November, 2018

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Why Own a Home Instead of Rent?



Why Own a Home Instead of Rent?



There are times when it is better for a person to rent, but most often home ownership has many more benefits and advantages.

About 10 year ago a had a retired aunt and uncle who rented a condo in Las Vegas. Uncle Jim (not his real name, but that’s what I’ll call him) was a retired minister. Throughout his career he and his wife lived in parsonages, which are homes furnished by the congregation while they ministered there.

He and his wife told me that the biggest mistake they ever made was not to invest in buying a home. In their retirement years, when their other retired friends were living in homes that were almost paid off and had appreciated greatly, Uncle Jim and his wife were using a huge portion of their limited retirment money to make expensive condo rent payments. They strongly cautioned me not to make the same mistake they had.

Recent studies are showing that there are many benefits for both the owners and the community for owning your own home, including increased education for children, lower teen-age pregnancy rate and a higher lifetime annual income for children. Besides these, listed below are some of the primary advantages for owning your own house.

More Stable Housing Costs
Rent payments can be unpredictable and typically rise each year, but most mortgage payments remain unchanged for the entire loan period. If the taxes go up, the increase is usually gradual. This stable housing cost especially important in times of inflation, when renters lose money and owners make money.


Tax Savings
Homeonwers can be eligible for signifigant tax savings because you can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from your federal income tax, as well as many states’ income taxes. This can be a considerable amount of money at first, because the first few years of mortgage payments is made up mostly of interest and taxes.

If you need to refinance to consolidate other debts (an opportunity you don’t have if you are renting) the interest on this is also tax deductable.

Instead of payments disapearing into someone elses pocket, home owners are building equity in their own home. This is often one of a person’s biggest investment assests. Each year that you own the home you pay more toward the principal, which is money you will get back when the home sells.

It is like having a schelduled savings account that grows faster the longer you have it. If the property appreciates, and generally it does, it is like money in your pocket. And you are the one who gets to take advanatge of that, not the landlord. You can then use this equity to plan for future goals like your child’s education or your retirement.

It is Yours!
When you own a home you are in control. You the freedom to decorate it and landscape it any way you wish. You can have a pet or two. No one can pop in and inspect your home and threaten to evict you.

Even young people, like college students out on their own, can often benefit from home ownership. It puts them ahead of other young people their age financially by helping with their credit and giving them what is often an excellent investment.

Often a college student buying a home will rent the rooms out, and his or her roommates end up making the payments for the house. When the student is ready to move on, her or she can sell the home (hopefully making a profit) or keep it as an investment and continue to rent it.

Buying a home is an important decision. It is often the largest purchase a person makes in his or her life. Home ownership also comes with some increased responsibilities, and isn’t for everyone. There are some disadvantages to homeownership that you should take into account.

Increased Expenses
Your monthly expenses may increase, depending on your situation. Even if the monthly payments are the same, home owners still have to pay property taxes, all the utilities, and all the maintenance and upkeep costs for the home. Often you need to supply appliances that were furnished with a rental.

Decreased Freedom of Mobility
Homeowners can’t move as easily as a renter who just has to give notice to the landlord. Selling a house can be a complex and time consuming process.

Risk of Depreciation
In some areas with overinflated prices, there may be a risk that the house will depreciate instead of increase in value, if the prices go down. If you then sell the house, you may not get enough money from the home to pay back your mortgage, and you will still owe the mortgage company money.

Possibility of Foreclosure
If for some reason you are unable to make your payments, you risk having the lender forclose on your propety. This can result in the loss of your home, any equity you have earned, and the loss of your good credit rating.

When considering home ownership, you need to weight the advantages and disadvantages for yourself. If you are like most people, you will find that homeownership is worth the risks and disadvantages.



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Which Way Are Trends Heading?



Which Way Are Trends Heading?



Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to buy a new home, you’ll probably find yourself noticing all sorts of things that might have escaped your attention in the past. Maybe you’ll even take a look at magazines, articles, websites, and TV shows that cover the many aspects of making a home that expresses your personality, your attitudes, and your philosophy of life—and lifestyle.

And if you’ve already started touring new homes, there’s a high likelihood that you already have a growing checklist of “must haves” and “maybes” and “definitely nots” going.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you know exactly what we’re talking about. And you’re packed and ready for the journey towards home ownership. So travel along with us as we explore what’s new, what’s growing in popularity, what’s hip and hot, and
what’s up ahead in the not-so-distant future.

Consider this article a road map. Keep in mind that it won’t tell you where to head, though. No side streets, off-the-beaten-tracks or cul-de-sacs are shown. But when it comes to making a home your very own, it’s sometimes as much as about how you got there as it is reaching that final destination. Bon Voyage!

Currently, the most popular architectural look for new homes in South Texas is, without a doubt, right out of the Old World. More specifically, it’s the Italianate look of Tuscany and the sunny Mediterranean. With a little bit of Mexico and the Texas Hill Country thrown in for good measure. Which certainly makes a lot of sense, since South and Central Texas and the Rio Grande Valley have a lot in common, climate-wise, with that part of Europe.

What are the signatures of this trendy style in a home? Instead of brick, look for stone and stucco. Preferably done with rustic finishes that have the patina of age—even antiquity. Another element you’ll frequently see is a tile or metal roof—both of which are very sensible for our region. The optimum effect is one of the luxury of handcraftsmanship and things made to last—well, practically forever. Perfect for a more gentle, gracious way of life.


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Real Businesses Send Spam, Too!



Real Businesses Send Spam, Too!


Although the vast majority of this bulk email is being perpetrated by individual spammers and a few large bulk mailers pushing pornography, gambling, get rich schemes, ‘medicinal cures’ and bootleg software, real businesses have been caught in the web also by committing several errors. The three ways a legitimate business falls into the Spam mode are: 1. Legal non-Compliance, 2. Violating Trust, and 3. Lack of Value.

