Monthly Archives: March 2007

Buying Your First Home

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Thinking of buying your first home? Weighing your options?

I remember buying my first home. It was an out-dated rambler in Taylorsville and I wanted the financial benefits of owning. What I didn’t realize is that there is much more to owning a home than simply paying a lender instead of a landlord.

The first few weeks after I closed on my fixer-upper house were spent ripping out carpet, laying tile, refinishing cabinets, painting, cutting down trees and bushes, installing new plumbing and lighting fixtures, etc. This very quickly taught me about the expense of remodeling. Instead of just complaining to a landlord that I wanted something fixed and hoping they would fix it, now I had to do it myself -and pay for it myself. I choose the fixtures and the carpet and I got to decide what colors to paint and what appliances I wanted.

My wife, my friends, and family all worked hard to get the remodel done. It wasn’t always easy, but it was funner than I expected and it was so worth it. And after a couple of weeks living in my newly-purchased home it really hit me.

“This is my home.”

As in, “In this whole great big world, this piece of land is mine.” And that was an incredible feeling to me. I could do what I wanted to my house and I was responsible for the upkeep. If something breaks it’s my responsibility to fix it because this is my property.

Fixing and repairing things in your new home is a responsibility, but it’s also a privilege. You get to decide how to repair something or what quality to replace a fixture with. And you get to take pride in your home, knowing that you are taking care of an appreciating asset and taking care of your own place.

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I have owned other homes without doing any remodeling or repairing of any kind, but I enjoy remodeling my home and now our home is constantly being improved or altered to fit our changing taste and style.

There is a pride of ownership that comes with owning your own home that simply is not there when you are renting from a landlord, or borrowing space. The neighborhoods are nicer when you own and are surrounded by other homeowners because of this. This is why FHA loans cannot be given on condos, townhomes, or other PUD’s with a renter-occupancy rate over a certain amount.

Properties appreciate faster, on average, when they are occupied by the homeowners.

And appreciation is a wonderful thing for a homeowner- actually earning money every year as your property goes up in value. Some stretches of time your home will appreciate faster than other times, but over the course of ten years- most every property will go up in value significantly if taken care of. And most will go up substantially. No matter how great your rental is, it’s not going to earn you any money- period.

And every year when I go to do my taxes I have tens of thousands of dollars to write-off on my taxes. I could never do that renting. So I save thousands of dollars every year and I earn tens of thousands with appreciation, and I have a pride of ownership I could not get from renting.

You can calculate all the numbers and weigh all the risks you want, but at the end of the day owning is a better investment, and not just financially. With that said, I did sell that first home after less than two years and made about $40,000.

Top Ten Gadgets for Realtors

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 I see the reviews of new stuff coming out all the time and I’ve read Realtor Magazine’s new gadgets for real estate, but I just see a bunch of new phones and computers. So here is my list of the…

Top Ten Gadgets for Realtors

 

 10- Advertising from your car 

Realtors are famous for their ubiquitous vanity plates, window clings, and automobile advertising paint jobs, so why stop there? Having a scrolling message would bring attention and give you an adjustable ad everywhere you go.

9- GPS systems with traffic updates (Also see voice-activated and 3-D)

GPS systems are all over the place now and they’re getting cooler and easier, but getting traffic updates in real-time along with the navigation is awesome. Every agent who works with buyers knows the frustration of setting appointments in a sequence and then needing to call to push back appointments because you are running late. Voice Activated makes it easier to keep your eye on the road, and 3-D is just cool.

8- Color printers for your mobile phone

No more running to the office to print out some new flyers for your listing- just plug in your mobile phone and print them up- and how impressed will your clients be?

7- GPS on your mobile phone

Call in for directions or get GPS on your phone without the cumbersome extra equipment- you have your phone with you everywhere you go, and this way you can have GPS everywhere as well.

6-Reading your voice mail

Need to know when to pick up your kid but can’t stand hearing your ex’s voice? Get your voice mails as text messages on your mobile phone. Also good for scrolling through to get to the important messages when you’re busy.

5- Viral Marketing

Think of a television commercial that will run for years, reach a large audience, and does not cost you anything. Is that something you would consider doing?

4-Client motivation detectors 

Ever put your ear up to the window after buyers leave your open house, trying to hear what they are saying about the house?

Here’s your spy gear to finally get the 411 *

3- One-Shot Virtual Tours

Create a virtual tour without being a photo-shop expert. Just one click captures a full virtual tour, ready to go. Save time, frustration, and the cost of the photographer.

2- Searchable Conversations

Ever heard the saying, “The longest memory isn’t as good as the shortest pencil”? Well, even better than a pencil is this little device that will record all of your conversations and let you search them. Remember all the details your client told you, laugh at the other agent with your co-workers after they have left the office, and improve your language skills.

1- Cup holders that do more

When you’re in real estate you live in your car, doing everything mobile. We are the most dangerous drivers on the road. Talking on our mobile phones while eating a cheeseburger and making a U-turn as we look for an address.

This is why when we shop for a new vehicle we don’t ask how fast it goes or care about the luggage space- we want to know three things- gas mileage, turning radius (for our U-turns, and how many cup holders does it have.

