Lease Renewals: It’s The Best Job!

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By Amy Evans-Colledge, Renewal Coordinator at Home Rental Services

Amy Evans-ColledgeAfter being with Home Rental Services since 2001 (yes, that’s 18 years), I’ve done just about every job in the office (except for Kandy’s. There’s only one Kandy!)

I’ve done sales, property management, office management, marketing, new business, and lease extensions (which we call “renewals”). Not that I don’t love them all, but just like we’re not supposed to have favorites with kids, most of us secretly do. I definitely have a favorite job here and that is renewals!

Renewals

I get the unique opportunity to visit with renters in their homes, surrounded by everything that is most dear to them in life. Although I’m not there to get personal, it often ends up in conversation about family photos on the wall, kids drawings on the fridge, or their furry family that greet me at the door. I enjoy the opportunity to build trust, or a bridge, that you just can’t get on the phone, through email or in the office. But I’m there for a main purpose and that is for YOU!

Let me start from the beginning.

About 70% of our renters extend their leases! This tells us that the majority of people we lease to are happy in their home and with the service they’ve received while living there.

(Just a side note – we do learn and track reasons why a renter chooses not to renew. #1 is they have purchased a home. #2 is they are moving out of the area.)

Anyway, once I learn that a renter wants to stay/renew their lease, I let the homeowner know of the good news. I negotiate the terms of the new lease with the renter and I visit the home to make sure the renter is taking care of it. I report any needed preventative maintenance back to the homeowner. It is not until after that visit that I then collect a new lease from the renter.

I tell people all the time that if we didn’t get to work with such an amazing pool of renters (which is due in large part to our screening process) that there is no way I would’ve lasted in property management for all these years.

The homes we manage are generally very well cared for. Renters tend to treat them as their own and are great to work with. Every once in a while I’ll have to remind a renter to rake leaves or change batteries in the smoke detectors. But usually I’m leaving them with a little thank you token from Home Rental Services. It’s our way of thanking them for taking such good care of the home. (See below… these are popular. We have to AD-MITT You are a Sweet Renter. And Just Popped in to say we are BUTTER with renters like you. Ha ha!)

HRS Tenant Gift: Oven Mitt HRS Tenant Gift: Snack Mix

When I’m at a house at the time of lease expiration, I’m there to be the homeowner’s eyes.

I look at the gutters to make sure they are free of debris. I check the ceilings to see if there are any signs of plumbing or roof leaks that a renter may not have noticed. Tile and caulk in bathrooms need to be checked to prevent any future problem areas. I look at trees to make sure they’re not dangerously hanging over the roof. And I look at down spouts to make sure they are properly extended and not causing damage to yards/running water back toward the house. I examine the exterior for possible wood rot and chipping/peeling paint. One of the most common maintenance issues I see is the condition of outdoor wood decks – they need basic upkeep of weather treatment and stain.

These are all things I will mention to the homeowner when I send a copy of the newly completed lease. If the homeowner wants to have any of the work completed, they let us know and we get it done using our trusted and insured vendors. Renters LOVE to see results from the things they point out to me during the visit.

My favorite part of this job I love is getting to see familiar faces year after year. I get to catch up with renters through pregnancies, divorce, death, children graduating, career changes (on their end), etc. I’ve even learned some of our renters are actually landlords themselves in other states. So, working with awesome homeowners AND getting to invite myself over to visit with cool renters = FAVORITE!

Top 5 Tips for Preparing Your Home for Spring!

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Top 5We’re all usually very busy. Because of that, we thought it would be a good time to give you our Top 5 Tips for Getting Your Home Ready for Spring! A lit bit of preventative maintenance can go a long way and potentially help you avoid major hassles or cost in the future!

This list is geared towards our current renters, but applies to anyone maintaining a home!

  1. Change your furnace filter
    This should be done on a regular basis, at least quarterly.
  2. Check (and change if necessary) batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
    It’s a good idea to check all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on a yearly basis.
  3. From the ground, inspect your gutters for leaves hanging over the sides.
    If your gutters are full and need to be cleaned out, please submit a maintenance request.
  4. Walk around your house and make sure all gutter downspouts have splash guards.
    If you are missing some splash guards, please submit a maintenance request.
  5. Put down new mulch in your yard as needed to prevent weeds and protect plants.

For a complete list of Renter Responsibilities, please visit the page we’ve dedicated to this topic on our website.