Unsolicited Commercial Email or Spam has grown at epidemic proportions. It is rapidly becoming the number one problem that Information Technology departments deal with on a day-to-day basis, surpassing computer viruses. The volume and percentage of unwanted email received in business and personal email inboxes is starting to overwhelm and drown out legitimate email.

Although the vast majority of this bulk email is being perpetrated by individual spammers and a few large bulk mailers pushing pornography, gambling, get rich schemes, ‘medicinal cures’ and bootleg software, real businesses have been caught in the web also by committing several errors. The three ways a legitimate business falls into the Spam mode are: 1. Legal non-Compliance, 2. Violating Trust, and 3. Lack of Value.

Legal non-Compliance

Through the end of 2003 it was very difficult to comply with Spam laws as twenty six states had passed their own laws dealing either directly with the process of sending unsolicited commercial email or the format requirements of bulk email.

With the passage of the Federal law – “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003” or better known as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, it has become a lot easier to understand and apply the rules. Real businesses should have no problem complying with all aspects of the law and those that don’t will find themselves in legal jeopardy for significant penalties.

The process components of the law won’t be an issue for real businesses, they don’t fake the reply address, they don’t hijack someone else’s mail server nor do they contain falsified routing information. Where they are likely to fail are in three specific areas.

1) Neglecting to include a valid physical address in the body of the email.

2) Not having a functional Internet-based opt-out mechanism, which must be active for a minimum of 30 days after the email has been sent.

3) Failing to include clear and conspicuous identification that the message is an advertisement or solicitation. Most State laws approached this similar provision by requiring the use of the letters ADV: in the beginning of the subject line. The Federal doesn’t specify how this is to be accomplished; thereby, leaving it open to a wide range of interpretation.

There are several additional areas that are process related that may trip up the sender unintentionally.

1) The sender rents or purchasing a defective email list, for example one that has individuals that have already opted-out of email communications.

2) They use a ‘tricky’ subject line to entice recipients to open the message. Subject lines that stretch the truth could be identified as misleading the purpose of the email and therefore be a violation.

3) Agents or related 3rd parties that have business relationship with the firm send out Spam. This could put the company in jeopardy if it can be proven that they were aware of the related company’s activities.

Although the Federal law isn’t perfect one significant advantage it does offer to real businesses is that there is now only one place they need to go to check the rules before a company embarks onto an email marketing program.

Violating Trust

Trust is one of the major stumbling blocks keeping the publics’ enthusiasm for the Internet in check. And when it comes to providing their email address that is in the eye of the storm. The overwhelming concern people have about providing a company their email address is that it will be shared, loaned, rented, sold or carelessly unprotected. Sharing lists internally between product lines, departments, or divisions and externally with ‘business partners’ stretches the permission basis originally given by the subscriber.

When opt-in lists developed at one website are resold to list brokers, real businesses that rent these lists automatically become spammers because recipients are typically applying this litmus test to commercial email they receive: “Email marketing is for product/service information I’ve specifically requested, Spam is sent without asking for it”.

Businesses embarking down the eMarketing path often have in-house databases that include email addresses of suspects, prospects, and clients. The conversion of these lists, developed on a relationship basis, to a formal subscriber list treads a fine line and should be considered very carefully before assuming that permission has been granted.

Lack of Value

Every time you send email to your list members, you will be judged, and in some cases, it may appear to have been done unfairly. In today’s environment subscribers are now becoming annoyed at a variety of shortcomings, such as messages about products they seldom buy, messages that serve the sender more than the recipient, unsubscribe processes that don’t work, ‘hard sell’ messages or even messages in formats that can’t be properly displayed in the recipient’s mail program.

The plain simple truth is that even in a permission email environment, recipients are now applying their own tests for Spam whether they opted in or not. These are natural human reactions to the mailings they receive – it can be as straightforward as “Email marketing is email I like, Spam is email I don’t like.”

How to Fix

Real businesses need to insure that they aren’t jeopardizing their brand name by meeting or exceeding the best practices for email marketing. Auditing the list, evaluating your content and insuring proper conformance with the documentation process in the permission mailing process are the key components to a successful campaign.




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What Is Spam?



What Is Spam?



You have probably seen an increase in the amount of junk mail which shows up in your email box, or on your favorite newsgroup. The activities of a small number of people are becoming a bigger problem for the Internet.

Chain letters that ask for money, whether for reports or just straight up, are illegal in the US whether they are in postal mail or e-mail. Report these frauds to your local US Postmaster. You may see e-mail coming from Nigeria or another African country, sent by someone who wants to use your bank account to transfer 20 million dollars. This is called a ‘419’ scam and people have been killed over it.

Spam is flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it. Most spam is commercial advertising, often for dubious products, get-rich-quick schemes, or quasi-legal services.

Spam costs the sender very little to send — most of the costs are paid for by the recipient or the carriers rather than by the sender. To the recipient, spam is easily recognizable. If you hired someone to read your mail and discard the spam, they would have little trouble doing it. How much do we have to do, short of AI, to automate this process?

I think we will be able to solve the problem with fairly simple algorithms. In fact, I’ve found that you can filter present-day spam acceptably well using nothing more than a Bayesian combination of the spam probabilities of individual words. Using a slightly tweaked (as described below) Bayesian filter, we now miss less than 5 per 1000 spams, with 0 false positives.

One particularly nasty variant of email spam is sending spam to mailing lists (public or private email discussion forums.) Because many mailing lists limit activity to their subscribers, spammers will use automated tools to subscribe to as many mailing lists as possible, so that they can grab the lists of addresses, or use the mailing list as a direct target for their attacks.



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