Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Keeping Your Pets Happy While Selling Your Home

Courtesy of Paw Prints The Magazine

How to Keep Fido’s Tail Wagging While Selling a Home
by Stacy Smith
The process of selling a home is both an exciting and stressful time. With the opportunity for new beginnings in a new home just around the corner, homeowners are busy with frantic activity preparing to show the home to potential buyers. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle can cause undue stress on household pets, as their familiar surroundings change. With home sales increasing nationwide, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) is reminding pet parents to consider pet-friendly solutions to minimize trauma throughout the process of selling a home.

“Pets are most comfortable when surrounded by familiar sights, sounds and smells,” explained John D’Ariano, President of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. “It’s important to take extra precautions in keeping Fido safe and happy throughout the transition of a home sale.”

To assist pet parents in helping pets cope with changes throughout a home sale, NAPPS is providing the following tips and recommendations:

Create a Safe Haven – Does your pet have a favorite toy, blanket or pillow? Create a safe haven of familiar objects for your pet throughout the hubbub of renovations, furniture movement and packing.

Maintain a Routine – While the household schedule may change to accommodate showings, make sure Fido maintains his regular diet and exercise schedule. Too busy to take your pet for a walk? Consider hiring a professional pet sitter for daily walks and play time.

Promote Your Home as Pet-Friendly – Is your home the ideal haven for a fellow pet parent? Highlight the specific pet-friendly features – such as a large yard or the perfect sunny window for cat naps – in your home’s description. This could be the quality that sets your home apart from the rest!

Hire a Pet Sitter During Showings – Pets are not able to run loose throughout the home during a showing, so many pet parents choose to hire a professional pet sitter to provide dedicated attention, play time and exercise during visits from potential buyers.

Relax – Tension can build throughout the process of selling a home, so take the time to relax with your pet! A ten-minute break to play fetch in the backyard or a short walk around the block will give you and your pet the opportunity to take a deep breath and enjoy each others company.

Hiring a Professional Pet Sitter

To assist pet parents in the process of finding a professional pet sitter while selling a home, NAPPS offers the following recommendations:

Develop a set of questions and conduct a thorough interview
Ask for multiple references
Request proof of bonding and liability insurance coverage
Make sure he/she interacts well with your pet

Monday, June 6, 2011

Social Media Mantra: "Gain & Give"

RISMedia, June 6, 2011—Make this your transformational mantra for engagement in social media. This means not just characters in tweets, but real actions and sharing with others—whether it’s your knowledge, cool tools or any other valuable information you can share. This will help you build new relationships and lead to more fans or likes, followers and others who connect with you; new business will follow.

Did you know that fans are 41 percent more likely than non-fans to recommend a product they are a fan of to their friends?*

You are the product they may recommend and no matter how big or small your sphere of influence is, treat it as your highly prized fan base. You never thought about it that way? It’s time to because while your sphere of influence is most likely a mixture of family, friends, clients and vendors, as you can see, it has real value.

Muddy waters can form between these personal and professional connections. When you communicate with them, keep your tone informative, positive and casual. Yes, in a very real sense, you have become a publisher. With this comes responsibility, but also a chance to let your personality shine through. You have the opportunity—most likely for the first time—to really influence through a medium and be a friendly influencer.

Some of us do keep our personal contacts private from our professional ones, but many of us don’t and never will. No matter with whom you are communicating—family or clients—never let a difficult conversation start or develop online. Online communication is a time for a no-drama approach. But by all means let your humor and wisdom shine through.

Taking the conversation offline when it makes sense is a good practice, too. Social media is a platform, like any other, and has limitations. Know when to move to a more personal medium to further develop the relationship.

There’s a philosophy about accumulating small amounts of acceptance through the right behaviors, which then promotes full acceptance. One of these key behaviors is to add value every time you tweet, post or commune with your base, and as the old saying goes: boil that frog slowly, and he’ll be oblivious and never jump out of the pot!

*; June 2010

Chris Kaucnik is chief marketing officer for Home Warranty of America. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Real Estate Auctions

The Art of the Auction: Turning Losses into Liquidity
By Walt Zelwak

RISMEDIA, Wednesday, June 01, 2011— The word "auction" is derived from the Latin augeo which means "I increase" or "I augment." Auctions have a long history, having been recorded as early as 500 B.C. There were many types of auctions held during the Roman Empire. One of the most significant historical auctions occurred in the year 193 A.D. when the entire Roman Empire was put on the auction block by the Praetorian Guard who offered the empire to the highest bidder. In some parts of England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries auction by candle was used for the sale of goods and leaseholds. This auction began by lighting a candle after which bids were offered in ascending order until the candle spluttered out. The high bid at the time the candle extinguished itself won the auction. The oldest auction house in the world is Stockholm Auction House, established in Sweden in 1674.

What is going on today?

The National Association of REALTORS® recently reported that distressed homes (typically REOs and short sales) accounted for 40% of the existing homes sold in March 2011. A new report released by Lender Processing Services on May 3rd, 2011 shows that foreclosure inventory as of the end of March 2011 was 2.2 million loans. On May 4th, the FDIC provided detailed information in their "Special Foreclosure Edition" regarding Foreclosure/REO for all companies that they oversee. Banks and mortgage companies/servicers are experiencing foreclosure/REO volume spikes that are at all-time highs. Auctions are being done by the majority of both large and small banks and mortgage companies. Auctions are a valuable loss mitigation tool for collateral management staff as they help reduce inventory and minimize losses on select assets. The fact that auctions substantially reduce the number of units in inventory helps markets move to a more balanced environment.

Prior to any kind of action, the owners of these distressed homes must first establish worth of their asset. The real estate community is sometimes challenged to obtain the level of information and reports that would support valuation and sale analysis of distressed homes. Auction companies should be able to provide detailed feasibility studies that contain multiple metrics that support asset valuation and assumptions regarding the future performance of the real estate market near the subject property. A realistic schedule and timetable of anticipated cash flows from the asset should be established based upon realistic future market scenarios/assumptions. An auction is a great way to ensure that the cash flows can be net present value factored to a correct date in order to establish an accurate value. The Internet and modern technology has made a positive impact on auctions. Some auction company websites generate hundreds of thousands of page views per month from multiple countries. Interested bidder’s activity is closely monitored and is available to sellers 24/7.

Why sell via the auction method?

The auction method accelerates the sale of real estate assets. Auctions generate global consumer/investor interest via the World Wide Web. Non-contingent contracts and quick settlements are required of all buyers of auctioned properties. The seller sets the terms and conditions of the auction sale and the date and time of the sale and closing. Auctions do away with multiple showings and often stressful pricing negotiations with buyers. The bidding process creates competition that increases prices. The marketing strategy targets buyers matched to specific properties and bidders come prepared to buy. The auction bidding creates competition that increases sale price.

Why buy via the auction method?

The potential buyers obtain detailed information on each property from a due diligence package. The buyer knows the seller is seriously committed to sell. Auctions avoid extended negotiation which saves time. In multi-property auctions buyers can view many properties in the same place at the same time. Buyers determine the purchase price. Buyers know they are competing fairly and on the same terms as all other buyers.

Auctions are offered with or without a reserve. A reserve is a minimum number/price at which the property will transfer into new ownership. Auction laws vary by state with differing terms, definitions and rules and regulations can be different, so check with your attorney, REALTOR® or auctioneer. If you are looking for an auction firm consider first those with membership in the National Auctioneers Association and perhaps your state auctioneers association (

The auction method is a concept that dates to antiquity for a reason—It works!
RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memorial Day Activities in Kansas City

Looking for things to do in Kansas City this Memorial Day weekend, Check out VisitKC's list of things to do.

1. Bank of America Celebration at the Station • Take in a FREE patriotic concert by the KC Symphony.
2. Monet's Water Lilies • See Monet's famous triptych reunited at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
3. Jiggle Jam • Groove with the kids at Crown Center's family music festival.
4. Kansas City Royals • Cheer on the boys in blue as they take on the Los Angeles Angels.
5. Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark • Make a splash with the region's only surf ride.
6. Diana, A Celebration • View Princess Diana's wedding dress, jewelry and more at Union Station.
7. Planet Snoopy at Worlds of Fun • Let the kids loose to enjoy 18 new rides, devoted to pint-size play.
8. National World War I Museum • Honor veterans at the only museum dedicated to the Great War.
9. Jurassic Gardens • Go prehistoric at Powell Gardens with giant dinosaurs and ancient insects.
10. Hot Air Balloon Invitational • Catch more than 30 hot air balloons in flight in Overland Park.

