Home improvements for renting? Material choices matter.

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

When it comes to making home improvements with renting in mind, there are certain choices that can help reduce your maintenance costs. One of the important choices is the type of materials to use. The most common are found in the flooring department. The initial costs for “upgrading” may not be attractive at first glance. But if you run the numbers on how much longer it should last, that is where you see the value.

Here are a few areas where material choices matter:

CarpetCarpet vs. LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank)

  • Life Expectancy of Carpet = 5-10 years
  • Life Expectancy of LVP = 15-25 years

Treated Lumber vs. Composite Decking

  • Life Expectancy of Deck = 10-15 years
  • Life Expectancy of Composite Deck = 20-25 years

Carpet vs. High Traffic Carpet

  • Life Expectancy of Carpet = 5-10 years
  • Life Expectancy of High Traffic Carpet = 15-20 years

While most of the “upgrade” options should last nearly twice as long, they generally don’t cost twice as much… which means you come out ahead!

Replacing a deck with a concrete patio

Concrete PatioAnother area that we’ve been helping investors reduce maintenance costs over the long haul is by way of replacing decks with concrete patios. If the deck is low enough to the ground that it wouldn’t require a long flight of stairs to reach the patio, we recommend tearing off the deck and installing a concrete patio. As I’m sure you know, wood decks require annual maintenance and deteriorate much more quickly than concrete patios. Surprisingly, they cost about the same to install.

What other areas of home improvement do you consider “upgraded” or “alternative” material choices to reduce your maintenance costs?

If you have any questions about making a property rent-ready, please feel free to give us a shout. We would love to help!

Free Resource: Homeowners Association Documents

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Homeowners Association DocumentsMany of the homes we rent in Kansas and Missouri are in neighborhoods with a Homeowners Association.

These kinds of associations are a governing body for the neighborhood and have the power to enforce the rules and bylaws agreed to by all members of the neighborhood. Typical rules and regulations apply to the exterior appearance of homes, fences, vehicle parking, additional structures like sheds, noise levels, pool use and more.

We continually update the Homeowners Association (HOA) documents as we receive them.

Over the years, we’ve continued to add to our HOA documents repository. Today, there are 263 Homeowners Associations that we have some amount of documentation for.

As a free resource, we’re providing the list of all neighborhoods that we currently have HOA information for! Click the link below to access the list. Once you find your neighborhood, simply click on the folder to see the PDF documents we have that contain specific information about that neighborhood’s HOA rules and regulations.

Click here for all of the HOA Documents that we’ve compiled.

If your neighborhood isn’t listed and you know there’s a Homeowners Association, please email us at info@home4rent.com and we will do our best to get them and make them available!

Top 10 Tips – Preparing Your Home For Fall

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top-10We wanted to provide a great list of fall maintenance tips for our renters.  Please look through the list below and let us know if there are any items that you need us to coordinate on your behalf with our property managers!

1. Change the air filters in your home: If you have a central air conditioning system, change the air filter regularly. If you have a window air conditioning unit, remove from the window or place a waterproof cover over it to prevent damage during the winter. Change the filters in stove vents, clothes dryers and room fans if applicable.  (Clean air filters will keep your family healthier in the fall months!)

2. Examine your gutters and downspouts for debris: Clear any leaves and dirt from gutters and examine downspouts for damage or loose pieces.  If the gutters on your home are too high to get to safely, submit a maintenance request so that we can have a company do the work on your behalf.

3. Check your faucets for leaks: Before the temperatures start to drop, be sure to look at your faucets for any leaks.  If you find any problems, it would be better to get them fixed now versus dealing with a burst pipe in the middle of winter.

4. Remove leaves from the grass and flower beds: It is very important to remove leaves from the grass and flower beds as they begin to fall, before the ice and snow come.  If you don’t pick up the leaves, there is a good chance they’ll kill the grass and landscaping which is expensive to repair.

5. Disconnect water hoses from exterior faucets: If you leave the hoses connected to your water faucets, you run the risk of the freezing which can break the supply line.  The simple fix is to simply disconnect the hoses.  We recommend that you store the hoses in your garage to help them last longer!

6. Prepare your fireplace: If you have a working, wood burning fireplace, make sure the damper is open to allow air to freely move through the chimney.  Check the damper handle and springs to ensure the flue is operating correctly.

