Calculus Applications in Real Estate Development

Calculus has many real world uses and applications in the physical sciences, computer science, economics, business, and medicine. I will briefly touch upon some of these uses and applications in the real estate industry.

Let’s start by using some examples of calculus in speculative real estate development (i.e.: new home construction). Logically, a new home builder wants to turn a profit after the completion of each home in a new home community. This builder will also need to be able to maintain (hopefully) a positive cash flow during the construction process of each home, or each phase of home development. There are many factors that go into calculating a profit. For example, we already know the formula for profit is: P = R – C, which is, the profit (P) is equal to the revenue (R) minus the cost (C). Although this primary formula is very simple, there are many variables that can factor in to this formula. For example, under cost (C), there are many different variables of cost, such as the cost of building materials, costs of labor, holding costs of real estate before purchase, utility costs, and insurance premium costs during the construction phase. These are a few of the many costs to factor in to the above mentioned formula. Under revenue (R), one could include variables such as the base selling price of the home, additional upgrades or add-ons to the home (security system, surround sound system, granite countertops, etc). Just plugging in all of these different variables in and of itself can be a daunting task. However, this becomes further complicated if the rate of change is not linear, requiring us to adjust our calculations because the rate of change of one or all of these variables is in the shape of a curve (i.e.: exponential rate of change)? This is one area where calculus comes into play.

Let’s say, last month we sold 50 homes with an average selling price of $500,000. Not taking other factors into consideration, our revenue (R) is price ($500,000) times x (50 homes sold) which equal $25,000,000. Let’s consider that the total cost to build all 50 homes was $23,500,000; therefore the profit (P) is 25,000,000 – $23,500,000 which equals $1,500,000. Now, knowing these figures, your boss has asked you to maximize profits for following month. How do you do this? What price can you set?

As a simple example of this, let’s first calculate the marginal profit in terms of x of building a home in a new residential community. We know that revenue (R) is equal to the demand equation (p) times the units sold (x). We write the equation as

R = px.

Suppose we have determined that the demand equation for selling a home in this community is

p = $1,000,000 – x/10.

At $1,000,000 you know you will not sell any homes. Now, the cost equation (C) is

$300,000 + $18,000x ($175,000 in fixed materials costs and $10,000 per house sold + $125,000 in fixed labor costs and $8,000 per house).

From this we can calculate the marginal profit in terms of x (units sold), then use the marginal profit to calculate the price we should charge to maximize profits. So, the revenue is

R = px = ($1,000,000 – x/10) * (x) = $1,000,000xx^2/10.

Therefore, the profit is

P = R – C = ($1,000,000xx^2/10) – ($300,000 + $18,000x) = 982,000x – (x^2/10) – $300,000.

From this we can calculate the marginal profit by taking the derivative of the profit

dP/dx = 982,000 – (x/5)

To calculate the maximum profit, we set the marginal profit equal to zero and solve

982,000 – (x/5) = 0

x = 4910000.

We plug x back into the demand function and get the following:

p = $1,000,000 – (4910000)/10 = $509,000.

So, the price we should set to gain the maximum profit for each house we sell should be $509,000. The following month you sell 50 more homes with the new pricing structure, and net a profit increase of $450,000 from the previous month. Great job!

Now, for the next month your boss asks you, the community developer, to find a way to cut costs on home construction. From before you know that the cost equation (C) was:

$300,000 + $18,000x ($175,000 in fixed materials costs and $10,000 per house sold + $125,000 in fixed labor costs and $8,000 per house).

After, shrewd negotiations with your building suppliers, you were able to reduce the fixed materials costs down to $150,000 and $9,000 per house, and lower your labor costs to $110,000 and $7,000 per house. As a result your cost equation (C) has changed to

C = $260,000 + $16,000x.

Because of these changes, you will need to recalculate the base profit

P = R – C = ($1,000,000xx^2/10) – ($260,000 + $16,000x) = 984,000x – (x^2/10) – $260,000.

From this we can calculate the new marginal profit by taking the derivative of the new profit calculated

dP/dx = 984,000 – (x/5).

To calculate the maximum profit, we set the marginal profit equal to zero and solve

984,000 – (x/5) = 0

x = 4920000.

We plug x back into the demand function and get the following:

p = $1,000,000 – (4920000)/10 = $508,000.

So, the price we should set to gain the new maximum profit for each house we sell should be $508,000. Now, even though we lower the selling price from $509,000 to $508,000, and we still sell 50 units like the previous two months, our profit has still increased because we cut costs to the tune of $140,000. We can find this out by calculating the difference between the first P = R – C and the second P = R – C which contains the new cost equation.

1st P = R – C = ($1,000,000xx^2/10) – ($300,000 + $18,000x) = 982,000x – (x^2/10) – $300,000 = 48,799,750

2nd P = R – C = ($1,000,000xx^2/10) – ($260,000 + $16,000x) = 984,000x – (x^2/10) – $260,000 = 48,939,750

Taking the second profit minus the first profit, you can see a difference (increase) of $140,000 in profit. So, by cutting costs on home construction, you are able to make the company even more profitable.

Let’s recap. By simply applying the demand function, marginal profit, and maximum profit from calculus, and nothing else, you were able to help your company increase its monthly profit from the ABC Home Community project by hundreds of thousands of dollars. By a little negotiation with your building suppliers and labor leaders, you were able to lower your costs, and by a simple readjustment of the cost equation (C), you could quickly see that by cutting costs, you increased profits yet again, even after adjusting your maximum profit by lowering your selling price by $1,000 per unit. This is an example of the wonder of calculus when applied to real world problems.



Source by Michael Frick

Real Estate – The Velocity of Money

This lesson is really adapted from Robert Kiyosaki’s book, “Who Took My Money?” I strongly encourage investors to read this book. He writes that the Velocity of Money is the one reason why rich get richer and the average investor risks losing it all. I agree. From Robert’s book, he writes “As a professional investor, I want to…

1. Invest my money into an asset.

2. Get my money back.

3. Keep control of the asset.

4. Move my money into a new asset.

5. Get my money back.

6. Repeat the process.”

When I teach my homes buying homes investment strategy, I am teaching Robert’s velocity of money concept. I read Robert’s book in the summer of 2005. Little known to me, I was already teaching the velocity of money and didn’t really realize it. Thankfully, I was already utilizing it with my investing.

To give you an example: Let’s assume you purchase a nice single-family home for $200,000. To purchase this home, you use a 5-percent down payment loan program and invest approximately $10,000. You use a fixed, interest-only loan program and your total monthly payment is, say, $1,400. You offer this home on a Rent to Own Program. Your new tenant/buyer gives you $6,000 up front on this lovely home and picks a program paying you $1,695 a month in rent.

After collecting your up-front payment, you would still have $4,000 invested in this property ($10,000 down payment less that $6,000 upfront payment received from your tenant/buyer). Your monthly cash flow would be approximately $295. (Rent of $1,695 less your payment of $1,400) It would take you another 13 1/2 months to recover your remaining $4,000 invested. ($4,000 divided by $295 monthly cash flow) In this example, it would take you around 14 months to complete steps 1, 2 and 3 above. You would have invested in an asset, gotten ALL your money back and kept control of this same asset. Now you are on to step 4, which is move your money into a new asset. Robert continues his teaching as follows:

“A professional gambler wants to be playing the game with house money as soon as possible. While in Las Vegas, if I had put my money back in my pocket and only played with my winnings that would have been an example of playing with house money. The moment I began betting everything, I lost the game because I lost sight of my goal, which is to stay in the game but to play with other people’s money, not my own money.”

When you come to a point in your investing at which you have gotten all of your money back and still own the asset, you are playing with house money. In this example, after Month 14, you would still receive a cash flow of $295 a month until the property sells. This is all house money. Now let’s move on and assume that the your tenant/buyer doesn’t purchase your home during the Rent to Own Program. In four years, your $200,000 home would be worth $243,000 with a 5-percent appreciation rate. This appreciation would ALL be house money. You could then borrow a portion of this increase in equity tax-free. You could refinance this home at 90-percent loan to value. A 90-percent loan on a $243,000 home amounts to $218,700, less your current loan on the property of $190,000 would provide you with $28,700 tax-free (Current loan is $200,000 initial purchase price less your $10,000 down payment).

At this point in time, you would have recovered your $10,000 investment, plus taken in an additional $10,030 in positive cash flow and borrowed out another $28,700 tax-free. This amounts to roughly $48,000 in four years. Remember, you still own the original asset, the $200,000 home.

