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Triple Win Property Management Blog

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Top 20 Property Management KPIs to Track

Property management KPIs (key performance indicators) are critical, quantifiable metrics that measure your PMC’s performance over time and help you evaluate the success of your objectives, projects, or team members. PM KPIs can be divided into three broad categories: Financial performance KPIs: These measure the financial performance the the property management company Operational performance KPIs: These measure the effectiveness of the property management company’s operations Property performance KPIs: These measure the performance of the rental property that is being managed A narrow focus on KPIs isn’t a magic pill for company growth or stability. By nature, KPIs are very transactional. They tend to focus on short-term goals like maximizing rent/fees/etc. at a specific point in time. While those point-in-time metrics are critical to success, they need to be contextualized with the view of maximizing customer lifetime value. Build your KPIs with two overarching questions: “How do we create experiences so good residents never want to leave?” “How do we create investor experiences that are so good that they generate organic referrals?” These questions helps you to keep a “Triple Win” mindset – that we can grow the pie for ourselves, for our residents, and for our investors. Meet the Experts: Matthew Tringali, CEO of BetterWho, and Daniel Craig, CEO of ProfitCoach Matthew and Daniel are both experts in their respective fields, helping PMCs drive greater productivity and profits. We asked Matthew and Daniel to share insights and help us review the most important things to know about property management KPIs. 1. Net Income/Profitability Net income and profitability (which is net income expressed as a percent of total income) is what you’re making after you subtract your operating expenses from your earnings. PMs also track “profit per unit,” so they can break down exactly how much each unit is making – or costing – them. PMC valuations are typically done as a multiple of revenue or a multiple of EBITDA, so tracking your revenue and net income can help you keep an eye on the value of your business as a sellable asset too. When it comes to net income, one of the leading strategies to “grow the pie” is to build opportunities for ancillary income. Ancillary income is anything outside of the core service of rent collection. Enterprising PMs have found ways to generate more value for their investors and residents by offering supportive services like a Resident Benefits Package. With that extra value comes the opportunity to charge what it’s worth and create more net income. Adding value to the resident experience eliminates preventable vacancy costs for investors, keeping them – and your business – happy. KPI Formula: Net Income(Profitability) = Earnings - Operating Expenses 2. Labor Efficiency Ratio Labor Efficiency Ratio (LER) tracks how effectively you are deploying labor in your company. It certainly plays into improving company financial performance, but it’s also about helping your team members hit their individual goals and perform better – so they and you end up more satisfied. According to Daniel Craig: “LER is the most important driver of profitability. There are only two ways to increase profitability in any business: charge more for what you do, or spend less to get the job done. LER takes both aspects into consideration. There are three key levers to improving LER – we call them the three P's of LER: Pricing (how effective you are with client pricing as defined by your Revenue Per Unit), Pay (how effective you are in compensating your team), and Productivity (how effective you are in enabling a high-performing team).” Improving LER starts with making sure you have the right people in place. Find people who embrace your core values, who believe in the triple win, and in the importance of the resident experience. Look for people with initiative who understand that proactively seeking success for others is the way to achieve success for themselves. Matthew Tringali’s secret sauce for a better LER? Global remote team members. Tringali says: “I used to tell people that utilizing global Remote Team Members (RTMs) can be your unfair advantage against your competition. Now I tell people that if you aren't properly leveraging global RTM's, then you are going to get left behind. Top property management companies have 65% of their direct labor comprised of global RTMs. Companies who have six or more global RTMs on their team have a 7% higher profit margin, on average, compared to companies not yet using RTMs. LER is a master KPI that captures right people, right seats, revenue, efficiency and payroll. These type of A-players add value, nail performance metrics, and keep residents and real estate investors around. KPI Formula: LER = Gross Profit / Direct Labor Cost 3. Resident Acquisition Costs Some may track this as “tenant acquisition costs" or customer acquisition costs. But, again, our focus should be on the resident experience to generate value for a triple win. That’s why we call this KPI “resident acquisition costs.” Language matters! You can calculate resident acquisition costs by totaling your annual sales and marketing budget and dividing it by the total new units you acquired in the same date range. As you track this benchmark year over year, you will see how effective your Biz Dev strategies are. The objective of both the PM and investor is to lower acquisition costs while not sacrificing the quality of the resident match. One of the best ways to reduce the cost of resident acquisition is to focus on building an attractive experience – particularly one that attracts the best residents in the applicant pool. A resident benefits package or another value-add can draw in residents without much effort on your part. KPI Formula: Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) = Total Costs of Acquiring Customers / Total Number of New Customers Acquired 4. Average Maintenance Costs Tracking average maintenance costs is tricky as an SFR property manager. The properties you manage can be far apart and vary greatly in their needs and resident requirements. Plus, repair and maintenance costs are a huge chunk of expenses for PMs and investors. One great way to build value for yourself and your investor is to take a proactive approach to maintenance. Offer services like an HVAC filter delivery subscription, comprehensive renter’s insurance, and other features of a resident benefits package. With Second Nature’s filter delivery service, property managers saw a 38% reduction in HVAC-related ticket requests. This saves hundreds of dollars in maintenance costs a year. For more advice on using your KPIs and data to drive value, check out this video from BetterWho featuring Ray Hespen of Property Meld. KPI Formula: Average Maintenance Costs = Total Maintenance Costs / Total Number of Units 5. Average Arrears Every property manager’s approach to arrears is some form of: “MINIMIZE!” Arrears – otherwise known as the unpaid debt owed by residents – can have a massive effect on your company’s cash flow. Tracking average arrears helps you see who is paying rent on time vs. who isn’t. These metrics can also include delinquency rates (paying late and how late) and eviction rates (never pays and must be removed). Here are a few examples: Offering credit building as part of an RBP – reporting on-time payments to credit bureaus can have a huge impact on residents’ credit scores. Offering rental rewards programs through an RBP – turning rent day into rewards day. Identity protection – this guards the resident’s financial security and ability to pay rent. The triple-win approach here is working to prevent delinquency and eviction before they happen. The best way to do that is to incentivize on-time payments and continue to add value to the resident. KPI Formula: Average Arrears = Total Amount of Overdue Payments / Total Number of Tenants 6. Occupancy and Vacancy Rates We all know vacant properties come at a high cost. They require upkeep and payments, but they aren’t generating any revenue. That’s why occupancy rates are one of the most important metrics that a property manager can track. Your turnover rate or average days vacant can tell you a lot about your company. A higher occupancy rate than the market average can be a huge selling point for your property management company, signaling to potential investors that you provide a better experience for residents and, therefore, have better retention. (Or it could signal you aren’t charging enough!) One of the best ways to drive that coveted retention is to offer experiences that residents will pay for and stay for. That means identifying services that offer long-term value, not just a fancy one-time “shiny toy.” An example of this in the multi-family housing space is the apartment complex that invests in a $15k pool table. Sure, it’s great for tours. But 99% of the time, it isn’t used, and a pool table is never the reason someone chooses to stay in their home. Professional PMs know better and take time to think about what’s attractive in the sales process vs. what’s going to make people stay. For example, a better benefit than the pool table might be co-working phone booths so people can more easily work from home and save money. Finding ways to add value like that in the SFR space will go a long way to boosting this metric. KPI Formula: Occupancy Rate (%) = (Number of Occupied Units / Total Number of Units) x 100 KPI Formula: Vacancy Rate (%) = (Number of Vacant Units / Total Number of Units) x 100 7. Maintenance Request Response Time It’s important for PMs to know how long it takes for maintenance requests to be solved. When we’re talking about resident expectations, a reasonable response time for maintenance is one of the most basic things residents need and want. When requests take too long, residents can quickly become unhappy with their experience and decide to leave. Tracking this metric helps you understand how well your team is doing and if you need more resources to ensure timely responses. An online maintenance request portal can help streamline this process, and an RBP with services like air filter delivery can help reduce maintenance problems in the first place. KPI Formula: Maintenance Request Response Time = Total Time Taken to Response of Requests / Total Number of Requests (this gives you an average overall) 8. Property Inventory Property inventory is the metric tracking the number of properties you’ve acquired successfully and the number of properties lost. It’s also important to consider whether you’re acquiring properties that really support your business. Is your team burning out? Do your investors fit with your property management niche? One of the best ways to get more doors and keep them is to build resident experiences that are the best on the market. By offering more value than your competitors, you can attract more of the kind of business you want. KPI Formula: Track the total # of properties at the start and end of a period. Subtract Properties Lost from Properties Acquired. 9. Average Time to Lease Tracking the average amount of time to lease helps show the cost to your investor when a property hits the market. Property managers and investors both want to reduce the average time to lease. The best way to do that? Build experiences that stand out. When someone sees your listing – beyond the property and rent price, do they see a different experience and set of benefits by renting from you as a professional PM? Are you offering benefits that residents will pay for and stay for? Other things that help with this metric: Measure traffic and conversion from listings to showings Provide attractive photos, 3D or virtual images, and clear pricing, etc. Provide and track the availability of showing times, self vs. guided showing experience, etc. Track incomplete applications, qualified %, time to approve/reply, etc. All of these impact two critical business metrics: "days on market" and "days vacant,” which are key to this KPI. KPI Formula: Average Time to Lease = Total Days on Market for All Properties / Total Number of Leased Properties (during the same period) 10. Revenue Per Unit Tracking your profit goes beyond simply adding up revenue and expense. Not all revenue is created equal. Tracking revenue per unit is a key KPI to increase profitability. Revenue per unit does just measure whether you have enough doors. It also assesses whether those doors are worth your time. What if the doors are unprofitable? According to the 2022 NARPM Financial Performance Guide, “it’s worth noting that a 10% increase in RPU can easily lead to a 100% increase in profitability.” We’ve said this before, and we’re saying it again – the most innovative way that professional property managers are generating greater revenue for themselves is through building better experiences. According to Eric Wetherington at PURE Property Management, “Revenue is all about providing a service.” You can increase your RPU by adding more value that investors and residents are willing to pay for. With the right tools, you can add that value without increasing your cost too significantly. That’s where services like an RBP and other value adds translate directly into revenue growth. KPI Formula: Revenue Per Unit = Total Revenue / Total Number of Units 11. Unit Churn Churn is one of the leading KPIs for any business. After all, what’s the point of all your sales effort if you’re losing as much (or more) business each month as you gain? According to NARPM’s Financial Performance Guide, “Cutting your churn rate in half will double your average lifetime revenue per unit.” Some churn is out of your control and subject to market changes. But for the most part, churn is a direct result of customer satisfaction. PMs should find out why customers are leaving, where they would like to see improvement, etc. And, of course, that’s where resident and investor experience comes into play. Figuring out how to make the experience so good that your best clients never feel the need to look for another manager. KPI Formula: Unit Churn Rate = (Number of Units Vacated / Total Number of Units) x 100 12. Ratio of Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) to Lifetime Value (LTV) of a Client The Ratio of Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) to Lifetime Value (LTV) of a Client is a crucial metric in property management and business, as it evaluates the cost-effectiveness of acquiring new clients relative to the value they bring over time. Nothing feels better than letting a bad client go. This metric can help you put numbers behind that decision and helps property management companies understand the long-term financial impact of their marketing and sales strategies. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is a key metric for any business dealing with clients and customers. This is the total cost of acquiring a new client, including marketing and sales expenses. It’s calculated over a specific period, and you can use the following formula: CAC = Total Cost of Sales and Marketing / Number of New Clients Acquired. Customer Lifetime Value is another common metric in business, and it’s calculated by adding up the total revenue you expect to earn from a client throughout their relationship with your business. You can calculate it as LTV = Average Revenue Per Client x Average Client Lifespan. A lower ratio between these two indicates a more cost-effective client acquisition strategy relative to the value the clients bring. Typically, a healthy CAC to LTV ratio would be below 1, indicating that the lifetime value of the client is higher than the cost to acquire them. KPI Formula: CAC to LTV Ratio = Customer Acquisition Cost / Lifetime Value of a Client 13. Executed Renewals This is a measure of how many lease renewals have been successfully completed within a specific time frame. This will help you understand your tenant retention rates and the stability of your income. A high number of renewals is the goal since reducing turnover can help cut costs and improve income and revenue. A low number of renewals could be a signal that resident satisfaction is on the decline or issues with property conditions, market competitiveness, etc. KPI Formula: Executed Renewals = Total Number of Renewed Leases within a Given Period 14. First Call Resolution & Number of Unanswered Calls The "First Call Resolution" KPI is essential in property management as it measures the efficiency and effectiveness of your customer service team in resolving tenants' or clients' issues during the first interaction. This metric indicates the quality of service and the ability to address concerns promptly. Essentially, you’re tracking how effective your team is at resolving an issue right away – or escalating it to the right person or process. You can also track the number of unanswered calls that come to your team to know if too many are getting missed. If you track days and times of unanswered calls, you can better understand where your team may have gaps or how to communicate to residents and clients the best way to contact your team. KPI Formula: First Call Resolution Rate = (Number of Issues Resolved on First Call / Total Number of Calls) x 100 15. Average Hold Time Average Hold time is a common KPI in any customer service or customer management role – but is just as important in property management. The metric helps assess the efficiency of your team’s call handling and refers to the average length of time callers are put on hold before speaking to someone. Longer hold times, as we all have experienced ourselves, generally lead to frustration and dissatisfaction, while shorter hold times can indicate your team is more efficient with service and your residents are happier. Reducing AHT is key to boosting resident experience and operational efficiency. KPI Formula: Average Hold Time (AHT) = Total Time Callers are on Hold / Total Number of Calls 16. Number of Overdue Tasks This KPI is critical for tracking the effectiveness and productivity of your team members. It tracks how any scheduled tasks or maintenance jobs are past their due date. Prioritizing this metric helps ensure that your team is tracking tasks in a way that drives efficiency and resident satisfaction. Obviously, a high number of overdue tasks can indicate workflow bottlenecks, staffing issues, or inefficiencies in task management. If this number is increasing, it’s a red flag (or maybe a beige flag?) that you should open up the hood and evaluate your operational effectiveness. KPI Formula: Total Tasks Scheduled - Total Tasks Complete on Time (it’s key to track deadlines for tasks) 17. Average # of Units Per Client While most SFR property managers work with clients who have one or two properties at most, you may want to consider this if you have any multifamily units or clients with a uniquely high number of units. The average # of units per client can help guide your business strategies and service offerings. It can also help you identify if your business is niche-ing down in the right direction. What kind of client do you want to work with? KPI Formula: Average Numbers of Units per Client = Total Number of Units Managed / Total Number of Clients 18. Average Google Review Rating While residents in single-family homes aren’t a great referral source, their reviews of your company can go a long way toward building your reputation and bringing you to the attention of new clients. Google reviews are a great way to track how your reputation is faring in your area. It may feel like moving this average up is out of your control, but you can influence it if you don’t like the direction it’s going. First of all, the baseline is to provide excellent service and resident benefits to boost your resident satisfaction. But beyond that, you can also give perks for filling out a review, simply ask good residents if they’re willing to give you a rating, etc. KPI Formula: Total Sum of Review Ratings / Total Number of Reviews 19. Number of Tenant Delinquencies This metric tracks how many of your residents are behind on their payments. It’s crucial for assessing the financial health of your rental portfolio and the effectiveness of your rent collection processes. If the number is higher than you’d like, you should look for a few culprits. Maybe you have several residents who aren’t able to make the payments, and you need to consider being more clear in your rental requirements at the application stage or your tenant screening process. Or, maybe it’s difficult for residents to figure out how to pay, and your payment system needs an update. KPI Formula: Ensure your property management system tracks the total number of tenants with overdue rent payments 20. Client Net Promoter Score (NPS) In SFR property management, residents don’t tend to make referrals, but you know who does? Clients. Your clients can be your best promoters if you’re looking to grow. And you can track how well you’re doing in that area by keeping track of your Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a widely used metric to gauge customer loyalty and satisfaction. To get it, you need to conduct a survey. Ask your clients how likely they are to recommend your property management services to others on a scale of 0-10. Categorize responses like this: Promoters (score 9-10): These are your most satisfied and loyal clients, who are likely to recommend your services. Passives (score 7-8): Satisfied but not enthusiastic clients who are unlikely to actively promote your business. Detractors (score 0-6): Unhappy clients who might not only refrain from recommending you but could potentially damage your reputation through negative word-of-mouth. Next, calculate the percentages of respondents who are promoters and detractors. Subtract the percentage of detractors from promoters: the result is your NPS. KPI Formula: NPS = (% of Promoters) - (% of Detractors) How 1,000s of Property Managers are Creating Triple Wins with Savvy KPIs Property management KPIs are critical to success in the property management industry. Tracking metrics like these eleven KPIs also set professional property managers apart from hobbyists or amateur landlords. The key to all of it is building metrics around the idea of incredible resident experiences – all aligned in such a way that we’re creating new value. When we’re focused on driving success in that arena, the resident does better, the investor does better, and our team and talent do better. Creating triple-win experiences for everyone involved allows a more rewarding relationship focused on lifetime value. Through value drivers like a Resident Benefits Package, property managers are building those wins across the industry.

