Technology Revolution Calls Multi-Family Home

Speaker at Optech conferenceOne of the great proving grounds for technology lies within the apartment industry. In an effort to offer greater amenities for their residents, while staying one step ahead of the local competition, property management companies have been on the forefront of lifestyle-based technology. And, as society’s craving for technological offerings have steadily increased along with the preference for the apartment lifestyle, apartment communities that do not evolve with the times are doomed to fall into obscurity within their marketplace. This week, apartment industry professional meet for the annual Optech Conference to focus on the present and future of the technology that proliferates today’s apartment communities. Here are a few of the exciting new developments they will discuss:

Smart Technology in Apartments

The news today is frequented with discussions of the Internet of Things and the evolution of smart technology around the home. The smart phones that are in the hands of two-thirds of Americans have initiated a new era in connectivity, and that technology is having a profound impact on people who enjoy the apartment lifestyle. Keyless entry via smartphone and appliances that send alerts to your phone are just a few of the technology items that were once considered sci-fi, but are now becoming mainstream amenities. Amazon Dash Buttons, smart lightbulbs, and countertops that can wirelessly charge digital devices are also prolific. As smart technology continues to evolve into the centerpiece of household life, you are sure to see more technology available – both inside your apartment and inside your apartment community’s office.

Package Delivery to Apartments

The increased technology available to apartment management teams has done much more than enabled maintenance teams to complete your requests faster and create a world where rent can be paid online. Property management teams are becoming almost extensions of the family with their increased ability to assist renters in a variety of ways. One in particular that has come under scrutiny recently is the ability for community staff to accept package delivery on a resident’s behalf. In the past, that was a no-brainer for delivery companies such as UPS and FedEx. Packages were to be delivered at the community office in order to guarantee safety against weather and possible theft.

However, the significant increases in package delivery – thanks to more of us buying products online – have caused some communities to discontinue this policy in favor of other alternatives. However, technologically-advanced solutions are available for management teams to make sure your package deliveries still successfully arrive in your hands. Package notification systems can send text and email alerts about a parcel’s arrival. In some communities, package lockers take the place of leasing office storage for deliveries. In either case, tomorrow’s technology is available today for apartment communities, to help ensure you get your deliveries in time for the holidays.

Digital Connectivity for Apartments

Two things that are essential to modern apartment life are quality cellular connectivity and access to high speed internet. The challenges to find both of these are not new to apartment shoppers. Many communities have begun to add cell signal booster stations to buildings and are partnering with service providers to increase internet speeds. Instead of free premium internet offered in solely common area, many communities are offering it throughout the entire community. Google Fiber, AT&T GigaPower and other such services are bringing internet speeds to new heights, to ensure that you will always be connected.

As you shop for your next apartment, the technology that is important to you is available at many apartments in your city. All the things you want and need for your lifestyle can be found when you search for your next apartment using www.apartmentsearch.com. Sort by amenity, location and price and, when you find the apartment of your dreams, be sure to tell them how you found the community. When you mention ApartmentSearch, you can earn up to $200 in rewards. That bonus goes a long way to help you get ready for the holiday shopping season.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space | Apartminty

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Working from home has become more prominent than ever, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when you’re living in an apartment, it can sometimes be challenging to create a productive remote workspace. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to maximize your space (no matter how small it may be), arrange it in a way that inspires creativity and productivity, and take care of yourself so you stay motivated. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make the most of your apartment while you’re working from home, so you can find a healthy work-life balance and stay focused on your job each day. 

Arranging Your Space

A productive apartment work-from-home space starts with actually creating a designated workspace. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate spare room to set up an office. As long as you have a specific location in mind that is dedicated to your work, you can get things done effectively. Some suggestions include: 

  • Fixing a folding shelf to a wall.
  • Using a large closet/wardrobe.
  • Utilizing a large hallway.
  • Pulling your sofa away from the wall in the living room and using it as a desk chair.

Having your own workspace can help you to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Remember, your environment can affect your mental health. It can either keep you motivated or bring you down. So, focus on things like using natural lighting, having live plants around to give you energy, and even controlling the temperature to keep things a bit cooler. 

If you know you will have to participate in Zoom meetings or similar video chats, make sure that your office looks as professional as possible. Because you’re at home, it’s okay to make things personal. But, whatever is in your background should still suggest that you’re working. A professional background for a video call can include things like plants, pictures, and artwork, but probably shouldn’t include your Star Wars actions figures. 

Keeping Your Health in Mind

In addition to having the right space set up, it’s crucial to take care of yourself in order to stay productive. When working from home, it’s easy to feel distracted and unmotivated. Taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, can have a huge impact on how well you do your job. 

One of the potential drawbacks of working from home is having a harder time with a work-life balance. You can combat this by having a routine each day. Start work at the same time and end it at the same time. Having a separate office space in your apartment will make it easier to “walk away” from work at the end of the day. 

