It’s no secret that retaining a resident is better for the bottom line than having to find a new one. The average cost of tenant turnover is $3,500, which typically includes the amount of rent lost while the unit is vacant, marketing the unit to potential tenants and making any needed repairs and upgrades.

According to the survey results from, “Getting Inside the Head of Today’s Online Renter,” conducted by SatisFacts and 30 Lines, the top five factors that renters value most when making renewal decisions are:

  1. Quality of the maintenance services provided.
  2. Sense of safety and security at the community.
  3. Quality of customer service provided by the office staff.
  4. Appearance and condition of the individual apartment.
  5. Appearance and condition of apartment community including buildings, grounds and landscaping.

These findings are not new. Doug Miller, president of SatisFacts Research, said that the driver in resident retention has always been related to work orders.

“If a resident’s maintenance request is not resolved to their satisfaction, pool parties and a Facebook page won’t have any impact on their decision to renew,” Miller said. “The quality of maintenance services isn’t just based on the maintenance staff, but on the overall service residents receive.”

When asked what could be done to ensure quality maintenance services, Miller stated that the work order process should start and end with the office staff. And that a great maintenance experience is based on three factors: speed, accuracy and communication.

“Most residents are concerned with how long it takes for a work order to be completed,” he explained. “The office staff should get a thorough description of what is wrong so the maintenance technician can show up with the tools and parts necessary to fix the issue. If the problem can’t be fixed right away, the maintenance technician should inform the office staff, so that the information can be communicated to the resident.”

Miller also advises office staff to follow up with residents once every work order is completed to make sure the resident is happy. Excellent customer service leads to satisfied residents, so training a personable and helpful property staff is a key factor in ensuring that residents renew their leases.

To his clients, Miller recommends creating a culture of responsiveness. This includes implementing a policy that all resident communications received by 3 p.m. must be responded to by the end of the day. If a resident inquiry is received after this time, it should be responded to by 10 a.m. the next morning.

Building on this, Miller also suggests that office staff should not reply to any prospective tenants until all resident voice mails and emails have been responded to, all maintenance delays have been communicated and all completed work orders have been followed up on.

Miller believes that focusing on the resident experience is essential to renewals. In addition to concentrating on the top five retention factors, Miller offers one additional area for property managers to focus on. Satisfacts’ research shows that more and more renters desire a property portal that includes the functionality for them to submit work orders, pay rent and communicate with office staff online. Miller stated that it is critical that these three items be included in any property portal. “Community activities and social media platforms help to improve communication between residents and staff, but are viewed as icing on the cake by residents,” Miller said.

Miller stressed that overall these findings validate what has always compelled residents to renew. The bottom line is that if you take care of your residents, they will take care of you.

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Did you know that the top five most important factors people consider when making a rental decision are:

  1. Ability to pay rent online
  2. Perception of quality customer service
  3. Security and access control features
  4. Ability to easily communicate with community staff
  5. Ability to submit service requests online

An online portal is a great way to provide these services to your residents. Not only that, but resident portals can also increase the sense of community among renters in multi-family properties. Despite their popularity, certain types of resident portals still prove to be more successful than others.

In the multi-family setting, resident portals should serve as a destination for residents to pay rent, enter service requests, view lease documents and check out community activities. Resident portals can also include links to a property’s social media sites to further community discussions.

They can also serve as a convenient resource for residents living in submetered units to pay their utility bills online. Resident portals for utility submetering companies should focus on both education and convenience. Utility submetering could be a foreign concept for residents that have never lived in a submetered unit or previously paid for their own utility usage. To ensure that residents are educated, WaterWatch Corporation includes frequently asked questions, conservation tips and payment information on our resident website, in addition to online bill pay..

