Saturday, July 31, 2010

Five Smart Reasons to Buy a Home Now

For Your Clients: Five Smart Reasons to Buy a Home Now
RISMEDIA, July 30, 2010--The economy is stabilizing. Home prices are holding. It's not just as good a time as ever to buy a house. It's one of the best times ever. presents five overlooked reasons why now is a great time to buy a house.

1. Low mortgage rates serve as an equity shock absorber. When buyers borrow at today's record-low rates, they start building equity as soon as they close. That means they have a little give to absorb a few ups and downs as the still-recovering housing market gains traction.

2. Houses are in move-in condition. Homeowners have continued to spend on maintenance and repair, according to the Harvard Joint Center on Housing. Homeowners who have been holding back kept their houses in good shape while they waited. As those houses enter the market, they are in marked contrast to tattered foreclosures.

3. Terrific houses are coming on the market. Foreclosures are finally starting to clear the system – and this is just the opportunity that owners of many desirable properties have been waiting for.

4. Appraisal regulations are finally aligned with market realities. Fannie Mae has adjusted its appraisal guidelines...again. Now that appraisers have more flexibility to set values that reflect the current market, today's deals will make it over the finish line.

5. Plenty of programs. Homes are more affordable than they have been for years, but communities have stuck by "workforce housing" programs that encourage middle-class families to buy houses. Buyers who qualify can get a big boost by combining one of these programs with today's low mortgage rates.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Segway Tour

Two summers ago I was GREAT about my Kansas City Staycation - the reason I initially started this blog! These past two years, for whatever reason, I have not been good. I think my problem is I need a "partner in crime" to go on activities with me!! Anyone up for the challenge? I can have multiple partners in crimes for different activities! Come on, you know you want to experience Kansas City with me!!!

How about a Segway Tour?? A while back there was a groupon for Segway tours. (If you have not checked out: My office bought a few thinking it would be a great office activity. The only problem is you can only go in groups of 8 (and we have way more than 8 agents in our office!). SO, I need some buddies to go with!! They are hour long tours and expire Sept 26th. Here are the choices:

For $20, you get a choice of one of four 60-minute tours with Segway Experience of Kansas City (an up to $50 value). For safety reasons, this Groupon is valid for riders weighing less than 350 pounds aged 12 and older. Children aged 12 to 17 years old must also have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian.

Your choice of Segway tours are:

• Urban Journey: Starting from palatial Union Station, explore Kansas City's most treasured historical landmarks, including Liberty Memorial (the nation's only World War I museum), before gliding up to the observation deck for one of the best views of this thriving, ever-changing Midwestern metropolis. ($40 value)

• Segway Safari: Tour the Kansas City Zoo by Segway, baffle Dumisani and his pride of lions with your curious mode of transportation, and bump through the Australian outback surrounded by bemused red kangaroos riding their own Segways. ($50 value, extra $11.50 admission fee required)

• Plaza: Starting from the historic Courtyard Marriott, glide through Mill Creek Park and find out why KC is the City of Fountains before continuing on through the stunning Spanish-inspired architecture and artwork of Country Club Plaza. ($50 value)

• Union Station: Tour the Station's 900 Beaux Arts-inspired rooms and learn the incredible history of the structure that helped put Kansas City on the non-piratical map, as well as what it was like during its heyday. ($40 value)

Available Tuesday through Sunday, Segway Experience's tours are a game-changing way to sightsee Kansas City for families, out-of-town visitors, and time travelers with a broken-down DeLorean. Don't worry about getting the hang of your Seg-legs, though. Each Segway is equipped with high-speed microprocessors, solid-state gyroscopes, and powerful electric motors that keep you balanced. Call ahead to reserve your Segway tour, and roll through KC while absorbing its history and beauty without the use of a shopping cart or hamster-propelled roller shoes.

In the event of bad weather, tours will be rescheduled.

Let me know if you are interested in joining me!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Getting Ready for Your Home Appraisal

Great information on appraisals. I know I had some issues earlier this year with one!

