Cost of living increases can be felt everywhere, from the theatre to the supermarket to the gas station. So it may come as a surprise to many co-op and condo residents that one place you don't have to expect an increase is in your monthly maintenance bill. The building can avoid unpopular increases by lowering the operational costs, refinancing the mortgage or increasing property revenue. Instituting one or more of these strategies in your building can result in stable maintenance payments that will make residents happy and cause buyers to smile, too.
Slashing Operating Costs
One way to diminish building costs is by eliminating unnecessary staffing. "If your elevators are manually operated, modernize them by removing the elevator men," recommends Marcia Taranto, president of Taranto & Associates Inc., a property management company in Manhattan. "And, if a staffer is talented in some area, hire him to do some jobs on his own time if he desires. Use employees instead of outside contractors to do minor plumbing, painting or repairs. However, unless there is an emergency, the only person that should ever work overtime is the doorman (if the scheduled doorman doesn't show), and there shouldn't be overtime without prior management approval."
Taranto doesn't believe in ordering supplies in bulk. "The price is not that much better, and it's wasteful. If you have lots of supplies lying around, it's too easy to abuse them or use more than you would otherwise, and it's harder to inventory," she explains. "With smaller amounts, management has a better idea of how much is actually needed by properties." Taranto adds that staff shouldn't buy anything without a purchase order. She suggests reviewing bills if they seem high, and to keep in mind that some suppliers offer a one percent discount if you pay within 30 days.
John Janangelo, president of Bellmarc Property Management Services, Inc. in Manhattan, suggests monitoring utilities by both cost and consumption. "Look for major fluctuations in bills to identify problems," he says. "Sometimes an electric company charges the wrong rate large users are billed differently than small users or gives you the wrong building's reading."
Bellmarc will occasionally consult an electrical engineer for an itemized breakdown of consumption for a building's major mechanicals to assure billing accuracy and locate unusual drains on the building. According to Taranto, it also helps to keep the boiler and burner in good operating condition. "Have heating pipes insulated, change the steam trap, and install thermal (double) window panes to save heat," she advises. "And, if your building has a cooling tower," she says, "make sure it's separately metered from the building's main house meter for water consumption."