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The BEST time for over seeding and aerating a lawn is now. What you need to know!

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in From Mark | Comments Off on The BEST time for over seeding and aerating a lawn is now. What you need to know!

Beat up, thinned, and worn-out lawns invite weeds and don’t help leasing apartments but the curb appeal is the first thing every prospect that visits sees on their way to the office.

So, here are some helpful tips and things to consider BEFORE you have

your lawn seeded and aerated.

Weekly-Lawn-Service

The best time period is in autumn (mid-August to mid-September). Now

The second best time (March — April)

Reseeding is without a doubt the fastest and most inexpensive way to add new life to your lawn and get it back to being lush green and looking great without major work and/or starting over.
Make sure you choose the right type of seed for your lawn such as fescue, bermuda, rye, or match what you have already. Use seed that is 99.9% weed free. Talk with your landscaper to be certain.

Core aerating is very beneficial to the lawn you are trying to grow, especially if you live in the South. It help keep the soil loose, allows for air and nutrients to get below the surface of the soil and makes amending the soil much easier better for the life of the lawn.

It is often recommended that seeding and aerating are done within a few days of each other and once the new grass grows make sure it does not get cut for a few weeks or until it is 2-3 inches tall.

Fertilizer

fertilizer-guide
The numbers on the bag or label (32-0-4) tell you what percentage of each ingredient is in the mix of fertilizer and they stand for Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (N-P-K) and the percentage of each product by weight.

Nitrogen helps it grow and get greener, Phosphorous stimulates root growth and helps seeds sprout, and Potassium helps grass withstand stresses like disease and drought. So, make sure you use the right type of fertilizer for your property. Not all fertilizers are the same, typically a slow-release fertilizer is preferred.

I hope this helps with getting your lawn nice and green and that it stays that way.

 

Take good care!

 

Sincerely,

Mark Cukro

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How can I reduce and prevent A/C service calls?

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in From Mark, HVAC | Comments Off on How can I reduce and prevent A/C service calls?

hvac

How can I reduce and prevent A/C service calls?

Preventive Maintenance = Savings!

Take care of your HVAC system, and it will take care of the residents and result in fewer service calls.

For many of us it is a hot and hectic summer and we want fewer A/C calls and for some reason they often seem to come in all at once. For anyone on call it can seem as if it is at 4:59 pm every Friday. An effective way to reduce the amount of A/C calls is to check the entire system during the make-ready process and label the outdoor units/condensers to identify which unit it is actually connected to.

How many times have you found a unit that had the wrong number on it? Whether it was a unit that had a different number on the electrical disconnect compared to what is written on the actual unit itself or if the outdoor unit was completely on a different side of the building with no unit number identifying the units is time wasting and can be very frustrating. One way to help is to use vinyl stickers on the disconnect box and unit. They are inexpensive and do not fade in a short time period like magic markers and paint pens. In my experience if the sticker ever does get peeled off one can almost always make out the numbers and letters.

 

Check the Difference in Temperature The difference between the air going into the return grill and coming out of the supply vent should be around 15-20 degrees. In other words, If it is 100 degrees in someone’s home the coldest the supply air will be is 80-85 degrees. If it is 80 degrees in a home the coldest the air coming out of the vents should be is 60-65 degrees.

If the difference is too high that means something may need to be right such as airflow or the charge is either too high or low.

Make sure all coils are clean If an A/C unit doesn’t has excellent airflow it cannot and will not operate at its maximum capacity or efficiency and as a result will give incorrect gauge pressures. Cleaning the indoor and outdoor coils during a turn doesn’t take too much extra time and the time is well worth the reduction in A/C calls, unnecessary overtime, and most of all it will prevent an over-worked Service Team.

Check the Refrigerant Level Check the refrigerant charge during every turn in the summer or warm months.

 

Condensate Leaks. Well for some of us we have just finished getting bombarded with the first wave of A/C calls and corrected more than our share of undercharged units. Whew! Historically what happens next when the A/C systems are up and running is condensation leaks. Condensation leaks can wreak havoc in your ceilings, on the carpet, and really make a mess while frustrating a resident. Cleaning out drain pans and adding something as simple as a Sludge preventing drain tablet can save a fortune in time and frustration and prevent you from making a return trip.

