The Pros and Cons of Discount Travel Clubs

If you love to travel, but can not seam to do it as often as you would like, you should consider looking into a good travel club.

My wife LOVES to travel the world as I am sure many of you do, but it was always so expensive. I am here to tell you, it does not have to be.

This is how travel clubs work.

When you think about it owning a resort property is just like any other business. They need a steady flow of customers to be profitable. Their unique challenge is, they also need a consistent flow of customers preferably evenly spaced through the entire year other many issues start to become problems for them. To many customers all at once is lost business, probably to your competition. Not enough customers means empty rooms and lost business and revenue, which makes staffing as well as many other things VERY difficult.

The challenge is to keep a steady flow of customers, preferably even spaced all year long. But how do they do that?

One way resort owners have discovered to help with this is by affiliating with travel clubs to offer club members unreserved rooms at deep discounts. This helps keep a steady flow of customers all year long, and helps the owner keep a properly staffed business running.

Think about it from their perspective, would you rather have an empty room and NO income, and have a staff to pay with no customers to serve or income being produced? Or, to keep a good quality staff busy, have customers that may only be paying enough to cover your expenses with little or no profit?

It does not take long as a business owner to figure out that "when possible" you sell at full price, when necessary you take a discount and less profit, and when push comes to shove at least cover expenses to avoid taking a loss.

Even taking some loss is acceptable if it helps with staffing issues, inventory, food shelf life, advertising, budgeting, exposure and many other business issues. As long as it is not the norm, obviously.

Now, keep in mind, all travel clubs are NOT created equal.

The owner of the travel club is also doing business. He wants to provide his members with an attractive offer to build membership, but also wants to make money in HIS business, which IS the travel club. If the owner is more concerned about profit, than they are about giving value to their members, that club has a limited future.

The saying that just popped into my head was "It is better to have a little bit of something, than a whole lot of nothing."

The resort owners are constantly negotiating transactions (level of discount) with hundreds of travel club owners.

The owner of a particular travel club may have negotiated with the resort owners the best prices for his club, but if he is trying to make to much profit with his travel club, his members would not be getting the best deals!

It is very hard to negotiate regardless, without something the other party wants. Therefore, the more members you have in your club the easier it is to negotiate great deals. But getting lots of members is no easy task in itself.

The most successful travel club owner has figured out how to build a large following (with minimal cost) so they have the leverage to negotiate great deals other clubs can not, but because of their low overhead they can pass most of the savings along to Their members.

We all know that the BEST form of advertising is, word of mouth. As luck would have it, it is also the least expensive. (Free) So, if you (as a club owner) were to pay your current members (for new memberships) to advertise by word of mouth or however they choose, and generate members for you just by telling potential members about your club and the Huge savings they had received, you would have a growing membership with minimal expenses, therefore, you could pass dramatic savings on to your members which in turn would help generate more members more easily and get better discounts.

As I stated earlier, not all travel clubs are created equal, just as with any other business. You must do your research to find a club that offers a large inventory of locations, at deep discounts to its members, without charging too much for their membership. That travel club will continue to grow in size and value, and provide you with a lifetime of deeply discounted travel for minimal cost so you can travel the world and enjoy what the world has to offer.

Travel clubs can be a great opportunity to save your hard earned money. Just make sure you do your research and find the right one, otherwise you are not going to get the most value possible for your money.

Good luck, and I'll see you on the beaches of the world.

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What Is the Difference Between an Heir and a Beneficiary?

The term ‘heir’ refers to a person who is entitled to property owned by a deceased family member. Individuals can bequeath property to heirs through their last will and testament or a trust. When a person dies without leaving a Will, their assets are given to rightful heirs according to state probate laws.

An heir can be a surviving spouse, minor or adult children, mother, father, or siblings. Heirs can also include direct lineage relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Individuals can bequeath property to whomever they desire. If they gift items to anyone outside the family, those individuals are referred to as beneficiaries. Although somewhat confusing, heirs can be beneficiaries, but beneficiaries are not always heirs.

The only way to ensure property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a legal Will. When property is held in a trust, the Will is used to provide directives regarding distribution. Unless inheritance assets are placed into a trust, the estate must undergo the probate process.