Now, here is where the fun starts to happen. What can you do with the $48,000? Could you use this $48,000 as a 10-percent down payment on a $480,000 asset? Let’s assume you do. What do you think the cash flow would be on this property? Maybe $10,000 a year? In a few years, both of these properties could be refinanced to pull out more money to invest into another asset, creating even more cash flow. For example, at an appreciation rate of 5 percent a year, the $200,000 home would be worth $295,000, and the $480,000 property would be worth $583,000. You could borrow another $100,000 out of these properties and use as a 10-percent down payment on a million-dollar property. What would the cash flow be on a million-dollar property?

Your assets double when you separate your equity from your properties. Can you see what I mean? Can one property properly managed make you a millionaire?

Now if you really think about what happened in this example, you will see that you were making your money work extremely hard for you. You didn’t let it sit idle as equity in a property. The key point for you to realize is that equity in a home is idle money. Idle money provides zero return.

If you only take one piece of advice from this report, make it this one:

FUNNEL ALL YOUR INVESTMENTS THROUGH YOUR REAL ESTATE

Most people are making contributions to their company 401(k) plan or some kind of IRA account. These contributions are paid, in most cases, directly out of your pocket. If your company contributes automatically to your retirement plan from your pay check, this is still directly out of your pocket. I truly believe this is a massive wealth destroyer. Instead take these contributions and invest them into real estate. Then invest the cash flow from the real estate into your IRA or retirement plan. To be clear, I am not saying don’t invest in your IRA. I am saying to insert real estate in between your direct retirement plan contribution. Buy an asset (real estate) and have that asset fund your retirement plan.

This is the advice that will get many people up in arms. I know Money Magazine tells you to maximize your 401(k) contributions. I know you parents would tell you to put everything into your 401(k). I know your company’s human resource department would tell you to invest into your company 401(k). I know. I have been there. I remember all of my co-workers at the international accounting firm I worked for talking about how much they were each contributing into their 401(k)s. They thought I was crazy for investing in real estate. They thought I was a real wacko when I next quit my high-paying job to invest in real estate full-time. I can still hear the jokes and snickers.

This will happen to you, too. Everyone will think you are making a big mistake. The reality is the other way around. You will be making a big mistake listening to everyone else. Please, please listen to this advice. I cannot tell you how powerful it is. I can hear you say, “Well my company matches my contributions.” I don’t care. Your first investing dollars go into real estate. Real estate dollars then go into your retirement plan. Don’t worry about your company match is because it is insignificant compared to what will happen if you follow this advice.

I bought real estate to create cash flow. I used the cash flow to quit my job and start my own company. The profits from the first company were used to start a new company. All of this while my “laughing” co-workers are still arguing over how much they should invest into the company 401(k) plan.

Now, I have all of the real estate, company No. 1 and company No. 2. All of these can funnel my retirement, living expenses, new companies and/or additional assets. This is the velocity of money in action. The key is where your FIRST investing dollars go. If they go to a traditional retirement plan, you aren’t creating velocity. You can’t leverage a 401(k) plan.

Now had I followed the traditional approach, I would still be working as a public accountant. I would be investing 10 to 15 percent of my income into the company 401(k) plan working at a job that I couldn’t stand. Yes, I might have more money in my 401(k) plan,yippee! I wouldn’t have any assets working for me. Funding the real estate first was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I really don’t care about the amount of money I have invested. I care about the assets I have working for me. Most people are focused on the size of their portfolio. As Robert Kiyosaki’s book teaches, your focus should be getting your money back and reinvesting, not letting it accumulate. He writes, “In my world, the velocity and safety of my money is far more important than the amount of my money … Only amateur investors put their money in their retirement plan and set the parking brake.”

I like retirement plans. Don’t get me wrong. I just want you to fund your retirement plan from house money. House money is much better than your money. Don’t you agree? There are many choices for you to invest your house money. Here are just a few:

1. Build an emergency fund for your family.

2. Invest in more real estate, houses buy houses

3. Pay off credit card debt or other loans

4. Invest into your retirement plan/IRA

5. Invest into a mutual fund/stocks or bonds

6. Start a new business

7. Buy and resell a mobile home

8. Invest into someone else’s business

9. Invest into a Whole Life Insurance Plan

10. Invest into seminars/books and audio programs

11. Hire people to assist you with your investments

12. And many more

I know that my way is the hard way. It is a lot easier just to make contributions into your company 401(k) plan and not think about it. Let’s face it, you don’t have to go look at homes. You don’t have to show your properties. You don’t have to go through any evictions. But you do have to work until your 65. You more than likely won’t be able to live the life you really want in retirement. I started investing in real estate around 1994. I started company No.1 in October of 2000. I started company No. 2 in August of 2005. The velocity of money has taken me to new levels every five years. My guess is that it will be the same for you. Where will you be in 2013?



Source by Robert Minton

Effect of Liberalisation in Insurance Industry

Introduction

The journey of insurance liberalization process in India is now over seven years old. The first major milestone in this journey has been the passing of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999. This along with amendments to the Insurance Act 1983, LIC and GIC Acts paves the way for the entry of private players and possibly the privatization of the hitherto public monopolies LIC and GIC. Opening up of insurance to private sector including foreign participation has resulted into various opportunities and challenges.

Concept of Insurance

In our daily life, whenever there is uncertainly there is an involvement of risk. The instinct of security against such risk is one of the basic motivating forces for determining human attitudes. As a sequel to this quest for security, the concept of insurance must have been born. The urge to provide insurance or protection against the loss of life and property must have promoted people to make some sort of sacrifice willingly in order to achieve security through collective co-operation. In this sense, the story of insurance is probably as old as the story of mankind.

Life insurance in particular provides protection to household against the risk of premature death of its income earning member. Life insurance in modern times also provides protection against other life related risks such as that of longevity (i.e. risk of outliving of source of income) and risk of disabled and sickness (health insurance). The products provide for longevity are pensions and annuities (insurance against old age). Non-life insurance provides protection against accidents, property damage, theft and other liabilities. Non-life insurance contracts are typically shorter in duration as compared to life insurance contracts. The bundling together of risk coverage and saving is peculiar of life insurance. Life insurance provides both protection and investment.

Insurance is a boon to business concerns. Insurance provides short range and long range relief. The short-term relief is aimed at protecting the insured from loss of property and life by distributing the loss amongst large number of persons through the medium of professional risk bearers such as insurers. It enables a businessman to face an unforeseen loss and, therefore, he need not worry about the possible loss. The long-range object being the economic and industrial growth of the country by making an investment of huge funds available with insurers in the organized industry and commerce.

General Insurance

Prior to nationalizations of General insurance industry in 1973 the GIC Act was passed in the Parliament in 1971, but it came into effect in 1973. There was 107 General insurance companies including branches of foreign companies operating in the country upon nationalization, these companies were amalgamated and grouped into the following four subsidiaries of GIC such as National Insurance Co.Ltd., Calcutta; The New India Assurance Co. Ltd., Mumbai; The Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., New Delhi and United India Insurance Co. Ltd., Chennai and Now delinked.

General insurance business in India is broadly divided into fire, marine and miscellaneous GIC apart from directly handling Aviation and Reinsurance business administers the Comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme, Personal Accident Insurance, Social Security Scheme etc. The GIC and its subsidiaries in keeping with the objective of nationalization to spread the message of insurance far and wide and to provide insurance protection to weaker section of the society are making efforts to design new covers and also to popularize other non-traditional business.

Liberalization of Insurance

The comprehensive regulation of insurance business in India was brought into effect with the enactment of the Insurance Act, 1983. It tried to create a strong and powerful supervision and regulatory authority in the Controller of Insurance with powers to direct, advise, investigate, register and liquidate insurance companies etc. However, consequent upon the nationalization of insurance business, most of the regulatory functions were taken away from the Controller of Insurance and vested in the insurers themselves. The Government of India in 1993 had set up a high powered committee by R.N.Malhotra, former Governor, Reserve Bank of India, to examine the structure of the insurance industry and recommend changes to make it more efficient and competitive keeping in view the structural changes in other parts of the financial system on the country.

Malhotra Committee’s Recommendations

The committee submitted its report in January 1994 recommending that private insurers be allowed to co-exist along with government companies like LIC and GIC companies. This recommendation had been prompted by several factors such as need for greater deeper insurance coverage in the economy, and a much a greater scale of mobilization of funds from the economy, and a much a greater scale of mobilization of funds from the economy for infrastructural development. Liberalization of the insurance sector is at least partly driven by fiscal necessity of tapping the big reserve of savings in the economy. Committee’s recommendations were as follows:

o Raising the capital base of LIC and GIC up to Rs. 200 crores, half retained by the government and rest sold to the public at large with suitable reservations for its employees.

o Private sector is granted to enter insurance industry with a minimum paid up capital of Rs. 100 crores.

o Foreign insurance be allowed to enter by floating an Indian company preferably a joint venture with Indian partners.

o Steps are initiated to set up a strong and effective insurance regulatory in the form of a statutory autonomous board on the lines of SEBI.

o Limited number of private companies to be allowed in the sector. But no firm is allowed in the sector. But no firm is allowed to operate in both lines of insurance (life or non-life).

o Tariff Advisory Committee (TAC) is delinked form GIC to function as a separate statuary body under necessary supervision by the insurance regulatory authority.

oAll insurance companies be treated on equal footing and governed by the provisions of insurance Act. No special dispensation is given to government companies.

oSetting up of a strong and effective regulatory body with independent source for financing before allowing private companies into sector.

competition to government sector:

Government companies have now to face competition to private sector insurance companies not only in issuing various range of insurance products but also in various aspects in terms of customer service, channels of distribution, effective techniques of selling the products etc. privatization of the insurance sector has opened the doors to innovations in the way business can be transacted.

