Archive for July, 2013

How to Select a great bottle of Wine!

July 26, 2013
Don't get discouraged, even you can select a great bottle of wine with little effort!

Don’t get discouraged, even you can select a great bottle of wine with little effort!

You may think it strange that I will write about purchasing wine on a real estate blog, but sometimes I get tired of simply writing about real estate and want to mix it up. As a passionate wine consumer, I have a few ideas about purchasing wine and as one who has well over 200 bottles in my cellar, I have learned a few things about purchasing wine. Most of the wines that I purchased using some of these concepts have been winners. It has only been when we purchased wine without fully understanding that wine or grape variety, have we made some poor purchases that made for bad wine experiences.

Before I get into it too much, I want to encourage each of you to expand your horizon and experience varietals that you may not know. There are about 8-10 well-known types of grapes, but there are literally thousands of different grapes though not all are made into wines. If I hadn’t taken the time to understand some of these different varietals, I would never have experienced the Carmenere grape, which has become one of my favorite varieties. With over 60 different varietals in my wine cellar, I can attest that there’s more to wine than a simple Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Zinfandel. Try new varieties and you may be surprised.

You do not have to be an expert to enjoy and purchase great wines and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Twenty years ago, you may would have to pay for good quality wines, but today, there are many more great producers of wines that are also cost-effective. Of all of my wines, I only have a handful that are considered costly by my standards. I actually prefer not to spend too much for a bottle of wine. As a frugal individual, it is hard for me to open an expensive bottle of wine as you can only enjoy it once.

The most important suggestion I could give you would be to ask an expert. As I wouldn’t recommend you purchase a house without the assistance of an expert, you shouldn’t purchase a bottle of wine without the aid of an expert. This is especially true if you are in a wine store. The sales associates taste and learn about the wines they have in stock and can be very helpful. Since there is no one producer that dominates the market share, it is nearly impossible for an individual novice to know about all of these wines. Don’t think you are less of a connoisseur if you need to ask for help. Many of the bottles in my cellar made their way there because an expert recommended it to me. Be wary of those experts who point you to the highest priced wines. They may not be as knowledgeable as they may seem. Give them your price range and the features you want in that wine and they can help you select the right bottle for a memorable evening.

The next suggestion would be to pay attention to what you taste. Of course, this is easier said than done. Unless you take professional classes and have tasted hundreds of wines, it is difficult to fully understand what you are tasting. The key is to be able to pick out a note that you can identify and help you with future selections. For example, I sometimes like a little pepper on the finish, so I would look for a Shiraz or a Zinfandel. Of course, you have to realize that the soil and temperature of vineyard makes a difference in the finish. For example, a Zinfandel grown in cooler regions will be more fruity with hints of raspberry where warmer climates will produce a Zin that has more of a blackberry, anise and pepper notes. You are not expected to know all of this, but it is a good idea to understand what you taste and what appeals to you. From there, you can find a wine that works for you.

Another suggestion would be to trust your own palate. My wife and I have very different ideas of what makes for a great wine as our palates are much different. I cut my teeth on the sweeter wines such as Riesling, but my palate has grown to the point where I predominantly drink red wines today. My wife is a huge fan of un-oaked Chardonnay. She has learned that she doesn’t like much oak, so she shops for the un-oaked. In a restaurant, we look for French Chardonnay as they are typically fermented in steel casts. A little bit of knowledge has helped her find what she is looking for in nearly any restaurant or bar. Compared to my increasing knowledge of wines, she knows very little about wines, but she knows what she likes and has embraced it. On a side note, don’t be too concerned about parings your wine with your meal. Today, this is a little overrated and served only to keep the wine experts in business.

Don’t be too loyal to a particular wine producer or variety. With the countless number of producers and varieties that are out there, you are doing yourself and your palate a disservice if you are too loyal to a particular wine. This is one reason I have over 60 varieties in my cellar and I rarely purchase a case of a specific wine. I am not loyal in the least and will try many different wines. It is due to this effort that I have become more aware of the differences between a Merlot and a Pinot Noir. I have tasted several offerings of each and enjoy each in its own time. If I am not in the mood for a heavy wine, I will typically choose a Merlot, but if I want a robust drink with lengthy tannins, I will choose a Pinot Noir or a Shiraz. Life is too short…try new wines!

