Tag Archives: phil hardwick

September 2019 Update

Greetings from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We have settled into our new home and are getting more involved in our community and family. Looking forward to leaf-peeping season.

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Autumn is getting closer, and that means apples in north Georgia. There are plenty of orchards that allow visitors to pick their own. Check out this apple-picking article.

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North Georgia is also becoming known for its vineyards. What? Georgia wine? It’s not NAPA, but it’s pretty good. Two of our favorite wineries are Montaluce, near Dahlonega, and Engelheim Vineyards, near Ellijay. At Montaluce, you’ll feel like you’re in Tuscany. Upscale dining overlooking the vineyard. A couple of years ago at a wine tasting in Dahlonega, we met Gary Engel. He’s a retired US Army Colonel who decided to purchase the land that is now known as Engelheim (German for “Angel Home”) in 2007. The Engel family planted their first vines in 2009 and harvested their first vintage in 2011; Engelheim Vineyards has been going strong ever since.

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By the way, If you like mysteries set in wine country, you’ll enjoy Ellen Crosby’s books.

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Know anyone who wants to be a flight attendant? Delta Air Lines announced that it plans to hire 1,000 new flight attendants in 2020. Last time it made such an announcement it received over 35,000 video applications. 

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I’m toying with the idea of producing an audio version of Justice in Jackson, the second book in the Mississippi Mysteries Series. As I reread my work, I was surprised to find that many of the well-known places mentioned in the book in 1997 were no longer there or have substantially changed. Here are a dozen places that meet that description: Deposit Guaranty Bank/Plaza, the University Club, the IOF Building, the Edison Walthall Hotel, the Harvey Hotel, the Landmark Center, the Subway Lounge/Summers Hotel, Frank’s World Famous Biscuits, the King Edward Hotel, Olde Thyme Delicatessen, Dennery’s Restaurant, and the “Welcome to Mississippi” highway sign.How many of your community’s icons have gone away?

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How much is a business worth? In a recent column, I examine a few different methods of valuing an ongoing business. Before doing so, allow me to share a personal story. It’s about my grandfather. 

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REMINDER: feel free to share and refer others who might want to receive these updates. Have them email phil@philhardwick.com and enter SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. I do not share my email list.

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The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.Vince Lombardi

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Until next time,
Phil

2019 July/August Update

Phil Hardwick
2019 July/August UPDATE

Carol and I are now ensconced in our new home in north Georgia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Movers unloaded our household two weeks ago. By day, we are still unpacking. By evening, we are trying out restaurants in the area. We are excited about our new stage in life, especially being close to our four grandchildren.

Speaking of moving, the 2018 Migration Report by North American Van Lines  reveals that Idaho, Arizona, South Carolina, and Tennessee led the nation in the Inbound category, while Illinois, California and New Jersey topped the Outbound list. 

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Selling our house in Jackson, which we lived in for 26 years, was an overall positive experience. It was on the market only five days after we listed it with Dale Cook of Nix-Tann Realtors. Kudos to Dale and to Jenny Price of Neighbor House, who represented the buyer. True professionals.

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I have one movie poster in my new home office for inspiration for my writing of mysteries.It’s “A Touch of Evil,” starring Charlton Heston, Orson Wells, and Janet Leigh. It’s autographed by Janet Leigh. Carol and I had the honor and pleasure of being her escort when she visited Jackson, Mississippi several years ago as part of a Smithsonian project. A gracious lady. She will probably be remembered most for the shower scene in the movie “Psycho.”

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My website, www.philhardwick.com has a description of every book in the Mississippi Mysteries series. Someone asked me about my favorite murder weapon. It’s not a gun or a knife. It’s a common over-the-counter medication that a wife used to kill her husband. She put it into his banana pudding. More can be found in Conspiracy in Corinth. Oh yes, the medication is Acetaminophen.

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It’s the height of the political season in Mississippi. Did you know that I once ran for public office? Read about the eight things I learned from that experience in my Mississippi Business Journal column.

