How To Prepare For A Real Estate Appraisal

  • Introduction
    • Since house prices are subject to fluctuations based on economic conditions and other factors, many prospective buyers and sellers opt to have a professional real estate appraiser determine the property’s market value. In many cases, a bank will send a real estate appraiser to determine a property value before approving or refinancing a mortgage.

  • Step 1: Collect and Organize Documents

    • Since you want the appraisal of your home to accurately reflect how much the property is worth, ensuring that you provide the appraiser with the appropriate documentation is key. This will not only assist the appraiser in making an informed and true estimation of your home’s worth, but can also potentially increase the amount your house is appraised for.
    • If you have any of the following documents, collect and organize them for the appraiser:
    1. A floor plan of the home
    2. Land titles, deeds and ownership agreements
    3. Bill of sale, if the property was purchased within the previous three years
    4. Copies of any agreements with neighbors regarding shared resources, such as driveways or docks
    5. A detailed list and receipts of any significant improvements to the home or property in recent years
    6. Any inspection reports
    7. If the home is for sale, provide a list of any appliances that will be included with the home
    8. A copy of the most recent property tax bill
    9. If the property is a condominium, a copy of strata agreements and any related covenants and fees
    10. If the home is for sale, a list of any planned improvements to the property that will be completed before the sale is finalized

  • Step 2: Basic Maintenance
    • If there are any minor repairs that need to be performed on the home, do you best to take care of them before the appraiser arrives. For example:
    1. Fix any leaky faucets
    2. Replace any missing moldings
    3. Patch any holes in the walls
    4. Ensure that all window coverings are in good condition if they will be included in the sale
    5. Replace any broken windows or torn window screens
    6. If smoke detectors are not in working condition, replace or repair them

  • Step 3: Other Tips
    • Although showing the appraiser a clean house will not necessarily increase the appraisal value, it can’t hurt. Be sure to remove any obstructions to lesser-used areas of the house, such as the shed, attic and crawlspace, since the appraiser will need access to every part of the house and property. To avoid of allergic reactions or possible aggressive behavior, remove or tie up any pets.
    • You do not need to give the appraiser a guided tour of your property; in fact, he or she may want to perform the inspection solo. However, be sure you are somewhere close by and available to answer any questions that may arise.

  • Conclusion
    • Be sure to prepare for your real estate appraisal by collecting and organizing any documents that may be relevant to your property’s value. Make sure your house is tidy and that the appraiser will be able to easily access all areas.

Continue Reading →

How Much Transparency Should You Have in Your Company With Employees and the Public?

Proper communication in a company can never be underestimated enough when wanting to nurture a corporate team working on a major goal. As much as you may think companies in America work on a level like Apple, far too many consider such team alignment as a pipe dream. And that mindset comes strictly from employees who realize their leaders need to think about being transparent and open about everything in order to establish better teamwork. Also, customers are starting to establish more personal relationships with companies and expect to know everything about them in order to make this happen.

It's all part of a wider picture showing how much a sense of transparency benefits a company today. Some polls have shown recently that companies with some level of transparency end up cutting their turnover rates exponentially. They also increase their productivity levels by almost a quarter.

With proof of this, CEO's of companies may finally move corporations away from the days when the top brass seemed far separated from the workers who actually got things done. What paths are they starting to take now that can benefit your own company in making sure everyone is on the same page to meet definitive goals? The same applies in letting customers know everything about you to give a new sense of personalization.

Making Goals Clear

Your employees may know part of what they need to do when coming to work every morning. But what's the true overall goal of your company, and how can you reach it? By holding regular meetings with your entire staff, you can make it clear what the main objective is so everyone can see the light on the horizon. In a case where your staff might be too large, video conferencing can help give a more personal communication method so they know what's really going on.

Without making a goal understandable (or even achievable), you'll have unmotivated employees who may be secretly throwing in applications to other companies to move on.

How Often to Communicate?

Once you have a company goal in everyone's mind, you have to keep it going as a daily process. No matter that you have one major goal in mind, you have to break it down into portions and reach certain points before leading to the next level. When doing this daily, each day can be highly productive and also invigorating. Especially when your goal is overly lofty, it could take a year or more of intense daily transparency in order to make sure everyone does their part in heading one step closer to goal realization.

