Plan Your Taxes

PLAN YOUR TAXES
Small business owners are due to meet with their advisors to plan out business and personal taxes before the end of the calendar year. Some important points to talk about this year include:

  • Tax and jobs bills passed in 2010 increased the ability for small business owners to deduct new and used equipment purchases under U.S. Tax Code section 179. Small companies are allowed to deduct the full amount of the purchases upfront, rather than depreciate the cost over many years. The deductions apply to tangible equipment and personal property purchased and used in 2011, including computers, furniture, telephone systems, certain vehicles and software, machinery used for manufacturing, and leased equipment.
  • A supplement to section 179 allows for “bonus” depreciation for companies that buy more than $500,000 in qualified equipment in 2011. It allows for 100 percent depreciation, up from 50 percent last year, and applies only to new equipment, unlike section 179. Typically, bonus depreciation would be taken after companies reach their $500,000 limit under section 179.
  • If your company’s financial situation warrants, you can talk to your CPA about accelerating deductions and deferring income into next year, but don’t use this audit-risky strategy if it doesn’t make sense.
  • On the personal side, end-of-year charitable donations and Roth IRA conversions would be items to think about before the end of the year. And as always make sure you are not going to be in a position to attract unwanted IRS scrutiny on your personal or business returns.

Last-Minute Tips for a Successful Open House

Realtor Deb Staley has seen it a million times. She pulls up to an open house at a fabulous property, in a great neighborhood, at the right price, only to find an overgrown lawn, a leaf-strewn front porch and a front door covered in spiderwebs. In fact, it’s not uncommon for potential buyers to be so turned off by an initial view that they refuse to even exit the car. “I have been a real estate broker for 22 years, and I am still amazed every time I show a house that is not ready for the market, says Staley, who’s based in Searcy, Ark.
We never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for motivated sellers a first impression of their home can often make or break a
deal. Realtors know that a potential sale starts in the moment that a buyer pulls into the driveway. That’s why they take extra care to prep and ready the homes they represent just prior to an open house — and we mean minutes before.
Whether you’re helping out your Realtor or handling the sale yourself, here’s how to make the most of an open house.
1. Lighten up

Nothing helps a house like natural light, so in the moments before an open house pull back the drapes, open the blinds and let the sunlight in, says Sean Shallis, senior real estate strategist for The Shallis Group. As you’re completing your walk-through, turn on the lights in every room (including bathrooms and closets). That will allow potential buyers to see clearly and it creates a welcoming, open feel to the home.
2. Clean up

Spotlessis the word to remember. It sounds simple, but many people forget that even the smallest mess can throw off a potential buyer. Do a quick walk-through before the open house and make sure that kitchen and bathroom counters are cleared and wiped. Toss any extra clutter lying around. Dirty laundry? Purses? Books? Toys? Throw them under the bed or in a dedicated space in the garage. Just keep clutter away from buyers’ eyes.
3. Enhance curb appeal

Never underestimate the power of curb appeal. That means making sure that the front of the house is bright and welcoming. For Staley, it’s as simple as a last-minute sweep of the front porch and driveway, and a quick look for spiderwebs or dirt at any windows that flank the entrance. “As a Realtor, it is such a pleasure to walk in the front door of a home that says, ‘Welcome! Come on in!’ as soon as you walk up the sidewalk,” she adds.
4. Set the scene

Even an immaculate home can up its “wow” factor with small touches in the minutes before an open house. Soft music and a well-set dining room table can warm up the house and help buyers picture themselves living there. Something that won’t? Pets. Staley, a self-proclaimed animal-lover, is quick to remind her clients that not everyone feels the same way. Make sure pets are securely locked away or, even better, out for a long walk.
5. Get out of the house

If you’re working with a Realtor, almost every agent will tell you the same thing: It’s never a good idea for the seller to be home during an open house. So find a way to leave the house before buyers arrive. If you’re selling your home yourself, be aware of what you say to potential buyers during a showing. There’s no need to spew every detail about the house unless the buyers ask. In fact, Shallis suggests, have a friend or family member show the home. “As the owner, it’s almost impossible not to oversell your home,” he says.
Though they may seem basic, it’s little details in the eleventh hour that can make a difference in the speed of the sale and, ultimately, the final selling price. “Dirty, dark, cluttered homes can sell,” says Staley. “But if they are brightened, lightened, cleaned, and decluttered with some sense of pride of ownership displayed, they will sell for so much more.”
No Copyright Infringement intended.