According to ActiveBuilding.com the “extras” are what set resident portals apart from one another. While access to online bill pay is certainly a useful service, it shouldn’t be the only thing available for residents on their portal. It’s important that residents are aware of all of the customer support they have at their fingertips. Support could be as simple as a “frequently asked questions” page on a utility submetering resident website or a community activities page on a multi-family portal. The extra steps towards customer satisfaction are what help to create a respected and successful resident portal.

Be sure to check out WaterWatch’s winter newsletter to learn what factors renewing residents find most  important.

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The number of multifamily residents connecting through social media outlets is steadily increasing and spans across multiple generations. In 2012, the question to consider is not if your community should be connecting with residents on social media, but how you’re using these social media outlets to increase resident retention and attract new residents to your property.

Satisfacts.com states that 30% of renters today are using mobile devices to assist in their rental search, with Ipad tablets and smart phones making up the bulk of increased traffic towards company websites. In order to ensure that social media marketing through mobile devices is successful, properties must offer the most convenient access possible. Most residents don’t want to bookmark a multifamily webpage to view in full screen on their home computer. They would much rather access websites that are easy to navigate and have been designed with mobile view options. Convenience can also be achieved by offering residents location based check-in through sites such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. Scannable QR codes and mobile leasing inquiry forms are other ways for residents to instantly receive the information they want about your community. We recommend visiting Multifamilyinsiders.com for their useful presentations on expanding social media influence into the mobile market.

ApartmentExpert.com explains that resident reviews should also be taken into account by multifamily properties looking to evaluate their social media influence. While social media sites that feature only glowing positive reviews of an apartment community may cause renters to be suspicious, negative reviews could turn them away completely. Thankfully, social media focuses on conversation and these negative reviews can often be publicly answered by property staff. Leaving thoughtful and individual responses to each negative remark received shows that your community values customer service and is willing to help unsatisfied residents. Multifamily Executive also states that simply asking residents who are pleased with their rental experience to post reviews can help to offset negative ratings. MFE explains, “If asked, 62 percent of residents said they would post a review, but less than 9 percent have been asked,”

If your company is attempting to increased traffic towards social media outlets, it’s important that these websites remain full of useful information. Too often, multifamily communities will have social media sites for the sole reason of promoting their services. Social media should instead be about offering up new information. Linking to a recent blog post, discussing industry news, offering apartment living tips, and asking for resident feedback are all ways to make sure your property is connecting with your social media audience.

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While utility submetering is proven as an excellent way to conserve energy and decrease operating costs, many property managers and owners are still hesitant to enter the industry. Learn how your choice in utility submetering provider can make or break the submetering experience.

Poor customer service can have a huge impact on the submetering process. Residents that have never lived in a submetered unit may not understand the importance of energy conservation and will certainly express concern if their utility bills are higher than expected. Submetering companies without strong customer service values leave these residents in the dark, which could ultimately decrease resident retention for your property.  Consider whether your submetering provider offers in-house customer service and the chance to speak with a live representative for support, instead of a recording.

In addition to offering superior customer service, submetering companies should also be up to date on the latest industry news. Connected submetering companies can educate your organization on energy rebates available for submeter installation, tax incentives, or state submetering mandates. Submetering companies should be connected to this industry through social media websites and regularly contribute to energy management publications.

Convenience is another factor to consider when choosing the right submetering provider. WaterWatch Corporation incorporates convenience into our submetering services by offering a wide range of resident payment options, installation services tailored to your property’s specific construction, and real-time management reports. Your organization deserves a submetering partnership that’s hassle-free and designed with your specific property in mind.

Are you currently partnered with an inadequate submetering provider? Consider transferring your services to WaterWatch Corporation. Take advantage of our transition program and switch providers effortlessly.

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As we approach summer 2012, organizations are beginning to report on this year’s green trends for multifamily and commercial properties. Staying on top of green industry trends can help your property to conserve energy, lower operating costs, and appeal to new residents. Is your organization up to date?