We hope that at least one of these reminders comes in handy as you think about maintenance items you might need to address as we get ready for spring and summer!

Whether it’s an interview, date or marketing a home: First impressions are important.

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By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services

I’m guessing you’ve heard the phrase, “You only get one chance at a first impression.” It’s true. It doesn’t matter if it’s for an interview, a date or marketing a home, you’re likely going to get one shot to achieve your goal. (The goal is to win them over by way of a good first impression.)

So, if it’s for that first date, what are you going to do to prepare? I imagine that most of us would likely get a haircut, take a shower, put on a new outfit and wear some perfume or cologne, right? You should view marketing your home in the same light. If you expect your date (the new tenant) to like the property, it needs to look clean and be well put together.

Here are my recommendations for preparing your property so that the prospective new tenant says, “where do I sign?”

  • Give your property a haircut… Clean up the landscaping.
  • Give your property a shower… Freshen up the paint.
  • Buy a new outfit… Update the lighting, appliances, hardware, faucets, flooring, etc.
  • Wear perfume or cologne… Clean the house really well, especially the carpets.

With spring officially starting soon, now is a great time to determine your plans for making that great first impression! I’ve included some before and after photos below for one of our recent projects. I wanted to share an example of the difference these updates can make.

If you need help figuring out what to do or where to start, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We would be happy to help!

Front of House – Before/After

Front - Before Front - After

Front Porch and Door – Before/After

Front Door - Before Front Door - After

Kitchen – Before/After

Kitchen - Before Kitchen - After

Deck – Before/After

Deck - Before Deck - After

Security Deposits: It’s a Process.

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By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services

Spot the Difference GameHave you ever played one of those “spot the differences” games?

My mom is a whiz at them. In the blink of an eye, she can tell you the dog in the first picture has two spots and in the second picture has three. I was always more of a hidden objects girl, myself. I still pick up the Highlights Magazines in the doctor’s office to see how many I can find before they call me back. However, over the past few years, I’ve gotten much better at finding the differences. That comes from processing security deposits after renters move out.

I’m sure you could ask a dozen different property managers how they assess damages after a move out and you would get a dozen different answers.

Since we have 200 plus photos from each move in and move out inspection, I start there.

First, I go through the move out photos.
I keep a spreadsheet open on my other screen to make notes. If I see something that seems like it’s out of place, I make a note on the spreadsheet. Is the oven dirty? Was that wall damaged at move in? Was there always a TV mount in the living room? I’m also looking for burned out light bulbs and checking to make sure cleaning was done as required in the lease. Renters are required to provide a receipt for professional carpet cleaning. If they don’t email it to me before the inspection, it should have been left on the kitchen counter. Additionally, the garage door remotes, house keys, and mail box keys should be on the counter.

Next, I go through the move in photos.
Here’s where the game begins. I strike through anything on my list which I see was present at move in. I’m also looking for anything which was present at move in and not there at move out. Did the renters remove the refrigerator? Are there interior doors missing? Do we have the same number of garage door remotes we started with?

When I’ve finished reviewing the photos, I look at the paper inspection.
Renters are provided a copy of the inspection when they move in. They are asked to add their own notes to the inspection and return it to us within a few days of move in. We use the copy on which they made notes for the move out inspection. That way, all the notes are in one place. The third party inspector uses a red pen to make move out notes. I’m looking for anything in red that I might have missed in the photos. Occasionally, I find something in the inspection notes which I thought was going to be renter damage, but I find it was actually part of the move in inspection.

Once I feel I have sufficiently assessed all renter damage in need of repair, I put work orders in to our vendors. I will await the invoices from the vendors so that I can charge the renters’ security deposit the exact amount which was charged by the vendor. There are occasions where the security deposit has to be returned to the renters before I can get the invoice back. In those situations, I ask the vendors to provide an estimate so the charges are as accurate as possible.

By law, we have 30 days from the move out date to have  the security deposit back to the renter. That doesn’t mean we can mail it out on day thirty. The renters are to have it in their hands, along with a statement of charges, by day thirty. Our software keeps a calculation of the number of days since the move out. I use this feature a ton!

It’s a process.

