Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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How to Wash a Microbead Pillow

Every so often, after repeated use, or due to messy accidents, micro bead pillows will need to be cleaned. Unlike memory foam or down pillows where only the pillowcase may be washed, micro bead pillows may be washed, just as long as proper measures are taken in order to prevent the pillow from being destroyed. On many micro bead pillows, the tag suggests that they may only be spot treated. This can be done by scrubbing the spot or spots out with soapy water or any other gentle cleaning solution; bleach should never be used.

However, people with young children or animals often find that the pillow may be too dirty to clean by the spot treating method. Microbead pillows may be washed in the washing machine as long as you are careful. It is important that the pillow is first placed in another pillowcase with the end tied off so it does not fall out during the wash. The pillowcase prevents the microbead pillow from falling apart through the tumbling and rushing water. It is the pillowcase that takes the beating while the microbead pillow remains safe inside while still receiving the cleaning that it needs. A detergent meant for fine fabrics or wool, such as Woolite should be used to further prevent possible tearing of the fabric. Again, no detergent with bleach should be used because it can break down the nylon lycra or spandex outer fabric of the pillow.

Wash the microbead pillow on your washing machine’s gentlest cycle using cold water only; heat risks damage to the microbeads as well as to the outside of the pillow. While washing, one should occasionally check on the pillow to make sure that no harm is coming to the pillow. While this step is not necessary, it is definitely a good idea. After washing, it is incredibly important to remember that the dryer cannot be used to dry it because, once again, the heat would create a terrible, sticky mess of the outer cover of your favorite pillow. However, a dryer may be used to tumble and air dry the pillow as long as no heat is used. To complete drying, the pillow must be hung to drip dry. With certain, higher quality brands of microbead pillows such as Snooztime, regular machine washing and drying is possible, making it easier and also more convenient to clean your favorite pillow. Cleaning microbead pillows properly ensures its owner many more years of comfortable rest.

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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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How to Properly Insure Your Concrete Pumps

The business of concrete pumping comes with many challenges, one of them being being perfectly insured when something goes wrong. Many concrete pumping companies have pumps and assume they're automatically insured under their general liability policy, unfortunately they are not.

Trailer concrete pumps should be insured under what is called an inland marine floatater. This type of insurance policy provides comprehensive coverage for your pump, insuring it from perils such as theft, vandalism, and damage you may cause it in the event of a car accident. This is similar to the coverage you may have on your car.

Just like any other trailer, liability coverage is automatically extended from the vehicle to the trailer it's towing. For example: If your trailer sideswipes another vehicle, your auto policy will provide liability coverage to repair the vehicle you damaged. Repairs will only be provided up to your policy limits. Keep in mind if the auto policy your truck has not include business coverage the insurance company will most likely deny your claim. Make sure you have a proper commercial auto policy before you toward anything for business use.

What about concrete pumps you can drive, how are they insured? Because these type of pumps are self-propelled they would need to be insured under a standard commercial auto policy. Make sure to mention any custom equipment you have to your agent. Just like on any auto policy custom equipment should be stated as such and approved into the coverage limits. Custom equipment can include any aftermarket stereo systems, hose reels, ladder racks, etc.

Always provide the replacement cost you'd like if your pump is stolen and ask for it to be stated in your policy. This way you'll be sure you have enough to replace the pump in the event of a loss. Some carriers provide the actual cash value for your pumps without otherwise requested. This means you'll get the replacement cost minus depreciation to compensate you on your pump. Actual cash value may not be enough for you to buy another pump if yours is damaged, this option is not recommended.

Always consult your insurance agent before making any final decisions on your insurance policy. Each concrete pump is different and may have specific needs. Keep these points in mind when shopping for your insurance policy and you'll be well on your way to protecting your business in the event of a loss.

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Real Estate Agents – Strengths and Weaknesses in Listing Commercial Property Today

In this commercial property market there are some real pressures and challenges that confront a lot of property owners when they want to sell or lease their property. They need the help of top agents that really understand the local area, to help in moving the property.

Contrary to popular belief, it is in markets like this that good agents can make a lot of commission. It all comes down to the way in which they package their services and help their clients.

