Calendar icon February 6, 2023

How to Test Your Indoor Air Quality

Learn how to measure air quality using an indoor air quality monitor and other useful tools.

 

You’ve almost certainly heard us say at some point that the air inside your home can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside your home. It’s a striking statistic given how much focus is put on outdoor air pollution, and hopefully, one that will help shine some light on prevalent Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues that most people are not aware of.

 

 

The actual amount of air pollution in each home in the United States is going to vary, and it’s going to vary a lot. There’s a wide array of risk factors that affect IAQ and which ones are relevant can change by state, county, or even by town. If you know these risks, you can probably estimate how much indoor air pollution affects your home. If you want some piece of mind though, you can always test your indoor air. At the very least, you'll know what you're dealing with. We did the research, and here are some ways to do just that.

  • Purchase an indoor air quality monitor
  • Test for mold in the air.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms
  • Conduct a radon test.
  •  

Purchase an indoor air quality monitor

An indoor air quality monitor is exactly what it sounds like: a device that monitors the quality of your indoor air. IAQ is not something that enough people consider, so you’re probably in the majority if you had no idea that these products existed for consumers. They do, and they are the easiest option on the market today for consistently checking your Indoor Air Quality.

What is it? An always-on electronic device that consistently tests and reports on the levels of pollution inside your home.

What does it test? This varies by device, but almost all of them test for particulate matter, chemical pollutants, and humidity. Some will track temperature, carbon monoxide, its less harmful friend carbon dioxide, and even formaldehyde levels.

Pro Tip: Particulate matter includes things like pollen and dust, and is essential to track because many IAQ issues are linked to it.

How much do they cost? While some home air quality testers retail for a little over $50, the average starting price is more like $100. The top end price is north of $300, and many sell at the middle ground of around $200. It’s not a cheap device, but it’s not too bad for a one-time investment in home wellness.

How does a home air quality tester work? Many models have a display panel that will show you values and readings in real time right on the device itself. Others opt to show overall IAQ with an indicator light and share specific readings with your phone via a dedicated app. Most are smart home enabled as well and can pair with devices like thermostats to help manage your indoor air and energy usage.

There are a ton of examples of good IAQ monitors you can purchase for your home. Here are just a couple.

Foobot

Price: $199

Measures: Particulate matter, chemical pollutants, humiditiy, temperature

Features: Dedicated app to track readings and compare them to outside air, smarthome enabled, offers general IAQ reading with single light

Awair Glow

Price: $99

Measures: Chemicals (VOCs), temperature, humidity, Carbon Dioxide

Features: Dedicated app to track readings, can turn on smart and non-smart devices with its external power outlet, night light

Netatmo

Price: $99.99

Measures: Humidity, air quality, noise, temperature

Features: Dedicated app to track readings, smarthome enabled, offers general IAQ reading with single light

Test for mold in the air.

A common household pollutant that your indoor air quality monitor won’t report on is mold. Everybody has seen mold in their home at some point, probably on some bread that they forgot to throw away. That mold is easy to deal with. You just throw away the bread. What's less obvious and a greater threat to health is airborne mold spores that are polluting your indoor air.

What type of home mold test should I use?

Home mold tests are cheap, easy to use, available at most hardware stores, and almost entirely useless. So the answer is none. You should use none of them.

A standard home mold test typically consists of a petri dish that you allow to sit in your home, along with a substance to create mold growth inside (usually something called potato dextrose). You leave the test out for a specified amount of time, and then you cap the petri dish and let it incubate for a specified amount of time. These times vary by brand, so follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. If mold grows, you have mold. If it doesn’t—well, you get the point.

Spoiler alert: there is mold in your air. Mold spores are in the air just about anywhere you could go, including inside your home. Testing for the presence of mold is like testing for the presence of air. It is there, we promise.

