NARPM® 2017 Convention Recap

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By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services talking about the recent trip to the NARPM® convention in Florida.

Home Rental Services: NARPM 2017Just a few weeks ago, Caitlin, Kandy and I traveled to Florida to go to the 29th annual convention and trade show for the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM®). The theme of the convention this year was “Engineered for your Success!” and it was held in Orlando at one of the largest hotels I’ve ever visited, the Rosen Shingle Creek.

We’re Committed to NARPM

This marks the second conference that I’ve attended, the sixth for Caitlin and the TWENTY-THIRD for Kandy.

Home Rental Services has been a member of NARPM since 1991. We continue to receive value nearly every day from the relationships, educational opportunities and member designations.

Home Rental Services: NARPM 2017

The biggest takeaways from the 2017 NARPM conference:

  • We implemented additional screening criteria to ensure we remain compliant with Fair Housing Regulations.
  • We added a feature to our website that allows prospective owners to receive a Free Rental Analysis report.

To see our Free Rental Analysis report system in action, click the screenshot below and enter a rental address. In less than an hour, you will receive a detailed rental report with comps in your inbox!

Home Rental Services: NARPM 2017

Quotable quotes from the keynote speakers:

  • “If you’re not failing often, you aren’t trying enough.”
    – Scott Steinberg
  • “If you don’t have a crystal ball, perhaps it’s time to get some brass ones.”
    – Troy Hazard
  • “Do we want to be tools of our tools, or let our tools be our tools?”
    – Curt Steinhorst

Home Rental Services: NARPM 2017While we didn’t have quite enough time to make it to Disney World, I at least got to see this Topiary of Mickey Mouse!

In closing, we highly encourage you to make sure when selecting a property manager, that they are members of NARPM®. Why? NARPM promotes a high standard of business ethics, professionalism and fair housing practice. The Association also certifies its members in the standards and practices of the residential property management industry and promotes continuing professional education.

If Snowmageddon happens, are you ready?

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By Caitlin Meehan, Director of Client Care for Home Rental Services.

It is getting to be that time of the year, temperatures drop and leaves start falling. We’d like to remind you of a few things that can save you money, time and headaches:

  • SpigotDisconnect water hoses from exterior faucets:
    If you leave the hoses connected to your water spigots, you run the risk of them 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!
  • Install a clean furnace filter:
    Per your Lease agreement, this is to be changed at least once a quarter.  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. Don’t forget filters in stove vents, and clothes dryers.  (Clean air filters will keep your family healthier in the fall months and keep your heating costs down!)
  • Check the smoke detectors:
    Replace any batteries as needed.  There should be one working smoke detector per floor in your house.  Please let us know if there is not or if you have a detector that is not working because of something other than a dead battery.  We want you to be safe!
  • Sprinkler systems:
    Please inform us immediately if you have a sprinkler system that has not yet been winterized or scheduled for winterization.
  • Examine your gutters and downspouts for debris:
    While standing on the ground look at your gutters and downspouts for built up leaves and debris. Also, check downspouts for damage or loose pieces.
  • LeavesRemove 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.
  • When that dreaded ice and snow do get here please do NOT apply any chemicals or salts to the driveway or sidewalk of the property that will cause damage to the concrete.  Read and follow labels carefully before applying.
  • Consider having some extra food, water and blankets on hand in case ice and snow take out your electricity.

We want to help ensure you do not face any emergencies related to the weather at the home, so consider taking the time to complete the above items. We hope your fall is off to a great start!

Why buy investment properties during football season?

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Buy Investment Property during Football SeasonBy Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services, talking about acquiring investment properties during football season.

As the weather changes and the temperature begins to drop, so begins the “off-season” for housing activity. While things are heating up between your favorite football rivalries, we usually see the demand for housing cooling down. That’s exactly why football season is a great time to buy!

