Happy Mother’s Day from Home Rental Services

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!  (Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8th.)  Moms are a significant part of our lives, personally and professionally.

We just had a mom walk in this morning that is one of our new renters.  She is relocating from Florida, engaged to be married soon and moving into her new home.  Her husband was supposed to take care of switching over all the utilities and had not gotten it done yet.  With a busy 10-year old in tow, she picked up the keys and took on getting the utilities switched over with a little help from our team.  We see things like this every week… strong mothers getting things done.

Be sure to take the time to call or write that special mother in your life… whether it is your biological mother, an adoptive mother, a neighbor mother, a church mother or a soccer mom!

M – O – T – H – E – R
M” is for the million things she gave me,
O” means only that she’s growing old,
T” is for the tears she shed to save me,
H” is for her heart of purest gold;
E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
R” means right, and right she’ll always be,
Put them all together, they spell
A word that means the world to me.
Howard Johnson (c. 1915)

Camtasia Studio – The Easy Way to Make Videos

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One of the core values that we have at Home Rental Services is to always improve how we are using technology to provide better service and improve our processes.  Companies are moving from text delivery to video delivery to educate and train their clients and prospects.  We have jumped in with both feet and started creating “How To” videos so that people don’t have to read paragraphs of text to learn how to do something.  A good example is our How to Apply Online video.  This video walks a prospective renter through the process of applying to rent one of our homes.

We looked at several software packages that would allow us to create these videos and ended up going with Camtasia Studio that is made by TechSmith.  This program allows you to easily record your screen and your voice at the same time.  Once you have recorded your video, there is a powerful editor that lets you easily zoom in on parts of the screen to highlight what you were talking about.  You can add callouts and transitions.  You can add a soundtrack behind your presentation. There is a PowerPoint plugin that allows you to record your PowerPoint presentation and capture your face while you are speaking (if you have a web camera on your computer).  Once you have produced your video, you can upload directly to YouTube!

If you have a laptop with a webcam, you can record and produce a 3-5 minute video of your screen while you are talking in about 15-20 minutes.  Think about how many ways you could use that in your business!  We are going to create “Agent Introduction” videos with our agents.  We are going to create “How To” videos.  And we are just getting started.  We are excited that our staff can educate and train using video instead of traditional email or PDF documents!  Let us know if you are using video in your business and any tips or tricks you have learned along the way.  We will post them as updates to this article!

Time to Order More Signs – Merriam Signs

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In our business, it is a good problem to have when we run out of yard signs.  We currently have about 100 Home Rental Services Yard Signs that are out in yards all over Kansas City.  We add new properties to our inventory every week and we are almost out of signs to put in the new yards!  We called our trusted company for yard signs, Merriam Signs.  We placed our order today, on a Tuesday, and they will have 30 new signs delivered to us by Friday.  That is why we have been doing business with Merriam Signs for more than twenty years.  They know what we need, they are reasonably priced, and they are quick to respond.

The relationship with Merriam Signs started in 1998.  This was the year that Reece & Nichols was formed when J.D. Reece and J.C. Nichols merged.  Roger Rowan, a friend of Kandy’s, told her that J.D. Reece was getting rid of all their old yard signs since they were ordering new signs that were a completely different shape as a result of the merger.  Kandy talked to Jerry Reece about picking up the old signs to use for Home Rental Services.  He gladly agreed because they wouldn’t have to pay anyone to haul the old signs away.  All Kandy had to do at that point was get the inner sheet metal part of the sign redone.  When Kandy asked Jerry where they had their signs made, they were referred to Merriam Signs.  We have been ordering from them ever since!

iPad 2 – Empowering our Leasing Agents in the Field

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Our leasing agents are driven and dedicated people that work hard to make sure our owners and renters are happy with each transaction.  What this boils down to is that they are often on the go, driving around Kansas City and showing the houses we have for lease.  Many of the systems we use are web based applications.  When a prospective renter wants to see the details about one or more of the houses we have available, they usually look online with their computer.  This isn’t an option when the renter and our agent are out together looking at houses.  Currently, our agents pull up property information on their smart phones, but the screen is tiny and the experience leaves a lot of room for improvement… so we are improving!