It’s also important to take breaks, and you may need to encourage yourself to do so. Your apartment might be small, but don’t be afraid to splurge on a few “self-care” items including, perhaps, a sofa that you can put in or near your workspace for whenever you need to take a break. 

Your breaks should also consist of movement, as much as possible. Stand up and stretch every hour. Or, take longer breaks throughout the day that allow you to get outside and go for a walk. Studies have shown that simply being out in nature can improve your mood, which may help with productivity, and it will give you a chance to get some space after being in a small apartment all day. 

It’s possible to create a productive apartment work-from-home space and to stay motivated each day. With a few simple changes, some organizational skills, and maybe a professional purchase or two, you can turn almost any area of your apartment into an effective workspace. 

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How to Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space
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Source: blog.apartminty.com

Home Buyers: 5 Things to Know As You Wait for Closing Day

The seller accepted your offer, and now you’ve just got to sign on the dotted line. Right?

For some home buyers, the closing day for a real estate purchase is as formal and complicated as the transaction itself. For others, it’s just a blip on the radar. Either way, there are some important things to keep in mind as you make your way to homeownership.

Your mortgage rate could expire

Mortgage interest rates can fluctuate daily, and the rate your bank quoted isn’t good forever. Instead, a bank will “lock-in” your interest rate for 45, 60 or any number of days. Once that lock expires, you may have to pay a higher rate.

Any number of issues can come up: open permits, illegal renovations, or other types of roadblocks might require the loan process to stop until resolution.

For example, a buyer in upstate New York learned at the last minute that a previous owner built an addition to the home in the 1970s but never documented it properly. It turns out it was so bad that it wouldn’t pass today’s requirements. The buyer had to hire an architect, re-draw plans, and document the issue before the bank approved the loan. And, consequently, he lost the rate he’d been quoted.

Don’t wait until it’s too late, and don’t assume it’s a smooth journey to the closing table. Rate-lock expiration can throw an expensive wrench into the closing process.

The mortgage process isn’t over yet

Some buyers think once they’ve completed the application and submitted paperwork, their loan is approved and ready to go.

Not so fast. Today, some lenders will verify income, assets or credit all the way up until the very last minute. Don’t make any major changes to your finances until the closing.

That means don’t apply for a new credit card, finance a new car, or take a new job without running it by your mortgage professional.

The smallest (even seemingly insignificant) change to your finances can affect your ability to be approved for a loan.

And the house isn’t yours yet

In some locations, the walk-through is a formal event, and in others, it’s a checked box. Most real estate contracts provide for a walk-through up to 24 hours before the closing. Be sure to take advantage of it.

Why? You don’t want to close on the home if systems aren’t working, the seller hasn’t made the necessary repairs, or the seller hasn’t moved out.

If things aren’t as they should be, you can postpone the closing until they are.

You may need to do some homework

Once the home closes, not only is it physically yours, but also it’s completely your responsibility. In most states, the law is on the side of the buyer, and requires the seller to disclose any issues and confirm they’ve been resolved.

In others, it’s “caveat emptor,” or buyer beware. In this case, it’s up to the purchaser to double- and triple-check that the seller closes all outstanding building permits, releases all liens from the title report, and resolves any issues with the local building department, assessor or health department.

The actual closing could be very low-key

In most places, the end happens in parts, and the two parties don’t need to meet. Buyers sign their loan documents in the privacy of their home or office, and the seller shows up at the title company to sign off on the deed. It’s seamless and straightforward, and happens in the background.  Buyers wire their down payment, and sellers receive their funds electronically.

But sometimes, the buyers and sellers and lots of attorneys and title folks sit around the table for hours, passing paperwork and using calculators. The process is archaic and cumbersome. What’s worse: If the transaction wasn’t smooth, the atmosphere around the “closing table” could be pretty tense.

What can you do?

The easiest way to a smooth closing is to be on the lookout for red flags and do lots of research.

Have a solid team on your side, starting with a good local agent. He or she can refer you to necessary mortgage pros, title insurances, escrow offices, attorneys or inspectors.

Processes and customs vary by market, and customs that apply in one community won’t matter across the country, so getting as much information upfront as you can will help avoid unpleasant surprises.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Source: zillow.com

How to Negotiate a Salary in 7 Steps and Get the Best Offer

After all the hard work you’ve put into designing your resume, crafting your cover letter and acing your job interview, you might be tempted to cash in on the first job offer a company gives you.

Most people do.

But putting in a little extra time to negotiate a higher salary might be the easiest and quickest way to earn more money at your new job.

Plus, hiring managers are often ready to negotiate. Are you?

What Are Salary Negotiations, and Why Are They Important?

Salary negotiations show that you’re confident in your skills, you’ve done your homework and that you’re not going to dart off to another better-paying position as soon as it’s available.

Salary negotiations are one of the last steps in the hunt for a new job. They aren’t exactly synonymous with asking for a raise, though the two share a lot of similarities.

The key distinction is that negotiations for a higher salary happen sometime after your interview and before you sign the employment contract — not during a performance review for a current job.