For Your Clients: Getting Ready for Your Home Appraisal
By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, July 16, 2010--Home appraisals are a necessary step in the process of selling or refinancing your home. While many homes today aren’t worth as much as they were when they were bought, it is crucial for homeowners to be realistic when it comes to getting their home appraised.

If you are in the process of getting your home ready to be put on the market or interested in refinancing, the experts at Equity Mortgage Lending offer the following things to keep in mind as you prepare for your home appraisal.

•The appraiser will need approximately 30 minutes to one hour to complete the inspection phase of the appraisal process, which includes: exterior photos of the front and rear of the home and a photo of the street in front of the property; measurements of the exterior of the home, garage and any outbuildings; a walk-through inspection of all rooms and levels of the interior of the home including the basement.
•Get organized. Put together a checklist that will help you get ready for your appraisal and get the results you're looking for.
•Be flexible when scheduling the appointment.
•Have a copy of your home’s blueprint to help verify measurements and lot size.
•Provide a list of improvements made to the property since the purchase. Improvements that should be noted include adding a pool, patio, updating your kitchen or bathroom and any room additions, etc.
•Allow your appraiser access to the entire property, including access to any crawl space or attic areas.
•Keep in mind that a clean home makes a good impression. Be sure to trim the lawn, clean the pool and garage, repair cracked windows or torn screens, check for leaky faucets and secure gutters and down spouts before your appraisal.
•Point out any amenities that may not be obvious to the appraiser: sprinkler systems, patios, pools, security systems, built in vacuum, etc.
•Provide a copy of last year's tax assessment information.
•Know what year the house was built and when improvements were made.
•The first thing appraisers look for is comparables, so be prepared and have a list of recent sales of similar properties in the immediate neighborhood.

Eight Ways To Get More Out of Your Day

Here are some GREAT ways to get more out of your day. I LOVE the "don't reinvent the wheel" one and always say (and try to follow) that one! I think in this day and age, we should use each other as resources and NOT competition. I also did #1 just last week! I had a past client who is wanting/needing to sell and it's going to end up being a short sale. I'm not as knowledgeable about short sales, but there is an agent in my office who is. I sent the referral to her and I feel happy knowing my client is going to get the BEST service possible!!

Eight Ways To Get More Out of Your Day
By Lisa Kanarek

RISMEDIA, July 17, 2010--As a business professional, you undoubtedly wear many hats—from that of juggler (of yours and others' projects) to firefighter, putting out the fires (crises) you face each day. Ideally you should be able to walk into your office each morning, cross everything off your to-do list and go home with a sense of accomplishment. In reality, that's not always possible. Your day is filled with tasks and interruptions that devour your time, talents and energy. There are several ways to make each minute count, starting with these tips.

1. Before you agree to handle a task from a client, make sure that you're the most qualified person to handle it. If a client wants to hire you for something outside of your field of knowledge, rather than jeopardize your reputation, recommend someone else who could handle the task better. Don't be surprised if several months later, the same client calls you again to utilize your expertise.

2. Throughout the day, ask yourself if what you are doing is the best use of your time. You may not be working on an activity you enjoy, yet if it is a top priority, continue doing it.

3. Don't assume; ask questions. When a client asks you to do something, don't do it automatically. Ask questions to ensure that you understand what your client wants and in what form. If you complete a task then realize that it wasn't what your client had in mind, you'll waste more time and energy redoing your work. Get a clear understanding of the request, then start to work on it.

4. Don't reinvent the wheel. If your client asks you to do something that you or someone else has done previously, let him or her know. Your client may have forgotten that the same project was completed the year before. There is no sense in replicating something that has been done already.

5. Get off the phone as soon as possible. When a caller keeps you on the phone longer than necessary, gently prompt him to end the call. You could tell them that you have another call, that you are on a tight deadline or, if they have requested something, tell them that you want to get started on it immediately.

6. Make your environment conducive to working. This covers two areas: your actual work space and the area surrounding it. If your office is disorganized, you will waste time throughout the day searching for files, replacing lost information and "running in place." Take the time to clear your desk of any distractions, from magazines to knick-knacks, that could be placed on your credenza or shelf near your desk. If you only use an item on your desk every few months, move it to a space that is not in the main flow of your office.

