Holiday travel is in full swing and business people who travel regularly need to be aware of what is lurking for them on the airplane, on the hotel comforter, or in the hotel ice bucket, just to name a few.Let’s start at the beginning; packing for the trip -Tip #1: Since your bag might be searched by TSA personnel, prevent the spread of germs by packing your personal items in plastic bags.Before & during the flight -Tip #2: Be sure to get a full eight hours of rest the night before your flight, drink lots of water before and during the flight to avoid dehydration, and consider taking an extra boost of vitamin C to ward off any pesky germs.Tip #3: Use sanitary wipes to wipe down the armrest and tray table, and use them to open the restroom door, flush the toilet, and turn on the faucet.Tip #4: Do not put items in the seat pockets (anything from dirty diapers to used tissues have been in there) and avoid using the airline pillows and blankets, which are rarely washed or sanitized.The hotel room; let’s concentrate on the remote control, telephone, comforter, drinking glasses, and ice bucket since they are the dirtiest, most unsanitary items in a hotel room -Tip #5: Put your luggage on the luggage rack provided, not on the bed or the floor. When the luggage is not in use, be sure to keep it zipped up so bedbugs cannot become stowaways.Tip #6: Clean the remote control with a hot, wet washcloth or sanitary wipe. The remote is rarely sanitized by the cleaning staff, but often harbors the most germs.Tip #7: After cleaning the remote, make your way to the telephone, which is also rarely sanitized.Tip #8: Pull the comforter off the bed, fold it up, and put it in the closet. It’s been confirmed by actual hotel cleaning staff that the comforters are only washed when there are visible stains.Tip #9: Do not use the drinking glasses; only use the plastic cups sealed in plastic. To find out why, watch this disturbing video from Fox 5 in Atlanta, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6uQC9MM5cQ.Tip #10: If you need to chill some drinks, be sure to use the plastic bag included with the ice bucket. If there isn’t one provided, call the front desk and request one. Like the remote and telephone, the ice buckets are rarely cleaned.If necessary, make the room kid-friendly -Tip #11: Wipe all the hard surfaces down with sanitary wipes (doorknobs, dresser knobs, fridge, microwave, etc.), check under the bed and all the dresser drawers for potentially harmful objects, and if toys fall on the floor, be sure to sanitize them immediately.As a general rule, remember to wash your hands as often as possible while at the airport, on the airplane, and at the hotel. Germs are lurking everywhere, but with a little preparation and by following the Top 11 Essential Traveler Tips listed above, you and your family can remain germ-free.Do you have any other tips to add? Do you have a related story to share? We would love to hear from you!
Piggybacking off of my last post, hiring real estate agents, what’s your method of choice? I’d like to address a common misconception among home buyers.Every couple of months, it seems, I have to talk a friend or family member out of doing this, so I thought I’d share this common myth with the rest of the world.Home buyers often convince themselves that they will save money by choosing one of two options. They believe that if they A) represent themselves, or B) work with the selling agent, they will somehow save themselves 3% of the commission.Here is the honest-to-God truth, from someone who does NOT work in the real estate industry: Nothing could be further from the truth.The reality is that commission is set by a contract between the home seller and the agent whom the seller chooses to represent the home. The selling agent, then, determines how much of that they are willing to share with the “other side”, the buyer’s agent.If the agreed-upon commission is, say 6%, a selling agent could very well choose to offer only 1% to the buyers’ side. This is unlikely, as few buying agents would leap at the chance to sell a home for 1%. Conversely, if the agent needs add extra incentive to sell the home quickly, they could choose to offer 5% to the buyers’ side. During the time I was involved in real estate marketing, I did see several 4% offers to the buyer’s side in return for quick sales.If there is no buying agent, the selling agent keeps the 6% commission to themselves, since that is the contract they have with the seller. A home buyer does not play a role in the contract between seller and seller’s agent. And, again, that is where commission is set.Home buyers are often convinced that a selling agent will reduce their side of the commission of there is no buyer’s agent. This is highly unlikely. When it does happen, let me tell you why you should be extremely wary of these folks:1. You are not adequately represented in the largest financial contract most of us will ever be involved with in our lifetimes. If you choose to allow the seller’s agent to have “dual agency”, where one agent represents both sides, how good of a deal do you think you’re getting in contract negotiations? Particularly when you consider that the agent has agreed to do twice the work for half the pay, per your insistence?2. An ethical agent who will reduce commission and allow you to represent yourself will wind up representing you anyway. Only rookie agents will make this mistake. And a rookie agent will have a hell of a time navigating the complex waters of implied dual agency.An unethical agent will take advantage of you to the fullest, since he or she will have to explain each step of the process to you, thus creating a lot more work.No matter how you feel about real estate agents (and I’ll state right here that I’ve got plenty of mixed feelings myself), you need to be represented when you purchase a home.I’m flummoxed when I hear otherwise rational human beings, people who realize that after a certain age you just hire professionals to do things, suddenly decide to forgo a buyer’s agent.Unless you’re willing to pick up another full-time job, you’re saving yourself nothing. By that I mean that you must be prepared to see homes, navigate inspections, negotiate contracts, etc. and do it well enough to protect what is likely the largest investment in your ‘portfolio’.If you don’t do it well enough, you can find yourself in a home in need of serious repairs, in a contract that exposes you to a world of liability, or any number of worst-case scenarios.I don’t know too many people who would drive without car insurance, no matter what the expense. Because the reality is that, if something goes wrong, it goes very wrong. And no amount of money saved compensates for that.I hope this posting will clear up a widespread myth about home buying. I know a lot of people will be irritated to read this, but I hope that ultimately most people find it helpful.