New age insurance companies are embarking on new concepts and more cost effective way of transacting business. The idea is clear to cater to the maximum business at the lest cost. And slowly with time, the age-old norm prevalent with government companies to expand by setting up branches seems getting lost. Among the techniques that seem to catching up fast as an alternative to cater to the rural and social sector insurance is hub and spoke arrangement. These along with the participants of NGOs and Self Help Group (SHGs) have done with most of the selling of the rural and social sector policies.

The main challenges is from the commercial banks that have vast network of branches. In this regard, it is important to mention here that LIC has entered into an arrangement with Mangalore based Corporations Bank to leverage their infrastructure for mutual benefit with the insurance monolith acquiring a strategic stake 27 per cent, Corporation Bank has decided to abandon its plans of promoting a life insurance company. The bank will act as a corporate agent for LIC in future and receive commission on policies sold through its branches. LIC with its branch network of close to 2100 offices will allow Corporation Bank to set up extension centers. ATMs or branches with in its premises. Corporation Bank would in turn implement an effective Cash Flow Management System for LIC.

IRDA Act, 1999

Preamble of IRDA Act 1999 reads ‘An Act to provide for the establishment of an authority to protect the interests of holders of insurance policies, to regulate, to promote and ensure orderly growth of the insurance industry and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Section 14 of IRDA Act, lays the duties, powers and functions of the authority. The powers and functions of the authority. The powers and functions of the Authority shall include the following.

o Issue to the applicant a certificate of registration, to renew, modify withdraw, suspend or cancel such registration.

o To protect the interest of policy holders in all matters concerning nomination of policy, surrender value f policy, insurable interest, settlement of insurance claims, other terms and conditions of contract of insurance.

o Specifying requisite qualification and practical training for insurance intermediates and agents.

o Specifying code of conduct for surveyors and loss assessors.

o Promoting efficiency in the conduct of insurance business

o Promoting and regulating professional regulators connected with the insurance and reinsurance business.

o Specifying the form and manner in which books of accounts will be maintained and statement of accounts rendered by insurers and insurance intermediaries.

o Adjudication of disputes between insurers and intermediates.

o Specifying the percentage of life insurance and general and general business to be undertaken by the insurers in rural or social sectors etc.

Section 25 provides that Insurance Advisory Committee will be constituted and shall consist of not more than 25 members.Section 26 provides that Authority may in consultation with Insurance Advisory Committee make regulations consists with this Act and the rules made there under to carry the purpose of this Act.Section 29 seeks amendment in certain provisions of Insurance Act, 1938 in the manner as set out in First Schedule. The amendments to the Insurance Act are consequential in order to empower IRDA to effectively regulate, promote, and ensure orderly growth of the Insurance industry.

Section 30 & 31seek to amend LIC Act 1956 and GIC Act 1972.

Impact of Liberalization

While nationalized insurance companies have done a commendable job in extending volume of the business opening up of insurance sector to private players was a necessity in the context of liberalization of financial sector. If traditional infrastructural and semipublic goods industries such as banking, airlines, telecom, power etc. have significant private sector presence, continuing state monopoly in provision of insurance was indefensible and therefore, the privatization of insurance has been done as discussed earlier. Its impact has to be seen in the form of creating various opportunities and challenges.

Opportunities

1. Privatization if Insurance was eliminated the monopolistic business of Life Insurance Corporation of India. It may help to cover the wide range of risk in general insurance and also in life insurance. It helps to introduce new range of products.

2. It would also result in better customer services and help improve the variety and price of insurance products.

3. The entry of new player would speed up the spread of both life and general insurance. It will increase the insurance penetration and measure of density.

4. Entry of private players will ensure the mobilization of funds that can be utilized for the purpose of infrastructure development.

5. Allowing of commercial banks into insurance business will help to mobilization of funds from the rural areas because of the availability of vast branches of the banks.

6. Most important not the least tremendous employment opportunities will be created in the field of insurance which is a burning problem of the presence day today issues.

Current Scenario

After opening up of insurance in private sector, various leading private companies including joint ventures have entered the fields of insurance both life and non-life business. Tata – AIG, Birla Sun life, HDFC standard life Insurance, Reliance General Insurance, Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance, Bajaj Auto Alliance, IFFCO Tokio General Insurance, INA Vysya Life Insurance, SBI Life Insurance, Dabur CJU Life Insurance and Max New York Life. SBI Life insurance has launched three products Sanjeevan, Sukhjeevan and Young Sanjeevan so far and it has already sold 320 policies under its plan.

Conclusion

From the above discussion we can conclude that the entry of private players in insurance business needful and justifiable in order to enhance the efficiency of operations, achieving greater density and insurance coverage in the country and for a greater mobilization of long term savings for long gestation infrastructure prefects. New players should not be treat as rivalries to government companies, but they can supplement in achieving the objective of growth of insurance business in india.



Source by Subbiah B

The 12 Easiest Vegetables to Grow in Home Gardens Or Containers For First Time Gardeners

A lot of people, myself included, are growing our own vegetables to beat the credit crunch. And why not? Planting a few seeds in containers, in your backyard or in your garden will yield delicious, organic vegetables – and can save money, too! Growing organic vegetables is easier than you think. Here are the 12 vegetables you will have no problem planting, tending for and harvesting in your own garden, even if you are a first-time gardener!

#1. Radish

These are particularly easy to grow and can be intercropped with rows of lettuce to take up a minimum amount of space! Great thing about radishes is that very few pests bother them. Choose a sunny, sheltered position in soil, well fed with organic matter. Sow the seed thinly, evenly at ½ inch below the soil’s surface with one inch of space between each. Water the soil thoroughly before sowing and after the seeds emerge water them lightly every couple days. Radishes are a great source of potassium, folic acid, magnesium and calcium, and are perfect in salad dressings or as a garnish for salads. Radishes are fast growers and should be ready to pull in several weeks.

#2. Zucchini/ Squash

Zucchini and squash do well in most climates and they need very little special attention. If you plant zucchini you’ll could end up with way more than they can even eat!

Zucchini and squash are very low in calories but full of potassium, manganese and folate. Sow several zucchini seeds in a heap pile of composted soil a foot high and a couple feet wide. Space each heap pile approximately 3 feet apart, water them heavily every other day and wait for them to sprout in a couple weeks. They should be ready to harvest about a month later. For any early start sow the seeds singly about 1/2 in (1.25cm) deep, in small pots and place in a temperature of 65-70F (18-21C). After germination of seeds, grow on in a well lit spot, harden off and plant out after the last spring frost when the weather is warm.

#3. Carrots

Carrots tend to be pest free and need little attention. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, carotene and dietary. Dig a hole less than an inch deep and plant a couple of seeds in each, and leave several inches in between holes. Thin out in stages to 4-6in (10-15cm) apart. Keep the soil moist but remember to water the carrots less as they begin to reach maturity.

#4. Spinach

A highly nutritious and easily grown crop, high in both calcium and iron. Spinach can be eaten plain, cooked, and made into a chip dip. Turn over the soil with compost and plant seeds less than an inch deep, placing them at least 4 inches apart to give room for growth. Pick young leaves regularly. Sow the soil a couple more times in the first month and keep this area well-watered.

#5. Peas

Peas are another high-yield crop, both sweet peas and sugar peas. Other than fruit flies, these guys attract very few pests. A good source of vitamins A, B and C. Cultivate the soil just prior to sowing top dress with a balanced fertilizer. Keep in mind that your soil must drain well in order for peas for flourish. Space each seed several inches apart and sow them one inch deep. Freshly planted seeds require 1/2 inch of water every week, while more mature plants need a full inch. Any surplus peas can be frozen very successfully.

#6. Peppers

Peppers contain nutrients like thiamin and manganese. Peppers can be stuffed with meat and rice or used in salsa and pasta, and raw in salads. Till the soil with compost and Epsom salts, this will make it rich in magnesium to help the peppers develop healthily. Peppers can be produced outside in growing bags, large pots etc. Since they grow best in warm soil, sow the seeds a foot or more apart in raised beds or containers. Water them frequently, keeping the soil moist, or they may taste bitter once harvested.

