Thursday, March 29, 2012

Getting away to Koh Phangan

Something that I have noticed over the past ten years is how much tourism has increased in Southeast Asia, and how it's referred to as the new Caribbean. The area has always been beautiful and natural, but there were no hotels, places to stay or activities for tourists. That has since changed as the region continues to develop new hotels, villas and transportation methods.

One Island that I looked closely at was the Koh Phangan island, which has done tremendous development to accommodate tourism, while still maintaining beautiful beaches and a natural pristine environment. If you are searching for Ko Phangan houses and rental villas, there are many available and on the market. Because the area is so young to tourism, the prices ares still quite low.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Top 10 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Buying a house can be intimidating. But it doesn't have to be! We’ve compiled the Top 10 Tips for first time home buyers. They are presented in chronological order. If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll certainly get back to you.

1. Should I Even Buy?

There is nothing wrong with renting and in many cases it’s the smart move. A critical factor to consider is how long you expect to live in the house. Some experts believe that you’ll need to stay for at least 36 months. Of course, that will depend on the price you pay for the home, it’s current value and rate of appreciation.
It is good to note that in today’s “easy” credit environment, lenders are increasingly willing to loan large sums of money to purchase a house with a very small down payment. So, just because you don’t have a lot of money available for a down payment, it doesn’t mean you can’t buy a house.
While creditors are still out looking for new customers, the days of loaning money to anyone with a heartbeat are past. Getting Pre-Approved is a key step to buying a home and shouldn’t be ignored.

2. Get Professional Help

No, we’re not talking about a therapist, but instead, real estate professionals. After the decision to purchase a house is made, the next thing you should do is find a quality agent—someone who understands the process and the market; someone who’ll work well with you to find that perfect house.
Then ask your Realtor® to identify a reputable lending company. Having these professionals on your team will ensure that your first-time home buying experience goes smoothly and that you make the best decisions possible.

3. Locate the Location

You can save yourself a great deal of time and energy by narrowing the field of properties you are considering. Start by identifying the part of town in which you’d like to live. Take time to consider its proximity to your job, shopping, major highways and schools, if you have children.
Also note whether an area is growing or not. Would you prefer to live in the hustle and bustle of a expanding area or would you rather find a more secluded, quiet location away from crowded roadways and busy shops. Your Realtor can help you with this. The last thing you want to do is purchase a home that doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Remember what they always say, “Location, location, location.” Yes, it’s that important.

4. Create Your Master List

One of the toughest tasks with any purchase decision is determining whether something is a want or a need. If you identify these features from the outset, before you’ve looked at a single property, then your list will have been made objectively and you won’t be susceptible to last minute temptations.
For example, if you didn’t list a in-ground hot tub as a need (or even a want) on your Master List, then when you visit a property that has one, you’ll be able to correctly assess the overall home and not let a single feature skew your perception.

5. Get Pre-Approved

Before you visit a single property, you should take time to sit down with your lender and determine what you feel comfortable borrowing to purchase this home. (Getting quotes from multiple lenders is even better!) Pre-qualification is a quick process that doesn’t go far enough. Pre-approval is much more thorough and basically says, Lender A with loan you “X” dollars for a house in a specific price range. It’s not the final say so but it is what most real estate professionals consider as legitimate. It doesn’t take much time and will help you zero in on the price range that is custom-fitted to your financial situation.

6. Visit Some Properties

Nothing will give you a feel for a home like visiting it in person. Have your Realtor® set up a few showings and enjoy the process. Hopefully you’re not under a time constraint and the viewings will be a fun experience. Only by visiting a few properties will you start to get a good feel for the kind of properties that exist on the market in your price range and in your desired geographic location. Don’t expect to find your dream home the first trip out. Today’s statistics show that home buyers visit an average of 10 properties before making an offer.

7. Educate Yourself

Your Realtor® will always be your most valuable resource, but you can also take advantage of the Internet in the following ways: learn more about a specific property/area; take virtual tours of houses before physically visiting them; compare characteristics of multiple properties in order to make a more informed decision.
The Internet has revolutionized the real estate industry and has given home buyers and sellers access to information that was previously unavailable. 

8. Negotiate The Deal

When it comes to negotiations, having an experienced Realtor® is vital. Understanding how the negotiation process works and the intricacies of how to best frame an offer can sometimes be the difference between getting that dream house at a price you can afford or completely missing out.
One other point, always make your offer contingent on a home inspection. Your agent can recommend a good home inspector and the costs are relatively low. You certainly want to know about a leaky basement before you purchase that house… not after.

