Wednesday, 11 July 2012

House sale fell through 2012

If you haven't been living under a rock over the last 4 years or so then I probably don't need to tell you that selling your home in Ireland  has been extremely difficult. I knew that it would be a little challenging when I decided to sell my house but the reality was that I was not prepared for it at all.  For the purpose of this post I'm going to skip a lot of the early details.

The Story
My house went on the market in July 2011 and finally went Sale Agreed in May 2012 at a much lower price than I originally wanted but at a price that I was willing to live with. The purchasers engineer came out after about 3-4 weeks and carried out a 2 1/2 hour survey.  Before he left he told me that he found nothing untoward with the property (he probably shouldn't have told me this but I appreciated the information).  This was the stage that I was most worried about because a bad engineers report can destroy a sale. 

A few weeks went by and the sale was progressing as far as I knew. I was busy emptying the house whenever I got a chance and I had just arranged for a van for the next Saturday (2 weeks prior to handover) to remove all the remaining bulky stuff so that I would be ready for the closing date of sale. A phone call from the auctioneer completely ruined my plans.  The buyers had changed their mind and would not be going ahead with the sale.  Frantic last minute efforts from myself, my solicitor and the auctioneer failed to get the sale back on track. 

I completely understand that buyers are quite entitled to change their minds at any time during a sale but it's a pity because now I had lost 2 months of viewings as well as losing the sale of the house.  The house is back on the market again and I've had 3 viewings in a week. Fingers crossed for the future.

I have some general tips for people loosely based on my own experiences so that you can avoid the same thing happening to you.  I compiled them from various conversations with Engineers and Auctioneers.  I'm assuming that you have already done the basics but may not be aware of the following.

1) Arrange for an engineer to do a dry run of your property as if he was doing a survey for a client.
Yes it will cost you money and the purchaser will do their own survey but you will be aware of any issues well in advance and you have time to correct them or make the auctioneer know that there's an issue.  The buyer will then know from the outset and won't panic after the engineers report.

2) If you have an attic conversion you should get your own engineer to advise you on whether it's just for storage or can be classified as habitable. You may have to consider blocking this up completely if it doesn't comply with building and fire regulations.  Make sure the Auctioneer knows the Engineers advise.

3) Go over the auctioneers brochure description of your house and make sure that it describes your house without embellishment and goes along with your engineers advise.

4) Make sure the auctioneer is selling the house based on your newly advised instructions.

The Engineers Survey Report

Having dealt with many engineers on building sites over the years I am no stranger to Snag Lists and how cold and dry they can be. A house survey pre-contract signing is much the same as a snag list for a new build except the faults on the survey do not necessarily have to be put right by the vendor.

If you are buying a house and the engineers survey has frightened you into thinking that the house you are buying is ready to collapse and the advised repairs have you thinking about running away, STOP!
The language used is typical of their occupation and is supposed to be that way.  The advised repairs may seem colossal when read in the report but why not look around your present accommodations and see can you spot similar items.  Ask someone in the building trades to explain in layman's terms what the issues mean and what are the solutions. Remember, it can take years to make a house your home so you have plenty of time to make changes.  All you need to worry about is what extra work you need to do before you can occupy the new house.

My opinion
The most important thing you need an engineer for is to make sure the house is structurally sound and subsidence is not an issue, after that it's really only decoration considerations.  Whatever else is listed can normally be fixed or lived with easily enough.  Don't let the Engineers report frighten you away from buying your dream home.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Mad at some Blu Ray Product Reviews

I decided to write this post out of frustration with some aspects of the user review process that some websites offer their customers, specifically DVD/Blu Ray online retailers.

While I do prefer to shop online where there are reviews visible I often find myself feeling angry at some people who make comments on the product in question. Why? Because some comments are so contrasting that I have to wonder what motivates some people to write reviews in the first place.   I realise that everyone is different and has a unique perspective but how can the same product get simultaneous 5 star and 1 star reviews?  In some cases I have bought a Blu Ray movie and then come to the conclusion that half the reviewers were either mad or full of shit.

Some of the things I wonder about when reading reviews
Are they writing to promote themselves, their own business, Blog or have another agenda?
Are they just writing maliciously for the fun of it or just to be controversial?
Do they own a proper BD Player and a HD capable TV with 5.1 Surround Sound system attached?
Do they have good taste or would they have trouble distinguishing between 'Shit and Shinola"?
Are they actually nuts?

