Friday, October 25, 2013

The Best Place to Live in Huntsville Alabama

 The Best Place to Live in Huntsville Alabama

 Huntsville, the heart of Alabama’s Madison County, also known as “Rocket City”, is one of Alabama’s largest cities. It is located in the northern part of the state not far from the Tennessee border. The city of Huntsville has something for everyone. The best place to live really is subjective to the type of neighborhood you are looking to settle into. Here is a look at some of the well-known areas of Huntsville.

Downtown For people looking for the city life, Downtown Huntsville is the place to be. A lot of the city’s young professionals can be seen enjoying the city’s nightlife. Downtown has everything you would expect from city living, with many great museums and historical spots, restaurants, shopping in malls and quant centers like Constitution Village and more. There are even some great parks in the area, such as Big Spring Park. There are also a vast array of great public and private schools nearby.

Old Town, Five Points, Twickenham   These are the three main areas that make up the Historic District of Huntsville.. This area is full of beautiful tree- lined streets and old homes lovingly restored to their original beauty, the scene is akin to a page torn out of a southern magazine. Twickenham is where Huntsville started and is the former name of Huntsville.  Five Points is named for its familiar crossroads of five streets coming to a single point in one intersection. This area is more artsy and has a sort of hipster vibe. Old Town was built with more of a city feel in mind. While the homes and lots here are a bit smaller it is still big on popular southern historic charm. Living in this area is close to all the city’s modern amenities but has a cozy historic touch. The newer Lee High School was recently built in this area as well. Huntsville’s school district is among the top in the nation.  Walk your pooch down the tree-lined streets or hop on over to nearby downtown for some fun in the city. This is a great place for singles, families, and retirees alike.

Owens Cross Roads, Hampton’s Cove   This area has got a great family vibe to it. In this area you will find the beautiful Goldsmith-Schiffman Elementary School another of Huntsville’s top schools. Also nearby is the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary. If you love to get outdoors the Sanctuary is a beautiful spot with 10 miles of hiking trails through hardwood forest and wetlands. These trails are great for hiking, mountain biking, and even horseback riding. The Highland Park neighborhood is very popular in this area with a sweet serene feel and community pool and cabana.

Ditto Landing Along the shore of the Tennessee River, on the edge of the city line, you will find Ditto Landing Marina Park, a great place for water and outdoor recreation. Here you can find a full service Marina with wet slips, heated storage and on-land boat and trailer storage. It also has 560 acres of park-like surroundings and, campgrounds. The Marina hosts many Huntsville events and fireworks shows. Some of the neighborhoods in this area include, Marina Park, Indian Ridge and Somerset Lake. Close by you can also find Butler Basin home to the only riverfront homes in the city limits. This neighborhood is recognized by its popular landmark Lighthouse at Great Bend.

Weather you love to be in the center of activity or in a more laid back environment, Huntsville has a place for everyone to call home. Contact the Amanda Howard real estate team for information on moving and relocating to the Huntsville area.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Does blogging every day really have a positive effect?

Does blogging every day really have a positive effect? 

There are many blogging platforms out there that a real estate agent could choose such as active rain, word press, real town, blogspot and many of which have certain contest that challenge their writers to post blogs each week or one a day or whatever. Is this just getting us into the habit of blogging so that we perfect our skill or does it really have a positive effect on our business?

Joe Hayden is a real estate agent in Louisville Kentucky that blogs every day about something; anything really. The focus should be primarily on real estate so Joe throws and a lot of market reports with valuable information for buyers and sellers, tips and changes in FHA, mortgage or interest rates as well as a lot of local events and activities. Joe does this every single day with a new blog post.

Granted, some of the information is regurgitated from information already online. But, because it’s put into Joe’s words and his spin on the article it makes it new content that’s unique to his website. Google is looking for a well-rounded, fully resourced website that will provide the user everything that they would need should they come to the site. Although Joseph site is primarily a real estate website, readers can enjoy a variety of information and content throughout the Louisville area.

