Antigua Weather – Best and Worst Months to Go

Antigua has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year – and plenty of good weather to go with each one. But the island has its share of bad weather months, too.

Beside the beaches, Antigua and its companion island of Barbuda are known for good shopping, historical sites and plenty of hotels, resorts and restaurants.

The island has little variation in temperatures throughout the year, but strong peaks and valleys with rain.

Tourists will experience an average high monthly temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the World Weather Organization says. The average monthly low temperature is 75 degrees.

Antigua weather in June through October reaches average high temperatures of about 87 degrees Fahrenheit. They reach a low of 83 degrees in December, January and February.

Rainfall rates 3.6 inches per month. It reaches a high of 5.5 inches in September, with almost as much rain in October and November. These months have the most storm and hurricane activity of the Caribbean's annual hurricane season, which officially runs from July 1 to November 30. The islands also see higher rainfall in May, although not as much as the fall months.

Antigua weather in February sees rainfall reach a low of 1.5 inches, followed closely by March, January and April, respectively. February through April average about eight rain days per month, while August, October, November and December average 13 days a month.

The best time to visit Antigua is March and April, while the worst time to visit Antigua is September and October, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

A combination of warm temperatures and light rainy make February through April along with June the least risky months for a vacation there. Likewise, Antigua weather in August through November along with May have the highest risk of rain.

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Last Will And Testament Provision For Burial

A will or testament provides information about the transfer of property, ornaments or land, from the testator to his beneficiaries, after his death. Everyone, regardless of age, needs a will. Without a will people wouldn’t know to whom their assets would go. A will is a general term and is used as the instrument in a trust, while testament applies only to dispositions of personal property.

Besides mentioning, as to who would own the property, after the death of the testator, the last will and testament also provides details about, carrying out the burial of the testator. He appoints an executor, as his personal representative who takes over the responsibility of paying his left over debts, obligations as well as pays for his funeral expenses. However, the executor is not entitled to get any surety bond connected to the last testament.

A testator may mention in his last will, the name of a particular organization that would conduct the rites of his burial or transference. He may also put a clause, which specifies that, his body be sent without autopsy or embalming, to a funeral home designated by the organization. A copy of the last will is given to the funeral home by the organization, as it helps in preparing and facilitating the transportation of the body.

The last will and testament carries details about the testator’s wishes, including whether or not his body be enshrined or entombed at a chosen place after death. Since the rites of burial and transference can be very elaborate, detailed, thorough, and lengthy, the organization may incur an extensive cost to carry out the rites. In such a case, the testator can make pre-arrangements with the organization, by donating money that would assist them in carrying out his last wishes. The appointed executor is responsible to pay for the burial expenses in case the testator has not made such arrangements. The last will and testament provision for burial gives details of performing the final rites as per the wishes of the testator, soon after his death.

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How to Do a Sales Pitch in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate, you will undertake a variety of presentations, in a variety of circumstances. Most of them are business-like in nature, focusing on the needs of the tenant, the property buyer, or the property seller.

Get to the core issues

Each of these groups has unique property requirements and points of focus. It is their needs which must be identified and clearly addressed in the sales pitch or presentation. Many successful commercial real estate agents will have a preliminary meeting with the client or customer so that they can identify key issues and concerns. This allows the commercial agent to return to the client or customer in a few days with a well structured proposal that addresses the needs of the customer or client.

It’s all about THEM, not YOU!

When you design an investment or commercial property proposal for presentation, the document should be 90% regards the property and the client. Frequently you see this rule disregarded or broken with the proposal document being largely regards the agency and the personnel.

Rarely is the property transaction a simple matter of the property rental, the property price, or the physical elements of the property. In most situations, it is the combination of these things which must satisfy a fundamental equation of need that the customer or client has. In getting them to this fundamental need, you will identify an element of pain that the customer or client is experiencing. This is what you focus on.

They are Experienced

It is interesting to note that many clients and customers in commercial real estate are reasonably comfortable in circumstances of business negotiation. This means they may not tell you the total big picture or all the elements of a transaction until they are ready. Conversation and connection in the presentation process should be biased towards the client or customer using well selected questions which allow the agent to interpret the body language coming from the client’s response.