In January, the Earth Advantage Institute reported seeing a large spike in green multifamily building certifications over the course of 2011, especially in Northwestern and Midwestern states. The first multifamily apartments were given LEED Platinum certification in 2011 and certifications such as LEED and EnergyStar have already been on the rise in 2012. In fact, a recent University of Notre Dame study proved that LEED certified buildings actually had a measurable increase in business compared to those without any type of green certification.

The Earth Advantage Institute has also noted energy education is an industry-wide trend for 2012, especially in terms of commercial tenants. The institute explains that the adoption of commercial building energy reporting in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, is prompting property owners/operators to educate tenants on energy conservation. It is also extremely important that multifamily residents are educated on any energy efficient upgrades made to their properties.

Offering a less car-dependent lifestyle is another trend for both multifamily and commercial properties in 2012. “Walk scores” from walkscore.com are now included in most multifamily marketing material and mixed-use commercial and multifamily spaces have risen in popularity for their convenience. Many communities have situated themselves on public transportation lines and even offer shuttle services to town centers or amenities on the property.

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May is a transitional month for the gen-y age group, as college graduations occur across the country and many newly employed grads begin their apartment hunt. In fact, multifamily experts believe that the millions of gen-y renters entering the workforce in coming years are a leading factor contributing to the strong multifamily market. Does your organization know how to appeal to this new generation of renters?

The newest generation of renters access various social media sites on a daily basis, so it makes sense that social media also plays a large role in their apartment search. ApartmentRatings.com, Facebook, and Twitter are all popular sites where apartment communities can attract gen-y renters by promoting rent deals, uploading photos of floor plans, and discussing amenities.  It’s important that property staff update these social media websites frequently and communicate directly on the sites with potential residents that have any questions about their rental options. Strong customer service through social media helps show potential residents that they can except to receive the same attention once signing a lease. Apartment communities that have been resisting the shift into social media should consider that the recent explosion of gen-y renters in the multifamily market is not a passing trend. In fact, this new generation of renters is only expected to expand in the next 15 years.

It’s also important to recognize that while recent grads may seek out properties similar to their student housing complexes, their housing priorities will likely shift after graduating. Since many new grads will no longer have parental support or student loans to cover rent payments, money becomes the leading factor behind the rental decisions of most recent graduates. Multi-Housing News explains that gen-y renters aren’t necessarily looking to rent large apartments, but instead are focusing on the actual apartment layout and choosing properties that offer the most amenities available on their budget. MHN also explains that much of the gen-y population actually finds communities in the city suburbs to be more appealing than city center locations because of their lower rent price tag, as long as there are destinations within walking distance or reliable transit options into the city.

Green renovations are another way to appeal to the frugal mindset of recent graduates. Energy efficient updated appliances and energy saving practices such as utility submetering allow residents to save substantial amounts on their utility bills, since they are solely responsible for their own energy usage. Rooftop gardens and landscaped outdoor space are additional ways to attract young residents that may be interested in growing their own fruits, vegetables, or flower garden.

Interested in learning more about energy efficient services that can benefit your property and attract new residents? Feel free to contact us today for more information.

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The current state of the economy, an influx of younger renters, and stricter mortgage lending standards have all contributed to a significant increase in the rental population. In fact, The Wall Street Journal states that the 5.2% national vacancy rate, reported in the final quarter of 2011, is the lowest it has been in ten years. Find out why the recovering multifamily market makes now the prime time to upgrade the energy efficiency of your multifamily property.

While the recent influx in renters is certainly a positive thing for the multifamily property industry, new residents can quickly become costly if they are using utilities irresponsibly or avoid reporting maintenance issues. Utility submetering is one energy efficient practice that helps property owners to lower operating costs, and encourages residents to conserve as a way to save money on their utility bills. Since residents become financially responsible for their energy usage through utility submetering, they are more inclined to conserve energy and are often quicker to report any maintenance issues that arise. Tax incentives and rebates for submetering can also help to lessen installation costs for property owners.