Let’s face it the last thing a technician wants to do is make several trips to the same home for the same or similar problem. Keep in mind that condensation water is absolutely filthy and should be treated whenever it leaks. It has been known as a source to cause legionnaires disease so please be sure to disinfect any area that has come in contact with condensation. Many reports show that is carries more harmful bacteria than raw sewage.

An ounce of prevention will save you a pound of work so install the tablets and they will make a difference. Clean coils whenever you get a chance, and of course, the best time to install the drain tablets is during the turn process. If you make it a habit I guarantee you’ll get fewer condensation leaks. Checking the charge is one of the best ways to determine in an A/C is functioning but it should also be one of the last checks made. The reason, if the coils are clean, the airflow is correct then the gauges will give a much more accurate and telling measurement.

Train the Team

Teams that continuously train perform better than teams that don’t. Whether it is a refresher class for an experienced technician, trouble-shooting, or an introduction for a new and upcoming technician, training always costs less than one resident with no A/C for a few days.

Check our Calendar to see when a course is in your neighborhood or contact me if you want a class just for your team. You’ll be glad you did and so will your residents.

Mark Cukro President Plus One Consulting, Inc. www.serviceteamtraining.com

Call now to Book a Seminar or have Mark speak at an event 1-704-363-6236

Winter tips to save money and headaches!

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in From Mark | Comments Off on Winter tips to save money and headaches!

Winter Tips ChecklistFor the Residents, Managers, and Technicians.

How many of these are getting done on your Property?

Tips for the Season

Here are a few simple tips that can make all the difference. The residents will really appreciate it when you go the extra mile, especially during the hectic and often stressful holiday season. (more…)

Apartment PM Checklist for the Fall Season

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in From Mark | Comments Off on Apartment PM Checklist for the Fall Season

Your Service Team should be doing these PM checks starting this Fall.

Here are a few things your Service team should be checking in order to avoid a sudden increase in service calls as the weather cools and rain and snow begin to fall.

Below are a few items to get you started and of course add or modify as needed.

I hope to see you at an industry event in the near future.

Sincerely,
Mark Cukro

downspout-draining-on-foundation-lb

 

Full PM List

Interior
Water Heaters – Check temperature and adjust if necessary, Inspect, drain and clean if needed.
Fire Extinguishers: Inspect and recharge.
Smoke Alarms: Inspect and test battery.
Doors: Inspect weather stripping, thresholds, hinges, and locks.
Windows: do they open and close easily and lock

Exterior
Gutters: clean, secure, and pitched correctly
Downspouts: secure and clear of debris
Splash-blocks: installed correctly?
Roofs: any areas that are sagging?
Shingles: any missing, loose or broken?
Flashing: does it all appear intact and installed correctly?
Photocells: test them and make sure they work properly.
Windows – do they open and close easily and lock?
Inspect for wood rot: Trim, molding, stairs, decks etc.
Loose or damaged trim, rails, banisters, or balusters.
Paint: Need touch up?
Siding: any loose or missing?
Caulking: check condition and re-caulk wherever necessary
Trip hazards: check sidewalk, stairwell, and walkways
Doors – Inspect weather stripping, thresholds, automatic door closers, hinges, and locks.

 
Common Areas and grounds
Parking lot – potholes and cracks
Photocells or timers for exterior lights – do they work correctly? Test them!
Storm Drains: Inspect and clean

Open the Pool or you are Fired! Wait….what?

Posted by on Jul 2, 2014 in From Mark | Comments Off on Open the Pool or you are Fired! Wait….what?

This thread has really turned into a hot topic!

I just had a conversation with someone that was told to open an unsafe pool or find somewhere else to work.
Unfortunately this is not an uncommon scenario and it happens far too often. How would you handle it and what would you do?

Below is an outline of the situation.

A Service Manager on a two person Service Team staff has been injured and the remaining technician is trying to keep up with the increased workload. As a result he has been working 50-60 hours a week for the past 8 weeks with no support.
The chlorinator in the pool is not working, it needs to be replaced and nobody else on site is CPO certified, which is required in the area and state.

The Manager informed the technician that “there is not enough money in the budget, don’t worry about not being certified and just open the pool. So what the water is a little cloudy, just open it if you want to keep working here.”

