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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!

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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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Prospective Renters – Have You Used Our NotifyMe Service?

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.

Click here to sign up for the NotifyMe service for Kansas Homes

Click here to sign up for the NotifyMe service for Missouri Homes

 

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Top 10 Tips – Preparing Your Home For Fall

top-10We 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!

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David Works Hard At Habitat For Humanity! [PICS]

Habitat For Humanity LogoWe 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!

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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.

 

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Vendor Spotlight: Sage Restoration

We work with quite a few companies in the course of managing hundreds of homes in Kansas City.  These companies provide professional services like carpet cleaning, mold remediation, lock re-keying, painting and repair work. Our success depends on these companies being able to provide consistent, professional work for our owners.  We have worked with some of our most trusted companies for years.  Sage Restoration is one of those companies, and we appreciate them so much!

Sage Restoration

SageRestoration-Alan SageRestoration-Stephanie

Alan and Stephanie Sage are the owners of Sage Restoration, located in Overland Park, Kansas.  They are dedicated to helping people who have experienced water, fire,smoke or mold damage in their home or business.  They have trained, uniformed technicians that know what they are doing!

We have experienced first hand that they work quickly and efficiently to get these kinds of problems cleaned up.  We have called them early in the morning as well as after 5pm and they have always done a great job of answering the call and helping as quickly as possible.

Alan and Stephanie rely on us to lease their personal rental properties.  We think that is probably the biggest compliment we could receive.  If you ever find yourself walking into your home to find damage from water, fire, storms, etc. be sure to call Sage Restoration at (913) 905-0500.  They will be there for you and help you get back to “normal” as quickly as possible.

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Summer Vacation? Awesome. Water Damage When You Get Home? NOT Awesome.

So here we are in the middle of sunny July.  Friends, family and co-workers are taking vacation and going to fun and interesting places.  It would be a shame to end a great trip by coming home to a nasty surprise… running water dripping through your ceiling.  Can you imagine how shocking and a little scary that would be?  We have people on our team that have experienced that first hand, and it is no fun at all.

Ceiling Water Damage

All you have to do to make sure this doesn’t happen is turn off the main water supply to your home before you leave for an extended period of time.

Also, be sure to turn your hot water heater to the “vacation” setting or turn it down to a lower setting.  That way, you won’t risk damage to your hot water heater if the water level gets low, and you will also save money by not having to keep the water as hot while you are away.

First, you have to find where the main water line comes into your home.  Usually, this is located in the basement along an exterior wall and enters your house close to ground level.  You will see a pipe coming in and either a round, turn-type shutoff or a straight, lever-type shutoff.  (See the pictures below for examples of both types.)  All you have to do is make sure either type is turned from the open position to the closed position, and you have shut off all water to your house.

Main Water Shutoff - Round/Turn Type Main Water Shutoff - Lever Type

Our friends at Sage Restoration shared with us recently the three most common types of water damage they see:

Sage Restoration1.  Washing machine line bursts or was not connected properly
2. Dishwasher water line connection bursts or leaks
3. Supply line to the toilet bursts or leaks

Be sure to avoid this potential problem at the end of a great vacation by turning off the main water supply to your house before you leave!

 

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Homeowners’ Association Documents Recently Updated!

Home Rental Services - HOA DocumentsMany of the homes we rent are in neighborhoods with a homeowners’ association (HOA). These kinds of associations are a governing body for the neighborhood and have the power to enforce the rules and bylaws agreed to by all members of the neighborhood.  Typically rules and regulations apply to the exterior appearance of homes, fences, vehicle parking, additional structures like sheds, noise levels, pool use and more.

We continually update the homeowners’ association (HOA) rules when we receive them.  We also work hard to obtain HOA documents for new houses when we begin to manage them for our owners.

We have added more than 50 new HOA folders in the last 18 months!  We are happy that we can make them available for our owners and renters so they can better understand the rules and regulations for their homeowners’ association.

Please click on the HOA Documents link below to view the list of all neighborhoods that we currently have HOA information for.  Once you find a neighborhood that you are interested in seeing, simply click on the folder to see the PDF documents we have that contain specific information about the HOA rules and regulations.

Click here for the list of HOA Documents

Technical note: We are using a web service called Dropbox to store and share the HOA documents.  Dropbox makes it very easy to share any folder in your “virtual locker” with anyone, including people that don’t have Dropbox installed.  We upload the HOA PDF files to our Dropbox account and link to the public view of those folders from the home page of our web site.

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Renters Insurance – It Should Be A No Brainer For Renters

Renters Insurance PolicyDid you know that less than half of renters have renters insurance?  We think this is a real risk for our renters and wanted to do our part to educate them.  The June edition of the Home Rental Services newsletter, that goes out to all of our renters, will be about the importance of carrying renters insurance.

Just because someone is renting an apartment or home doesn’t mean they are off the hook when it comes to insurance. The landlord’s property insurance policy will cover the building if disaster strikes, but it won’t cover the renter’s belongings.

The Renter is Responsible For Damage or Loss of Their Personal Property

The renter may not think their “stuff” is worth much, but if you added it up, they probably have thousands of dollars of personal property.  Their stereo, TV, iPad, DVDs, furniture, everything in their kitchen from appliances to silverware and the list goes on.  If a renter’s possessions are destroyed by fire or water damage, renters insurance will provide the replacement money. If they don’t have renters insurance, this would be a significant financial setback.

A Renter is Personally Liable For Accidents

Personal liability is virtually unlimited for a renter.  A friend could trip on their rug and sue them for $100,000.  Or their barbecue left unattended could destroy their neighbor’s house or apartment.  If they have renters insurance, their insurance company will cover at least some of their costs.

Renters Insurance Is Not Expensive

A renters insurance policy costs less than $200 a year, on average and covers renters against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage (not including floods), according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).  If their home is damaged by a covered event and they have to live somewhere else, most policies will reimburse them for the difference between additional living expenses and normal living expenses.  Most policies provide at least $100,000 of liability coverage (if someone sues them) and about $1,000 to $5,000 worth of medical payments coverage (which allows someone who gets hurt on their property to submit medical bills to their insurance company).

We think that every renter should have renters insurance for peace of mind.  If the day comes when they do need it, they will be so thankful that they invested the equivalent of a good cup of coffee every week to protect themselves.

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Kandy’s Article in Thinking Bigger Magazine

Thinking Bigger Business LogoKandy Meehan, founder and president of Home Rental Services, was interviewed for an article for the June issue of Thinking Bigger Business Media, Inc.  The article “The Girls Behind the Bookcases” tells the story of Kandy bringing her daughters Caitlin and Carrie into work often as they were growing up.  She talks about the positive impact this had on their future in the business world.  She also talks about the benefits of owning a business and work/life balance.

Caitlin is now Director of Client Care for Home Rental Services and is involved in almost every aspect of running the business.  Carrie is now Director of Business Development for The Neighborhood Handyman and is responsible for branding and marketing efforts.  They are both smart and driven women who are making a big impact with their efforts.  It is obvious that their work ethic was heavily influenced by being with their mom and involved in the businesses at an early age.

Kandy makes an interesting comparison between Millennials and Baby Boomers:

I think the Millennials will handle multiple home and work responsibilities better than we Baby Boomers did. We just worked, worked, worked and worked. This new generation understands the need to balance personal time and work.

To read the full article, be sure to check it out at Thinking Bigger Business Magazine.

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