When you believe you have identified the element of clients pain related to the property transaction, you start to magnify the problem in terms of today’s market, then offering stable and logical solutions that your real estate agency business can provide to the client or customer. Invariably, the commercial real estate transaction in today’s market centres on financial matters such as:

  • High vacancy factors
  • Other property choices and chances are available
  • Underperforming leases
  • Unstable cash flow
  • Unstable tenancy mix
  • Tenanted conflict
  • Escalating building operating costs
  • A shift in demographics which exposes the property to a unstable future
  • Mortgage payment pressures
  • Age of the asset
  • Needs for refurbishment or extension
  • Competition properties attracting tenants away from the subject property

This type of information and interpretation requires your intimate knowledge of the local region. This is by both property type and by location. This is the higher value that you bring to the customer or client. Being able to distinctly define local market awareness is a major advantage in any commercial real estate presentation or sales pitch. You must be seen as the best knowledgeable solution to the problem.

From Experience

After many years working exclusively in the commercial real estate industry, I found that my unique skill was in market knowledge and the display of that in any formal presentation to the client. Being able to talk about market trends and financial performance in a solid and sound way will help the client understand that they need your services. Coupling that with your extensive and relevant database of enquiry clearly shows the client that they need you.

A fantastic commercial real estate presentation is a function and balance of lots of things. Things like:

  1. A well established pre-planning process is a strategic advantage for every commercial real estate presentation. Strategy is everything in commercial real estate. Every property presentation requires planning.
  2. Making sure you are asking the right questions of the client or prospect. Plan your questions relative to the subject property so that you help the client think about opportunity and changes that are possible.
  3. Using your market knowledge and giving good answers. Have a variety of market facts and trends available to call on. Feed them into your presentation; facts are always useful. They can also be used as a channel to direct the discussion when the client is forcing you to justify your approach or your experience. Confidence and control must be the basic rule of your property presentation. When the client takes control of the presentation you have lost.
  4. Using your experience in the marketplace so that you are telling relevant stories of success in similar properties. Stories of other properties will always interest of the client.
  5. Making sure your personal presentation is optimised for the connection in the presentation. It can be that you are using a combination of the proposal document, the marketing document, and computer slide presentation, samples of your database, photographs of the subject property projected on to slides, and photographs of comparable properties projected on to slides.
  6. Choosing the placement of people at the table or strategically positioning them in the room is always important. Much has been written about where you should sit relative to the client. The basic rule is adjacent to the client rather than across an area of barrier such as a table. Being within arm’s reach allows you to pass documentation to the client at the appropriate time. Documentation should not be provided to the client until you are ready for them to review it; otherwise it is a distraction of their attention.
  7. Make sure that your proposal is simple and yet well directed with a clearly defined outcomes of sale or lease. Many proposal documents in commercial real estate are much too wordy so the main messages are lost and not clearly defined. The best proposals are less wordy and more illustrative. The best balance of a commercial real estate proposal is a mixture of 25% words, 25% pictures, 25% graphs, and 25% white space. This becomes a document which is clearly read and understood.
  8. Combine good illustrations and photographs of the subject property into the proposal or presentation so that any lengthy descriptions or paragraphs are broken up. This will keep interest of the client in your documentation.
  9. Make sure that your marketing package is value for money, and yet reaching the target market that the property serves or needs to attract. All too often, we see examples of generic marketing by the commercial real estate agent to the broader and less specific marketplace. Showing the client that you clearly know and will attract best the target market will always help your conversion to a potential listing. Be very specific about the target market and how you will reach it.
  10. Ensure that your commission costs are fair and reasonable for the location. In most circumstances, discounting your commission should not be an option as it will make you poor and remove or detract from your enthusiasm for the sale or lease. ‘Cheap’ means ‘cheap and without focus’ and the client needs to know this. The property deserves better. You are not cheap because you are the best and you do a great job. A fair commission is always paid for a positive property outcome.
  11. Always provide testimonials that are relevant to the property transaction. When you combine relevant history and details of happy customers into your presentation you will make the client feel more comfortable.
  12. Always display clear and sound market knowledge that impresses the client relative to their property. This will include extensive awareness of comparable properties that compete with the subject property. You should be able to talk solidly about property prices, comparable rents, rental growth, returns on investment, changes to the future demographics of the area, and properties in the immediate precinct of relevance. In many cases, it pays to walk around the local area just prior to any property presentation so that you bring immediate and clear pictures of the precinct to the discussion. Many times this has been of significant advantage in my presentation processes. Talking about neighbouring properties localises the client and their thought processes.
  13. Come up with a variety of ways to serve the client. Innovation and relevance will always impress. In today’s market, this is relatively easy considering the marketing opportunities and tools provided by the internet & technology. Be proactive in your property promotion processes so that the listing for sale or lease stands uniquely different in its marketing campaign from the others in the area. This does not have to be expensive to the client or to your office, given that the internet and electronic technology is historically cost effective. In today’s market, the traditional methods of publicising the property in the property pages of the local paper, is becoming much less important in the marketing campaign. Most commercial property buyers and tenants research the market from the Internet first and foremost.
  14. Almost every property agency will say that they have excellent communication and connection skills to support the property promotion process. From experience, this is largely incorrect and typically the average commercial salesperson or leasing person will exercise ordinary communication channels with the client. Put yourself in the shoes of the client. They expect and deserve frequent updates on the promotion of the property even when nothing is happening or when the adverts are producing little response. When a property campaign is not producing the results, it is important that you act or adjust with alternative recommendations and strategic changes to the promotional campaign for the client to consider. Rarely would you get to the property campaign correct in the first week. It is in this time that you must consider fine tuning the promotion process so that the target market is being reached in a timely and effective way. This means that every property enquiry generated from your promotions must be tabulated so that you understand what channels of marketing work most effectively with the property in question.
  15. When addressing the client or the client group in a formal property presentation, the answers and information you give must be delivered well and provide relevant solid property knowledge, in a practiced and professional delivery. Any sales or presentation tools relative to the property must be relevant and you should know how to use them with exceptional skill. Fumbling and faking information is not tolerated by the client.