And these cup holders will turn your real office into a more efficient place, and probably save lives.

*This is only a joke- I don’t promote spying. And even if I did I would not suggest breaking out a big ole’ listening device and stick it out the window at people as they leave an open house.

Top 150 American Architectural Structures

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) lists the top 150 favorite American structures, beginning with;

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#1- Empire State Building

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#2- The White House

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#3- Washington National Cathedral

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#4- Thomas Jefferson Memorial

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#5- Golden Gate Bridge

Other Structures of (my) interest include…

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#9- Chrsyler Building- NYC- Tied for coolest skyscraper in the country (TransAmerica)

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#14- The Gateway Arch- Impressive, and a cool elevator to the top

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Brooklyn Bridge – Hey, you gotta problem with that?!?

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#22- Bellagio- My favorite place to stay in Vegas

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#57- Denver International Airport- Airport as art

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#61- (Shamefully low)-TransAmerica Pyramid- San Fran- Tied for coolest skyscraper in the country (Chrysler)

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#62- 333 Wacker Drive (Chicago)- Curves with the Chicago River

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#69- Salt Lake City Public Library

There are so many incredible structures on this list, you really need to check it out to see your own favorites.

Top Ten American Houses

CNNMoney presents us with their top 10 favorite houses in America, selected from the American Institute of Architects list of the top 150 American Structures.

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Biltmore Estate (Vanderbilt Residence)- By Richard Morris Hunt

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Monticello – Designed by Thomas Jefferson

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Fallingwater – Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

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Taliesin- Frank Lloyd Wright’s residence

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Hearst Castle- by Julia Morgan

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Gamble House by Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene

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Glesner House- Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson

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Dana-Thomas House- By Frank Lloyd Wright
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Taliesin West – By and For Frank Lloyd Wright

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Douglas House by Richard Meier

Top Ten Cities for Beer Lovers

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MSNBC lists its top 10 cities for beer lovers;

1. Amsterdam- Serving “pils” with two fingers worth of head on top

2. Berlin- the first week of August is devoted to Bierfestival, when the city center turns into a 1.2 mile-long beer garden hosting 240 breweries from 80 countries, representing 1,750 different brands of beer

3. Brugge- Over 450 unique varieties of Belgian brew.

4. Burlington- Vermont college town between Montreal and Boston.

5- Dublin- Irish people drink?

6- Mexico City- Home of warm pee Corona

7- Montreal- Order your beer by color

8- Portland- 28 local breweries

9- Prague- Home to U Fleku, world’s oldest brewpub

10- Sapporo- Beer from vending machines in Japanese setting

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Celebrator lists it’s top 10 American Cities for beer;

1- Salt Lake City- With it’s incredible brew pubs and much-drinking populas guzzling from free-flowing beer fountains throughout the city, Salt lake earns (once again) the top prize! Okay, I’m kidding- the top spot goes to Portland.

2- San Francisco- Totally cool city for pretty much everything you can imagine. Is there anything that San Fran isn’t in the top ten for (other than lowest cost of living)?

3- Denver- Sports-crazy town with all four major sports and a brew-pub for every ten people (it seems). Great place to be during any championship season.

4- Seattle- Techie geeks can pound back the brew- how else could someone get through 56 straight hours on the computer programming?

5- Philly- City of Brotherly drinking

6- San Diego- Beach parties account for 90% of beer consumed

7- DC- Lots of drinking on the hill? This explains a lot.

8- Boston- Celebrations are up since the Red Sox took the Series

9 & 10 (tie) New York- There’s a lot of everything in NYC

9 & 10 (tie) Chicago-It’s all those speak-easy’s

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Forbes ranks America’s drunkest cities

1- Milwaukee

2- Minneapolis

3-Columbus

4- Boston

5-Austin

6- Chicago

7- Cleveland

8-Pittsburgh

9- (tie) Philly

9-(tie) Providence

11-St Louis

12- (tie)San Antonio

12 (tie)- Seattle

14- Vegas

15- Denver/Boulder

*Salt Lake City is the least-drunk of American cities and we have the best-looking girls (well, other than these ten cities). Plus, the best mountains, the best real estate website, the best people, the best soil, the best…. um… dancers, the best singers, the best musicians, the best plants, the best- looking pets, the best top ten lists… and the best blog. And people are very polite here, well, unless they’re driving.

Keeping Your Home Cool During Summer

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As the weather warms and our lives begin to move outside, let’s take some time to think about keeping our homes a place where we can keep cool, but without spending all of our cold hard cash.

First, let’s look at our lifestyles and how they change with the warmer weather. Most people begin to move outside more, and that means opening doors more. Especially if you have kids. If you have children like mine your doors will be opened during the summer about once every 3.4 seconds, which presents a challenge to the air conditioner. Some tips on keeping the cool inside;

Make a plan- Discuss with your family which doors to use and ways to eliminate the need to go in and out as often. If the toughest spot in the house to keep cool is the front living room, maybe going out through the garage or a side door would be better.

Closing hinges- Put automatic-closing hinges on doors, so if children forget to close the door- it will close itself.

