Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and d├ęcor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.

Step Moving Companies – Choosing the Best

When you are moving, you want to make sure that your possessions are safe, that they are going to arrive at your new home undamaged, but how do you make sure this happens? One way is to move your possessions yourself but if you have a lot of stuff to move or you are moving to another state moving everything yourself might not be possible without hiring a moving company.

The first step is to sort through your household stuff and divide it into three categories, which would include items to be given away, items to be sold, and items to move. This will help you know just how much stuff you have to move so you would know what type of mover you would need to hire. When you either sell or give away things that you do not need you will be getting rid of things and not taking it with you to store in your new home.

To find a good mover talk to family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers to see if they know of a reputable moving company they can recommend. If possible it is better to hire a moving company that someone recommends than to hire one from a listing in the phone book or from an online search. With a recommendation, you know that they will give you good service. Even if you have a recommendation it is best to check with several moving companies to sure that you are getting a reputable company and the best deal. When talking to the moving companies ask them how many years they have been in business, and what amenities they offer. You should inquire how long it would take them to move your household goods to the new home. You also want to make sure that they have the required licenses.

Make sure that the company is regulated by calling the state transportation department. You should also check with the Better Business Bureau to see there were any complaints filled against the moving company. Doing these things should give you an idea of how trustworthy and reliable they are. Next call and get an estimate of three or four companies. This estimate should include packing fee, storage fees, insurance, surcharges, and more.

Some moving companies will give you a non-binding or binding estimate. With a binding estimate, it includes all costs with no additional charges. In a non-binding estimate, as much as ten percent or more can change on the original estimate. Once you have the estimates compare all the companies and choose the one with the best services for the best rates. Make sure that you get a copy of the estimate before signing the contract.

Buying Foreclosure Properties

Buying Foreclosure Properties

Definition:

“A foreclosure property is a piece of real estate that a mortgage lender sells to pay off a defaulted mortgage loan. Every foreclosure culminates in a public auction where the lender sells the property and anybody can purchase the property. Or you can purchase a foreclosure property from a bank after the bank purchases the property at the auction.”

The real estate market is showing increasing signs of recovering and there are great investment opportunities to be found. Home prices are still relatively stable and interest rates are still very attractive.

However, whether buying for a primary residence or for investment purposes, there are still some basic guidelines to follow when considering buying foreclosure properties.

Below are my 4 Buying Foreclosure Properties Tips

1. Work with a broker.

It does not matter if you are buying a foreclosure for investment or as a primary residence, it is really helpful to have a broker help with the process.

Neighbourhood is one of the most important factors when it comes to buying a home and a broker is worth their weight in gold when it comes to knowing the local real estate market.

2. Do the financial due diligence.

All we need to do is remember the real estate market crash to see why it is important to do a thorough financial due diligence when purchasing a home.

Be realistic about your budget and how much home you can really afford. If the home is an investment purchase, can you make the mortgage payment if you have to carry the mortgage for a few months?

That can happen with investment property so be sure you factor in at least six months of mortgage payments just in case.

Also factor in the cost of any repairs. This is especially true with foreclosure purchases which are often sold ‘as is’ which means they often need repairs.

Verify the condition of the property. Restore and repair costs add up on a total value of a home.

It is always best to purchase foreclosure properties that require minimal repairs, otherwise your profit margin shrinks.

3. Understand that every neighbourhood is local to that neighbourhood.

What this means is that what is selling in one area may not be selling just down the road, so you need to do your homework and check comparable homes in the area to know whether or not what you are buying is a good investment.

Get a proper assessment on the home you are considering purchasing.

Buying foreclosure properties will generally be thirty to forty percent discounted, so if a foreclosure home does not need major repairs and you can get it for a price that is well below the market value of similar homes in the same area, then you are probably making a good investment.

4. Try and find foreclosures that are bank and creditor owned.

These properties are where you can most likely get the best deal because banks are not in the business of owning property so want to sell these types of properties and will often do so at a much discounted price.

Investing in foreclosure properties can be a very smart move, especially in the current real estate market.

With housing prices still relatively stable and interest rates still very attractive, there are many good opportunities for investment available.

When considering buying foreclosure properties, it pays to research the property and to do the financial due diligence in order to verify the quality of the property and financing.