So there you have it. These are some of the key skills to use in a commercial real estate presentation. Whilst many real estate agents think that they are the best alternative in the market to promote sell and rent commercial property, the reality is they do not get the message across when it matters most in front of the client.

To be the best commercial real estate agent in your area, you must show that you are just so, and you do this in the first 10 minutes of the time that your presentation takes. The client will have formed an opinion by then.

Be prepared to walk away from any demands for discounting that the client or customer demands. In this market they need a great commercial real estate agent providing a great job; discounting is not an option. Show pride in your services and walk away when the client demands discount in marketing or lower commissions.

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Five Reasons Why You Should Work For the Travel and Tourism Industry

The travel and tourism industry is a massive global industry that caters for the needs of those who have to travel away from home in terms of providing facilities and services like hotel accommodation, air and road transport. Close to a billion people are involved in international travel in this industry which generates billions of dollars every year. Sometimes making a decision on which industry to work for can be quite hard given the many options available today across the globe. Below are five reasons why you should consider working in the travel and tourism industry.

1. There are lots of work opportunities. The travel and tourism industry has a lot of opportunities employment for those seeking employment. You can work in the aviation sector, road, rail and water transport, accommodation providers like hotels and lodges, leisure and business travel agents and tour guides. It is now also possible to work from home thanks to technology which is convenient for some people like mums who have a child or children and do not want to be far away from home.

2. The perks are good. The travel industry provides rewards that not many other industries do. For example those working in the airline industry can get free tickets for themselves and immediate family members to fly to any destination that the airline they work for flies to. Those who work as travel agents can get reduced travel fares and even pay reduced accommodation rates. Then there are the familiarization trips that those who work in the industry have the opportunity to take. Just think of an all expenses paid trip to places like the Seychelles, France, the Kenyan coast of Mombasa to name just a few.

3. It is a growing industry. In spite of the recent downturn because of the threat of terrorism and the world recession, travel industry players are optimistic about its growth. In good times and bad times people always get the urge to move. And with more and more places becoming accessible because of air travel and with both air travel and hotel rates coming down in order to accommodate peoples pocket there is reason to believe that the travel industry will continue to grow and more markets will be reached which is good news for service providers. Furthermore technology like the internet has made it possible to access markets anywhere in the world, at any time of the day.

4. It is never boring. Working in the industry almost means that you will meet new people from time to time. This is especially true for those who work as frontline staff in travel agencies, airline offices or hotels. Those who work in the airline industry as flight attendants have the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world, visit different towns and cities and see and experience different cultures. That can never be a boring job.