#7. Lettuce/ Baby Greens

Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow; you just have to plant the seeds, water and watch how fast it grows. Lettuce is a good source of folic acid and vitamin A, used as the main ingredient mostly in salads, but also can be stuffed with various ingredients to make a lettuce wrap or top sandwiches, hamburgers and tacos. When cultivating the soil with nutrient-rich compost, break up any chunks and remove debris. Make sure that seeds are planted between 8 and 16 inches apart and water them every morning. Avoid doing so at night because this could cause disease. Loose-leaf varieties are ready to start cutting about seven weeks after sowing.

Baby greens are simply greens that are harvested while they are still young and tender. They are true instant gratification vegetables – you’ll be harvesting your first salad in under a month! Sprinkle the seeds as thinly as possible across the soil in a 2- to 3-inch wide band. Space rows of baby greens 6 to 8 inches apart. Or plant baby greens in a pot, and cut your salad fresh every night!

#8. Onion

Rich in dietary fiber, folate and vitamin C, onion need little care – just give them plenty of water. Plow the soil a foot deep and get rid of debris. The easiest way to grow onions is from sets which are small onions. Plant sets so that the tip is showing about 5in (13cm) apart in rows 12in (30cm) apart. Or, plant the seeds a couple centimeters deep and several inches apart. Weed this area frequently but gently and provide them with about an inch of water every week.

#9. Beets

Beets (beetroots) can be peeled, steamed, and then eaten warm with butter; cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad.. Betanin, one of the primary nutrients in this deep red or purple vegetable, can help lower blood pressure. Clean and strengthen the seeds by soaking them in water at room temperature for a day. Plow the soil and remove any stones from the top 3 feet. Plant each seed 2in (5cm) apart, thin out to 4in (10cm) apart and water them at least once every day.

#10. Broccoli

For the most part doesn’t need a lot of special care, broccoli is easily grown vegetable that gives the best return for the space it occupies and is cropped when other green vegetables are in short supply. One row of 15ft (4.5m) will accommodate six plants to give self-sufficiency for a family of four. Sow broccoli seed in spring in a seed bed ½in (1.25cm) deep and transplant when the seedlings are about 4in (10cm) tall 2ft (60cm) apart each way.

#11. Tomatoes

There are many benefits to growing tomatoes – they’re tasty, they9re good for you, and the dollar value of the yield can be very significant. Tomatoes are rich in nutrients like niacin, potassium and phosphorous, antioxidants like lycopene, anthocyanin and carotene, and vitamins A, C and E.

Sow the seed just below the surface in a tray of peat-based compost. When the seedlings have made two pairs of true leaves prick them out into 3in (7.5cm) pots and place them in a light, warm place indoors (like windowsill). After the last danger of frost has passed, pick a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight and test the soil’s pH level – it needs to be between 6 and 7. (To decrease pH level add sulfur, to increase it add lime). Spread compost over this area and mix it with the soil. After hardening off, set tomato plants 2ft (60cm) apart in rows 3ft (90cm) apart, bush plants 3ft (90cm) apart. Water them a couple times per week.

Tomatoes do need a little more attention then the other vegetables on the list. However, for the little bit attention that tomatoes do need, you get an incredible reward in the large amount of fruit that they produce. To help you get started, here is a complete guide to growing tomatoes

#12. Herbs

There are many herbs including thyme, rosemary, basil, mint, sage, chives, parsley and oregano that need very little attention and can be grown successfully in containers on a patio, balcony or terrace. Purchase some of your favorite small herb plants from your local nursery and get a container that is at least 6-12 inches deep. You can plant multiple herbs in a wide or long container or use at least a 6″ pot for individual plants and you will enjoy not only their fragrance and beauty but also their culinary benefits. Water sparingly because herbs don’t like to sit in wet soil.

If you are a first time gardener, start slow with any of the vegetables I’ve mentioned. Soon, you will gain confidence and have a beautiful organic vegetable garden!



Source by Jane T. Thomas

Creative Marketing Ideas For Furniture Stores

Furniture stores have developed a reputation for marketing strategy-a sale for every holiday imaginable, no payments for 90 days, or no interest for 3 years are commonly-used promotional tools to drive sales. These certainly work, but they’re not exactly unique. If you’re new to the furniture market or you’re looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, you’ll want to choose something that doesn’t involve Uncle Sam or Santa Claus. Here are some great options.

  1. Online classifieds-Websites like Craigslist and eBay have made the online classified ad sales process very easy. Customers turn to these places to check out merchandise before entering a store, so list your product here to reach them! Hire a part-time employee to photograph your merchandise and list it on these sites, or you can even subcontract the work to business specifically-designed for the task.
  2. In-store training-Hosting in-store training classes or seminars is a great way to reach out to the home-improvement market. Bring in interior decorators to discuss home staging, d├ęcor selection, or even remodeling tips using your merchandise. These types of classes add value to your store, and the customers see you as more than just a transaction-based business-you’re part of their lifestyle. Promote these events by hanging a vinyl banner outside your store listing the dates and times for each class.
  3. Trade-in-Consider adding a customer trade-in program to your store, where the customer brings in their old furniture and receives a credit towards new merchandise. If the furniture’s in good enough shape, you can create a used section in your store for great bargains. If it’s not in resalable condition, you can donate the furniture or at the very least dispose of it for your customer. This is again a way to make your store a convenience provider and encourage customers to remain loyal to you. List this service in your store windows using vinyl decals.
  4. New homes-Create a partnership with a local real estate agent, broker, or homebuilder. Since homes always sell better with furniture in them, offer to stage their new homes with your merchandise in exchange for referrals. You can also add a sign in each home letting customers know where the furniture came from in-case they’d like to purchase it with the house or at least shop your store for a different selection. Some real estate agents might even want to purchase a piece of furniture directly from you as a house-warming gift for their new homeowners!
  5. Try before you buy-This bold strategy offers customers a chance to “test-drive” your furniture, so to speak. Selected customers are able to try furniture in their home for a preset amount of time to determine if they want to purchase it. Although this shouldn’t be offered for all of your products as it could become a logistical nightmare, it can be an effective way to boost sales. After all, if it’s up to the customer to take the furniture home and bring it back, odds are they’re going to keep it. Make sure you have a vinyl decal at your cash register clearly explaining the rules of the program so there are no issues.



Source by Michael K Allen

Your Legal Rights in a Living-Together Relationship – The Rights of Unmarried Cohabitants

If you’ve read Part I of this article, you know that it’s extremely difficult to establish a common law marriage under New York law. And, if this led you to wonder why the system has seemingly abdicated responsibility for issues related to the break-up of long-term living-together relationships, you’re not alone. Why the courts and legislature have taken this approach is puzzling, particularly considering that in contemporary society such relationships are more prevalent than ever.

You may find the answer to be disappointing. It’s what lawyers and judges call, “judicial economy”. This is the idea that certain litigants, as a matter of public policy, should be kept out of the courts. The primary rationale cited is the proverbial opening of the floodgates, though some cite a state interest in promoting marriage. It’s no secret that divorce cases comprise a troublingly high percentage of the courts’ dockets, most studies say it’s as high as 50% in New York State. This means the system is already on overload. So, inviting more litigants into the system to address their divorce-like rights isn’t exactly enticing.

Yet, societal and legal trends expanding the legal definition of terms such as “marriage” and “family” have been accelerating fast. As these terms become more elastic, perhaps lawmakers will reconsider, and begin writing legislation that addresses the dilemmas faced in the dissolution of living-together relationships. Until that time, those of you in non-marital relationships looking to the courts for guidance will likely have to look elsewhere.

One such place is alternate dispute resolution, e.g., mediation or arbitration. Or, you can plan in advance for the possible break-up of your non-marital relationship, by entering into a cohabitation agreement (an especially sensible alternative for those beginning to acquire property or build wealth together). Absent these alternatives, it’s more than possible that there may be no legal solutions to the problems you’ll encounter in the process of dissolving your living-together relationship.

However, before throwing up your hands to denounce the legal system as hopelessly antiquated, read on. There are certain circumstances for which the law does provide answers. In the balance of this article, I will attempt to summarize these circumstances and the applicable legal concepts, most of which derive from tort or contract law, and explain how such might apply to your living-together relationship.

Contractual Rights

The most fundamental legal concept available to unmarried cohabitants interested in establishing their legal rights or obligations is contract law. However, its applicability is severely limited under New York law. Under most circumstances, for any contract to be enforceable it needs to have been reduced to writing and supported by “consideration” (meaning one party gives something up and the other receives something of benefit in return, e.g., payment for services rendered).