7. In retail they say, "Location, location, location." The same is true in a home office. A desk located in a high-traffic area is as welcome as a marching band in a library. If your desk is in the kitchen, you will soon notice a few of your office supplies missing. If possible, move to a new location that is away from the flow of traffic but not so far away that you feel isolated.

8. Stay focused on the activity at hand. When you're tired of working on something, move on to something else, but avoid jumping from project to project.

Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of and the author of Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Blakely Press) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press).

Monday, July 19, 2010

7 Lawn Care Tips for the Summer Season

Lawn care tips always come in handy. I happen to have bad allergies, so I have some great guys that take care of my lawn for me and help it look great. I just got rid of all the bushes in front of my home (I've always disliked them but after getting poison oak they were really going!) so I look forward to working on the front and making it beautiful!

For Your Clients: 7 Lawn Care Tips for the Summer Season

By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, July 17, 2010-The summer is officially upon us. And what that, comes weeds, bugs and, of course, more time needed to tend to your lawn.

Here, learn how you can make the most of the season with these summer lawn care tips:

1. Proper watering and water conservation is important at any time of year, but particularly when heat and a lack of rain lead to water deficits and drought.

2. Evaluate your lawn regularly for signs of irregular color and texture. These can be signs of damage that may result from pests or disease.

3. Proper year-round lawn care keeps a lawn healthy and prevents weeds, disease and pests. But sometimes, insects you may not notice can travel from the yard to your home. To stop them, hire pest control to keep the bugs on the outside. You can also reduce their outside presence by treating the lawn for insects such as fleas and ticks and fire ants.

4. While lawns are generally the focal point of most yards, don't forget about trees and shrubs. Well-maintained landscaping adds dimensionality to a home and increases its value.

5. In the heat of the summer, you may be tempted to mow your lawn in shorts and flip flops, but remember, you need to stay safe: wear long pants and closed-toed shoes.

6. Also, no matter what outdoor activity you're enjoying, be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water.

7. The essentials of good summer lawn care are watering, fertilizing and proper mowing. However, sometimes an underlying problem (such as bare spots or severely damaged turf) requires additional measures.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I HEART Twitter

I Heart Twitter :)

8 Ways You Should Be Using Twitter for Your Business
By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, July 14, 2010—By now, we all know that Twitter is one of the most-trafficked and used social media platforms…for both consumers and business professionals. But what’s the secret to getting more consumers to follow you…transitioning them from just followers to clients.

From the simple to the complex, there are a number of methods that real estate professionals should consider to improve their following on Twitter. Here are eight tips to consider, courtesy of

Tip 1
Include in your Bio and/or custom background the names (or @usernames) of the people twittering from your company account. It’s also a good idea to include additional contact info, like email addresses.

Tip 2
Listen regularly for comments about your company, brand and products—and be prepared to address concerns, offer customer service or thank people for praise.

Tip 3
Use a casual, friendly tone in your messages.

Tip 4
While you shouldn’t feel compelled to follow everyone who follows you, do respond to some questions or comments addressed to you.

Tip 5
If you like a particular message, retweet it. People often appreciate the sharing and amplification of their ideas, so look to retweet cool stuff.

Tip 6
Post links to articles and sites you think folks would find interesting—even if they’re not your sites or about your company.

Tip 7
Make sure your tweets provide some real value. Here are few examples to spark ideas:

•Offer Twitter exclusive coupons or deals
•Take people behind the scenes of your company
•Post pictures from your offices, stores, warehouses, etc.
•Share sneak peeks of projects or events in development
Tip 8
Don’t spam people. Twitter’s following model means that you have to respect the interests and desires of other people here or they’ll unfollow you. The most common way to run afoul of that understanding—and to thus look like a spammer—is to send unsolicited @messages or DMs, particularly when you include a promotional link.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Stay Hydrated in the Summer

I try to follow a bunch of blogs. Some of them are Real Estate related, some are Health & Fitness related and some are just fun (People of Walmart, It Made My Day, etc). Below is an article from Diets in Review. I'm pretty good about drinking a lot of water. I try to always have a glass by me (at home or at work) and I keep my water bottle in the car so I never forget it when I head to the gym. I can drink 32 ounces in an hour spin class. Here are some tips on staying hydrated!

