101 Ways to Make More Sales Online

If you’re trying to make money online, sooner or later you have to face it. Conversion. That intimidating topic: how to get more buyers from the same amount of traffic.

The only reason conversion is intimidating is that there are a lot of places you can go astray. Most of them aren’t that hard to fix, but any one of a thousand little problems can keep you from getting the conversion you should have.

I don’t have a thousand tips for you today, but I do have 101 to get you started.

Here are 101 fixes, some small, some big, for making more sales online.

  1. Does your product or service solve a problem people actually care about? How do you know? If your basic offer doesn’t appeal to your prospect, you’re sunk before you begin. Make sure you’re selling something people want.
  2. Let prospects know they’re buying from a human being. Keep your language personal, friendly, and (for most markets) informal. Sound like a person, not a pitching machine.
  3. Tell a story about how you solved this problem for yourself before you started selling the solution to others. Let readers put themselves in your shoes. Let the prospect feel, “Wow, this person is a lot like me.”
  4. Fix your typos, make sure your links work, avoid grammar mistakes that make you look dumb. Reassure your prospect that you know what you’re doing.
  5. Test two headlines. When you find a winner, run it against a new headline. Keep eliminating second-best. Google Adwords is a quick and efficient way to do this.
  6. Try testing an “ugly” version of the sales copy. Boring fonts, not much layout, no pretty colors. Weirdly, sometimes a bare-bones presentation works better. Don’t just run ugly without testing it, though, because it doesn’t always win.
  7. Instead of sending traffic right to a sales page, put them through a six- or seven-message autoresponder first. Give them enough information to build their trust and let them know you’re the best resource.
  8. Strengthen your call to action. Make sure you’ve clearly told readers exactly what to do next.
  9. Make sure you’ve described your product or service in enough detail. If it’s physical, give the dimensions and some great photos. If it’s digital, tell them how many hours of audio you include, how many pages are in the PDF. Don’t assume your prospects already know any details — spell everything out.
  10. Getting traffic from advertising, pay-per-click, or guest posting? Be sure your landing page is tied to your traffic source. If you’re running a pay-per-click campaign for “Breed Naked Mole Rats,” make sure the words “Breed Naked Mole Rats” are in your headline for the landing page.
  11. Master copywriter Drayton Bird tells us every commercial offer should satisfy one or several of these 9 human needs: make money, save money, save time and effort, do something good for your family, feel secure, impress other people, gain pleasure, improve yourself, or belong to a group. And then of course, there’s the obvious #10 — make yourself irresistibly sexy to the romantic partner of your choice. I guess Drayton is too much of a gentleman to include it, but it’s about the strongest driver we have once eating and breathing have been taken care of.
  12. Now that you’ve identified your fundamental human need, how can that be expressed in an emotion-based headline?
  13. Have you translated your features into benefits? I bet you’ve still got some benefits you could spell out. Remember, features are what your product or service does. Benefits are what your prospect gets out of it.
  14. Put your photo on your sales page. Human beings are hard-wired to connect to faces. If prospects can see you, it’s easier for them to trust you.
  15. If you have a dog, use a photo of you with your dog instead. There’s something about a dog that lowers nearly everyone’s defenses.
  16. You can try just using a photo of the dog. Believe it or not, sometimes it works.
  17. Simplify your language. Use something like the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale to make sure you’re keeping your wording clean and simple. (Please note that simple writing is not dumb writing.)
  18. No matter how emotional your appeal, justify it with logic. Give people the facts and figures they need so they can justify the purchase to themselves. Even the most frivolous, pleasure-based purchase (say, a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes) can be justified with logical benefits (superior workmanship, rare materials, giving the wearer a boost in confidence).
  19. What kind of tasty bonus could you offer? Peanut butter is good; peanut butter with jelly is great. Find the jelly for your peanut butter, the bonus that makes your good product even better.
  20. Are you getting your message to the right people? A list of people who really want what you offer, and who are both willing and able to buy?
