Please Welcome Oretta Croushore, our Assistant Property Manager

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OrettaOretta joined Home Rental Services in February 2017 as an Assistant Property Manager. Oretta focuses primarily on our renters. She makes sure that they are well taken care of and that any maintenance requests are h­andled in a timely manner.

Oretta handles all the move-in appointments with our renters. These are all done in our office so renters get to meet Oretta face-to-face. When a renter moves out, Oretta reviews the move-out inspections and sets up appropriate work orders to get the property ready for the next renter. Oretta works with our owners as well. Usually, these interactions involve coordination of updates to the properties and managing our trusted vendors as they do the work.

Oretta came to us from the optical industry. She had daily interaction with optical practice managers and helped them troubleshoot issues with their optical products. Oretta has an extensive background in both the retail and wholesale aspects of the industry.

Oretta is married and her husband’s name is Shawn. We laughed out loud when she told us that they can always be found where the “older” people are… they love playing Bingo, taking in shows at the dinner theater, and going to Branson, Missouri. Oretta has a daughter named Poppy. Oretta is a Girl Scout leader for her daughter’s troop as well as a Girl Scout recruiter for adult volunteers for the organization.

Oretta loves doing crafty things. She especially loves to crochet when it’s colder while watching Netflix. She also loves to cook and gets new recipes from Pinterest. One of her favorite things about cooking is finding really good food that is still healthy to eat. She cooks mostly from scratch!

When asked, Oretta said that the culture at Home Rental Services is what convinced her to take the job. She feels that everyone is invested in the company. She particularly likes that everyone’s ideas hold weight… it doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked at Home Rental Services… if you have a good idea, they want to hear it.

We love Oretta’s sense of humor. She’s hit the ground running and definitely adds spice and humor to our culture!

What is colorless, tasteless, odorless and the second highest cause of lung cancer?

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Author: Paul Branton

Paul BrantonHey there! I’ve got a riddle for you today.

What is colorless, tasteless, odorless and the second highest cause of lung cancer? What was that?! Did you say your mother-in-law’s cooking? Ok, well that’s both incorrect and a potential cause for couch sleeping; I won’t tell anyone you said that. For those of you who said radon gas, you are correct. Congratulations!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is a gaseous radioactive element that has the symbol Rn and is derived from the radioactive decay of radium. Since it is created by radioactive decay in soil, rock and water, it naturally moves up into the air we breathe, often times through the foundation floor and walls of our homes.

Quick Stats About Radon:

  • #2 cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking
  • Approximately 1 in 15 homes have an elevated level of radon gas
  • Estimated to be closer to 1 in 4 homes in Kansas
  • Radon tests cost $85-$135 and radon systems cost $800-$1600 on average

If you’re excited to learn more about radon, here’s a great link to the EPA’s “Guide to radon”.

This pamphlet walks you through what the EPA recommends you do when taking possession of a home with regard to radon testing. In addition to the EPA’s pamphlet, here’s a great circular published by the Kansas Geological Survey that goes into much greater detail on radon, specifically in Kansas.

Keep CalmTesting is important!

This is the only way to determine the level of radon in a building and confirm if it’s above or below 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L).  If the test finds the radon levels above 4 pCi/L, that’s too high… and a mitigation system should be installed to lower the levels. In Kansas, radon contractors are required to be certified, so make sure when selecting a professional to work with, that they have the proper credentials.

If you already have a system installed in your home, make sure to check the levels on the pipe every so often to ensure it is still properly operating.

RadonShould the test come back with high levels of radon and a system needs to be installed, make sure that everyone is on the same page for what is considered an acceptable installation placement.

In the end, it’s important to be aware of radon and the effects it can have on those living in your home and to address any potential concerns.

Have a great week!

Thanks-A-Lot from Home Rental Services!

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Author: Sandy Fisher

Thanks-a-lot CookiesI’ve shared before that a fun and important part of my job is delivering little “pop-by” gifts to our referral friends who send potential business our way. For the month of March, I helped a cute little Girl Scout salesperson reach her sales goals and I purchased thirty boxes of the Thanks-A-Lot cookies.

Who doesn’t love a good Girl Scout cookie, right?

