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Spray Foam Insulation – The Intelligent Solution

February 19, 2010

In my opinion, this is a very intelligent solution to insulate your home.

Of course, it will be easier to apply in new homes. But it’s more efficient than traditional insulation.

What are your thoughts?

Take care.


7 Steps to Prepare your Home for Summer

February 19, 2010

Spring is just about here and it’s time to shake off the winter woolies and start getting our homes ready for the summer months. The following are simple steps to take to minimize unnecessary maintenance and damage around your home. So, let’s start from the top.

  1. Remove any debris left on your roof like leaves, fallen branches, etc. This will inhibit any build up of moisture and mold on the shingles. Moisture is the number one reason for reducing the life of roofs.
  1. Blow/rake any leaves around the home to give the grass a chance to grow. Raking will be best, this will remove any thatch (dead grass) build up out of the lawn, allowing it to breath and strengthen.
  1. Open all the vents under the house to start circulating the air (assuming your house has a crawl space), especially in the high humidity areas of the southern states. It’s important to reduce moisture build up under the home; moisture can damage the joists under your home. In addition, reducing moisture will inhibit any mold possibility which can cause a number of allergy and respiratory ailments.
  1. If you don’t already have plastic under you house as a vapor barrier, now’s the time to lay it (4mil is good, 6mil is better). Moisture can migrate from the earth under your home into the sub-structure of your home causing the same problems as above.
  1. If you have a deck or patio, now’s the time to clean it and re-seal it. The pollen and humidity have not fallen onto the deck and it’s an ideal time to clean and re-seal it. I use a 50/50 blend of bleach to water and a stiff bristle push broom. Expensive cleaners and fancy deck brushes are really not necessary (make sure you rinse any plant life around your cleaning area with water after cleaning to keep any damage to the plants from occurring).  As far as sealers are concerned, use a good quality one that does not have paraffin (wax) in it, they don’t last. Penetrating oil is the standard for this application and they come in many different finish colors.
  1. Trim any bushes away from the house (always leave at least 6in of space between house and bushes as well as bush and ground).  Your bushes/shrubs retain moisture and encourage mold to form on your siding (vinyl, wood, brick, stone… it doesn’t matter). This will then infiltrate into your home. By allowing air to circulate between the areas of you plant growth, will save your home some headaches and help the plants grow better.
  1. If you use a gas barbeque, time for a cleaning and maintenance check. Spiders and insects have a tendency to create webs or nests in the ignition starter causing it not to work properly. When the gas is on and starter does not ignite it, an explosive situation may occur. Take time to take the barbeque apart and clean all the parts well.

The above is a good start and depending on your home may be enough to take you through to the autumn.

Take care!


Buy a Home Now

Invest in Real Estate?!…

February 2, 2010

Invest in Real Estate?!… Really?!

Some may think that investing in real estate in the middle of the economic turn-down may be a case for mental review.

However, at the risk of sounding like a realtor, this is the best time to buy.

Prices are the lowest in recent history. Many markets have corrected their over inflation. Not only a stabilization, but an actual 4% appreciation is projected to take effect in 2010 according to the National Association of Realtors.

No where is this more apparent than what we are seeing take place in our local market (Charlotte, NC).

Good deals are possible if you know where to look or how to structure the deal. Because of the abundance of foreclosed properties or properties that are in a pre-foreclosure state, we are bombarded with calls from sellers and realtors that are looking to move good investment properties. Because of the volume, many of them we have to pass on or sell to other investors that see the opportunities as well.

Many of these deals require us to partner with investors. We all have our specialties and many are not comfortable land-lording (tenant, toilets & taxes) and prefer a hands-off approach. We work with many of these in the form of financiers.

Others are interested in our wholesaling the properties to them in the form of an assignment or out-right sales. In all cases, we are more than happy to work with other investors.

