Backpacking Vs Organized Tours – A Decision Every Traveler Faces

In planning my RTW adventure, I have been giving considering thought to the options of backpack solo, or booking into an organized tour. In my past travels, I have done a combination of both organized tours and backpacking solo and both have their good and bad points.

ORGANISED TOURS – THE GOOD …

Time Poor – If you only have a limited amount of time to go travel, then an organized tour is great as you will be able to get around and see all the things you want to, without the hassle of organizing the trip yourself.

New Friends – Usually people who book an organized tour with a specific company all have similar interests. I have made some amazing friends through doing organized tours and still, to this day, keep in touch with them.

You can be lazy – Once you have booked your tour, paid and packed your bag, you do not need to worry about a thing! You are in effect paying the tour company to take care of transportation, meals, accommodation and all the hassles involved in traveling.

ORGANISED TOURS – THE BAD …

Usually inept – Every tour has someone on the tour who will drive you nuts. When in India, I was traveling with two girlfriends and because there were 3 of us in total, we had to alternate sharing a room with another female. Unfortunately this female was an older woman who had no self awareness and was clearly an inexperienced traveler, some of the "interesting experiences" we had with her included:

  • She did not shut the door when she went to the bathroom, I would NEVER go to the bathroom with the door open, especially when I had only known the person for a matter of weeks …
  • She did not bring adequate first aid and medication supplies, unfortunately she came down with a mild cold / flu and proceeded to use everyone else's medicine and she never offered to replace it. When we went past a chemist, she was that inconsiderate that she did not even think to buy her own supplies.
  • She forgot her torch, now on this tour we were camping along the Ganges for several days and a torch was essential. So every time she went to the bathroom she borrowed my head torch, the problem was that she put this on her sweaty head and handed it back to me wet .. YUCK!
  • She hung her underwear up all over the bathroom and on my chair and bed, it was not a pleasant experience having to relocate her over sized bloomers every time I wanted to sit down …
  • She would leave the hotel with the key, there were several occasions when I was stranded outside of my room and had to wait for her to return, rule number 1 of an organized tour is ALWAYS leave the key with reception when you go out.

People who do not read the trip notes – Of the tours I have done, I have encountered two travelers, who never should have booked on the types of trips that they did. The first encounter was in Thailand, there were a young English couple on the tour, they had never traveled outside of britain and were both very young. They winged, moaned, sacrificed and did not enjoy themselves and pretty much did everything in their power to let the rest of us know they were not enjoying the experience. Had this couple taken the time to read the trip notes, they probably would have realized what they were getting them into and perhaps, reconsidered their trip.

Waiting, Waiting & Waiting – Now because tour leaders are acutely aware that people are always running late, whenever you need to leave your hotel or meet as a group, the tour leaders always tell you to meet at least 1/2 an hour before the Actual meeting time. This is fine if your the type of person that is always running late, however for the rest of us it means waiting around in lobby's for what looks like forever !!

BACKPACKING – THE GOOD

Now my personal preferred method of traveling is backpacking! And some of my favorite things about this mode of travel include:

  • You do not have to answer to anyone, if you do not like a place, you can simply leave, if you like it, you can stay!
  • You meet some amazing like minded people along the way, hanging out at hostels and having a beer in the lounge can introduce you to some amazing people
  • It is very inspiring hearing what other people have done and are doing, my addition to travel has come out of hearing other peoples stories about what they have done!
  • Other backpackers are generally very considerate and willing to meet new people and share their experiences
  • It is cheaper! You are not paying a premium for a tour company, a tour guide and their accommodation so you can cut costs as you see fit, stay in a nicer hotel or a cheaper hotel if that suits you!
  • If you get drunk and make a fool of yourself, you can just move on! You do not need to deal with anyone the next day!
  • It is easier to have a holiday romance! One of the most amazing romances I have ever had when I finished my organized tour in Thailand and backpacked around for a week, I met a wonderful American man who followed me to Bangkok and then onto Australia! I could not have had a romance when in an organized tour, especially an extended one as if it gets complicated, it can make the entire trip awkward!

BACKPACKING – THE BAD

At times you just want to have someone to take your photo! If you can not find someone to do side trips, you end up getting a lot of self portraits that are not exactly flattering!

It can be frustrating navigating around cities and countries on your own when you do not speak the language. Particularly if you are white and traveling to an Asian country, people know your a tourist and can take advantage of this.

  • You are a target, as a female you can be a target from male advances and this can be quite intimidating if you do not have the confidence to deal with it.
  • It can get lonely, if you do not strike up friends along the way, you can end up spending a lot of time alone, which on occasion can be nice, but it is very nice to share experiences with other people.
  • If you get sick, you are on your own, there is no-one to bring you medicine or look after you!
  • When you get home, you do not have anyone to share your experiences with, when traveling with a partner you can always reminounce about the things you have done, or you can email others from your tour and keep in touch. But when you travel solo, the reality is no one really cares what adventures you have been up to, they pretended, but they are not really interested!

All in all there are definite advantages and disadvantages for both backpacking and organized tours, for my trip I will be doing a combination of both n the beginning, however once I have finished in Africa, it is my intention to go solo for the rest of My trip and meet some new and exciting people along the way!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Backpacking Vs Organized Tours – A Decision Every Traveler Faces

The Pros and Cons of Discount Travel Clubs

If you love to travel, but can not seam to do it as often as you would like, you should consider looking into a good travel club.