The twenty or so Realtor® friends I delivered them to throughout the month of March sure did! It’s such pleasure popping into real estate broker offices all over the city and surprising our Realtor friends with our gift of choice for that month. And, of course, saying thank you—which is why the Thanks-A-Lot cookies were perfect.

On each cookie package was a handy dandy label that read, “No matter how the cookie crumbles, you are the best part of our business.” And then I packaged two boxes of the Thanks-A-Lot cookies together with our signature green-colored ribbon and attached a personal note thanking the friend for their recent referral to Home Rental Services.

Thanks-a-lot CookiesSome of our Realtor friends are in the office when I deliver, but most are not. So here’s the extra fun part—if my gift recipient is not around for me to hand them the package in person, I take a fun little selfie with the gift while I am in their office. When I get back out to my car, I send the Realtor a text with the selfie pic and let them know a special treat/gift is waiting for them.  I always get a fun text back saying thanks, and it usually leads to a short text conversation quickly catching up.

You’ve heard the saying, “You get what you give,” right? Well, that’s the whole goal of these little “pop-by” gifts and visits. We want to give, give, give, and if we get a little back from that, well, that’s icing on the cake (or should I say cookie!)

5 Tips to Avoid Trouble with Your Security Deposits [VIDEO]

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Our landlord advice today is: Five tips for staying out of trouble with security deposits. You don’t want to violate security deposit law or find yourself in court because you made a mistake in the collecting, holding, or dispersing of the tenant’s deposit.

Know Your State Limits

Each state varies a little bit, and our services are in both Kansas and Missouri. In Missouri, you can charge up to two months of rent as a security deposit. In Kansas, it’s one month of rent, unless your renters have pets or the unit is furnished. So, know your state limits.

Charge the Same Amount

You need to charge the same security deposit amount, regardless of the number of people who are living in the property. It may be tempting to charge more when you have 10 people in the house. But, you must charge the same amount even if you’re expecting more wear and tear on your house with extra children and tenants.

Damage vs. Wear and Tear

Only use the security deposit for damage beyond normal wear and tear. If you Google this term, you’ll find about 100 different definitions. If you’re in doubt about whether something is damage or wear and tear, you should probably just let it go. The courts seem favorable to the renters right now, so err on the side of caution.

Know Your State Laws

Understand the time requirements involved in getting the security deposit returned to your tenant. Most states have a window of 30 days, but in some states, it’s 14 days, and some states you have to inform the tenants about the damages you’re charging for after a certain number of days. Just know what your law requires, because there will always be penalties for violating those time limits, even by just one day.

Keeping the Deposit

Don’t just keep the deposit if the renters break the lease. Investors try to do that all the time; it will get you in a lot of trouble with the courts. If tenants owe rent or late fees, or there are damages, you can pull from the deposit. But, you can’t just decide to keep the whole deposit.

These are five things that Overland Park landlords need to keep in mind when it comes to security deposits. If you have any questions about this topic, or anything pertaining to property management in Kansas City, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

Home Rental Services’ Breakfast of Champions – Have You Had Your Snickers Bar Today?

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Author: Sandy Fisher, Director of Business Development

Have you seen the Snickers bar commercial where a very tired and grumpy character played by Willem Dafoe is not having a very good acting scene? Someone then hands him a Snickers bar and he is magically transformed back into the radiant Marilyn Monroe who finishes the scene with ease. The Snickers’ slogan in that ad is “You’re not you when you’re hungry”, and there sure is some truth to that!

Breakfast of ChampionsYou might have seen the research that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You’ve probably also heard the tidbit that what you do with your first hour of your day is directly related to your productivity for the rest of that day. Well, we at Home Rental Services decided to put that information to work, order up some breakfast (and some Snickers bars too), and create a Breakfast Of Champions’ event with our valued vendor partners.

Why our vendor partners you might ask?
We work really hard to provide and do things for our owner clients, our renters, and our Realtor® friends, so we decided it was time to also provide for, and make even stronger connections with, our valued vendor partners. A year later, we’ve found that they agree.

We just hosted our fourth Breakfast of Champions event, and at the close of each one Kandy Meehan (Owner/President of HRS) and I put our heads together to go over what went well and what we can do better. We’ve also pushed the “what can we do better?” question out to our entire HRS staff. And after a few team brainstorming sessions, we ramped up our most recent event.