Security DepositAs you can see, this is a lengthy process. Renters are always anxious to get their money back as quickly as possible. However, this is a process I refuse to rush through. I work diligently to make sure the renters do not have any reason to dispute the charges. I often reach out to other members of the HRS team when I’m unsure about charging something. It’s not always as black and white as we would like it to be. The question we always ask ourselves is,“would this charge hold up in court?” It can be quite costly for an owner if a judge rules in favor of the renter on a security deposit dispute. The owner could end up refunding the renter 1 ½ times the amount of the full security deposit!

Typically, renters submit their disputes in writing to HRS. Then, I go back through the whole process to make sure nothing was overlooked. I have a fantastic template I use to show before and after pictures of move in conditions versus move out conditions. I find this usually helps the renters better understand their charges.

Next time you see one of those puzzles that ask you to find twenty differences, think lovingly of your favorite property manager.

Show your personality at the office with socks and ties.

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By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services

I know this is stepping back into the time machine to refer to a post from two years ago but here we go…  The day was January 17, 2017.

In this post, I shared my appreciation for estate sales. I also included some photos of various purchases I’ve made over the years like a golf putter, some neckties, a kitchen island and a vintage globe.

Today I thought I would tell you about my growing collection of socks. (No, my socks are not purchased from estate sales.)

Socks at Work Socks at Work Socks at Work Socks at Work Socks at Work

The Sock Collection

The majority of my sock collection comes from a company called “The School of Sock.” (Formerly Sock101.) I really like the name, but what I like the most is that they are based “locally” out of Lee’s Summit, Missouri! You can opt for a subscription, or do what I do and order a pair or five whenever you get the urge.

Outside of my socks from “TSOS” I’ve picked up a few good pairs from Marshalls. I was also recently able to add to what I call my “Sockfolio” at our work Christmas party by way of this awesome set of pizza socks!  (I now have socks of my favorite food!!!)

Pizza Socks Pizza Socks

Paul on Tie TuesdayTie Tuesday

Over the course of my career, I’ve had jobs that required me to wear a suit every day, and I’ve had jobs in which I could wear jeans and a hoodie. In every workplace situation, I’ve chosen to wear a tie every Tuesday of the week. In my inner-circle, this has become affectionately known as “Tie-Tuesdays.”

Some friends ask me why I would wear a tie if I’m not required to do so. My answer to them is: I do this for a multitude of reasons. For starters, I enjoy it! It’s fun for me because it provides the opportunity to express my appreciation for fashion and design. As another benefit, I believe the way you dress and how you feel about your appearance can and does impact the way that you work. If you don’t believe me, give it a try!

As I close out this post, I would invite you to let me know if you have your own “sockfolio” actual or otherwise. Perhaps your thing isn’t socks but maybe watches, coins, LEGO or artwork. I would love to hear about your guilty pleasure!

Busy is a four letter word.

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By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager at Home Rental Services

Several weeks ago, Kandy shared with the team an article she read titled “Busy is a Four Letter Word.” We all chuckled at the title while nodding our heads in understanding. Being too busy is an excuse we all use. It’s the adult version of “the dog ate my homework.”

Kandy offered up a challenge; remove “busy” from your vocabulary entirely.

I took the challenge and realized, it’s a little harder than I thought it would be. The challenge has made me hyper aware of saying I’m busy. I catch it trying to slip out of my mouth and have to slurp it back in like spaghetti. When I hear someone else using it in conversation, it feels like an explosion going off in the room. The Busy-bombs are everywhere!

How do you eliminate a word which is so commonly used?

Busy is a four letter word.The fact is, we’re all busy. Everyone you know, do business with, see at the grocery store or run into at an event… It reminds me of when we were trying to clean up our language when our daughter started learning to talk. In my house, we changed all of our regular four letter words to “rainbow.” Riding in the car with me, you might hear “That rainbow just cut me off!”

I’m not suggesting you replace the word “busy”. I doubt your boss is going to love to hear you were too rainbow to turn that report in.

Try to pay attention to how many times you’re saying it throughout the day. What else could you say instead? You’re not looking for another excuse but you’re holding yourself accountable.

Instead of saying “Mom, I’ve been too busy to call you.” Be honest. “I’ve started to call you so many times and it’s always the wrong time. Can we set up a coffee date?” Get it on the calendar. Whatever it is. If you can’t seem to find a time to do it, schedule a time.

I’m a big fan of my calendar.

Google Calendar and TasksMy work calendar has appointments on it but it also has reminders. If I need to follow up on something in 10 days, I set a reminder. I have things in my job which have to be done on certain days of the month; they go on the calendar. In my personal life, everything from Girl Scout meetings, doctor’s appointments, to coffee with my best friend, it always goes on the calendar.