Probate is required to settle decedent estates. Two types of probate exist – testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates which include a last Will, while intestate refers to estates where no Will exists. The probate process varies depending on the type. Intestate estates take longer to settle because additional procedures must be taken.

The last will and testament is also used to designate a probate personal representative. This person is responsible for all tasks required to settle the estate. This can include paying any outstanding debts owed by the decedent; filing a final tax return and paying outstanding taxes; obtaining appraisals for valuable property; securing personal property owned by the decedent; and distributing inheritance gifts left to heirs and beneficiaries.

The last will can also be used to disinherit an heir. When a person decides to leave a direct lineage relative out of their Will they must include a disinheritance clause which states the reason for exclusion. While this clause does not prevent heirs from contesting the Will, it can minimize the risk. If a disinheritance statement is not included, heirs can prolong the probate process by claiming the decedent was influenced by another person or not in their right mind when executing the Will.

Contesting a Will is a costly process that often bankrupts estates due to excessive legal fees. Those who have direct lineage relatives whom they do not want to bequeath gifts to should consult with a probate lawyer to ensure their Will is properly executed.

Engaging in estate planning can keep certain assets out of probate and allow quick distribution to heirs. Individuals with checking or savings accounts can designate beneficiaries to receive funds at death. This is referred to as payable on death (POD) beneficiaries. Account holders must fill out POD beneficiary forms to provide the names, addresses, date of birth, and social security number. Upon death, beneficiaries must provide photo ID and a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to claim funds.

Individuals with retirement accounts or financial portfolios can assign transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries. Upon death, heirs can elect to transfer funds into a new account to avoid estate taxes or cash-out the account. It is best to consult with a tax attorney to discuss tax ramifications before accepting lump sum cash.

Executing a last will and testament is one of the best gifts you can leave loved ones. Wills should be updated when major events occur. These might include buying or selling real estate; starting or closing a business; or when a new heir is born or a designated heir dies.

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The “Contents Pack-out” Trap and How to Escape It

“Contents Pack-out” is a term used by water and fire restoration contractors, and insurance companies. It is the process in which the contractor sends trucks, boxes and workers to your home. They pack up all of the damaged personal property in your home or business and transport it back to their warehouse. Once the personal property is at the warehouse, the contractor begins the cleaning and restoration process.

Insurance companies do not like to replace personal property. They would rather clean or repair it and give it back to you. That drastically slashes their claims cost, which makes them happy.

I’ve been an insurance adjuster for over 16 years, and in the insurance business for over 35 years. I’ve seen very few instances where seriously damaged personal property can be just cleaned or repaired successfully. Most fires burn or infuse toxic chemicals into personal property, like wood or textiles. Same goes for a flood loss. My personal opinion is that replacement of damaged personal property is better than repair or cleaning.

So, what is the trap?

Insurance adjusters like to swoop in with their favorite approved restoration contractor and do a “pack-out.” But your insurance policy has a limit on Personal Property. All of the money that the insurance adjuster authorizes to have your contents cleaned is paid against the policy limit. So, if the restoration contractor cleans a bunch of your damaged property, but you reject it as damaged, the contractor still gets paid. But you have less money now to replace your damaged personal property.

The trap is that a pack-out can penalize you when you are submitting your insurance claim!

Here’s the Escape Strategy

1. You own the personal property…not the insurance company and not the restoration contractor. It is YOUR DECISION what gets repaired and what gets replaced, not the adjuster.

2. Call in your own restoration contractor for a second opinion. It shouldn’t cost you anything, but even if it did, it would be money well spent.

3. Make sure every single item that gets removed from your home is listed on an inventory sheet.

4. Based upon your contractor’s opinion, negotiate the replacements with the adjuster and settle the claim.

If you have experienced a property loss, whether fire, wind, flood or other, you need to know winning insurance claim strategies. The insurance company will not tell you the claims process, but I will. I will show you how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, go to the website listed below.

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Thermal Mugs: Plastic Vs Stainless Steel

The basic design of thermal mugs, whether they are plastic or stainless steel is the same – double wall insulation with a lid to seal the top. But even though stainless steel versions cost more than plastic versions, in the long run, they are the best deal for travelers. They can also be made of ceramic or glass, but those are generally designed for household use and not for travel due to the possibility of breakage.