Solve Problems- Do the kids need to come inside for a glass of water every time they’re thirsty or can they use the garden hose to get a drink? Maybe installing a drinking fountain outside is a good idea. Eat more cold meals during the summer. Using your stove and oven can dramatically increase your home’s temperature.

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Before it gets hot you might want to check how efficient your home is- do an audit;

-Check your attic, garage walls and basement to make sure your home is insulated to DOE-recommended levels for your geographic area. Look for the R-value in insulation you buy, the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.

-Install attic fans- these fans suck the heat out of your attic and reduce your home’s internal temperature, as well as dramatically increase the efficiency of your air conditioner

-Install a hot-water heater blanket to increase its efficiency

-Do you have drapes and shades on windows to close out the heat during the hotter times of the day?

-Ceiling fans can help circulate the air and help the efficiency of the air conditioning.

-Install a programmable thermostat that can allow your house to be warmer while you’re away, but then cool it down during the hours you’re home.

-Trees can give natural shade to your home, in addition to their many other benefits.

-Get your air conditioning serviced to make it’s running properly- and clean or replace it’s filters.

-Check the weather stripping around doors and the seals around windows to ensure they are in good condition.

-Low-E windows can reduce your cooling bills substantially, especially if your current windows are single-pane or in disrepair.

-Shade your air conditioning unit. This cuts down it’s workload substantially

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Hydrate your body well. Drinking a lot of water will keep your bodies internal temperature down and replenish it with necessary moisture. When your body heats up it loses much more heat than normal and needs extra water.

Wearing light clothing or materials that breathe can also keep you cool during the summer. Fabrics like synthetics allow your body to breathe and cool itself much better than other sorts of material. Heavy shoes can also keep you hot. Consider flip flops or light shoes.

Wear sunscreen. Sunburns don’t just hurt, they also keep you hot. Avoid the burn (and skin cancer) by increasing your SPF.

Of course, there are other ways to keep cool…

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Understanding Credit Scores and Credit Reports

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Love em’ or hate em’, our credit scores affect our lives.

Your credit score is a number that is calculated based on your credit history to help lenders identify the level of risk they may be taking if they lend to you. Scores range from 300-900. The actual formula for exactly how the score is calculated is proprietary information and owned by Fair Isaac (FICO).

Your credit report is historical information about how you pay your bills and repay loans, how much credit you have available, what your monthly debts are, and other types of information that can help a potential lender decide your credit worthiness.

Credit scores are reported by over 1000 credit bureaus across the country, but most are affiliated with the three large bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Equifaxwww.equifax.com

  • To order your report, call: 800-685-1111 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • Experianwww.experian.com

  • To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013
  • TransUnionwww.transunion.com

  • To order your report, call: 800-916-8800 or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
  • Our credit scores help determine how much we pay, or if we even qualify to buy, almost everything. They are used by our insurance companies, banks, even HOA associations and clubs to assess membership qualifications. Your credit score says a lot about you. It tells a story about what you have purchased and how you have handled your responsibilities in paying your debt. It’s definitely not a perfect system, but it’s not going anywhere so you better learn the system.

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    Your FICO is made up of ;

  • 35% – An individual’s history of making credit payments on time
  • 30% – The total amount of debt being carried along with available credit
  • 15% – The age of an individual’s open credit lines (more history is better)
  • 10% – The frequency with which someone applies for new credit
  • 10% – Wild card factors such as the types of credit lines
  • Avoid these 4 pitfalls that lower your FICO score.

    1. Late Payments – Late payments and your payment history are the largest single factor of your credit score. Paying bills consistently on time shows you take your debt seriously and that’s what lenders are looking for. Extra weight is placed on recent payment history.

    2. Debt levels Too High- Don’t max-out or charge near the limit of your credit cards and equity lines. Carrying more than 25% balance hurts your score, and over 50% hurts it even more. Potential lenders want to see that you don’t spend all the money you have available to you.

    3. Debt-to-Income Too High – Carrying too much debt for your income hurts your score. Typically lenders have their own calculations for figuring your debt-to-income ratio (some include mortgage payments, etc) and often lenders have their own standards for what interest rates to charge based on your score. Certain types of loans (signature loans, loans for luxury items) may require you to have a lower debt ratio.

    4. Closing credit accounts- It may sound strange, but closing your credit card accounts can hurt your credit score, especially in the near future. Lenders look at your payment history and the history and duration of your accounts. Cancelling credit cards take away that history, and hurt your credit.

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    The higher your score, the lower your interest rate. Here, you can see the difference in interest you would pay with different scores. You can see that the difference between a score of 650 and 720 is about double the interest rate. To help understand the true effect your credit score can make, let’s use an example;

    You buy a home with a loan amount of $300,000 (nice round number). If your credit score was good, say 730, you could expect to get an interest rate around 6.125% and have a payment of about $1822 (Principle and Interest). If your credit score was 640 you could expect an interest rate of around 6.65% for the same loan, resulting in a monthly payment of $1926.

    You would be paying $104/month more simply because of your credit score. And let’s say you want a new car. Assuming a loan amount of $30,000 your 730 credit score could get you a monthly payment around $589, while that 640 score would result in a payment of $670, or $81 more/month.

