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Thursday, December 19, 2013

How to Prep Your Home for Sale

Today I wanted to discuss with you about how important it is to prepare your home for sale. Before I go into that, I wanted to point out our market snapshot tool that has you plug in your information on your home and it returns a detailed report of the market as it pertains to you and your home. If you’re looking to buy a home, we have the best property search tool on the market as well.

I cannot argue enough for preparing your home for sale. This doesn’t mean investing thousands of dollars in renovations; this can be as easy as cleaning your property. We have a 75 point checklist that we go through when we list properties and I would be happy to send it out to you. If you’re looking to sell your home, this checklist is one of the best available. Most of the items on this checklist are very inexpensive and require some time. However, a little time and little expense will return tenfold on a property.

Along with preparing your home for sale, getting a pre-inspection and home warranty are just as vital. For example, a pre-inspected and warrantied BMW will sell for more than buying one at an action. If you have any questions, please contact me. God bless and talk to you soon!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Should You Keep Your Home on the Market During the Holidays?

During the fall and winter months, I am always asked if people should keep their home on the market or list it just before the holidays. Before I go into that, I wanted to point out our market snapshot tool that has you plug in your information on your home and it returns a detailed report of the market as it pertains to you and your home. Click here to access it. If you’re looking to buy a home, we have the best property search tool on the market as well.

Fortunately, we’re not in a market North Dakota where the market shuts down for three months due to seasonality. Our peak months are May, June and July but homes are still selling. We live in a large job relocation market and January is the time executives are looking to move. I would not recommend holding off until the spring market because the buyers out there now are serious.

If you have any questions, please contact me. God bless and talk to you soon!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Has the 2013 Market Affected You?

Welcome back! If you’re looking to sell your property, we have a market snapshot tool that has you plug in your information on your home and it returns a detailed report of the market as it pertains to you and your home. If you’re looking to buy a home, we have the best property search tool on the market as well.

The market has been crazy this year. The year started with a slight surplus of inventory but then began to pick up in certain areas causing inventory to plummet. The problem with the increase is that it wasn’t happening in every area causing confusion between markets. Interest rates also rose 1% in August which scared off buyers and triggered a slow September. With all the market uncertainties, we will make sure you have all the information available.

I cannot say for sure whether it is a buyer or seller’s market; it varies from neighborhoods and price points. Since we are in a weird market, I will be happy to consult you every step of the way. Talk to you soon!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How is the Government Shutdown Affecting the Housing Market?


Government Shutdown Risks Hurting The Housing Recovery


By:  Morgan Brennan, Forbes Staff

The government shutdown is here. Whether it’s not being able to get a new Social Security card or visit a national park, Americans will immediately feel the effects. But there’s one bright spot of the economy that stands to be affected as well: housing.

One of the biggest questions regarding the shutdown and how it will affect housing has revolved around the mortgage market, specifically prospective buyers’ access to new home loans. After all, more than 90% of all loan activity is underwritten, insured, or owned by the government and its affiliated entities.

Initially at least, the mortgage market is likely to be only minimally impacted. New loans will continue to push through most government agency pipelines. What will change is how long the process takes, as many agencies expect to experience delays.

Mortgages purchased and securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be unaffected because their operations are paid for by fees charged to lenders. And the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to guarantee mortgages for Americans that have served in the military since these loans are funded by user fees as well.

But if the government shutdown of 1995-1996 is any indicator, the process will take longer than usual. “Loan Guaranty certificates of eligibility and certificates of reasonable value were delayed,” the VA warned in its September 25th contingency plan.

Where there has been mounting concern is the Federal Housing Administration, which currently endorses about 15% of the entire single-family mortgage market. Several media outlets recently reported that the FHA would be unable to endorse any single-family loans and that no staff would be available underwrite and approve new loans.

