Happy Thanksgiving from Home Rental Services!

Happy Thanksgiving!Friends, it’s that time of year again!  The holidays are here and we wanted to take a minute to thank you.  Whether you are an owner, a renter, a vendor, friends or family, we appreciate each and every one of you.  Thank you for helping make 2014 a great year!

We are spending the day today wrapping presents we bought as a team for the KVC children we adopted.  We also celebrated that Amy has been working for Home Rental Services for 13 years!!!  Pics to come in a blog post next week!

Have you started gift shopping for your friends and family?  Have you put up your holiday lights yet?  We are seeing them pop up in neighborhoods all over Kansas City.

As a result, we thought it might be a good idea to share this list of top 10 things to consider for having a safe holiday season in your home:

top-101. Inspect electrical decorations for damage before use.
2. Do not overload electrical outlets.
3. Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights.
4. Keep live trees fresh in your home by watering daily.
5. Use battery-operated candles.
6. Keep combustibles at least three feet from heat sources.
7. Protect cords from damage.
8. Check decorations for certification label.
9. Stay in the kitchen when something is cooking.
10. Turn off, unplug, and extinguish all decorations when going to sleep or leaving the house.

(Thanks to our friends at Sage Restoration for this great list!)

Have a safe, happy and warm Thanksgiving!

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KVC Shopping Night at Target! [PICS]

We mentioned in our blog post on October 2nd that we were adopting twenty kids through KVC this Christmas!  Last night, we all went to Target to get the shopping done.  What a great time we had together!

2014-KVC-Shopping-Starting

We had boys and girls from 7 to 17 to shop for and ended up hitting just about every square inch of the store to get everything we needed.  In years past, it has taken us up to three hours to get everything purchased and into our cars.  This year, it took an hour and a half because Melissa and Sarah, our awesome admins, made sure we had packets and bags for each child.

2014-KVC-Shopping-MeehanGirls 2014-KVC-Shopping-TheCareys 2014-KVC-Shopping-SarahAndMatt 2014-KVC-Shopping-AmyAndRegan

It feels so good to do something that you know is going to make a difference in a child’s life.  It was also a wonderful way for our team to come together and start getting into the holiday spirit.  Our good friends at Target set up a special lane for us to check out in, and they took 5% off of our purchases, even for those of us that didn’t have a Target Red Card!

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If you notice a bunch of trash bags in the carts, they are our special, white Santa bags for keeping each child’s gifts organized.  Thank you so much to Chanickgwa for her excellent service at Target at 119th and Blue Valley Parkway!

The last thing for us to do is to have our wrapping party that happens at the end of November.  We will be doing a blog post about that with pictures of all the presents ready to go!  If you haven’t already done something to give back this year, consider getting involved with KVC, Harvesters, or any other Not-For-Profit that you want to support.  It will make your holidays even better!

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NARPM 2014 – What We Learned and Loved [PICS]

NARPM 2014 - Kandy and CaitlinThe National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) annual convention was October 22nd through the 24th in Minneapolis.  Hundreds of members and vendors were at the convention, the largest attendance ever!  Kandy and Caitlin both attended again this year.  The main reason we go every year is to learn about best practices we can adopt, hear about changes in laws affecting our landlords, and meet new vendors providing solutions to professional property management companies.

This year was another big success for NARPM.  The trade show was sold out and we met some good companies that have products we might start using.

The keynote speaker talked about making your work culture the best that it can be.  It was inspiring and gave us some good ideas for things to do with our team in 2015.  There was also a speaker that covered new changes and laws in fair housing, specifically about service animals and cases that have gone to court.  Another main session was an economic forecast about the rental market, rental prices, and what we can do to keep our vacancy levels low and clients happy.

NARPM 2014 - Cake!The cake in the picture to the right is from the dinner that was held for the NARPM chapter presidents. Caitlin is the president of the Kansas City chapter of NARPM.  During the dinner, we were given the choice to cut the cake and eat it, or put it up for auction the next day and all proceeds would go to the Special Olympics as a donation.  The cake looked amazing and of course we wanted to eat it!  But the cool thing is we all decided to put it up for charity instead.  Awesome.

