Posts by lionreviews

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Are Tax Auction Houses A Good Deal?

Are you a bargain hunter? Always on the lookout for a good deal or a way to make some extra cash? Depending on where you live you can find property priced below market value.  What’s the catch? You need to have your funds available the day you place your bid.  So do your homework in advance.

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Do your homework before bidding on a tax auction property. Know your budget and be realistic about how much repairs will cost.

A word of caution: research, research, research the property and the neighborhood before you even think of placing a bid.  Talk to the neighbors.  Knock on doors and ask about the house’s history before you do any bidding.

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Look inside the windows, check the crawlspace and definitely talk to the neighbors before you place a bid on a tax auction property.

I was working as a property manager and had watched way too many house flipping shows on HGTV when I first started thinking about bidding on tax auction properties.  I had five years of experience handling what could go wrong in the rental world: late rent payments, evictions, repairs gone wrong, bedbugs, trashed apartments, false promises, you name it.  My experience in rental property was definitely eye opening.

 

 

So I thought I was ready to leap into buying tax auction properties.  I spent hours online on the Gaston county website looking to see which properties were going to be auctioned off and when.  I went to one auction just to observe the process.

I watched a red-headed twenty-something guy and his grandpa buy a commercial building for $4,000.00.  They were the only bidders on that property.  According to the rules I had read, another bidder could go to the courthouse and place an upset bid on that property by bidding ten percent more than the current bid.  The redhead said they had bought several properties this way but this particular one was going to be used for their family business: a dental lab.

Four grand for a commercial property? Yes, the building needed some work.  The exterior was brick but the whole property was overgrown and some of the growth appeared to be invading the former beauty salon.  Still, that was a sweet deal.  I knew commercial real estate and the property could easily be rented for several hundred a month…which could mean positive cash flow.  I wanted in on the action.  I could smell money in the air.

The next live auction was in December and the turnout was considerably larger.  I looked around at the people huddled together in clumps of two or three beneath the overhang, trying to keep out of the rain and place their winning bids.

These people seemed calm and confident.  I felt like the new kid at school, out of my element and not sure what might unfold.  When the auctioneer called off the address of the house on Howe Dairy Road, my heart jumped.  Eleven thousand was the opening bid.  It was just a bit more than the amount of back taxes the family owed on the property.  Twelve thousand, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five.  I felt a bit sick.  I wanted that house for twenty thousand.  That would give me a few thousand for the repairs which it surely needed.  Like a new HVAC system.

The bid was too high so I never opened my mouth.

Still, the little “what ifs” whirred about in my brain.  What if I could get another house just by waiting and outbidding by just a small amount?

After that day, I spent every free minute at work checking addresses on the tax site.  I had heard another address that day at the courthouse and phrases like “corner lot” and cul-de-sac.  I looked it up online.  It was a two bedroom brick house with a carport on a large lot.  The house did need work: lichen covered the roof ( I naively told myself a thousand dollars to replace the roof), the house stank of old cigarette smoke from years of hardcore smoking (paint? would that get rid of the smell?)

Tax auction houses are as is.  There is no going inside the house before placing your bid.  You do your homework, send your contractor friends out to snoop around and hope you get lucky.  I was naive to think that the house just needed paint and some flowers in the bald flower beds.  It needed a bit more than that.

Fast forward a year.  I got the house with a bid of $55,125 after several rounds of upset bidding with a local builder.  I borrowed $43,000 from my boss and her husband until I could get a mortgage on the house.  Note: you need cash on hand to write your check to the tax office.  I had a pre-approval letter from CitiBank which was worthless because I quit my job after I bought the house and before my mortgage went through.  My boss’ husband had always been a jerk but he had ratcheted it up a notch and one day I walked out in tears, completed my last round of bank deposits and called my boss in tears to tell her that I couldn’t do it anymore.  I’d had enough bullying and manipulation.

So I had no loan and just a part-time seasonal job and had to repay that $43,000 fast.  I was determined to get that house and called my mom one day from the Aldi’s parking lot to explain my situation.  I needed a check for $50,000 and I would figure out the rest.  Mom, the infamous tightwad, assured me that she would send me a cashier’s check the next day.  I felt a little lighter after that.  Like maybe my crazy house dream was doable after all.

