inspectors and territory managers who can visit sites on an owner's behalf and utilize drone technology and Google mapping to bring a real-time rooftop experience to them," Yeatts says. "And we could meet with contractors, either local or out of state, about their buildings on Zoom. We can handle pre-job meetings and roof conferences virtually or virtually/in-person on behalf of that owner."

A manager's network should include a reputable manufacturer, consultant, or contractor with the resources available to gather information on their behalf and share it quickly in a way that fits into their business plan. "The key is—and GAF can certainly help with this—asking the right questions to make sure that they are connecting and collaborating with those companies that are best set up to do these things for them," says Yeatts. Questions to consider when building a network of trusted professionals include asking for references of customers with a similar building size. Building managers should also ask which manufacturer's product they are certified to install, and what their level of certification is. Questions like these will help ensure managers are selecting highly skilled and trained contractors to partner with.

5. Planning for Repairs

Repairs and maintenance are a necessary part of effective property management. Managers are always looking to predict maintenance needs and stay ahead of potential damage. For example, roof leaks can be quite damaging, both to a building and its contents. "What a roof leak tells the owner is that there's a failure at some point on the roof that is allowing water to infiltrate into the construction of that building. And it could be traveling a great distance until it just happens to find an opening in the deck. It's a very bad situation—not only for the roofing asset, but for tenants, occupants, and customers. There's a lot of liability and risk," warns Yeatts.

Timing is key when repairing damages, according to Yeatts. "A small leak today, in six months, or in a year is only going to get worse, and it's never going to resolve itself on its own. So, a $1,000 repair today could be $5,000, $10,000, or a complete roof failure, in a year or so," he says.

A building management partner will help owners and property managers make the best decisions when it comes to repairs. Companies like GAF can provide strategic account representatives, local territory managers, or inspectors that can identify issues and arm them with information about their options.

Building owners and property managers who are looking for detailed information on the state of their roofs or parking lots can click here to talk to GAF first and identify a professional in their area to partner with. GAF has the necessary tools and knowledge for every phase of planning, installation, inspection and maintenance, and can recommend maintenance and repairs in order to help save owners money and improve building conditions.

Dawn Killough is a freelance writer in the construction, finance, and accounting fields. She is the author of an ebook about green building and writes for construction tech and green building websites. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband and four cats.
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