Your Financial House: 3 simple steps

TinaSutherandHeadshot

As the year begins it is a good time to get your house in order as well as your financial “house”.

Tina Sutherand

Tina Southerland G&N Insurance

Among the things you should review when you do your tax preparation, is your insurance coverage.  Has your situation changed recently?  Did you make any major purchases that need to be insured?  Do you have adequate coverage for your valuables, home and vehicle/s? Below are 3 simple steps you can take to ensure you are receiving the best rates and coverage. Thanks to insurance expert Tina Southerland at G&N Insurance of Southboro, MA for compiling this list.

Reviewing your finances?  Meeting with your accountant for tax purposes? 

How about reviewing your current personal insurance plan? 

Many people are under the impression that they have enough insurance coverage at a great price.  However, this rarely turns out to be the case. I take pride in making sure my clients are properly protected, while saving on their annual premiums.  Statistics show that 75% of MA residents have not comparison shopped their insurance policy in years!  Fact is, we now have a competitive market and it is definitely worth tackling this small homework assignment.  As an independent agent specializing in auto and home insurance, I have the ability to compare rates with dozens of companies in MA.  Follow these 3 easy steps to obtain a review from me!

  1. Gather your current up to date coverage selections pages for your home, auto and umbrella policies (if you cannot locate one at home, most companies offer access to policy documents online)
  2. Send me a copy of those pages via email  Tina@InsureWithGN.com or fax 508-342-8381GN LOGO
  3. Set up a time to chat over the phone, or meet in person so I can make sure you get all the discounts for which you qualify.  Email or call me at 508-873-7793

It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3!  I will be sure to email you the proposed new package, outline the savings and any improved coverage limits.  If you decide you want to move forward, I will handle the cancellation with your current agency.  I look forward to assisting you today!

Should I Rent or Buy? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

113house

The number one question I get asked is, “should I rent or should I buy?”

The number one response I offer…it depends.

It depends on 3 things.  Are you responsible enough to maintain a home or a condo? Do you have the financial resources?  Have you weighed the benefits and drawbacks?

1.  Are you responsible enough to maintain a home or a condo?  There are plenty of people who should lease cars because they just do not take care of them well enough to own them.  You know who you are.  the rest of you know the people I refer to here- the ones with the year’s worth of Dunkin cups on the passenger seat and the pile of mail from last March on the floor!  They never clean their cars and cannot possibly be expected to keep a house or a condo in working order.  It’s a miracle they remember to gas up before a long trip!  These same people are probably better off renting so when something breaks they can call the owner or property manager to fix it.

2.  Do you have the financial resources?  I am not referring to just a down payment or a few months of reserve cash.  If you are seriously considering purchasing a home then ask yourself if you have the ability and financial discipline to live within your means and save enough money for the occasions when things break, fail or self-destruct.  Hot water tanks inevitably die the day you move in.  Air conditioning units fail the first day the weather breaks 80 degrees.  The heat will not turn on the day it is 22 below zero and you are home with the flu.  Folks, I am not joking.  This could happen to you!

3.  Have you weighed the benefits and drawbacks?  Make a list, check it twice and when you finish check it a third time.  You can type it, dictate it or write it on a bar napkin, just be sure to keep a list of the reasons why you would benefit from owning a home vs. renting.   When you own a home you can paint it any color you want!  When you own you are building your wealth.  Donald Trump had to start someplace!

 

 

5 Easy spruce up ideas: more than a spit and shine

Do It Yourself

A few weeks ago I enjoyed visiting some dear friends who recently purchased their first home. As we were talking about DIY projects I realized that I was full of tidbits of information on where to find all sorts of stuff! A trip to Home Depot or Lowe’s can provide you with the basics, but if you really want to tackle a long-postponed project this weekend, here are a few pointers and resources.