The main benefits of a stainless steel mug are durability and better insulation. Steel is tough, and although plastic mugs can take a beating, a steel mug can last much longer. This is especially true when compared to the more brittle, hard plastic mugs that are sometimes used to display stylish designs and finishes. Although messy, dropping a steel mug of coffee will not generally cause any damage.

There are three basic types of insulation used; Air, foam or vacuum between double walls. Plastic versions usually use either air or foam. Both work acceptably, but air or foam is not as effective as vacuum insulation. More often than not, steel mugs use vacuum insulation which can keep beverages hot for a longer period of time. This can be quite important especially on long (and cold!) Morning commutes.

Beyond the two primary benefits, there are a few other benefits that stainless steel thermal mugs have when compared to plastic mugs. Plastic, being slightly softer, is more difficult to clean. You can use tough cleansers (making sure they're non-toxic!) On steel, but the same cleansers will scratch and damage plastic. For the same reason, plastic mugs tend to retain the flavors of the beverages that have been in them. This is not really a problem if you just drink regular generic coffee every day, but if you use the mug for different beverages, it can be.

When you look at all the factors, durability, ease of cleaning, effective insulation and better flavor, the stainless steel thermal mug is by far the best choice, even though it can be a bit more expensive. The only real benefits of plastic mugs are the lower price in the short run (which can be a big benefit if you lose your mug frequently!) And that they are slightly lighter than stainless steel mugs.

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Trusts and Certyty of Intention

This article looks at the requirements and formalities for a valid trust. In UK law, a trust is an arrangement involving three classes of people; A Settlor, Trustees and Beneficiaries. The Settlor is the person who transfers property to the Trust. The Trustees are people who legally own the Trust Property and administrator it for the Beneficiaries. The Trustee 'powers are determined by law and may be defined by a trust agreement. The Beneficiaries are the people for whom benefit the trust property is held, and may receive income or capital from the Trust.

"No particular form of expression is necessary for the creation of a trust, if on the whole it can be gathered that a trust was intended." This statement gives the impression that no formalities are needed, and could be misleading. Although equity generally does look to intent rather than form, mere intention in the mind of the property owner is not enough. For a valid trust to exist, the Settlor must have the capacity to create a trust. He must positively transfer the trust property to a third party trustee or declare himself trustee. Further, he must intend to create a trust, and must define the trust property and beneficies clearly. This is known as the 'three assurances'; Certificate of subject matter, certainty of objects and certainty of intent.

Certificate of intent refers to a specific intention by a person to create a trust arrangement wheree Trustee (which may include himself) hold property, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of another person.

It is clear when trusts are created in writing and on the advice of legal professionals that intention is present [Re Steele's Will Trusts 1948]. However, no particular form of words is needed for the creation of a trust and here the equivalent maxim, "Equity looks to intent rather than form", applies. It is therefore sometimes necessary for the Courts to examine the words used by the owner of the property, and what obligations if any the Owner intended to impose upon those receiving the Property.

It is not necessary that the Owner expresses calls the arrangement a trust, or declares himself a trustee. He must however by his conduct demonstrate this intent, and use words which are to the same effect [Richards v Delbridge 1874]. For example, in Paul v Constance 1977, Mr Constance did not express declare a trust for himself and his wife, but he did insure his wife that the money was "as much yours as mine". Additionally, their joint bingo winnings were paid into the account and withdrawals were considered as their joint money. The Court therefore found from Mr Constance's words and conduct that he intended a trust.

Certiety of intention is also known as certainty of words, although it has been suggested a trust may be infringed just from conduct. Looking at Re Kayford 1975 1All ER 604, Megarry J says of certainty of words, "the question is whether in substance a sufficient intention to create a trust has been identified". In this case, Kayford Ltd deposited customer's money into a separate bank account and this was held to be a "useful" indication of an intention to create a trust, although not definitive. There was held to be a trust on the basis of conversations between the Company's managing director, accountant and manager so words were necessary for the conclusion.