Salary negotiations are crucial for a few key reasons. They show the company that you’re confident in your skills, that you’ve done your homework and that you’re not going to dart off to another better-paying position as soon as it’s available (because you’ll have the better-paying position).

Negotiations are also a time for you to think about your financial needs and to use the tight labor market to your advantage to score a higher starting salary.

The moment you say yes to a job, your sway over your benefits package and starting salary drops. If you don’t negotiate, you’ll have to wait six to 12 months to ask for a raise — money you could have been pocketing all along.

Amid pandemic-related economic woes, companies are even more willing to negotiate for talent, according to a 2020 survey by staffing firm Robert Half. Among senior managers surveyed, 86% were as likely or more likely to negotiate salary with new hires compared to a year ago.

So don’t be afraid to speak up.. It’s free money.

How to Negotiate Salary

Here’s how to negotiate your salary: do your research, know your worth, respond to the original offer, plan your counteroffer, practice the conversation, negotiate and get it in writing.

Job interviews are nerve-racking as it is. When you add in salary negotiations, it’s enough to send most people into full-on panic mode.

Those anxieties could be enough to keep you from getting what you’re truly worth. Don’t let them.

Our step-by-step guide will help allay those initial fears and get you into the right frame of mind to not only ask for what you’re worth — but to emerge from those salary negotiations with a better offer.

Step 1: Research Salaries for Your Role

One of the best ways to calm yourself and to approach a salary negotiation with a level head is to do your homework about the company and your role. Don’t stress over manipulation tactics and strategies.

“If we go into a negotiation worrying about [that]… then we miss out on the most important feature of negotiation,” said Lisa Gates, cofounder of She Negotiates. “It’s a conversation. A human conversation.”

Gates, a leadership and negotiation coach for businesswomen and one of LinkedIn’s top 10 voices in the workplace, advises a good place to start is by searching what others in your position are earning. That could be by asking your colleagues (no, it’s not illegal, she said) or by looking up salary information on websites like Dice, Robert Half and Payscale.

With these tools you can establish what the national median income is for your position, what your local economy is paying and what your potential employer typically pays other people with the same title.

Consider where you’re located and where the company is located. For instance, if you are working in Nebraska, the local median income for copywriters is much lower than copywriter salaries in New York. But if you’re relocating to New York for the job, definitely use that salary range in negotiations. In that case, your salary history from Nebraska is irrelevant.

Likewise, this range is useful for establishing a fair salary for work-from-home jobs. Again, if you are a copywriter in Nebraska who is applying for a remote position in New York, you can negotiate a salary that’s in line with what New Yorkers earn, or at least you will have wiggle room to tap into national rates.

“Your salary should not be calibrated by your ZIP code,” Gates said. “It’s about the benefit you deliver to the company.”

People work in an office.
Getty Images

Step 2: Know Your Work’s Worth

Once you’ve established a healthy salary range based on your research, you then have to plot yourself somewhere on that line.

“If you are a median performer… shoot for the median,” said Gates. “But chances are you’re amazing at what you do, and you want to shoot for a salary between median and high.”

When asking for above-average salaries, it needs to be a matter of showing rather than telling. If you believe you deserve the top of that range, then you’re going to need to fall back on something more substantial than “I believe I’m worth $70,000.” Because the obvious follow-up question to that statement is “Why?”

To be able to answer that question confidently and convincingly, “you need to make a list of all your contributions and accomplishments — and quantify them,” said Gates. “For example, if you are a customer service manager and you revamped your new-hire onboarding, what impact did that effort have on the bottom line?”

In terms of negotiation, your argument will be much stronger when it’s based on research and numbers rather than emotion. If you really do need that extra $5,000 for child care costs or relocation costs or rent, that’s OK to mention. Just don’t let that be your whole argument.

So show them exactly why you’re worth that extra five grand.

Step 3: Respond to the Initial Offer — Politely

This stage is ripe for fumbling.

You just got the job offer (congratulations!) and your emotions are running high — good or bad. It could be that the company offered you exactly what you wanted and you’re ecstatic. Or it could’ve lowballed you by about $10,000.

In either situation, it’s easy to respond on impulse. Check yourself first.

Take a deep breath and do not give your decision immediately, even if it’s a great offer. Likewise, it may not be the best time to negotiate especially if you’re a bit offended at that lowball.

“Responding graciously is the most important action to take when you first receive an offer,” said Loren Margolis, CEO and founder of Training & Leadership Success. “I recommend you state that you are grateful and excited, and then take a pause.”

Margolis is a career-training expert and a member of Forbes’ Coaching Council who’s worked with several Fortune 500 companies. She said that even if you know your answer or are ready to negotiate immediately, it’s good to ask for some time to think over the offer.

“If you negotiate on the spot, you run the risk of being influenced by emotion,” she said. “And you want to be logical and clear-headed when you talk money.”