Finally, I would suggest you read. If you are like me, I don’t have the time to read all of the magazines and articles from wine snobs who pontificate on certain wines. I don’t expect you do to it unless you have the time and the inclination to do it. I would suggest that you find a source that you can trust and use when purchasing a wine. As many of you know, I have an I-Pad and rarely am without it. I have several applications on it that I use to research a specific wine to help me make a better decision. If you have a SmartPhone, you will be able to download a similar app that can be of assistance to you.

The key is to have fun with it and don’t take it too serious. We are not talking about life and death and any poor decision can easily be rectified. Make sure you are enjoying your wine because that is the reason we drink it.

I hope you enjoyed my two cents worth on purchasing wines. If you want to learn more from true experts (I am not an expert), there are many ways to find out keys to purchasing and enjoying good wines on the Internet. The app I use the most is It is associated with the website, If you have a collection of wines, I would encourage you to visit this site as it allows you to keep tabs on what wines you have in your cellar. I use it and with my tablet, I have access to the contents of my wine cellar where ever I go.

Easy ways to Update your kitchen at little cost

July 12, 2013
Low cost kitchen updates can help you sell your home!

Low cost kitchen updates can help you sell your home!

One of the major features that homebuyers look at when inspecting potential homes for purchase is the kitchen. As you may know, kitchen renovations can be very costly and you will only see a portion return on investment when you sell. Many agents will say that a renovated kitchen or bath will result in a higher return on investment, but in reality, it is hard to put a number on it as there are so many different factors that play a major role in the price your home will get. For instance, the neighborhood plays a huge role in the price. As the old saying in real estate, “Location, Location, and LOCATION”.

One thing I always recommend to my sellers is to keep your updates in line with your neighborhood if you hope to see any return on your investment. Otherwise, you will simply sell quicker, but not necessarily for more money. For instance, if your home is in a lower end town home community where the average price is less than $150,000, you may not want to go to the expense of placing granite counter tops in your home. Buyers in that price point are not counting on having granite so your impact will be limited. For example, my wife sold her pre-marital town house, which was priced around the $120,000. Her house did not have granite, but rather a laminate counter top. We did touch up the paint and replaced the aging carpet. At the other end of her building, which was further away from the parking lot, had granite counter tops. It also had bright red and blue colored walls. My wife’s house sold before her competition, for more money and in fact, the buyer of that home had scheduled to see her town house, but she had gone under contract prior to them seeing the home. I know the agent personally and she mentioned to me that her buyers wanted to buy our house, but had to settle for that one.

The theme is keep your upgrades in line with your competition. In the Raleigh market, pools do not get the same value as they would in other parts of the country such as south Florida. You don’t want to over update to see the value. It could assist you in selling quicker than the competition. For instance, I had a town house listing where the sellers had purchased a very nice refrigerator that was much nicer than all of the competition. Even though we did not sell for much more money, we sold quicker because the buyers saw an added value in the refrigerator. With everything being equal, these items can ensure you get sold quicker.

Now for the easy, low-cost updates. These are easy, do-it yourself projects that can pay huge dividends if you are trying to sell your home. Remember, it is not how much you spend, but how you spend your money that will make the largest contributions to your ability to sell your house quickly and for the most amount of money.


This is a no-brainer and can make the kitchen appear modern. A fresh coat of paint on the walls will make everything look better. Depending on your market and the overall decor of the house, you can even consider painting the cabinets. This can give your kitchen a more modern look. The caution here is it may turn off some of the more traditional buyers who are turned off by the modern look.


Great lighting can make all the difference in a kitchen. A dark kitchen will almost never sell a house. Under the counter lighting can add illumination and definition to your space. Select your lighting carefully. It is not always the most energy-efficient lighting that will give you the best impact. Consider the impact the lighting will have when selecting the right light source. Strip light or puck lights can do wonders to your space.