That prospect would be somewhat worrisome – if it were actually true. The FHA’s Office of Single Family Housing will indeed remain open for business, albeit with a smaller staff. “FHA will be able to endorse single family loans during the shutdown. A limited number of FHA staff will be available to underwrite and approve new loans,” the report now states. In other words, other lenders’ loans will continue to be insured and some in-house lending will continue to take place at a reduced rate.

The reason for that mix-up: the initial draft of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s contingency plan mistakenly stated that single-family loan operations would cease. The report was amended over the weekend.

The FHA’s single-family loan operations are funded through multi-year appropriations, meaning their budget is not tied to the government’s standoff over funding for the new fiscal year that starts in October. On the other hand, what will be more affected is the agency’s Multifamily Housing Office, which is funded through yearly appropriations.

“Because we are able to endorse loans, we don’t expect the impact on the housing market to be significant, as long as the shutdown is brief,” continues the HUD report. “If the shutdown lasts and our commitment authority runs out, we do expect that potential homeowners will be impacted, as well as home sellers and the entire housing market.”

One government lender that will indeed suspend its home loan activity, however, is the Department of Agriculture. The USDA says that no new housing loans or guarantees will be issued through its Rural Development programs in a shutdown. The department also warns that such a scenario could cause “a setback in construction start-up,” and if the shutdown lasts for an extended period, “a substantial reduction in housing available in rural areas relative to population.”

“The government doesn’t generally approve loans, they basically just insure them,” says Don Frommeyer, president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers and a vice president at Amtrust Mortgage Funding. “For the most part you aren’t going to see much of a hit in the mortgage market unless it goes for a long period of time.”

If it does stretch on, he adds, the worry will be what mortgage rates do in a market shrouded in fiscal uncertainty and how that will affect the home buying, especially in light of recent rate spikes.

Home lending aside, many economists and real estate experts are keeping a close watch on how Americans will react to this shutdown. “Administratively everything should keep moving along, but it’s more about the confidence of consumers and whether they perceive that the government shutdown could lead to a recession,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi recently told the Senate Budget Committee that a partial shutdown could shave as much as 1.4 percentage points off of fourth quarter economic growth if it drags on for several weeks.

Americans’ confidence in their ability to buy and sell homes hit a record high in May, according to a Fannie Mae survey. Since then, as mortgage rates jumped more than a percentage point, that confidence level has plateaued.  If prospective homebuyers fear that the country’s economic recovery will stall, or worse slip back into recession, they will pull back on purchases, worries Yun.

“Home sales is always the first housing variable that changes so one would see sales declining and that would naturally lead to more inventory on the market and eventually put pressure on prices,” he says. But that would be a worst-case scenario based on a long-term shutdown.

Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia TRLA +6.43%, notes that if the shutdown lasts longer than a few days, the first places to feel the impact will be local economies with large concentrations of federal government workers. Metro areas like Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, Md., where 19% and 13% respectively of total local wages go to federal employees, would be the feel the negative effects of unpaid furloughs and with them, tightened consumer spending and weakening local economic growth. Though not all will be equally affected, other metro areas like Virginia Beach, Va., Honolulu, Hawaii, and Dayton, Ohio are areas that Kolko is keeping an eye on: “Whether there is a big effect depends on how long the shutdown lasts, how long people think the shutdown lasts, and whether people get back-pay. All those things matter for the impact.”

Still others are worrying even more about the next fiscal standoff, in  mid-October, surrounding the debt ceiling debate and its accompanying threat of debt default by the U.S.  ”With the threat of an impending partial government shutdown and yet another battle over the nation’s debt ceiling, in particular, we are really messing with fire right now—even if it doesn’t seem to bother some legislators,” says Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow.

“But the effects of a government default associated with the impending debt-ceiling deadline would be more pronounced because of its greater impact on domestic and international markets. This will rattle consumers and investors alike, slow down the overall economic recovery and further slow the housing recovery, which is already undergoing a moderation in the pace of home value gains due to rising mortgage rates,” he warns.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Communication Breakdown

As we mentioned earlier, the number one reason for relationship problems, whether in business or with family and friends, is poor communication, lack of communication or miscommunication.