In simple terms, top agents and experienced agents can do very well today providing them work the local area and their database. A good database will always get you through any market conditions and frustrations. In saying, that I am a big believer that a salesperson's database should not be delegated to the office administrative staff to control.

Every salesperson should take ownership of their database; In this way they will get good activities from it. In this market you need leads that you can do something with. When a database is passed over to the administrative staff to control, the inevitable result is inaccurate and old data. The database soon becomes redundant. The salesperson does not keep it up to date.

Become Change Agents

So we are the 'agents of change' when it comes to helping our property clients an owners get results in this market. We should know how to attract the right people to every property listing that we take on. Exclusive listings are more important in today than ever before. Some top agents will not take on 'open listings' for the very reason that they are a waste of time and effort.

When you know the drawbacks of the industry and the listings today, you can offer the clients that you serve some solid solutions. So what are the drawbacks? Here is a list of some of the larger ones:

  1. The time that it takes to sell or lease a property can be longer today. Every client has to be conditioned for the best price or rent so the time on market is not lengthened. The first few weeks of every marketing effort are the most important. Position the property correctly to get the best inquiry in this time.
  2. High prices and high rents will achieve nothing. The price or rent for the property should be optimized for inquiry. You have to do more with less when it comes to marketing and inspecting of properties.
  3. A larger number of competitive properties can frustrate your marketing efforts and time on market. Check out these properties before you do anything with your listing.
  4. Buyers and tenants are slower to inquire, inspect the property, and then make a decision. Your skills with each stage of the listing should be optimized. Hone your skills accordingly.
  5. Limited finance can put some 'brakes' on the larger deals. Find out where your prospects can get finance from and what the criteria of approval may be.

Whilst these may be drawbacks in the market, they are also opportunities for agents that can get focused and organized. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

Are you a solution provider in this commercial real estate market? Top agents are just that. You can be too.

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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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Seven Cover Reviews of the Best Travel Trailer Covers Sold on the Internet and Retail Stores

Usually an outdoor enthusiasts begins to show interest in a travel trailer when they feel that they have outgrown the “sleeping in the outdoors or tent” phase and are ready to enjoy the luxuries of home and yet still have that feeling of living & camping outside by the ocean or lake or in the mountains or desert. Purchasing a travel trailer is an investment that the RV owner hopes will last for many years and numerous excursions. Travel trailers can and will last for many years, sometimes decades. The interior will keep its looks as long as it is protected from sunlight exposure. If an RV is left uncovered the sun’s UV rays will beat down on the camper and fade the interior upholstery, curtains, blinds, carpets, and bedding. The exterior will show its age a great deal faster than the interior. In only a matter of years a travel trailer that is left unprotected from the weather, will exhibit quick and steady exterior damage when the decals fade, crack, spilt and eventually wear off. The plastic window and door seals will turn gray to black in just a year. The welded seams that connect the sides will expand and contract with every snow fall because freezing/melting cycle that occurs when the snow melts on the roof crevices but remain in the crevice, then re-freezes in the tiny, microscopic crevices. These seams will expand inevitably with the freeze cycle that causes a widening of the connecting seams. This constant cycle of water freezing, melting and re-freezing will eventually cause problems with the roof which results in very costly repairs.

The easiest way to prevent the aging process on your travel trailer is to cover it with the best RV cover for the area in which the travel trailer will be stored and for the time in which you will be storing your camping trailer. With so many RV covers on the market how are you going to be able to find the cover that you need?

For the most part, all of the deluxe RV storage covers discussed in this article are sold on the Internet (as well as Walmart, Sears, and Cabelas) and are basically made of the same material (polypropylene) with few differences. Advertised as deluxe winter snow covers these travel trailer RV covers, (Expedition, ADCO, PolyPro 3, Camco and CoverKing) are generally made of triple-layered breathable non-woven polypropylene. The roof/top of the cover is made to accommodate the AC on the roof and is usually large enough to extend over the sides to protect the awning. At the joining seams where the roofing top meets the single layer of polypropylene sides there are vent flaps that allow the cover “to breathe”. These vents prevent wind friction and moisture buildup that would cause mold and mildew to develop. The sides have several long zippered entry panels that will allow you access to your travel trailer during the storage period. The entire cover is usually secured with an integrated tie-down strap system with adjustable click-close buckles and tension panel flaps in the front and back of the travel trailer that reduce cover stress when tightening or loosening the straps on the cover. This gives the RV cover a semi-custom fit. The major differences between all of these winter snow covers comes in the price and the length of the warranty of the product.