The amount of time to ask the employer to think over the job offer could be anywhere from 24 hours to a week. Between 24 and 48 hours is typical, but employers may be in a pinch to fill the job quickly.

If you negotiate on the spot, you run the risk of being influenced by emotion, and you want to be logical and clear-headed when you talk money.

You can also ask the hiring manager for a deadline. That way you won’t be caught in a guessing game and will have a clear amount of time to review your salary research and prepare.

Step 4: Plan Your Counteroffer

At this point, you’ve done quite a bit of legwork on salary research. Now you need to pore over the details of your offer and establish what are known as a reservation point, a target salary and an anchor salary.

In salary negotiations, it’s important to stay within a realistic range that’s based on your research. And think back to your application. Did it ask, “What are your salary requirements?” If so, how did you respond?

If you answered “$40,000 to $50,000,” you have to work within that range.

For example, let’s say your initial job offer includes: $40,000 starting salary, health insurance, a 401(k) plan and three weeks of paid time off. If you’re an early-career professional, this offer might sound pretty good, and it is technically within your range. Negotiate anyway.

“Always negotiate, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that you are capable of having a problem-solving conversation,” Gates advised. “That’s what a negotiation is.”

The only exception is if the company made a “firm” offer or has a “non-negotiable” salary policy. If that’s the case, you might not want to push your luck.

But those cases are rare, so unless it’s expressly stated, get to planning your counteroffer.

First, do the numbers.

  • Set a reservation point above the amount they initially offered, perhaps at $42,500. This number is the minimum salary you will accept.
  • Your target salary, aka the amount you foresee agreeing on after negotiations, will be higher than your reservation amount — somewhere around $45,000.
  • Your anchor salary will be much higher. It’s the number you use to start the conversation and could be as high as $50,000.

It’s very possible the company won’t meet your target salary even after negotiations. But don’t fret — and don’t just look at the salary. Review the entire compensation package, including paid time off and continuing education, plus expenses you’ll incur, like the cost of living and commute.

Be prepared to also negotiate elements of your benefits package, too. Do they have wiggle room on vacation time? What about a work-from-home policy? Learning stipends? Loan forgiveness?

Or, as Margolis put it, “Determine what perks would add some sparkle to your life.”

The important part in a counteroffer is to remain flexible and open-minded.

A woman smiles as she talks to her boss at her office job.
Getty Images

Step 5: Practice the Negotiation Conversation

You’ve come a long way. But now you have all of these numbers and nuggets of advice floating around in your head. Can you recall them on a moment’s notice while under pressure and probably sweating profusely?

Didn’t think so.

The conversation itself could happen in person or over the phone. But it does need to be a conversation. No email negotiations — do it over the phone, via video chat or in person so you can better interpret the hiring manager’s tone and response.

And if the conversation does happen to take place in person, you’ll have to take into consideration much more than your tone. According to research from Robert Half, hiring managers pay keen attention to several nonverbal cues, the most important being:

  • Eye contact
  • Posture
  • Handshake
  • Hand gestures
  • Facial expressions
  • Fidgeting and nervous movements

This is why feedback is crucial. For the most part, you won’t be able to address any of those cues without someone else’s help.

“Practice negotiating with someone you trust. And ask them to make it difficult for you,” Margolis said.  “Have them counter your assertions and challenge you so you can practice professionally pushing back.”

Margolis also recommended writing out the perks that mean the most to you in the negotiation. Then, write down three things that distinguish yourself from the other applicants — they could highlight your experience, skills or ways you will add unique value to the company.

Forcing yourself to write it out makes your argument more cohesive.

Similarly, Gates recommended crafting an opening statement that lays out exactly what you want. She’s created a specific formula to guide the conversation that should include:

  • Your strengths.
  • Quantified results of those strengths.
  • How you plan to produce those results in the future.
  • An anchor number to start off negotiations.

Then round off your opening statement with a question that sparks discussion. She recommended something along the lines of, ”How can you help me make this so?”

Following this formula, your opening statement could look like:

“I’m a creative and witty copywriter who has produced several award-winning advertisements for past clients, which raised their ad revenue by 20% in one quarter. I believe with the new resources and larger team in my new role here, I will deliver even better results. These achievements warrant a salary of $50,000. How can we come together on this?”

Your statement will obviously look different. Use language that’s natural to you and change it around as much as you like. Be sure to include your anchor salary and an open-ended question that invites the employer to speak.

When you’re practicing with a friend, try changing the question, especially if the response isn’t what you were expecting. Because you want to start a discussion, avoid yes-or-no questions in particular.

Practice as much as you can and ask for feedback along the way. When all is said and done, thank your practice partner profusely. Drinks are on you.

Step 6: Negotiate a Higher Salary

After all that preparation, it’s not so scary anymore, is it?

Give yourself a pep talk, take a deep breath, and go get yourself a higher salary.

If you’re conducting the salary talks in person, remember to mind your body language. And if they offer you a beverage, take it. Having something to sip on will help smooth over those awkward pauses and can buy you some time to think of a response if you’re stumped.

