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Utility submetering is recognized as an excellent way for multifamily and commercial properties to cut costs and conserve energy. Unfortunately, some property owners are still hesitant to take the plunge. Learn more about the key factors that make 2012 an excellent year to submeter.

Submetering is no longer a foreign term in the multifamily and commercial property industries. In fact, water submetering has become a required practice in certain cities and states. Georgia’s Water Stewardship Act requires all multi-family and commercial units to be submetered by July of 2012. Areas of California and Texas have also passed similar laws that will take full effect in the next few years.

The rise of submetering popularity has also led to a wide range of tax rebates and tax deductions aimed at this energy efficient practice. For example, the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) provides a $1.80 per square foot tax deduction for the design and construction of energy efficient buildings through December 31, 2013. A variety of energy efficiency rebates that can also apply to submeter installation are also found on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency website.

In addition to the tax benefits available, the vacancy rate for multifamily properties is predicted to decline from the current 5.8% in 2011 to 4.9% in early 2012, and will continue to decline further as the year progresses. Commerce Department statistics expect rents to spike approximately 7% in the next two years, compared to the normal 1% increase seen in recent years. These statistics, combined with the predication that an influx of millions of gen-x and gen-y renters will soon enter the rental market, makes 2012 the perfect time to upgrade your property’s energy efficiency and lower operating costs.

Is 2012 the year to submeter your multifamily or commercial property? Contact us at 1-800-256-9826 for more information on submeter installation, meter reading services, as well as billing and collection services.

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The popularity of off-campus student housing developments has risen dramatically in recent years. As the students living in these types of apartments graduate and transition into the workforce, they will undoubtedly seek rentals with similar amenities. Find out more about this large influx of renters and learn about the “extras” that will help to attract them to your property.

Multi-Housing News describes the new influx of renters as “70 to 80 million gen-x, gen-y and echo boom kids that are coming into the workforce in the next two to 10 years.” The decline in home ownership is greatest among the under 30 demographic according to Freddie Mac Economic and Housing Research, meaning that the majority of this new renter population will be looking to rent.

Flexibility is one of the major factors attracting new generations to multifamily properties, since many young adults don’t want to be tied down to a specific location through home ownership at this point in their lives. This means that these renters will likely place priority on properties offering short terms leases of a year or less. Convenience is another key factor, making properties that are located within walking distance to public transportation and amenities very attractive to this generation of renters. WiFi lounges, business centers, covered parking, and workout facilities are a few perks that renters may have become accustomed to in student housing complexes and would also view as valuable “extras” for a first apartment.

Sustainability is another factor that younger generations consider when renting. While green living has become trendy in recent years, the monetary benefits that come from living in an energy efficient building are certainly not lost on this age group. Allowing residents control over their utilities through submetering, installing Energy Star efficient appliances, and creating green rooftop patios and gardens are all ways to appeal to the new generation of renters, setting your property apart from the rest.

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While utility submetering offers many benefits for multifamily and commercial property owners, residents who are not aware of maintenance issues and conservation techniques may complain about receiving higher water bills. There is one common maintenance issue in particular that can result in shockingly high bills for residents if left untreated. Do your residents know about this water bill villain?

A leaky toilet is one of the most common maintenance issues that can cause a resident’s water bill to spike. According to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, a leaky toilet can waste approximately 40,000 gallons of water in one month. As a reference point, the average two adult household uses approximately 3,000 – 4,000 gallons of water per month. Leaky toilets result in water bills that can easily cost residents hundreds of extra dollars per month if leaks are left untreated.

The best way to ensure that your residents avoid high water bills is to educate them on conservation techniques and encourage them to report maintenance issues as soon as they notice them. If a resident suspects that their toilet is leaking, a simple test of putting a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank can solve the mystery. If the color begins to appear in the bowl without flushing, the resident’s toilet has a leak that should be repaired immediately. Sending residents frequent emails, newsletters, pamphlet checklists, or even magnets reminding them about common maintenance and conservation issues can help them to avoid this costly mistake.