We attended breakout sessions including improving our team, business development strategies, smart search engine optimization (SEO), managing our metrics/numbers, panels with past NARPM presidents, and taking the trouble out of security deposits.  We always learn a lot and this year was no exception.

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing what we learned with our team during our weekly Tuesday morning business meeting.  This will help us improve existing processes and adopt new best practices that will really enhance our service offerings!

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Caitlin Volunteers With Christmas in October [PICS]

Christmas In October LogoMany of you know that we have a soft spot in our hearts for not-for-profit organizations.  We try to give back throughout the year.  Recently, Caitlin volunteered with Christmas in October.

Christmas in October is a not-for-profit organization focused on bringing volunteers and communities together to improve the homes and lives of low-income, elderly, disabled and Veteran homeowners.

Christmas in October selected an elderly woman named Linda to receive help getting a bunch of important home projects done.  Caitlin showed up at Linda’s home with 10 other volunteers on Saturday for a full day of work.  The fun thing is that Linda’s neighbors came over to share that Christmas in October had helped with their house last year!

Exterior

Christmas In October - Caitlin

Caitlin working on one of the basement windows

Linda’s home was built in 1917 and the basement windows did not shut or seal any more.  Caitlin and the team scraped the old peeling paint off of the window frames, repaired/replaced wood damaged by rot and termites, and then painted the wood and trimmed down the windows so they would close and seal.  Linda’s basement will be nice and warm this winter!

Back Door

The volunteers also replaced her back door.  The old door was rotten and not meant to be used as an exterior door.  The new external door was made of metal and will protect against the elements.

Lighting

There were electrical engineers that volunteered that day, and they were able to install a new flood light right next to the new back door for added security.  They went on to install two new lights in Linda’s basement, and a new light in her kitchen.

Bathroom

Linda was having some trouble with the plumbing in her only bathroom.  The team was able to replace many of the plumbing lines and fixtures and get things working properly again.

Deck

Caitlin and the team helped replace the stairs on Linda’s deck.  They also added a new hand rail, replaced an existing hand rail, and added additional structural support to the deck.

It was a good day and a lot of work was done to help Linda have a more comfortable and safe home.  She was on  her front porch throughout the day and kept telling the team how much she appreciated their efforts.  It’s an awesome feeling when you know you have really helped someone!

Christmas in October - Back Door Christmas in October - Deck and Stairs

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Are You Tired of Forgetting Your Passwords? Roboform is the Answer.

We market and manage hundreds of homes for our clients.  An important part of marketing the homes we manage is making sure they are listed on popular rental websites.

Did you know that we advertise the homes we rent on more than twenty different websites?

The days of having the same user name and password for all of those websites are gone.  If one of your accounts gets hacked, there is a good chance the hackers will try the hacked user name and password on other websites as well.  There are too many security breaches reported every month.

As a best practice, we have a different user name and password for the various websites we use.  We also make sure the passwords are really hard to hack… they are long and have lots of letters, numbers and special characters.

With so many websites to log into, we have a bunch of complicated user names and passwords to remember.  For most people, this is a painful reality, and they are constantly clicking the “password reminder” link because they forgot their password.

Roboform LogoA few years ago, we started using software called Roboform Everywhere, and it is excellent.  It has solved the problem of managing our user names and passwords!

Roboform Makes It Easy To Manage Your Passwords

Roboform Everywhere works on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
Basically, you can get to all of your user names and passwords after signing in to Roboform.  If you change a password on one of the sites you log into, that change gets synched to all of your devices!

Roboform makes logging into various websites very efficient. 
All you have to do is click on a saved login and Roboform will open that login page in your browser, automatically fill in the user name and password, and then submit the form.  Now you are logged in and ready to go!

Roboform has a password generator built in. 
Any time you set up a new account for a website, you can use the built in password creator to make a new, complicated password.  Once you log in with this complicated password, Roboform will save those credentials for you and you don’t have to remember what the password was.

You might think we were “overdoing it a bit” if we told you that Roboform has changed our lives.  But that isn’t far from the truth.  We were spending a lot of time logging into websites and resetting passwords from month to month, and that rarely happens now.  It is amazing to be able to click on a password link in Roboform and be taken there and logged in automatically.

What does it cost?  $20 per year.  (Not per month, per YEAR!)

