Apartment occupancy outlooks are sunny in Florida markets this year, according to a newly released report.

Three metro areas in the Sunshine State have occupancies greater than 95 percent, according to Axiometrics.

Naples, Fla. has 97.5 percent occupancy and leads the country’s top 90 largest metro areas. North Port, Fla. and Miami, Fla. also made the top 10 with 96.4 percent and 95.8 percent, respectively.

The December report, which was released Tuesday by the Dallas-based research firm, notes the national occupancy rate has been above 94 percent since April 2012.

This year is expected to bring more growth to the top performing metro areas, but with less gusto than in 2013, according to the report.

Other notable metro areas with high occupancies include Lansing, Mich. at 97 percent and Santa Rosa, Calif. with 96.9 percent.

Top 10 Metros with Highest Occupancy Rates

1. Naples, Fla. 97.5 percent

2. Lansing, Mich. 97 percent

3. Santa Rosa, Calif. 96.9 percent

4. North Port, Fla. 96.4 percent

5. Providence, R.I. 96.3 percent

6. Nassau, N.Y. 96.3 percent

7. New York City 96.3 percent

8. Minneapolis, Minn. 96 percent

9. Nashville, Tenn. 95.8 percent

10. Miami, Fla. 95.8 percent


Source: Multifamily Executive

A scam in which cons call people asking to collect “debt” for the electric bill has moved Miami-Dade police and Florida Power & Light to issue a warning to the public.

Police say there’s been an increase in the scam calls. Similar cases were reported in 2012, said police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta. “They’ll call you, they’ll identify themselves as FPL employees and try to collect outstanding debt,” Zabaleta said.

The fraudulent callers claim that the victim’s electrical service will be discontinued unless they purchase a prepaid card for amounts ranging from $150 to $500. The scammers then ask for the account and PINs from those cards.

But it’s not only homeowners falling prey to the swindlers. “Lately they’ve been targeting businesses,” Zabaleta said.

Police are reviewing evidence and talking to witnesses, Zabaleta said, but their main focus is to get the word out about the scam. “We want the community to know. Don’t provide any information,” Zabaleta said.

Utility scammers also are hitting Key West customers. Three Key West businesses have reported being targeted by a telephone scam and one, Blossom’s Grocery, is out $1,300.

Keys Energy Services, the Key West-based electric company, is warning customers of a so-called phone spoofing scam. Spokesman Julio Torrado said customers have received phone calls that show up on caller ID as coming from the power company’s main phone number.

“Customers then hear an automated voice alert … to an electrical emergency within their home and the need for a crew to be dispatched,” the utility said. The automated system attempts to capture personal information that can jeopardize the identity of the resident.

Torrado said the Blossom’s incident happened Feb. 15. Faced with what it believed to be a power cutoff threat, store management paid $1,300, although Torrado said he didn’t know with what or to whom.

Miami Subs and Blackfin, a Duval Street restaurant, were also targeted. Miami Subs employee Sean Wright reported the attempted con to Key West Police Officer Thad Calvert on Feb. 11.

Wright said a caller identifying himself as a Keys Energy employee asked for $3,000 to avoid a service interruption and wanted payment by way of six $500 gift cards. Still on the phone with the apparent scammer, Wright called Keys Energy and was alerted to the issue.

If customers are unsure of the authenticity of a call and need to verify its legitimacy, they should hang up and call Keys Energy at 295-1000.

Keys Energy provides service to around 29,000 customers south of the Seven Mile Bridge. It’s overseen by a five-member elected board created in 1965 by the state Legislature.

FPL also urges customers to call the police if they get a suspicious call. Customer can also call the number at the bottom of their FPL bill and report the call to either the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (800-435-7352) or the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (stopfraud.gov).

“FPL will never call and ask for credit card info or take prepaid cards as payment. Also, FPL will never ask for any personal information from you unless you initiate the contact,” said FPL spokeswoman Heather Kirkendall.

Customers wary of whether a call or visit is legitimate, should call the utility for verification.

