Car Theft Solved by Private Investigators

From time to time, a private investigator might be asked to track down a missing car. A car can be stolen from a public place, private residence, or a car rental agency.

Types of Car Thefts:

During economically challenged times, car thefts increase. Some people try to steal cars from rental agencies by using fake IDs to rent cars, and then simply never return them. Some steal cars for their own use, whether for regular daily use or for transporting contraband and later abandonment. Some turn the stolen vehicles over to chop shops, where the cars will be used for parts. Some just want a car to take on a race or joyride, and will abandon the car after using it for a period of time.

Some will sell a stolen car to an unsuspecting person, who has no idea that he or she just purchased a stolen vehicle. Sometimes, the owner sold the car in good faith to a person who passed a bad cheque. In other cases, a couple may have surrendered their second car to a re-leasing company to cut down on expenses; however, the car may have been leased to a “customer” who disappeared. Thefts may be for convenience – the thief may have some stolen goods to transport.

No matter what the reason for the theft, it’s up to the private investigator to use his or her ingenuity to figure out what happened and track down the car. It’s always a good idea to file a police report first, but because the police might not be able to take the time to track down your vehicle, a good Private Investigator can come in handy.

How We Track Down the Car:

A private investigator will use tools such as phone calls, casual conversations, and interviews. A good Investigator knows how to word questions and statements to get the most cooperation. Most people are shocked if someone they know has stolen a vehicle, and they will want to cooperate. The trick is in putting all the pieces of the puzzle together and tracking down hard information that is admissible in a court case.

Investigators can use license plate scanners, GPS tracking that comes with certain cars, handheld devices, cameras mounted on cars, or interviews with anyone whose job requires driving around, such as delivery workers. PI Agencies in some countries might have memberships in professional organizations where information gathered from license plate scanners is stored in a database. Surveillance on public streets is generally legal and does not overstep privacy issues. One popular technique is keep a watchlist of all vehicles reported stolen by owners, and using the scanners to detect license plates of parked vehicles. Since thieves often switch license plates, it can take time.

The human element in the form of social media and community alerts can work wonders, too. Many people have assisted in recovering their own cars by posting pictures of their stolen cars on social media and asking people to share. It’s never a good idea for a friend to confront a car thief, but it can be really useful if they snap pictures or report sightings of the stolen vehicle without getting noticed by the perpetrator.

Clumsy planning on the part of the thief helps, too. Sometimes a thief will falsify an ID card to rent a car that they never return, but use a real address of someone they know. As we interview the person whose address was used, the person might recognize the description of the thief and give us clues as to where to find him or her. We can then conduct a surveillance and get videos of the perpetrator using the stolen car, which will be admissible in court. Once we have enough evidence to stand up in court, we can wait for the perpetrator to turn in for the night and immobilize the car with car boots before there is any attempt to make contact.

Over the years, Private Investigators form relationships with informants. Knowing how to befriend people who can supply information is golden. Cooperation from all sources is the most important key to solving crimes, and a good Private Investigator knows how to form those relationships.

Other sources of information, although not glamorous, are salvage yards, auto manufacturers, trash bins on public streets, and hidden cameras in public areas. We can also keep lists of vehicles with out-of-area registration tags on them, check on the vehicle registration for those tags, and track down the lienholder (lender) for the vehicle. That is public information and we can call the lender to see if the vehicle is stolen.

Another easy way to verify if a car is the one we’re looking for is to check the VIN number, which is often in plain sight on the driver’s side.

Repossession of the Car:

Once the car is located, it can be repossessed rather easily and the Private Investigator and client will agree upon the method in advance. Upon finding the car, it can be booted or disabled before the PI does one of three things depending on what the client wants: knocks on the suspect’s door and asks for the keys, notify the police, or notify the client. It is never a good idea for the client to contact the perpetrator, but the client could contact the police.

If the client is a business such as a rental car agency, the client may instruct the private investigator to repossess the vehicle. A team of two pis will drive to the location, boot the car, and explain to the perpetrator who they are and why they are there. They will cite to the violator the specific vehicle codes that were violated and the jail time or fines attached with such crimes. They will be firm but also very professional. Most perpetrators will hand over the keys without too much fuss once confronted. If not, a tow truck can be called to remove the vehicle. This should not be done without hard evidence and knowing the laws in your area.

How to Prevent Theft:

Most vehicles sold nowadays have key codes or tracking systems such as LoJack or Onstar. Some have microdots that tag individual parts of the car, so they can be identified if the car goes to a chop shop. However, even very sophisticated systems can be bypassed by professional thieves.

The best car theft prevention devices, such as ignition interlock and pedal locks, disable the vehicle so that it can’t be moved without the right key. If your car does not come with these devices, you can buy a self-setting immobilizer. Always lock your vehicle and park in the safest spots you can.

Unfortunately, car thefts are very common. Using reasonable security precautions and keeping a photograph and copies of vehicle registration information can help you in case of a theft. A good Private Investigator will work for your better interests in recovering the car.