Now you might be asking “Why would I want to buy when there is less of a demand?”  Let me expand on this idea and give you a few reasons why:

  • Not as much competition.
    • With families settled into school and not wanting to relocate during colder months, this leaves sellers with fewer buyers.
  • Lower PricesLower Prices! With less competition, prices are lower than in the summer months.
    • Summer is typically the most expensive time to buy real estate. When buying during the Fall (September through November) you can expect prices to be about 3% less than summer. If you wait to buy in the winter (December through February) prices in the KC metro are typically 6% lower than in the summer months.
  • Inventory is lower. (Wait, how is that a good thing? Refer back to my first point about competition.)
    • Ok, I realize it would not be a good thing to simply have less inventory. The GOOD NEWS is that while there are fewer homes on the market, there are even fewer buyers. In some markets during this time, there are nearly double the number of homes per buyer than in the summer.
  • Banks want to get bad debts sold by the end of the year.
    • In order to start off the New Year in a better position, banks tend to be open to offers in the fourth quarter that they might otherwise reject during the first three.
  • Time and MoneyContractors are not as busy.
    • This allows you the opportunity to negotiate better deals for the home improvements and probably get the job done sooner too!

Now that you know it’s a great time to buy, are you ready to get started?

Is Your Property Management Company MIA?

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By Paul Branton and Jennifer Hermon

Home Rental Services: Is your Property Management Company MIA?Fortunately for us, not all property management companies are equal. Unfortunately for investors, having a bad management company can be expensive and very stressful. Here are some snippets of conversations we’ve had recently with clients leaving their current property management company and coming to Home Rental Services:

“I didn’t know my property was up for rent, let alone that renters weren’t renewing, until I saw it on a ‘For-Rent’ website!”

“My online account shows that I have money but they are not sending it to me!”

In the last month, Home Rental Services has taken over management of about a dozen properties because of these kinds of problems with the investor’s current management company.

This isn’t typical of our market.

Often, investors fear change. People will stick with mediocre service for a long time. But the unknown leads to desperation. We understand that. Not knowing why money is no longer coming in. Not knowing a renter is going to, or already has, moved out.  Not ever being able to speak to an actual person for months. Don’t let yourself get to that desperation point!

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few tips:

  • If you have online access to your property rental information, log in right away to save/print every document and statement that you can find. Statements, leases, renter ledgers, etc.
  • Check your old emails, especially those with attachments, for other documents you may have been sent. For example, copies of leases, owner statements and management contracts.
  • Search for your property address on Google to find out if it’s been listed for rent on any websites.
  • Send a written request (we recommend regular mail with proof-of-delivery) for any documents you cannot find. Be sure to find out who is holding the security deposit funds. Ultimately it’s your responsibility, as the owner, to account for and return the deposit to the renter.

Property management isn’t easy, and it’s not always perfect. But one thing we can promise is that during the business day, our phones are answered by a REAL person. Our owner clients receive a monthly statement and any disbursements available. Home Rental Services is not a one-man-show. We have property managers, leasing agents, listing agents, admin and support staff, and more. Renters can reach emergency maintenance personnel 24/7!

If we can help you protect your investment, or you want to learn more about Home Rental Services, please call or email us… we will answer!

Investor Services? An Interview with Realtor® Jake Stallman

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

Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working with many Realtors® to help their Investor clients. I wanted to share a specific story of one of our Realtor® friends, Jake Stallman. We did a video interview with Jake. He talks about how we were able to help him and our mutual client make two very smart rental investment purchases.

Now that you’ve heard the story, here’s a quick summary of how we helped this client (and how we can help you too!)

Rent Range Projections:

– We will review the subject property in relation to the rental market and provide you with an estimated rent range.
– The rent range is typically +/-$100, although for more expensive or unique properties, it is usually a larger range.

Suggested Renovations:

– We will walk the property and provide a list of suggested improvements that will help maximize your rental rate and minimize your vacancy.

Renovation Budget:

– Upon request, we can work up an approximation of what the renovation items will likely cost via the use of our preferred vendors.

Project Management:

– If you utilize our preferred vendors for the renovations, we will oversee their work to completion and ensure both quality and timely results.

Please give us a call if you would like to find out more about how we can help you!

Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services

Is Your Fireplace a Ticking Time Bomb?

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By Joshua Volland, Property Manager for Home Rental Services

Relaxing in Front of the FireplaceAs we approach fall, I begin to think about some of my favorite fall things; the leaves changing colors, strolling around the plaza with coffee and relaxing evenings at home in front of my fireplace with a great book.

At first glance, most people see fireplaces and chimneys as beautiful additions to the architecture of their home. But we should really be looking at them for what they are; part of the heating system. Just as with your HVAC, chimneys require routine maintenance and service to ensure continued, safe and effective use.

Inspect your fireplace annually!