These blog posts don’t have to be that long either. Google is looking for a natural combination of quick snippets blog posts and highly informative and in-depth reports. If you simply post 100 words a day it may not be enough. (This is why we have Facebook, Google plus and twitter - for those quick snippets) but Google wants a well-rounded site that has a variety of information that is naturally adding to the site and creating a better overall authority.

Now, you don’t necessarily want people calling you up for dog food information because you did a local blog post on the newest pet store in town, but the more that local people see your information, your face and your name online within your community the more you are branding yourself as an authority figure in your niche.

A good rule of thumb is that 70% of your website should be about what you actually do, I.E.real estate (or whatever it is you do) the rest of the website can be a combination of local information, reports and news brief that add value to your website as a whole.

So do you need to blog every day? It really comes down to time management. If you can slip in a 20 or 30 minute blog post each morning about the local weather, news, market reports or current homes for sale it will definitely add to the overall authority and benefit your website can project online.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Time Homebuyers in Richmond Hill Georgia

First Time Homebuyers in Richmond Hill Georgia

Buying your first home can be intimidating and exciting. You may not know where to begin. Here's five tips to buying your first home in Richmond Hill.

1) Check the selling price of comparable homes in Richmond Hill and surrounding areas. Websites like Zillow can give you a general idea of what you should expect to pay. You could also possibly to a quick search on actual MLS listings your area on a number of websites. 

2) Get your financial house in order and see what you can afford. Use a mortgage calculator to see what your payment would be. Don't forget to configure what your total housing cost would be including taxes and homeowners insurance. To get an idea for the total amount you should spend, use a home affordability calculator. What you pay for your taxes and insurance escrow can almost double your mortgage payment in some areas. You can call a local insurance agent to get an estimate on what you'll pay for insurance. 

3) Look at your budget and decide how a house fits into it. Don't forget to consider closing costs! Fannie Mae recommends that buyers spend no more than 28% of their income on housing costs. You wouldn't want to become house poor. 

4) Look at the big picture. Owning a home can be a rewarding and great experience, but maintaining your property and taking pride in ownership can be hard work and costly. Over the years expect to pay for new appliances, roof repairs, plumbing problems and/or maintenance and more. Remember there's no landlord to turn to now. It's all you. If you believe you're ready for the expense then contact a lender and get pre approved. Next, 

5) Contact Randy Bocook and start the fun part! There's tons of styles of homes, and different cultures of neighborhoods to look at. Finally, things to consider are: is the potential neighborhood you're looking at appreciating? Is the home big enough to grow with you and your family? How's the job market? And are you close to your favorite hot spots?
Once you find your dream home, unpack and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Real Estate - My Paid Passion - Google's Exception?

I write a lot about real estate not only because it’s my business but it’s my passion as well. I used to sell real estate and while and don’t really like the dynamics between real estate agents, the stress of homeowners or sellers and the amount of money I mistakenly gave away as a real estate agent, I do love to write about it and to market other real estate agents. In doing so it’s helped me learn a lot about SEO, online marketing, content marketing in writing as well as what Google likes and what they don’t like.

I’ve always try to stay above board and keep the highest level of integrity with what I write about and how I market it. I don’t like to spam people with post after post of nonsense but I do want to promote quality writing about information that I think someone would want to read. In my opinion, the whole point of writing something is so that someone will want to read it and the ultimate goal is to have them love it so much that they would want to share it or promote themselves. 

Google is looking for people that not only produce quality information but information that people are going to read, reread and share.

I write a lot of information about different parts of the country and even though I don’t live there I do take the time to research the most accurate information to provide my readers with regardless of who I’m writing for. Google recently has been discounting advertorials, a paid article with a link back to a website. Discounting is not necessarily penalizing but if they’re not counting it should we still be doing it? A lot of the information I put on this blog is localized information, real estate writing, or market reports for a variety of places all over the country. Google probably doesn’t know what to do with this blog since it’s not localized to one area or another. But, it is about real estate, real estate writing,  real estate SEO, and it’s for consumers and real estate agents alike. Whether someone’s looking for information on a certain event in a specific city or they want to learn how to write about real estate, I want to provide accurate information that I am passionate about and from my heart.

