Thinking Out Loud About Pies. Owner Appreciation 2016!

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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

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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!

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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!

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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

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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

Oak Leaf Itch Mites – Worst Season Ever?

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Oak Leaf Itch MitesHave you been trying to figure out where some strange bites on your arms and legs are coming from? There’s a good chance it’s due to an all time high count of Oak Leaf Itch Mites.

The Wall Street Journal did an article on Kansas City and our battle with Oak Leaf Itch Mites on October 11th, 2016. The article starts off with, “A Midwestern metropolis is under attack from an unseen enemy, with victims pouring into doctors’ offices and pharmacies with telltale wounds.

Exactly one year before the WSJ article, the L.A. Times wrote an article titled “Mysterious oak leaf itch mite leaves its tiny bite mark across lower Plains.” So this is nothing new, but it’s just as bad, if not worse, this year when compared to last year.

Did you know? The Oak Leaf Itch Mite is nearly invisible measuring in at just 1/100th of an inch.

Another quote from the WSJ:
You can’t see them, they’re microscopic and before you know it they’re under your skin,” said Jared Mayberry, marketing director of Ryan Lawn & Tree in Overland Park.

Did you know? As many as 300,000 itch mites fall from an oak tree every day. And there are almost 4 million oak tress in Kansas City.

The recommendation is to wear long sleeve shirts and cover exposed parts of your body as best you can if you are regularly getting bites. The scary thing is that there’s really no specific spray or treatment that can be done to avoid the problem.

Let us know if this story was helpful to you! And be sure to cover your arms and legs if you are getting bites!

[Video] – 5 Success Tips for New Investors Becoming Landlords in Overland Park

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When we talk to new investors becoming landlords for the first time, we always mention the following 5 success tips. Veteran investors might also find this review to be extremely helpful. Providing property management in Overland Park gives us the chance to see where investors succeed and where they are most challenged.

Thorough Screening Process

Thoroughly screen all potential renters. Have a strong application that your interested tenants fill out completely, and make sure your requirements and policies are in writing so you stay out of trouble. Once you have the application, check credit reports, verify income, and o a complete background check.

Use a Strong Lease

A well-written lease is essential to protect your investment property. Invest in a good real estate attorney who understands landlord tenant law and can write a great lease for you. This will save you money and be worth it in the long run.

Avoid Personal Relationships with Tenants

Employ a little tough love and don’t become friends with your renters. You want to be able to enforce the lease terms and not be their buddy. That will create long range problems that are best avoided.

Know When to Replace Rather than Repair

When things go wrong, don’t keep fixing the same problem. Maintain the property for the long term. Recently we had an air conditioner that kept having problems. Rather than repairing it with another Band-Aid, we determined that replacing the air conditioning unit was the right call.

Repair Problems Quickly

To attract top notch tenants and retain them, you need to fix things promptly when a repair request is made. Fix what is broken as quickly as possible. This keeps your renters happy, and happy renters stay longer. That improves your cash flow. Get things taken care of in a timely manner.

These are the top 5 success tips for new investors becoming landlords. If you have any questions about Overland Park property management, Lenexa property management, or investment services in any of the surrounding areas, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

Guess who ranks in the top 10 happiest cities in America?

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Kansas City Skyline

Every once in a while, it’s good to take a minute to appreciate, celebrate and be proud of the city where you live and work. Sometimes the reason to celebrate is that your sports team is crushing it like the Royals did last year. But one reason we can celebrate today is a recent list we saw that had the top 10 happiest cities in America. The list was compiled by Zippia, a career search company. (Thanks to Paul, our Director of Investment Services, for seeing this article recently and thinking it would be a great blog post!)

The reason we love the list is that it’s not arbitrary. It’s based on scientific data captured about the 200 largest cities in America. You can argue pros and cons about each data point leading to “happiness.” But the general idea is that people are happier when they have money, can afford a reasonable lifestyle, and can spend time having and raising a family in a safe environment with good schools.