How to Stay Hydrated in the Summer
by Margaret
With the hottest part of summer here, staying hydrated is even more important. Dehydration can lead to vomiting, dizziness and palpitations. Even if you’re not out sweating in the sun, these tips from FitSugar will help you stay in top form.

1. Be sure to hydrate before you workout, but don’t chug before you jump on the treadmill. To avoid compromising your workout, sip on two to three cups starting 60 minutes prior to exercise.

2. Replace soda with sparkling water. Most flavored versions are calorie-free, and still have that refreshing bubbly taste.

3. Carry a reusable water bottle. Refilling a water bottle is cheaper and better for the environment, plus, you’re more likely to get all the liquid you need if it’s always on hand.

4. Keep track of your consumption. In normal healthy adults, usually drinking when thirsty is enough to stay hydrated. But when you’re sweating more than usual, it’s good to keep in mind that the recommended daily intake of liquids is 9 cups for women and 12.5 cups for men.

5. Hydrate at work. Even if you’re not out in the sun, it’s important to keep water at hand throughout the day. Plus, air conditioning can reduce the ambient humidity, making sticky days more bearable but also drying out your skin.

6. Make your own sports drink. Try out our easy electrolyte water recipe to naturally replace electrolytes.

7. Drink water on the plane. If you’re traveling by air, it’s also good to try to avoid caffeine and alcohol during the flight. The humidity on board an aircraft is super low, drying out our bodies faster.

8. Plan ahead when you set out for the day, whether you’re just running errands or going on a long hike. Water may seem cumbersome to carry around, but it’s more important to avoid dehydration.

9. Drink a glass of water before meals. Not only will you have plenty of H2O for proper digestion, you’ll be less likely to overeat.

10. Eat your water. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies like watermelon, celery, lettuce, and cucumbers. Not only are they in season, they will keep your body hydrated.

Best Places to Live 2010 - CNN Money

CNN Money just came out with their top 100 places to live and THREE cities in our area made the list!! #7 - Overland Park, KS #27 - Lee's Summit, MO #49 - Blue Springs, MO Check and see if any cities in your area made the list:

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Appraisal Rules

I'm catching up on my google reader today. I LOVE the advice and blogs from The Mortgage Experts!

by Chris and Debbie Thomas
Fannie Mae appraisal rules are changing. Here's what you need to know:

-- If an interior inspection is required, the following photographs must be included in the appraisal:
-- Kitchen
-- All bathrooms
-- Main living area
-- Examples of physical deterioration, if present
-- Examples of recent updates, such as restoration, remodeling, and renovation, if present

-- If an underwriter thinks the appraisal does not support the value indicated in the report, they will not be able to arbitrarily reduce the value. They must follow the following process:
-- Contact the appraiser to address the report deficiencies.
-- Order a desk review appraisal or a field review appraisal. The appraiser performing the review appraisal must be licensed in the state where the property is located and must have the knowledge and experience to appraise the subject property with respect to both the specific property type and geographical location (in other words, the appraiser performing the review must be a local appraiser).
-- The lender can also order a new appraisal instead of ordering a review appraisal.
-- If they order a review appraisal or a new appraisal, it must be performed by a local appraiser and the value in the new appraisal must be used. The lender cannot average the values of the old appraisal and the new appraisal.

-- Appraisers who do not have the knowledge or experience to perform an appraisal in a specific area cannot be used for Fannie Mae appraisals.

-- If a foreclosed property is used as a comparable property in an appraisal, the appraiser must account for any differences between the foreclosed property and the subject property, such as the condition of the property.