One of the ways we work with other investors is tenant/buyer managers. This field is beginning to build momentum with both the investors as well as actual homeowners that have been unable to sell their vacant properties. Because the credit restriction (both for us and our buyers), our sales cycle has stretched from 3 mo. to 12 mo. or more. This has caused a creative sales approach in the form of selling on a lease/purchase. We are becoming a go-to group for the tenant/buyer supplier.

Since we are not realtors, we act as property managers and budget consultants for the property owner. We will coordinate and fill the property with a tenant/buyer. Then walk the tenant/buyer through the process of working through their credit issues, budget priorities, and documentation needed for a mortgage. Each of them must work on correcting the issues in the past, however many of them are cleaned up and ready for a mortgage in as little as 6 months.

The face of real estate investing has changed in this economic climate and the ones that are flexible and creative will survive and flourish. The ability to work with the investor (as well as homeowner) community will realign and strengthen our local market. Anyone that is interested in learning more of what we do, please feel free to contact us.

See you!


7 Ways to Conquer Procrastination

January 28, 2010

As Suzie (@AceConcierge) said on Twitter, procrastination is a killer.

Procrastination can be an illness. It’s not the purpose of this post to go into a psychological study. No, we’re just going to talk about that annoying habit we all have (at least once in a while) to push away those tasks we don’t like to do.

As procrastination often results from fear, anxiety or stress, it spirals into a vicious cycle. Having postponed a task leads to more stress and anxiety. As time passes by and the to do list becomes longer, you feel overwhelmed. Stress paralyzes you and you postpone once again.

Here are 7 ways I found effective to avoid procrastination.

1. Write a to-do list

This may seem so obvious, but it is effective. Seeing your tasks on paper gives you a clearer view of your day. To make it even more effective, write that list every night for the next day. Besides, there is something fulfilling in ticking off done tasks on that list.

2. Envision the task finished

When you are tempted to procrastinate, sit down for a minute. Envision the task done and finished. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment. Nurture that feeling for a minute, get up and start! Stay focused on that feeling until you’re done.

3. Eat small bites

Sometimes, a task, a project seems so big that we don’t know where to start. A good “trick” is to break that big project into small ones and organize them chronologically. Once again, write down all the steps. And start right away. Even if what you do is small compared to the whole project, performing a small part of it will give  you momentum to continue.

4. Prioritize

Let’s face it: all the tasks on your list don’t have the same priority. So, make sure you know exactly what really HAS to be done and what can wait. Don’t start your day with the unimportant tasks. That is a way to procrastinate the important tasks and to find excuses for not doing them.

5. Delegate

OK, we’re not good at everything. Everybody has a list of things that they consider as “chores”. So, our natural tendency is to postpone them. The good news is that you are not always forced to do them yourself. Is there a way to swap, trade, exchange those tasks with someone else? Is there a way to hire somebody to keep your house clean, to do your bookkeeping or to mow the lawn?

6. Set the clock

Here is a big secret: I hate ironing but I hate even more to wear wrinkled clothes or to spend money on dry cleaning. My trick to get the job done? When the ironing chore shows up, I look at the clock and promise myself not to quit ironing for a set amount of time. I focus on the task at hand and guess what?

7. Reward Yourself

In a certain way we all remain children. At least there is a child sleeping in each of us who needs to play. The adult side knows that duties are awaiting. Who wins? Well, both could. Do what you have to do and reward yourself (big or small) for having done it.

There you go… I had procrastinated to write this blog post. Now I’m going to reward myself 🙂


Mastering your emails

January 25, 2010

This morning just started like another Monday morning.

Are you usually also so excited to be Monday again, with a brand new week in front of you, looking forward to many interesting things to do?

Full of energy you turn on your computer, you put your cup of coffee on your desk and you open your mail management system.

And there it starts… You become overwhelmed by the number of messages in your inbox and the idea of the time it will consume to read or to answer to each of them.
Before you know, you lose a little bit of your enthusiasm, a frown replaces your smile. You take a sip of coffee and start to go through that huge stack of mails, cursing the inventor of emails.