Calendar icon April 10, 2023

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Marketing Ideas for Property Management Companies

When it comes to marketing ideas for property management business, the landscape has changed so much in the past few years. Digital marketing has phased out old practices and brought dynamic, exciting tools along with unique challenges. Effective Property management marketing will leverage those digital tools, while not losing the human touch that makes resident experience and engagement so effective. A property management marketing plan should include digital strategies, multiple channels, and goals for increasing your number of doors. Here we dive into the process of constructing a good marketing strategy for your property management company with 10 of the top marketing ideas for property management. We’re joined by Rodney Hays of Geekly Media (formerly RentBridge), who has spent a lot of time conducting marketing specifically for property managers, as well as Second Nature marketing professionals Carol Housel and Brandy Hammond. 10 Property Management Marketing Ideas To Grow Your Company We have 10 property management marketing ideas that leaders in the industry recommend for growing your PMC. They're cost-effective and shown to have high return on investment. 1. Create and Follow a Content Marketing Plan A big part of digital marketing for property management is content marketing, which is defined as media creation (videos, articles, social media) designed to inform rather than to persuade. A good content marketing strategy gives you access to potential clients in the places they are asking questions. This includes places like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google, where investors and potential investors consume real estate investment content that you can provide. The goal of content marketing is to grow your target audience and give them useful information that both adds value to their business and establishes your company as a subject-matter expert. So, what kind of content is useful in property management marketing? Here’s what Rodney Hays has to say: “[Real estate investors] are going to ask questions about lease agreements and tenant screening. They’re going to ask questions about evictions, emotional support animals, those types of questions are always going to come up.” 2. Invest in SEO to build Organic Traffic Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a website to send signals to search engines and their users to gain organic visibility. It helps extend your online presence. Search engines, mainly Google, are the number one place where people begin their search for information. Content hosted on your website that addresses the most common questions your target audience is asking can position you well on the search engine results page (SERP), leading to increased website traffic. So how do you find out what topics to build content around? SEO programs, such as Semrush and Ahrefs, have an incredible database of keywords and common search terms, along with insights for those terms such as how much competition exists in the rankings, how much search volume there is, and how often searches result in a click. You can also use the “people also ask” tab in the actual SERP to see what common questions are being asked. Then it’s just a matter of addressing the questions in a useful way to start increasing traffic to your website. A big part of SEO is identifying what your potential new clients are interested in. A good content marketing plan follows that up with useful content that addresses the questions and leverages the specific keywords associated with them. Useful is the keyword here. Google is smart, and the analysis it conducts on webpages is extensive, so it will know if you’re just writing some slop and jamming keywords into it. 3. Build a Content Distribution Strategy Okay, so now you’ve developed content that meets SEO requirements and hits on topics that bring value to your potential customer. What’s next? Now you need to build a high-quality content distribution strategy. In others words, figure out how to get your messaging in front of your target audience. A distribution strategy involves assessing where your primary audience is on a daily basis. You can likely reach them on social media platforms, email, direct mail, podcasts, regional conferences, local listings, and more. Identify what pieces of content best match each platform. For example, a longer form piece should be linked via social media with a catchy blurb or infographics to hook your readers. You can plan regular newsletters or other email campaigns or FAQs to leverage content, as well. A few of the best ideas for distributing your content: Share on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok Link to and reach out to real estate professionals and bloggers Ask to share gust posts on sites related to property management or real estate 4. Build an Email List Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience, drive new leads, and nurture existing ones. You can use email marketing tactics to increase sales and your bottom line. But it’s not always easy to nail email marketing on the target. According to MailChimp, the average open rate for property management emails is just under 20% and the click-through rate is less than 2%. Not great, we know. That’s why building the right email list can make all the difference. Creating a targeted email list requires a good amount of research, knowledge of your target market, and email marketing tools to help you get there. Digital marketing products like Hubspot, ZoomInfo, and Klaviyo can help you get there. 5. Host Networking Events For Brand Awareness Of course, digital isn’t everything – in-person events and community-building strategies work, especially in something as hands-on as property management. If you have the resources, hosting events can boost your brand awareness and company reputation in your area. Because property management is so regional – and creating a niche in the market is key to success – these highly targeted events work exceptionally well in the property management industry. A referral program is a great way to go about this, as long as its within legal regulations. 6. Invest in Online Advertisement Paid marketing efforts for property managers are more about visibility and awareness. They’re high-funnel and useful if you have a budget for them. Hays notes that Geekly clients opt for Facebook, LinkedIn, and sometimes Twitter as targeted social channels. Facebook and LinkedIn have far and away the most active property management discussions and, in addition to paid search, are where you can see the most value for your investment. When it comes to old- school paid marketing efforts, Facebook ads are among the best ways to advertise property management services. Ads on Facebook are pretty easy to run and include useful features for property managers such as geotargeting. “Facebook ads are a great gateway into paid ads, since Google ads typically require a much higher budget to get similar performance. Facebook in the past has had a lower cost per click, so you’re getting higher performance from it for less lift and less spend, which is why I recommend it as a really good starting point,” says Brandy Hammond, B2B Marketing Specialist at Second Nature. Certain ad platforms, including Facebook, also offer geotargeting and audience mirroring, which are useful to property managers who need to target specific audiences in specific regional areas. “One thing I do love about Facebook ads, like with any other kind of paid ads, is that you can geotarget. Especially with property management and real estate, it makes sense that you’re going to target a specific area because, depending on the scale of your PMC, you probably don’t have national properties,” continued Hammond. 7. Build and Execute a Social Media Marketing Strategy Your social media strategy should include connecting with and tagging important accounts in your area and industry, and building cross-links and cross-posts with other accounts that might have an audience with your target market. For every piece of content or event you plan, you need to map out how you will share it on social media. Rodney Hays of Geekly has opened a lot of industry news pages for clients and recommends sharing them across social channels whenever they’re updated. “Our customers will put their industry news page out there; they'll pull in like 15 or 16 new articles every month. And then, out of those 15 or 16, we will take eight of those and put a third-party link in it and send those out on social media as well. And I think that's done pretty well in bringing in some different traffic that you know, it's just another resource for the people that might be visiting your page,” says Hays. 8. Manage Your Online Reputation Your online reputation is made up of all the touchpoints anyone could have with your brand online. This includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Google Reviews, Yelp, and more. One of the biggest threats to online reputation is reviews. Your marketing plan should include regular maintenance and attention to your online reviews. How are people talking about you online in your comments section, Google Reviews, and Yelp Reviews? If you see any negative comments that have constructive feedback, make sure you reach out to the person and find out how you can improve or make it right. Respond to the review or comment publicly with a polite and professional tone. You can’t make everyone happy, but the way you deal with negative feedback goes a long way to protecting your online reputation. 9. Invest in Thought Leadership Content (Podcasts, Videos, Blogs) Many property managers maintain a constant stream of content through a website blog. Real-Time Leasing’s website has extensive content written by their CEO, Deb Newell, who is also a property management consultant. Others communicate useful content with podcasts, such as AHI Properties and Evernest (link to Andrew’s episode), both of which appeared on the Triple Win Property Management podcast. “Good content seizes opportunities you’ve identified through SEO or other forms of communications and delivers actual value to the readers. A holistic strategy covers both of those parts, and you’ll fail to realize the potential of your marketing efforts if you skip one of them,” says Second Nature Marketing Services Manager Carol Housel. A popular content curation strategy used by Geekly Media is the industry news page, an example of which can be found here. This is curated content. It’s not written by the property management company, but rather compiled from sources and shared all in one place, which still creates a lot of value and a reason for real estate investors to be on your website. 10. Build and Maintain Your Presence in Local Business Listings A point will come where a large portion of your new doors will come from referrals. People don’t usually get into real estate without talking to people, so word gets around. Welch-Randall, a property management firm based out of Ogden, Utah, attributes 92% of its new doors to referrals. This is the mark of a business with established authority reaping the benefits of the work it put in to create that trust. A big part of ensuring that you get those referrals is keeping a presence in local business listings. Make sure that people can easily find you, even if they hear of you through word-of-mouth. Stay top-of-mind with partners you’ve worked with, and keep your listings up to date. This is particularly useful in property management, where most of our work stays within specific local and regional areas. Final Thoughts Becoming an industry-leading property management company is about more than just the number of doors you manage. There is a saying in marketing that perception equals reality. If you want potential clients to perceive your company as an industry leader, you have to give them a reason to believe that you are. That’s the point of a marketing strategy that seeks to establish the company as an authority in the space. This is the end state of everything discussed above. This is the fruits of your labor. Real estate investors, especially new ones, above all else, are looking for expertise in the real estate field to guide them through the ownership of their assets. By achieving visibility and brand awareness via paid channels and SEO, and following that up with useful content that answers the questions most important to investors, you’re establishing your company as a trustworthy and knowledgeable option for investors. By answering the questions they have, you’re also driving them closer to a decision. And when you’ve provided them the answers, guess which PMC they’re most likely to want to work with.

Calendar icon March 29, 2023

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How to Value, Buy, or Sell a Property Management Company