I have a group of friends that tries to get together for brunch every few months. We try to schedule the next brunch when we meet for the current one. Last time we forgot. We said we would get it done and we didn’t. That was in October. Don’t worry, the brunch bunch has recovered and we’re set for February. The point is, it’s not pretentious to schedule things, it’s how you make sure they get done.

Google Tasks

GoogleHave you tried the Google Task feature? I love this thing. There are days where I have so much to do, I can’t see past the weeds. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I told my co-workers I felt like a squirrel trying to cross the highway.

I opened up Google Tasks and started my list. I put everything in that I had to get done that day. Here’s my little secret with list making… I always include something I’ve just done or I’m about to finish. It makes me feel motivated when I get to cross something off.

I like that I can drag and drop items so they are in prioritized order. Let’s be honest, we won’t ever get anything done if we don’t prioritize. My family would eat a lot of cereal dinners if I didn’t put making dinner ahead of other things which need to get done in the evening. If it’s not Google Tasks, then find the thing that works for you. You deserve to not only eliminate the busy word from your vocabulary, but eliminate that overwhelmed feeling from your life.

You will be surprised at how much more accountable you hold yourself when you work to eliminate the “I’m so busy” excuse. Don’t let busy be a status symbol for you. Be the person who embraces the choices they make each day. Know what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. The next time someone says “how have you been?” Give a response that purposely excludes the word “busy”. I bet you’ll be surprised at how good it feels.

Incentives? Here are three ways to generate interest in your rental property.

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By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services

IncentivesIn a marketing cycle that’s experiencing fewer qualified applicants than you would like to see, what are some ways to spur new interest and activity for your rental? There are actually a number of things you can do, but for the sake of this conversation, lets focus on just a few of my favorite INCENTIVE options.

Incentive for the LEASE START DATE

In this scenario, you offer a concession on rent for a lease that starts on a certain date. This creates a sense of urgency for the prospect to sign a lease in order to secure the lower price. For example, you might be advertising your property for rent at a rate of $1,750 but advertise that you’ll drop the price to $1,650 for a lease that starts by a certain date. Another option is to offer two weeks or one month of free rent.

Incentive for the LEASE END DATE

This scenario is basically the opposite of the one above. In this situation, you’re wanting the prospect to sign a lease that will end in a better time of year based on renewals. (Typically this means May, June or July.) In this example, if you have the property listed at $1,750, you would offer a lower rate with a lease that ends in your preferred month. (Generally only offered as an option to secure a lease that is longer than 12 months.)

Incentive to provide a PROPERTY IMPROVEMENT

With this promotion, you can combine the timing scenarios above (lease start and/or end date) and instead of a lesser rent, you offer to provide an upgrade or amenity to the property. For example, with a lease that starts by _____ or ends _____ we will install a WiFi thermostat or WiFi doorbell, you pick! This is a great incentive option as the improvement becomes an added value to the property in the future.

The first two of the above incentives are geared more toward securing a new tenant. While the third option can also be utilized to secure a new tenant, we have found it’s also a great way to motivate a current tenant to renew their lease.

If you haven’t tried using a leasing incentive, I encourage you to do so. These have all proven to be quite effective for our investor clients!

Lunch in Omaha – The Importance of Investing in Relationships

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By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services

A few weeks ago, I was traveling with my family to Omaha for a quick three-day weekend getaway. If you haven’t heard, they have a pretty great zoo (www.omahazoo.com) among other attractions. With our travel plans scheduled, and knowing I would be in Omaha…. I reached out to my friend Bob, a client who lives there and has been with HRS since the very start. He confirmed that he would be in town that weekend and we scheduled plans to have lunch.

Omaha Zoo: Snake Omaha Zoo: Croc Omaha Zoo: Frog

This lunch appointment reminded me how important it is in business as well as personal life to build quality relationships. The kind of relationships that are not simply transactional. The kind of relationships that are worth the effort to stick with, develop and grow. Over the course of nearly 30 years, quite a bit has changed about the way we conduct business here at HRS. Given the advancements in technology, we’ve benefited from efficiencies in communication. And we can process more information at a quicker pace. Unfortunately, I think some of these changes have brought about a shift in our culture that seeks to speed up business activities and completely skip the relationship aspects.