1.  Paint Matching

If you are trying to match a paint color, be sure to visit the most comprehensive site I have seen yet! (If you have others, please share them!) http://www.colorcharts.org/cc/

2.  Wall Decals

Want to add some splash to a room?  Check out these fun ideas at www.dalidecals.com

3.  Replace Hardware and Knobs

Another easy way to change the look of a room is by changing the hardware or knobs on cabinets or dressers.  There are so many choices available, but my favorite place to shop is http://www.myknobs.com/

4.  New Faucets

Changing a faucet is not as hard as I thought!
So long as you have the right tools the folks at Faucet Depot make it easy!

http://www.faucetdepot.com/faucetdepot/main.asp

5.  New Lighting Fixtures

Maybe not a DIY project for everyone, but changing an existing light fixture can be done fairly simply- be sure to check for the safest way to tackle this one as to not cause injury or incident!  Get inspired by checking out: http://www.lampsplus.com I often find a good selection at Home Goods and Target.

Hope you and yours enjoy a long & productive holiday weekend!

 

5 Cheapest Places to Live

dollar sign

I just caught this informative article on Yahoo news and thought it was worth sharing with you. Having lived in many states, I can appreciate what MA has to offer (in addition to high taxes and high cost of living).  Personally, I would not trade the amenities, culture, diversity or opportunities for anything. Having access to great music, theater, hiking, biking, beaches, mountains, golf and educational institutions is worth a premium.  But I can see why others find a simpler life, and less expensive one worth pursuing.

5 Cheapest Places to Live

Andrea N. Browne of Kiplinger.com

September 21, 2011
Don’t mess with Texas when it comes to affordability. Major metropolitan areas in the Lone Star State reign supreme on Kiplinger’s annual ranking of the least expensive places to live in the U.S. Indeed, all of our picks are cities located either in Texas or the heartland of middle America.

The cities on our least-expensive list all have housing prices well under $250,000; homes in one city average less than $200,000. Overall cost of living in these metro areas falls 15% to 20% below the national average.

We ranked the least expensive places to live using data from the U.S. Census (metropolitan statistical areas only) and the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which is assembled by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The index measures relative prices in several categories, including consumer goods, housing, transportation, utilities and health care, to come up with a composite score for each city. The national average is 100. So a score below 100 indicates a lower cost of living.

Here are the five cheapest places to live in the U.S.

5. Sherman, Tex.
Cost of Living Index: 86
Metro Population: 117,913
Median Household Income: $45,171
Average Home Price: $213,485

Located 60 miles north of Dallas, the Sherman metropolitan area includes Denison and Pottsboro. The population is the lowest of any of the city metro areas that comprise our least-expensive list. Families make up about 70% of the population. Health care is one of the leading industries, providing one of the highest median incomes in our least-expensive rankings. The extra money can go a long way, considering the relatively affordable costs of food and utilities. Monthly apartment rents run just $595, on average.

4. Fort Smith, Ark.
Cost of Living Index: 85
Metro Population: 288,468
Median Household Income: $37,363
Average Home Price: $235,168

Nestled in a bend of the Arkansas River and bordering Oklahoma, the Fort Smith metro area includes Van Buren and Ozark. Low prices for groceries and utilities make it a budget-friendly place, as does a meager average rent of just $456 per month. Owning a home runs a bit higher than some other cities on our least-expensive list, but the average cost of a house is still $320,000 less than in San Diego, the tenth-ranked city on our most-expensive list.

3. Ft. Hood, Tex.
Cost of Living Index: 84.8
Metro Population: 368,682
Median Household Income: $46,183
Average Home Price: $210,383

The Fort Hood metropolitan area, which includes Killeen and Temple, is about 60 miles north of Austin, the capital of Texas. The local economy is anchored in part by a major U.S. Army base. The high concentration of soldiers and military families may help explain why close to 15% of the population is 25- to 34-year-olds. Rent averages $596, and home prices are among the five least expensive in our ranking.

2. Pueblo, Colo.
Cost of Living Index: 84.1
Metro Population: 153,814
Median Household Income: $40,805
Average Home Price: $194,302

Located about 100 miles south of Denver, Pueblo has an enviable combination of decent paychecks and super-low housing costs. Median household income ranks in the top five among the cities on our least-expensive list, yet the average home price is the lowest here. Grocery prices are higher relative to a place like Brownsville, where a T-bone steak, for example, will run you about $8.49. The same cut of beef costs about a buck more in Pueblo. The metropolitan area includes Boone, Avondale and Stone City.