Putting a precise figure on the value of a property management company can be challenging, given the changeable nature of the market. That’s why understanding what goes into the value calculation is crucial for both investors and business owners. Today, we’ll be discussing how property management company value is calculated, with an assist from Jock McNeill, VP of Acquisitions at PURE Property Management. Jock has completed over 70 property management acquisitions and has tons of insight into valuation models for property management companies. How to Value a Property Management Company: Contributing Factors Several factors help determine the value of a property management company, including revenue, profit margins, average rents, portfolio diversity, growth potential, and more. You can think of these as success metrics in determining “What is my company valuation?” Here are the most important factors to consider. 1. Profitability Before valuing a property management company, you need to determine profitability. Evaluate financial metrics like gross revenue, profit margins, cash flow or EBITDA, and debt-to-income ratios. McNeill explains how they evaluate this at PURE: “We evaluate proforma financial statements and arrive at a percent profitability based on adjustments we can make by removing ‘seller benefits’ such as vehicle leases, personal expenses, etc.” Two of the biggest red flags in terms of valuation, says McNeill, are “low revenue per door managed and low-profit margins. [These] can keep a business on the lower end of the valuation scale. These are often driven by low average rents and high labor costs.” 2. Consistency Consistency is key in valuing a property management company. A company with "lumpy" financial growth is risky. Steady growth in profitability, on the other hand, shows reliability and may provide a reliable basis for projecting potential returns on investment. The same goes for employee turnover: a revolving door of staff suggests instability. Similarly, consistent and well-organized records make a company more attractive to buyers (it facilitates due diligence processes and generally reduces the headache of taking over operations). In sum, consistency across finances, personnel, and records paints a picture of a well-run, predictable business, and that translates into higher value. 3. Portfolio churn Portfolio churn tells a story about the company's ability to keep clients happy, which directly affects its future revenue stream and overall value. High churn (i.e., with rental properties frequently leaving the portfolio) suggests difficulty retaining clients. This could be due to poor service, pricing issues, or a weak rental market. Low churn, with properties staying on board for extended periods, is an indicator of strong client relationships and high satisfaction – which reduces uncertainty for potential buyers. 4. Overhead costs Overhead costs refer to indirect expenses required to keep the business running smoothly, but that are not directly related to managing specific properties. Examples include rent and salaries (excluding those assigned to specific properties), office supplies, marketing, and software subscriptions. Expressed as a percentage of revenue, these overhead costs play an important role in valuation. A lower overhead percentage of total revenue indicates a more efficient company that is able to generate profit without excessive spending. In turn, this can translate to higher potential returns for investors. 5. Debt-to-income ratio Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is a key metric of a property management company's value. It shows the balance between a company's debt (loans and outstanding payments) and its ability to generate income (revenue). Lower DTI is better, as this indicates the company relies less on debt to operate. This suggests financial stability and a lower risk of defaulting on loans. A higher DTI, on the other hand, raises concerns about a company's ability to manage its debt burden. This can make it vulnerable to factors such as economic downturns, and cause investor hesitancy. 6. Customer concentration Customer concentration, or how reliant a property management business is on a single large client, can significantly impact its valuation. If a large portion of the portfolio belongs to a single owner, the company's income virtually depends on keeping that client happy – and if the owner decides to switch property managers, this could represent a severe financial blow. Property management companies with diversified portfolios are essentially spreading this risk thin, which is a plus for potential investors. 7. Transferability Business transferability, or the ease with which a property management company can be sold to a new owner, is a crucial factor in its valuation. A company that has well-documented processes, a strong team, and a healthy client base is easier to transfer to new ownership than a company lacking clear documentation, or that relies heavily on a single key employee. 8. Specialization Companies specializing in a specific type of property (e.g., single-family homes) develop deep expertise in that market. This expertise translates to better service for clients with that portfolio profile, potentially leading to higher client retention and satisfaction. Loyal clients are a valuable asset and boost a company's worth. 9. Contract terms The contract terms of properties under management are another important consideration. Management contracts with longer terms and automatic renewals create a more predictable stream of recurring revenue for the company over a period of time. Property management fees are another important consideration. Stability is attractive to investors, as it makes future income streams steadier and more predictable. Conversely, short-term contracts with frequent renegotiations introduce uncertainty about future rental income, potentially lowering valuation. 10. Future Growth Potential And, of course, signs of growth potential are critical to a PMC’s valuation. Many buyers are thinking about company value related to size. According to McNeill, “Growth potential can influence how we approach a deal. If we can grow organically and quickly in a market, that can be very attractive. What a seller may perceive to be a problem in their business can be the acquirer’s opportunity. Maybe the issue is as simple as better systems, we can help with that.” Growth potential can be in the form of the real estate market in the area, but also opportunities to grow the business with existing residential properties. It’s also key to see a demonstrated network within those key markets. Property management is still largely driven by personal contacts and business relationships. Having strong contacts and connections in key markets is an important sign of growth potential. How to Calculate the Value of a PM Company: Valuation Multiples Valuation multiples are a key tool for determining the fair market value of a property management firm because they leverage comparable market data to establish a standard for pricing. We’ll cover the basics and provide some examples. Property Management Company valuation multiples to consider For a given company, valuation multiples compare key financial metrics such as earnings or revenue, to the market value of similar companies that have recently been sold. When using valuation multiples, the caveat is that it's important to compare companies that are truly similar in terms of size, clientele, and service offerings. Three common types used for property management companies are SDE (seller’s discretionary earnings) multiples, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) multiples, and revenue multiples. SDE multiples for a property management company The SDE (Seller's Discretionary Earnings) multiple focuses on the cash flow available to the business owner after accounting for all business expenses and taxes (excluding owner salaries and perks). The SDE times its multiple is one way of representing the value of a business. A higher SDE indicates a more profitable company, and the SDE multiple applied will reflect that. In the property management industry, a company with a strong track record of SDE might command a higher SDE multiple (say, 2.5-3 times SDE) compared to a less profitable company (say, 1.5-2 times SDE). An established company with steady profitability might be valued at 2.5 times its SDE. If its SDE is calculated at $1 million, this would result in an SDE x 2.5 = $2.5 million business valuation. EBITDA multiples for a property management company The EBITDA multiple is similar to the SDE multiple but excludes non-cash expenses like depreciation and amortization, and also ignores owner compensation. A growth-oriented company might be valued at 6 times its EBITDA. If its EBITDA is calculated at $700,000, this would result in an EBIDTA x 6 = $4.2 million valuation. Revenue multiples for a property management company Revenue multiples simply take a company's total revenue and multiplies it by a factor to arrive at a valuation. For example, a rapidly growing company with a revenue of $2 million might be valued at 2 times its annual revenue, resulting in a $4 million valuation. What multiple should you consider when valuing a property management company No one multiple tells the full story. It is, after all, just an indicator, and cannot predict the future. That said, revenue multiples are a less common metric for property management companies compared to SDE or EBITDA multiples, given that revenue alone doesn't reflect profitability. Indeed, this multiple is often used in conjunction with other multiples for a more accurate picture. Valuators of property management companies are more likely to use EBITDA multiples alongside SDE multiples to get a more comprehensive view. Increasing the value of a property management company before the sale For owners of a PMC looking to sell, your first goal is obviously to increase the value of your business as much as possible before the sale, in order to increase the eventual purchase price. Keep in mind, though, that increasing your company value doesn’t need to become a barrier to selling. In fact, McNeill warns not to be too perfectionistic on that front. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that valuation is only based on revenue, and you have to have your business in perfect condition to sell,” McNeill says. “There are many factors that influence valuation, but for PURE, revenue and profit margins are most important. We’ve also seen a lot of potential sellers stall in early discussions because they want to wait to get their shop in order, implement new initiatives, or clean up their books. It isn’t always necessary, and trust me, we’ve seen it all.” Here are some industry tips for increasing your PMC’s value to buyers or property owner investors. Invest in your business infrastructure By this, we mean that you should invest in technology and people. Reinvesting in your business will make it healthier and more valuable to potential investors. On the tech side, you could adopt new property management software, update your current tech infrastructure, or integrate the newest AI-enabled tools. On the people side, you don’t necessarily need to hire more employees. Rather, ensure that the people on your team are as equipped as possible. Invest in excellent recruiting and onboarding processes, ensure you have robust training programs, etc. Integrate ancillary services We’ve talked a lot on our blog about how to develop ancillary programs to drive income. Ancillary fees aren’t just a cash grab – they’re a way to add needed value for residents and investors while driving profit for your PMC. Ancillary property management services can include things like: Renter’s insurance programs Credit-building Supportive services like air filter delivery Resident rewards And more! One of the best value-added services is to integrate a resident benefits package into your program. Develop marketing strategies You should be able to show potential investors that you have a strong marketing plan that has proven to grow your business over time. Your marketing strategy should include a content plan, distribution, social media strategies, networking events, and more. Pay attention to things like your reviews and online reputation as well. Marketing your property management company well will pay off in dividends when you are ready to sell. How to sell a property management company Completing a thorough valuation is just the first step in selling a property management company. If you’ve done the work to value your PMC, the next steps will be much easier. Whether you're looking to retire or simply move on to a new business venture, selling your property management company requires careful planning and execution – with the following steps. Identify potential buyers The next step after valuing your PMC is to identify potential buyers. The field of possible buyers may include other property management firms in your area, real estate investors, or even individual buyers looking to enter the industry. Determine how you want to sell In his article on valuing your PMC, Lohmann outlines the two different transaction types in how a property management company can be purchased: A stock sale. In a stock sale, the buyer will purchase shares of your business. They take on all past liabilities of your company but also get to hold onto your brand, contracts, and vendor relationships. The depreciation of long-lived assets is not reset. Asset sale, also known as Goodwill. In this case, the buyer buys your “book of business.” They’re paying for the property management agreements or contracts your PMC holds. If any of your contracts aren’t assignable, you’ll need to get an individual agreement from those investors. Prepare your PMC for a sale Next, you'll want to prepare your property management company for sale. This may include making necessary upgrades to your facilities, improving your management processes, and ensuring that all financial records are up-to-date and accurate. According to McNeill, the question you should ask yourself is: “How can I best tell the story of my company to a potential buyer? Are my financials detailed, and can I show a buyer I have great margins (or how they can achieve them)?” Work with a qualified broker or attorney Finally, when it comes time to negotiate a sale, it's important to work with a qualified business broker or attorney who can help you navigate the complex legal and financial aspects of the sale. With their guidance, you can ensure that you get the best possible price for your property management company while also protecting your interests and ensuring a smooth transition of ownership for your employees and clients. How to buy a property management company But what if you’re on the buying side? Buying a property management company can be a great investment opportunity, but you can’t sleep on due diligence. Before you start the process of purchasing a property management company, there are several key steps you should take to ensure that you make an informed and profitable decision. Research thoroughly & find a PMC that fits The first step in buying a property management company is–like with anything–to do your homework. Thorough research on PMCs involves identifying potential acquisition targets, analyzing their financial performance, and evaluating their market position. You'll want to look at factors such as revenue growth, profit margins, and client retention rates, as well as any potential growth opportunities that may make the company more valuable in the future. Basically, everything we covered in the sections above! If you already run a PMC, you want to make sure the business model can integrate with your structure. But again, McNeill cautions against being too rigid on this one. “We have yet to see a company that does everything the PURE way after over 60 acquisitions. Our partner integration team jumps in quickly and has a plan in place before we close a deal. If a seller has already implemented similar ancillary revenue models, such as a resident benefit package, etc., it means we can optimize that faster than rolling it out from scratch. Our proven platform includes the people, processes, relationships, and technology to consolidate, tech-enable, and optimize the companies we acquire carefully and thoughtfully. We have an all-star team of industry insiders, innovators, and leaders already in place, so when we bring on new teams, the integration is pretty smooth.” Conduct due diligence and identify liabilities Okay, so let’s say you’ve identified a potential PMC you’d like to buy. Now it’s time for due diligence. This involves reviewing financial records, contracts, and legal documents to ensure that there are no hidden liabilities or risks associated with the company. Additionally, you'll want to evaluate the quality of the company's management team, as well as its operational processes and systems. Determine fair market value After completing the due diligence process, you'll need to determine the fair market value of the property management company. This involves taking into account a range of factors, including its current and projected financial performance, market position, and growth potential. Once you have a clear understanding of the company's value, you can begin the negotiation process with the seller. Work toward a smooth transition Finally, once the sale is complete, it's important to take steps to ensure a smooth transition of ownership. This may involve working with the existing management team to establish clear roles and responsibilities, as well as communicating with clients and stakeholders to ensure that they are aware of the change in ownership. According to McNeill: “A buyer should make sure they have the foundation in place to integrate an acquisition into their existing operation. Look for opportunities to add value for the clients and residents, and that will turn into value for you as a buyer. Anything you can do to create a simple and satisfying experience for clients and residents will help with the anxiety that can come with a sale.” Conclusion Ultimately, the value of a property management company will depend on a range of factors, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to valuation. But the bottom line is that by following a structured and analytical approach, you can feel confident in your valuation, which will help you make informed decisions about buying or selling the business. Whether you're a business owner looking to sell your property management company or an investor looking to make an acquisition, a proper valuation is essential to ensuring a successful transaction.

Calendar icon March 23, 2023

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How To Ensure A Smooth Resident Benefits Package Rollout

Rollout is a high stress time for any new program, but it doesn't have to be. One of the leading concerns for property managers any time they seek to roll out a new program is resident pushback. In the property manager/resident relationship, there’s a narrative that’s persisted for too long that the two parties are at odds with each other and playing some sort of zero sum game. Oftentimes, this is internalized by residents who have been exposed to said narrative or have had a bad experience themselves, and the natural inclination is to push back on any advances from their management team. Related: State of Resident Experience Study Having to battle this is one of the main concerns property managers have when it comes to introducing a resident benefits package. This includes Kyle Hendricks, Vice President of Hendricks Property Management in San Antonio, Texas. “It was ours. For a couple years, we were like ‘I don’t know if that's going to work, you know?’ But it’s the same with a lot of programs that we’ve rolled out. Our fears are never really founded. The pushback is usually pretty minimal if at all, and it was the same here.” ‍Read more about why pushback on RBP is minimal ‍So how did Hendricks Property Management deliver such a seamless rollout? Well, it’s pretty simple actually. It’s all in the communication. Hendricks was quick to note that open communication and transparency are big keys to minimizing pushback and easing the path to successful rollout. The actual logistical rollout of an RBP is handled by Second Nature, so there’s very little for the property management company to actually physically do, making acceptance and adoption by residents and investors their primary concern. Hendricks Property Management nailed this part with clear and concise communication. Second Nature's resident facing flyer “The flier that Second Nature provided was a pretty clear point of communication. It says on there that you’re being enrolled in this mandatory program and the charge is this much. It’s just simple like ‘welcome to Hendricks Property Management, we give you a resident benefits package, here are the things you get with the resident benefits package.’ Because of course the question is ‘what am I paying for? You’re saying this is a benefit package, what are the benefits?’ So that just clearly outlined what they were, and did everyone love it? Not necessarily, but the amount of pushback was definitely minimal." Beyond the reality that most residents simply don’t object to a resident benefits package, clear and open communication is part of a great resident experience anyway and will certainly ease any fears you have about rollout, as well as any fears residents or investors might have. It's another part of delivering a triple win. “Be ultra transparent and get it done in the beginning, just saying, we're not hiding anything. This is what you're being enrolled in. This is what it is. I think that helped the adoption rate a little bit. And if people did call in with questions, we were happy to answer them and talk to them about it. So ultimately, it was fine. But I don't think we did anything special. I think just making sure we had that transparency up front was crucial.” ‍A resident benefits package creates a triple win. Everyone benefits. The purpose of clear and open communication is to establish those benefits within the perception held by the resident and owner parties. They may not know much about this, they may have never heard of a resident benefits package, so you have the opportunity and responsibility to show them the value it creates for them and how you are committed to ensuring it remains a mutually beneficial undertaking. Hendricks touched on how team buy-in has affected Hendricks Property Management’s ability to do this. “For me and anything that we adopt, we believe that if it's not something I can stand behind and competently tell a tenant or owner ‘this is good,’ then I'm probably not going to do it. I was easily able to do that with this program. So get your team on board. If they can't confidently tell a tenant or an owner, this is what it is, this is why, and this is how it benefits you and your tenant, then you're going to run into trouble because they can tell if it's kind of lackadaisical, if it's just this thing that the owner of the company wants to do. We try not to go ‘well it is what it is, so just deal with it.’ We try to explain in a positive way what the benefits are. So kind of getting that script together, you don't have to be like a robot or anything like that, but just have the main talking points available to your staff about what the benefits are.” At the end of the day, ensuring a great rollout of your RBP with minimal friction isn't too hard. It's just about positioning the services as the mutually beneficial programs they are and always being up front and willing to communicate. From there, the sky is the limit with resident experience.

Calendar icon March 21, 2023

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Why You Should Focus On Resident Experience

What's the best way to stand out from other Property Management Companies? How can you stay relevant and keep residents and owners happy? Andrew Smallwood from Second Nature explains why focusing on the resident experience can make all the difference. Related: State of Resident Experience Study For more on the topic of wow-ing your residents and building resident retention, check out some of our other articles and podcasts: Top Resident Retention Ideas from Real Property Managers How to Screen Tenants: Tips for Property Managers Types of Resident Problems and How to Handle Them How to Streamline Property Maintenance for a Business Win How to Ensure a Smooth Rollout of Your Resident Benefits Package Here's more from Andrew on how to approach resident experience, and the best perspectives he gather along the way. ‍ TRANSCRIPT Andrew Smallwood: Hey everybody, Andrew Smallwood back again with Stevie Wonder for a quick video. And in today's video we're going to talk a little bit about how property managers have been resonating with this concept of focusing on experience. And I want to share with you a concept that I need to credit to Joe Pine. And you know what Joe Pine says: Hey, if you go back hundreds of years, materials were valuable. People were trading wood for metal, for gold, etc. And what happened is those materials became commoditized. And so in order to create value, those materials got turned into products. The metal turned into nails, right? The wood turned into a wall, etc., or a skateboard or what have you. And so materials turned into products and suddenly the dollar amount here that was very low and commoditized went here and the dollar amount became more. But at a certain point, products even have become more competitive and commoditized. And what you've seen more recently, the last few decades, is a move to services, the services that are built around those products. So it's not just, here's a nail, but here's also a person to help you hang everything in your home and have it designed the way that you want. Instead of just here's a skateboard, here's also a teacher to help teach you how to use it. And even now, we've seen commoditization of service industries, entire industries, being commoditized. And a lot of people are noticing and saying that's what's been happening in property management. And so where does that lead us next? It's really, here's where we are now: experiences. The customization of materials leads to products, the customization of products leads to services, the customization of services leads to experiences. Whereas commoditization moves things down this way, and the value goes down here -- the value goes up as you move up this way. And so experience is really the name of the game today, and that's why we have RBP is because we believe the experience, the number one resident experience is where property managers are going to win. The people who create the best experiences for owners, the best experiences for residents, the best experiences for their team, create what we call a triple win. And an RBP is just a great example of a triple win. It's why we've had the podcast, it's why we've had so much of this content. This is just part of the mental framework of what we believe is important and part of the way that we see the world. Would love your commentary if you've read The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine. Would love to hear your thoughts. If you haven't, would love to hear your thoughts. And we hope this helps you in some small way or some big way. With that, take care.