This can be avoided though. And the overwhelming feeling and some of the emails.

Take a sharp look to this list of emails and start to organize your system so that it will work for you and not the other way round.

As yourself a few questions:

1. Which emails did you receive today in your Inbox and that should have gone straight to Junk?

Instead of deleting those messages right away, select them immediately and send them to your Junk box (spam). They will be marked as such and will never land under your eyes anymore. You’ll see that after a few days the number of spam messages arriving in your inbox will be drastically reduced.

2. Which emails are personal and which ones are professional messages?

It’s always nice to receive news from your family and friends. But let’s face it: on a busy Monday morning, the last thing you should do to stay productive is to read the jokes and complains of your relatives. If something very urgent would have happened to them, they would have used the phone or would have rung at your door to tell you, trust me. These mails can usually wait until the evening, if not stay there for a day or two. In this case, here is my suggestion: create a folder dedicated to friends and/or family mails and apply a filter in your mail management system that would send those messages to that folder. Set aside 15 minutes during the day or twice a week to enjoy reading your family’s prose.

3. Which emails did you get today that are subscriptions to newsletters irrelevant to your business or your hobbies?

Well… you know the answer there. Go to the bottom of the message and… unsubscribe! You do a favor to yourself by uncluttering your inbox and to the sender as they won’t have irrelevant prospects on their lists. Of course, keep the subscription to the newsletters you enjoy or find useful. Once again, create relevant folders and filters. Keep those messages for later on. You can even read them in a coffee shop, when you decide to relax for a while. Most coffee shops nowadays offer free Wifi.

4. Which mails do need immediate attention?

You know the rules of your priorities better than I do. But, as a general rule, customers’ correspondence, prospect’s correspondence, bank mails, suppliers’ messages (when not advertising) require immediate attention. Once again, the secret here is FILTER and send each message in an appropriate FILE. Set time aside during the day or the week to answer to those mails or take action on them appropriately. Some (if not all) the mail management systems allow you to flag your messages and to add an action date on them. Take advantage of that feature.

Apply these 4 rules and you’ll be surprised, next Monday, to see that it will already be easier to deal with your Inbox stuff.

Three last things:

– Set aside blocks of time during the day just to go through your mail and answer to the top priority messages right away.

– Resist the urge to read your mail when it’s not “the right time”.

– Don’t quit your desk in the evening without having cleaned up your messages. You’ll start the following day more organized and serene.

But… that has to do with discipline, no? We’ll talk about that some other time…



Lease / Purchase… What is this?

January 21, 2010

More and more people are being turned down for a home loan in today’s limited credit climate. Banks a few years ago were writing loans to individuals that had no business getting a home loan. Now the pendulum has swung the other direction, where the lenders are making the qualification process almost impossible to receive a home loan.

So enters the lease / purchase agreement… What does it mean to enter into a lease / purchase contract for a home? Well, this is a preliminary step to becoming a home owner when there has been some reason that you didn’t qualify for a mortgage immediately. This agreement usually requires a significant deposit (3 to 10%) and a monthly rent payment. The advantage to this contract is that it gives you the opportunity to live in the home as you are qualifying for a mortgage. The reason that this agreement is appealing to the home owner is it immediately relieves them of the house payment. The disadvantage is that you do not own the home yet.

Why I like the lease / purchase agreement is simple. It allows me to sell my home quickly to deserving individuals who are usually trying to put there life back together after some misfortune (normally divorce or some medical reason) in the past that still plagues them. This does not come without a price. It now requires an amount of effort on both of our parts. I have to wait for the sale of the home and help them clean the issues off their record that is tarnishing their credit score. The buyer has to adhere to a strict budget that usually requires a lifestyle change to become a better steward of their finances.

The goal is clear when we enter into these contracts even if the amount of time to realize this goal may take several months to possibly a year or more. However, when the true closing date comes, everyone is happy and a homeowner is born.