1. Brownsville, Tex.
Cost of Living Index: 80
Metro Population: 383,171
Median Household Income: $30,034
Average Home Price: $209,177

This metro area, which includes Harlingen and San Benito, is at the southwestern tip of the Lone Star State, hard against the Mexican border. The Gulf of Mexico and the popular beaches of South Padre Island are just a stone’s throw away. Rents in Brownsville average $659, more than four times cheaper than New York, the most expensive city in our annual rankings, where rents average $2,778. Utilities can be pricey, but costs for groceries and other consumer goods are exceptionally low. An affordable South Texas alternative to Brownsville is the McAllen metro area, just an hour’s drive away along the Rio Grande.

http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/5-cheapest-places-to-live-in-america.html

Like wings? 5 reasons why you’ve got to try The Bone!

Wings at The Bone

When I first learned that a favorite local bar & restaurant was being filmed as part of a SPIKE TV series I was elated! I have been a long time fan of the Chicken Bone Saloon (now known as THE BONE). Having gone to school in upstate NY, wings are a common thread of any party, occasion, game or event. Great wings are hard to come by in New England.

The original establishment had not been updated or altered in decades and was desperately in need of a face lift. While the host of the show, Jon Taffer, was critical and harsh at times, he was able to persuade the owner that change was vital to his success.

The fresh approach and new menu has been well received. I especially liked the plastic serving tray that held the wings in compartments. There was an opening in the center for the bones so when your meal is complete you are not left staring at the carnage of your meal. It’s ingenious!

5 reasons why you should visit The Bone:

1. The flavor of the secret sauce is intense and left me licking my fingers
2. There was ample carrot and celery sticks and individual containers of blue cheese dip so I did not have to share
3. The homemade mac-and-cheese was decadent enough for an adult, even if it was on the kids menu
4. The music selection was awesome!
5. The prices are moderate for the area and the menu truly has something for everyone

One flaw- do not expect great service. I practically had to tackle my server to bring me a check. But it was truly worth it!

Stop by for a quick lunch or a hearty dinner. Framingham is lucky to have The Bone!

http://www.thechickenbone.com

THE HOTTEST BACKPACKS- September News from Ali

MadPax

Please check out my recent email newsletter!

http://tinyurl.com/AliSept11news

Penne All’Arrabiata
1/4 C olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed dried red pepper
1 Can (28 oz) peeled Italian plum tomatoes with juices – or can of crushed
salt
8 oz penne pasta
2 Tbs chopped parsley 

heat oil in large skillet over low heat. Add garlic & red pepper. Saute’ stirring until garlic turns golden, do not brown garlic.

Puree tomatoes and stir into oil, simmer stirring until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, about 20 mins. Season with salt to taste.

Cook penne in salted boiling water until form about 10 mins. Drain, toss with sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

PREP: 5 min
COOK: 20 min
Serves: 4 entrees

The Orange Room Story

orange wall

I recently offered to paint our son’s room.  When he said he wanted orange I felt a moment of regret. Would I regret giving him the freedom of choice without limits or would I truly regret painting his room orange?At 5, he has some definite style sense.  I can only imagine what the teen years will hold! I tried to encourage him to consider green, turquoise or even blue.  But he was insistent on creating a “basketball room”.  I never claimed to be a talented designer, but I am very proud of this joint project!

It turned out better than I hoped in the end.  We agreed to paint one wall orange and he was amenable. We then toured many stores and web sites for the perfect basketball decals.  (Thank you Groupon.com for leading me to  www.dalidecals.com)  It is continually amazing to me how a simple addition of color can change the entire look of a room. It is relatively inexpensive and anyone can learn how to do it successfully.

If you are ready to re-paint a room or just learning to paint a room, you probably already know that it can be an intimidating process that seems to take more time and effort than it is worth.  But before you decide to hire a contractor, check out these easy tips that will make painting faster and much easier.

Masking tape

The best way to make sure that your painting is even and doesn’t get on your ceiling or woodwork is to line the edges of the room with thick painter’s tape or masking tape.  Your edges will look as straight as possible without leaving pencil or pen marks all over the unpainted surface, which can often show through. You’ll want to mask all the edges of your walls, including door frames, window panes, ceiling molding, floor trim, anywhere you don’t want paint.  If you feel like getting really creative, you can make designs on the wall using the tape. Then run a roller full of paint right over it. When you take the tape off, you’ll have instant patterning on your wall.