In the real estate industry communication is crucial: communication problems create the bulk of the challenges we face.

In fact, 72% of real estate consumers cite poor communication as their chief complaint when working with a real estate agent. It’s a major issue and it needs to be handled immediately to ensure that both agent and client can continue to thrive in the world of real estate sales.

In his book, “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” , John C. Maxwell examines the importance of effective communication.

Following are some hilarious examples of how communication problems can be exaggerated when a language barrier exists.
  • Dry cleaners in Bangkok: “Drop Your Trousers Here for Best Results."
  • In a Tokyo hotel: “Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such   thing is please not to read notis."
  • In a Bucharest hotel lobby: “The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we      regret that you will be unbearable.”
  • In a hotel in Athens: “Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. daily.”
  • Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.”
  • In a Rhodes tailor shop: “Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.”
  • In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: “We take your bags and send them in all directions.”
  • In an Acapulco hotel: “The Manager has personally passed all the water served here.”
  • From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo: “When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”
How can you communicate better today with the people that you know?

Monday, August 5, 2013

How to Prepare for Seamless Transition

If you're moving this summer, the busiest season for moving, you know how daunting it can be. But if you create a blueprint for your move, the transition from house to house will go more smoothly.

Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for a seamless transition.

1. Full serve, partial serve or a do-it-yourself move.  Can you do it alone or should you hire a licensed moving company for a full-service or partial-service move?  This is one of the first and often most difficult questions soon-to-be moving households face. The answer depends on your lifestyle, household size, budget and amount of time you have to get everything accomplished. Get written quotes from at least three licensed moving companies so you know you’re getting the best deal based on your specific moving needs.  Moving yourself or doing a partial-service move?  Packing calculators can make it easier to estimate the amount of boxes and packing materials needed.

2. Plan to unpack BEFORE you pack. Take photos of each room in the new home before you arrive with furniture, plants, appliances and family in tow. Write down on a clip board where each item should go in your next home before packing, and carry it with you on moving day. List out the major items that need to be assembled first. As you place each item in its new room, cross it off the list and you will be one step closer to enjoying your new home.

3. Be strategic about packing.  If you have more than a month to ‘pick up and move’, start early.  Complete a free change of address and schedule utilities ahead of time at  Start packing early.  Whether it’s one room, one cabinet or a drawer at a time, weed through what may be years of accumulation.  As you’re going through your belongings, divide everything into these helpful categories:  donate to charity, give to a friend, recycle, trash, pack now, or keep handy until moving day.  You’ll be surprised at how much you can donate, recycle or give to friends.  And, you’ll not be overwhelmed with the task at hand three days before you move. 

4. Moving is NOT child’s play. Plan ahead. Consider daycare on moving day, or get help from a friend or family member.  Provide lunch or some other appropriate thank you gesture if you do call in a favor. If that’s not an option, prioritize setting up safe places for your children to play in the new home on moving day so they’re not underfoot.  This will help everyone remain happy and calm on moving day.

5. Don’t fight with Fido. Sometimes we forget that all the packing and constant in-and-out of visitors is stressful for animals. Consider checking your pet into a daycare facility, or setting up a time for a friend to take them or check them into pet day care. Don’t let your four-legged best friends get lost in the shuffle and remember to make day-of moving arrangements.

6. Keep track of small parts. Some items need to be broken down into pieces when moving, but do you know what to do with the small screws and washers that you end up with? Rather than tape them to the furniture, which can result in losing them, put everything in a baggie that is clearly marked and sealed. Keep all of the separate baggies together in one box on moving day and personally take it with you to your new home.

7. Take pictures of electronic hook-ups. Hooking up TVs, DVRs, home theater systems and computers can be challenging. Before unplugging any wires for the move, take a photo of the connections, print them out and label them in detail. This will create fewer headaches when setting up technology in the new home. Keep track of all loose wires using baggies or boxes that are clearly labeled, and personally carry these easy-to-lose items on moving day.