My wife LOVES to travel the world as I am sure many of you do, but it was always so expensive. I am here to tell you, it does not have to be.

This is how travel clubs work.

When you think about it owning a resort property is just like any other business. They need a steady flow of customers to be profitable. Their unique challenge is, they also need a consistent flow of customers preferably evenly spaced through the entire year other many issues start to become problems for them. To many customers all at once is lost business, probably to your competition. Not enough customers means empty rooms and lost business and revenue, which makes staffing as well as many other things VERY difficult.

The challenge is to keep a steady flow of customers, preferably even spaced all year long. But how do they do that?

One way resort owners have discovered to help with this is by affiliating with travel clubs to offer club members unreserved rooms at deep discounts. This helps keep a steady flow of customers all year long, and helps the owner keep a properly staffed business running.

Think about it from their perspective, would you rather have an empty room and NO income, and have a staff to pay with no customers to serve or income being produced? Or, to keep a good quality staff busy, have customers that may only be paying enough to cover your expenses with little or no profit?

It does not take long as a business owner to figure out that "when possible" you sell at full price, when necessary you take a discount and less profit, and when push comes to shove at least cover expenses to avoid taking a loss.

Even taking some loss is acceptable if it helps with staffing issues, inventory, food shelf life, advertising, budgeting, exposure and many other business issues. As long as it is not the norm, obviously.

Now, keep in mind, all travel clubs are NOT created equal.

The owner of the travel club is also doing business. He wants to provide his members with an attractive offer to build membership, but also wants to make money in HIS business, which IS the travel club. If the owner is more concerned about profit, than they are about giving value to their members, that club has a limited future.

The saying that just popped into my head was "It is better to have a little bit of something, than a whole lot of nothing."

The resort owners are constantly negotiating transactions (level of discount) with hundreds of travel club owners.

The owner of a particular travel club may have negotiated with the resort owners the best prices for his club, but if he is trying to make to much profit with his travel club, his members would not be getting the best deals!

It is very hard to negotiate regardless, without something the other party wants. Therefore, the more members you have in your club the easier it is to negotiate great deals. But getting lots of members is no easy task in itself.

The most successful travel club owner has figured out how to build a large following (with minimal cost) so they have the leverage to negotiate great deals other clubs can not, but because of their low overhead they can pass most of the savings along to Their members.

We all know that the BEST form of advertising is, word of mouth. As luck would have it, it is also the least expensive. (Free) So, if you (as a club owner) were to pay your current members (for new memberships) to advertise by word of mouth or however they choose, and generate members for you just by telling potential members about your club and the Huge savings they had received, you would have a growing membership with minimal expenses, therefore, you could pass dramatic savings on to your members which in turn would help generate more members more easily and get better discounts.

As I stated earlier, not all travel clubs are created equal, just as with any other business. You must do your research to find a club that offers a large inventory of locations, at deep discounts to its members, without charging too much for their membership. That travel club will continue to grow in size and value, and provide you with a lifetime of deeply discounted travel for minimal cost so you can travel the world and enjoy what the world has to offer.

Travel clubs can be a great opportunity to save your hard earned money. Just make sure you do your research and find the right one, otherwise you are not going to get the most value possible for your money.

Good luck, and I'll see you on the beaches of the world.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Pros and Cons of Discount Travel Clubs

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Insurance Agents Make

Problem #1

Prospects have more sales resistance training than agents usually have in sales presentation skill.

Prospect response to insurance agents is designed to get as much information as possible and be in control of the situation. Prospects often mislead insurance agents about their intentions, how much they’ll spend, who makes decisions, etc.

The prospect intent is designed to turn agents into unpaid consultants, lead them on until they have all of the information they need, and often use their quotes to compare with their current agent or a competitor.

When prospects have what they need, they stop returning the agent’s phone calls.

Does this make prospects bad people?

Of course not.

We all use this system for dealing with salespeople…it’s almost second nature.

Why do prospects do this?

It’s simple.

It works.

The stereotype of an agent is not a good image for most of us, and prospects are afraid of being sold something they don’t want. In order to protect themselves, prospects feel they need a way to deal with agents. It is an instinctive reaction to the negative stereotype of agents that causes prospects to put up a defensive wall.

So how do most agents deal with the prospects system of defense? Most play right into it. Many don’t use a systematic approach to selling. They allow the prospect to take total control of the sales process. The agent eagerly:

o gives their knowledge

o makes commitments without getting any in return

o wastes resources on pursuing deals that will never close

o gives quotes to non-prospects who never buy

o misinterpret the ubiquitous “I’ll think it over and get back to you” as a future sale

How do most sales organizations contribute to the problem? Frequently they focus on product knowledge and overlook teaching what circumstances or concepts products fit best with.

The solution: Train agents on a systematic approach to making presentations so they have “a track to run on.” The training should balance both the prospect and agent’s best interest.

Problem #2

Spending too much time with prospects that will never buy.

A manager recently evaluated two of his agents like this: “Gary spends too much time with non-buyers, and gets too involved in non-productive activities. One root cause of this behavior is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. Amy is strong with prospects, but both she and Gary have lost deals because the competition asks for the business while they give quotes to the prospect.” Why is this true?