There are two critical questions to answer regarding mold in your home, and whether or not it is there at all is not one of them. The first is whether the amount of airborne mold spores found in your home is excessive. Since there is no official guideline from the EPA on how much mold is too much, this is usually done by comparing the concentration of mold spores floating in your home to the concentration of mold spores floating outside. It’s also a task for a professional.

You should schedule one of these tests if you believe for any reason you may have a mold issue but aren't sure since you haven't seen any. Often times, there is a musty smell that is the calling card of larger than average amounts of mold. If you find that you're coughing or sneezing more than usual, that may be a sign of high mold concentration in your home as well.

Professional mold removal service Moldman cites these eight reasons as the most common they see for mold inspections:

“8 situations that warrant testing for mold:

  1. You are experiencing allergic symptoms, such as stuffy head, headaches, scratchy throat, runny nose and not sure why.
  2. You think you see mold but are not totally sure it is mold.
  3. You smell a musty odor but don’t see any visible mold.
  4. There have been plumbing leaks or water issues in your home or office.
  5. You want or need air testing after mold removal has been done by you or a professional to check whether mold levels have normalized.
  6. You are a buyer or seller in a real estate transaction and need evidence whether airborne mold levels are not normalized.
  7. You a landlord or tenant and need evidence whether there is a mold problem.
  8. You are looking for a general assessment of your indoor air quality to make sure your family is breathing high-quality clean air in your home."

Pro Tip: If you see visible mold, you do not need to hire a professional to test your home. You’ve already identified that you have a problem the second you laid eyes on that nasty stuff. You can jump straight to hiring a professional for removal of the fungus.

If an inspection discovers that you have a mold problem in your air, the most important question becomes “what is the source of the mold?” You cannot fix the problem if you don’t know where it is coming from, and the ultimate goal is to rid your home of large amounts of mold. Your inspector should be able to conduct this investigation also.

It’s a common belief that there is a third important question, which is “what type of mold do you have?” Believe it or not, this is useless information an overwhelmingly large amount of the time. There are thousands of types of mold. Most people have heard of black mold, which is commonly believed to be “toxic mold.” The potential presence of this is the reason people often think that they should know the type of mold they are dealing with.

The truth is that most molds, including black molds, do not produce toxins, and some species are capable of toxin production only under certain conditions. Even if you have toxin-producing mold, dangers are typically associated with ingestion, not inhalation. So it is highly improbable you will inhale dangerous levels of toxins produced by mold from the air in your home. This, coupled with the fact that the removal procedure for all types of mold is pretty much identical, gives virtually no reason to care what type of mold you may have.

A professional mold inspection will be able to answer the important questions for you. For an average sized house, an inspection of your home will usually cost between $300 and $400.

Install carbon monoxide alarms.

Most Indoor Air Quality issues will have long-term and gradual effects on health. The presence of carbon monoxide (CO) is not one of those. Known as the silent killer, CO is tasteless, odorless, colorless, and it will kill you dead if you’re exposed to large amounts of it for too long.

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of fuel combustion, so appliances like gas dryers, gas burning stoves, and gas furnaces are risk creators. If you own any of these appliances, grabbing some carbon monoxide alarms from the store is a must.

Even if you don’t own a gas dryer or stove, it can’t hurt to install these still. Carbon monoxide may not be a prominent danger in your home, but anything that burns gas creates CO. A lot of homes have gas water heaters that produce CO. And you can't forget about fireplaces. Any fire (wood burning or not) produces CO as well. In other words, just get a carbon monoxide detector. A few alarms is a small price to pay for complete assurance of safety from the silent killer.

Many indoor air quality monitors measure CO concentration and can alert you if something is afoot. That’s great, but you can’t place one in every area of your home without spending around $1000, and they don’t typically come with a screaming alarm that you can always count on to wake you up in the night. This is why you need CO alarms.

