Trevor Day, Sales Manager at Submeter Solutions, discusses the benefits of submetering for utility billing in multifamily properties. Submeter Solutions provides customized billing services and utility meters for water, gas, and electric. By installing submeters in each unit, property owners can accurately bill residents for their individual usage, leading to a decrease in utility costs and a more efficient use of resources.

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What’s Covered In This Episode

  • In this episode we’ll cover:
    • Submetering allows property owners to accurately bill residents for their individual utility usage.
    • Installing submeters can lead to a decrease in utility costs and a more efficient use of resources.
    • Submeter Solutions provides customized billing services and utility meters for water, gas, and electric.
    • The company also offers billing services to handle the administration of sending out bills and collecting utility costs.
    • The process of setting up the system involves answering questions about the property, installing the meters, and commissioning the system.
    • Fees for the hardware are a one-time cost, while billing services have a monthly fee.
    • Submeter Solutions is available nationwide and offers free estimates for interested property owners.

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Read The Transcript Here

Trevor Oldham (00:03.054)
Hey everyone, welcome back to the REI Marketing Secrets podcast. Today on the show we have Trevor Day. And Trevor, for our audience out there, do you mind just going into a little bit about your background and what your company does? Yeah, I’d love to. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, so a little bit about me. I’ve been married for 15 years to my wife, Danielle. We have three boys, so our house is wild. But we’re passionate about foster care and we are a baseball family. So it’s spring and we’re just going into the wild season of Little League.

It’s just been a lot of fun. I attended the Art Institute of Seattle for video production and film. And so I did that. And then when I graduated, I actually worked at Amazon corporate for about four years and led a creative team there that did a bunch of animation and video and audio and photography and did that for about four years. And it was a really fun experience. Got to build that team. And then after that, I went to the end of the nonprofit space for a church in Dallas, Texas, originally from the Seattle area, moved there for about six years.

and led their production team and then their connections ministry. And so that was about 450 volunteers that we were seeing there and just made a lot of content and we’re helping them reach the community. And then I don’t know if you heard, but in 2020 COVID hit and it was wild. And so we decided to move back near family in the Seattle area. So I got a job at Subsplash, which does basically app development for nonprofits. And so I led an onboarding team and built that for them and helped.

churches get their apps on the Apple and Google stores and that process is hard. So we help them through that process to make sure that they’re not churning and leaving the platform. And then in 2021, my buddy works at Submeter Solutions where I am now and he said, hey, do you want to come over and do the sales and marketing thing? And so I’ve been doing that for the last two years and we built out a sales team and kind of a marketing funnel and done a lot of that stuff over the last two years. And…

What Submeter Solutions does is we provide customized billing services and utility meters for the multifamily space. So let’s say Trevor, that you owned like a 20 unit apartment complex and you were trying to figure out how you were gonna cover your water, gas and electric. Really the city just sends you one giant bill each month and you’re trying to figure out how to cover those costs. We provide the meters that go into each individual unit. And then there’s a cloud -based sub metering.

Trevor Oldham (02:25.134)
solution that we provide for that that gets all that usage online. You can review exactly what each resident is using. They only pay for what they use for. And then we provide the billing services on the side of that where we do all the administration of sending out those bills, collecting the utility costs for that. And really our hope in all this is to be able to maximize your property ROI, be able to recover all those utility costs and then save you a lot of time in the process. And so I’m excited to be able to jump in and talk to you about all that. Yeah, that’s perfect.

really enjoy that background, I must say. I have a 10 month old daughter and she’s a lot. Having three kids, she keeps us busy. I think I’m more, I work harder from five to nine taking care of her and even between me and my wife than working nine to five during the day. It’s a lot. But what I’m curious, when it comes to like,

sub -meter solutions in your product. Does it work across water, gas, electric? Is it just water and gas? What does that look like and what can someone expect, you know, the different types of utilities that your company can offer solutions for? Yeah, so we’re nationwide and we don’t have a unit minimum, which is a little bit different than our competitors. So if you have like a duplex, we’d love to talk to you and be able to figure that out for you. It works across all three utilities. What we’re what a majority of what we’re selling is water, because for some reason, water utilities don’t.

really want to deal with putting meters into each one of the units. They just want to put one meter in and then charge you for it. For like our area where we’re in Seattle, our electric utility provider normally puts in meters for each one of those. So a lot of what we’re doing is water, but we can provide it for water, gas or electric across any of those. And that goes for commercial or residential. We’re happy to provide that for any of those. Yeah, that’s awesome. I know it’s funny how they kind of cut corners, but to a degree maybe on that.