Agents don’t ask the hard questions up-front for fear of making their prospects angry, they are afraid they will lose something they don’t have. Most agents think their job is to close everybody.

Over the years sales training has emphasized, “Don’t take NO for an answer.” Insurance agents are taught to be persistent…handle stalls and objections…trial closes…always be closing…and yes, even be manipulative. No wonder prospects need sales resistance to shield themselves!

Prospects realize agents don’t want to hear “NO” and that when they do, they’ll “hang in there” and try to turn “NO” into “YES.” When the poor prospect really means “NO,” s/he has found the easiest way to get rid of a agent is to tell them, “I’ll think it over, and I’ll get back to you.” How many “think it over’s” really turn into business?

The solution: Agents need tools to separate tire-kickers from buyers. They need an approach that obtains support early in the sales cycle. They need to learn the fine art of tactfully qualifying prospects in, not qualifying them out. The top agents learn to ask the hard questions up-front, saving precious resources for real opportunities. “NO” is an acceptable response from a buyer. “Going for the NO” requires a tremendous paradigm shift for most agents, but it can take all the pressure off the agent and increase productivity. This approach allows prospects to feel in control, this then relaxes them, and lets them buy instead of feeling like they are being “sold.”

Problem #3

Agents talk too much.

A manager recently said, “My agents’ listening skills aren’t where they need to be; someone says something and they don’t find out the real reason or intent behind the question, which leaves the prospect feeling like my agents don’t understand them or their issues.

Of course, when we sent them to the College of Product Knowledge, filling them with technical knowledge and then sent them out to make their quotas, we should have expected this result.”

So what’s the problem telling our story? First, people buy for their reason, not the agents reasons, not even their company’s reasons. Second, most companies’ presentations sound the same to the prospect, and when they sound the same, the agent just becomes another agent to the prospect, and then to the prospect, low price becomes the determining factor in getting the business.

The solution: Asking questions is the answer. Teach insurance agents to stop regurgitating to the prospect and start asking questions. Prospects should do at least 70% of the talking on the sales call. The only way this will happen is for the sales rep to ask a lot of questions.

Questions gather information. Ask questions to find out what the prospect’s “pain” is. This is the same thing your family doctor does during an office visit. They ask – they don’t tell you anything until they have made the proper diagnosis.

Problem #4

Weak Agents focus on price.

Price is never the real issue! Agents focus on price because it’s often the first thing the prospect asks about. Yet study after study confirms that quality and services are almost always more important than price. Price is never the main reason for getting and keeping business. People buy our products to either solve a problem they have, or improve something about their current situation or protect against future occurrences.

The solution: Teach agents to be more effective in asking questions and getting to real issues. Once they learn to do this, price will not be the determining factor in making sales.

Problem #5

Product knowledge is over-emphasized and misused. As a result, selling often becomes nothing more than “pitching and presenting.”

Most sales training focuses on product knowledge. studies show that 80% of training dollars spent annually are spent on product knowledge training. Agents, once filled with this product knowledge, are eager to share this information and become a Professional, Unpaid Educator. The focus then becomes totally on product, and not on the prospects problem, which is where it belongs.

The solution: Provide training in the strategy and tactics our agents need to help prospects clearly define their problems and co-build solutions that fit their needs. Product knowledge is important, but how it’s used at each phase of the buying process is the key.

Problem #6

Agents fail to get prospects to reveal budgets up-front. Many insurance agents are uncomfortable talking about money. Discussing money is seen as intrusive, and unpleasant. Many agents avoid talking about money, until the prospect forces the issue. This is one of the five most common weaknesses that agents have.

The solution: Knowing whether there is money upfront will help the insurance agent distinguish between a prospects who is ready to solve a problem from one who is not committed. Comfortably talking about money is a key to management, where resources are evaluated based on bottom line impact. Teach your agents to find out two things about money:

o How much the problem is costing the prospect; in other words the amount at risk.

o How much they’d be willing to invest to solve the problem.

Without a candid discussion about money, the agent is left to make certain assumptions. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions!

Problem #7

Agents fail to get firm commitments from prospects.

Insurance agents are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do a quote, presentation, etc. This approach is incredibly time-consuming and resource intensive.

How many quotes has your team/distribution sent out over the last twelve months that resulted in nothing? How much does it cost your team/distribution on an annual basis to do quotes that go nowhere?

The solution: Agents must learn what motivates people to buy. They must master the skills required to help prospects become comfortable sharing problems, and they must learn to determine the prospects’ level of commitment to solve these problems before they begin to offer their solutions.

Problem #8

Lack of sufficient prospecting.

A quote from a manager: “They don’t do enough prospecting, even ‘when I use a long stick.'” All professional agents will eventually be faced with a bout of call reluctance. You know the story – they have so much paperwork on their desk they can’t possibly find the time to prospect for new business OR they’re so busy calling on existing customers (who incidentally aren’t buying anything) there’s no way they could add any new appointments. Getting ready to get ready. The BT club (bout to) Sound familiar?

o Over 40% of all veteran sales professionals have experienced bouts of call reluctance severe enough to threaten their career in sales

o And 80% of all new agents who fail within their first year do so because of insufficient prospecting activity.

The Solution: Insurance agents need to develop a realistic activity plan. Monitor the plan weekly and implement effective accountability.