    Let’s say you keep the car and the house for 5 years and then sell them to move out of town. You would have lost $11,100 just by having that credit score difference. And that 90-point drop in your credit score (from 730 to 640) could be caused by something as simple as missing a couple mortgage payments (One 60-day late). Or activating two new credit cards with a $500 limit each and maxing them both out. That $1000 would have actually cost you 10 times the amount.

    In the real world, your credit score and credit report can effect dozens of decisions over a five year period, resulting in a more significant difference than this example shows. Check your report a couple times each year to make sure it’s accurate. The $20 or so you’ll pay to check it could save you $thousands.

    If you’re a student, a young adult, or just don’t have a credit score yet, there now some help. Fair Isaac now offers the FICO Expansion Score, which helps you raise your score a little faster.

    Spring Cleaning Checklist

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    Ahh, the air is crisp and the birds are singing outside. The sunlight is getting warmer, clothing is getting lighter, and nature comes out of it’s hibernation. What a great time of year…

     If you’re planning on doing a good deep-clean on your home, here is a checklist and reminder list for you.

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    Kitchen

    -Refrigerator, throw away outdated food, clean shelves and drawers, pull it out and get behind it, vacuum grill and coil

    -Cabinets- take dishes and pans out, clean shelves and doors, reorganize to make best use of space

    -Run the dishwasher empty, with vinegar or baking soda

    -Deep-clean ovens and microwave

    -Dust off pictures, paintings, shelving, decorations, ceiling fans

    -Scrub and polish floors

    -Wipe down walls with warm water

    -Clean windows

    -Clean out hood vent, wash filter

    -Clean out freezer, discard unwanted items

    Tip- Use newspaper instead of paper towels to wash windows- it reuses the newspaper and scrubs the windows more effectively

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    Laundry

    -Clean behind washer and dryer

    -Unattach dryer hose and clean lint from inside and around

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    Bathrooms

    -Deep-scrub tubs and sinks

    -Clean out drawers, re-organize

    -Discard unused cosmetics and medications

    -Clean around toilets

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    Throughout House

    -Move furniture to clean behind and underneath, vacuum cushions

    -Take rugs outside and beat dust out of them, then vacuum

    -Take down paintings and pictures, clean them and behind them

    -Wipe down walls with warm water

    -Take down light fixtures and clean them

    -Shake rugs

    -Wash trash cans

    -Clean behind and dust off electronic devices

    -Check and replace light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs

    -Wipe down plants with damp cloth

    -Change batteries in smoke detectors

    -Shampoo carpets and rugs/ polish hardwood

    -Steam-clean upholstery

    -Reseal grout

    -Vacuum out vents

    -Take books off shelves, clean shelves, wipe down books

    -Polish wood furniture and banisters

    -Strip and re-wax vinyl or linoleum floors

    -Wash windows and screens

    -Replace cold weather bedding, (wash and put away) for warm weather bedding

    -Organize and clean out closets

    -Take out warm-weather clothing, clean and store away

    -Gather unwanted/unused toys and items to give to charity

    -Clean and organize storage areas and attic

    -Use WD-40 to lubricate door and window hinges

    -Polish hardware on doors, windows and drawers

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    Outside

    -Clean out gutters and window wells

    -Aerate and fertilize lawns

    -Turn soil in gardens

    -Clean outdoor furniture

    -Wash lighting fixtures

    -Spray down outside of house and wash dirty areas with soapy water

    -Scrub cement areas with thick outdoor broom and soapy water

    -Wash patio and porch walls and ceilings

    -Re-paint or stain wood decks and fences

    -Check and replace hot tub and swimming pool filters

    Daylight Savings Starts Tomorrow

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    It’s that time of year- tomorrow clocks spring ahead one hour, effectively adding one hour of sunlight each evening. Standard time to change your clocks is at 2am on the second Sunday of March and then standard time begins again on the first Sunday in November (Nov 4th this year).

    The concept of Daylight Savings ( or “Summer Time” in much of the world) was born in 1784 when Ben Franklin wrote a humorous post titled An Economical Project while serving as an American delegate in Paris.

    And remember to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

    More about Daylight Savings.

    More on Benjamin Franklin.

    Salt Lake City Ranked #6 For Jobs

    Forbes recently released an article announcing the “Best Cities For Jobs.”

    Topping the list is Raleigh, North Carolina, followed by Phoenix, AZ, Jacksonville, FL, Orlando, FL, and the Washington D.C. area. Salt Lake City, Utah ranks sixth on the list, up six spots from last years rank.

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    Blogging Stats, Facts, and Growth

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    Millions of people have registered blogs, almost 800,000 on WordPress alone, but there are 300 million people in America and billions around the world.

    How many blog? What are the trends? What are the numbers?

    C|Net says

    30% of People Blog

    52% Believe bloggers should have the same rights as jounalists

    80% Do not believe that bloggers should be allowed to publish home addresses and other personal information about private citizens

    72% Favor censorship of personal information about celebrities

    68% Favor censorship of personal information about elected or appointed government officials

    39% Say blogs are less credible than newspaper articles

    According to PEW/Internet

    By the end of 2004- 8 Million people had created a blog

    27% of internet users read blogs

    5% said they used RSS

    12% had left comments on blogs

    62% didn’t know what a blog was

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    Technoarti says that they are currently tracking 55 Million Blogs and in 2006 the blogosphere was 60 times larger than 3 years earlier.