Boost Your Business Website Traffic SEO Hacks

We all want websites that are search-engine friendly. But sometimes when you are busy it’s easy to publish a new blog post and be off to the next thing on your to do list.

Over time, this can really hurt your SEO efforts. That’s why I’ve put together this short hit list of things you can do to boost your WordPress SEO.

Schedule these tasks in your calendar to make your blog traffic soar!

1) Post New Stuff Regularly

Google has a bias towards fresh content. Part of Google’s algorithm looks at how new the content is and gives preference to more recent results. So publishing original content on a regular basis is important.

Also size matters when it comes to content. Generally longer content ranks higher than shorter content. So strive to make your post at least 500 words.

2) Create a Keywords List

If SEO is a priority, then you’ll want to develop a keyword list. This is basically a list of keywords and phrases that describes your products and services. These keywords should include words from search terms that are more likely to be used to find your offerings online.

Google has some incredible tools to make keyword research easy including Google Search, Google Suggest, Google Instant and Google Wonder Wheel.

Hint: if you want a really targeted keyword list, hire an SEO expert!

3) Install an SEO Plugin

This will allow you to set keyword-rich custom titles and Meta descriptions for your posts for search engines.

A couple of popular SEO plug-ins to consider are All in One SEO Pack and WordPress SEO by Yoast.

Again, this is something your web designer or an SEO professional can easily install for you.

4) Hand Submit to Search Engines

What good is a site if no one can find it? That’s why getting listed in Google and the other popular search engines and directories is one of the most effective ways of getting free targeted traffic to your website.

You have probably seen lots of automated submission services where you pay a small fee for them to submit your site to hundreds of search engines. These services not only won’t help – they can actually hurt you.

Almost all of these free directories never send an actual visitor to your website and getting links from them can hurt your ability to rank in the real search engines like Google and Bing.

The best practice is to manually submit your site to search engines yourself. WordPress makes this easy once you set up an account in Google, Bing and Yandex Webmaster Tools.

If unsure, just ask your webmaster or SEO Specialist to set up these accounts.

5) Add Tags to your Posts

WordPress, straight out of the box, comes ready to embrace search engines. The tags features is one of those SEO friendly features you should take advantage of.

Be sure to add relevant keyword-rich tags to every post you publish.

6) Leave Comments on Other Blogs

Start linking more to other people’s posts on their blogs and encourage them to link back to you.

One search engine factor that Google considers is backlinking. A website that has more backlinks is considered more of an authority site and gets higher rankings.

7) Block Spam Comments

When people leave comments on your blog, it counts as content to Google. So if you have a website about DIY crafts and someone leaves 5 comments about “cheap enhancement pills’ that ruins your keyword relevancy and hurts your rankings.

So blocking spam comments from posting to your blog will improve your SEO – as well as make your real blog readers happy.

8) Internal Linking

One easy way to get more traffic is to add internal links to your blog posts.

For example if you have an article on Overcoming Your Resistance to Blog Writing, then at the bottom of that article you can post links to “Other Related Articles You May Enjoy”: 4 Content Marketing Trends for Business Owners in 2017 and other related articles. WordPress SEO by Yoast does this automatically for you as you can see at the bottom of this post.

9) Use Image Alt Tags

For each image you use in your post, ensure you add the Alt tag to help them rank better in image searches. This is another excellent place to put relevant keywords.

Google has an image search function that works in pretty much the exact same way as the webpage search with keywords and relevance. So adding Alt tags helps Google find and include your images when someone does an image search.

10) Tweak Blog Post Titles

If you quickly wrote titles to your blog posts before, take time to review them first before publishing.

Your blog post titles are vitally important to your SEO rankings so compare the keywords used to your keyword list and make your blog titles more keyword rich.

11) Add Social Media Sharing Buttons

When Google sees a blog article is getting a lot of posts and shares on social media, it boosts the ranking of that blog post.

So making it easy for readers to share your posts helps others Tweet and share your great content!

12) Update Your Theme

Not all WordPress themes are SEO Friendly and the free WordPress themes may be hurting your search engine rankings because of this.

Having a premium WordPress theme ensures your content will be indexed by the search engines, since the developers have taken special time to optimize every aspect in terms of both security and SEO.

It’s smart to make sure your theme programming isn’t bloated with inefficient code that slows down page load times. We find this a lot with purchased themes and that’s why we only provide custom designed and built WordPress themes for our clients.