Author: Home Rental Services
One of the things we try to do when sharing our stories every week is to focus on our team, our clients and our vendors. This week, we wanted to spotlight one of our vendors (and friends!) called Renew Crew.
Renew Crew is a company that provides exterior wood, siding, and concrete cleaning and protection. They have an environmentally friendly, 3-step process that lifts built-up outdoor dirt and grime to the surface. And then it gets washed away, leaving outdoor living spaces clean and protected.
We’ve done quite a few projects with Renew Crew and the results have always been great!
One of the things Renew Crew is best known for is their ability to make an aging deck look amazing again. We’ve seen this service completed on quite a few properties, and the results are outstanding.
Here’s an excerpt from their website about their process:
“While commercial pressure washing hastily bullies surface dirt away (leaving damage behind in the process), Renew Crew takes a more meticulous 3-step approach. We start with a pre-soak, using a gentle (yet effective) foam to work even the most persistent dirt and grey wood fibers out from any cracks or crevices. Next comes our signature pressure washing service, which powers any grit and grime away. After the first two steps, your surface will look as good as new — but unlike other companies, we don’t stop there. For our final step, we apply a protective finish to help maintain your surfaces and keep them cleaner for longer.”
In our experience, that’s exactly how it works. For example, we had a deck that was ten years old. The stain was gone in many places and the horizontal boards were covered with dirt. When Renew Crew was done with their process, the deck looked like almost new. It was an amazing transformation!
We had a driveway that was deteriorating and the owner was considering replacing it. The quotes that came back for a brand new driveway were in the many thousands of dollars range. (It was a fairly large driveway leading to a three car garage, so not surprising.)
The driveway was still physically sound, but the surface was showing signs of wear. When it rained, water was pooling in certain areas and causing further damage. We talked to Renew Crew to see if their cleaning and sealing process could extend the life of the driveway. And the answer was, “yes!”
The Renew Crew team did a deep cleaning of the driveway. First, they treated the surface with a solution that broke up the dirt and grime. Next, they used a machine to remove the dirt and grime. (It looked like the one used to polish the floors in a school.) It was amazing how much dirt was brought out of the concrete. Finally, they applied a sealant to the entire surface of the driveway.
In the months since the cleaning and sealing, the driveway has retained the brighter look, and more importantly, when it rains, the water beads up on the surface. It’s proof that the water isn’t seeping into the concrete and causing more damage. There’s a good chance that the driveway will last a few more years before needing to be replaced! And the “clean and seal” process cost a fraction of what it would have taken to replace the driveway.
Need your deck or driveway cleaned and sealed?
If you are interested in learning more about Renew Crew, please give them a call at 913-661-9663. Or you can visit their website at http://kansascity.renewcrewclean.com.
By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services at Home Rental Services
People buy or rent homes for lots of reasons. And I find myself being asked the question, “should I rent or own a home?” on a regular basis. Here are five reasons that it is still smart to rent instead of owning a home in Kansas City.
1) Housing Inventory
Inventory is low and it’s a very expensive time to buy. In just the past year, Kansas City has seen sales prices rise 11.6%. In contrast, rental housing inventory is stable and rental pricing has leveled off.
2) Maintenance and Repairs
Are you ready, willing and able to pony up extra money every year to cover general maintenance, repairs and improvements if you owned your home? Industry experts say that this will cost on average 1-2% of the property value. So, if you go out and buy a $200,000 house, you should anticipate and budget $2,000 – $4,000 per year to maintain your property.
Have you committed to living in Kansas City long term? If you put less than 10% down on the purchase of a home and need to sell within the first three (or so) years of ownership, you will likely not make anything when you sell. And hopefully you don’t actually lose money!
4) Down Payment
Are you ready to break open your piggy bank and lose access to those funds for the next (fill in the blank) years? Depending on your down payment, which varies by lender and loan type, you’ll need to put down anywhere between 3% and 20%. If you put less than 20% down, you will almost always be subject to paying what is called “PMI” or private mortgage insurance. This can easily add another $50-$200 per month to your mortgage payment.
5) Market Conditions
While we don’t expect a “bubble bursting” experience like we saw a decade ago, I still believe we’re in store for prices to start easing. You don’t want to put yourself in the position of buying at the top of the market, only to lose value shortly thereafter.
Don’t worry about rising interest rates. The difference between 4% and 4.5% on a 30-year mortgage (or even a 15-year mortgage) is about $10,000 – $20,000 more in interest over the life of the loan. This difference can be made up (in part or entirely) by buying the same house for less money when the market adjusts. It’s also quite unlikely that you will have the same loan the entire time you own the house. It’s likely you will either refinance or sell the house before you pay it off.
