Gadgets and Gizmos

Buying the latest gadgets and gizmos is one of those major highs for the techno savvy that has few parallels. In particular if they are high tech gadgets or computer gadgets. The mere announcement of the tablet display, sized at 7″, by Apple has all computer aficionados in a whirl. The screen of this new device is practically the size of the gizmo itself. All in all as far as high tech gadgets go, this one promises to be a delectable blend of design and ingenuity.

Those hooked on acquiring the latest gadgets and gizmos, and who feel that Nook, Kindle and the like are old hat, now can revel in the world’s first dual screen device – the enTourage eDGe. It combines a notepad, notebook, e-reader, and video/audio recorder and player in one Linux with Google Android OS device. What does it do? Much of what you might want to at any given time – web surf, read an e-book, get email, watch movies or listen to music from anywhere. Essentially this is a student-friendly device aimed at freeing them from carrying books and notebooks. Since it is first and foremost an e-reader, the glare-free screen, zooming features, and the ability for a person to read in sunlight make it a particularly desirable gizmo. There is a journal page that can be opened and used by hand or with the help of a virtual keyboard – very useful for taking notes. This feature is enabled by e-ink technology, which further allows people to make notes on the book they are reading.

If latest computer gadgets are what you are hooked on, there are quite a few in the market just now. The Lenovo Multimedia Remote with 2.4GHz Wireless Keyboard comes in a compact style. Once connected, this multimedia remote can be used for using multimedia controls on the PC like with Windows Media Center. There is also the Bear Extender n3 which Rokland Technologies has recently rolled out. It is a long-range 802.11n high-powered wireless adapter for Macs that offers up to four times the range of standard Apple-branded Airport wireless cards. The Wi-Fi adapter combines 802.11n compatibility with a powerful 700mW Wi-Fi radio that enables the device to pick up 802.11g and 802.11b signals from long distances.

Real Estate Agents and the Internet – How to Buy and Sell Real Estate Today

Then and Now

Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of a local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend many weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will likely get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of interest on a real estate web site, you can typically view photos online and maybe even take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your house!

While the resources on the Internet are convenient and helpful, using them properly can be a challenge because of the volume of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver real estate” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Believe it or not, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed real estate agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to refer to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties for sale. Access to this database of property listings provided the most efficient way to search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS is to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation to other member agents if they find a buyer for a property.

This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings are also displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database are not required to offer any specific type of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate information to the Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but also more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse. Despite the flood of real estate information on the Internet, most properties are still sold directly through real estate agents listing properties in the local MLS or CIE. However, those property listings do not stay local anymore. By its nature, the Internet is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For example, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Web site, http://www.realtor.com, and to the local real estate agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing may be displayed on the Web site of a local newspaper. In essence, the Internet is just another form of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it has a much broader reach than the old print advertising.

In addition to Internet marketing, listing agents may also help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, keep the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract and help with closing. When an agent provides all of these services it is referred to as being a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements are the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the real estate business have caused many agents to change the way they do business. In large part, this is due to the instant access most consumers now have to property listings and other real estate information. In addition, the Internet and other technologies have automated much of the marketing and initial searching process for real estate. For example, consumers can view properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers can use automated programs to send listings to consumers that match their property criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they offer and change their fees accordingly. An agent may offer to advertise the property in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. In the future, some real estate agents may offer services in more of an ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate information on the Internet, when people hire a real estate agent today they should look at the particular services offered by the agent and the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. It is no longer just about access to property listing information. Buyers and sellers historically found agents by referrals from friends and family. The Internet now provides ways to directly find qualified agents or to research the biography of an agent referred to you offline. One such site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for real estate agents. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a link to their web site for free. Once unique content is added to their profile page the search engines notice!

Some have argued that the Internet makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this will be false in the long run. It may change the role of the agent but will make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever. In fact, the number of real estate agents has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has made local real estate a global business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains that the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase most people make in their life (or, for many investors, the largest multiple purchases over a lifetime) and they want expert help. As for the MLS, it remains the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what is the function of all the online real estate information?