  21. Listen to the questions you get. What are people still unclear about? What’s worrying them about your offer? Even if you outsource your email and/or support, it’s a good idea to regularly read a random selection of customer messages.
  22. Keep your most important sales elements “above the fold” (in other words, on the first screen, without scrolling, when readers go to your page). Usually that means a compelling headline, a great opening paragraph, and possibly either a wonderful product shot (to create some desire) or a photo of you (to build trust and rapport). Eye-tracking studies suggest your most important image should be at the top left side of the page.
  23. Check the dual readership path. Do your headline and subheads tell an intriguing story if you read them without any of the rest of the copy?
  24. How’s your guarantee? Could you state it with more confidence? Can you remove any of the weasely stuff? Does your guarantee remove the customer’s risk?
  25. Do you take PayPal? PayPal has its issues, but it’s also “funny money” for a lot of customers. They’ll spend freely from PayPal when they’d think twice about pulling out a credit card.
  26. Have you asked for the sale boldly and forcefully? Is there any hemming and hawing you could edit out?
  27. What’s the experience of using your product or service? Could you make that more vivid with a testimonial video or a great case study?
  28. Is there any reason your prospect might feel foolish for buying from you? Are they afraid they’ll kick themselves later? That their friends, spouse, or co-workers will give them a hard time about this purchase? Fix that.
  29. Are you using standard design conventions? Links should be underlined. Navigation (if you have any on your sales page) should be immediately understandable.
  30. Got testimonials? Got effective testimonials? (If these are hard for you, check out Sean D’Souza’s great advice.)
  31. Does the prospect know everything he needs to know in order to make this purchase? What questions might still be on his mind? How can you educate him to make him more confident about his decision to buy?
  32. Does the link to your shopping cart work? (Don’t laugh. Go test every link onthe page that goes to your cart. And make a point of testing them once or twice a day the entire time your shopping cart is open — even if that’s 365 days a year.)
  33. Is your marketing boring? Remember the great Paul Newman mantra. “Always take the work seriously. Never take yourself seriously.” If your marketing is putting customers to sleep, it can’t do its job.
  34. Social media isn’t just about talking – it’s also about listening. What are your potential customers complaining about on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, in forums, in blog comments? What problems could you be solving for them? What language do they use to describe their complaints?
  35. Have you answered all of their questions? Addressed all of their objections? I know you’re worried the copy will get too long if you address every point. It won’t.
  36. Have you been so “original” or “creative” that you’ve lost people? Remember the words of legendary ad man Leo Burnett: “If you absolutely insist on being different just for the sake of being different, you can always come down to breakfast with a sock in your mouth.”
  37. Can you offer a free trial?
  38. Can you break the cost into several payments?
  39. Can you offer an appetizing free bonus, one the customer can keep whether or not she keeps the main product? An incredibly useful piece of content works perfectly for this.
  40. Does your headline offer the customer a benefit or advantage?
  41. How can you make your advertising too valuable to throw away? How can you make the reader’s life better just for having read your sales letter? Think special reports, white papers, and other content marketing standbys.
  42. Have you appealed to the reader’s greed? Not very pretty, but one of the most effective ways to drive response. (The nice way to put this is “be sure you’re offering your prospect great value.”)
  43. Is your message confusing? A bright nine-year old should be able to read your sales copy and figure out why she should buy your product.
  44. Can you link your copy to a fad? This is particularly effective for web-based copy and for short-term product launches, because you can be absolutely current. Just remember there’s nothing more stale than yesterday’s Macarena.
  45. Similarly, can you tie your copy to something a lot of people are really worried about? This can be something in the news (an oil spill, climate change, economic turbulence) or something related to a particular time in your prospect’s life (midlife weight gain, anxieties about young kids, retirement worries).
  46. Try a little flattery. One of the great first lines of all sales copy came from American Express: “Quite frankly, the American Express card is not for everyone.” The reader immediately gets a little ego boost from assuming that the card is for special people like him.
