Kandy and Caitlin just got back from the 2014 NARPM Broker/Owner Retreat that was at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was a three day event where owners and brokers come together to share best practices in the property management industry.
Why do we think this is newsworthy?
Because many companies don’t take the time to work ON their business because they are too busy working IN their business. We wanted you to know that we are doing the things it takes to be a more effective and process driven company. Our industry is in a constant state of change. New laws, new tools, new employees, new vendors, new owners, and more are why we have to be as efficient as possible. These kinds of retreats allow us to think about how we are doing things and inspire us to make important changes related to how we help our clients and how we equip our staff.
There were a bunch of great sessions including:
- Building a Service Culture in Today’s On-Demand World
- Creating Systems and Streamlining the Office
- Engaging Your Employees to Get Engagement : Methods for Happy, Productive, and Long-term Employees
- HR, Systems, Marketing, and Operations
- Apps for Property Managers
We appreciated the various topics across a broad range of subjects. We also met two mobile inspection app companies at the vendor showcase that we are following up on. (We are in the process of getting away from paper based inspections and moving to electronic inspections.) We are glad to be back in the office with our team, but really glad we took the time to go to this retreat and learn about things we can do to make our business even better!
This week’s blog post idea was from Derek, one of our property managers.
Our new owners often ask us for ways to get their home ready for leasing, with a goal of getting their house leased more quickly and for more money. Here are our top 10 tips for getting a house ready for leasing:
It is a good idea to stage your home in a way that people viewing it can see themselves living there. If you have family pictures on the wall, sports team memorabilia, in the basement, etc. you momentarily shatter the illusion of someone visualizing themselves living in your home.
Make sure to de-clutter your kitchen, bedrooms, closets and storage areas. It allows the person thinking about renting your home to visualize what they would do with all that space! Donate items to Good Will or have a garage sale.
3) Painting Ceilings and Walls
Check your ceilings for water stains. Check your walls for noticeable marks. Paint anything that doesn’t look clean or fresh. When choosing paint colors, it is best practice to go with neutral colors.
4) Carpet and Flooring
Make sure to have your carpet professionally cleaned. If you have tile or hardwood flooring, check for any damages. If you find significant damage, consider replacing the affected area with new tile or hardwoods.
5) Windows and Doors
Makes sure all of your windows open and close easily. Make sure there are no cracked, broken or cloudy window panes. Make sure all doors open and close easily. If they don’t you could use WD40 on the hinges to see if that fixes the problem.
6) Odor Control
If you smoke or have pets, it would be a good idea research products to use to remove the odors, or companies you could hire to professionally clean up the odor for you.
Look around your neighborhood and see if the landscaping you have at your home is comparable to the landscaping at other homes. If not, it would be a good idea to invest in a few plants and bushes. You would be surprised how inviting a house can look with new landscaping. Make sure your lawn is mowed regularly.
8) House Exterior
Walk across the street, turn around, and take a good look at your house. Does it look faded? Are there any worn or bare spots? Is the trim dingy? If the answer is a big YES, then you should consider having your house painted. It is not a small expense, but first impressions are important and seeing the outside of your house will be your future tenant’s first impression. You are also protecting your investment.
Inspect the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for anything that is cracked or crumbling. As always, if you find problems, research your options or hire a professional to fix them.
10) Back Yard
If you have a pool, spa, nice patio, etc. make sure these areas are clean and free of debris. If you have pets, make sure you have picked up their toys and removed any “landmines”.
February 11, 2014 – Break the Fast
We showed up in force for the February Break the Fast Event hosted by Group O’Dell. Group O’Dell is a Kansas City based residential real estate company. They shared with us this morning that they helped hundreds of families find homes in 2013 and continue to grow at a fast pace.
We have done business with Dan and Maria O’Dell (and the rest of their team) for many years and recommend them highly.
Today’s meeting was about goal setting for 2014 across five key areas:
We wrote down short term goals (next 10 days), medium term goals (next 10 months) and long term goals (next 5 years). There is something powerful about writing your goals down and keeping them in front of you as a reminder. It’s almost like the act of writing the goals is a contract with yourself that you can’t hide from. You know the goals are there, and you know what you need to be doing to achieve them.
If you haven’t considered your goals for 2014 or written them down yet, hopefully this is a great reminder to do that! You will find that you accomplish more in the coming months if you have written goals for all aspects of your life!
We have gotten a TON of snow in Kansas City in the past 24 hours. Some areas received as much as 11 inches! We call it Snowmaggedon. Or Snowpocalypse. The temperature was negative 3 degrees as we came into work this morning!
