Homeowners Guide to Home Insurance Discounts, Reduced Rates and Savings

In today's economy, many homeowners are juggling higher bills on less earnings – facing tight family budgets in the wake of rising costs, credit limits or even job loss. Yet there's no need to struggle with the cost of home insurance. Despite industry increases, homeowners may be able to reduce their insurance rates by as much as 30 percent.

Neverheless, many homeowners are not using insurance discounts to lower rates – even those who apply discounts may qualify for more savings than they're getting. And lowered rates are still possible, even in today's economy.

Consider the findings reported by independent insurance agent association, Trusted Choice, in a 2009 national survey:

"53 million household responders 'admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply did not know' about policyholder discounts they are reasonably qualify for."

The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In fact, many insurance consumers could be saving significantly more-as much as 30%, according to independent insurance agencies, which often shop on behalf of consumers and help them find discounts and compare rates.

Homeowners are usually aware of the more common discounts – such as a multiple policy discount to insure both home and auto under one carrier. But there are other discounts and savings they miss.

How savvy are you as a homeowner and insurance consumer?

Find out using this quick list to explore or measure your potential for insurance discounts. It's also the knowledge you and your insurance agent need to reduce rates for savings:

  • Dual duty – Do not overlook the most common discount available: multiple policy discounts. When the same company insures your home and car, you can probably reduce your overall insurance costs by 10 to 15 percent.
  • New home, new homeowner? The same criteria used to qualify your home for a specific mortgage is often the same that qualifies your policy for discounts.
  • Living in a gated community? Then you may be eligible for discounts. Be sure to ask about auto insurance discounts if your car is evenly 'protected' to boot.
  • Rooftop savings – Some insurance companies offer hail resistant roof discounts for Class 4 roofs – naturally these credits may vary with locale. Moreover, be sure to ask your insurer about potential discounts before putting a new roof on your house – you'll probably want to capture savings if available and a flat roof without roof warranty may disqualify you from your current coverage alike.
  • Be a new policyholder – You may find additional savings extended to new customers based on new rating models that offer a 'sign up' discount. If your insurer extends this discount, your insurance agent may be able to capture it by applying for a new policy with the same company.
  • Your track record counts – make sure you discover discounts for home insurance customers who have a claim-free track record … when was the last time you filed a home insurance claim? A 10-year history typically qualifies you for this discount; If you've never filed a claim, you may save as much as 20 percent.
  • Risk reductions – Ask your agent to identify risk reduction discounts addressing a range of interior and exterior factors: fire and smoke alarms, electrical wiring, fireplace / chimney safety, heating apparatus, burglar alarms, curb and gutter system and landscaping elements. Proximity to a fire hydrant and your community's fire department also applies.
  • Preventive maintenance and home security – Make sure your insurance agent is aware of any alarm systems or preventive measures you take to secure property and to keep your home safe. Although discount criteria varies, you may be able to get savings of 10 to 15 percent for a combined system that may include two or more measures: deadbolt locks, lockable garages and storage buildings, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, a burglar Alarm or home security system.
  • Good breeding gone bad – Like it or not, some pets have a reputation. You may adore your family pet but if Fido is a dog breed considered bite-happy or dangerous, your insurance rating may be affected or your coverage in jeopardy. Choose your pet wisely – be aware of the little issues that can turn your insurance into a big issue.
  • Score card – Expect your credit score to impact your home insurances rates. If married, you may be able to reduce your rate by listing the top scorer as the first named on the insurer's application. Plus, if you've had a less-than-score score and recently improved your numbers, let your insurance agent know. You may be able to get a policy adjustment: a lower insurance rate is still possible without the need to write a new policy.
  • Raise the limit – consider the difference a deductible makes. You can probably lower your rate by raising your deductible – $ 2,500 is the standard deductible and you can expect a lower rate if you raise it to $ 5,000.
  • Agent vs. Agent and the extended marketplace – Is your insurance agent an independent who can tap a broad product range? Or an agent affiliated with a name-brand company? Know the difference. Independent agents can shop around – explore options across the marketplace. Brand agents do not usually have the same agility – they're usually limited to the company practice or limited to brand products. Loyalty counts. Still, if you're committed to one company brand you may be just as limited as the insurance agent who is equally missing rate rates, discounts and savings offered by the brand's competition.
  • 'Home pride' and stewardship are vital – Even many insurance agents do not understand the role that stewardship plays in harnessing the broadest range of discounts possible. Why? The better care you take of your home, the more attractive you'll look to insurance carriers. And the best way to harness discounts is to identify as many discounts as possible – it stands to reason that more companies mean more potential for discounts.

