Monday, November 29, 2010

20 Interesting Things About Me.....

Most of you know that I am exploring careers in travel and social media. Something that combines the two would be amazing! In this quest to interview for Paradise Hunter, I decided to show a more about myself in an effort to help people know me a bit better and thus be inclined to vote. Part of the role of Paradise Hunter is to blog, take pics and help market their brand, so I would get the opportunity to pursue both of my passions in this role. However, it is a competitive job and there are no guarantees. So, I hope that these insights into me will help you feel inclined to vote and encourage friends to vote as well ;-) Thank you!

1. I was recently the Executive Director of a non-profit that celebrates and enhances the lives of people with Down Syndrome. Not because I personally have someone in my life with Down Syndrome, but because I believe no one should be told they can't succeed. We should all have equal opportunities to pursue our passions, regardless of ability or disability.

2. I LOVE to cook anything and everything!

3. I LOVE wine...but only red.

4. My family is the most important thing in my life, and sometimes I might even be a bit obsessive about them ;-)

5. My son was born in Germany. We lived there for three years and were dirt poor. However, we made the best of it by driving everywhere. We had a lot of picnics and walking tours to keep it economical.

6. I have traveled to 14 countries. I love experiencing the different cultures, exploring the housing markets/design, sampling the varieties of food and making new friends everywhere I go.

7.  Travel is the thing that I love second to my family. I can't get enough and WILL find a way to make travel my job very soon (hopefully Paradise Hunter). It truly is my passion and calling to be part of the world around me. Of all the jobs in the world; it's the only one that I want.

8. I listen to all kinds of music.....rock, country, heavy metal, classical, etc. My husband says my IPOD is eclectic - that's his way of saying I'm weird ;-)

9. I have been incredibly successful at every job I have ever had and have never left a company on bad terms. I don't say this to be egotistical, but just to show that I put my all into everything that I do.

10. I graduated from high school when I was 16. However, I discovered I was pregnant shortly after graduation.  I raised my daughter on my own (not by choice) until she was 3 years old.  We had a lot of hard times, but I don't think any of it was a made me the person I am today and she turned out to be a remarkable young girl.

11. My friendships mean the world to me; I cherish and hold them very dearly. I am that girl you can call at 2:00 a.m. in a jam and I will be in the car on my way before we even hang up.

12. I grayed prematurely and have been coloring for years - Thanks Mom and Dad!!

13. I am obsessed with understanding your story. If we meet and hit it off, I want to know about you and what makes you happy and sad. Then, I will do all that I can to make you happy. That is why I have such strong friendships. It truly does mean a lot to me to know and support my friends.

14. I drive way too fast and have higher insurance rates to prove it! UGGHHH

15. Being near water makes me happy.....I honestly cannot be unhappy if I am near any body of water.

16. My favorite vacation was a cruise that we took with our kids.  They went into a Haitian village to go shopping without telling us (they were 14 and 9), scared the crap out of me (because it was not a safe town at that time) but also made me laugh hysterically.....they got it honestly ;-) no fear of meeting new people.

17. I married my husband with two days notice in a tiny chapel (held 40 people) in Wisconsin. We were at a family reunion and all of the kids came together to pick wild flowers, the president of his University married us, the kitchen staff made us a cake and one of the family members had brought bagpipes, learned (and played) the wedding march. Serendipity!

18. I miss my grandfather a lot....he passed away 1 year ago and we were very close.

19. I love animals......and I talk in baby voices to my dog and my daughter's cats ;-)

20. I have never followed my true passion or pursued something for just me.....this is the first time!!! So, please vote for me and help my dream come true:

Top 8 best hangover breakfast spots in Europe

Top 8 best hangover breakfast spots in Europe
It's a great list!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Facebook E-Mail (Of Sorts) – One More Way FB is Engaging

The ultimate battle discussion amongst Social Media experts is “which audience is more engaged” and therefore (ultimately what we want to know) are more likely to buy? Twitter or Facebook?

Today, Facebook launched its e-mail product. As of right now, it is by invitation only, but within 2-3 months it will be free to all to use. It’s a blend of email, chat and SMS. It is not designed to replace your old email account, only to augment. Everyone on Facebook will get a address based on your user name. So, if you have not done so already, go register your user name today.

This new evolution of messaging will allow the user and end recipient to communicate by whatever medium is convenient for them and the conversation would take place in real time. This way you don’t have to remember who likes blackberry messenger over IM, you will just type their name and message. The program is modeled more closely to chat vs. email. For instance, there is no cc, bcc etc. It is meant to be quick and instant.

Mark Zuckerberg said that he feels “e-mail has past its prime in the age of texts and instant messages.” He further said, “the company doesn’t believe e-mail is going to be a modern messaging system.” (Per Yahoo! News)

The notion that people are moving towards favor of shorter, more immediate chats is relevant. Research shows that younger people rely on text messaging vs. face-to-face contact, e-mail and phone calls. (According to the 2009 survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life Project) And, this trend will only increase over time.

