The Sale Before the Sale… Why We Love Estate Sales

Posted on Updated on

Author: Paul Branton

Paul BrantonIf you’ve visited my LinkedIn profile, you may have seen that I list the following items in my professional headline: Director of Investor Services | Real Estate Consultant | Project Manager | Estate Sale Enthusiast | Ice Cream Aficionado.

Today, I would like to take a moment to talk about the “Estate Sale Enthusiast” side of my life and introduce you to a not-so-secret, secret….  You can see a lot of great houses by attending estate sales! In the past year, I’ve been able to attend estate sales all across the KC Metro including Olathe, Lenexa, Lee’s Summit, Raymore, Prairie Village, Leawood, Stilwell, Overland Park and Mission Hills.

The other secret about estate sales is that they almost always precede or coincide with the home going on the market. It’s the sale before the sale. So, by going to the estate sale, you are able to get a sneak peek of the house and you may discover it’s a worthwhile investment opportunity!

I understand the purpose of going to an estate sale for the majority of people is to score a great deal on some furniture, housewares, jewelry or perhaps a vintage figurine. For me, it’s more about seeing the house. I enjoy seeing the old construction with vintage décor and original woodwork. I enjoy seeing the older home that’s been renovated to meet today’s modern tastes, and I enjoy getting lost in the custom built, Italian marble adorned mansion that has rooms for days.

Don’t get me wrong, I also try to find great deals. After finding something, I think about whether or not my wife will give me “the look” when I bring this “treasure” into our home; then, and only then, do I decide if it’s a worthwhile purchase.

Here are a few of those items:

Custom Putter
Custom Putter – Who wants to hit the links with me? (Overland Park Sale)
Assorted Neckties (Hallbrook, Mission Hills, Olathe Sales)
Kitchen Island = 100% Wife Approval! :) (Old Leawood Sale)
Vintage Old World Globe! (Mission Hills Sale)

Here’s a tip for finding out the details on estate sales. It’s a website called and more recently, they released an app which is super handy while on the go! It will tell you where the nearest estate sales are, provide you with all the details of the sale and give you directions!

Estate Sale App

Let me know if you end up using the app or if you have your own treasure stories to tell about estate sales!

4 Tips on Taking Great Photos to Get Your Investment Property Rented Quickly in Overland Park

Posted on

Research shows that you should have at least 8 to 10 good photographs of a property to draw the most interest from prospective tenants. Today, we are helping Overland Park landlords take better marketing photos. These tips will help you rent out your investment property quickly.

Take Pictures During Vacancy

Take your pictures while the property is vacant. That way, you don’t have any personal items interfering with the pictures or causing distractions. You can lightly stage the property, not with furniture, but with accents like towels in the bathroom and a candle, or a teapot on the stove in the kitchen. These things will provide a homey feel for your photos.

Interior and Exterior Photos are Needed

Pay attention to where you are taking pictures. Outside photos are needed for sure, and you should take two to three pictures of your kitchen, even if it’s small. You’ll need a photo of the master bedroom and the bathroom, as well as the living area. When you’re taking a picture of the bathroom, make sure the toilet lid is down. Pay attention to those details.

Avoid Shadows

Think about the time of day you’re taking pictures. If you show up to the house and you look at the front of the house and there are lots of shadows, come back when there’s more direct sun, or when the sun is not creating so many shadows. Even pictures on a cloudy day would be better.

Focus on Angle

Pay attention to your angle. Not every house looks beautiful in a photo straight on. Angle it when necessary. Always minimize the amount of driveway you see. More sky and less driveway is more flattering. Inside, don’t take all the pictures standing from your eye level. Think about squatting or taking a photo from cabinet height so people get a different viewpoint.

These four tips should help Overland Park landlords take better marketing photos. If you need help with your picture taking, or you have questions out Overland Park property management, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

Tenant Screening in Overland Park – What to Look for in a Great Tenant

Posted on

When you’re looking for Overland Park tenants, you want to find people who are responsible, reliable, and willing to pay rent on time while taking good care of your property. Today, we have some advice on screening for the best renters.

Pre-Screen Your Tenants

When potential tenants first contact you after seeing your listing, start qualifying them right away. If it’s October and your house is currently vacant, and the tenants don’t want to move until January, I would cut that call short and move onto the next tenant. Pre-screening during the initial contact is important and will save you time and money.

Have a High Quality Application

Your application should have a release for the renter to authorize you to pull credit, check with previous landlords, and research employment history. You’ll need every applicant to fill out the application completely, and to sign it before you can begin the screening process.