On the water aspect of it. Exactly. Something I thought was interesting you mentioned when you’re going through your bio was you can divvy it up between each resident and are you able to see, let’s just say, I don’t know this person, I don’t know exactly, I don’t know enough about water measurements, but I use like one gallon of water, hopefully more than that. And then this guy used two gallons of water. So he should be billed, you know, if it’s a $30 bill, he gets billed 20, I get billed 10. Are you able to do that? Or is it more like it just split, you know, equally among?

Trevor Oldham (04:46.638)
or four units or 80 units, 100, however big the apartment complex is or duplex? Yeah, that’s a great question. And this is where I think it becomes really, really helpful. So there’s two different things that happen. Like, obviously, the owner’s trying to recover all their utility costs because normally, like the mortgage is obviously the most expensive, but then normally the next like two or the third line item on their P &L is that utility costs because it’s just really, really expensive. And so when we put these in, you get exactly what you use. So if you’re…

living in one of these apartments, you could walk up and look at your utility meter, the sub metering that we’re putting in, and you would be able to say, okay, I’m getting billed for exactly what I’m using. So all we do is we look at the usage that’s online. And then we say, okay, the city is charging you this much per gallon. And then really, the sewer cost is normally the most expensive for processing that. And all they’re doing to get that calculation is saying, okay, you use this amount. And so that means that this amount went into the sewer system, and they’re charging you for that. And so that’s all we’re doing is we say, okay, this amount of

water went through your utility or your sub meter and now we’re going to charge you for exactly what you use. And what’s really interesting about this is there’s something that happens in a lot of residents brains where they’re like, okay, well, if I didn’t have to pay for exactly what I’m using, I’m just going to use whatever I want because just dividing out and it is what it is. But when we put these in, normally what we see is a 30 % 20 to 20, sorry, 20 to 30 % drop in the utility bill because people go, darn it, I’m using.

I’m using a lot like I’m paying for exactly what I use. So you don’t let Johnny take that long of a shower anymore. And you’re like really more conserving that amount of resource. And so there’s a really good benefit of you’re only paying for what you use for, but then you’re also conserving more of that resource that we’re using. So because you’re there’s this naturally in your brain, that’s kind of how it works. And the other cool thing is that normally what happens is owners will try and cover if you’re not sub metering, you’re trying to cover that in the rent. So you normally have to hike up.

rent to be able to cover that cost. And so normally when you can pull this out, you can actually decrease rents, which make it so you’re more market ready and be able to get that filled quicker. And then normally it also improves cap rate and property value because this has a system now installed. So if you’re ever to sell it, it’d be like, Hey, we have the sub metering system already in place and it allows future investors or if you’re going to sell it again to be able to make that a little bit more enticing for them. And then the last thing is that actually has built in leak detection. So it can detect

Trevor Oldham (07:09.678)
whether or not water’s flowing consistently. And so it’s not active where it’s like instantaneously, you know, but it can detect anomalies. So like, let’s say a toilet flapper was up or like you left the tap on or something like that. It’ll pop up a little text or an email and say, hey, you use what’s happening here. Like there’s something that you need to go check out and we can set that up. And then it’s not just that we have access to those reads. It’s also that you have access. So when you buy the system, you get access for free for life and you can be able to see all the usage and be able to know exactly what’s going on.

even if you decide not to use our billing services. And it really is just helpful to be able to see everything that’s going on in your property. Sometimes I wish I could have that in my house. I just think I had like these little, I have these little detectors I put under like all the sinks and they’ll go off like dull. It’s a very loud alarm sound. You know, it’s like a lead detection. I’ve had that go off at like two or three in the morning, just from like our sink, you know, in the summer humidity just drops a little droplet on and you’re scrambling out of bed.