For further information and safety tips visit www.FPL.com/protect.


Source: Miami Herald


As you determine ways to make your apartment complex more appealing to tenants, you should pay attention to the latest trends when it comes to outdoor spaces.

More specifically, take note of what the American Society of Landscape Architects found when they conducted their Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey for 2013. Then consider using these findings to your advantage as you work to improve your property.

Opportunities to Cook and Entertain Outdoors Top the List
A whopping 96% of Americans surveyed said they wanted grills outside. This was closely followed by complete outdoor living spaces, including outdoor kitchens and areas to entertain guests. If your apartment complex does not yet have a built-in barbecue area, or grills at the very least, you might be missing out on tenants who value livable outdoor spaces.

Seating is equally important according to the survey results, so make sure you have tables, chairs, or even basic picnic tables set up around the apartment complex. Installing some fire pits or outdoor fireplaces may also be the key to satisfying your tenants, according to 97% of the survey respondents.

Sustainability Matters When It Comes to Apartment Landscaping
More people care about sustainable outdoor spaces than you might have thought, and that includes landscaping. In fact, about 94% of people surveyed said they liked low-maintenance landscapes. Of course, in an apartment complex, the amount of maintenance might not directly affect the tenants, but it may affect your landscaping bill. Choosing plants that are native to the area can reduce the amount of work required to keep them healthy, and this move would please 87% of the survey respondents, too.

Nearly as many people also like the idea of having gardens that grow fruits and vegetables. In fact, more apartment landscaping plans these days are featuring gardens as a major part of their sustainable outdoor spaces. You can offer one or even a few courtyard gardens, or even window boxes for tenants to grow their own food. Either way, this apartment landscaping can improve the quality of life in your complex. It often even increases the length of each tenant’s stay, since many people grow quite attached to their gardens after putting in hours of work to grow food.

Lighting and Installed Seating Are Also on the Minds of Many Tenants
About 95% of those surveyed claimed lighting was important to them in an outdoor space. After all, this makes it possible for tenants to cook dinner outside as the sun goes down or even simply feel safer taking walks at night. Considering how much people now value sustainable outdoor spaces, you should be sure to use energy-efficient or even solar lighting with timers and sensors to help keep light pollution to a minimum.

Another common desire for outdoor space is the presence of installed seating. This ranges from simple ledges and boulders to installed benches. You can install what you think would look best in your apartment complex, again paying attention to sustainability by using eco-friendly materials that can stand up to your city’s climate for years.

Outdoor Recreation Amenities Are Appreciated in Modern Apartments
You might be surprised to find that outdoor recreation amenities, such as pools and tennis courts, garnered only 76% of the vote in this survey. In fact, more people – about 82% – thought having weatherized chairs outside was more important. That means the ability to cook outside and sit comfortably, perhaps in front of a fire pit, is more important to many Americans than access to a pool.

Of course, many apartment complexes are still expected to have such fun amenities, especially in warmer areas. However, apparently you should focus on getting grills and seating set up first if your apartment landscaping is missing these features. After all, sustainable outdoor spaces are of great importance to many tenants.


Source: Green Property Management

The multifamily industry spends considerable time and money targeting Gen Y renters through property management, apartment development, and marketing.

And when 72% of people under 30 years old live in rental housing, its easy to understand why.

But do multifamily professionals really know what Generation Y wants when it comes to their apartment home? And do the 20-somethings employed within the industry think we actually understand them?

Here’s an idea: let’s ask them.

At the 2013 Crittenden Multifamily conference in Dallas last March, Property Management Insider contributor, and resident Millennial, Jay Parsons moderated a panel discussion with Generation Y multifamily professionals to debunk some myths about this particular generation of renters.

When the topic of discussion turned to apartment amenities, Parsons asked the panelist their verdicts on development trends and amenities that are typically targeted at them and whether they are truly essential or overrated.

Green Features are a Given with Gen Y

This one needs some clarification: green features as amenities are overrated, but that’s because Millennials expect your property to have them. Meaning, Green is not a feature, but part of the base package. So rather than trying to sell Millennials on green features, explain HOW your property is green and the cost savings.