7. Have your lawn and garden power tools serviced: Once your grass begins to go dormant, take your lawnmower, trimmer, and other power tools to get their engines serviced, blades sharpened and fluids topped off.  People are surprised when they take their equipment in and are told that it will take weeks to get them back.  This happens because everyone else is doing the same thing.  Get in early to avoid the delay and your tools will be ready to go!  We recommend Smitty’s Lawn and Garden.

8. Clean and store seasonal outdoor furniture: Store cushions in a dry area to prevent cracking, and fading over the fall and winter months. Once spring arrives, you will be pleased that you stored them and they’re ready for use!

9. Examine the grounds of your property: Check walkways for cracks and loose paving material. Report any major problems with your walkway and entryway areas before slippery weather can cause someone to have an accident.

10. Check windows and doors for drafts: The conditioned air in your home is lost through leaky windows and doors.  Go through your home and make sure the seal and caulking around the window frame is in good condition. Think of adding heavier drapery around windows that are extra drafty, to help block air loss.  This will make a difference in your heating and air conditioning bills!

The Laws of Attraction in Investment Properties

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

Laws of AttractionOver the years, I’ve been involved in hundreds of leases. It’s interesting to see how varied the outcomes are between how quickly a home is leased and the quality of tenants you attract, when compared to the state of the property. Also, it’s obvious that the condition of the property has a direct impact on the monthly rate that can be charged.

I believe in the “laws of attraction” theory when it comes to marketing your property.

In other words, updating an investment property to current standards when you turn a renter will determine:

  1. How quickly you lease to a new tenant
  2. The quality of the tenant (in terms of paying on time and taking care of the home while they are living there)
  3. The amount you will be able to charge each month

Here’s a more technical explanation about how these mechanics work:

  1. Improved Market Rate Properties attract Higher Credit, Higher Income, Lower Risk Tenants who will want the property properly maintained (higher standards) and will generally do their part to help maintain the property. (They will maintain, or even improve, the overall condition of the property either at their expense or the owners.)
  1. Quality Market Rate Properties attract Quality-Marginal Credit, Qualifying Income, generally low risk tenants who will not expect “perfection” but will want the property to be well maintained and may do a little bit themselves to help but just enough to keep it in the same condition.
  1. Under Improved Below Market Properties attract Marginal Credit, Just enough income to qualify, somewhat risky tenants. These folks typically don’t want to do much in the way of taking care of the property, but will have relatively high expectations of the landlord since they’re paying a high percentage of their income to rent the property.
  1. Unimproved Below Market Properties attract Marginal-Lower Credit, Qualifying Income, somewhat risky tenants who will not worry about the property as much since it appears the landlord doesn’t. This negatively impacts the property from performing well as a rental. This ends up costing the landlord more than if they had been willing to do ongoing maintenance and improvements.

With that in mind, I would suggest taking time to think about how you’re maintaining and marketing your properties. Keeping your investment property in good condition will allow you to stay in the Improved Market Rate and Quality Market Rate brackets, attracting the caliber of tenants you desire. A+B doesn’t always equal C, but the general trend is there.

If this all seems a bit overwhelming and you would like help evaluating your rental portfolio, please feel free to reach out!  We would love to help!

Real Estate Investing Lingo Defined – Part 2

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

Home Rental Services - Industry Lingo DefinedWelcome back! It was about a month ago when I introduced you to some terms used in real estate investing. To get you caught up, here’s a link to that post:
Real Estate Investing Lingo Defined – Part 1

As you saw at the end of that post, I said we would be breaking down this sentence:

Hey Suzy, check out this turn-key deal! I can get a cap rate of 8%, maybe 9% if I do a few things to force appreciation; would you be open to doing a JV with me on this deal?

Let’s jump right in!

Turn-Key: A “turn-key” property is basically what it sounds like… everything has been done for you. All you have to do is purchase it. This generally includes everything from the full scale renovation of the property to placing the tenant. With a “turn-key” property, you should be able to close on the property and have it be a performing asset. The advantage of “turn-key” is it removes you from holding the property during the renovation and marketing/tenant placement time.

Cap Rate: Cap Rate is short for Capitalization Rate. This is a common measure for evaluating the value of a real estate investment. The way you calculate the cap rate is by taking the net operating income and divide by the current market value of the asset. (Cap Rate = NOI/Market Value) For example, if you have a property with a NOI of $16,000 that is worth $200,000 then your cap rate is 8%. ($16,000 / $200,000 = .08 = 8%)

Forced Appreciation: Forced Appreciation is an increase in the value of the asset due to the intentional actions of the owner. (Not natural/market appreciation.) You can force appreciation in numerous ways. The most common being increasing rents and decreasing expenses… both of which will increase your NOI.