Yeah, and I like the aspect where you talked about, I think back to myself when I had an apartment and I didn’t pay for water and I just, I feel like my usage was a little bit more than probably what I needed just because I knew I never have to pay for it. And I think back to that, I mean, it was like a 400 unit apartment complex. There was a ton of units and they’re covering the cost for all of that, for all those units. And it sounded like the apartment complex, typical syndication deal. You know, one company comes in,

tweaks a little bit, resells it and the next company is coming in. Where if they put a system like that in, then all of a sudden their expenses go down, the NOI goes up and then they can sell it. Sell it for more. But curious on the process when it comes to setting it up, the whole system, is it having to put someone in the field and go out to the property to set it up? Is it something that you can do on your end from your office? Just curious how that whole process works. Yeah. And I think one thing…

that is important to call out is like, it’s customized to each property. So each property has a way different story, which is like, it’s just, and I’m sure the property owners that they’re listening to this are like, yeah, each one of my properties is way different from the next. And so we work with you to be able to make sure that we’re providing you exactly what you need for each property. And the process looks like this. So basically, we’ll have you answer a bunch of questions for us, like, hey, what’s your property address, all that stuff to make sure we’re in accordance with different laws that are in the area.

Trevor Oldham (09:27.758)
And then we put together a full proposal for you for exactly what utility you need to have covered, what meters need to go where, if we need to like have a different repeaters to make sure we’re boosting the signal. It’s not super complex, but we’ll put it all together for you. And then we’ll review that for you. So it includes the hardware and it includes the billing services on both of that. And at that point, we provide the equipment for you. We don’t have plumbers or electricians on staff, but we work with people. Normally we try and say, Hey, what?

who’s a plumber that’s come on site before and knows this property? Who’s the electrician that’s done that? And most of the time it’s like, it’s Jim down the street. And then we talk to the plumber or the electrician and say, hey, this is what this process looks like. And most of them are really familiar with that process. And we say, hey, you’re gonna put it right after the shutoff valve. All the water is gonna go through that one meter or we have different solutions depending on how the plumbing is plumbed and different things. But at that point they would install the meter.

and turn the water back on, water would start flowing. Then we commission the system. So for larger projects, we’ll actually come out, make sure everything’s working correctly. For the smaller ones, normally we’re just calling and kind of walking our customers through. For the smaller ones, it’s like a plug and play system. So similar, like think of like Comcast when they ship you your modem, you just plug it in and then kind of walk through a general setup. That’s similar for us where we walk you through the whole general setup. And then we’re there through the whole process to make sure it’s all commissioned and ready to go. And then we give you access to that online.

portal so you can see all the usage and make sure everything’s flowing effectively and everything’s working right, which it should be work great. And then after that, we would then say, Hey, do you want to handle billing internally? Or do you want to handle billing with us? And then if we decided to set up billing for us, we would pair you with your specific utilities, billing specialists, you would then send us the city bill, we would then calculate all those rates and not the bills each one of the residents and then we just do that monthly to be able to make sure that process is as seamless as possible. And we try and make it as easy for you as

Like we want to be a partner for you in this, not just like someone that’s like where you’re ordering from Amazon, don’t ever talk to them. Like we’re very much hands on and make sure we’re helping you throughout the whole thing. Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. I assume you guys probably get better. I know when I moved into my house, I’m just thinking of the cable company and I remote them and I had to like call them like six, seven times to come over to help me fix it. Cause the internet would drop like every 30 minutes when we first moved into our house. And I imagine you guys provide a little bit better customer service. Yeah.

Trevor Oldham (11:43.15)
We joke about that where like, it’s like, Hey, we’re like this other, sub metering company. We actually pick up the phone. Like we, very much value the fact that like, you can just get ahold of us and be able to solve, any problems. So maybe that’s not a good comparison to be the internet company, but, definitely provide that good service to be able to walk through through that with you because ultimately even when we’re like hiring people, it’s like, no one knows about this sub metering industry. It’s such a small, like small niche, but it’s super, super helpful.