Is this Bitcoin Investment legit?

If you know me at all, you already know I’ve been searching for the perfect work-at-home gig for quite a while now.  So, when my tax preparer friend Erick started telling me about his upcoming Bitcoin product launch, I was interested.  I watched every available YouTube video on Kryptogenix, the product he was studying.  There were only a few teaser videos available at the time because the product launch was still a month or more away.  And what did I really know about actual Bitcoin investing? All I had was hype.  Some guy named Bitcoin Brandon in California had done really well with his investments.  Erick had doubled his initial $1,000 investment and his friend Ronnie had made $50,000.  But what did that mean for me?

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What was this BitCoin business?

Erick wanted to know what I was waiting for but I still had doubts about this BitCoin venture.  How did I know it was going to work? How much did I need to get started investing? Yes, I went to the pre-launch party at Ronnie’s house.  There were only four or five of us there.  Five if you count Ronnie’s wife.  One guy already owned several BitCoins and was looking to reinvest them.  The rest of us who showed up consisted of my boss at the tax office and her husband.  I think mainly they went for the barbecue.

Here’s what Erick told us in advance: Have $1,000 set aside to invest in BitCoin April 1st when it launched.  What $1,000? He obviously didn’t know that all my money was tied up in my house remodel.  Last year, I bought a house at a tax auction.  I had driven by the house and walked around the outside before bidding but I had never stepped inside the house.  I could smell the stale nicotine oozing from the inside but I didn’t know the previous owners had left the bathtub running and gone out of town.  I didn’t know what the scope of the repairs involved.  I know, I know.  My family and my boyfriend have told me that I made a mistake.    Repeatedly.  My boyfriend has gotten so overwhelmed by the repairs that he decided to leave and drive out to Denver to pursue a job.  Along the way, somewhere near Kentucky, his stepdad called to say his mom passed away and he had to turn around and drive to Maryland for the funeral.  We live in North Carolina, by the way.  In the end, he came back to Gastonia and has been helping out with the latest part of our project, tiling  the dining room.  We’ve already replaced the floor joists in all but one room and are now headed toward the home stretch of putting each room back together.  So we have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this renovation.  I had originally considered renting out the house once we finished but now I am staring to like it.  We laid the hardwood flooring in the master bedroom.  We painted those yellow stained ceilings.  It is becoming our home.  So do I have the $1000 for this Bitcoin venture?

Stalked on Craigslist

Beware of Craigslist.

Shhhh. Don’t look at my email or you will want to cry.  Something is going on and I’ve attracted some bad energy on Craigslist.  What is it exactly? Someone is blackmailing me and trying to wreak havoc but I’m ignoring her crazy behavior.  She claimed she would post negative reviews about my company online if I didn’t pay her.  Pay her to go away is what she was hoping for but I’m not giving in.

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Watch out. Criminals are lurking on Craigslist.

The way Craigslist works is that everything seems completely anonymous.  You can’t actually see who you are dealing with so you can’t be sure they are real.  I am a very genuine person and try my best to do exactly what I’m supposed to do.  That’s probably why I get my heart broken so frequently.  There are people out there who are full of hate and determined to get something for nothing.

I recently offered a gig on Craigslist for local writers.  As soon as they completed the gig, I paid them promptly for their work.  The pay was decent for the amount of time required.  $5 for two minutes worth of work.  Not bad, right? Until Scammer Girl decided to start blackmailing me.

First, she sent me a few emailed threats letting me know her plan.  If I didn’t pay her off, she’d post negative reviews about my company.   I checked the reviews and nothing showed up.  Then she posted a few negative rants, mentioning me by name and saying my company was fake.  I continued to ignore her.  And then I googled her through the magic of Paypal, since I’d paid her out a few days earlier.  (Even then she had threatened to leave negative reviews when I didn’t pay her instantly.) Her mug shot popped up on the screen.

So I’m now officially ignoring her.  There are so many great, hardworking people out there that are willing to help a small business like mine.  I’m not letting one negative energy sucker bring me down.  Thanks for listening.