Being Transparent About Internal Issues

Far too many companies keep it quiet from employees if any financial issues or other internal concerns exist that need addressing. If you want to create a true team that works together, everyone should be aware of the company's financial health. In fact, employees will rally even more when there's a threat of going under and a goal exists that inspires everyone. Keeping these elements known only to head brass threatens the well-being of everyone and thwarts the transparency you were seeking out for the company.

Being Transparent with Your Customers

Whether you're a company that's large or small, being transparent about most everything will help establish the more personal customer-company relationship. People want to know about your background, how things are produced, and what your company goals are. With so many people incorporating products into their lives that help solve personal problems, they want to know whether your company is truly conscientious or just feigning any care about their customers.

Telling your back story during your marketing campaigns, as well as being up front about your success and failures, can help you keep established customers in your corner for years. That's going to be important when you might be in trouble and need to depend on your customers more than ever in order to survive.


Continue Reading →

Visiting the Hawaiian Vanilla Company in Paauilo, HI: An Interactive Experience

The days when travelers were merely conscientious observers are waning. Nowadays, the predominance of intrepid trekkers expects, and often demands, total absorption with their destination, even if it means getting their hands dirty.

Travelers to Hawaii are no exception and perhaps that is why more and more Island businesses are offering "experiences" as opposed to traditional "look but don't touch" attractions.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company in Paauilo is one such business. Considered to be the only commercial vanilla farm in the entire United States, it offers a unique set of "experiences", including those that put visitors smack dab in the middle of the action, dirty hands and all.

What follows is a brief description of just some of the experiences offered by the Hawaiian Vanilla Company as well as information on how one may go about making reservations.

Experiences Offered

There are a variety of unique experiences that await visitors to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.

The experiences include farm tours, vanilla tastings, cooking demonstrations, chef's tables, cooking classes, horticulture seminars, volunteer opportunities, teas, brunches and dinners.

As of early 2011 there are two Hawaiian vanilla experiences that are priced right around $25; vanilla tastings and upcountry teas.

The 45 minute Vanilla Tasting includes a vanilla infused beverage, vanilla infused desert, educational lecture and tour of the vanillary. It is offered Monday through Saturday at 10:30 am as well as by appointment for large groups.

The equally as inviting, 1 hour Upcountry Tea is offered Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 3:00 pm and is inclusive of vanilla infused teas and desserts.

Travelers that are employing a more leisurely Hawaiian itinerary may wish to consider partaking of the two hour, Hawaiian Vanilla Experience which includes a complete vanilla infused repast, lecture and walking tour of the vanillary.

It is one of the more popular tours offered by the Hawaiian Vanilla Company and is superlative for those that desire an immersion course in all things vanilla.

Those travelers that literally want to get their hands dirty may want to consider one of the Hawaiian Vanilla Company's horticulture experiences.

Participants in select horticulture experiences are given the opportunity to engage in such activities as cutting, cultivating, fertilizing and transplanting vanilla plants within the company's greenhouses.

Advance Reservations

Advance reservations for any of the Hawaiian Vanilla Company experiences may be made by contacting the company staff either by phone or online.

Would-be tour participants should be mindful of the fact that tour prices, times, policies and elements are subject to change and as such should be verified directly with the Hawaiian Vanilla Company's staff prior to trip departure.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company
43-2007 Paauilo Mauka Road
Paauilo, HI 96776

Additional Information

Travelers that would like to garner more information about things to experience while in Hawaii should log onto the state's tourism authority website.

State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture, "Hawaiian Vanilla Company" State of Hawaii Dept. Agriculture
Hawaiian Vanilla Company, "Tours" Hawaiian Vanilla Company
The Hawaiian Islands, "Media Communications" Hawaii Tourism Authority…

Continue Reading →

How to Get a Real Estate License in Florida

  • Introduction
    • Becoming a real estate agent can be a great career path if you are good at and enjoy sales. But before you prepare for a career in real estate, make sure you are willing to work in a field where your income will often depend on commission and will fluctuate with changes in the house market, no matter how good you are at sales.

