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What Differentiates Us from the Competition?

  1. Our Commitment to our Mission of providing stable housing for our community. This means we only work with rental owners that share our values and have the willingness and ability to maintain their properties in such a way that they can attract and maintain quality tenants
  2. We are Innovators – We are constantly looking for new ways to make the rental process easier for everyone. We market our listings to the greatest amount of people, make it easy for them to view the unit, and make the application process quick and easy. In this way we’re able to connect the best tenants with the best homes.
  3. Integrity and Transparency – All of our maintenance people are third party vendors with whom we have pre-negotiated rates. We do not have maintenance on staff. This means we are not cutting maintenance checks to ourselves like many other companies do. Additionally, all of our accounting is transparent to our rental owners. They can log in to view the performance of their property anytime, in real time.

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Owner Spotlight

This week we were able to partner with Steve and Dina Herrera. Steve and Dina purchased and remodeled the home next door to them in West-Central Peoria. They did a wonderful job upgrading flooring, paint, the bathroom, and even added a deck and she-shed.

We received over 200 inquiries, 22 showings, and 12 applicants in one week. They were able to sit down and choose from several qualified applicants.

We love partnering with owners like the Herreras, who not only are working to improve their family’s financial future, but they’re doing so by investing in and improving their neighborhood. #strongtowns #strongneighborhoods

Cheers to the Herrera’s!!

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Preferred Communication Methods

Many times we are handling coordinating maintenance, inspections, meeting with owners and tenants, and showing properties. This means we are often times away from the phone. With that in mind, here is what communication works best with us:

Tenants: If you have a maintenance issue, creating a task in your tenant portal will facilitate us getting the right person to your unit faster. It also allows both parties to track the status, with time stamped entries. In an emergency or urgent situation, you can also reach us by texting our office number or webchat.

Applicants: If you need to schedule a showing, please use our scheduling function on the website. This automatically reads our schedule and gives you options for agent showings or self showings. If you want to move forward with applying, please fill out our online application. There is a $50 application fee. We will perform a credit check, background check, eviction check, and verification of income. If the property accepts Section 8, we will list that in the unit description.

Owner Inquiries: If you are interested in management or leasing services, please fill out the rental owner application and indicate your preferred method of communication. We will contact you back within the next business day.

Phone calls: We prefer to have communication in writing, such as email. But if a phone call is necessary, please schedule a call or face to face meeting through our website. Our Calendly function reads our schedules and will give you the times to choose from that work for us.

Thanks for helping us communicate better. Being efficient with our time allows us to keep costs down for both tenants and rental owners.

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Our Business Principles

1. Purpose 
We are committed to strengthening our community through stable housing. Stable housing means stable tenants and stable owner investment. We contribute to stable housing by connecting quality tenants with quality homes.

2. People First
We engage a work force of talented associates who excel as a team and are motivated by the mission and the culture, as well as compensation, in the belief that, by taking care of them, they will take care of the business, customers, suppliers, and community.

3. Perseverance
We are a resilient company that is undeterred by short term market conditions. We overcome obstacles and keep pursuing the mission indefinitely into the future.

4. Private 
As a privately-held family business, we have a longer-term view and more operating flexibility than public or exit-oriented businesses. We will never sacrifice our values in order to meet short term goals.

5. Profit 
Profit is not our #1 purpose. But long-term profit for our clients and us means we have sustainability and longevity.

6. Paced Growth 
We have the discipline to focus on long-term strategy and grow steadily and consistently each year. Our annual target for growth is 10-15%. Paced growth allows us to expand our mission without sacrificing our purpose and office culture.

7. Pragmatic Innovation
We embrace a continuous-improvement process built around taking calculated risks to innovate creatively within the constraints of the business.

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Your Housing Choice is the Biggest Part of Your Overall Finances

Financial planners often identify ways in which people are wasting money and illustrate how that money would grow if instead it was invested. The most common example is someone who spends $3.50 per day on Starbucks:

If you didn’t spend $3.50 a day on coffee, you’d save $1,277 a year.  If you invested that money over 30 years, you’d have $85,305 (assuming a 5% annual return).

While Starbucks is an easy punching bag, many of us fail to see the elephant in the room. We are penny wise but pound foolish. The biggest expense eating away at our ability to save is your home.

Let’s look at a common scenario:

Your mortgage broker tells you that you can afford a $2,500/mo. payment. You’re approved for a $300,000 mortgage.