Monday, May 23, 2011

KC Ambush Makeover

Last week was the first ever KC Ambush Makeover by the KC Glam Squad.
I was their first "victim."
The Team Includes:
Anna Mc Connell - Wardrobe Stylist
Julie Hengel - Hair Stylist - Esthetician
Candice Diddle - Photographer Kristin Mudgett - Realtor and Marketing Guru
The Clothes were donated by Saffees
And the Reveal event was sponsored by Taste

I had a great time getting my makeover, trying on clothes then celebrating with my friends! Thanks to everyone involved!!

The Adventures of Jayden & JoJo

Mother's Day weekend I had my friend Ashley's daughter Jayden for the weekend. I picked her up around 1pm on Thursday and we were together until 6pm on Sunday. We had a BLAST!! Jayden will be two in July and is always on the move!!

Friday we met my friend Angie & her daughter Isla at Little Monkey Bizness in Shawnee. The girls had a blast!!

That afternoon we went to Cassy's dress fitting (I have a cute picture but for obvious reasons I can't post it - you'll just have to trust me!). Then we went to the mall. Needless to say we were exhausted by the end of the day!

On Saturday, we worked out then decided to head to Deanna Rose in the afternoon. I had never been there and it was a beautiful day!! We had a blast seeing all the animals, petting the small goats & going on a hay ride.

Jayden had a ton of fun playing with the girls. And of course the girls LOVE Jayden as well!

Jayden & I had a GREAT weekend together!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Great Starter Home!

Looking for your first home? Love the charm of Waldo? I have just the home for you!! This cute 2 bedroom, 1 bath Waldo home sits on a large corner lot and has a partially finished basement!

Contact me for more information or to set up an appointment! 816.289.3032

Great Shawnee Home

Looking for a place where you can sit on your back deck, drink a cup of coffee and just look out into an open field? If so, I have just the place for you! This Shawnee Home has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a RARE 3 car garage. Sitting on a corner lot, this home backs to open green space.

Contact me for more information or to schedule an appointment! 816.289.3032

South Kansas City Home Shows Like a Model!

Looking for a beautiful home to just move right into? This South Kansas City home shows just like a model! This 2 story home has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, large master bath, walk-in closets and full walk-out basement. You can enjoy the beautiful green space on one of two back patios.

Contact me for more information or to set up an appointment. 816.289.3032

Plaza Living Without The Plaza Price Tag

Always wanted to live by the Country Club Plaza? I have just the place for you! This amazing Madrid Studio condo features an updated kitchen, private balcony, large bathroom, walk-in closet and close access to laundry. The Madrid also features a pool & party room available for owners.

Call me today for more information or to schedule an appointment! 816.289.3032

Monday, May 9, 2011

Simple Tips to Prevent House Fires

Simple Tips to Prevent House Fires

RISMEDIA, May 9, 2011—Every year home electrical problems cause more than 28,000 house fires and massive property damage. Electrical wiring is the root cause of many of these fires, of which countless could have been prevented. May is Electrical Safety Month. MXenergy, an independent energy provider, is encouraging everyone to review key electrical safety tips.

“Quite frankly, electrical safety is a key home safety component that is often overlooked,” says Marjorie Kass, MXenergy Managing Director. “Yet the truth is, it is an essential element of any home safety plan. Proper education, awareness and action can go a long way in preventing tragedy.”

Faulty or fixed wiring or improper use of electrical cords and other electrical items cause most home fires.

MXenergy Electrical Safety Tips

Pay Attention: Flickering lights, buzzing noises, and faceplates that are warm to the touch are all signs that a circuit may be overloaded or wiring may be wearing thin. Each one of those signs is cause for immediate attention from a licensed professional electrician.

Listen to Your Breaker: If you are continually tripping a switch and having to reset your breaker box, your house is trying to tell you something. There may be a fixture with faulty wiring or too high an electrical load on the breaker. Again, seek professional help.

Review and Replace: Frayed electrical cords, wobbly ceiling fans, and loose faceplates are more than mere annoyances. You should routinely inspect your home and replace or repair items in need of attention.

Safety First: Even the best preparation and newest equipment is not a guaranteed protection against fire. Working smoke detectors on all levels of your home is an absolute must. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and you know the proper way to use it.

“The good news is many of these fires are avoidable,” continues Kass. “In the case of electrical safety just a little awareness and preparation can make an enormous difference.”

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors Electrical Safety Month each May. More information and safety tips, including a home safety calendar, can be found at

For more information MXenergy please visit

RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Speed-Clean Your Freezer in 20 Minutes

Speed-Clean Your Freezer in 20 Minutes
(courtesy of Real Simple Magazine)

Minutes 1 to 3: Unplug the refrigerator. Put on rubber gloves. Empty the ice from the freezer trays into a large cooler. Scrub the trays with water, liquid soap and a sponge. Set aside to dry.

Minutes 4 to 7: Unload the freezer. Ditch anything that has expired or is freezer-burned and covered in ice crystals. Put the rest in the cooler.

Minutes 8 to 11: Remove the drawers and detachable shelves and place them in the sink. Scrub them well with soap, water & a sponge. Set aside to dry.

**NOTE: Most freezers defrost every 8 to 12 hours. If yours has more than 1/4 inch of ice on the base of walls, manually defrost it.**

Minutes 12 to 13: Follow the premeasured spay bottle to make a cleaner from 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon dish soap. Shake to blend.

Minute 14 to 17: Douse the interior with the cleaner. Wipe down the walls and shelves with paper towels.

Minutes 18 to 20: Plug the unit back in. Hang or place the odor fighter in the back. Return the shelves and food.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Speed-Clean Your Refrigerator in 20 Minutes

Speed-Clean Your Refrigerator in 20 Minutes
(courtesy of Real Simple Magazine)

Minutes 1 to 2: Unplug the Refrigerator. Slide a coil brush underneath the unit's kick plate to remove dust.

Minutes 3 to 7: Empty the contents. Toss anything past it's prime.

Minutes 8 to 10: Remove the drawers and place them in the sink. Scrub the drawers with a sponge, warm water & liquid dish soap. Leave them out to air-dry.

Minutes 11 to 15: Douse the interior with a multi surface spray. Wipe down the walls, then each shelf.

Minutes 16 to 17: Plug in the refrigerator. Return the drawers. Put the food back in, wiping down jars and bottles.

Minute 18: Attach the baking-soda pod's suction cups to an interior wall.

Minutes 19 to 20: Clean the exterior.


Monday, May 2, 2011

10 Tips for Living Green at Home

10 Tips for Living Green at Home
(courtesy of American Home Shield)

Besides recycling and water conservation, there are many other ways to live a little greener at home. We’ve put together 10 easy tips to help you get started today.

1) Take reusable bags with you when you shop. Most retailers sell their own reusable bags at checkout, but you can always bring your own. It’s a good idea to keep a few in your car for those spur-of-the-moment shopping trips. Think about how many plastic bags we’ll keep out of our landfills!

2) Buy in bulk. You’ll save on fuel and packaging material. Plus, you’ll spend less money in the long run.

3) Keep heating and air conditioning contained to the spaces you use daily. If you have rooms you only use for guests or storage, close off the vents and doors to help reduce costs and increase efficiency.

4) A programmable thermostat can make a big difference in your energy bill. They’re inexpensive and easy to install. You simply pre-program your ideal temperature settings for when you wake, leave and sleep. You’ll notice a difference in your bill the first month.

5) Does your computer or TV run 24/7? That’s unnecessary energy consumption for items that aren’t in use. Set your computer to sleep mode when you’re finished with the task at hand. If you need the comfort of the TV to fall asleep, you can set the sleep timer to automatically shut off.

6) Shower time. It’s a necessity, but to help conserve water and energy—install a low-flow showerhead. It’s highly efficient and affordable.