Source by Meini Listanti

The Difference Between Industrial, Retail and Commercial Real Estate

Before we answer this question, it might be helpful to actually define each term first.

Retail and industrial are both considered ‘commercial real estate’ (as opposed to ‘residential real estate’). Commercial real estate refers to buildings or land intended to generate profit; industrial and retail are simply sub-categories of commercial real estate.

Firstly an industrial property is defined as a property used for the actual manufacturing of something, and can be considered either a factory or plant. This is usually zoned for light, medium or heavy industry. This includes things such as warehouses, garages and distribution centers etc.

Retail property is a commercially zoned property used solely for business purposes, the actual selling of the product, rather than its manufacture – retail stores, malls, shopping centers and shops all huddling nicely under the retail umbrella.

Generally, businesses that occupy commercial real estate often lease the space. An investor usually owns the building and collects rent from each business that operates there.

There are four primary types of commercial real estate leases, each requiring different levels of responsibility from the landlord and the tenant.

Single net lease – tenant is responsible for paying rent and property taxes.

Double net lease – tenant is responsible for paying rent, property taxes and insurance.

Triple net lease – tenant is responsible for paying rent, property taxes, insurance and maintenance.

Gross lease – tenant is responsible only for rent; the Landlord pays property taxes, insurance and maintenance.

If you find yourself considering Commercial property ownership, there are a few things that you would do well to keep in mind:

1) Attractive appearance – the last thing you need is a vacant commercial property in Sydney for any length of time. Think how prospective tenants think: what will their customers want to see?

2) Aesthetic entrance – first impressions count, simple, simple stuff. This is a great tool for putting your prospective clients in a great frame of mind… and their clients.

3) Natural Light – in especially high demand nowadays

4) Location – close to other offices, public amenities, transportation etc.

Since 1980, retail property has returned an average of 9%, though is currently returning around 6%. Industrial real estate tends to be the most volatile, and is currently returning around 7% (as opposed to its peak of around 12% during the 1990’s recession).

And obviously, no matter which form of commercial property you’re considering, read the lease carefully. Sounds like a silly thing to say, but you’d be very surprised at the issues that can become issues simply because things weren’t read properly!



Source by Hannah Armstrong

A Secret Credit Score Your Car Dealer Won’t Tell You About

You’re ready to buy a new car.

You’ve done all your homework.

You know your three FICO credit scores.

You determine that your highest FICO credit score is from Equifax (also known as your BEACON score).

So, you find a car dealer who uses your highest score (which increases your opportunity to get approved at a good rate).

You get to the dealership and ignore all the salespeople by going directly to the finance director’s office.

But as the finance director reviews your credit file in front of you…you can’t help but think something is wrong.

Sure enough…the dealer says your Equifax/BEACON score isn’t high enough for their lowest interest rate.

How can this be? You just checked your FICO credit scores through http://www.myfico.com/12 a few hours ago. It’s possible–although unlikely–the information on your credit report has changed and that your scores have decreased since you last checked them. Remember, your credit scores are dynamic and will change whenever information on your credit reports changes.

Your credit reports can change several times each month as new information is added or updated by your lenders. But more than likely, your scores wouldn’t change in this situation (especially if there were only a few hours between when you checked your scores and when the dealership reviewed your credit reports).

So, if your credit reports didn’t change, why is the finance director staring at your scores with such a discouraging face?

Car Dealers Can Use “Different” FICO Scores Than The Ones You See

The car dealer is probably using what is known as the FICO Auto Industry Option score instead of a traditional FICO credit score. You see, car dealers not only get to select the credit reporting agency they receive FICO credit scores from…they also get to decide if they will use a traditional FICO credit score or a variation of a FICO score called an Auto Industry Option score.

What’s the difference between these two types of scores?

Not a whole lot to most people…but there’s enough variation to make the majority of auto lenders use the Auto Industry Option score. The real difference between the two scores is that the Auto Industry Option score pays a lot more attention to how you handled previous auto credit.

– Have you made late payments on a current or previous auto loan or lease?
– Have you ever settled an auto loan or lease for less than you owed?
– Have you had a car repossessed?
– Have you had an auto account sent to collections?
– Did you include your car loan or lease in your bankruptcy?

Those actions will affect your Auto Industry Option score more than they’ll affect your traditional FICO score. Bottom line, if you handled your previous auto credit perfectly, you should have a high FICO Auto Industry Option score–that’s a good thing.

But what if you’ve had a few bumps in the auto credit road in the past? You guessed it…your Auto Industry Option score will be lower. You’ll be perceived as a greater credit risk and the auto lender may either deny you or use your lower score to justify charging you a higher interest rate.

You see, auto lenders are different than other types of lenders. And I’m not talking about their slimy ways, leisure suits, short ties, manly hairy chests, or gold bling.

A lot of other lenders look at your whole credit picture to determine whether or not to give you a loan. But many auto lenders care about only one thing…how you handled your past AUTO credit. That’s what a FICO Auto Industry Option Score gives car dealers–a way to pinpoint how you’ve handled what matters to them the most.