Joint Venture (JV): In its simplest form, a joint venture is a business arrangement where two or more parties pool resources for the purpose of accomplishing a specific goal. In a joint venture, each of the parties is responsible for profits, losses, and costs associated with the investment.

This is another example of industry specific lingo that can be intimidating to people getting into real estate investing. My hope is that these four terms make more sense to you after reading the definitions. If you have any questions, just give us a call! Home Rental Services has been helping real estate investors since 1989.

Summer Vacation? Awesome. Water Damage When You Get Home? NOT Awesome.

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So here we are in the middle of July.  Friends, family and co-workers are taking vacation and going to fun and interesting places.  It would be a shame to end a great trip by coming home to a nasty surprise… running water dripping through your ceiling.  Can you imagine how shocking and a little scary that would be?  We have people on our team that have experienced that first hand, and it is no fun at all.

Ceiling Water Damage

All you have to do to make sure this doesn’t happen is turn off the main water supply to your home before you leave for an extended period of time.

Also, be sure to turn your hot water heater to the “vacation” setting or turn it down to a lower setting.  That way, you won’t risk damage to your hot water heater if the water level gets low, and you will also save money by not having to keep the water as hot while you are away.

First, you have to find where the main water line comes into your home.  Usually, this is located in the basement along an exterior wall and enters your house close to ground level.  You will see a pipe coming in and either a round, turn-type shutoff or a straight, lever-type shutoff.  (See the pictures below for examples of both types.)  All you have to do is make sure either type is turned from the open position to the closed position, and you have shut off all water to your house.

Main Water Shutoff - Round/Turn Type Main Water Shutoff - Lever Type

Our friends at Sage Restoration shared with us recently the three most common types of water damage they see:

Sage Restoration1.  Washing machine line bursts or was not connected properly
2. Dishwasher water line connection bursts or leaks
3. Supply line to the toilet bursts or leaks

Be sure to avoid this potential problem at the end of a great vacation by turning off the main water supply to your house before you leave!

 

Real Estate Investing Lingo Defined – Part 1

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

Home Rental Services: Confusing LingoYou know how in most professions there’s a “language” that those inside the profession tend to know? Well, that certainly is the case in real estate investing.

To make this experience a bit more fun, lets breakdown this sentence:

Hey Bill, Do you remember that time I used $100k in OPM to do a BRRR, hit the 1% rule and make an 18% Cash-on-Cash return?  Wow, that sure was a great deal!

Okay, so clearly there were a few words/phrases in there that are unfamiliar to those outside of the world of real estate investing. Here are some definitions for these commonly used terms.

“OPM” or “Other People’s Money”

This is pretty much what it sounds like. The concept of using borrowing opportunities to leverage capital for investing. In other words, borrow money to use as investment capital. This works well when interest rates are low, like they’ve been for the past few years.

See the difference between using cash or leveraging OPM in the cash on the cash return example below.

“BRRR” or “Buy-Renovate-Rent-Refinance”

This is a method that is commonly practiced in “Buy/Hold” investing where you BUY a property with cash, RENOVATE the property to increase its value, RENT the home to a tenant and REFINANCE to get back all of your purchase and renovation funds.

The “1% Rule”

This is an often used “target” for the ratio of money invested vs. the rental rate. For example, if I purchase and renovate a property with a total cost of $150,000, the 1% rule would say that I should look to get $1,500/month in rent.

It will depend on the market and asset class that you are investing in, as to how easy or difficult this ratio is to achieve. The percentage will usually be lower for investments in a better market or asset class. (Lower risk = Lower rate of return.)

“Cash-on-Cash Return”

This is a percentage that is calculated based on the annual before tax cash flow or Net Operating Income (NOI) as compared to the total amount of capital invested.

Home Rental Services: Confusing LingoAs an example, if you were to invest $150,000 in cash to purchase a property that produces $18,000/year after expenses, the Cash on Cash return would be 12%. ($18,000 / $150,000) In this same example, if you leveraged “OPM” and only put 20% down, you would be investing $30,000 with the potential for a greater “CoC” return.

