August 16, 2013: 6:26 am: Real Estate

More and more people are buying investment properties as a source of rental income. For those who have the money to invest (rather than using money mutual investments) or those who can get their hands on foreclosures and other deals, becoming a landlord is a great option for creating a somewhat passive income. Investment properties are not 100% passive income. It often takes some work to get a property ready for tenants, and then there are regular maintenance and repair tasks to be concerned with; however, once a property is ready for occupancy and you get a few good tenants paying rent on a regular basis, being a landlord creates a fairly easy source of income.

Commercial Properties

While residential properties are certainly a popular choice for those looking to get into the landlord business, commercial properties are also a great option. Commercial properties also have more advantages. With residential properties, you typically have one or a few renters, depending on the type of building and number of units you own. While the income can be good, you will still run into tenants who either have trouble paying their rent or who damage your property or cause other problems. These issues come with the territory and this does not mean you should not consider residential properties. It simply means you have to be aware and cautious. While the same issues can crop up with commercial properties, you are more likely to gain multiple responsible tenants, especially if the property is utilized for business and office space. Multiple tenants paying a reasonable amount of rent on time gives you a great source of income right from the start.

Commercial Property Types

Depending on your interest, the amount you have to invest, and the number of properties you care to own, you have a number of options for commercial property. Diversify your properties might also give you an advantage in the amount of income you can make, the type of tenants you rent to, and the future prospects you can look forward to. The options are nearly endless. You can invest in commercial real estate properties of all types, including office space, retail space, warehouses, and specialty properties (medical, auto repair, etc.). Of course, there is also the option to invest in entire buildings/complexes, which can be utilized for single or multiple purposes.

Commercial Real Estate Investing is a fun and exciting way to create great income, providing you with the added benefits of owning additional assets and potential tax deductions as well.

Contributed by Marilee Moss. Ms. Moss is a retired financial planner who provides information and advice on money matters for personal finance sites and blogs and contributes to a number of twitter accounts.

August 15, 2013: 11:02 am: Automotive

Owning a vehicle is important because of the convenience that comes with it. You can drive to work, college, shopping or wherever else you desire. However, vehicles are prone to a variety of issues, including accidents, breakdowns and unfortunately theft. Many vehicles are stolen across the country and around the world. Reasons for theft are varied but basically car thieves usually steal motor vehicles to sell them off cheaply or to use them to commit another crime.

If you own an older, less “attractive” car, you may think that you will be safe from theft. Unfortunately, it’s actually these older, less flashy vehicles that are stolen most often. Typically anything too expensive or too noticeable provides a larger risk of the thief getting caught right away.

Car theft victims are usually left stranded and distraught as they suffer the loss of an expensive investment as well as the emotional distress that accompanies the theft. In some cases, the theft will involve a carjacking incident which is even more distressing to the victim. In either situation, the feeling of having something taken away from you is an unnerving one and many people are left feeling helpless and vulnerable. Many times there are personal items, photos or other types of identification that can also make the loss seem even greater and the fear of identity left is often a common concern.

According to statistics, most vehicles that are targeted are those which are normally left at easy disposal to the thieves. The car could be parked on the driveway with the engine running and doors open, the car could be parked but the spare key left somewhere in the car or other careless situations. Car thieves rarely go to great lengths to steal a motor vehicle but rather look for easy prey.

Many people also fall victim of car theft by purchasing vehicles that have been stolen from other drivers. Car thieves will usually disguise the cars and change the registration or number plate. You may be unknowingly duped into buying a car that may soon be repossessed and given back to its rightful owner. In most of these situations, you will normally notice something is amiss before you actually get down to the final purchase.

Insurance companies cover motor theft under comprehensive car insurance policies. A comprehensive policy is therefore the best suited policy you can choose in order to get coverage against motor vehicle theft. Of course, insurance providers however require that all policy holders undertake certain measures to prevent against car theft. Use an electronic car alarm that can detect and deter forced entry.