But don’t oversell the cost savings because this could be someone’s first apartment and they won’t have a baseline for cost comparisons. Rather than trying to sell renters and what THEY can save, brag about how much YOU saved with green. Market your community and philosophy, not the unit. And for the record, each panelist said they would NOT pay more rent because an apartment is green.

Verdict: Overrated as an amenity, essential for an apartment community.

Dog Parks are the PreferenceImage of dogs playing in a dog park

Dogs, and pets in general, are the new children for Millennials. They’re not avoiding marriage and children but they may be delaying them so when they are getting their first apartment or moving to a new city, they need to bring their best friend along with them.

But don’t despair if your apartment community doesn’t have a dog park. Play up your proximity to any area dog parks or other animal friendly venues. This is especially important when dealing with urban environments. One of the panelists implored the audience to get creative: put one on the roof, use garage space, etc.

Verdict: Essential


Your Video Game Room Won’t Turn Any Heads—or Thumbs

The panel practically dismissed this “amenity” with a disinterested wave of the hand. Video game play is about gathering with friends in their space, not a common area. Panelist said the same goes for movie rooms. Besides, as one panelist pointed out, sometimes it is better to trash talk a 13-year old online in private while playing Gears of War and not in public

Verdict: Overrated

Tanning Beds Get a Cold Reception

Besides the extra effort to clean and maintain tanning beds, not mention adhering to health codes, the controls are typically located in the leasing center and can only be controlled by staff. That means tanning beds are only available during regular leasing office hours and not when it’s convenient for the resident. One panelist offered up an alternative to tanning beds: spray tanning.

Verdict: Overrated

Fitness Centers Shouldn’t Feel Confined

If you’re going to sell your fitness center to Generation Y, bring your A game. Don’t place a few elliptical machines and treadmills in a room the size of a small dining room and expect Millennials to be impressed. Also, you must have modern equipment. You need personal TV screens and the ability to plug in iPods and other media devices.

Panelists were keen on flexible spaces. Because many Millennials are willing to live in smaller units to save money, they don’t have room for activities such as Yoga or Tae Bow. By having flex spaces at your community, you allow residents more choice in the activities they can do. One panelist went so far as to suggest that property managers contract with a local gym provider and allow them to run a fitness center.

Verdict: Essential, but with conditions

Premium Parking Can Pay Off with Millennials

While Millennials may not be willing to pay extra for green amenities, they might pay for convenient parking. One panelist said she would be willing to pay $75 to $100 more per month just to be closer to the elevator. Two other panelists pointed out that while there is a trend towards walkability, even in urban areas, and using alternative means of transportation such as light rail, bus, and even ZipCar, parking is essential.

Verdict: Essential

It’s not that these amenities are unimportant. Keep in mind that this is only the opinion from a small group of Millennials who also happen to be professionals in the apartment industry. Take these opinions with a grain of salt, test them at your own properties, and adjust your marketing messages according to the results of your research.

What are you experiencing at your properties? From the Millennial perspective, what amenities are essential and what are over rated?


Source:  Property Management Insider

Pets do everything from soothing stress to providing comic relief at the workplace. In fact, pets are becoming such a part of our professional lives that many big companies now offer dog-friendly workplace policies and perks, like pet health insurance in their benefits packages.

Making a workplace safe for pets is important – after all, our furry friends aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation. Here’s how to make sure your facility won’t place pets in peril.

Before allowing tenants to bring best friends into the office, be sure to clear all areas of anything that could tempt dogs to chew, and keep things like fans, paper cutters, and printers up high and away from the ends of tables, where they could be knocked over onto unsuspecting pets. Dogs can suffer burns to the mouth, paws, and face from chewing on cables, so keep dangling cords out of paws’ reach.

Cake, candy, and other office treats should never be left out on countertops when pets are on the clock. No one wants to share a cubicle with a pet in intestinal distress – but more importantly, human foods like coffee and chocolate can actually poison pets. Provide plenty of tall trash cans with locking lids, and remind workers to discard their leftover lunches.