Strength in Challenging Times

January 21, 2010

As I said in my first post, bad news is all over the place and it’s difficult to keep a positive and optimistic attitude. Without wanting to deny reality, we may not forget that it’s only courage and internal fortitude that will help us to overcome adversity.

The pain perception induced by harsh times is different for each one of us. Everybody has a threshold of pain, physically and morally.  I’m convinced that it evolves over time though. Experience strengthens us. Our environment changes. Our reactions become different. So do our actions.

I’d like to share with you some tips, that I find useful to keep a cool mind and a warm heart in challenging moments.

♦ Stay creative

The world never stops. Even during your darkest moments, people are living, creating, moving, selling, partnering, etc. Don’t close your mind, mulling on your own problems. Of course, you have to find a solution to solve them. But more than often, solutions can be right there, just under your nose. They might not seem appealing at first, but give them a chance. Think of what you learn, what you see and give it a twist. Keep your mind and heart open to new ideas and concepts.

♦ Find an inspirational model

Unfortunately, you are  not the only one ending up in a bad situation. But the good news is… you are  not the only one ending up in a bad situation. Lots of people have had to face adversity and have overcome it. Many of them have learned so much that they actually became healthier, wealthier or better people.They have left great testimonies about it. There are numerous books, movies that you can check out. Allow them to inspire you. Find a model and follow his/her example. Apply the principles those heroes teach you.

♦ Be true to yourself

It’s important to stay who you are. I’m not saying that you should get stuck in your old habits (after all, they are for a great part responsible for the situation you are in now). What I’m saying is, try to become a better you by knowing yourself. No matter what, pursue your dreams. Find your qualities and strengths. Cultivate them.

♦ Develop new relationships

Social awareness is essential to balance and happiness. When you are socially active and are part of a group, any group, you get a better grasp of your personal worthiness. So, join any group that is appealing to you. It can range from charities to fitness groups, from personal development meetings to dance lessons. Whatever, but don’t get isolated. Be part of life. Mingle with other people and get to know them.

♦ Laugh and have fun

Too often when life hits us, we go into “mourning mode”. It’s like a switch turning the light off. Yes, the situation can be daunting, but is there a written law saying that laugh and fun should be banned? Of course not. If necessary force yourself. Seek funny cartoons on the web, laugh with your children, look out for ridiculous. You’ll be surprised how it will relax you and make you see the world in a different way. If you are not good at it, ask a friend to help you.

And, please, don’t forget: share your happy moment of the day on this blog.

All the best to you.


French Baguette

January 17, 2010

I love to bake bread.
There is something sensual in kneading dough and it’s difficult to beat the taste of fresh home-made bread.
Here is the recipe I use. Yes, I know… I took the easy way. But why reinvent the wheel? :))

Why this blog?

January 15, 2010

Devastating news from Haiti…
Economic recession…
Freezing temperatures making the life of thousands of homeless people a hell…
Bombs’ deflagrations in many places in the world…
Difficulties to make ends meet…

All we hear is misery. We truly suffer with all the people touched by catastrophes. Yes, this blog will be serious and talk about real estate, economy, foreclosures, non-existing lending, etc…

But as a couple, we have also decided that we need to go on with our business, with our lives and, like everybody else who has a sense of responsibility, to be active in keeping the spirits up.

That is why every night, before we fall asleep, we share our “happy moments” of the day. They can be as big as having sold a house. They can be as small as having enjoyed a quiet coffee break. It doesn’t matter. What matters is to recognize that life, love and joy are still a topic. What matters is to be grateful for what we have and still can enjoy.

So, not only are we going to talk about serious matters, but we would also like to share with you our happy moments, recipes, gardening tips, good dining places, laugh and happiness.
We will create categories in the blog as the articles will arise.

Do you accept to partner with us? Do you accept to share good times with us? Of course, you can also whine, complain, fuss at life. No problem… We’ll take it too. But we pledge that our replies will always try to lift your mood.

Gene and Nadia