02/19/2013 09:18


Encouragement is important to success in all areas. This is especially true of groups (teams, committees, families, classrooms). Building trust, promoting participation, and establishing (re.establishing) group rapport are all important in creating a positive, encouraging atmosphere. This collaboration has helped me save cash energy and time.
1. Building Trust: Trust usually develops among individuals when they know that they won't be put down, ridiculed, interrupted, or ignored during group work. Complimenting one another, showing genuine concern for anotherís opinion, and being sincere and honest all contribute to building trust and cohesiveness in a group.
2. PromotIng Participation: A group that works together learns together. Get everyone involved. Donít let any one person dominate the discussion or use the group as an audience. To promote participation, consider the following activity: Give each member of the group the same number of tokens at the beginning of a session. Each time a group member makes a meaningful contribution to the group, he or she passes in one of her tokens. When a memberís tokens are spent, he or she cannot contribute another idea until every member of the group has spent at least one (or two or three) tokens.
3. MaIntaining Rapport: It is very important for groups to maintain a positive attitude toward their work. As a group member, you cannot, however, ignore disruptions or problems which crop up. Confront problems head-on with statements like, Jason, we were finally making some progress. Can't you think of a better way . . . or Jim, I think you misunderstood. Tom was suggesting we reconsider ... or We're getting off track. Letís go back to Ellen's point .... 
02/19/2013 09:13


For you to be an effective member of a group, you must interact cooperatively. Meaningful interaction keeps a group moving forward toward an intended goal. To accomplish this, you must work your ideas into the discussion, ask relevant questions, and evaluate the group's performance (including your personal performance).
1. Integrating Ideas: Before you can ask relevant questions, you must first make the ideas already presented part of your own thinking. Obviously, listening carefully and taking notes can do this. So can summarizing or paraphrasing.
2. AskIng Relevant Questions: Asking good questions is perhaps the most important of all group skills. It not only keeps group hiembers actively involved in meaningful thinking and discussing, but it also keeps a group focused on its task.
Connect your questions to ideas which were previously made. You might, for example, say: Josie, it seems to me that your point about ... is very important, but Iím not sure I understand .... When a group gets bogged down or loses direction, a good question can help members refocus on the task at hand. You might, for example, say, Tom, what do you think about Martha's last observation? or This discussion is going nowhere. Let's go back to the original idea and . . . .
3. Evaluating Performance: At the end of a group session, it is helpful to evaluate individual and group performance. To do this, you must identify the most useful contributions, the direction and value of the overall discussion or group work, and the amount of progress made. By stopping to reflect on how the discussion went and how it might have gone better, you are learning from firsthand experience what it takes to make a group work.
More here, and here.
02/14/2013 09:06


Before buying either type of apartment, you should be furnished with a daunting amount of material to read. Look it over carefully. Enlist the aid of an accountant and/or attorney to review the material. You are particularly interested in four things:
1. The financial health of the organization you will be joining. Does it have substantial reserves put aside to cover major renovations and replacements?
2. The condition of the building(s). Is it likely to need a new roof, elevators, boiler, or windows, for which you would bear a share of the responsibility?
3. The covenants, conditions, and regulations you must promise to observe. Could you rent out your apartment, install awnings, paint your front door red, have a room mate under the age of 55, or eventually sell the unit on the open market?
4. The percentage of owner-occupancy. Traditionally, more homeowners and fewer tenants is the preferred situation. Use the checklist in Figure 6.4 to rate the units you are considing.
In many parts of the country, particularly in the South and West, manufactured housing (formerly known as mobile homes and before that as trailers) is a way of life for a large portion of the population. One attraction is lower initial cost, as compared with a completely furnished single home. One problem is finding the lot on which you can put your manufactured home; some communities are zoned against them.
Many, therefore, are placed on rented land; they are classified as personal property rather than real estate.
Choosing the community into which you buy may be more important than picking the individual home itself. Talk with occupants of the development; find out how cooperative and well- staffed the management is. Although the home is yours, to some extent you will be a tenant, and a fairly captive one, because manufactured homes are not very mobile, and you are not likely to move yours to another location.
Give some consideration to buying a used one. Brand-new manufactured homes in some areas depreciate in value like brand new automobiles. You may pick up a bargain on a used one and stand a better chance of recouping your investment or even in a choice development seeing some profit when you turn around and sell in the future.
02/10/2013 08:55