8. Packing cleaning products and toxins. Products such as detergents, pesticides and paint are heavy and unwieldy to pack. Dispose of as many as possible before the move in an eco-friendly way.  Call your city’s waste disposal department for guidance on proper disposal. For items that must be transported, pack them in a small box within a larger box for protection against leaks. Don’t overstuff boxes with these items! Consider marking these boxes in a different color, and seal them extra tight. Keep them separate from the rest of the boxes, particularly if you have kids and pets.

9. Consider getting full value insurance protection. If using a professional mover, it may cost a few dollars extra, but it provides peace of mind and eliminates later annoyances. Investing in full value protection means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made at current market value, regardless of age. It's important to note that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost of more expensive items such as a flat screen TV if damaged in transit.

10. Know your rights. If using a professional mover, research your rights as a consumer with either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for interstate moves or contact the state agency within the state in which you reside for moves within state. Also, enlist the help of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage. FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.

*Excerpted from via

Monday, July 29, 2013

Your Mid-Year Checkup

Here’s a great summer project to help you enjoy an even better version of yourself.

1. It’s the “who” that matters.

Focus on who you want to be. The goals we have in life are important, but who we want to be when they are attained is even more crucial. Want to lose weight: “I enjoy great health, nutrition and hydration each day.” Want to be a better parent: “I’m a committed and devoted parent who loves his/her kids no matter who they are or what they do.” After you identify your who, ask yourself what actions would be fit with your desire to "be" instead of "get".

2. Let go of the need for control.

Much of our anger and stress in life comes from our inability to control people and situations over which we have no control. The person in front of us taking too long in the checkout line, the driver who seems to be going left around the world with the directional stuck on, the customer service rep who endlessly puts you on hold while “resolving” your credit card issue, etc. The only thing we can control are our emotions and what we do with our time. Other than that, we need to accept that much of what happens in life is out of our control and just roll with the punches.

3. Be a giver.

Look around your homes for items and articles of clothing that just get no use anymore. Serve your heart, soul and someone else by giving and expecting nothing back in return. Life always gives back to those who give and here’s a perfect opportunity to do something nice for someone.

4. Get organized.

Messy desks, drawers and closets are often sources of stress for us…especially when we really need to find something. Take the time to organize things that are in disarray in your life. Being able to locate what you want, when you want it, can lead to a much happier you. Plus, you may find some items that you can give away to make you an even better giver.

5. Establish rituals.

Yes, some routines  can seem boring and confining, but in reality, they are actually freeing. Instead of being worried and anxious wondering if your credit-card bill is late again, you'll feel calm knowing that you always pay bills on Thursday after work, so you have nothing to be concerned about. Rituals remove stress!

6. Stop worrying.

In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie, you’ll find that more than 90% of the things that we worry about in life never come to fruition. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t want to happen to you, focus on what you want and what you’d like to experience. Just doing that will erase most of the worry you experience each day.

7. Merge things in your life

Look for something in your life that is spread all over the place and consolidate – group of small bills, paper clips, tools – anything to make things easier for yourself. Instead of spreading your collectibles all over the house, combine them into one main cupboard or cabinet to make things really easy on yourself. By merging things together by type, style or form, you'll be able to see the duplicates easily and free up some time and space.

8. Touch it once.

We can waste a lot of time in life by moving the same thing around the house or our desk just to get it out of the way. When a project like paying bills comes up, get the bill, pay it and file the payment receipt or information at the same time. You’ll get some of your valuable time back and feel a sense of accomplishment all at the same time.

9. Learn your lessons.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It’s an old adage, but it’s still relevant today. Learn from your mistakes and take those lessons into the future. Don’t repeat the same behaviors expecting different results as that’s the definition of insanity.