  47. Is there a compelling, urgent reason to act today? If prospects don’t have a reason to act right away, unfortunately they have a bad habit of procrastinating the purchase forever.
  48. Are you visualizing one reader when you write? Don’t write to a crowd — write for one perfect customer who you want to convince. Your tone and voice will automatically become more trustworthy, and you’ll find it easier to find the perfect relevant detail to make your point.
  49. Tell the reader why you’re making this offer. In copywriting slang, this is the “reason why,” and it virtually always boosts response.
  50. Can you get an endorsement from someone your customers respect? Celebrity endorsements are always valuable, but you can also find “quasi-celebrities” within your niche that hold as much sway as a national figure.
  51. Can you provide a demonstration of the product or service? If it’s not something that can be demonstrated on video, try telling a compelling story about how your offering solved a thorny problem for one of your customers.
  52. How often are you using the word “You”? Can that be bumped up?
  53. How often are you using the word “We”? Can that be eliminated? (“I” actually works better than “we,” which tends to come across as corporate and cold.)
  54. Stay up late tonight and watch a few informercials. Keep a pen and paper handy. Write down every sales technique that you see. In the morning, translate at least three of them to your own market. (Remember, you can change the tone and the sophistication level to match your buyers.)
  55. Have you made yourself an authority in your market?
  56. Is there an “elephant in the living room?” In other words, is there a major objection that you haven’t addressed because you just don’t want to think about it? You’ve got to face all inconvenient truths head on. Don’t assume that if you don’t bring it up, it won’t occur to your prospects.
  57. How’s your follow-up? Do you have the resources to answer questions that come in? Remember, questions are often objections in disguise. Prospect questions can give you great talking points for your sales letter. You may want to bring on some help in the form of a friendly VA or temp to help out with email during a big launch.
  58. Is there a number in your headline? There probably should be.
  59. Similarly, have you quantified your benefits? In other words, have you translated “time saved” to “three full weeks saved — plenty of time to go on a life-changing vacation — each and every year.” Put a number on the results you can create for your customers.
  60. It’s weird, but “doodles” and other elements that look like handwriting can boost response — even on the web. There are hundreds of handwritten fonts available, which can be converted to visual elements with PhotoShop or simple logo-generating software.
  61. Does your headline make the reader want to read the first line of copy?
  62. Does the first line make the reader want to read the second line of copy?
  63. Does the second line make the reader want to read the third line?
  64. (Etc.)
  65. Throw in some more proof that what you’re saying is true. Proof can come from statistics, testimonials, case studies, even news stories or current events that illustrate the ideas your product or service is based on.
  66. Compare apples to oranges. Don’t compare the cost of your product to a competitor’s — compare it to a different category of item that costs a lot more. For example, compare your online course to the cost of one-on-one personal consulting.
  67. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to have at least one platinum-priced item for sale. They make everything else you sell look nicely affordable by comparison.
  68. Make your order page or form easier to understand. Complicated order pages make customers nervous.
  69. Remember to restate your offer on your order page. Don’t expect the customers to remember all the details of what you’ve just (almost) sold her. Re-state those benefits.
  70. Include a phone number where people can call for questions. I know this is tricky to handle, but it can boost your response by a surprising amount.
  71. Include a photograph of what you’re selling, if you can.
  72. Is there a lot of distracting navigation leading your customers away? (Worst of all are cheap-looking ads that pull people away for a penny or two.) Get rid of it. Focus your reader’s attention on this offer with a one-column format stripped of distractions.
  73. Put a caption on any image that you use. Captions are the third most-read element of sales copy, after the headline and the P.S. The caption should state a compelling benefit to your product or service. (Even if that benefit doesn’t quite match the image.
  74. While you’re at it, link the image to your shopping cart.
  75. Make the first paragraph incredibly easy to read. Use short, punchy, and compelling sentences. A good story can work wonders here.