This type of scenario arises several times a year and it amazes me how this consistently gets handled.

I would like to know your thoughts if this was happening where you work, what advice you would give the technician in this scenario or if you even knew that this is not too uncommon.

Check out what everyone had to say and comment.

Here is the original thread on my Linked In.

PICT0515

 

Swim Diapers & Swim Pants Might Give a False Sense of Safety

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in From Mark | Comments Off on Swim Diapers & Swim Pants Might Give a False Sense of Safety

The use of swim diapers and swim pants might give users, parents, and pool staff a false sense of security regarding fecal contamination.

Some research has looked into how well swim diapers and swim pants are able to keep feces (poop) and infection-causing germs from leaking into the pool. Even though swim diapers and swim pants might hold in some solid feces

1. They are NOT leak proof. Swim diapers can delay diarrhea-causing germs like, Cryptosporidium, from leaking into the water for a few minutes, but swim diapers do not keep these germs from contaminating the water

2. No manufacturers claim these products prevent leakage of diarrhea into pools.

boy-pouring-water-from-pail

All swimmers should stay out of the water when they are ill with diarrhea, even if they are wearing swim diapers or swim pants. They risk contaminating the pool with feces and germs, which can make others sick.

Swim diapers and swim pants are not a substitute for frequent diaper changing and bathroom breaks. It is recommended that swim diapers and swim pants are checked frequently and changed away from the poolside.

Pool operators should ensure that

•All patrons understand the importance of NOT swimming when ill with diarrhea.

•Caregivers/users frequently (approximately every 30 to 60 minutes) check swim diapers and swim pants and change them away from the poolside (for example, in the bathroom). This will allow for washing hands after diaper/pants changing and reduce the chance of fecal and germ contamination of areas around the pool. It can also reduce the amount of urine in the pool that binds with disinfectant and creates irritants in the air (see Irritants (Chloramines) & Indoor Pool Air Quality).

To learn more about how you can help stop germs from spreading in the water you and others swim in, visit Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming. www.cdc.gov

How do I keep my pool water crystal clear and prevent it from turning green or cloudy?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in From Mark, Pool | Comments Off on How do I keep my pool water crystal clear and prevent it from turning green or cloudy?

Pool Maintenance

Taking Care of the Pool Correctly!

Summer will be here before you know it and we have to be sure our residents and their guest have a great time in a pool that is safe and clean. There are three areas of consideration for keeping pool water clean, disinfected, and algae free.

First, is maintaining proper disinfectant levels. Every pool, even the best kept ones have germs and bacteria but keeping the chlorine above 1 ppm will eliminate them. Algae are plant forms and they require nutrients in order to survive. Once chlorine levels are low and the environment is right algae can appear almost overnight. This is what is commonly referred to as “Algae Bloom” which can turn a pool completely green resulting in pool closure for at least several days to a week in some cases.

Maintaining proper sanitation levels, brushing the walls and floor of the pool, adding a small dosage of algaecide is the best way to prevent algae from turning your pool green. It is the most effective and inexpensive way to keep the water clear.

Second, is the circulation system; Pools are designed to have water flow through the entire system at a specific rate in order to assure proper filtration and circulation of chemicals and disinfectant.  One of the most common mistakes I see in the field is putting chlorine sticks or tablets in the skimmer baskets. Most chlorine sticks and tablets are very acidic and when put in the skimmers they quickly begin to erode the pump impeller which reduces the water flow and significantly contributes to a pool becoming cloudy or developing algae.  So, keep the skimmer and line basket clear of debris and don’t add harmful chemicals through the skimmers.

 

The third area of consideration is the filtration system.  While there are many different types of filters, the most common filter in this industry is a sand filter. Sand doesn’t go bad by itself but it can be ruined by what has been added to the pool.  For example, many pool operators add a blue clarifier or flocculant to get the water clear.  A high rate sand filter clarifier is not recommended and can cause the sand in the filter to “gum up” and become ineffective at filtering. So, while the water is passing through the filter it is not actually being filtered effectively. This can result in a cloudy or green pool. Algae is small enough in size that much of it will flow between the grains of sand in many filters and just keep circulating. There are a few products that one can put in a filter that will help trap the dead algae so it can be backwashed out of the filter and you can be on your way to enjoying a clearer pool.

