Persistence vs. Insanity

by Robert Kunisch 13. March 2015

Team Synergy Presents Their Case Solution

The difference between winning and losing business is often boiled down to basis points. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1%. To quantify it further, for every $10,000 we lend, we generate $1.00 in revenue for each basis point in interest we charge for a loan. Why does this matter, you ask? Because that is exactly how close Towson University’s “The Associate” competition is between teams Eminence and Synergy. In terms of basis points, the difference between the two teams is inconsequential and almost unmeasurable.

The score board tells a different story with team Synergy leading by a score of 3-0, but anyone who has observed the last three weeks of the competition could easily make the case that Team Eminence should be leading 3-0. This week’s challenge to produce a television ad for Merritt Athletic Clubs promoting zero enrollment fees and a family community lifestyle at their gyms left everyone in awe at the final product developed by the competing teams. In the end, the client, Merritt Athletic Clubs, picked the case presented by Synergy. It was a razor thin loss for team Eminence by mere basis points.

So what’s the takeaway? Sometimes in business you have a better proposal, a lower bid, a superior product, better customer service… and you still end up losing the business. When this happens – and it will – pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward. I was rejected by over 150 potential investors before I was able to raise $110 million to recapitalize 1st Mariner Bank. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. "Insane" was one of the kinder words people used to describe the likelihood of recapitalizing the bank.

Every time I was told that I was insane, I responded that I was persistent. Persistence is defined as firm continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. I guess Albert Einstein would say that there is a mere basis point difference between insanity and persistence.

Team Eminence will have to pick themselves up after last night and remain persistent in their pursuit of convincing Cintas (next week’s presenting company) that they have the best proposal to resolve Cintas’s case. Synergy can continue to bask in the glory of their 3-0 record, but a word of advice: it’s fun when you’re on top, but remember, there is always someone below you who wants to knock you down (a blog for another day).

Congratulations to both teams on another outstanding week.

See Also:

I Fired a Woman Yesterday

The Lesson I Learned from "The Associate" Week 2

3 Ways to Get Government Help with Buying a New Home

by Virginia McGuire 12. March 2015

Shopping for Homes

Many people think government assistance is only for the lower income borrower. But there are several ways average Americans can get help buying a home – if they meet the requirements.

If you qualify for a government-backed mortgage because of your military service, your geographic location or your income, you might get surprisingly good terms. In many cases it’s a better deal than taking out a conventional mortgage, which isn’t backed by the federal government.

Let’s look at some of the options.

Federal Housing Administration loans

FHA loans are designed to help first-time homebuyers, including those with higher incomes, and people without significant funds available for a down payment. Borrowers must meet certain criteria, like having enough income to cover payments on their debts as well as presumed daily expenses.

FHA loans provide many benefits, but there is a catch. Borrowers buying single-family homes must pay costly mortgage insurance with FHA loans, although the initial premium can be included in the loan amount. Denise DeCarolis, Operations Manager at VAMortgage.com, a division of 1st Mariner Bank, says there’s an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75% of the base loan amount. An additional .80 to .85% of what you still owe each year is paid in monthly installments for the life of a 30-year loan. For loans of as much as $625,500, FHA’s current ceiling in most areas, annual fees can be as high as 1.05%.

In spite of insurance costs, FHA loans can be a good choice. For one thing, the agency is "a lot more lenient" in terms of borrower requirements than those that must be met to qualify for most conventional loans, according to DeCarolis.

Department of Veterans Affairs loans

Veterans and some spouses and widows can qualify for a VA loan. No down payment is required if the mortgage is below the loan limits for the county. If the seller pays closing costs, DeCarolis says, it’s possible for a veteran to become a homeowner without putting a single dollar into the transaction. In addition, borrowers don’t have to pay mortgage insurance the way they would with an FHA loan.

“If you’re a veteran, this is the best loan,” says DeCarolis. “The VA is truly looking out for the borrower, the veteran.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture loans

USDA loans are designed to help people with lower incomes buy property in rural areas, and DeCarolis says many borrowers are surprised that their geographic location is classified that way. Buyers must meet income requirements, which vary based on location. Like VA loans, USDA loans don’t require a down payment. “It’s really a good deal,” DeCarolis says.

USDA loans require mortgage insurance. The upfront insurance premium is 2% of the loan amount when you buy the house, but the monthly insurance premiums add up to only 0.5% of what’s owed on the loan over the course of a year. That’s less than a third of similar costs for an FHA loan.

For many buyers, government-backed loans let them purchase homes much more quickly than they would be able to if they had to come up with the larger down payments required for most conventional loans. For borrowers who qualify, it’s worth asking a lender if a mortgage backed by the FHA, VA or USDA is your best bet.

Virginia C. McGuire is a Philadelphia-based writer who covers banking and health for NerdWallet.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

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Quick Tips for Staging Your Home to Sell

by Sara Seeger 10. March 2015

Staging Your Home

There are a number of attributes that can help a house sell, such as location, updates, size, and proximity to renowned schools, just to name a few. However, you have little to no control over many of these things when you go to sell your home. What you can control is how your house looks when it's on the market. Once you place your house on the market, you are ultimately selling a product, so it is important that your product looks and feels as appealing and comfortable as possible. Here are five quick staging tips when selling your house.

1. Make It Comfortable

Forget about sterile white walls and bare rooms, an empty house can make it hard for someone to visualize themselves living there. It also doesn’t help for pictures on an online listing when trying to draw buyers to your property. Empty rooms can appear “cold” and smaller than their actual size. Paint your walls a warm, neutral color and add furniture that makes the home feel comfortable.

2. Enhance Unique Attributes

Remember the saying, “less is more.” Try not to crowd furniture in corners of the rooms or in places that don’t make sense. Instead, accentuate your home's characteristics by decorating around them. You can even arrange furniture to downplay negative characteristics of the home.

3. Let the Sun Shine

Natural light can greatly improve the look and feel of your home. When staging your home, open your blinds and pull back your curtains.

4. Remove Personal Items

The easiest thing to do when staging a home is to remove all personal items. This includes family photos, personal items in the bathroom or bedroom, papers, etc. These can be distracting to a buyer and may not allow them to connect with the house. If you are still living in the house, consider placing your personal items in a decorative basket or cabinet while showings are happening.

5. Clean Up

No one wants to walk through a dirty or cluttered house. Remove any clutter (ahem, garages anyone?) by consolidating and putting storage bins in cabinets or on shelves. If you have a lot of storage items, consider renting a storage unit. They are fairly inexpensive and if they will allow your home to be less cluttered and potentially sell faster, it may be worth it. Also, make an effort to clean the house before staging photos are taken and always tidy up before a showing.

These are just a few quick and inexpensive ways to stage your home to sell. There are many other things a seller can do to make their home shine. Have you ever staged a house to sell? How did you prepare to get your home ready to sell?

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

5 Inexpensive Ways to Improve the Look of Your Home

Importance of a Home Inspection

5 Home Improvements That Add Value



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