5. You do not need years of studying to work in the industry. You may love a certain profession but because of the years of studying involved in learning it you may be discouraged from joining it. Not so with the travel and tourism industry. Three to six months may be enough depending on what qualification you are studying for to get you started working for this exciting industry. Some people because of their love for the work and experience gained in certain areas of the industry have even started working and studied for the paper qualifications later.

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Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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How to Wash a Microbead Pillow

Every so often, after repeated use, or due to messy accidents, micro bead pillows will need to be cleaned. Unlike memory foam or down pillows where only the pillowcase may be washed, micro bead pillows may be washed, just as long as proper measures are taken in order to prevent the pillow from being destroyed. On many micro bead pillows, the tag suggests that they may only be spot treated. This can be done by scrubbing the spot or spots out with soapy water or any other gentle cleaning solution; bleach should never be used.

However, people with young children or animals often find that the pillow may be too dirty to clean by the spot treating method. Microbead pillows may be washed in the washing machine as long as you are careful. It is important that the pillow is first placed in another pillowcase with the end tied off so it does not fall out during the wash. The pillowcase prevents the microbead pillow from falling apart through the tumbling and rushing water. It is the pillowcase that takes the beating while the microbead pillow remains safe inside while still receiving the cleaning that it needs. A detergent meant for fine fabrics or wool, such as Woolite should be used to further prevent possible tearing of the fabric. Again, no detergent with bleach should be used because it can break down the nylon lycra or spandex outer fabric of the pillow.

Wash the microbead pillow on your washing machine’s gentlest cycle using cold water only; heat risks damage to the microbeads as well as to the outside of the pillow. While washing, one should occasionally check on the pillow to make sure that no harm is coming to the pillow. While this step is not necessary, it is definitely a good idea. After washing, it is incredibly important to remember that the dryer cannot be used to dry it because, once again, the heat would create a terrible, sticky mess of the outer cover of your favorite pillow. However, a dryer may be used to tumble and air dry the pillow as long as no heat is used. To complete drying, the pillow must be hung to drip dry. With certain, higher quality brands of microbead pillows such as Snooztime, regular machine washing and drying is possible, making it easier and also more convenient to clean your favorite pillow. Cleaning microbead pillows properly ensures its owner many more years of comfortable rest.

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Real Estate Agents – Strengths and Weaknesses in Listing Commercial Property Today

In this commercial property market there are some real pressures and challenges that confront a lot of property owners when they want to sell or lease their property. They need the help of top agents that really understand the local area, to help in moving the property.

Contrary to popular belief, it is in markets like this that good agents can make a lot of commission. It all comes down to the way in which they package their services and help their clients.

In simple terms, top agents and experienced agents can do very well today providing them work the local area and their database. A good database will always get you through any market conditions and frustrations. In saying, that I am a big believer that a salesperson's database should not be delegated to the office administrative staff to control.

Every salesperson should take ownership of their database; In this way they will get good activities from it. In this market you need leads that you can do something with. When a database is passed over to the administrative staff to control, the inevitable result is inaccurate and old data. The database soon becomes redundant. The salesperson does not keep it up to date.

Become Change Agents

So we are the 'agents of change' when it comes to helping our property clients an owners get results in this market. We should know how to attract the right people to every property listing that we take on. Exclusive listings are more important in today than ever before. Some top agents will not take on 'open listings' for the very reason that they are a waste of time and effort.

When you know the drawbacks of the industry and the listings today, you can offer the clients that you serve some solid solutions. So what are the drawbacks? Here is a list of some of the larger ones:

  1. The time that it takes to sell or lease a property can be longer today. Every client has to be conditioned for the best price or rent so the time on market is not lengthened. The first few weeks of every marketing effort are the most important. Position the property correctly to get the best inquiry in this time.
  2. High prices and high rents will achieve nothing. The price or rent for the property should be optimized for inquiry. You have to do more with less when it comes to marketing and inspecting of properties.
  3. A larger number of competitive properties can frustrate your marketing efforts and time on market. Check out these properties before you do anything with your listing.
  4. Buyers and tenants are slower to inquire, inspect the property, and then make a decision. Your skills with each stage of the listing should be optimized. Hone your skills accordingly.
  5. Limited finance can put some 'brakes' on the larger deals. Find out where your prospects can get finance from and what the criteria of approval may be.