In doing this I promote a lot of my clients. I'll write information on local events for their area, talk about how great I think they are, or simply refer them as a good resource in a particular town or city. I honestly only work with people that I would enjoy doing business with. I have fired people before and I’ve refused to work with certain individuals because I don’t agree with the way they do business or how they treat people. So anything you find on my website, my blog or my social media is truth, accurate and is information from my heart.
I work with a lot of different real estate agents from a lot of different backgrounds all at different levels of online marketing. Some people like Joe Hayden in the Louisville Kentucky area who does all his own on-site blogging; He has a passion for the Louisville area and writes every single day about events, activities, market reports and neighborhoods. I have other people that prefer completely off-site marketing like Amanda Howard in Huntsville Alabama. She lets me focus on online marketing while her team and her focus on selling real estate in Huntsville.

So, Google, you’re looking for content that people are passionate about? Well, in my opinion, getting paid to do something you are passionate about is the irony and the exception to the rule of what you’re looking for. I get paid to write about real estate. I love it, I love learning about new places, and I love marketing other people and businesses. So will the links in this post get discounted? That’s the beauty of SEO - it’s all best guess anyway.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nanaimo August Events

Nanaimo August Events

Nanaimo has brought you great events this fabulous summer of 2013 so far. June's Dragon Boat Festival and July's Marine Festival and Bathtub Race were big hits as always. Hopefully, you were able to make it out to those events and if not, they're annual! So, mark your calendars for next year! However, summer is not yet over and Nanaimo events in August are here to prove it! Check out what's happening: 

Free Concerts in the Park every Sunday through August at Maffeo-Sutton Park at the Lions Band Shell. 

Cemetery Strolls every Thursday night you can enjoy a guided tour through the local cemetery and hear great stories from the locals. Contact the Nanaimo Museum for more information. 

Symphony in the Harbor is held every August with the Vancouver Island Symphony presenting a free outdoor concert in the new band shell located in Maffeo-Sutton Park.

Chowder Fest Cook Off  is an annual event held during the first week of August. Come experience the best bowl in Nanaimo!

Vancouver Island Exhibition is the third week in August. This fair started over 100 years ago and is now an annual event to advance the education of agriculture and to show case local farmers and 4-H clubs. There are some professionals showing at the fairs, but it's always the children that are really impressive. 

A hot bowl of local chowder and a scary stroll through the cemetery taking in the history of Nanaimo sounds like a pretty good day! If it sounds that way to you too, and you'd like more information on playing and living in Nanaimo, contact

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Columbus Ohio’s Short North district

Columbus Ohio’s Short North district named one of the best walkable neighborhoods in the US

MSN recently did a report on “your life into blocks”focusing on walkable neighborhoods that have Columbus Ohio’s Short North district got the honor of coming in fourth.

all the amenities and necessities one could want within two blocks of their home.

Short North is a neighborhood just North of downtown stretching from fifth Avenue down to the greater Columbus convention center and narrowly stretching from Pearl Street to Park Street which is only about three or four blocks wide.

This edgy and eclectic neighborhood offers galleries, restaurants, walking tours, museums and markets all within just a couple blocks of lofts, condominiums and townhomes. It centered on the main strip of high Street immediately North of downtown and extends just South of the Ohio State University campus. It’s heavily populated with specialty shops, pubs and nightclubs, trendy coffee houses and restaurants. Most of its tightly packed brick buildings date back to the early 20th century with lots of painted murals and brightly colored bricks. There’s old apartment buildings, rowhouses and newer condominiums or conversions built within these city blocks. There are 17 lighted metal archways extending across high Street throughout Short North reminiscent of the early 1900s.

Read more: Where should I live in Columbus?

Short North is home to Fourth of July parades, the Doo Dah Parade, and Highball Halloween which is a masquerade on high Street and fashion show gaining notoriety by an Expy Award. Each year this event puts on a different theme which increases in size and popularity.

