General Information

Case Study: Understanding the appropriate pricing for your rental property.

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

Appropriate Rental PricingWe recently had a client ask us if we were confident that we could place a new tenant at a rate that they had received three years ago. The amount they were asking for was 11% higher than what the current tenants were paying. To answer this question of pricing and confidence, we had to review the overall “health” of the property.

A couple of quick lessons to observe from this situation:

Lesson 1
Just because your home leased previously for a certain amount, does not mean that it will lease at that same rate in today’s market.

Lesson 2
The costs associated with turnover and vacancy can easily wipe out almost any rate increase.

Lesson 3
DO NOT ignore your properties marketing/leasing history.

What to learn from the lessons above:

While it is true that the home leased at a higher rate three years ago… It’s not an accurate indicator of what the home will bring today. The market conditions and competition are constantly changing. We must always look at the math behind the risk/reward scenario.

In this example, the owner would need to lease his home with less than 30 days vacancy and NO turn costs in order for his 11% rate increase to get him ahead financially. Is that realistic? The answer for this property is: No. The answer might be yes in a different market or for a different property. However, we know the leasing history on this property and it typically takes over 30 days to place a qualified tenant.

In review of this homes leasing history and condition in relation to the comps, we advised the owner to renew his tenants at a 3% rate increase vs. taking the risks associated with the 11% higher rate.

Ultimately, the odds of the owner breaking even or losing money was more likely if he tried to obtain that higher rental rate. And our owner was really happy that we outlined all the details so that he could make a more informed decision.

Breakfast of Champions: Top 6 Things That Define Good Leaders

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Home Rental Services: Breakfast of Champions - Leadership

On a quarterly basis, we host a Breakfast of Champions for our vendors. It’s an opportunity for them to network and get to know each other while having breakfast. We also bring in a speaker with the goal of providing education and thought provoking content that our vendors can use in their businesses.

This month, we were excited to have Jeff DeWolf speak to us about Leadership and Job Satisfaction. If you check out his profile on LinkedIn, you will see that he calls himself a Job Happiness Fanatic. Jeff talked about the correlation between job happiness and leadership. He made a strong case that they are directly related. The better the leadership, the happier the employees.

Here are the top six things that define strong leaders.

Home Rental Services: Breakfast of Champions - LeadershipCommunication – Strong communication includes clarity of direction, opportunity for input and the level of information flow between groups.

Relationships – Relationships are the glue that holds teams together when times get tough. It’s important to foster a teamwork mentality. It’s human nature to want to be accepted in groups.

Growth – Most people want to be making forward progress in their personal and professional lives. So making progress towards their professional goals and responsibilities is important.

Fairness – It’s incredibly important that employees feel treated fairly. This means no special treatment and consistent policy administration. It also applies to compensation for the work being done.

Accountability – When employees understand what is expected of them, and why, they are usually more committed and accountable for their results. A good leader will hold their team accountable, but this can backfire without the “what” and “why”.

Trust – Jeff defined this as confidence in management’s abilities and intentions. He also made a point that when there is trust, employees will have freedom to express ideas (professionally of course) without repercussions. Good leaders are focused on an employee’s best interests over personal gain.

Have you heard a leadership talk with good points? Any other traits that you think are exhibited by strong leaders? We’d love to hear from you!

Real World Scenario: What to do when your tenant drives through the living room?

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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.

Home Rental Services: What if?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

  1. Talk to your tenants.
  2. Call your insurance provider.
  3. 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.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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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.

Home Rental Services: Holiday 2017

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!

Home Rental Services: Holiday 2017

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!)

Home Rental Services: Holiday 2017

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!

Home Rental Services: Holiday 2017

I want to work for a company that does pie parties!

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By Oretta Croushore, Assistant Property Manager for Home Rental Services, talking about the recent client appreciation event where we gave away tons of pies!

My family takes an annual trip to Branson for Thanksgiving. We rent a condo so we can balance eating out and cooking at home. We spend at least one evening at Silver Dollar City, but also balance that with some down time.