The courts have additionally held that the terms of any such contract must be clear and definite. For example, where the promise was to provide domestic services and contributions as a business partner in exchange for an equal share in the other’s business, the court held that the exchange of promises was an enforceable contract. However, a more general promise, such as one to take care of a significant other in the style to which she had become accustomed, in exchange for a promise to introduce and promote the other socially, was held to be inadequate. You should also be aware that any illicit form of consideration is void as against public policy.

The benefits of contract law are generally only available to those who have bargained for and entered into a written contract in advance of their break-up. So, if you’re presently involved in or contemplating a committed living-together relationship, you should strongly consider reducing your respective rights and obligations to contract. This document is akin to a prenuptial agreement and can be referred to as a cohabitation agreement, living together agreement, or the like.

Granted, it may be difficult, unpleasant, or even unadvisable to broach this topic with your significant other. Moreover, you don’t have the ability to induce your significant other to sign a cohabitation agreement by threatening not to go through with the wedding if they won’t sign. Yet, other circumstances, e.g., purchasing or renting a common residence, or even moving in together, can perhaps serve as motivation.

If you surmount these obstacles, you’ll have the benefit of a clear blueprint to follow in the event of separation. Another great benefit of contract law is that most if not all of the legal benefits of a contractual agreement are equally available to same-sex cohabitants. This should also be the case with the balance of legal concepts discussed below.

Property Rights

Assuming that you don’t have a valid written contract, you will have to turn to a far less precise set of legal principles for guidance. Most of these legal principles have existed since long before living-together arrangements became societally or legally sanctioned (in fact, many are common law innovations, meaning that they date back to case law that originated in England and was later adopted by most states, including New York). Some of these concepts have been applied to living-together relationships.

Legal Presumptions

There are certain established presumptions that may provide guidance in the process of disentangling your financial affairs. Certainly, any bank account jointly titled in your respective names, absent agreement to the contrary, is presumptively a fifty-fifty shared asset under applicable banking law. The same should apply to other investment accounts like securities, mutual funds, bond or money market accounts.

Jointly titled or jointly acquired assets that can=t readily be divided in half, such as artwork, an automobile or real estate (see discussion below), are more problematic. Although you might be able to agree to sell and equally divide the proceeds, that course may be impractical or undesirable for economic reasons.

Partition of Real Property

If you own real estate jointly, it will probably be even more difficult to determine your respective rights in the event of a dissolution of your non-marital relationship. Under a legal principle known as “partition”, the rights of joint property holders are determined not just by how title is held, but also by virtue of the relative financial contributions (towards both acquisition and maintenance of the property) made by the title holders. There are lawyers who specialize in this area of practice.

Non-Contractual Rights

An even more troublesome class of property, is assets that were acquired together or through joint efforts and which one of you now holds in sole name or otherwise has within his/her exclusive control. To legally address assets of this type, you’ll need to resort to theories of legal recovery that derive from tort and contract law. Most of these legal concepts were developed with the idea of redressing wrongs perpetrated by one member of a fiduciary relationship against the other (a fiduciary relationship is one that by its very nature gives rise to a presumption of mutual reliance or dependency, e.g., a broker-customer relationship, a relationship between business partners or one between close relatives of unequal bargaining power). These legal concepts include causes of action under partnership law, contract law and tort law, such as economic partnership, express contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation, constructive trust and quantum meruit restitution, all of which are discussed below.

Economic Partnership

One legal concept that may apply to your living-together relationship is the law related to business partnerships. The courts routinely refer to the financial relationship between the parties to a marriage as an “economic partnership”. In divorce litigation, in order to refute this presumption, you must present evidence showing that the parties actually functioned as separate economic units. So, why shouldn’t the concept of economic partnership be applicable to the dissolution of non-marital relationships, assuming that a party can show that their relationship functioned as an economic unit?

There are reported cases that have accepted this logic. One such example is the case of McCall v. Frampton, which was a suit brought by Ms. McCall, an established business manager of rock and roll acts before she became romantically involved with Peter Frampton, a classic rock guitar icon known for such hits as, “Do You Feel Like I Do?”. Ms. McCall was able to convince the court that management services that she provided to Mr. Frampton free of charge, services of a kind that she had previously been paid for in the marketplace, constituted a thing of value that should entitle her to compensation (namely, a share of the profits of their partnership).

The decision in McCall notwithstanding, establishing an economic partnership under New York law will require a high standard of legal proof. You will need to show that you and your significant other deliberately entered into a business relationship, and that you then proceeded to function as business partners over the course of your relationship. If this was your situation, I strongly recommend that you speak to a lawyer well versed in partnership law.

Quantum Meruit Restitution

In a cause of action for quantum meruit restitution, the question to be resolved is: “Did the moving party confer a financial benefit upon the non-moving party?” This typically could involve housekeeping or homemaking efforts, and, in a more unique case, could include financial, managerial or other marketable services.

As suggested above, it can not include sexual favors, which judges have disapprovingly termed “meretricious” services. Another criterion is whether the alleged contribution was “quantifiable”, or would be more appropriately characterized as “pillow-talk”. Unless the advice-giving cohabitant is a career counselor by day, his or her advice from the sidelines (or more likely, the bedroom) is not likely to be compelling. Again, the case of McCall is illustrative, where Ms. McCall’s prior experience as a rock and roll manager was crucial to the success of her claim.

Under reported New York cases, you must prove the following to make out a case for quantum meruit recovery: (a) good faith performance of the service(s); (b) acceptance thereof by the other party; (c) that you had an expectation of compensation; and (d) that you can demonstrate the reasonable value of the service(s).

Constructive Trust

In a constructive trust cause of action, the movant must prove a confidential or fiduciary relationship with the other party, that a promise was made to him or her, and that as a result the other party was unjustly enriched. The courts speak of a constructive trust cause of action as an “equitable device”, meaning one designed to redress inequality. An example of when the courts might apply this concept, is where one party in a position of trust convinces another to transfer money or property to him or her, based on a declaration or promise that is subsequently broken.

Unjust Enrichment/Fraudulent Misrepresentation

The cause of action known as “unjust enrichment” emphasizes the economic unfairness to the aggrieved party in a particular transaction. The related concept of “fraudulent misrepresentation” involves the same unfairness, but with an added element of fraud. This means that the misrepresentation at issue must have induced the defrauded party to take or omit to take an act that resulted in some substantial detriment.

Palimony

Lastly, under New York law, there is no such thing as “palimony”. Again, the concept of judicial economy was a driving force here. The concept of palimony first came to public attention in Marvin v. Marvin, 18 Cal. 3d 660, a California case, decided in 1976, which involved a non-marital relationship between the legendary film actor/action hero, Lee Marvin and Michelle Trola Marvin. In that case, the court afforded Ms. Trola Marvin the right to attempt to prove that an implicit or express contract involving Mr. Marvin=s earnings and assets was entered into between the parties. This case paved the way for recognition of palimony as a recognizable cause of action in California.

However, on this side of the continent, the courts have viewed the issue quite differently. In 1980, New York’s highest court, in Morone v. Morone, 50 N.Y.2d 592, decided that it would not recognize palimony as a valid cause of action on the grounds of public policy. As a result, palimony has been a disfavored cause of action in New York ever since.

Conclusion

A word of caution, each of the legal concepts described above is applicable only under special circumstances. Again, reference to the interesting case of A vs. A, may help to bring this home. Although Mr. and Mrs. A’s relationship lacked the formal sanction of marriage, they were virtually universally assumed to be a traditional married couple. After Mrs. A’s common law marriage cause of action was dismissed (as described in Part I of this article), she proceeded under some of the contract and tort law principles discussed above (including constructive trust, quantum meruit, economic partnership, unjust enrichment and fraudulent misrepresentation).

I believe that what enabled Mrs. A to prevail, in the face of Mr. A’s motion to dismiss, were the compelling and special circumstances that she was able to demonstrate. Specifically, when the parties embarked on their living together-relationship, they were in their late-20’s to early 30’s, and had yet to achieve the significant financial success that they would later in life; Mr. A was still plying his trade as an oil burner furnace serviceman, and Mrs. A hers as a dental technician. Yet, over the course of their relationship, they built a successful business together. Mrs. A was integrally involved in both the development of the product, and in fulfilling many of the demanding functions involved in building a business from the ground up (including physically challenging and dangerous jobs like making late-night cash deposits in sometimes marginal neighborhoods).

By the time of their separation, they had a number of investments in joint name, filed joint income tax returns for most years of the relationship, adopted common estate plans, and jointly owned residential apartments, including the penthouse apartment they lived in up to their separation. During the years in which they built their substantial wealth, Mrs. A served as corporate officer and secretary of their primary business, and, as they expanded into property holding and development, she was issued shares in one or more corporate holding companies.