-- Appraisers are not allowed to say they are prohibited from discussing the appraisal with the lender, as long as the lender contact is not someone who is involved in loan production (loan officers, processors, etc.), or someone who is paid on a commission basis, or someone who reports to anyone not independent of the loan production process.

-- Appraisers cannot deduct a dollar for dollar amount from the value of a comparable sale because of seller concessions. They can only deduct the amount that they believe resulted in an increase in the sales price.

Some of these changes take effect immediately and some take effect on September 1, 2010. The changes are only for loans being sold to Fannie Ma

HUD $100 Down Loan Program

Another great article by The Mortgage Experts in Colorado:

by Chris and Debbie Thomas

We've gotten a number of requests for information about HUD's $100 down deals in the past week, so here's a rundown of what you need to know:

-- A HUD home is a house that used to have an FHA loan, but it went into foreclosure. HUD now owns the property.
-- HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) is the agency that oversees the FHA loan program.
-- If a buyer makes a full price offer on a HUD home, they are able to buy the property with a down payment of only $100 if they get an FHA loan.
-- If they bid more than the listing price and want FHA financing, they have to pay any excess amount in cash.
-- A buyer does not have to get FHA financing to buy a HUD home. HUD does not care at all where the money comes from. They just want to sell the property.
-- HUD will pay up to 3% towards the buyer's closing costs and pre-paids. To get the 3%, you need to ask for it when you bid on the property.
-- Earnest money requirements are as follows: if the sales price is $49,999 or less, the earnest money is $500; if the sales price is $50,000 or more, the earnest money is $1,000.
-- If the buyer uses the FHA $100 down program and does not have to pay for any closing costs, they will be able to get their earnest money back at the closing (except for $100).

Do not let anyone try to talk your buyers out of getting FHA financing. The appraisal guidelines for FHA loans are a tiny bit more restrictive than they are for conventional loans, but there is hardly enough difference to avoid FHA loans. Some brokers who have "been in the business for years" have not kept up with the changes in the mortgage industry and are doing themselves and their clients a real disservice by avoiding FHA loans.

If a lender ever tells you to stay away from FHA loans, that probably means they are not approved to sell them. You should not use those lenders.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stop the Dampness

I'm doing some catching up on magazines and such today. It's a bit overcast here in KC so I don't mind just hanging out inside with the girls. (that's when they aren't barking at the fireworks outside!)

My dad got me hooked on the advice of Consumer Reports at a young age. For the most part, if Consumer Reports thinks it's good, it's golden in my dad's book. (hey, that's the reason I ended up getting a 52in flat screen a few months ago! - though they don't have the newest 4Runner ranked high which makes me sad b/c I LOVE mine and will for sure be getting another when my 2000 with 164k+ miles dies). SO, a few years ago when I got an ad for a new magazine from Consumer Reports - ShopSmart ;) (and YES, they have the ;) in the title!) I HAD to subscribe! Similar to Consumer Reports, ShopSmart ;) does not have advertising and it is all based on their tests.

One of the articles I read today was testing dehumidifiers and almost gave some advice on stopping dampness. With all the rain we had in June here in KC, I thought this was some good information to pass along:

If the room has standing water, sweating walls, or a permanent musty smell, a dehumidifier alone won't fix the problem. Here are three ways to treat moisture at it's source:

Control Rainwater - Clean and maintain gutters and downspouts, and make sure leaders extend at least 3 feet away from the house. For good measure, grade your property away from the foundation so that water can't reach the house. More involved fixes include excavating, waterproofing exterior foundation walls. and installing exterior drains.

Secure The Basement - Patch foundation walls with hydraulic cement. Small gaps in concrete can be filled with silicone. Waterproof coating, applied when walls are dry, might also help. Install a sump pump to move water from interior drains outside. Check plumbing pipes for leaks and condensation. And insulate your hot-and cold-water pipes. Make sure clothes-dryer ducts are vented to the outside and aren't leaking.

Ventilate Properly - Run the bathroom exhaust fan or open a window when showering. Squeegee or wipe down shower walls afterward. In the kitchen, use a vent hood that exhausts to the outdoors when cooking.