Problem #9

The insurance agent has a strong need for approval.

It’s an easy and common mistake. “I love people, so I’ll be an insurance agent.” You end up with an insurance agent that would rather make “friends” with their prospects than conduct business. While developing relationships are an important part of the selling process, selling is not a place for people to get their emotional needs met. In fact, it’s the opposite: a tough and demanding profession, full of rejection. People who internalize the rejection end up getting out of the profession. Truth is, they should never have gotten in the business. Sales interactions are fundamentally different than social interactions. Successful professionals understand and accept that the bottom line of professionally selling is: MAKING MONEY.

The Solution: Evaluate yourself to determine if you have this need for approval. Managers need to ask pre-hire screening questions that helps to hire stronger people and teach them a system that helps strike the appropriate balance between developing relationships and getting commitments.

Problem #10

Insurance agents don’t treat sales as a profession.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and CPAs’ all have one thing in common – they attend continuing education to maintain and increase their proficiency. Yet how many insurance agents are continually seeking new ways to increase their skills? Many have the attitude, “I’ve been selling for years, what more can I learn?”

The solution: Top performers in every profession are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills and gain the fine edge that leads to consistent success. Managers need to invest in top performers and help them grow their skills. Ego stunts your growth so managers have to be willing to set their ego aside and be willing to grow, modeling behavior that demonstrates it is more important to the manager to be effective than to be right. We can all learn from each other.

In Summary:

Hiring: Distributions, supervisors and managers must complete, step-by-step, a formal process for profiling, attracting, recruiting, interviewing and hiring top performers. Look to hire goal achievers not goal setters. Most managers hire goal setters and are surprised when agents never achieve their goals. The truth is the agent only had a wish list. Ask the agent when interviewing or coaching to describe goals they set and “how” they achieved the goal. If they didn’t achieve then it was it a goal or only a wish list?

Effective recruiting and hiring is the most important job of any manager. No amount of training, coaching or mentoring will make up for a poor hiring decision. Do it right the first time.

Managing: Implement a sales management process that emphasizes more effective recruiting, hiring, coaching, growing, and developing agents. Most of all quit accepting excuses for poor performance from yourself and your agent, raise your expectations and implement a rigorous accountability process. This starts with your team production-if you are not meeting standards. how can you expect to hold your agents accountable?. In management, you don’t get what you want – you only get what you expect and inspect. Remember, you manage things – you lead people.

Training: Tapes, books and one -day seminars are fine for intellectual learning or external motivation, but if you want to be a better golfer, pianist – or a better sales person, you must practice and develop new skills. Selling is a skill that can be taught, learned, and mastered over time.

Phone scripts and rebuttals are intended to assist in moving your management and sales career forward or allowing you to increase you current volume of business.

Remember these are only meant to be sales tools, they do not work, you have to work them.

The key is to do enough of the right things, enough of the time.

Give success time to happen-and do something today to make it happen!

The clock starts NOW!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The 10 Most Common Mistakes Insurance Agents Make

BCIN? Difference Between Designer, Architect and Engineer According to the Ontario Building Code

As I meet with new clients and friends every day, I commonly hear the same questions “What is a BCIN?” “When is a BCIN required?” etc. Here is some clarification to the public on some important issues about choosing a company to provide you with plans. Please note that this information applies only in the Province of Ontario.

What is a BCIN?

A BCIN stands for ‘Building Code Identification Number’. This number is assigned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, to successful applicants who have completed the requirements outlined in Division C Section 3.2 of the Ontario Building Code. There are two distinct types of BCIN number, individuals & firms. Individuals are people who have completed the exams and have received a BCIN from the MAH; however, they do NOT carry any insurance. As a result this limits the types of projects that the person can do. Firm BCIN’s on the other hand MUST carry valid liability insurance, and depending on the amount of designs fees that a firm charges in a year will dictate the required amount of insurance coverage they must have. Insurance is expensive but it is there to protect you so avoid working with companies who do not have it. For most people, a home is your single largest asset; do you really want to get plans from someone without insurance?

How do I know if I am choosing a registered company?

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing maintains a database of all registered BCIN holders. The registry is available through a system called QUARTS. Once on the Public Registry, this system allows you to search by the individual’s name, the company’s name or the BCIN #. Once you have found a business or individual, it will bring you to a page with details on the company. It lists the mailing address of the business & contact details. At the bottom it should also show the Registration as ‘Registered Designer’ and the Status as ‘Current’. If it shows up as ‘lapsed or expired’ then this means that they either do not have valid insurance for that year, or that they are late in filing their paperwork.

Do I need an architect or engineer for my project?

Probably not! There have been massive changes to the system in the last few years, opening the doorway for a new title; designers. Architects & Engineers are NOT required for any project less than 600m² (6,458 sq.ft.) and less than 4 storeys. For most residential and small commercial projects, you do NOT need an architect or an engineer. However, and this is important, if the project involves severe structural modifications, an engineer may be requested by the municipality to review the plans. On this note, there is a BCIN exam which will supersede this requirement! If your design company is a registered company in the Category of ‘Building Structural’ then they can complete the plans.

When do I need a BCIN ‘stamp’ for my project?