14 tips for furnace and fireplace safetyBeware of the ‘silent killer’

By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™
Q: Our house was built around 1940; the fireplace is original; and we installed forced-air gas heating about 10 years ago. We haven’t had the fireplace or furnace inspected. What do you guys recommend to get the fireplace and the furnace ready for winter?

A: Regular inspection and servicing of fireplaces and furnaces adds to comfort, makes them more economical, and most important, keeps them safe. Regular inspections can prevent a deadly house fire or the introduction of a silent killer: carbon monoxide.

Here’s our checklist to keep you cozy and safe during the winter months:

Wood-burning fireplaces

1. Inspection by a certified chimney sweep is a must. For heavy use, the chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually. Go up to five years if the fireplace is used only occasionally. The sweep should inspect for proper operation of the damper and for cracks in the flue liner, as well as sweeping the flue to remove creosote and other combustion byproducts.

2. Close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use.

3. Install a chimney cap if you don’t already have one. You don’t want creatures building their nest in your flue.

4. When starting a fire, “prime” the flue by holding lighted newspaper at the back wall of the firebox to start the warm air rising.

5. Burn aged, dry hardwood if possible. Fir or pine burns hot and deposits creosote in the chimney. Don’t burn construction debris. It may contain toxic chemicals that will vaporize in the fire and could enter the living space.

6. Do not clean out the fireplace when the ashes are still hot. And dispose of the ashes in a place where wayward embers won’t start a fire.

Fireplace with gas starter

1. If the flame goes out, wait at least five minutes before attempting to relight the fireplace. This allows time to clear the fireplace of gas.

2. Be alert for unusual odors or odd-colored flames, which are often a sign that the fireplace is not operating properly. In such cases, contact your dealer or licensed technician for servicing. Contact the gas company if you smell gas when the unit is off.

Gas furnace maintenance

1. An annual maintenance check of a gas furnace extends the life of the appliance and ferrets out any hidden problems. A qualified heating contractor should vacuum out the unit, inspect the blower motor, inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, check the electronics and perform a multipoint checklist to make sure the furnace is operating properly.

2. Clean or replace the furnace filter frequently during the heating season. This ensures that air returning from the inside of the house is unobstructed and clean when entering the combustion chamber.

3. Keep vents, space heaters and baseboards clear of furniture, rugs and drapes to allow free air movement.

4. Ensure there is free airflow around your furnace and make sure there are no storage items obstructing airflow.

5. Do not store or use combustible materials, such as chemicals, paint, rags, clothing, draperies, paper, cleaning products, gasoline, or flammable vapors and liquids in the vicinity of the furnace.

6. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and lethal gas that can occur any time there is incomplete combustion or poor venting. Any home that contains fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace or furnace, should have a carbon monoxide alarm installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

http://worksmartbesmart.com/2099/

Where To Focus YOUR Social Media Marketing….Facebook!

How To Fry A Turkey

How To Fry A Turkey- The Secret Is In The Preparation

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3 Tools to Actively Control Your Online Reputation

There is little in contemporary business that deals on more equity than your business reputation. Stock prices fluctuate because it, and the media tipping point is reached at alarming speed for either good and bad praise or hostility about companies globally. The first step to managing your online business reputation is to be able to monitor what is being said about you, by whom and how often. If it’s all good, it’s all good friends. Business worldwide both large and small battle every day using the double-edged, sword of Web power. You should know about the poison comments too, and of course, if nothing is being said about your business online, well, that is a problem in and of itself.

Good or Evil?
From a marketing perspective, we have the capability to reach more people in remote corners of the world than ever before, making use of the awesome reach of the Internet to connect with our blogs, videos, and shopping carts that have no physical limitations. The flip side of that coin is that we now inhabit a world where anonymous people can go for their 15 minutes of fame as impromptu authors, video producers and critics, and that can spell trouble for your organization.
Google, Yahoo and other search engines give huge credibility to sites like Wikipedia in the spirit of full disclosure, especially on big business. Trouble is, fact checking ain’t what it used to be if indeed it happens at all. Loud online voices offering great buzz on your goods and services can provide a fantastic bump even if unjustified by reality. Bully for you! The impact of spiteful haters can cost you prospects, customers and dollars to an incredible extent also.
The Most Common Keyword in Modern Business

What do you think is the most often used keyword today in business? This isn’t a trick question or a gag. It is in fact the word, “keyword”. Think about it. There is so much guidance about SEO and online marketing that focuses on how people browse the web, in particular, Google. That means controlling what keywords you use to advertise your website and be found, trying to mirror what people are searching for and in a unique enough way to minimize competition. Subsequently we have long tail keywords which are phrases like “How to winterize your boat” so that when someone does eventually look for that, our page or Adwords ad is right there to be discovered.