Those are just a few of the reasons why renting in Kansas City may be a better decision for you right now.
By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services
When you go to the grocery store and apples are on your list, do you also look at oranges? Of course not! If you want oranges, you look at the oranges. If you want apples, you look at the apples. Unfortunately, too often when talking to folks looking for a property manager, they don’t realize that they are comparing apples to oranges.
While the monthly management fee, tenant placement fee and other recurring costs are important to consider, those may not be the expenses that will matter the most at the end of the year. When you call around and simply ask property management companies what they charge, there’s a good chance you aren’t getting the whole picture.
In addition to fruit, I also compare property management to insurance premiums and coverage. If one provider is less expensive, is it because they offer the same service or coverage for less? I doubt it. It’s more likely that they are cheaper because the deductible is higher and/or the coverage is weaker.
What questions should you be asking?
In addition to the commonly asked management fee and tenant placement questions, here are a few more important questions to ask when interviewing a property manager:
- How long has your company been doing property management?
- How many properties do you manage?
- If you charge a flat fee, what extras might get charged each month?
- What is your average vacancy between tenants?
- Do you market and show the home while it’s occupied?
- What is your tenant renewal rate?
- What is your annual eviction rate?
- What is the average amount charged to the tenants Security Deposit?
- Do you “up charge” vendor invoices? If so, by how much?
These questions are important because, when the year comes to an end, all of the above will impact your bottom line.
You should ask how long the company has been in the property management business to determine if they have a track record of success. If they’ve been in business less than five years, they’re probably still “learning the ropes.”
You want to know how many properties they manage (and types of property) to determine how well your portfolio will fit into their business model. If the majority of their management is multi-family and you have a single family portfolio, that is likely not the best fit.
You need to know the average vacancy between tenants, renewal rate and eviction rate as all of those will impact your cash flow. Avoiding turnover, vacancy and make-ready expenses is critical to the success of owning rental investments.
Finally, you should know if vendor invoices are being “up-charged” by the property manager. This one could cost you, and it’s not uncommon. For instance, let’s say you need a new hot water tank and the vendor bill is $900 but the PM gets a 10% “referral fee.” You are now paying $990. This up charge can easily add a 1-2% difference in the annual cost of management.
Just as you should not buy an orange when shopping for apples; you should not hire a property management company based solely on management and tenant placement fees. Be sure to ask more questions and get the whole picture.
By Oretta Croushore, Assistant Property Manager for Home Rental Services
Up until a few years ago, I felt like George Jetson had lied to me about the future. He said everything would be controlled by the touch of a button, we would all have “visiphones” and flying cars. I guess two out of three isn’t bad.
It seems these days everything is getting “smart” tacked onto it. I live in a “dumb” home. We turn switches on at the wall like Neanderthals. When I get cold, my husband has to step over our saber tooth tiger and stumble past the cave drawings to adjust the thermostat on the wall. We don’t even have someone named Alexa living in our house. Turns out most of these devices are pretty affordable and don’t require major installation. There’s hope for my “dumb” house, yet.
Is there an advantage to installing a few, well-chosen smart devices in your rental home?
It certainly helps to set your listing apart. Features like energy savings, convenience, and peace of mind, help keep the home at the front of the prospective renters’ minds. Many of these products could prove beneficial during vacancy times. How great would it be to know the furnace stopped working as soon as it happens?
Smart Thermostats: This is the one we’re probably all the most familiar with. Change the temperature in the room from the convenience of the couch with your phone or tablet. Control the thermostat when you’re away from home as long as you can find a WiFi connection. Some models offer a sensor to stick in those hard to control rooms like finished basements or attic rooms. The energy savings from these devices can be quite remarkable.
For more info about smart thermostats, here’s a recent CNET roundup of 9 smart thermostats to consider.
Smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector or a Smart 9 Volt battery: No big surprise that a “smart” smoke detector is a thing. Talk about peace of mind! Getting an alert on your phone to tell you when your battery is low? How about one to tell you the alarm is going off? Some even have the option to reset them from your phone. No more climbing on a chair because a pepperoni jumped to its death in the oven.
The Smart battery really impressed me though. They cost about $40 and sync up with an app on your phone. If you’re detector goes off, you get a loud, smoke alarm-like noise from your phone within 30 seconds. The life span is up to 5 years in a smoke only device and 2-3 years in a combo device.
Water Leak Detectors: This is a sensor about the size of a coffee cup and costs between $35 – $80. It’s placed near a potential water leak source. In the event of a leak, you get a notification.
