Technology

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

Busy is a four letter word.

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By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager at Home Rental Services

Several weeks ago, Kandy shared with the team an article she read titled “Busy is a Four Letter Word.” We all chuckled at the title while nodding our heads in understanding. Being too busy is an excuse we all use. It’s the adult version of “the dog ate my homework.”

Kandy offered up a challenge; remove “busy” from your vocabulary entirely.

I took the challenge and realized, it’s a little harder than I thought it would be. The challenge has made me hyper aware of saying I’m busy. I catch it trying to slip out of my mouth and have to slurp it back in like spaghetti. When I hear someone else using it in conversation, it feels like an explosion going off in the room. The Busy-bombs are everywhere!

How do you eliminate a word which is so commonly used?

Busy is a four letter word.The fact is, we’re all busy. Everyone you know, do business with, see at the grocery store or run into at an event… It reminds me of when we were trying to clean up our language when our daughter started learning to talk. In my house, we changed all of our regular four letter words to “rainbow.” Riding in the car with me, you might hear “That rainbow just cut me off!”

I’m not suggesting you replace the word “busy”. I doubt your boss is going to love to hear you were too rainbow to turn that report in.

Try to pay attention to how many times you’re saying it throughout the day. What else could you say instead? You’re not looking for another excuse but you’re holding yourself accountable.

Instead of saying “Mom, I’ve been too busy to call you.” Be honest. “I’ve started to call you so many times and it’s always the wrong time. Can we set up a coffee date?” Get it on the calendar. Whatever it is. If you can’t seem to find a time to do it, schedule a time.

I’m a big fan of my calendar.

Google Calendar and TasksMy work calendar has appointments on it but it also has reminders. If I need to follow up on something in 10 days, I set a reminder. I have things in my job which have to be done on certain days of the month; they go on the calendar. In my personal life, everything from Girl Scout meetings, doctor’s appointments, to coffee with my best friend, it always goes on the calendar.

I have a group of friends that tries to get together for brunch every few months. We try to schedule the next brunch when we meet for the current one. Last time we forgot. We said we would get it done and we didn’t. That was in October. Don’t worry, the brunch bunch has recovered and we’re set for February. The point is, it’s not pretentious to schedule things, it’s how you make sure they get done.

Google Tasks

GoogleHave you tried the Google Task feature? I love this thing. There are days where I have so much to do, I can’t see past the weeds. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I told my co-workers I felt like a squirrel trying to cross the highway.

I opened up Google Tasks and started my list. I put everything in that I had to get done that day. Here’s my little secret with list making… I always include something I’ve just done or I’m about to finish. It makes me feel motivated when I get to cross something off.

I like that I can drag and drop items so they are in prioritized order. Let’s be honest, we won’t ever get anything done if we don’t prioritize. My family would eat a lot of cereal dinners if I didn’t put making dinner ahead of other things which need to get done in the evening. If it’s not Google Tasks, then find the thing that works for you. You deserve to not only eliminate the busy word from your vocabulary, but eliminate that overwhelmed feeling from your life.

You will be surprised at how much more accountable you hold yourself when you work to eliminate the “I’m so busy” excuse. Don’t let busy be a status symbol for you. Be the person who embraces the choices they make each day. Know what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. The next time someone says “how have you been?” Give a response that purposely excludes the word “busy”. I bet you’ll be surprised at how good it feels.

Is there an advantage to installing a few, well-chosen smart devices in your rental home?

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By Oretta Croushore, Assistant Property Manager for Home Rental Services

Home Rental Services: Smart HomeUp 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!

JivoChat: Chat with us right now on Home4Rent.com!

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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

JivoChat LogoJivoChat 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.

How Much?

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!

JivoChat: Home Rental Services Home Page

Remote Workers – What Does It Mean For Residential Real Estate?

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Over the past three years, we’ve moved just about every process and system we use at Home Rental Services to the cloud. Office365, Google Docs, DropBox, EchoSign, and AppFolio are just a few of the systems that we use that have made this possible.

What this means is that our team can do the majority of their work from anywhere in the world, as long as they have an internet connection. And it works well. And that got us to thinking…

The Trend – More and more people are working from home

2016-03-10-WorkingFromHomeAccording to BetaNews, about 45% of workers in the United States do some or all of their work from home. Of those workers, 53 million people are freelancers doing consulting and project work for companies from their home.

The Need – Home office

With so many people working from home full time or for a few days each week, the importance of having a dedicated home office has grown. And just as important is the availability of a reliable internet connection.

If you have a dedicated office on the ground floor of your home, be sure to let us know so that we can make sure that information is in your listing.

Google Fiber – A selling point

GoogleGoogle continues to roll out fiber service to areas across Kansas City. Their fiber connection provides incredible bandwidth and speed for someone working from home. This is a selling point! This is another thing to ask your listing agent to include in your listing.

We think this trend will continue. We’re doing it at our company and we see renters moving to the area to work for Kansas City companies doing it as well. If your home makes it easier for remote workers to do their job, we need to be telling people about it when advertising your property!

Always Improving – SMS Text Messages Improve Communication

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At Home Rental Services, we are always trying to improve our internal communication and processes so that we can provide you the best and most efficient service possible.  One of the things that we wanted to make work was to get an SMS text message for important and critical emails sent to various members of our team.  The only challenge was that our messaging systems only supported email notifications.

Cell Phone Carriers Provide SMS Gateways

Did you know that all major cellular carriers provide an SMS Gateway into their messaging network?  That sounds technical, so in layman’s terms this means that you can send an EMAIL to a special email address at your cell phone carrier that will turn the content of your email into an SMS Text and deliver it!  The only challenge is that you need to know the phone number and the carrier for the person you are trying to text.

