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Claim Your Site Today!

PEA member Kim Tucker has a great tip for small business owners looking to improve their Google juice.  Do you have a tip you would like to pass on to fellow PEA members? Please send them to Executive Director Neal Coogler.

Now on to Kim:


Have You Claimed Your Site?

by Kim Tucker, All Reasons Moving

Have you claimed your site?  In most cases your business is already listed on many different sites and all you have to do is “claim” it. It’s FREE!

A good resource is to go to http://getlisted.org. Type in your company name and it will tell you if you have claimed your business on such sites as Google, Bing Yahoo and a few others.  From there you can click on the links and register your business.  Claim your business today!

Back to Neal:

If you are thinking of creating your own blog, check out Kim’s site for a great example of small business blogging. Thanks for the tip, Kim!

Tip of the Week: Getting Internet Reviews

by Neal Coogler

Getting reviews is an important way of both improving your visibility on the Internet (getting better Google search juice) and getting business through recommendations.  Here are some tips gleaned from Search Engine Journal (see www.searchenginejournal.com for the full article) on a strategy for getting reviews:

  1. Do not fabricate reviews yourself or ask for fake reviews.
  2. Check your reviews. Search on your company name + phone number and you will find reviews on your business (plus other places where information about your business is listed you may not have known about).
  3. If possible, thank those who have left reviews. Many sites allow you to either send the reviewer a message directly or to write a response to the review. When you respond, you could ask them to follow you on Twitter or Facebook, and “ultimately create loyal customers who can be called on in the future for helping with your online reputation.”
  4. Choose a few sites that you want to promote as the places for customers to go to leave reviews.  Don’t ask for reviews on only one review site or for too many – keep the focus on two or three.

Here’s my question for PEA members who are already asking customers to leave reviews: which review sites are you using and why?  I’ll publish the responses to this next week.

Winter Tips for Your Garden

by Peggy Calhoun

Here are a few winter garden tips from PEA member Peggy Calhoun of Garden ANew to keep your plants healthy and your garden looking great:

  • Wrap frost tender plants with small Christmas lights to protect them from a freeze.  It puts out a couple of degrees of heat and could protect the plants from freezing.  Note that the new LED lights do not generate heat so use the original type of lights.
  • Wait until the danger of frost is past to cut back frost tender plants that may have been damaged, around March 1-15.  The dead leaves from the first frost will protect the underneath part of the plant.
  • Mulch exposed soil areas to protect the roots of plants from lower soil temperatures.  It also helps to hold moisture in the soil and reduce weed growth.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts of fall leaf litter (add to the compost pile) and divert water from downspouts away from the foundation of the house.
  • Turn your irrigation controller to ‘rain’ or ‘off’ during the rainy season.  If there has been no rain for two weeks, turn controller on manually and run through each station to keep plants and trees hydrated through a dry spell.

Peggy Calhoun has been designing gardens for over 19 years. With her clients based mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area, she specializes in residential garden design. Peggy is an active member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) and was the 2003 SF Bay Area APLD design competition winner. See samples of her work at her website:  www.GardenANew.com

How Hard is it to Get a Loan?

by Julie Stern Fukuhara

The short answer is: pretty hard, but still possible.  Julie Stern Fukuhara, Stern Mortgage outlined the five main obstacles to getting a loan and how to make things easier during her classification talk last Thursday.

  1. Loan-to-value issues.  Lenders are very conservative these days on the appraised value of your home.  They are taking the lowest appraised value that they can find, so be prepared for a very low estimate.  In one case, a client whose home was thought to be worth $1.6 million came in at $650,000.   To add to the client’s frustration, the home across the street (also owed by this client) was appraised at $1.2 million.
  2. Specialized loan officers. Some loan officers will simply tell you that your loan can’t be done when what they really mean is that it can’t be done through that particular lender.  There may still be some options out there.  If your loan is owed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there are programs out there that allow you to go to very high loan-to-value loans.  The rates may be higher with this type of loan but still not a bad rate.  You may also want to look further than one bank.
  3. Lenders being flooded with loan applications.  Lenders laid-off thousands of workers after the crash and for the most part, have not re-hired to replace them.  A loan application that once took 21 to 30 days to process now can take 30 to 40 days to process with no delay from the borrower.  Julie recently had a client who started a loan application in December of 2009 who came to them because it was still not done in August of 2010.  When dealing with large lenders, knowing where to go and who to contact can really help smooth the process.
  4. Picky underwriters.  Seriously, it has gotten so bad that Julie recently had an underwriter ask for a letter of explanation documenting the fact that a credit inquiry was for the credit report in the underwriter’s hands.  She also wrote a letter of explanation on a name change for a woman who was recently married.  An advantage of working with a loan broker (like Stern Mortgage) is that they will deal with these requests on your behalf.  One last example: underwriters are asking for letters explaining any large deposit, which can sometimes be deposits over $1,000, so she has had to write letters explaining salary deposits.
  5. Income variations.  Lenders like to see regular deposits of the same amount.  Even bonuses are making them skittish, much less the income variations of the self employed.  Lenders will use the net income reported on your last two years of tax returns to determine your average income, which can be another problem if your deductions are high.  Lots of business owners tend to leave income in the company; Julie suggests that you pay yourself a regular salary and then lend it back to the company to show a monthly fixed income.

To make things easier on yourself:

  • Make sure you work with someone you can reach.
  • Save all of your documentation.
  • Get your documentation in as soon as you can.
  • Keep your business credit cards separate from personal.
  • Show higher net income on tax returns.
  • Take retirement distributions monthly.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Decide what rate you will be happy with and go with it.

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