Small Business—Honesty is Always the Best Policy.


This is Rosa. She sells fresh fruits and vegetables in a stall in an alley off the main street in Black River, Jamaica, West Indies.

 On a recent trip to the south west coast of Jamaica to investigate vacation real estate, I stopped in the nearby town of Black River to do some errands. Of course I couldn’t resist the luscious local produce she was selling. After purchasing some produce,she handed lemons2me the bag.

 Black River is about a 45 minute “route” taxi drive to where I was staying in St. Elizabeth’s Parish on the SW coast. If you haven’t been in a “route” taxi, I must tell you…it is a rather daunting (and dangerous) way to travel..(…but when in Rome)….the roads are potholed and very narrow for 2 lanes of traffic, making for a white knuckle ride. And adding to this is the custom of packing 4-5 people in the back seat of some pretty run down “taxis”. Yup, you may be sitting on someone’s lap, with your feet dangling out the window.

taxi route When I returned to the house of my host, I opened the bags of produce and found a small rather heavy, black plastic bag. I opened it up and a large wad of paper money, coins, cell phone, receipts, keys etc were inside.  Rosa has inadvertently handed me her entire business! You can imagine my shock at this discovery. My host called her on the cellphone( thank goodness it was in the bag) & explained in Jamaican patois, the situation. The plan was that I would return the next day, yup, you guessed it, by “route” taxi..again… a grueling 45 minute ride each way.

 When I finally arrived , I searched around for the alley where Rosa’s “shop” was located …a maze of cars, blaring music over giant loudspeakers, throngs of people, feral cats and dogs, vendors hawking wares, 90 degree heat,with the smells of curried goat wafting in the air. It wasn’t an easy task!

 As I approached, she recognized me immediately, I handed her the bag and she threw her arms around me, with tears in her eyes. It was a solemn moment. I assured her that I wouldn’t t have done anything else. As I went about my errands, I was back out on the main street and I saw Rosa coming towards me. She threw her arms around me again, thanking me so much. I didn’t feel I deserved this, but I was happy that she was so grateful and her worries were over.

 This experience will most likely stay with me a lifetime, since I do believe everything happens for a reason. And I’m glad I was the one who mistakenly got her money..

 The moral? Well, honesty is always the best policy, and never hesitate to do the right thing. Sometimes a seemingly small incident could be a complete life-changer for someone. As it turned out, it was a life altering experience for me!



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What’s Property Damage?

What’s Damage?

Messy junk in  junkyard.I’ve been asked by my clients who act as their own property manager, what is considered damage after Tenant moves out? The laws in every state differ, so I am not addressing CA laws specifically.

 When a tenant moves into a dwelling, there’s a Move-In Checklist that is given to them. I allow 7 days, giving the tenant some time to settle in. I explain this is simply a “statement of condition”, not a “request for repairs”. BIG difference.

 If the owner would like to take photos, that’s fine. But unless you have a commercial grade camera with zoom lens, dirt on the carpet or wear and tear on the floor is not going to be visible. My advice: get the place in great shape, maximizing your ability to attract quality tenants and insuring your property value stays high.

 Wear and tear: this is something you can’t expect your tenant to pay for. If you have a 10 year old carpet and tenant leaves a small stain that is barely visible, forget it. If the carpet was brand new and  the cat urinated on it, you can have them pay for the entire carpet replacement. If you have screens that were torn by cat (and I have yet to see any catAngry cat not participate in this creative past time)or blinds that were bent by a curious child, then that is damage. They need to pay for replacement, but I’d be very lenient with the cost, since kids and cats act like….well, kids and cats. I delineate between “malicious” damage and accidental or “wear and tear” damage.

 Carpet cleaning is a sticking point since my personal feeling is if the carpets were cleaned before move-in, than tenant’s dirt is on the carpet, and they need to pay to remove it. This is a gray area, since it’s believed to be “wear and tear” but I always deduct for this.

Handsome man painting wall.Repainting is just a fact of life when you own property, but do you expect a freshly painted unit to be filthy after a 6 month lease? Absolutely not, and that is not normal “wear and tear”. After 2 years, I sometimes only wash walls with TSP and touch-up scuffs, but that’s after a really good tenant.

 Lightbulbs: Yes, this has been an issue, since I have properties with recessed lighting and bulbs can cost $6.00/each. Should tenant replace burned out bulbs after move out? Absolutely, or they get the cost deducted from their security deposit.