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!! This is just such a great song by Lee Greenwood sung by the students of PS22!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool this Summer

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool this Summer
By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, July 3, 2010--As the temperatures continue to rise this summer, so does the cost of keeping your home cool. While homeowners across the country come to depend on air conditioners to keep the temperature down during the warm summer months, there are other options that will keep you cool while keeping your energy bill low.

Fans and ceiling fans
-If you’re looking for ways to beat the heat, a ceiling fan can be a great investment for your home. This one appliance can make a room feel 6 or 7 degrees cooler, and even the most power-hungry fan costs less than $10 a month to use if you keep it on for 12 hours a day. Good fans make it possible for you to raise your thermostat setting and save on air-conditioning costs. Fans don’t use much energy, but when air is circulating, it feels much cooler. Ceiling fans are best, but a good portable fan can be very effective as well.

-You should remember that even mild air movement of 1 mph can make you feel three or four degrees cooler. Also, make sure your ceiling fan is turned for summer – you should feel the air blown downward.

Shades, drapes or blinds
-Install white window shades, drapes or blinds to reflect heat away from the house. Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon) to keep the sun’s heat out and help fans or air conditioners cool more efficiently. Always remember that the best way to keep your home cool is to keep the heat out.

Internal Heat
-The most common sources of internal heat gain are; appliances, electronic devices and lighting. Be aware of devices in your home that are generating heat and if you have air conditioning, use it wisely.

Don’t put lamps, televisions or other heat-generating appliances next to your air-conditioning thermostat, because the heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer. The heat they produce will make the thermostat think your house is warmer than it really is, and your system will run harder than it needs to.

-Unless you absolutely need them, turn off incandescent lights and heat-generating appliances. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents; they produce the same light but use a fifth the energy and heat.

-You should also try to avoid heat-generating activities such as cooking on hot days or during the hottest part of the day. If you are cooking, use your range fan to vent the hot air out of your house. By reducing the amount of heat in your home, you will use less energy to cool it.

-Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity. Deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides will keep your house cool in the summer and allow the sunlight to warm the house during the winter.

Roof and Walls
-Paint your roof white – If you’ve got a flat roof, paint it with a specially formulated reflective paint or just paint it white. The reflective effect will help to keep the rooms under the flat roof much cooler.

Other things to remember
-Humidity makes room air feel warmer, so reduce indoor humidity. Minimize mid-day washing and drying clothes, showering and cooking. When you must do these things, turn on ventilating fans to help extract warm, moist air.

-Avoid landscaping with lots of unshaded rock, cement, or asphalt on the south or west sides of your home because it increases the temperature around the house and radiates heat to the house after the sun has set.

-If the attic isn’t already insulated or is under-insulated, insulate it now. Upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by 10%.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What To Do When Something Smells

For Your Sellers: What to Do When Something Smells
By Suzanne Ziegler

RISMEDIA, July 2, 2010--(MCT)--Question: We recently spent the winter away. When we returned, our home had a repulsive odor. We have tried sprays, air fresheners and bought a dehumidifier, but nothing seems to help. We have looked everywhere and cannot find the cause. What can we do?

Answer: This is a puzzle that could have a simple answer, or it could require a complex investigation. Possibilities to look for include:

—A dead animal in a wall or other building cavity.

—Sewer gas entering the home through a floor drain or sewer trap that has dried out.

—Fouled paint or old cleaning supplies in a leaky container.

—A mop and pail left with water in the pail.

—Standing water in a washing machine.

Because the odor seems to be uniform throughout the house, the furnace fan and duct system — or something near them — could harbor the source. Check to see whether the odor is stronger anywhere when the furnace fan is not running.

These are just a few possibilities to consider as you try to solve the problem, according to Richard Stone, an extension educator in housing technology with the University of Minnesota. If you have thoroughly searched for the odor source and find nothing, he said, you should probably call a professional.

Several companies specialize in identifying odors, or you might want to bring in a professional who specializes in indoor environmental quality.


