Plumbing service plan worth it?

5 Replies

I have 2 triplexes near Boston that I self-manage. I've put in a lot of money into renovations mainly because initially it was non-stop repair calls. I now have new bathrooms, new boilers, new water tanks and yet I still keep getting frequent plumbing issues. Now as the winter is approaching I got 2 calls in 1 week about boilers that are refusing to start. Both of these boilers are about 3-4 years old.

Being an engineer by trade, I first decided to look at them myself in case it's something trivial. Neither problem was straight forward. I called several plumbing/heating companies and many were booked until next week. One suggested signing up for their service plan ($20/month per apartment) which includes one annual boiler checkup prior to the winter to avoid issues like mine and small discount on regular plumbing services (50% off of service call charge of $95 and 10% off labor costs after).

Is this something you guys would recommend? If not, do you manually service/clean your boilers annually to avoid these issues in the fall and manually call the plumber on case-by-case basis? I don't see this brought up much on the forums, but if even new furnaces have issues occur annually, I don't see how this would scale for people with more rentals.

Yes.  I have a similar plan for my furnaces and hot water heaters with my local utility's called risk control.  There are two things I will pay for.  Education and risk control...and a spinoff from the education is more risk control

I'd recommend finding a sole-proprietor plumber instead of using one of the big companies. My guy lives 10 minutes from my building, does both contracting work & repairs, and doesn't even charge me for minor stuff. Bigger companies can charge at least $100 every time they come out to take a look. 

I worked as a service technician for more years than I care to remember and I can honestly say I never did find a problem that I didn't solve. There is a big difference between a do it yourself handyman and a professional that does repairs and installations for a living day in and day out. Believe me the more experienced technicians are anxious to get in and out. They do not want to hang around and milk you for hourly work, most actually hate that. If they charge you a fixed rate for x service they want to be in an out having solved whatever problem permanently. Remember licensed contractors have to guarantee their work by law. I never wanted to be go on a call back if I know I was not going to get paid anything more than I had already been paid so it was always in my interest to fix the problem the first time and fix it for good.

If you have an upset tenant then you have two problems to deal with where as if you practice preventive maintenance you only have your serviceman to deal with. 

Someone said something about being able to scale things. Somethings do not lend themselves to a calculator, some things just happen and you have to deal with them. 

Risk management is the name of the game. If you want to use a calculator it will take you a lifetime to collect enough data to test for significance. Believe me Murphy is around and he is going to make sure things happen. Then again a professionally trained technician is not the guy you drive down to the Home Depot, pick him up, feed him and pay him $20 bucks for his time. 

I would agree however is that you should  find someone who is local and not a big company. The bigger the company the higher their overhead, the more money they spend on advertising and marketing plus workman's comp, insurance, and manytime even the vehicles and tools. They usually will hire technicians who work on commission so already you will have someone who is motivated to charge you the very most he can get away with. Big companies do not only charge you for their time, they also mark up the cost of materials, and parts. Get someone you can get to know and trust, not a company that is going to send a different tech everytime whom you may never see again. 

Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

I used to charge $49.00 for a half hour of troubleshooting and seldom ever needed more time than that . My customers had a choice. I would identify the exact problem and give a solution. The customer then could either choose to fix things on their own, knowing the problem would be solved or pay me to fix things on the spot, and if you were good to go I would also let my customer know. If you can identigy a technician that works with integrity, is of good moral character and honor it should not cost you much to make sure things remain running smoothly. 

Remember to review things carefully before you sign on the dotted line, this should not require more than simple common sense.

@Alex T. Our gas company has a plan, service plus. Covers furnace / boiler, ac, water heater, washer & drier and may be something else. $20 or $25 per door per month. I have it on all of my rentals. Main boards, valves, igniters - this guys have it on the trucks. If they can repair it - it is free, parts and labor. I put new HVAC in my rehabs and get a service plus if I am keeping them as rentals ... my $0.02. Good luck