If you’re talking over the phone, throw all that advice about body language out the window. That’s not important here. You’ll be able to have your notes in front of you, too.

Remember that your tone is what’s important on the phone. Speak clearly and slowly, and you’ll have a better offer in no time.

Step 7: Get It in Writing

You don’t want all that effort to go to waste.

After you rock your salary negotiation and come out with your target salary (or higher), be sure to ask for it in writing.

Sometimes hiring processes are long and involve plenty of people at the company. Things get forgotten or lost in translation. Perhaps the negotiation was handled by a separate person in the HR department. Maybe that separate person only had your initial salary offer on file and not the renegotiated amount. Or there could be something more nefarious in the works. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

“Ask for them to at least send it in an email to ensure that you and the hiring company are both on the same page,” Margolis said.

And when you finally sign your name on the contract, ensure it reflects what was sent in the email.

Now all that’s left is to bask in the success of the single highest-earning conversation you’ve likely ever had.

Adam Hardy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

San Diego Padres Pitcher Blake Snell Close to Sale of $1.4M Florida Home

San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell has tossed his St. Petersburg, FL, home to a new owner.

The All-Star lefty was dealt to the Padres from the Tampa Bay Rays at the tail end of 2020. He’s since departed for the West Coast, and he’s moved on from his splashy, waterfront home as well. Listed for $1.4 million in late January, Snell’s abode quickly went into pending sale status.

He purchased the place in July 2019 for $875,000, while anchoring the Rays’ rotation. According to records and listing details, Snell proceeded to spend $200,000 to renovate much of the home, which was built in 1956.

The home’s highlight is clearly the outdoor space. The new owner will enjoy the brand-new pool deck and pool with custom sun shelf, in-pool lounge chairs, waterfall, multicolor pool lighting, never-used hot tub, and outdoor surround sound.

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Updated pool

(realtor.com)

The waterfront home with views of Tampa Bay also boasts an updated interior. You enter into a 12-foot foyer that opens up to the family area, showcasing walls of glass and water views.

The well-appointed kitchen offers a natural gas cooktop, plus ample cabinetry for storage. New carpet has been installed in the home’s four bedrooms.

The 2,952-square-foot floor plan has a master bedroom with bay views, a walk-in closet with custom built-ins, and a master bathroom with dual vanities and a large shower.

Other updates include custom built-in closets in every bedroom, fresh paint, new pull-down blackout blinds, and impact glass windows.

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Kitchen

(realtor.com)

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Walls of glass

(realtor.com)

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Master bedroom

(realtor.com)

BS
Walk-in closet

(realtor.com)

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Gaming room or office space

(realtor.com)

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Outdoor kitchen

(realtor.com)

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Private dock

(realtor.com)

The outdoor space is built for entertaining. A covered patio allows for lounging around the gas fire pit and outdoor TV. It’s easy to whip up a feast at the outdoor kitchen, with its bar and gas grill.

Out back, a private boat dock stores a boat or Jet Ski, and comes with a new boatlift. The three-car garage includes an extra room for a work area.

The new owner could potentially add a second story, according to the listing, and the location is convenient to downtown St. Pete and the Tampa International Airport.

Snell was selected in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, and made his Major League debut in 2016. 2018 was his breakthrough season: He was selected to the MLB All-Star team, won the American League Cy Young Award, and led the league in wins and ERA.

Liane Jamason with Dwell Florida Real Estate has the listing.

Source: realtor.com

Top 5 Qualities to Look for in a Landlord

Smiling young apartment landlord, reaching out with apartment keysLooking for an apartment that fits your needs doesn’t have to be a headache, and neither does finding a landlord that you can get along with. Developing a positive working relationship with your landlord can make a huge difference when it comes to negotiating the terms of your lease or requesting maintenance. When visiting any prospective apartment, look for these qualities in your next landlord.

#1: Good Communication

Good communication is the key to any healthy professional (or personal) relationship. Does the landlord listen to your questions and give thoughtful, direct answers? Are they transparent and clear in communicating their expectations for you and for themselves? Do they seem approachable and respectful?

If you sense any hostility, ambivalence, or if the landlord seems reluctant to answer your questions, it could be a red flag. You might be dealing with someone who sees tenants as expendable and interchangeable, someone who isn’t interested in working with you to build a long-term partnership.

#2: Organization

You took the effort to fully prepare for the meeting with your landlord, arriving with your ID, bank statements, and reference letters in tow. Can the same be said for them? Are the lease documents ready to sign? Do they appear to have a well organized system for signing new tenants? Does it look like they’ve done this before? If the initial meeting seems disorganized, it could be a sign that your experience with the complex’s staff could be too…think lost receipts, forgotten maintenance appointments, and overlooked tenant messages.

#3: Reliability

You should be able to rely on your landlord to follow through with their commitments. Did they arrive on time to your meeting? Do they return your phone calls promptly? Do they make excuses or change their story? A landlord who deals fairly and plainly with you during the application process will likely continue to be reliable in the future.