So, you'll want to make sure your home qualifies for coverage from every company that offers coverage in your locale since increased competition generally decreases rates and opens your access to discounts.

In a nutshell, homeowners applying the discounts above will soon realize the many ways they can save on their home insurance – even when times are tough.

Get started on discounts for savings ….

  • Shop around to compare insurance company providers and rates – what companies provide home insurance in your community?
  • Get guidance on the details – an independent insurance agent is not tied to one brand, so these agents can help you see the whole marketplace and get the apples-to-apples lens you need to compare products, coverage and rates.
  • Identify discounts – make sure you identify the common discounts most homeowners hit, along with other discounts that frequently miss.
  • Do the 'homework' – the work at home that demonstrates stewardship makes you eligible to select from the broadest insurance product range possible.
  • Optimize selection, and then maximize discounts to benefit from reduced raters and savings.
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Cliches Associated With Insurance

Isn’t it funny how many cliches can be associated with insurance? I think when a couple of sayings and anecdotes were invented; the inventors had the term insurance in mind!

Have a look at a couple of the following sayings and tell me if you agree…

Nothing is certain, but death and taxes. This can be changed to – nothing is certain, but death and insurance. No matter who we are, what we do, how much money we have or which car we drive… we need insurance!

All is fair in love and war. Once again, this can be changed to “all is fair in love and insurance.” Don’t you agree that we are at the mercy of insurance companies? What they say is law and we have to just sign on the dotted line and accept the fact that we are paying tons of money each month on something that we do not really want. Do not accept the first quote that you are offered. Shop around until you find a policy that you are completely satisfied with. Do not allow any broker, agent or insurance company to force you into taking a policy that you are not happy with.

He has been taken for a ride – he has been taken for an insurance ride! It’s unfortunate to hear how many insurance companies take their clients and customers for a ride. This is usually by means of not wanting to pay out a claim, increasing premiums drastically, or other matters that we have no control over. Always read the fine print before signing any insurance document. By having a good understanding of what your insurance policy entails, a lot of this can be prevented.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – An insurance company is only as strong as its weakest link. When wanting to obtain insurance, make sure that you talk to an agent or a broker who knows what they are doing! The worst thing in the world is dealing with an insurance reseller who has only one thing on the mind and that is to meet their monthly sales targets. Insurance is a very important investment; therefore it is crucial that a qualified professional takes care of your needs and requirements.

A good beginning makes a good ending. Change this to “a good insurance company makes a good ending” and you will be one of the many individuals who are satisfied with the service received from their insurance companies. If a company offers outstanding service and handles queries and claims effortlessly, even a burglary or an accident can have a good ending.

After a storm comes a calm. If you can change this saying to “after an insurance claim, comes a calm” – congratulations! That means that you have recently put in a claim and that it was handled successfully, enabling you to relax after everything has been taken care of.

I hope you have enjoyed this tongue in the cheek look at insurance sayings – it might be a bit of useless information, but hopefully it managed to put a smile on your dial!

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Eviction Notice – Difference Between Personal Service and Tack and Mail When Evicting a Tenant

As a landlord, sooner or later you will have to evict a tenant for either not paying rent or for violating one or more terms of the lease. When a tenant violates their lease the landlord must immediately start the eviction process. The eviction process is handled by the county where the property is located. Even though you file eviction papers in the county where the property is located, it is state law, not county law, which controls the eviction process.

