Important Things to Remember Before Purchasing a House

A photo of a home. In the foreground there are two hands—one person is giving the other person the keys to their new home.

Purchasing a house is a major investment. Keep these tips in mind before making any final decisions.
Image: Shutterstock

Buying a house can be an intimidating process. But these quick tips can help make the process a little easier for prospective buyers.

  • Shop with your head, not your heart. It doesn’t matter how much you love a home’s quaint, old fireplace—it won’t be worth it if the rest of the house is not a good fit for your budget and needs. To prevent the heart from taking over, make a checklist for evaluating the home. Make sure you’re honest when filling it out. Rate things on the checklist from “necessary” to “nice-to-have” to “bonus perk.” This will prevent you from falling in love with a house that has none of your essential requirements, and it will give you pause to think.
  • Hire professionals you can trust. Don’t ever waive inspections. Trust the advice of a thorough, licensed, home inspector. You should also make sure that there aren’t any conflicts of interest. Do your research, and don’t ever choose an inspector that your seller recommends.
  • Give yourself time. An often-overlooked aspect of the home-buying process, but the importance of taking your time is crucial for several reasons. For one, it can take longer than you expect, so make sure you continue to have a place to live in the meantime. If you are currently renting, make sure you can extend your lease on a month-to-month basis. Taking your time also means that you aren’t allowing yourself to feel pressured. The ‘perfect property’ is a myth, and don’t let a seller convince you otherwise. There will always be other opportunities out there, but it may take a while of touring mediocre properties before you really start to find the ones that fit your needs. Operate within your own timeline, but do plan to spend at least three months visiting and researching property before making a decision.
  • Consider more than just your finances. Take into account more than just the listed price; look towards the future. What does the surrounding area look like? Do people maintain their property? Since part of your home value is determined by the property surrounding it, you should carefully evaluate the neighborhood. What is the crime rate? Will the location add more time to your commute? Will this house have a yard and maintenance that you can afford to maintain? Budgeting only on the present moment can lead to disappointments in the future.
  • Don’t forget to examine the HOA contract. Does it permit renting? Are there any serious restrictions to things about the property you might want to change? If the contract clashes with concrete plans you have for the future, this property is most likely not a good fit.
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How to Be a Great Negotiator

negotiation

In business careers, there are many times throughout the day when most of us are confronted with differing opinions and are forced to convince others of our ideas and negotiate. Most of us struggle in finding the right way to negotiate and either experience situations that quickly escalate or find ourselves backing off unhappily. Below are some easy tips to remember when approaching a situation that involves negotiation.

Learn how to say no. This is something many of us, especially women, struggle to do. The power of no is great; it was Lois Wyse who once said, “The single and most dangerous word to be spoken in business is no.” Be it just to take some “you” time rather than rushing off to another social gathering or saying “no” to adding yet another task to your plate at work, using this word can be incredibly empowering and effective. In all negotiations, big or small, give yourself some time to think about it, rather than just going with what others want.

Always come to the table prepared. Know exactly what you are going to say before the negotiation takes place. Make a list of the things you want to talk about and the points you want to make, and be assertive in your delivery. If you are more prepared than the person you are negotiating with, chances are the outcome will be in your favor.

Meet halfway. Understanding that not all negotiations will tilt in your favor is part of being a good coworker, leader, and negotiator. “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way,” noted Henry Boyle. Regardless of the outcome of a negotiation or debate, it is important to always be honest and say exactly what is you want and why. Being a good negotiator means being authentic and able to back up whatever it is you are bringing to the table, as well as being flexible.

Most importantly, don’t forget the bigger picture. It is good to consider that though you might not always favor the outcome of a negotiation, the important thing is that you were able to effectively articulate your wants and needs. For most, being a good negotiator is only one part of a career in business. Keep the big picture in mind and allow negotiations to be a supplementary way to achieve your goals.

Is Banning Tips a Good Thing?

Banning tips

Are banning tips a good or bad idea? IMG: via Shutterstock.

I think it could be. I hate the concept of tipping. Some restaurants actually pay their servers less than minimum wage, because it is expected to be made up in tips. Many restaurants are starting to ban tips and instead, just paying their workers a better wage and increasing the price of all entrees. This means that employees can count on a set amount of money every pay period, and not be worried if one day they make less than usual in tips.

While the US federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, wait staff can legally be paid as little as $2.13 in some places. In New York, one of the most expensive US cities, salaries for waiters start at $5.00 per hour.

Riki Restaurant in New York is one of a growing number of establishments eliminating tips by actually paying their staff higher wages.

“Riki Restaurant is now a non-tipping establishment,” read notices at the popular Japanese eatery. “Tipping is not required nor expected.”

The no-tip policy is being adopted by a lot of upscale restaurants, said Michael Lynn, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

“American customers tend to not think of the tip as an expense, and they don’t really factor that into their assessment of how expensive a restaurant is,” Lynn said.