  • Step 1: Prerequisites
    • There are several prerequisites and requirements before you can get a license as a real estate associate in Florida.
    1. You must be over 18 years old.
    2. You must have a high school degree.
    3. You must complete a pre-licensing class of 63 classroom hours. People will disabilities might be able to take the class at home. The class needs to be approved by the Florida Real Estate Commission.
    4. After taking the class, you have two years to apply for a license.
    5. When applying for the license, submit the application form, fingerprints and the required fee.

  • Step 2: Exam
    • After passing the exam, you can apply for the Real Estate Sales Associate Examination.
    1. According to the Mutual Recognition Agreement that Florida and several other states have, members of those state only have to pass the law part of the real estate exam, if they have a real estate license in another state. If so, you need a grade of 30 or more.
    2. All others must pass the full exam with a grade of 75 or more.

  • Step 3: After the Exam
    • If you pass the exam, you are qualified to apply for a license.
    1. Submit an application to activate the license you previously applied for. Use form RE-2050-1.
    2. The license you receive is temporary. You will need to complete a post-licensing course of 45 classroom hours before it expires.

  • Step 4: Broker License
    • If you have a real estate sales license and would like to apply for a broker license, there are several steps required. They are similar to the steps taken to apply for a real estate associate license.
    1. You must have practiced in real estate for 24 months during a five-year period before qualifying for a broker license. Experience from another state might qualify.
    2. Complete a 72-hour classroom course for brokers approved by the Florida Real Estate Commission. People with disabilities might be able to take the class at home.
    3. Submit an application, fingerprints and the required fee.
    4. Pass the Real Estate Broker Examination with a grade of 75 or more.
    5. File form RE-2050-1 to activate the license.
    6. The initial license is temporary. You must complete a post-licensing class approved by FREC before it expires.

  • Conclusion
    • If you want to get a real estate associate license in Florida, you have to meet the prerequisites, take a classroom course and pass an exam. To apply for a broker license, you will need to go through steps very similar to the ones you initially took to apply for the original license, but you will need a few years of experience first.

Continue Reading →

How to Invest in Real Estate

  • Introduction
    • No doubt you’ve heard of “get-rich-quick” schemes regarding real estate. Leaving aside the credibility of those claims, it’s important to know that you’ll more likely “get-rich-slow” with real estate. Like most industries, the real estate market rides an infinite cycle of boom and bust. It’s quite possible to become wealthy by investing in real estate, but most likely, only if you weather the cycle long enough to make a worthwhile profit. This can take many years. In the meantime, you might consider playing the lottery. Below are some practical ways to make money in real estate.

  • Diversify
    • There are several ways to invest in real estate, not all of which actually involve buying property (see subsequent sections). However, regardless of the route you choose, don’t put all of your money in real estate. Consider making other investments, so that your future livelihood is not at the mercy of the real estate market. The process of spreading around your investments is called diversification. Here are several ways to do this:
    1. Invest in different sectors.
      • In popular usage, a sector is a portion of the economy, categorized according to specific industry, such as the real estate sector. Before you sink money into real estate, consider setting some aside for other investments as well.Consider putting some money into precious metals, or pharmaceuticals—anything that seems to have good prospects and whose performance is unrelated to that of the real estate market.
    2. Invest internationally.
      • It may sound unpatriotic, but if you view the domestic economy as a basket, it makes sense. If the US economy tanks and the Australian economy stays afloat, you’ll be in better shape than your neighbor if you’ve invested in both. Brokerages, including online, discount brokerages like E*Trade and Scottrade give you access to investments in foreign economies. Also, have a look at’s article, “Investing in Foreign Real Estate Goes Mainstream.”
    3. Invest in a mutual fund.
      • A mutual fund is a sort of investors’ pool. Your money is combined with that of hundreds, or thousands, of other investors and then tied into an array of different securities, depending on the specific mutual fund. There are real estate mutual funds, but it might be wise to invest in one that’s diversified outside of the real estate sector as well. For more information, see How Do Mutual Funds Work and How to Choose a Mutual Fund.
    4. For a more detailed run down on diversification, including other ways to diversify your portfolio, see How to Invest.