Winter Covers for Travel Trailers 20-33 ft Cost & Warranty

Expedition by Eevelle Cost: $205 – $321 Warranty: 3 years

ADCO Designer made with Tyvek Cost: $262 – $365 Warranty: 2 years

Poly Pro 3 by Classic Accessories Cost: $273 – $341 Warranty: 3 years

Camco Ultraguard Cost: $262 – $415 Warranty: 2 years

CoverKing 600 Denier Presidium Cost: $375 – $575 Warranty: Repair for 1yr

When a travel trailer is stored through the summer in the extreme Southeast and Southwest, the cover must be made from an extremely rugged durable woven material. Travel trailers that are in the sun year-round must have a cover with ultimate UV protection. Winter snow covers (like the Expedition, PolyPro 3, Camco Ultraguard, CoverKing Presidium & the Tyvek ADCO cover) disintegrate within a few short months if they are used to protect the RV through the summer. The non-woven fabric cannot stand up to the intense UV rays in this area of the United States. There are two RV covers made of woven material. The first cover that is made with the newest technology in UV block protection is called the PermaPro RV cover made by Classic Accessories. This RV cover is backed by the newest technology in extra strength UV block protection. The PermaPro cover is made of a light weight extra strength ripstop fabric that is tear resistant with nylon reinforcements in the material. The fabric resembles that used in parachutes and athletic wear. This water-repellent fabric repels rain and snow to make it an all season protective RV cover. This travel trailer cover ranges in cost from $375 – $505 and is backed by a four-year warranty.

The Goldline RV cover sold by Eevelle has long been recognized as the best RV cover by customers and dealers alike. The Goldline RV covers are designed to outperform every other RV cover in all the critical categories of RV protection- strength, durability, water repellency, etc. The extra strength yet supple Goldline Tru-weave woven fabric can handle the strongest winds and can stand up to the extreme UV rays of the sun as well as being a water-repellent rain & snow semi-custom storage cover. This travel trailer cover ranges in cost from $455 – $578 and is backed by a five-year warranty. The Goldline is also the only RV cover made for small travel trailers (10 – 20 ft.) as well as the extremely large ones (up to 46 ft. long).

PermaPro and Goldline are the only extra strength travel trailer covers that can be used as summer storage covers. Their woven design stands up to the winds that accompany winter and foretell the change of seasons. Both of these covers are truly all season RV covers that will protect the investment you made into your travel trailer as well as all the upcoming vacations & excursions you will take well into the next several years.

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Forehand Vs Backhand MIG Welding Techniques

Forehand and backhand welding are the most basic of all welding techniques. They are simple, have their purpose and provide a specific type of weld when used properly. In this article you will learn why these techniques are used and most importantly why.

Forehand Technique

Forehand is a technique where the welder pushes the puddle and keeps the arc slightly ahead of the puddle. Forehand welding is done with the MIG gun pointed in the direction of travel. For example, if the welder will be welding from right to left, then the MIG gun will point toward the left at all times. The angle that the MIG gun is pointed toward the direction travel can vary. The angle of the MIG gun can be anywhere between 5 degrees to as much as 35 degrees toward the direction of travel. When traveling forehand the welder must focus on keeping the arc slightly ahead of the puddle.

Backhand Technique

The backhand technique is the exact opposite of the forehand welding technique. In the case of back hand welding the welder keeps the MIG gun pointed toward the weld while traveling away from it. For example if the welder is welding from left to right then the MIG gun will be pointed toward the left. The angle of the MIG gun can vary between 5 degrees to 35 degrees toward the weld.