Your average carbon monoxide alarm costs about eight bucks at any local department or big-box store. There should be one within 10–15 feet of each sleeping area, and try to keep them out of corners if possible. Some are battery-powered, but many models plug directly into the wall, so the whole process can actually be as simple as opening the box, plugging it in, and boom: you’re protected.

Pro Tip: Carbon monoxide is lighter than air and rises, so logic would indicate that alarms should be placed near or on the ceiling. This would make battery-powered models a more effective option because they could be installed at any height. Contrary to this belief, studies have shown no material difference in the readings of floor level and ceiling level alarms, so an electric model plugged right into the wall will do the trick.

Conduct a radon test.

Radon, like carbon monoxide, is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and completely undetectable without a purpose-built detection device. Unlike carbon monoxide, it won’t asphyxiate you, but it is dangerous in the long-term. According to the American Cancer Society, 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year are attributed to radon exposure.

Radon can enter your home through cracks in your floors, foundation, walls, or areas around pipes. Because radon gas forms from the breakdown of natural uranium deposits in the soil, it usually enters at the lowest levels of your home and concentrates there.

how radon enters the home

Image credit: New Jersey Education Association

Short-term radon test kits can be purchased in any home improvement store or online, and National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University offers them at discounts. Unlike home mold tests, these things do provide some value by telling you how much radon is in your home.

Pro Tip: There are also electronic radon tests that continuously measure concentrations of the gas. These, like carbon monoxide alarms, are plug and play and always on. They’re not cheap though, running north of $150 for many models.

A short-term radon test is pretty easy to conduct. You simply place the test object provided in the package in the highest risk area of your home and allow it to sit for the duration of time recommended by the manufacturer, which is typically between two and seven days.

Pro Tip: As stated above, the highest risk areas of your home will be the rooms closest to the ground or below the ground. Place your test in the lowest level of your home that people will spend time in.

It’s a good idea to close windows and doors around the test area and then avoid using the area until the test is complete. This will help eliminate any external factors that can affect radon counts. After the test period is complete, you must mail the test to the manufacturer’s lab for analysis. Your short-term radon test is complete.

There are also long-term radon tests, which remain in your home from 90 days to as long as a whole year. Radon levels can fluctuate with some significance depending on the weather and time of year, so a long-term test can help determine an average over several months to a year.

The lab results will be able to inform you whether or not further action needs to be taken regarding radon in your home. If you find high levels of the gas, a professional inspection should be scheduled to identify trouble areas that can be sealed up.

Pro Tip: When buying a home, radon tests are usually conducted along with other inspections.

Like carbon monoxide, radon gas is not something to toy with. However, as long as you take some simple and easy steps and understand what you can and can’t fix on your own, you won’t be in any danger from either of these gases.

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There are a lot of threats to Indoor Air Quality out there. Luckily, there are ways to test for all of them, sometimes cheaply, and there are fixes for all IAQ problems. Remember to keep changing your air filter, as that can help quite a bit with particulate matter and mold. And if you struggle to remember, try a Second Nature subscription (did you like that segue right there?). We’ll ship you quality air filters when it’s time to change them, so you never forget again.

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10 Best Property Management Websites for Property Managers

