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No one person can be good at everything. We all have our strengths, and we generally recognize when expert input is needed for important business and life decisions. Most of us are quick to call for help with legal issues, and there are many areas of legal specialization. The same can be said about assistance with financial planning and investing, where there are a number of subspecialties. Marketing insight can take various forms, and can improve the visibility of businesses large and small. While you could buy or sell your own home, there are advantages to working with real estate and title professionals. Likewise, an expert’s plan for building a new home or remodeling an existing structure will likely be superior to your own. A weekend getaway may be simple to arrange, but planning a major vacation, something more exotic, is best left to travel experts. And do you know what questions to ask when buying a waterfront summer vacation cottage? Big parties can be fun. However, when planning a special event, who wouldn’t want great ideas and assistance? There are even personal development professionals who can help improve your thought processing. It’s called brain optimization. The following experts offer insight and advice in their area of expertise. Don’t hesitate to contact them for any assistance you might need.
Q: What should I consider when buying a cottage up north?
A: There are several major factors you should investigate before you buy a vacation home up north.
- Does the location suit your lifestyle? Is there a city or town that offers the things you need and want? Does it have restaurants you like? A store for supplies? Are there medical facilities nearby? How about a theater or other entertainment for days that aren’t warm and sunny?
- Does the closest lake fit your interests? Is the lake fully recreational? Can you water ski and boat on it, or are motorized boats not allowed? Is there a chance you’ll use the cottage during hunting season or for winter activities?
- What size and style of cottage do you want? How much square footage do you need? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Do you prefer a log cabin or another style? What about privacy concerns?
- What’s the soil and water quality like? Is the soil hard-packed sand or muck? Even if you’re buying a cottage in the winter, you need this information. While you may not mind either way, it can affect the resale value.
Start with a suitable city or town and work from there. Be clear about your preferences. It’s essential that you work with a local, professional real estate agent who knows the area and can provide specific information so you can make the right decision. Then you can start making memories at the lake!
Q: What are some questions I should ask when looking at a home?
A: It’s important to ask your agent questions prior to buying or selling a home. Certain questions can ensure the home you buy is right for you and your family.
- Why is the owner selling and how long have they lived there? Knowing the seller’s motivation for moving will help determine whether it’s a good fi t. If they’ve already purchased another home, they may be more negotiable. If they’ve lived there a long time, they should also know about the systems and updates.
- How long has the home been on the market? If it’s been on the market a long time, ask why. It could point to problems in the home or a seller who’s stuck on a certain price.
- How much are the property taxes and utility bills? Getting prequalified by your bank will off er insight into your mortgage payment. Tax and utility information will help you budget and decide if you can afford the home.
- What is the property worth? While only you can decide what you should off er for a property, your real estate agent can provide comparisons on homes sold in similar neighborhoods, get market data, and off er guidance throughout the buying process.
Knowing the answers to a few key questions can give you more confidence about your decision-making and additional peace of mind regarding your purchase.
Q: Why is it important to know the value of my private health care practice, and how does it relate to retirement planning?
A: As a health care practitioner, you’ve spent years working tirelessly to provide your patients with the best care. Usually practitioners like you don’t think of your private practice as an asset. At CIG, clients are encouraged to think of their practice as a business and to understand that most businesses have value. The practice can be one of the larger assets in your portfolio and should be part of your retirement planning.
Think of the valuation of your practice as a yardstick for measuring practice performance. Every decision you make can have an impact on how it’s valued. Given the current state of the health care industry, there’s a good chance that you’re being approached by different parties that want to buy your practice. Knowing your practice’s value can tell you which of these are worth considering and how/when to best position your practice for your exit transition.
Whether you plan to retire in the next few months or in a few years, knowing the value of your practice is important. Remember, your practice’s value is likely at its peak while you are — not after you’ve started slowing down. Start planning early!
Q: How can buyers and sellers be prepared in the current real estate market?
A: Lower interest rates and a better inventory of houses have created a fast-paced market. Active buyers who find homes they love are quickly purchasing them. If you’re selling, it’s important that your house is buyer-ready. It should look clean and feel fresh.
If you’re buying, get your finances in order and know what you can afford. Be preapproved for a mortgage and partner with a strong lender so that when you find that perfect home, you won’t have to risk losing it. Also, work with a Realtor who knows neighborhood valuations and can off er guidance on the resale value of planned home improvements.
If you’re interested in investment property, be prepared to update a house that’s priced lower because it needs work. It may be advantageous if you can add less costly and cosmetic items, like carpeting and new fixtures.