  76. Does your presentation match your offer? If you’re offering luxury vacations, do your graphics and language have a luxury feeling? If you’re selling teen fashion, is your design trendy and cute?
  77. Are you trying to sell from a blog post? Send buyers to a well-designed landing page instead.
  78. Halfway through a launch and sales are listless? Come up with an exciting bonus and announce it to your list. Frank Kern calls this “stacking the cool.”
  79. Are you asking your prospect to make too many choices? Confused people don’t buy. You should have at most three options to choose from — something along the lines of “silver, gold, or platinum.”
  80. Look for anything in your copy that’s vague. Replace it with a concrete, specific detail. Specifics are reassuring, and they make it easier for the prospect see herself using your product.
  81. Numbers are the most reassuring details of all. Translate anything you can into numbers.
  82. Look for any spot in your copy that might make your prospect silently say “No,” or “I don’t think so.” Rework that spot. You want the prospect to mentally nod in agreement the entire time she’s reading your letter.
  83. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Prospects often don’t read every word of the sales letter. Find ways to restate your call to action, the most important benefits, and your guarantee.
  84. Hint at a genuinely exciting benefit early in the copy, then spell it out later in your sales letter. (Be careful of curiosity-based headlines, though, as traditionally they don’t convert as well as benefit- or news-based ones do.)
  85. Use the two magic words of persuasive copy.
  86. Successful marketing doesn’t sell products or services — it sells benefits and big ideas. What’s your big idea? What are you really selling? If you’re not sure, go back to our ten human needs in #11 above.
  87. If you offer something physical, make sure there’s a way they can get expedited delivery. The ability to place a rush order lifts response, even if the customer doesn’t take advantage of it.
  88. Put a Better Business Bureau, “Hacker Safe” seal, or similar badge on your sales page.
  89. Could you be underpricing your offer? A surprising number of buyers, even in a bad economy, won’t buy a product or service if it seems too cheap to be worth their time.
  90. Are you using the wording “Buy Now” on your shopping cart button? Try “Add to Cart,” “Join Us,” or similar wording instead. Focusing on word “buy” aspect has been shown to lower response.
  91. Allow your prospect to picture himself buying. Talk as if he’s already bought. Describe the life he’ll now be living, as your customer. If you want a delicious example, go to the J. Peterman website. Few have ever done it better.
  92. Cures sell vastly better than prevention. If your product is mostly preventative, find the “cure” elements and put those front and center. Solve problems people already have, rather than preventing problems they might have some day.
  93. If your funny ad isn’t converting, try playing it straight. Humor is, by its nature, unpredictable. It can work fantastically well, or it can destroy your conversion. If you can’t figure out what else might be wrong, this could be the culprit.
  94. Are you the king of understatement? The sultan of subtlety? Get over it. At least in your sales copy.
  95. How’s your P.S.? (You do have a P.S., right?) Is it compelling? Typically you want to restate either the most interesting benefit, the guarantee, the urgency element, or all three.
  96. Cut all long paragraphs into shorter ones. Make sure there are enough subheads so you have at least one per screen. If copy looks daunting to read, it doesn’t get read.
  97. Increase your font size.
  98. Include a “takeaway.” No, this isn’t a hamburger and fries — it’s the message that your offer isn’t for everyone. (In other words, you threaten to “take away” your great offer for those who don’t deserve it.) When you’re confident enough to tell people “Please don’t order this product unless you meet [insert your qualification here],” you show that you’re not desperate for the sale. This is nearly universally appealing.
  99. Are you putting this offer in front of cold prospects? What if you put some variation of it in front of people who have already bought something from you? Your own existing customer base is the best market you’ll ever have. Make sure you’re regularly sending them appealing offers
  100. If they don’t buy your primary offer, try sending them to a “down-sell.” This is a lower-priced product that gives the prospect a second chance to get something from you. Remember, even a very small purchase gives you a buyer to market to later. Building a list of buyers is one of the wisest things you can do for your business.
  101. What is it about your product or service that makes people feel better about themselves? Ultimately, everything has to boil down to this.

