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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
A 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.
Every 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!
- 2013 – Making Sure 18 Kids Have a Merry Christmas!
- 2012 – Ready for the Holidays?
- 2011 – Making Sure Ten Kids Have a Merry Christmas!
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!
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!
Mythic Creatures Exhibit Highlites
If you are interested in checking out the exhibit, here is the address:
Museum at Prairiefire
5801 West 135th Street
We 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
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.
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.
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!
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
The 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.
Have you heard about our NotifyMe email service? Home Rental Services offers a convenient tool to prospective renters who are looking for a home to lease. You simply register your email address (never sold, shared or compromised), the price range, size and geographical area of the home you are looking for. When Home Rental Services activates a new listing (which happens often!), you will receive an email notification of the new listing immediately. This tool keeps you from having to visit our web site for new or edited listings. It will notify you within seconds of the home being listed for lease, and allows you the first chance to view and/or lease the home.
We wanted to provide a great list of fall maintenance tips for our renters. Please look through the list below and let us know if there are any items that you need us to coordinate on your behalf with Derek and Joshua, our property managers!
1. Change the air filters in your home: If you have a central air conditioning system, change the air filter regularly. If you have a window air conditioning unit, remove from the window or place a waterproof cover over it to prevent damage during the winter. Change the filters in stove vents, clothes dryers and room fans if applicable. (Clean air filters will keep your family healthier in the fall months!)
2. Examine your gutters and downspouts for debris: Clear any leaves and dirt from gutters and examine downspouts for damage or loose pieces. If the gutters on your home are too high to get to safely, submit a maintenance request so that we can have a company do the work on your behalf.
3. Check your faucets for leaks: Before the temperatures start to drop, be sure to look at your faucets for any leaks. If you find any problems, it would be better to get them fixed now versus dealing with a burst pipe in the middle of winter.
4. Remove leaves from the grass and flower beds: It is very important to remove leaves from the grass and flower beds as they begin to fall, before the ice and snow come. If you don’t pick up the leaves, there is a good chance they’ll kill the grass and landscaping which is expensive to repair.
5. Disconnect water hoses from exterior faucets: If you leave the hoses connected to your water faucets, you run the risk of the freezing which can break the supply line. The simple fix is to simply disconnect the hoses. We recommend that you store the hoses in your garage to help them last longer!
6. Prepare your fireplace: If you have a working, wood burning fireplace, make sure the damper is open to allow air to freely move through the chimney. Check the damper handle and springs to ensure the flue is operating correctly.
7. Have your lawn and garden power tools serviced: Once your grass begins to go dormant, take your lawnmower, trimmer, and other power tools to get their engines serviced, blades sharpened and fluids topped off. People are surprised when they take their equipment in and are told that it will take weeks to get them back. This happens because everyone else is doing the same thing. Get in early to avoid the delay and your tools will be ready to go! We recommend Smitty’s Lawn and Garden.
8. Clean and store seasonal outdoor furniture: Store cushions in a dry area to prevent cracking, and fading over the fall and winter months. Once spring arrives, you will be pleased that you stored them and they’re ready for use!
9. Examine the grounds of your property: Check walkways for cracks and loose paving material. Report any major problems with your walkway and entryway areas before slippery weather can cause someone to have an accident.
10. Check windows and doors for drafts: The conditioned air in your home is lost through leaky windows and doors. Go through your home and make sure the seal and caulking around the window frame is in good condition. Think of adding heavier drapery around windows that are extra drafty, to help block air loss. This will make a difference in your heating and air conditioning bills!
We think it’s important to give back to the community, and we get involved in various not-for-profits throughout the year to try and make a difference. Our very own David Carey recently volunteered for a day of hard work with Habitat for Humanity! He joined a larger group from the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors that was volunteering.
Here are David’s thoughts on the experience:
I’ve had the bug to work on a construction project for a few months, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to do something I enjoy and help others. I have been wanting to participate in Habitat for Humanity through church, and it just so happened that Church of the Resurrection was at the same site on the same day! We started out at a house that was ready for siding, but there were too many volunteers, so a small group (including myself) split off to a second job site to work on exterior painting. We were able to get two coats of paint on the front of the house.
After lunch, we returned to the job site to find out that they needed help at a third job site. The third location was not a new build, but a home owner that had a garage that had deteriorated to the point where it was falling down. There was another group that had torn down the garage, but the scrap needed to be hauled into the dumpster. We were able to clear the area and the home owner was very pleased. After a full day of work, I am definitely ready to go back!
Habitat’s mission is to change neighborhoods, communities and lives. They do this in many ways, but primarily through organizing volunteers to build homes for low income families in the greater Kansas City Metro. Many of you are already familiar with Habitat, but if not, you would be amazed how many people/companies get involved.
Companies host “volunteer days” for their employees to come out and build together, often wearing company logo shirts to show their team spirit. Other companies donate significant amounts of materials for use in building the homes, including wood, siding, paint and nails. The technical work is overseen by qualified professionals, but the bulk of the work is straight-forward, manual labor. We can all swing a hammer, work on siding, sweep floors and paint… with a little direction!
Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is an incredibly rewarding experience. You get to see a house being built and know that the new owner would not have otherwise been able to afford it.
Fun Fact: Did you know the Kansas City chapter of Habitat for Humanity is the seventh oldest affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International? They have been helping families since 1979!
From the Habitat for Humanity Website: Home ownership represents the essence of the American Dream. It also represents the single largest investment most people make in their lifetimes. Yet for too many people, the American Dream is just that; a dream they will never realize because their income is too low to qualify through conventional means to purchase a home. Habitat for Humanity believes to break the cycle of poverty, low income families need their income spent on housing to serve two purposes: provide a decent, affordable place to raise a family and build wealth through home ownership.