So, as much as I wish we had more options, Facebook has the leading edge in the market. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Twitter. However, with 7 out of 10 messages not every being seen by your followers, it is time consuming to pursue marketing efforts via this medium. Not to say, it’s not worth it, because your followers are extremely invested and have chosen to be part of your world. However, Facebook is a captive audience that now, with this tool, will be directly messaged all at once and guaranteeing sight of your message immediately.

Stay tuned….this could be the beginning of Web 3.0.

Downloading Social Media Buttons?

I wanted to post this for all of you using blogger (which does not have good Social Media pluggins for sm buttons). I hope it helps you. It is incredibly easy....just follow closely or email me if problems occur.
Go to: (You can also just do a google search on Social Media Buttons and find literally thousands. I just like this site) Find the Social Media Icon Pack that you like. You can see I am using 64x64 - I like them big and bold ;-)
Once you find the buttons that fit your needs, download them (to a place that you will remember - sometimes downloads go into a dark place never to be found again) onto your computer. Then, upload them into a site like Photobucket and snag the HTML code. I love Photobucket because it allows the code exchange super easily. Just be sure and explore with the sizes of your icons on your page before you download too many.
Next, change the code to insert the destination you want (twitter, facebook, etc.). Here is an example for your to follow. It will literally seem too easy and that is correct!

The HTML code you upload will look like this:

<a href="
albums/ac279/MyPics/September%202010/?action=view&current=DSC_10205.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Copy the code for the destination (your facebook page, twitter page, etc.) and insert it into the bold area. For example, if you want the button to link to Facebook, use your Facebook profile URL and insert in between the "".

<a href="f" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

Add an HTML widget to your blog and insert the code there. That's it....see, how easy!! Best of luck friends!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Purchasing Property in a Foreign Country - Know the Regulations

Investing in a second home or investment property in a foreign country for the first time can be a thrilling and exciting time.  Just imagine, sitting on that first flight, excited about the prospect of finding that perfect bungalow in Belize or villa in Italy, with all of the standard questions going through your head: How much house can we afford? Is that gem still out there in the locale we want? It is completely normal to be excited and a little apprehensive at the same time.  However, before you take that first flight, there are a few additional questions you should ask and answer for yourself.  What country’s real estate laws are friendly to foreign buyers?  Will the local rules and regulations make it easy to purchase?  How long will the process take?

I am hoping that this article may give you a glimpse of a few country requirements and help guide you through the investigation process.  At the end of the day, preparation, perseverance, patience and knowledge will make your process so much smoother.

There are some countries that make it easy for foreigners to own property and others that are not quite as flexible.  That being said, I suggest that once you have found your paradise, stick with it and see it through.  Do the research and know the local processes and procedures.  A little extra preparation is definitely worth it if ultimately, you find that perfect second home in paradise.

I have done a little research on some desirable areas to give a first blush regarding the relative ease or difficulty of purchasing a property.  Here is what I found:

  • The initial sales contract is called the contrato de promessa de compra e venda (CPCV).
  • Deposits are required on property; typically 10 – 12%
  • If a seller is to walk away from a “CPCV” they are obligated to pay twice the amount of the deposit. This is unheard of in most countries and offers an extra layer of protection for you as a buyer.
  • Foreign nationals wishing to buy real estate in Portugal are required to obtain a “Fiscal Number” from the local tax office. It is very simple and quick, but required.
  • The signing of a final contract and deed take approximately 3 to 4 weeks. Once this is complete, the transfer of real estate takes place.
  • The last two steps are to make a payment of the Imposto Municipal Sobre, a tax on real estate. And, the buyer will need to register the deed with the Land Registry Office.
  • Morocco has been working very hard to attract more foreign investment.
  • The first step is to make a verbal offer by the potential buyer to the seller; typically through an agent.
  • Lawyer’s draw up initial preliminary agreements/contracts once verbal offer and negotiations are finalized.
  • Deposits are required once the initial contract is executed, typically 30%.
  • There are some mortgage lenders doing business in Morocco. If you find one, it is recommended to utilize their services.
  • A foreign national must open a bank account in the Kingdom to consummate the sale.
  • Final conveyance of property can happen very quickly (a matter of days), however sometimes the beginning process when the seller is ensuring no encroachments exist and property is legal to transfer, can take several weeks.
  • It is still somewhat restrictive to own here, but not completely impossible.
  • In the 1990’s Croatia begin to relax the laws of real estate ownership for foreign nationals, making it easier for foreigners to purchase. They developed a statue of reciprocity for foreign ownership of real estate. The provisions state that if the country of origin of which the foreigner lives allows a Croatian the ability to own real estate, Croatia will allow that foreigner to own real estate in Croatia.
  • To begin the process you must obtain permission from the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They will verify ultimate ownership interests.
  • Sometimes this process of review by the Ministry can be rather lengthy.
  • The sales contract and petition to own property must be submitted to the Ministry simultaneously.
  • A deed cannot be filed in the Land Books of Croatia by a foreign national without all of the paperwork approved and issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Commonly, 10% is the required deposit for purchases and there are no mortgage lenders (at this time) for foreign nationals in Croatia. Funds will need to be secured elsewhere.
In all matters of purchasing real estate in a foreign county, it is recommended that you reach out to a realtor and a lawyer for a more thorough understanding of the local laws and regulations. This investment will be well worth your time.
After it’s all said and done, enjoy your new slice of heaven. For years and years to come, your family and friends will enjoy the investment and inevitably it will become a large piece of your personal memoir in the storybook of your life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Investing Overseas - Be Wise but Have Fun!

