The Green Report: ‘Passive’ Housing, Amenity Rooftops, & Eco-Friendly Moving Services

Welcome to the debut of The Green Report. We’ve got news about eco-friendly projects and concepts clear from Seattle to New York today. Let’s dive in!

Local contractor builds “Seattle’s first passive house” in Ranier Valley.

Just what, you might ask, is a passive house? Local contractor Hammer & Hand, who has just finished building Courtland Place in Seattle, explains: “The beauty of passive house is its simplicity. We’re able to eliminate big mechanical systems and gadgetry and instead use modern building science to design and construct super-efficient buildings.”

The result is a dwelling that achieves up to 80% gains in efficiency when compared to its more traditional counterparts. So is there a secret to building passively? According to Hammer & Hand, the magic words can be summed up thusly: insulation, insulation, insulation. Check out the full article in the Seattle PI.

Eco-friendly moving services: do they actually save renters money?

When it comes right down to it, there are probably few domestic enterprises that  utilize as many quickly disposed-of materials as moving. Traditionally, in order to move, one needs boxes, tape, and packing materials (styrofoam “peanuts” have, thank goodness, given way to crumpled paper)–and all of that often had to be purchased, all to be discarded once the move was over. But no longer.

The very best green enterprises are win-win, helping the environment and saving consumers money at the same time; and it turns out, eco-friendly moving solutions fit that mold. These days, green moving companies are cropping up all over the country, providing reusable packing containers and materials to their customers. The bonus? Sturdy plastic bins that companies provide protect keepsakes better than boxes, and pack more compactly into moving vans. Check out the Reuters story at MSNBC.com.

Looking for a single-family home to invest in? Green model homes are demonstrating how you can save yourself–and your renters–money.

Is green going mainstream in the single-family housing industry? It just may be–according to the National Association of Homebuilders, 17% of new and remodeled houses in 2011 were classified as green. That’s up 2% from 2005, signifying a slow-but-steady shift towards housing that saves energy–and plenty of money as well. Now KB Homes is showcasing new “net-zero” model homes.

Net Zero homes have Energy Star appliances, sure, but they go beyond that old standard to provide solar panels, water-smart irrigation, and charging stations for electric cars in every garage. What does this mean for landlords? So many of us pay for our tenants’ water service–and dramatic savings on their monthly energy bill means tenants have more money available for upgrades. Finally, there’s no denying the novelty of having a green house on the rental market. Check out the full story from the Seattle Times.

Apartment rooftop parks can seal the deal for families transitioning out of single-family housing.

The country-wide shift from buying to renting has been great for efficiency–multifamily housing is almost always more energy efficient than a single-family home–but there has been a casualty that some transitioning families find difficult: the loss of a backyard. While suburban multifamily buildings often have landscaped grounds, playgrounds and pools, urban buildings can sometimes pose a challenge when it comes to designing outdoor space with true appeal. Enter the reappearance of the rooftop garden, as heralded in the New York Times this week.

“Suburban rooftop parks; lounges; terraces with hot tubs and outdoor kitchens; and eco-friendly gardens are being planned for new multifamily developments from Great Neck to Sag Harbor,” the Times writes of the Manhattan resurgence of these green rooftop amenities. More exclusive than a public park–you’ll only run into your neighbors–and well planned for families, with features such as splash fountains for children, these rooftop gardens are marketed as major amenities, pleasing multifamily management, and ease the transition into multifamily housing for those who love their outdoor recreation. Check out the article in the NYTimes.com.

Ahhh.

Congratulations, Graduates. Now Seattle Up!

June is nearly upon us, and that means…graduation season! As college students across the US celebrate in ceremonies with long-winded guest speakers and funny hats, you can be that Pomp and Circumstance won’t be the only tune left ringing in their ears. The other bit? Oh, just that old refrain, beating with ever-increasing urgency: What’s the plan? And even more simply, for those of us prone to panic if we think too far ahead: Where to next? 

One popular option for the graduate eager to try something new, to be somewhere dynamic and vibrant, is (of course) Seattle. Let’s face it–Seattle is downright attractive to people from other parts of the country. In fact, our fair city is full of people born elsewhere; according to the Census, recent transplants have outnumbered Washington-born Seattlites for over thirty years now. And it’s no wonder families and graduates think of Seattle when they plan their next move; we’ve covered the benefits of Seattle pretty extensively by now, and the food alone is reason enough to stay for at least a few (very delicious) years.

But we digress; back to those newly-graduated college students. CareerBuilder.com just released its annual top cities for college graduates, and Seattle made the list at number 14.  The list was based on national data regarding employment opportunities, salary, and rent, and while San Francisco beat us by a hair, we were one of just a few western cities to make the top 15 spots.

