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.

Show your personality at the office with socks and ties.

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

I know this is stepping back into the time machine to refer to a post from two years ago but here we go…  The day was January 17, 2017.

In this post, I shared my appreciation for estate sales. I also included some photos of various purchases I’ve made over the years like a golf putter, some neckties, a kitchen island and a vintage globe.

Today I thought I would tell you about my growing collection of socks. (No, my socks are not purchased from estate sales.)

Socks at Work Socks at Work Socks at Work Socks at Work Socks at Work

The Sock Collection

The majority of my sock collection comes from a company called “The School of Sock.” (Formerly Sock101.) I really like the name, but what I like the most is that they are based “locally” out of Lee’s Summit, Missouri! You can opt for a subscription, or do what I do and order a pair or five whenever you get the urge.

Outside of my socks from “TSOS” I’ve picked up a few good pairs from Marshalls. I was also recently able to add to what I call my “Sockfolio” at our work Christmas party by way of this awesome set of pizza socks!  (I now have socks of my favorite food!!!)

Pizza Socks Pizza Socks

Paul on Tie TuesdayTie Tuesday

Over the course of my career, I’ve had jobs that required me to wear a suit every day, and I’ve had jobs in which I could wear jeans and a hoodie. In every workplace situation, I’ve chosen to wear a tie every Tuesday of the week. In my inner-circle, this has become affectionately known as “Tie-Tuesdays.”

Some friends ask me why I would wear a tie if I’m not required to do so. My answer to them is: I do this for a multitude of reasons. For starters, I enjoy it! It’s fun for me because it provides the opportunity to express my appreciation for fashion and design. As another benefit, I believe the way you dress and how you feel about your appearance can and does impact the way that you work. If you don’t believe me, give it a try!

As I close out this post, I would invite you to let me know if you have your own “sockfolio” actual or otherwise. Perhaps your thing isn’t socks but maybe watches, coins, LEGO or artwork. I would love to hear about your guilty pleasure!

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.

Incentives? Here are three ways to generate interest in your rental property.

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

IncentivesIn a marketing cycle that’s experiencing fewer qualified applicants than you would like to see, what are some ways to spur new interest and activity for your rental? There are actually a number of things you can do, but for the sake of this conversation, lets focus on just a few of my favorite INCENTIVE options.

Incentive for the LEASE START DATE

In this scenario, you offer a concession on rent for a lease that starts on a certain date. This creates a sense of urgency for the prospect to sign a lease in order to secure the lower price. For example, you might be advertising your property for rent at a rate of $1,750 but advertise that you’ll drop the price to $1,650 for a lease that starts by a certain date. Another option is to offer two weeks or one month of free rent.

Incentive for the LEASE END DATE

This scenario is basically the opposite of the one above. In this situation, you’re wanting the prospect to sign a lease that will end in a better time of year based on renewals. (Typically this means May, June or July.) In this example, if you have the property listed at $1,750, you would offer a lower rate with a lease that ends in your preferred month. (Generally only offered as an option to secure a lease that is longer than 12 months.)

Incentive to provide a PROPERTY IMPROVEMENT

With this promotion, you can combine the timing scenarios above (lease start and/or end date) and instead of a lesser rent, you offer to provide an upgrade or amenity to the property. For example, with a lease that starts by _____ or ends _____ we will install a WiFi thermostat or WiFi doorbell, you pick! This is a great incentive option as the improvement becomes an added value to the property in the future.

The first two of the above incentives are geared more toward securing a new tenant. While the third option can also be utilized to secure a new tenant, we have found it’s also a great way to motivate a current tenant to renew their lease.

If you haven’t tried using a leasing incentive, I encourage you to do so. These have all proven to be quite effective for our investor clients!

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
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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

“Revert to Owner” Option with Utility Companies

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Did you know about the “Revert to Owner” option with utility companies?

UtilitiesElectric companies and gas companies offer a free service called “Revert to Owner.” This is very helpful when you own an investment property.

What happens is that any time a renter calls the utility company and asks for the electric or gas to be turned off, the utility will automatically be switched to your name (the owner) so that there’s no interruption in service.

Think about that.  Your renter is moving out in December and you’re on a skiing trip with your family. You don’t want to sit on the phone with KCP&L while you’re on vacation, making sure the utilities don’t get shut off when the current renter moves out.

Even worse, if your power or gas are shut off in the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, you might have thousands of dollars in damages due to freezing pipes or mold depending on the time of year.

All you have to do to get this set up is fill out a form with your utility company.

In an effort to get you started in the right direction, here’s a link to the utility sheets that we have for most major cities in the Kansas City metro:
Utility Sheets in Kansas and Missouri

If you own an investment property, we recommend that you get this set up as soon as possible!

Home improvements for renting? Material choices matter.

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

When it comes to making home improvements with renting in mind, there are certain choices that can help reduce your maintenance costs. One of the important choices is the type of materials to use. The most common are found in the flooring department. The initial costs for “upgrading” may not be attractive at first glance. But if you run the numbers on how much longer it should last, that is where you see the value.

Here are a few areas where material choices matter:

CarpetCarpet vs. LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank)

  • Life Expectancy of Carpet = 5-10 years
  • Life Expectancy of LVP = 15-25 years

Treated Lumber vs. Composite Decking

  • Life Expectancy of Deck = 10-15 years
  • Life Expectancy of Composite Deck = 20-25 years

Carpet vs. High Traffic Carpet

  • Life Expectancy of Carpet = 5-10 years
  • Life Expectancy of High Traffic Carpet = 15-20 years

While most of the “upgrade” options should last nearly twice as long, they generally don’t cost twice as much… which means you come out ahead!

Replacing a deck with a concrete patio

Concrete PatioAnother area that we’ve been helping investors reduce maintenance costs over the long haul is by way of replacing decks with concrete patios. If the deck is low enough to the ground that it wouldn’t require a long flight of stairs to reach the patio, we recommend tearing off the deck and installing a concrete patio. As I’m sure you know, wood decks require annual maintenance and deteriorate much more quickly than concrete patios. Surprisingly, they cost about the same to install.

What other areas of home improvement do you consider “upgraded” or “alternative” material choices to reduce your maintenance costs?

If you have any questions about making a property rent-ready, please feel free to give us a shout. We would love to help!

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!