So, even if everything else on your credit reports went down the toilet after your bankruptcy, if you didn’t include your auto loan in your bankruptcy and never defaulted or missed a car payment, your Auto Industry scores will probably be better than your traditional FICO scores!

What a Former Auto Finance Director Revealed to Me

I recently spoke with a former finance director, and this is what she told me…

“So many people I have helped couldn’t believe their scores were so high with the FICO Auto Industry Option score. They had included all their credit card debt and their mortgage in their bankruptcy, but they reaffirmed their auto loan. What’s good about the auto score is that it truly helps the auto lender concentrate on what is important–how the customer handles his/her auto loans.

By our dealership having the auto enhanced FICO, it helped 30% or more of our customers get better rates.”

I don’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think I may actually have found something good to say about car dealers! Well, some of them, anyway…

As you can see, the FICO auto scores can work in your favor, if they are used correctly.

OK, I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I only said good things about car dealers.

So, in the interest of fair and balanced reporting, here’s how to protect yourself against slimy car dealers that can use your FICO Auto Industry Option
scores against you…

A Dirty Trick Car Dealers Can Play with Your FICO Scores

Let’s imagine your Equifax/Beacon FICO score is 585. Not too good. With a score that low, if you do get approved for a car loan, you’ll probably wind up with a high interest rate and high monthly payment.

So you go to a dealership and talk with the finance director and tell him your Equifax FICO score is 585. The finance director then reviews your FICO Auto Industry Option score. And, unknown to you, this score is actually higher than the Equifax/Beacon FICO score you pulled.

With this higher score, you’ll get approved at a better rate…right?

Not necessarily!

Here’s what unscrupulous car dealers can do. They won’t tell you that your auto score is higher than your traditional score!

They figure they have a sucker sitting in front of them. So they’ll try to get you financed at a higher rate based on the lower FICO score (thus making more profit for themselves).

How Some Car Dealers “Play the Spread” to Get You to Pay More

Now check this out…

It’s possible that a car dealer has the ability to pull your traditional FICO scores AND your FICO auto scores. That means they’ll have six scores on you. It’s a guarantee that some of those scores are going to be higher than the others. So which ones will they use when trying to get you financed?

It depends.

Are you familiar with the term “spread”? It’s how car dealers make money when they finance you. If they can quote you a higher interest rate than you deserve–then they stand to make a nice chunk of change from the bank that finances you.

The only way to make a killer “spread” is to make you think that you have lower scores.

So, what can you do?

Don’t despair…I can help you.

How to Use Your FICO Scores to Your Advantage when Buying a Car

Fortunately, you don’t have to fall for their dirty tricks. Now that you know all about FICO Auto Industry Option scores, you can protect yourself. Here’s what I suggest…

1. When you first walk into the finance director’s office, don’t tell him what your FICO scores are. Wait until he reviews the scores himself. Then ask him what your scores are.

2. If the scores he reviewed are higher than the ones you have, don’t say anything and just go by his scores.

3. However, if your scores are higher, then pull them out and show him. If he has a choice in the type of scores he can use, there’s a possibility that he’ll be able to use your highest score. And, it will let him know that he doesn’t have a fool sitting in front of him. He can’t take advantage of you!

How do you find out what your FICO Auto Industry Option scores are before you walk into a car dealership?

You can’t.

Sorry. They’re not for sale–at any price. Only lenders have access to them.

FICO would like to sell them…but there just isn’t enough demand. I mean seriously, up until you read this article, had you ever heard of the FICO Auto Industry Option score?

Exactly.

Remember, we were just given access to purchase all three of our traditional FICO credit scores on June 11, 2003 at 8:00 a.m. (I actually got misty that day…what a geek I am.)

Only a very small percentage of the population even knows they have three FICO credit scores…let alone three Auto Industry Option scores.

So How Can You Use This Information to Help You Get Your Next New Car Financed at the Best Interest Rate

1. First, get your three credit reports. If you handled your previous auto credit well–your FICO Auto Industry Option scores will be higher than your traditional FICO scores. So expect more from the lender.

2. You can also ask the lender to show you their tier levels. Tiers are basically charts lenders use that have different interest rates based on your scores. You want to see which tier your fall in. To see an example of an auto lender’s tier schedule, click here.

3. If they won’t show you…at least have them break it down verbally for you. (Personally, I like to see it with my own eyes, as I never believe a word that comes out of most car dealers’ mouths.)

4. If you’ve handled your auto credit poorly…then you should simply try to find an auto lender that uses just the traditional FICO credit scores. When you find a lender that uses a traditional FICO credit score, you’ll have your best chance to get the lowest interest rate.

5. Start by calling dealerships and asking the finance director if they use a traditional FICO credit score to make their lending decision or if they use the FICO Auto Industry Option score.

These steps will get you headed in the right direction. This won’t be easy, as a lot of car dealers use the FICO Auto Industry Option score.



Source by Stephen Snyder

7 Reasons NOT to Move to Denver, Colorado

That’s right! In case you don’t read or watch the news, Colorado was officially one of the nation’s most popular cities in America last year. More than 100,000 people moved to Colorado making us the number 2 state in the country for inbound migration. (Gee what was number one?)