So we want to be the submetering nerds so you don’t have to be and don’t have to worry about all that stuff. So yeah. And curious when it comes to, let’s say someone is listening and you know they’re interested in working with you guys. How does that sort of the fees work? Is it like, you know, let’s say we saved hypothetically $300 ,000 on your water bill and we’re going to take a 10 % cut of that. Or is it more just almost like a consultant, you know, you’re coming in, you’re getting it set up and you’re charging. Again, just to throw in like a 5, 10K.

flat fee or maybe it depends on the size of the building because obviously I’d imagine it’s more work to set up a duplex than it would a hundred unit apartment complex. Just curious what someone and how that works like. Yeah, that’s a great question. Normally how it works is it’s definitely property by property like unit count, but there’s kind of separate things. So for hardware, that’s normally just a one time fee. It’s normally between, again, this is like really high level numbers, but it’s normally between 120 to 150 for the equipment per unit.

Somewhere around there for like if we’re talking like a 30 unit apartment complex. It’s normally somewhere around there and then So for the hardware, that’s just a one -time fee So you have access to that and then you can kind of get it all set up on that set of things We’ll definitely want to make sure that we’re walking through like installation costs So I’m just talking about equipment but for plumbers or electricians to come out We definitely want to talk about that and then on the billing side, that’s a monthly fee, but what’s really cool So let’s take that 30 unit 30 unit apartment complex in

almost every state, we can add what’s called a third party billing fee to the utility bill, which is normally between four and $5 that we can add. And so residents normally start cover the cost of our billing services through this process. And so we can just add that little third party billing fee. And that’s legal in most states, because they understand that like there’s an administrative cost to this. And so they try and help landlords to be able to.

Trevor Oldham (14:02.958)
Cover that cost and so when we add that to our third party billing fee that actually covers our monthly expenses for the residents So normally the residents are covering the cost for this It’s a really small fee and then that kind of goes from there for the smaller properties. We just have a monthly minimum that’s ranges between $100 to 150 depending on the size of the property and the residents some of the residents will cover some of the cost but then it’ll just be a little bit of out -of -pocket and basically that kind of

cost to benefit that you’re kind of running is like, how much time am I going to have to spend doing this versus having someone else to deal with, sending out those bills, doing the math, kind of mailing everything out, dealing with resident calls and trying to help you through that process. And so we want to make sure that we’re as helpful in that process as possible and make sure that everything’s in a good spot. So, yeah, it’s that’s phenomenal. And I like that third party billing fee. I think that just makes it easier. I mean, we’re talking.

five bucks, four bucks, you know, even 10 bucks. It’s relatively inexpensive. I know as a tenant, I would just, I don’t like it, but like whatever, it’s such a small fee. It’s not like, it’s like, I get more, I would get more mad when they increased around like 500 bucks a month like that. That’s where you would feel it, feel more. That’s nice that it’s just such a nominal fee and over time I can just, you know, I can get out onto the billing of the tenant. And I think of it too, like you mentioned, let’s say the hardware is like 150 bucks a unit. I mean, I would assume that the landlord is probably paying,

that much or more per, almost on like a monthly basis per year. I mean, I just think of like my house, I mean, our utilities, you know, depending on the month might be 300 bucks a month, you know, for gas, electric and, and water and different things like that. So I guess, yeah, normally, you know, it’s like, normally like what we’re seeing for the ROI, like what you’re like, that’s normally the question is, right? How long is it going to take for us to get our like money out of the system that we’re spending? And normally like the stuff that we’re seeing is it normally takes between eight months and a year to get your money back out because,

you’re not now covering the utility costs. You’re normally rents can’t be adjusted. So normally within a year, we have a calculator that as we’re walking through this process, we’d be happy to show whoever has questions about that. But yeah, within a year, normally the hardware is covered and the billing services obviously are covered in that monthly stuff. And so yeah, that’s a great, great thought. Cause that’s normally every like, you’re not just trying to buy this to just have this. It’s like, Hey, how was this going to do to be able to help my, the bottom line?