 

Why doesn’t shocking a pool get rid of the algae? Shocking a pool will only kill the algae at best. Once the algae have been killed it must now be removed from the pool. So, it may take at least several days to get the water back to being clear.

So the best way to have a crystal clear pool is prevention.

  • Keep the chemical levels within the ideal ranges.
  • Check the flow meter to be sure the pool is circulating water at a proper flow      rate.
  • Brush the walls and floor weekly.
  • Keep a preventative amount of algaecide in the pool. Most often added weekly.
  • Keep the circulation of the water at the proper turnover rate. Do not add      harmful chemicals through the skimmers and keep the skimmers and line basket free of debris.
  • Keep the sand clean and do not add chemicals such as flocculants that are not      recommended for the type of filter at your pool. There are many that may      be used so be sure to use the right ones.

 

Often times, people will not even notice a pool until it turns green or is closed. So, prevent the pool from turning green and avoid expensive repairs by following one or all of the steps above. Send your associates to pool class.

People that train get better results that people that don’t and if you have an experienced staff they may just pickup a few tips that will prolong the life of your pool or make pool care easier and less expensive.

For more information please contact…..

Mark Cukro is an instructor with the National Swimming Pool Foundation, President of Plus One Consulting, Inc., and founder of serviceteamtraining.com. He can be reached at mark@serviceteamtraining.com or 704-363-6236. Book a class or a seminar now!

The Best Property Managers Are Accomplished Jugglers – By Ryan Harrison

Posted by on Jan 1, 2014 in From Mark | Comments Off on The Best Property Managers Are Accomplished Jugglers – By Ryan Harrison

 

Our Guest Author – Ryan Harrison 

 

Ryan is a property manager and a writer and loves everything Southwest – from gourmet enchiladas to rustic New Mexican-inspired interior design.

Even though real estate investing is not the “cash cow” that some promoters would have you believe it is, rental properties can provide a careful investor with a very nice income stream and a solid real estate portfolio. Real Estate Investing for Dummies has a “Cheat Sheet” that provides some proven tips for success.

Becoming an effective property manager, however, is a bit like being a juggler. Basic concepts are not difficult, but learning when to toss a ball, and how long to hold another one, can spell the difference between being competent and being great.

Jim Collins, the management coach who famously said ”Good is the enemy of great” is also credited with saying that “managing problems can only make you good” whereas learning to build opportunities is the only way to become great, according to Torchlms.com.

Keeping the Balls in the Air

In the field of real estate investing and property management, one path to disaster is to wait for problems. As a landlord, your goal is to always maintain your properties in prime condition, ensure that you have renters who pay you on time, and realize a fair return on your investment now and in the future. An important resource for you as an owner, especially if you’re just entering the field, is an organization such as the AAOA (American Apartment Owners Association), which has a wealth of information and tools you can utilize to screen tenants, procure documents, exchange information with professionals, and keep up with the latest trends.

A standard rule in the real estate rental field is to utilize a yearly income figure of 10 times the monthly rental rate as your target goal. If your expenses — including mortgage, repairs and maintenance, landscaping and yard work, taxes, insurance, advertising, legal fees and other costs — are in line, you should realize a positive return on your investment, according to HSH.com.

Over the long term, if your property or apartment complex enjoys a consistently high occupancy rate with low turnover – in effect, if your units are consistently occupied — you should see a reasonable return on your investment, as well as property appreciation.

Find Those Opportunities

A U.S. Census Bureau survey of property owners reports that the primary reason for acquiring properties was for the income derived from the rents. It becomes imperative, then, to minimize lost income resulting from vacant units. Without becoming bothersome, it is perfectly acceptable to call, or even to drop by occasionally and visit with your tenant. Ask if they have any problems or concerns. Near the end of the lease term, you can ask if they will renew the lease.

This is an appropriate time (if your tenant is moving on) to ask about showings to secure a new tenant. If the current tenant agrees, you can often reduce the “empty unit” time to just a day or two, allowing you to maximize your occupancy ratio.