So, as we dig ourselves out of the snow and try to stay warm, we thought it would be fun to dream about our favorite vacation spot. The following is a list of our favorite vacation destinations and the last time we were able to go there!
Favorite Vacation Destinations
Allen: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – 2012
Caitlin: Anywhere with sun, sandy beaches and clear ocean – 2012
Chris: Woodlock Pines, Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania – 1996
Derek: San Diego, California – 2013
Jason: Scuba Diving in Cozumel, Mexico – 2012
Josh: Sydney, Australia – 2010
Joshua: Carribean Cruise – 2013
Kandy: Muir Woods, California – 2012
Kevin: Orlando, Florida – 1995
Melissa: Chicago, Illinois – 2009
What’s your favorite vacation destination? Let us know!
If you didn’t have a chance to read last week’s blog post, it was called, “9 Volt Batteries Seriously Damage Home in Fire” and was an eye opener to us about storing batteries properly. Thanks again to our very own Joshua for bringing it to our attention!
This week’s blog post is a follow up in the same storyline… properly testing your smoke detector. We have done blog posts about smoke detector maintenance in the past, but we realized that we talked more about replacing batteries and pressing the test button and never mentioned liquid smoke detector sprays. These products are basically “smoke in a can” and are used to make sure batteries as well as sensors in smoke detectors are working properly.
The story that caught our attention was about a person that burned a meal on the stove and their smoke detector didn’t go off. There was a ton of smoke in the kitchen, so it should have gone off. When they pressed the “test” button, the alarm sounded, so they realized that the smoke detector sensor had gone bad.
Smoke in a Can
Amazon.com has a few products to choose from when it comes to smoke detector sprays. As always, look at the reviews to select the right product for your needs. We liked the Home Safeguard 25S can for $7.50 and free shipping and ordered it to try it out. It has all 4 and 5 star reviews from people that have purchased and used the product.
If you are like many people we’ve talked to, you thought that simply pushing the test button on your smoke alarm and changing the batteries was good enough. The problem is that the sensors in a smoke alarm can get corroded over time to the point where they will not sense smoke.
The best method for testing your smoke alarms is a smoke detector spray. If you haven’t done this before, we recommend you get a can and try it for yourself for peace of mind in your home!
Time for another important safety tip from Home Rental Services!
(The idea for this post was brought to us by Joshua, one of our property managers!)
Many homeowners have 9 volt batteries in their homes for smoke alarms. The recommended best practice is to change those batteries every year when Daylight Savings Time occurs. If this applies to you, you may be shocked to hear the story about a home that went up in flames because of the way the 9 volt batteries were stored!
If you think about it, most batteries have the positive and negative posts on opposite ends, making it harder to create an electrical connection. Keep in mind, when you make a connection to the positive and negative end with ANY conductive material, electricity will flow. This becomes especially dangerous with a 9 volt battery because the positive and negative terminals are on the same side and close together.
We strongly encourage you to watch the 5 minute video below about how a home was seriously damaged by fire… all caused by a sack of old 9 volt batteries in the garage waiting to be recycled properly. Crazy, right? The homeowner sat a laundry basket on the shelf next to the sack of batteries and two of the batteries shorted against each other. Over time, the batteries heated up and then burst into flames, causing an uncontrollable fire that burned their house down.
The simple remedy is to put a small strip of electrician tape over the positive and negative posts of 9 volt batteries for storage. This applies to NEW and OLD batteries as well because there can still be sufficient charge in an old 9 volt battery to cause problems if the terminals are shorted.
We love our vendors. They are part of the healthy engine that runs our company. As a result, we like to do a “Vendor Spotlight” to let you know about the trusted companies that we use for all types of maintenance requests. This month, we are going to spotlight The Carpet Guy.
The Carpet Guy
Phone: (913) 791-2454
We have been working with Mark at The Carpet Guy for years. He has always done a fantastic job and we recommend him every chance we get! Not only do we rely on his services to clean the hundreds of homes we manage, we use him personally for our own homes!
We recommend him to tenants during the move-out process because we know carpets cleaned by him will look their best and we never have to worry about the next tenant complaining about dirty carpets. We often send Mark to work on carpets that might not be salvageable, and he is either able to get them back to good condition, or honest enough to tell us there is no saving them.
His prices are very reasonable and he is one of the few carpet cleaners who can treat pet odors successfully.
The Carpet Guy provides the following carpet cleaning services:
- Carpet Cleaning
- Mold & Mildew Treatment
- General odor removal due to smoke and food smells
- Pet Stain/Odor Removal
- Spot Dying
- Water extraction and commercial fans for drying
If you need your carpet cleaned or have a stain that is so bad you think you might need new carpet, give The Carpet Guy a chance to help you.