Trevor Oldham (16:24.174)
The way I think about it, it just makes so much sense for the property owners that are out there. Instead of you footing the bill and like you mentioned, the tenants, they’re probably using 20 to 30 % more of the water and they need to just because they’re not paying. Is it like, every scenario where it doesn’t make sense for someone to do it? Because in my mind, I feel like every property owner should have this, especially when they have the units. I know in my local area, most of them say the landlord is going to cover whatever the utilities. And I think to myself,

Like why are they doing that? You know, that’s just going to hurt into them. And especially your mom and pop landlords where maybe they only have, you know, 15, 20 units and maybe the cashflow is 200 bucks a month per unit, per door, where maybe now it could be 250, 300, gives them a little bit more legroom. I mean, you can think of like the big companies that are out there that are buying these $80 million apartment complexes, but even for like the smaller individual, it could really add up. But yeah, is there like ever a scenario where like a…

someone shouldn’t use it, I guess, because I mean, in my mind, I feel like everyone should use it. I don’t see like why no one is using it or why not everyone is using it. I should say. Yeah. I think some people, at least like this is why we’re on the podcast. Like we want to be able to get our story out there. Normally when people hear about it, they’re like, yeah, that makes complete sense. And then move forward with it. I think there’s a couple of scenarios where basically there’s, there’s kind of three different ways that you can cover your utility costs. The first one is sub metering. So like you kind of go through the hardware expense and you get it all the way in and go for it.

The second one is it still is hardware, but it’s called hot water allocation. So it’s really where you’re just measuring. So this would be for buildings, let’s say that were built a really long time ago and the it’s not an isolated water line that goes to each unit. It’s like, it’s springs off in a bunch of different areas. So like you, if you turn on your sink, it’s also like connected to the sink next door and it’s not as clear plumbing wise. So it costs a lot to kind of meter each individual appliance or inlet.

So in that scenario, we could put it on the hot water tank or and just measure the hot water side. And there’s a way to do this where basically it’s called hot water allocation, where we end up getting the percentage of how much each unit is using on their hot water side and then apply that to the cold water to be able to recover some of that. And it makes it a lot less expensive for insulation and doing that. So you kind of do it based off of a ratio. So that’s an option. And the third option is what we call it’s called rubs, which is ratio utility billing system.

Trevor Oldham (18:46.67)
where basically it’s kind of a step down from sub -meter and basically you just take the utility bill and then divide it out between each one of the residents by either square footage or how many people are living in there or like different metrics like that. And so even if you don’t want to necessarily go the hardware route, maybe you just want to go our billing services route, that is an alternative to be able to recover some of your utility costs. And there’s different laws that we’re familiar with in each area that either say, okay, you can do this, but you have to do it in a specific way, but we’d love to be able to help with that.

So those are kind of the three primary ways that would do it. And then for some of the smaller units, like you’re thinking quad or duplex, if they’re recovering it in some other way, like rubs or different ways, sometimes it doesn’t make sense. But most of the time, I think the main thing that we ask is like, how are you recovering those utility costs? Like if you’re not, that’s the main thing we’re worried about is like, okay, that’s a really big line item that you’re just kind of paying out of pocket for. And so…

I think even if you’re not going to go the full sub metering route, there’s ways to be able to recover that that we’d love to be able to figure out with people. That’s fantastic. And again, it just goes back to, I feel like it’s good to put it on the tenant. I think of myself like in New York and it gets pretty cold here in the winter, as I’m sure it does where you are as well. And I can just picture them like throwing up like the heat till like 85. Yeah, exactly. In the house during the winter and not caring about it. But…

Is this a product that’s available in all 50 states? Is there any territories you can’t access? Or is it just nationwide and you guys could help out any property owner anywhere within the country? Yeah, nationwide. We’d love to be able to chat with whoever. And we provide free estimates and you’d be able to talk to one of our sales team members just to kind of even answer just general questions. We’d love to be able to help with that. And so, yeah, nationwide, we’d love to be able to help. There’s not really any specific, there’s just like specific territories that like either…

just have different rules depending on where you are. And so that’s where we come into play. Like, again, you probably wouldn’t know this, but we would say, hey, in New Jersey, there’s a specific thing that you know about electricity that you just wouldn’t know. And so we’d love to be able to chat with you just to kind of help with anything that might come up there. And then we also have a lot of resources online, whether that be through our blog or we’re really active on YouTube of just like posting different things that are helpful for folks. And so we’re trying to be an industry leader of just like…

Trevor Oldham (21:05.966)
Okay, this is all the stuff you need to know. You need to know this, you need to know this and be able to help resource. Because we know that, again, we’re sub metering nerds, but that’s just an area where most people don’t have a ton of information on. And so we’d love to be able to partner with whoever needs help to be able to walk through it together. Yeah, that’s fantastic. And it’s great to hear. I mean, I don’t know if probably some quirky things that you probably come across. And I would imagine like New York’s definitely going to be different than Texas and exactly 100%. Exactly. But.

