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KC Chamber Names Top 10 Small Businesses – Event at Boulevard Brewing [PIC]

KC Chamber Small Biz - Top 10 AnnouncedThe Kansas City Chamber held an event at the Boulevard Brewing Company last night (Wednesday, 4/16) to announce their Top 10 Small Businesses of 2014.  Home Rental Services was one of the companies in the running.  We didn’t make it to the top 10, but we were honored to be included and had a great time at the celebration event.

We loved the venue because the view of the downtown Kansas City skyline was spectacular.  The picture to the right is our management team… from left to right: David, Kandy Carrie, Jason and Caitlin.

Good People.  Good Food.  Good Times.

The main event was inside, and the food and drink was really good.  Three local restaurants catered in some of their best appetizers and small bites.  Shrimp rolls, pork sandwiches, cheeses, Boulevard beer and so much more.  And yes, we sampled a lot of them.  Yum!

We spent some time with Brad Oddo and his team at Basys Processing, sharing what each of our companies does.  We also caught up with Dan Nilsen and Michelle McSpadden from Bishop-McCann.

KC Chamber Top 10 Small Businesses : Class of 2014

Basys Processing Inc., a family owned and managed Lenexa company that provides credit and debit card processing services for financial institutions.
Bishop-McCann, a Kansas City brand agency that produces meetings, incentives and live events for corporations and major brands worldwide.
BNIM, a Kansas City design firm.
Harmon Construction Inc., an Olathe construction management, design-build and general contracting company.
Muller Bressler Brown, a Leawood digital advertising agency.
Netchemia, a Prairie Village company that provides cloud-based software solutions to educational organizations.
Retina Associates, an Overland Park company that diagnoses and treats severe eye disease.
Scarbrough International Ltd., a Kansas City global trade management and logistics company.
TK Architects Inc., a Kansas City architecture, engineering and interior design firm.
Trozzolo Communications Group Inc., a Kansas City marketing communications company.

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Home Rental Services Nominated for Top 10 Small Businesses!

We were excited to learn that we were nominated for the 2014 Top Ten Small Business of the Year, hosted by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce!  On Thursday, March 27th, our team went to the showcase event at Union Station to connect with our peers and represent Home Rental Services.  We took pictures of our table and also have a funny photo booth pic with Melissa and Joshua in it.  We met some great companies, including a couple that we may end up doing business with.  It was a great event and we are honored to be a nominee!  Click here for a listing of all the nominated companies for 2014.

2014-SmallBiz-02 2014-SmallBiz-03 2014-SmallBiz-01

The Small Business Celebration is recognized as one of the largest Chamber small business celebrations in the United States. The 28th Annual Small Business Celebration is a series of events that supports and celebrates the small business community within the Kansas City region and culminates in the selection of the Mr. K Award. This award signifies a company that has shown growth or sustainability of their business with strong employee relations and a record of giving back to the community. The coveted Mr. K Award is named for Kansas City’s own Ewing Kauffman, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

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Spring is here… test your Sump Pump!

Sump PumpSpring is here, and the rainy season begins!  There is a good chance that your home has a sump pump in the basement. A sump pump removes water from the lowest level of a home and pumps it outside the house.  Properly maintaining your sump pump lets you rest assured that it will function correctly if you should experience a flood of water from unforeseen leaks or weather conditions. If your home does have a sump pump, you should test it yearly to make sure it is working correctly.

Here is how to test a sump pump if you have one in your basement:

1) Locate the exit pipe (also called an outlet pipe) on the exterior of your home through which your sump pump directs the water from your basement. Inspect the outlet pipe for damage. Verify that the pipe has no obvious clogs or blockages.

2) Examine the sump pump. It would be near an interior wall of the foundation, typically in an unfinished area of the basement. Sump pumps are located in a “pit” that looks like a hole in the floor that a 5 gallon bucket might fit into. Your pump may have a lid or cover on it.  If the lid or cover is sealed around the edges, do not proceed as this was done for Radon management.  If you can easily remove the lid or cover, do so.

3) Verify that the electrical cord for your sump pump is plugged into an outlet.

Sump Pump4) Using a flashlight, inspect the interior of the “pit” for any clogs or debris. Remove any debris that you find.

5) Pour approximately 5 gallons of water into the basin of your sump pump. Pour slowly (at approximately the same speed that water might flow into the basin from the basement) until the sump pump turns on and begins to pump out water. Do not pour in more water than the basin will hold. Expect the sump pump to begin pumping out water when the water level reaches approximately 8 to 12 inches below the surface of the basement floor.

If you are a renter with Home Rental Services, and your pump does not come on to remove the water from the “pit”, please submit a maintenance request so that we can get your sump pump repaired!

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Check Out Our New Office Space! [PICS]

New Office Space - Front DeskWe’ve had our office located at College and Metcalf for 9 years, and our team has definitely grown during that time.  Until recently, we were bursting at the seams.  We had offices crowded with desks and filing cabinets.  We just didn’t have enough space!

Thankfully, that has recently changed.  We had an option to lease additional space in the office next to ours, and that space freed up a few months ago. We decided to lease an additional 500 square feet and started the process of getting it built out.

We appreciated working with our property manager (Block) and the general contractor assigned to us.  They met with us every week to make sure we were on track with our goal of taking over the new space by early March, 2014.  It is amazing how tricky adding new space can be!  Walls had to be built.  Carpet selected and installed. Electrical outlets installed.  Painting.  Desks torn down, moved, and set up.  Computer data lines run to wall jacks (and coordinating with Umbrella, our IT support provider).  And more!  The order matters too, so any delay by a vendor could have had big consequences.

We were especially pleased with our long term friends and partners at DesignSource. We decided to install new carpet in our entire space, and appreciate their guidance and professional installation of the two styles of carpet we went with.  See the picture below that has both styles of carpet that are now in our office.

New Office Space - Carpet New Office Space - Additional Space

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We Just Got Back From Vegas… 2014 NARPM Broker/Owner Retreat [PICS, VIDEO]

2014 NARPM Broker/Owner RetreatKandy 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.

2014 NARPM Broker/Owner RetreatThere 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!

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10 Tips For Getting Your House Ready to Lease!

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:

1) De-Personalize

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.

De-clutter2) De-Clutter

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.

Landscaping7) Landscaping

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.

9) Foundation

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”.

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The HRS Team Attends the Group O’Dell Break the Fast Event

February 11, 2014 – Break the Fast

Dan O'Dell speaking at Break the FastWe 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.

Goal Setting!

Today’s meeting was about goal setting for 2014 across five key areas:

  • Personal
  • Spiritual
  • Business
  • Financial
  • Family

HRS Team at Break the FastWe 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!

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In the Midst of Snow… Our Favorite Vacation Destinations!

Snowmageddon!

Snowing in Kansas CityWe 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

Sunny BeachAllen: 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!

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Smoke in a Can – The Best Way to Test a Smoke Detector

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

Liquid Smoke Detector SprayAmazon.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!

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9 Volt Batteries Seriously Damage Home in Fire – Be Safe or Be Sorry!

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.

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