Doors that lead to parking lots, loading docks, and busy streets can be gateways to disaster for roaming dogs. Provide crates, gates, and leash tethers to keep four-legged friends secured in the doghouse. Remember that pets’ paws can easily be punctured by high heels if someone makes a misstep, and rolling chairs can crush toes or tails in close quarters. Really think about whether there’s enough space to accommodate pets before inviting them to work.

Finally, keep toys, treats, and anything pets might compete over out of common areas, and establish an outside-only rule for play. Just as coworkers can sometimes clash, dogs don’t always play well together. Little squabbles here and there are normal, but it’s best to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to a truly aggressive pet.

When welcoming pets into an office building, it is a good idea to have pet parents sign an official pet policy that clearly spells out all of the rules. Put safety first and set boundaries and you’ll reap the many benefits of a pet-friendly workplace.


Source:  Buildings

Younger renters have long been the prized demographic for apartment owners, but there’s some indication that an older demographic is going to be an increasingly important segment for landlords in the coming decade, according to a research note published recently by the National Multi Housing Council. That is, the aging baby boom demographic might make itself felt in the rental market as its members downsize from home ownership.

The baby boom generation remains the demographic bulge that it’s been since U.S. birth rates, which dropped precipitously during the Depression in the 1930s, spiked during the prosperity of the 1950s. After another trough in the 1970s, the number of U.S. births has roughly stabilized at around 4 million a year.

Thus, the number of births has varied much less in the past 25 years than it has in the prior 50 years, which means that—projecting forward—the number of young people entering the housing market, which usually means as renters, should vary little over the next 20 years. By contrast, the size of the baby boom generation (the youngest of which are about the turn 50) carries with it the potential for a large number of people transitioning to rental housing.

Sheer generational size, however, isn’t the only variable. Household formation is critical. The number of U.S. households increased by 11.2 million between 2003 and 2013; more than half (58 percent) of that increase came among householders from 55-64 years of age. Over the next 10 years, however, that age group will make up only 12 percent of the increase in households.

The bulk (72 percent) of the increase in households from 2013-2023 will instead occur among householders in the two oldest groups combined (65-74 and over 75 years of age), estimates the NMHC research note. The share of household growth among the youngest two age groups (15-24 and 25-34 years of age) will be slightly higher in the next 10 years than in the previous decade, but both shares will remain relatively small.

How many of these new, older households will be renters? Based on the 2013 Current Population Survey rentership rates, the 25-34 age group will make up 31 percent of the renter increase going forward, the largest of any single age group. However, the 65-74 and over 75 groups will make up a combined 52 percent of the growth in renter households. By contrast, the growth in renter households in the 55-64 age group will be slightly more than offset by the decline in renters in the 45-54 age group between 2013 and 2023.

In short, a relatively large number of a relatively large demographic group will become renters in the next 10 years. Younger renters will remain important, but it will probably be their elders who provide some oomph to the demand for apartments over the next decade.


Source:  MHN

The New Year brought big changes to the lighting industry.

The final step of the Energy Independence and Security Act took effect January 1, 2014, which means that incandescent 40- and 60-watt bulbs can no longer be manufactured. According to Osram Sylvania’s Socket Survey, only four out of ten Americans are aware of these changes.

Facility managers have dealt with light bulb phase-outs before with the 100-watt in 2012 and the 75-watt in 2013.
See tips for dealing with lighting phase outs.

According to Lowe’s, here are five things you need to know about the change:

1. You Can Keep Your Current Bulbs
According to the legislation, consumers can still use their existing incandescent light bulbs and retailers are allowed to sell bulbs they have on their shelves and in stock. Manufacturers are simply required to stop producing non-compliant products. Some specialty types of incandescent light bulbs, such as reflectors, three-way, appliance, and some decorative bulbs, are exceptions to the law and can still be manufactured.