Calendar icon March 21, 2023

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Four Keys to Successfully Scaling A Property Management Company

Today we're looking at the best ways to successfully scale a property management company. And we're going to an industry expert with our questions: Patrick Freeze. Patrick Freeze was once a professional poker player. Now he is the CEO of Bay Property Management, a Baltimore-based firm that has scaled to nearly 6,000 doors and is one of the largest PMCs on the east coast. While his personal origin story is one of the most interesting in the PM industry, his company’s growth story and the tactics used to go from nothing to a heavily-scaled PMC are equally interesting. Through a marketing-focused approach that was complimented by intentional and detailed process optimization, Freeze achieved an impressive amount of growth at Bay, and he joined us to explain exactly how he got there. Four Keys to Successfully Scale Your PMC Here are Freeze's top strategies. Optimize Your Marketing for Efficient Growth From day one, Bay Property Management has invested in its organic marketing efforts to help attract new business. Freeze himself became an expert in SEO early on and it’s the primary focus of his robust marketing team today. “I started reading everything I could on online marketing, so SEO, pay per click, etc. Over that coming year, I became really skilled at doing all the marketing on my own,” says Freeze. “So if you were to type in property management companies, Baltimore property management companies, or any variation of those keywords, we could come up number one. And then we started getting phone calls 24/7.” Bay grew rapidly as a result of its ability to generate web traffic and organic leads through SEO, and Freeze doubled the size of the business on a yearly basis for several years after the initial launch, eventually expanding into four different markets. Freeze credits his and his team’s investment in low-funnel digital marketing tactics as the catalyst for his rapid business growth. The CEO estimates he gets between 120 and 140 new single-family leads a week, with almost all of them coming from online sources. “We have 10 people in our marketing department that solely focus on that. Google is actually going through a big algorithm update right now, and you have to be on that. If you’re not on top of that, you’re not going to rank well in search. We spend a lot of time on that. Someone could probably argue the other side and say you should be more diversified, but at least that’s worked for us.” Process Improvement Never Takes A Back Seat One of the biggest pitfalls as a business grows is its process development and refinement. Scale requires processes, and enacting and optimizing these can often be a much bigger challenge than actually growing the client list. A rapidly growing PMC has already optimized its process for finding new business. Defining the systems your company will depend on to be efficient is a new undertaking, something Freeze learned quickly as Bay grew to nearly 200 employees. “When you’re managing 500 units, you know everyone at the company very well, and you can get away with not having systems, policies, procedures. When you have 190 people, you really have to have your systems down,” says the CEO. Freeze notes that the challenges that come with a large company are not universal, and what you have to be prepared for at 50 employees is different from 150. It pays to have continuous improvement and always be optimizing. Process management is never something that’s done. “So I think probably scaling from let's call it, you know, five employees to 15 to 50 To 100. You have to keep iterating. You have to continuously make improvements on what you're doing. So what worked for, let's call it 200 doors is not going to work for 1,000. So a good example, I guess when we started out. We had one person handling maintenance, we had one person handling accounting, we had one person as the property manager, right? And I would go out and get new business. Well, as the company continued to grow then we had two people on maintenance. And then we had two property managers. And as we were growing, we realize, wait a second, when a work order comes in, whose work order is that?” Early on in the company’s growth, Freeze sought to define the exact responsibilities of all positions within the company in order to minimize overlap. Overlap in roles leads to inefficiencies that can be avoided with clear guidelines as to exactly what role is responsible for what upcoming tasks. “We have a handbook for our property managers that’s probably 80 pages. We have a procedural guide for every single position,” says Freeze. “I don’t think anyone whom I’ve talked to that has scale has not had very, very defined policies, procedures, handbooks, because if you don’t, it’s going to be a total mess.” Structure has helped create more traceable outcomes, which results in processes that are “more easily optimized and improved as the company continues to grow. “We made a change when we had about 1000 or 1200 units from having maintenance coordinators and property managers to just having the property managers handle everything. It was a big switch for the company, but I think it was for the better because we know exactly when there’s a mistake that’s made. We can trace that and see exactly who was responsible for the problem instead of having four hands in the pie.” Quality Employees Are The Backbone of Growth “I don’t think there is anything more important than having good quality employees,” says Freeze. “You can get all the new business you want but if you don’t have good employees managing the new property, you’re going to lose it as quickly as you gained it.” Bay did not grow to almost 200 employees without a developed process for finding good quality workers. While the hiring process has become much more role-specific now, Freeze credits a unique interview design that’s much more action-focused than response-focused as what has helped him pick the most suited people for property management. “I had a list of 30 to 40 questions that had nothing to do with property management. I would ask questions like ‘who is the vice president?’ ‘What is 46 times 24?’ I used to have this brick wall in my office and I would ask how many bricks are on the wall. I would ask them to name something that’s complicated but you know really, really well, and take five minutes and explain it to me. And I would just keep going on and on for probably 30 minutes with these questions.” Freeze never particularly cared if the candidates got the answers correct. He was much more interested in their process for getting to the answers and how they handled the abnormal interview. “In property management, you’re constantly dealing with problems. You’re basically problem-solving when you’re a property manager, and if you can’t deal with complicated questions, you’re probably not going to be able to deal with complicated situations. So I would just start blasting off for 30 minutes all these random questions, and some people did great with it and we would hire them. We probably had 25% of all people who wouldn’t even finish the interview.” Resiliency is a key trait for a property manager, and Bay’s interview process succeeded in testing for one of the harder traits to ID in an interview setting. Freeze’s process also includes a timed writing test designed to see if candidates can write clearly and quickly when applying for a company that’s very email heavy. The process is designed to test ability more so than experience, and it’s helped get the right people in place from the beginning, allowing Bay to offer a better property management service that is more marketable. Compliance Is Key Compliance is hard enough in the heavily regulated world of property management, but one of the biggest challenges as you expand into other markets is managing the different laws and ordinances in each individual market. Freeze believes that compliance is “far and away” the biggest challenge of scale. “All of our leasing agents have to know different things in different jurisdictions that we’re in, because the requirements are different,” says Freeze. “We have attorneys review our stuff every single year, all of our lease documents, addendums, etc. Even with all that said, there is so much legislation that is passed every quarter that it can be tough to stay up on it.” Managers at Bay’s regional offices are required to be diligent in remaining current with the nuances in local leasing laws and ordinances, which can change monthly. “They really are changing that much, as crazy as that sounds. And then when COVID happened, it was a complete and utter nightmare. They were changing weekly, and the odds of getting hit with a big class-action lawsuit go up, and you can be sued for something that you don’t even know you’re doing wrong. So always make sure you are totally buttoned up and spending extra money on compliance. I can’t say that enough. You can’t spend too much on that.” Advantages of Scaling a Property Management Business With these tools for scaling a PMC, you can increase the size and scope of your business in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency, profitability, and growth. Let’s look at what benefits you stand to gain from scaling your business. Business growth Scaling a business can help to grow your business by expanding the customer base, increasing sales volume, and improving operational efficiency. Improved profitability As a business grows, it can benefit from economies of scale, which can help to reduce costs and improve profitability. Competitive advantage Scaling a business can help to create a competitive advantage by allowing it to offer a wider range of products or services, enter new markets, and achieve greater brand recognition. Improved access to capital A larger and more successful business is often able to attract more investment and secure better financing terms, which can help to fuel further growth. In the case of property management, it can also drawn clients. Attracting and retaining top talent Scaling a business can help to create new opportunities for employees, increase job security, and improve overall job satisfaction, which can help to attract and retain top talent. Increased innovation As a business grows, it can invest more resources into research and development, which can help to drive innovation and create new products or services. Tools You Need to Scale Your Property Management Business The property management industry is an enormously tech-savvy group of people. In our network of property management companies, we’ve seen quick adoption of new tools and tech like AI, cloud-based systems, etc. Of course, the property management tools you choose will depend on the specific needs and goals of your PMC. Second Nature’s RBP aims to provide tools that are customizable across multiple property management levels, needs, and niches. With fully managed and integrated services that add value for residents and investors you can much more easily see the benefits of scale. Here are some other tools and property management software we’ve seen most highly rated in our industry. Slack: A cloud-based platform that makes communicating with your team easy. You can get immediate responses from team members, and even vendors or clients you add to your channels. LeadSimple: Sales CRM and process automation RentCheck: Automating property inspections Process Street: No-code, simple process and workflow management Airtable: a low-code platform to build collaborative apps to visualize data, processes, etc. Zapier: A tool that allow syou to integrate all your applications and set up automated workflows between them. These are just a few of the many property management tools available. It's important to evaluate the specific needs and goals of your business, and choose a tool that best fits those requirements. How Second Nature Helps With Scaling Second Nature was built on the idea that we could help make property management easier for everyone involved – residents, investors, and especially property managers. To that end, we’ve built fully managed services that generate greater value for your PMC by delivering better resident experiences. Our team takes care of the details for you so that your team can focus on growth, reputation, and quality. Learn more about Second Nature’s industry-leading resident benefits package and how it can help you scale with greater ease.

Calendar icon March 21, 2023

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The Pod System Defined by Phil Vera

The Pod System helps Auben Realty provide an excellent resident experience at scale. ‍ Auben Realty CEO Phil Vera joined us on The Triple Win Podcast to discuss a number of topics in the property management industry, including the innovative Pod System. The Pod System is a management technique Auben instituted in recent years that’s helped them to focus on long-term benefits of a great resident experience while building meaningful relationships with investors to create a triple win where all parties benefit. This triple win is also the concept behind Second Nature's Resident Benefits Package. Related: State of Resident Experience Study What is the Pod System? As Vera explains, most property management companies employ traditional property managers who serve as a jack of all trades for the properties they are tasked with managing. This is portfolio-based management. They handle everything from leasing, to maintenance requests, to communication with the investor and the resident for their portfolio of properties. The end of the spectrum opposite a portfolio-based company structure is a departmental structure, where employees handle a specific piece of the management channel for many different properties. Neither is necessarily a wrong way to do things, and both work well for certain companies, but Auben was convinced there had to be a better way. Enter the Pod System. The Pod System is innovative because it has hybridized portfolio with departmental, creating teams of people to manage a portfolio of properties, with each person serving in a specific role. This structure allows Auben to provide excellent and reliable communication as part of its resident and investor experience while not sacrificing the advantages of an effectively scaled property management company. How does it create a Triple Win? Within each team, Auben employs an Investor Account Manager. These roles are designed to foster a great working relationship with investors and create open and accessible communication channels. “They are the investor’s main point of contact,” said Vera. “They build a relationship with the investor, provide updates, communication flow, all those things. If an investor has a question, they pick up the phone and they call their investor account manager and they have a direct line.” This is a differentiating experience for Auben, as most PM companies don’t offer a direct line of contact for investors. Auben employs a resident experience manager as well, which Vera touches on, noting the value it’s created for Auben. “We kind of went outside of the norm and we created the resident experience manager. So traditional property management, we’re focused on the investor. That’s our client. The resident pays rent. If you don’t pay rent, we’ll find someone else who can. We wanted to kind of think outside the box there and say ‘okay, the resident is important in investing because if we can decrease vacancy and reduce turnover and keep the residents happy, they’ll stay in our properties for long periods of time and ultimately increase the investor’s return as well.’” The innovative company structure used by Auben is a perfect example of creating a Triple Win. Auben has built itself around the importance of the resident and investor experience, and the satisfaction those parties receive as a result directly benefit Auben in the long-term. Experience is the key term there, as that's what property management companies need to start delivering to stay ahead of the curve in an evolving industry. Being part of the first wave of companies to transition their offerings from service to experience creates an opportunity to grow and thrive that isn't otherwise available in the SFR space, and that's the reasoning behind Auben's innovative pod system. Have you thought about implementing a Pod System in your PMC? Do you think it could work for you, too?

Calendar icon March 21, 2023

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What is the Triple Win in Property Management

What is The Triple Win?

In this video, Andrew Smallwood walks you through the process of the triple win. Property management strategies have historically been focused on a zero sum game: getting the most out of your clients for the least amount of work. But in the end, that strategy doesn't generate more value for anyone. The Triple Win is about a completely different business mindset. It's all about finding a way to elevate the SFR rental experience for everyone - Residents, Owners, and Property Managers. We aim to help build property management products and services that add value for all three. In this video, Andrew talks about how to build programs that deliver wins. That's why we call our podcast the Triple Win Podcast. In it, we talk with property management and real estate experts around the country and outline the best innovations in the SFR property management space. Programs like an filter delivery service, move-in concierge, credit reporting, and more. All of these can be wrapped into a Resident Benefits Package (RBP). These programs help solve for what residents want, and what they'll pay for and stay for. It also helps build the kind of behavior the property managers and investors need. Andrew introduces these concepts in the video below. To learn more, get in touch with our Triple Win Leadership Council, or join the Triple Win Leadership Exchange. ‍ ‍ TRANSCRIPT: Andrew Smallwood: Hey everybody, Andrew Smallwood coming back again. Listen, I wanted to record one more short video because the last one got such great feedback, and I had an idea that I've been talking about to a number of folks and they say has really been resonating with them. Again, I'm just going to move over here for a little visual help. People have been talking about, "Hey, this triple win concept in your podcast and everything like that, what's really going on here?" There's three parties that professional property managers are thinking about anytime they're making a decision or structuring their business. And that's residents, owners, and then you and your team. Here is often what property managers feel stuck with: They make a decision that benefits their owners, maybe in a meaningful way, right? But there's a little bit of a trade-off as far as how it impacts a resident, and then here's their team cut in the middle between these two expectations, right? It feels like everything's kind of going every direction. What we want with a triple win is something more like this, right? You've got your residents, owner, you and your team, and everybody benefits. So you've got this powerful, aligned transformative effect in the business. Everybody going the same direction, everybody impacted in a positive way. When you think about this, it's like, "Hey, when you structure a new fee or a new program or what have you, it's really keeping in mind, 'How do we do this in such a way that it elevates the experience for everyone, and that that story is all lined up, the incentives are all lined up.'" Listen, I'm not telling you this is the only way to do things. Some of you may be saying like, "Of course, it's obvious this would be the way you would do things." But for some property managers, it isn't. For some property managers, there are questions like, "Well, hey, I make so much on maintenance. Do I really want to prevent maintenance?" That's really just a question of how do you want to align your value. Meaning if, yes, you make money from reactive maintenance, maybe there's a benefit here that you can say, "Hey, I'm monetizing all that reactive maintenance." But for property owners, we know that's no good and for residents, that's no good as well. So while it may be a win here, it's a single win and it's a double L, right? Preventive maintenance means a win for the resident, it means a win for the owner, and it means prevented work for your team and you can monetize your preventive maintenance. So it's still a win for your bottom line as well. That's really the takeaway: This lens that we're talking about seeing the world through. Once you put this lens on, it's like you can never see anything the same way again. Just like glasses change your view of the world, or a microscope or a telescope give you a different view of something that you're looking at, so does the triple win lens. Hope this video is helpful. Would love your feedback. Shoot me a comment, email, wherever you're seeing this. Would love to hear your stories of triple wins or how you structured things or what you implemented in order to create a triple win and transform your property management business. With that, until next time, keep rocking. See you.