Denver benefitted (or suffered depending on your viewpoint) better than anyone else in the 24-36-year-old category. More young people moving to Denver than any other city in the United States. We wonder why?

Reason #1 Marijuana Tourists.

The only thing worse than tourists is a HIGH tourist. Now they walk around aimlessly searching for something sweet to eat and cold to drink. And you thought micro breweries were popular? Check out South Broadway anytime.

Reason #2 Working Out.

Denver is constantly ranked as one of the “fittest” cities in the country. If you move here you will have to workout AND do Yoga at Red Rocks on Sundays. No kidding.

Reason #3 There’s No More Gold.

All the gold has been had! That’s right, all the Weather Channel Prospecting reality TV shows are fake. No one is discovering half million dollar pockets of anything but empty. I mean come on, what did you really think.

Reason #4 Baking Fails.

The high altitude makes baking grandma’s scratch apple pie virtually impossible. After many failed attempts most bakers give up.

Reason #5 Rocky Mountain Oysters.

There are few places so synonymous with eating of testicles as Denver. Fried calves balls are served up at many local eateries, and even at Coors Field.

Want things to do? Simply pick up the Denver Post, Westword Magazine, 5280 Magazine or any other media source and you will literally find dozens of things to see and do on any given day. Don’t believe us? Oder your snail mail magazine and find out.

Reason #6 You’ll have to buy a bike.

Denver has more than 850 miles of paved and off-road trails to bike on. That means you can travel really far from your house before your calves cramp up and have to call someone for a ride.

Beautiful vistas – From City Park to the Front Range of Colorado. Want to live here?

Reason #7 Denver’s 300 days of sunshine is a lie.

Denver enjoys clear skies for the most part, and far more than other hip cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. However, it does not have the 300 days of sunshine like most people brag about. According to Denver Westword, the city actually enjoys around 115 clear days, 130 partly cloudy days, and 120 cloudy days. That’s still a lot vitamin D to be had, but it makes you wonder what else Denver lies about?



Source by Steve D DeGuzman

The Duty Of Confidentiality In Real Estate

In any Listing Agreement there is a point in time when the agency relationship ends.

A Listing Agreement, as it is widely known, is none other than a contract between the rightful titleholder of an interest in land (the ‘Principal’) and a duly licensed real estate firm (the ‘Agent’), whereby the firm stipulates and agrees to find a Buyer within a specified timeframe who is ready, willing and able to purchase the interest in land that is the subject matter of the contract while acting within the realm of the authority that the Principal confers onto the Agent, and wherein furthermore the titleholder stipulates and agrees to pay a commission should the licensee ever be successful in finding such Buyer.

As in all contracts, there is implied in a Listing Agreement an element which is commonly know at law as an ‘implied covenant of good faith and fair dealings’. This covenant is a general assumption of the law that the parties to the contract – in this case the titleholder and the licensed real estate firm – will deal fairly with each other and that they will not cause each other to suffer damages by either breaking their words or otherwise breach their respective and mutual contractual obligations, express and implied. A breach of this implied covenant gives rise to liability both in contract law and, depending on the circumstances, in tort as well.

Due to the particular nature of a Listing Agreement, the Courts have long since ruled that during the term of the agency relationship there is implied in the contract a second element that arises out of the many duties and responsibilities of the Agent towards the Principal: a duty of confidentiality, which obligates an Agent acting exclusively for a Seller or for a Buyer, or a Dual Agent acting for both parties under the provisions of a Limited Dual Agency Agreement, to keep confidential certain information provided by the Principal. Like for the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealings, a breach of this duty of confidentiality gives rise to liability both in contract law and, depending on the circumstances, in tort as well.

Pursuant to a recent decision of the Real Estate Council of British Columbia (http://www.recbc.ca/) , the regulatory body empowered with the mandate to protect the interest of the public in matters involving Real Estate, a question now arises as to whether or not the duty of confidentiality extends beyond the expiration or otherwise termination of the Listing Agreement.

In a recent case the Real Estate Council reprimanded two licensees and a real estate firm for breaching a continuing duty of confidentiality, which the Real Estate Council found was owing to the Seller of a property. In this case the subject property was listed for sale for over two years. During the term of the Listing Agreement the price of the property was reduced on two occasions. This notwithstanding, the property ultimately did not sell and the listing expired.

Following the expiration of the listing the Seller entered into three separate ‘fee agreements’ with the real estate firm. On all three occasions the Seller declined agency representation, and the firm was identified as ‘Buyer’s Agent’ in these fee agreements. A party commenced a lawsuit as against the Seller, which was related to the subject property.

The lawyer acting for the Plaintiff approached the real estate firm and requested that they provide Affidavits containing information about the listing of the property. This lawyer made it very clear that if the firm did not provide the Affidavits voluntarily, he would either subpoena the firm and the licensees as witnesses to give evidence before the Judge, or he would obtain a Court Order pursuant to the Rules Of Court compelling the firm to give such evidence. The real estate firm, believing there was no other choice in the matter, promptly complied by providing the requested Affidavits.