Simple facts in life 
Some people like to bitch and some people are never happy, so how do I identify these people without having to leave the webpage I'm on? The few that write honestly and intelligently are lost in the crowd and are sometimes impossible to distinguish from the rest of the reviewers. To add to the confusion some websites bring in DVD release comments automatically to start off the commenting process on their Blu Ray upgrades and this is sometimes misleading. These are never removed afterwards so it is quite common to be reading about the wrong product.

What was I looking for that prompted this Post? 
I was looking for a particular Blu Ray movie (Platoon) and I found the title on 2 of the biggest DVD sites, one site had 5 reviews which were all positive and the other had 46 which were mixed.

My only concerns when buying Blu Ray is that the picture and sound must be superior in almost every way to the original DVD releases and this is the rule of thumb that I use while shopping.  More than likely I will have previously seen the movie on DVD so I don't need to know the synopsis and I don't want to read everyone's opinions of the plot.

My Suggestion
I long for the big websites to set up or add a quick 5 star review to measure improvements between DVD and Blu Ray versions that would run alongside the normal 5 star review given to the movie.  I wouldn't then be forced to trawl through all the conflicting comments left by people and decide to take it or leave it on the spot.

Rant over
I do believe that improvements can be made in the way reviews are structured but I also realise that complications can arise at the website coding level. A small idea to the unknowing can be a major coding nightmare for a development team.  Maybe someone more important and connected than me will decide to add my suggestion above. Until then, I will continue being quietly annoyed.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Abair Leat - Irish Language Website Review

This will be an on going article as the site is new and still in Beta testing phase.

How I found out about the site?
Purely by accident is the easiest answer. I heard it mentioned on an RTE News bulletin and it piqued my interest straight away.  I made a point of sending myself a reminder to check it out the following day and I'm glad to say that it was one of those things that I actually got around to doing. I joined up eagerly but was immediately lost and confused.  This was not the fault of the website but more a damning indictment of how poorly the Irish language is taught in Ireland.

Why am I interested in it?
I would love to be able to speak my native language fluently as to me it represents our national culture and pride. I am not alone in saying that after 14 years of learning Irish (Gaeilge) I can barely string two sentences together. During my school years I hated the language and hated every class I attended.  I can imagine a foreigner asking me now why don't I speak my country's language?  The answer is that it bored me so much more than any other subject at school and the teachers taught from textbooks instead of breathing life into it and making it part of the classroom.

A language is a living and vibrant thing and it should be used free-form as part of everyday life. Spending 30 minutes a day discussing daily topics in school and then correcting grammatical errors as you went along would have been far more beneficial than a whole week of reading it from a book. That is after all how children learn to speak everywhere.

I would love to be one of those people who goes to Spain and similar holiday destinations and confounds the indigenous locals by speaking a language they couldn't possibly know.  Most Irish people have a secret wish to do this whether they tell you or not.

My hope for the future
I would like to brush up on my Irish by using it daily, talking to people in a natural colloquial way.  I believe the site is a great push forward for the language and I hope it brings it back into public focus in a big way. I will add to this article as I learn more from the site.  If you are Irish or of Irish descent, why not sign up and give it a try?

Abair Leat website
My advice to those who are like me is to have Google Translate open when you first sign up for the site. If your Irish is very bad you will not be able to navigate the site without help.  I initially started a post as part of the learning process and used Google to Translate 90% of that.  The site does have a translate option built in but I couldn't find it (he laughs) at the time.  I have since posted a second thread but I'm still a little lost.  I talked someone into joining the site who has a similar desire to learn the language; this should help both of us figure out the inner workings of the site as well as brush up the old lingo. The best thing I can do is to link to the 2 tutorial videos from the site on this article because my attempts to explain might confuse people even more.  If you sign up for it I would be interested in your opinion here.

Abair Leat Website

Abair Leat Tutorials

Abair Leat on YouTube

Friday, 24 February 2012

Are 3D Movies a fad or will they be the future in 2012 and beyond?

A little bit of background nonsense
Before I go into this post too far I had better come clean and admit that my only experiences with 3D has been (1) watching a few movies in the ‘80s using the cardboard glasses with the green and red lenses which was from what I remember kind of cool and (2) watching a few minutes of a modern 3D cartoon in an electronics shop on a massive 50” 3D screen.   The more modern version looked great but left me with what I can only assume to be the beginnings of a mild headache and sore eyes.  Maybe I am being too harsh and should at least watch a full movie before being critical of this re-emerging technology?