4: Professionalism

Are the landlord and their employees courteous and respectful? Is the apartment, its grounds, and the leasing office tidy, well-organized, and inviting? Does the office staff seem to take pride in their complex’s brand and their overall appearance? A landlord who maintains a respected, well-run business is likely someone who has a knack for building and maintaining positive working relationships with their tenants as well.

#5: Reputation

It’s worth looking up your landlord or their property management firm online to see what kind of reputation they have. You can even ask the landlord for the contact information of current or past tenants. If they are forthcoming, that’s a good sign. There are also online resources such as WhoseYourLandlord.com where you can search for landlord reviews by name and location. (Only bummer is that it’s limited to Philly, NYC, and DC right now.) While it’s good information to know, take anything you find on the internet with a grain of salt. One bad review from a disgruntled tenant doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dealing with a slumlord.

Ready to put your landlord know-how to good use? Browse recently listed apartments in your area on ApartmentSearch.com and schedule a few tours today! With our landlord tips in hand, you’ll be able to pick the apartment that’s right for you in no time.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

3 Alternative Asset Strategies to Diversify Your Retirement Portfolio

As you move toward retirement, the investments you’ve relied on to build a retirement savings portfolio may not be the best fit when it comes to generating retirement income.

If you’re like most near-retirees, you’ve worked hard to save through your company 401(k) plan, IRAs or Roth IRA accounts. Most company-sponsored retirement plans offer a mix of mutual funds made up of stocks and bonds. Some of the more growth-oriented funds likely have more stocks, while the more income-oriented funds likely have more bonds. Those options were solid while you were in the accumulation phase.

For many years, the conventional wisdom in retirement planning focused on a simple balanced stock-and-bond portfolio that slowly evolved over time toward more bonds and fewer stocks. The rationale behind such a recommendation was that this kind of portfolio created less volatility, the potential for growth and offered more income as retirees aged.

Today, this conventional wisdom may not work well for many retirees. That’s because extremely low bond yields generate very little income while increasing portfolio volatility. If you buy bonds or bond funds at current low rates, those bonds will lose value if interest rates rise in the future.

When you can’t depend on bonds or bond funds to generate a decent amount of income and lower the risks in your portfolio, it doesn’t make sense to rely on them as a major building block of a retirement income portfolio.

If you can’t rely on bonds or bond funds, you need to fill that gap in other ways. That’s where alternative assets come into play. Potential alternatives that we’ll explore include real estate, options and fixed index annuities.

What are alternative assets?

An alternative investment is a financial asset that does not fall into one of the traditional investment categories. Traditional categories include:

  • Stocks, such as stock mutual funds or exchanged-traded funds.
  • Bonds, such as bond mutual funds or ETFs.
  • Cash, a category that includes money market funds.

Alternative investments typically have a low correlation with those of standard asset classes. This low correlation means they often can generate returns regardless of market direction. This feature makes them a suitable tool for diversification.

Alternatives possess many other advantages, including hedging against inflation, which is the tendency for prices to increase over time. Alternatives may lower portfolio volatility and in today’s interest rate environment, potentially increase portfolio returns.

Alternative assets can also add needed income to retirement income portfolios while decreasing risk.

Of course, alternatives have their downsides. They can be less liquid than traditional investments, such as stocks and bonds, which means it can be difficult to turn those investments into cash should you experience a financial emergency. They aren’t immune from downturns either – no investment is. They may be more expensive than stocks and bonds, depending on which alternatives you choose and where you get them.

With that said, here are three strategies that can diversify your retirement income portfolio.

Diversification strategy #1: Real estate offers income and tax advantages

As an asset class, real estate has the potential to benefit retirement income portfolios when employed appropriately. You can invest in real estate locally by buying houses or apartments to rent out on a long or short-term basis. You can also invest in real estate through both publicly traded or non publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) in any area of the United States or the world.

There are also a variety of property types to choose from, including office buildings, shopping centers, residential and industrial. Whether you invest in real estate locally or through publicly registered vehicle such as REITs or funds that own REITs, real estate can provide a steady stream of income and significant tax breaks. 

Before investing in real estate, it’s wise to consider the disadvantages. If you buy individual properties, real estate can be illiquid and leveraged. That means it can be hard to sell to convert into cash and that you may have to borrow money to buy the properties you are interested in. If you buy REITs or REIT funds, those can suffer from downturns in the real estate market, cutting down on the income you receive and depressing the value of the shares.

The easiest way to invest in real estate is through publicly traded REITs that trade on the stock market. The main disadvantage of these types of REITs is volatility. While the purpose of an alternative asset is to add diversification, it is wise to look for one that reduces volatility as well. Publicly traded REITs often have a high correlation to the stock market, which may be the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Instead, consider looking into non publicly traded REITS. They often have a much lower correlation to the stock market as they are not traded like stocks. They get most of their value from the underlying real estate itself and not stock market share prices. This in turn reduces volatility and increases consistent returns.