Buying an investment property in a foreign country can be both rewarding and challenging. It is wise to be fully aware of what you are getting into before deciding to purchase. There is nothing more exciting than owning a second home in a new country and utilization of that property for income is almost always the best way to help subsidize the mortgage. So, enjoy and explore, you’ve earned it, but be wise when shopping and always ask questions.

There are still many countries where investment properties can be had for a bargain, but more and more the price of real estate is increasing just as fast, if not faster, than the US market. Therefore, a wise investor will do his/her research to fully understand what they seek in their ideal investment home.

Often, investors are looking for the latest “hotspot.” However, this can change rapidly and be confusing for an inexperienced property investor. If you choose one of these hotspot locations, be sure and research before purchasing. And, don’t forget to consider what the region will look like in 5 – 10 years, i.e. flooding of the investment market, ownership vs. rental, etc. Some of the most recently coined hotspots are Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey, Greek Islands and Abu Dhabi. These were all chosen by a survey of over 100 seasoned overseas property investors. The factors that went into this survey were: housing market entry prices, potential capital growth, types of property available, ease of purchase for international buyers, stability of the region, accessibility by international travelers and attitude of government towards overseas buyers. These are all important factors to pay attention to when looking for your slice of paradise. Each one will affect your investment, in both the short-term and looking over a period of years.

If you are planning to keep the property as a long-term investment you will need to know what the rental potential is for that particular region. You will also want to ask yourself some very important questions. Below are some examples of things to think through as you are shopping:

* Will the rent you receive cover the mortgage payment plus all other
costs such as landscapers, cleaning crews, taxes, insurance, etc?

* What is the average days of the year that you can expect to
rent vs. times of vacancy?

*How many days of the year will you and/or your relatives and friends want to
utilize the home and will you charge them or not?

Some of the best ways to find local rental market information is through blogs and real estate agents. There are thousands of blogs on international investing. First, start to follow quite a few until you get comfortable with 2 – 3 of them, then continually watch their posts and research their archives. Finding a realtor in these areas is helpful too and will provide the most current market data. However, be upfront with the realtor to let them know you are fact finding first and investing later. A good realtor will be happy to help. The realtor who does not want to help is probably in it for short-term gain and isn’t worth working with anyway. To help get you started, I have listed some recent rental and purchase numbers in various locations around the world.

Below is a list of potential rental market rates: (data current as of 11-2010)

Daily Rental
Weekly Rental
Kauai, HI
380 sq ft
(1 bed/1bath)
Beachfront, small studio but nicely appointed
Exuma, Bahamas
1850 sq ft
(2 bed/2 bath)
Beachfront, serene and private beach cottage
Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic
650 sq ft
Beachfront, studio, well appointed and clean
St. John, US Virgin Islands
500 sq ft
(1 bed/2ba)
Beach Views, not walking distance, relaxing top level condo
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
8000 sq ft
(5 bed/5ba)
Walking distance to beach, gorgeous villa with private butlers and cooks
New South Whales, Australia
Pricing quoted as one room of this B&B.
Rent out one room of this B&B, 300 meter walk to beaches, quaint/comfortable

Below is a list of sales prices of homes: (data current as of 11-2010)

Purchase Price
Beach/Town Proximity
Tel Aviv, Israel
2 bed/2ba, brand new, no need to remodel
Near beach – walking distance
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1 bed/1 ba, move-in ready
In heart of city, on largest canal, ground floor
Sydney, Australia
4 bed, 4 ba, family home, move-in ready
In suburb of Sydney, family location, near harbor
La Paz, Mexico
2 bed/2 ba, brand new, upgrades throughout
Ocean View, walking distance to main city and beach
San Ramon, Costa Rica
3 bed/3ba, all upgraded, beautifully furnished
On top of a mountain, overlooking the Serene Mountains
Luquillo, Puerta Rico
1 bed/1 ba studio, condo, nicely appointed
On ocean, views all around.

Remember, this is your dream and could be your next really big reality. It’s an exciting time, but don’t get caught up in all the nostalgia. Stay focused on your end result and goal, which is to find your little piece of “paradise.” If you do the research and take the time to truly understand what you can afford, rental rate returns and bottom line return on investment, the reward will be so much more satisfying.

Happy house hunting! I’ll be looking for my invitation for cocktails in your new home very soon!