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As a writer, it is often enlightening and frustrating to break old habits when it comes to the ever-changing rules of the English language. For example, I always remembered that “start” referred to things, such as engines, cars, motors, etc. and that “begin” is about non-mechanical things such as sentences, projects, ideas, etc. Nowadays, start is the new begin. And then there are the pronouns. Gender neutrality and how one feels inside themselves rather than how they were born. Him and himself are definitely out. So is her. It’s now about gender-neutral pronouns. Hmmm.  Imagine what it must be like for students who are learning English as a second language. If you’d like to see a clever three-and-a-half-minute video about pronouns and the current state of confusion, check out  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzNGkwGYE4E.  

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Our grandson’s elementary school is going to use Franklin Covey’s The Leader in Me. The program… “teaches 21st-century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader.” First heard about it from Christi Kilroy with the Vicksburg Warren School District, which was one of the first schools in the country to use the program. 

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More than 9,300 people attended this year’s Mississippi Book Festival. This represents record attendance for the five-year-old festival and is an increase of 22 percent from last year.

According to Holly Lange, Festival Executive Director, “More than 245 authors participated in Saturday’s festival, including 170 on 48 official panels and another 75 authors meeting the public in Author’s Alley. I nominate Holly Lange for Mississippian of the Year.

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Finally, why do I prefer an email distribution list? Why not just connect with people on social media?

There are many reasons, but the most important is, I own my list. Also, I do not share your name and email address. 

Your Facebook Page is not owned by you.
Your Twitter account is not owned by you.
Your YouTube account is not owned by you.
Your Pinterest followers aren’t owned by you.
Your Instagram followers aren’t owned by you.

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LOOKING AHEAD – Novel writing software review

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SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

When making plans, think big.
When making progress, think small.

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Until next month,

Phil

The Importance of Design

(Mississippi Business Journal online edition)

June 14, 2019

What do the television shows Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, Masters of Flip and Fixer Upper have in common?

Answer: They are the most watched home decorator shows of all time.

Watch any of those shows, or any similar shows on television, and you’re likely to hear the term “design” used quite a bit. Design, which is the process of creating something based on a plan, is becoming an in-thing.  It’s about time.  What was once available to only those who could afford architects has now come to us mortal souls.

There is no longer any doubt about it.  Design, has finally become regarded as the important aspect of life that it is.  I know this because CBS Sunday Morning, my favorite television program, has had an annual design show each year for the past few years.  I also know this because schools of design are popping up all over the place.  In most cases, these schools are tied in with a school of art or architecture.

Good design can sometimes be so subtle it’s hardly noticed.  When traffic flows smoothly, for example, it is taken for granted.  But let the merge lane be too short or the signage too confusing, and bad design is evident in all its ugly glory.  Traffic circles are a good example.  If they work, then it is good design; if they do not, then it is a bad design.

Although design is ubiquitous, it is in our homes where we can really appreciate it, perhaps because we spend so much time there.  I live in a house that was built in 1959.  It was designed for 1959.  It has a formal living room, for example.  It also has a hot water at the opposite end of the house from the bathrooms.  I have not done anything about having to wait an extra minute for hot water in the bathroom, but the formal living room has been opened up by removing most of a wall and installing a new countertop and bar.  Houses are good examples of the effect on design and vice versa because our living spaces seem to be constantly evolving.  Master bedrooms are huge in most new houses, and master bathrooms nowadays have become something that the Roman rulers would be envious of.

Interior design is all the rage these days.  In case you have not noticed, just turn on the television and see how many so-called makeover programs are on the schedule.  And let us not forget feng shui.  Feng means wind, and Shui means water in Chinese. The two things affect the weather and weather affects our energy.  Thus, where a house is located and the direction it faces can impact our rhythm and energy. If the house is in alignment or in rhythm with the landscape, a good healthy life force is created. Consultants are now available to design a house using these principles.

Design continually affects the devices and appliances we use in our houses.  From vacuum cleaners to washers and dryers, there seems to be a constant redesign to make things better or maybe more in tune with the times.  Even dust rags and paper towels are part of the process.  There is now a plastic tub of Clorox cleaning rags for the counter and something called Swifters for those hard to get to places where dust hides.

One wonders whether older was better.  Seaside, Florida has a motto that reads, “The New Town. The Old Ways.”  New urbanism is about designing communities to be walkable and diverse.  Indeed the charter of charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism states in part, “…urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.”