What is the financial impact of that choice opposed to buying a more modest home, half its price?

You decide you want the biggest and best possible home, so you borrow $300,000 with a 30 year mortgage at 5% interest. Your property taxes are $10,000 per year and your insurance is $800 per year. You will pay $279,767.35 in interest over the course of the loan.

Your other more modest choice is a smaller house and $150,000 mortgage, $5,000 property taxes per year and $600 insurance per year. At the same monthly payment, you can swing a 7 year amortization. After 7 years, you will have paid $28,087.25 in interest over the course of the loan.

The total interest savings is $251,680.10. But the disparity becomes even greater if, after the loan is paid off in 7 years, you start investing your former mortgage payment of $2,120 at a 5% annual return. In 23 years, that money will grow to $1,053,991.29. After adding the interest savings and subtracting the $150,000 difference in the value of the homes, the total disparity in the two choices over 30 years comes out to $1,155,671.39.

Benefits of Strong Savings

The secret to financial freedom is not earning more, it’s keeping more of what you earn and being content with what you have. Some of the many benefits include giving more money to your church and charity, career flexibility, and being empowered to live in line with your values and not compromise your choices based on money.

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I’m only going to be in town for a few years. Should I Rent or Buy?

Many people moving to town face this question: I’m only going to be in town for a few years. Should I Rent or Buy?

A good rule of thumb in most areas is to rent a place to live instead of buying unless you are certain that you will not move for at least 5 years.  In cities like Peoria where there has been little to no appreciation over the last 20 years, I would recommend renting instead of buying unless you’re going to be around at least 10 years.

In our society there seems to be some inherent nobility in owning real estate and something inherently wrong with renting a home.  The false belief that often permeates is that buying a place is always great idea and renting a place to live is silly because when you own your own home, you are able to build equity while renting means you’re throwing away money.

While it’s true that you can build equity over the long term if you own a home, the reason why you are unable to build up much equity in the early years of your mortgage is due to two things most people don’t fully understand: the amortization schedule and compound interest.

The amortization of your mortgage means that the amount you pay in interest is compounded and dependent on the amount of principal remaining on the balance. Early on, a majority of the money from your payments will go toward paying off the interest. With each subsequent payment, more will go toward paying back the principal.

Why does this happen? It comes down to the fact that the amount you owe when you make your first payment is greater than the amount you owe when you make subsequent payments. So when you apply the compounded interest rate to your initial balance, you come out with a much higher interest payment than for the balance of the last payment.

For example, if you buy a $160,000 house and put 5% down, that leaves a 152,000 mortgage. Figuring a 5% interest rate, 30 year amortization, and average property taxes and insurance, your total monthly payment comes to $1300.

After 5 years and $78,000 of payments, you decide to move. Your balance will be reduced to just $139,580. Figuring a broker commission (7%) $11,200, closing costs (3%) $4,800, and moving expenses $10,000, you would need a sales price of $173,500 just to break even.

The bottom line is: pay attention to the amortization schedule. The moderate buildup of that equity in the early years of a mortgage can be quickly erased by the high transaction costs and moving costs associated with selling. 

Many people have far worse experiences. They not only have not built up much equity, they also get stuck paying maintenance, unforeseen repairs, andtwo mortgages while their house is on the market, which, in a down market, can take many months or years.

Unless you’re settling in for the long term, the prudent choice is to rent. I would set the number at 10 years.

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Why Should You Make Peoria Your Home?

Peoria is a small city with big city opportunities.  We are hub for medical and manufacturing.  Our people are both loving and gritty.  Here’s my top 6 reasons to make Peoria your home:

  1. The Commute (or lack thereof) – You can get from one end of town to the other in 15 minutes.  Most commutes are less than 10 minutes.  There are rarely any traffic jams.  This means you can spend more time with your family, coaching baseball, or serving your community in various ways.  
  2. It’s Very Affordable – The average home value is $130,000 and the average rent is $800.  These huge cost savings mean you can spend less time working and more time doing those things that bring fulfillment and purpose.  
  3. City of Innovators – Wall Street 24/7 named Peoria the #22 most innovative city in the country.  Peorians were issued 3,321 patents between 2000 and 2015.  In 2014, Greater Peoria invested over $2 billion in research and development and in 2012 we exported more merchandise per capita than any other place in the country.
  4. We Build Things – Greater Peoria has an extensive history in heavy metal manufacturing – 24,000 people in our regional workforce are employed in the manufacturing industry — which is 54% higher than the national average.  This concentration has benefited the region in many ways including the availability of higher income jobs, extensive logistics systems, and well-developed international infrastructure.
  5. Natural Beauty – Peoria’s river valley and bluffs are replete with giant oak and vibrant redbud trees.  The rolling landscape changes allow for expansive vistas.  Most famously, Grandview Drive is a destination for photo ops and tourists around the country.  Sightseers also flock to the river which is home to the bald eagle.    
  6. Travel – If you like to travel, it makes sense to make Peoria your home base.  Our new airport is a breeze to get in and out of.  It has free parking and flies nonstop to all major domestic airport hubs and many popular warm weather tourist destinations.  If trains are your thing, a short 30 minute drive to Galesburg or Normal puts you on two major national train routes.
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Stable Housing Leads to Strong Towns