10. Take time for yourself.

Build time into your schedule to regroup and check in with yourself. If you have to schedule it…schedule it. Time passes by fast enough without us having to run around like crazy to make it go faster. Spend an hour a week being by yourself with your favorite book, a journal or just listening to music. You’ll connect with yourself in ways you can’t when you’re busy and put your life back on center.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

4 Questions Buyers Must Ask Their Agents

A home buyer must be thorough when choosing which agent to hire in order to aid them with the purchase of a home.  For many people, this will be one of the biggest investments of their lives, so putting forth diligence and research and feeling comfortable with the right real estate agent is a key step in starting the home buying process.  There are four key questions a buyer must ask their potential agent before they hire him or her.

Number of Sales

The first question a buyer must ask is “How many homes has the agent sold this year?”  The number of sales is a very good indicator of the amount of experience the potential agent has in today’s market.  The market changes quickly; this year’s market is different than even last years, so knowledge of the hot button issues of today’s market is a significant factor in the negotiation process.

Years of Experience

The second question a buyer must ask is “How many years of experience does the agent have?” The real estate industry is an industry that has low barriers of entry because it does not take much for a person to get a real estate license.  Because of this low barrier of entry, many people achieve their real estate license and work as an agent only part-time.  To find the most qualified individual, make sure that they have good experience as a full-time agent.

Administrative Support

The third question a buyer must ask is “What kind of administrative support does the agent have?”  Any championship sports team or Oscar winning film crew will tell you that a good supporting cast is paramount to success.  The agent you are working with may have great people skills and negotiating skills, but may partly struggle with paper work.  This is why it is imperative that the agent has a dedicated and skilled administrative staff.

Find a Specialist

The fourth question a buyer must ask is “Is the agent a buyer’s specialist or a jack-of-all-trades?”  A serious buyer will be much more successful with an agent that is focused on specifically helping buyers.  Many real estate teams have members who have distinct functions and skill sets.  Find the agent that is a true expert in their field.

For any home buyer, asking these four questions is critical to making the decision on which agent to hire to help find the best home and best deal for the buyer.  Having the best buyer can relieve a great deal of stress for any home buyer and make the home buying experience an enjoyable one.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

4th of July Fun Facts!

We know the basics of the Fourth of July, the federal holiday marking the Colonies' adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared independence from the Great Britain and its king. It also is known as Independence Day. This holiday goes hand in hand with fireworks, parades and swilling beer as meat sizzles on grills.

Americans attend all manner of flag-waving festivities, including picnics, fairs, concerts and lawn sports.

It is not uncommon for politicians to take advantage of the day's political overtones by making speeches and attending ceremonies and various civic events to remind voters it soon will be re-election time.

But there are some things many people do not know about the Fourth. That's where PDQ comes to the rescue. Before the beer and hot-dog orgy get out of hand, take time to illuminate your mind about the day.

Did you know the following facts?

• The Fourth of July was not declared a national holiday until 1941.
• Malia Obama, George Steinbrenner, Neil Simon, Ron Kovic and Calvin Coolidge were all born on the Fourth of July.
• These events occurred on the Fourth of July: Henry David Thoreau moved into his shack on Walden Pond (1845); the U.S. air offensive against Nazi, Germany, began (1942); Beach Boys' "I Get Around" reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts (1964); Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (1966).
• The stars on the original American flag were in a circle so all the Colonies would appear equal.
• Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the national bird but was overruled by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who wanted the bald eagle.
• The musical "1776" premiered on Broadway in 1969 and ran for 1,217 performances. The production won three Tony Awards, including one for best musical.
• The number of Americans who will spend the holiday at other people's homes is approximately 41 million.
• The first official Fourth of July party was held at the White House in 1801.
• Approximately 150 million hot dogs are consumed on this day.
• The town of Patriot, Ind., has a population of 202 people.
• Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe all died on the Fourth. Adams and Jefferson died on the same day within hours of each other in 1826.
• The percentage of American homes with an outdoor grill is 87 percent.
• The song "Yankee Doodle" was sung originally by British officers making fun of backwoods Americans.
• The amount of chicken purchased the week before the holiday is 700 million pounds.
• The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men from 13 colonies.
• In 1776, there were 2.5 million people living in the new nation. (Today there are 311 million.)
• There are more than 30 towns nationwide that have the word "Liberty" in their names.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another Real Estate Bubble?