That  being said, you must factor in the added expense of the debt service payment on the $120,000 you financed. To do this, you would take the $18,000 and reduce it by the annual mortgage payments of lets say, $10,000. This leaves you with a NOI of $8,000 and gives you a return of 26%. ($8,000 / $30,000)

If you’ve made it this far, I hope that you’ve learned something new! Or at least understand some of the abbreviations that get thrown around. If you want to learn more, look for my next post where we will break down the following sentence:

Hey Suzy, check out this turn-key deal! I can get a cap rate of 8%, maybe 9% if I do a few things to force appreciation; would you be open to doing a JV with me on this deal?

Continue reading: Real Estate Investing Lingo Defined – Part 2

Fun Relationship Builders? The Move In Bag and Move Out Box!

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By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services

Move-in appointments are one of my favorite parts of my job as property manager. It’s one of the only times I get a chance to meet our renters face to face. I love having the chance to shake their hands and put a face to the voice on the phone or behind the emails.

Let’s face it, moving is stressful.

I don’t care how you do it. We have renters who are moving across town and those who are moving across the country. I’m chatty and curious by nature, so this is like a mini Barbara Walters moment for me. I love to hear their stories. I recently moved in a couple who were moved to Kansas City from Kentucky by the military. They were married just a few short months before. Knowing they were going to move, they had not even opened most of their wedding gifts.

I was thrilled to think of these newlyweds starting their lives as a married couple in one of “our” houses. I don’t think I will ever forget the very large family who came to the move in appointment! We must have looked like a clown car unloading as we all filed out of the conference room after the move-in appointment. The kids were a delight though… It’s such a treat to hear them excited about their new house.

Our conference room has a beautiful view of College and Metcalf, and the office tends to be peaceful. I know the people I’m meeting with have been running from here to there trying to get everything ready for the past several weeks. Sometimes, they’ve even driven straight in from out of state to meet with me. When they walk into our beautiful conference room, and let out a little sigh, I feel like we’re already making them feel at home.

The Move In Bag

Home Rental Services: Move In and Move Out GiftsOnce all the business is done and I’ve handed over keys, I have one more surprise for the renters. The move in bag! This is a reusable bag with the Home Rental Services logo on the front. I tell them it’s a goody bag with a few things to get them through the first few days in their new home. There’s some toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, cookies, candy, pens, a chip clip, and popcorn. We also like to include local restaurant guides.

A lot of thought has gone into what we put in the bags. We wanted things which are portable, economical, and useful. The reaction is always so appreciative and often excited. There’s been talk of having these bags left at the house for when the renters arrive. However, the property managers enjoy the experience so much, we refused to give it up.

Move Out Boxes

Home Rental Services: Move In and Move Out GiftsThe move in bags have been so successful, that we decided to implement move out boxes. These are delivered by the leasing agents when they go to the house for the walk-through at relisting time. We make no rash decisions at Home Rental Services. We spend a lot of time thinking about the right things to put into these boxes. The idea was they would be things to help the renter get the house ready for inspection and to help their move. We created a few documents to help walk the renters through the move out process and the reconciliation of the security deposit.

We’ve learned over the years there are a lot of questions at move-out. We included a checklist of things to remember to address before they leave. Are there burned out light bulbs? Have you mowed the yard for the last time? Is the furnace filter clean? These reminders benefit everyone (and help keep turn costs lower.) There’s a small roll of packing tape and a Magic Eraser as well as some candy in the box. We want to send our renters off onto their next chapter with as much care and consideration as we did when welcoming them to their new home.

It’s the little things that make all the difference in a relationship. Move-in and move-out gifts are good ways to show our clients that we really care about them!

How to make more money on your rental property.

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By Jennifer Hermon, Administrative Specialist for Home Rental Services

Home Rental Services: Make More Money on Your Investment PropertyInvestors have one goal in common… to make a decent return on investment with their rental properties. So one of the most common questions we hear as a professional property manager is “how?”

How do I make more money on my investment property?

One drastically overlooked area is renter retention. Sure, there’s location and making a house look good for showings. But once we’ve secured a good renter, a typical landlord forgets about it. They often count on the rental profit coming in from then on out. The mistake is that many owners don’t plan on keeping that renter to avoid costly turn over.

Renter retention starts the day the renter moves in and should never stop.

