General Information

AppFolio Launches Online Portal App for Renters

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AppFolioWe use AppFolio to manage properties and we’ve always appreciated the Online Portal functionality we get to provide for our renters.

The current, web-based portal is where renters can log in and securely pay their rent, set up automatic payments, submit maintenance requests, check the status of open maintenance requests, view or download their lease, and more. And we’re excited to announce that AppFolio has created a mobile app with the same functionality of the Online Portal website! This makes it even easier for renters to access their renter portal on the go.

If you’re a current renter with Home Rental Services and haven’t gotten access to your renter portal yet, please start here. We have a page devoted to the renter  portal on our website, as well as a form you can use to get set up with the portal for the first time.

If you’re already using the renter portal, your username and password will work in the mobile app as well.

Use the links below to download the Online Portal App for iOS and Android

The Online Portal app lets you:

  • Pay rent or dues instantly
  • Set up auto-payments
  • Submit maintenance requests, with the ability to add photos
  • Monitor the status of your maintenance requests
  • View or download your lease

AppFolio Online Portal App  AppFolio Online Portal App  AppFolio Online Portal App

Homeowners’ Association Documents Recently Updated!

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Homeowners Association DocumentsMany of the homes we rent are in neighborhoods with a homeowners’ association (HOA). 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.

Typically, 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 documents when we receive them. We also work hard to obtain HOA documents for new houses when we begin to manage them for our owners.

We’ve added more HOA folders in the last few weeks! That takes us up to 270 HOAs that we have in our list.

We’re happy that we can make them available for our owners and renters so they can better understand the rules and regulations for their homeowners’ association. When renters move in, we ask them to review the HOA documents for their neighborhood. This is done in an effort to protect our owners and make sure the renters understand the rules for their neighborhood.

Please click on the HOA Documents link below to view the list of all neighborhoods that we currently have HOA information for. Once you find a neighborhood that you are interested in seeing, simply click on the folder to see the PDF documents we have that contain specific information about the HOA rules and regulations.

Click here for the list of HOA Documents

Technical note: We are using a web service called Dropbox to store and share the HOA documents. Dropbox makes it very easy to share any folder in your “virtual locker” with anyone, including people that don’t have Dropbox installed. We upload the HOA PDF files to our Dropbox account and link to the public view of those folders from our web site.

Spring Cleaning For Aunt Bertha

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By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services

If you asked me to describe this past winter, I would probably draw a picture of an endless, bitter cold, dark and deadly ice dungeon. Something which would make the folks at Game of Thrones shudder in horror. I do have a flair for the dramatic and I don’t like to be cold.

The good news is, the endless winter has ended and we’re into the beautiful, multiple personalities of Kansas Spring. She has a little Katie Perry thing going on, our Spring. She’s hot, then she’s cold, she’s sun then she’s snow. Still, I will welcome her like a long-lost relative. Just like my sweet old Aunt Bertha, I want Spring to feel like my house is her house. I want to get drunk on her lilac perfume. I want her rose red lipstick kisses all over my cheeks.

Before all that can happen, I have got to get the house ready for her!

We’re all familiar with the idea of Spring cleaning but how can we make the most of it in the precious time we have? After all, what we really want is to be out in it!

Spring CleaningHere’s a few tips and tricks to get the house spruced up in anticipation of your favorite relative.

  • Use a lint roller to clean your screen doors. Get all the cobwebs, pet hair, and cottonwood tree debris off the screens. (There was so much cottonwood fuzz in front of my neighbor’s house, I thought someone hit a rabbit!). Get those screens cleaned so you can let in some of that fresh air.
  • Tackle the exhaust vent in your bathroom. Take the cover down and put it in some hot, soapy water. Let the vacuum suck up all the dust bunnies in the motor. This is an area easily forgotten in our daily cleaning regime. It will not only keep you from having dust bunnies sticking to you when you are wet from the shower but will prolong the life of the motor and reduce the risk of fire hazard. No one wants charred bunny in the bathroom.
  • When was the last time you saw your sink faucets sparkle? Did you forget what they looked like when they were clean? Take a screwdriver to remove the handle, grab a cotton swab and go to town on those areas you just can’t get with a rag. Give the handles a soak in some hot, soapy.
  • Magic Eraser will really go to town on  your oven glass. As I mentioned in a previous post, we put these in our move out boxes. Maybe I should add this into our move out tips page for renters. Dirty oven glass makes a property manager sad.
  • Spring CleaningUse a dry Swiffer or dust mop to clean your walls. More dust bunny removal!
  • Give the washing machine a cleaning. It washes your dirty underwear. It deserves to have a spa day sometimes. Fill it with a quart of bleach and water and let the cycle run.
  • While you are at it, Dryer needs love, too. It gives you the warm towels you love so much. Check that your vent  screen is clean. Go outside and suck out what you can from the outdoor vent if you can reach it. If you have something like a Lint Lizard, use it to get down into the dryer to evict all those laundry-loving dust bunnies. You may also want to look into professional vent cleaning. The number of house fires caused by ignited lint is staggering.
  • Take a flat head screwdriver and a disinfecting wipe to get the crevice under the toilet’s water tank. Let’s not dwell on what might be under there. Just clean it and move on.
  • Clean your shower head. Some vinegar in a bag, rubber banded around the head and left to sit overnight will do wonders.
  • My favorite thing to do after the house has had a good cleaning is to give it a good smell. Everyone has their own preferences. You can use room sprays, air fresheners, those little things that plug into the wall, or my favorite, essential oils in a diffuser. I often diffuse oils in my office. Great choices for fresh, Spring smells and feels are citrus, rosemary, lavender, rose, and geranium. The last two I caution you with. A little goes a long way unless you really do want the house to smell like Aunt Bertha and the bridge club have been over.

Spring Cleaning RecipesHere are two “recipes” to try.

Spring Clean: 2 drops each lavender, lemon, and rosemary.

Spring Breeze: 1-2 drops geranium, 3 drops each lemon and wild orange.

Whatever Spring cleaning you choose to do, don’t let it take over your schedule. Most of us have limited down time. Get out and enjoy the air, do things you like, meet people, and remember to stop and smell the flowers. In 20 years, no one will remember how well you kept house. Clean quick and get out and play!

That’s Aunt Bertha’s secret to a long, happy life.

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.