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Word of the Day

November 4, 2013 7:33 pm

Lien. A debt on a property which encumbers it until the obligation is paid; a mortgage, back taxes, or other claim.


Q: What Are Subprime Loans?

November 4, 2013 7:33 pm

A: Subprime mortgages are made to borrowers, usually at a higher interest rate, who do not meet traditional credit criteria or who have unconventional borrowing needs.

Factors that can prevent someone from meeting the traditional criteria could be a high debt-to-income ratio, low reserves at settlement, as well as past credit woes – bankruptcies, defaults, foreclosures, or chronic late payments on debt obligations.



Why Some States Require Contracting Buyer Agents before Showing

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

I have been hearing from more and more REALTORS® that they are required to contract with buyers before they ever get out the door to begin showing prospective properties.

Carrie Higgs, an agent in in Branson, Mo., recently blogged that in the state of Missouri, all REALTORS® are taught to have the buyers agency signed before taking a client out in the car to look at property, or at the earliest convenience after getting the buyer’s funds verified or getting a buyer pre-qualified.

Higgs says most seasoned agents only work with a buyer after signing this agency agreement because it shows the seriousness and urgency of the buyer. If a buyer will not enter into such an agreement, it can be a red flag to the agent if they want to shop for sale by owners, or use multiple agents.

For the agent, it is a contract with the buyer showing their duties and devotion to the buyer. The agreement can also protect a buyer from an agent charging consultation fees, or other fees associated with showing homes.

Frank Borges, an agent in Falls Church, Va. recalls a couple who found a For Sale By Owner that was literally 20 percent overpriced. They had Borges run the numbers and do a full analysis on the neighborhood, and he even helped them talk through what they wanted to offer.

Despite warning them no matter how upgraded it was, it was a really high price, they decided to offer anyhow. Then he gets an email the next day saying that his services were no longer needed - the couple had bypassed Borges and bought the FSBO for $30k over what he advised it was worth.

Since then Borges requires all clients to sign an “Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement” early on. Not before the first showing, like some, but shortly thereafter.


How and Why Parents Should Talk to Kids about Insurance

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

(BPT) - When it comes to financial literacy, parents know it's important to give kids the knowledge and skills they need to manage money. In fact, 81 percent say it's their responsibility as parents to teach children about money and saving, according to a 2012 survey by the website DoughMain. While you're teaching children about smart spending, saving and credit management, don't forget to discuss another important aspect of financial health: insurance.

"Parents should explain insurance in terms kids can relate to. They can explain how insurance is like a protective bubble they can put around the things that are important to them, like a beloved pet, their cellphone or their home," says Robert B. Pollock, president and CEO of Assurant Inc.

The leading provider of specialty insurance recently began sponsoring an "insurance store" at the Junior Achievement Discovery Center in Atlanta, where students learn important financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills. Assurant is a founding partner in the 50,000-square-foot center, which opened in August.

"A key cornerstone of Junior Achievement is to ensure that students can understand and apply basic personal financial concepts. Having a solid understanding of personal finance is a critical factor for success in today's world, and that's-important not just for our schools, but for parents too," says Jack Harris, president, Junior Achievement of Georgia.

While parents may be confident about the value of insurance in their own lives, it can be difficult to communicate such complex matters to children. In creating their Junior Achievement "store," the insurance pros at Assurant focused on ways to connect with kids about how insurance works and why it's important:

  • Put things in terms kids can understand. Assurant likened insurance to a protective bubble, to give kids a cartoon-like visual that helps them comprehend the function of insurance.
  • Look for relatable examples, such as recognizable celebrities who have insured themselves. For example, a model's legs, a basketball player's hands or a quarterback's throwing arm.
  • Discuss protecting things that matter to them, such as a pet (pet health insurance), their home or the family car that takes them to school, soccer practice and the movies.
  • Put insurance's impact in perspective. Explain that insurance helps pay to replace things that get lost or damaged, and point to an example your child has experienced. Kids may not understand loss from fire damage or theft, but most children have cried over a broken or lost toy. Discuss how much easier it would have been to replace that item if someone had given them money toward the cost.
  • Explain how different things require different kinds of insurance because we have different reasons for wanting to protect those things. For example, if something happened to our house or car, we would want to be able to fix or repair it. In the case of our health, we want to make sure we stay healthy and prevent problems.
  • Be sure to talk about consequences, and why not having insurance is a bad idea. Revive the lesson of the lost or broken toy. Without insurance, we may not be able to pay to repair or replace important things. And while your child learned to live without the toy, we can't make do without our home, transportation or health.
  • Finally, look for hands-on learning opportunities in your area. The Junior Achievement Discovery Center in Atlanta hosts 30,000 students a year, but every day brings opportunities to think about protecting the things that matter to kids.

"Experiential learning is a cornerstone of successful financial education; we use it in our own training programs to help employees gain skills and take on broader responsibilities," Pollock says. "The JA Discovery Center exemplifies these principles and is a great example of how we can support financial education and help people protect what's important to them. Students will come away understanding the role insurance plays in everyday life - and have some fun in the process."



Word of the Day

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

Historic structures. Buildings of historical or architectural significance, perhaps landmarks, that are designated by federal, state, or local historical commissions


How to Boost Energy Efficiency in Your Home and Live Green

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

(BPT) - It's now easier than ever for homeowners to transform their homes into models of green living thanks to the growing availability of affordable, energy-smart building products and materials. From replacing incandescent light bulbs to reviewing the energy rating on new appliances, more homeowners are making informed decisions on how to cut energy consumption and boost efficiency.