Typically, just after move in, a renter will find a few things that need to be checked or repaired. Maybe the wobbling ceiling fan didn’t bother the last renter, so it wasn’t reported. A toilet may have a slow leak that no one noticed before because that bathroom was rarely used. Whatever the case, we listen to the renters and do what is reasonable to make the home enjoyable for them. This also protects your investment.

Throughout the year, we keep renters informed with email and blog post reminders about removing hoses in the winter, reporting problems directly after large storms, etc. These are just a few of the things Home Rental Services does to promote renter retention.

So what can you, as an owner do? Listen to your renters. Be Proactive.

Ask your renter what could be done to the home to make them want to sign a new lease at renewal. Recently, we had a renter comment that they really love the home, but the old dishwasher makes a terrible racket. So they can’t really run it when someone is on the first floor. Sure, it works, but if spending a few hundred dollars on a new, quieter dishwasher makes them love the living space, replace it! That is so much less expensive and worrisome than vacancy or making constant repairs to a failing appliance. (Investor Insight: It is almost always a better ROI to replace a dishwasher vs. paying for repairs.)

Reinvest in your rental investment property.

This involves more than just planning ahead for exterior painting or new carpet in seven years. Plan for appliance replacement. Updating light fixtures and faucets can also go a long way. A freshly stained deck not only protects your investment, it reminds the renter of additional living space, giving more value to the home. If someone is proud of their home, whether they rent it or own it, they’re more likely to take better care of it.

In summary, don’t lose money to turnover and vacancy… Spend money on your occupied property to keep your tenants (people paying the mortgage) happy. Give them more reasons to love the home and stay year after year!

99 Problems, But Turnover Ain’t One

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

What do you do when the same tenant stays in your property for nine years?

First, you should CELEBRATE!!! You’ve successfully avoided a ton of vacancy and extra turnover costs. These are generally the two things that quickly eat away at the potential profits for rental investors.

Second, you should BUDGET. Just because you might not need the funds this year, doesn’t mean you won’t need them when the time for turnover comes. You should be diligent and set aside an appropriate amount of money each year as if you were “turning” the property.

In our experience, a good rule of thumb would be to plan on one months’ rent as the amount to set aside each year.

This actually took place recently for one of our investors.

One of our clients has been with us since we opened our doors 29 years ago. Wow, that’s humbling to think about… I’m only 5 years older than his relationship with our company! (Thank you Bob. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to work with you!)

In this example, the tenant moved into the property in 2009 at a rate of $1,070/month. When the tenant gave notice to vacate in 2018, his rate was $1,155/month. If you take the $1,155 and multiply it by nine, this gives you $10,395 which should be enough to cover all the turn costs, deferred updates/upgrades etc. to bring the property back to market ready condition.

As soon as we received the notice to vacate from this long-term tenant, we knew we needed to get our renovation plan ready.

Here’s what that process looked like:

  • We reviewed the photos from our leasing agents pre-marketing walk through.
  • We requested the bids from our trusted vendors.
  • We spoke with the owner and presented the vendor bids.
  • The owner gave his approval.
  • We scheduled the vendors.
  • We waited for the lease to end.
  • We performed the formal “move-out” inspection.
  • The work began (as scheduled) the day after the lease ended.
  • The project manager performed periodic site visits for quality control and to keep things on schedule.
  • Work was completed ahead of schedule. (8 business days.)
  • New marketing photos were taken. (For future marketing to highlight new flooring.)
  • Move In Inspection was done.
  • New tenant takes possession only TWO WEEKS after the old tenant vacated.

Oh, did I mention that the new tenant is paying $1,400/month? We were marketing the property with the new market rate and advertising the improvement plans. Would you believe that renters really like new paint and flooring? I know, it’s crazy. :)

The Budget?

So you may be wondering if we kept this turn to the $10,395 estimated budget. Well, we didn’t.  We spent about $12k. We could have been good with $10k but since this investor plans to continue holding the property long term, we opted to replace the flooring on the main level with a longer lasting LVP instead of carpet. (This decision will actually save money on future turn costs.)

The Result

The math works though, because the new rental rate of $1,400/month will allow the owner to make $3,000 more each year!

All things considered, this a great success story in the world of buy and hold rental real estate. If you would like more information on our Investor Services, be sure to visit our website or give us a call!

Living Room Before/After

Living Room Before Living Room After

Kitchen Before/After

Kitchen Before Kitchen After

Master Bedroom Before/After

Master Bedroom Before Master Bedroom After

Master Bath Before/After

Master Bath Before Master Bath After