How to Minimize Turnaround Times for Vacant Units
With the beginning of spring, now is the optimal time to think about lease-ups and how you may turn over recently vacated units faster. That’s because spring and summer are the times when most sites experience their busiest leasing months. When a resident moves out, you shouldn’t let the process of turning around his empty unit drag on. The faster you turn the unit around, the sooner it will be presentable to new prospects and positive cash flow for the site can be restored.
You can save time and money by scheduling turnaround duties that make the most efficient use of your maintenance staff. Here’s how one property management company, which makes orderly unit turnarounds a management priority, readies a unit in three days without overlooking a single item.
Consult Your Records
“We know 45 to 60 days before lease expiration whether a resident plans to vacate,” says Michael Pantzer, the firm’s chief operating officer. “We then look at the records for each unit being vacated to see when the carpeting and appliances were last replaced to determine how much preparation is needed to make the unit market-ready.”
After reviewing the history of each vacated unit, you should have a good idea of which units will require more work. However, if a unit was particularly well cared for or, conversely, has “been through the mill,” this can alter the number of steps required to turn the unit around. So Pantzer instructs the managers and maintenance supervisors at the sites he manages to conduct a pre-move-out inspection of the units being vacated.
Make Pre-Move-Out Inspection
A pre-move-out inspection reveals what condition the unit is in and whether any major repairs or replacement will have to be done. “This way, you can plan the rehab of the unit in advance,” says Pantzer. This inspection should help you answer the following questions:
- Do the walls or ceilings need substantial replastering and refinishing?
- Is the tile or vinyl floor covering in the kitchen, bathroom, or foyer in need of repair or replacement?
- Is the carpeting worn out or badly stained?
- Are there any broken windows or torn screens?
- Are there any major appliances in need of replacement such as the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, or dryer?
- Are the glass doors on the shower or tub in need of replacement?
Although the pre-move-out inspection can help you determine how to make the unit ready to show prospects, it doesn’t substitute for a thorough move-out inspection after the resident leaves to determine what money, if any, should be deducted from the resident’s security deposit for damages.
Consolidate Orders for Items Needing Replacement
After conducting the pre-move-out inspections of all the units being vacated during a given month, schedule the turnaround and immediately order the replacement items you’ll need after the move-out. If you have five move-outs scheduled for one month and three of the units require new carpeting, call your supplier and order it all together. By consolidating orders for supplies, you’ll save time in preparing purchase orders. More important, grouping orders together allows you to plan ahead for materials and can help you in negotiating a discount from your supplier for ordering items in bulk.
Schedule any outside contractors such as painters well in advance so that you can be assured that the work will be done immediately after the resident moves out. “We try to turn the units around within three days,” says Pantzer. “This depends on the former residents’ living habits,” he says, “but most of them leave the units in pretty good shape.” Give the units that have already been re-rented the first priority.
Day 1: Repair
Before the unit can be cleaned, all repairs and maintenance must be completed. Pantzer Management arranges to have repairs made as soon as the resident leaves and the move-out inspection is finished. If tiles, window panes, or screens are broken or missing, they should be replaced now. If there are any lighting fixtures that are broken, they should also be replaced or repaired. The staff member assigned to make the repairs can use a copy of our Model Form: Use Maintenance Checklist for Quick Turnaround, to make sure that everything in the unit is intact and ready to use. He should then return the completed form, signed and dated, to the maintenance supervisor.
Day 2: Clean; Prep for Painting
After repairs are made, the unit is ready to be cleaned. All surfaces must be free of grease, dirt, and dust before painting begins. “We have our maintenance staff do the heavy cleaning first—scouring the tub, toilet, bathroom sink—and then concentrate on the detail work, such as cleaning the cup and toothbrush holder, soap dishes, and towel racks,” says Pantzer. He notes that more than one person may be assigned to clean a unit, depending on its size and the amount of work to be done.
“After the unit is cleaned, have a maintenance man prep it for painting,” recommends Pantzer. Cleaning a unit shouldn’t take a full day; therefore, you can use the remainder of the day to remove any nails from the walls, fill in holes, and apply spackling compound. By having your on-site staff do the prep work, you’ll save time and money, particularly if you’ve hired a painter.
Day 3: Paint; Replace or Repair Floor Covering/Carpet
“Depending on the size of the unit, we generally allocate a day or day and a half for painting,” says Pantzer. Again, try to coordinate the prep work and painting assignments so that when one unit is completed, the painters can report back to the maintenance supervisor and begin work on another unit right away.
If the vinyl floor covering or carpeting has to be replaced, it should be installed on the third day of the turnaround, as soon as the painting is finished. Last, if the carpet isn’t being replaced, it should be freshly shampooed.
“The final phase is fine-tuning the unit,” says Pantzer. Using maintenance and cleaning checklists, the manager and maintenance supervisor should make a final inspection of all “turnaround” units to make sure they are in move-in condition.
By planning ahead, you can make the process of turning around a unit efficient, organized, and thorough. A unit in move-in condition is far more attractive to prospective residents.
Michael K. Pantzer: Chief Operating Officer, Pantzer Properties, 540 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; www.pantzerproperties.com.
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Use Maintenance Checklist for Quick Turnaround|