One important approach that property managers can take to keep up to date with current industry trends and approaches is to maintain a watchlist of different property management websites. That's because these sites often reflect best design practices and website templates as well as content sharing ideas. Today we'll cover some of the top property management websites, all considered favorites and regularly featured on “Top 10” lists in the industry, with a focus on what makes each one distinctive, whether from a design optic or a content perspective. 1. Second Nature It may seem odd for us to mention ourselves first on this list, but we are genuinely proud of our brand and messaging! After all, we’re in this business for a reason – and that’s why the content of the Second Nature website is so squarely people-focused, with an emphasis on solutions that improve the lives of residents, investors, and property managers alike. There’s a robust business principle underpinning this “Triple Win” philosophy: residents want their needs proactively anticipated, and they're willing to pay (and stay) for that service. This is particularly true for a younger generation that is attuned to the convenience offered by services such as Uber and Amazon. That’s why the language used on the website reflects a humanistic approach that goes beyond transactional basics, preferring “residents” rather than “renters,” for example, or “home” rather than “rental property.” It’s also why Second Nature’s “Resident Benefits Package” is front and center, and designed to give residents, investors, and property management businesses a win. Accordingly, like all successful marketing, Second Nature’s value proposition is not only tangible – it’s personal. Visit www.secondnature.com to learn more. 2. Nest DC The Nest DC website also focuses on the families behind the doors and the people behind the investment portfolios. Although residential real estate management is associated with a certain gravitas, the language as well as the overall branding of the Nest DC website plays off of a certain “avian” riff and is designed for easy readability. Where most sites incorporate an “About Us” page, for instance, Nest DC features an “About the Birds” content piece. It’s all done with serious intent, however, and the website design is sleek, clear, and user-friendly. Visit www.nest-dc.com. 3. Bay Management Group As soon as you hit the homepage of the Bay Management Group website, it’s clear that its primary target audience consists of real estate investors and property owners. That said, the site does host an impressive library of instructional and advisory videos for tenants, property managers, and landlords, as well as investors. With the tagline “property management that’s a cut above the rest,” home page testimonials, and a blue-toned web design of the sort favored by financial institutions to connote trustworthiness, the focus is on differentiation through delivery of high-quality property management services to deliver reliable rental income. Beyond its primary “free property management analysis” feature, other web functionalities include a blog, owner portal, tenant portal, and various program application options. Visit www.baymgmtgroup.com 4. Rentberry Rentberry is a global rental platform describing itself as a “transparent and secure home rental platform that connects tenants and landlords.” With the tagline “Renting done right – finally,” its principal focus is on prospective tenants and landlords. Top-level navigation includes online rent payments/rent collection. It also includes tenant screening functionality as well as options to search listings for vacancies or create a property listing. Among the usual resources (blog, help center, FAQ, contact information), Rentberry also features pricing guides for both tenants and landlords to help streamline the onboarding process. Visit www.rentberry.com 5. Grace Property Management & Real Estate Based in Denver (Colorado), Grace Property Management & Real Estate focuses on both residential and commercial properties in Denver. Although the company was founded in 1978, its online presence boasts astute use of online marketing tools and property management solutions, to say nothing of search engine optimization, with numerous calculators and other resources available from the top-level menu. Like many companies with a strictly regional presence, Grace Property follows the tendency of including full social media and phone contact information in the header. Visit www.rentgrace.com. 6. MESA Properties MESA Properties gives its geographical focus the hero image treatment, with the tagline “Servicing the Inland Empire, Eastern San Gabriel Valley and High Desert.” Below the header, it also bills itself as “an owner-centered property management company.” Accordingly, much of the functionality on offer from the top-level navigation is focused on professional property manager services and resources for owners, but it does include resources for tenants, including maintenance request options, and portal login. Visit https://www.mesaproperties.net/ 7. Golden State Property Management The Golden State Property Management website presents with the tagline “Total property management of the most comfortable homes in the South Bay,” as well as two prominent feature buttons aimed at residents (“Pay Rent”) and potential residents (“Search Vacancies”). With straightforward top-level menu options, mobile-friendly design, and high-contrast navigation elements, this site is exemplary in its simplicity. Visit www.goldenstatepropertymanagement.com 8. Sleep Sound Property Management Sleep Sound Property Management takes aim at the stress of managing the rental process, and as such takes on an advisory persona in its content. With the word “guarantee” appearing over 10 times on the homepage alone, the message is clear: this is a company devoted to providing great property management services in support of maximizing investment returns. Its “Why Choose Us” page also highlights its investments in cloud-based property management software, also designed to ease the stress of managing property investments. Visit www.propertymanagementportlandor.com 9. Good Life Property Management The website of this San Diego-based property management company is one of the only companies in the industry to highlight customizable user elements (color and font size) in the header of every page of its website. From the marketing perspective, this sends an important signal that the company is serious about finding ways to partner effectively with its community of investors and tenants. Visit www.goodlifemgmt.com 10. Luxury Property Care Luxury Property Care bills itself as “Florida’s only full-service property management and investment concierge for residential and commercial properties.” Its focus on offering high-end services is reflected in its mission statement: “Treat yourself to the luxury you deserve and let us handle every aspect of investing in off-market real estate and building a first-class rental empire with ease.” It’s also reflected in the website design scheme, with black and gold color elements being a popular way for brands to convey notions of elegance and prestige. Visit www.luxurypropertycare.com Follow the Second Nature Website to Keep Tabs on the Property Management Industry At SecondNature.com, you’ll find an abundance of resources designed to keep you up to date on events, analysis, and expert perspectives in the field – all geared toward helping property managers create a “Triple Win” that benefits residents, investors, and property managers alike: Triple Win Property Management Blog Triple Win Property Management Podcast Triple Win Property Management Events Learn more about Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package, which is designed to generate revenue and establish Triple Win conditions for your residents, investors, and business.

