Contributed by John Tan
The current slowdown of the property market has resulted in the stagnant prices of houses, ushering in a prolonged buyer’s market. In this condition, what are the practical steps to create a healthy demand for your investment properties, either for rental or for sales purposes?
A common sense approach to property management takes a pivotal role in a time such as this. The property manager’s role in a stratified property involves looking for ways to improve the value of the property entrusted to them.
Property managers for shopping malls and office buildings will attempt to increase the tenancy of such properties as well as the diversification of tenant mix for the former. For those property managers of residential strata properties, they also perform similar tasks. Even so, they do not need to look into the leasing aspects of the residential units as this will be the role of the unit owners themselves.
The key role should then be to concentrate on the management of the common areas for the stratified property. It does not take a lot of money to spruce up a residential service apartment. A few key areas that need constant attention will be the following:
Walls at the lobby area, near the lift, near the common toilets and mailing room
These walls need to be constantly cleaned or the painting touched up to maintain a clean image. If it is difficult to maintain a matt emulsion paint, a common sense approach would be the utilisation of gloss paint instead as it is easier to clean.
As the dirt marks are generally within a height of five feet, it is not difficult to repaint the dirty walls within the five feet height range instead of painting the whole wall. Such a un-costly and straightforward method of sprucing up the common area is not normal, and usually, property managers take a lackadaisical attitude even though these dirt marks are such an eyesore.
Common toilets need to be spick and span. Let me reiterate; we do not need big grand granite slabs on the wall and floors. A 2x2 ft or 1x2 ft ceramic or heavy duty tiles with grey or brown colour for easy maintenance will do well for the toilet flooring.
It is essential to keep the toilet floors dry by using a blower if necessary and also have an air freshener that emits deodorant at intervals. This technique is generally used in the common areas and bathrooms of five-star hotels.
A common sense approach for a cleaner looking wall: A darker gloss painted at a height of five feet.
Wall surrounding the lift buttons
This is arguably the dirtiest area in most apartments especially if this area has just been plastered and painted. A common sense approach is to tile this area or use other materials instead of just plastering and painting.
If it is too costly to tile it up, the property manager should ensure that the paint is kept clean with constant touch-ups. For easier upkeep, it is best to use a dark colour gloss paint for this area.
If the developer wants to reduce maintenance cost while doing it artistically, they could emulate what Ekocheras Mall did by using the industrial approach in their mall offering. They used cement screed for the wall or leave the walls and pillars un-plastered, thereby adopting the “raw as sushi” concept.
A large portion of the mall has no plaster ceiling and the raw concrete ceilings are exposed. This makes it easier for maintenance as water seepage or air conditioning leakages can be repaired easily without the need to cut through the plaster ceiling, incurring extra cost to fix back the ceiling and repainting it.
Ceiling, faulty lightings and overflowing rubbish bins
Other areas which need to be carefully monitored are the ceilings and the common area. Cobwebs should be removed from the edges of the ceilings. For the common area, faulty lightings need to change quickly and the dustbins constantly emptied.
If there are sofas provided at the lobby or waiting area, it is imperative that the sofas are kept clean and fresh. Any stains should be removed immediately.
Look out for dirt or water marks on the plaster ceiling. The manhole at the plaster ceiling normally gets dirty due to repair work done on the piping above.
Do you notice how dirty some of these manholes get especially when the plaster ceiling is painted white? If the manhole gets dirty after the work has been completed, the property manager should ensure that the manhole area gets repainted as soonest as possible.
However, most mediocre management companies will just leave the dirt marks languishing on the manhole area for months and years without taking any action, even though it costs only a pittance to repaint the area.
Any upmarket service apartment being launched today should have a concierge area. The concierge is the “face” of the service residence and it is important to create a good first impression. If the management has hired a concierge staff, make sure the person is well dressed, preferably with a smart uniform.
It will project a good image for any visitors entering the lobby. Trees and plants kept at the front or surrounding the service apartment should also be well kept and healthy looking. Fertilisers could also be placed at regular intervals.
The writer is aware that many serviced apartments and condominiums are well maintained and he would take the opportunity to mention two of such buildings.
Sri Penaga condominium @ Bangsar at 22 years old (completed in 1996) is still impeccable in its upkeep and cleanliness. The management committee does take their responsibilities seriously and it improves the investment value of this condominium.
Marc Residence @ KLCC at 12 years old (completed 2006) and boast a well-lit high ceiling lobby with an impressive entrance which is now hard to find in the newer developments at KLCC area.
The writer noticed that the friendly concierge staff is always smartly attired with a suit, coupled with white shirt and a red flashy tie which emits a sense of class for this 12 years old service apartment. The common areas are kept spick and span and the plastered walls around the lift button areas are always kept clean without any traces of dirt. This is so unlike other service apartments in this area which is mostly neglected.
It is not expensive to keep an ageing service apartment or condominium looking good and presentable. A property manager needs to have an eye for details and keep a strict routine to look out for the five points that the writer has highlighted above.
While these five points are not exhaustive, the writer is aware that property maintenance consists of a whole lot more. Other topics to consider include the maintenance of swimming pools, facility areas to be kept clean, insurance, maintenance fees, the prompt collection of sinking funds as well as the need to update the names and contact numbers of owners.
The writer chose to highlight these five points as they are relatively easy and not costly to fix, allowing you to create a good first impression to any visitors to the service residence.
Property managers with a keen eye for details are indeed a gem for stratified property investors and tenants alike. In the long run, well-maintained buildings will command a good premium.
About the Contributor
John Tan works in a financial institution and is an enthusiast in the local property scene. His hobby is to be a property commentator. He dislikes badly managed stratified properties.
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