Our unemployment rate is below the national average; our one-bedroom apartments cost less than in cities like San Francisco or New York; and to top it off (while this wasn’t taken into account for CareerBuilder’s list), if you’re bored in the middle of winter, you can always play amateur competitive dodgeball. What’s not to love?

So congratulations, college students, and see you soon! When you get here, we’ll be ready with coffee, culture, and those one-bedroom and studio apartments you love so much.

Five Ways to Get Rid of Household Items (and Feel Good About it Too)

You’ve probably run into this question more than once before in your life as a landlord: what do you do with old household stuff? Whether you’ve been renting out a furnished unit or a tenant just decided to leave some of their things behind, occasionally it’s going to become your problem to get rid of a few belongings. And in the city, that can feel like its easier said than done.

Frequently, we get asked by owners or agents for recommendations on what to do with these unwanted items.  Luckily, we have answers. Here are some of the resources that our clients have found the most useful, courtesy of Movinglink.com. Many of the sources we’ve listed are charities, which means you get to get rid of old household items and rack up some karma points in the process!

1. What Do I Do With…, from King County government

King County maintains this searchable database of resources. Just type in a keyword, or select your item from the drop-down menu, and you’ll see where you can drop it off. The interface is detailed but easy to use, and the list of places to take your things is extensive.

2. Donate Seattle: a directory of charities 

Whether you have clothes, books, bikes, computer, appliances, or furniture, Donate Seattle can probably find a charity who needs it. Select a category and view the list of organizations who could use the items you have. It’s a win-win!

3. Interconnection: Free electronic recycling, data wiping, and pick-up

Interconnection.org is a nonprofit that teachers computer maintenance and repair skills to low-income individuals. Once the computers are repaired (and their data wiped), they are donated to underserved communities, both locally and abroad. That old machine of yours could change a life!

4. The Sharehouse: Seattle’s furniture bank for homeless families in transition

The Sharehouse’s missions is “to bring a sense of self-sufficiency…to families and individuals moving from homelessness to permanent housing, and to protect our environment by distributing useful household items that would otherwise be discarded.” They offer pick-up service, too!

5. The Children’s Hospital Thrift Store, run by Seattle Children’s Hospital

Seattle Children’s Hospital maintains several thrift stores in the Seattle area. They accept small furniture items, as well as jewelry, clothing, furniture, collectibles, coins, linens, shoes and more, and proceeds benefit the hospital. Check out the link for info about drop-off points.

ADP National Employment Report Means Good News for Seattle Rental Market

ADP released it’s national employment report for January this morning and the prognosis was good.

ADP announced that the private-sector employment had increased by 187,000 over December’s employment numbers.

What does this mean for the rental market? Well, cities with strong job markets (such as Seattle) are the first to add positions and draw in new employees. Often the newly employed prefer to rent instead of own immediately because of the greater flexibility in renting.

How do you see the rental market affected by the growing number of jobs out there? Do you see this in Seattle, or does this national data seem disconnected from the local job market? Chime in on Facebook, Twitter or in the comment section below!

*Update 11:10 am (2/4/11): The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the January Employment Situation Summary, and it contained more good news! Unemployment fell nearly half a percent from December. Read more here.

We’re seeing Washington’s big companies start to hire again – are you?

We all know that in 2009 the major companies in western Washington all seemed to be eliminating jobs left and right, with “hiring freeze” being muttered under everyone’s breath (even during our 100-degree-plus summer temps).

The media and forecasters tell us that it’s not over, that it’ll be 2012 before we see a recovery, and that we need to hunker down and reevaluate our best practices in order to be better prepared for the future.

Now, reevaluating your processes and preparing yourself is very practical advice (and at SeattleRentals.com we’re doing just that – streamlining our operations, building cool new efficient features and focusing on simplifying life for both our staff and our clients), but hunkering down? I don’t think so!

Our relocation branch has seen more new hires from the major corporations coming in to the greater Seattle area in the past 30 days than we’ve seen in MONTHS. Renters are looking to move in February and March with great price ranges (today we had a client looking for a $1300 1 bed apartment and one looking for a $5000 rental home, among quite a few others). They’re coming from all over the US, including other parts of Washington state.

If you believe there are still hiring freezes, check out Microsoft’s career page. And that’s just one example. Western Washington’s “big player” employers are also following the route of streamlining their operations, but they need bright new talent to implement these changes and they seem to be back on the hunt to find it.

Now is the time to make sure your properties, your services and your staff are performing in the most high quality and efficient way possible. I know 2010 budgets are tight, but don’t cut back so much that you disappear – it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re still in front of the new hires, their employers and the relocation companies that service them.