Ready to sell or buy a new residence? You'll likely seek the expertise of a realtor to get you through the process from beginning to end, so choosing the right agent for the job is part of a successful outcome. Money will be exchanged, time will be spent, and your ultimate real estate satisfaction is on the line. These tips for picking the right realtor will guide you towards making a smart selection for your specific needs in the real estate game. Follow this advice for the best fit for you, your property of interest, and your means when it's time to open or close the door to the next chapter in your life.



Experience/Credentials

While a fresh, green realtor may have lots of energy and go-getter pep to his or her step, it's a gamble to bet on a newbie unless there's a partner involved. Experience generally beats out the "eager beaver" when it comes to a good deal of money and valuable property on the line.

As per WikiHow, the ideal realtor has several years of experience under their belt. "Veteran real estate agents often have more contacts to help sell your home and more experience to help overcome obstacles."

Rick Harris, regional VP for the National Association of Realtors and owner of a Coldwell Banker's office told U.S. News & World Report Money, "For me, the first thing I want to know is how long have they been in the marketplace. Not just how many years, but how many buyers do they work with that have similar needs."

And Robert Irwin, author of "Tips & Traps When Buying a Home" was quoted on Bankrate alerting readers, "If they haven't been in business 5 years, they're learning on you and that's not good." Your time and money should not be taken for granted for someone else to further their career.

In addition to experience, be sure your realtor is up-to-date with their credentials for their area of specialty and is certified legally. When it comes time to close the deal, you wouldn't want fraudulence or any other legal roadblocks coming between you and your sale or purchase.

Bankrate suggests, "Check with your state's regulatory body to find out if a prospective agent is licensed and if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints. The information may be posted online."
Better to be safe than sorry!




Location

While the "best in the biz" may be the realtor of your dreams, if he or she is on top of the world in Beverly Hills, your South Dakota home that's on the market may not be this realtor's gem.

Money notes, "Real estate is a local game, and to win you need someone who plays in the areas where you're looking to buy. Not only will they be up on market trends, they'll know about local schools, commute times, and under-the-radar red flags, like the solid-waste transfer station that's been proposed for the neighborhood."

Even with someone local, strive for a reputable and/or nationally-franchised real estate agency, as per WikiHow. "Bigger real estate offices generally have more resources for selling and marketing homes. When multiple agents work from one location, a greater number of people can spread the word about your home. And franchises tend to have bigger advertising budgets than independently-owned firms."

You'll need to rely on your realtor to make the most of their budget, so be sure the person or team you choose has the capability to stretch every dollar in your market. As per NerdWallet, "Having an agent with experience in the neighborhoods you're most interested in can save a lot of time and effort." Cotty Lowry of Keller Williams concurs, as per Kiplinger, "You want an agent who is 'intimately and passionately' familiar with your neighborhood."

Consumer Credit Counseling Service even suggests to, "Drive through the neighborhoods where you are interested in buying. Look for "for sale" signs to identify which agents are listing the most homes in the area."




Reviews/References

Anyone who's had success with a realtor is sure to give solid feedback and would highly recommend this person to work with you. Friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues are all good sources to help you land the right realtor.

Asking for references from the realtor is recommended as well. Any confident and professional agent will be happy to supply you with a few. WikiHow recommends to, "Ask your potential agent for a list of satisfied home sellers who completed real estate transactions with the agent and call 2 or 3 former customers to verify that the agent handled their home sale to their satisfaction."


Money adds, "Ask what portion of business comes from referrals or repeat business. If an agent mainly works on referrals or repeat business, that can be a positive indicator that prior clients were satisfied."

And Credit.com notes, "You are leaving a lot to chance if you don't check out the past behavior of real estate agents. You should get references from an agent's three most recent clients and call them to verify that the agent is being truthful about his or her accomplishments."

With the reassurance that your realtor is on the ball, you won't sweat the small stuff as they work with and for you. Sure, it may take a little time to go through this process, but the wrong choice will cost you a lot more than a few hours of investigation.



What's the Plan?

A knowledgeable and resourceful agent will have a plan of attack to do the job the most efficiently. No dilly dallying, no secrets, and no time wasted.

WikiHow recommends asking for a marketing plan, for example. "A good Realtor will know how to price your house correctly to attract buyers. Your potential agent should know who your target audience is, have a recommended strategy for giving your home curb appeal and present a plan to market your house using multiple media outlets."

HGTV adds, "Running a few classified ads in the local paper, listing it on the Internet and holding an open house shouldn't be the only answers. The practitioner should be able to talk about what kinds of people are likely buyers and how he will reach out to those specific people."

The realtor should also make you aware of what you can do to. For instance, "A good salesperson will have expectations. He may want you to leave and take the dog when the house is shown, paint the garage, move some furniture around and scrub the tile in the bathroom. It shows that he can think like a buyer and that's a good thing," as per HGTV.

Additionally, find out how the agent plans to communicate with you and how often. As Money notes, "A communication lapse of a few hours can mean the difference between an accepted offer and a missed opportunity. With that in mind, choose an agent who responds quickly in the mode of communication that works for you, whether it's email, text, phone or fax."

With a plan you both agree on, your sale or purchase goals will be harmonious and tension-free. You will work together best with common strategy and little need for back and forth points of contention that can waste time, and in turn, money.

Now it's time to select a realtor who's the "real" deal! Good luck with your real estate sale or purchase!

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.