The eviction process starts with the landlord filing the paperwork for the eviction at the courthouse in the county where the property is located. Once the paperwork for the eviction has been filed, the paperwork will be handed over to either the Sheriff or Marshall’s office. Some counties use the Sheriff to serve notice of the eviction filing while others use the Marshall’s office. Regardless of the office, they will serve your tenant with notice of the eviction. This service will be either Personal Service or Tack and Mail. I will discuss the difference between the two.

Tack and Mail

When the Sheriff arrives at the property, they will try to get someone to answer the door. If nobody is home they will leave a copy of the eviction notice at the door. This is where the “tack” portion of tack and mail service originated. The Sheriff will actually tack a copy of the notice at the front door for the tenant to find when they return home. The Sheriff will also “mail” a copy of the eviction notice to the tenant. The Sheriff will mail the notice regular mail. It will not be mailed certified mail. The date the Sheriff tacks a copy to the door is the day that is recorded at the courthouse for the date of service.

Personal Service

When the Sheriff arrives at your property, they may find the tenant is home. If the Sheriff actually gives the notice to the tenant this is called Personal Service. As a landlord you would much rather the tenant be served with personal service.

The difference between the two types of service is that Personal Service has more advantages in the eviction process. If you tenant is served personal service and then does not show up for the court date, you can get a judgment against the tenant. If the tenant does not answer the eviction process after being served personally, you can get a judgment against the tenant. In both of these situations if the tenant was served tack and mail then you would have to sue the tenant in small claims court to get a judgment against them.

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Trusts and Certyty of Intention

This article looks at the requirements and formalities for a valid trust. In UK law, a trust is an arrangement involving three classes of people; A Settlor, Trustees and Beneficiaries. The Settlor is the person who transfers property to the Trust. The Trustees are people who legally own the Trust Property and administrator it for the Beneficiaries. The Trustee 'powers are determined by law and may be defined by a trust agreement. The Beneficiaries are the people for whom benefit the trust property is held, and may receive income or capital from the Trust.

"No particular form of expression is necessary for the creation of a trust, if on the whole it can be gathered that a trust was intended." This statement gives the impression that no formalities are needed, and could be misleading. Although equity generally does look to intent rather than form, mere intention in the mind of the property owner is not enough. For a valid trust to exist, the Settlor must have the capacity to create a trust. He must positively transfer the trust property to a third party trustee or declare himself trustee. Further, he must intend to create a trust, and must define the trust property and beneficies clearly. This is known as the 'three assurances'; Certificate of subject matter, certainty of objects and certainty of intent.

Certificate of intent refers to a specific intention by a person to create a trust arrangement wheree Trustee (which may include himself) hold property, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of another person.

It is clear when trusts are created in writing and on the advice of legal professionals that intention is present [Re Steele's Will Trusts 1948]. However, no particular form of words is needed for the creation of a trust and here the equivalent maxim, "Equity looks to intent rather than form", applies. It is therefore sometimes necessary for the Courts to examine the words used by the owner of the property, and what obligations if any the Owner intended to impose upon those receiving the Property.

It is not necessary that the Owner expresses calls the arrangement a trust, or declares himself a trustee. He must however by his conduct demonstrate this intent, and use words which are to the same effect [Richards v Delbridge 1874]. For example, in Paul v Constance 1977, Mr Constance did not express declare a trust for himself and his wife, but he did insure his wife that the money was "as much yours as mine". Additionally, their joint bingo winnings were paid into the account and withdrawals were considered as their joint money. The Court therefore found from Mr Constance's words and conduct that he intended a trust.

Certiety of intention is also known as certainty of words, although it has been suggested a trust may be infringed just from conduct. Looking at Re Kayford 1975 1All ER 604, Megarry J says of certainty of words, "the question is whether in substance a sufficient intention to create a trust has been identified". In this case, Kayford Ltd deposited customer's money into a separate bank account and this was held to be a "useful" indication of an intention to create a trust, although not definitive. There was held to be a trust on the basis of conversations between the Company's managing director, accountant and manager so words were necessary for the conclusion.