In contrast, where the word 'trust' is expressly used, this is not a comprehensive evidence of the existence of a trust – the arrangement may in fact institute something very different [Stamp Duties Comr (Queensland) v Jolliffe (1920)]. For example, the deed may contain words such as "On trust, with power to appoint my nephews in such shares as my Trustee, Wilfred, shall in his absolute discretion decide, and in default of appointment, to my friend George". Although professing to be a trust, Wilfred is not under an obligation to appoint the nephews and provision is made for the property to pass to George if he does not. This is therefore a power of appointment, not a trust [eg. Re Leek (deceased) Darwen v Leek and Others [1968] 1 All ER 793].

Sometimes in a will, the owner of Property will use 'precatory' words such as expressing a 'wish, hope, belief or desire' that the receiver of property will handle it a certain way. For example, in Re Adams and Kensington Vestry 1884, a husband cave all of his property to his wife, "in full confidence that she will do what is right as to the disposal between between my children …". The Court held that the wife may have been under a moral obligation to treat the Property a definite way but this was not sufficient to create a binding trust. Precatory words can still sometimes create a trust. In Comiskey v Bowring-Hanbury 1905, the words 'in full confidence' were again used, but the will also included further clauses, which were interpreted to create a trust. The Court will look at the whole of the document to ascertained the testator's intention, rather than dismissing the trust because of individual clauses.

There are further formalities required for certain types of trust property, and for a trust to be valid, title to the trust property must vest in the Trustee, or, the trust must be "constituted". This might be done for example, by delivery for chattels or by deed for land. If the trust is not properly constituted, the proposed beneficaries have no right to compel the Settlor to properly transfer the Property, as 'equity will not assist a volunteer'. The exception to this is where the beneficiary has provided consideration (including marriage) for the Settlor's promise, in which case, there would be a valid contract and the Beneficiary could sue for breach.

Where a testamentary trust of land or personalty is purported, the will in which it is contained must be in writing and executed in accordance with Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, which means the Will must be signed by the Testator in the joint presence of Two witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the Testator.

Where a Settlor wants to create an inter vivos trust of personalty, the formalities are minimal. Under the usual requirements for a trust (capacity, the three responsibilities etc), the Settlor must observe any formalities required to properly transfer the Property to the trustees – for example, the execution and delivery of a stock transfer form for shares.

To create an inter vivos trust of land or of an equitable interest in land, in addition to the formalities of transferring the land, the declaration of trust must be in writing and must be signed by the person able to create the trust – ie, the Settlor or his attorney [S.53 (1) (b) Law Property Act 1925]. Where this formality is not accepted, the Trustee would hold the land on trust for the Settlor rather than the Beneficiary. The exception is where the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies – the Settlor intended to make an immediate unconditional transfer to the Trustee, the intention to do this was unchanged until the Settlor's death, and at least one of the Trustee is the Settlor's administrator or Executor. In this case, as the property is automatically vested in the Settlor's personal representatives and the trust is constituted.

It is sometimes stated that no particular form of expression is necessary to create a trust if intention was present. Clearly this is not the case. There are formalities for creating inter vivos land trusts and testamentary trusts and if these are not followed, the trust will fail without consideration has been provided or the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies, even if the Trustee had the best intentions. Further, the form of words used in those formalities must be clear and unambiguous, or they may not amount to a trust. He goes on to say that 'a trust may be created without using the word "trust"' and this is true in that other words and conduct to that effect are sufficient. However, the Court does not just regard the 'substance' of the words. If the word used does not meet the 'three assurances' or, for example, the person making the declaration does not have the capacity to make a trust, the trust will fail. This is clearly not the desired 'effect' and not the owner's intention.

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Your Homeowners Insurance May Not Cover Woodpecker Damage

Meet Amy, City Girl that became a small town resident upon her marriage to George. The stark difference between living in the very center of urbanized civilization and township dwelling was somewhat of an adjustment for Amy. Sure she loved the sights and sounds of nature exposed: the lake, the trees, grass, flowers and the vibrant color of winged birds. Nonetheless, how she missed the hustle and bustle and – yes – even the noise of what she had always recognized as the center of commercial shopping, auto and bus traffic – honking included – and life as she had been bred to appreciate!