Digital schools for photography are emerging each day with various fee structure and courses. Earlier, photography was not a profession for everyone due to the huge expenses allied with films and its processing. There was not a huge market to sell someone’s photographs but today, clicking and sharing your photographs with the world just requires a good digital camera and a personal computer. Photography has stretched out into several streams and the equipments used in the photography industry are constantly changing.Choosing the right school is the most important decision before you venture out in this field. For beginners and professional photographers; there are several courses available that can improve their knowledge and skills. Some tips for choosing a good photography school are:General Photography Courses vs Specialized Courses- General photography courses usually target students who want to get an overall idea about photography. These courses usually cover topics such as exposure, composition and lighting techniques. These courses give you an outlook of the types of photography and how to advance in photography career. General Photography Courses are ideal for those who want to learn photography from scratch. However, if you are a photographer with basic knowledge in various photography techniques, a specialized course can be the best choice for you.Photo Editing Software- Even though Adobe Photoshop is the most famous photo editing software, there are plenty of specialized softwares that can make your digital photography experience even better. When you approach photography as a career, a significant level of knowledge is required in photo editing softwares as well. Make sure to choose a course that offer basic photo editing classes as well.Certification- Many institutes claim that their certificate is recognized by various organizations. However, check the value of these certificates before enrolling for a course. If you are a successful photographer, certificates may not be much of a help but for beginners, a good photography certificate can be an added advantage.Fee- It is not necessary that you learn more if you pay more. There are many colleges that charge you a hefty sum but the course may not be actually worth it. Ask for the course curriculum and compare it with other institute’s curriculum so that it will be easier for you to find out a better idea about these courses. If you find that a particular institute’s fee is not worth it, move on and enroll for a better course.Curriculum- Photography is an art as well as a science. A good photographer should know the artistic and scientific sides of photography for achieving a successful career. Make sure that your course covers the necessary scientific aspects of digital photography and editing.It is not necessary that you should choose photography schools that offer you a university diploma or degree. There are online schools that offer digital trainings. These courses also work pretty well if you are willing to learn and practice what you learn in the course.
Many homeowners are beginning to recognize the higher standards that are being demanded from home improvement contractors.The new rules of certification, accreditation and independent verification have complemented well the old ways of selecting a contractor so that the two establish a benchmark that bodes well for the professional perception of the industry. It is not a coincident that in 2010 credentialing and training organizations have achieved their highest growth rate in recent years.
I believe that a profound shift is taken place in the home improvement industry. This shift has embraced certification, accreditation and independent verification as the new rules of doing business. As a contractor who has been in the business for many years, for me, this shift means one thing – a chance to increase market share by showcasing a brand that understands and welcomes the new reality. Indeed, homeowners are beginning to demand this higher standard of training and perceived credibility to measure value. And, the surest way to achieve this is by checking for the credential of companies and the skill of their people. Now, besides the old ways of relying chiefly on word-of-mouth recommendation, customers will be able to more independently check for and measure the training and professional underpinning of a company. This is quite a significant development in the home improvement business brought on by dramatic emphasis on energy efficiency improvements in building.
The Federal government and large utility companies have contributed to this by providing tax credits and purchase rebates respectively for energy efficiency improvement initiatives. States have seized on these opportunities and have enacted changes to their building codes to encourage higher efficiency standards in building. The State of Massachusetts for example, has adopted the ‘Stretch Energy Code’” which its cities and towns are using to promote energy efficiency improvement to their building stock. The execution of these strategies create jobs, save money on utility bills and decrease the Carbon output to the environment from buildings. The savviest of small home improvement contractors are using these new rules to improve their companies’ image to portray a well trained professional operation. The majority of the buildings in the nation are in need of some sort of energy efficiency improvement, if we are committed to improving our building stock then the adoption of these new rules are just the start of the revolutionizing of the home improvement industry.
To be clear, the changes that are taking root are a result of the budding Home Performance Improvement industry that is taking shape and which is buttress by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), a national credentialing and training organization. Indeed, I believe two things, one, this is setting a new benchmark for the professional assessing of the home remodeling industry. Two, brand recognition will be an important criteria in selecting a home improvement company. The companies that recognize this and make the necessary positioning adjustment will be the winners.
All in all, these new rules that are required to operate a professional home performance improvement entity will no doubt usher in a change in the way the home remodeling industry operates generally.