Understand the Reasons for these Welding Techniques

These MIG welding techniques do serve a very important purpose. What they do is control the weld shape and the penetration pattern.

Forehand welding is the most commonly used technique for MIG welding. What the forehand method does is produce a shallow but wide penetrating weld that is flat in appearance. This is the type of weld and penetration is used for most weld joints where overheating is not an issue.

Backhand welding is the least used welding technique when it comes to MIG. This technique produces the deep and narrow type of penetration that is best suited for thinner metals. The advantage of backhand welding is that the arc is focused onto the filler metal and that means extra material to prevent burn through. When welding thinner metals you always run the risk of burning a hole through the weld joint. With the backhand method the extra filler metal at the arc helps prevent this and at the same time can keep warp age to a minimum.

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How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

There is an old saying that goes: What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Personal property is the elephant of an estate. It is the responsibility that can take up most of your time, and it provides the estate with the least amount of money for the effort involved. But, dealing with the personal property cannot be avoided. The property must be inventoried, valued, distributed, or sold. Let us start our analysis by looking at what property we have (inventory); then we will determine what it is worth (valuation). In a future post, we will determine what to do with it (distribution/sale).

When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the form you will need to fill out for the inventory. The form will ask you to provide general categories and a value for each category you have listed. For example, you would list: furniture, $1500; office equipment, $300, etc.. You will not have to list the items separately, such as sofa, $100; chair, $5; typewriter, $25. I suggest that you do keep a list of the individual items, though. Although you will not have to go into a lot of detail for the court, you will likely want a more detailed inventory for yourself. You will want this for two reasons: to track the sale of estate property, and to protect yourself against claims of heirs and/or creditors.

You do not have to get real fancy with with the inventory; pencil and paper will do. If you are so inclined, there are home inventory record books available at office supply stores, or you can purchase software online. There are also companies that specialize in taking home inventories.

You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room. Write down what is on the walls as well, not just what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc.. On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.

When you file the inventory at the courthouse, you will need to state a value for the personal property. For run-of-the-mill household items, a good resource for determining the value is the software program It’s Deductible that comes bundled with the income tax program Turbo Tax. It’s Deductible can also be purchased separately. The software lists the thrift shop value for most household items, and it is easy to use.

For the items that you have identified as being valuable, It’s Deductible will not work. There are several ways to determine the value of single items or collections. A good place to start is eBay ( http://www.ebay.com ). To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website. Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, scroll down and look on the left side of the page to where it says Search Options, click on completed listings, then scroll down further and click on Show Items. The search results displayed will be for completed auctions, not for auctions in progress. The prices listed in green are items that actually sold; the prices in red are for items that did not sell. If you find your item listed, and the price is green, you have a good value. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.

If you are unable to find your item listed on eBay, it is time to go to the library or bookstore. There you will find an assortment of price guides for every sort of antique or collectible. You will also find blue books for automobiles and equipment.

If you have lots of items and no time to research, then it is time to call in an expert. In your local phone book you will find jewelers, antique dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals who will tell you what the property is worth. What they will offer you is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. An appraisal is based on actual sales data, not an opinion. I will cover appraisals below; for now, just be aware that there is a difference. For probate valuation purposes, the value placed must be the fair market value at the time of the decedents death. This is the value you should ask your expert to provide.

In my home state of Virginia, individual items or collections that are valued over $500 must have an appraisal. Personal property appraisers are not licensed like real estate appraisers, but the content of their reports is regulated. For a personal property appraisal to be valid and accepted for tax purposes, it must be performed by a qualified expert and follow the federal guidelines of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most real estate appraisers do not appraise personal property. You can find a personal property appraiser online by checking the websites of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, the National Association of Auctioneers, or the American Society of Appraisers.

Estate Executors will find that the inventory and valuation of estate personal property is their most time-consuming task, but there are resources available to help.

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Five Power Closing Techniques for Insurance and Financial Advisors

So, you have made it through the prospecting game. You made your cold calls, sent out your mass mortgage mailers, invited people to your coffee-sponsored seminars, you qualified responders as being serious prospects and have set the appointment.