Last year, I was working a job where the stress was high and the appreciation was low. I was looking forward to decompressing on our Thanksgiving trip even more than normal. I spent the long weekend thinking about how it was time to take the bull by the horns and make the changes I needed to make. I came back from the trip feeling refreshed.

I woke up Monday morning with a feeling of dread. I knew all this released tension would come flooding back as soon as I walked into the office. I stayed in bed a little longer and glanced at my emails. There was an email about a job posting at Home Rental Services. I started to read through the description and started to get excited. I read over the qualifications and realized this was written just for me! I sent my resume in right then and there.

In a few days, I received an email telling me my resume had been opened four times. “This is a good sign” the email robot said. A good sign you say? Maybe I should check these people out a little closer. Surely, there’s a catch.

I started some good old fashioned Google stalking. “Ok Google, tell me about these folks at Home Rental Services. Are they some fly-by-night company? Do they beat their employees? Do they use baby seals for rugs?” The answer was a resounding NO on all accounts. A woman-owned company who has been around a long time is what I first discovered.

Home Rental Services: Client Appreciation Pie Party 2017I stalked over several days, wanting to know more. Then, I found a blog post about a pie party they had just thrown for their owners. The post was written wonderfully. I could tell the person who wrote it was not beaten at all. In fact, I could tell she was proud to work for Home Rental Services. Proud! I almost cried because I knew that this is where I needed to be. “I want to work for a company that does pie parties!”

I found another blog about their trip to shop for KVC kids. The whole team seemed to be there. They even had pictures and everyone was smiling. I think they might even like each other. “I wish they would call already,” I thought to myself.

Well, call they did. Though the waiting was hard, I felt even stronger in my hunches about HRS. They were taking their time to find the right fit. When the call came, Kandy asked “Would you like to come work for Home Rental?” I tried to cover the lump in my throat when I blurted “More than you know!” I applied between Thanksgiving and Christmas and started the last day of February in 2017.

Fast forward a year. I was mingling with owners and handing out pies at the 2017 client appreciation pie party… just like the one I had read about. A little voice in my head giggled as it said, “you’re working for a company who has a pie party!”

I’m truly thankful for this door which opened, the people I’ve met, the things I’m learning, and the pies we get to share with our clients.

Home Rental Services: Client Appreciation Pie Party 2017 Home Rental Services: Client Appreciation Pie Party 2017 Home Rental Services: Client Appreciation Pie Party 2017

Gobble, Gobble! Happy Thanksgiving from the Home Rental Services Team

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Happy Thanksgiving!Friends, it’s that time of year again. There is no time more fitting to say Thank You than right now… Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you’re an owner, a renter, a vendor, friends or family, we appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you for being an important part of making 2017 another successful year.

On Monday next week, we’re going shopping for gifts for KVC children… something we do every year as a fun way to give back. We will be doing another blog post about that event in the next couple of weeks.

Have you started shopping for gifts yet? If you didn’t know, dealnews.com is an excellent resource for finding great deals online. And if you love to shop on Amazon.com, be sure to check out camelcamelcamel.com. Camel lists the most popular things being bought on Amazon.com, and is a great source of inspiration for gifts! If you are looking for an easy way to give back while shopping at Amazon.com… be sure to use smile.amazon.com.

We thought it might be a good idea to share this list of top 10 things to consider for having a safe holiday season in your home:

1. Inspect electrical decorations for damage before use.
2. Don’t overload electrical outlets.
3. Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together.
4. Keep live trees fresh in your home by watering daily.
5. Use battery-operated candles.
6. Keep combustibles at least three feet from heat sources.
7. Protect cords from damage.
8. Check decorations for a certification label.
9. Stay in the kitchen when something is cooking.
10. Turn off, unplug, and extinguish all decorations when going to sleep or leaving the house.

Have a safe, happy and warm Thanksgiving!

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.

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!