My Monday Morning Mojo

Happiness might not be about ‘getting more’

“Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have.”Author unknown

Many people equate happiness with having more things or with having more money to buy things with. Of course, we need money to live to a certain extent. We need money to pay our bills, to maintain a place to live, to buy food, etc. But is money the root of happiness, or is it possible that our faith in it tends to be misplaced?

What really makes us happy?

As the holidays approach, it might be time to have a very honest discussion with ourselves about what really makes us happy. What do we really need to be content? Why do we often feel the need to keep buying and acquiring more?

Buying things isn’t wrong—but when we have to spend money to gain temporary happiness, we must admit that there is definitely possibility that we are looking for happiness using the wrong methods.

Instead, let’s take a moment to step back and imagine the perfect life. But instead of picturing what you would have in your perfect life, focus on what you would be doing. What would you do every day if you could do anything you wanted? What kind of career would you have? What kinds of projects would you get involved in? What would you strive to achieve?

Discovering the truth

I can’t really speak for anyone else, but I do know that when I ask myself these questions, I find that life isn’t really about the stuff in my life. My things are separated into two distinct categories. There are things that I need (bowls, plates, forks, shoes, shirts, pants, etc.), and there are things that serve as distractions (my tv, my fiction books, my video game system, my stereo, etc.).

I find that when I am truly pursuing the activities and lifestyle that I love (for me, this is writing), I have less need for distractions. I find that I would rather have less money and be able to do the things that I love to do. It means more to me to work on my book than to have the money needed to buy the latest gadget or trinket.

Everyone is different

Of course, not everybody will share these opinions with me. Some people might disagree, and some people might have a different outlook. But I still think that there’s something to be said for having an honest discussion with ourselves in this regard. Finding happiness can take a lifetime—but it doesn’t have to. If we can be willing to look closely at ourselves and to search within our own minds for the answer, then we might find that happiness is closer to home than we ever thought was possible.

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4 tips for the best Thanksgiving ever

cats-family-thanksgivingAs Thanksgiving approaches, many people are experiencing different thoughts and feelings. Some make a sincere effort to be thankful, while most deal with stress related to the holiday season. Some face unusually difficult financial problems during the holidays. Some, for one reason or another, have trouble with family dinners. Some might be wondering how they are even going to be spending the holidays. Maybe their families live far away, or maybe everyone is too busy to get together.

Regardless of your situation, here are four tried and tested tips that can help you to have the best Thanksgiving ever—even if your situation is difficult and circumstances seem to be working against you.

Stop putting yourself down
Sometimes, we tend to judge ourselves the harshest. Maybe some of your holiday-related stress comes from deep-seated feelings of inferiority. Maybe you feel bad for something you did earlier in the year. Maybe you feel inadequate because you don’t feel like you have as much to offer.

In any case, stop putting yourself down. You are an incredible, amazing person. Don’t forget it!

Remember that money isn’t everything
Maybe you don’t have enough money to cook the ‘biggest’ turkey or to buy ‘shiniest’ new dishes for the family feast. Maybe you feel bad because you can’t afford holiday presents for family you won’t be seeing around Christmas time.

Always remember that presents are secondary to spending time together as a family around the holiday season. It won’t matter if you can’t buy presents! Your family loves you and appreciates you being there—regardless of whether you buy gifts or serve a smaller turkey.

The holiday doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be perfect
The ‘perfect holiday’ is a myth that we take way out of context in most cases. The perfect holiday is a day that is positive—whatever that looks like. For some, that might mean a huge dinner with family. For others, it might mean a quiet night at home with their spouse watching their favorite TV show. In any case, try not to compare your holiday to someone else’s. Just try to enjoy whatever happens and make the most out of it that you can.

Don’t be afraid to be honest
If your family asks you to host the family dinner, you might feel a lot of pressure that you weren’t planning on. Or maybe your mother in law now wants you to bring four pies when you were only planning on making lemonade.

During the holidays, it’s incredibly important to be honest with each other. If someone asks you to do something that will simply not be possible, enjoyable, or feasible, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ and to explain why you don’t want to do it. They will understand, and getting the truth off of your chest will help you to avoid needless negativity and stress.

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Talking Points with an Agent

Speech bubble-250.jpgA list of talking points can be very valuable to guide the conversation with an agent that will lead to a decision to have him or her represent you in the sale of your home. If you haven’t been through the process before or it has been a while, the answers to these questions can reveal things about the experience and where-with-all of your candidate.

Even if you only intend to interview one agent and maybe they are a trusted friend, it is appropriate to understand how different issues will be handled. Professionals should not feel challenged to discuss these important concerns.

1. Tell me about your experience and training.

2. Do you work real estate full-time?

3. Are you a REALTOR® and a member of MLS?

4. What is the average price of the homes you have sold and how many did you sell last year?

5. Which neighborhoods do you primarily work?

6. How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood?

7. What is your list price to sales price ratio?

8. How many buyers and sellers are you currently working with?

9. Tell me about the positives and negatives of my home?

10. Describe your marketing plan for my home and if you will use outside professionals.

11. Specifically address Internet exposure, open houses and showings.

12. Describe how you’ll keep me informed all along the way.

13. Will I work directly with you or with team members?

14. Can you provide me with three recent references?

You might have noticed that price was not in the list of talking points. The seller sets the price but the market and the buyer determine the value. The agent can advise you about the proper range that will insure activity and ultimately affect your final proceeds. The advice should be based on facts that are available to all agents as well as the prospective buyers and the appraisers.