Online real estate information is a great research tool for buyers and sellers and a marketing tool for sellers. When used properly, buyers can save time by quickly researching properties and, ultimately, make better investment decisions. Sellers can efficiently research the market and make informed decisions about hiring an agent and marketing their properties online. The next step is to know where to look online for some of the best resources.
Internet Strategies

In the sections that follow, we provide strategies and tips on how to use the Internet to locate properties for sale and research information relevant to your decision to purchase the property. There are many real estate Web sites from which to choose and although we do not mean to endorse any particular Web site, we have found the ones listed here to be good resources in most cases or to be so popular that they need mention. One way to test a Web site’s accuracy is to search for information about a property you already own.

Finding Real Estate for Sale

Despite the widely available access to real estate listings, many believe that MLS databases continue to offer the most complete and accurate source of real estate information. Most MLSs now distribute content to other Web sites (primarily operated by real estate agents). An excellent starting point for MLS originated content is the national NAR Web site, realtor.com, which is also the most popular web site for searching real estate listings. Virtually all local and regional MLSs have an agreement with realtor.com to display much of their active listing inventory.

Some local and regional MLS systems also have a publicly accessible Web site. However, to get complete information you will most likely still need to find a qualified local REALTOR. Many local real estate agents will also provide their customers (via email) new listings that are input into the MLS that match their predefined criteria. This can be very helpful to a busy buyer.

There are also many Web sites that display both real estate agent listed and for-sale-by-owner properties. Some of the more popular Web sites include zillow.com and trulia.com. These sites offer other services too. For example, zillow.com is best known for its instantaneous property valuation function and trulia.com for providing historical information. Another source of properties for sale is the state, regional, and local Web sites associated with brokerage companies; for example, remax.com or prudential.com. Search engines like yahoo.com and classified advertising sites like craigslist.com also have a large number of active real estate listings.

One key difference between these sites is how much information you can access anonymously. For example, at trulia.com you can shop anonymously up to a point but then you will need to click through to the agent’s Web site for more information. Many new real estate search engines allow you to sift through listings without having to fill out a form. The best strategy is to browse a few of the sites listed above to find geographic areas or price ranges that are interesting. Once you get serious about a property, then that is the time to find a qualified REALTOR of your choice to conduct a complete search in the local MLS.

It also never hurts to search the old-fashioned way by driving through the neighborhoods that interest you. There is no substitute for physically, not virtually, walking the block when you are making a serious investment decision. In this sense, real estate is still a very local business and standing in front of the property can lead to a much different decision than viewing a Web page printout.

Valuing Real Estate

As we mentioned, one of the most popular real estate tools is zillow.com’s instant property valuation. Just type in an address and in and you get a property value. It even charts the price ups and downs, and shows the last date sold (including price) and the property taxes. There are other sites that provide similar tools such as housevalues.com and homegain.com. Unfortunately, many people use these estimated values alone to justify sales prices, offers and counteroffers. However, these are only rough estimates based on a formula that incorporates the local county sales information. These estimates can swing wildly over a short period of time and do not appear to always track actual market changes, which are normally more gradual. In addition, these estimates do not automatically take into account property remodels or renovations or other property specific or local changes. This is not to say these sites are not useful. In fact, they are great starting points and can provide a good ball-park value in many cases.

When it comes to getting a more accurate value for a particular property, there are other strategies that are more trustworthy. One is to go directly to your county’s Web site. More often than not the county assessor’s area of the Web site provides sales and tax information for all properties in the county. If you want to research a particular property or compare sales prices of comparable properties, the local assessor’s sites are really helpful. When you visit a county’s Web site you are getting information straight from the source. Most counties today publish property information on their Web sites. Many times you cannot only see the price a previous owner paid, but the assessed value, property taxes, and maps. Some county assessors are now adding a market and property valuation tools too.

Given the importance of valuation to investing, we are also going to remind you of the two most important (non-Internet) valuation methods: real estate agents and appraisers. Working with a local REALTOR is an accurate and efficient way to get value information for a property. While one of the primary purposes of the MLS is to market the active property listings of its members, the system also collects sales information for those listings. REALTOR members can pull this sales information and produce comparable market analyses (sometimes called CMAs) that provide an excellent snapshot of a particular property’s value for the market in a particular area. Finally, the most accurate way to value a property is by having a certified appraiser produce an appraisal. An appraiser will typically review both the sold information in the MLS system as well as county information and then analyze the information to produce a valuation for the property based on one or more approved methods of valuation. These methods of valuation can include a comparison of similar properties adjusted for differences between the properties, determine the cost to replace the property, or, with an income producing property, determine a value based on the income generated from the property.