Verify Applicant Income

It’s important to make sure your tenants earn enough money to pay the rent. We recommend a requirement that three times the gross rent is earned by all tenants living in the property. So, if your house is $2,000 per month, you need a tenant who earns at least $6,000 per month. For self-employed individuals, ask for tax returns, and for employees, get two sequential and recent pay stubs.

Develop Written Screening Criteria

Have written criteria that explain what requirements a prospective tenant needs to meet before becoming approved for your property. You can email the criteria or share it with any applicants when you show the property. Put it on your website. Be consistent in screening so there won’t be any conflicts with federal fair housing laws.

Pull a Credit Report

Have renters run their credit and provide you with a report, or if you run them regularly, get an account with a credit bureau so you can run it yourself.

This Overland Park landlord advice should help you find some of the best renters in the market. If you have any questions or you need help with Overland Park property management, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

Investment property number five. Here’s how it works.

Posted on Updated on

Author: Paul Branton

Paul BrantonWhen I started at HRS back in 2010, I had the pleasure of being the property manager for one of our investor clients. For the purpose of this story, I’ll call him Dave.

When Dave and his wife brought their first property to us, I believe it was more of a decision for strategic planning rather than a desire to own a rental investment. If you recall, the real estate crash around 2008 had caused home values to decline. It wasn’t a good time to sell a property.

Dave was moving out of the Kansas City area for new employment opportunities. He really didn’t want to sell his property and lose equity, so he and his wife turned to Home Rental Services to professionally lease and manage their former residence.

In hindsight, we can plainly see that this was a wise decision. We’ve been collecting rent for Dave for years. The mortgage is getting paid off. And home values have recovered nicely.

Here’s a link to the Johnson County Heartland MLS report comparing November 2015 to November 2016 on various statistics.

Interesting stats from this report:
The average sales price for homes rose 5%
Pending sales were up 14%
Inventory was down 30.4%

I’m giving you the history of our relationship with Dave because we’ve been working together for six years and he and his wife recently closed on their fifth rental investment property! They learned from the experience of their first home the “Hey, this really works!” feeling, and decided to jump in and build a portfolio of homes over the past few years.

Joes Kansas CityHere’s a quick synopsis of how this most recent deal came together:

  1. They reached out a couple weeks ahead of their trip back to Kansas City and let me know they would be looking with their Realtor® for their fifth investment property.
  2. I told them to narrow their search over the weekend and I would plan to visit properties with them the following Monday morning.
  3. We met Monday morning, looked at a few homes, went to lunch at Joes Kansas City, discussed the pros/cons/potential of each of the homes and chose the “winner.”
  4. With the help of their Realtor®, they presented the offer, got the property under contract and inspections scheduled.
  5. I attended the mechanical inspection, took a couple hundred photos and prepared my suggested renovation budget.
  6. They negotiated post-inspection repairs/price and moved on to closing.
  7. Final walk-through the day prior to closing – We met at the home with a general contractor to prepare for improvements.
    (Outline scope, get bids etc.)
  8. Closing Day – We went to the home, installed our sign and lockbox and activated online marketing.
  9. The day after closing – The general contractor began work and leasing agents began showing the home.
  10. Six days after closing – Offer to lease was presented and accepted. (We actually had 2 competing offers!)
  11. Fifteen days after closing – Rehab work completed and home inspected for tenant possession.
  12. Twenty days after closing – Tenants moved into the home.

If you’re ready to jump into the world of real estate investments, give us a call. We would love to help you!

4 Tips to Reduce Tenant Turnover

Posted on

As you probably know, the most expensive part of owning an investment property is having a tenant move out. It’s not necessarily because your tenant has caused damage, but because there are a lot of expenses involved in making the property look great for your next tenants. You want your tenants to stay as long as possible in your property so you can avoid those expenses.

We have a few tips!

Make Regular Improvements

Instead of just making repairs when they are necessary, make constant improvements to your property. Things come up, and even though the renters are there, they appreciate you upgrading the light fixtures or painting a room. It might cost you a little more to have it done while your tenants are in place, but they will be more willing to commit to leasing your house for longer.

Be Responsive to Tenants

When your renters call or email, be responsive to what they need. Listen to them. They may ask you to do something that you’re not willing to do or that you don’t want to do, but sometimes they just want to be heard.

Be Accessible to Tenants

You have to be easy to contact. No one wants calls at 2:00 in the morning, but your renters need to know that you are responsive and available. Make sure you answer your phone and respond to emails and messages.

Run This Like a Business

Don’t be best friends with your renters. Enforce late fees when they don’t pay rent on time, and hold them accountable to following the lease. Your renters will appreciate that you are running the property like a business because you’ll be consistent and they will know what to expect.