And lastly, but perhaps as importantly, Mrs. A was able to prove these facts. As is often the case after litigation commences, when Mrs. A attempted to obtain certain documents in order to prove her claims, Mr. A contended that the documentation no longer existed, was no longer under his possession or control, or never existed in the first place.

Consequently, it was crucial that Mrs. A had the foresight to retain and copy hundreds of documents before litigation was initiated. As a result, she was armed with an arsenal of paper that would help prove her claims.

So, my last word of advice is to do more than just keep yourself informed and knowledgeable about your financial affairs. Also, be wary enough to collect your documentary proof, and to do so before it’s too late. Otherwise, you may find that you’re barred from locations where documents are kept, and that documents have been thrown out, hidden, shredded, or otherwise placed beyond the reach of legal process.

And lastly, the case of Jennings v. Hurt (discussed in Part I of this article) illustrates that you can’t tailor the facts of your case to fit your claims. In dismissing Ms. Jennings’ common law marriage cause of action, the court also refused her request for permission to amend her complaint to add three non-marital causes of action (constructive trust, breach of contract and breach of a promise to support), leaving her with effectively no legal remedy, except for the right to receive child support for their common child.

Critically, the courts require a proponent of any one of the legal theories described above to specifically plead and prove the specific elements of the given cause of action. This was the case with respect to Ms. Jennings’ proposed constructive trust and breach of contract causes of action, which were held insufficient, as a matter of law, due to failure to plead specific elements of the cause of action. It should come as no surprise (in light of Morone) that the Court dismissed the third proposed cause of action, which it considered to be a mere promise to support in return for “wifely” duties, in essence a palimony claim, finding it to be void as against public policy.

The lawyer for Ms. Jennings contended, rather unconvincingly, after losing on the trial level, that the trial judge had been blinded by Mr. Hurt’s celebrity (even claiming that the judge had fallen in “love” with Mr. Hurt). Yet, issues of relative credibility aside, it seems clear to me from the face of their respective allegations that the degree of financial interdependence involved in the relationship between Ms. Jennings and Mr. Hurt, didn’t compare to the interdependence that existed between either Ms. McCall and Mr. Frampton, or between Mrs. A and Mr. A for that matter.



Source by Jonathan Pollack

Realty Vs Real Estate Vs Real Property

Realty and personal property terms have often been confused as to what they exactly mean. Here we will clear that right up for you. We will look at the terms personal property, realty, land, real estate, and lastly real property.

Let’s begin with personal property. Personal property also known as chattel is everything that is not real property. Example couches, TVs things of this nature. Emblements pronounced (M-blee-ments) are things like crops, apples, oranges, and berries. Emblements are also personal property. So when you go to sell your house, flip, or wholesale deal, you sell or transfer ownership by a bill of sale with personal property.

Realty.

Realty is the broad definition for land, real estate, and real property.

Land

Land is everything mother nature gave to us like whats below the ground, above the ground and the airspace. Also called subsurface (underground), surface (the dirt) and airspace. So when you buy land that’s what you get, keep in mind our government owns a lot of our air space.

Real Estate

Real estate is defined as land plus its man made improvements added to it. You know things like fences, houses, and driveways. So when you buy real estate this is what you can expect to be getting.

Real property

Real property is land, real estate, and what’s call the bundle of rights. The bundle of rights consist of five rights, the right to possess, control, enjoy, exclude, and lastly dispose. So basically you can possess, take control, enjoy, exclude others, and then dispose of your real property as you wish as long as you do not break state and federal laws.

Lastly there are two other types of property we should mention.

Fixture

Fixture is personal property which has been attached realty and by that now is considered real property. So you would ask yourself upon selling to determine value “did you attach it to make it permanent?” The exceptions to this rule are the garage door opener and door key, these are not considered fixtures.

Trade Fixtures

Trade fixtures are those fixtures installed by say a commercial tenant or can be the property of the commercial tenant.

I hope this clears up some misconceptions about personal property, realty, land and real estate and now fixtures and trade fixtures!



Source by Bill Guerra

The Buying and Selling Costs of Real Estate Transactions in Kenya

As would be expected, there are several transactions involved in buying and selling property, which attract fees and taxes. In Kenya, you incur charges from the moment you begin searching for feasible investment ventures.

While some costs are set, such as registration and requisite search fees, many costs associated with buying and selling real estate in Kenya are highly variable and based on:

  • The type of real estate
  • Location of the property
  • Commissions and fees charged and earned by the various professionals (which are also often based on type and location of the property)
  • The type of transactions
  • Documents you want or need

The estimated sum for round trip transactions can range from 4.5% to 6.8% of the selling/buying price of the real estate.

Real-estate Agent Fees

  • Searching fees: rates vary depending on the type, size and cost of property with an urban apartment in upmarket neighborhood costing as much as Ksh5,000
  • Viewing fees: varies among real estate agents but usually ranges between Ksh500- 1000 for residential houses and over Kshs5,000 for commercial properties
  • Listing Fees: varies depending on size and location of property with landlords paying from 2% the value of the property
  • Agent’s commission (buyer & seller): 1.25% of the sale price

Property Requisite Search Fees

  • Preliminary requisite search fee: Ksh500
  • Costs of obtaining requisite completion documents (seller): Kshs500

Registration Costs

  • Registration fees: Ksh500
  • Banker’s cheque fee: Kshs600
  • Land rent clearance certificate: Kshs 7,500

Stamp Duties

Stamp duties are taxes tied to documents and real-estate sale/purchase transactions. It’s usually based on the sale price of the property.

  • Duly signed sales agreement: Ksh200 for original copy and Kshs20 for each copy
  • Property transfer (properties within municipalities): 4% flat rate
  • Property transfer (outside municipalities): 2% flat rate
  • Mortgage: 0.1% of the amount of mortgage
  • Property leased for less than 3 years: 1% flat rate
  • Property leased over a duration of 3yrs: 2% flat rate stamp duty

Taxes

  • Income tax (non-residents): 30% of gross rental income
  • Income tax (foreign companies): 37.50% flat rate
  • Annual property tax: varies across locations and property value but is usually 1% of the property value
  • Land tax: varies by location of the land and is most costly in major towns such as Nairobi with rates as high as 8%

Legal and Mortgage Fees

  • Legal charges related with taking mortgage

    • Depends on amount of mortgage you take (higher mortgages mean higher fees) but mostly the rates are between 0.5-1.5% of the value of property
  • Property insurance: varies with duration of loan repayment and lender
  • Mortgage life policy: charged at 0.3% and 0.6% of the mortgage loan per year
  • Mortgage negotiation fees: although it varies, most lenders ask for 1% of the mortgage amount
  • Mortgage indemnity insurance: often ranges between 5 – 10% of the value of property
  • Legal fees related with lawyer overseeing sale process: 1.5%

Other Important Costs

  • Survey fees: Ksh 5, 000 consultation fee.

    • Survey fees are determined by the survey work done
  • Valuation charges: usually Kshs5,000 consultation fee

    • However, the actual valuation fee depends on property value. For instance valuation charges for urban properties valued Ksh10 million means Ksh40,000
  • Residency permit fees: accompanied by non-refundable processing fees and the fees vary depending with the type of permit you need. For instance:
  1. Class D- Kshs200,000 annually with 10,000 non-refundable fees
  2. Class I- Kshs5,000 with Kshs1,000 non-refundable fee
  3. Class A- Kshs250, 000 and 10,000 non- refundable, etc.

Company setup costs: depends on type and size of company and its location

Utility reconnection fees include

  • Electricity deposit fees: standard Ksh2,500
  • Water deposit fees: standard Ksh1,000



Source by James E Harrison

Overview of Zimbabwean Banking Sector (Part One)

Entrepreneurs build their business within the context of an environment which they sometimes may not be able to control. The robustness of an entrepreneurial venture is tried and tested by the vicissitudes of the environment. Within the environment are forces that may serve as great opportunities or menacing threats to the survival of the entrepreneurial venture. Entrepreneurs need to understand the environment within which they operate so as to exploit emerging opportunities and mitigate against potential threats.

This article serves to create an understanding of the forces at play and their effect on banking entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. A brief historical overview of banking in Zimbabwe is carried out. The impact of the regulatory and economic environment on the sector is assessed. An analysis of the structure of the banking sector facilitates an appreciation of the underlying forces in the industry.

Historical Background

At independence (1980) Zimbabwe had a sophisticated banking and financial market, with commercial banks mostly foreign owned. The country had a central bank inherited from the Central Bank of Rhodesia and Nyasaland at the winding up of the Federation.