The housing market is recovering so nicely that it has caused some to wonder whether a new housing bubble is forming. Today, we want to explain that the fear of a new pricing bubble in real estate is unwarranted.

Trulia revealed some great data on this point in a recent blog post. They explained that, even with the recent price increases, national home prices are still 7 percent undervalued. Trulia explained:

“Home prices nationally remain undervalued relative to fundamentals and much lower than in the last bubble. That’s why today’s price gains are actually still a rebound, not a bubble.”

Prices are below their fundamental value in the vast majority of the country (91 of the 100 largest metros). Even in the parts of the country that are now overvalued they come nowhere near the percentages we saw in 2006-2007. For example, let’s look at the two markets that are most overvalued today. In Orange County, California prices are currently overvalued by 9%. In 2006, prices in the region were overvalued by 71%! The second most overvalued market today is Austin, Texas at 5%. Texas real estate prices did not skyrocket as they did in many other parts of the country during the last boom. Austin prices were shown as being 12% overvalued at the time.

Again, prices are still undervalued in 91% of markets and, even in the markets that are overvalued, they are nowhere near the numbers of the 2006-2007 bubble.

Jed Kolko, Trulia’s Chief Economist, explained:

“So are we in bubble territory? No. Bubble-phobes can rest easy. Even with recent sharp home price increases, prices are still low relative to fundamentals and are far below bubble levels.”

Dr. David Stiff, chief economist for CoreLogic Case-Shiller agreed in a recently released report on prices:

“Even if double-digit price appreciation were to continue in former bubble metro areas, there is no reason to believe that new home price bubbles are forming. That’s because single-family homes in these markets are still very affordable, even after last year’s large price gains.”

Three reasons there will NOT be another bubble

Prices are determined by the ratio between supply and demand. Here are three reasons a bubble will be avoided.
  1. Supply is beginning to increase. A lack of inventory is creating a market of multiple bids which has caused prices to rise. The National Association of Realtors (NAR), in their latest Existing Home Sales Report, revealed that the months’ supply of inventory has increased from 4.3 to 5.2 months since January.
  2. Demand will decrease in certain demographics. For an example, investors have been a large part of the housing market over the last several years. As prices continue to rise, a certain percentage of these buyers will back off.
  3. As mortgage rates increase, buyers will be able to afford less. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae and NAR have all projected an increase in mortgage rates over the next year. Buying power will decrease as borrowers can no longer afford the same price point as monthly payments will increase.

For these reasons, we believe the fear of a new housing bubble is currently unfounded. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It can be hard to find just the right gift for your grad. But here are some tips that will help, followed by a list of fifty great graduation gift ideas.

If you know that your graduate will be going to a trade school for a certain profession, check into what they may need to bring with them.

Understand that teens need money and don't be ashamed to give it.

If you will be purchasing more of a memento for a graduation gift, go with something classic as opposed to any of the fads or current trends.

Find out what technology or devices your teen grad has and purchase a cool accessory for it. Adding value to something your teen already uses makes an awesome gift.

Frames are great gifts, but photo albums are better.

Here are 50 ideas organized by price:

Big Ticket Items (Price is no object)

  • Vacation or travel tour
  • Car
  • Money
  • Laptop computer
  • Stock or CD
  • Cell phone complete with a paid plan
  • Furniture - Great gift for the college graduate who is moving out of mom and dad's house.
  • Small refrigerator - A very useful gift for the teen who will be living in a dorm room at college.