As a direct and proximate result, the Seller filed a complaint with the Real Estate Council maintaining that the information contained in the Affidavits was ‘confidential’ and that the firm had breached a duty of confidentiality owing to the Seller. As it turned out, the Affidavits were never used in the court proceedings.

The real estate brokerage, on the other hand, took the position that any duty of confidentiality arising from the agency relationship ended with the expiration of the Listing Agreement. The firm argued, moreover, that even if there was a duty of continuing confidentiality such duty would not preclude or otherwise limit the evidence that the real estate brokerage would be compelled to give under a subpoena or in a process under the Rules Of Court. And, finally, the realty company pointed out that there is no such thing as a realtor-client privilege, and that in the instant circumstances the Seller could not have prevented the firm from giving evidence in the lawsuit.

The Real Estate Council did not accept the line of defence and maintained that there exists a continuing duty of confidentiality, which extends after the expiration of the Listing Agreement. Council ruled that by providing the Affidavits both the brokerage and the two licensee had breached this duty.

The attorney-client privilege is a legal concept that protects communications between a client and the attorney and keeps those communications confidential. There are limitations to the attorney-client privilege, like for instance the fact that the privilege protects the confidential communication but not the underlying information. For instance, if a client has previously disclosed confidential information to a third party who is not an attorney, and then gives the same information to an attorney, the attorney-client privilege will still protect the communication to the attorney, but will not protect the information provided to the third party.

Because of this, an analogy can be drawn in the case of a realtor-client privilege during the existence of a Listing Agreement, whereby confidential information is disclosed to a third party such as a Real Estate Board for publication under the terms of a Multiple Listings Service agreement, but not before such information is disclosed to the real estate brokerage. In this instance the privilege theoretically would protect the confidential communication as well as the underlying information.

And as to whether or not the duty of confidentiality extends past the termination of a Listing Agreement is still a matter of open debate, again in the case of an attorney-client privilege there is ample legal authority to support the position that such privilege does in fact extend indefinitely, so that arguably an analogy can be inferred as well respecting the duration of the duty of confidentiality that the Agent owes the Seller, to the extent that such duty extends indefinitely.

This, in a synopsis, seems to be the position taken by the Real Estate Council of British Columbia in this matter.

Clearly, whether the duty of confidentiality that stems out of a Listing Agreement survives the termination of the contract is problematic to the Real Estate profession in terms of practical applications. If, for instance, a listing with Brokerage A expires and the Seller re-lists with Brokerage B, if there is a continuing duty of confidentiality on the part of Brokerage A, in the absence of express consent on the part of the Seller a Realtor of Brokerage A could not act as a Buyer’s Agent for the purchase of the Seller’s property, if this was re-listed by Brokerage B. All of which, therefore, would fly right in the face of all the rules of professional cooperation between real estate firms and their representatives. In fact, this process could potentially destabilize the entire foundation of the Multiple Listings Service system.

In the absence of specific guidelines, until this entire matter is clarified perhaps the best course of action for real estate firms and licensees when requested by a lawyer to provide information that is confidential, is to respond that the brokerage will seek to obtain the necessary consent from the client and, if that consent is not forthcoming, that the lawyer will have to take the necessary legal steps to compel the disclosure of such information.



Source by Luigi Frascati

Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer

Whether you are buying your first home, or investing in your fifth investment property, you may be wondering if you need a real estate lawyer. First off, keep in mind that most real estate transactions cost at least $100,000.00 if not more, meaning they can easily be the largest investment of your lifetime.

A realtor will be able to handle most parts of a real estate transaction on their own; however, they are not qualified to answer any questions or advise you on legal issues that arise. If you feel uncomfortable at any point in the process, or if you feel as if the person at the other end of the contract is avoiding your questions, it’s a good time to get a real estate attorney involved.

An attorney will be able to perform a number of different functions, all of which will give you the confidence you need to either halt the estate transaction or proceed forward. Either way, with an attorney’s advice, you can proceed knowing that you are fully informed and your entire bases are covered. If you are a buyer an attorney can help you understand the purchase contract, including how title works.

They can also check to make sure there aren’t any easements, liens or covenants registered against the property. They can prepare all legal documents, clarify the term of the mortgage and work with the bank where necessary, an attorney can arrange title insurance and they can attend the closing while closely reviewing any papers before you sign them.

As a seller, your lawyer can review the binder and review the purchase or sale agreement, they can deal with any title issues as they arise and act fast to correct them, they can attend the closing and review any papers before you sign them, and they can arrange for transfer of security deposits among other functions.

With intimate knowledge of the law, your attorney will be able to review your contracts and thoroughly examine every aspect of the transaction. Your attorney will be looking for any red flags that could potentially cost you money after the deal has closed. Truthfully, when you are dealing with such a large investment, having an attorney review the deal can save you a fortune in the long run by preventing any legal troubles before they begin. This is especially true if there are any IRS liens on the property or any other defects that you could be made financially liable for.