The Neighborhood

There are many ways the Internet can help you get the scoop on a particular neighborhood. For example, census data can be found at census.gov. You can also check out the neighborhood scoop at sites like outside.in or review local blogs. A blog is a Web site where people discuss topics by posting and responding to messages. Start by looking at placeblogger.com and kcnn.org/citymediasites.com for a directory of blogs. Trulia.com has a “Heat Map” that shows how hot or cold each neighborhood is based on prices, sales, or popularity among the sites users.

Schools

When it comes to selling residential property or rental properties that cater to families, the quality of the area school district makes a huge difference. There are many Web sites devoted to school information. Check out greatschools.net or schoolmatters.com. Most local school districts also have their own Web site. These sites contain a variety of information about the public schools and the school district, including its district demographics, test scores, and parent reviews.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

A recent addition to the Internet boom in real estate information is Web sites that let real estate agents market their expertise and local knowledge by displaying their professional profiles and socially networking with blogs. You can search to find an agent with a particular expertise, geographic area of specialization, or an agent offering specific services. The web site AgentWorld.com lets users quickly and easily find an agent with the right expertise using keyword searches and clean and simple agent profiles. AgentWorld.com also enables agents to post personalized blogs, photos and videos to help consumers find the best agent for their needs. Plus, many agent profiles include a direct link to the agent’s web site where you will likely find the local MLS listings.

Maps and Other Tools

The Internet has made mapping and locating properties much easier. To get an aerial view or satellite image of a property or neighborhood, go to maps.live.com or maps.google.com or visit walkscore.com to see how walk-able a particular property is. These sites can give you an idea of the neighborhood characteristics and the types of entertainment, restaurants, and other facilities that are within walking distance of the property. Maps.Live.com provides a view at an angle so you can see the sides of houses and Maps.Google even gives you a 360 degree street-level view for certain neighborhoods. If you have not tried one of these satellite map Web sites, you really should if only for amusement.

Final Thoughts on Internet Strategies

The Internet is a very effective research and marketing tool for real estate investors but is not a replacement for a knowledgeable experienced real estate professional. The Internet can save you time and money by enabling quick and easy property research and marketing options. Sites like AgentWorld.com also help you efficiently find a REALTOR who fits your buying or selling needs.

Always remember, when it comes to Internet strategies for real estate: More knowledge is better. You need to use the Internet to build your knowledge base on a target property or to find a real estate agent with expertise you need. However, the big caution here is that the Internet should not replace human judgment and perspective, expert advice or physical due diligence-keys to successful investing.

Are You in the Right Business for You?

Do you love going into your business every morning and spending time with your clients?

This may seem a strange question to ask. If you know your life purpose, you will find the answer comes easily. Your business will become your drug initially and maybe continue to be for a very long time. So, we aware of the sacrifices that you may have to make in being a business owner.

I often wonder if solo or micro business people really know if they are in the right business or not. I do believe that if you know your WHY (your purpose) you will know if you are in the right place for you and your growth. Being in business is not something that you can do half-heartedly. It needs to be something that you want so badly that you will do whatever to make it work.

All too often I meet with people and clients who really have not thought about their WHY or the Vision and Mission of their business. To get real clarity you need to firstly know your ‘why’ for your life and only then can you really be aware if the vision is correct for you and your future.

To be in business on your own you need to be an entrepreneur who has a dream to create something extraordinary. You have to be prepared to go to whatever lengths to make sure it happens, understanding that initially there may be no money, long hours and ups and downs. It takes COURAGE to be in your own business, especially in the early days.

Firstly, ask yourself why you are in business? What is your reason? It is because you love what it is or are you there purely to make money?Choosing the correct business is important. We are all different so there is no one size fits all. Ask yourself what type of business attracts you? If you understand who you are and where your innate gifts are you will find it easy to know the type of business that suits you best.

Are you a people person or someone who likes to be behind closed doors? Once you understand this part of your personality and what it is that you love to do, then, and only then, will you know who you need to put around you to support you to grow your vision.

Knowing the industry you wish to be part of is important as well as understanding the target/ customer market that suits your service or product. The demographics are important too, for example gender, age, background, knowledge etc. Having an idea of what you want in the way of size and of staffing or if you want to do it alone needs to be considered too.