Calendar icon February 16, 2023

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Property Management FAQs About Resident Retention

Resident retention is one of the best ways for property management companies to drive greater success for their business and their clients. Residents who stay longer ensure consistent revenue, often take better care of the property, and help make planning more predictable. But resident retention can be a moving target. In a recent Buildium survey, 36% of single-family rental residents said they were on the fence about renewing their lease in the coming year. We’ve talked a lot here about resident retention and ideas for building long-term success with residents. Today, we want to do something a little different. We decided to ask a property management expert about her experiences with building resident retention, and we’re sharing our Q&A with her here. ‍ Key Learning Objectives: Recent trends and data on resident retention How retention strategies can save money Best ideas for setting up a resident retention program: What works and doesn’t work How to calculate resident retention rates ‍ Meet the Expert: Melissa Gillispie, Director of Leasing & Property Management at JWB Real Estate Capital Melissa started her career with JWB in 2013 and is currently the Director of Property Management. She is the licensed real estate broker for JWB and plays an integral role that has led JWB to manage over 4,900 single-family homes in Jacksonville FL, being the largest local rental management company in Northeast FL. Under her purview, JWB has delivered over 26 million dollars in cash flow to its current clients through exceptional management services. Melissa also sits on the Board for NARPM Northeast FL as the Membership Co-Chair. She won the 2022 NARPM Rocky Maxwell award for dedicated service and contribution to NARPM. She is married to her husband of 14 years and has three sons aged 11, 9, and 6. When she is not working, she can be found at the football and soccer fields cheering her sons on! Why should property managers pay attention to resident retention rates? Can you share some recent data or trends about resident retention? Melissa: Resident retention is a direct reflection of your customer experience. If people enjoy working with you, they'll stay. If they don't, they won't. We use resident retention as a key benchmark for measuring our customer service. In our market, we renew 72% of our leases annually. A standard PM benchmark historically is that about a 70% renewal rate for residents is a huge success. Some factors currently impacting retention include the housing market, higher interest rates, and tax/insurance cost increases. These factors make buying harder, which drives more rental retention. On the flip side, due to rising costs for investor clients, rent rates are climbing to keep up with those costs – which can be a big objection to overcome with residents. Swallowing the pill of a $150-$200 increase in rent can be tough for a resident on a fixed income. That makes their experience with us even more important. If they don't enjoy the experience, they most certainly won't agree to that level of rent increase. Related: How to write a rent increase letter. How can resident retention strategies save property managers money? Melissa: Residents who stay longer-term tend to make on-time payments more often, take better care of the home, and reduce vacancy costs/leasing burdens. These benefits lead to better rent collection and increased management fee collection, happier clients with lower turn costs, and a lower market-to-move-in or days-on-market metric for leasing because their inventory continues to be reasonable and controlled. What are some of the best ideas to set up a resident retention program? Melissa: Reach out early and often! We start reaching out to residents six months before their lease expires. Make the reason for that initial touch point just to "check in" – because it’s about relationships! People like to feel valued. Get creative with incentives for long-term leases! We offer all kinds of crazy resident incentives. We even bought a resident their very own bounce house when the client's homeowners insurance made the resident remove their large trampoline. Identify the real roadblock or concern, and do everything in your power to listen and solve it. Listen to any real complaints. If there are maintenance issues, solve them. If there are communication concerns, address them. Residents want to know that when they voice a real concern, you hear them and work hard to partner with them to fix it! What are some ideas for PMs who are struggling with resident retention? What have you seen work well? What doesn’t work? Melissa: The best advice I can give is this: Communication and expectations are KEY. Start to work for the renewal on Day 1 of the original lease term, and consider how you can increase your communications. Be transparent. Be open to feedback. See retention as a bottom-line revenue driver. See retention as a benchmark for how residents are experiencing your company. Set a budget for creative incentives, and then encourage your team to USE THAT MONEY UP! The more "dopamine hits" you can give for those feel-good connection moments, the better! I think creativity is understated in property management. We focus so much on difficult interactions. How can we increase the positive ones? Who doesn't love to feel celebrated, seen, valued, appreciated, and considered? Do you recommend using property management software or tools to help improve resident retention? What are some of the best options? Melissa: Automation is key as you scale your business. We manage around 5,000 doors, and without the ability to send email and text blasts, etc., we'd struggle to achieve the high touchpoint mentality we have. I think the larger your business, the more important these tools become. You can only grow at the pace at which your business can efficiently scale without having to continually add more staff. Text Magic is a low-cost solution for texting, call fire is a great option for mass-dialing and automated phone messaging. Any PM software has great reporting capability to build out mail merge lists. It doesn't have to be expensive to make it happen! How do you calculate resident retention rates? What’s a good average retention rate, and what factors impact retention? We look at leases ending as an opportunity, and our resident retention is how many of those leases ending in a calendar year we convert to extend their lease term. Executed / Opportunities = Renewal Rate. A good average retention rate is anything 70% or better. That number has been our benchmark for success for 17 years of business. Factors that impact retention include how much owners are involved in setting rent rates, the housing market, the rental market, demand, experience, etc. We haven’t seen retention rates vary significantly by location, such as states vs. cities vs. rural areas. Improve Resident Retention Rate with Second Nature RBP Time and again, we’ve heard that one of the most important factors to resident retention is resident experience. It’s such a natural connection it almost goes without saying. As Melissa said, “If people enjoy working with you, they'll stay. If they don't, they won't.” In recent years, one of the more effective innovations in resident experience is the Resident Benefits Package (RBP). Second Nature’s RBP was designed to create an easy win for SFR property managers. We developed each feature as a direct response to a pain point in resident experience and property management – but that often fell out of the scope of property management companies’ bandwidth or expertise. To learn more about driving resident retention with a custom RBP, get in touch with us!

Calendar icon February 16, 2023

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How to Get Rid of Indoor Odors & Bad Smells

Got a foul odor in your home? You've come to the right place. Do you ever walk into your home and get hit by an extremely unpleasant scent? If you do, and you don't have a pet skunk, you can look to indoor odors as the source. We promise you there are SAFE ways to reduce or eliminate odors in your home. It's essential to attack the odors head on, rather than mask them with candles or spray. If you need a quick fix to make your home smell fresher, here are some tips: Change your air filter(s) on a regular schedule. The air in your home cycles through your air filter(s) multiple times per day. If your filter is not clogged or saturated, it will do a great job of capturing contaminants and pollutants that can make your home stink. Simmer a bowl of vinegar on the stove. This neutralizes odors rather than masking them, like burning vanilla or cinnamon do. Steam clean soft surfaces like drapes, curtains, and sofas. These items often get neglected in the cleaning process. Steam cleaning them is effective at eliminating dirt, dust, and, most importantly, odors. Deodorize your stinkiest rooms by placing a mixture of 3-parts water, 10 drops of citrus oil, and 1-part vodka in a decorative bowl. This is especially effective in rooms with strong foot or body odors like mudrooms and laundry rooms. If you, anyone that lives in your home, or any of your guests/visitors smoke, do so outdoors. We cannot stress this enough. Do. Not. Smoke. In. Your. Home. Cigarette smoke clings to all porous surfaces, including walls. Pets can add all sorts of smells to a home. Keeping up with their hygiene will go a long way in keeping your house smelling fresh. If you have a garbage disposal, avoid discarding carrot, onion, or potato peelings down it. Not only can they block up your disposal, but they cause a horrible stink when they begin to decay. Often times, your garbage can will begin to stink. A simple fix for this is washing it out with white vinegar and water to eliminate any leftover odors. If your laundry basket is filled with stinky clothes, consider sprinkling some washing soda onto the pile until you get around to doing the laundry, as this will neutralize the smells. Those are some of the basic things you can do to freshen up the scent in your home. Now, if you feel like you may need even more information on how to eliminate home odors, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a complete guide to all things indoor odors and how to deodorize your home: What is an indoor odor? Dangerous odors Why does my room smell? How to get rid of home odors Clean your cleaning supplies Using an odor eliminator Maintain your pet’s hygiene Wash laundry Ventilate Keep flooring and surfaces clean Clean your kitchen Keep your bathroom clean Change your air filter ‍ What is an indoor odor? An odor that's inside, duh. Ok, this is a true statement, but there's actually more to it because science, ya know. Some odors are caused by low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air that humans can detect. A VOC is a chemical that can turn into vapor in room temperature conditions, and can potentially be harmful at certain levels. ‍ Dangerous odors First things first, if you notice any of these smells, it may be a sign of something more serious: ‍ Fishy smell or burning rubber smell This could be a sign of an electrical wiring malfunction somewhere in your home. The first place to look would either be appliances, a wall switch, or an outlet. If you do find that the smell is coming from your home's electrical wiring, it would be best to call an electrician. If the burning smell is strong and you can't find the source, we would recommend leaving the house and calling 911 in case there is an electrical fire in your home. ‍ Sulfur or rotten egg smell Typically, if you're smelling either of these odors, it's a sign of a gas leak in your home. The best thing to do in this situation is to leave your home, call 911, and then call your gas provider so that they can send someone over to fix the leak ASAP. ‍ Musty smell Mold is usually the culprit behind musty smells in your home. Most of the time, you should be able to handle mold on your own, but if it does turn out to be more of a problem, professional help may be necessary. How do you get rid of the musty smell in the house? Tackle the mold, of course. If you're looking for ideas on how to remove mold from carpet, look no further than this link right here. ‍ Why does my room smell? There are a lot of different reasons to ask "why does my room smell?" Here are a few different sources or indoor odors that you should investigate first: Pets Mold Dirty clothes Carpets Kitchen Bathroom ‍ How to get rid of home odors How are we going to get rid of these odors? Well, the answer isn't buying several different air fresheners and setting out a huge bowl of potpourri, although a little potpourri never hurts. Instead of deodorizing a room using air fresheners that release chemicals into the air and only mask odors, we want to remove odors at the source. You might ask, how do we do that? Look no further, we've got nine tips coming right at you to help remove indoor odors in your home. ‍ Clean your cleaning supplies Before you tackle those odors, make sure the supplies you use are free from odors themselves. ‍ If the same sponge you used in February is still sitting beside your sink, it's probably a good idea to find a replacement. Depending on usage, sponges should be replaced at a minimum of once a month to ensure that you're not cleaning your dishes with unwanted bacteria. To make sponges last longer, run them through the sanitize cycle in your dishwasher to temporary stop bacterial growth. ‍ Biodegradable sponges are also a more environmentally-friendly option! ‍ Towels can also smell pretty bad if they're left damp for too long. Make sure towels are laid out to dry after use, so mildew doesn't have a chance to grow. If your towels do smell like mildew, throw them in the washing machine with either one cup of white vinegar or one cup of baking soda, no detergent necessary. We recommend washing towels once a week to make sure they always smell fresh and never need to go through the vinegar or baking soda treatment. ‍ Lastly, keep regularly replacing the bag or emptying out the canister in your vacuum cleaner to keep it on the nice smell list. Rinsing it out with soap and water should also help remove some of the dirt that it has been collecting over time. Blockages from hair or fur should also be cleared out. If your vacuum has an air filter, make sure to follow the manufacturer's cleaning guidelines! ‍ Use an odor eliminator There are plenty of things you probably already have in your home that can naturally clear odors from the air. Some of the best odor eliminators are coffee grounds, tea, vinegar, oats, and baking soda. Leaving a bowl of any of these odor absorbers out in a room that's due for a little freshening up will help clear out the less-than-pleasant smells from the air. ‍ Baking soda is probably one of the most useful tools in eliminating odors from your home. Instead of masking odors like air fresheners and candles, baking soda absorbs and neutralizes them. It has a reputation for being one of the best carpet deodorizers. Sprinkling it across any carpeted areas and allowing it to sit there for a few hours will have your carpet smelling fresher in no time. ‍ Another place you should put baking soda? On your mattress! Your mattress is a trap for sweat, dirt, and dead skin. Definitely not the ideal things to sniff while trying to fall asleep. Just let it sit for several hours, then vacuum it up, and voila, you have many future better smelling nights of sleep ahead of you. Mattress covers are also great at keeping your mattress from collecting all of that nasty stuff. Especially if you have allergies, mattress covers can be a savior. ‍ Pet accidents? Baking soda's got your back there too. Here's how to eliminate urine odor from your carpet: First, place a layer of paper towels down on top of the wet spot. Then add a layer of newspaper to absorb as much of the urine as possible. Next, sprinkle about ¼ cup of baking soda evenly over the affected area, and let it sit out for awhile. Overnight or around 8 hours would work, but the longer it's left out, the more effective it will be. After the baking soda has had time to neutralize the odor, vacuum it all up. ‍ Baking soda and vacuuming is also effective in neutralizing odors from your pet’s bed. ‍ An alternative to this method would be to mix together one cup of vinegar, one cup of water, and two tablespoons of baking soda. If you have a spray bottle, use that to spritz the urine stain with this mixture. Bam! Odor removed. ‍ Maintain your pet’s hygiene We know you love your fur babies, but their odors? Not so much. It's important to maintain your pet's hygiene to keep them and your home smelling fresh. Bathing your pets once a month should be the minimum, but a more ideal timeline would involve scheduling a bath for every one or two weeks. Yes, if they cooperate, cats too (*shudder*). If you need help with this, consult our blog about reducing cat dander for some kitty bathing tips. Other grooming techniques include regular brushing and nail clipping. Especially if your pet spends time outdoors, their fur and nails can harbor dirt and other unpleasant things from the outside world that can contribute to home odors. ‍ Your cat's litter box can also be the source of a less than pleasant stench. Make sure that you're scooping it out at least once a day. About once a month, you should more thoroughly clean the litter box. Soap and water should do the trick as the scent of harsher chemicals can cause your kitty to avoid using the litter box altogether. Since litter boxes are often scratched, creating an ideal home for bacterial colonies, aim to replace them annually. ‍ Keep your cat’s litter box in a place in your home that is well-ventilated so that odors don’t intensify and can naturally dissipate. ‍ Last but not least, don't forget about your small animals! Your guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils need their cage cleaned out at least once a week to keep their living environment clean and odor-free. ‍ Wash laundry Do you have a hamper overflowing with sweaty clothes somewhere in your home? If you do, it's probably time to get a load of laundry going. That hamper is a breeding ground for bacteria and all the unpleasant smells that come along with it. ‍ Since there is a lot of moisture concentrated in laundry rooms, it is very easy for odors to become trapped in the room. To keep your washing machine smelling fresh and free from mildew and mold, keep the door open between uses. This is especially true for front-loading washing machines. When the door is closed, the humid and airtight environment is the ideal environment for mold growth. So, to clean out your washing machine, pour either one cup of white vinegar or one cup of bleach into it, and then run it for one full cycle. ‍ A lot of newer washing machines will do the work for you with a self-cleaning function, but the vinegar or bleach still help. Be sure to pick one or the other and never mix vinegar and bleach, this creates a toxic chlorine gas. Never mix vinegar with any chlorine product to avoid creating this toxic gas, or actually just never mix chlorine with anything. That's probably your best bet. ‍ We're also just going to go ahead and mention those shoes. You know the ones we're talking about, the shoes that you've worn every single day for the last 6 years and are practically glued to your feet at this point. We've all got 'em, and odors? They've all got 'em. ‍ Even though shoes bring in dirt, allergens, and yes, even C. Diff and E. Coli, only half of Americans will take their shoes off inside their homes, and less than 25% will ask their guests to take them off. Leaving your shoes at the door will for sure help leave odors at the door as well. ‍ A trip through the washing machine should be enough to have your shoes smelling fresh again, but first, a little baking soda might come in handy. Three tablespoons of baking soda in each shoe overnight should help to neutralize odors before washing them the next day. If your shoes are made from materials like leather or suede, or have embellishments, machine-washing them most likely isn't the best idea. We'd recommend spot cleaning these shoes with a damp cloth instead. Always use your best judgment, but we'd say most sneakers are typically safe to be thrown into the wash! ‍ Wash shoes inside of a pillowcase so that laces don't get tangled, and throw in a load of towels as well to muffle any loud noises. Only air-dry sneakers, however, as the heat from a dryer could cause damage. ‍ Try to limit wearing your shoes to every other day, and stuff newspaper inside to absorb any lingering moisture or odors. ‍ Ventilate Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. Proper ventilation is vital in ensuring that odors don't intensify. Make sure that you're opening windows and using fans generously so that any odors don't remain stagnant in one place and can naturally dissipate. If it's pollen season or if you live in an area that has a lot of smog, windows should remain closed. Other than that, outdoor air quality is typically better than indoor air quality. That's why letting in outdoor air will improve both the air in your home and circulation. Special attention should be paid to the ventilation of the kitchen and the bathroom where odors have a tendency to accumulate. ‍ Keep flooring and surfaces clean Start off by dusting the surfaces in your home from the top down. For harder surfaces like shelves and cabinets, a damp cloth or duster works better to actually remove the dust instead of just moving it around to a different place. For walls and painted surfaces, a dry sponge will be more effective. ‍ Next, make sure that you vacuum your home thoroughly. Vacuum it again. And again and again. Keep vacuuming. Vacuum until you can vacuum no more. How do you deodorize carpet? You vacuum. This is because carpets are a magnet for pet hair, dander, mold, dirt, and dust, none of which smell particularly rosy. ‍ For hardwood floors, regular sweeping and mopping should be enough to keep them odor-free. If you do notice any particularly strong odors, mopping with one part vinegar and one part water should do the job. ‍ Clean your kitchen Kitchens are a major source of all the smells. Smells like bacon, freshly-baked cookies, oooh and homemade pizza...sorry got a little carried away there. Unfortunately, your kitchen doesn't always smell this good. Cooking smoke, spoiled food, an iffy-smelling dishwasher, and the garbage disposal could all be contributing to kitchen odors. So, how do you keep kitchen odors at bay? ‍ The first place you'll want to keep an eye on is the fridge. Often times, food can spoil without you even knowing it! Make sure that you're keeping tabs on expiration dates and throwing out food accordingly to avoid discovering last Thanksgiving's mashed potatoes in January. Your nose will thank you. If your fridge smells, but there's no rotten food in sight, keeping an open container of baking soda in your fridge will do wonders to absorb the odor. ‍ Leaving the exhaust fan on while cooking is a good way to keep the space well-ventilated and as odor-free as possible. Grease from cooking will typically spread to the stovetop, counters, floors, cupboards, lights, and other surfaces nearby. A good wipe-down with a natural cleaning solution should be enough to reduce grease buildup and resulting odors. Vinegar, like baking soda, is one of those products that just about cleans anything. ‍ If you notice a funky scent coming from your dishwasher, the culprit is probably the food that can get trapped in your dishwasher's filter, causing odors to occur over time. Cleaning out the filter regularly with hot water and soap is one way to prevent this from happening. Now for the odor? Place one cup of white vinegar on the top shelf of the dishwasher and run it once on the hottest setting. Then leave the dishwasher open to air dry and minimize the scent of vinegar afterward. Adding a drop of your favorite essential oil into the vinegar before sending it through the dishwasher can also keep your dishwasher smelling fresher. ‍ Now, on to the garbage disposal. Garbage disposal odors can be the result of food scraps that didn't grind properly and are starting to rot or even a buildup of bacteria. Don't worry, this is typical and pretty simple to get rid of. Just cut up a few lemon or orange slices and put them through the disposal. This also works with a cup full of baking soda and a cup full of vinegar as well. ‍ If you find that your trash can also doesn’t emit the most pleasant odor out there, baking soda will be your savior once again. Among other things, baking soda holds the title for best trash can deodorizer. Just sprinkle some in either the can itself, or the liner, and a fragrance improvement will be well on its way. Washing your trash can with water and vinegar is also an alternative method. ‍ Keep your bathroom clean Some hot spots to hit here are toilets, sinks, and showers. Where there's water residue, there's always a chance of mold. Keep your toilet clean by cleaning it at least once a week with toilet bowl cleaner. Pouring half a cup of bleach or vinegar into the toilet, then letting it sit for around 30 minutes before flushing is another way to keep your toilet odor-free. You can clean sinks and showers with bleach, or to keep things more natural, you can use a paste made from baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar. ‍ Around once a month, pour a mixture of half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda down all drains. This will help to both neutralize odors and reduce clogging. ‍ So how do you keep your home odor-free? Basically clean. Shouldn't be too hard. That's what kids are for, right? ‍ Oh, wait. One more thing. ‍ Change your air filter Have you ever smelled an air filter before? AMAZING, better than lavender. Just kidding, we've actually never smelled an air filter before. Hold on one second. ‍ ok, after further research, air filters smell like... air? Do with that tidbit what you will. ‍ Anywho, regular air filter replacements are a necessity in keeping your home smelling nice and pretty. Your air filter traps all kinds of particles like dust, mold spores, and dander that would otherwise contribute to an unpleasant odor in your home. To keep your filter working as efficiently as possible, you should replace it at least every three months. If you think it's time for a replacement, we happen to deliver some super cool filters straight to your door. Well, there you have it, our guide to indoor odor busting. Now go grab that baking soda and a bottle of vinegar, no odor will stand a chance against you. Oh, and don't forget to sign up and get your first shipment free!