7) For less than $150, you can install ceiling fans in your living room and bedroom. You can reduce the thermostat temperature and the room will still feel cool with the fan on.

8) Painting is a quick and easy way to redecorate. When you start selecting colors, try to find low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or no VOC paint. Avoid most latex and oil-based paints to eliminate toxins being released into the air.

9) Anytime you remodel or redecorate, try to find green furniture manufactured from recycled or reclaimed materials. The local thrift stores, antique shops and flea markets have great options, so you can recycle and save money at the same time.

10) At any given time there are at least 10 items in your home that require batteries, so why not switch to rechargeable? You’ll help keep all the remotes and gadgets going while keeping dead batteries out of our landfills.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

10 Tips for a Cleaner, Safer Kitchen

10 Tips for a Cleaner, Safer Kitchen

1. Microwave
Fill a bowl with two cups water and a whole lemon, cut into slices. Place it inside and microwave for two minutes, then wipe it out with paper towels. The hot water softens food spills and the lemon cuts grease and keeps the microwave smelling fresh

2. Stove and oven
Spray stove spills with an all-purpose cleaner and let stand 10 minutes for easier cleaning. Oven spills aren’t a food hazard if you regularly heat the oven to 400. Cover a fresh spill with salt until you have time to clean it.

3. Counters
Clean regularly with an all-purpose cleaner. Spray with a weak bleach solution and air-dry if needed.

4. Dishes and Dishwashers
If you hand-wash dishes, be sure to air-dry them in a rack as dirty or wet dish towels can recontaminate clean dishes. To reduce soap buildup in a dishwasher, occasionally fill the soap dispenser with baking soda or place a small cup of vinegar on the top shelf, then run the dishwater empty.

5. Sink, drain and faucet handle
Clean regularly with household cleanser, especially after washing or rinsing raw meat. Don’t forget to clean the faucet handle.

6. Refrigerator
Every day, wipe down the handles, including the underside. Every week, throw out anything that’s past its date or shows age. Every three to six months, empty shelves and clean the inside with 1/4 cup baking soda in one quart warm water, then spray with a bleach solution and air-dry. Remove drawers and clean under them. Before you return the food, wipe jars to remove drips. Clean the rubber gasket inside the door to ensure a tight seal. Vacuum the coils in the back and empty and clean the drip pan if necessary.

7. Pet bowls
Find a place besides the kitchen to clean turtle or frog habitats and empty pet bowls, or clean and sanitize the sink before you start washing fresh food.

8. Cutting boards
Most scientists believe wooden cutting boards are safest, as long as they are kept clean, sanitized and dry. Studies have shown wood hampers bacteria growth, while bacteria thrive in scars on plastic. Either way, keep them clean by running them through the dishwasher, or sanitize by spritzing with a weak bleach solution. Always change boards or clean with soapy water after preparing raw food—even vegetables. They grow in dirt, after all.

9. Sponges and dish towels
Change dish towels daily, or more often if they’re wet or dirty. You can microwave a wet sponge for two minutes, but the time varies depending on the power of the microwave (and if the sponge is dry, it could catch fire). Instead, put sponges on the top rack of the dishwasher at the end of every day.

10. Cross-contamination
You know you’re not supposed to put cooked food on the same surface you used for raw food. But it’s not just a problem with cutting boards. You touch all kinds of things while you’re handling raw food: Salt and pepper shakers, cabinet handles, etc. Pay attention to what you touch so you can wipe things down. Tip: It’s not necessary to rinse raw meat and chicken—it just spreads bacteria.


Thanks to our sources: Benjamin Chapman, the extension food-safety specialist for N.C. State; David Sweat, foodborne-disease epidemiologist with the North Carolina Division of Public Health; Douglas Powell, professor of food safety at Kansas State University; and Dean Cliver and Linda Harris with the University of California-Davis.

(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Trolley Run 2011

Yesterday was the 201l Trolley Run.

I've done this race before but this was the first year I jogged it! For anyone that knows me, I'm NOT a runner. I've been trying. I started training a few months ago and made it up to 2 miles!! I am VERY proud of that accomplishment!

My friends Jessica & Laura joined me in this years race. We decided we were going to jog as much of the race as possible and whenever someone needed to stop and walk, we'd walk. I think we ended up jogging more than half of the race and finished in under an hour!!

I don't think I'll ever be a runner. Not sure I really enjoy it, but I may attempt another 5k. I don't necessarily enjoy running but I loved the company and the affects on my body! We shall see.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Speed-Clean Your Back Entryway in 15 Minutes

Courtesy of Real Simple Magazine

Minutes 1-2: Clear out the entryway - move area rugs, shoes and umbrellas. Toss non-entry items into a big tote to redistribute later.

Minute 3: Bang the indoor and outdoor mats against a walkway to loosen dirt.

Minute 4: Spot-clean scuffs & mud off walls, doors & baseboards with a moistened Magic Eraser. Go over doorknowbs and light switches, too.

Minute 5-6: Spritz any windows (inside and out). Dust any furniture with a dry microfiber cloth.

Minutes 7-10: Scan the floor and pick up anything too bulky for your vacuum. Give the area a quick once-over with the vacuum.

Minutes 11-13: Swab the deck with a wet mop.

Minutes 14-15: Return everything to its rightful place.


Monday, April 11, 2011

New Uses for Marbles

New Uses for Marbles - Courtesy of Real Simple Magazine

1. Playful Arrangement - Add marbles to the bottom of a vase.

2. Curtain Weights - Keep lightweight drapes in place by cutting a small slit in the seam, slipping a few marbles into the hem and sewing the opening back up.

3. Muscle Soother - Store a handful of marbles in the freezer, drop them into a thin sock, then roll it across your sore spots.

4. Spray-Bottle Aid - To pull the last bit of cleaner from a bottle, drop in a few marbles to raise the liquid's level to the spray tube.

5. Heartfelt Cupcake - After filling a cupcake liner with batter, wedge a single marble between the liner and the pan to create a heart-shaped indent.

6. Soap Saver - Add a layer of marbles to a soap dish to keep the bar from sticking.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Homeowner Tips - Streak-free Windows

Homeowner Tips:

Streak-Free Windows
Use these easy-to-follow tips to get streak-free windows all around!

•Don’t clean your windows on a bright sunny day. Direct light causes the cleaning solution to dry before you can wipe it away. For best results, save window cleaning for a cloudy day.
•Clean, cool water is actually the best cleaning solution for windows, but for tough jobs, try adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon.
•Use horizontal strokes on the inside and vertical on the outside – or vice versa. This just makes it easier to see which side the streaks are on if you notice any at all.
For best results, use crumpled newspaper for streak-free drying results.

(courtesy AHS)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Check Your AC Today!

Check Your AC today!

To help ensure your home stays cool all summer, it’s a good idea to perform a system check today. It’s easy to do. Simply turn on your air conditioner and let it run for 30 minutes. If you notice any issues or problems, contact American Home Shield and request a service call for your air conditioner.

•Always be sure to change your air filters every 30-90 days based on filter recommendations.
•Each year, check your system’s performance one month before the cooling season begins.
•Keep the condensing unit free of debris and trim back all shrubs and plants,

(courtesy of AHS)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Integrity...or lack there of

I was talking to a fellow Realtor last week and she brought up how there is a lack of Integrity in our business. I have to say I agree with her. There seems to be a lack of integrity by fellow Realtors and clients. In recent months I've had difficulty getting fellow Realtors to return calls or emails. I've also had an unrepresented client assume that my time is not worth anything.

Why has it come to this? Why don't all agents work together to get our deals completed quickly and effectively? Why do customers think our time is not worth anything?

And more importantly, HOW do we change this?

Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget

Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget: Tips & IdeasThe kitchen is one of the most popular rooms in a home, so why not make yours really stand out? Whether you’re selling or simply want to upgrade, here are some simple tips and ideas to get you started without breaking the bank:

1.Plan ahead and find patterns, colors and textures that you like from magazines, home improvement stores and the Internet.

2.Set a budget! Know what upgrades will give you the most value for your money and do your best to stick with your budget.

3.Make a plan and do one thing at a time, especially if you’re going to do it yourself.

So where should you start?