Buyers are also looking for land. If you own an old house in a prime area, your property may be worth more than you think. Many builders and buyers are tearing down old structures to build dream homes. Birmingham, Bloomfield, and areas around Telegraph are popular.
Th e Woodward corridor — from Birmingham to Royal Oak, and all the way to downtown Detroit — is also in demand. With the influx of new businesses and restaurants downtown, Detroit valuations are increasing.
Q: What are some recommended strategies for building and preserving wealth?
A: Here are some steps you can take to maintain and grow your wealth, and optimize your giving:
- Take a financial snapshot. Develop a picture of your current financial situation. This review should include financial matters such as invested and easily accessible assets, liabilities, and goals. Your review should also consider family dynamics and other matters.
- Build a nest egg. Work with your adviser to develop a balanced savings plan that reflects your objectives, time frame, and risk tolerance. Take full advantage of IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k) s, that allow your savings to grow tax-deferred. Contribute enough to your 401(k) to receive any employer matching available.
- Give money to family. Create a lifetime giving plan to share your wealth with your children or other family members. Annual exclusion gifts reduce the size of your taxable estate without using up your lifetime gift or estate tax exemptions.
- Be charitable. Charitable giving not only helps you leave a lasting legacy, but provides valuable financial planning benefits. Bequeathing assets to organizations upon your death can lower your estate’s value, but giving while you’re alive has additional benefits, such as tax reductions — and, best of all, seeing the good work made possible by your generosity.
Contact a Fifth Third financial adviser to learn more about these and other techniques for wealth planning.
Q: What are the latest trends in kitchen design for 2019?
A: The year 2019 can be characterized as a year of contrasts. Minimalism, along with mixing and matching finishes and styles, is definitely part of the trend. Here are some of the specifics:
- Pops of color — in cobalt blue and forest green for cabinets, ranges, and hoods — to give personality to the space.
- Tons of texture, mixed with high-gloss finishes.
- Handless cabinets, with push-to-open doors and drawers, and even appliances that are fully integrated.
- Clever and functional storage accessories.
- Quartz counters, which are still queen of the kitchen.
- Larger backsplash tiles that go to the ceiling.
- Fewer upper cabinets, with open metal shelving.
- Attractive pantries that are an extension of the kitchen.
- Gold finishes with bold color.
- Thicker, built-up counters.
- Bluetooth appliances that function remotely from smartphones.
- Warm chestnut wood stains with luxurious wood species.
- Decorative ceiling treatments, such as coffered or tray ceilings, and distressed wood beams.
- Multifunctional, oversized, one-level islands.
- Porcelain tile flooring in wood and stone patterns.
Most people spend a good amount of time in their kitchen. In fact, kitchens are a big part of daily living and even entertaining. Let Millennium help you update your kitchen for 2019 and make sure you’re happy with the final result.
Q: We would like to have our next home built. What’s the next step?
A: One room at a time or an entire house, Oliver Max gets involved in various aspects of home construction. Prospective buyers who intend to build often contact Oliver Max to help them create the home of their dreams.
More than an interior design firm, Oliver Max advises on new construction decisions from the bottom up to the last accessory. While they don’t provide structural blueprints, they can specify exterior construction materials as part of an all-encompassing plan. You’ll have input on roofing, siding, windows, and more. Inside, they can assist you in choosing plumbing fixtures, lighting, flooring, colors, carpet, paint, and other accessories.
Most clients try to envision the whole picture, rather than one piece at a time. Whether it’s new construction, a remodel, or a beautiful interior, you want to be sure all parts of your project form a cohesive whole, and that the final result is what you had in mind. To help visualize your new home, Oliver Max provides images, color swatches, and samples — and, if you prefer, more realistic digital drawings.
The firm focuses on distinctive design and doesn’t promote a certain look. If you have items you already own and would like to use, they can incorporate them. Their work is about helping you create a space that feels comfortable for you.
Q: I’m interested in building a new home, but I don’t know the first thing about purchasing land or construction.
A: First, evaluate all your options. Then determine if building from the ground up, finding an existing home that meets your needs as is, or completing a renovation is best for you.
Either way, the process can be fraught with uncertainty, so find a builder who offers you full services, starting with your property search. A builder who can also help you purchase property and understands the costs associated with building on it or renovating gives you the added benefit of having a team in place for the entire life cycle of your project, helping you establish a timeline and budget while minimizing risk.