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How Will Dirty Air Filters Impact My HVAC System?

These are things every homeowner should know. Dirty and clogged air filters reign havoc on your HVAC system. They will not only waste money on energy costs, but they will cause damage (sometimes irreparable damage!) to your HVAC system. Here are some ways a dirty or clogged air filter impacts your heating and cooling system: ‍ A dirty air filter is one of the most common reasons for HVAC system failure. A dirty filter restricts the air flow into your HVAC systems air handler. This restricted air flow places additional strain on the air handler fan motor and could, over time, burn out the motor and cause your system to overheat and ultimately fail. Filter replacement is a small price to pay to extend to life of one of the biggest financial investments in your home. A dirty air filter makes your fan motor work harder and consume more energy. One of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce your energy bill is to replace your air filter. A dirty air filter makes your heating and air-conditioning systems and your ducts get dirty faster. This can lead to costly HVAC cleaning expenses or a need to replace your HVAC unit or HVAC components sooner than you expected. If the heating and cooling coils are caked with dirt and particles that would normally be trapped by the air filter, the system will work harder and be more prone to freezing over or burning out. ‍ Your air filters are a vital part of your heating and cooling system. An HVAC repair STARTS at around $600 and an exhaustive repair (short of a replacement) can easily reach $7,000. A new system, if the damage is irreparable, starts at around $10,000. Air filters are a nominal cost when compared to the cost of repairing or replacing your home's heating and cooling system.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How Do I Know What Air Filter To Buy?

Pleated filter? Fiberglass filter? Electrostatic filter? Which one is for me? Pop quiz. What is the best way to rid your indoor air of pollutants like mold, pollen, and bacteria? Napalm your entire home Walk around the house waving a disinfecting wipe through the air Vacuum the air with a shop vac Purchase the right air filter ‍ If you chose D, you are correct. If you chose any other option, then we need to have a separate conversation. ‍ An air filter plays a critical role in keeping the air in your home clean. In fact, it’s the most important item to your home’s air that you can purchase, and since your indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside (and no one likes breathing pollutants), you need a high-quality air filter. ‍ There are a lot of different varieties of air filters that you can purchase. Given that the average person ranks air filters right around different types of cement and how cardboard is made on the list of things that interest them, it’s not surprising that many don’t know what makes a quality air filter “quality.” ‍ Luckily, all you have to do is read this one article, and you’ll have the answer to that question. Then all you have to do is sign up for Second Nature once, and you’ll never have to think about some air filters ever again. ‍ What type of air filter should I get? Filters can only be made so many ways. For home filters, you have three options. You can buy a pleated filter, you can buy a fiberglass filter, or you can buy a washable reusable filter. Each type has its disadvantages, and two of them have their advantages, so let’s take a closer look at what those are. ‍ Pleated Pleated filters get their name from their filter media, which is the material inside the frame that is responsible for the actual filtering. A pleated filter’s media is folded like an accordion to maximize surface area. Previously made of cotton, the pleated filters of today are built with synthetic polymers that allow for effective filtering while minimizing the impact on airflow. ‍ The advantages of pleated filters include their high filtering efficiency. High MERV filters are almost always of the pleated variety. The pleated filters work to capture an extremely high percentage of large particles and a much higher number of small particles than competing filter types. ‍ Pleated filters are low effort and high functionality. The only thing you ever have to do is remember to change them out, and they’ll keep pulling gunk out of your air. ‍ Fiberglass Fiberglass air filters are the cheapest on the market, sometimes costing less than a single dollar. There is a reason they are so cheap, and it is because they are garbage. Yes, fiberglass filters are garbage. Fiberglass filters are the weakest option and are recommended by the National Air Filtration Association only as “prefiltering” devices because of how ineffective they are. Simply put, they are bad at their job. ‍ There’s a myth that fiberglass filters are better for your HVAC system because they allow for more airflow. While they do allow for that, advancements in HVAC and filter technology have made the difference immaterial. The extensive amount of pollutants they allow to flow through can actually make them more dangerous to your system than the pleated variety. ‍ The reason why fiberglass is often recommended is that people don’t remember to change their filter. As a pleated filter loads with pollutants, it can eventually decrease airflow to a critically low amount. Fiberglass doesn’t do this because of how woefully ineffective it is at actually catching particles. So as long as you’re regularly changing your filters, there is not a single advantage to the fiberglass option. ‍ Washable Electrostatic Washable electrostatic filters are metal-frame filters that are designed to be washed and reused instead of replaced. The price range for these is wide, with the most expensive ones entering the $90 range. ‍ The advantage with these filters is their longevity. While they do eventually wear out, they can be reused for multiple years before that happens. The disadvantage is that you do need to wash them routinely and let them dry completely before reinserting. This can eat into your busy schedule as they don’t dry instantly, and if your washable filter doesn’t fully dry, mold growth can be a real issue. ‍ Washable filters also do a poor job collecting large particles. Because static electricity is really the only filtering mechanism they use, they struggle to attract the larger particles that are more difficult to pull with a charge. Thus, washable filters tend to work in reverse of fiberglass as they let larger particles through and filter out smaller ones. ‍ What quality of filter should I get? After you know what type of filter is right for you, you need to know what rating is right for you. Filters can be rated on three separate scales. The scale used by us at Second Nature and the official folks at the National Air Filtration Association is the MERV scale, which stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. ‍ The MERV scale runs from 1-16. Second Nature offers filters rated at MERV 8, MERV 11, and MERV 13, which are our Essential, Essential+, and Health Shield, respectively. Anything below an 8 is something that probably shouldn’t be in your home. Anything above a 13 is not necessary except for maybe in an extreme case, which is why we offer the range we do. ‍ Other filter scales include FPR and MPR, which stand for Filter Performance Rating and Microparticle Performance Rating. FPR was a scale developed by The Home Depot for the brands that it sells. The scale ranges from 4-10 and includes a color code for each range. MPR was developed by 3M and, it ranges from 300 to 2800. The scale is based on the filter’s ability to capture particles under 1 micron in diameter and is only found on 3M Filtrete filters. Here we have provided a conversion chart with MERV vs. FPR vs. MPR so you can understand what you’re getting if you decide to purchase from somewhere that rates their filters with one of those less popular scales. Deciding on what MERV rating is right for your home is a decision that must be made based on a handful of personal factors. ‍ Are you an allergy sufferer? More than 50 million Americans have some type of allergy. Allergies are everywhere, and if you’re among the millions of Americans who suffer from them, your filter can help you keep those nasty allergens out of your home. ‍ The severity of your allergies will help determine just how critical filtration is for your home. If you have a significant allergy to something that is prominent in your area, you’re going to want to increase your indoor air quality with a Second Nature Health Shield filter (MERV 13) or equivalent level. More minor allergies or allergies to something that doesn’t exist in massive quantities around your home may allow for a drop down to a Essential+ filter (MERV 11). ‍ Do you own pets? Owning a dog or a cat introduces a whole new threat to your indoor air quality: dander. Dander is small flakes or bits of skin that fall off your furry friend when they shed, and some people are violently allergic to it. ‍ If you are among that group, a Health Shield air filter is a must. Pet dander is small, and a MERV 8 filter is likely not sufficient for you allergy sufferers out there, and that fiberglass nonsense certainly is not. Essential+ and Health Shield will both be effective versus pet dander. If you’re allergic, get the MERV 13 Health Shield. If you’re not allergic, but you own pets, the Essential+ will work well for you. ‍ Do you live in a polluted area? Air outside your home will become air inside your home. It is inevitable. No matter how much weatherstripping you install or how well-sealed your home is, there will be particles floating around outside that will get inside. This is particularly important to remember if you live in areas that see a lot of air pollution from things like smog. Those of you in California, as you certainly know already, can get hit pretty heavily with photochemical smog in the summer. The state is often also hit with smoke pollution during wildfire season, which also runs through the summer and fall. ‍ The particles that make up smoke are itty-bitty, smaller than a tenth of a micron. For perspective, you would need at least 3,000,000 of those particles lined end to end to equal one foot. If you frequently encounter smoke or smog around your home, a Health Shield (MERV 13) is recommended. ‍ Still not sure what filter to get? Take our short quiz! Do you have allergies to pollen, dust, mold, or dust mites? A. Yes, severe allergies (add 2) Yes, mild allergies (add 1) No (add 0) Do you own a dog or cat? Yes (add 1) No (add 0) Are you allergic to pet dander? Yes (add 1 if answer to #2 is A, 0 if B) No (Add 0) Do you live in a polluted area? Yes, very polluted (Add 2) Yes, slightly polluted and no smoke or smog pollution (Add 1) No (Add 0) Answers 0 = Essential pleated air filter (MERV 8) 1 = Essential+ pleated air filter (MERV 11) More than 1 = Health Shield pleated air filter (MERV 13) ‍ What size air filter should I get? As the saying goes, there are three things you can’t pick: your parents, your name, and your filter size. That’s a real saying that we did not just make up eight seconds ago. ‍ Simply, you need the filter size that fits in your air return. You can typically find that size on the side of the air filter that you already have in use. This size will be the nominal size, which means it is rounded from its actual size. This is the size you click on at secondnature.com. ‍ If you don’t have a reference point from an old filter, you’ll need to use a tape measure and measure your vent. These measurements will be the exact size, and you’ll need to add ¼” to both length and width to get the nominal size. ‍ If you have a filter that is four inches thick or thicker, you have a whole house filter. There is no rhyme or reason to how these filter sizes are rounded. Luckily, all you’ll need at secondnature.com is the actual size of the filter. ‍ Buying an air filter isn’t always easy, and knowing what air filter to buy is the hardest part. However, if you have read this far, you’re good. So congratulations! Here’s an air filter gold star. You can print it out and tape it to your shirt if you want. You’ll probably get a lot of strange looks, but that’s not your problem.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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The Best Pets for Allergy Sufferers