Mid-Priced Items (Priced $51 - $250)

  • Briefcase
  • Clothing gift card
  • Watch
  • Microwave
  • Toaster oven - This appliance is useful for college dorm living, especially if the student is not allowed microwaves in his/her dorm room.
  • Set of luggage
  • A package from a resume writing service - Excellent gift for the teen who will be looking for a job or a college graduate.
  • Camera
  • Television
  • DVD player
  • IPod
  • Recorder and cassettes for lectures
  • Bookshelf
  • Pure gold or silver coin with graduate year on it
  • Stereo
  • Printer
  • Tool box with basic tools
  • Engraved jewelry
  • Personalized graduation item
  • Money tree
  • Money clip complete with money
  • Wallet with some money

Economical Gifts (Priced under $50)

  • Book about future field of study or career
  • Devotional
  • Self-help Book
  • Inspirational book
  • Photo album filled with memories
  • Address book filled with friend's addresses and phone numbers
  • Fill a laundry basket with laundry soap, fabric softener or dryer sheets, roll of quarters and directions on how to separate your laundry - Perfect gift for the teen who is moving out or going to college.
  • A piece of luggage
  • Resume writing books
  • Set of sheets
  • Picture frames with pictures of high school years
  • Organizer or planner
  • Desk accessories
  • Umbrella
  • Iron
  • Coffee maker
  • Hot pot
  • Footlocker
  • Jump drive
  • Phone card

Denise Witner,

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Dedication

Welcome Home
Story as told to me by a Viet Nam Veteran who prefers to remain anonymous
The other day I was walking into the local Wal-Mart store when I noticed an older man walking beside a younger man. The younger man was wearing army fatigues.
I was curious so I stopped and asked, "Excuse me young man, but I was just wondering if you were in the service or are you just wearing fatigues?"
The young man stated that he was in the army and then his Dad added in a strong voice that was filled with pride, "This is my son and he has just returned from his second tour in Iraq."
I told him how glad I was that he had returned home safely and then I said, "Young man, I would like to do something for you that no one outside of my family did for me when I returned home from serving in Viet Nam."
"What is that?" he asked.
"I'd be proud to welcome you home by shaking your hand if I might and say thank you for your service to our country," I said as I held out my hand.
The young soldier and his dad both stood a little taller as the young man stuck out his hand which I readily grasped and we just stood there, the three of us, with our right hands joined. We were three strangers drawn together by a common bond, we all understood, not needing to say anything more.
After nodding to each other, I started to break the grasp and walk away but the young soldier seemed to have something on his mind as he hesitated, and then he stopped me before I could move. He was quiet for a moment and then he looked me straight in the eye and then he ever so clearly uttered the words, "Thank you...and...Welcome Home."
We then parted company as we went our separate ways. I finished buying the supplies I needed, walked on home, and oh yeah - I cried.
(Anonymous VietNam Veteran)
We often forget to be thankful to those who serve our country, protect us from terrorism, and preserve our freedom. We have veterans living today that have served us in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, and The Persian Gulf. We have those on active duty who are serving our country right now in Iraq as well as other places around the world.
Today the average age of a WWII Veteran is 81; we are quickly losing them from the battlefield of life. They are now leaving us at a rate of 1500 per day. I see many of them carrying our flag in parades and participating in military funerals. They tell me the veteran's organizations need more veterans to help them with these duties now. This is due to the failing health and the deaths of those WWII veterans who have kept these organizations alive with their unswerving dedication and patriotism. Perhaps it's time we  expressed appreciation with a card or phone call to someone we know personally while there's still time. It shouldn't have to be  Memorial Day or Veteran's Day for us to be appreciative toward all of our veterans no matter when they served. The point  is that they served and gave of themselves that we might live in freedom.
We can also show our appreciation to those serving us right now by writing letters, sending e-mails, or sending packages to our soldiers. Today is a good day to be grateful, there's no time like the present and it's the only time that we have for certain. When we see or hear of a soldier coming home from war, most important of all, let's remember to give them a heartfelt, "Thank you...and...Welcome Home!"
~ Pamela Berry Bains
"Welcome Home", as told on

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Would You Do This?

