Month: November 2016

Bill Passes Placing Responsibility of Garbage on Tenant in Jefferson County

Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, November 23, 2016
It is never fun to open a letter from the city and realize you owe them hundreds of dollars.
It is never fun to open a letter from the city and realize you owe them hundreds of dollars.

While the focus has been mostly on Donald Trump, our newly elected President, one amendment passed in Jefferson County, Alabama that affects landlords and tenants.

The bill now says that tenants are solely responsible for garbage at the home.  This is a change from the norm, where in places like Fairfield, if the tenant didn’t pay, then the landlord was stuck holding the bill.  I’ve personally paid hundreds of dollars for this to keep a lien from being placed on one of my houses.

If you’d like to read the bill you may do so here.  If you’d like to hear a well done back story from Fox, you may see that here.  If you’d like to read the results, you may do so here.

We’d also love to answer any questions about how this might affect you!

The Seasonality of Leasing a Home in Birmingham, Alabama

Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, November 16, 2016
The seasonality of leasing in Birmingham AL
The seasonality of leasing in Birmingham AL

I just got off a phone call with another property manager in Birmingham who was asking me about the seasonality of leasing homes in the City.  It brought to mind one of the first questions people ask when they call us is, “How quickly can you lease my home?”

The seasonality of the leasing season has a lot to do with the answer to the question most prospective owners want to know.

So what does the leasing season look like in Birmingham?

Hot times – February, May, June, July, August, November

Cool times – January, March, April, September, October, December

Why the “Hot times”? – The obvious times people lease homes are during natural breaks in their lives.  The most natural break is traditionally when children get out of school.  Thus the May – August dates.  What is so interesting is how the school year still affects when others move even if they don’t have kids.

For people who are “post school” and “pre-kids” they still fall into the cadence of needing a rental house at the same times of the year, because they get out of school, lease a home for a year, then the lease keeps either renewing and/or ending in the summer.  Then if they move, they are keeping a consistent cadence till they decide to purchase a home and get out of the rental world altogether.

The less known months for leasing a home are more about avoiding the holidays than they are about trying to strategically move at a good time.  November is all about people getting in the new home BEFORE the holidays.  February is after the holidays and typically when a lot of people file their taxes and receive their income tax returns – this affords them the cash they need to pay a deposit, first month’s rent and pay to move.

If you have any specific questions about your home and/or when we think it will lease, please reach out to us.  We’d love to help.

Ode to Wayne McGinnis

Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wayne hugging Bryan for the last time - these two appreciate a good hug.Thanks Wayne, we are going to miss you.

No, Wayne didn’t die everyone.  He is headed off to pursue his passion of construction with Doster Construction.  We wish him lots of luck and hope he will come visit us . . . but he has to bring lunch when he comes.

Wayne has been with us for almost three years.  He was an integral part of the growth we experienced over that same three year time period.  His knowledge of the construction and home maintenance will be sorely missed.

He’s headed south to Orlando.  He maybe secretly going to work for Disney World and just not telling anyone.

Wayne is funny and passionate.  Doster is getting a great guy.

Wayne hugging Bryan for the last time – these two appreciate a good hug.


How Much Should I Budget for Home Repairs Every Year?

Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

If it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't makes "sense". How much should you expect to spend on maintenance for your rental home?

If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t makes “sense”. How much should you expect to spend on maintenance for your rental home?

One of the hardest conversations we will have in our relationship with our Clients is the call where we tell them that something is broken and we need to spend their money.  I often tell people who ask about our industry, “If you can make that call, you can make any call.”

Many savvy Clients have asked on the front end what they should expect or budget for a yearly maintenance expense.

I’ve been managing my own homes since 2004 and managing for others since 2008.  I had a general idea of how much money each house was spending, along with the factors that cause that to go up or down, but I had one question that I wanted to check first . . .

How much can the average homeowner (who lives in a home) expect to spend?