Depending on the type of project you may or may not need a BCIN number on your drawings. You do not need a BCIN number if the project relates to the construction of a house that is owned by the person who produces the drawings or if it relates to a farm building less than 3 storeys. There are a few other instances, but these are probably the two most important. Often I hear homeowners ask for just the drawings to submit for permit (no stamp). This is allowed, but as the homeowner you must be knowledgeable of the drawings (after all, you are claiming that you have produced them). It is okay to admit to the municipality that you hired someone to draw them for you, but at the end of the day you will be responsible to ensure that the drawings meet code. If the city has approved your building permit based on the drawings and you proceed to build your project to the drawings only to later find out that there is a problem, you will be on the hook to make any necessary adjustments to pass inspection. Most companies will charge from $200 to $2000 for the use of their BCIN number on the drawings. This may seem expensive but it is the security blanket that will keep you safe and ensure that your drawings meet code! I also personally apply for the permits and handle all the paperwork on my client’s behalf when I charge this fee; which most people prefer as nobody likes to stand in line for half a day to submit paperwork to the City.

I hope that this will help to clarify any questions you may have had regarding the requirements of having someone produce building permits for your project. I look forward to working with you, and if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on BCIN? Difference Between Designer, Architect and Engineer According to the Ontario Building Code

10 Reasons Why People Travel

When people decide to leave the comforts of their home and venture to other locations there is usually a reason behind it. Whether the cause to travel was a last minute whimsy or had an actual purpose, it makes one think about all of the reasons why people travel. Reflect on the last time you left your location and ventured to another one. Did it have a purpose behind it? Let’s look and see if your motive to travel matched any of the one’s listed below. These are not listed in any particular order.

1. Romance- There are thousands of people who are involved in long distance relationships. At some point though, they need to see each other. For the sake of love, people will travel for hours to spend as much time as they can with the love of their life.

2. Relaxation- All work and no play is not a good thing. People need to get away from the stress of everyday life, and a nice sunny location with a beach might just be what the doctor ordered.

3. Family/ Friends -Many people have family/friends that are located in different parts of the world. They need to visit with them even if it’s for a short period of time.

4. Religion- There are places in the world that hold religious importance for many people. Religious travel is often related to a purpose such as seeing where the last pope was buried, or traveling to the town where Jesus was born.

5. Death- A relative, friend or acquaintance has passed away and travel is required to attend the funeral which is located out of town.

6. Honeymoon- You’re getting married and are going somewhere special to celebrate. This usually occurs right after the wedding, but there are many occasions where people celebrate a honeymoon years later.

7. Education-You’re getting your education somewhere other than where you live or you are going away on an educational school trip.

8. Celebration- Wedding, Anniversary, Birthday, Birth- There’s always something to celebrate and it doesn’t always happen where you live.

9. Medical/Health- Sometimes the treatment you need isn’t available in the city/town where you live. Often the best medical care is costly and requires travel to receive it.

10. Work- Job requirements might mean a fair bit of travel is involved. Even if the travel is within your own country it still has a purpose attached to it.

Overall, traveling can be a wonderful experience or it can be draining, expensive and just plain torture. Nonetheless if you need to go then embrace it for what it is, and try to make the best of it even if it wasn’t planned.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on 10 Reasons Why People Travel

A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

How to Do a Sales Pitch in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate, you will undertake a variety of presentations, in a variety of circumstances. Most of them are business-like in nature, focusing on the needs of the tenant, the property buyer, or the property seller.

Get to the core issues

Each of these groups has unique property requirements and points of focus. It is their needs which must be identified and clearly addressed in the sales pitch or presentation. Many successful commercial real estate agents will have a preliminary meeting with the client or customer so that they can identify key issues and concerns. This allows the commercial agent to return to the client or customer in a few days with a well structured proposal that addresses the needs of the customer or client.

It’s all about THEM, not YOU!

When you design an investment or commercial property proposal for presentation, the document should be 90% regards the property and the client. Frequently you see this rule disregarded or broken with the proposal document being largely regards the agency and the personnel.

Rarely is the property transaction a simple matter of the property rental, the property price, or the physical elements of the property. In most situations, it is the combination of these things which must satisfy a fundamental equation of need that the customer or client has. In getting them to this fundamental need, you will identify an element of pain that the customer or client is experiencing. This is what you focus on.

They are Experienced

It is interesting to note that many clients and customers in commercial real estate are reasonably comfortable in circumstances of business negotiation. This means they may not tell you the total big picture or all the elements of a transaction until they are ready. Conversation and connection in the presentation process should be biased towards the client or customer using well selected questions which allow the agent to interpret the body language coming from the client’s response.

When you believe you have identified the element of clients pain related to the property transaction, you start to magnify the problem in terms of today’s market, then offering stable and logical solutions that your real estate agency business can provide to the client or customer. Invariably, the commercial real estate transaction in today’s market centres on financial matters such as:

  • High vacancy factors
  • Other property choices and chances are available
  • Underperforming leases
  • Unstable cash flow
  • Unstable tenancy mix
  • Tenanted conflict
  • Escalating building operating costs
  • A shift in demographics which exposes the property to a unstable future
  • Mortgage payment pressures
  • Age of the asset
  • Needs for refurbishment or extension
  • Competition properties attracting tenants away from the subject property

This type of information and interpretation requires your intimate knowledge of the local region. This is by both property type and by location. This is the higher value that you bring to the customer or client. Being able to distinctly define local market awareness is a major advantage in any commercial real estate presentation or sales pitch. You must be seen as the best knowledgeable solution to the problem.