The internet can seem like a totally anonymous place.  Behind all these screens, let’s show the world that we’re real.

Update: I wrote this blog post on Friday the 6th and it’s now Monday the 9th.  On Friday, every new email in my inbox caused my heart to beat faster.  First there were threats.  Prepare myself.  Stalko was going to ruin me if I didn’t pay her right away.  Why was I testing her? Did I want her to go off? So I kept checking my email even while I was sitting in traffic.

Was it Stalker Girl? Had she posted another rotten review? Was my company going to suffer? How would I get rid of these ugly reviews? What seemed like the end of the world has softened just a bit.  Yes, stalker Angela did post a one star review on one of our websites.  We have more than one business and she left her review on Google.  She mentioned me, Heather, by name and said that I did not respond to emails and that my company was fake.  Now, her comment seems laughable.  Plus her spelling makes her look like an amateur writer and not at all credible.  One bad review out of many is to be expected.  Her review wasn’t even written under her real name.

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Know who you are dealing with when you hire a freelancer to help grow your business.

So today I feel better about the whole stalking debaucle.  I have learned a valuable lesson and am taking a break from Craigslist now.  I will be more careful about hiring freelance writers off Craigslist from now on.  That sucks because I got to work with so many genuine, caring writers who were doing positive things online.  Yes, there was this one girl, Angela Lopez/Reese Marshall whoever this person really is who tried to blackmail me.  Luckily, my site is not huge (YET) and I am still learning the ins and outs of online business.  And another plus is that Angela’s demand was for less than $20.  She clearly needs money in a bad way if she is willing to rip someone else’s business apart online for that price, what else would she do to get money.  Thanks, Angela Lopez, for teaching me that there can be a dark side to Craigslist and to be wary whenever you hire a freelancer online.  Know as much as you can about the person who you are working with before you get too involved.  And if you do get yourself into trouble, please post it so I can read about your experiences.

The Art of Rejection

 

What do you do when a writer has spent time working on articles for your blog and they’re just not what you wanted? How do you politely say thanks for your time but I can’t use any of this material without major editing and rewriting? I’ve been getting lots of emails since I put up a post on Craigslist for writers.  The response has been phenomenal but the quality is lacking.  This morning I opened my email and read three submissions one writer sent me.

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Finding quality content for your blog can be a challenge

 

I printed out one of the articles about How to Measure Your Cabinet Doors.  This is an article readers are on our site www.cabinetdoorsforless.com definitely need.  They need to feel confident they can accurately measure their replacement cabinet doors so they can go ahead and place their orders.  The writer said to work with a standard unit of measure like “feet” and “meters.” What? Measurements need to be in inches and they need to be exact.  Where was any mention of the door overlay? Of how to measure a split door? (A split door means the cabinet opening has 2 doors instead of just one.  Split doors are great if the cabinet opening is over 22 inches.)  The writer’s voice is clear and and overall the piece is easy to read.  But this wasn’t going to work for our blog.  I put off the dreaded rejection letter as long as possible.  Here is what I came up with after some consideration.

Dear Writer,
I had a chance to review your articles and would like to thank you for the time and effort you put into the writing.  You have a clear voice and good style.  These are not quite what I’m looking for.  You are a gifted writer but what I need is a bit more technical.  Our customers need specific info and these posts need to explain exactly how to measure the cabinet doors.  Customers are getting ready to order custom cabinets and need guidance.  How do they measure? What is a door overlay? What is a split door and how do you take a split door measurement? We manufacture the doors and measurements need to be spot on, down to the nearest 1/16th of an inch.  Precision is crucial.  We cannot just tell them to use a standard unit of measure.  Measurements must be in inches, we do not use meters.  Measuring incorrectly can be a waste of hundreds or thousands of dollars.  We want customers to feel confident that they can get accurate measurements after reading our blog post.
I will issue a $10 payment via PayPal for your effort but am unable to pay more than that, simply because I will have to do lots of editing to get them to work on our blog.  I recommend you post these articles on another site such as Constant Content if you are interested in selling them.  
What do you think? Too harsh? Looks like How to Measure Your Cabinet Doors is next on my list of articles I need to write.