Have your own favorite conversion-booster that you didn’t see here? Let us know about it in the comments.

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How to Buy a House Using a Lease Option

If you’re ready to buy the home of your dreams, but your credit or savings isn’t quite ready yet, a lease with option to buy (often simply called a “lease option” or, somewhat inaccurately, “rent to own”) may help you move in. Lease options, in which you lease (rent) a property and have the option to buy the property at the end of the lease term, can allow you to control a home that you want even if you don’t have enough money for a down payment yet. A lease option may also be helpful if you need some time to improve your credit before you can get a good mortgage rate.

Determine if a lease option is a good option for you. Lease options can be useful home-buying tools, but they’re not for everybody. In fact, some of lease options do not end with the lessee (the renter or prospective buyer) purchasing the home, and while that’s sometimes for a good reason, ask yourself a few questions before you decide to pursue a lease option in general or before you sign one on a particular house..

Can you afford the option money? The option money or option fee is required for a lease option contract to be valid. This upfront payment may be quite small (equal to one or two month’s rent, for example), or it may be 3-5% of the purchase price. All of this money should go toward the purchase price or down payment on the home if you decide to buy the house at the end of the lease term, but unlike a security deposit, you don’t get the option money back at the end of the lease if you can’t purchase the house or decide not to.

Do you plan to stay in the area? You should be fairly certain that you want to buy the house at the end of the term. If you don’t, you lose your option money that you’ve paid in your monthly payments.

Will you be able to secure financing at the end of the lease term? Most of the time, the buyer will need to find his or her own financing by applying for a loan. A lease option can help you get a more favorable loan than you otherwise would be able to, but it’s no guarantee, so you’ll want to be reasonably sure that you’ll be able to qualify for a loan at the end of the term.

Can you afford the monthly payments on the lease. Typically (but not always) the monthly payments on a lease will include the fair rental value plus option money that will go toward the purchase of the home. Thus, the monthly payments under a lease option will usually be more than you would pay if you were renting the same house.

Find a house you want to buy. Keeping the above considerations in mind, look for a house that you like and that you can afford. There are some companies that specialize in lease options, and in some places government programs will buy a house for you and then offer you a lease option. More typically, however, you can just find a house for sale and see if the owner will consider a lease option.

Negotiate the terms of the lease option. The purchase price, term of the lease (usually anywhere from 6-24 months, but can sometimes be as long as 10-years), the amount of initial option money, and the amount of the monthly payments that will go toward the purchase price will all be negotiable.

Make monthly payments. You will make monthly payments just as you would make rent payments. In many cases, however, a portion of the monthly payment will be designated as option money. This money will go toward the purchase of the home if you decide to exercise your option to buy. It may be a small percentage of the monthly payment.

Make improvements on the home, it is probably in your best interest to try to take care of these things. By increasing the value of the home with improvements during the lease term, you earn equity (so-called “sweat equity”) in the home because the agreed-upon purchase price stays the same. This increased equity may help you get a more favorable loan if you exercise your option to buy. In essence, by increasing the value of the home you are increasing your down payment.

Apply for a loan. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for a loan. You should begin your application process no less than 45 days in advance of the end of the lease, and to be safe you should probably start a full two months or more before you need to buy the house. A lease option will qualify you for a refinance loan with some lenders, and these are usually cheaper and quicker to process than new purchase mortgages, but in any case it’s essential to have a mortgage ready to close on the home by the date specified in the lease option contract.

Close on the home. If you’ve lined up your financing and decided to exercise your option to buy at the end of the lease, congratulations. You are now a homeowner.

EasyHomeBuy Canada provides listings for Canadian homes available for purchase by lease option, articles and references for Canadian lease option sellers. This site features customized searches and information that is specifically tailored to the Canadian housing marketplace.

A “lease purchase” usually refers to an arrangement that differs from a lease option in that the lessee is obligated to buy the home instead of merely having the option to buy it.

The lessee doesn’t have to buy the property under a lease option, but the lessor does have to sell (at the agreed-upon price in the contract) if the lessee fulfills the contract and exercises the option to buy. If the lessee decides not to buy the home, he or she simply forfeits all the payments made on it as if they were renting.

Keep good records of your payments and expenditures. You will need a record of your payments to help you qualify for a loan, particularly if you want to qualify the home as a refinance.

Some real estate agents are hesitant to deal with lease options and may discourage you from exploring this option either because they are unfamiliar with how they work or because their commission is deferred or, if option to buy is not exercised, is reduced or negated.

Lease options are typically better options for sellers than most people think they are, largely, if the lessee does buy the house, the seller has accomplished his or her goal of selling the house and In addition, lease option buyers are often willing to pay market value or even slightly higher due to their unique circumstances, so the seller can be sure to get a fair price for the home and during the length of the Lease option the seller is able to collect enough rent to cover the mortgage and not incur additional expenses associated with a standard rental. Usually the property is taken care of better because this person intends on it being their home.