Car owners should also use the services of tracking companies that ensure that the car’s movements are always tracked via satellite or other means at all times and can be located. Other common sense practices should also be in place whenever you leave your vehicle. Remember to always lock your car doors and windows when parking the car. Never leave valuables within site and never leave spare keys anywhere in the car. Cars should always be parked in secure and well lit areas. Such simple, yet important, techniques will ensure that a vehicle is secure and at low risk of being stolen.

While car theft incidents have reduced in recent years, it is always best that safety precautions are taken to prevent car theft incidents and also to reduce and minimize the risks.

July 24, 2013: 6:53 pm: Real Estate

As the media focuses on the recovering real estate markets around the country, they are writing and talking about mostly single family homes and commercial.  A few cover the homes of the rich and famous, telling us which celebrity just bought a multi-million dollar.  Somewhere in all the sales statistics and photo spreads are some truly unusual home sales.

Converted Homes

It is now possible to buy an old missile silo and convert it into a home.  These missile bases are scattered all over the country, relics of the Cold War.  Early purchasers have been living in the silos quite comfortably since the 1990s. Some are already converted, while others are still as the government left them.  A New York silo is currently listing at $750,000.

Silos are only one type of converted homes. If you’ve ever imagined living in a converted church, firehouse, barn, or other non-residential building, you can — and people have: a luxurious converted church in Pennsylvania listed for $1.5 million. Others look to transportation for unique living quarters, such as converting a train caboose into a home. In South Carolina there is a whole development of 22 caboose homes, most of which were sold as empty shells in 1990 for $45,000.

Natural Homes

Architects and inventive home owners have long had a love affair with natural homes.  These are structures that make use of native features, such as a cave home in Bisbee, AZ (a historic mining community) that listed for $1.5 million.

Buying a tree house home is as much about the land underneath as the unique architecture of living up in the air.  A tree house in Pennsylvania with 6.62 acres near a nature preserve listed for $365,000. At the low end are tree cubes and tents which can be had for less than $100,000 while the most expensive tree house reportedly sold for $4-$6 million in Scotland.

Other examples of such homes are underground homes, sod homes, adobe structures and floating homes. Floating homes are attached to the dock and can be quite expensive, such as one in Seattle that went for $3.45 million.

Fantastical Homes

Fantasy and art drive many architects to create amazing structures that look almost like sculpture. In fact, a home is New Mexico is known as the Sculpture Home and lists at $1.68 million while the Desert Nomad House in Tucson is priced at $975,000.

If you’d rather live in a palatial mansion, there’s a Moroccan Palace replica in Texas worth $8.9 million and a Stone Castle in New York for $2.99 million that is based on a 16th century Crotian structure.

There are probably homes that have been converted, adapted, repurposed, or sculpted in every style imaginable. There are also homes that are designed for a specific purpose, such as the rising trend of apocalyptic fortresses and bunkers designed to survive any disaster. It’s only a matter of time until you can live underwater, suspended in air, or in low orbit in space.

December 28, 2012: 10:06 am: Business, Real Estate

Real estate has gotten more complicated and simpler over the past few years, thanks in large part to technology. Software and digital media tools, for one, have played a large role in greatly improving and streamlining the real estate market in a variety of ways, and provide great tools for real estate agents, brokers, buyers and sellers when it comes to buying and selling real estate and looking at property online.

office building for saleMLS Software

Multiple listing services and software have exploded in popularity over the past several years, driven as a way for real estate owners, brokers, and more to track purchases and sales of real estate while working on selling and establishing contractual offers, facilities permits, and more. MLS allow brokers, buyers, and sellers the ability to manage properties and negotiations from afar in one large database, without having to go to the trouble of seeking out each property individually and separately.

Property Management Software

Property management software has also taken the real estate industry by storm recently, most notably in commercial and residential rental properties where tenants can pay rent online, request services and assistance over the Internet, and find support from property management companies that may be miles away but can be extremely responsive over the Internet. Property management software allows these companies to efficiently and easily pay out and take in payments, schedule maintenance, and more, without having to have a presence at every single property or every place they own real estate.

