General Information

Top 5 Tips for Preparing Your Home for Spring!

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Top 5We’re all usually very busy. Because of that, we thought it would be a good time to give you our Top 5 Tips for Getting Your Home Ready for Spring! A lit bit of preventative maintenance can go a long way and potentially help you avoid major hassles or cost in the future!

This list is geared towards our current renters, but applies to anyone maintaining a home!

  1. Change your furnace filter
    This should be done on a regular basis, at least quarterly.
  2. Check (and change if necessary) batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
    It’s a good idea to check all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on a yearly basis.
  3. From the ground, inspect your gutters for leaves hanging over the sides.
    If your gutters are full and need to be cleaned out, please submit a maintenance request.
  4. Walk around your house and make sure all gutter downspouts have splash guards.
    If you are missing some splash guards, please submit a maintenance request.
  5. Put down new mulch in your yard as needed to prevent weeds and protect plants.

For a complete list of Renter Responsibilities, please visit the page we’ve dedicated to this topic on our website.

We hope that at least one of these reminders comes in handy as you think about maintenance items you might need to address as we get ready for spring and summer!

Security Deposits: It’s a Process.

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By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services

Spot the Difference GameHave you ever played one of those “spot the differences” games?

My mom is a whiz at them. In the blink of an eye, she can tell you the dog in the first picture has two spots and in the second picture has three. I was always more of a hidden objects girl, myself. I still pick up the Highlights Magazines in the doctor’s office to see how many I can find before they call me back. However, over the past few years, I’ve gotten much better at finding the differences. That comes from processing security deposits after renters move out.

I’m sure you could ask a dozen different property managers how they assess damages after a move out and you would get a dozen different answers.

Since we have 200 plus photos from each move in and move out inspection, I start there.

First, I go through the move out photos.
I keep a spreadsheet open on my other screen to make notes. If I see something that seems like it’s out of place, I make a note on the spreadsheet. Is the oven dirty? Was that wall damaged at move in? Was there always a TV mount in the living room? I’m also looking for burned out light bulbs and checking to make sure cleaning was done as required in the lease. Renters are required to provide a receipt for professional carpet cleaning. If they don’t email it to me before the inspection, it should have been left on the kitchen counter. Additionally, the garage door remotes, house keys, and mail box keys should be on the counter.

Next, I go through the move in photos.
Here’s where the game begins. I strike through anything on my list which I see was present at move in. I’m also looking for anything which was present at move in and not there at move out. Did the renters remove the refrigerator? Are there interior doors missing? Do we have the same number of garage door remotes we started with?

When I’ve finished reviewing the photos, I look at the paper inspection.
Renters are provided a copy of the inspection when they move in. They are asked to add their own notes to the inspection and return it to us within a few days of move in. We use the copy on which they made notes for the move out inspection. That way, all the notes are in one place. The third party inspector uses a red pen to make move out notes. I’m looking for anything in red that I might have missed in the photos. Occasionally, I find something in the inspection notes which I thought was going to be renter damage, but I find it was actually part of the move in inspection.

Once I feel I have sufficiently assessed all renter damage in need of repair, I put work orders in to our vendors. I will await the invoices from the vendors so that I can charge the renters’ security deposit the exact amount which was charged by the vendor. There are occasions where the security deposit has to be returned to the renters before I can get the invoice back. In those situations, I ask the vendors to provide an estimate so the charges are as accurate as possible.

By law, we have 30 days from the move out date to have  the security deposit back to the renter. That doesn’t mean we can mail it out on day thirty. The renters are to have it in their hands, along with a statement of charges, by day thirty. Our software keeps a calculation of the number of days since the move out. I use this feature a ton!

It’s a process.

Security DepositAs you can see, this is a lengthy process. Renters are always anxious to get their money back as quickly as possible. However, this is a process I refuse to rush through. I work diligently to make sure the renters do not have any reason to dispute the charges. I often reach out to other members of the HRS team when I’m unsure about charging something. It’s not always as black and white as we would like it to be. The question we always ask ourselves is,“would this charge hold up in court?” It can be quite costly for an owner if a judge rules in favor of the renter on a security deposit dispute. The owner could end up refunding the renter 1 ½ times the amount of the full security deposit!

Typically, renters submit their disputes in writing to HRS. Then, I go back through the whole process to make sure nothing was overlooked. I have a fantastic template I use to show before and after pictures of move in conditions versus move out conditions. I find this usually helps the renters better understand their charges.

Next time you see one of those puzzles that ask you to find twenty differences, think lovingly of your favorite property manager.