Source by Al Beaudreau

Kitchen Design Ideas

Kitchens have so many design options that they are literally never ending. Kitchen design ideas include features such as cabinetry, tiles, counter tops, appliances, hardware and fixtures. Each feature on its own has a multitude of design options and the possible combinations are endless. Two identical kitchens with only one different feature can look like very different kitchens when finished. Because of the vast number of design options, thoroughly research what products are available on the market and get a fairly good idea what it is you are looking for.

The main feature in any kitchen is the cabinetry. It is more often than not the first thing that people notice in a kitchen. The layout of the cabinetry is unique to each kitchen. Measure the size of your kitchen and determine the types of cabinets and where you would like them placed. If you have a solid wall with no windows, doors or appliances opt for floor to ceiling cabinets full of drawers for storage. Include a broom or cleaning closet in these cupboards. Glass fronts in corner cabinets are a popular design feature. Cabinets have a wide variety of door styles. There are recessed, flat paneled and raised cabinet doors. Each of these options comes with several design choices. Once you have picked the design of your cabinets you need to decide on the stain that suits your kitchen space. Opt for lighter colored stains for smaller kitchens to keep them feeling open and spacious.

Counter tops are also an important feature in a kitchen. They too are highly visible. Counter tops should be chosen for durability as well as looks. Granite counter tops are the most popular choice today. You may also choose from engineered stone, ceramic tile, laminates, wood and stainless steel. The material and colour of your counter tops should compliment your cabinetry, backslash and tiles. If your kitchen is a large room but does not have a lot of counter space you might want to consider adding an island for additional space. Not only does an island adds counter space but also storage space.

Flooring is an integral kitchen feature. Most kitchens are done with ceramic tile flooring but wood floors and laminates are growing in popularity. Many kitchens have tiled backslashes. Be sure that the tiles used in your backslash compliment the flooring. Besides the type of flooring you use, you must also pick a color of tile, wood or laminate as well as texture. Quite often a kitchen with light coloured cabinetry will look best with a slightly darker floor and vice-versa. Contrast between the cabinetry and the flooring, no matter how small, creates the illusion of depth.

The kitchen design ideas listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even touched on cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, sinks and taps, paint colors or appliances. Matching appliances are ideal in any kitchen. Stainless steel appliances are a favorite because they match just about any kitchen design. Families with small children may wish to consider black appliances since stainless steel shows fingerprints. Put as much thought into the small features as you do the larger ones. Something as simple as buying the wrong cabinet hardware can ruin the look of the completed project.



Source by D Mondal

Thessaloniki Student Housing

A brief Thessaloniki student housing guide

Based on the Greek Ministry of Education, there are approximately 330.000 students at Greek public universities at any one time. Thessaloniki accounts for nearly 1/3 of the total number of students in Greece with an estimated 100.000 students (including those attending private colleges and other higher education establishments).

For a city of 800.000 people (city population 2011) this means a particularly high proportion of students, which is evident from the lively atmosphere and nightlife. The majority of the students are coming from other Greek cities, from Europe via exchange programs and from the Balkan countries in order to study at high quality private colleges. Estimating that on average a full-time student spends about 4 years in Thessaloniki (excluding exchange students), this means that there are approximately 25.000 new students in the city every year. And they all need a place to stay…

This article will provide a brief guide to the types of available student housing, the areas, prices, and things to be aware of regarding student accommodation in Thessaloniki.

1. Types of student accommodation

1a. University public dorms.

The University of Thessaloniki offers dorms to students, based on need and mainly on financial criteria. They are provided free of charge. In practice this means that it is pretty difficult to get a dorm room even if you are eligible to get one. The dorms are mostly located close to the university campus, but their quality is very low and maintenance is a big issue, along with issues about safety etc.

1b. University Student Hostels.

These are private properties (entire buildings) which are subleased by the University and are provided mainly to exchange students requiring accommodation for a few weeks or months. These are usually ERASMUS students. As of 2011 there are two student hostels, “Matsi Street 7” and “Kassandrou Street 134”, both very close to the university. They offer fully furnished “dorm-style” rooms with ensuite private bathroom and kitchenette (Kassandrou 134) single and double rooms, a laundry area and wireless internet access.

1c. Private hostels.

For students wishing to stay only a few days/weeks, these hostels are more appropriate and a better solution than a hotel. However, these are hard to find as private hostels that rent rooms/beds by the day/week are not legal in Greece unless they are Non-Profit Organizations.

1d. Private rental flats.

These are standalone flats (studio, 1 or 2 bedrooms) located all over the city that students can rent from private owners. You can usually find them through real estate agents (beware) or online ads. You will need to find the appropriate one to suit your needs. Most of them are unfurnished or partly furnished and are more suited to students who plan to stay in Thessaloniki for a few years (as you’d have to buy electrical appliances, fridge, cooker, etc).