Diversification strategy #2: Options provide supplemental income

Options are a type of derivative financial instrument with a value based on an underlying asset, such as stocks. There are many ways to use options. Within a retirement income portfolio, options offer the potential to increase income while reducing risk.

One option strategy that can be productive is that of taking advantage of the natural time decay of short-term options. You see, when trading options you can be a buyer, often thought of as speculative investment, or a seller, often thought of as the premium collector.

One premium collection strategy is known as the credit spread strategy. This strategy can be complex and does carry risk, but can also provide regular income if traded successfully. By collecting options premium when selling you may be able to benefit as the value of options decline, which time decay measures. The goal is to collect premium and not have to give it back and for the option to expire worthless. If that happens you get to keep all the premium you received. If not, losses could occur. This strategy can create supplemental income without exposure to rising interest rates. Furthermore, you can target though probabilities, a probability of success that you feel most comfortable with. This type of flexibility is hard to find in other investments.

Options are highly liquid, which is a desirable attribute for a retirement income portfolio. Options also have their disadvantages, which include the potential to lose principal and taxation as short-term capital gains.

Diversification strategy #3: Fixed indexed annuities protect against market declines and provide income

Fixed indexed annuities (FIA), which are issued by an insurance company, are a contract between investors and insurance companies. As an alternative to bonds or bond funds, FIAs provide tax-deferred growth, protection from downside market risk and a regular stream of income.

Because FIAs are an insurance company product, they can offer the potential to capture some stock market gains while avoiding stock market losses. They can also offer guaranteed income in retirement. Unlike bonds or bond funds, partial distributions known as free withdrawals are common contractual guarantees in fixed indexed annuities that permit access to a portion of the account value each year that could be used to pay for ordinary household bills. This replaces the need to potentially liquidate bonds at a discount in a rising interest rate environment, reducing interest rate risk.

FIAs can be complex products that may offer additional options — known as riders — that can provide lifetime income for you or surviving spouses and ongoing income in case of age-related incapacity, among other benefits. These riders come at an additional cost to the underlying cost of the annuity.

Annuities can be expensive if not structured properly. They also have limited liquidity, meaning that your money is committed to the company for a certain period and not available to spend in other ways. Before purchasing an FIA, make sure that you fully understand the provisions, the time commitment and all the fees involved.

A final word

Alternative assets offer the potential to reduce volatility, enhance cashflow, improve diversification and boost returns, depending on how they are employed in a retirement income portfolio. Using any one or all of these techniques may help you achieve more diversification, reduce risk and create more income in retirement.

Investment Adviser Representative of and investment advisory services offered through Royal Fund Management, LLC an SEC Registered Investment Adviser.
This information is designed to provide a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered and is not state specific. The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting or specific advice for your situation. This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting insurance professional. The statements and opinions expressed are those of the author and are subject to change at any time. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, presenting insurance professional makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.

Co-Founder, Tru Financial Strategies

Nathan Chapel is the co-owner and co-founder of Tru Financial Strategies. Since his start in the insurance and financial industry in 2009, he has had the opportunity to serve hundreds of people with their retirement needs with the mantra, “Protect your wealth, provide for your future.”  Nathan holds the Series 65 securities license and serves as a fiduciary adviser.

Co-Founder, Tru Financial Strategies

Scott Svoboda is the co-owner and co-founder of Tru Financial Strategies. Since his start in the insurance and financial industry in 2012, he has had the opportunity to serve hundreds of people with their retirement needs with his mantra, “Protect your wealth, provide for your future.”  Scott holds the Series 65 securities license and serves as a fiduciary adviser.

Source: kiplinger.com

Florida Developer Owes $26M In Sprawling Fraud Scheme

A judge has ordered South Florida developer Joseph Walsh Sr. to pay $26 million in connection with a 60-unit Royal Palm Beach office condominium. So reports The Real Deal.

Walsh allegedly conned 52 investors from China, Vietnam and Russia into backing the project.

The investors also claimed that Walsh failed to secure a promised mortgage on their behalf.

Read the full article from The Real Deal.

Source: themortgageleader.com

How to Buy in Bulk: Beginners Guide

Buying food and household items in bulk can be a great way to reduce your monthly spending.

How much money you can potentially save will vary depending on the item, but some experts estimate that bulk buying can cut your bills by 20 percent, and sometimes significantly more.

You may want to keep in mind, though, that buying in bulk doesn’t always save. Indeed, buying multiples or large quantities of some items can be a losing proposition if much of it ends up going unused, or if it causes you to consume more than you normally would.

Here are some smart shopping strategies to keep in mind when buying in bulk–including what you may want to stock up on, and what you may want to skip.

Why Buy in Bulk?

The average cost to feed a family of four in the United States runs between $890 to $1,062 a month (or $10,680 to $12,744 per year).