To keep track of your online reputation, keywords are also what you use to determine who and what is being said about you. The easy way to do this initially is obviously to Google your company name. You’re going to find your web pages to be sure, but if there is bad stuff available you’re going to see that too. If it falls on page 1 of Google returns, you have a developing situation.
Remembering to do that weekly or every few days is something that just isn’t top of mind. Here are three devices you can use to easily check out the real-time babble.

Google Alerts
Google alerts enable you to pick keywords relative to, in this case, your business name and Google will email you instances when they occur online as indexed by the Google search engine. Go to www.google.com/alerts to set this up. Depending on the size and online notoriety of your company, you can modify the frequency of these email alerts from daily to weekly. There are a couple of refining options. Choosing type = ‘Everything’ will monitor all the buzz about whatever keywords you type in, comma delimited. For most small businesses, a weekly notification should be adequate.
Here are some points for what you might want to check to see what your customers might find:
• Your business name, including any divisions or alternative names as it applies
• Your competitors
• Frequent misspellings of your business name
• Your flagship product names, part numbers and trade names
• Your key executive names– bad juju on your top people will reflect badly on your business

Social Oomph
Google Alerts keeps track of the Google database. Social Oomph (www.socialoomph.com) allows you to track tweets. You should create a free account and then go to Monitors\/Keyword Alert Emails on the left hand menu. You are allowed to set up to 50 keywords or phrases to scour the tweet-o-sphere for and email you summaries either daily or every twelve hours.
The keyword tips are the same as for Google Alerts. The cool thing about monitoring Twitter chatter is that it has a very real-time component to it. If hostility is being spread, you may have the ability to join the ongoing discussion and correct the record or counter the conversation when it is at its most poisonous and influential to your business reputation.

LinkedIn Signal
Signal is a tool currently under development by LinkedIn in conjunction with Twitter, using a similar search on discussions groups, shares and posted answers. Access it by logging into LinkedIn and going to www.linkedin.com/signal. This is a bit cumbersome with the filters and for most results, look up your name and company without the filters box selected. This is especially useful for product launches or branding efforts you might have to see if there is a buzz on LinkedIn among professionals. Unfortunately the search box appears to have no Boolean capability to add multiple search words separated by commas or expressions like’ +’ or ‘OR’.

If you’re in the consulting or professional services field this may be one where you save your searches and check periodically back, as these are folks who traffic LinkedIn. This is still in beta and isn’t significantly advertised by LinkedIn, and has a limited universe of professionals (those in LinkedIn who allow public view of their discussions) and will tell you more about trending topics than give you an overall analysis about what is being said relating to your business. I’d recommend playing with it to see if it is useful to you, but use the alerts in Google and Social Oomph to monitor the bulk of chatter.

by Karl Walinskas

Maximize your marketing dollars

Your Marketing can be more like a vending machine than a slot machine, watch this learn how today:

Make More Money – Work Less!

money Make More Money & Work Much Less!I am temporarily motivated to be permanently lazy! That means I am willing to work my butt off now so that I can chill out a few years from now. Here’s how I see my life: spending time with my family, going on exotic vacations, getting up when I’m done sleeping, golfing when everyone else is working, and just living and loving life…doing all this while making more money and working much less.

If any of what I want makes sense to you, then keep reading. I can honestly tell you that you deserve to have all that you want and more.  I’m going to share some insights I’ve discovered that you can immediately start manifesting your dreams and desires while using much less energy.

You must stay focused: Start every day with clearly defined goals and avoid personal conflict. There are so many distractions around us at all times that staying focused will be challenging. With TV, facebook, skype, emails, and other common distractions, it is becoming more and more challenging to stay focused on how to make more money and work less right now more than ever before.

By having clearly defined goals you will be able to get more done in less time. This will greatly increase your focus and as a result you will not have to put so much effort into getting tasks done.

Exercise Daily: Make it routine to exercise daily! This does not mean that you have to hit the gym everyday but make sure you are getting some form of physical activity. A healthy body will create a healthy mind. Try to work in some yoga once or twice a week also. Yoga will prove to be an invaluable way to center yourself and find inner harmony and balance.