When residents are responsible for paying their own utility costs, they will undoubtedly seek multifamily properties that offer energy efficient appliances. Finance-commerce.com explains that aside from utility submetering, property owners are also installing energy efficient HVAC and plumbing systems, doors, windows, insulation, and Energy Star rated appliances to appeal to residents. Many developers have even found success in converting and renting out unsold condo units that are equipped with energy efficient appliances. These rentals appeal to young families that looking are looking to live in a space that feels more like a home, without making the jump to actually purchase one.

Energy Star and LEED certifications are two additional ways for multifamily properties to stand apart from their competition and advertise their commitment to energy efficiency. Both of these certifications require energy benchmarking and auditing procedures along with specific categories that multifamily properties must adhere to in order to gain certification.

To learn more about how utility submetering can benefit your property and to schedule a free property audit, feel free to contact us toll-free at1-800-256-9826.

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Green building has become the rule rather than the exception in the multifamily industry. Many states recognize this fact and have begun offering rebate programs to property owners that are looking to conserve energy through utility submetering and other energy efficient upgrades. Is your organization aware of the rebate programs available in your state?

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has created a statewide Energy Smart Multifamily Performance Program that provides financial support to property owners looking implement energy efficient upgrades in new construction and existing multifamily buildings. They have also created the Electric Reduction in Master Metered Buildings Program, which is specifically geared towards utility submetering. Owners of master metered properties with five or more units can visit the NYSERDA website to fill out an application for the program. If approved, this program can save multifamily owners up to 50% off the cost of a submetering system.

The California Multifamily Energy Efficiency Rebate Program (MEERP) is another statewide program that has been a successful in offering energy efficient rebates. The collaboration between the state’s four major utility companies allow property owners of multifamily properties to receive rebates on energy efficient upgrades ranging from lighting and insulation to window and HVAC improvements.

The Maine State Housing Authority’s takes a different approach to providing energy funding through their Multifamily Home Energy Loan Program. This program offers low interest loans for multifamily housing improvements interested in taking on energy efficient projects. The program requires borrowers to have an energy audit and then prepare a plan to address deficiencies.

For a full list of opportunities available in your state, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website, or type your property information into the DSIRE search tool on our sidebar.

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In our previous WaterWatch and Learn articles, we have outlined electric, gas, and water conservation techniques that residents living in submetered units can utilize as a way to decrease their utility bills. In this installment, we explore the different ways to educate your residents about these conservation techniques.

Multi-Housing News recently surveyed residents across the country on what they would like to see improved in their rental experiences, and increased online services were requested across the board. Residents want to have the option to pay their rent, utility bills, and access service requests online. They would also rather receive property updates via email or through a property’s website portal. Offering conservation techniques online is a key way to ensure that residents can have their questions answered quickly, at any time of the day or night.

Aside from the convenience factor, online marketing and education tools are a greener than paper pamphlets or fliers. An email newsletter that changes seasonally via popular providers such as Constant Contact, IContact, or MailChimp.com can include conservation tips alongside other property news and events. Social media accounts another paperless way to communicate with residents about conservation, as long as they are frequently updated.

There are also a variety of outside websites that properties can direct their residents to for conservation education. Properties that submeter with WaterWatch Corporation can direct their residents to mywaterwatchbill.com, which offers water, gas, and electric conservation techniques along with a resident payment portal. The U.S. Department of Energy offers a wide range of conservation tips on their Energy Savers website. CSG Network also offers a helpful water usage calculator and electrical energy cost calculator for residents looking to estimate their monthly consumption.

Holding question and answer sessions at the beginning of each month is another way to inform new residents about how to conserve energy in a submetered unit, and can also reach residents that do not prefer to be contacted online. Since strong customer service is one of the key factors contributing to resident retention, it’s important that property staff members are educated and up to date on both the education tools and conservation tips needed to answer resident questions and concerns.

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