Q: We have two miniature dachshunds that have urinated many times on our beautiful, custom dining-room rug, which now has a bad odor. We have tried Nature's Miracle, Bissell Pro Heat carpet cleaner, and baking soda with vacuuming. Nothing has worked. What else can we do?

A: It's time to call in the pros.

Enzyme products work pretty well on synthetic rugs but don't do anything for wool, according to Mark Keljik, owner of Keljik's Oriental Rugs in Minneapolis.

Wool rugs that are professionally cleaned need to be soaked under water, so the hairs are completely saturated, he said. At Keljik's, the rug is soaked in water, then compressed with rollers. Clean water is exchanged for the dirty, then the rug is shampooed under water and hung up, where it is rinsed until the water runs clear.

"It works 99 percent of the time," Keljik said.

But it can be expensive to clean a wool rug: $280 for an 8 by 10 and $380 for a 9 by 12. The company usually keeps the rug for about two weeks to complete the process.

There are many other companies in the Twin Cities that clean wool rugs.

(c) 2010, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I've Done My Civic Duty!

I’ve done my civic duty…

Well, I can now cross off “be picked for jury duty” off my list of things to do! But, let’s be honest, it wasn’t actually on the list!

Monday I was called to report for jury duty for Jackson County, Missouri. I had been called once before, taken upstairs but not picked. This time, I wasn’t so lucky!
For those of you who have never been called (or chosen), here’s how it all goes:
You get to the courthouse at 8am and sit in a stuffy room with about 150-200 people. You get to watch a video about the judicial system with local celebrities (George Brett), local newscasters and a few judges. Then, they start calling names in groups of 60. I was the FIFTH name called! Seriously?!?!

After a while (It was actually fairly quick this time – probably by 1030am) the first group (mine) was taken upstairs to the courtroom – District 18. I was lucky enough to be one of the first 20 people which meant I got to sit in the jury box during the initial questions – AKA – the comfy seats!! During this time, both sides ask questions to the potential jurors to determine who they’d like to pick to become jurors. The last time I had jury duty, it was a medical malpractice case and I told them that it was over my head and b/c I have slight ADD, I’d just quit listening. I TOTALLY should have pulled the ADD card again. I only answered one question (bad idea). The main reason is many of the questions really didn’t apply to me and I was honestly sick of the questions and hearing the STUPID answers from fellow candidates. They are ALWAYS a few idiots in the room. #40 was a prime candidate for that – it was obvious right away she would NOT get picked. And honestly, if they’d sent her home at lunch we’d probably saved an hour listening to her stories!!

FINALLY around 5pm they gave us an hour break (but you couldn’t really go anywhere since the courthouse was closed and you’d get locked out) and told us they’d call us in at 550 to let us know who had been picked. Around 625pm we were finally called in and I was the SECOND number called. AUGH! To say the least, I was NOT happy. It had been a really long day and everything took WAY longer than planned. (It was VERY frustrating how late they ran after each break. 60 people were almost able to be back on time but the attorneys never were!)

During all this time, I did at least come up with some great comparisons for many of the people in the courtroom! On the wall, there was a photo of a judge (not our judge) who looked similar to Uncle Karl Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air! The attorney for the state looked like Ellen Pomeo (Dr Grey) from Grey’s anatomy. Her assistant looked like Tiger Woods. This at least gave me a little bit of amusement – and of course I shared with some of my fellow jurors. One of the other girls decided the judge kind of looked like a younger Gregory Hines. Oh, and how can I forget the defendant…he looked like a male Whoopi Goldberg!!

Tuesday, I reported for jury duty at 9am. District 18 was going to be my “friend” for the next few days.

The day started with opening statement and followed with 7 witnesses!! We had to hear the same story, from different points of view numerous times! AND it didn’t help that the defense attorney (who I like to refer to as Elmer Fudd) would ask the same question over and over and over again!! At points, I was offended by the repetition! (the judge was a bit annoyed with him as well and the attorneys were called to approach the bench NUMEROUS times!)