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    Technorati also says that a new blog is created about every second and of those, 55% of new bloggers are still posting after three months.

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    And, in 2006, there were approximately 1.2 Million new posts/day or about 50,000/hour.

    Prudential apparently doesn’t even allow their employees to post blogs. From the company Feb/March issue of PrudentialLeader magazine, “Prudential policy prohibits creating or posting to blogs, no matter the content.” Not that it makes much difference, according to the magazine, only 5% of their employees read blogs daily.

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    And we know Apple doesn’t blog from fear of someone letting out company secrets, and the company uses secrecy to generate interest and garner publicity when it will help sales. Is corporate blogging an American thing?

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    In contrast, Microsoft has long used published plans of future products to generate publicity. Microsoft encourages it’s employees to blog. As do many other companies. If you are thinking about starting a company blog, here are some do’s and don’t’s for you to consider.

    Blogging can bring traffic to a website but that’s not the point of it. The objective of good blogs is to be a resource of information and frank discussion.

    Website Design Flaws and Pet Peeves

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    Some websites are getting pretty fancy and some are remarkably plain, yet we all have our own taste for design and functionality so there is no definitive design solution. Having said that, there are definitely elements that annoy most people and should be avoided.

    Here are my top five website pet peeves;

    1- Pop-ups. I don’t mind a box already on the site that asks if I want to take a survey or something, but pop-ups are horrible.

    2-Requiring registration to get information. Give me value and let me decide if I want to register.

    3-Websites that have no design. Template sites that are link farms or just huge pages of text.

    4- Long, scrolling pages of text. If you have a lot to say about a subject, use topics or categories

    5- Music that auto-starts and isn’t easy to turn off. If I want music, I’ll turn on my own. Having subtle sound effects can be fun, but they need to be subtle and only on a few items.

    According to Hostway’s survey of more than 2400 Internet users;

    The top 5 things that bother people most when visiting a website are

    Pop-Up Ads (93% !)

    Requiring them to install software (89%)

    Dead Links (86%)

    Requiring Registration (83%)

    Slow-Loading Pages (83%)

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    Startup Nation has a forumtitled, “Website Pet Peeves- what annoys you most?” The pet peeves noted by the participants included;

    - Websites that blast music or any type of audio as soon as it loads.

    • The only thing worse (at this moment) is the same site that also doesn’t let you turn it off!!!

    • Flash that has no value besides to be “flashy”.

    • Sites that fall apart in Mozilla, Firefox or Opera.

    • Sites that use popups, popunders, or any advertising that scrolls / blocks the actual content.

    • hyoog (sik) blocks of text with no paragraph breaks, and text on backgrounds that make it almost impossible to read whatever is in that text.

    • sites that are built for the PC user and not the Mac user in mind.

    • Sites that make you search all over to figure out how to contact someone, for the answer to a simple question.

    • websites that are one big image!

    • typos and bad grammar.

    • Neon colors

    Nancy Barney, owner of WritingPlanet.com posts her top ten pet peeves at 123Interactive (also at Self SEO and Web4to40)

    10. Websites with nothing on the home page to identify itself.

    9. Flashy, sparkly, swirling intro pages.

    8. Music, or any other sound, that starts up when you click on the home page and you can’t turn it off.

    7. Excessive drop down menus.

    6. Too many moving parts.

    5. Web page that is too long or too big.

    4. Totally invalid search results

    3. Websites that look like they were shot out of a shotgun.

    2. Text size that is too small or too large.

    1. Content is hard to read because of text and/or background colors.

    Useit lists their top ten mistakes of web design

    10- Not answering user’s questions

    9- Opening new browser windows

    8- Violating Design Conventions (not being consistant with how majority of sites navigate)

    7- Anything that looks like an advertisement

    6- Page titles with low search-engine visibility

    5- Fixed font size

    4- Non-scannable text (sik)

    3- Non changing color of visited links

    2- PDF files for on-line reading

    1- Bad search

    Maureen at WebAngelDesign has four pet peeves;

    - Stop using CLICK HERE as a link to another page, instead use the words of the page you are directing people to as the linkable text

    - Using frames

    - Long, scrolling pages

    - Blinking

    FastCompany published it’s 5 Fatal Flaws back in 1998

    1- Don’t try to lure users to your site by bragging about your adoption of new Web technologies.

    2-  Don’t turn pages into orphans.

    3- Beware of Blink

    4- Break with Frames

    5- Long download times

    When creating a website it’s important to give it your personality- be bold and creative. Just keep in mind these top annoyances and flaws so people who visit your site will enjoy it as much as you do.

    How Blogging Changes People

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    Reading Seth Godin’s blog I came across a post titled If no one reads your post, does it exist? It’s a short post that discussed how blogging changes people and it has a great message for bloggers.

    I agree, and as I alluded to in a previous post, I think writing a blog can change how you approach a topic, and eventually even change why you blog in the first place. When I first began blogging a few years ago it was some sort of cosmic thing, like I was putting my thoughts out into the cosmos or something, and then as people began blogging more and people actually started to read my blog I sat up a bit and thought more about what I was writing.