When you buy property with the intention to build or renovate, optimizing your purchase price, minimizing your costs, and understanding the seller’s position is especially important. A traditional buyer’s agent will charge the seller 3 percent of the purchase price (that’s $15,000 on a $500,000 property!).
When you retain Nosan Signature Homes to complete your new build, addition, or renovation, they offer their expertise and the same brokerage services at a lower flat rate to the seller: $10,000 on a purchase up to $499,000, and $15,000 for those over. That savings ultimately is passed on to you and can be put toward bonus features in your new home.
Q: Can I determine how much my home is worth from internet websites such as Zillow and Trulia?
A: Third-party websites aren’t local to every real estate market, yet they provide estimates of home values for almost any home in the United States. How is it possible that a third-party headquartered in California or New York can provide an accurate value for a home located in Bloomfield Hills? It’s not!
Websites such as Zillow and Trulia use computer-generated home values based on calculations and algorithms, but don’t consider what’s going on specifically in your area (neighborhood preferences, school districts, etc.), which can influence home values. By providing inaccurate estimates, these websites can create a false sense of hope and lead to frustration. It’s critical that when you’re selling a home, the value is determined by a top Realtor in your local area who knows the market — not an internet website!
Q: What defines luxury travel?
A: The discerning traveler meets a passionate, knowledgeable, travel designer who specializes in handcrafting bespoke, luxury journeys to a specific part of the world, based upon each traveler’s interests and desires. The result is luxury travel.
At Australia 2000 Travel, we focus on luxury travel to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific Islands, notably Fiji. Visiting those countries annually, Karen Hardy Hodgson meets the locals, selects boutique accommodations, chooses the quintessential, private tour guide, moves beyond cities, and seeks the usual from a unique perspective.
As a travel designer, she asks travelers: What makes your eyes sparkle and your heart sing? And so begins the magic of creating individual, one-of-a-kind, stress-free, immersive travel experiences that may include awakening in a luxury tent at sunrise to see water buffalo walking by after an early morning swim; dining in a local’s home; private wine tastings; visiting sacred, indigenous sites; helicopter flights over ” Th e Lord of the Rings” country; fireworks displays at New Year’s; private garden, gallery, and museum tours; or diving The Great Sea Reef in stunning Fiji.
One of the top 250 travel designers in the world and recognized by Tourism Australia and Tourism New Zealand for her expertise, Hodgson takes care of every single detail. All travelers need do is show up and be prepared for a brilliant time. Past clients often say she helped them create the best trip of their lives. That’s luxury travel.
Q: Why is promotional swag so important for companies of all sizes?
A: Promotional swag is the gift that keeps on giving. It delivers more impressions for a longer period of time than any other form of media. Television, print, and billboard advertisements pass by you quickly, but swag often remains in sight. Swag is kept an average of one to four years, and sometimes longer. Research statistics have reported that 89 percent of consumers say they could recall the advertiser’s name or company name for 24 months after receiving the swag.
Some of the best promotional swag is everyday, functional gifts, and unique, custom-made, and high-quality items that have a broader appeal. For example, someone wearing your T-shirt, carrying a branded bag, or drinking from a coffee mug with your logo imprinted is essentially a walking advertisement for your business.
Brand awareness is the most common result, and it should be a year-round effort. This cost-effective way of reaching potential customers takes minimal effort but has a powerful impact. Well-established, large, global companies use swag as a marketing strategy, and small businesses — including startups — can use promotional swag items to help stretch their marketing budget while still drawing attention. The overall result is to drive interest to your business, create a buzz around your company, and increase your bottom line.
Q: How do you remain up to date in the event industry?
A: Staying up to date in the event industry, especially with rental and fl oral design, takes a great deal of dedication to anticipating trends before they hit the market. Typically, what’s hot this season most likely won’t be as popular next season. Pinterest has really changed how the team at Gerych’s approaches designing any event. Whenever meeting with a client, they:
- Try to organize the images of “what they like” and pinpoint which style the client is truly leaning toward.
- Lock in a color scheme (more brides are considering colorful weddings, but the all white wedding is still in style).
- Determine which elements, rental-wise, are most important (chairs, tables, table linens, or custom elements over the dance floor?).
- Work within their budget (no event is too big or small; the Gerych’s team always tries to work within client budgets to meet their desires).
The members of Gerych’s events department are very important to an event’s success. In addition to more experienced team members, young and vibrant talent brings a fresh perspective to clients; their ideas can provide the spark for something fabulous.