In contrast, where the word 'trust' is expressly used, this is not a comprehensive evidence of the existence of a trust – the arrangement may in fact institute something very different [Stamp Duties Comr (Queensland) v Jolliffe (1920)]. For example, the deed may contain words such as "On trust, with power to appoint my nephews in such shares as my Trustee, Wilfred, shall in his absolute discretion decide, and in default of appointment, to my friend George". Although professing to be a trust, Wilfred is not under an obligation to appoint the nephews and provision is made for the property to pass to George if he does not. This is therefore a power of appointment, not a trust [eg. Re Leek (deceased) Darwen v Leek and Others [1968] 1 All ER 793].

Sometimes in a will, the owner of Property will use 'precatory' words such as expressing a 'wish, hope, belief or desire' that the receiver of property will handle it a certain way. For example, in Re Adams and Kensington Vestry 1884, a husband cave all of his property to his wife, "in full confidence that she will do what is right as to the disposal between between my children …". The Court held that the wife may have been under a moral obligation to treat the Property a definite way but this was not sufficient to create a binding trust. Precatory words can still sometimes create a trust. In Comiskey v Bowring-Hanbury 1905, the words 'in full confidence' were again used, but the will also included further clauses, which were interpreted to create a trust. The Court will look at the whole of the document to ascertained the testator's intention, rather than dismissing the trust because of individual clauses.

There are further formalities required for certain types of trust property, and for a trust to be valid, title to the trust property must vest in the Trustee, or, the trust must be "constituted". This might be done for example, by delivery for chattels or by deed for land. If the trust is not properly constituted, the proposed beneficaries have no right to compel the Settlor to properly transfer the Property, as 'equity will not assist a volunteer'. The exception to this is where the beneficiary has provided consideration (including marriage) for the Settlor's promise, in which case, there would be a valid contract and the Beneficiary could sue for breach.

Where a testamentary trust of land or personalty is purported, the will in which it is contained must be in writing and executed in accordance with Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, which means the Will must be signed by the Testator in the joint presence of Two witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the Testator.

Where a Settlor wants to create an inter vivos trust of personalty, the formalities are minimal. Under the usual requirements for a trust (capacity, the three responsibilities etc), the Settlor must observe any formalities required to properly transfer the Property to the trustees – for example, the execution and delivery of a stock transfer form for shares.

To create an inter vivos trust of land or of an equitable interest in land, in addition to the formalities of transferring the land, the declaration of trust must be in writing and must be signed by the person able to create the trust – ie, the Settlor or his attorney [S.53 (1) (b) Law Property Act 1925]. Where this formality is not accepted, the Trustee would hold the land on trust for the Settlor rather than the Beneficiary. The exception is where the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies – the Settlor intended to make an immediate unconditional transfer to the Trustee, the intention to do this was unchanged until the Settlor's death, and at least one of the Trustee is the Settlor's administrator or Executor. In this case, as the property is automatically vested in the Settlor's personal representatives and the trust is constituted.

It is sometimes stated that no particular form of expression is necessary to create a trust if intention was present. Clearly this is not the case. There are formalities for creating inter vivos land trusts and testamentary trusts and if these are not followed, the trust will fail without consideration has been provided or the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies, even if the Trustee had the best intentions. Further, the form of words used in those formalities must be clear and unambiguous, or they may not amount to a trust. He goes on to say that 'a trust may be created without using the word "trust"' and this is true in that other words and conduct to that effect are sufficient. However, the Court does not just regard the 'substance' of the words. If the word used does not meet the 'three assurances' or, for example, the person making the declaration does not have the capacity to make a trust, the trust will fail. This is clearly not the desired 'effect' and not the owner's intention.

