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Getting the most from your laundry facility.

Getting the Most from Your Laundry Facility Whether you are in a competitive rental market or one with low vacancy factors, apartment building owners and managers should know how to maximize the benefits available from laundry facilities. This is especially true when you consider that of all the amenities avaialable in an apartment project, none is more widely used than the laundry room.

From a survey conducted by National Family Opinion, Inc., it was determined that laundry facilities are a more significant amenity in helping prospective renters make decisions than such things as saunas, hot tubs, and racquetball courts.

When questioned on what they look for when renting, 53.4 percent of the residents surveyed considered laundry rooms as an important project feature. Other features considered important by over half of the residents were what kind of people already lived in the apartment community (72 percent), the owner's reputation (58.4 percent), and overall project ambience (51.7 percent).

The MLA survey found that there are strong preferences for convenient location; laundry room size; overall appearance; adequate folding tables, laundry tubs, and work space; the quality of the laundry machines; the way the laundry room and the equipment is maintained; and comfort conditions in the area (properly heated, cooled, and ventilated). Although pricing is important, it was much less important when all of the other criteria were met. The evaluation should include input from the residents of the building.

These findings show the importance of evaluating your apartment project's laundry facilities to ensure that they suit the tenant mix in your building. This evaluation will provide information to help management decide about possible improvements in location, decor, type of equipment, and maintenance standards. This approach will give you a competitive edge for retaining residents, if their recommendations are acted upon. It will also provide insights into how you should use your laundry facilities to impress prospective residents.

Residents prefer laundry rooms to be within easy walking distance. Ideally, the maximum distance from any apartment unit to the nearest laundry room should not exceed 200-250 feet. Laundry rooms should be near main foot traffic patterns, and not in secluded or remote areas that pose security problems. Multiple laundry rooms conveniently placed throughout the housing project are preferred over one central laundry room.

Obviously, once built, it is impractical, if not impossible, to relocate a laundry facility. Yet, even though your laundry facilities are not ideally located, you can have a laundry amenity your residents will appreciate, if you do what you can to fill the needs criteria identified by the MLA survey.

Room size is a factor you most likely will not be able to change. You may, though, increase the work space. Stacked dryers and folding tables--even if they must be hinged to the wall--are just a few of the possible improvements. If you have a laundry route operator, ask the company for suggestions for improving work space.

Overall appearance is one factor you can control. There are a number of excellent cleaning products available that you should be using on the equipment, furnishings, walls, and floor on a regularly scheduled basis. Rundown or broken machines should be replaced or repaired. Water heaters and other unsightly items should be in a cabinet or screened from view. Be sure fire-safe materials are used.

Residents prefer an almost home-like laundry environment with a decorative scheme that complements the overall property. A helpful tip is to look at the laundry room as if it were a part of your own home, the determine how you would improve its appearance. Redecoration should be funded out of the equipment revenue, or you may include redecorating as part of a laundry route operator's service agreement.

You should consider the advantages of remodeling the laundry facilities, including the addition of glass panels to provide visibility and to improve personal security. A patio, a card room, a reading area, or a child play area adjacent to the laundry room also is an enhancement.

The amount of equipment in a laundry room should be based upon the predominant resident profile. As a general guideline, it is best to have a minimum of one washer and one dryer per 8-12 units for families, 10-15 units for younger working adults, 15-20 units for older working adults, and 25-40 units for senior citizens. Keep in mind the quality of the equipment and its energy efficiency. Washers that use warm wash and cold rinse will save significantly on utility costs compared to hot wash and warm rinse.

Statistics show that an average machine may require service approximately every six to eight weeks. To avoid down time that leads to resident dissatisfaction, it is imperative that you have prompt repair service and periodic maintenance checks. It is wise to keep a record of every machine showing the initial cost, along with the types of problems and the cost to correct them. If you are leasing equipment from a laundry route operator, ensure that they are capable of providing same-day repair service and that they will replace equipment as wear and appearance dictate. You should also scrutinize constracts with automatic renewal clauses or that have long lease terms to determine how often the vendor is required to change equipment. You cannot afford to be stuck with old machines that continually break down. This quickly makes your laundry room facility a liability instead of an asset.

Keeping the price reasonable offers many advantages. When the price to wash and dry is reasonable, machines are less likely to be overloaded. (Many of the complaints are due to inoperable equipment caused by overloading.) As a result, problems are lessened, and legitimate problems are more likely to be quietly reported and resolved.

When records are kept of maintenance problems, management may find many duplicate complaints because service calls are not prompt or complete. Many verbal complaints are forgotten; recording them ensures that all problems are corrected as soon as possible.

In the competitive rental markets, many progressive apartment owners and managers are recognizing that income from coin laundry equipment is insignificant when it is compared to the total potential income which can be realized from a fully occupied apartment community. Some have had their prices set as low as 25 cents to wash and 25 cents to dry.

By applying this strategy, they have traded a few dollars in laundry commissions for thousands of dollars in additional rental income. It has also been found that usage often goes up significantly, so that you experience little or no loss in laundry room income.

As apartments with central laundry rooms are usually competing with others who may offer in-unit laundry connections, a laundry room with quality equipment, a pricing structure that is competitive, and prompt reliable service could mean the difference between leasing or not leasing a vacant unit. This amenity is especially attractive to senior citizens and young families who do not own washers and dryers or want the problems of having laundry equipment in their unit.

Summary

There is no doubt that conveniently located, well-equipped, and well-maintained laundry facilities help keep existing tenants, as well as help attract new ones.

You should place emphasis on providing an adequate number of energy-efficient laundry machines, combined with a highly dependable service program. Using a reputable, qualified coin operated laundry system supplier is often the best way to ensure the consistent quality of the equipment and the service. Choose a pricing structure that fits the local market, but remember that there could be many reasons for pricing below the market price.

By placing a high priority on the equipment and service, the laundry facility will contribute to resident goodwill, which, in turn, helps lower complaints, reduce vacancies, lessen turnover, and provide additional income to the building in which the laundry room is located.

Rick Reynolds is national sales manager of Web Service Co., a leading national service supplier of coin-operated laundry systems.
COPYRIGHT 1989 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on tips to make the laundry fun
Author:Reynolds, Rick
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Words:1320
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