CabinetsRepaint or stain your cabinet doors and add new hardware. This is one of the easiest and least expensive upgrades you can do that makes a big difference. If you need advice on what works best with the cabinets you have, take a door into your local home improvement store and ask for professional advice.

Kitchen Counter TopsCounter tops can be expensive if you’re going for granite, but that’s not your only option. You can opt for concrete or granite overlay. Do your research to find what suits your budget and style best.

Kitchen FloorsYour choices are endless when it comes to updating your kitchen floors. From peel-and-stick tile to laminate wood flooring and travertine, the sky is the limit— but be mindful of your budget! Bring home samples of the flooring based on your style and budget before you make a final decision. Many real estate professionals agree that a kitchen remodel splurge should be saved for the countertops and not the floors, so keep this in mind when deciding. You want to make sure you get great value from any upgrades you do.

Saving Money on Kitchen AppliancesIf your appliances are in good working order and match in color and style, save your budget for more beneficial upgrades. If your appliances look really dated or don’t match the new look of your kitchen, you may want to consider finding some great scratch and dent deals.

Did you know that appliances can be painted? A professional paint job can turn your white appliances into fresh, new-looking ones. You can also buy appliance-safe paint at your home improvement store and do it yourself.

Kitchen LighteningInstalling modern lighting is amazingly simple if your kitchen is already wired for overhead lighting. A new chandelier can make a big difference, and you can find options for less than $150! To make an even bigger impact, be sure to install a dimmer switch. You’ll be surprised what a difference a little “mood switch” can make.

The options are endless for remodeling your kitchen on a budget. The hardest part is deciding which upgrades will make the biggest difference on the smallest budget. Just be sure to do your research and to set realistic goals. And last, but not least, enjoy the project by making it your own.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cleaning Your Home in No Time At All

Cleaning Your Home in No Time At All
The experts at Merry Maids offer time saving cleaning tips

A well-organized house is an easy-to-care-for house. The experts at Merry Maids know this from experience and can offer some time saving tips that will help you organize and clean your home in no time flat.

De-junk your home. Managing clutter takes too much time. Eliminate anything from your home that you are not currently using and donate unwanted items to charity. You will feel better about yourself and the appearance of your home.
Remove temptation. If you pile clutter on a specific table, get rid of that table. That way, you are more likely to put things where they belong. Eliminate the areas where clutter builds.
•Get a mat. Use only one entry door into your home. Place an Astroturf mat outside the entry to your home. Also, place a sturdy nylon mat inside the house. This will eliminate an incredible amount of dust and dirt within your household, as well cut down on your cleaning time in general.
Establish command central. Determine a place, usually in the kitchen, for the day’s mail, calendar, car keys, school papers, grocery lists, etc. This eliminates the chance for clutter throughout the house and cuts down on dirt buildup.
Use the clock. Give cleaning solutions time to work. Spray the light fixtures and mirrors in the bathroom and let the cleaner work while you scrub the tub with an all- purpose cleaner, such as Murphyâ Oil Soap. Then come back to the fixtures and mirrors.
•Defy dust. Change furnace filters and replace vacuum bags regularly. Do not miss vents when you dust.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Creed to Live By

I saw this on a friends blog and had to repost! Thanks Samantha for posting it!

A Creed to Live By

Don’t undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Don’t set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

Don’t take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them life is meaningless.

Don’t let your life slip through your fingers by living in the the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.

Don’t give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over … until the moment you stop trying.

Don’t be afraid to admit you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us to each other.

Don’t be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

Don’t shut love out of your life by saying it’s impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give love. The fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly, and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

Don’t dismiss dreams. To be without dreams is to be without hope. To be without hope is to be without purpose.

Don’t run through life so fast that you forget not only wher you’ve been but also where you’re going.

Life is not a race, but a journey to be savoured each step of the way.

Nancye Sims

Thanks to Gina for posting this on her this!!

Spring & Summer Home Maintenance

Mother nature may be reminding us today that Spring is not here, but it will be soon enough! If you live in the Midwest, here are maintenance jobs you should complete in the spring & summer to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in top condition. (courtesy of: HomeLogic)

- Clean your gutters and downspouts
- Inspect your roof for winter damage
- Take a close look at your chimney
- Examine your drainage
- Take a look at your siding
- Schedule your biannual HVAC appointment
- Check your CGCIs

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Huntington Farms - New Listing

101 E 126th St
Kansas City, MO

*$5K towards finishing basement w/ acceptable offer!!* Newer home still shows like a model!! Large open kitchen w/ granite island, dble oven, vented downdraft & walk-in pantry. 2 fireplaces (living room & master bedroom), walk-in closets, surround sound throughout home. Walk-out basement stubbed for plumbing w/ 2 large patios backs to green space. Deck off kitchen for grilling. Blinds on all windows, storm doors, security system & central vac. Sprinkler system & decorative curbing. MUST SEE!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Are You Thinking About Remodeling Your Home?

I went to the Remodeling Show a few weeks ago in Kansas City and picked up the Remodeling KC magazine. It had a lot of great information & tips on Remodeling. Here are a few things to consider:

Check out the National Association of the Remodling Industry (NARI). It is a not-for-profit trade association committed exclusively to the professional remodeling industry and to homeowners. This is a good source to use for finding a contractor!

When planning a remodel, here are a few details to think about:
- location of electrical outlets, telephone jacks & cable hook ups
- types of lighting
- blending the design of a new living space into existing living space
- current and future storage needs
- universal features to accomodate the needs of a broader range of people.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Successfully Selling HUD Homes

Last week Carrie Cowan & I went to a HUD class presented by Vanessa Wilde. It was VERY information. Here is some of the information we learned. - Jodi

- HUD properties are FHA Foreclosures. Once the private mortgage insurance pays off the loan & they become the property of the government.
- HUD now has three asset management companies: Pemco, Matt Martin & HomeTelo.
- You can find all active HUD Listings at: This site will have the most up-do-date status. If it's not on here, it probably has a contract. Check here first!
- All agents must register with HUD &
- Properties are listed daily! (even on the weekends)
- Make sure you check the top of the listing for eligible bidders and bid submission deadline.
- If your buyer is getting FHA financing, the property must be E (insured escrow) and buyer must have escrow money for repairs (determined by HUD) which can be factored into the loan (FHA 203B long w/ repairs in escrow)
- The repairs escrow is held by the bank/lender until repairs are made. It's a case by case decision on how funds are released.
-If the property needs over $5k in repairs, it is NOT insurable
-FHA appraisals have typically already been done on the property and are usually online.
- All HUD properties close at Northwest Title Co. (816.792.3335)
- There are potentially 5 different HUD keys (vs the one universal key we all use to use). You MUST call co-op to schedule an appointment. Many HUD homes now have lock boxes on the property. Also, please sign the login form inside each home.
- Commission is now 3% for the buyers agent with a minimum flat commission of $1250.
- There may be multiple back-up contracts on a property and you are now unable to see other bids on a property
- Earnest money depends on the asset management company. HomeTelo & Pemco are $500 (up to $50k) and $1000 (over $50k). Matt Martin varies per property.
- HomeTelo typically has a 20 day cash closing, HOWEVER, it doesn't always close on time therefor you MUST file an extension (which includes a fee). Prepare your buyers for that!
- Typical financed closings are 45 days.
- If an offer is CANCELLED, it means the offer was reviewed but NOT accepted.
- If you are given a "bottom dollar" amount, make sure to add in your commission and any other costs!
- HUD listings are already designated selling agents, however, they will not sign the Agency Amendment
- you MUST have approval from the asset manager to do inspections (and get utilities turned on)
- only Active/Live termites will be treated
- HUD will correct lead based paint issues if it is under $4k.
- ALWAYS print the contract when you submit a bid online! There are certain areas that will be auto-populated and others you will need to write in.
- MUST include: Husband & Wife, Single Person, etc for contract to be accepted
- Earnest money to be held by: HUD Designated Closing Agent (#3 & #9)
- If buyer is paying cash OR getting conventional financing, make sure to check last box on #4
- Make sure #12 is initialed by buyer

Monday, February 28, 2011

Great Time, Great Cause - Hoops & Sneakers Gala

I can now cross "attend a gala" off my list of things to do! (ok, so it wasn't actually on there but it should have been!!)