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Seven Cover Reviews of the Best Travel Trailer Covers Sold on the Internet and Retail Stores

Usually an outdoor enthusiasts begins to show interest in a travel trailer when they feel that they have outgrown the “sleeping in the outdoors or tent” phase and are ready to enjoy the luxuries of home and yet still have that feeling of living & camping outside by the ocean or lake or in the mountains or desert. Purchasing a travel trailer is an investment that the RV owner hopes will last for many years and numerous excursions. Travel trailers can and will last for many years, sometimes decades. The interior will keep its looks as long as it is protected from sunlight exposure. If an RV is left uncovered the sun’s UV rays will beat down on the camper and fade the interior upholstery, curtains, blinds, carpets, and bedding. The exterior will show its age a great deal faster than the interior. In only a matter of years a travel trailer that is left unprotected from the weather, will exhibit quick and steady exterior damage when the decals fade, crack, spilt and eventually wear off. The plastic window and door seals will turn gray to black in just a year. The welded seams that connect the sides will expand and contract with every snow fall because freezing/melting cycle that occurs when the snow melts on the roof crevices but remain in the crevice, then re-freezes in the tiny, microscopic crevices. These seams will expand inevitably with the freeze cycle that causes a widening of the connecting seams. This constant cycle of water freezing, melting and re-freezing will eventually cause problems with the roof which results in very costly repairs.

The easiest way to prevent the aging process on your travel trailer is to cover it with the best RV cover for the area in which the travel trailer will be stored and for the time in which you will be storing your camping trailer. With so many RV covers on the market how are you going to be able to find the cover that you need?

For the most part, all of the deluxe RV storage covers discussed in this article are sold on the Internet (as well as Walmart, Sears, and Cabelas) and are basically made of the same material (polypropylene) with few differences. Advertised as deluxe winter snow covers these travel trailer RV covers, (Expedition, ADCO, PolyPro 3, Camco and CoverKing) are generally made of triple-layered breathable non-woven polypropylene. The roof/top of the cover is made to accommodate the AC on the roof and is usually large enough to extend over the sides to protect the awning. At the joining seams where the roofing top meets the single layer of polypropylene sides there are vent flaps that allow the cover “to breathe”. These vents prevent wind friction and moisture buildup that would cause mold and mildew to develop. The sides have several long zippered entry panels that will allow you access to your travel trailer during the storage period. The entire cover is usually secured with an integrated tie-down strap system with adjustable click-close buckles and tension panel flaps in the front and back of the travel trailer that reduce cover stress when tightening or loosening the straps on the cover. This gives the RV cover a semi-custom fit. The major differences between all of these winter snow covers comes in the price and the length of the warranty of the product.

Winter Covers for Travel Trailers 20-33 ft Cost & Warranty

Expedition by Eevelle Cost: $205 – $321 Warranty: 3 years

ADCO Designer made with Tyvek Cost: $262 – $365 Warranty: 2 years

Poly Pro 3 by Classic Accessories Cost: $273 – $341 Warranty: 3 years

Camco Ultraguard Cost: $262 – $415 Warranty: 2 years

CoverKing 600 Denier Presidium Cost: $375 – $575 Warranty: Repair for 1yr

When a travel trailer is stored through the summer in the extreme Southeast and Southwest, the cover must be made from an extremely rugged durable woven material. Travel trailers that are in the sun year-round must have a cover with ultimate UV protection. Winter snow covers (like the Expedition, PolyPro 3, Camco Ultraguard, CoverKing Presidium & the Tyvek ADCO cover) disintegrate within a few short months if they are used to protect the RV through the summer. The non-woven fabric cannot stand up to the intense UV rays in this area of the United States. There are two RV covers made of woven material. The first cover that is made with the newest technology in UV block protection is called the PermaPro RV cover made by Classic Accessories. This RV cover is backed by the newest technology in extra strength UV block protection. The PermaPro cover is made of a light weight extra strength ripstop fabric that is tear resistant with nylon reinforcements in the material. The fabric resembles that used in parachutes and athletic wear. This water-repellent fabric repels rain and snow to make it an all season protective RV cover. This travel trailer cover ranges in cost from $375 – $505 and is backed by a four-year warranty.