    When I started BlueRoof and began this blog I knew I wanted to be less filtered than some other company blogs I read, but I became more aware of what I was writing about. I have probably written 50 or 60 posts that have eventually been deleted without being published because of the content, or because I just re-read it and decided it wasn’t good material.

    Several times I’ve come across posts on other blogs that I thought I had written about, but I had only began writing about it and had no posted it yet, or I had only thought about writing about it and just didn’t get to it.

    Sometimes I feel more inspired to write and sometimes I feel like I haven’t published anything for a while so I should. I really enjoy blogging. And I like that people read my blog, and it really does give you a sense of humility when your traffic is down for a couple days. Blogging has changed my daily routine and has caused me to spend much more time researching things than I ever did before.

    There have been days where I’ve began writing many posts and saved them to be finished or published later. Sometimes I begin writing about something and then think, “this will bring more heat than I want,” so it gets deleted. Other times I post about random stuff that I’m sure has little purpose, other than I find it interesting.

    Blogging has changed me in a few ways. I think about topics now, I notice business practices and industry events more and I’m much more informed of new business models coming into the indrustry now.

    Blogging also changes some people who don’t blog themselves. Some people seem to be professional commentors or critics. They troll around criticising and judging, but not writing their own stuff. Some people have become really great participators, adding to conversations and giving different perspectives. And many just read the information they are looking for and move on, but (many times) with a broader understanding of the topic they were researching.

    I’ve probably learned about more new companies in the last year by reading TechCrunch than I have the rest of my life combined. And I’ve definitely learned a lot more about the real estate industry and certain markets because of blogging.

    Search engines have richer results and we can find more information about subjects due to the blogging community. When I was looking into a new hosting company for a website, I found the best research on blogs where people gave their experiences and opinions about different companies. It’s good to read the pros and cons from other people.

    Blogging connects us and brings ideas together in ways that cannot be accomplished otherwise. Having a topic discussed and commented on and having it go off in different directions, you really get to learn about topics in many ways. When you really think about it, blogging has changed how many of us communicate, learn and instruct. Blogging has changed the internet and it is beginning to change business practices in general.

    And that has an affect on all of us.

    Can Trulia Become a National MLS?

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    Trulia has grown very fast and now is in position to become the closest thing there is to a national MLS now that they have signed agreements with Keller Williams and Reaology, which includes the Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and ERA brands.

    So, what might a national MLS replacement mean to brokers, agents, and consumers?

    It depends. It depends on Trulia and how they use the listing information and it depends on the brokers and how they allow their listings to be handled, and whether the relationship grows or not. And it depends on the consumer and their web-searching habits and preferences.

    One of the things that can come from Trulia taking over for the MLS, especially in Utah (where we have probably the most absurd, controlling MLS’s in the country), is there would most certainly be far less restrictions with the data and how it is used- and for sites that want be offer the consumer a good experience instead of a template, like BlueRoof- it means a lot less money because the MLS charges tens of thousands of dollars per year for me to display listings the way I do. I am one of only a couple companies that are willing to pay this outrageous fee, but with the MLS becoming less relevant I may decide to not use their data anymore and instead work with Trulia and their data.

    And the consumer may be allowed to see much more than our facist rulers  MLS representatives currently allow.

    The MLS was formed to serve its members, but has become just another for-profit company that looks out for its coffers, many times at the expense of the members- and that is something I will be glad to see dissapear.

    If Trulia keeps the agents and brokers in their court they should continue to grow, but VC funding and a tech-guy perspective might start to erode their “friendly” model once they attract enough traffic that agents begin to rely on them. That’s the new way of making money for many tech companies- give it for free and be everyone’s friend, generate a lot of traffic/users, then charge for everything to make profit.

    It’s always scary when brokers and agents rely too heavily on tech people. Trulia has demonstrated huge success thus far, we’ll see what they do with it…

    Presenting an Offer to the Other Broker’s Clients

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    Yesterday a property came back on the market after the previous buyers could not secure financing. A client of mine was very interested and wanted to see it as soon as possible, as homes that are priced well are going very quickly. I called the listing agent to schedule an appointment and he told me to go ahead and show it last night. “Just knock first”, he told me. I asked me if he was sure it would be alright, as it would be at 9:30pm and he assured me that it was no problem and if the seller’s weren’t home to use the keybox.

    I show up with my buyers and knock on the door, wait, knock again, wait and knock a third time. No answer- so I find the keybox, which was conveniently hidden on the side of the house in the bushes (?!?) and unlock the door. As I walk in I call out, “Hello- Realtor!” as I always do when showing owner-occupied homes, and we walk through the living room turning on lights and into the kitchen. Just then the seller walks in from the lower level and introduces himself. He then tells us that the listing agent had not called to schedule the showing and their two children were asleep so it wouldn’t be a good time to show the property. We appologize for the intrusion and quietly walk out.

    As we are leaving my buyer’s mom (who was with him for support as this is his first time buying) says something about the listing agent not being very good at his job and they wasted their time driving across town because the agent didn’t call the sellers. Once outside, I agree with her and let them know I’ll try to reschedule a showing as soon as possible.