Whilst these may be drawbacks in the market, they are also opportunities for agents that can get focused and organized. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

Are you a solution provider in this commercial real estate market? Top agents are just that. You can be too.

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Insurance Claim Supplements – How to Submit Claim Supplements

A claim supplement is a claim for additional repair or replacement costs. Supplements are commonplace in the claims process. However, if you are a policyholder unaware of your policy rights, you could be walking away from hundreds or thousands of dollars that you are entitled to collect.

Claim supplements usually occur after a policyholder submits a claim, gets paid and gets the repairs or replacements completed. Then, additional damage is discovered some time later.

Many people erroneously think that, once the claim is closed, it cannot be re-opened. And, insurance companies and their adjusters usually don’t rush to tell you how to submit a claim supplement. So, what to do? Let’s look at car insurance claims and property insurance claims.

For any kind of supplemental claim, you must contact your insurance company and give them your original claim number. The best way to notify the company is in writing, sent Certified Mail. That way, you’ll know who signed for the letter. The insurer will have to re-open the claim. You might get the same adjuster as before, but maybe not.

Car Insurance Supplemental Claims

Lots of supplements happen when cars are getting repaired. Many times, hidden damages are discovered when the body shop begins dismantling the car. So, while the insurance company may have issued payment to the body shop from the original repair estimate, they will issue a second check for the supplemental repairs. Happens all the time, no big deal.

However, sometimes post-repair problems don’t show up right away. A good example is the Air Conditioning system. If you have a car wreck in July, you might not notice that your heater is malfunctioning until fall or winter. But when any damages are discovered that can be directly related to the original insured loss, you can submit a supplement. Simply document the damages and their cause and send the supplement to the insurance company. No additional deductible is assessed, since you already paid it once.

Property Insurance Supplemental Claims

Homeowners, Renters or Business insurance claims can find a need for a supplemental claim for some of the same reasons found in car insurance claims. Seasonal issues can bring up damages related to the original loss. But, some other issues might present themselves. You may have an expert’s report that shows additional damage attributable to the original loss. Your contractor may have found hidden damage that must be repaired. In any event, carefully document your claim and submit it to the insurance company.

Be sure that you are collecting all the money you are entitled to collect. Use supplemental claims whenever your claim requires it.

If you have experienced a property loss, whether fire, wind, flood or other, you need to know winning insurance claim strategies. The insurance company will not tell you the claims process, but I will. I will show you how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, go to the website listed below.

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Insurance Claims – Get an Advance Payment!

Insurance claim advance payments are not widely known by people who file claims. Often, when an insured has a loss of significant size, such as a flood, tornado, wildfire, hurricane loss or a big water damage loss, an advance payment of a portion of the anticipated settlement is issued by the insurance company. This situation also happens regularly when a business has a loss and needs money up front.

It is a customary and widely accepted practice for the insurance company to issue an advance payment in this type of instance. Be aware that there’s nothing in the standard property insurance policy that deals with advances. It is usually just a courtesy that the insurance company extends to their policyholder.

However, they don’t usually offer to do it. You have to request the advance.

Here’s an example. Joe Smith’s house is hit by lightning, and a fire damages most of the house. Joe’s policy has Building limits of $100,000, Contents limits of $50,000, ALE limits of $20,000. The house can be repaired for $70,000, which is less than the policy limits. However, the adjuster expects that the Contents loss will exceed the policy limits of $50,000, and the ALE loss will be $15,000. The adjuster sends in his first report to the insurance company, and tells them to expect the loss to be approximately $135,000 on these three parts of coverage.

The insurance company could easily issue an initial advance payment of $25,000 to $35,000 for Contents and ALE, and $40,000 to $50,000 for the Dwelling loss.

So, what do you do if your Contents are damaged and you need the most basic things, like a change of clothes and shoes? What if you need to have a contractor secure the building and put tarps on the roof to keep further rain out of the building? Most people do not have tens of thousands of dollars just lying in their bank accounts that could be used to begin repairs, or begin replacing personal property. That’s when the insurance company issues an advance.