The Goldline RV cover sold by Eevelle has long been recognized as the best RV cover by customers and dealers alike. The Goldline RV covers are designed to outperform every other RV cover in all the critical categories of RV protection- strength, durability, water repellency, etc. The extra strength yet supple Goldline Tru-weave woven fabric can handle the strongest winds and can stand up to the extreme UV rays of the sun as well as being a water-repellent rain & snow semi-custom storage cover. This travel trailer cover ranges in cost from $455 – $578 and is backed by a five-year warranty. The Goldline is also the only RV cover made for small travel trailers (10 – 20 ft.) as well as the extremely large ones (up to 46 ft. long).

PermaPro and Goldline are the only extra strength travel trailer covers that can be used as summer storage covers. Their woven design stands up to the winds that accompany winter and foretell the change of seasons. Both of these covers are truly all season RV covers that will protect the investment you made into your travel trailer as well as all the upcoming vacations & excursions you will take well into the next several years.

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Thermal Mugs: Plastic Vs Stainless Steel

The basic design of thermal mugs, whether they are plastic or stainless steel is the same – double wall insulation with a lid to seal the top. But even though stainless steel versions cost more than plastic versions, in the long run, they are the best deal for travelers. They can also be made of ceramic or glass, but those are generally designed for household use and not for travel due to the possibility of breakage.

The main benefits of a stainless steel mug are durability and better insulation. Steel is tough, and although plastic mugs can take a beating, a steel mug can last much longer. This is especially true when compared to the more brittle, hard plastic mugs that are sometimes used to display stylish designs and finishes. Although messy, dropping a steel mug of coffee will not generally cause any damage.

There are three basic types of insulation used; Air, foam or vacuum between double walls. Plastic versions usually use either air or foam. Both work acceptably, but air or foam is not as effective as vacuum insulation. More often than not, steel mugs use vacuum insulation which can keep beverages hot for a longer period of time. This can be quite important especially on long (and cold!) Morning commutes.

Beyond the two primary benefits, there are a few other benefits that stainless steel thermal mugs have when compared to plastic mugs. Plastic, being slightly softer, is more difficult to clean. You can use tough cleansers (making sure they're non-toxic!) On steel, but the same cleansers will scratch and damage plastic. For the same reason, plastic mugs tend to retain the flavors of the beverages that have been in them. This is not really a problem if you just drink regular generic coffee every day, but if you use the mug for different beverages, it can be.

When you look at all the factors, durability, ease of cleaning, effective insulation and better flavor, the stainless steel thermal mug is by far the best choice, even though it can be a bit more expensive. The only real benefits of plastic mugs are the lower price in the short run (which can be a big benefit if you lose your mug frequently!) And that they are slightly lighter than stainless steel mugs.

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Basketball Shooting Fundamentals – How to Shoot a Step Back Jump Shot

If you are a slow, un-athletic player you must adopt the step back jumper and add it to your arsenal of weapons. This is the future of basketball. This move is perfect for any player that is not quick enough to get to the cup and can provide a shooter with another way to score the basketball. The move is actually done more effectively against good defense. If the defense plays it correctly and the step back is unavailable the counter to this move will open up something with even more space to get off a shot or drive.

If you do not know what a step back jump shot is, I will explain it briefly. It is when a player uses the bounce to drive towards the hoop then instead of going straight up to shoot a jump shot he/she creates space between him/her and the defender by taking a step to the side then shoots the jumper. You might be asking, “Well, that doesn’t make sense. Why would the player take this extra step and isn’t that traveling?” The reason the player does not just shoot a regular one-dribble pull up is because the defense is there and has beaten the player to the spot. The player was not quick enough or did not use a good enough move to blow by therefore the only way for the player to get a shot off is to create space with this move. This is not traveling at all if done with the proper footwork.

This move is too difficult to explain its execution in just words so I suggest you search through YouTube for a demonstration if you have never seen it done before. When practicing or coaching this move there are certain things you must be persistent about:

– The “step-back” is actually a side-step. Never step back because you will not give yourself a lane to counter.

– Your last dribble before the move should be your hardest, and in the direction that you are stepping, and your body is then chasing the ball and meeting it to go up into your shot.

– Do not use your off arm to push off of the defense. Use your shoulder to make contact.