To learn more about Roboform Everywhere, be sure to visit their website.  This has been a public service announcement from your friends at Home Rental Services, Inc.

 

 

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KVC Adopt An Angel – Do Something Awesome For The Holidays!

KVC LogoEvery year, Home Rental Services and our employees provide presents for kids in foster care through KVC’s Adopt An Angel program. We adopted 18 kids last year and hope to be able to adopt even more this year!

We thought it would be a good idea to talk about “giving back for the holidays” early this year.  Our hope is that this blog post will inspire you or your company to do something awesome for the holidays to help others in need.  If you have other not-for-profit organizations that you work with during the holidays, please let us know in the comments area at the end of this post.

It is amazing how much giving back will get you into the holiday spirit.  It’s a great opportunity for you and your friends, company, or small group to do together!  The best part is that you KNOW you are helping someone have a brighter Christmas.

It’s the Ultimate Secret Santa experience for these kids.  Think about it.  Someone they don’t know is willing to step up and say, “I love you” and show that love by giving them presents for the holidays when they might not have gotten anything otherwise.

Check out our KVC blog posts from the past three years for pics!

We will be doing a follow up blog post for 2014 in November with pics.

More on KVC’s Adopt An Angel Program

KVC’s Adopt an Angel Program is a way for individuals, families and businesses to work together to make the holidays brighter for children in foster care.  You are not actually adopting a child, but instead making a commitment to give them the gifts they have their hearts set on.

KVC’s Adopt an Angel team collects presents, gift cards and monetary donations to make sure each child in foster care has a happy holiday.  Imagine living away from home during the holiday season and wondering if you will have gifts to open.  Without your giving, children in foster care may not have the holiday season they are hoping for.

If you are interested, you can learn more and Adopt An Angel here!

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HRS Attends Mythic Creatures Unveiling – Museum at Prairiefire

On Tuesday, September 23rd, we attended the Overland Park Chamber’s networking event, “Overland Park Chamber After Hours: Museum at Prairiefire“.  David, Melissa, Chris and Josh had a great time seeing the “Mythic Creatures” exhibit while networking with other Kansas City businesses.  The food was provided by Rock & Brews, and they loved the calamari and soft pretzels.  There were more than 100 people in attendance, one of the largest Overland Park Chamber After Hours events in recent history.

We enjoyed visiting the new museum and would recommend it to everyone.  You can also check out the new movie theater, restaurants and bocci ball center in the Prairiefire development.  If you go to the theater (called Cinetopia), be sure to check out the GXL theaters with the new Dolby Atmos sound system… it is amazing!

Chamber Event - Mythic Creatures - Museum at Prairiefire

Mythic Creatures Exhibit Highlites

If you are interested in checking out the exhibit, here is the address:

Museum at Prairiefire

5801 West 135th Street
Overland Park, KS
  66224
Prairiefire Website

Chamber Event - Mythic Creatures - Museum at Prairiefire

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Free Recycling and Shredding Extravaganza – October 18th, 2014

Reuse-Reduce-RecycleWe wanted to let you know that there is going to be a free, large item recycling event, as well as free shredding (with suggested donation) on Saturday, October 18th, 2014.  This is an opportunity to recycle more materials than ever before!  We have things from the Home Rental Services office to take, and many of our staff are going to take boxes of paperwork to shred and other items from their homes to recycle.