When you move in you will need to enter into a contract with the electricity company DEI, the water and sewage company EYATH and the gas company for heating (or oil if there is petroleum central heating). Be aware that apart from the rent you will need to pay for the monthly “communal” expenses (i.e. elevator maintenance, cleaning, communal lighting, repairs, etc.), so check for the rough monthly amount beforehand as this can vary wildly. This is obviously not the best solution for a student coming to Thessaloniki for a few months or a year as the hassle is too much.

1e. Rental student studios.

This is a new breed of student housing that is very popular with both full time students as well as exchange students. This trend began in the late 90s with just a few companies offering this type of accommodation. The main concept is that of a building with rental studios, where each student has his own private fully furnished room with en-suite bathroom and fully equipped kitchenette. This creates in effect a private high quality dormitory with single bed studios. The student atmosphere is maintained along with the feeling of privacy and safety.

Some companies offer additional amenities such as a laundry area, gym, storage for bulky items, bicycle parking, etc. This solves the main problems a student would have if he rented a studio from a private owner. In addition to this, some companies offer an ALL IN rent which includes the cost of heating, electricity, water, communal expenses, etc. even a fixed line ADSL internet connection. This way students won’t have to deal with the Greek public authorities in order to get a contract for everything. This is especially suitable for exchange students who don’t have the time or knowledge to deal with this.

Finally, some companies also offer a number of additional safety measures (fire alarms, access control cards, etc). There is usually a porter at these buildings for anything that the students may need. However, be careful which company you choose as few offer all of the above.

2. Student accommodation areas

Since the university campus is in the city center of Thessaloniki, the most popular student accommodation areas are also there. However, since the city center is expensive, most students look for properties to rent near the university above Egnatia street and mostly around the streets of Agiou Dimitriou and Kassandrou. This is also where many student shops and cafes are located.

Other areas popular with students are towards the east side of the city such as Depo, Toumpa, Harilaou, etc. These however are far from the center on foot and lack the distinct “student feel” of the areas near the university. In addition, traffic can be very bad at certain times of the day towards the university.

Overall, both the city center and the areas to the east are very safe all day long.

Lastly, there are the areas to the west of the city center such as Stavroupoli, Evosmos, etc. where rent prices are lower but these areas are not favored by students. They are very densely populated and traffic is also a problem, plus many students (and especially their parents) do not choose these areas as they have a reputation for higher crime rates.

3. Accommodation prices

Rent prices range from 200 euros per month for a standalone studio in Evosmos to 650 euros per month for a 2 bedroom apartment in the city center. The communal expenses can also range from 15 euros for a studio without central heating to 80 euros per month for an apartment with central heating. Of course rent prices can fluctuate depending on the condition of the flat/studio.

On average a student will pay about 350euros for an unfurnished studio near the university plus 30euros/month for communal expenses. Don’t forget to add the monthly cost of electricity, water, heating, telephone/internet, etc to this.

ALL IN prices for the organized student studios which offer all kinds of amenities and include electricity bills, water bills, heating, hot water, internet, laundry, gym, etc. can range from 390 to 460 euros per month for a furnished studio near the university. For the average student who wants to have the privacy of his own place, but also live the student life, this is the most economical option which also saves him the hassle and stress of dealing with the Greek public sector. One last advantage is that you can plan your budget ahead, as you know how much your living costs will be, so there will be no surprises at the end of the month…

4. Legal issues

In order to rent a private property you need to know the following:

If you are a EU citizen, you will need to get a Tax Registration Number (ΑΦΜ) from the local tax office. This is an easy procedure that takes 5 minutes and that only requires your passport. If you are a non-EU citizen you first need to get a residence permit and then get the above Tax Registration Number. This is absolutely necessary in order to legally rent a property in Greece.

If you stay at a hotel you need to know that you cannot stay for more than 3 months.

If you rent a property, you have to sign a lease.

Do not accept to stay at rental rooms without signing a lease as this could get you in trouble. You need to know that it’s illegal to stay anywhere without a lease, unless it is a hotel.

Always insist that the landlord hands you back a copy of the lease “stamped” by the tax office. It is not uncommon for landlords to rent properties without a lease or without an official “stamped” lease – this is illegal. Do not put yourself in a position where you could get in trouble. Always demand to sign a formal lease.



Source by Christos Trampoukis

How to Identify Emerging Real Estate Markets

If you are interested in making a career out of real estate investment, it is important to have the ability to spot emerging markets before they reach their full potential. This allows you to get in early and support the growth of the market, while also ensuring that you are in a position to make as much money as possible form your initial investment.

Of course, that sounds far easier than it actually is, as it is not always easy to see where the next market is going to emerge and it can often be difficult to get all of the pieces of the puzzle to align so that you can take advantage of it.

Here we will look at a few tips that will serve you well when you are considering your investments.

Take Away Personal Taste

If you are looking to invest in property, the first thing that you need to do is take away your own personal tastes. After all, the property isn’t intended for your own use, so what you think about it is actually not all that much of an issue.

Instead, try to consider how the property fits into the surrounding area and if there is going to be a demand for what it has to offer. Cheap apartments, for example, may not be to your personal taste but they may well serve a purpose to the area in which they are being built. Put your business head on and try to see the big picture in terms of how the market looks in a particular area.