  • Advertisements
    • 0% Real Estate commissions (sponsored)
    • Save 20% – 50% on your Dream Home! (sponsored)</hypertext>

  • Property
    • Buying property, or course, is the most common way to invest in real estate. Even if you’re thinking of just buying a bare plot of land, hanging on to it and selling in the far future, there’s far more to buying property than the actual act of purchasing it.


    • Property is the last thing that should be an impulse-buy. Make detailed plans, or you may end up losing more than you hoped to gain.
    1. How long do you expect to keep the property?
      • While a long term investment is likely to bring higher returns, it will also cost more in repairs.
      • The average asphalt shingle roof lasts around 15 years, but costs thousands of dollars to replace.
      • Pipes will need to be replaced, not to mention plumbing repairs, cracks and leaks—the list goes on.
    2. How will you use the property?
      • Primary residence: If you plan to live on the property, you’re likely to secure better loan terms than otherwise. On the other hand, your eventual resale profit will be dampened by the cost of having to acquire a new place to live.
      • Rental: A rental property will pay you monthly dividends. Unfortunately, there’s more to being a landlord (as opposed to a slumlord) than just sitting back and watching the rent roll in.
        • For a guide to the benefits and perils of being a landlord, see MSN Money’s Do you have what it takes to be a landlord?.
      • Resale: If you want to resell a property, you’ll have to consider two important variables:
        • Condition: The Vaudeville songwriter Billy Rose once said, “Never invest

Continue Reading →

Building a Successful Company Culture for Your Small Business

Building a company culture for your small business is one of the most important things that you can do to ensure its success, and yet it is a strategy that is often overlooked by small business owners. Consider these six tips for building a successful company culture for your small business.

Create a Mission Statement. A mission statement may seem unnecessary or even trivial for your small business, but it can play a very important role by in creating a company culture by setting forth clearly and concisely the values that you want to drive your business. Take your time writing a mission statement and give it a great deal of thought. In particular, think about how you want your employees, customers, and vendors to view your business. Do you want your business to be known for its integrity, its customer service, its innovation and so forth? If so, say that in your mission statement.

Communicate Company Values to Employees. Be sure that every employee knows the company mission statement and understands the importance you place on the values it conveys. You might want to hang a copy of the mission statement in a prominent place in the office, give it premier placement on the company website, and even have it printed on business cards and stationery.

Personally Reflect Company Values. Having a mission statement and saying it is important are meaningless if you don't reflect the company values in your actions. If superior customer service is a company value, show that in how you treat customers every day. If you do, your employees will follow your lead and this value will become part of the company culture.

Reward Actions That Reflect Company Values. You can reinforce your company values and help to foster a solid company culture by being sure to reward behavior that is consistent with and supportive of those values. Whether it is verbal praise, a pat on the back, or a small bonus, acknowledgement that an employee is living the company values will communicate more clearly than anything else you can do how important these values are to you.

Enlist Employees in Decision Making When Possible. One mistake that many small business owners make is authoritarian decision making. While there certainly are decisions that only the owner can make, there are several reasons why taking into account employee feedback whenever you can may pay off for your small business.

First, in some instances, employees may have information or perspectives that you don't and, as a result, their input could help you make better informed decisions.

Second, when it comes to decisions that directly affect employees, such as those related to benefits programs, knowing employee preferences could actually result in more cost-effective decisions and higher employee morale.

And third, when employees believe that their opinions are valued, they are likely to feel more invested in the company culture and happier working there.

Work and Play Together. Create opportunities for employees to socialize as a group. Whether you order pizza for lunch for the entire office once a week, organize a company softball team, create a tradition for celebrating employee birthdays or employment anniversaries or come up with your own unique activity, finding ways to help employees relax together can help to create a greater sense of camaraderie and loyalty to the firm and strengthen your company culture.…

Continue Reading →

Independence Day: In the Company of Uncle Sam

As every American boy should, I have very fond memories of Independence Day celebrations growing up. My parents usually loaded up my sisters and I for a trip to the county fairground. The 4th always came at a good time for a bored kid on summer break from school. After a month out of class you begin to start running out of things to do, at least in the 80's and 90's before the internet and gaming was a given for every most household. For a small town in Northwest Georgia , the community where I was raised had a fairly respectable gathering every 4th of July and the fireworks shows could hold their own with most any I've seen since. As memorable as these times were, even combined, they would never come close to matching even one of the next two experience I am about to share with you.