As I mentioned in a previous blog, this was my first year on the American Diabetes Association Gala committee. I joined the committee because my good friend Jen Miller was on the committe AND because Linda Crider (who I'd worked with when I volunteered for the Relay for Life) now works for the ADA and was in charge of the Gala. These are two women I admire and love working with.

The event was Saturday evening at the Hyatt Crown Center. There was music, auctions and dancing. The black lab I helped foster raised $1200 and I won (silent auction) tickets to the roller derby!! My friend Terri went with me and we sat at a table with some great couples. It was a great night and I can't wait for next years event!

Here are a few pics from the night:

Tricks to Help You Slash Your Electric Bill

It's been a very cold winter and electric bills are high. Here are some great tips from American Home Shield for keeping your bills low.

10 Tricks to Help You Slash Your Electric Bill

If you’re looking for ways to help you save more and spend less, one of the best places to start could be right at home. Put these tips to work to help cut your next electric bill.

10. Install Motion Detectors on Lights. Kids are notorious for leaving lights on by accident. This easy trick can help you say goodbye to wasted electricity—and high bills.

9. Wash Clothes in Cold Water: Since most of the energy used by top-loading washers is to heat water, washing in cold can help you save each month.

8. Tint Home Windows: For windows that get a lot of sun, you can add a layer of solar window film to deflect sunlight and conserve energy.

7. Program Your Thermostat: Simply set it to raise or lower your thermostat for the times when you're not at home.

6. Unplug Appliances: Even when they're not in use your toaster, laptop and can opener drain power. So unplug them and save.

5. Wash Your Lint Trap: Since dryer sheets can cause a transparent film that burns out the heating unit, it's vital to wash your lint trap with hot, soapy water every 6 months.

4. Change Your Showerhead: Replacing it with a low-flow head can use less water per minute - so there's less to heat.

3. Cook on the Back Burner: By turning on your exhaust fan and using the rear burner on hot days, warm air will be sucked out, which minimizes AC use.

2. Change Your Lightbulbs: Compact florescent bulbs use a quarter the electricity and last longer than regular bulbs. And, they're the environmentally responsible choice.

1. Check Furniture Placement: Rugs or furniture that block a vent can really cost you. Move them and save!

Top 10 New Kitchen Trends

Top 10 New Kitchen Trends in 2010

More and more homeowners are remodeling and making the most of their space with these top 10 hot trends in the kitchen.

1. Kitchens are now featuring a “family room” feel with more seating and dining areas.
2. The most popular color choice for cabinets was white. It works well with almost any architectural style – traditional to contemporary.
3. Stainless steel appliances are still a big hit, especially the fingerprint-resistant steel finish.
4. More and more kitchens are featuring custom additions such as pizza-making stations, coffee bars and wine-tasting nooks.
5. Walk-in pantries are popular for families and allow for ample storage of surplus items and bulk purchase like paper towels and canned goods.
6. Tech-savvy kitchens are featuring more electronics, like wall-mounted televisions and built-in sound systems.
7. Eco-friendly kitchens boost water-conserving faucets, energy start appliances and eco-friend cabinetry.
8. Built-in appliances that look more like cabinets are popping up across the country.
9. Lighting can convert from well-lit workspace to dimly lit formal dinner with the flip of a switch. Recessed lighting combined with chandeliers will do the trick.
10. A save-and-splurge mentality helps keep remodelers on budget. Choose to splurge on appliances instead of countertops or a built-in wine rack instead of a porcelain sink.

American Home Shield is providing the information for general guidance only. Due to the general nature of the property maintenance and improvement advice in this material, neither American Home Shield Corporation, nor its licensed subsidiaries assumes any responsibility for any loss or damage which may be suffered by the use of this information.

©2011 American Home Shield Corporation and its licensed subsidiaries. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Will You Be My Friend?!

With all the technology and social media out there, how do you decide who you are going to be "friends" with?!

For me, here's what I do on the various social networks:

Facebook - I prefer to KNOW you. If we have a bunch of mutual friends that are either from high school or networking and I'm not 100% sure who you are, I will typically accept your friend request. If I'm not "impressed" by status updates, I will defriend the person. If I have NO idea who you are and you don't send me a message, I will not accept your friend request. Of course everyone can become a fan of my Fan Page!

Twitter - I don't have my twitter account blocked and anyone can follow me who would like. I am selective about who I follow back. I follow a good percentage of the people that follow me but if it's obvious you are spam, I will not follow you. I do not auto-follow anyone and I DON'T like auto-DMs once someone follows you.

Linked-In - I accept almost all invitations to connect on Linked-In. Currently this is probably my least visited social media site.

What is your "criteria" to determine who you will be friends with on these social media sites?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Technology is Simply a Tool

The following quote was in a blog post by Jon Cheplak that my broker sent me. I think it's very true. I love technology and all that is does, but if you don't have personal relationships, technology is not going to "fix" the problem!

"Technology is simply a tool to support us in our relationships with today’s online consumer, accommodating the evolution of human behavior and expectations that go with it. Tech is not designed to remove the “human experience/interaction” in our business, it is here to enhance the experience in how and where we play and interact today. We must evolve to creating an online experience for the online consumer facilitated by an online agent not forgetting many of the traditional ways of doing business. Same old stuff you’ve heard over and over, right? My question…are you taking the action and committed or just givin’ it a whirl?"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Metropolitan Lawn & Garden Show

This past weekend I went to my first Lawn & Garden Show. It was held at the American Royal by Kemper Arena in downtown Kansas City. There were rooms for Lawn & Garden, Home Remodeling & Green Living. We didn't have time to go to the Green Living area. I had never been before. I was a little dissapointed in the number of booths and such but I did get a lovely Orchid (see above) that I am hoping to keep alive. I also have an appointment on Monday for a free estimate from a landscaper about my front yard. (if you remember, I had all the bushes torn out last summer after I got poison oak!). I'll keep you posted on the landscaping project!

Monday, February 14, 2011

3 New Upgrades to Facebook Pages

You probably noticed some changes to Facebook fan Pages in the last few days. Check out my fan page: Realtor Jodi Danziger Here are the changes & thoughts by Inman news writer Katie Lance:

Just Released: 3 New Upgrades to Facebook Pages

Just yesterday there were 3 new changes that were announced that I am super excited about:

1.You can navigate and interact with other areas of Facebook as your Page. This means you can choose to receive notifications about fan activity, Like and comment on other Pages as your Page, and get your own News Feed where you can engage with the latest and most important news from other Pages you like.

2.There are new opportunities for Pages to share. You can feature photos of your Page’s most recent experiences at the top of your Page. You can highlight other Pages you are connected with as well as the people who are managing your Page.

3.Make your Page even more engaging for users. The “Everyone” filter on the Wall provides a new way for people to see the most interesting posts first. There is also a place for people to discover the friends and interests they have common with your Page.

I upgraded all of our our pages yesterday and was very pleased with how easy it was. I really like the new features – especially the option to interact with other pages as YOUR page. I love this new feature – because I use Social Mention to monitor when people are mentioning our brand name or sharing our content (excellent tool – it’s similar to Google Alerts, but for social media.)

Previously, if I wanted to communicate with them or thank them – I would have to do so on their page with my personal profile – now I can do it as a page admin (i.e. I can leave a comment as “Inman News” or as “The Future of Real Estate Marketing Blog.”)

ALSO… and this is HUGE – you can NOW change the category of your page – WHOOO HOO!!! So if you prefer to not have a real estate page but more of a community page you can now do this with your page.

Last thoughts…

Every time Facebook has a change there is always the “scary” factor – the simple fact that they can change or edit anything at any given time. My advice has and always will be – don’t let ALL your content live on Facebook – if Facebook were to go away tomorrow where would your content live? This is why I highly recommend posting most or all of your content on your blog – preferably a WordPress blog.

Would love your thoughts on these new changes – leave me your feedback below!

Written by: Katie Lance, Senior Marketing Manager, Inman News @katielance

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hoops & Sneakers Gala

After taking some time off from volunteering, I joined the American Diabetes Association's Gala committee a few months ago. We are quickly approaching the big event, the Hoops & Sneakers Gala on February 26th! I am very excited for my first Gala and to help raise some money for a great cause!