Lunch in Omaha – The Importance of Investing in Relationships

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

A few weeks ago, I was traveling with my family to Omaha for a quick three-day weekend getaway. If you haven’t heard, they have a pretty great zoo (www.omahazoo.com) among other attractions. With our travel plans scheduled, and knowing I would be in Omaha…. I reached out to my friend Bob, a client who lives there and has been with HRS since the very start. He confirmed that he would be in town that weekend and we scheduled plans to have lunch.

Omaha Zoo: Snake Omaha Zoo: Croc Omaha Zoo: Frog

This lunch appointment reminded me how important it is in business as well as personal life to build quality relationships. The kind of relationships that are not simply transactional. The kind of relationships that are worth the effort to stick with, develop and grow. Over the course of nearly 30 years, quite a bit has changed about the way we conduct business here at HRS. Given the advancements in technology, we’ve benefited from efficiencies in communication. And we can process more information at a quicker pace. Unfortunately, I think some of these changes have brought about a shift in our culture that seeks to speed up business activities and completely skip the relationship aspects.

Keeping that in mind, one thing HRS is determined to keep the same is the focus we have on developing relationships. We appreciate getting to know our clients.  We enjoy the opportunities to “slow-down” and meet for coffee, lunch or talk on the phone. We have the privilege of working with so many great people, why wouldn’t we want to know them better?

Paul and Bob in Omaha

Toward the end of our lunch appointment, I asked Bob, “What advice would you would give to a younger real estate investor?” He replied to me by saying, “First, there are deals to be found in any market. Be patient and find a deal. Second, leveraged money is okay, but minimize your debt as much as possible. Finally, hold for the long haul.” While those nuggets of wisdom aren’t new to me, they certainly mean more coming from a man I respect, that’s been doing it longer than I have.

I’m so glad Bob and I took the time and were intentional about having lunch together. Thank you Bob!

Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!

Happy Holidays from Home Rental Services!

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Trolley Holiday Lights TourThe holidays are fast approaching. We wanted to wish everyone an early Happy Holidays! We also wanted to share some upcoming December events that you might want to consider enjoying with friends and family!

Trolley Holiday Lights Tours

Have you lived in Kansas City for years, but haven’t taken in all the great holiday lights? Enjoy the holiday lights that Kansas City has to offer, while riding in heated trolley’s. Listen to holiday music while being chauffeured thru Crown Center, The Plaza and houses all along Ward Parkway. And the tour guide share the history of the plaza lights and fun facts along the way!

When: Recurring daily, December 5th – 31st, 2018 at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm
Where the tour begins: Union Station, 30 W Pershing, Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone Reservations: 816-500-5417
Visit Website

A Christmas Carol at Spencer Theater

A Kansas City tradition put on by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre!

Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly, cold-hearted creditor, continues his stingy ways on Christmas Eve. He rejects a dinner invitation and all the good tidings of the season from his nephew, Fred; he yells at charity workers; and he overworks his earnest employee, Bob Cratchit. Until he is visited one-by-one, by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, who show him the errors of his ways. He ultimately discovers what’s really worth celebrating at Christmas-time and beyond.

When: Showings from December 6th – 30th, 2018
Where: Helen F. Spencer Theatre, 4949 Cherry St, Kansas City, MO 64110
Phone Reservations: 816-235-2700
Visit Website

Winterfest at Worlds of Fun

Holiday cheer rings out at Worlds of Fun during the annual WinterFest holiday celebration. Thousands of sparkling lights transform the park with an inviting glow that warms the heart and lifts the spirit. Witness festive live shows, meet iconic holiday characters, join holiday activities like ice skating and cooking decorating, ride select park attractions, and create lasting memories with family and friends. This holiday event takes place on select nights in December.

When: Select Nights in December, see website for dates
Where: Worlds of Fun
Visit Website

The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train

Back for its 18th annual run, the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express train brings Santa Claus and his elves back to Union Station. The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express is unlike any other train in the world!

One of Kansas City’s favorite holiday traditions, the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train brings Santa to Union Station just before Christmas. Guests can visit with Santa and tour the train for free. This magical holiday train will roll into Union Station for a four-day visit this year from Dec. 14-18. Led by Kansas City Southern, Southern Belle business train, the Holiday Express train includes a smiling tank car Rudy; a flatcar carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a gingerbread boxcar; the elves’ workshop; the reindeer stable; and a little red caboose.

When: Daily, December 14th – 18th, 2018
Where: Union Station, Sprint Festival Plaza, 30 W. Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO 64108
Visit Website

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!

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!