Curious minds want to know… and if you are interested in random facts and statistics, do we have a website for you.
Kandy found this site and shared it with the staff last week. It is a website with a simple goal, to bring interesting numbers to the world. Here is a quote from the CEO, Seth Harden:
Statistic Brain is a group of passionate number people. We love numbers, their purity, and what they represent. Numbers can bring humans together, they tell us how we are alike and how we are beautifully unique. Numbers are a way to reflect on how far we’ve come and give us hope for the future.
We found some really interesting statistics on this site that we plan to use in our marketing materials. We thought you might find it useful as well! Here are some of our favorite interesting statistics from StatisticBrain.com:
- Airline Industry Statistics (Delta and United are tied for market share in the U.S. with 16% each)
- Top Rated Stocks for 2014 (Netflix is crushing it!)
- Online Mobile Banking Statistics (In December 2013, 19% of people used a mobile phone to do online banking at some point)
- Breakfast Eating Statistics (Only 44% of Americans eat breakfast every day, 22% of those that skip breakfast are obese)
- National Average Annual Cost of College Tuition (Around $20,000)
If you check the site out and browse around, let us know what your favorite stats are in the comments below! Thanks for reading!
Here in Kansas City, it is 4 degrees and the roads are slick because of ice and snow. Our staff reported seeing accidents on their way into the office today (people drive way too fast in icy conditions.) We were talking about things that would be important to have in your car in case you got stuck during the winter.. and turned it into a blog post!
So here we go… ten things to consider putting in an emergency pack in the back of your vehicle during winter:
- Roadside Emergency Kit: A compact roadside emergency kit costs between $30 and $50 and has a bunch of the essentials listed below. It would be a great place to start! (Roadside Emergency Kits on Amazon.com)
- Blanket: If you are waiting in cold weather for help, you will want a decent warm blanket as an extra layer.
- Snow Shovel: Get a short handled shovel to stow your trunk in case you need to remove snow from around the wheels of your vehicle. A metal shovel would be the most effective for chipping away at ice or hard packed snow banks.
- Ice Scraper: These are cheap, light and incredibly handy. We recommend getting one that has a scraper on one end and a brush on the other. That way, if there is a pile of snow on your vehicle, you can brush it off before scraping.
- Flashlight: We think this one is obvious, but most people don’t have a small flashlight in their vehicle. A good bet is to buy one that you can crank so you aren’t worrying about keeping fresh batteries in the glove box. (Click here to see some hand crank flashlights on Amazon.com)
- Hand Warmers: Available at camping stores. Smash the bag and the chemical reaction inside creates warmth to defrost fingers that may be trying to change a tire or fiddle with an engine.
- Flares: These should be in your trunk in all seasons for putting next to your car if you are pulled over in distress. (Flares on Amazon.com)
- Water and Protein Bars: Another great thing for your winter survival kit would be a few bottles of water and some protein bars.
- Matches: You never know when you will have to start a fire for heat. These are cheap and take up very little space. Odds are you will never use them, but if you needed them, you will be SO thankful you have them!
- Whistle: It can be used to either signal for help to someone who can’t hear you yell, or to scare someone who may be trying to take advantage of your distress.
Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Over the past year, we have seen an increase in the reporting of fires due to damaged chimneys. We have seen it on TV, in the newspaper and in trade magazines. Check out this video on KCTV5 of a home in Shawnee that was destroyed by fire a couple of weeks ago because of cracks in the chimney.
The latest report published by the Chimney Safety Institute of America showed that each year around 25,000 chimney fires take place. On average, these fires result in thirty deaths per year and cost $126.1 million in damages.
Chimney fires are caused by creosote buildup, which is a natural by product of burning wood. There are several factors that speed up the accumulation of creosote in chimneys and these include the use of unseasoned wood and also the location of the chimney.
Annual cleaning of chimneys can significantly reduce the chance of you having a chimney fire.
As a result, we are coordinating the inspection of the flues in the homes we manage. So far, we have managed the inspection of chimneys in dozens of our homes. There will be hundreds of flues inspected by the time we are done.
We have partnered with HearthMasters here in Kansas City to perform these inspections for our owners. They are the most experienced chimney experts in our area with the certifications to prove it. Did you know that a Master Mechanical License (HVAC) is required by most cities in Johnson and Jackson counties for chimney relining or repair?
HearthMasters is proud to say they are the only local chimney company with a Master Mechanical Licensed Technician on staff.
We work hard to ensure the safety and comfort of our renters. Chimney inspections are an important part of our process!