There are a ton of auction items including this ADORABLE lab puppy! I have gotten the honor of helping to foster him until the gala. He is VERY loveable and has a GREAT personality! My friend Kristin & I are taking turns watching him until the event. He'll be socialized with dogs and kids!

Check out for more information on this great event!!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What are these funny looking bar codes?


I'm sure you've seen QR codes popping up everywhere. Flip through any magazine and you will see them on a number of ads. What are these? They are bar codes that can send you to a website or information for a company. You can easily download an app from many cell phones (I personally use ScanLife) to quickly scan the code and see usefully information from many companies.

These codes are still growing in popularity in the US. It is still undetermined if they will fully take off but they are very popular in Europe & Japan providing mass transit schedules and restaurant menus.

I have played around a little with QR codes but definitely have not used them to their full extend. Do you use QR Codes? Have them been successful?

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Tax Benefits of Home Ownership

The tax benefits of home ownership
Real Estate Tax Talk

By Stephen Fishman
Inman News™

February 04, 2011

The tax benefits of buying a home include:

Home mortgage interest deduction: The interest paid on a mortgage or mortgages of up to $1 million for a principal residence and/or second home is deductible as an itemized deduction. In the early years of a home loan most of the payments consist of interest, so this deduction is particularly substantial during the first years of home ownership.

Depending on the state a buyer lives in and his or her tax bracket, this deduction can reduce the cost of borrowing by one-third or more.

Home equity loan deduction: Homeowners can borrow up to $100,000 against the equity in their home and deduct the interest as an itemized deduction. The money can be used for any purpose, such as paying off high-interest credit card debt. In contract, the interest on credit card debt is not deductible.

Property tax deduction: Homeowners also get to deduct from their federal income taxes the state and local property taxes they pay on their home. This is another itemized deduction that renters don't get.

Deductible home buying expenses: Various closing costs ordinarily involved in a home purchase are also deductible as itemized deductions, including loan origination fees (points), prorated interest on a new loan, and prorated property taxes paid at settlement.

$250,000/$500,000 home-sale exclusion: Perhaps the greatest tax benefit of owning a home comes when a person sells it at a profit. Homeowners who lived in their home for two of the prior five years prior to its sale need pay no income tax on a substantial amount of their profit -- $250,000 for single homeowners and $500,000 for married homeowners who file jointly. This exclusion can be used once every 24 months.

14 days of free rental income: Another little known tax benefit of owning a home is that the owner can rent it out for up to 14 days during the year and pay no tax at all on the rental income. In contrast, a renter who sublets his or her rental must pay income tax on all the rental income he or she earns.

Tax benefits of renting:

The only tax benefit that a renter can qualify for by virtue of being a renter is the home office deduction. This is a business deduction available to renters who own a business and have a home office they use regularly and exclusively for business purposes.

Some employees can qualify for this deduction as well. The deduction is limited to the amount of profit earned from the business each year. If a renter pays a lot of rent, this deduction can be substantial. Homeowners who are in business and have a home office can also qualify for the deduction.

Of course, the value of the tax benefits of buying a home depends on the state the buyer lives in and his or her tax bracket. Buyers who live in high tax states like New York or California get the most benefit.

This is why the blanket statement "it's always better to buy than rent" is not always true. It all depends on the buyer's individual circumstances.

You should encourage prospective buyers to run the numbers. There are some excellent websites you can refer clients to that have online calculators they can use to compare the costs of renting vs. buying a home.

A good rent vs. buy tool can be found on the Smart Money Magazine website:

Freddie Mac also has a good online calculator:

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books, including "Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Contractors, Freelancers and Consultants," "Deduct It," "Working as an Independent Contractor," and "Working with Independent Contractors." He welcomes your questions for this weekly column.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Best Bathroom Floors

One of the items on my "to do" list for my house is redoing my bathroom & kitchen floors. I bought my home from a rehab company so they put down your basic linoleum. It doesn't look bad, but it gets VERY dirty in the kitchen and is starting to peel around the shower & tub in both bathrooms. I would LOVE to tile both bathrooms and the kitchen. The tile work and grout is easy for me, I just would need help laying the flooring for under the tile and removing the toilets (in the bathroom) and fridge (in the kitchen). The article below has some good ideas for bathroom flooring!

Best bathroom floor: tile, vinyl or wood?
Minimizing the 'slip-and-fall' factor
By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™

February 02, 2011

Q: In a recent column, a reader's peel-and-stick bathroom flooring was coming up and you recommended putting down tile in the bathroom. My experience with tile has been that it gets very slick when wet, which would certainly be problematic in a bathroom.

Is there a type of tile one can use in a bathroom and/or kitchen that would allow you to have the beauty of tile but not the "ice rink" effect when it gets wet?

A: We've had the same experience with tile floors. Step out of the shower and va-va-voom -- on your tail you go.

Often, bathroom tile is glazed, shiny and smooth. A simple solution is to use rubber-backed bath rugs over the tile to keep your footing. But we understand that covering most of a tile floor with a rug is not very practical. So here are a couple of alternatives.

First, if you choose a tile floor, avoid glazed tile or marble. Instead, pick a material that's either textured or has a matte finish. They provide more traction and a better chance to keep you upright.

Kevin recently visited a friend in San Mateo, Calif. She had just completed a total remodel of her home. She installed textured ceramic tile in both the master and guest baths. She was very aware of the slip-and-fall factor, thus the textured finish. Kevin test-drove the shower in the master bath and found that a rug was necessary when stepping out of the shower, but when the rug soaked up the water from his feet, the textured finish performed fine.

Another tile alternative is Saltillo. This is a porous terra-cotta tile from Mexico that requires regular sealing with a quality acrylic sealer. The plus is that it's got a skid-resistant surface. The minuses are the maintenance factor and the tile's irregular shape. If you're looking for uniformity, this option is not for you. But if you're after a rustic look, this may be the ticket.

Now, don't fall over in a dead faint, but another alternative you might consider is an engineered wood floor. It's not for everyone, but it might work for you.

The negative, of course, is that this type of floor doesn't withstand large amounts of water well. If this is the only bathroom and there are kids, wood is not an alternative. But if the bathroom is adults only, the beauty of wood is a definite alternative.

Engineered wood consists of a top layer of hardwood -- bamboo, for example -- that is pressure-glued to alternating layers of plywood. The cross-grain construction gives the flooring good stability, unlike its solid wood counterpart. Also, the factory-applied finish is water-resistant. Notice, we did not say waterproof.

Because Kevin's wife, Heidi, is absolutely against a tile floor (she says if he lays it, she'll take a hammer to it), engineered wood is starting to look like an alternative. We suggest you go with a "floating floor" to mitigate the moisture changes in the air and allow the floor to move a little with changing humidity.

A wood floor will provide more traction than smooth tile, but will still require a rubber-backed bath rug for entering and exiting the tub or shower and to reduce the amount of water on the floor.

The bottom line is that there's no perfect solution. Water will have its way. For our money, a matte, textured tile is the best solution followed by a top-quality sheet vinyl or linoleum.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Spammers - Be aware!!

Spammers are EVERYWHERE! I really do wish they'd find a life and do something productive with their day. Until then, we all need to BE CAREFUL!! I'm sure we all get plenty of Spam in our emails, hopefully most goes into your spam folder. I have been getting a lot lately on my 1154 Lill email account requesting money for a dying friend. DELETE. Facebook spam is also becoming more common (she article below). Bottom line, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And if you aren't sure if something a friend posted is real or a scam, ASK before you click.

Be careful everyone!!!

Facebook Just the Latest to Battle Hackers
By Sarah Lundy

RISMEDIA, January 31, 2011—(MCT)—Facebook is the latest hot spot for swindlers in search of new victims.

And the world's most popular social networking website can be a gold mine for such crooks, experts say.

Scams on social media sites are much the same as the ones you may have received as e-mail, said Kevin Johnson, a consultant for Secure Ideas, which does security research.

"The big difference in the (social networking) scams is the level of trust that the users have," he said. "People trust them more than they trust e-mail."

Over time, we've become leery of unusual e-mails with strange links, but many people's ingrained suspicions of e-mail scams have not carried over to Facebook. The social network tries to keep track but isn't responsible for everything on its site.

