By Erin Golden
If the laundry facility in your building is outdated, you could be missing out on a big opportunity to attract and keep good tenants, which will ultimately improve your bottom line. Here are some tips on how to do it.
When they don't have a washer and dryer in their own home, tenants want to know they can wash their clothes in a convenient, safe and comfortable place.
Dan Posa, an account executive at Phelps Smart Laundry in Edmonton, Alberta, a company that works with property managers across Canada, said easy-to-fix cosmetic issues like paint, flooring and lighting are crucial to making a good impression.
"If the paint is old and peeling, I suggest using bright colors," he said. "Fluorescent lighting is very important, because when somebody comes in, they're going to want to see something that's bright, well-lit and clean."
Posa suggests replacing any cracked or damaged flooring-for both safety and appearance-and adding personal touches that will "warm up" the space, such as flowers or pictures on the walls.
George Espinola, the director of residential property management at Medallion Corporation in Toronto, Ontario, says his company has made an effort to make laundry rooms a destination.
"We've put in a lounge where people can sit down, watch TV, read a book," he said. "It's a very comfortable atmosphere."
Espinola said that tenants appreciate the upgrades, and they've helped boost laundry room traffic.
Trading old washers and dryers for new ones that are more energy efficient can help cut down on the amount of water and power required to run your laundry operation. Posa suggests posting signs to show residents what types of detergent they can use in certain machines, or keeping some top-loading machines that allow for the use of any type of soap.
Before installing new machines, Posa says he always checks the integrity of the flooring of the laundry room to ensure it can withstand the powerful force of the spin cycle on a new machine. If there's too much give in the floor, he says, it can throw the machines off balance and make them less efficient.
Property managers should also check to make sure air from the dryers is circulating properly.
"If the vents are clean, the efficiency goes way up," Posa says. "If the vents are plugged, there's a lot of heat and humidity in the room, and that's going to cause mold in some cases."
Other important checks include plumbing and electrical. Hiring professionals to check and update systems as necessary can be a good option.
New machines often create a bigger draw on circuit breakers, so Posa suggests running a separate line for each machine. And in terms of plumbing, make sure each washer has a drain stack to avoid multiple washers draining into the same place and causing overflow problems. The drain stack should be cleaned out on an annual basis, Posa says.
Many properties are switching from coin-operated laundry to a smart card system, where residents can load funds onto a card that can be used to pay for use of washers and dryers.
Posa says it cuts down on the risk of laundry room theft, because there are no coins required. Existing machines can also be retrofitted to work with the cards. If you decide to stick with coin-operated machines, hiring a company to manage machines and pick up the money will help provide an extra layer of security.
Because laundry rooms are often located in the basement, you should also look at additional ways to enhance security and help tenants feel safe. "Most people put out security cameras, improve lighting and put glass on the door. And you can have controlled (key card) access into the laundry room to ensure whoever is in there, belongs there."
Espinola said the key is working with the space you have to make it feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
"A lot of the buildings can't be retrofitted to include washers and dryers in the units, so you have to work with what you’ve got," he says.