Homeowners who are serious about boosting their home's energy efficiency should consider working with a certified Home Energy Rater. These professionals conduct a series of tests to assess a home's energy efficiency to provide an overall efficiency rating in much the same way that appliances are rated. Armed with this information, homeowners can make home improvement decisions that further boost their home's energy efficiency.

According to the U.S Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for about 56 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home. While using smart thermostats can help correct daily energy use, homeowners should consider how thoroughly sealed their home truly is. For instance, the amount of air escaping from the home via cracks and gaps within the building envelope can have a significant impact on the overall efficiency of the heating and cooling system.

Why does this matter? Escaping air means the furnace or air-conditioner must work overtime to compensate and maintain a comfortable living temperature. As a result, energy consumption remains high, monthly bills continue to climb and any efficiency achieved through other methods is done in vain.

Understanding the factors that contributes to air leakage is essential for improving efficiency and lowering monthly bills. One of the key areas to consider is the home's insulation. While some homeowners may think simply layering more insulation on top of existing insulation may do the trick, typically these traditional insulation types are unable to provide a thorough air seal or promote better heating and cooling efficiency. In fact, all the small gaps left behind by regular insulation materials like fiberglass can add up quickly.

One effective consideration is replacing traditional insulation with a high-performance spray foam insulation. Spray foam insulation, such as Icynene, both air-seals and insulates to stop air leakage from occurring, allowing homeowners to reduce energy consumption, effectively control their indoor environments and live greener.

When installed, spray foam insulation expands to completely seal a home's walls, floors and ceilings to prevent air leakage. Insulation experts from Icynene note that quality spray foam insulation can noticeably reduce heating and cooling costs, in some cases by up to 50 percent. More information on how spray foam insulation can help improve household energy efficiency and reduce air leakage is available at



5 Lawyerly Negotiating Tips for Small Biz Owners

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

Need some negotiating tips for your business? Every day, small business owners put their negotiation skills to their test. From employee scheduling conflicts to vendor contracts, knowing how to negotiate is crucial when it comes to running a business.

You won't always have your business lawyer around to handle negotiations for you. So here are five lawyerly negotiating tips you may want to keep in mind:

Do your research. First things first, make sure that you are prepared and do your research before you enter negotiations. It's crucial to know all the relevant facts, circumstances, figures, and any relevant law as well. If this seems daunting to you and it's a particularly crucial negotiation, you may want to consult an experienced business attorney who can guide you.

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Make sure you know which aspects of the negotiation you are willing to compromise on, as well as what terms are key priorities that you refuse to budge on.

Have clear objectives in mind. Your objectives should be clear and set in place before you enter negotiations. It's easy to lose sight of what your ultimate goal is if the other party isn't on the same page as you, or if there are conflicting objectives. You don't want to end up agreeing to something that you didn't intend to commit to or that doesn't adhere to your business plan.

Keep your company's resources in mind. Don't forget about exactly what resources you want to pull from or have available for this particular negotiation. Many companies are struggling in these unsure times, and ensuring that you stick to your budget is crucial.

Be respectful of the other party. It takes two to tango, and negotiations are no different. It's important that you listen to the other party's concerns, and are open to their terms (as much as you can be, anyway). Without a basic level of trust, your negotiation may go nowhere fast. Not to mention, the lack of courtesy on your end could damage your business' reputation and image.

Remember, a successful negotiation allows both parties to compromise a little to achieve an outcome that's agreeable to everyone

Source: FindLaw



Important Driving Tips for Seniors

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers in their mid- to late-80s have lower overall crash rates than drivers in their early 20s and roughly half as many crashes as teenagers—making them among the safest drivers on the road.

However, fatal crash rates skyrocket for drivers ages 85 and older. In "The Guide to Driving Safety for Older Drivers" from, Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research in Washington, D.C., says it's important to understand what health factors can compromise safe driving. If senior drivers have ongoing limitations that could put them or their passengers at risk, they may want to reconsider their capacity to continue driving.

Older drivers should evaluate how the following factors affect their driving ability:

  • Vision. How well a driver can see accounts for about 90 percent of his or her ability to drive safely. Weak visual aptitude can be measured by an inability to read signs, street markings, or to see other cars and pedestrians in low-light conditions.
  • Mobility. Loss of strength, coordination and flexibility can make it challenging to control a vehicle. Mobility difficulties may also be signaled by pain and discomfort performing daily activities as well as arthritis in the neck and shoulders.
  • Behavior. Trouble remembering familiar routes, anxiety or confusion while driving, or problems distinguishing the gas from the brake pedal are causes for immediate concern.



Word of the Day

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

Highest and best use. Use of land that is most logical and productive.  Refers to the greatest income it can bring the owner, as well as factors such aesthetics and benefits to the surrounding community.


Q: What Kind of Home Insurance Should I Have?

November 1, 2013 7:09 pm

A: A standard policy protects against several natural disasters and catastrophic events, and covers your personal belongings.  But it will not guard against earthquakes, floods, war, and nuclear accidents. The policy can be expanded to include these disasters as well as coverage for such things as workers' compensation.  In fact, the lender may require that you purchase flood or earthquake insurance if the house is in a flood zone or a region susceptible to earthquakes.  



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