Being fair is the name of the game….there are just some things that as owners, we have to write off as business expenses. And inappropriate security deposit deductions will many times land you in court.

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Why Do Some Folks Hate Social Media So Much?


Football fans jumpingThe other day I was talking with a friend of mine who emphatically told me Facebook was “stupid” and he’d rather be out talking to people face to face. I then had a conversation with a family member who expressed her feeling that anyone who “wasted time” on Facebook was lacking in social skills, and needs to “get a life”. I laughed to myself.

 When I hear folks disparaging Facebook I often think they don’t really understand it, or how it works, and how it can benefit the user. Sure, you can post photos of yourself drinking beer, scantily clad at a pool party, disparage someone, or make rude comments…..but is that who you are in real life? Facebook is a window into who you are—-or at least YOU have the option of creating a Facebook persona. Do I mean a page filled with lies? No— but there is nothing wrong with “tweaking” your Facebook page to make you look friendly, politically involved, dog-friendly, well traveled etc. if that’s who you are. It’s called MARKETING, spinning the facts– but in a good way—posting relevant posts to uphold your “image”—-and making thoughtful comments that are not hurtful or excessively inflammatory.

  The advantages of Facebook are many and each person has their own way in which they utilize it. The following list are some of the ways that Facebook has benefited me.

  People with similar views and interests–I’m a political activist and have made many contacts with similar agendas.

 Elderly feel less isolated—Many of my older FB friends have been transformed by Facebook. An IM is a wondrous thing when you are all alone, and not feeling well.

 Make announcements—New baby? Job promotion? You can share this with just family, or just close friends, many of whom may not be in the same geographical location.

 Opportunities for real-life relationships—I have met many of my “friends” in real life and have broadened my social circle, leading to new business, and new friendships.

 Strengthen existing relationships—Time zones are tough, especially when one has friends in New England or New Zealand. Messages an be posted 24 hours a day, making your location transparent.

 Sharing photos and events with family members—I’m so glad I don’t have to email 15 different people my daughter’s wedding photos, my new landscaping project etc.

 Communicating in many ways—Sharing a joke is often a bonding experience, especially if 2 people have the same sense of humour. I often send a silly cartoon via Facebook to my brother.

 Self education—I’ve learned a heck of a lot about many things I really had no idea about, from cooking to skydiving.

  Insight into someone’s personality—Do you want to know more about the babysitter you may hire for your child? Check out their Facebook page.

 All in all, there are many more ways in which Facebook can be utilized. Learning about privacy settings, circles of friends and how to ignore nasty comments……….it’s all up to you! Between you and me, social media is here to stay and allows us to connect to folks we never would have been able to.

  What’s up the pike after Facebook? I wish I knew!

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Reverse Mortgages–Pros and Cons


house with keyMore than 600,00 Reverse  Mortgages were issued between 1990 and 2010. What are they and what are the caveats?

 As of 2013 the number of seniors over 65 is 37 million and is expected to rise significantly over the next few years. Seniors 65+ will represent one fifth of the US population in 2030.

 In the past several years, many seniors have experienced erosion of their retirement portfolio, be that stocks, bonds, annuities or real estate. And for the first time in history, they are living the longest.

 WHAT is a Reverse Mortgage:

 A Reverse Mortgage is a a loan product that allows you to borrow against the equity in your home. You must be 62, and either have no mortgage ~or~ a small enough mortgage to be paid off from the proceeds of the RM. You must live in your home as your primary residence.

RM loans are available in fixed and adjustable rates. You can take proceeds from the loan, a line of credit (similar to a HELOC) to be used as necessary to pay medical bills or other emergencies, or a monthly payment. You do not have to pay a monthly mortgage payment. You can use the product as a refinance, with or without cash out, since there are no income or credit qualifications. You still retain title, and you do not have to pay the RM back until you: 

  1. sell the home
  2. pass away
  3. permanently relocate

 Property taxes and insurance still need to be paid.

 Traditionally, RM’s were prohibitively expensive but theHECM SAVER LOAN  charges only 0.01% of a home’s value up front. Borrowing limits depend upon your age, the home’s value and the interest rate.

 Caveats include:stop sign2

 Moving out of the home without the intention to return (moving into a Nursing Home or other care facility for a year or more), the loan can be called.