How long should your lease be? It depends. If you want to improve your credit profile, a longer term is usually best. Lenders especially like to see stability over two years, so if you’ve been living in the same house, making payments on it, and working at the same place for that long, you may qualify for better loan rates. A longer lease can also help you build equity in the home if property values are increasing. For example, if the option contract specifies a purchase price of $100,000, but the property’s value has increased to $110,000 at the end of a two-year lease, you will already have $10,000 of equity in the home (in addition to your option money) if you decide to purchase it. On the other hand, if home prices might decline, a long lease can leave you with no equity, even after you’ve been paying option money for two or more years.

This article is a general guide only and is not intended to replace professional financial or legal advice.

Make sure your lease option contract specifies a fixed price for the purchase of the home. If the price isn’t fixed when the contract is signed, you’ll almost certainly get ripped off. Make sure, also, that the fixed price is reasonable. While it’s not uncommon to pay 5-10% more than the market value of the home–this is compensated by the convenience of a lease option and the potential for appreciation on the price during the lease term–it’s best if you can get the price fixed at market value, and you should definitely not have to pay far more than the fair purchase price.

Beware lease options that lock you in to high-interest financing, and make sure you’re getting a reasonable amount of credit (in the form of option money) toward the purchase price.

It can be difficult to find a house the seller of which is willing to do a lease option, but don’t jump at the first (or any) chance that you get without fully understanding the terms of your agreement and making sure you’re getting a fair deal.

Keep in mind that unexpected changes in your financial situation, such as the loss of a job or a medical emergency, may prevent you from qualifying for a loan when you need it. The same can be said if interest rates rise during the lease term. A lease option is not without risk.

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Soft home prices boost affordability

Indianapolis is still the most affordable of big housing markets. Los Angeles is the least affordable.

By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer
August 21 2007: 6:37 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Midwest cities dominated the top of the most affordable, housing markets list, according to the latest survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The report covered the three months ended June 30 and Indianapolis retained its number-one rating among big U.S. cities for being most affordable. Indiana neighbor, Kokomo, ranks first among all 215 markets rated. The highest ranked market outside the region is Cumberland, Maryland, rated 12th.

Least affordable housing markets
Metro area Med. home price Med. income % of affordable homes
Los Angeles, CA $530,000 $61,700 3.0%
Salinas, CA $556,000 $63,400 3.7%
Merced, CA $296,000 $46,800 3.8%
Santa Ana, CA $615,000 $78,700 4.4%
San Francisco, CA $802,000 $86,500 5.7%
Santa Barbara, CA $538,000 $67,100 6.2%
New York, NY $510,000 $59,500 6.3%
San Luis Obispo, CA $527,000 $64,200 6.4%
Napa, CA $577,000 $75,800 6.6%
Modesto, CA $330,000 $56,000 7.0%
Source:National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Bank

Most affordable housing markets
Metro area Med. home price Med. income % of affordable homes
Kokomo, IN $96,000 $57,200 90.9%
Bay City, MI $89,000 $54,400 90.0%
Lansing, MI $109,000 $64,000 89.8%
Mansfield, OH $90,000 $52,100 87.7%
Saginaw, MI $89,000 $52,300 87.5%
Davenport, IA $90,000 $57,200 87.4%
Springfield, OH $87,000 $52,500 87.0%
Indianapolis, IN $122,000 $63,800 86.8%
Lima, OH $85,000 $51,400 86.3%
Detroit, MI $92,000 $53,800 86.0%
Source:National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Bank

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As for least affordable housing markets, Los Angeles is dead last.

Nationally, home affordability has improved quite a bit over the past year as many markets experienced price declines or stagnation and earnings have increased. To be deemed affordable, housing expenses must be no more than 28 percent of income. Expenses include property taxes and insurance as well as the mortgage payment.

The percentage of homes affordable to the median income household for the nation as a whole increased to 43.1 percent compared with 40.6 percent during the same three months of 2006.

The NAHB survey, done in collaboration with Wells Fargo Bank, bases its affordability ratings on the percentage of new and existing homes sold in the individual markets that were affordable to households earning the median income for that area. It also takes into account mortgage rates.

Thus, Indianapolis’s 86.8 rating meant that less than 14 percent of all homes purchased in the metro area were unobtainable by a typical family. By contrast, only 3 percent of Los Angeles homes sold could be comfortably afforded by an average family.