There are a variety of homes and condominiums all up and down high Street ranging in price from $160,000 to $3.9 million for exquisite penthouse estates. Whether you’re looking for a one bedroom one bath loft over a high-end apartment overlooking the city, you are sure to find it in Short North.

How much are homes in Columbus?

Nestled between Italian Village and Victorian Village just minutes from downtown Columbus, the Short North district makes an easy walkable neighborhood for living, working and playing. [Source]

Ricotta and Chard Cannelloni with Walnuts

Homemade ricotta and Swiss chard cannelloni with smoked Gouda and Walnuts

This recipe is definitely a labor of love and if you have some time it’s worth it to prepare every step from scratch.
Ricotta Cheese:

1 Gallon of Milk – Preferably Whole Milk
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. lemon juice

First make the ricotta cheese; take a gallon of milk, preferably whole milk but I used what were on hand which three quarters of a gallon of nonfat milk and a half a pint of heavy cream. I mix them together in a heavy saucepan with a half a teaspoon of salt. Stir frequently so the milk does not burn to the bottom of the pan and when it is a full rolling boil add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of white vinegar. Turn the heat down to a medium low and simmer Intel the milk coagulates and turns into curds (2 to 3 minutes)

Take a big bowl with a strainer laid over the top covered in cheesecloth or a thin kitchen towel and slowly pour the hot milk and curds into the cloth lined strainer and tell all of the curds and whey have passed through. Let this sit while you make the other ingredients. The whey will seep through to the bottom bowl leaving about a cup and a half to 2 cups of fresh ricotta cheese.

Make the Pasta:
2 Cups Flour
2-3 Eggs
1 tsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. ice water (maybe)

Combine 2 cups of all-purpose or Italian (00) flour in a food processor with two large or three small eggs, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of good olive oil. Mix to combine and if the mixture is a little dry add a little bit of ice water and tell a dough forms and if it is too wet add a little more flour. Once dough has formed folded out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 2 to 3 minutes and tell a smooth dough ball has formed. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Make the Filling:
½ chopped onion
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. ground sage
1 tsp. ground oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
2 Cups chopped Rainbow Chard
½ Cup shredded smoked cheese
¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese

In a heavy skillet heat 1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil until shimmering and add one half of a large onion chopped. Sauté for two minutes until translucent and add three minced garlic cloves.  Once the garlic is fragrant add 1 teaspoon of ground sage, 1 teaspoon of ground oregano, a small batch of cayenne pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add 2 cups of chopped rainbow chard. Sauté until the chard is just tender. Take off the heat and set aside.

By now, the ricotta cheese has well-drained and most of the cheese will be solidified and you should be able to pick up the cloth and pour the cheese into the skillet with the vegetables. Add a half a cup of shredded smoked Gouda cheese or smoked Gruyere cheese and a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese. Mix to combine and set aside.

Take the pasta dough ball and cut into for manageable pieces. Flatten with your hands and press through a pasta roller, either mechanical or hand roller. This should be at a level 4 or slightly on the thinner side. Lay out onto a lightly floured work surface and out cut 6 inch sections on the sheet of pasta. Place a third of a cup of filling in the center of each pasta sheet using your fingers to form a line of filling. Starting at one in carefully roll into a cannelloni shape and place into an oiled baking dish. Finish with the remaining pasta sheets and selling and tell the baking dish is full.

Make the Sauce:
3 tsp. butter
3 tsp. flour
Pinch of Nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
3 Cups milk
2 ½ cups of Shredded Gruyere or Gouda Cheese

To make the cheese sauce, take 3 tablespoons of butter in a small stove top pan and when melted, add 3 tablespoons of flour. Using whisk to combine and cook for one minute. Pour in 3 cups of milk and whisk to combine. Cook and tell the mixture is slightly thickened and add a good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. Once the mixture is thick add in 2 cups of the shredded smoked cheese. Stir until melted and pour over cannelloni’s. Top with remaining half a cup of cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes until golden and bubbly.

Once baked, let it rest 5 minutes and then serve with a good helping of chopped walnuts sprinkled on every serving. image: By Alpha from Melbourne, Australia [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a great dish even the next day!