Q: How can a house be made more appealing to buyers in today’s market?
A: Whether you’re selling a home or you’re a buyer thinking about resale, consider the aging population and people with disabilities. Lisa Sobell, a Realtor who comes from a special education background, is particularly aware of their needs and, as such, she looks for homes with features that are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. She says it’s been difficult to help certain buyers find homes they can live in comfortably, particularly if they use a wheelchair or walker.
Walk around your house. How will a disabled person be challenged? Here are some things you can do:
• Replace loose or worn carpeting with laminate flooring, to avoid tripping.
• Remove door molding to widen doorways, if you can.
• Switch out knobs for lever-type door handles to make grasping them easier.
• Install bathroom railings for access and safety.
• Install smart faucets that turn water on and off with just a touch.
• Install smart lighting, which automatically turns on when movement is detected.
More buyers today prefer a ranch-style home, primarily to avoid stairs. Therefore, turning an underutilized room into a first-floor laundry and a half-bath into a full, first-floor bathroom are ideal. While older, smaller bungalows can be difficult to retrofit, many newer homes are already built to “universal design” standards and can easily accommodate everyone.
Q: We would like to adopt a child. Do we need an attorney who specializes in adoption?
A: Adoptions can get held up for years if not handled properly. Adoption law is complex, so it’s important to consult with an adoption attorney to ensure you’re following proper legal procedure. In most cases, if a child is adopted out of state, the child can’t leave without approval from both states. Therefore, it’s best to work with someone knowledgeable about interstate adoption.
Adults as well as children can be adopted. Dion Roddy says he often gets calls from people raised by a stepparent who were unable to be adopted as a child. As an adult, the biological parents’ consent is not required.
Roddy completes about 100 adoptions a year and has handled adoptions involving roughly 40 states and three different countries. He represents adoptive parents, birth parents, and sometimes adoption agencies. As a fellow in the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, he can call on a vetted network of adoption attorneys around the country.
Surrogacy requires different legal action. Michigan is one of the few states that prohibits surrogates from receiving any payment. Roddy chairs the State Bar of Michigan Adoption Committee, which is working hard to change that and advocate for adoption and assisted reproduction.
As an adoptive parent, he knows adoption can be wonderful. Do everything you can to get it right from the beginning.
Q: Who can benefit from optimizing brain wellness?
A: Many parents can understand how a program that enhances brain function can improve their child’s reading, writing, and math skills. While academic enhancement may come to mind first, there are many other behavioral benefits. Does your child not complete school assignments, have test anxiety, or have difficulty staying focused or even sitting still? Optimizing brain wellness can help.
Brain optimization isn’t just for kids. Adults may be surprised to learn that there are programs to help them personally and professionally. If you have difficulty remembering names and appointment times, or where you put your keys, it may not be a sign of aging.
Do you ever find yourself searching for a word, either in conversation or in writing? What if it could be easier to process information quickly, pay attention to detail, and follow group conversations during meetings? Optimizing brain wellness can improve your memory and make communicating easier, giving you more confidence at work and in social settings.
How many of us struggle to stay organized? Brain enhancement can improve your organizational skills, too.
REWIRE Health and Education Center’s programs are specific to a child’s or adult’s area of difficulty. They’re tailored for every learning style, and use cognitive training, content-specific tutoring, and goal-oriented coaching to change the way your brain processes information. Clients report great success in school, at work, and at home.
Q: Should I be concerned about title company security?
A: The recent custom of splitting the closing between two title companies means one company represents the seller and another the buyer. This split has occurred because Realtors and lenders now own their own title companies. Two title companies sharing information, much of it digitally, can lead to cyber fraud and identity theft, along with other problems. There haven’t been any discussions about this practice, and there’s been little concern for consumers.
Realtors often use unsecure accounts to send private information, and email accounts can be hacked — particularly Hotmail and Gmail. One lender sent wiring instructions to the buyer for the rest of his money using Gmail, and someone hacked the lender’s account. The internet allows access to private information, and there’s always the possibility of it being intercepted.
To help solve that problem, Liberty Title Agency has developed Umbrella by Liberty Title. It’s designed to protect consumers from real estate fraud when both buyer and seller agree to have Liberty handle the title work.
Although home buyers spend time deciding on a Realtor or lender, they seem to give little thought to who will be handling all the money. Many title companies don’t use encryption when sending us private information. Liberty Title Agency has invested in security, training, and firewalls. Their primary goal is to alert consumers and protect them.