‘I never had a second thought’: College athlete
cuts career short to save stranger’s life

A man with blood cancer was desperate for healthy bone marrow and Cameron Lyle was the only match on a national registry of potential donors
Cameron Lyle has asked a lot of his body over the years, but he never expected it to save the life of a stranger.

A shot put star on the University of New Hampshire track and field team, Lyle was at the pinnacle of his collegiate athletic career when he had to make a profound decision.
A man with blood cancer was desperate for healthy bone marrow and Lyle was the only match on a national registry of potential donors. The only problem: if Lyle decided to donate, it would mean missing some of the most important track meets of his senior season.

Faced with cutting his career short, Lyle focused only on the chance to save someone’s life.
“I was surprised, I was pretty happy. I said yes right away,” Lyle, 21, told TODAY. “And then afterwards I thought about everything that that meant giving up, but I never had a second thought about donating. If I had said no, he wouldn’t have had a match.”

Lyle had all but forgotten the Be The Match Registry drive that came to his university two years ago. He allowed his cheeks to be swabbed and didn’t think much more of it. Only 1 out of 540 people who sign up go on to donate, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, which operates the Be The Match Registry.
Then, two months ago, he got a call. Lyle was told he was a possible match for a young man with a rare form of leukemia, a disease that gets worse quickly if not treated, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Lyle underwent blood tests, which confirmed he was a definite match. Once he agreed to donate – something “any kind of decent human being” would do, he said -- more tests followed to make sure he didn’t have any health problems. Time was of the essence.
“They gave me a pretty strict deadline because my recipient needed it pretty fast,” he said.

Everything was a go and last week, Lyle headed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to share his bone marrow with a stranger.
There are two ways to harvest the cells, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, with most collections done in an outpatient procedure that’s similar to donating blood. A quarter of cases, however, require a surgical procedure in which doctors insert a special needle into the hollow of donor’s hip bone. A syringe attached to the needle draws out the marrow. The procedure usually requires general anesthesia and an overnight hospital stay.
The recipient's doctor determines which method is best. Lyle needed to undergo the surgical option.

It took two hours for doctors to collect about two liters – some eight cups -- of bone marrow from Lyle’s pelvic bone. His body will regenerate the marrow in about two weeks.
Most people can return to their full activities within days after the donation, according to Dr. Jeffrey Chell, CEO of the National Marrow Donor Program.

But most people aren’t track stars who hurl heavy metal objects as part of their normal routine.
Doctors told Lyle to take it easy and not lift more than 20 pounds for about a month – routine advice after any surgical procedure, Chell said -- effectively ending his collegiate track career.

“This is just an incredible, incredible story of what Cameron [Lyle] has been willing to do,” said Chell.
Since anonymity is crucial to the donor process, TODAY was unable to obtain information as to the recipient’s condition since receiving Lyle’s bone marrow donation. However, a spokesperson for Be the Match said after a transplant, “recovery is gradual and usually takes several months or more.”

One-year survival rates for patients who receive transplants from unrelated donors was 60.3 percent in 2011, up from 42.2 percent in 2003.
Lyle said he was told that the man received his transplant the day after he donated but that he “won’t get an update on his condition for 30 days.”

Until then, he plans on recuperating and watching his teammates compete at the America East Conference where he’d planned on “going out pretty big.” Lyle’s donation also meant missing the Penn Relays and other events where he wanted to shine after eight years of shot put training.
“But it’s OK,” he said. “It was worth it. I would do it again, too.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

Adding Value to Your Home

Here’s a link to a great blog post with the 10 Best Home Improvements for Increasing Property Value. It’s a straight forward, no-nonsense review of what to do and what not to do…including some good data to back up the recommendations that are made.

Here’s the link - check it out!

Please feel free to call us at 704-800-1200 if you’d like a complimentary review of your home to help you determine what the best next steps are for you and your family to get your home sold.

For a FREE online home evaluation, visit