The Data:

  • Education (percentage of population with a degree)
  • Employment (based on unemployment rates)
  • Average length of commute to work
  • Cost of living
  • Having a family (percentage of population that is married)
  • Owning a home
  • Having money (based on poverty rates)

The List of 10 Happiest Cities in America:

  1. Olathe, KS
  2. Overland Park, KS
  3. Cedar Rapids, IA
  4. Sioux Falls, SD
  5. Bellevue, WA
  6. Cary, NC
  7. Gilbert, AZ
  8. Virginia Beach, VA
  9. Chesapeake, VA
  10. Frisco, TX

We are proud to live and work in Kansas City and we hope you are too!

[Video] – 5 Ways to Attract Top Notch Tenants to Your Overland Park Property

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Attracting top notch tenants for your investment property is crucial to ensure that cash flow continues to come in. Today, we’re sharing five ways to attract great renters.

1. Keep the House Super-Clean

Make sure the house is always clean. That doesn’t just mean the carpets and the bathrooms. You want the woodwork and the windows to be extremely clean as well. The house should also be clean smelling. When a prospective tenant walks in, there shouldn’t be anything that smells like smoke, pets, or mustiness.

2. Remove Personal Items

Make sure the house is free of all stuff. Doing property management in Overland Park, we notice that people tend to leave behind flower pots, hoses, old lawnmowers, exercise equipment, or even pool tables. It all needs to be removed. New renters don’t want to deal with other people’s stuff.

3. Provide Beautiful Paint

Have the whole house either freshly painted on the inside or make sure it looks freshly painted. This is what we recommend to all of our property owners. The paint should be fresh or look fresh. You don’t want it to look like a rental.

4. Update the Light Fixtures

Have updated light fixtures. When you’re putting them in, make sure they’re the right size so adequate light reaches the rooms. Gigantic and tiny light fixtures look awkward, and sometimes landlords forget to consider that.

5. Establish Curb Appeal

Make the outside of the property neat, clean, and tidy, with fresh mulch. Trim bushes in the summer months, and keep the front door clean. You don’t want a tenant to walk up to the front door and see bugs or cobwebs on the porch. That’s not appealing. Make sure the door is clean or freshly painted.

These are five ways to attract top notch renters and keep the cash flow coming in on your property. If you have any questions or need help with Overland Park property management, Lenexa property management, or services in any of the surrounding areas, please contact us at Home Rental Services.

Home Rental Services Celebrates 27 Years!

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HRS Celebrates 27 YearsWe’ve been in the business of managing investment properties for our clients since 1989.

Do you remember what life was like in 1989?

Interest rates were 10.5%, the average monthly rent was $425, a USPS stamp cost 25 cents, and the average home cost $120,000.

It was the year the Berlin wall came down. It was the year Toyota launched their luxury brand… Lexus. It was also the year that the first 24 satellites of the Global Positioning System (GPS) were launched into orbit.

In 1989, Microsoft released the first version of their productivity suite called Microsoft Office. You could watch first run episodes of The Simpsons. You could go to the theater and watch the grand opening of The Little Mermaid.

And the most popular bands were Madonna, Depeche Mode, Phil Collins, Prince, The Bangles and New Kids on the Block.

We’ve come a long way since then.

HRS Celebrates 27 YearsSo many things have changed since we opened the doors in 1989.

We’ve gone from managing a few properties to managing a few hundred properties. We’ve gone from writing everything on paper and passing around folders to web based applications and instant messaging. We’ve gone from a couple of employees to more than ten.

It’s taken hard work, persistence and some luck, but we really enjoy helping people while making a living. We’re so thankful for all the people that have helped us get to this point. Our property owners, vendors, renters and peers that continue to trust us and cheer us on. If you are reading this, there’s a good chance that you are part of our story. Thank you!

Please join us as we celebrate 27 years of property management in the Kansas City Metro!