2. You Won’t Notice A Major Difference
Halogen light bulbs are a popular pick by interior designers because of their crisp, white light and welcoming ambiance. For customers who love the look and feel of incandescent light bulbs, there is no need to worry. Manufacturers have developed halogen light bulbs that both meet the new efficiency standards and offer the characteristics of traditional bulbs. While these bulbs may cost more up front, they pay off in the long run by saving 28% in energy costs over the life of the product.

3. You Won’t Replace Your Bulb Until Your Baby Graduates From College
It’s a great time to upgrade to LED light bulbs as prices have steadily decreased while performance and appearance have improved. According to Lowe’s manufacturers, an average LED bulb will last more than 22 years (based on three hours of usage per day), and over its lifetime will cost about $30 to operate, whereas an incandescent bulb will cost $165 over the same period of time. Lowe’s carries a wide variety of LED bulbs for almost every household application with prices starting under $10.

4. These Aren’t The CFLs Of Years Past
CFLs, one of the most popular replacements for incandescent bulbs, have changed dramatically with recent technological improvements. Manufacturers have addressed common customer feedback so that these bulbs now create better light output and turn on faster when you flip a switch. Once considered a safety concern because of mercury content, today’s CFLs contain less mercury than a common household thermometer.

5. There’s A Full Light Spectrum For Different Applications
Light bulbs are available in a variety of color temperatures and should be selected based on application and personal preference.


Source: Buildings.com


For the first time, shopping centers have an individualized way to benchmark energy use.

Thanks to the new Property Efficiency Scorecard recently launched at the ICSC’s Retail Green conference, property owners can input data online on energy use, water consumption, recycling and waste and overall green operating practices.  Enter data from one center or all of the centers in a portfolio and compare it with others in a portfolio or to centers with similar characteristics.

Eventually, the goal is for the Scorecard to have ranking similar to an Energy Star 0 to 100 rating, says Will Teichman, director of sustainability for Kimco Realty, one of the partners that helped craft the tool. For now, in each category, property owners can receive a score that is similar to the energy-use intensity (EUI) score, which measures kilowatt use per sq. ft. per year. The program will offer basic suggestions on how to save energy, based on the benchmarking results, but the real work comes after benchmarking. “What it does is give you insight that allows you to dig deeper,” says Teichman, who adds that he expects all of Kimco’s retail properties to be benchmarking with the program by January.

Benchmarking is important because property owners can’t start saving money on energy unless they know how much they are using, he explains; however, benchmarking also has tangible benefits that extend well beyond energy efficiency. “Although some argue this may correlate to higher rents over the long term, we view it as more of a competitiveness issue,” says Teichman. “Sustainability is an expectation of leading retailers and the implementation of these measures lowers one of our tenants’ largest occupancy costs.”

Sustainability is also becoming an increasingly important priority to investors, Teichman says. “Particularly with large institutional shareholders—they are requesting greater transparency into the sustainability performance of real estate portfolios, and view sustainability as an opportunity to improve property performance and mitigate risks,” he says. “Growth in disclosure forums such as the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) is a leading indicator of investor interest in sustainability.”

The information on each center is not public, so property owners need to know how their buildings stack up against centers in similar geographic areas, says Rudolph E. Milian, ICSC’s senior staff vice president for professional development services. Enrollment begins in January. “We definitely want to have at least 1,000 properties in the system in 2014, and I think we can exceed that,” Milian says. Payment is based on the number of properties benchmarked: one to 10 properties costs $400 per property annually, and 51 to 100 centers costs $255 per property per year. The fee for benchmarking more than 101 properties is a flat $30,000 fee annually.

Joyce Mihalik, vice president of energy services for Forest City Enterprises, is another one of the Scorecard’s early adopters and creators. About 75 percent of Forest City’s retail portfolio is already entered into the Scorecard system. She says her company has an internal benchmarking tool used for its properties, and she expects to use the ICSC Scorecard in a similar way. “We use it as a prioritization tool, for budget and forecasting purposes, where to do upgrades and interventions,” Mihalik says. “This is the way we know that here is a property where we have to go back and spend the day with the property manager to see what is really happening out there. “Are they really a poor performer? Or was the system on over-ride for three months because that tenant needed extra hours?” she says. “The data is only half the story. Then you have to do the homework.”