From Experience

After many years working exclusively in the commercial real estate industry, I found that my unique skill was in market knowledge and the display of that in any formal presentation to the client. Being able to talk about market trends and financial performance in a solid and sound way will help the client understand that they need your services. Coupling that with your extensive and relevant database of enquiry clearly shows the client that they need you.

A fantastic commercial real estate presentation is a function and balance of lots of things. Things like:

  1. A well established pre-planning process is a strategic advantage for every commercial real estate presentation. Strategy is everything in commercial real estate. Every property presentation requires planning.
  2. Making sure you are asking the right questions of the client or prospect. Plan your questions relative to the subject property so that you help the client think about opportunity and changes that are possible.
  3. Using your market knowledge and giving good answers. Have a variety of market facts and trends available to call on. Feed them into your presentation; facts are always useful. They can also be used as a channel to direct the discussion when the client is forcing you to justify your approach or your experience. Confidence and control must be the basic rule of your property presentation. When the client takes control of the presentation you have lost.
  4. Using your experience in the marketplace so that you are telling relevant stories of success in similar properties. Stories of other properties will always interest of the client.
  5. Making sure your personal presentation is optimised for the connection in the presentation. It can be that you are using a combination of the proposal document, the marketing document, and computer slide presentation, samples of your database, photographs of the subject property projected on to slides, and photographs of comparable properties projected on to slides.
  6. Choosing the placement of people at the table or strategically positioning them in the room is always important. Much has been written about where you should sit relative to the client. The basic rule is adjacent to the client rather than across an area of barrier such as a table. Being within arm’s reach allows you to pass documentation to the client at the appropriate time. Documentation should not be provided to the client until you are ready for them to review it; otherwise it is a distraction of their attention.
  7. Make sure that your proposal is simple and yet well directed with a clearly defined outcomes of sale or lease. Many proposal documents in commercial real estate are much too wordy so the main messages are lost and not clearly defined. The best proposals are less wordy and more illustrative. The best balance of a commercial real estate proposal is a mixture of 25% words, 25% pictures, 25% graphs, and 25% white space. This becomes a document which is clearly read and understood.
  8. Combine good illustrations and photographs of the subject property into the proposal or presentation so that any lengthy descriptions or paragraphs are broken up. This will keep interest of the client in your documentation.
  9. Make sure that your marketing package is value for money, and yet reaching the target market that the property serves or needs to attract. All too often, we see examples of generic marketing by the commercial real estate agent to the broader and less specific marketplace. Showing the client that you clearly know and will attract best the target market will always help your conversion to a potential listing. Be very specific about the target market and how you will reach it.
  10. Ensure that your commission costs are fair and reasonable for the location. In most circumstances, discounting your commission should not be an option as it will make you poor and remove or detract from your enthusiasm for the sale or lease. ‘Cheap’ means ‘cheap and without focus’ and the client needs to know this. The property deserves better. You are not cheap because you are the best and you do a great job. A fair commission is always paid for a positive property outcome.
  11. Always provide testimonials that are relevant to the property transaction. When you combine relevant history and details of happy customers into your presentation you will make the client feel more comfortable.
  12. Always display clear and sound market knowledge that impresses the client relative to their property. This will include extensive awareness of comparable properties that compete with the subject property. You should be able to talk solidly about property prices, comparable rents, rental growth, returns on investment, changes to the future demographics of the area, and properties in the immediate precinct of relevance. In many cases, it pays to walk around the local area just prior to any property presentation so that you bring immediate and clear pictures of the precinct to the discussion. Many times this has been of significant advantage in my presentation processes. Talking about neighbouring properties localises the client and their thought processes.
  13. Come up with a variety of ways to serve the client. Innovation and relevance will always impress. In today’s market, this is relatively easy considering the marketing opportunities and tools provided by the internet & technology. Be proactive in your property promotion processes so that the listing for sale or lease stands uniquely different in its marketing campaign from the others in the area. This does not have to be expensive to the client or to your office, given that the internet and electronic technology is historically cost effective. In today’s market, the traditional methods of publicising the property in the property pages of the local paper, is becoming much less important in the marketing campaign. Most commercial property buyers and tenants research the market from the Internet first and foremost.
  14. Almost every property agency will say that they have excellent communication and connection skills to support the property promotion process. From experience, this is largely incorrect and typically the average commercial salesperson or leasing person will exercise ordinary communication channels with the client. Put yourself in the shoes of the client. They expect and deserve frequent updates on the promotion of the property even when nothing is happening or when the adverts are producing little response. When a property campaign is not producing the results, it is important that you act or adjust with alternative recommendations and strategic changes to the promotional campaign for the client to consider. Rarely would you get to the property campaign correct in the first week. It is in this time that you must consider fine tuning the promotion process so that the target market is being reached in a timely and effective way. This means that every property enquiry generated from your promotions must be tabulated so that you understand what channels of marketing work most effectively with the property in question.
  15. When addressing the client or the client group in a formal property presentation, the answers and information you give must be delivered well and provide relevant solid property knowledge, in a practiced and professional delivery. Any sales or presentation tools relative to the property must be relevant and you should know how to use them with exceptional skill. Fumbling and faking information is not tolerated by the client.