Breakfast of ChampionsWe added some fun take-home items for each vendor (and, yes, a Snickers bar was one of those things), a couple of door prize gifts, and we had Jason Terry with Blue Gurus enlighten our group with a LinkedIn 101 session, and he did an outstanding job.

When I talk with potential owners and investor clients, I love to share with them how we have a quality list of licensed and insured vendors who provide outstanding service to our clients. And then I really love to share that we also know our vendors well, and we work hard to strengthen those relationships by having breakfast with them and learning with and from them several times a year.

We’re so thankful our vendors and their willingness to attend our Breakfast of Champions events. It’s a great way to start the day, get to know our vendors even better and learn something useful from our presenters. (And it was fun having a Snickers bar for dessert!)

Breakfast of Champions

Who’s ready for the Madness!?!? Ready or not, it’s that time of year again.

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Author: Paul Branton

March MadnessIt’s the time of year we fill out brackets, “pool our money” and watch lots of basketball!

While that’s a ton of fun, did you know it’s also one of the best times to get under contract on investment property?

Spring is here and summer will arrive before we know it, and that means folks will be moving. Typically, when you acquire an investment property, it’s vacant, so it makes sense to have it available for occupancy during the time when more people are relocating. According to a report released by AMSA, the American Moving and Storage Association, the most popular months for moving were: May, June, July, August and September.

With that in mind, here is my suggested timeline for March Madness – Investor Style:

  • March-April: Locate your ideal property and get it under contract.
  • April-May: Close on the purchase, make improvements to maximize rental rate and lower vacancy
  • May-June: Market the property, screen and qualify tenants and sign the lease.
  • June-July: Tenants take possession, love the home and stay for multiple years!

Moving SeasonIn addition to capturing this “moving season” for new acquisitions, the team at Home Rental Services does their very best to negotiate leases so that they will end or renew in April, May, June or July.

So, who is your pick to win this year? Don’t forget to fill out your bracket!  The tournament starts on March 14th and ends on April 3rd.

Check out the new Home Rental Services logo!

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Home Rental Services LogoWe’re excited to announce that we’ve refreshed our look with a new version of our logo!

We recently did a full overhaul of our website at home4rent.com and mobile app, so it was time for a new look for the logo. We worked with the great people at logomyway.com to get new ideas and select our favorite new look. The winning designer did an excellent job staying true to who we are while giving us a more current look!

Over the next few weeks, you’ll start to see it appear on all of our pages like our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

We hope that you like our new updated look. Leave a comment and tell us what you think!

Why You Should Invest in a Rental Property [VIDEO] – The Joys of Being an Owner

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There are several joys involved with owning investment property. You hear a lot about the negatives, and there are definitely negatives, but there are great things about owning an investment property as well.

Building Wealth

This is an opportunity to have someone else pay your mortgage payment as the house appreciates and gains value. You’re contributing to your wealth, and increasing your ability to save for any number of things.

Source of Income

Owning an investment property means you have a steady source of income from your Overland Park tenants. There will be periods of vacancy where you aren’t earning anything from your property, and you need to be prepared for that. But generally, it’s a steady source of rental income.

Diversification of Income

When you purchase investment property, you’re diversifying your overall portfolio. Instead of just being in stocks and bonds, you’re doing something different by owning real estate.

Low Risk

Owning investment property is really low risk, especially compared to other types of investments. It’s highly unlikely that a property will disappear and the land will suddenly have no value. Most properties appreciate and grow in value, which makes you money. And, you’ll always “own the dirt” as my dad used to say. That’s a good thing and less risky.

Leverage Benefits

You can put as little as 20 or 30 percent down on a property.  You then have a large investment for the amount of cash that you’ve actually had to put in. So, you’re highly leveraged but at a very low risk. That allows you to grow your wealth faster because you can own more properties with less risk or investment.

Tax Advantages

The IRS isn’t always our friend, but there are lots of great tax write-offs and advantages to owning rental properties. This is something to consider if you’re wondering whether or not to invest.

These are just some of the joys of owning investment properties. If you’d like to talk more, please contact us at Home Rental Services. We can answer any of your questions about property management.

4 Reasons to Document the Condition of Your Rental Property [VIDEO]

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Proper documentation can be an important resource for landlords, and today we’re sharing four of the really great reasons to document the condition of your property before a renter moves in.