We have started a pilot program with one of our agents to see how much of a difference an iPad 2 can provide during the rental search process.  For roughly $500, the agent now has a fully functional computer with internet access available at all times.  (Internet access is provided by using the mobile hotspot feature on the agent’s T-Mobile myTouch 4G smart phone. This option was less expensive than buying a 3G enabled iPad and paying for the data plan through AT&T or Verizon)

At ten inches, the screen size is large enough to show the beautiful, full resolution pictures of the homes we lease.  The iPad 2 is thin and light and easy to pack in a folio or briefcase with the rest of the documents we normally carry.

We have mentioned before that we use AppFolio to manage many of the aspects of our business.  Owner information, renter information, property details, work orders and more.  With the iPad 2 and internet access, our agents will have access to this information at any time and in any place with cellular coverage.

Google maps and interactive directions will help our agents look at geographic areas for points of interest like banks, schools, grocery stores, coffee shops and more as prospective renters ask questions about different neighborhoods.

We work hard to make the experience for our owners and renters the best experience possible.  This means we always have to evaluate our processes and technologies to take advantage of new tools.  We believe the iPad 2 is going to become an important addition to the technology we use to be successful!

HRS and Ronald McDonald House Charities

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We believe that it is important to give back to the community where we live and work.  One of the ways that we do this tangibly is by supporting the efforts of Ronald McDonald House Charities.

One of their fundraisers is the key recycling program.  They work with a local recycler, Wabash Iron & Metal to convert the scrap metal from keys into dollars that the Ronald McDonald House can use to pay for its programs.  We go through a LOT of keys.  We are talking hundreds of keys each quarter. We also coordinate with the locksmith that we use often, Jim’s Locksmith, to collect as many keys as possible.  If you have a bunch of keys in a drawer, and you have no idea what they unlock, send them our way and we will make sure they get used for a good cause!

The Ronald McDonald House Purpose for Being
The Ronald McDonald Houses are a “Home Away From Home” for thousands of families every year who must travel to the Kansas City area to receive medical treatment for a sick or injured child. Together, the two Ronald McDonald Houses (Cherry Street House & Longfellow House) provide temporary lodging to as many as 60 families each night while their children undergo vital medical care. The family Suites inside our Longfellow House, allow us to serve immuno-suppressed children and their families (i.e. organ transplants and bone marrow transplants). Both Houses offer a warm and welcoming place to sleep, as well as full kitchen facilities, laundry facilities, living rooms and recreation areas to provide a homey environment where families may relax away from the stresses of the hospital and meet other families experiencing similar crises.

The Homes We Rent

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In our 22 years of business we have leased an amazing number of homes.  We have traditional homes with four bedrooms and three bathrooms to large homes including one with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, an indoor basketball court and infinity pool.  We have even listed a home that came with an airport landing strip and hangar (airplane not included!)  We currently have thirty homes for rent in Kansas and nine homes for rent in Missouri.  The inventory changes weekly as we find renters their perfect home. If you own a home that you have been considering renting until the housing market recovers, please give us a call.  If you are a renter in job transition or not wanting to tie yourself to a home mortgage, we have plenty of options for you!

Spring is Coming – Time for Preventative Maintenance

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Spring is coming and it is important to maintain the value of your investment by doing regular maintenance.  Whether your home was winterized and vacant or you currently have renters, the following is a great list of things to consider having done.  If you are a client of ours, all you have to do is call us and we will get any of these maintenance items scheduled for you with our preferred partners, Neighborhood Handyman and Beautiful Outdoors.