These are four tips that will help you keep your renters past their initial one-year lease. These tips will also make you more money by avoiding turnover. If you have any questions about this topic or anything pertaining to Overland Park property management, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

Thinking Out Loud About Pies. Owner Appreciation 2016!

Posted on Updated on

Author: Sandy Fisher

Sandy FisherI came to work for Home Rental Services in early Fall of 2015. During my interview, much of what this position would be doing was discussed. One word I repeatedly kept hearing was “Buffini.” It was Buffini this, and Buffini that. I remember leaving thinking, “They want me to Buff what?” I think I actually said this out loud in the elevator, with others present, on my way back down to my car.

I tend to think out loud occasionally.

Now, a little over a year later, I’ll tell you what I’m “Buff-ing”, or more specifically, “Buffini-ing”:  phone calls, personal notes, coffees, lunches, pop-by gifts, business partner breakfasts, and most recently our first annual owner appreciation open house. Many of the things I’ve worked on this past year are kind of firsts for Home Rental Services, and all incredibly valuable and important.

However, our owner appreciation open house event surprised us all.

Owner Appreciations 2016A few months ago, I had a conversation with Kandy Meehan, our owner and President, about hosting an event where we give pies as gifts to say thanks for ________.  That blank wasn’t a typo; at first we just didn’t know what type of relationship on which to focus this event.  Should it be our awesome Realtor® friends who continually send referrals our way?  Should it be our amazing group of contractors/service providers who take great care of our homes?  Should it be… wait, our owner clients!  What about them? Absolutely! And the planning began.

It wasn’t a wheel we had to recreate. Again, it’s a Buffini thing, but we did have to customize the event for our audience and our needs.

Owner Appreciations 2016Lots of thoughts (again, said out loud) like, “What will our owners think?”, “Will they come?”, “Will they stay?”, “If they stay, what will we talk about?” Optimistically, I moved forward with planning the event.

Our owners received an invitation to our owner appreciation open house. It involved a three-hour timeframe with drinks, snacks, and pies.  Yep—pies.  Each owner was asked to pick from three pie flavors, and we would have that pie ready to go for them to take home for their Thanksgiving holiday.

The day arrived and again, my thinking out loud returned… “Here we go!”, “I hope someone shows up!”, “If people show up, where are we going to put them all?”, “What are we going to do with all this food?”,  “I hope we like pie!” Well, out of our local Kansas City owner client invite list, we ended up getting about 20% attending. We were thrilled with the turnout.

Owner Appreciations 2016And finally, I wasn’t the only one thinking out loud… “You are really giving me this pie?”,  “What a great idea!”,  “Thank you!”, “It was great meeting you in person!”, “What a nice office you have!”, “Thank you for the pie!”.  These are just a few of the wonderful things said to us from our owners during the event. And did I say the event had a three-hour timeframe? It did.  But almost four hours later, we were still having a great time and thinking out loud with some of our wonderful owner clients.

I remember looking around during the event and thinking to myself, “Yep. We’ll be doing this again.”

Owner Appreciations 2016

5 Ways to Minimize Vacancy in Your Overland Park Investment Property

Posted on Updated on

Overland Park landlords need to do everything they can to minimize vacancy in their properties. An extended vacancy will cost you money, and you don’t want to sacrifice that rental income trying to get the property ready for a new tenant. Today, we have some Overland Park landlord advice that will help you be more prepared for the turnover period.

1. Prepare for Maintenance Needs

At least 30 days before the end of the lease, you or your property manager should walk through the house. The goal is to determine if you’ll need new paint, new carpet, or if you’ll need to refinish the hardwood floors. Look for those capital expenses that you’ll want to line up with vendors. That way, as soon as the tenants are out, you can get the contractors in to lay the carpet or do the painting. There will be less lag time after the tenants move out.

2. Advertising and Marketing

Advertise in multiple places. There are several free online websites, and there are also sites where you can pay to have your ad listed and promoted. Statistics show that at least eight photographs should be used in any property listing. Make sure you take good pictures of the inside and outside of the property.

3. Proper Pricing

Price the home correctly. You need to know your market. Don’t attach a superficial price to the home just because it’s what you’ve always charged or because it covers what your mortgage payment is. Your costs are irrelevant. The market will dictate how much you can charge, and you should use that data to collect as much as you can.

4. Answer the Phone

Be responsive and answer the phone when people call. If you have a phone number that people are using to contact you about the property, answer those calls. If you can’t answer it, use Google Voice to get multiple phones ringing at once. Responsiveness is crucial when you’re renting out a property.