Keeping that in mind, one thing HRS is determined to keep the same is the focus we have on developing relationships. We appreciate getting to know our clients.  We enjoy the opportunities to “slow-down” and meet for coffee, lunch or talk on the phone. We have the privilege of working with so many great people, why wouldn’t we want to know them better?

Paul and Bob in Omaha

Toward the end of our lunch appointment, I asked Bob, “What advice would you would give to a younger real estate investor?” He replied to me by saying, “First, there are deals to be found in any market. Be patient and find a deal. Second, leveraged money is okay, but minimize your debt as much as possible. Finally, hold for the long haul.” While those nuggets of wisdom aren’t new to me, they certainly mean more coming from a man I respect, that’s been doing it longer than I have.

I’m so glad Bob and I took the time and were intentional about having lunch together. Thank you Bob!

Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!

Happy Holidays from Home Rental Services!

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Trolley Holiday Lights TourThe holidays are fast approaching. We wanted to wish everyone an early Happy Holidays! We also wanted to share some upcoming December events that you might want to consider enjoying with friends and family!

Trolley Holiday Lights Tours

Have you lived in Kansas City for years, but haven’t taken in all the great holiday lights? Enjoy the holiday lights that Kansas City has to offer, while riding in heated trolley’s. Listen to holiday music while being chauffeured thru Crown Center, The Plaza and houses all along Ward Parkway. And the tour guide share the history of the plaza lights and fun facts along the way!

When: Recurring daily, December 5th – 31st, 2018 at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm
Where the tour begins: Union Station, 30 W Pershing, Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone Reservations: 816-500-5417
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A Christmas Carol at Spencer Theater

A Kansas City tradition put on by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre!

Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly, cold-hearted creditor, continues his stingy ways on Christmas Eve. He rejects a dinner invitation and all the good tidings of the season from his nephew, Fred; he yells at charity workers; and he overworks his earnest employee, Bob Cratchit. Until he is visited one-by-one, by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, who show him the errors of his ways. He ultimately discovers what’s really worth celebrating at Christmas-time and beyond.

When: Showings from December 6th – 30th, 2018
Where: Helen F. Spencer Theatre, 4949 Cherry St, Kansas City, MO 64110
Phone Reservations: 816-235-2700
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Winterfest at Worlds of Fun

Holiday cheer rings out at Worlds of Fun during the annual WinterFest holiday celebration. Thousands of sparkling lights transform the park with an inviting glow that warms the heart and lifts the spirit. Witness festive live shows, meet iconic holiday characters, join holiday activities like ice skating and cooking decorating, ride select park attractions, and create lasting memories with family and friends. This holiday event takes place on select nights in December.

When: Select Nights in December, see website for dates
Where: Worlds of Fun
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The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train

Back for its 18th annual run, the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express train brings Santa Claus and his elves back to Union Station. The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express is unlike any other train in the world!

One of Kansas City’s favorite holiday traditions, the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train brings Santa to Union Station just before Christmas. Guests can visit with Santa and tour the train for free. This magical holiday train will roll into Union Station for a four-day visit this year from Dec. 14-18. Led by Kansas City Southern, Southern Belle business train, the Holiday Express train includes a smiling tank car Rudy; a flatcar carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a gingerbread boxcar; the elves’ workshop; the reindeer stable; and a little red caboose.

When: Daily, December 14th – 18th, 2018
Where: Union Station, Sprint Festival Plaza, 30 W. Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO 64108
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“Revert to Owner” Option with Utility Companies

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Did you know about the “Revert to Owner” option with utility companies?

UtilitiesElectric companies and gas companies offer a free service called “Revert to Owner.” This is very helpful when you own an investment property.

What happens is that any time a renter calls the utility company and asks for the electric or gas to be turned off, the utility will automatically be switched to your name (the owner) so that there’s no interruption in service.

Think about that.  Your renter is moving out in December and you’re on a skiing trip with your family. You don’t want to sit on the phone with KCP&L while you’re on vacation, making sure the utilities don’t get shut off when the current renter moves out.

Even worse, if your power or gas are shut off in the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, you might have thousands of dollars in damages due to freezing pipes or mold depending on the time of year.

All you have to do to get this set up is fill out a form with your utility company.

In an effort to get you started in the right direction, here’s a link to the utility sheets that we have for most major cities in the Kansas City metro:
Utility Sheets in Kansas and Missouri

If you own an investment property, we recommend that you get this set up as soon as possible!