An organized kitchen can do wonders for the sale of your home. You can buy some for both the pantry/cabinets as well as for the counter top. Often times, a kitchen will have a corner that is not very usable space. A great organizer can optimize this space and show your potential buyers the advantages of this space. My wife has placed a simple stand shelf organizer to our kitchen and it doubles the space. We have some items below this shelf while placing smaller items such as spices on the shelf. It optimizes the space and for little cost. The larger, more spacious a room looks, the better it is for that potential buyer.


Modifying the flooring can be expensive and not an easy do-it yourself. Cutting tile or laminate is a more exact science and I would recommend expertise when installing some of these flooring options. Depending on your current floor and its condition, a simple approach can be to utilize area rugs or carpet runners. It will give your kitchen a new look and make it stand out. The key when selling is to make your home stand out, but not be so unique that the pool of potential buyers will be minimal. A simple carpet runner can segregate the space and make it memorable.


Simply rearranging the kitchen to make it more usable is a very low-cost way to revitalize your kitchen. If you have an eat-in kitchen, rearranging the table and chairs can open up the space. The key is eye-flow when arranging the space. Use your imagination how to open the space and make it appear more open.

As a non-professional decorator, these are some simple ways to make your kitchen appear more modern and up-to-date. Use your imagination and seek professional help. You do not have to hire a professional, but simply reading some of the decorating magazines can give you some great ideas.

Whenever you sell your home remember, you are responsible for the product (house) and the agent is responsible for the marketing.

Independence Day! A Celebration of the World’s Greatest Experiment!

July 2, 2013
Artist John Trumbull was commissioned in 1817 to paint this portrait.

Artist John Trumbull was commissioned in 1817 to paint this portrait.

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, forming the United States. As we know, it began a long and hard war against the British to ensure that we would have the freedoms we enjoy today. We all know the story and I will not attempt to give a history lesson. But we must remember the sacrifices and struggles that our founding fathers endured to ensure that this “great experiment” was a success.

I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” Thomas Jefferson

As we approach the 237th anniversary of our Independence as a nation, we must look back before we can look forward. Our nation is at a crossroads and without being too political in  my commentary, the people must stand up and be counted. For too many years, Americans have sat on the sidelines and busied themselves with their work and failed to be informed as to the progression of our nation into something that the founding fathers would never have recognized. In fact, many of the things happening in our nation today, our founding fathers have predicted. As Jefferson wrote, “If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.”.

As we approach this year’s birthday celebration of our nation, I would encourage you to study your history. The public schools have done a very poor job of teaching the population what it means to be a Free People and to cherish the Liberties that men like Washington, Jefferson and Adams fought to bravely to us. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered for their actions that blistering summer day when they penned their names to this document that would forever change this nation and in effect, the world.

Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home and had been using it as his headquarters. Nelson urged Washington to fire upon his home and it was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and property destroyed. His wife was arrested and jailed. She died just a few months later.

John Hart was driven from the bedside of his dying wife. His 13 children scattered and fled for their lives. His property was destroyed and he spent more than a year living in forest and caves. Once he returned to his home, he found his wife dead and his children missing. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

These were just a few of the stories of the effects of signing this document. We hear about the successes of Adams and Jefferson as they eventually became presidents, but a large portion of the original signers suffered immeasurable for their bravery against a tyrannical king.

“I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means. This is our day of deliverance.” John Adams

Despite it all, they made it work and fought valiantly to birth a nation that would one day became the ‘beacon of hope’ to a lost world. If this nation ever gets to the point where people do not want to immigrate to it for a better life, then it will be the beginning of the end for our great nation. In the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin,  “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”. We must collectively work together to keep our nation free and independent.

When you grill your hamburgers and hotdogs this Thursday, take a moment to remember the sacrifices of those who have given you a nation such as this one. I have travelled to other countries where they were not as fortunate. God surely, has his hand on our nation. Are we going to knock His hand off?