My senior year of high school, I joined the Marines. I would be attending Boot Camp at Parris Island , South Carolina a few weeks after graduation in May of 2000. I arrived on the Island June 26th before midnight, and just over a week later our newly introduced drill instructors would get us into some semblance of a formation and "march" our sorry tails over to the famous Parris Island parade deck, where 12 weeks later we would graduate. That night, however, we were still just filthy, rotten scum of the earth recruits. The first few weeks are the ones that make you miss home, and cause you to ask yourself questions like "what the hell have I gotten myself into?" As we sat on the hallowed asphalt with "left hand left knee, right hand right knee, back straight, mouth shut," we all faced straight ahead over the marshes that separated us from the rest of humanity. These same marshes that looked towards Buford would, this particular night, provide us all with a taste of home and fill us with a sense of pride possibly unmatched to this point in our young lives. Soon after dark, the Parris Island Marine Band began to perform beautiful versions of patriotic and military songs that we all knew by heart. They kept right on playing while one of the largest and most spectacular formal fireworks shows I have ever seen went off over the swampy waters to the west. It was quite an experience, and for a short time I was home in North Georgia eating a funnel cake at the Cherokee Capital Fair Grounds with my family. If only for a few moments, I was home.

Normally this would be where the story ends, but I was not done with Uncle Sam, and he was far from done with me. By 2004 I was out of the Marines and trying my hand a college. It wasn't going so well, and I was bored. I joined my local Army National Guard unit and after a few months in, as expected, we received orders to Iraq . I had, for some reason, wanted to go. Not for some blind sense of patriotic duty, or for love of country, but more for adventure and other selfish reasons. By the summer of 2005 the 1/108th Armor Battalion found itself smack dab in the middle of the "Triangle of Death" operating in the area in and around the cities Mahmudiyah, Latifiyah, and Yusufiya. It was dangerous and we wouldn't make it out without significant losses. I ended up a member of the battalion commander's PSD (Personal Security Detail). We did a little bit of everything, and rarely was it safe, but we often made it fun and bearable. I would spend this Independence Day in the company of my brothers on Forward Operating Base Saint Michael.

We had quite a nice spread, for a place that only served two meals a day in a tent secured with ply wood, and somehow the higher ups had managed most of the food luxuries from home. We had steaks, beans, potatoes, hot dogs, burgers with all the fixins. The only thing we lacked, of course, was ice cold beer. EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), unknown to …

Continue Reading →

Jenks Homes For Sale

Jenks homes for sale represent more than just a place to raise a family. A home is a financial investment and an asset. Buying a home is putting into action a plan for the future. You are investing in your family and you are investing in a community. Before making any decision about buying a home, there are some things to be considered.

You should determine if you are truly ready to buy a house. This will require steady employment and low debt. You will need money for a down payment unless you qualify for one of the creative financing loans. If you have a bad credit rating, it is possible to get some types of loans. The interest will be much higher and the terms very stringent.

Features in Jenks Homes for Sale

When you look at the Jenks homes for sale, you are looking at an opportunity for tax breaks that come with owning a home. It is worth the responsibility of taxes, insurance, and upkeep to have the sense of stability and freedom that comes with owning your home. You must find a home that fits your lifestyle. It is a good idea to jot down the things that are important to you and your family before beginning your search for the perfect house.

Divide the list into two sections. The first will include all the features you must have. This addresses things such as school requirements, minimum size of home, lot location, and access to employment. The other section of the list will include those features you would like to have if possible. This includes things that are desired but not essential. There are Jenks homes for sale with a variety of features and options for every family to consider.…

Continue Reading →

The Gilliam Candy Company

The Gilliam Candy Company has been around since 1927, and was established in Henderson, Nevada. They have some of the most popular hard candies in the United States of America. Although you may be asking yourself if you have ever heard of them before, not knowing that you have.

