Home buyers are often lost between the design, façade, location, other facilities and the final price when deciding on the property to live in. While these are essential levers for decision making, very little attention is given to maintenance-friendly options and its intrinsic perpetual maintenance costs.
Buyers need to educate themselves on the concept of a role for facilities management in built-up environments, essential services and their potential hidden costs. Between the developer and the homebuyer, there should be a detailed review of service charges and its components.
Very rarely do home buyers have an insight into the different components of service charges, and especially facilities maintenance costs.
As a homebuyer, we must delve into the details of the buildings’ ongoing maintenance costs, the components of the charges (including macro-level service level agreements) for common areas services like security, MEP services and waste management. In routine cases, very limited information is provided on the components of the service charges and in select cases, where no details are provided, there is no information on facilities maintenance shared with the homebuyer.
Many developers and owners’ associations are compromising on the minimum core requirements on SLAs (service level agreement) such as minimum PPM (planned preventive maintenance) frequencies, compliance requisites on water treatments, and fire system lifts. Often due to aggressive sales drive by developers, there are compromises on critical FM costs in relation to the context of the total service charges.
It is imperative to understand the intrinsic full life impact of the cost of services and its service level agreements concerning the common areas while evaluating service charge components such as municipality charges, common areas utility (district cooling), and master community charges, as applicable.
A prospective homebuyer must look at his long-term costs of the targeted property as these are often not understood and can negatively impact property value and diminish the return on investment. Generally, people get very enamoured by building designs and facades but must know that these can be very challenging in terms of maintenance, as well the potential costs for maintenance.
In the buildings of today, state-of-the-art systems are provided (which are great value adds), but buyers must consider their maintenance costs and what provisions are imposed in their contracts.
For home buyers, it is critical to seek full transparency on the future full life-cycle costs and its governance during the handing over phase, when owners’ management associations take over and thereafter manage the building’s maintenance process. Very rarely do homeowners understand the impact of long-term life-cycle costs and its complications.
While the JOP (jointly owned property) law has put certain provisions in place, in practice to date this has not been very effective. A lot of education and awareness needs to be done at the pre-sales level on the dos & don’ts. In reality, a lot is written in a sales agreement regarding the responsibilities of the developer and home buyers, but little details are provided in context to future maintenance of common areas.
It is therefore imperative that regulators put in extensive terms on life cycle maintenance that are embedded in the sales deeds related to the obligations and a checklist should be provided to each homeowner.