Design principles, especially residential ones,  have even become universal.  I know that because I discovered the Universal Design Project. Its website, universaldesign.org, states that  America has a housing problem. It also offers a solution, as follows: 

“There aren’t enough universally accessible options. We envision a world where everyone has a functional and affordable place to live. But before that can happen, those places have to be designed.”  The solution is to facilitate collaboration between design professionals (e.g., residential architects, interior designers), health professionals (e.g. occupational therapists, rehabilitation engineers, environmental gerontologists), and our advisory group of individuals who have life experience with disability. The purpose of doing so is to include all the necessary perspectives in discussions about design decisions.”

Perhaps it is time we appreciate and understand more the role that design plays in our lives and the contributions of designers, whether they be architects, engineers, artists or others.

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11 Things I’ve Learned About Economic Development

11 Things I’ve Learned about Economic Development

During my still active career in economic and community development, I’ve learned quite a few things. Some, but not all, are listed below. These are just the first ones that came to mind. 

1. Economic development is all about jobs.Even though the textbook definition of the term is, “… the process of increasing the economic wealth of a community,” almost all economic developers see their role as doing that by creating, increasing and retaining jobs. The press releases and the websites tout number of jobs created more than just about anything else. That’s because jobs, especially good paying jobs drive most economies. A job not only brings money to a community, but it also provides self-worth and security to individuals. 

2. Communities and organizations are perfectly structured for the outcomes they are getting. Many community leaders seem to be waiting for something to happen to their communities before making adjustments. For example, they hope that the state will bring a project or that some company will discover them. If that’s true, then nothing is going to change unless the structures are changed. That could mean a change in leadership, procedure or organization. Something that is very difficult to do because it often means that someone has to give up something.

3. Leadership really matters.Indeed, it seems to be the one thing that differentiates the communities that thrive versus those that do not.

4. Accountability is one of the keys to economic development success.  I have facilitated dozens of strategic planning retreats. Often, I go back to the organization six months or a year later and ask about the outcomes. What I usually found is that almost all the goals were achieved or very few or none were achieved. Why such a big difference? What I discovered is that the goals that were most often achieved were the ones where someone was held accountable. 

5. Measuring things is very important.The six Total Quality Management concepts are customer focus, leadership, teamwork, continuous improvement, measurement and benchmarking. Although each is important, it begins with measurement. If economic development is the process of increasing the wealth of a community then wealth should be measured. But which wealth metrics?  Employment statistics, sales tax collections and property values are just three things that should be measured. Assessed valuation of real property can be tricky to measure if there’s a lot of off-the-books property such as government and other exempt real estate. I recommend the model used by the Commission on the future of Northeast Mississippi.  Each year the 17 counties in the region meet to share a variety of measurements. “These findings are used to produce the annual State of the Region report and to set annual goals to measure our successes,” states their purpose.

6. Successful economic developers know that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. Have you noticed that at those groundbreaking ceremonies it is the economic developers who are in the background? Good economic developers know that they are facilitators of the process and that others, usually elected officials, who have a critical role.

7. Partnerships and collaboration are essential.Just take a look at any successful economic development project.

8. Economic development is long-term and incremental. There are no magic bullets. 

9. It’s a lot about location, location, location.Did you know that over half of all jobs in Mississippi are in only 11 counties? According to the October 2018 Mississippi Department of Employment Security Labor Market Report, there were 1,219,300 persons employed in the state. Divide that by two and the result is 609,650. If one then adds the number of jobs in each county beginning with the county with the most jobs (Hinds – 105,990, when the 11th county (Lafayette – 26,820) is added the result is 611,840. By the way, some of my heroes in economic development are those who work in poor, lowly populated counties that have very little chance of ever landing a big project. In one sense, they do more with what they have than others in urban areas where interstate highways intersect. 

10. Connections are important. Successful economic developers go to conferences and events. They know each other, they know site selectors and they stay up-to-date on everything related to their profession.

11. Successful communities visit other cities and regions to see how it can be done. Taking a group of business and community leaders to a successful city or region can be inspirational and provide a good roadmap for the future. Unfortunately, one mistake that some make is to attempt to recreate the other city instead of using their own unique asset.