Lead Tracking For Agents

A large part of every real estate agent’s work is the fact that they need to constantly be tracking and finding leads, from new customers and potential buyers to following up with old leads, and more. Agents can use software systems to adequately and permanently manage leads when it comes to creating reminders and tabs to keep relationships alive and maintain friendships and business relationships among buyers, sellers, and others in the industry.

As real estate agents deal with hundreds upon hundreds of clients every year, it’s critical they work to maintain these relationships adequately and use software to remind them of duty, tasks, and requirements for adequately maintaining these relationships across the board.

All in all, it’s been a fascinating few years for real estate in a lot of different ways, as technology improves to the point where they are greatly improved processes and efficiencies in the industry surrounding buying and selling, both for residential and commercial real estate. It will only get easier, too, to promote and increase sales among real estate brokers and buyers due to technology, mobile apps, multiple listing services, and more tools to further improve the process.

For real estate agents, it’s important to stay on top of this technology, and maintain efficiency and familiarity with these systems top to bottom, so that they can best serve and meet the needs of their customers and more.

Blu Sanders is a web journalist who covers technology and software for numerous websites and blogs. He also writes about subjects as diverse as accounting, sales strategy and lead management for sites like


November 30, 2011: 4:55 pm: Business, Construction, Home & Garden, Technology

Remodeling with a Construction Manager

Deciding to remodel part of your home is a decision that is never entered into lightly.  Generally, a homeowner will spend a significant amount of time weighing benefits of the remodel versus the cost. Sometimes a remodel is a long arduous process.

You become concerned with disrupting your normal family routines while the remodel is being completed.  Many times, the difficulties of home remodeling can be eased with the use of a construction manager.

The construction manager is your project leader. His job is to ensure that your remodel is completed correctly as well as efficiently.  He will be involved with your remodel from beginning to end.

The manager will schedule, organize and hire the workers who are necessary to complete your remodel. A variety of tools is utilized by the manager to make sure that your remodel not only runs smoothly, but stays within your budget as well.

What to Look for in a Construction Manager

A construction manager should take the time to understand exactly what your project entails and what you can afford.  You and your manager will reach a scope of work that you both can agree to.

The manager will then prepare the documents that are necessary, including any plans or product specifications.  The manager will also ensure that the mandatory construction permits are obtained. Once the planning process is completed, the remodeling project can begin.

The Tools Used by a Construction Manager

The tools that a construction manager uses to keep track and properly manage your home remodeling project sometimes include a construction manual.

This manual houses your contract, timeline for your project, change orders, a detailed scope of the work for your remodel and purchase orders for products related to your project.

This manual is client-specific and assists the manager and his team in keeping you informed throughout your remodel.  This manual will generally include your project drawings and tracks the details of the jobs being done on your project daily. Many times, it will include budget spreadsheets to keep you informed of your ongoing remodeling costs.

Construction Management Software

Today, many managers will use construction management software to assist them with their projects. Some programs are web-based or use cloud technology, while others are program-based.

The majority of these programs include features such as customer and service management, project scheduling and estimators, project/construction management and tracks your budget.

September 10, 2011: 8:14 pm: Arts & Culture

Although it may not be everyone’s dream to own their own business, it is (almost) safe to say that everyone wants to be part of something important. The prospect of opening a new art space, however, is a horse of a different color.

Once there is a decision to step off the well-trodden paths, then vision does indeed come into play, and risk becomes more and more of a factor in making decisions.  Any artistic venture is, by its nature, a risky business, and one that needs an equal measure of vision and organizational skill in order to really take off and make a palpable difference in the local cultural scene.  New clubs, performance spaces, and art galleries are opening all the time, but they are also closing all the time.  It becomes important, then, to approach anything creative with balance.  It is important to have a sense of fearlessness about a new venture, but it’s also just as important to enter into it with a healthy pessimism in case things don’t quite work out the way one had originally planned.

It might be self-evident that one needs to have a fairly good idea of the basic layout of the chosen city.  Knowing about the kinds of work that attracts crowds can certainly help, but a deeper understanding of the culture at large can help hone the vision of the new space toward something that might push the audiences in new directions.  It is also very helpful to know something about the local market.  An idea of the availability of commercial rentals is not only valuable for determining the potential of a new space, but also helps in budgeting.