9. Insure Your Valuables

Now that you’ve got a house, you want to have it insured, right? That goes for your home’s title as well. Title insurance is relatively cheap and is becoming more and more important in today’s litigious environment.

10. Close and Move In!

It’s finally here—the big day! A house closing isn’t the most exciting experience but it’s the necessary, final step in home ownership. Then you get to move in. Hopefully, it won’t be raining and the movers won’t break (or lose) a single item.
Congratulations, you are officially a homeowner!


This article was written by Tre Pryor, a Realtor® with RE/MAX Champions and a Louisville real estate expert. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the, the top real estate blog in Louisville, KY. The original content of this article appeared here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Art Of Hanging Art from a Professional

By Dana J. Smithers

Have you ever walked into someone's home and had to really control yourself not to walk over to a piece of art and rehang it. I have, and anyone in the business of decorating, redesigning or staging spends hours doing behind the scenes work that our clients will never know we have done. Since I teach courses in Redesign and Home Staging I always tell my students that even though the client's don't know what we do, I can sleep soundly at night because I know I hung the art professionally.

Art is really part of the 'icing on the cake' along with accessories (that's a whole other topic) and is one of the key steps in creating a professional look in your home. There is an abundance of different styles and price ranges of art available to all of us. The important thing in choosing your art is to ensure that is coordinates with the style of your home. Mixing different styles of art such as some traditional pieces with modern art can create a really personal style for you.

So what is so difficult about hanging art? Well as a professional decorator, home stager and redesigner I have worked in 100s of clients homes and have hung 1000s of pieces of art. These are some of the most common mistakes people make: 1) the art is too high - you know the kind you strain your neck to look at; 2) there are individual pieces of art all over the house that actually belong together as a cohesive grouping; 3) the art does not have the proper hanging screws and/or wire on the back and finally 4) the art is not hung with the proper hooks.

If you follow these easy steps you can have hang your art like the professionals!

I. For Art Over an Object such as a Table, Sofa, Fireplace, etc.

A. Before you hang the Art:
  1. Decide which art you are going to group together. This decision is based on finding a common element that allows the art to work together i.e. theme, colour, style, etc. Add surprise pieces like masks, fans, hats, etc.
  2. Lay them on the floor with the heavier piece(s) on the bottom and line up the bottoms or centre them with each other. For smaller pictures space them approximately 1" apart and for larger pieces 2" apart.
  3. Make the basic outline shape of a rectangle or a square.
  4. The length of the grouping should be approximately 2/3 of the object you are placing the art over e.g. if the art grouping is going over a table of 60" long, then the ideal grouping would be 40' in length.

B. Hanging the Art:

  1. To determine the number of picture hangers you need and where to put them follow this rule.
    1. For pictures under 30" you will only need one proper weight hook which you will place at the centre e.g. if your one piece is 36" then you mark centre at 18" with the tack.
    2. If a picture is 30" and over AND has glass use 2 hooks. To determine where to place the hooks for this size art measure and mark the centre with sticky tack. Then measure from the centre tack to the end and find centre. Place another piece of tack here. Do this on both sides so now you will have a piece of tack in the centre, and 2 more halfway between centre and the end of the picture.
  2. To determine the height follow this 'Art Height Guideline' and remember it is only a guideline there are other factors that determine how to hang art. For now, we will keep it simple for you. Place the art 4 - 10" over an object such as a sofa, table, fireplace, etc. 
  3. Mark the centre or (quarters if over 30") with a pencil. Make a short (1/2") horizontal pencil line across and then a short (1/2") vertical line down so that you have made an upside down 'T'. If over 30" then you need to make 2 marks as this is where you will hang both hooks.
  4. If the picture has a wire then find centre and measure the distance from the wire to the top of the picture. If it is 7" then you will make another pencil mark exactly 7" from your original upside down 'T' mark. It is best to use a level or laser level to make sure it is lined up.
  5. To hammer in your hook place the bottom of the hook where the 'T' line intersects (Many people put the nail here and if you are using a hook it must be the bottom of the hook). Hammer in on a diagonal. Give it a tug to make sure it is in solidly. 
  6. If the picture can only be hung from the sides then follow the same steps as above except measure from the side hook to the top of the picture.
  7. If the picture has a 'saw tooth' hook (jagged ¼' piece of metal ½ - 1" long) then follow the same steps as above. Hang it with a 1" nail and put sticky tack on the two bottom corners to keep it in place as these always move! 
  8. To determine the type of hook to use for most pictures with wire you can find picture hangers at hardware and art stores. They will tell you the weight the hanger will hold. For small pictures often 1" nails will work just fine. If you have not tried the new 'dry wall hangers' with the curved ends check them out at Home Depot. They hold up to 150 pounds and are easy to use in drywall and some wood paneling.
  9. Best tools to use are levels, lasers, hanging level wall tool for smaller pictures. All of these products can be purchased at big box hardware stores.