5. Clean and Prepare the Property

Make sure your Overland Park renters visit a home that is super clean and inviting. Put fresh mulch on the flower beds, clean the front door, and remove any light bulbs that have burnt out. Your house does not have to be fancy, but it does have to be really clean.

These are the five best tips to help you minimize vacancy. If you have any questions about Overland Park property management, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

Mum’s (not) the word!

Posted on Updated on

Author: Sandy Fisher

Mums NOT the WordA fun part of my job as Director of Business Development for Home Rental Services is “popping by” our Realtor® referral partners’ offices with little thank you gifts. I get to do this each month, and I LOVE it!

I drive all over this gorgeous city and visit numerous broker offices. I head into each office to chat and connect with the agent who is receiving the gift I’m about to deliver, but I usually end up chatting with several more before I head back out the door.
(I like to chat…)

This “pop by” thing is a process. It’s fun, but it’s definitely a process.

From seeking out little gifts, to tracking our monthly Realtor® referral partners and finalizing the “lucky” list, to planning an out-of-office day for gift shopping and then assembling the presents… it’s a bit of work. But it’s incredibly important for us to show our gratitude and I really enjoy the look on their faces when I show up to give them something fun!

Mums NOT the WordFrom little flashlights, to BBQ condiments, to mason jars with lemonade packets – our Realtor® friends enjoy our appreciation trinkets!

So now we get to the title of this blog post…

This month I was driving around Kansas City in my car delivering colorful mums. The tag line? Mum is NOT the word when it comes to how much we appreciate you and your referrals. 

Short term reward: blessing our referral partners with a fun little gift.

Long-term reward: watching our referral partnerships turn into real friendships. Mum is definitely NOT the word when it comes to our commitment to saying thank you!

Mums NOT the Word Mums NOT the Word

2016 KVC Shopping Night at Target!

Posted on Updated on

2016 KVC Shopping at Target

In its 46-year history, KVC (formerly Kaw Valley Center) has grown from a single home founded by volunteers to help at-risk boys to a comprehensive organization touching the lives of over 61,000 children and families each year. Wow.

We support the mission of KVC by volunteering to buy presents for some of the children they are helping. On Monday, November 14th, the entire Home Rental Services team met at Target to buy gifts for 18 kids that otherwise wouldn’t be getting presents for Christmas.

We’ve done this for years and had the process down to a science.

Each child has a manilla folder with two plastic bags inside. The plastic bags have their name written on them. Taped to the outside of the folder are the specifics about the child… their name, age, gender, shoe size, shirt size, pant size and more.

When we check out, we put gift receipts in the folder, place the items in the plastic bags with the child’s name on it, and the folder into the bag. If we needed to use more than one bag, we tie multiple bags together. The reason for all this organization is that it makes wrapping the presents and keeping all the gifts together for each child much easier!

Target was a great partner again this year.

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 two special lanes 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! They also donated $15 Target gift cards to each of the 18 children!!! We were so thankful for their generosity.

We hope you can get involved by helping your favorite NFP.

If you haven’t already done something to give back this year, consider getting involved with your favorite not-for-profit that’s trying to make a difference. It will make your holidays even better!

Investor Services Frequently Asked Questions

Posted on Updated on

Paul BrantonIn May, we were thrilled to announce the launch of our Investor Services division at Home Rental Services. I’m leading this new division and I’ve gotten a lot of great questions. I’ve also had the pleasure of helping quite a few of our clients acquire an investment property.

As a result of many conversations I’ve had over the past few months, I wanted to share a list of some frequently asked questions.

What is the “best” area in Kansas City for rental homes?

We advise that the “best” rental homes in Kansas City are found in $150,000-$350,000 range, primarily in Johnson County (with a few exceptions.)

At what rental rates do you see the most leasing activity?

This varies by the location of the property and we look to target homes that will fall into the mid-range of the surrounding comparable properties. We see a steady flow of leasing activity within the $1,000-$2,500 range. While we also lease quite a few homes above $2,500 per month, that traffic tends to be stronger in the summer months, so timing is more critical for the acquisition and lease renewals on those properties.

How much should I budget for maintenance?

This, of course, depends on the age of the home and its components. That being said, the general rule of thumb is to budget 1-2% of the property value for maintenance each year, including capital expenditures.

What improvements will bring the greatest return on investment?

As is true with resale, updated kitchens and bathrooms tend to bring the greatest return, reduce vacancy and improve rental rates. We’ve also learned through over 25 years of leasing and management experience that there’s a direct connection to lower vacancy and fenced yards.

Until next time, I will leave you with this quote:
“Don’t wait to buy Real Estate….. Buy Real Estate and WAIT.”  – Robert G. Allen

Paul Branton
Director of Investor Services