If the price of the meal includes the tip, customers will know exactly how much their check will be at the end. This would solve the problem of some waiters being unfairly short-tipped. Some people tip based on how the food tastes or other small things that the waiter has no say in, which isn’t fair to their server. However, that doesn’t mean a waiter shouldn’t be tipped less if they are rude or ignore you the entire time you are there.

Gabriel Frem, owner of the upscale Brand 158 restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, also sees his establishment’s no-tipping policy as a way to protect this from happening to his staff, “We want to ensure that they can pay their bills,” he said.

What are our thoughts on banning tips?

Studies Show that Social Media Hurts Friendships…If you Chose to Speak up Online

Social Media

IMG: via Shutterstock

It’s no question that social media has changed the way we interact, but many people wonder if it is for better or worse. While there are definitely negatives associated with social media, I believe they have benefited my personal friendships. Social media allows me to stay in touch with friends from college and high school by seeing what they are up to throughout the week. I have reconnected with old friends through Facebook, who I now see regularly. I also enjoy seeing updates from people I have lost touch with, and probably would know nothing about their life if it weren’t for Facebook.

“The world has changed and a significant proportion of relationships happen online but manners haven’t caught up with technology,” Joseph Grenny, co-chairman of VitalSmarts told Reuters.

The way social media benefits your friendships all depends on your attitude. If you are throwing your religious or political beliefs in people’s faces, arguing, and being rude to other people, then there may be some real life negatives. VitalSmarts conducted the survey that found that as the use of social media has grown, so has incivility, with 78 percent of the 2,698 people reporting an increase in rudeness online. One in five people have reduced their face-to-face contact with someone they know in real life after a spat online.

“When reading a response to your post and you feel the conversation is getting too emotional for an online exchange, you’re right! Stop. Take it offline. Or better yet, face-to-face,” Grenny said.

How to be a Successful Leader in the Workplace

leader

Img: Flower Factor via Flickr

Some people are natural born leaders, and some would rather sit at their desk and be ignored by everyone. No matter which kind of person you are, it’s pretty clear only good leaders get ahead. Most successful leaders have made tough decisions so many times throughout their lives and careers, that they are able to get past the intense pressure and come up with a practical decision.

Leadership eventually becomes something that comes second-hand to people, after many years of practicing. To further your career, here are 10 tips on what successful leaders do every day:

1) Make decisions – In order to be a good leader, you have to be good at making decisions; big or small.

2) Make everyone feel that they have a voice – Don’t overpower or scare your employees, make sure they know that they can come to you with their ideas.

3) Share expectations – Don’t just expect your employees to know what you want out of them, tell them.

4) Lead by example

5) Provide feedback, good or bad – No one likes to hear that they aren’t doing well, but that is the only way they can improve. Give positive praise as well. Compliments boost people’s moods and make them want to work more.

6) Ask questions – Just because you are in charge doesn’t mean you have to know everything.

7) Remain in a positive mood around your employees – If you need to vent in your office that is fine, but keep a positive attitude around employees in order for them to do the same.

8) Create friendships – Associate with “lifters and other leaders”. This will help you improve, as well as others.

9) Split up the work accordingly – Know which of your employees are good at what and use them for this.

10) Avoid procrastination – This is a bad example to your employees

Office Etiquette – 12 Things to Avoid Doing at Work

Office etiquette

IMG: Shutterstock

Work etiquette is constantly changing. We now have to adapt to the age of social media and what is and isn’t appropriate to say. Should you be friends with your co-workers or boss? If you are, what should say or avoid saying on your posts? A study done by AVG found that 33 percent of employees are friends with their boss on Facebook. The problem? Sometimes your boss friends you, and there is yet to be a way to decline a request nicely. Of course there are all other kinds of office etiquette. Should you talk about your dates or significant other, hang out outside of work, or leave your dishes in the sink?

Here are 12 tips on office etiquette: things to avoid doing or saying to keep your co-workers on your good side:

1) Being messy – Don’t be that one person who always leaves their dishes in the sink all day if everyone else cleans theirs up. You can be as messy as you want at home, but at the office at least be considerate.

2) Email typos, emoticons, colors, etc. – Unless your office is very laid-back and used to this, avoid anything but normal typeface. Remember to spell check, and write professionally.

3) Being a know-it-all  – For all of The Office lovers out there, recall that in in almost every episode Oscar corrects people. Don’t be this kind of person. When it is important and pertains to business, of course correct someone. However, if someone calls their shirt orange and you think it is salmon; keep it to yourself.

4) TMI – Be very careful of TMI. The definition of TMI can be very different from office to office, so keep your stories to a minimum. No one wants to know every detail of what you had for dinner last night or what you and your partner did.

5) Taking credit for what you didn’t do – This one is pretty obvious; don’t stab your co-workers in the back.

6) Constantly being negative – Don’t be the one person who always looks at the glass half empty, no one likes that person.