1. Tenant Sign-Off

This documentation will be proof that the resident accepts the property in the condition that you’re giving it to them. We recommend having paper documentation, which could be a checklist or a set of detailed notes. You should also take a number of high-quality photographs. When you have a paper checklist or condition report, you can have the resident sign the document, agreeing to the property’s condition. This isn’t a mechanical inspection, it’s more cosmetic and it allows you and your tenants to agree on how the property looks.

2. Proves Habitability

When you document the property’s condition prior to move in, you can avoid any potential later accusations from the renter that there were habitability issues. You documented the smoke detectors were working and attached, for example. You will have photos as well as written documentation.

3. Identifies Property Changes

Some tenants make changes to the house that are great, and others make changes that seem confusing or unappealing. With your documentation, you’ll be able to determine whether any of those unauthorized changes were made by your tenants. It will be easy to see that the walls were not originally pink, for example. This documentation will allow you to see and prove the changes.

4. Tenant Damage

Distinguishing between tenant damage and normal wear and tear is one of the biggest challenges for landlords. This documentation will help you demonstrate any damage that was done by the tenants. Hopefully there won’t be any damage at all after move out, but if there is, you have the original documentation and proof of what the property looked like when the lease started.

These are just a few of the reasons why documentation is so critical. If you have questions about this or anything pertaining to property management in Kansas City, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

The Great Exchange (1031 Exchanges)

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Paul in his officeAuthor: Paul Branton

The Great Exchange… no, I’m not talking about Obama v. Trump. While it would be apropos to discuss politics and the “transfer of power” or “alternative facts” in light of that recent great exchange, I would rather stick to what I know best and that is REAL ESTATE.  (Real Estate also happens to be a lot more fun!)

The Great Exchange that you should know about as a seasoned or potential real estate investor is known as the 1031 Exchange.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of working with two of our investment property owners that are in the midst of navigating through the requirements and timelines associated with what is commonly referred to in real estate and the tax code as a 1031 Exchange. (also known as a Starker Exchange.)

With this fresh in mind, I wanted to take the time to share the basics of what you should know about these types of property exchanges.

2 quick notes:

  1. Be sure to consult a tax professional before considering a 1031 Exchange.
  2. In June of 2016, the House Republicans created a “Blueprint for Tax Reform” called A Better Way. The proposed changes threaten 1031 Exchanges. If you’re considering an exchange, you may want to pursue it before any substantial changes are passed.

What is a 1031 Exchange?

  • A 1031 Exchange is a wealth building strategy known as Internal Revenue Code Section 1.1031. It’s used for the exchange of real and personal property held in the productive use of a business or for investment.
  • With each 1031 Exchange is a timeline requiring strict adherence.

What are the Timeline Requirements?

  • Starting from the day the “relinquished property” closes, you have 45 days to “identify” potential replacement property.
  • Starting from the day the “relinquished property” closes, you have 180 days to acquire the replacement property.
    • The exchange must be completed in 180 days. (not 45 + 180)

How do I “Identify” a “like kind” replacement property?

  • By the end of the identification period, the potential replacement properties must be unambiguously identified to the qualified intermediary. (Legal Description or Property Address)
  • You may identify up to three properties of any value with the intent of purchasing at least one.

What is “Like-Kind” property?

  • This is a very broad term, meaning that both of the properties must be “the same nature or character, even if they differ in grade or quality.”
  • In terms of real estate, you can exchange nearly any type of property, so long as it’s not personal property.

What is a “Qualified Intermediary”?

  • This is the name for the entity through which the proceeds from the sale must pass.
    • The proceeds from the sale must go to a qualified intermediary in order to be reinvested and remain tax deferred.
    • The sale proceeds must not come to you or they become taxable.
  • Any proceeds retained from the exchange (“Boot”) will become taxable.

Why should I do a 1031 exchange?

  • The main reason is the tax deferral of the federal and state capital gains and recaptured depreciation taxes assuming the replacement property is of equal or greater value and is acquired within the exchange timeline.
  • The 1031 exchange allows you to, rather than paying the tax, use those dollars towards a replacement property that may generate additional cash flow, have greater depreciation, be in a better location or no longer require as much effort to maintain.

In summary, a 1031 exchange has limitations and guidelines, but when done correctly could help you offset or defer paying capital gains taxes on your investment properties.

Until next time….
Paul