For the first few years of independence, the government of Zimbabwe did not interfere with the banking industry. There was neither nationalisation of foreign banks nor restrictive legislative interference on which sectors to fund or the interest rates to charge, despite the socialistic national ideology. However, the government purchased some shareholding in two banks. It acquired Nedbank’s 62% of Rhobank at a fair price when the bank withdrew from the country. The decision may have been motivated by the desire to stabilise the banking system. The bank was re-branded as Zimbank. The state did not interfere much in the operations of the bank. The State in 1981 also partnered with Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) as a 49% shareholder in a new commercial bank, Bank of Credit and Commerce Zimbabwe (BCCZ). This was taken over and converted to Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) when BCCI collapsed in 1991 over allegations of unethical business practices.

This should not be viewed as nationalisation but in line with state policy to prevent company closures. The shareholdings in both Zimbank and CBZ were later diluted to below 25% each.

In the first decade, no indigenous bank was licensed and there is no evidence that the government had any financial reform plan. Harvey (n.d., page 6) cites the following as evidence of lack of a coherent financial reform plan in those years:

– In 1981 the government stated that it would encourage rural banking services, but the plan was not implemented.

– In 1982 and 1983 a Money and Finance Commission was proposed but never constituted.

– By 1986 there was no mention of any financial reform agenda in the Five Year National Development Plan.

Harvey argues that the reticence of government to intervene in the financial sector could be explained by the fact that it did not want to jeopardise the interests of the white population, of which banking was an integral part. The country was vulnerable to this sector of the population as it controlled agriculture and manufacturing, which were the mainstay of the economy. The State adopted a conservative approach to indigenisation as it had learnt a lesson from other African countries, whose economies nearly collapsed due to forceful eviction of the white community without first developing a mechanism of skills transfer and capacity building into the black community. The economic cost of inappropriate intervention was deemed to be too high. Another plausible reason for the non- intervention policy was that the State, at independence, inherited a highly controlled economic policy, with tight exchange control mechanisms, from its predecessor. Since control of foreign currency affected control of credit, the government by default, had a strong control of the sector for both economic and political purposes; hence it did not need to interfere.

Financial Reforms

However, after 1987 the government, at the behest of multilateral lenders, embarked on an Economic and Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). As part of this programme the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) started advocating financial reforms through liberalisation and deregulation. It contended that the oligopoly in banking and lack of competition, deprived the sector of choice and quality in service, innovation and efficiency. Consequently, as early as 1994 the RBZ Annual Report indicates the desire for greater competition and efficiency in the banking sector, leading to banking reforms and new legislation that would:

– allow for the conduct of prudential supervision of banks along international best practice

– allow for both off-and on-site bank inspections to increase RBZ’s Banking Supervision function and

– enhance competition, innovation and improve service to the public from banks.

Subsequently the Registrar of Banks in the Ministry of Finance, in liaison with the RBZ, started issuing licences to new players as the financial sector opened up. From the mid-1990s up to December 2003, there was a flurry of entrepreneurial activity in the financial sector as indigenous owned banks were set up. The graph below depicts the trend in the numbers of financial institutions by category, operating since 1994. The trend shows an initial increase in merchant banks and discount houses, followed by decline. The increase in commercial banks was initially slow, gathering momentum around 1999. The decline in merchant banks and discount houses was due to their conversion, mostly into commercial banks.

Source: RBZ Reports

Different entrepreneurs used varied methods to penetrate the financial services sector. Some started advisory services and then upgraded into merchant banks, while others started stockbroking firms, which were elevated into discount houses.

From the beginning of the liberalisation of the financial services up to about 1997 there was a notable absence of locally owned commercial banks. Some of the reasons for this were:

– Conservative licensing policy by the Registrar of Financial Institutions since it was risky to licence indigenous owned commercial banks without an enabling legislature and banking supervision experience.

– Banking entrepreneurs opted for non-banking financial institutions as these were less costly in terms of both initial capital requirements and working capital. For example a merchant bank would require less staff, would not need banking halls, and would have no need to deal in costly small retail deposits, which would reduce overheads and reduce the time to register profits. There was thus a rapid increase in non-banking financial institutions at this time, e.g. by 1995 five of the ten merchant banks had commenced within the previous two years. This became an entry route of choice into commercial banking for some, e.g. Kingdom Bank, NMB Bank and Trust Bank.

It was expected that some foreign banks would also enter the market after the financial reforms but this did not occur, probably due to the restriction of having a minimum 30% local shareholding. The stringent foreign currency controls could also have played a part, as well as the cautious approach adopted by the licensing authorities. Existing foreign banks were not required to shed part of their shareholding although Barclay’s Bank did, through listing on the local stock exchange.

Harvey argues that financial liberalisation assumes that removing direction on lending presupposes that banks would automatically be able to lend on commercial grounds. But he contends that banks may not have this capacity as they are affected by the borrowers’ inability to service loans due to foreign exchange or price control restrictions. Similarly, having positive real interest rates would normally increase bank deposits and increase financial intermediation but this logic falsely assumes that banks will always lend more efficiently. He further argues that licensing new banks does not imply increased competition as it assumes that the new banks will be able to attract competent management and that legislation and bank supervision will be adequate to prevent fraud and thus prevent bank collapse and the resultant financial crisis. Sadly his concerns do not seem to have been addressed within the Zimbabwean financial sector reform, to the detriment of the national economy.

The Operating Environment

Any entrepreneurial activity is constrained or aided by its operating environment. This section analyses the prevailing environment in Zimbabwe that could have an effect on the banking sector.

Politico-legislative

The political environment in the 1990s was stable but turned volatile after 1998, mainly due to the following factors:

– an unbudgeted pay out to war veterans after they mounted an assault on the State in November 1997. This exerted a heavy strain on the economy, resulting in a run on the dollar. Resultantly the Zimbabwean dollar depreciated by 75% as the market foresaw the consequences of the government’s decision. That day has been recognised as the beginning of severe decline of the country’s economy and has been dubbed “Black Friday”. This depreciation became a catalyst for further inflation. It was followed a month later by violent food riots.

– a poorly planned Agrarian Land Reform launched in 1998, where white commercial farmers were ostensibly evicted and replaced by blacks without due regard to land rights or compensation systems. This resulted in a significant reduction in the productivity of the country, which is mostly dependent on agriculture. The way the land redistribution was handled angered the international community, that alleges it is racially and politically motivated. International donors withdrew support for the programme.

– an ill- advised military incursion, named Operation Sovereign Legitimacy, to defend the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998, saw the country incur massive costs with no apparent benefit to itself and

– elections which the international community alleged were rigged in 2000,2003 and 2008.

These factors led to international isolation, significantly reducing foreign currency and foreign direct investment flow into the country. Investor confidence was severely eroded. Agriculture and tourism, which traditionally, are huge foreign currency earners crumbled.

For the first post independence decade the Banking Act (1965) was the main legislative framework. Since this was enacted when most commercial banks where foreign owned, there were no directions on prudential lending, insider loans, proportion of shareholder funds that could be lent to one borrower, definition of risk assets, and no provision for bank inspection.

The Banking Act (24:01), which came into effect in September 1999, was the culmination of the RBZ’s desire to liberalise and deregulate the financial services. This Act regulates commercial banks, merchant banks, and discount houses. Entry barriers were removed leading to increased competition. The deregulation also allowed banks some latitude to operate in non-core services. It appears that this latitude was not well delimited and hence presented opportunities for risk taking entrepreneurs. The RBZ advocated this deregulation as a way to de-segment the financial sector as well as improve efficiencies. (RBZ, 2000:4.) These two factors presented opportunities to enterprising indigenous bankers to establish their own businesses in the industry. The Act was further revised and reissued as Chapter 24:20 in August 2000. The increased competition resulted in the introduction of new products and services e.g. e-banking and in-store banking. This entrepreneurial activity resulted in the “deepening and sophistication of the financial sector” (RBZ, 2000:5).

As part of the financial reforms drive, the Reserve Bank Act (22:15) was enacted in September 1999.

Its main purpose was to strengthen the supervisory role of the Bank through:

– setting prudential standards within which banks operate

– conducting both on and off-site surveillance of banks

– enforcing sanctions and where necessary placement under curatorship and

– investigating banking institutions wherever necessary.

This Act still had deficiencies as Dr Tsumba, the then RBZ governor, argued that there was need for the RBZ to be responsible for both licensing and supervision as “the ultimate sanction available to a banking supervisor is the knowledge by the banking sector that the license issued will be cancelled for flagrant violation of operating rules”. However the government seemed to have resisted this until January 2004. It can be argued that this deficiency could have given some bankers the impression that nothing would happen to their licences. Dr Tsumba, in observing the role of the RBZ in holding bank management, directors and shareholders responsible for banks viability, stated that it was neither the role nor intention of the RBZ to “micromanage banks and direct their day to day operations. “

It appears though as if the view of his successor differed significantly from this orthodox view, hence the evidence of micromanaging that has been observed in the sector since December 2003.