 A younger spouse married to an older spouse may be forced to move if the older spouse dies and the loan is not in the younger one’s name.

 Using up your equity by taking all the cash out at an early age and not having enough for your later years.

 Not preserving equity for your heirs.

These loans serve a particular niche, but may not be for everyone. But they may just help many seniors who have sufficient equity, limited options and really want to enjoy their golden years.






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My Last Showing Was Like a Seinfeld Episode

JOY wordNow I know why Lockboxes were invented.

I have a new listing in a niche that I am interested in growing—needless to say I wanted to make a really good impression on my client.

We signed all the paperwork, and obtained the key to the property. Since this is probably not a property I am going to “co-broke” I decided to keep the key in my car.

When I went to the property last week to inspect the signage, I was getting out of my car with the key in hand. I turned quickly and the key dropped—–between the leather driver’s seat and the console. I tried everything to get it out—-moving the seat back, and even trying to place my hand in—-resulting in a nasty cut. I decided I had better ask the owner for another key asap, since I knew she was out of town and didn’t want to be caught “keyless” with an interested client.

Of course I immediately got a sign call and a client wanted to see the property—I told him the story about the key and he said he would come armed with flashlight and tools for a quick extraction.

It was a tough one——but finally, the client got the key with a long metal rod, and handed it to me. Of course we both had a good laugh over that one. (and I had some new ideas for Nissan’s auto interior design team!!)

 The property was not going to work for him, but he sure helped me out!

 Moral of the story: Even if a client doesn’t purchase a property, he still may be important——and oh yeah———–Lockboxes are for keys—-use them!




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Do You Have A Personality?


sad manWhat a question to ask—most RE professionals I know are “people persons” with a strong desire for social connection. Well, at least that’s what you should have to make it in this business.


Is this just specific to Real Estate? I don’t think it is. As we all work with many vendors, dealing with “wet blanket” or “cranky” personalities can really get you down—–and I shy away from utilizing the services of these people—no matter how great their product or service is!


Example: Last month I had to hire a painter for a small condo that one of my clients owned. His prices were very fair. When he came down to look at the job, he had nothing to say. Responses were “grunts” or “ok”–now I know this part of the business may be a bit tougher for some folks. But honestly, if you really dislike engagement with all types of people, you really need to find yourself another industry. (undertaker, computer programmer?)


I ended up hiring another painter, with a very “can do” attitude and a sharp wit. He did a great job, and even “discounted” my client 10% as an incentive to use his services again.


Is “wet blanket” guy the better painter? Beats me—-but I sure won’t be using his services to find out! Make sure your clients don’t do the same.




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FHA Loan Can Solve The 2 to 4 Unit “Primary Residence Mortgage Misery”.

Guest Blogger Financial Writer Angelina Brown from Chicago:

Nude woman screaming. 2 to 4 Unit properties basically consist of two, three or four separate residences on the same real estate lot. These 2 to 4 unit properties are very profitable for real estate investors. Not only for regular investors, but for normal home buyers also 2 to 4 unit properties can be really lucrative.

What must you maintain to get an FHA mortgage loan for a 2 to 4 unit property?

You can easily get Federal Housing Administration approved mortgage loans to obtain a 2 to 4 unit property. Only you need to meet some important criterion. They are described below:

· First of all, you have to utilize one of the units as your primary residence.

· You may use only 75% of the rental income of the property.

· Your debt-to-income ratio must be at per with the FHA requirements.


Why FHA loans are beneficial for 2 to 4 unit primary residence mortgage?

Following are the 3 benefits that you may enjoy by taking up an FHA mortgage loan for 2 to 4 unit primary residence:

1. The reasonable down payment: This is definitely a good news for prospective home buyers. FHA requires the borrower to pay only 3% down payment for 2 unit properties and 15% down payment for 3 and 4 unit properties. So, home buyers don’t need to worry much about the down payment.

2. Rental income can be used for qualification: Home buyers may increase their purchasing capacity by using the income they are getting from the property rent. The rent that you’ll get from the other units can be used to pay off the mortgage loan on the primary unit of residence.

3. The affordability increases for buyers: The government approved mortgage loan will not only ensure you safety but your mortgage payment also may get easy. The rules and regulations have been designed keeping home buyers demand in mind. So, there is hardly any chance of inconvenience or trouble.