This was the perfect solution for improved internal communications for Home Rental Services!  We now get text messages in addition to the regular emails we were getting for our most important communications.

Interested In Trying It Yourself?

If you want to try this yourself, just use the chart below for your carrier and put your cell number before the at [@] symbol!

For example, if your cell phone number is 913-123-4567 and your service is with AT&T, you would send an email to 9131234567@txt.att.net.  The body of your email would be converted to the message text.  Keep in mind that depending on the provider, your message may be truncated or spread across multiple text messages if it is longer than 160 characters.

Provider Email to SMS Address Format
AllTel number@text.wireless.alltel.com
AT&T number@txt.att.net
Boost Mobile number@myboostmobile.com
Cricket number@sms.mycricket.com
Sprint number@messaging.sprintpcs.com
T-Mobile number@tmomail.net
US Cellular number@email.uscc.net
Verizon number@vtext.com
Virgin Mobile number@vmobl.com

NotifyJoCo Service & Large Item Recirculation Day for Leawood

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NotifyJoCo – Important Service for Johnson County Residents

notifyjoco-logoNotifyJoCo is a mass notification system designed to keep Johnson County residents and businesses informed of emergencies and certain non-emergency events. By registering with NotifyJoCo and customizing your alert preferences, you’ll receive time-sensitive messages directly from the County, city, and participating public utilities. Customize your contact information to get messages at home, work, on your cell, by text or email, and more.

NotifyJoCo is a partnership among Johnson County, WaterOne, and participating cities. View Participating Partners

Large Item Recirculation Day for Leawood on June 8th

City of Leawood LogoThe City of Leawood notified us that Saturday, June 8th will be Large Item Recirculation Day.  This event is for items that can be reused/recycled and is not a trash pick-up day.
Please do not put items out before Friday, June 7th.

Items suggested in this recirculation day are:
Couches, Chairs, Love Seats, Tables, End tables, Refrigerators, Stoves, Washer/Dryer, Dishwashers, Vacuum Cleaners, Beds, Bed Frames, Stereos, Electronics, Microwaves

Items remaining, will be picked up by Town & Country Disposal, in cooperation with the City of Leawood, on Sunday starting at noon. Do not leave anything out that you do not want taken. ie. Bikes, grills, toys, lawnmowers, etc.

For more information, please see the PDF located here.

New Server This Weekend!

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We thought it might be a good idea to let everyone know that we are getting a new computer server for our office this weekend.  Our trusted friends over at Umbrella Systems are doing this project for us.  We will still have email, because we switched to Office365 in October last year… all of our email is “in the cloud!”  Also, our office phone system from Avid Communications will still be working because our internet connection will still be on.  However, due to our server being down for the replacement, there are many activities that might be impossible to do until Monday morning.  We can still communicate… things just might be delayed a bit.

This is one of those necessary maintenance things that is never fun, but so important to get done.  It has been a few years since we have upgraded our network server, and it will be great peace of mind when the project is complete.  One of the best things that will happen as a result of this upgrade is a significant upgrade in the amount of storage we have.  Another is the fact that the backups will be taking a full snapshot picture of our entire server.  Why does this matter?  If the new server crashes in the months/years to come, we will be able to restore the snapshot image to a new server and be back up and running within hours instead of days!

Thank you for your patience as we go through the server project this weekend, we appreciate it!

EBE Office Solutions – Excited About Our New Copier!

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Have you ever been in the position where your office copier/scanner is not working like it should?  We found ourselves in that position in 2011 and after months of back and forth with the vendor, we decided to end our contract and move forward with EBE Office Solutions.  (We had worked with EBE in the past and had a good experience.)

How often do you truly get more for less?  In this case, we are happy to say that is true.  The new copier is smaller, so it fits in our break room and has given us back some office space for our growing staff.  Our monthly expense is less than what we were paying before.  We don’t have to take meter reads any more… it happens automagically.  The machine does what we were told it would do and the copies look great.

We worked with Graham Brown and he really helped us through the entire process.  He helped us get the old copier contract bought out and shipped back to the leasing company.  He walked us through our contract options for a new machine and made sure that we got the features we needed… and nothing more.  His team delivered a shiny new Sharp MX-4110N a few weeks ago.  It is so nice to have a color copier/scanner that works.  Their team did on site training with our team, and their engineer set it up to work in our network properly.

We like to share the good news about the companies that we work with that go the extra mile.  We have been very impressed with EBE Office Solutions and would happily refer them to other businesses here in Kansas City!  If you have had copier woes, comment and tell us your story!

GPS – An Important Tool We Use Daily!

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We manage more than 500 homes in the Kansas City Metro, and there is no way we can remember where each house is located.  We add new homes to our inventory on a regular basis and have to go to these new addresses.   It is incredibly important that we can drive to all of these locations efficiently.  We use a variety of GPS devices to find our way to each location.  (Be sure to let us know with a comment how you use GPS to help you do your job!)

Garmin Devices
We are proud to support local companies, and many of our staff have Garmin GPS devices.  Garmin is headquartered in Kansas City and their corporate offices are located near I-35 and 151st Street in Olathe, Kansas.  As with most technology, it is important to update the map data on Garmin devices to account for changes in roads (especially new business developments.)  Recently, Garmin came out with voice activated GPS devices that make it safer and easier to plug in the address you are trying to get to.  (Click here to see a range of Garmin devices at Amazon.)

Google Maps on SmartPhones
We also use smartphones that give us access to Google Maps.  Google Maps can use the GPS receiver and WiFi radio to triangulate the current position of the smartphone and display it in real-time.  You can plug in the address you are going to and then choose “Use Current Position” as the starting point for driving directions that get updated as you drive!

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver with some technical limitations which are only removed for military users. (More from Wikipedia here)