REFLECTIONS ON FIVE DAYS IN ICELAND

REFLECTIONS ON FIVE DAYS IN ICELAND

Our plane landed on schedule at Iceland’s modern Keflavik International Airport. It was in early afternoon on a midsummer’s day. The weather was cloudy; the temperature in the upper 50’s. Unlike most countries my wife and I have visited there was no customs check-in. We simply picked up or bags and caught our pre-arranged bus to downtown Reykjavik, which is some 39 miles away. We had arrived at a place that has become the darling of international travel. Because of Iceland’s current image as a travel destination my wife and I tacked it on to a recent international trip. What we found was a fascinating landscape, a rapidly evolving capital city, friendly people and expensive food and lodging. Let’s begin with some background information about the country.

Iceland is hot.

Its economy is on the upswing, tourism is increasing, population is growing and its people are happy. All these changes are combining to change the perception of the country and to make it the latest “in” place to visit. And of course, being a volcanic island it is also literally hot.

Nevertheless, all things are not rosy. There is some worry that the economy is overheating and that there is a doctor shortage. Also, being a small country, it is subject to a lot of volatility in more ways than one. Consequently, a concern 10 years ago may not be a concern today, and vice-versa. When doing Internet research, it is wise to look at the date of the article.

Iceland’s economy is growing. Its current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is $24 billion, up 7.5% over 2016. That was helped by low oil prices and high fish prices in international markets. By contrast, Mississippi’s 2017 GDP was $96.82 billion. Tourism has taken over seafood as the major driver of Iceland’s economy. One estimate has it contributing to just over 50% of GDP growth. Visitors spent a total of $4.68 billion on accommodations, tours, meals, and transportation associated with domestic travel in 2017. According to the Icelandic Tourism Board, in 2010 the number of visitors was 488,600. In 2016, that climbed to 1,792,000, which is an annual growth rate during that period of 24.4%.

Iceland’s population grew by 10,101 in 2017, according to a new report from Statistics Iceland. The total population on January 1st, 2018 was 348,450, a 3.0 % increase from the previous year. The highest rate of population growth was in the Reykjavik peninsula, which grew by 1,777 people or 7.4 %. The Reykjavík capital region experienced a population growth of 2.6 % (5,606 persons). No regions of the country experienced population decline.

Now that I’ve set the stage, allow me to share a bit of travelogue from that recent visit to Iceland. Some things you need to know before heading o to Iceland. First, you will most certainly land in Keflavik Airport. Transportation to downtown varies widely. Costs can range from free hotel shuttle to $120 for a taxi. We took the Flybus for $48, and it took us to within a block and a half from the AirBnb apartment we rented. Decent hotels run from $200 and up per night. Restaurants are also expensive. Expect to pay $30 and up for a meal. A beer will cost you around $10.

When taking my first shower in our apartment I noticed a slightly funny smell when I turned on the hot water faucet. Sort of like a sulfuric odor. Turns out that the hot water is provided by geothermal heating, which meets the requirements of 87 % of all buildings in Iceland. It also has a slight amount of hydrogen sulfide. But don’t worry, a person does not smell like sulfur after taking a shower or bath.

The cold water faucet is a different story. It supplies cold water, which is among the coldest and purest in the world. No need to buy bottled water in Iceland.

Without a doubt, every visitor to Iceland should take what is known as the Golden Circle Tour, which is a 190 mile route to three or four of the most unique places on the planet. My favorite three were Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss waterfall and the Geyser geothermal area. We took the day-long tour in a minibus with eight other people. Cost was $88 per person.

Thingvellir National Park is the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are drifting apart at an average of one inch per year. Absolutely fascinating. Expect to see lots of tourists and sightseers there and all the other Golden Circle stops. Nearby is the largest lake in Iceland. Also nearby is the site of the first national parliament of Iceland, which was established at the site in 930 AD, making it the oldest Parliament in the world.

There are over 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland, but Gullfoss is probably the most famous because of its beauty, power and accessibility. It is fed by Iceland´s second biggest glacier, the Langjökull.