The decision to list a home with a particular agent and company should never be based on the listing price suggested by the prospective agent.

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Relax…There’s an Alternative

for rent-250.pngIs the stock market keeping you up at night? Are you consuming more antacids than ever before? Are the ups and downs causing more stress than you want or need? There is a simple alternative in rental real estate.

Single family homes for rental purposes offer an excellent rate of return in an investment that most people understand better than other investments. The concept is simple: stay with predominantly owner-occupied homes in a slightly below average price range. In most areas, tenants are easy to find and they’ll usually stay two to three years or more.

For the person who doesn’t want to be bothered with calls from tenants, professional management is available and commonly won’t dramatically affect the rate of return. Managers can achieve economies of scale that individuals can’t due to managing multiple properties and having good connections with the best workmen.

Unlike most commercial property, single family homes are much more liquid because of the higher demand for residential property. Single family homes offer the investor the opportunity to borrow high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates, for long periods of time on appreciating assets with tax advantages while providing the investor a higher than normal level of control.

Spend an hour investigating the benefits and you might sleep better at night, eat less antacids and find yourself more mellow than you’ve been in years.

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Save Interest, Build Equity & Shorten the Term

forced savings.pngIf you invest in a savings account, you’ll make less than 1% and would have to pay income tax on the earnings. On the other hand, contribute something extra to your house payment and you’ll earn at the mortgage interest rate which is certain to be more than you are earning in the bank.

Making additional principal contributions on your mortgage will save interest, build equity and shorten the term. An extra $100 a month in the example shown will save thousands in interest and shorten the term of the mortgage as well.

equity accelerator.png

Reducing your cost of housing is another way to improve the investment in your home. Becoming debt free is a worthy goal that is achieved with discipline and good decisions. Suggestions like this are part of my commitment to help people be better homeowners when they buy, sell and all the years in between.

Check out what would happen if you were to make additional payments on your mortgage.

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Enjoy Your Improvements and Profit by Them

Capital Improvement Register.pngHomeowners can raise the basis or cost in their home by money spent on capital improvements. The benefit is that it will lower their gain and may save them taxes when they sell their home.

Improvements must add value to your home, prolong its useful life or adapt it to new uses. Repairs are routine in nature to maintain the value and keep the property in an ordinary, operating condition.

Additions of decks, pools, fences and landscaping add value to a home as well as new floor covering, counter-tops and other updates. Replacing a roof, appliances or heating and cooling systems would be considered to extend the useful life of the home. Completing an unfinished basement or converting a garage to living space are common examples of adapting a portion of the home to a new use.

Other items that can raise the basis in your home are special assessments for local improvements like sidewalks or curbs and money spent to restore damage from casualty losses not covered by insurance.

Here’s a simple idea that could save you money years from now.

Every time you spend money on your home other than the house payment and the utilities, put the receipt or canceled check in an envelope labeled “Home Improvements.” Regardless of whether you know if the money would be classified as maintenance or improvements, the receipt or cancelled check goes in the envelope.

Years from now, when you’ve sold your home and you need to report the gain on the property, you or your accountant can go through the envelope and determine which of the expenditures will be adjustments to your basis.

Some people disregard this idea because of the generous exclusion allowed on principal residences. At the unknown point in the future when you sell your home, circumstances may have changed and the proof of these expenditures will be valuable. The tax laws could lower the exclusion amount or eliminate it altogether. Your marital status may change because of death or divorce. The market value of your home may skyrocket.

Since the future is unknown, it is better to keep track of the improvements as they are made and how much is spent on them. Download an Improvement Register and examples or read more in Publication 523 on Increases to Basis.

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The Jeff Duneske Home Selling Team Receives New “Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE®)” Designation

cne_logo_cmyk[1]Jeff Duneske, Lisa Nicol and Roberta Torres has been awarded the Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE) designation from the Real Estate Negotiation Institute (RENI). The CNE is earned by real estate professionals after successfully completing formal negotiation training over two days. Agents who receive this certification are among the top agents in the country in negotiation skills.

Professional negotiation skills are necessary for all real estate agents in helping home buyers and sellers, especially in the current market has been awarded the Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE) designation from the Real Estate Negotiation Institute (RENI). The CNE is earned by real estate professionals after successfully completing formal negotiation training over two days. Agents who receive this certification are among the top agents in the country in negotiation skills.
With professional negotiation skills, agents are able to help clients obtain better results in the sale or purchase of their home. CNE agents have a higher skill level which enables them to 1) communicate more effectively to uncover desired information, 2) help clients understand their options, 3) work collaboratively with others, and 4) resolve deadlocks. CNE agents have a thorough understanding of how to negotiate effectively to help achieve their client’s goals.
The Real Estate Negotiation Institute is the leading negotiation training and coaching company in the real estate industry. Collectively, the Real Estate Negotiation Institute’s instructors have over 300 years of real estate and negotiation experience. Tom Hayman, the CEO and Co-Founder of the Real Estate Negotiation Institute, asserts: “Any Buyer or Seller who hires a CNE agent can feel confident they have one of the best trained negotiators in real estate. They should achieve superior results and have better resolution of all issues when represented by a CNE agent.”

For more information visit

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