Location for the Event

Black & Veatch
11401 Lamar Ave.
Overland Park, KS  66211
Map and Directions

What You Can Bring

  • Confidential documents, which will be destroyed on site by ProShred Security, and you can watch. The suggested donation for this service is $5 for a standard file box and $10 for larger quantities.
  • Cell phones will be collected by Sprint. Your old cell phone has moved from your hip, pocket or purse into a drawer or cabinet and is ready for recycling. Sprint will be on hand to make certain your phone is properly recycled while benefiting great charities such as the Boys and Girls Club of America.
  • Usable building material will be collected by Heartland Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Donate your new and usable building materials, hardware, fixtures and appliances to ReStore. Your donations may be tax deductible, and will benefit Heartland Habitat for Humanity’s building projects.
  • Clothing will be collected by Goodwill Industries. Clothing, housewares, small appliances, toys and many other items will be accepted.
  • Electronics such as computers, monitors, printers, TVs, VCRs and stereos will be responsibly recycled by Surplus Exchange. While most items will be accepted at no charge, there will be a fee of $10 for monitors, and $10-$25 for TVs.
  • Bicycles will be collected by Revolve. Give your unwanted bike new life and bring a smile to another by donating it. Revolve will repair and reuse whatever is feasible on your old bike and recycle the rest.
  • Up to 10 fluorescent bulbs per vehicle will be collected by Overland Park’s building maintenance division.
  • Fabric and notions will be collected by Fabric Recycles.
  • Garden tools are being collected by Kansas City Community Gardens. Other acceptable items include shovels, spades, garden forks, cultivators, rakes (not leaf rakes), garden hand tools, wheel barrows, watering wands and water heads.
  • Gently used shoes are being collected including running shoes, work boots, dress shoes, sandals and cowboy boots. Shoe Kansas City ask for all sizes of shoes for both children and adults.
  • Durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, shower and bath chairs, crutches, hospital beds and more will be accepted by the Coalition for Independence to allow individuals to live as independently as possible.

Please Contact Jim Twigg with any Questions

Jim Twigg
(913) 895-6273
jim.twigg@opkansas.org

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Labor Day Royals Outing for Home Rental Services

Team building is an important part of our company culture.  For the fourth year in a row, we took our team to a Royals Game! The Royals won against the Texas Rangers with a final score of 4-3!  For more details on the game, check out this article in the Kansas City Star.

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We had a great turnout of around 25 people between staff, family and significant others.  Kandy treated the entire staff to one of the All Star Suites.  These are great because you have an air conditioned area inside to meet and drop off food, and you just walk through a door to get to the stadium chairs to watch the game.

RoyalsThe weather was so nice that everyone stayed outside this year.  It was great to spend time together away from work.

An interesting conversation that came up was how much it costs to run the stadium lights at night. The lights were so bright that it almost felt like daytime.  After some quick research on our phones, we found that running the lights for a game costs between $30,000 and $50,000, and that’s just to light the field.  That doesn’t include the concession areas or other utilities!

We also talked about the size of the high definition scoreboard.  Did you know it is the second largest screen in major league baseball?  For a listing of all screen sizes by team, click here for the PDF infographic.

What do you do in your company to get your team together? We would love some ideas for future events, so please leave those ideas in the comments below!

Pic1-Web

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2014 Trends Show Renting May Be The Best Option For Middle Class

We’ve seen a lot of information over the past few months that talk about how hard it’s becoming for the middle class to buy a home. As a result, renting a home is becoming a more attractive alternative to buying a home.

An article from the Huffington Post talks about the 4 main reasons this is happening:

1) Home prices are rising faster than wage increases

Rising PricesThe simple math behind this trend is that homes are becoming less affordable for the middle class.  The housing recovery is in full swing, but cost of living and merit raises are not keeping up.  The options are to buy a smaller house or rent.

2) Lending standards have been tightened dramatically

The average FICO score for Fannie Mae loans that closed in 2007 was around 715.  In 2013, the average FICO score was 753, a significant increase in the required credit worthiness of potential borrowers.  In other words, you’ve got to have an excellent credit rating score to get a reasonably priced loan.  For the people that have less than stellar credit scores, the options are to go with a higher priced FHA loan or rent.

3) Lower inventory of homes for sale

In 2006, the average supply of homes available was around 5 months.  During the recession, the average got as high as 12 months of supply.  (This meant nobody was selling their homes, usually because they were upside down on the value of their home versus what they owed on their home).  In January of 2014, we are back to the average of 5 months of inventory.  This means that there are fewer houses on the market to be bought.

4) Investors are grabbing all the homes they can

There is no question that this is happening in Kansas City.  We are helping more institutional investors that want us to manage multiple houses for them.  There are lots of investors out there that held onto their cash during the recession.  As the recovery continues, and home prices and mortgage rates stay relatively low, investors are putting that cash to good use by buying real estate and renting the homes to generate passive income. This means competition for homes has gone up while the available inventory of homes as mentioned above has gone down.

These trends result in it being harder to buy a home.  Renting a home continues to be a strong alternative for the middle class.

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