– Get into the defender with your body. Before you step back make sure you give him a bump so that he can’t contest your shot.

In the next article I post I will talk about the counter to the step back. This will prove to you this is by far the most unstoppable move if a player can master it.

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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.

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Best Finds From the Antiques Roadshow

The comforting, familiar nature of the Antiques Roadshow has been likened to ‘the feel of a warm bath’. From its beginnings in 1977, the show delved through the possessions of others, with guests telling us stories of the current owners, past owners and beyond. Usually the item might be worth a few hundred or few thousand pounds, but rarely – and most excitingly – a true gem would be uncovered.

The Halt in the Desert – a painting by Richard Dadd

In 1987, a couple from Barnstaple, North Devon, came along to a show with a painting. Unbeknown to them, the painting was actually The Holt in the Desert by Richard Dadd – a national treasure which had been missing for more than 100 years. After authentication, the painting was valued at £100,000.

In the watercolour, a camping party is seen on the shore of the Dead Sea with Dadd himself seen at the far right. The scene was painted from memory by Dadd from a mental institution, as after coming home from the expedition to Greece, Turkey, Palestine and Egypt he murdered his own father ‘supposedly at the behest of the Egyptian god Osiris[*].

Spider’s Web Bottle – by William Burges

A guest brought in a little brown bottle his dad had picked up in 1950 to the Antiques Roadshow in Skegness. The expert was delighted to reveal that in fact, the bottle was an original by William Burges – the renowned Victorian designer – which had been lost for most of the 20th century. The bottle was engraved with a spider’s web design of silver, enamel, moonstone and pearl and was valued at £20,000 – £30,000.

Silver Drinking Vessels Collection

After inheriting a collection of silver drinking vessels, a young man from Crawley brought them in to the Antiques Roadshow for examination. In an amazing discovery, each piece that emerged seemed to be more valuable than the last. The haul was valued at a remarkable £100,000, and later sold at auction for £78,000, needing some serious antiques insurance cover.

Faberge Brooch

A lady with a love for jewellery brought in a bumper bag of brooches to expert Geoffrey Munn at Chatsworth House. The guest had bought the bag at auction for just £30, and was shocked to when the expert pulled out each of the brooches and valued them successively for £125 – £150. That was until he spotted the real gem – a genuine pink Faberge brooch – valued at £10,000.

Lalique Vase

Possibly one of the canniest purchases to have appeared on the Antiques Roadshow was this 1929 work by celebrated designer Rene Lalique which later sold at auction for £32,450. The owner had bought it at a car boot sale in south Scotland for just £1.

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Mandatory Provident Fund

Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; Enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession through their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the work of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong's population is living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Without some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the claims. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank has outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called 'three pillars of old age protection'. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillows recommended by the World Bank are
Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.
Publicly managed, tax-funded social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debt it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was a reasonable argument as to the Best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillows for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Order requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee's monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer's MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which begins in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for coercing individuals to plan for their retirement. Beside helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attributions and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong 'needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy has drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions that are better placed to make alone.

Other claim Many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by constantly changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more violations and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these practices and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; If it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worried living under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts — high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possess some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them Staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $ 20,000 a month that can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF ​​plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK $ 15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK $ 771429, that would leave him just HK $ 4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life Expectation in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are approaching only around $ 10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $ 2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would berely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can not provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in The construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total work in the SAR). Some employers were 'playing tricks' to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to break the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers' contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had modified staff into self-employed contractors to avoid liability. The affected construction workers would have no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers that are also under the effects of the SAR government to build a fund fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences that they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice is coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depends on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement can not afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $ 10000 a Month may get only $ 1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers can not take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen's right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires 'employer' and 'employee' to contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not Be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $ 2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either workers workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to relish on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.
Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will certainly affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company's MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company's provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong's largest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a Sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the largest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees' statements when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with Small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF's introduction, insisting they can not afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resented the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and theby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers can not take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and older poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong 'needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and oversight is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the work. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members extremely.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every Citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one thing should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

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