Roller

Instead of using a paintbrush, you may want to consider using a paint roller instead.  Not only does it make the job faster, but also makes an even coat with each stroke. And correcting mistakes is easy. If you’re afraid of heights or just don’t like to use ladders, using a roller with an extended rod will make your job that much easier.  You can paint to the very top of your walls while keeping your feet safely on the ground.

Look for paint + primer combos

Sometimes you need to use a primer to cover over dark paint, mildew stains or other blemishes that might show through your new color. To speed up the pace of painting, you can look for a paint that has a primer mixed into it.  By doing this, you save money and will have an easier time giving the room a more finished and brighter look.  The primer makes any color you choose look like it came right out of a home decorating magazine.

Rolling corners

Corners may be one of the most difficult parts of painting a room. You can buy special corner rollers to make it a little easier. Many experts recommend you paint the corners first, and then blend outward to the main wall space.

Floor covering

Last but not least, remember to cover the floor when you are working!  There is a high risk of paint falling or splattering and it can be extremely difficult to get out (especially on a carpet.)  Most paints can permanently damage your flooring, so be proactive and do this small step before you begin. This can be done with a simple piece of canvas drop cloth or plastic sheeting.

It’s really true what they say–it’s amazing what a coat of paint will do. Whether you need to get your home ready to sell, or just want to lift your spirits, repainting a room can be one of the least expensive ways to get a great home makeover.

Happy painting!

No, You May Not Waive My Commission: I’m a REALTOR

forsale

My grandfather always told me, “If you’re gonna go, go first class”. Now, for most of us, that is just not practical when it comes to travel.  But, I think he had a deeper meaning here.  I think he was trying to teach me to be a first class person.  He was also a salesperson and he was very successful selling shoes.  (Yes, I come by my shoe habit quite naturally!)  He was honest, straightforward and no nonsense 100% of the time.  He was a first class guy!

When I started my career in 2001, there had been a report published that stated Realtors were regarded only slightly better than used car salespeople.  That made me sad for so many reasons.  There are a lot of amazing people in this industry and many of them have a lot of integrity.  Like any business, there are the good, the bad and ugly.  I had a LOT of questions.  Had I really a joined a group of people that were so lowly regarded?  What could I do to change that perception? How could I stay above the rest? Now I can safely say that I can accomplish all of these by staying honest, straightforward and no nonsense 100% of the time.

So when I recently had someone, who was not my client, ask me to essentially waive my commission it made my skin crawl!  This is not volunteer work.  I know, because I do a lot of that too.  This is my profession and I treat it as such.  I can only hope that others will see it this way.  I had to step back and reflect on the idea of being a first class person.  I firmly believe that by staying in “first class” will help people like this recognize the value and professionalism of a Realtor.  Only a true Realtor has signed an extensive code of ethics, taken additional training in the state laws surrounding the industry and agreed to be part of this elite group of professionals.

So the next time you have the choice of going first class, I urge you to do it.

Donald Trump for President: Good for the Country, Good for Real Estate

When I first saw the news that Donald Trump was considering a move to be the next President of the USA my first thought was, why on earth would Donald Trump make a good President?

Three reasons come to mind:

1. He is an effective CEO
2. He knows how to hire the right people for the job
3. He is not afraid to fire the wrong people from the job

He clearly knows how to surround himself with the right people: smart, savvy, respectful, thoughtful and successful. He is passionate about real estate and understands how to build wealth versus debt. Can you imagine the national SURPLUS instead of the national DEBT? Trump has shown television viewers for years how to FIRE ineffective employees and has managed to build a huge following by only keeping those whom he feels will help him build his power and wealth. He is animated in his public speaking and captivates audiences. This is a very powerful tool for a politician (and I say that as a Politics major who has a MA in Speech Communications). This might be a good idea after all.

He has the resources to run an amazing campaign, he is strategic in his spending and understands the power of making smart investments in both time and people. He might just be what our country needs right now. I look forward to seeing how his plans unfold.