Calendar icon February 26, 2024

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10 Best Property Management Blogs to Read and Learn From

As a property manager, one of the best ways to stay attuned to the latest trends, technologies, and strategies in the field is to read industry blogs across a range of property management websites. That's because the content of these blogs often consists of shared best practices and practical tips from peers and other experts. They also help you keep abreast of any regulatory changes and compliance requirements that may inform your business decisions and strategies. Today we'll cover some of the top property management blogs, with a focus on what each site brings to the table. 1. Second Nature The SecondNature blog provides insights on a wide range of topics related to property management, including market trends, technology, resident retention, and more. Its focus is primarily on a “Triple Win” philosophy, which expresses the idea that residents, property managers, and investors can go beyond transactional basics to create new, mutually winning experiences. In that vein, sample blog post titles include “How to Start a Resident-focused Property Management Company in 13 Steps,” “9 Ways to Improve Your Resident Experience,” and “How to Craft a Lease Renewal Letter that Wows Your Residents.” With top categories ranging from “Operational Efficiency” to “Resident Experience” and “Homeowner Insights,” the SecondNature blog is a valuable, highly readable resource for property owners and managers alike. Visit the SecondNature blog 2. Bay Management Group Blog The Bay Management Group manages over 6,000 units throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Its blog reflects this partially regional focus, with categories including “Owning a rental property in Maryland,” “Owning a rental property in Pennsylvania,” and the like. However, much of the content is broadly relevant to the property management business, with articles including “7 Ways to Ensure Your Potential Tenant’s References are Real,” “Tips for Successful Real Estate Partnerships” and “What is the Renter’s Bill of Rights and How Does It Protect Tenants?” This is a great blog that hosts archives going back to July 2012, making it one of the more venerable sites in this list. Visit the Bay Management Group Blog 3. Nest DC Blog Nest is a Washington management firm that focuses on homes and residents in and around Maryland, with expertise in single family homes, condos, multifamily housing, and mixed-use property in high-density, urban environments. Its clean, stripped-down design dispenses with the standard trappings of blogs such as tags and categories, and features both job listings and articles, with sample titles including “Important Factors for Real Estate Investing,” “Best Practices for Tenant Screening,” and “A Guide to the Eviction Process in Washington DC.” Visit the Nest DC Blog 4. Buildium Blog The property management software company Buildium publishes blog posts and other resources on a wide range of property management topics, from accounting & taxes to legal considerations, to marketing tips and the latest news from Buildium. Clearly, the content is aimed at a broad segment of the property management community, including rental property owners, property maintenance professionals, and real estate investors. Sample blog post titles include “The ins and outs of HOA reserve fund accounting,” “The best rent payment app in 2024: Comparing 8 online rent payment systems,” and “The 5 best multifamily property management software solutions in 2024.” Visit the Buildium Blog 5. Appfolio Blog Another software company, Santa Barbara (California)-based AppFolio focuses on SaaS for the real estate market. You do not need to be a user of the Appfolio software to find its blog relevant – in fact, much of the content focuses on issues of broad interest to property management and property investment groups, with sample blog article titles including “Three Leasing KPIs Every Property Manager Should Track to