Then naturally, you could expect to spend MORE than that with a tenant in the home; since as a homeowner, you probably do some of the work yourself.  Also, you own the home, so you aren’t as naturally hard on it as the average tenant.  We are speaking in complete generalities, but I hope you get my point.  We have great tenants, but the average doesn’t take care of the home the way the average homeowner who is living in that home takes care of it.

While doing some research, I ran across an interesting article that did a great job (based on my experience) of explaining the factors that affect the yearly maintenance of a home and some general formulas to work with.  They were startlingly close to what I was thinking, so I decided to include it here versus regurgitating the information they so eloquently provided.

Here is a link to that article.

While the 1% rule and the Age Rule (both cited in the article) are a great start, I think it is most important to point out all the other factors that affect the maintenance costs.  When people ask me this question, my first response is . . .

1. How old is the home?  Older homes simply cost more to maintain.  This is one place I differ from the article.  I don’t care how well you’ve taken care of the home, a home that was built 100 years ago will cost more to maintain than a home built 5 years ago.

2. When was the last time you updated the major systems of the home – electrical, plumbing, hvac, roof, etc?  These major systems are big ticket items and can move the needle very quickly on how much you spend on the maintenance.

3. Where is the home located?  This speaks to the type of tenant who traditionally will live in the home.  If you have a low income person who lives on a monthly subsidy, then chances are they run the air twice as much and flush the toilets twice as much; i.e. causing these types of items to wear out much faster.

Being prepared for us to call you for a repair item can make all the difference in the world.  Homeowners who live paycheck to paycheck should actually consider not renting if a phone call to tell you about a $750 item is going to keep them from having Thanksgiving that year.

If you have questions about your current situation or would like to find out more about budgeting for maintenance items and rental property, please reach out to us via the link below.  We’d love to help.

Contact a gkhouses Representative

Are You an Entrepreneur Bean Counter?

Matthew Whitaker - Saturday, November 5, 2016

Are you tired of simply counting the money and reporting the information to the decision makers? Do you want to be a decision maker at a company and help it scale? Are you an entrepreneur that happens to be a CPA or have a Finance degree?, Birmingham’s largest and fastest growing property management company, is looking for a future Team Leader who will be an integral piece to pouring gas on our current growth in Birmingham and Nashville and will help us open operations in different cities.

We need someone that thinks both analytically and strategically, is confident (but not arrogant) and has a deep understanding of the creation of accounting and reporting systems and processes.

If this describes you, then we need you on our team.

None of our accounting systems are rocket science, so I won’t go into explaining them. We just need the right team member with an accounting background.


We’ve found that our accounting department is a great way to train the future leaders of to go run other markets.  Who else understands the KPI’s, ROI’s, P&L’s and the PDQ’s?


Click here to apply for this job

Why WHO We Hire Should Affect WHO You Hire (Post #3 – Our Leadership Development Program)

Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, November 3, 2016
Gray Hall, our Leasing Coordinator, working hard leasing houses.
Gray Hall, our Leasing Coordinator, working hard leasing houses.

This is my third and final post on the WHO of our business.  In my previous posts, I’ve discussed our hiring process and and also discussed how we onboard new team members.

This post is the one I feel like is the most important.  This post is all about leadership development of our team.

I always tell our team, I can teach you how to manage a home pretty quickly; what I’m unsure of is how long it will take me to teach you to be a leader.  That is why at the first of the year, we decided to implement our first ever weekly leadership development meeting.  It began with us simply just reading a book together.  Our first book was Today Matters by John Maxwell.  The reason we chose this book is because of something John actually says in the book, “The hardest person to lead is yourself.”

What our leadership development time together has turned into is something I would never have imagined.  It is a way for our current leadership team to share real company issues with the people in the meeting and get their feedback on how they would handle it if they were the leader.  Real world situations that they will run into in the future when they are the leader somewhere.