Families, as well as individuals, may be able to reduce spending on food and other household goods and improve their financial health by buying in bulk, since the cost per unit (or ounce) is generally lower.

If you have ample storage space, buying in bulk also delivers convenience, since your home will always be stocked up.

Buying in bulk can also save you time, since you won’t have to run out and purchase these items as often. Fewer trips to the store also saves on gas and reduces your carbon footprint.

Another reason why stockpiling can be a smart buying habit is that it can make it easier to handle emergencies, such as a bad storm, since you will already have a large quantity of basic toiletries and food items on hand.

Drawbacks of Buying in Bulk

Despite all the many great reasons to go for jumbo sizes, buying in bulk isn’t always a smart money rule to follow. There are few downsides to consider. These include:

•   Having to pay up front, rather than spacing out the purchases.

•   When you have a large quantity of something on hand, you might be tempted to overuse it.

•   Buying in bulk requires storage space (plus a large enough car to transport purchases).

•   Buying in bulk means less variety in the products you use.

•   Items bought in bulk can sit around past their expiration or “best by” dates.

•   Bulk buying for many products requires a warehouse club membership or other additional cost.

Things To Buy in Bulk

Bulk buying can be a great way to save on household items and foods that you use or consume daily or have a long shelf life. These include:

•   Household supplies (e.g., toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, trash bags)
•   Cleaning supplies
•   Laundry detergent
•   Pet food (though keep in mind that some pet food is perishable)
•   Pasta
•   Rice
•   Dry beans
•   Toiletries (e.g., shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, moisturizer, soap)
•   Canned goods
•   Peanut butter
•   Cereal
•   Flour
•   Vitamins
•   Diapers/wipes
•   Beverages safe to store at room temperature
•   Batteries
•   School and office supplies
•   Lightbulbs

In general, buying perishables, such as fruits and vegetables, in bulk may not make good economic sense. While the jumbo packages of strawberries or avocados may be cheaper per unit than your grocery store, that’s only a good deal if you actually eat them all.

Buying meat in bulk may only make sense if you have a large freezer where you can store it (keeping in mind that some meats should not be frozen for more than six months).

You may also want to avoid stocking snack foods in bulk if you think that you or other members of the household might overindulge.

Tips for Buying in Bulk

To get the most savings out of buying in bulk, you may want to keep some of the shopping strategies in mind.

Shopping With a List

It can be smart to write down a shopping list before going to buy in bulk. Otherwise, you might be tempted to buy products after sampling them at the store, or to buy something impulsively because it looks like a good deal.

Keeping a Calculator Handy

When buying in bulk, it’s wise to keep in mind that it’s not the price of the item, but rather the price per unit (or ounce) that matters. If the unit price isn’t listed, using the calculator on your phone (or bringing a separate one) when bulk shopping can help ensure you are getting a good deal.

Considering Quality

Typically, buying generic and store-brand versions of products is going to be cheaper than buying brand-name items.

However, you may want to keep in mind that quality counts too. If a cheaper paper towel isn’t very absorbent, you may end up using more each time you use it, and erasing that savings.

Keeping an Eye on Expiration Dates

Before purchasing something in bulk, it’s a good idea to check the expiration date and then calculate how long it will likely take you to consume the product.

If you won’t go through it before the expiration date, any savings could be wiped out.

Protecting Bulk Items From Pests

Because moths, roaches, and other pests may go after food, it’s a good idea to seal food products well when they are not being used.

Keeping flour, pasta, and other bulk food items in airtight containers can help with pest control.

Going in on Bulk Purchase With Friends

If you want to get the savings from buying in bulk, but don’t have the storage or a large enough household to have it make sense, you might want to ask some friends or neighbors if they want to split the product and the costs. That way, everyone can save money.

Where to Buy in Bulk

Consumers can generally buy in bulk at any grocery store or mass market retailer, but there are certain stores that are specifically designed for it.

Popular bulk stores include Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, and Big Lots.

Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club all require a membership fee, which can range from $45 to $60 per year.

Along with being able to buy food and household products in bulk, these stores also include perks like tire centers, pharmacies, photo development, electronics, furniture, and jewelry departments, and bakeries.

Customers may also be able to access discounts on entertainment like movie and theme park tickets, travel like hotels and rental cars. All of these extras can make a yearly membership worth it.

The Takeaway

Buying in bulk can be a great way to save cash if the product is something you use regularly, won’t go bad before you can use it all, is cheaper per unit at a bulk store, and is not lower in quality than what you typically buy.

Now, what to do with all that money you’re going to save by buying in bulk?

If you put it into a SoFi Money® cash management account, you can start earning a competitive interest rate on that money right away.

Plus, with SoFi Money, you can earn, save, and spend–all in one account.

Not a fan of fees? You may also like the fact that SoFi Money doesn’t have any account fees, monthly fees, or many other common fees. Plus, withdrawing cash is fee-free at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide.

Sign up for SoFi Money today to get started.



SoFi Money®
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Source: sofi.com