II. For Floating Art such as Photo Galleries, large stand alone prints, etc.

A. Before you hang the Art:
  1. Follow all of the same steps above except for determining the height.
  2. To determine the height follow this 'Art Height Guideline' and remember it is only a guideline there are other factors that determine how to hang art. For now, we will keep it simple for you. Once you have determined your placement find the centre of the side of the art and put a piece of sticky tack here e.g. if the art is 52" in length the tack goes on the side at 26". On the wall put a piece of sticky tack 56" - 60" from the floor. (The larger the piece of floating art the closer to 56" you want it to be.) Line up both pieces of sticky tack i.e. the piece of art has one on its side and the wall has a piece of sticky tack.
  3. Once they are lined up then make your pencil mark at the top and follow the same steps in B. Hanging the Art.

TIP: To remove your pencil marks use Mr. Clean Magic Erase. Be careful with freshly painted walls though rub sparingly.

About the Author
Dana J. Smithers is an expert in the fields of Home Staging and Home Redesign. Dana has taught 1000s of people her ‘Secret Success Home Makeover Formula' for living and selling. She teaches a comprehensive 5 Day PRES® (Professional Real Estate Stagers) Home Staging & Redesign course in Western Canada. She is the Founder & Creative Director of both Sun On My Back Redesigns and PRES Staging Resource Centre.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Traveling the Swiss Alps

Deutsch: Uinaschlucht, Schweizer Alpen English...Image via WikipediaWhether you are an avid skiier looking for the a new thrill or a summertime hiker looking for natural beauty, the Swiss Alps are on of the top destinations to visit. Here are a few top destinations within the Swiss Alps region so you can start planning your next visit.

Hang Gliding
There are very few locations that are suitable for hang gliding and the Swiss Alps are one of them. It doesn't matter if you are a pro or have no experience. It's an activity suitable for anyone, assuming you don't have an intense fear of heights!

Visit Dufourspitze 
The highest peak in the Swiss Alps is also one of the iconic images of the country. Visible from many locations and countries, this is certainly a sight worth seeing.

Guided Tours
Sometimes its best to let someone else do all the work for you. There are many guided tours available that make stops at all the big attractions around Switzerland, and there are many that are specific for skiing or hiking.

If you're actually starting to plan a trips for the Alps, you don't want to spend all your time in the hotel room. That's why I would recommend staying in hostels. If you're looking for a quality hostel in the heart of the Swiss Alps, I know a place called the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof.  There are many cities to visit, including Berne, Lausanne, Lugano and Interlaken. I know of an Interlaken Hostel, but you will have to do your own research for hostels in other cities.

Box Springs Mountain

English: View of 'M' on Box Springs Mountain f...Image via WikipediaBox Springs Mountain is the highest peak in the Box Springs Mountains range, and is one of the defining and scenic images of the area. The mountain is known for its great hiking trails and animal inhabitants of lizards, snakes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, bears, deer and burros. The mountain has some other defining features.

The mountain got its name when travelers would stop to water their horses in a natural spring, which was surrounded by a box to maintain its water. Today the mountain is known for a letter C, known as the "Big C", that is embedded in the side of the mountain and is visible from quite a distance. This was built in the 1950s by UC Riverside students.

However, that is not the only letter on the mountain. The letter M was embedded on the side of the mountain facing the Moreno Valley. In 2009, the letter M was lit up as a celebration of the 25th anniversary.

If you are looking to live in the area to take advantage of this great mountain, look at some Moreno Valley real estate that's currently on the market.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Orlando Florida Real Estate

Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt D...Image via WikipediaNow that it is spring break season, one of the things that is on my mind is Florida and all the great times I had there as a kid. One of my favorite places to visit was the Orlando area, and not just because of Disney World (Although that was a top reason). Although the Florida real estate market has seen some tough times over the years, the area is booming and there are a good selection of Orlando homes for sale to meet the increased demands. Here are a few reasons why:

Despite rising gas prices, students from all over the world flock to Florida and Orlando during the spring break season giving the state an annual economic boost, and this year is no different. Among other factors, that is thanks to airlines lowering their airline costs this season and making it easier for price sensitive students to travel the distance.