Do I Need Drugs to Write Decent Content?

In college I remember one night after Creative Writing class I was so focused, so determined to get down the story in my head that I holed myself up at a desk in the main building and grabbed my pen, writing as fast as I could, scribbling on the backs of other pages, determined to get the mishmash of words down and fleshed into form.  The words were like glass nuggets, each so shiny and perfect, coming together like they had been issued to my pen.

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Did I need pills to get the words loosened from inside my mind? 

My brain found just the right descriptions, the exact percentage of eye rolling, tongue-in-cheek humor necessary for writing about a night in high school.  Maybe the scene was a cliche, hanging out with my friends at the amusement park, Riverside, waiting to meet guys and then we did.  Only the details were slippery.  Kim and I both wanted the taller one with the beautiful teeth and then I tried to back off, let her have him.  I forced myself to hook up with the sidekick, with his bad teeth and spotty skin.  In the story, life was flipped and I was the tall guy, struggling to use my charm, awkward in my oversized shoes but trying to be smooth, to make it happen.

And everything fell apart.  I tried to charm her the best I could, told er I was on the football team.  I was inside his brain and the words were mine, ours, just coming to me all at once.  This was the flow I’d heard of.  The runner’s high, only it was writing.  I was high on the creation, the carving, getting it down and touching up the details that made it mine.  I couldn’t wait to turn that story in the next week in class.  I was a proud writer.  Was I a writer? I had no reason to call myself that but deep down I’d always known that was what it was growing in me, taking hold.

When it happened, there was such raw emotion coming out onto the pages.  I took my own pain, the awkward experiences, the uncertainty, fumbling in the dark for mental zippers and used that in my characters.  That was what made me write.  I wanted those tiny cuts in my soul to help others heal themselves, to forget their own pain long enough to follow my words and journey together toward the other side.

 

Become An Expert in Your Field

Want to make it as a writer? Are you trying to develop your blog and grow your followers? Start with awesome content.  We’ve heard that a million times.  Like you just press a magic button on your brain and the little guys up there furiously pick up their number two pencils and start scribbling away.

Figure out a topic that gets you so excited you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning to start researching.  It could be anything from what to grow on the shady side of your house to selecting the best solar lights for your walkway or how to update your kitchen cabinets for under $100.  It’s not always the topic that is exciting.  It can be how you present the topic.

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Got a passion? Share it with the world

Find your passion and start sharing your knowledge with the world and you will become an expert in your field.  Not sure what you want to focus on?

Follow Other Bloggers

If you want to grow your audience, start following other bloggers today.  Read what they’re writing and see if it triggers any ideas.  Connect with other writers online and leave comments when appropriate.  Ask other bloggers if you can link to their articles.  The more connected you are as a writer, the more opportunities will appear in your life.  These can be job opportunities, financial opportunities, writing opportunities and so on.  Do not expect to be rewarded in terms of dollars and cents when you’re first charting your path.  It takes time to become an authority on a topic.  If you’re on sites like LinkedIn, post samples of your work.  Upload articles you’ve written and link them to your website.

Complete Your Profiles

If you spend time on LinkedIn, make sure your profile is complete.  Take the time to fill out as much information about yourself as possible so you have a complete resume visible at all times.  Let the world know what you’re up to if you are a freelance writer.  Create as many posts as you can while you’re establishing yourself.

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Connect with as many people as you can and grow your network.

Grow Your Network

You know how to make friends in real life.  Make a few jokes.  Strike up conversations with everyone you meet.  Show them that you’re an intelligent, witty person and they will want to spend time with you.  How does it work online? Browse around different websites.  If you’re a blogger, explore other blogs besides your own.  Why should anyone care about your content if you don’t even read theirs?

Add friends on Linked In.  Connect with people from all aspects of your life.  Think beyond your immediate work friends and add friends from church, local groups, people you worked with in the past and more.  Remind yourself that it’s not going to happen overnight.  Just wake up each day and do one thing that day to grow your network.  Read a friend’s blog.  Post your new article on LinkedIn and share it with your friends.

How Much Should You Pay For a Blog Post?

