When we consider property management as a profession, much of what comes to mind is daily responsibilities in maintenance, collections and marketing vacant units. However, one area that deserves equal recognition is in utilities management. This is a significant portion of the job of a property manager, managing building utilities and making sure they are all paid on time so that tenants don’t experience any kind of disruption in their living experience — think electric, gas or cell service shutdown. With shutdown, apart from disrupting your residents’ day, property management companies will also face major fines and late fees if utilities bills are not paid on time, all of which will cut into business revenue.
The easy solution to avoiding late payments is to simply pay on time, right? Not exactly. The property management business is a very fast-paced, time-intensive industry, where there isn’t always enough time in the day to manage everything, especially within a large residential building. Between last-minute calls for maintenance requests, troublesome tenants, and the sheer amount of daily communication that needs to happen with existing tenants and prospects, utilities are not an easy aspect of the business to manage. Enter technology.
Using Technology To Aid In Utility Management
I understand better than most how technology helps increase efficiency in so many different aspects of the property management business. Its effect when applied to utilities management is multifold. Technology does not only save property managers time, but it also helps them find new cost savings, reduce human error and improve resident living.
First, property management professionals can save time by applying technology to utilities management to automate much of the manual work typically required to handle utilities for numerous properties. Rather than physically sort through stacks of bills and manually invoice individual residents, property managers should implement an expedited, automated process to completely cut out those processes. Cost recovering due to vacancies, handling late fees, preparing and sending out individual resident charges, and invoice processing are all responsibilities that technology could handle automatically, allowing property managers to reduce the amount of time spent on overseeing utilities. It also eliminates human error, which often creates issues with residents. When you have valuable time back in your day, you can focus more on strategic tasks that will help boost your business.
Property managers should also utilize technology to gain access to deep analytical insight into utilities data to discover new cost savings, ultimately improving business performance. Use these insights to uncover outlier spikes or increases in utilities usage to see where problem areas exist. Might a spike in water usage be the result of an unknown pipe leak?
Spikes aside, you can use general utilities data to determine areas in which to reduce spend or usage and gain benchmarking data against competitors. Having that comparison helps companies identify how they’re doing when it comes to energy usage or energy waste. With utilities accounting, generally, for up to a third of operating costs for a building, any monetary savings that result from deep analytics should be considered a major win, and uncovering new savings always bodes well for the future of any property management company.
Utilities are often the second largest expense for properties after debt servicing. For many years, property managers treated utilities as a non-controllable expense, but smart property managers now realize that through active management of utilities using modern software, you can control and manage this expense and improve the financial operating performance of the property as a result.
Finally, as today’s tenants increasingly place an emphasis on green building and green living, you should reduce energy waste however possible in order to align better with resident and prospect expectations. In fact, many prospects consider how “green” buildings are before signing leases. Just because your building might not have green amenities or solar-powered roof panels doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to green living. Promoting the general energy efficiency of a building will interest prospects who value energy conservation.
How To Choose The Right Utility Management Technology
When it comes to finding the right technology to help your company with utilities management, it’s important to look for versatile software that will not only help automate certain billing processes, but also provide a deep set of analytical data to help you make more informed decisions about how you manage utilities.
Additionally, as utility management software will be used by a number of property management personnel within a company, make sure you look for intuitive, easy-to-use technology that will not disrupt operations as employees learn how to use it.
Making any kind of decision on utilities management software should always hinge on background research. Take the time to compare different technologies to determine the software that will best help move your business forward.
Ultimately, utilities management gets very little air-time when we consider the property management business. While it’s not a hyped-up topic, it carries significant importance for the overall health of a business.