Is the Property at War with Maintenance?

Imagine making the commitment to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a property that you only had a few minutes to observe from the front yard. You write the check, go inside and see what you’re dealing with…

Recently I’ve been watching a show on Discovery Channel where investors purchase foreclosed properties without actually knowing what issues the property has. There is no formal inspection process, and these buyers are shown driving up to the house just before the auction starts and bidding on the property based upon publicly available research and a first impression. I don’t have the courage.

I asked a friend of mine, David Jolley (Regional Maintenance Manager for a national management company), what he looks for during the due-diligence process before purchasing a property. He says he looks for:

  • GFCI: Must be installed within 6 feet of water in bath and kitchen or water source
  • Fire sprinkler heads: Inspect these for paint. Many have overspray, and for code inspections they would have to be replaced. This is a major concern, as the fire department says overspray on heads can change the temperature at which the sprinkler will start working, or even prevent it from working at all.
  • Old sheetrock patches: See if there are trends or the same areas are repaired in each unit. Finding many of these around windows, patios, and over doors could be a sign of potential or ongoing problems.
  • A/C: How many different brands do you see on property? What are the dates on new units?
  • Water heaters: Do they have pans under them (especially upstairs)? Look at the dates of the heaters. If they are over 10 years old then you may need to budget for replacement.


A couple of items that I would add are:

  • Use a receptacle tester on as many outlets as possible. This is a device that, when plugged into the socket, instantly lets you know if the wiring is correct.
  • The use of multiple refrigerants on a community. With R-22 becoming increasingly expensive, some properties are using retrofit refrigerants in its place. The more refrigerants in use, the more complex it becomes to maintain air conditioning equipment.


For a maintenance department, taking over a building is interesting. Fortunately, we have more than just a couple of minutes to evaluate the property before purchase. 

I like being able to view the situation on TV as a third party. Based upon my first glance, and first impression, of those properties property, I take a guess as to what repairs will be needed inside. And if for no other reason, the show is a lesson on the importance of curb appeal.