Try Craigslist

How much does it cost to get great content for your blog? True, you can always write your own blog posts for free.  It’s nice to have other options when you don’t feel like cranking out the content yourself.  I recommend Craigslist for connecting with local writers hungry for work and cash.  You can spend $5 to post a job on Craigslist under gigs, part-time, or writing jobs.  Here is one idea:pexels-photo-261949.jpeg

Content Writers Wanted for Juicy Blog Posts

We’re looking for a wordsmith capable of producing 4-5 articles of 1,000 words weekly.  Must be familiar with SEO, HTML, and keywords.  Are you laser focused on writing cutting edge content? We need you! Respond to this ad with two writing samples and a sample post on: How to Update Your Kitchen For Less Than $1,000. Send us a copy of your resume.  We pay $25 for each approved blog post via PayPal within 24 hours of approval.  Message for details.

Know How Much You’re Willing to Pay for Quality Content

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Some writers will be offended if your price is too low.  They will tell you they are a professional freelancer and cannot accept anything less than $50 or $100 for your type of article.  No problem.  Thank the writer for their time and move on.  Your inbox will be flooded with messages from local writers who will gladly work at that rate.

Other Content Sources

Not interested in all the sketchy people on Craigslist? There are websites such as Constant Content, Textbroker and Freelancer where you can get content for your blog.  These sites act as the middleman between you and the writers.  Simply state what you need and they handle the rest.  This is especially helpful if you need a high volume of content for your website.

pexels-photo-590493.jpegHow to Sell Content and Make a Profit

Want some extra cash? There are business owners who need content for their blogs.  If you can find local businesses and let them know about your content creation ideas/packages, you can create a thriving business.  Charge the business owner $50 for each blog article you produce.  Find a writer to create the content and pay the writer $10 for the exclusive rights to the article.  Make sure they understand that you want all rights so they cannot resell the piece to someone else.  You’re now officially in business.

This is how I got into the review business.  A friend offered me $20 for each review I got for his business.  He wanted 20 reviews for the month at a rate of $20 each.  Same for the following month.  I could see the dollars dangling before my eyes and I needed that money.  I was working part-time as a tax preparer and was only scheduled to work 16 hours that week.  I had spent the past year, and all my savings, remodeling a house I purchased at a tax auction.  I had racked up credit card debt buying supplies and my boyfriend left his job as a Business Analyst the year before.  He was out of work for an entire year and struggling with major depression.  So that $800 my friend offered definitely got my attention.

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I called my friend Cathy to share the good news.  Only she was not keen on the idea of writing the reviews.  “That just strikes me as wrong,” was how she put it when I asked her to help me with the business.  I was surprised by her reaction.  Didn’t she understand all those glowing Amazon reviews online were fakes?I ought to know.  I had written a five star review for a wine chiller and got the product free from the seller plus a few dollars for my review.  That wine chiller was total garbage.  No one needed that product, certainly not me.  It sat unused in my freezer for years.  Definitely not an essential household item.  I knew exactly how Amazon sellers got those reviews.  There were people out there collecting money and getting free merchandise for offering their feedback, so long as it made the seller look good.

pexels-photo-704988.jpegSo I had no qualms about turning to Craigslist to find local writers to produce reviews.  Business was booming.  As soon as I put the ad on Craigslist, my inbox exploded with writers looking for work.  I had to revise my initial plan.  Early on, one of the first writers contacted me and I asked him to do 20 reviews per month.  I did not realize Google punished you for having multiple reviews from the same IP address.  This writer posted 20 reviews within 24 hours and some of the names he created were laughable.  Nimrod Waver was one of the names he used.  What? I felt sick looking at those reviews. There were no profile pictures next to the names.  They looked fake and sounded even worse.  Brothers and sisters posting reviews.  A wife returning from a three year trip to Africa and so on.  I don’t know where this writer got his material.  I emailed him and told him I would be happy to pay him as soon as he removed the reviews.  Yes, i paid him NOT to post the reviews.

After that incident, I revised my Craigslist strategy.  I would only allow 1 review per IP address and moved my target to other areas of the country even though it cost me more for the reviews and cut into my personal profit a bit.  For tips on getting more reviews click here.