These cats and dogs can sometimes help allergy sufferers. There’s nothing better than cuddling up to your furry friend after a long day. Unfortunately, for some, those cuddles could lead to hours of unbearable sniffles. There is good news, though! Just because you suffer from allergies, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid owning a pet all together. You have many “hypoallergenic” options! Firstly, what causes my allergic reactions? A protein found abundantly in the animal's skin and saliva trigger a person's allergies. When this protein flakes off with skin cells and sticks to the animal’s hair, it's called dander. When a dog shakes, or when you pet them, the dander flies into the air; this is the case with most animals. Shedding of the hair, along with the loose skin cells is what triggers the itchy watery eyes, sneezing, and the all around misery that accompanies an allergic reaction. What are hypoallergenic animals? People often assume hypoallergenic pets never cause allergic reactions, but research has shown that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet. All pets will produce and shed dander, but some of them produce less than others. Breeds called hypoallergenic often shed far less than other breeds making them excellent choices for allergy sufferers. The list is lengthy, but here are some examples of hypoallergenic breeds. Cats: Siberian Balinese Balinese Bengal Burmese Colorpoint Shorthair Siamese Russian Blue Dogs: Poodles Schnauzers Portuguese Water Dogs Afghan Hounds Kerry Blue Bedlington Terrier A dog that is a mixture of one or more of these breeds also can be an excellent choice for reducing allergic reactions. Hairless Pets? Just as reduced shedding aids in keeping pet allergies away, so does no hair. Hairless animals indeed do not shed hair, and they are virtually dander free. While some skin cells still flake off and it isn't 100% guaranteed that you won't be allergic to them, they are the best bet. Dog breeds like the American Hairless Terrier, Xoloitzcuintli, and the Chinese Crested are affectionate, intelligent, and very naked. Even cat lovers will find the Sphynx or the Peterbald cuddle-friendly. It's an easy way to spot a hypoallergenic pet at the pound, the one with no hair! Recognizing Non-Allergenic Breeds Adopting from a shelter is always the best way to find a pet. These animals need homes, but how can you tell if they are going to trigger your allergies? The first thing you can do is familiarize yourself with hypoallergenic breeds. This way when you're walking through a shelter, you'll be able to pinpoint which animals look more like non-allergenic breeds. If your allergies aren't life-threatening, you can test the waters with a couple snuggles to see if you get a reaction. Sometimes it's going to take a few days, so don't rest your case upon your first encounter. There's even a hypoallergenic horse called the American Curly Horse, so horse lovers can saddle up and ride into the sunset without sneezing the entire way there. Animal companionship is one of the joys of life, and with these breeds, allergy sufferers can enjoy it the same as anyone else.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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The Indoor Air Quality Benefits of Plants

Did you know that certain plants actually help filter out toxins from your home? Your next breath of fresh air is no farther than your nearest house plant—depending on the kind of plant and how many you have. The science behind it is solid: we know plants clean the air. We also know Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside is often worse than the air outdoors. One reason? Modern, airtight construction that saves energy also allows indoor air pollution to build up. That means Americans spend a lot of time breathing potentially unhealthy air, even though there are ways to filter it. House plants are an underutilized way to make your indoor air healthy again. Here are some of the indoor air quality benefits of plants and how it works. Photosynthesis Let's go back to fourth-grade science class for a refresher on photosynthesis. It's the process by which plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Using sunshine, water, and the green pigment chlorophyll, the plants strip the carbon from the air to produce glucose, leaving oxygen as a waste product expelled back into the air. What plants consider waste is vital to us. Our atmosphere is about 21 percent oxygen. If it drops below 19.5 percent oxygen, we can't breathe. This is why America’s obsession with green lawns is actually environmentally friendly! Think of it as suburbia's version of the Amazon rainforest. We need plants all over the world to continually release oxygen for us to live. But oxygen production is not the only way plants clean up the air we breathe. They also remove poisons from the air, and scientists have spent decades studying this process. The Landmark Study When you think about scientific breakthroughs, you might think about the discovery of penicillin or the polio vaccine. Thirty years ago, scientists at NASA made another discovery. They found common plants cleaned up poisons such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. These volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are common to indoor spaces and can cause anything from skin irritation to cancer. Common daily items that contain formaldehyde include: Insulation Particle board Paper bags Carpet backing Natural gas Benzene is found in: Gasoline Ink Paint Plastic Rubber You’ll find trichloroethylene in: Dry cleaning chemicals Printing ink Varnishes Lacquers Adhesives So basically, one or more of these chemicals are present in just about every indoor environment you encounter. That's a lot of VOCs that you're breathing in, unaware of dangers they may pose. At the time of the 1989 study, NASA was trying to mitigate these chemicals so they could one day seal astronauts in a space station without killing them. The study called plants a "promising, economical solution to indoor air pollution." (And for the record, there have been no deaths onboard the International Space Station, so they clearly figured it out.) ‍ Getting Into The Weeds The gerbera daisy is the pleated air filter of the plant world when it comes to cleaning trichloroethylene and benzene from the air. The plant removed most of both chemicals out of all the plant species tested in the original study. The NASA study lists how each of the plant species performed during research. The pot mum and peace lily ranked second and third on the list of plants that remove the most benzene. Marginata (aka dragon tree) and peace lily ranked similarly on the list of plants that best remove trichloroethylene. The top three formaldehyde removers, in order of how many micrograms each plant removed from the air, are: Bamboo palm, which cleaned about 76,700 mg of the chemical per plant Janet Craig Mother-in-law’s tongue, also known as the snake plant Newer Studies Twenty years after the first indoor plant study, the American Society For Horticultural Science (ASHA) published a follow-up study. Researchers tested 28 plant species for their ability to cleanse the air of dangerous chemicals such as benzene, toluene, octane, trichloroethylene, and terpene. The CDC says toluene, an ingredient in paints, nail polish, and gasoline, has adverse impacts on the brain and nervous system. Octane is an eye and respiratory irritant. This newer study also found that indoor ornamental plants remove these harmful chemicals. But there are a lot of variables. For example, are the plant and chemical in a sealed container or in an open room? Researchers behind the ASHS study concluded: "Plants also have the potential to significantly improve the quality of indoor air." ‍ Here are the top five chemical removing house plants, according to the ASHS study: Waffle plant English, or common, ivy Purple heart Asparagus, or foxtail, fern Wax plant More studies need to be done to figure out what combination and how many house plants you need to remove any given amount of indoor pollutants. If the past studies hold true, plants, in general, are an excellent idea. The year after the ASHS study was published, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NACR), found plants and trees absorb more air pollution than initially thought. About one third more, in fact. NCAR's outdoor study found that the denser the vegetation, the more volatile organic compounds are absorbed. There is some controversy around applying this study to the indoors. Still, it at least emphasizes the point that plants do indeed clean the air. The more plants there are to absorb the poisons, the more significant the effect. A Breath of Fresh Air The consensus right now is that you'll need a LOT of indoor plants to make a big difference in the quality of the indoor air you breathe. You could live or work in a greenhouse, and the plants still wouldn't replace modern ventilation or HVAC systems. But if you use indoor plants in conjunction with air cleaning technology, you'll get the most out of nature and innovation. A review published in Trends In Plant Science suggests house plants, combined with air filters and smart technology, clean the air. Consider creative ways to incorporate plants into your indoor space—such as a boxwood hedge wall, or a container garden of gerbera daisies. If you have the room, think about bringing in a banana plant to frame the room with its graceful, chemical-eating leaves. Or consider a vertical garden, where you can arrange English ivy and purple heart along with gerbera daisies from top to bottom. How Clean Is Your Air? There are still questions about how much indoor ornamental plants clean up the air. Some of the variables include the dimensions of your environment and how many chemicals are in the air. That can fluctuate, depending on how the space is used. You also need to take into account how close it is to industrial sites or heavy traffic, or even how many people in the room are wearing dry cleaned clothes. These are all things to consider if you're using plants to purify the air in your office or your home. Modern technology leads to more air pollution and less time to spend outdoors. With the right plants and the right air filters, you can take control over what you breathe. Think of it as breathing right. Most people try to eat right, minimizing the bad stuff and trying to eat more natural foods. So why wouldn't you watch what you breathe too? Those house plants in your window or your office space remove harmful toxins from the air. If you increase the number of plants you have, add plants that remove bad chemicals, and change your air filters regularly, then you and your family will breathe easier.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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What Type Of Air Filter Should I Order?

There's a lot of options out there, not all of them good. There's a bewildering range of different air filter types out there and it's easy to get confused. We have done the homework for you and simplified the process so you can make the right choice. ‍ First things first: Economy fiberglass filters compared to pleated filters. ‍ There really is no comparison to be made. Cheap fiberglass filters are usually sold in multi-packs for a few bucks and, in this case you definitely get what you pay for... very little quality. They are not efficient for two reasons. ‍ The relatively open weave of the fiberglass mesh does not filter out much dirt at all and the micro-particles and contaminates present in your home just get sucked through the filter and into your HVAC system. Over time, the inside components of your HVAC equipment and the air ducts get coated with crud and your system can't work at peak efficiency. This means higher energy bills and expensive sanitizing and repair bills. ‍ In short, this cheap type of filter doesn't filter very well at all and you won't find them here at Second Nature. If you are in the habit of buying them it's a habit you should break! ‍ Pleated filters are the only way to go. We only offer reliable, good quality pleated filters, which are made right here in the USA. They are up to 60% more efficient than fiberglass and have a denser, larger surface area (imagine the pleats ironed out flat) that ensures better filtration. But remember, these higher grade filters are more efficient at capturing the bad stuff and by doing a better job they get dirty quicker. That's good news … not bad news. They are both more efficient and faster at doing what they are supposed to do. ‍ Picking the grade of filter. Much of the information in the 'How often should I change my filter?' section also applies to the grade of filter you should choose. The number of people, pets, and any allergies will need to be considered. Also, the possible presence of smoke, smog, and microscopic contaminants that may carry odor usually call for a higher grade of filter to trap the smaller stuff. ‍ We have simplified your filter choice. Good, Better. Best. Our three grades of filter, Essential, Essential+ and Health Shield are simply categorized as 'Good', 'Better' and 'Best'. They each do a great job in different home environments. One of them is just right for you. ‍ Essential. Good. This filter easily takes care of the basics such as dust, pollen, pet dander and virus carriers whilst allowing a good airflow through the HVAC system. ‍ Essential+. Better. Our most popular filter also offers good airflow but better filtration than the Essential. In addition to the basics, it captures smaller particles, smoke and smog. If anyone smokes tobacco in the home or the kitchen is a busy cooking area (are your smoke detectors always sounding off?), Essential+ is the right filter for you. ‍ Health Shield. Best. This is the most powerful and efficient filter in our line-up. The Health Shield traps all the contaminates the other two filters do, but also snags lead dust, oil smoke, and most importantly, microscopic allergens … some of which are 20 times smaller than a grain of salt! If anyone in the home suffers from allergies or serious respiratory problems such as asthma, this filter is a 'must.' ‍ The denser filter media and more efficient filtration mean slightly less airflow than the other two grades and it will need to be changed more frequently. In return, you will be rewarded with the reassurance of sustained, super-fresh indoor air quality similar to hospital standards. If you want the best, definitely go Health Shield.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How To Recognize Indoor Air Pollutants

Indoor air pollution can actually be much worse than outdoor air pollution. While the majority of Americans recognize the dangers of outdoor pollution sources such as vehicle emissions, most people are unaware of the risks posed by indoor pollution. According to the American Lung Association, half of Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution... because Americans spend 90% of their time indoors --and up to 65% of that time at home-- it’s important to safeguard indoor air. ‍ The Environmental Protection Agency stated, “Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health. The problems they cause can be subtle and do not always produce easily recognized or immediate impacts on health.” Poor indoor air quality can cause both short-term and long-term health problems. Short-term problems include headaches, tiredness, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. These symptoms can usually be treated when the source of the pollution is removed from the home. Long-term symptoms are more severe and can include respiratory diseases, heart problems, and even cancer. ‍ Indoor air quality problems stem from three main categories: ‍ Sources of Pollution The most common pollution sources are particles or gases that are released into the air. Other pollution sources include dust particles from old furniture, mold, and toxic products used for household cleaning. Because most of these particles and gases are invisible, homeowners are usually unaware of an indoor air quality problem within their home. Individuals can hire professionals or buy a home air quality test kit in order to find out if they have any problems with their indoor air quality. Homeowners should also have a professional test their home for radon gas, since the colorless, odorless gas is the #2 cause of lung cancer in the United States. If there is an indoor air quality problem, remove the pollution sources. The Environmental Protection Agency states, “The most effective way to improve indoor air is to eliminate individual sources or reduce their emissions.” Removing pollution sources may range from banning indoor smoking to cleaning up mold to getting rid of toxic cleaning products. ‍ Inadequate Ventilation According to the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, improper ventilation is another leading cause of indoor air quality problems. If outdoor air is not coming in to freshen old air and lower indoor pollutant levels, indoor air will quickly become filled with unhealthy pollutants. The American Lung Association suggests, “Make sure the ventilation system is working correctly and that air flow is not blocked.” The EPA adds the following steps: “When weather permits, open windows and doors, or run an air conditioner with the vent control open. Bathroom and kitchen fans that exhaust to the outdoors also increase ventilation and help remove pollutants.” They also recommend changing air filters regularly to remove dust and other pollutants from the air. ‍ High Humidity Levels High humidity is also a common cause of indoor air quality problems. High humidity makes the air moist, which increases the risk of mold. As a result, indoor humidity should be kept between 30-50%. Use a humidity gauge to make sure indoor air is at a healthy level. Decrease humidity by opening windows or turning on the air conditioner. ‍ The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission wrote, “Indoor air pollution is one risk you can do something about.” Take proactive steps to remove pollution sources and maintain ventilation and humidity levels in order to protect the quality of indoor air.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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The Truth About Pleated Air Filter Pressure Drop