Though noise has always been the core of her existence, the incessant pecking on the side of her roof in small town America where she currently had set up residence did absolutely no good for her nerves. Five o’clock in the morning, you see was far too early for a woman of the world such as she to be rudely awoken from her slumbering state. And the fact that the pecking was coming from a fine feathered ‘friend’ known most commonly as the woodpecker did little to placate her uneasiness.

Then came the crunch that really threw Amy off. It appeared as the bothersome woodpecker had begun to incur damage on her lovely home! But nothing could appease Amy when she discovered that her standard homeowners insurance policy did not even cover the damages and losses she now suffered!

“You see, Ma’am,” explained the nice insurance agent, “insurance companies simply do not cover general home liability that has been wrought through negligence. In fact, they view woodpecker damage as something that could have been avoided through proper home maintenance.”

If only Amy had known! She most certainly would have confronted the little peril with a vengeance. Now it appeared that it was too late and she and her husband would have to bear the losses through out of the pocket expenditures.

They say life is a great teacher. Amy knows better than most.

“Learn from me,” says Amy, former city dweller. “Don’t let pests get the better of you or your home risks will!”

How does one tackle a woodpecker problem? There are a number of hands-on methods:

• Go out and purchase a tool that’s on the market in regard to woodpecker deterrence.

• Surround outside home spots that connect to the roof with wired fencing.

• Attach colorful tape below roof and around the roof’s gutters.

• Seal attic holes and house siding with caulk or other materials.

• Hire a pest eliminating firm to take care of the problem.

• Explore your own creative to tackle the nasty wood-pecking problem.

Ask Amy. She’ll tell you forearmed is indeed forewarned: speak to an independent insurance agent about your homeowners insurance policy to make sure it is tailored to your needs.

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Understand the Pros and Cons of Saving Money in Piggy Banks

It is always a great idea to put some money away for a rainy day or for a future purchase. But where you put it is a personal choice depending on what your considerations are. Do you have security in mind? Or is it convenience? Whatever they may be, you might have thought of getting a piggy bank in which to store some extra money. It may help you if you understand what using one of these entries. There are obvious advantages as well as disadvantages that come with piggy banks.

Advantages

We all have spare change left over from grocery shopping and other small purchases, and sometimes we just put it all over the house because we do not have a central place to deposit it. A coin bank will enable you to keep track of the small amounts of money that might otherwise simply lie around or get lost. It can also be a great way to actually save toward a small purchase such as something you saw on sale at the shop down the road. Small, regular deposits into the piggy bank will accumulate enough to reach the desired amount. There are some large piggy banks that are convenient for growing a decent saving, so that might be of interest to you.

Most piggy or coin banks by their very design are pleasing to look at. That means that besides using them to put away some money, you can also use them as decorative pieces in the house. The piggy bank may not needlessly come in the design of a pig, but some are modeled after other animals or objects. So you could choose to become a collector of them and make them serve the double duty of storing your money and brightening up your house.

Disadvantages

When you are saving money, it is usually for a particular reason. Therefore, it is in your interest to ensure that it accumulates enough to achieve your goal. For instance, if you are saving to treat yourself to a night out on the weekend, it is possible to get temped during the week to use the money for something else because it is readily available. It requires that you exercise self control and discipline to not raid the piggy bank at will just because it is convenient.

There are really no disadvantages of keeping money in a piggy bank except that you may get tempted to withdraw some amount when you need it. But it is really not such a bad idea to withdraw money when you need it. The piggy banks serve as your instant back-up plan. You have to go to a bank and withdrawal money and that involves time and energy. On the other hand withdrawal from a piggy bank home is very easy.

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Insurance As a Device For Handling Risk

The real nature of insurance is often confused. The word “insurance” is sometimes applied to a fund that is accumulated to meet uncertain losses. For example, a specialty shop dealing in seasonal goods must add to its price early in the season to build up a fund to cover the possibility of loss at the end of the season when the price must be reduced to clear the market. Similarly, life insurance quotes take into consideration the price the policy would cost after collecting premiums from other policyholders.