7) Being noisy – That one person who is constantly fidgeting, listening to their music loud, or talking to themselves; no one likes that person.

8) Bad manners – Pretty self explanatory. Go back to what you learned in Kindergarten and remember to say “please” and “thank you”.

9) Being late – Coming to work late every once in a while is fine, but for the most part try to be on time.

10) Being lazy – Handing off work that you should be doing is not okay, unless of course you actually don’t have time. No one likes the lazy person.

11) Always inviting people out – Let’s look back to The Office again. Recall how Michael always asked people to hang out, pretty much all the time? Don’t be that person. Hanging out with co-workers is great, but do it in moderation.

12) Complain about work on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any other social media site – Saying that you had a “bad day at work” is one thing, but saying your “boss is evil” or that you “hate your job” is not okay. If your account is private and you haven’t be-befriended any of your co-workers, go ahead. However, there is always a chance that they may see it. If you are friends with anyone from work, avoid this altogether. Tweeting about your amazing margarita the night before, and then coming into work late and a little out of it is not a good sign.

7 Small Things That Can Ruin Your Career

Things that ruin careers

IMG: via Shutterstock

People can spend years working their way up into a position that they love, and sometimes it only takes one day to take it all away. Sometimes this is done by accident or by poor judgement, but either way it can end up ruining you. 

A great example of this was in 2011. HP’s vice president Scott McClellan posted unreleased details about the company’s cloud computing strategy onto his LinkedIn profile. In doing so,  competitors like Apple or Dell were able to see what HP was working on before the product had been released to the public. McClellan spent 25 years working at HP, and now he no longer does because of this one mistake.

7 things you should avoid doing and/or saying at your place of work:

1) “The boss is a jerk.” While they may completely agree with you, this could end up coming back to haunt you if you two are ever up for the same promotion or they decide they do not like you. Offices love to gossip, so something like this could end up getting back to your superiors.

2) “I probably shouldn’t tell you this…” If you think you shouldn’t be telling someone at work something, then don’t. Whatever you shared could get around the office and traced back to you.

3) Asking about someone else’s raise. While you may consider this person a good friend, talking about your raises and salaries can never lead to anything good. If she got more than you, you feel bad. If you got more than them, then they feel bad.

4) Politics. Do not ever discuss politics at work. While some people you work with may not care about your opinions, there is always that one person who will disagree with you and cause awkwardness around the office.

5) Religion. This is another sensitive topic. If you want to share with your co-workers what your religious views are, that is fine. Just don’t debate them or requently discuss them in your office.

6) Gossip. While this can be a hard thing to do, it is always a good thing to avoid. Try not to talk negatively about your co-workers at work unless you are ready to see what happens when they hear about it.

7) Don’t talk to anyone about classified information.

While these things above are not necessarily going to get you fired every time, they are all good things to avoid if you love and want to keep your job. They also keep everyone else happy too. You may enjoy gossiping about a co-worker or sharing political views with one person, but it all may come back to bite you in the end. 

2013 Financial New Years Resolutions you Should be Making

New Year

IMG: HatM via Flickr

Every time a new year has passed, about 45% of Americans make a list of their new years resolutions. Unfortunately, only 8% say that they were actually successful. A lot of this is due to people getting busy, making unrealistic goals, or not putting enough effort into it in the first place. Many people say, “I’m going to lose weight,” however they don’t actually figure out how. Saving money is another common new years resolution. Below are some important financial new years resolutions you can make, and ways to stick to them.

1) Don’t just say you are going to save money, figure out how you are going to

We all go out to eat, buy coffee, and do lots of little things that add up. Think about what you spend your money on. If it is going out to lunch every day, cut it down to 2 days a week. It it is buying coffee before work every morning, make it at home. If it is going out to movies too often, rent this week. Many people tell you to stop buying coffee or going out to eat, but if you don’t have a problem with that it isn’t going to help you. Think about what extra thing you spend your money on, and then see how you can cut back.

2) Once you figure out your budget and what you are saving, put that money into saving at the beginning of the month

Once you have gone over your spending and decided how much you can save every month, don’t wait till the end to save it. While you may need to take some out to buy more food, gas etc. you will be much more aware that you are spending more money if you take it out, then if it is just sitting in your checking account.

3) Start Over

Don’t think about the mistakes you have made with money before, start over. If you racked up a huge credit card bill last year don’t focus on that, just focus on paying it off.

4) Use coupons and buy in bulk

While no one expects you to match the people on Extreme Couponing, snagging coupons out of your paper and printing them off online is a huge help. You are only saving 50 cents here and a dollar there, but it can add up to quite a bit every month. Another smart shopping move people do not always remember is buy in bulk when things are on sale. Now, buying 10 heads of lettuce in bulk probably won’t do you much good, but buying 10 boxes of pasta you are eventually going to eat will. Most people buy one or two, but when there is a good sale, think about buying more than that. If you have the room, stocking up can really save money.

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