The Geysir geothermal area is where one can hear the bubbling of the mud pots, smell the sulfur in the air and watch in awe as the geyser Strokkur blasts boiling water into the air.

Many Golden Circle tour operators also include the famous Blue Lagoon or the Secret Lagoon.

What I have described is in the southern part of Iceland. The northern part is where the landscape is so rugged and glacial that is the scene of many movies that depict other worlds. The Star Wars Sagas and HBO’s Game of Thrones are among many movies and television shows that have been filmed in Iceland.

I could go on, but I’m out of space. I’ll close with what I suspect is a misconception about Iceland. The other day I heard someone say that businesses were moving out of Iceland, that taxes were high and that it was so depressing there that it had the highest suicide rate in the world. Only one of those comments is true. Taxes are high. With an income tax of around 35 % and a value added tax of 15 % on many goods, the rate could get to 50 %. However, there is free medical care and free education, among other things. Now about that suicide rate. Iceland’s suicide rate comes in at number 65 on the World Health Organization rankings, while the United States ranks 48th.

Finally, the 2017 U.N. World Happiness Report ranks Iceland as the fourth happiest country in the world, and the 2018 Global Peace Index ranks Iceland as the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008.

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Characteristics of Great Streets

Depending on the perspective, there are good streets and not-so-good streets.  And then there are great streets.  This writer has a bias toward streets that are canopied. In Mississippi, that means streets that have treetops over them. Some streets in Ocean Springs, Jackson and Laurel come to mind. This column is about great streets as defined by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), an organization whose stated purpose is to help people create and sustain public places that build community.

A street is generally defined as a public thoroughfare, usually paved, in a village or town, and usually includes adjacent sidewalks and buildings.  A street is different from a highway, which is defined as a roadway between two towns.  PPS sees streets as places.   Although the organization is obviously urban-oriented, as one can readily deduce from viewing its Web site at http://www.pps.org, my guess is that it would embrace the courthouse square of the South as a great place.  The reason is that the classic courthouse square scene is the place that brings the community together.  It is there that political rallies, arts and crafts sales and a variety of public events are held, all wrapped with commercial storefronts.

From this writer’s perspective a good street is one that achieves its purpose.  If a street is conceived as built as a major traffic artery, then it will probably have multiple lanes and limited access.  These type streets typically are located in commercial areas.  Sometimes rapid growth can result in four-lane traffic arteries running right through residential areas.  Such would then be an example of a less than desirable street.

PPS has identified the following ten qualities that contribute to the success of great streets:

  • Attractions & Destinations. Having something to do gives people a reason to come to a place—and to return again and again. When there is nothing to do, a space will remain empty, which can lead to other problems. In planning attractions and destinations, it is important to consider a wide range of activities for: men and women; people of different ages; different times of day, week and year; and for people alone and in groups.
  • Identity & Image. Whether a space has a good image and identity is key to its success. Creating a positive image requires keeping a place clean and well-maintained, as well as fostering a sense of identity. This identity can originate in showcasing local assets. Businesses, pedestrians, and driver will then elevate their behavior to this vision and sense of place.
  • Active Edge Uses. Buildings bases should be human-scaled and allow for interaction between indoors and out. Preferably, there are active ground floor uses that create valuable experiences along a street for both pedestrians and motorists. These edge uses should be active year-round and unite both sides of the street.
  • Amenities. Successful streets provide amenities to support a variety of activities. These include attractive waste receptacles to maintain cleanliness, street lighting to enhance safety, bicycle racks, and both private and public seating options—the importance of giving people the choice to sit where they want is generally underestimated. Cluster street amenities to support their use.
  • Management. An active entity that manages the space is central to a street’s success. This requires not only keeping the space clean and safe, but also managing tenants and programming the space to generate daily activity. Events can run the gamut from small street performances to sidewalk sales to cultural, civic or seasonal celebrations.
  • Seasonal Strategies. In places without a strong management presence or variety of activities, it is often difficult to attract people year-round. Utilize seasonal strategies, like holiday markets, parades and recreational activities to activate the street during all times of the year. If a street offers a unique and attractive experience, weather is often less of a factor than people initially assume.
  • Diverse User Groups. As mentioned previously, it is essential to provide activities for different groups. Mixing people of different race, gender, age, and income level ensures that no one group dominates the space and makes others feel unwelcome and out of place.
  • Traffic, Transit & the Pedestrian. A successful street is easy to get to and get through; it is visible both from a distance and up close. Automobile traffic cannot dominate the space and preclude the comfort of other modes. This is generally accomplished by slowing speeds and sharing street space with a range of transportation options.
  • Blending of Uses and Modes. Ground floor uses and retail activities should spill out into the sidewalks and streets to blur the distinction between public and private space.
  • Protects Neighborhoods. Great streets support the context around them. There should be clear transitions from commercial streets to nearby residential neighborhoods, communicating a change in surroundings with a concomitant change in street character.