Inspect Your Chimney AnnuallyThree biggest problems resulting from poorly maintained chimneys are:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Chimney fires
  • Premature failure of the fireplace and chimney (Source: HomeAdvisor)

A report by the National Fire Protection Association showed that between 2009 and 2013, fire departments responded to 56,000 home structure fires that involved heating equipment. The leading factor contributing to these fires (30%) was failure to clean heating equipment properly. These were primarily chimneys.

Fireplace inserts are safe, right?

I bet a good portion of you reading this are thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you have a fireplace with an insert. This type of fireplace accounted for 16% of fires in this same time period. That’s almost 9,000 fires out of the 56,000 fires that fire departments responded to. (Source: National Fire Protection Agency)

Property Owners

As a property owner/landlord; it’s important to take the proper steps to ensure the fireplaces in your homes are safe for use.

We have a policy in place which requires our owners to pay to have any fireplace(s) and chimney(s) inspected and cleaned by a trained and certified company. This policy kicks in when a home has a fireplace that tenants want to use when specified in their offer to lease.

By having the inspection and cleaning done, you’ll know that you did everything possible to protect your tenants and your investment in the event of a fire.

If you actively use a fireplace (even ventless gas inserts) in your home, or have investment property with a fireplace, please be sure to get it inspected annually!

Treat Your Investment Property Like The New York Subway

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New York SubwayGuest post by Jennifer Hermon, Administrative Specialist at Home Rental Services

In the late 80’s, as a teenager, I took a trip to New York. I was terrified that I would have to take the dreaded subway. It’s reputation at the time was that of Gotham’s finest location to get murdered, mugged, drugged or to find housing for vagabonds. I lucked out and never had to descend into that dirty, treacherous underground world.

When I returned ten years later as an adult, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. Every day for a week, twice a year, I’d grab my Starbucks and trek down into the tunnels to get to another part of town in just minutes. I loved it! The stations were cleaner than my kitchen! The trains weren’t covered in gang graffiti.

How could this be? How did this entire system get turned into a place people willingly go and seem to take care of? And how does it stay that way?

New York SubwayThe story of the NYC subway turn-around is quite amazing considering what those responsible were up against. Crime was up and subway income was down.

What I didn’t know during my first trip to the Big Apple was that new policies were being enforced with cooperation between the mayor’s office, transit authority and police and that they vowed to turn things around underground as well as above. The theory was basically that people won’t take care of something that isn’t cared for and will leave it in no better condition than they found it, or possibly make it worse.

Every train that was painted with graffiti would be immediately painted and not sent back onto the rails until that was complete. The stations were cleaned, lighting replaced, and crime simply not tolerated. The message the city was sending was clear and effective. The agencies involved were diligent and eventually transformed the underground transportation to a profitable system that locals and visitors were happy to travel.

The idea of taking care of things so that others will follow your example can be applied in many other areas. I tested it out for myself.

New York SubwayFor instance, when I make the house smell like I just cleaned it (a bit of lemon Pledge spray is effective), my boys seem to be afraid to touch anything when they come home from school. They take their books and backpacks and head straight to their rooms. At least for a few days after a deep clean, they are suddenly putting dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher! They actually respect the space in which they live. I make it easy for them to maintain by providing a container of cleaning wipes and a roll of paper towels in their bathrooms.

If something breaks, I get it fixed. I want them to see that I am holding myself to the same standard of responsiveness I expect from them. (Except when milk runs out, because I refuse four trips a week to the grocery store).

I believe that the same concept applies to a rental home. Arriving in a well-cared for, clean home for the first time puts the tenant/landlord relationship on the right track for a positive experience. They sense your pride in ownership and are likely to carry that forward in how they live in and care for your home.

New York SubwayLandscaping that is well tended tends to stay that way. Issues get reported in a timely manner because the renters know you’ll take care of problems. That you won’t let them sit and fester into something worse. It’s mutual respect that can extend the lease and the life of the home’s components because everyone is working together.

These 5 Things Cost Landlords The Most Money

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Home Rental Services: These 5 Things Cost Landlords the Most MoneyThe following list includes what we consider to be the biggest potential costs a landlord may face. Yes, these 5 things are required expenses for any rental property. But minimizing the exposure to these costs can make a significant difference on the balance sheet at the end of the year.

One: Vacancy

When a home is vacant, no rent is being collected. And that’s a bad thing for landlords. An industry standard of measurement for this situation is called “Days on Market.” The fewer days on market the better. The national average for days on market is 30 days. That’s a full month of rent lost at every turn! On top of lost rent, you also have turnover costs like painting and repairs.