Tending to a leaky toilet is just one of the ways residents can save themselves the shock of a high water bill. Educating your residents on water conservation can help to improve their rental experience as a whole. For a full list of water conservation tips, visit our resident website at mywaterwatchbill.com.

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While temperatures will continue to drop in the coming months, there’s no question that heating costs will remain steadily on the rise. Is your multifamily or commercial property plagued by high heating bills during fall and winter months? Find out how your organization can save thousands on utility costs this season.

Submetering has become an increasingly popular practice among multifamily and commercial properties in recent years. New Jersey recently became 50th state to allow submetering in newly constructed buildings. Many cities have even begun to require submetering, with Georgia becoming the first state to mandate submetering by law in 2010. By utilizing submetering to place utility costs in resident’s hands, property owners are no longer responsible for paying high heating bills year after year. 

Residents with submetered apartments are more inclined to conserve energy and are often quicker to report any maintenance issues that arise. In fact, Sustainablefacility.com states that submetering has been found to lower gas consumption by as much as 35 percent.

If your property’s unit mechanical configurations make submetering impossible, consider implementing a RUBS (Radio Utility Billing System) formula. This system allocates usage to residents based on formulas derived from square footage and number of occupants, once again taking responsibility for rising heating costs out of the hands of property owners.

For more information on how submetering or RUBS services can help your organization to save money this heating season, contact WaterWatch toll-free at 1-800-256-9826.

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Energy benchmarking is swiftly becoming a required practice for multifamily and commercial properties across the nation. While benchmarking energy usage can help properties to conserve energy and lower costs in the long run, it’s only the first step in doing so. Find out how to utilize your energy benchmarking data to the fullest extent. 

According to Multi-Housing News, energy audits are a way for energy management companies to utilize the data uncovered during the benchmarking process and devise new strategies for property’s to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can uncover a building’s hidden energy problems and determine the projects that will ultimately result in the greatest cost savings for a property.

Aside from lowering operating costs through energy efficient upgrades, energy audits can also be used as an advantage when marketing multifamily and commercial properties to potential residents. According to a Parks Associates survey for Multifamily Executive magazine, nearly 30% of renters are willing to pay more to live in environmentally friendly or “green” units. In fact, almost 80% of multifamily firms today view energy efficiency as an important asset to their company. Energy audits can lead to lower vacancy rates and even the potential to raise rents.

Interested in learning how energy management services can benefit your property? Consider contacting our partners at Utility Bill Manager, LLC to learn more. Visit UBM online or call toll-free at 877-824-5180.

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According to a survey conducted by Kingsley Associates, resident renewal intent has declined nationally over the past year. While location and rent rates were among the top reasons for the decline in renewal intent, community management also ranked as an important reason why residents would not renew their leases for another term. Is your property staff unknowingly driving residents away?

The National Apartment Association states that “forgotten residents” are some of the least likely to renew their leases. Forgotten residents are those who have been given great amounts of attention during the lease signing process, but feel virtually ignored while living in the unit. Whether it’s lease questions that go unanswered or ignored maintenance issues, these forgotten residents will likely remember how they were treated and consider renting elsewhere when it’s time to renew. 

Since excellent customer service leads to more satisfied residents, training a personable and helpful property staff is a key factor in ensuring that resident renewal intent does not decline. Offering residents convenient options such as online bill pay, extended property office hours, community events, and online live chat support can help to reinforce that residents are valued throughout the entire length of their lease.

The same level of customer service should be provided by the companies your property chooses to partner with. As a utility submetering company with an in-house customer service department, WaterWatch Corporation recognizes the importance of convenience and support for residents. Learn more about our views on customer service here.

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Mixed-use developments have become popular across the country, catering to a wide range of residents that value convenient living. “New Urbanism” has recently emerged as a trend among mixed-use developments that are taking specific sustainable approaches to make their properties more appealing to residents. Find out more about how sustainability has led to success for these types of developments.

New Urbanism focuses on providing residents the convenience of an “urban” lifestyle in any location. According to Newurbansim.org, a range in price between available units, walkability, connectivity, and sustainable building design all contribute to the success of this type of mixed-use development.

Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota, Florida and One Loudin Place, located just outside of Washington D.C., are two mixed use developments that have been successful in focusing on new urbanism. Lakewood Ranch is already a thriving community to 15,000, but to further increase connectivity to other communities, officials are working to extend city public transportation routes to include the ranch. One Loudin Place is a proposed community that aims to integrate the local landscape and energy management strategies into the design. Both properties are being developed in close proximity to shopping centers, doctor’s offices, and school districts to increase walkability.

Mixed-use properties in Manahawkin, New Jersey and Bethesda, Maryland have also focused on new urbanism by integrating sustainability into their design.  Both properties include LEED certified buildings and many of the rooftops in Bethesda property will also be covered in grass. As residents continue to recognize that buildings built to a higher sustainability standard can actually result in utility cost savings, these types of mixed-use developments will likely become even more widespread.

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President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge is a program aimed at decreasing energy usage and costs for commercial buildings across the country. Along with many high profile companies, three major cities have recently made commitments to energy efficiency through this challenge. Will the energy initiatives taken by these cities affect your properties?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, some of the companies taking part in the initial Better Buildings Challenge include Best Buy, Transwestern, Green Sports Alliance, and USAA Real Estate Company. The cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, and Atlanta will also be launching energy audit and efficiency programs as a part of the challenge. The participating cities will provide data on their energy savings, share their efficiency strategies, and serve as models for other cities to save energy and reduce costs.

The Better Buildings Challenge is a part of President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative that was launched this February. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent in the next ten years, while decreasing energy bills for these companies by about $40 billion a year. The initiative applies to commercial and municipal buildings, including offices, educational institutions, stores, and hospitals. The President is promoting participation through various tax incentives and financing offers.

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Energy benchmarking is rapidly gaining recognition as a useful way to pinpoint and decrease energy usage in multifamily and commercial properties. New initiatives spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency have led to energy benchmarking requirements in many cities across the nation.

Over 20,000 buildings in New York City began to document their energy usage on May 1st using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager online tool. This action falls under a mandate of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, which states that all NYC buildings larger than 50,000 square feet are required to benchmark their energy usage or face major fines.

Recently, San Francisco also passed an Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance, requiring commercial properties to conduct energy audits and benchmark their usage utilizing the EPA Portfolio Manager. The ultimate goal for these energy benchmarking initiatives is to decrease each respective city’s energy usage in the future.

While energy benchmarking was initially utilized only in commercial buildings, it is becoming more widely accepted by multifamily properties as well. According the Multifamily Executive, over 1,500 multifamily buildings utilized the EPA Portfolio Manager software to report their energy usage as of last November, and the number of benchmarked properties only continues to grow. In fact, a Seattle, WA program launched in May requires that the EPA Portfolio Manager be used to benchmark energy usage of multifamily residential buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet by 2012.

Unfortunately, some property owners are finding that even with the EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool, recording and understanding energy usage proves to be a difficult task. If your city requires energy benchmarking, or if your organization is interested in documenting energy usage, consider contacting our partners at Utility Bill Manager, LLC . Find out more about how UBM can take care of reporting your property’s energy usage.

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Off-campus apartment complexes have become popular living options for college students that are looking to gain independence, while still enjoying some of the amenities that college dorms have to offer. In recent years, many successful complexes have begun implementing sustainable practices as a way to attract new student tenants.

 Sustainable off-campus communities often include Energy Star rated appliances, community gardens, and are located close to campus or public transportation to cut down on the need for driving. Some student apartment complexes submeter their utilities, giving students the chance to become directly responsible for their energy usage.  By additionally offering common area lounges, wireless internet access, and an accommodating staff, students can enjoy some of the perks that would be provided in campus housing, while still living in a sustainable building.

Aside from the increase in demand from the student population, energy efficient properties allow property owners to cut down on operational costs and increase property value. Complexes near the University of Michigan, Portland State University, and University of California in Los Angeles have been extremely successful in implementing these green practices. As they become more aware and involved with environmental issues, the number of students choosing housing options in line with their green intentions will only continue to increase in the future.

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