Most new ventures do have a tendency to fail, and with risky ventures, this is even more of a danger.  There are success stories that tip the scale in another direction entirely, but they are by far the anomaly.  At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that this failure is often the result of a lack of planning, so even a little bit of business acumen can help tilt the balance.  In the end, it still does come back to vision.  Mission statements are everything when it comes to these kinds of ventures, and the final measure of success really comes from having tried to do it in the first place.  Keeping things straight in terms of vision and organization will help the success of a new space.  Having the time and headspace available to look at a TransGlobe property in the chosen city, or even working with other artists in other parts of the world, is rewarding in its own right, and it’s nice when planning makes room for that kind of dreaming.

Image Description: Another empty room |Source=Own work by uploader |Author=International-critics

August 25, 2011: 8:33 pm: Real Estate

Many home buyers may get the impulse to go out and search for a new home.  They may be passing an open house and be immediately attracted to it.  An acquaintance may be selling their house which they have always liked.  The reality of this type of situation is that often times these people end up wasting their time and ultimately disappointed because they have do no preparation or figured out how much they can afford before entering the marketplace.

A better (and less frustrating way) to do this is to prepare before you go house hunting.  You need to figure out how much you can afford so that you end up looking at houses that are within your price range.  This will depend on a few factors – the amount you have saved up to cover the down payment and closing costs, the financial terms offered by your lender, and your total gross income.

Generally speaking your down payment can range from 10 to 20 percent of the cost of the home.  However this can be much less if you are looking to take out an FHA loan.  In that instance it can be as low as 3.75 percent of the home cost.  Closing costs vary according to the part of the country that you live in.

The financial terms offered by the lender affects the amount of home you can afford and these constantly change due to market conditions and the economy.  Interest rates, mortgage terms, points etc, are all part of these financial terms.

Your credit score will also affect what you can afford as lenders often use a higher interest rate for people with poorer credit histories.  Items such as collection accounts and delinquencies will adversely affect the report and should be cleaned up well in advance of applying for a home loan.

A useful way to figure out your financial situation is to use a mortgage payment calculator.  You can enter in a variety of options which can be used to give you monthly payments for different interest rates, down payments etc.  This will give you a very good idea of where you stand and what you can afford.

Finally once you are ready to go shopping for a home you should find a good realtor who can advise you and help you with the many aspects of buying a home.

August 3, 2011: 9:10 pm: Legal

The term ‘blood alcohol content’ is used to describe the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. So for a certain amount of blood it measures the weight of alcohol in it. Blood alcohol content is used to determine if a driver is driving under the influence (DUI).

If you are drinking alcoholic drinks such as wine, beer or spirits then the alcohol in these drinks goes into your bloodstream via the stomach and intestines and is delivered via the blood throughout your body and directly to the brain.  This occurs about a half hour from having the drink but varies from person to person.  Things that can affect absorption include the amount you are drinking, the speed of drinking, your body weight, the amount of food you have recently eaten and whether you are male or female.  Generally speaking if you are male, have recently eaten and weigh more then alcohol absorption will take longer.

If you are on prescription medicines these will not directly affect your blood alcohol content, though they may make you feel more intoxicated and affect your driving abilities.  If you are taking medications find out how they interact with alcohol by asking your pharmacist.

You do not necessarily feel drunk to be legally intoxicated.  The signs may be very slight, however that does not mean you are not intoxicated.  Being unable to tell if you are intoxicated is often a sign that you’ve had too much to drink!  If you are impaired then you will not be able to drive with full ability.  You may feel that you can, but this is misleading.  If you are over the legal limit in the US of .08 then you are more than eleven times more likely to be involved in a car crash.  Even if you are below this limit, but driving erratically, then you may still get arrested.

If you have a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or greater you will experience changes in your muscle coordination including loss of balance and a slowing of reaction time. Feelings of euphoria may exist and an impairment of judgment and reasoning.  It will become more difficult to concentrate on anything, which affects the speed you are driving at and your overall sense of perception will be reduced.