Personal Development: I tell everyone I coach that personal development is MANDATORY. If we aren’t challenging ourselves to grow and expand our minds, then we do the opposite…shrink and die. No less than 20 minutes of personal development everyday! This can be in the form of books, audio books, videos, podcasts etc. Just make sure you do it. For me, when time is a factor, I have audio books I listen to while I’m driving from place to place. This way while I’m sitting in traffic doing nothing, I’m listening to empowering and inspirational materials and growing mentally, spiritually and emotionally. If you’ve read Think and Grow Rich you understand that personal growth is one of the oldest secrets to success.

By focusing we can have a clear blueprint for action daily. By exercising we center ourselves physically and get stronger, by engaging in personal development we challenge ourselves to think outside our current realm of understanding. All of these factors will contribute to your goal to make more money and work less. Now to the really fun stuff…enjoying life!

Schedule time for yourself: Always schedule time to do what YOU like to do…and do it on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean blowing off everything else I previously mentioned. It does mean that you need to reward yourself daily for setting and accomplishing your goals. This is creating a win-win for your self. Reward yourself by playing that round of golf, or taking your family to their favorite restaurant. Just make sure to DO IT!

Now go get to work!!!

 

No copyright Infringement intended. Source: Make More Money – Work Less!

7 Ideas to Move Your Listings

Selling real estate in today’s market requires more than knowledge and a go-get-‘em attitude. Successful real estate professionals are willing to use creative strategies when representing sellers, even if that means trying something new. Here are seven ideas that may be just what you need to move your latest listing.

Dress up the signage. Make sure buyers can see your sign after dark by investing in solar-powered lighting. Include a QR code on each sign so potential buyers can scan it with their smartphones and get more information — pictures, video, a full list of amenities — about the property. A Talking House radio transmitter will let passersby listen to a home’s features from the comfort of their cars. Simply post a sign that lets them know how to tune in.  Even better, have a lead capture 800# with a recorded message about the home.

Practice Feng Shui. We all know that home staging is an important part of the home selling process, but it doesn’t have to stop at fresh paint and potted plants. Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese practice of balancing the energy (chi) of a space for optimal harmony, could help too. Check out fengshui.about.com for resources.

Host a party. Take the idea of an open house one step further and hold an open house party. Offer wine, hors d’oeuvres and live music. The time and effort put into this could pay off when you create a buzz about the property.

Create a better informational flyer. Yes, potential buyers appreciate the one-page flyer listing the home’s details and amenities. But what about all of the nearby conveniences? Include local shopping centers, schools, hospitals, fire stations, restaurants, parks and other attractions as way to showcase more of the home’s benefits.

Offer extras. You can offer a pricey, luxury item like a flat screen TV, or more practical incentives, like a furniture allowance, flooring allowance, a year’s worth of yard care or a year’s worth of HOA fees. Offer a referral incentive — say, a $200 gift card — to the friend and colleague who helps you find a buyer.

Harness technology. Listing the house on the local MLS and your website is a good start, but try other online tactics. Purchase online ads to display on Google or Facebook (the sites have tutorials that make it easy to set up an ad campaign). You have free options, too: Tweet photos of the property to your Twitter followers and encourage them to retweet.

Let them sleep on it. It may sound like a radical move, but some sellers allow serious buyers to spend the night in their home. It’s perhaps the best way to give them the experience of actually living there. It may not be feasible in all selling situations, but for others, it might just close the sale.

http://worksmartbesmart.com/2024/

Getting More YouTube Video Views

Increase exposure with these 7 tips. 

The value of video in real estate marketing is well-established.  From introducing yourself to clients online to providing in-depth tours of your premium listings, video is one of the best ways to leverage your marketing efforts online.  They’re shareable, they’re engaging, and they’re also reported to help with your overall visibility in search engines.

Shooting a video isn’t enough to get it viewed, though.  There’s no “build it and they will come” magic at work here. In order to make sure the videos you post get the exposure you’re looking for, you need to place them in a way which gives you the best shot at earning additional traffic.

This article by SocialTimes, “7 Little Known Tricks That Will Get You More YouTube Views” provides actionable, tactical tips. The ideas include:

1. Annotations across videos (the habit of linking one video to other videos with clickable, in-video notes)

2. Playlists (videos chained together… imagine, all of your listings in a playlist)

3. Subscribers (getting people to subscribe to your YouTube channel)

4. Bulletins (updates pushed through YouTube to your subscribers’ YouTube home page)

5. Video responses (posting a video in response to a video)

6. Community (commenting and subscribing to others’ channels)

7. Topical content (a video about what’s going on right now)

For a closer look at each of these tips (as well as examples of how they work), read the original article on SocialTimes:

http://www.socialtimes.com/2011/03/get-more-youtube-views/

Getting More YouTube Video Views