So there you have it. These are some of the key skills to use in a commercial real estate presentation. Whilst many real estate agents think that they are the best alternative in the market to promote sell and rent commercial property, the reality is they do not get the message across when it matters most in front of the client.

To be the best commercial real estate agent in your area, you must show that you are just so, and you do this in the first 10 minutes of the time that your presentation takes. The client will have formed an opinion by then.

Be prepared to walk away from any demands for discounting that the client or customer demands. In this market they need a great commercial real estate agent providing a great job; discounting is not an option. Show pride in your services and walk away when the client demands discount in marketing or lower commissions.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on How to Do a Sales Pitch in Commercial Real Estate

A Brief Description Of Maui Island And Why You Need A Travel Agency Assistance

Would you like to travel to Maui? This is the second largest of the eight islands found in the Hawaii State. It possesses three big cities, including Lahaina, Kahului and Wailuku. The region lures many visitors because of its physical landmarks such as the highest volcanic mountain called Haleakala. Even the West Maui Mountains form very beautiful scenery. The western part of the island including Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kapalua has the most luxurious and elegant resorts.

This is a beautiful island and if you want to plan a getaway you cannot be wrong if you choose it. Although you can reach the region quickly by plane, cruising in a ship is more enjoyable. Besides, finding cheap Maui cruises is not a major problem. Since this landmass is a popular destination for tourists, you can expect to compete for cheaper cruise rates with very many people from your region.

How can you manage to overcome this competition for discounted cruise rates? If at all possible, you should look for a reliable travel agency that either has business branches in Hawaii or is based in this state. This is specifically true if you will be a first time visitor who plans to have a stress free trip to the island. A travel agent is therefore very useful when people are planning Maui vacations.

In the following few paragraphs you will find out more about the importance of using a travel agent and related information.

Reasons why you should use a Maui travel Agency

1. It provides guidance and direction through out the trip and is able to help people save money.

2. A travel operator boosts safety of new travelers throughout a whole week’s trip or even a longer one.

3. It keeps travelers from getting into trouble with the authorities in the Island

4. It recommends the best accommodation facilities as well as proper means of transportation in this wonderful island.

How you can locate a Maui Travel Agency

It is extremely easy to locate a good tour company if you know how to use the internet wisely. Look for Maui travel agents’ reviews, analyze them carefully and choose a few good companies. Go to the related forums and blogs and read prior visitors’ comments and articles. In short, you need to take your time to research carefully before making a decision about whom to hire among many tour operators that serve Maui. The best thing to do is to look for an agent that can give you a single package for the entire journey. The package should include the hotel accommodation, foods and drinks, transportation and other leisurely costs.

What your Maui tour guide should tell you in advance

An imperative detail that you want your guide to tell you about in advance is the requirements for entry in Maui, Hawaii. If you come from outside the U.S, you need to know about the passport, visas and other mandatory entry information before the travel day comes. Moreover, the agent should mention something about the climate, especially if you would be traveling with your family.

You want to avoid traveling with kids when hurricanes are common or when the weather is too wet. This is particularly important if you plan to participate in outdoor activities such as water sports and walking to the tourist landmarks. The guide should make you understand the available routes and the things you can see while cruising in a ship.

If you want cheaper rates, the planner of Maui vacations should be able to provide you an inexpensive bill without compromising the quality of your visit. You can also ask the travel guide about trip insurance, car rental services, traffic around the region and many other important issues.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on A Brief Description Of Maui Island And Why You Need A Travel Agency Assistance

Important Issues For Green Card Holders to Remember and Consider When Traveling

Clients who are Green Card holders (ie permanent residents) frequently ask me about issues that need to be aware of when traveling internationally, outside of the United States.

Here are some things to consider to minimize the potential for problems at the border. After a long intercontinental flight, nobody wants to find themselves in a position of being subjected to lengthy questioning by CBP officers at the airport. Particularly in situations where the Green Card holder has spent significant time (more than 6 months, typically) outside the US, there are potential pitfalls one needs to be aware of – or risk risk losing the highly-prized Green Card. CBP, interestingly enough, in its operations manual, has some good guidance on what immigration inspectors are to consider when inspecting Green Card residents seeking re-admission into the US

Admission, generally The CBP officer shall admit a resident alien returning to an unrelinquished domicile, if not otherwise inadmissible, upon presentation of an unexpired Green Card (I-551), a reentry permit, refugee travel document (indicating lawful permanent residence), or Temporary evidence of LPR status such as an Travel Statmp (or ADIT stamp).

A returning resident alien is not required to present a valid passport for reentry into the US, although most will have one, since a passport is often required for entry into a foreign country. When presented, the passport is normally annotated with "ARC", and the alien's "A" number should be written on the page with the admission stamp.

Admission after prolonged absences A Green Card holder, who has been outside the United States for more than one year (two, if presenting a reentry permit), may be seen by CBP to possibly have abandoned residence. Other indicators of possible abandonment of residence are:

(1) employment abroad,

(2) having immediate family members who are not permanent residents,

(3) arrival on a charter flight where most passengers are non-residents with return passage,

(4) lack of a fixed address in the US, Egypt

(5) frequent prolonged absences from the United States.