For more info about water leak detectors, here’s a recent CNET roundup of water leak detectors to consider.
If you can dream it, there’s probably a smart version of it. There’s plugs to control your appliances while you are away. Bulbs that let you set mood lighting in addition to turning lights on while you’re on vacation. You can even get garage door openers that give notifications about who is coming and going, tell you the garage temp, and do everything but start the car for you (and your key fob might already let you do that!) Most any smart device can be tied into your virtual assistant like Alexa, Siri or Google.
Now, if only Alexa could put out the trash cans!
We’re always looking for ways to improve our processes and communication. One of the most recent improvements we’ve made is to add live chat functionality to our website!
JivoChat is a web-based chat software that can be installed on your website. It shows up as a little chat bar in the lower right corner of your web pages and stays visible as web visitors navigate your site. If they have a question, they can start a quick chat session to get an answer right away.
We have five people at Home Rental Services on the chat list rotation. Any time a web visitor wants to chat, a notification is sent to everyone that is logged in as available to take a chat request. They can host the chat session from their desktop computer or their mobile phone. The software works with PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices, so pretty much a universal solution.
The free version of JivoChat allows you to have up to five “agents” on the system. And you get basic chat functionality on unlimited websites with no limit on the number of chats. And they promise that the basic system will be “free forever”.
The paid version is $10/agent/month and comes with a ton of additional functionality like proactive chats with smart triggering, visitor info with social profiles, chat transfer between agents and more.
We found it was really to easy to set up JivoChat for Home Rental Services. And we’ve enjoyed interacting with potential renters and owners using the JivoChat system over the past few weeks. It’s interesting, because the web chat feels a lot like a text message chat, especially if you use your mobile phone instead of a desktop computer. Even better, our potential new customers say we are being incredibly responsive, which is a really good thing.
Want to see what it’s like? Go to our home page and start a live chat with us… and be sure to mention that you read this blog post!
By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services at Home Rental Services.
When people ask me what I do for a living, I think that my new response will be…. “I help people play Real Life Monopoly.” We’ve said this inside the office for some time now, but after thinking about it more, it does seem like a reasonably accurate description.
If you look at the rules of “Classic Monopoly” you’ll see that the objective of the game is as follows: “Become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property.”
Given those parameters and that objective, this is really quite similar to what I do here at Home Rental Services. My goal is to help our clients acquire, improve and maintain the best rental portfolios in Kansas City!
Here is a recent example:
A few weeks ago, I suggested to one of our investors that he sell his property that was struggling to rent and exchange it for another property. With the help of the great team at Group O’Dell, the home went under contract and sold in 40 days. The investor then took his equity by way of a 1031 exchange and was able to put about 25% down on the purchase of TWO rental properties.
In summary, here are the highlights of this transaction:
- His equity is no longer tied up in the form of 40% of one property. (Better Leverage)
- He now has ownership of two properties instead of one. (Better Diversification)
- He took his gross rent of $1,700/month and turned it into a gross rent of $2,650/month. (Increased Income Potential)
If that doesn’t resemble “real life monopoly” game play, then I’m not sure what does! If you ever find yourself wondering what you should do as a next step with your real estate investments, please give me a call!
One of our goals in writing blog posts every week is to provide useful education. We recently saw an excellent article on BiggerPockets.com that talked about “What to do when your tenant drives through the living room?” BiggerPockets.com is a website devoted to helping real estate investors.
Paul, our Director of Investor Services, checks articles on BiggerPockets.com every day, looking for helpful information for our investment community. We’ve learned a lot from the articles we’ve read and conversations we’ve had related to BiggerPockets.com.
In this article, Nathan Miller talks about the real world scenario where one of his tenants accidentally drove a car into the living room of their rental property. It was a 16 year old child and an unfortunate mistake. Nathan goes on to talk about the steps he followed to figure out what needed to happen next.
Three Steps to Take when a Tenant Causes Property Damage
- Talk to your tenants.
- Call your insurance provider.
- Contact your tenant’s insurance provider.
We liked this approach for a few reasons:
Communication is key whenever there is a situation. Talking with your tenants to understand what happened gives you the opportunity to set the tone. If they’ve been good tenants for a long time, it could be an opportunity to demonstrate that you are all in this together as you work towards fixing the problem. It would be understandable if you were upset and nervous about the damage… but talking with your tenant while in that frame of mind probably wouldn’t be helpful.
Calling your insurance provider is a great next step. You want your insurance provider to know there has been an event that could result in a claim. In this case, the tenant’s auto insurance provider would be responsible for covering the damages, but what if the driver was not insured? This story might also be a good reminder to double check with your provider that you have the appropriate coverage in place for a rental property. If you haven’t done so in a few years, we encourage you to call your agent for a quick review.