When buying a house that's newly built, you need to be con cerned about a warranty for faults that may show up during the first year. The possibilities of negotiating on price with a builder or developer are limited; their price is based on cost and, except in hardship situations, is not usually too flexible. It may be possible, though, to dicker for extras that otherwise involve add-on prices.
In many areas, you may not know what property taxes will be levied on new construction; a talk with the assessorís office is in order.
Itís important to get all promises in writing; if possible, have your attorney arrange for part of the purchase price to be held in escrow, pending the builderís attention to small matters that may come up during your first few monthsí occupancy.
Having a house custom-built to one's own specifications is a favorite daydream for many people. The chance to pick the right lot, site the house as you want and create an environment that reflects your taste and personality is a seductive thought. Before you enter such an undertaking, however, be aware that:
. Everything will take longer than expected.
. Everything will cost more than expected.
. The weather will turn uncooperative.
. Changing your mind about anything as you go along will he amazingly expensive.
. Your marriage will be strained by constant decisions and different points of view.
. Even with the best contractor foreman, large amounts of your own time and attention will be required.
Owning an Apartment
In areas where land is at a premium, cooperatives, town houses, and condominium apartments may be attractive alterna tives to more expensive housing. Many empty-nesters and busy young professionals also enjoy the absence of outside chores. Such apartments combine the advantages of homeowning with the convenience of apartment living. The Internal Revenue Service treats co-ops and condos exactly as it does single-family houses.
02/05/2013 09:00


The cooperative is the older form of ownership, found mainly in New York City, Chicago, and a few other areas. The owner of a co-op does not own any real estate. Rather, the buyer receives two things: (1) shares in a corporation that owns the entire building and (2) a proprietary lease for the particular living unit being bought.
These shares and the lease are classified not as real estate but as personal property. They may be borrowed against, however, to assist with the purchase, and the IRS will treat the loan as if it were a mortgage. The owner of a co-op does not owe any property tax on the individual living unit. Instead, the monthly payment includes a share of taxes paid by the cooperative on the entire building. It also includes a share of the cooperative's payment on the one large mortgage on the entire building, as well as the usual maintenance costs.
Tenant-owners in a cooperative building depend on each other for financial stability. For that reason, most co-ops require that prospective buyers be approved by the board of directors.
Because a large part of the monthly charge goes toward property taxes and interest on the underlying mortgage, the prospective buyer can expect a certain percentage of that expenditure to be income tax deductible at the end of the year. If you are interested in a cooperative, you will be told what percent of the monthly charge is deductible. Inquire also about the dollar amount of liability you will be taking on for your share of the existing mortgage on the whole building. This will be in addition to any loan you place to buy your shares.
The term condominium describes a form of ownership, rather than as is usually assumed an apartment. The buyer of a condominium receives a deed and owns real estate, just as a single house would be owned, In the case of a condominium, the buyer receives complete title to the interior of the apartment (from the plaster in) and also to a percentage of the common elements the land itself, staircases, sidewalks, swimming pool, driveways, lawns, elevators, roofs, and heating systems.
The condominium is classified as real estate, and the buyer may place a mortgage on the property and will receive an individual tax bill for the one unit. In addition, monthly fees are levied to pay for outside maintenance, repairs, landscaping or snow removal, quality eco products,  recreation facilities, and the like.
Townhouse ownership is a hybrid form of condominium and/ or cooperative and can take many forms. Typically, the unit owner has fee simple (complete) ownership of the living space and the land below it, with some form of group ownership of common areas. The individual may or may not own a small patio or front area and may or may not own the roof above the unit.
02/05/2013 08:53


Keep in mind a few basics about floor plans as you inspect houses. Stand in the entrance and try to imagine yourself going about the daily routine. Consider, for example, a hypothetical trip home with bags of groceries. Where will you park? Will you have to carry the load up stairs? Must you go through the living room? Is there a handy counter near the refrigerator for unloading?
If you have an infant, you sleep with your door open, and you want to stay within earshot. In a year or two, though, you will value a private, quiet bedroom. Check whether the master bedroom is separated from the others by a zone of closets, hall, or baths. (The best floor plans incorporate such buffers for all bedrooms.)
If the front door opens directly into the living room, a house in the North will eventually need a small enclosed foyer to shield the thermostat from icy blasts. Then imagine yourselves in mid summer, eating out on the enclosed porch or patio. Will it be easy to serve from the kitchen, without risking spills on the living room carpet en route?
Check the kitchen for sufficient counter and cupboard space. Double-check for a place to put things down, not only next to the refrigerator but also at the stove and sink. Even if you are resigned to a small Pullman kitchen and plan to eat in the dining room, look for enough space in the kitchen for a high chair, or a stool for a chatty guest.
Give a house extra points if you don't have to go through the living room to reach other areas. A dead-end living room makes for relaxation and tends to stay neat. Look for the convenience of an outside entrance to the basement and a small outside door to the garage.
An engineer's inspection can help you evaluate condition, which is particularly valuable with an older home. But you are the only one who can judge whether a floor plan fits your lifestyle.