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!

Kandy
Amy
Caitlin
Chris
David
Landon
Nick
Paul
 

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!

Social Media Picture Day!

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In 2010, we began working hard on our social media presence.  Now that we have LinkedIn profiles and a Facebook Fan Page, we realized that we needed professional social media pictures to complement the professional nature of our business.  For professional photography, we hired Becky Alfred to take our social media “headshots” and Becky came to our office on February 15th to capture our smiling faces.  For makeup, we hired Staci Broski, owner of 7th Row to make sure our faces looked just right!

As with most things, taking pictures is a process.  We have beautiful large windows on the 9th floor of our building and as luck would have it, it was a gray, overcast day.  Thankfully, Becky has all the right equipment including backdrops, and professional cameras.  Making sure the staff was all available and dressed appropriately took some planning as well.  We scheduled our team for a mandatory staff meeting a month before the photo shoot and reminded everyone a few days before the actual day.  We recommend that you give some guidelines around what to wear so that there is some consistency across the pictures.  We simply asked everyone to wear appropriate business attire and everyone looked great.

As you can see in the pictures below, we crammed into Kandy’s office where the light was best.  It was a social media picture assembly line!  The entire process took less than 2 hours and the end result is fantastic.  Some of our team members could not believe how well the pictures turned out.  A side benefit is that it was a team building experience as well.  Everyone had a great time!

We Appreciate Your Referrals – Cash and Candy!

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We appreciate the referrals that we get on a daily basis!  We track each referral that we receive and have a Referral Reward Program (for Kansas homes only).

There are two types of people that you could refer to us:
1) Owner – Someone that owns a home that they want to rent
2) Renter – Someone that wants to rent a home

If you refer a prospective Owner or Renter to Home Rental Services that turns into a signed contract, we pay you $100!  We deliver the referral reward to you, and it is not just a check… there is candy too!  As you can see in the picture below, we are delivering 8 referral gifts today for rentals that happened in the last week!  We work hard to make sure that your referrals are taken care of.

If you know someone that is looking to rent a home or someone that owns a home that they are considering renting, we would love to hear from you!

Snowpocalypse – Caring for your Vacant Property in the Winter

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Kansas City is expecting a major blizzard today!  A important part of our success is proactive maintenance for the homes that we manage.  We currently have more than a dozen homes for rent that are vacant and in the process of being shown.  We take care of ordering snow removal services for these vacant homes so that prospective renters can get into the homes more easily.  We recommend Beautiful Outdoors of Kansas City (913-406-8557) and use them regularly for lawn mowing and snow clearing.

Paul Branton is one of our Property Managers and offered some great tips for winterizing your vacant home:

  • Leave the heat on very low.  A minimal heating bill will be less expensive than the cost of potential repairs if everything were to freeze up.  Setting the thermostat to 62 degrees is recommended.
  • If you decide to turn off the water, it is a good idea to know if your house was plumbed on a downgrade so you can drain all pipes completely and eliminate the chance of water freezing and expanding, eventually breaking the pipes.
  • If you aren’t sure about drainage, it usually is advisable to leave some water running through the pipes by turning on the fixture closest to where water enters the house and at the farthest point indoors, say in an upstairs bathroom. It needs to trickle constantly to keep water flowing and prevent freezing.
  • It is a good idea to wrap insulation around the water heater, the pipes leading to and from it.
  • Insulate any pipes exposed outdoors, in a crawl space under the house, etc.
  • It is not a bad idea to put some anti-freeze in both the tank and the bowl of each toilet. If the heat goes out and water inside the toilets freezes, it could crack the fixtures.
  • If you want professional help winterizing your home, contact the Neighborhood Handyman at 913-498-1160

Be safe out there today!

It’s Just a Rental… Not So Fast! – Kandy Teaching at KCRAR

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There is a disturbing trend in the world of residential real estate.  As home prices remain depressed, agents are recommending that homeowners lease their homes (with the agent) until the market rebounds.  The attitude is often that “it is just a rental” and that the agent can take care of finding a renter for them.  There are so many differences between selling a home and leasing a home, and the laws governing the process are vastly different as well.  Without appropriate training and experience, there are just too many risks and liabilities involved in renting your home yourself or through an agent with limited leasing experience.

Kandy Meehan has been invited to teach a three hour class at the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS® to try to raise awareness for agents of all that leasing a home entails.  This class will be a three hour course for Continuing Education credit.  For more information on getting enrolled in this class, please contact KCRAR.

The bottom line is that hiring a professional property management company to lease  your home transfers much of the burden of compliance and liability to the management company instead of the owner or a potentially inexperienced agent.  It also reduces many of the headaches associated with the monthly process of leasing your home.

For example, you could have a prospective renter with service animals.  You have an owner that doesn’t want any pets in their property.  Fair Housing Law says that the renter cannot be charged any pet rent or pet deposit for any service animals.  The owner cannot decline the renter based on pets because Fair Housing Law says that service animals are not pets.  Mishandling this situation exposes the owner to a Fair Housing lawsuit.

Here are just a few of the topics that will be covered in her class:

– There are both personal liability issues and liability issues to third parties when leasing a property.
– Many aspects of the Fair Credit Reporting Act applies to the screening process needed to screen potential renters
– Having clear written procedures for handling keys and garage door codes is necessary to insure the safety of people and property
– Complying with Fair Housing Laws is much more involved when you are renting a property vs when you are selling a property
– New federal laws regarding lead based paint carry hefty fines if the laws are violated
– Property managers need to know state laws governing the security deposit limits, premises inventory requirements, returning the deposit to the renter and if state law dictates how interest is to be handled
– Being able to document all non-emergency maintenance requests will help support your defense if renter claims work not being done in a timely manner

Group O’Dell – A Trusted Partner

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Home Rental Services’ success, like most small businesses, depends on word-of-mouth referrals.  We are so thankful for the many companies that we have strong referral relationships with.  One company that we have been working with for years is the team over at Group O’Dell.

Dan O’Dell and Maria O’Dell are the leading force behind the success that their company has seen year after year.  They are regularly honored as a top residential real estate company that does business with strong moral and ethical values.  We receive a referral just about every week from their team.  (Thanks guys, we appreciate it so much!)

Our Referral Program (Applies to Kansas homes only)
We understand the importance of the referrals that we receive and we have a great referral program.  If you refer a prospective owner or renter to Home Rental Services that turns into a signed contract, we pay you $100.  It’s that easy.  With the interesting real estate market, many more people are turning to renting their homes instead of buying.  If you know someone that is looking to rent a home or someone that owns a home that they would prefer to rent instead of sell right now, we would love to hear from you!

Home Rental Services – Renter Portal

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In 2010, we adopted a new property management software called AppFolio that we use to manage many aspects of our business.  The software is web based, and as a result we are able to offer our renters the ability to log in to an online portal.  The renter can see past payments, make payments online, sign up for email alerts when their monthly rent is due and sign up for auto-pay so that they don’t have to worry about missing a future payment!  It is another great way that we keep the lines of communication open so that there are no surprises.

The portal is located at https://homerentals.appfolio.com/connect.  We need to set up each renter before they are able to access the portal for the first time.  If you are a current renter of ours and want to be set up for portal access, simply contact us at (913) 469-6633 and we will get you set up.