Now what? You have done all this work, are you sure you are going to get their business? In this article are 5 closing techniques to help you solidify the deal and make the sale.

1. Quality Demonstration – If you are going to take the time to give a demonstration, be sure that you listen to your potential client’s needs and interpretations of what they expect to get out of your appointment. There is nothing worse than explaining variable life insurance and all the different cash options and disability waivers…to find out they only have a budget of $50 per month. So, listen and then tailor your demonstration to focus on their needs and to solve whatever void they need filled. Don’t get too wordy. The best demonstrations have few words, but are very poignant.

2. Small-closes – Throughout the demonstration, try to get periodic “buy ins” and acknowledgments that you are on track with solving their needs. Ask for their opinions, ask open ended questions; be sure to engage the potential client. If you can make many small closes throughout the sales process, then when it comes time to pull out the application, they won’t be shocked or caught off guard. When they ask a question, re-state their question. This does two things: it lets the potential client know that you are listening to their concerns, but it also restates to them what they have just said is their need. So, when the time comes for you to discuss possible solutions, such as term insurance to cover the mortgage, or a wrap-around disability income policy to substitute the rest of their income, then they cannot back out and say that it isn’t a concern.

3. Between 1 and 10 – This has got to be one of the greatest closing lines ever. It is easy to do, and it forces the potential client to sell themselves. When you have finished your demonstration, you simply turn to your client and ask them, “Between 1 and 10…10 being ‘I am ready to fill out the application and never worry about how my family will financially survive if something should happen to me’…or 1 being ‘I wish you would leave my house right now’….where do you fall? And no matter what they tell you, you ALWAYS answer, “Really, a “#”? Why so high?” Even if they tell you a “4”….you answer, “Really, a 4? I thought you would be a 3, you had your arms crossed and didn’t seem interested in anything I was saying. Why are you so high? What made you choose a 4?”

And then let them answer. Even with a low number, they will point out the features that they liked. They will point out the solutions that worked best. They will also tell you what they didn’t like…and then you can move forward from there. If they were turned off by the price….them give them other options. If they were turned off by the fee structure of A-share mutual funds, then tell them about B or C shares.

4. Suggest/Recommend– This isn’t so much a closing technique as it is a phrase that sets you apart from others by presenting you as the expert. Think about the times you have heard people use this phrase with you. Typically most large oil changing stations will say at the end of their “12 point inspection”, “I recommend you flush out your steering fluid or use a fuel injector cleaner”. What happens is that, they are recommending this to you, which gets you thinking, “hmm…they are the experts, perhaps I should listen to them”. Versus someone saying, “you NEED to do this.” That phrase turns us off. “I don’t NEED to do anything!” When you are sitting with a prospective client and you have finished your demonstration and they have agreed that they need to begin a college savings plan, or invest in a sound life insurance policy, the next phrase out of your mouth should be, “As your Financial Representative, I suggest we get started with…..” or “I recommend that we…..”. It sets you up as the professional that they will trust.

5. Take the sale away -This phrase sounds like the opposite of what you want to do, but rather than chasing someone for the sale, make them ask you for it. Statements like, “I don’t even know if you will qualify for this….why don’t we fill out some of the medical questions to see if we should even move forward with underwriting.” Or if they balk at the initial deposit to open a college plan or annuity, try saying, “You know what? Maybe you are right. This college plan doesn’t seem like the right fit to help you cover the cost of your children to go to any school they want to….why don’t you check out state savings plans through the bank…I believe that enrollment period starts in 6 more months”. This gets the person thinking, “Well what is wrong with me? I want to fit in, I want to belong.” When you push something, it moves away from you….when you pull the same item, it comes towards you. Another move you can make…if someone says that the premium is more than they want to spend, you can always say, “you know what, maybe you are right, but why don’t we go ahead and get you underwritten, see if you even qualify for this low of a premium, as you could come back rated. Then once you are approved, then we can determine which policy will work best for you.”

It takes a little time to change your thinking, especially when you are just starting out. But give it some time, and practice these steps. You will see clients becoming more attracted to you as a professional.

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