Cybercriminals on Facebook today come cloaked as real friends sending messages asking you to wire them money in a foreign country or posting a note on your wall with a funny video that's really a dangerous link.

The scammers are smart, sneaky and hoping you fall for their tricks. They do it for various reasons, including stealing your identity or using your personal data to sell to marketers or simply spread malicious software that can destroy your computer.

They lure victims many ways, such as offering fake gift cards or a chance to win gadgets simply by clicking on a link or that oh-so-common Facebook "Like" button. But to win, the con artists say, you have to answer some questions and provide a cell-phone or credit-card number.

"People automatically trust that, if it's on Facebook, then it's probably secure and vetted by Facebook in some way," said Tom Eston, a senior consultant for SecureState, a security-management consulting firm.

But even Facebook admits that keeping its customers safe is difficult.

"Facebook faces a security challenge that few, if any, other companies or even governments have faced — protecting more than 500 million people on a service that is under constant attack," company spokesman Simon Axten said. "The fact that less than 1 percent of Facebook users have ever encountered a security issue on the site is a significant achievement of which we are very proud."

Facebook has created a system to combat identity theft, viruses and suspicious log-in attempts. Its security team looks for strange activity that may mean an account has been compromised. The company can delete fake messages and block links. And it does go after scammers in court.

"Security is a constant arms race, and our teams are always working to identify the next threat and build defenses for it," Axten said.

Other companies try to warn customers if their brands get caught up in a scam.
Back in March, fake gift cards popped up for the Olive Garden. The chain posted a message on its Facebook page, warning customers about the scam.

"Once we're aware, we take steps to inform our guests and work with them if they're inconvenienced in any way," Olive Garden spokeswoman Heidi Schauer said.

It's not always easy to tell the difference between a legitimate offer and a fake one.

Experts suggest that users — before clicking on a link — check out any deals first by going to a company's website, examining its Facebook page closely, seeing how many fans the page has and, of course, using common sense.

Some scams involve con artists who use Facebook to contact potential targets. Several parents, for example, recently filed complaints with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which partners with the FBI, about a Facebook modeling contest based in Florida.

One mom said she paid $5 to enter her son in the contest, from which the winner was supposed to receive a photo shoot for a clothing line and a paid trip to Miami. She began questioning the offer when the organizer asked for her son's birth certificate, Social Security number and credit-card information, according to the complaint, which is pending.

Earlier this month, authorities nabbed a Key West man and accused him of extorting sorority members and pledges at several universities. He had contacted the women through Facebook and demanded they provide racy photographs and web-camera transmissions of themselves. He threatened them, saying their sorority membership depended on their compliance, officials said.

Law-enforcement agencies throughout the world are battling these issues.

In Thailand, a university student on Dec. 4 was arrested for using another student's name to create a fake Facebook page, connect with other people and swindle them out of some of their money.

It's challenging to track down wrongdoers who could be accessing the web from anywhere in the world. In the Sunshine State, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which handles some cybercrime cases, prioritizes its cases and goes after violent offenders first.

"The scams are so widespread and so huge that it's hard for anyone to really tackle it," FDLE Special Agent Supervisor Mike Phillips said.

Another source of scams involves the third-party software applications allowed by Facebook. The social network invites developers to create software programs for games, entertainment, businesses and shared interests. So far, there are hundreds of thousands of such "apps" available.

An app may seek permission to access a user's personal data. In most cases, that information stays with the developer, but some of them break the rules and use it for malicious reasons.

So should you stop using Facebook entirely?

"No, it just means we need to use it more carefully," said Johnson, the security consultant. "We need to understand what we are sharing and understand the threat that sharing presents."

(c) 2010, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cable Update

...well, I TRIED. I TRIED to save over $20/month by switching to Dish Tv. Unfortunately, I have way too many trees around my house and there is NO sight view for the dish. Darn. I was afraid of that but had hopes that they'd be able to figure something out. Guess I'm back to square one and Time Warner Cable. I don't HATE TWC, I do have a few issues, but my biggest concern was the high price tag.

Maybe another cable provider will come to my area soon!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm cutting the cord...

...on my home phone!!

Yes, I'm really going to do it. After much thought, I'm going to get rid of my home phone line! It's been a hard decision, but I think I can do it! My contract with Time Warner Expires Febuary 7th. BOTH of my home phones have issues. I could go out and buy two additional phones ($80+) or get rid of them both and cut back on my bills in the processes. Very few people call me on my home phone line - my Gram doesn't even use it! Many of my friends and my parents will usually try the home phone first and then call my cell. And I've gotten HORRIBLE about checking my home phone voice mail since my phone downstairs stopped flashing to alert me of a new call. My dad learned a while ago that if I don't return a call for a few days it's usually b/c I forgot to check. He'll just call back if it's important! (I DO check my cell phone voice mails!)

So, I'm getting rid of the land line. I am also considering switching my cable service. Uverse is not availabe in my area so that isn't an option. I haven't heard anything good about Direct TV so that's a no as well. I'm highly considering Dish TV for my cable service after talking with them today. Their current deal is $25/mo for the first year and $40/mo for the section year. The similar package with Time Warner Cable is almost $95/mo!! (it's cheaper if you bundle). I will of course have to have them come out and determine if a dish can be put on my house and not blocked by my large trees.

I'll keep you posted on my decisions! I hope to make a decision by the end of the week...if not, definiately by the first week of February!

Pre-Sale Renovations - Do's and Don'ts

This is a little long, but has some great information!

Pre-Sale Renovation: Home Seller Do's and Don'ts
By Dan Steward
RISMEDIA, January 25, 2011—You’ve probably seen those depressingly cheery home-themed TV shows: a couple needs to sell their house, they have an outdated kitchen, and a designer comes in and proceeds to convince them to renovate the kitchen into a stainless-steel-clad shrine to culinary greatness—for tens of thousands of dollars. In an ideal real estate market, that would add value, but in today’s market, expensive pre-sale renovations, for the most part, aren’t worth it. The numbers bear this out: In general, a home remodel will cost quite a bit more than you’ll get back when you sell; remodels done in 2010 will only recoup 60% of their price when the house is sold, according to Remodeling magazine's 2010 Remodeling Cost vs. Value survey, done in partnership with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

Two of the areas that potential buyers are often most pressured to remodel before selling are the kitchen and bathroom. Here, we’ll tackle both of those rooms, and let you know what to do—and what to avoid—when considering a pre-sale renovation:

-Don’t put in expensive professional-grade cook’s appliances. You may choose a tricked-out, $10,000 Wolf stove, but the buyer may be a loyalist to Viking. Or, even worse, the potential buyer might be a take-out addict.

-Do, however, service the appliances you have, so that they work perfectly. And, if you have seriously outdated appliances that can be replaced for $1,000 or less (like swapping a dingy old fridge for a basic new one), that’s a good idea. Similarly, if there are any appliances that you lack, which most buyers consider essential, it makes sense to buy one (like a dishwasher—you can get a nice model for under $1,000).

-Don’t replace your cabinetry entirely—even if it’s a little outdated. It’s just too subjective. You might think sleek, white Scandinavian cabinets are the way to go, but you’ll be in a bind if your potential buyer prefers dark wood.

-Do invest in cabinet refacing if your cabinets are extremely outdated. Many refacing companies will give your cabinets a fresh façade for well under $2,000, and it’s a good investment in creating a positive impression of the room without doing a pricey knock-down.

-Don’t go granite crazy. Or marble. Or etched-Murano-glass-accented tile. Spending thousands of dollars on a new countertop and backsplash is downright dangerous, as there are so many different options these days, it’s impossible to find one that will please most people.

-Do hire a professional cleaning company to come in and make what you have sparkle. While this won’t magically make your tile look magazine-spread-worthy, it will certainly make it look a lot better, as discoloration from age often makes tile look even worse.

-Don’t do expensive tub/shower repairs or replacements. Just like with the big-ticket kitchen fixes, this is a matter of taste. If you put in a round jetted tub, what if the buyer wants square? And is an amethyst-crystal steam shower really something everyone will love?