    So I get home and call the listing agent, who does not answer, and leave him a message informing him of what had happened and ask if we can schedule an appointment for this morning.

    This morning the agent doesn’t call me so I call him (no answer) and then the co-listing agent from the MLS, who answers and says it will be fine to show the home. After letting him know about last night he agrees to call the seller and make sure it will be alright. I arrive to show my client the home, who decides to bring mom, dad, and sister because he thinks he really likes this one and wants their opinion. After walking through the home my client tells me loves the home. Mom, dad and sister all love the home, too. He wants the home and wants to right the offer immediately, which we do.

    I call the co-listing agent, who is out of town until Monday, but is the only one who will answer their phone, let him know that my client loves the home and we have written an offer. We put the acceptance time as tonight at 8pm hoping to get it accepted before any other offers come in. No such luck.

    The co-listing agent calls me to let me know that two additional offers have come in this afternoon. We talk on the phone for a while and I make the argument for my clients offer, which was $900 under full price and asking for a few small concessions, but has already been pre-approved for a convential loan with 10% down. I’m a bit worried that our offer is not full price and whether the sellers didn’t like hearing my client’s mom saying things about the listing agent (you never know). My client wants to try to get his offer accepted as written, although he is willing to pay more if needed.

    After discussions with my assistant (while I was in a meeting) and with me several times throughout the day the listing agent tells me that he knows of me and knows I do a lot of business and he has told his clients that he would prefer to work with me because of my experience.

    He tells me that his client’s main concern is getting the deal done by the end of this month. They are scheduled to close on the home they are buying at the end of the month and if they don’t close by a certain day they lose their interest rate lock, which I am told was locked when rates had dipped briefly one day.

    I know our offer isn’t as high as at least one of the other offers when the listing agent makes a reference to it, but tells me that he and his client would rather work with our offer if we can make the terms work for them. After more lengthy phone conversations with the other agent and my client, we come to terms and it looks like we’ve come to an agreement.

    The sellers want to be sure the buyer is getting a convential loan so there won’t be any FHA appraiser problems (FHA appraisals often come in low and have tons of bogus demands). However, my client now tells me that he has spoken with his lender and wants to get an FHA loan so he can do a streamline refinance in a year and remove his father (who is co-signing) from the loan and keep a good interest rate. I talk to him about convential streamlines, but his lender is a good friend of his and has convinced him that this is the very best option for him.

    Back to negotiating with the other side, we negotiate the terms of having the loan be FHA and what happens if there are appraisal issues and how that would look. We agree how to write it up, but the other agent is out of town until Monday and apparently has no fax capabilites at the hotel so he can’t write a counter-offer.

    I know how much my client wants this home and worrying that the seller might take one of the other offers if given time to think about it, one being for more money and has the buyers getting a conventional loan, I suggest that I write the counter offer and email it to him so he can approve it and then I can drive over to his seller house to get it signed after he has disscussed it with them.

    It’s now 11pm tonight and my client is just getting off work and coming down the canyon from his job. I tell him I’ll meet him at my house (which is close to the mouth of the canyon) in thirty minutes for him to sign the counter offer, figuring that gives me enough time to run over to the sellers house, get it signed and be home.

    I call the sellers (as requested by the listing agent) and let them know I’ll be right over. Upon arriving, the sellers invite me downstairs so we don’t wake the sleeping children. I have the counter offer with me, but they ask that I go over the entire offer with them to help them understand it as this is the first home they have sold.

    So it’s now 11:15pm and I’m in the seller’s basement, where I just happen to notice two other offers sitting on the desk (one for $3000 more than our offer unless there is something on an addendum to it that is not in site), a financial breakdown of net profit comparing three sets of numbers (I assume without staring at them that they are comparing the three offers)on the computer, and I’m thinking about the comment my my client’s mom made about the other agent and how I have still not spoken to the listing agent (only the co-listing agent). I want to make a strong presentation of my client, especially knowing the seller has two other offers they can accept, but I don’t want to cross the line of implied representation with sellers who I think are taking an offer that is lower in price than other offers and I know my client will pay, with additional concessions, and with my client getting an FHA loan although the sellers don’t want the hassles of dealing with the FHA appraisal. And the co-listing agent has told me that he and the sellers want to work with me because of my reputation and experience and they feel like I will be good to work with. They had the home under contract before- did the listing agent not go over the contracts with them then? I have to be back home to meet my client in about ten minutes- Plus- I represent the buyers.

    So I inform the sellers how this is going to happen. I’m going to explain the contract and the terms that are in the contract. I will not advise them or give them any information about my clients and I advise them that they might call their agent after I have explained the contracts to them and discuss it while I wait outside. 

    I go over the contract with them and explain the terms that have been offered and I explain the counter-offer that they are making to my client, that I wrote for them, as discussed with their agent. They ask me a few simple, technical questions about the meaning of certain terms in the contract and such and I answer. When I finish going over the contracts with them I explain where to sign and initial each page.

    As they are initialing the agency part of the contract they tell me that I am really earning my commission tonight.

    Finishing up with the sellers, I thank them for staying up late to get this done and drive home to meet my client. He signs the counter offer, I get him a copy and fax a copy to the co-listing agent.