That’s despite the fact that median household income for the two metro areas was roughly the same – $63,800 for the Hoosier capital and $61,700 for Angelenos. The difference, of course, was in the median price of homes. In Indianapolis, $122,000 bought the median home compared with $530,000 in Los Angeles.

Nine of the 10 least affordable markets were in California. Salinas (3.7 percent), Merced (3.8 percent), Santa Ana (4.4 percent) and San Francisco (5.7 percent) formed the bottom five. The only outsider to crack the list was New York City with 6.3 percent of homes affordable to median-income households.

Detroit (86.0 percent), Buffalo (84.8 percent) and Cleveland (78.7 percent) were other large metro areas with high affordability numbers.

In a survey last week, the National Association of Realtors said that the median price for a single-family home sold during the three months ended June 30 fell to $223,800, 1.5 percent below the price a year ago.

Some of the results of the survey were more positive. More metro area markets – 97 of 149 – gained ground than lost.

One of the four U.S. regions, the Northeast recorded a slight price gain of 0.7 percent. The West lost 0.4 percent, the South 1.6 percent and the Midwest 2.2 percent.

NAR predicts home prices will turn slightly positive again by spring of 2008 and rise about 2 percent that year.

Among individual metro areas, prices in the second quarter plunged most in Elmira, New York, down 17.9 percent to $71,700. Other big losers included Palm Bay, Florida (down 15 percent to $183,300), Davenport, Iowa (down 11.3 percent to $103,300) and Sarasota, Florida (down 11.3 percent to $311,400). Top of page

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How to Increase Your Chance of Business Loan Approval

by: Emma Collins

Lending companies are willing to extend loans to businesses but they need a guarantee that the loan will be promptly repaid. Established businesses that are doing very well in the market have a great chance of approval. On the contrary, if you own a new business or a start-up business, applying for a loan the first time can prove to be a challenging task.

Despite the challenge, it doesn’t mean you should not try to apply for a business loan at all. In this article, let us discuss the strategies you can do to increase your chance of getting an approval.

Know the Prerequisites of the Business Loan

Generally, lenders will require the submission of your financial records for the past two years or if you’re a new business, since the time you started. You must also prepare proofs that you are running a legitimate company such as permits and licenses.

For new and start-up businesses, a sound business plan will be expected. Your business plan must present a clear explanation of the type of business you are running and must include monthly cash flow projections since you started your operations.

For established businesses, make sure that balance sheets are accurate as any discrepancy in the details may cause an alarm. Business lines of credit you have previously acquired will also be evaluated. Yes, your business credit history will be closely reviewed.

But what if you have yet to build up your corporate credit history? In this case, your personal credit history as the owner of the business will be taken into consideration. How you manage your personal accounts such as loans, mortgage, and credit card debts will show a potential lender your capability to manage a business loan.

This is why it is recommended that you obtain a copy of your personal credit report prior to submitting your loan application. In this way, you can still correct errors or inaccuracies that may be included in your report which could be pulling down your score.

Needless to say, the same advice is also applicable even to owners of established businesses. Check both your corporate credit and personal credit history to make sure that both your personal and business credit profiles are in good standing.

Preparation Is Vital

Indeed, preparation is very important when applying for a business loan. Financial experts recommend making investments in assets that generate income such as inventory or equipment. You should also avoid major changes in the structure of your business a few months before submitting your loan application. Remember that you need to show a potential lender that your company is in a stable state.

Aside from bigger banks, it is also worth the effort to check out what business loan programs that are available from your local bank. Smaller banks may be more inclined to finance a new business, especially if the owner has been a long time customer with an existing personal account with the company.

Do not submit different applications to two or three lending companies at the same time as doing so can only send a negative impression to each lender. Take note that with each loan application you send, an inquiry will be made, and all inquiries will be reflected in your report…

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Advantages of Selling on a Lease Option

Reading recent articles about lease options reminded me of not only the lease option buying that I have done over the years, but also of the tremendous advantages of selling on a lease option. My income increased dramatically when I discovered the benefits of selling on a lease option.