-Do replace dated bath and shower fixtures; this can be done generally quite inexpensively. For instance, if you have a 30-year-old, tiny showerhead, replacing it with a large, rainwater-style model will lend a subtle spa-like quality without costing a lot.

-Don’t replace your smallish vanity with a new, built-in model. A lot of remodelers emphasize the intrinsically relaxing qualities of having all your toiletries, towels and even reading material beautifully organized in one big unit made of high-end wood, marble and chrome. And it is certainly beautiful. But it’s also a risky choice, and a matter of taste.

-Do freshen up the vanity area. Invest in a big mirror and put bright lights over it. And a few hundred dollars spent on a nice faucet is well worth it, as, like the showerhead, it’s a true basic—and updating the basics, in most homes and markets, is all you should be focusing on.

Other tips for redoing your kitchen and bathroom frugally

-Declutter your counters. A disorganized kitchen is a buyer-deterrent. Clean up the counters and pare down countertop items to the essentials—toaster, microwave, coffee pot and not much more than that.
-Keep your pantry and cabinetry clutter-free too. You don’t have to alphabetize your cereals—just know that potential buyers will probably open those cabinets, so they won’t want a ladle falling out on their head.
-Give your kitchen table or breakfast bar some life. It’s simple—placemats, a colorful vase or two and a tasteful flower arrangement will reinforce the idea that the kitchen is the heart of the home.

-If you want to add a little life to the wall, try a simple, straight-lined wood or stainless-steel floating shelf with a few candles on it. It’s an elegant, boutique-hotel touch that doesn’t cost much.
-Toss down a colorful floor mat. Bathrooms are often devoid of color; this is a great way to add that color, and a little warmth.
-Again, clear clutter. Even your beauty essentials shouldn’t be on the counter if you’re in the open house stage.

Dan Steward is president of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspections.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The longest wait for a decision

Talk about a stressful week. I had a contract on my listing that was set to close Jan 20th (yes, that would be this coming Thursday!). Well, on Tuesday, the buyers decided that it was going to be more work (all cosmetic) than they wanted and were thinking about cancelling. We came back with our best offer on Thursday night. We waited, and waited and waited for the buyers to make a decision. I have NEVER had anyone take sooo long to make a decision. Talk about stress. I think the majority of my calls and texts were to and from my clients. (thankfully they are awesome which made this whole thing much better!). Well, around 1pm today (SUNDAY!) we finally got our answer - they still wanted the house! whew. Since Monday is a holiday we have to wait until Tuesday to find out exactly when we can close. I am sooo happy this all worked out. My clients are moving to Alabama.

Not knowing for so many days sucked and was super stressful but I'm so thankful for awesome clients and that everything is going to work out! I can finally breath a sigh of relief!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10 Ways to Spruce Up Your Blog

Here are some GREAT tips to spruce up your blog & its content. Do you have a blog? Let me know the address, I'd love to read it!

10 Ways to Spruce Up Your Blog
By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, January 12, 2011—Social networking is all the rage in marketing these days but as we all know, you could have thousands of friends on Facebook and tons of followers on Twitter, but if you don’t have something relevant to say or any good information to offer, it won’t matter much.

Enter the blog. Blogs are a great way to discuss a point more thoroughly than you could on a Facebook post or a Tweet. While blogging—like all social media—is a constantly evolving platform, there are some basic points that you should always be cognizant of.

Here are 10 tips from on how to improve your blog:

1. DO write about topics that you are passionate about.
When you write about topics that excite you, your writing will communicate a sense of energy that will attract like-minded readers. You'll also be more likely to keep on blogging, and won't abandon your blog after a few days or weeks.

2. DON'T take a too-formal tone.Blogging is a more informal medium than print, and your writing style should reflect that. Blogging allows you to write in a casual, face-to-face tone, as if you were sitting down for a cup of coffee with your readers. One way to begin to develop your blog "voice" is to read blogs that resonate with you and study the ways in which those bloggers choose words that maintain a professional tone while still being warm and accessible.

3. DO edit yourself.Hey, it's your blog, right? You can write a 2,000-word essay on what you had for breakfast, or wax eloquent about everything that is wrong with retail customer service. Don't do it. Once you draft your post, read through it for redundancies, irrelevant anecdotes or anything that isn't vital. You might find that you have enough material for two or three unique posts. Your blog isn't a book; make it lean.

4. DON'T use tired clichés.
A cliché is a phrase that has been coined for so long that it has become boring. An easy way to turn off readers and make them move on to another site is to pepper your posts with clichés like "right as rain" and "easy as pie." Take a minute to prune those phrases out and replace them with something fresh and original.

5. DO spell check your posts before you click "Publish Now."Watch out for common misspellings that won't show up on the spellchecker, such as "your" versus "you're," "their" versus "there," and "principle" and "principal." For extra spelling help, use

6. DON'T forget basic principles of good text layout.Readability is one of the most important aspects of good blog copy. Use line breaks between paragraphs. Use subheads, preferably in bold type. Use italics for emphasis. Your goal is to draw the eye and create a smooth sense of flow throughout your post. Make it easy to read!

7. DO use lists.
Most blog readers skim copy rather than read it all the way through.
One way to maximize your copy impact is to use lists. Bullet lists or numbered lists call attention to important points, and ensure that readers who are skimming will catch the most vital part of your post.

8. DON'T use the same format in every post.Mix it up a little! Some might incorporate lists, while others might be more narrative. Some posts might include a lot of images, while others will be more copy-heavy. Don't do the same thing every time.

9. DO create descriptive headlines that let readers know what to expect from your posts.
One of the best things about blogging is that it allows you to be creative. Problem is, what is clever to you might be confusing to someone else. The best way to encourage more people to read your post is to write a compelling post title, and use subheads throughout your post.

10. DON'T sweat it.
Don't let these guidelines keep you from blogging. The most important thing is to keep writing. If you write with passion and conviction, you’ll be able to connect with other people, and your writing will improve every time you post.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Making that First Impression

Making that First Impression
By Dan Steward

RISMEDIA, January 10, 2011—When getting a home ready to be put on the market, it is crucial that home sellers understand the importance of making a good first impression. While many sellers become overwhelmed with the amount of changes they think must be made before their home is listed, there are only a few areas that really matter.

People decide within 30 seconds of walking into a home whether they might want to buy it, so it’s crucial to make a great first impression. But nobody wants to overspend on anything these days, so it’s important to spend only on those things that really matter.

Based on our experience working with thousands of REALTORS® across the country, here is a check list that you can use with your clients that will make their homes more likely to sell and garner better prices:

Curb appeal. While people spend lots of time on details inside the home—to the point of, perhaps, baking cookies to create a welcoming aroma—too few focus on the real first impression: how the house looks as prospective buyers step out of their car.

Spending a little money on gardening can remove impediments, such as overgrown foliage. The effort can also brighten a home’s appearance and make it much more welcoming. A bit of gardening can help paint a scene, so possible buyers can see their kids playing in the yard or can imagine sitting outside in the evening with a glass of wine.

A survey by HomeGain found that spending $400 to $500 on fresh landscaping can add almost $2,000 to the price of the house.

What’s the condition? Conversely, not making repairs can cut the price of the house. The issue can be partially addressed just through eyeballing. Sellers should look for cracks, damaged paint and so on, trying to imagine the impression that buyers will have.

Sellers should also commission a home inspection, so they have their own view of the state of their home, before the buyers’ inspector begins aggressively looking for problems. Sellers who have their own report are better able to push back both about the extent of any issues and about the likely cost of fixing them.

Even if buyers aren’t turned off entirely by what they see as disrepair, they typically ask for $2–$3 off the price for every $1 of repairs that they perceive are needed, so it’s crucial for sellers to know that, say, the roof needs to be replaced. That way, the sellers can spend the $5,000 themselves rather than face a buyer demanding $15,000 off the price of the house.

Finding the right assistance. There are loads of services that help with staging, repairs, and so on—so many, that clients are often confused about which to use. Realtors often provide their expertise here and refer clients to businesses. That approach works great for many, but some want assurance. That’s relatively easy to provide these days, based on a little checking on search engines. Clients should also be encouraged to post queries on their Facebook pages, asking friends both to suggest businesses to use and businesses to avoid.

Dan Steward is president of Pillar To Post Home Inspections.