There is a quote by American author Kurt Vonnegut, which sticks out in my mind when I think about property maintenance in commercial real estate – particularly in retail:

“Everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”

Forward-thinking retail property managers and teams know this, and do everything they can to ensure that properties are up and running for the long haul. They regularly perform preventive maintenance tasks, and have a fully-formed PM plan to achieve their goals.

This is not the case for everyone, however, thanks to unbalanced resource allocation or priorities. PM debt can be an all-too-real nightmare.

It’s unfortunate. Besides the immediate value of having a fully operational and dependable retail property and assets, routine property inspections and preventive maintenance can lead to huge operational cost-savings returns.

Here are eight ways you can slash retail property maintenance costs:

  1. Think ahead

    This might seem like a no-brainer, but thinking ahead and having a solid preventive maintenance plan – not to mention the right tools – is critical. Simply put, it sets you up for success!

    We actually built a great guide to help teams get started building preventive maintenance plans, which is a must-read for any commercial/retail property management team.

  2. Be organized


    When was the last time you performed a routine inspection on mission critical equipment, like HVAC, and electrical systems? Are you able to pull up that historical data and build off of it just as easily on-site as you could off-site?

    As Vonnegut said in his novel, The Sirens of Titan: “The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”

    Consider your existing workflow and determine where your bottlenecks are. If there is a lapse in accessibility, connectivity, communication, or information, consider applying new tools to get the job done better.

  3. Know your assets

    As you know, retail properties have a lot of assets to maintain. But the more you know about your assets, the easier it is to foresee trouble and take the appropriate preventive measures.

    Make sure that you can: access equipment schematics, maintenance histories, and inspection libraries whether you’re in the office or on-site.

    The more you know, the stronger (and quicker) your response will be!

  4. Prioritize effectively

    Like I said before, PM Debt is real, and in some cases for very valid reasons. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. Stuff just needs to work.

    Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” (Vonnegut)

    Time and resource crunches make property maintenance a tough sell, but by establishing service priority standards you can make sure the right work is done at the best time.

  5. Monitor progress

    If you can’t know the status of an inspection or maintenance task at any given moment, you’re putting yourself and your team at a disadvantage.

    With the right tools, you (and your vendors, and team) should be able to keep track of task progress so that less time and fewer resources are wasted on hunting people down for status updates, or wrongful assignment of a task to someone unable to complete it.

  6. Manage your vendors

    Keeping track of your vendors, their labor, and material expenses can be a full time job. Nobody really has time for that!

    Consider evaluating a tool that empowers you to manage vendors from one place, and measure their performance by individual vendor or by facility. If you can manage your vendors better, you’ll likely find new ways to free up time for yourself and your team.

  7. Analyze your data

    A forward thinking property manager knows how well their team is performing, and how much maintenance work is being put into a retail property and assets.

    For instance, if an HVAC unit has consistently needed maintenance over the course of a year, and you have historical costs associated with that maintenance, you might come to the realization that a new HVAC unit might be beneficial. Or maybe it needs more routine preventive maintenance!

    Pushing your property maintenance task data through a centralized location can help you and your team get the data that is needed to react more quickly, effectively, and make the right cost-saving moves.

  8. Be prepared

    Yeah, this one is “the Scout’s motto,” but it is on point. If you want to be able to slash retail property maintenance costs, you need to be prepared for equipment failure and property damage.

    That requires being agile, and being able to defend decisions that you make.

    As our (now) good pal Kurt Vonnegut stated in Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!: “History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.

So my advice to you is to not be surprised less (that is impossible), but be ready to be surprised by getting ahead of the game. Do the maintenance and work to minimize costs now, so that when the stuff hits the fan, you’re primed to “get it done.”