    The deal is only entering escrow now, but I did earn my commission today…

    Utah Real Estate Prices Continue Hot Streak

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    According to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), Salt Lake City ranked fourth in the country for appreciation last year with home prices rising 19.8%. Following only Bend, Oregon (21.4%), Wenatchee, Washington, and Salt Lake’s southern neighbor, Provo-Orem (19.9%).

    The Salt Lake Tribune  published an article today about the rising home prices, stating, “Utah’s home price appreciation, the worst in the country just three years ago, is now the best nationwide.”

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    Nationally, home prices rose  5.9% during that time period, while all of Utah’s major metropolitan areas posted major gains in the past year. And it’s not only sales prices that have been strong, but time on market has been great, with well-priced homes moving fairly quickly, and over-priced homes not selling. This tells me that the market is not inflating itself, but is being driven by healthy factors, such as jobs and demand.

    Also from the article;

    Much of Utah’s current real estate boom has to do with the state’s strong job market, said Andrew Leventis, economist with Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Job growth in the state, among the highest nationally, is expected to continue strong through this year and next. “Employment and house prices are closely linked,” Leventis said. Another factor in Utah’s favor is affordability. Utahns struggling to afford a home may think otherwise, but Utah still has “fairly affordable housing,” Leventis said.

    The Salt Lake real estate market should remain strong for the next few years with the continued job and population growth and the influx of buyers from out of state. One reason I feel good about the growth in the northern Utah market is the fact that the appreciation rate is under 20%, meaning it is not rising too much too fast, which would make it unsustainable. This year the local market should appreciate 10-12% and that is about as good as it gets.

    Investing in Student Housing

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    As a broker for a large real estate company in Boulder, Colorado I learned the benefits of investing in student housing when my agents would tell me about their clients. Parents who would buy an area property, rent it out to the friends of their kids, and then sell it after their child graduated for a lot of profit. Many times their kids didn’t even need to pay any rent because it was covered by their friends renting rooms. And having a student with friends is better than any property management company when it comes to finding students looking for a place to live.

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    (MSN- Data from US Census Bureau)

    When investors call and want information on buying rental properties in the Salt Lake area, one of the first places I advise them to search is close to the University of Utah. Being close to the University gives them a higher probability of finding a renter.

    Sure, college students can be tough on a property, but so can anyone. I’ve had renters who seemed like salt-of-the-earth people, but once moved in and comfortable began destroying the property with their lifestyle and poor judgement.

    And it’s not only students who want to be close to the University. The energy and culture that surrounds the area attracts alumni and people who enjoy an active lifestyle. This includes families, you ng couples, single people, and out-of-state people who want the liberal atmosphere that usually comes with living close to U.

    The Real Estate Bloggers write about this saying, “the market for student rentals tends to be recession proof as a college education is never going out of style.” Good point. The blog also direct us to a post from the LA Times, which says, “According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment will grow by 11% between 2003 and 2013. Higher education is less affected by economic trends. When times are bad, more people seek a college degree to improve the job prospects; when times are good, a sheepskin becomes even more important. Moreover, children of the baby boom generation are taking longer than their predecessors to graduate, so they need housing for a longer stretch.

    Next, toss in the fact that rents for student-housing properties have been rising at a higher rate than at conventional apartments, according to the National Multi-Housing Council, and you have the makings for what savvy real estate investors call a “good niche opportunity.”

    Carl Peppers writes more here

    eHow offers tips on how to invest in student housing properties

    Daily Californian writes Students Try to Find Housing-to Buy

    MSN writes Student housing gets good investment grades

    Average Median Income by State- Utah 9th Highest

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    According to the US Census Bureau, income levels didn’t increase in every state in 2005. From 2004 to 2005 average income levels in 24 states dropped, with Virginia faring the worst, dropping 5.6%, followed by Kansas (-5.5%), Wisconsin (-4.6%) and Missouri (-3.8%).

    Other states saw an increase over the same period, led by Maine (+5.5%), Vermont (+5.1%), Maryland (+4.4%), Hawaii (+4.0%) and Arkansas (+3.8%).

    Utah saw an increase of 2.4%, which placed the Beehive State with the 9th highest median income in the nation at $53,693.

    The highest median income in the country in 2005 belonged to New Jersey ($60,246), followed by Maryland ($59,762), Hawaii ($58,854 ), New Hampshire ($57,850 ), Connecticut ($56,889 ), Alaska ($56,398 ), Minnesota ($56,098 ), Massachusetts ($54,888 ).

    The median income for the country in 2005 was $46,071, which was 0.4% higher than the previous year.

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    Higher Education makes a significant impact on how much most people earn.

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    Approximately 63% of the population who earn over $60,000/year have at least a college bachelors degree, with only 3% of those people not finishing high school. Of those people who did not finish high school, 69% make less than $30,000/year.

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    Of those people who have earned a graduate degree, almost 90% of them make over $30,000/year and 79% make over $40,000 annually.

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    And how much income do you need to make before you are considered to be rich? The largest number of people surved think earning between $100,000-$200,000 makes you rich.

    (Charts by New York Times)

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