It is crucial for the shopping center sector to have its own benchmarking metric because that property type is so different from the rest of the commercial real estate sector, Mihalik says. While Energy Star and Portfolio Manager are widely known and well regarded, she adds, they don’t take into account the unique nature of the shopping center market. Although Mihalik says Energy Star has an important place, she notes that one of the frequent criticisms of the Portfolio Manager program in the fact that the data used for comparing commercial properties is from 2003. “This Scorecard is going to allow you to compare yourself to a live dataset,” she says. Energy Star has come under criticism from the multifamily sector for not having a rating designed for the quirks of that sector, and a score targeted for multifamily is expected in 2014. No other commercial real estate sector has created its own benchmarking system like the ICSC Scorecard.

The Scorecard also allows users to upload data only once and then to export it into other formats, such as Portfolio Manager or GRESB, in order to meet local laws or requests from tenants or investors. “I don’t want to have to key in my data a hundred times in different places,” Mihalik says. “I’d rather have our energy-efficiency team being sent out to do an energy audit or develop sustainable policy.” Mihalik says she doesn’t see ICSC’s Scorecard as being “in competition with other reporting standards.” Instead, she says she appreciates it as “an added feature and an added tool.”


Source: National Real Estate Investor


Everyone wants to save energy; everyone feels the pressure to reduce costs and improve the bottom line of their business in a lousy economic climate.

Energy Savings Companies (ESCOs) come in two varieties, guaranteed savings or non-guaranteed savings. So where does the facilities manager start? The answer: get an energy study done.

Common Sense
First and foremost, be honest about the goal of your energy savings program. Whomever you hire needs the facts so they can get down to serious work and be successful. You owe them your honesty to give the energy savings program a chance of working out to your company’s benefit.

Before the Study
Utility Bills: 
This is like the EKG for your building. Compile the bills and understand them. Know the patterns so you understand how much energy your building is using during the day, the night and season to season. Make a spreadsheet, trend the data and study it.

Metering: This is the calorie counter of your building. The biggest loads should be metered. You cannot save where you do not measure. ESCO’s of all stripes will implement metering strategies early on, so get this done to be in charge of baseline data and save money.

Equipment: Make a detailed list of every piece of energy consuming equipment in the building with all of its pertinent data. This quest to save energy can quickly move from merely saving money to asking yourself why you are behind on maintenance, since well-maintained equipment uses less energy. Get ROI quotes now.

Lighting: Knowing how everyone circulates through the building at every hour will help you to understand lighting needs within your facility. Carefully scheduling lighting patterns can far out-pace the payback period of a re-lamping project. Get quotes with pay-back periods for controls and re-lamping to compare.

Building Envelope: Invest in an infrared camera or have an IR scan done by a professional to know where the heat is going in your building. An IR scan may show an area that has been vexing you for years. Execute a plan to plug the holes, and do it now.

Controls Strategies: Make sure your building works well. This is the place where the ROI is typically the most attractive for energy projects.

Now you’ve got a list of things you can control, all you need is time and money. So, let’s look at what is really working against you (apart from time and budget crunches) in all of this.

Human Behavior
The occupants in your building are people. People have habits, both good and bad. It is nearly impossible to change these habits, especially when it comes to their work environment. All day employees give their sweat and effort, so they demand comfort. To better provide this comfort, ESCO’s need your common sense and understanding of the building and its occupants to truly weigh the validity of the Energy Savings Measures (ESM’s) they propose.

Handling energy in buildings is one of the biggest issues facing facilities managers, and most aim to become better stewards of the planet’s resources. No matter how old or what type of building you manage, there is something more you can do to make the energy spending go down. However, obtaining the money to implement it and the sheer will (and consensus) to make the changes are the biggest impediments to any challenge, that and the human behavior thing.


Source:  Facilities Magazine