It’s best to make your request in writing. Even if it’s just a hand-written letter, it’s best if it’s in writing. Write or type your request, keep a copy for your records, and give the copy to your adjuster. It’s also a good idea to send a duplicate copy to the claims department of your insurance company. Send it by overnight courier or certified mail. NEVER rely on the adjuster to ask for an advance on your behalf. He might get delayed with other work and it could be days before he asks. DO IT YOURSELF.

Take control of your claim, my friend! Make an EARLY request in the claims process for your advance payment!

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Books Set in Australia – Five Novels to Read Before You Travel

A trip to Australia is one that offers endless variety – you could spend your time partying in Sydney, you could make an adventurous journey to the Outback, or you could wallow in the many wineries on offer in several Australian states. Australia is a big country and unless you have months to spend there, you are going to have to make some decisions on how best to spend you time. To help you do that, here are some books set in Australia – five novels depicting different aspects of Australian life and history.

'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville

A story of Australia's beginnings, William Thornbill and his wife Sal are sent from London to the fledgling colony of New South Wales in the early 1800's. After some time in Sydney (very different from the Sydney of today!) They decide to try their luck on some land Will has set his eye on along the Hawkesbury River. The challenges they face from their environment, the local Aborigines and fellow settlers reminds us of how harsh the country was for those who decided to make it their home. There are some magnificent descriptions of the landscape as seen by an outsider, and the books gives a 'warts and all' look at the impact of settlement on Australia's indigenous peoples.

'A Town Like Alice' by Neville Shute

While the first part of this novel is set in the Malayan jungle during WWII, what follows is a story that brings you to rugged, country Australia. If you want to know what life was like in a small outback town (more of a hamlet really) in the 1940's and 50's then this novel gives you a good idea. You are subject to the harshness of the landscape and the incredible distinctions involved, as Englishwoman Jean Paget travels to the heart of Australia to find a man she met whilst captured by the Japanese in Malaya. The language and attitudes, particularly in relation to Australia's Aborigines, are true to their time and should be taken as such. But it gives a good indication of the realities of life in rural Australia, something which is still a strong cultural impact on Australians today.

'Breath' by Tim Winton

From the desert to the sea now in this novel by one of Australia's most respected writers. This novel is set in Australia's south-west corner, at a time when the area was more of a home for the logging industry than for the tourists and vineyards of today. Set mainly in the 70's, this is a coming-of-age story about teenager Bruce as he seeks to overcome the boredom of country life with some high risk activities – like surfing off what can be a dangerous and deadly coastline, and developing a Dark friendship with an older woman. As Bruce begins to grow up, both emotionally and sexually, we are grateful to some of the most poetic and exhilarating descriptions you will ever find of the 'religion' that is surfing. And you too, will feel as if you have explored the rugged and beautiful coastline of this part of the country.

'Bad Debts' by Peter Temple

Peter Temple is one of Australia's leading crime writers, and this novel is our introduction to his hero Jack Irish. – an inner-city Melbourne solicitor with a love of Australian Rules Football, gambling, and part time cabinet-making. This is Melbourne in winter, complete with its rain, pubs and shady underworld. Irish has barely been sober for a number of years after one of his dodgy clients murdered his wife, and now Danny, another former client, needs his help. But when Danny is killed, Irish discovers there are plenty of the city's political elite who would like the past to remain undisturbed, and he is determined to get to the truth. Temple's novels may not give you 'sun and sand', but you will be treated to as much genuine Australian vocabulary and city sub-culture as you can handle.

'Summerland' by Malcolm Knox

And finally to Sydney, and a novel that explores the life of the city's idle rich. Four young Sydneysiders have been friends since they were teenagers, and living around the city's northern beaches they have the world at their feet. They form two couples and spend every Christmas at Palm Beach, a popular holiday location for the affluent. But despite all this, their friendship is based on lies, as Richard finds out when he learns of the long-running affair between his wife and his best friend. If you'd like an insight into a live of the privileged few in Sydney, then this novel will take you there.

These novels are just a taste of many books set in Australia, but they are well worth reading in the lead-up to your travels or on the plane. Immersing yourself in a novel about the place you are going to will not only give you an insight into the place itself, but it will whet your appetite for your travels ahead, making it far more enjoyable once you get there.

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