In November 2001 the Troubled and Insolvent Banks Policy, which had been drafted over the previous few years, became operational. One of its intended goals was that, “the policy enhances regulatory transparency, accountability and ensures that regulatory responses will be applied in a fair and consistent manner” The prevailing view on the market is that this policy when it was implemented post 2003 is definitely deficient as measured against these ideals. It is contestable how transparent the inclusion and exclusion of vulnerable banks into ZABG was.

A new governor of the RBZ was appointed in December 2003 when the economy was on a free-fall. He made significant changes to the monetary policy, which caused tremors in the banking sector. The RBZ was finally authorised to act as both the licensing and regulatory authority for financial institutions in January 2004. The regulatory environment was reviewed and significant amendments were made to the laws governing the financial sector.

The Troubled Financial Institutions Resolution Act, (2004) was enacted. As a result of the new regulatory environment, a number of financial institutions were distressed. The RBZ placed seven institutions under curatorship while one was closed and another was placed under liquidation.

In January 2005 three of the distressed banks were amalgamated on the authority of the Troubled Financial Institutions Act to form a new institution, Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG). These banks allegedly failed to repay funds advanced to them by the RBZ. The affected institutions were Trust Bank, Royal Bank and Barbican Bank. The shareholders appealed and won the appeal against the seizure of their assets with the Supreme Court ruling that ZABG was trading in illegally acquired assets. These bankers appealed to the Minister of Finance and lost their appeal. Subsequently in late 2006 they appealed to the Courts as provided by the law. Finally as at April 2010 the RBZ finally agreed to return the “stolen assets”.

Another measure taken by the new governor was to force management changes in the financial sector, which resulted in most entrepreneurial bank founders being forced out of their own companies under varying pretexts. Some eventually fled the country under threat of arrest. Boards of Directors of banks were restructured.

Economic Environment

Economically, the country was stable up to the mid 1990s, but a downturn started around 1997-1998, mostly due to political decisions taken at that time, as already discussed. Economic policy was driven by political considerations. Consequently, there was a withdrawal of multi- national donors and the country was isolated. At the same time, a drought hit the country in the season 2001-2002, exacerbating the injurious effect of farm evictions on crop production. This reduced production had an adverse impact on banks that funded agriculture. The interruptions in commercial farming and the concomitant reduction in food production resulted in a precarious food security position. In the last twelve years the country has been forced to import maize, further straining the tenuous foreign currency resources of the country.

Another impact of the agrarian reform programme was that most farmers who had borrowed money from banks could not service the loans yet the government, which took over their businesses, refused to assume responsibility for the loans. By concurrently failing to recompense the farmers promptly and fairly, it became impractical for the farmers to service the loans. Banks were thus exposed to these bad loans.

The net result was spiralling inflation, company closures resulting in high unemployment, foreign currency shortages as international sources of funds dried up, and food shortages. The foreign currency shortages led to fuel shortages, which in turn reduced industrial production. Consequently, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been on the decline since 1997. This negative economic environment meant reduced banking activity as industrial activity declined and banking services were driven onto the parallel rather than the formal market.

As depicted in the graph below, inflation spiralled and reached a peak of 630% in January 2003. After a brief reprieve the upward trend continued rising to 1729% by February 2007. Thereafter the country entered a period of hyperinflation unheard of in a peace time period. Inflation stresses banks. Some argue that the rate of inflation rose because the devaluation of the currency had not been accompanied by a reduction in the budget deficit. Hyperinflation causes interest rates to soar while the value of collateral security falls, resulting in asset-liability mismatches. It also increases non-performing loans as more people fail to service their loans.

Effectively, by 2001 most banks had adopted a conservative lending strategy e.g. with total advances for the banking sector being only 21.7% of total industry assets compared to 31.1% in the previous year. Banks resorted to volatile non- interest income. Some began to trade in the parallel foreign currency market, at times colluding with the RBZ.

In the last half of 2003 there was a severe cash shortage. People stopped using banks as intermediaries as they were not sure they would be able to access their cash whenever they needed it. This reduced the deposit base for banks. Due to the short term maturity profile of the deposit base, banks are normally not able to invest significant portions of their funds in longer term assets and thus were highly liquid up to mid-2003. However in 2003, because of the demand by clients to have returns matching inflation, most indigenous banks resorted to speculative investments, which yielded higher returns.

These speculative activities, mostly on non-core banking activities, drove an exponential growth within the financial sector. For example one bank had its asset base grow from Z$200 billion (USD50 million) to Z$800 billion (USD200 million) within one year.

However bankers have argued that what the governor calls speculative non-core business is considered best practice in most advanced banking systems worldwide. They argue that it is not unusual for banks to take equity positions in non-banking institutions they have loaned money to safeguard their investments. Examples were given of banks like Nedbank (RSA) and J P Morgan (USA) which control vast real estate investments in their portfolios. Bankers argue convincingly that these investments are sometimes used to hedge against inflation.

The instruction by the new governor of the RBZ for banks to unwind their positions overnight, and the immediate withdrawal of an overnight accommodation support for banks by the RBZ, stimulated a crisis which led to significant asset-liability mismatches and a liquidity crunch for most banks. The prices of properties and the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange collapsed simultaneously, due to the massive selling by banks that were trying to cover their positions. The loss of value on the equities market meant loss of value of the collateral, which most banks held in lieu of the loans they had advanced.

During this period Zimbabwe remained in a debt crunch as most of its foreign debts were either un-serviced or under-serviced. The consequent worsening of the balance of payments (BOP) put pressure on the foreign exchange reserves and the overvalued currency. Total government domestic debt rose from Z$7.2 billion (1990) to Z$2.8 trillion (2004). This growth in domestic debt emanates from high budgetary deficits and decline in international funding.

Socio-cultural

Due to the volatile economy after the 1990s, the population became fairly mobile with a significant number of professionals emigrating for economic reasons. The Internet and Satellite television made the world truly a global village. Customers demanded the same level of service excellence they were exposed to globally. This made service quality a differential advantage. There was also a demand for banks to invest heavily in technological systems.

The increasing cost of doing business in a hyperinflationary environment led to high unemployment and a concomitant collapse of real income. As the Zimbabwe Independent (2005:B14) so keenly observed, a direct outcome of hyperinflationary environment is, “that currency substitution is rife, implying that the Zimbabwe dollar is relinquishing its function as a store of value, unit of account and medium of exchange” to more stable foreign currencies.

During this period an affluent indigenous segment of society emerged, which was cash rich but avoided patronising banks. The emerging parallel market for foreign currency and for cash during the cash crisis reinforced this. Effectively, this reduced the customer base for banks while more banks were coming onto the market. There was thus aggressive competition within a dwindling market.

Socio-economic costs associated with hyperinflation include: erosion of purchasing power parity, increased uncertainty in business planning and budgeting, reduced disposable income, speculative activities that divert resources from productive activities, pressure on the domestic exchange rate due to increased import demand and poor returns on savings. During this period, to augment income there was increased cross border trading as well as commodity broking by people who imported from China, Malaysia and Dubai. This effectively meant that imported substitutes for local products intensified competition, adversely affecting local industries.

As more banks entered the market, which had suffered a major brain drain for economic reasons, it stood to reason that many inexperienced bankers were thrown into the deep end. For example the founding directors of ENG Asset Management had less than five years experience in financial services and yet ENG was the fastest growing financial institution by 2003. It has been suggested that its failure in December 2003 was due to youthful zeal, greed and lack of experience. The collapse of ENG affected some financial institutions that were financially exposed to it, as well as eliciting depositor flight leading to the collapse of some indigenous banks.



Source by Dr Tawafadza A. Makoni

How to Become a Professional Home Builder – How to Learn More

You will never know all there is about the construction industry, it is humanly impossible. But I do believe the more your know the betters. Our program is a great starting point and the following items can help expand your knowledge as a professional builder.

1. Required Reading

As a builder, my time is very limited on what I can read about the construction industry. One of my favorite publications is The Journal of Light Construction. What a great magazine to learn all the tricks of construction – to properly construct areas of a home and handle related construction problems. You’ll acquire a Ph.D. in construction if you read this magazine every month.

The next one is Builder Magazine. This publication will keep you abreast of the market, national trends, what’s hot and what’s not, and all the new products coming on the market. If you join the Home builder’s Association in your area, you’ll normally get a subscription to this magazine as part of your membership. If you do become a builder, you can normally acquire a free subscription to this publication by simply asking.

2. The Home Builder’s Association

I highly recommend you join your local chapter. You can locate your nearest chapter by going on line. Even if you’re only building one home or your first home, you can join as an apprentice builder.

Not only will you enjoy the meetings you attend, but also it gives you a chance to rub shoulders with the professional builders in your area and you’ll meet lenders, subcontractors and suppliers. You’ll also be provided access to the insurance you need at a discount over what most people pay.



Source by Thomas R. Harrison