In his 2017 book Evicted, Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Its scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of a stable home, without which nothing else is possible.

Having lived in Peoria for 20 years and managed residential real estate for the last 15 years, so much of his book rang true to me.  The book follows families as they get evicted from their homes and the consequences on their own families, the landlords, and their community.  He could’ve very easily written this book while following families in Peoria. 
A person’s socio-economic status does not make them a good or bad person or tenant.  Affordable areas of town do not necessarily mean they are bad.  The biggest determining factor is stability.   Stability helps crime.  Stability helps schools and small businesses.  Stability allows for high quality, meaningful lives.  So how can we as a community do better in this area? 
We all know what’s expected of a tenant – pay rent on time and take care of the property.  

So what is the role of a rental owner and property managers in providing stable housing?

Rental owners must have the ability and willingness to maintain a property in a condition that will attract quality tenants.  I appreciate the choice to invest money locally and not send it to a mutual fund in a far away city.  But let’s have the proper view.  It is a long-term investment. Housing is also a highly personal investment.  As a community, we must put people over profits and consider how our investment is impacting the community as a whole.  

Property managers must connect the right tenant with the right home.  This is done through advertising and showing the property so that it is seen by as many people as possible.  It also means screening tenants in a way that sets people up for success, not failure.  Renting to a tenant that cannot afford the rent will inevitably result in high turnover, which is costly to everyone.

In Summary

A commitment to stable housing helps everyone in the community, from the bottom up.  

Today, as was the case in the days of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem, many cities boast of their wisdom, power and wealth.  We boast of our universities, our political seats of power, and our Fortune 500 companies. 

My prayer is that my city – our city – in the words of that great prophet, “…boasts not of our wisdom, power, and wealth.  But boasts instead of our steadfast love, justice and righteousness.  For these are the things that please the Lord.”

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To Buy Or Rent: That is the question!

Why is renting a great idea for many people?

We’ve all heard the benefits of home ownership – tax breaks, privacy, and building equity over time through appreciation and paying down your mortgage.  If you know you’re going to be in an area for 10-20 years, owning a home makes perfect sense.  It’s likely your home value will rise and you’ll have a nice nest egg to use at retirement.   

So what are the major benefits of renting vs. buying?  

1. Flexibility – Today’s work environment requires flexibility.  Most people don’t stay at the same job or in the same city for an entire career like they used to.  Careers are likely to take us to different cities.  We’re also likely to change careers a few times.  It is much simpler to move at the end of your Lease than it is to sell your house.  
2.  Predictability – Since owners are required to make most major repairs and maintenance, it’s easier to make a budget and stick to it when you’re renting.  
3.  Time – What is more valuable than our time?  Not having the burden of maintenance and repairs means tenants are able to better budget their time.  Many people enjoy spending their weekends on vacation rather than working on maintaining their property.
4.  Liquidity – Responsible home ownership requires a significant down payment – tens of thousands of dollars – and often a mortgage that won’t be paid off for 15-30 years.  You may be building equity, but you’re as liquid as a brick.  Many seniors choose to sell their homes and rent.  Some do it to downsize, but many choose renting later in life in order to realize the equity they have built up over the years.  If they stayed home owners, they would never be able to enjoy that nest egg they spent decades building up.   

So who are the people that benefit from renting?

  • Professionals that are required to move frequently
  • Young people that are still saving for a down payment
  • Seniors that are downsizing and need liquidity
  • Empty nesters that love to travel and not maintain a home
  • Recent relocations that are taking their time to buy as they figure out their new community

In Summary

Consider this, an asset is something that puts money in your pocket.  When you own your primary residence, the only time this happens is when you sell it.