If you are on a night out and want to drink – then appoint a designated driver, find nearby accommodation or use another form of transport such as a taxi.  If you are in Knoxville, TN and have a DUI issue then contact this Knoxville DUI Attorney

June 10, 2011: 1:03 pm: Business, Home & Garden, Real Estate

Property management can seem like a daunting and unclear term. It is difficult to know exactly what a property management company does and if it is worth hiring one to run your rental property.

There are many different reasons why hiring a property management company is a good idea. There are a plethora of companies who offer property management services, for example, TransGlobe Property Management Services. With many to choose from, you can shop around to make sure that you get the best possible company to handle your investment. These companies offer a variety of services and end up taking a load off your shoulders.

Property management companies serve as the moderator between the tenants and the landlord. They collect and deposit rental payments, set competitive rental rates, and inspect the property for damages. Having a company work directly with the tenants is very helpful as it reduces confrontation and allows you to focus on other tasks. A rental property will not be successful if the money is not collected on time and people are not going to want to live there if it is in need of significant repairs.

A huge part of making a rental property successful is securing tenants. The more apartments you have filled, the more money you are making. A property management company will take care of all the marketing, advertising and securing of tenants. A property management company is well versed in dealing with marketing and will save you time and resources.

Overall, the benefits of hiring a property management company outweigh the costs. The fees of a property management company are very small in comparison to how much time you will be saving. Hiring someone to take the responsibilities of the rental property will save time, money, will allow you to focus on other investments or your career.

May 31, 2011: 1:20 am: Automotive

Car insurance rates vary from person to person based on vehicle make, model and year, driving record, age and a variety of other factors. Because of the inconsistency in coverage, people are often confused when it comes to actually understanding the policies most insurance companies offer. Consequently there are numerous misconceptions regarding car insurance and what commonly affects rates. Myths are frequently circulating among the general public, leaving many to feel hopeless and confused. Those who are most confused are typically people who are new drivers and are unfamiliar with the basics of insurance coverage. Some popular car insurance myths and facts are mentioned below and hopefully by debunking these common misconceptions, you can achieve a clearer understanding of what car insurance coverage is all about.

Myth: Vehicle color affects insurance costs

One of the most popular myths regarding car insurance is that color affects costs. People commonly believe that red cars or yellow cars are most expensive to insure. The truth is that, the color of your car does not matter at all. Insurance companies may take into account the car type, body, engine and model, but not the color. On the other hand, if you are speeding and driving recklessly, cops may more frequently pull you over since you are more high profile than others on the road. It is a fact, however that if you have more tickets and subsequently a worse driving record, you can expect your rates to rise.

Myth: State controlled coverage is all you need

People frequently believe that state controlled insurance is enough to cover all damages. Different schemes are needed for different purposes. Liability coverage and collision coverage are both needed for compensation from others. Comprehensive coverage should be taken for the protection of your car from riots, robbery and fire.

Myth: People only steal new cars

Most people believe that thieves steal only new cars, but the truth is, thieves are just as likely to steal old cars as well. It is not just the car that is under the radar of a thief. Body parts, machinery and sound systems are as valuable as the car itself. A comprehensive insurance plan would help to cover the damage from theft of a vehicle.

Myth: The car insurance company will compensate without any conditions

There is a false belief among people that their insurance company will compensate them without any conditions, in the event of an accident. This is sadly not the case. A lot depends on the other person’s insurance as well. The driver at fault must have a coverage policy. So it is better to have uninsured vehicle coverage.

Myth: Car insurance always covers rental car costs

A widespread myth is that the insurance company will pay for a rental car when an accident occurs. Insurance companies will pay for a rental car only if it is part of your coverage. Collision coverage and comprehensive coverage does not include the obtainment of a rental car. If this is something that is important to you, make sure you voice this to your insurance agent so that you can have this included into your premium costs.  Also look in to the popular no deposit car insurance option before you commit to an insurance policy that requires a large sum of money.

Myths like these exist everywhere. It is better to understand the falsity  of these myths before making a wise decision about your coverage needs.


Sarah Williams is a contributing writer for


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