Spring Maintenance Checklist:

  • Check smoke detectors & carbon monoxide detectors by pressing the test button. Be sure to change the batteries at the same time. Both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are available at your local home store. Contact your local fire department for recommendations.
  • Replace or clean your furnace filter. This will keep the air in your house cleaner, make your furnace more efficient, and help lower your heating bills.
  • Check for damage to your roof. Winter’s snow, ice, and wind can wreak havoc on your roof. Inspect it for missing or broken shingles — using a pair of binoculars will keep you off a ladder! As the shingles age, the fine grains of stone get washed and worn off the surface. After 15 or 20 years, even the best shingles may need to be replaced.
  • Inspect your vinyl siding. Check for cracks or damaged siding; replace or repair. The biggest threat to siding is the wind. Wind can catch seams and corners and tear lightweight vinyl or aluminum siding off the walls. This then allows water into the wall cavity, causing water damage.
  • Clean up your yard. The winter leaves behind debris, so rake your yard and pick up branches and twigs. Raking the lawn will remove thatch and snow mold, exposing the grass to sun and rain.
  • Fertilize your lawn. The grass is desperate for a dose of nitrogen in the spring. A little fertilizer will help it get off to a great start and strengthen it to withstand the stresses of the summer ahead.
  • Clean the gutters. Check all gutters and downspouts for damage from winter and be sure all clogs are cleared , prior to spring rains.
  • If you have a sprinkler system, make sure it is primed and working properly and that the timer is set and working.
  • Turn on water to exterior faucets.
  • Switch HVAC system from heat to A/C.

EchoSign – Signing Documents Made Simple

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Do you remember the days when you used to have to drive into a business to physically sign paperwork to complete a contract? Those days went away when businesses started having fax machines. The problem with using a fax machine to execute contracts is the simple fact that many people don’t have fax machines in their homes. A major part of our business involves executing contracts with our Owners and our Renters. Some days we have 14 contracts that need to be signed and many of the people involved don’t have fax machines.

To solve this problem, we adopted EchoSign.  EchoSign is an electronic signature service that allows us to get our documents signed in minutes rather than days. EchoSign accelerates our document signing process with electronic signatures and stores all our signed agreements securely.

This has been a huge benefit to our Owners and Renters because they no longer have to come into our office, send contracts through the traditional mail system or find a fax machine.  All they need is an email address and a computer with internet access.  They can sign the documents after reviewing from the comfort of their home and any time they want.

Here is more information on how it works, and if you are interested in using an electronic signature service for your own business, here is more information on the pricing plans.  (Of course there is a free trial to get you hooked.)  EchoSign fits into our technical strategy of being web-based.  EchoSign is 100% on-demand and requires no software or hardware installations.  It is all done in a web browser like Internet Explorer or FireFox.

Social Media Pictures – The Results are In!

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We talked about getting our social media pictures updated about two weeks ago and the results are in.  We wanted to share the results here and you will see these pictures on our LinkedIn profiles soon!  It would have been fun to show you before and after pictures but we didn’t want to embarrass anyone!  It is enough to say that we are very happy we took the time to get updated, consistent pictures of our team.  We work hard to make our clients thrilled (not just happy) and these pictures are more in line with the professional way that we do business in Kansas City.  Enjoy!


QR Codes – They are coming, so get ready!

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You might have seen a square shaped bar code on a real estate sign, in the Kansas City Business Journal or on someone’s business card.  These 2-dimensional bar codes are called QR Codes and they are catching on fast.  The QR Code in this post will take you to our Google Places page on Google Maps when you scan it with an appropriate QR Bar Code Reader.

Wikipedia defines a QR Code as the following:
A QR Code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, a web site address or other data.  QR Codes were created in Japan by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.  For more detailed information on Wikipedia, click here.

Generate your own QR Code here:
You can generate your own QR code for free at qrcode.kaywa.com.  Simply go to the site, specify the URL, text, phone number or SMS number that you want the QR code to link to and click the Generate button.  The QR code will be generated for you and all you have to do is right click the image and save it to your computer.  This is an image that you could print on your business cards that link to your LinkedIn profile.  It could be a link to your web site.  It could be a link to a detailed listing of the price and features of a home for sale or lease (and it would make sense to put the QR Code on the yard sign!)

Test your new QR Code with the i-nigma for iPhone QR Code Reader:
If you have an iPhone, you can download the free i-nigma QR Code reader to try out the Home Rental Services QR Code in this post.  The download link for i-nigma on the iPhone is here.  There are QR Code readers for Android and Blackberry as well.

We will continue to adopt QR codes by putting them on our yard signs, supporting them on our web site and more!