There you have it.  Now, where are the great streets in your community?

 

House not selling? Try St. Joseph

FROM THE GROUND UP by Phil Hardwick

Spring is the best time of year to sell a house. But what if the house still isn’t selling after springtime? The seller could lower the price, increase marketing efforts or maybe call on St. Joseph.

Does planting an upside down statuette in your front yard increase the odds that your house will sell sooner than later? If it is a statuette of St. Joseph the answer is “yes,” according to quite a few people.

The dream of just about every seller of real estate is to sell the property for the listed price within twenty-four hours of it being listed. Every seller wants to get top dollar for their real estate. After that desire comes the wish to sell the property fast. Some markets are so hot that listing agents have prospective buyers already signed up before the agents even get certain listings. Then there are markets where properties are on the market for months at a time. Sellers in such situations may want to investigate the possibility of turning to St. Joseph, patron saint of home life.

What is a patron saint?  And anyway, who is St. Joseph?

This inquiring mind went straight to the catholic.org web site to learn more.  According the web site, patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life. These areas can include occupations, illnesses, churches, countries, causes — anything that is important to people. Although, popes have named patron saints, patrons can be chosen by other individuals or groups as well. Usually, patron saints are chosen by individuals because an interest, talent, or event in their lives aligns with the special area.  For example, many people who travel often wear a St. Christopher medal because he is the patron saint of travelers.   For those really interested in the subject of patron saints, there is a web site that lists patron saints by topic and by name. It is online at

http://www.catholic-saints.info/patron-saints/list-of-patron-saints-patronage.htm

Why is St. Joseph the patron saint of real estate?  Well, the reasoning goes that because St. Joseph was a carpenter, he was also a homebuilder, i.e. he worked on homes. He also taught his son Jesus the carpentering trade.  He was also noted for his willingness to do what God told him.  He also was noted for acting fast, such as when he was told to immediately flee to Egypt.  As one might imagine, Joseph is the patron saint of a lot of things, from fathers to the diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi. Yes, many cities and states have patron saints. Mary is the patron saint of Mississippi.

There is even a book, ST. JOSEPH, MY REAL ESTATE AGENT – Why the Patron Saint of Home Life Is the Patron Saint of Home-Selling by Stephen J. Binz (Servant Books), that discusses the use of St. Joseph to sell one’s home.  “Hundreds of thousands of people, including the author, have sold their homes under the patronage of St. Joseph, whose intercession they sought after burying his statue in their yard,” according to the promotional material.

So, does this practice of burying St. Joseph in one’s front yard really work?  Far be it from me to say for certain.  Several years ago when I wrote a column on this subject I received several letters from people who swear by the practice.  One woman told me that her house had been on the market for months with no results.  The day after she buried a St. Joseph statuette, she received an offer. I also received a letter from another woman who said that it was the silliest thing she had ever heard, and she told her husband what he could do with the statuette when he suggested that they try using it to sell their house.  The Internet is filled with testimonials and articles pro and con on the practice.  Another Internet resource is https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/property-rites/which lists this subject.  Interestingly, it does not confirm or debunk this “urban legend,” but offers anecdotal stories and opinions.  Like all matters of faith, it about belief and prayer.  One source said that the praying is more important than the use of the statuette.

Whatever one might believe regarding this practice it probably would not hurt to follow the advice of most real estate agents when they recommend that it is also a good idea to price your property competitively, market it properly and keep it ready for prospective buyers to inspect it on a moment’s notice.

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