Two: Not Having a Strong Lease

Having a strong lease is key to protecting yourself, and your investment.  You want to make sure that it outlines who is responsible for what, and properly covers your liability. Then you must hold renters to the contract that they sign. If you allow them to pay rent a day late, you become the first one to violate your own contract!

Three: Not Screening Renters Properly

Accepting a bad tenant can be costly. They may not pay their rent on time. They may not pay their rent at all. They may not take care of the home, or even worse cause damage.

The best way to minimize the chance of getting a bad tenant is through a professional screening company.  Bad credit? Criminal background? Bad leasing history? You can only make an educated decision if you have all the facts.

Four: Maintenance

Every home requires maintenance. The best plan is to set aside a reasonable amount of money every month to pay for things when they break or need to be updated. It’s not about if something is going to require maintenance, it’s about when something will require maintenance. Being prepared financially is the best defense for maintenance costs. You also want to make sure to perform regular upkeep maintenance on things to avoid costly emergency repairs.

Five: Lack of Knowledge

Renting a home is not a simple task. There are so many things a landlord needs to understand to be successful.

What price will the market bear for monthly rent? Too low and you aren’t getting what the home is worth. Too high and you may force longer than necessary vacancy until the price is adjusted.

There are many laws that must be followed related to rental homes. Fair Housing when interviewing and selecting renters. Understanding local laws about the process for evicting a renter. Understanding how to handle security deposits so that you aren’t commingling funds. Getting into legal trouble is expensive and time consuming.

We wrote this story because we manage hundreds of homes and know what it takes to do it properly, safely and successfully.  If you need help managing your investment property, please give us a call today. We can help!

When Was the Last Time They Saw Your Face Instead of Your Email?

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By Sandy Fisher, Director of Business Development for Home Rental Services

Sandy FisherI get to do a lot of the fun parts of our company’s business! I get to foster great relationships with all kinds of people including owners, Realtors®, investors, and our vendors. Some of this is done via phone and some via email. My preference is face-to-face.

Since we’re a property management company, most people in our office can rattle off property addresses like their children’s names. I can’t. I do the front end of our business, which is talking to people. So when someone asks me a question about an address, my response is, “I need a name please!”

I take and make phone calls on a daily basis with these relationships. I love connecting this way. I also receive and send a large amount of emails and texts every day. I’m okay with that too. Again, my preference is face-to-face.  And those of you with an iPhone, I don’t mean “face-timing” someone. I mean in-person, face-to-face connecting.

You might think face-to-face connecting isn’t efficient, or a bit “old-school.” Sure, it’s more time consuming, but we think it’s incredibly important.

We welcome new clients to our office all the time. We want them to see we have a fully-staffed office with regular business hours. This is often very different than their experience with our competitors. Someone is here to help them in person.

In this crazy world of instant gratification/communication, it’s refreshing to actually see who you are talking to occasionally. I think it makes a bigger impact because it is increasingly rare to do face-to-face time. I’m glad that’s part of my job.

Taking the time to meet people face-to-face and getting to know them has had a significant impact on growing our business. I encourage you to add a couple of face-to-face meetings this week and see what happens!

Cheaper is better… right???

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

We’ve all heard it said before, “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Recently I was working with an owner on his vacant property. He insisted on subbing out the flooring job to “his guy” instead of using one of our professional vendors. The reason he made this decision was solely based on cost, and the hope that he could “save” some money. That’s when I wish I would have told him, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

The money he “saved” was lost in the extra time it took for his guy to get the job done. (Additional days of vacancy due to project work means lost potential income.) The situation got even worse. The job wasn’t done well, which required us to have professionals come in and fix the problems at additional cost. This resulted in even more vacancy.

When hiring a contractor, you typically get what you pay for.

Home Rental Services: Pick two from cheap, fast and great

You can typically choose only two of these three categories: Cheap, Fast and Great

  • You can have Cheap and Fast but the results will likely not be Great.
  • You can have Cheap and Great but it likely won’t get done Fast.
  • You can have Fast and Great but that doesn’t usually come Cheap.

Don’t focus solely on the cost… consider the rental ROI.

In business, there are times when you have to spend money to make money. When it’s time to spend, you shouldn’t dwell on how to save money but focus on how to spend your money wisely.

If you have questions about what improvements might bring the best rental ROI for your investment property, give us a shout. We’d love to help you figure it out!