Professional property managers have also had good luck contacting the human resources departments of major employers in their area. Rather than simply putting a “For Lease” sign in the yard, consider marketing a property directly to a business for use by executives on short term assignments or temporary duty. Rental furniture is available in all cities for such use.

Additional Essential Tasks

Complete a Property Condition Report before move-in, and again immediately after a tenant’s move-out. Keep copies of both reports in the tenant’s file, and be scrupulous about detailing any damage during the lease term, taking photos if necessary.

Then address any repair and maintenance items immediately by lining up repair experts in advance. Small problems only become bigger problems. Follow up is almost as important as the initial repair. Be certain that you have addressed a situation completely and, if necessary, have the tenant stipulate to the work’s completion in writing, as Bankrate.com suggests.

 

Trick Or Treat Door Hangers

Posted by on Oct 21, 2013 in From Mark | Comments Off on Trick Or Treat Door Hangers

Here are a few Jack O lanterns that you can give out to you residents if they welcome Trick or Treaters. There is even one for anyone that doesn’t not want any visitors. There are several to choose from and I hope you find them helpful.

Trick or Treat

Our Fall and Winter Newsletter will be coming out soon.

 

Sincerely,

Mark Cukro

What advice would you give to a new Service Manager?

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in From Mark | Comments Off on What advice would you give to a new Service Manager?

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To many people in the industry it is a long time goal or a dream come true to become a Service Manager for a property and most likely they have spent a significant amount of time learning different trades, how to make many types of repairs and get make-readies prepared for new residents.

The emphasis and responsibilities shift when you become a Service Manager. When you are a technician there is a greater emphasis on one’s technical ability to make repairs, get all the certifications required, and continue training in every relevant area possible. To list a few; electrical, HVAC, plumbing, landscaping, general construction, carpentry, appliance repair, pool care and maintenance etc, etc.

When you become a Service Manager you have to remain proficient in the trades and repairs but you are now responsible for leading a team that delivers results, completes tasks on time, and remains solution oriented.

Of course the universal standards apply such as consistently showing up on time, how positive your attitude is, how you dress for work, and if you are a person people respect and want to follow. All of these are a true indicator of the pride you have for yourself and the priority you put on working with your team.

There is a process of feeling out your new position and it applies to everyone at every level of employment within a company. The most common mistakes a newly promoted person makes is that they want to deliver results and impress everyone so badly and prove to everyone that they are the right person for the job, they mistreat their teammates, speak unprofessionally, and don’t know how to work with people to get the best out of every situation. You may find yourself being overly-reactive and hyper sensitive to the new pressures and demands of the position and unknowing putting negative pressure on your teammates.

The skills that got you promoted are different than the skills required to succeed as a Service Manager.

Most of your teammates will be glad for your promotion and will want you to succeed. They are cheering for you and want you to do well. If they know you sincerely want to maintain a great culture that gets results or make the changes necessary to become that team, they will help you as long as you treat everyone with professionalism, maturity, integrity, and set standards that apply to everyone with no exceptions.

People want to belong to a team that takes care of business, gets results, and treats everyone equally. Standards cannot become personal; ultimately, they are there to promote the success of the company and take care of residents. Just ask yourself “how does this best serve the customer and the company?” and make the best and most informed decision possible. Also, asking for help is not a sign of weakness or inability. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence and demonstrates you are seeking answers when you are unsure, so you can do the right thing. As time goes by and you gain more experience you may ask fewer questions but most likely you’ll just ask different ones.

Start learning more about the business, how you impact the property financially, and how you can better work with and help the Property Manager. Everyone wants a Service Manager that understands how they impact a property financially and makes good business decisions. Now that you have been promoted, you are more responsible for the success of the property and when you become proficient at building good teams, delivering results, and creating a team environment that people want to be a part of, you will become much more valuable.

Hire people that have better skills in some area than you do. A confident person is not afraid to build a team with people that are better at something than they are. You will not be replaced by someone just due to the fact that they can make more HVAC repairs. You are helping your Manager and the Owner run their business by taking care of the customer, managing the service department, and operating within budgetary guidelines to the best of your ability.

Be the person people can count on to get things done, take care and look out for your people, never forget you are a very important part of what makes the company successful as a business, always look for a solution and seek self improvement, fanatically send your people to training, help them grow in every area, and I guarantee you’ll get better results.