The two biggest benefits are:

1. Selling without paying a sales commission

2. Receiving a higher than market purchase price (than you would if you sold conventionally)

First, by eliminating the need for a Realtor you save 6% to 7% right off the top!On some properties this amount could be your entire profit! “Cut out the middleman” (the Realtor) and save substantially. Furthermore, when your tenant holds the option to buy, he doesn’t have to move after the closing.

What this means to you (the owner/optionor) is NO VACANCY during the marketing period. Obviously, the smartest way to use a lease option is to offer them to all of your tenants first.

I find that the caliber of tenant is much better. They tend to take better care of the property because they feel like “homeowners.” They pay their rent more timely, and they pay for improvements out of their own pockets.

Secondly, the purchase price I quote to prospective tenant/buyers is 10% to 15% higher than market value. I do this because at the end of a one-year lease option, the property will probably be worth more than it is today. I also do this as a “premium” charge for not paying me cash today.

I know that many people say don’t lock in a price today and to make the option price based upon the appraised value when the option expires. After being married to an appraiser for twenty-five years, I disagree.

My wife tells me that, if an appraiser has a value to ‘”shoot for,” it is much easier to appraise the property for what you want than if you just ask the appraiser to “tell us what it is worth.” I think we can all read between the lines and figure out the advantage, right?

My experience tells me that only about 25% to 35% of the people who hold lease options actually exercise those rights. So, if this is reality, set up your lease options to benefit from this fact. I have a one-year extension right built into my options that allows the tenant/buyer to extend our one-year deal for another year.

What does it cost him? First, the option price is increased by 5%. Second, the rent is increased by 7%. Why? Because I want to cover myself if property values continue to increase in the second year of the option, and rents always go up every year. Don’t they?

I want the tenant/buyer to know that if he absolutely has to extend our deal, he can. But there is a disincentive built in the option contract to make sure that he doesn’t extend “just for the fun of it.”

Another benefit to having 65% to 75% of the tenant/buyers NOT exercising their options is that they forfeit their option consideration. If you get heavy into the business, this can add up to some big bucks. Last year, I received $17,000 of forfeited option consideration (and I only do about five or six per year).

The bottom line to this business is that you really don’t care if they exercise their option or not–you will make money either way!

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31,000 Homes Weatherized in June

Posted by Cathy Zoi on August 23, 2010 at 11:53 AM EDT
Ed. Note: Cross posted from the Energy Blog.

One of the best and most exciting parts of my job is helping make homes and businesses more efficient. Why? The places where we live and work consume 40% of the energy we use in the U.S. Through tune-ups to existing homes or new construction, doing more while using less energy is key to improving our buildings and energy future.

Last week, we announced that during the month of June, more than 31,000 low-income homes nationwide underwent retrofits to use less energy. This month represents the largest number of homes ever upgraded – or “weatherized” – in a single month. Through the Recovery Act, more than 80,000 homes will be weatherized across the country this summer. By March 2012, that total will grow to nearly 600,000 homes – each with upgrades like better furnaces, insulation, and caulking. They will use less energy, perform better, and save homeowners money.

These energy-efficient upgrades are important to the thousands of Americans who are paying less for utilities, and they are also important to the 13,000 American workers whose jobs are supported by our weatherization program.

But when you step back, there is an even bigger trend developing, driven by strong policy and initiatives. Community partnerships are coming up with creative ways to enable energy tune-ups for more and more homes. Places like Washington, New Hampshire, San Antonio, and many others are working with lenders to establish loan funds to help consumers pay the upfront costs of energy-saving improvements so they can upgrade their homes even in economic tough times.

Gene Brady – who has been helping communities in Pennsylvania save energy for 25 years – is leading the charge to install and test new in-home energy monitors to help homeowners make wise choices about energy use. Maine, a state that relies heavily on imported heating oil, has set a target to improve the energy efficiency of all residences and half of its businesses by 2030. Businesses across America are hiring experts to stop energy and money from escaping their buildings and bottom lines.

That is good for America, and that’s what gets me excited.

Have questions about weatherization and saving energy in your home? Send them our way via Facebook, Twitter (#weatherization) or Call us ( 877-376-1922) and we’ll have our experts work with you on . You can also find home energy saving tips by visiting YourConsultingServices.com.

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