Optimize Their Business,” “4 Ways to Strengthen Vendor Relationships,” and “Your Ultimate Guide to Leasing Season: How to Maximize Occupancy and Efficiency.” Visit the Appfolio Blog 6. BiggerPockets BiggerPockets is positioned as a complete resource for anyone looking to succeed in real estate investing. Thus, its blog is squarely focused on matters relating to property investment and rental income, with titles that reflect that focus (e.g., “12 Ways To Make Passive Income From Real Estate Investing,” “High Credit Borrowers Get Punished and New Landlord Laws Put Tenants First,” and “2024 Rental Market Outlook: Is a Shift Coming Next Year?”) However, it also provides a number of articles with potentially broader interest to property management services (e.g., “Put THIS in Your Lease Agreement (So Tenants Don’t Break It!)” “9 Ways Your Property Management Tool Can Improve Your Business,” and “The Rise and Fall of the American Shopping Mall”). Visit the BiggerPockets blog 7. Rentometer Blog Rentometer provides a number of offerings around its collection and analysis of approximately 10 million rental records annually. The Rentometer blog is an extension of this capability, and aims to provide marketing insights to help manage real estate businesses. Its blog publications date back to 2018, and provide perspectives on remote property management, tools for growing real estate businesses, and more. Sample titles include “6 Tips for Communicating Rent Increases,” and “How to Use Rent Comps When Setting Your Rent Price.” Visit the Rentometer Blog 8. Propertyware Blog Like Buildium, Propertyware is an acquisition of the RealPage corporation but it continues to maintain a blog featuring news, trends and tips on single-family rental properties. Sample titles include “10 Tips For Maintaining Electrical Safety At Your Rental Homes,” “What’s Hot: Tankless Water Heaters for Rental Housing,” and “How Rental Property Software Helps in Processing Security Deposits.” The blog has also compiled different article series under various themes and topics, making it easier to navigate the wealth of information on offer. Visit the Propertyware blog 9. Rent Manager Blog The Rent Manager blog is largely focused on news about this property management software developed by London Computer Systems (LCS), and features tips and best practices for users, as well as news on feature enhancements. However, the blog also includes a dedicated category for property management trends, with articles such as “The Benefits of AI for Residential Property Management,” “Why Lowering Renewal Rents is a Smart Move for Multifamily in 2024,” and “Resident Screening: The Lost Art of the Reference Check.” Visit the Rent Manager blog 10. All Property Management Blog The All Property Management Blog reflects its identity as a marketplace of property management services, with articles aimed at real estate investors as well as property managers. Blog categories include property management tips and advice, product reviews, and content related to property taxes and finances. Sample titles include “How to Rent Out an Apartment: The Go-To Guide for New Landlords,” “Top 10 Rental Listing Syndication Websites and Time-Saving Tips,” and “5 Successful Rental Property Management Strategies.” Visit the All Property Management Blog Follow the Second Nature Blog, Podcast, and Events to Keep Tabs on the Property Management Industry At SecondNature.com, you’ll find an abundance of resources designed to keep you up to date on events, analysis, and expert perspectives in the field – all geared toward helping property managers create a “Triple Win” that benefits residents, investors, and property managers alike: Triple Win Property Management Blog Triple Win Property Management Podcast Triple Win Property Management Events Learn more about SecondNature’s Resident Benefits Package, which is designed to generate revenue and establish Triple Win conditions for your residents, investors, and business.

Calendar icon February 21, 2024

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