This method of meeting a risk is not insurance. It takes more than the mere accumulation of funds to meet uncertain losses to constitute insurance. A transfer of risk is sometimes spoken of as insurance. A store that sells television sets promises to service the set for one year free of charge and to replace the picture tube should the glories of television prove too much for its delicate wiring. The salesman may refer to this agreement as an “insurance policy.” It is true that it does represent a transfer of risk, but it is not insurance.

An adequate definition of insurance must include both the building-up of a fund or the transference of risk and a combination of a large number of separate, independent exposures to loss. Only then is there true insurance. Insurance may be defined as a social device for reducing risk by combining a sufficient number of exposure units to make the loss predictable.

The predictable loss is then shared proportionately by all those in the combination. Not only is uncertainty reduced, but losses are shared. These are the important essentials of insurance. One man who owns 10,000 small dwellings, widely scattered, is in almost the same position from the standpoint of insurance as an insurance company with 10,000 policyholders who each own a small dwelling.

The former case may be a subject for self-insurance, whereas the latter represents commercial insurance. From the point of view of the individual insured, insurance is a device that makes it possible for him to substitute a small, definite loss for a large but uncertain loss under an arrangement whereby the fortunate many who escape loss will help to compensate the unfortunate few who suffer loss.

The Law of Large Numbers

To repeat, insurance reduces risk. Paying a premium on a home owners insurance policy will reduce the chance that an individual will lose their home. At first glance, it may seem strange that a combination of individual risks would result in the reduction of risk. The principle that explains this phenomenon is called in mathematics the “law of large numbers.” It is sometimes loosely referred to as the “law of averages” or the “law of probability.” Actually, it is but one portion of the subject of probability. The latter is not a law at all but merely a branch of mathematics.

In the seventeenth century, European mathematicians were constructing crude mortality tables. From these investigations, they discovered that the percentage of males and females among each year’s births tended everywhere toward a certain constant if sufficient numbers of births were tabulated. In the nineteenth century, Simeon Denis Poisson gave to this principle the name “law of large numbers.”

This law is based on the regularity of the occurrence of events, so that what seems random occurrence in the individual happening simply seems so because of insufficient or incomplete knowledge of what is expected to occur. For all practical purposes the law of large numbers may be stated as follows:

The greater the number of exposures, the more nearly will the actual results obtained approach the probable result expected with an infinite number of exposures. This means that, if you flip a coin a sufficiently large number of times, the results of your trials will approach one-half heads and one-half tails, the theoretical probability if the coin is flipped an infinite number of times.

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The Rights That Go With Real Property

The rights that go with real property can be summed up by the term appurtenances. When real property is sold, appurtenant rights are ordinarily sold along with it. They can, however, be sold separately, and may be limited by past transactions. In addition to knowing the boundaries of the land and which items are considered part of the real property (fixtures vs. personal property), homeowners and lenders also need to understand which rights are being transferred along with that parcel of real estate.

Fee simple ownership includes such other appurtenances as access rights, surface rights, subsurface rights, mineral rights, some water rights, and limited air rights. One way to understand the rights that accompany real property is to imagine the property as an inverted pyramid, with its tip at the center of the earth and its base extending out into the sky. An owner has rights to the surface of the land within the property’s boundaries, plus everything under or over the surface within the pyramid. This includes oil and mineral rights below the surface, and certain water and air rights. Air rights are sometime regulated by each state allowing for air traffic and water rights can differ from state to state.

It is possible, though, for the owner to transfer only some of the rights of ownership to another person. For example, a property owner may sell the mineral rights to a piece of property, but keep ownership of the farm. Later, when the land is sold, the mineral rights will most likely stay with the mining company (depending upon the wording of the contract involved) even though the rest of the bundle of rights in the land is transferred to the new owner. The new owner is limited by the past transaction of the previous owner, and may not sell these mineral rights to another party, nor transfer them in a future sale of the land.

A lender must know if the entire bundle of rights is being transferred (fee simple) or if there are restrictions or past transactions that may limit the current transfer of ownership in any way. This is important because it may have a great effect on the value of the real property. Transfer of access rights for a sidewalk to be placed across the front of a subdivision lot generally would not have a significant impact on the value of a piece of land. Transfer of mineral rights to a mining company, as in the previous example, likely would impact the value.

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A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

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