A little (brief) background on the case: The victim (and some family) went over to her mother’s house (at her mother’s request) to ask her mom’s husband (who had only been back in the home 10 days) to leave. The mother stayed in the car (she has some health issues) and the daughter (and possibly two others) went into the home. She had a short conversation with the defendant asking him to leave. He went out to the car to talk to his wife then went back into the home and came out with a knife. He came at the victim (the daughter) and they went around until her son got her away. The defendant went back in the home, got his bags and walked down the street. The victim has no stab wounds but does have bruising on her arm. The victim, her son, her niece and a stranger (who was sitting in the car across the street) all testified. They all had a little bit of a different version of the story and a few parts were inconsistent.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes of the day: (surprisingly, these were all answers to the defense attorneys questions)

From the victim – “No, and I don’t know what color the bird and caterpillar where either!”
From the son – “I told you 10 times!” And “what do you want?”
From the niece when asked how long the defendants hair was – “too long!” (this was asked by the state)
From the other witness when asked what the defendants hair looked like – “kind of crazy, like mine is!” (she was white and had curly hair – totally understood the crazy/frizz comment!)

After a long day, we were finally let go around 445pm. Needless to say I had a little frustration! Thankfully I had training with Cassy and she let me hit the punching bag for a while! (probably b/c I told her I’d cry if I didn’t hit something! – I was also having issues with a Realtor not returning my calls/emails!)

We all returned this morning expecting another long day! Instead of starting at 9am, we ended up starting around 10am so that the attorneys and judge could discuss the case and get the ball rolling quickly. Thankfully there weren’t any more witness and we were up in the juror room deliberating by 11am!! (and they took our cell phones away!)
They brought in lunch as we were deliberating. I won’t lie, my first reaction to all of this was that he was GUILTY! I don’t think any guy should strike a girl in any way AND if you were to come at me with a knife, I would be in fear for my LIFE! You don’t show someone a knife. A few of the others agreed with me, but a few didn’t. I had a few back and forth’s with one guy who believed that the defendant didn’t mean to harm her b/c if he wanted to, he would have stabbed her. SERIOUSLY!? He had a knife for fun? (I’m kind of glad I wasn’t the forman b/c I’m not sure I could have been calm with this guy). He also wanted to throw out almost all the witness testimonies b/c they were different and not fully consistent BUT thought they had “gotten their stories straight” b/c they all heard the defendant say “I’m going to kill you bitch.” I, along with a few others, do believe that the witnesses were telling THEIR truths. We all see things differently and are affected differently. I can not honestly say I’d remember all of my surroundings and exactly what happened if someone was coming at me with a knife. I’d only care about myself and that knife being as far away from me as possible! I’d be in fear for my life!!
We all discussed how we felt for a while. And read over and over the three counts that the defendant was charged with. We ALL agreed it was a domestic assault (they were relatives by marriage). We still didn’t agree if we could render a guilty verdict – without a reasonable doubt. There was still some doubt in the room. One of the other jurors reread the first count and noticed that it asked if the defendant had STABBED AT the victim. We all agreed that we could not agree, without a reasonable doubt, that this had happened. There was no proof. They never found the knife, she had no stab wounds…there just wasn’t proof!

Verdict – we the jury decided the defendant to be NOT GUILTY on all three counts.
I won’t lie, I think he is GUILTY, however, he was not guilty of the counts that he was charged with. I do think he threatened her and I do believe there was a knife involved that he threatened the victim with. However, with the evidence we had and the questions we were asked, we had to say he was NOT GUILTY.

Through this experience, I learned that even though it is my civil duty, I honestly don’t think I can do jury duty again. I did have some initial reactions - which I did not let affect my decision - but it was hard. I also was VERY curious about other things that were not presented: why didn’t the family know the mom/grandma’s husband very well? How long had they actually been married? The mom/grandma had just passed Why did the defendant hide his hair? Has he been convicted of other crimes? No, these things didn’t matter, but I am curious. One of the questions asked during day one of jury selection is “do you need to know the whole story or just the part you need-to-know?” I guess I don’t NEED to know the whole story, but I sure am CURIOUS about the other parts!! I hope the defendant stays out of the lives of the victims!