The benefits you may fetch from 2 to 4 unit Primary Residences:

2 to 4 unit properties are more profitable than single family properties. You may get rental income from the units you’re not using and utilize that rent for either your monthly mortgage payments or for strong financial future. So, by obtaining a 2 to 4 unit property you can get a primary residence for yourself and ensure great investment benefits for your entire life. That’s why real estate investors find 2 to 4 unit properties so profitable.

If you’re a first time home buyer and feeling apprehensive about taking up a mortgage loan for a 2 to 4 unit property, then consult any experienced professional. With proper consultation and complete knowledge about FHA mortgage loan terms, you may go ahead for a lucrative real estate investment.


Angelina Brown is a professional financial writer from Chicago.She loves to contribute financial write ups to websites and blogs so that she can help people who are struggling with financial worries. She has written various articles on mortgage, refinance, real estate and so on. For more information on mortgages :

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A Mother’s Wisdom


A friend told me this over and over again: Deborah you’ve just got to write a book about all the wisdom your mother has instilled in you. Now writing any kind of a book is probably not on my “2013 to do” list but I thought, hey I could do the next best thing—write a Blog Post.

 My mother’s wisdom was unusually basic common sense, or so I thought. Then I realized many folks didn’t have the advantage of a wise mother, one who had lived through tough economic times, but yet had a loving family and a lot of emotional support.

 Some of her favorite sayings and advice can be applied to my real estate career but could probably be applied to most life situations.

“Don’t give out Bad Kharma because you can’t go through life like this—it WILL come back to you”Now I don’t recall her ever using the word “Kharma” but it sure as heck meant the same thing in Yiddish. Don’t hurt others intentionally—-it’s bad practice.


“You will have enough money if you make it enough money”. She was a practical person and couldn’t understand why anyone would need more money than they could possibly spend—-of course necessities were not considered options, and we didn’t lack food or other essentials. But the “scramble after things” always confused her and she saw how it made people unhappy.


“Children are like sponges—they soak in everything—-so be very careful what you DO.” This was great advice for not just talking about being honest,  but by “living an honest life” to set an example for your kids.

 “If you fail, get yourself up and try again”Ok –now easy to say, right? Well her insistence to not ever give up was a real comfort to me during some very lean business years.

 “Even if you don’t have a dime in your pocket, hold your head up high and walk like a princess”. Right? I loved this advice in times of struggle—it sure helped when I “pretended” the checking account was overflowing!

 “Don’t complain about spending money on groceries—-it’s cheaper than going to the Doctor.”  You just got to love that type of thinking—–and it’s so true.


 “Spending 2 years with the right man is better than spending an entire lifetime with the wrong one.”  I just had to throw this in for good measure.


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Every Referral is a Diamond


I recently got a referral from someone I didn’t know well, but we have a mutual friend who knows I specialize in income properties and niche commercial. I took the lead, followed it up and obtained a listing.

 In looking at my present clients, I realized several clients are a result of Referrals, a few from marketing, one from a sign and another from a family member.

 Each client represents a conduit to more business—think about Facebook, and how 1 friend has a multitude of connections and so on and so forth.

 Taking care of your present clients is so important. Because trying to obtain more referrals may be a result of a newsletter article or even a thoughtful birthday card.. If they are pleased with your services, then that’s easy—they will be delighted to refer you business.


 It’s a “no-brainer”


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The Neighborhood Realtor—Viable or Extinct?

The Neighborhood Realtor—-this——>






or this—-> 





I’m not going to lie——-I’ve never been a “neighborhood realtor”—always had a “niche” and a specialty which took me way beyond just geographical bounds.

I specialize in Investment Property Sales (usually represent the Seller), and Property Management of SFR’s. I often will represent a Buyer but only with a Buyer Broker Agreement (representing an investor without a contract has proven to be a huge waste of time). I have an open market geographically, more or less, since the entire county (within a specified driving distance) is my “farm”.

In the late 90′s, I had to defend my position of not farming “geographically” and didn’t want to be a “Buyer’s Agent” in a few small blocks. I am not knocking this type of real estate, since many Agents have success with this marketing plan, but in this global market where anyone can come from anywhere and purchase anything, I found it like shooting myself in the foot—closing off opportunities in these tough times we all face.

Has the neighborhood Realtor gone the way of the dinosaur? Or is it still a viable marketing plan?

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