But curious, as you joined the company a few years back, how’s it been coming on as that sales manager role and coming to the company and really building up that team and continuing to grow the company from where you had started it? Yeah. So when I started, we had about nine team members and we were doing about, I think, 3 .5 million in sales. And now we’re about to hire our 22nd person at the company. So it’s been two and a half years and we’re aiming to do around 6 .5 million this year.

And so it’s been fun to be able to continue to grow and try and figure out ways to be able to make this better. And so one of the major focuses of last year was trying to get our marketing funnel really set up. And so we worked with a company called Allsmith. So allsmith .org. They’re really fantastic. And they’re like a fractional growth company. And they came in all last year and helped us kind of set up our marketing funnel and our flow and how we’re following up with different things. And they use, I’m sure your audience is familiar with this, but the pirate met.

metrics, like the R metrics. And so basically we will walk through that framework where basically weekly we were doing a growth meeting. We’re kind of talking through those different metrics, which is basically acquisition or awareness. Like, okay, how are people discovering our product and how are they deciding that? So we kind of set up a landing page and we’re trying to figure out, okay, we’re just going to, we’re sending all of our traffic to this one page. And we’re just iterating on that and trying to figure out what’s going to work best for conversion.

And then we moved to activation. So like, are these people taking the action we want from them? So are they filling out this form? Are they making the call? What are they doing for that? And then we focus on retention. So are we activating users and continue to engage with them? Like, okay, they accepted the proposal. Now what does it look like to get them on this billing side of things to be able to help them walk through that? And then we’re working through like referrals, like, okay, do they tell other people about this product? Like what happens there and how is that working? And ultimately the whole focus is like revenue. Like, are they willing to pay for this and be able to do that?

Trevor Oldham (23:25.998)
And so that’s been really helpful for us. And they rolled off in January, but kind of gave us the tools to be able to keep doing that and handle that internally. And so that’s been really helpful as we’ve been trying to grow is activating the primary source of channels that we use is Google ads. So like the intention, if you’re searching gas sub meter is pretty high that you’re looking for something really specific. So we’re focusing on specific keywords to make sure that people are finding us really quickly and able to get ahold of us in a really good manner. And that’s been really helpful to increase our lead generation.

and make sure that the funnel is focusing really helpfully. I think that’s where you’re going for that, but that’s kind of what we’ve been focused on recently. Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy what you can do with Google Ads. It’s almost like scary to a certain degree, like how much info, and even if you start to dive into Facebook Ads, it’s like, it’s kind of scary how much you can retarget people. And then you start to understand like, hey, like I go to a website now it’s bouncing around with me on the internet. And then you start to understand, like that’s why it’s happening. Yeah, that’s a great tool to…

to use, but I really enjoyed our interview today. And for our audience that is interested in working with you and working with Submitter Solutions, where should they go to? Yeah, great question. one thing I was going to add was we’re also working with your company, obviously, which has been really, really fun to like get on different podcasts and be able to start doing this. And we’re like, I think only six shows in or so, but it’s been really, really fun to be able to to market to our specific niche and literally doing what we’re doing here is just tell our story to the specific audience. So your team has been super helpful.

and walking through that. So I just want to throw that out there because that’s been really, really great for us. As far as our audience learning, your audience learning more, if you go to submetersolutions .com slash podcast, there’s a form that you can fill out and then we’d love to put together a free estimate for you. Again, even if you’re not entirely sure, like maybe this will work for me, maybe it won’t, we’d love to be able to talk because ultimately just more information is always helpful. And so even if it’s just like, here’s a proposal, this is what it would look like.

And then you kind of have that for down the road. We’d love to be able to talk to you about anything when it comes to water, gas or electric. And then even just doing the billing services side, we’d love to be able to work with you on that. So Submeter Solutions, it’s plural. Submetersolutions .com slash podcast. Awesome. I’ll make sure to include that in our show notes. And Trevor, thanks so much for coming on to the episode today. Yeah, I really appreciate it. Thank you.