This team has also done an awesome job of working ON the business.  We learned this phrase from another book we read called E-Myth by Michael Gerber.  The team is learning how to take a step back from their day to day role as a person working IN the business and evaluate how we can do things better here at gkhouses.  We’ve made some real upgrades to the business through their ideas, that became projects.

We’ve devoured tons of books together too, as we’ve maintained the ongoing discipline of reading a book together.  Some other books we’ve read and the lessons we’ve learned are below.

1. Traction by Gino Wickman – We currently run the Traction model within our organization.  This is not so much about how we manage a home, but about how we manage the business.

2. Good to Great by Jim Collins – By far my favorite book, this book takes “great” companies and compares them to their counterparts who are “good”.  The goal is to see what great does that average doesn’t and glean information about running our business from that new information.  We’ve had some really fun discussions about what our Hedgehog Concept is.  If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor.

3. Multipliers by Liz Wiseman – My favorite book of 2016.  This book takes an indepth look at what makes a great leader based on years and years of research in a ton of different companies.  Liz did a great job of not just doing the research, but also painting a wonderful picture of what a real leader looks like.

I’m continually amazed at what the team has learned from the books we’ve read this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing how much they grow the remainder of the year and all of next year.  These are exciting times at gkhouses.

So this concludes my 3 part series.  My goal in doing this?  Simply to help you understand that you aren’t hiring us for price (although we’ve got some pretty darn good ones).  And, you aren’t hiring us for a slick sales presentation (although it is pretty slick).  I hope you hire us for the people we work hard to hire.


Why WHO We Hire Should Affect WHO You Hire (Post #2 – Teaching the Talent)

Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Here is our Director of Marketing, Spencer Sutton, rocking out to some tunes while he is building a webpage for our new pricing plan.
Here is our Director of Marketing, Spencer Sutton, rocking out to some tunes while he is building a webpage for our new pricing plan.

In my last blog I gave you some insight into how we find talent.  Much like finding the right tenant takes tons of time and sometimes going through tons of people, finding the right talented people to work with you takes very much the same approach.

The next step in the process is training that talent.  It does us no good to find them and not have a set system for bringing them into our business and getting them up to speed on our processes as soon as possible.

So how do we do that?

We’ve basically bought into the book, Scrum.  This book is actually written to describe how software engineers can write relevant software in a much more intentional and meaningful way – thus reducing the amount of time it takes to write a software program.  We’ve decided to take the same principles the book teaches and apply it to onboarding a new team member.

The principles of of our onboarding “scrum” are this . . .

1. Decide everything that needs to be taught.  The first step in our process is to figure out all the tasks that we need to teach the new team member.  We simply brainstorm a list and put it into an excel spreadsheet or (in our case) an Asana project.

2. Decide how much effort it will take to teach the task.  We do this by scoring the task based on the Fibonacci Sequence.  It is important to determine how much effort so that we can measure how long it will take to train the person based on how much of the “score” is done on a weekly basis.  If you know how much score someone is completing, you can back into how long the training will take.

3. Decide who is responsible for teaching the task.  Once we’ve defined the task and how much effort it will take to teach, we are very intentional about who is going to transfer the information to the new team member.

4. Decide which tasks will be taught week  one.  We don’t try to measure out which weeks each task will be taught.  We simply start with week one and focus on a certain number of tasks.

5. The goal is to get the new team member operating without anyone else having to be there.  This method is only effective when we are able to move through each task to its full completion and the new team member is able to work autonomously on the task without any oversight.  This allows the person teaching the task, or whoever has been performing the task, to move on and start accomplishing other objectives and tasks for the team.

Our method for onboarding a new employee has drastically reduced the time it takes to get a team member contributing to the team (a HUGE plus for both the team and the individual) and has also reduced the overall time it takes to get them fully functional in the new role.

Next post, I’m going to discuss our ongoing leadership training designed to get our team members able to go run a new market for us.