Remember those candy sticks that didn't cost you much at the drug store when you were a kid way back when? Maybe you had their infamous lemon drops that look like they had sugar sprinkled on the outside but turned out to be so sour. Whichever of their many flavors of hard candies you have tried, you have obviously had something of theirs but do not recall their name.

The typical 6 oz bag of candy you would buy of the Gilliam candy is now around $1.99 per bag at most places across the U.S. It is noted on the back of the bag of lemon drops that a serving size is 5 pieces, which is 11 servings a bag. That is 55 pieces (supposedly) in each bag. Each serving is 60 calories. There are 15 grams of carbohydrates in them and 15 grams of sugar as well.

The lemon drops made by the Gilliam Candy Company are made up of sugar, corn syrup, citric acid, artificial flavor and FD&C; Yellow #5.

The bagged flavors you will find are horehound, lemon drops, wild cherry, cinnamon, root beer, watermelon and licorice. The root beer flavor is actually shaped in the form of a barrel. There are many other flavors, but these are the most popular ones. They also make these same flavors into candy sticks, which are individually wrapped, and can be bought individually or in decorative tins.

These wonderful treats make great stocking stuffers or party favors. Kids will eat them up as they can be addicting. You may want to set them out in a decorative candy dish for all to enjoy as people come to visit. These candies will last for a long time after being exposed to air. Although they will tend to stick to one another if left unwrapped.

The next time you are in Cracker Barrell or some place that sells hard candy take a look at the brands they have. More than likely you will find that Gilliam is the most popular brand of candies they sell. You can even find them at Silver Dollar City in various stores. Why, even Six Flags amusement parks have them as well. These wonderful treats are hard to pass up once you have tried a few of them.…

Continue Reading →

In the Company of Misery

A writer's life is a journey through the shadows of obscurity; an existence that transports the mind and the body beyond the edges of darkness. It is particularly provocative among those writers who are chosen by the occupation; chosen by the imposition of the right-side of the brain whose audacity overrides a parent's vicarious high jacking of their child's life; the exchange of the dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers or professional sports figures for a life that is often misunderstood.

Within the dark and misconstrued landscapes where a writer finds a home, all is not evil or miserable. Darkness is necessary. There are questions only darkness can answer. Ideas, like seeds germinate in the dark and will burn if exposed to light before its time. Eventually, the light is allowed its contribution to the fruit of the labor. Sometimes the dark is simply asking for light, asking the holder of the quill, laced in colorful ink, to illuminate a thought, a moment or a life; to be the medium by which the world finds what is lost and discovers its balance within the chaos. It is a proudly worn burden.

I am not afraid of physical darkness; but a visitation of spiritual or emotional darkness creates paralysis within me. I am powerless to its timing and blind to the outcome. Its immobility is most disheartening when I am without the means to exorcise it from those I love.

The emotionally dim rollercoaster that has been my life has made me passionately practical. It seems impractical to join others in their misery. Yet human sensibilities, disguised as empathy, rarely resist the offer to dive right into the pool of another person's anguish. In those moments I question my usefulness. I would gladly take on the pain and anguish of everyone I love, rather than hold their hand in the dark or be relegated to the perimeter of their lives as a witness, conspirator or accomplice to their sorrow; I would wear their despair as a coat of arms for the sake of their happiness.

Writers by and large are martyrs; the self-less advocates of peace and prosperity, often times at the expense of their own. We are a vehicle by which civilization pushes past its anxieties and fulfills the promise of its purpose. We are vexed by our own humanity, yet we are willing to assume the weight of the world for the world's sake.

In the Company of Misery

When the pain of darkness approaches
accompanied by despair's nightfall;
surrender to a writer, a troubled soul un-appalled.

With quill and ink
your troubles become their concern
then channeled to secret crevices
delicate parchment on which your sorrows burn.

Wearing your trouble as weathered fleece
carrying your worry as a cross
whether heartbreak or heartache;
we seek
and speak peace
so no soul is ever lost.

© 2011 Camille Gray. All rights reserved.…

Continue Reading →