What is pressure drop? How does it work? What is static pressure? In the world of HVAC, static pressure is defined as the resistance to airflow in your HVAC system created by the components of said systems. Generally, lower static pressure is better. High static pressure results in lower airflow, which allows your HVAC system to condition less air at a time. This forces it to work longer (not harder), which if left unchecked can result in higher power bills and potentially shortened lifespan. When selecting a filter, static pressure is an important factor, but it is far from the only factor to consider. ‍ What is a pressure drop? Pressure drop is defined as the change in pressure from one defined area to another. In HVAC, this is referring to the change in static pressure as air moves through your air filters. Put simpler, it's how much your air filter restricts airflow. The most common cause of a pressure drop that exceeds acceptable levels is your air filters being left unchanged for far too long. Many still believe that an air filter with a high MERV rating can instantly create a pressure drop that is above acceptable levels, but this is actually false. ‍ Pressure drop myths The most common myth around pressure drop is that pleated air filters have too high of a pressure drop. We’ve already discussed the airflow myths around pleated air filters, but we’ll expound a little more with regards to pressure drop specifically. ‍ The pressure drop of a fiberglass filter is about 0.1 inches of water. (inches of water is a measure of pressure differential. The name sounds counterintuitive when talking about air, but you can read more about it here if you want). These super cheap filters are the thin, flat, and usually green or blue ones that are typically less than a dollar. They are often erroneously recommended by technicians because of their extremely low pressure drop. Here’s what you’re not being told. ‍ The pressure drop of a MERV 8 pleated air filter is around 0.12 inches of water, which is almost exactly the same as the 0.10 of the fiberglass. A MERV 13 pleated air filter, the highest quality offering from Second Nature and most other filter companies, has a pressure drop of around 0.25. That’s definitely more, but if you recall from our study referenced in this article, even with that pressure drop, the likelihood of it reducing the lifespan of your HVAC unit is slim to none. ‍ You might be wondering how that is possible. It has to do with the construction of the filter. There is a relationship between the surface area of the filter and the pressure drop, which is the reason for the pleats. By folding the filter media accordion-style, the surface area increases dramatically while the filter frame remains the same size, allowing for greater airflow without having to increase the size of the actual filter. The filtering efficiency itself is also increased by changes in thread materials to materials with better electrostatic properties, which physically attract particles with static electricity. The result is a lower pressure drop with higher filtration efficiency. This is what makes pleated filters the best on the market. They're able to achieve high levels of filtration without high pressure drops, also known as too much airflow restriction. Remembering to change your filter is key to minimizing risk from pressure drop There is not really much risk with a brand new filter anymore because of the technological advancement of the pleated air filter. Problems that your system will experience from high pressure drop are usually a result of a filter left unchanged for far too long. It’s commonly understood that an air filter will actually become more effective as it fills with particles. This is true. So why not just leave it in the return forever? Because the buildup results in an increased pressure drop. If left unchanged for too long, your filter could fill to the point where airflow is zero, meaning your system is running, but accomplishing absolutely nothing. This is not good. ‍ Making sure you're using a good filter is important. Making sure you're changing it on time is equally important in order to avoid increased power bills and excessive wear on the components of your air conditioning system. According to the Department of Energy, changing your filter on time can save you 5-15% on your heating and cooling bills. Our goal as a company is to make sure people remember to change their filter, which is why we offer an air filter subscription with a completely customizable schedule.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Is a Home Energy Audit Right for You?

What is an energy audit and what makes a good energy auditor? It’s eight days after tax day, and we’re here to talk about audits. But don’t worry, these audits are actually good, and not a result of not paying your taxes. We’re talking about home energy audits. ‍ A home energy audit (or assessment) is a review of your home’s energy usage to determine efficiency. A professional auditor will bring lots of fancy equipment to your home and conduct a thorough examination of every room. ‍ Who does an energy audit? Energy audits are conducted by professionals who are each certified as a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Rater by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) or certified as a Building Analyst by the Building Performance Institute. These certifications are important. You’re paying this person to do work on your home, and an audit can eventually pay for itself (when performed by a certified expert). ‍ How is an energy audit done? An energy audit is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of how your home uses energy and how the construction impacts energy usage. Step 1. Initial Overview It typically starts with an auditor reviewing the layout of your home so they know where trouble areas may exist. Anything you can supply beforehand that might be enlightening, such as floor plans, will be helpful for the auditor. ‍ Step 2. Assessment An auditor will typically then have a discussion with the homeowner about any issues the homeowner has noticed. Things like unusually cold floors, areas of condensation, drafts, as well as appliance use will be relevant to the auditor. ‍ Often times, the next step will involve an inspection of certain appliances known as combustion appliances. They’re called combustion appliances because they require the burning of fuel to generate heat. Furnaces and water heaters are often the combustion appliances that are tested. Step 3. Air Leak Test Next, your auditor will locate drafts and air leaks with what is called a blower test. This involves an apparatus that fits on a door frame and, as the name implies, blows air. While the blower is running, the auditor will use a device, often an infrared camera, to locate areas of leakage. ‍ The audit may then conclude in the attic, where the infrared camera is again used to identify areas of leakage and insufficient insulation. Step 4. Report Delivered Finally, a report is put together by the auditor that details findings and provides specific and sequential instructions to fix the prevalent issues. That concludes what an energy audit might look like in your home. Remember that all homes are different and all auditors probably have different ways of going about the same tasks so your audit may differ from this process to a certain degree. ‍ What is the value of a home energy audit? The value of an energy audit can be tremendous or minor, depending on how energy-efficient your home already is. You’ll receive step-by-step instructions from a professional on how to improve your home’s energy usage. As we’ve detailed in previous #FilterEasyFix episodes and blogs, there is an incredible amount of money to be saved on your energy bills with some relatively easy home fixes. An energy audit will tell what fixes or repairs are most relevant for you. ‍ Should I have an energy audit done? Yes, probably. Many homes have energy issues, and most older homes have more significant energy efficiency issues. You can save more than just a few dollars by identifying trouble areas in your home and cleaning them up. Some problems you can address on your own, but others may require a professional. If you suspect your house could be more energy efficient than it is, then an audit is probably a good idea and will eventually pay for itself with the money saved on each bill. ‍ It's also worth noting that regularly replacing your home air filters will pay for itself by reducing your energy bills, preventing expensive repairs to your HVAC system, and potentially extending that costly system's lifespan. Sign up for Second Nature's subscription service today and that always forgotten to-do of replacing your air filters on time (or ever) will be permanently checked off your list.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Give Your HVAC The Tune-Up it Needs Before Summer Hits

Keep your air conditioning running efficiently throughout the summer with some simple maintenance tips. Take care of your things, and they will take care of you. Always practice safety Clean your outside unit Check inside unit for damage and inefficiencies. Enjoy the fruits of your labor You wake up on Thursday and start your routine. You hit snooze on your alarm, go back to sleep, wake up again ten minutes later, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, feed the dog/cat/children, and leave. But when you get in the car, it won't start. Congratulations! Your car just ruined the rest of your day! Now you need to get it to an auto repair shop somehow and to figure out transportation. ‍ Take care of your things, and they will take care of you. It's never a great feeling to lose something that you take for granted and rely on. Although not every problem is preventable, regular maintenance sure helps. Simple things such as checking the car oil and brake fluid can make the difference between going about your day as planned and a trip to the auto shop with a crying wallet. ‍ This same concept applies to your HVAC system. Remembering to take care of your unit will make a big difference in energy costs and extend its lifespan. You can invest some time in routine HVAC maintenance each year, or you can invest in ice packs and fans until you can pay a professional to come and repair it. The choice is yours. Always practice safety. Before you dive in, you should shut down the power. Find the breaker box and turn it off. It's best not to take chances when it comes to electricity and moving parts. If you have a packaged system (one that does the job of cooling and heating your home), you also need to turn off the flow of the natural gas line before starting. Find the gas line, and you'll see the knob to turn. ‍ Clean your outside unit. Let's begin outdoors. On top of your HVAC unit, you'll find the fan cage. Remove this with a screwdriver or wrench to expose the inside. Now, you can remove any debris by hand such as leaves, pine needles, grass, dead squirrels, and other unwanted treasures. OK, maybe not dead squirrels, but it's not pretty. ‍ Next, remove the covers from the sides of the unit if there are any. If you'd like to be thorough, use the brush attachment of a vacuum and suck up any dirt that may have collected on the thin, delicate metal columns. Those are called fins. Then, grab a water hose and rinse the fins from the inside out to get everything else. You can access the backside of your fins through the top of the unit. By washing from the inside out, you're pushing gunk out of the system instead of into it. Be sure to let everything you have washed dry before turning on your system again. SN Tip: Do not use a power washer! Although they are great for deep cleaning, the pressure can easily damage your HVAC unit. If you need to deep clean the fins, there are cleaning solutions made just for that. After you clean everything, check the fins for any areas where they may be bent. It's a good idea to take some time and straighten these out, as it will help with efficiency, which can save you money. They make tools specifically for this task known as fin combs, but in a pinch, a butter knife can work as well. Gently wedge it in between and push the bent fins back into place. After that is complete, the fan cage can be put back in place and installed. Sorry ahead of time, because this may be a little tedious. SN Tip: Be exceptionally gentle when straightening your unit's fins. These are fragile, and too much pressure can cause damage. To prevent future debris and ensure adequate airflow, you should clean up the area surrounding the condenser. Trim nearby branches and vegetation as well as clear any other obstacles that could end up inside the unit. Ideally, you want your outdoor unit to have about two feet of space in all directions. ‍ One last thing to check is the insulation on your coolant line. Two different coolant lines exit your house and enter your unit. Don't worry about insulating the smaller of the two as it typically carries the warm refrigerant. The larger line should have insulation around it inside and outside the house. If you find that it is not in tip-top shape, you can buy new insulation foam at a hardware store. Cut the length you need and keep it in place with electrical tape. When your coolant line isn't insulated, you could have condensation inside the home and will definitely lose efficiency because it will collect heat from outside. By insulating the larger coolant line, you're taking care of your house and making your HVAC unit's work a little easier. And by regularly checking the insulation, you'll be sure to not run into those issues. ‍ You are now all done outside! Put away any tools that are lying around and get yourself a glass of water. ‍ Check inside unit for damage and inefficiencies. SN Tip: if you have a packaged system or don't have a furnace/AC inside, some of this doesn't apply to you. If that's you, you can skip to what matters here. Let's now continue this project inside the comfort of your home. But wait—did you remember to cut the power from the breaker? Just a friendly reminder. ‍ Start with a visual inspection. Check coils, pipes, and even the floor. What you will be mostly looking for is dust buildup, oil stains, and rust. You should clean any dust. If you notice oil stains or rust, that may indicate a leak—you don't want those. This leak could be from any number of things, including a coolant line. If you see a water stain, a severe problem is waiting to happen. See if you can find the source of the leak and seal it or replace the part if possible. If the conditions seem to be too big for your britches, this might be a job for an HVAC technician. It'll certainly be cheaper than waiting for something to break. ‍ If your HVAC system has a humidifier, close the bypass to the humidifier. Then turn off the humidifier itself. While it is helpful during the winter to stop dry air, it won't be beneficial or efficient to have this running with the scorching weather. ‍ With every HVAC maintenance session, it's essential to clear the drain pipe. Start by finding and checking the drain pan, located near the bottom of your unit. You want it to be clean and free of debris. ‍ Now for the good stuff. Open the drain pipe connected to the pan and pour some water directly in the pipeline. Make sure to have a bucket underneath not to leave a puddle on your floor. Flush out any dirty water and debris in the pipe with an air compressor. A wet/dry vacuum works well here too. Detach the pipe at a junction a foot or so down the line from the pan and insert the vacuum nozzle there. Plug the other side of the pipe that you disconnected from the pan with something airtight such as someone's thumb or a cork. Now turn on the vacuum and with the other end plugged, any dirt and grossness should be sucked out. Reattach the drain pipe and conduct a final check. Pour some water into the pan and examine if it smoothly flows away. Lots of issues can arise from maintenance neglect regarding this particular area. If water cannot properly flow through the drain pan, it will overflow and can cause significant water damage to your unit. Some HVAC systems are above the first floor, and that's the last place you want water damage. ‍ One of the simplest things you can do is to change your air filter. It will stop debris from entering your unit as well as help keep your air clean. A clogged filter will drastically diminish airflow and could damage your unit. The costs for repairs is not worth it. One inch thick filters should be changed every one to three months. Filters that are four inches and thicker are typically changed out every four to six months. It'll depend on your environmental circumstances and the quality of the filter that you use. If you are unsure, install a new filter and check to see how dirty it looks every month. If you would like some assistance to make sure that your filters are regularly replaced and on time, we might know of a handy subscription that will help! *Cough *Cough* ‍ Enjoy the fruits of your labor. ‍ Grab your sunscreen and shades, because you're all set for summer! Turn on the power (and natural gas) to your HVAC system now that you've done your part to make it clean and keep it happy. A happy HVAC system will gladly reward you with the comfort of cool air for months to come! Take care of your things, and they will take care of you. It is certainly more pleasant than the possibility of coming home to a humid inferno of misery and sweat. ‍ If you lack the right tools, don't have the time, or come across something concerning about your HVAC that seems to be out of your league, there is no shame in reaching out to a local HVAC professional. There is a lot of HVAC maintenance that you can do on your own, but some tasks are too big for the untrained. ‍ --- ‍ Wouldn't it be nice to regularly replace your air filters on time without any reminders, going to store, or struggling to find your size? Of course it would. Make the smart choice and consider giving Second Nature a try! With our air filter subscription, we automatically send you the filters you need when you need them. Go ahead and mark that to-do off your list forever. We dare you.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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