Finally, contacting your tenant’s insurance provider in a timely manner is the next step. This should happen as soon as possible once you’ve been made aware of a problem involving damage to your property.
We’ve never had a tenant drive a car into a property we manage. Knock on wood. But we thought it might be helpful to share it with anyone that owns an investment property because it makes you think about, “what if?” Making sure you have the right insurance in place before you have a problem could save you many thousands of dollars due to a claim that isn’t covered.
By Paul Branton, Director of Investor Services for Home Rental Services
It really is. :) For a multitude of reasons…
The lights. The music. The cookies. The candy. The parties. The decorations. The traditions. There’s just so much fun packed into this tiny window of time we refer to as “The Holidays.”
Here is a sampling of the decorations at the HRS office. A couple of weeks ago, we think some elves snuck in and had a party… dancing on the ceiling style.
In the spirit of tradition, we recently gathered the team together for our annual Christmas dinner party. As always, we had a wonderful time with Kandy as our gracious host! (Don’t even think about clearing your plate.) This year, the party was attended by some for the very first time, and others for the seventeenth time!
No matter your tenure though, it was certainly “no holds barred” when it came time for the gift exchange.
Ah, the gift exchange. Now this is fun! Anyone who wants to participate in the exchange, brings a wrapped “useful” gift valued at around $25. We proceed in numerical order opening a gift from the pile or “stealing” an already opened gift. The open gifts can only be “stolen” twice and then that gift belongs to the third owner. It can get to be quite entertaining… especially when a first time attendee steals a hand warmer/phone charger gift from the boss. (I think there’s an unwritten rule about doing that… Oops!)
While you spend time with your family and friends at the end of 2017, remember that it’s more important to bring your presence than it is to bring presents. It’s not about what’s under the tree that really matters, it’s who surrounds it.
We hope that you experience much Joy and Peace in this season; The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!
By Caitlin Meehan, Director of Client Care for Home Rental Services
KVC provides in-home family support, behavioral healthcare, foster care, adoption, youth substance abuse treatment and psychiatric hospitals, KVC touches the lives of over 60,000 children and families each year.
We support the mission of KVC every year as a company by volunteering to buy presents for children in KVC programs. On Monday, November 27th, we met at Target to buy gifts for 10 kids that otherwise wouldn’t be getting presents for Christmas.
Many people wore ugly sweaters (or shirts that looked like ugly sweaters) for the shopping event. We distribute the children’s wish lists across teams and spread out to shop till we drop. We’ve done this for many years and have the process down to a science! We know to keep presents organized by each child. And of course we get gift receipts for every item in case an exchange is necessary.
Next, we schedule time in the office to put the presents in large, green bags that KVC provides and get ready to deliver everything.
And the final step is to take everything to KVC! We decided to deliver the presents in our wrapped Home Rental Services car this year.
There is nothing better than giving to others during the holidays. It’s a great way to get into the spirit of the season! And it’s a great way for your team, family or friends to do something fun together while making a positive difference in the lives of others.
By Caitlin Meehan, Director of Client Care for Home Rental Services, talking about the great shredding services provided by Shred-it.
Over the years, everyone collects stacks of paper, canceled checks, confidential paperwork, and customer forms are just a couple of examples of the things that can stack up. And you can’t just throw that stuff away.
Our office is mostly web based. But we still generate enough confidential paperwork that we’ve got to have a secure shredding solution.
Shred-it is the largest document destruction company in the world. They operate in 18 countries and in 170 markets. They’ve become a best-practice for information security and workplace privacy. They provide document destruction, hard drive destruction, chain of custody and other privacy related services.
Shred-it brings one of their massive trucks with on-board shredding machinery to our parking lot each month. One of their staff comes up to our office on the 9th floor and grabs the locked “to be shredded” bin that we keep in our kitchen area. They take it out to their truck and shred the paperwork immediately and bring the bin back to our kitchen.
It’s a great service for a reasonable monthly price.
Do you have boxes of paperwork sitting around your home?
If you have trouble making it to one of the local “shred days” hosted by banks or other businesses, you can do a one time drop-off! Shred-it has a secure shredding facility located near Lackman and College in Kansas City.
Shred-it Kansas City
10000 Lackman Road
Lenexa, KS 66219
Secure Drop-off Service
$60.00 for the first 10 boxes
$6.00 for each additional
$40.00 to witness shreds and by appointment only
Monday through Friday from 8:30am – 3:00pm