In questionable cases, it is appropriate for CBP to ask for other documentation to substantiate residence, such as driver's licenses and employer identification cards.

Green Card holder without Green Card? Lawful permanent residents (LPR) lacking evidence of alien registration because it has been left at home or in a safety deposit box, may obtain from CBP a visa waiver, with fee, or defer the inspection to another CBP office local to the Resident's home in The US

If the LPR claims the card has been lost or stolen, the POE may accept a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, with fee. These actions may be considered once the identity of the LPR has been confirmed, preferably by checking against the data contained in the CBP computer systems.

A LPR requesting a visa waiver must complete a Form I-193, Application for Waiver of Visa or Passport, if otherwise admissible. The applicant requesting the waiver is to review the information recorded on the printed form for accuracy and sign where indicated. If the waiver is approved, the LPR is to be given a copy of the Form I-193 and be acknowledged as a returning resident. If a waiver is denied, the applicant may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

CBP officers can also use something called "deferred inspection". This is usually limited to a Green Card or Visa holder who:

O will be able to produce the requisite document within a few days; Egypt,

O claims to have lost or had the Form I-551 stolen, is unable to pay the Form I-90 fee at the time of initial inspection and has not been previously deferred for presentation of the Form I-551 document.

The LPR will be required to file a Form I-90 with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the next 30 days.

Conditional Residents A conditional resident is generally admissible to the US if applying before the second anniversary of admission for conditional residence. The conditional resident may also be admissible if he or she has a lettering letter (or "transport letter") from a US Consulate, has been stationed abroad under government orders, or is the spouse or child of a person stationed abroad under government orders. Otherwise, the applicant for admission as a conditional resident must have filed a joint petition or an application for waiver, Form I-751 (marriage-based cases) or Form I-829 (investment-based cases), in the US within the 90 Days before the second anniversary but not more than 6 months prior to the application for entry.

Once I-751 has been filed, the applicant will receive a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) from USCIS, extending the conditional residency status for another year, allowing travel.

If none of those conditions exist, the inspector may defer the applicant to file Form I-751 or I-829 if there is a reason to believe the service will approve a petition or waiver. If the applicant is not admissible, CBP has authority to place him or her in removal proceedings.

Question of "Meaningful Departure" When examining a Green Card holder who has spent significant time abroad (usually more than six months), when there is a question as to whether the LPR may have abandoned his / her US residence, the CBP inspector has to Evaluate the situation and make a determination as to the LPR's intent and the nature and reason for the prolonged absence from the United States. Prior to 1997, if a lawful permanent resident was believed to be inadmissible, immigration inspectors had to first make a determination which his / her absence was "meaningfully interruptive" of permanent residence. Later revisions to immigration laws have formalized a 'test' for immigration inspectors to apply in this situation. Under this test, a lawful permanent resident is NOT considered to be seeking admission, unless the alien:

O has abandoned or relinquished that status;

O has been absent continuously for more than 180 days;

O has engaged in illegal activity after departing the US;

O has departed under legal process seeking removal;

O has committed certain criminal offsets;

O is attempting entry without inspection; Egypt

O has entered the US without authorization by an immigration officer.

If CBP believes an LPR may be inadmissible or no longer entailed to lawful permanent resident status, CBP should refer the alien for removal proceedings if a deferred inspection is not appropriate.

Special Rules for Dependents of US Service Members Spouses and children of US Armed Forces servicemembers, or civil employees of the US Government, are exempt from many normal requirements for returning residents. If a dependent is a temporary resident, and the period of conditional residence has expired, CBP should admit the person and advise to file Form I-751 within 90 days.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Important Issues For Green Card Holders to Remember and Consider When Traveling

Manage Debts the Smarter Way!

Spiraling debts can be a cause of concern for any borrower. They can create an adverse effect on the financial status of the borrower. Wondering how to deal with the troublesome situation? If you are facing financial hardship due to them, it is time to seek help. Debt management might be the solution to all your problems! Read on and find out how …

Know why should you seek this kind of service?

O One affordable monthly payment
O Reduced credit repayments
O The guide to a debt free future

The truth is that credit card debts are usually an outcome of unplanned spending and late repayments. They are the worst debts you would have encountered! You have a number of options to get rid of such problems.

When you opt for solutions with a team of financial experts, the professionals will assess your current financial situation and help you choose options on a spending plan. You can seek help from such experts. They will negotiate terms of your debts with creditors as well! In simple words, they will take care of all kinds of debt problems on your behalf.

There are several ways of managing this kind of problem. To start with, you could avoid credit card usage as much as possible or opt for consolidation finance as a part of the solution. You must begin by trying not to spend too much over your usual balance. This will help you ease your debt worries. Doing so, will ensure that you are on the road to a debt-free life sooner than you had imagined!

Managing payment of credit card bills can be one of the major contributing factors of managing such kind of problem. It saves a large chunk of your money with one single payment every month, well within your reach! It is much simpler to pay just one bill every month. Here, if you are burdened by this kind of problem, you need not put yourself through any more stress! By following this kind of advice, you can manage your financial problems easily. You can also reach out to financial experts who can take care of your financial predicament.

You must consider these kinds of solutions only after a careful analysis of your personal circumstances and constraints! Make sure you make the company aware of your problems. This will only help arrive at a suitable solution.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Manage Debts the Smarter Way!