Is your business to be a quick get in and get out type of business or a hobby type business? Do you know how much you want to earn? Have you considered an Exit plan for the future also? All important questions initially.

It is also a good idea to find out what your customers/clients want that they are not getting elsewhere. What can you create that will fill the need? How can you solve their problems? What is their greatest criticism of where the marketplace is letting them down or not meeting the demand?

Has your business come from a hobby or personal interest that has heart and mind in it? Or, is it what you have been trained to do and can’t think of anything else that would suit you? Do you love what you are doing now and is it what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Is your business home-based or needing to have it’s own premises as it grows? What are you looking to create size-wise in the future? Are you considering an international, national or city business?

Is your business a service or product orientated business? This will make a difference into outlay too. A service business can be run as a home-based business without costly inventor, theft problems, product spoilage or premises.

The opportunities the internet gives us today to search, profile and gather information that will support one to create a good business is outstanding. There is so much support and knowledge that has no cost to it to work out how and what you want your business to look like. So do your research and be discerning with what you find out and learn. Find people who you can trust to discuss your ideas with who will help support you and your business to move forward.

We often have great ideas with a sound theory when in reality it just won’t or can’t work. It may be lacking skills or certain personality types, so make sure you reduce all the risk possible before you get too deep into your business creation. Make sure that you do your market research and that there are people out there wanting what you are creating! To own and run a business that will be successful takes an enormous effort. You must be willing to work the long hours, invest everything you have financially as well as physically in the dream to bring it to fruition. You need to commit and listen only to the people who you know are able to give good sound advice. Family and friends are often not the right people to do this as they will say what they can to protect you. Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Many people I come across are really the technician and are without the personality or management skills necessary to be successful long-term.

I have found that by self-understanding both personality and thinking wise you will make many less mistakes and be more successful. I then come to the question of what is SUCCESS to you as the business owner? This can vary dependent on what you want from your life, your experience, your contacts and how much you want to earn from your hard work.

Understanding your WHY for being in business in the first place is what will be the maker or breaker of your business in the long-run.

Enjoy the process and ASK for help and support whenever you can.

5 Additional Computer and Laptop Gadgets For Your Travel

With the invention and advancement in technology, there are lots of requirements that have become the basic mandate in our present lives. To be more precise, unlike earlier days, we have a blended life of work and vacation together now. We carry our laptops even during vacation and club both work and vacation. This practice has become unavoidable in the present market conditions. When we carry laptops to every other place, it is important to carry few basic gadgets along with it in order to ensure smooth running of the laptop and also to use the laptop to its best.

Laptop Security Cable: During travel, it becomes mandatory to safeguard your laptop. Security cable is one of the most important among all computer gadgets in order to ensure safety to your laptop. These computer gadgets or security cables come with password operations that are very easy to use. The average cost of the security cable is around 6 dollars and is very effective for its price. The length of these computer gadgets are good and comes with a good finish. You just need to enter the password to lock and unlock the cable. The security cable is made out of alloy and weights about 168 grams only. Mini Laptop Optical Mouse: Optical mouse, one other important computer gadgets that comes handy for convenient usage. The size of these computer gadgets are very small and hence easy portable. This mini optical mouse is capable of capturing every motion with amazing digital accuracy. You need not connect these computer gadgets with that of a cord and hence unrestricted motion space for the optical mouse. If you have children who love playing games or surf net, these are the ideal laptop gadgets that you must have.

USB 3D Sound Adapter: These computer gadgets are capable of transferring analog signals to digital sound signals and there is no manual installation required for the set up. The sound quality is very good and you can enjoy listening to music anywhere you go. The size of these computer gadgets are just 12mm thick and fits easily in the USB port of the laptop. These are simple and cost effective computer gadgets.

Mini Wireless Keyboard: These wireless keyboards work fine with batteries. These laptop gadgets are very sturdy and can be used the normal way any keyboard is used at home. Due to the mini size, it is very convenient and very soft. Ideal for traveling purposes where your kids can have uninterrupted usage of the laptop. The weight of these laptop gadgets are just 5.5 oz. Flexible Keyboard Light: These laptop gadgets are a mandate when you travel as you can access the keyboard even in a dark room. The light is bright and it is very useful with a good range. The cost of these laptop gadgets are around 5 dollars. Even when you have to be awake in the night due to work requirement, you can use the keyboard light without disturbing anyone around you.