Get In Early

The term “emerging” is important to consider here, as your investment will be worth less if you jump on a bandwagon that is already well-established. Keep your eyes open for news of potential investments and try to get on board at the earliest possible stage, so that you can reap the largest rewards at a later date.

Of course, this doesn’t just mean that you should invest in everything that is just starting up. Consider the reputations of the people behind the project and their previous successes. Be sure to meet with them to discuss their plans and the research they have put into the project, and be very wary of anybody who is not willing to speak to you directly but still wants you to invest in their venture.

Know The Local Market

The property market is extremely complex, with national cycles not always matching up to the way that the market is going in various localities. As such it is extremely important that you do the research into any area that you are looking to invest in and, just as importantly, you keep on top of the changes in that market that are always bound to happen.

Simply put, you are not going to make any money if you invest in a project where there is no demand. Find out if the area is a renter’s market, or a comfortable place for people to purchase a first home and look for upcoming projects that will satisfy that demand.



Source by Bill Len

What TN Home Buyers Need to Know About THDA Loans

Some of the best loan programs in TN are right under our noses, and THDA loans (TN Housing Development Agency) are one of them. A few reasons why there isn’t a ton of press about these great loans is because 1) not all TN lenders can do them, 2) THDA loans tend to be smaller loan sizes (on average) and coupled with the limitation on allowable fees, many loan officers who could do them choose not to, and 3) many loan officers do not offer them because they believe that THDA loans are a lot harder to get closed, which is not true at all as long as they know the program guidelines. For brevity’s sake, this article will provide an overview for the THDA program rather than detail each of the 3 loans THDA offers (Great Rate, Great Advantage, and Great Start).

The THDA loan programs were designed to offer help to low to moderate income buyers in TN seeking to purchase an affordable home. Here are the main things to know about THDA loans:

  • these loans can be used only for primary residences in TN from one to four units
  • the loans are always 30 year terms with fixed rates.
  • the borrower must qualify for an FHA, USDA Rural Development, or VA loan program before the loan can “become” a THDA subsidized loan program. The vast majority of THDA loans are FHA, since FHA loans have the broadest in eligibility requirements. Minimum credit score for any THDA loan is 620 as of right now.
  • THDA loans can effectively make FHA loans near-100% or 100% financing when combined with available THDA grant money, a “community” 2nd mortgage program like The Housing Fund, or THDA’s “Stimulus” 2nd mortgage program.
  • THDA loans are made generally to first time buyers (including people who haven’t owned a home in 3 years); the exception to this rule is when a buyer is purchasing in a “targeted” county; for example, middle TN “targeted” counties include Cannon, Clay, Dekalb, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hickman, Houston, Jackson, Lawrence, Lincoln, Macon, Marion, Maury, Stewart, Trousdale, Van Buren, Wayne, and White.
  • THDA essentially sets its own subsidized or below-market rates, which are dependent on how much grant assistance one might need. There are 3 basic loan types: Great Rate (0% assistance), Great Advantage (2% assistance), and Great Start ( 4% assistance)
  • since THDA loans are intended for “modest” homes, properties must meet eligibility requirements; for example, the sales price cannot exceed the county’s limit. There are only 2 limits in the whole state of TN- either $226,100 or $200,160 (these limits are actually fairly liberal by TN’s standards). The counties which have the higher limit are the following counties: Cannon, Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Hickman, Macon, Robertson, Rutherford, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, Williamson, and Wilson. All other counties in TN fall under the lower limit.
  • the household income of the borrower(s) cannot exceed the median income limit for the county, based on the number of persons in the household; for example, in Davidson County (Nashville), for a 1-2 person household, the total household income limit is $64,900 right now. For a 3+ person household, the limit is $74,635. The lowest limit in TN is $54,500 for 1-2 persons and $62,675 for a 3+ person household.
  • THDA loans limit origination fees to 1% and discount points to.25%, which simply protects the buyer from getting overcharged. And since all THDA rates are the same regardless of the lender used, the main things a borrower needs to do is to make sure they feel the loan officer knows this program well, and that they feel comfortable working with that person.
  • a homebuyer education class is strongly encouraged on the Great Rate program, and required for the Great Advantage and Great Start programs; this class (if applicable) must be completed prior to the purchase, and must be done in-person. It only makes sense for these subsidized loan programs that borrowers know what they are getting into, how to budget, etc. The last thing THDA wants is for a borrower to lose their home.
  • all THDA loans are subject to a federal recapture tax provision if the purchased home is sold within the first 9 years. This tax sounds much worse than it is, though. A very small percentage of people have to worry about this, and even if they do, it’s typically because their income or home value have gone up a good bit since the purchase. That’s certainly not a bad thing!

THDA loans are a great way for first time buyers in TN in get into a home with little to nothing down, with a low interest rate and reasonable payment. Just knowing some of the basics of the program will hopefully help you know if you might be a good candidate for a THDA loan before you even speak with a lender.



Source by Brian Randall Smith