After a rough economic stretch, housing prices stabilized at the beginning of last year, and have since gradually increased at a healthy rate. That was in part to the significant drop in local foreclosures. The Orlando real estate market remains as one of's top 10 real estate markets to watch.

If you are looking to move to Orlando, there are many great suburbs around the city of Orlando, many of which are nearby the main attraction of the city, Walt Disney World. If you don't want to get caught up in the Disney World magic, and the resulting tourists, there are Lake Mary homes for sale which are located on the other side of town but not too far from the city. Also located quite nearby are some great Heathrow homes for sale.

Tucson Arizona - The Real Southwest

Mission San Xavier del Bac Mission San Xavier del Bac
Located in Southern Arizona, Tucson is one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in North America.  Hohokam Indians lived and, surprisingly, farmed the area for over 4,000 years before Spanish missionaries and soldiers arrived in the late 1600s.

The “newcomers” arrived from Spain in the 1700s and founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac and Presido San Agustin del Tucson.  These two structures have become the most historically significant in the area.  The Tucson Presidio was surrounded by an adobe wall and became know as “The Old Pueblo” and still is the nickname for the City of Tucson today.

Although once part of Mexico, Tucson became part of the United States in 1854.  Today, Tucson, the second largest city in Arizona is a vibrant city that has become not only a resort destination, but the home for almost a million people.  Tucson is the County seat of Pima County which includes The towns of Marana, Oro Valley, Green Valley, Sahuarita and Vail.  Tucson is also home of the University of Arizona, founded in 1885, it is the first university in Arizona.

Tucson is surrounded by five mountain ranges and provides elevation changes from the valley floor of 2,400 feet to Mount Lemon at 9,157 feet. Tucson has the largest concentrations of the giant saguaro cactus in the world.  The Saguaro National Park along with The Coronado National Forest, Catalina State Park offer visitors and residents once in a lifetime things to see.

Phoenix, the largest city in Arizona is roughly a two hour drive away from Tucson and has all the great amenities of a large city. One of the nicer neighborhoods of the city is Gilbert, and there are many Gilbert homes currently on the market.

Recreational activities include golf, tennis, horse riding, hiking and, believe it or not, fishing.  There are many hotels and resorts, including the Ritz Carlton that host the WCG match play event in February of each year.  Tucson's weather is perfect for those winter get a ways or retirement living.

For those interested finding a home in Tucson, Premier Tucson Homes provides real estate services and are experts  in the Tucson, Vail and Green Valley markets.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A House Is A Tool To Live The Life You Want

You don't buy a vacuum cleaner because you want a vacuum cleaner. You buy a vacuum cleaner because you want clean carpets. The difference is subtle but important.

It's the same with money. You don't want a million dollars because you want a million dollars. You want a million dollars, because with a million dollar you could... [insert whatever it is you would do or feel with a million dollars].

It's the same with houses. A house is simply a tool to live the life you want.

Sometimes what you really want isn't in the price range you are looking for, or in the town you are looking in, or it's bigger or smaller than the houses you are looking at. Or it's a condo when you've been looking at single family homes, or the other way round.

The house you buy will influence your life for years to come. It's worth asking yourself "what sort of lifestyle do I want?" before blindly seeing houses just hoping something jumps out at you.

Do you want to be the location for the family Thanksgiving Dinner? Look for a house with a decent sized kitchen and dining room. Never want the kids to try and move back in with you ever again? One bedroom townhouse for the win. Desperate to get in shape, but no local gym and winters are brutal where you live? The finished basement with room for the exercise equipment is an option.

I'll say it again...

A house is simply a tool to live the life you want.

This post was written by Athol Kay, and was originally featured here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Languedoc Southern France

Vinyard nr Perpignan, Languedoc region, France...Image via WikipediaI have a friend that recently returned from a tour of Europe, and one of her favorite places she visited was the Langedoc region of Southern France. I had heard of the region before, and if I ever have the opportunity to travel Europe it is a top place on my list to see.

The area is best known for two things, wine and coast. The region's topography is incredibly unique and the area produces a third of France's wine. The coastline along the Mediterranean Sea is gorgeous and in many areas is completely undeveloped.

The area has high international demand, and is considered one of the most luxurious locations to live in all of the world. If you are adventurous and are looking for an estate agent in the Languedoc Southern France region, then you certainly will want to locate the right agent who can speak your language. Luckily, Google is quite good at translating languages on websites so you can at least find where the contact information is on the website.