I have never been one to embrace new gimmicks as the first generation of new tech is nearly always flawed in some manner; this includes Mobile Phones, Plasma TVs, Blu Ray Players and many more… I have recently started to leave DVD behind and move over to Blu Ray as the more preferred viewing experience and I have been mostly satisfied by movies that I have bought (after already buying the DVD versions).  It now annoys the hell out of me that the movie industry is pushing the 3D experience so soon after Blu Ray coming out on top of the HD market.

Why I can make these comments
I have been collecting movies since VHS times and this I believe qualifies me to have an opinion here. I have been known to replace my favourite films a while after each new technology is released; my reason being that each version offers new picture quality and sound production.  This theory has been sound as we moved from VHS to DVD and then Blu Ray.  So what can 3D offer that Blu Ray cannot I ask you?  I don’t wear glasses and the idea that I would have to use glasses to watch TV at home is absurd at least to me. 

One of my favourite genres (Star Wars) is coming out soon on 3D soon, only a few months after I bought the box set on Blu Ray.  I knew that it would happen when I bought the set and it didn’t worry me too much at the time and still doesn’t.  I wouldn’t mind viewing it once to see what all the fuss is about but I don’t think I would like to watch it at home on 3D.

Public Opinion Poll
 Excerpt from a UK Poll in September 2011: Responding to a YouGov poll, 41% of people called it a gimmick with just 19% agreeing that 3D improves a film.
Just under half of those polled said it made no difference at all.
Price does not appear to be an issue for more than a third of cinema goers who said that even if the more expensive 3D films tickets were the same price as their 2D counterparts, they would rather see a film in the traditional two dimensional format.
This is just one of many articles and Polls that I could quote here but I am going to assume that you have already read pieces about 3D technology. Indeed Google is full of negative articles written by those who believe that it's just a passing fad.
What do you think?
It would appear that I am not alone in my view that 3D is just a gimmick and may just be a prelude to the next technology upgrade which may be holographic TV. Don’t laugh, it may yet happen.
Movie companies are certainly pushing this technology as their current cash cow and this may be here to stay for the immediate future whether the movie going public want it or not.
What do you think?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

My Beginner’s Guide to Twitter 2012

If you are thinking of getting started on Twitter but aren’t sure or have been a user and have a few minutes to spare, just read on.  I’m going to assume here that you know what Twitter is and are thinking about signing up for the first time.  If you don’t know about Twitter I’m going to have to ask where you have been hiding since 2006!

Why Twitter is better 
Trying to be witty, funny or interesting in less than 140 characters is difficult and forces you to be creative instead of waffling on like people do other Social Network (SN) sites.  I find that the more intelligent social creature is very active on Twitter. 

Twitter is normally the first place you hear news flashes, long before the news stations or papers get them so you can be immediately informed on current events even if they are unconfirmed (that can come later).

Twitter feels like a game sometimes, you are constantly on your toes to perform to gain acceptance rather than ‘Friending People ‘ that you don’t really have anything in common with like you would on Facebook.  I like to be challenged and I feel that way every day on Twitter.  

Funny side of things
I heard a funny comparison recently;
Facebook is for friends you know but wish you didn't; Twitter is for strangers you think should be your friends but aren't..

Advice for Twitter Newbies
Upload a picture of yourself for your profile-Spammers normally use the Twitter default egg images and these are frowned upon. Try to use a photo of yourself (not a close up) to let others know you are real. I personally prefer an animated .GIF as I don't like being photographed.

Write a small bio and add where you live – This is vital to engage with the right people and lets other know what you are about and where your interests lie. For your location just use your town or country.

Follow people - Following others is the only way you get noticed initially so follow people who interest you, are similar to you, live in your country etc.  You cannot add everyone you find as Twitter has follower to followee ratio limits in place. Start slow and steady.  Using 'get follower apps' to gain loads of followers quickly is a waste of time as they are not following you because you are interesting.

Tweet everyday – Using the site daily will help you build a following.  Aim for 5-20 tweets daily if you are just a social commentator. Mix up your content to include; funny images, news stories, quotes, youtube videos, retweets etc.  You will get a feel for what others are doing to make themselves more interesting.

Space out your Tweets – Don’t cluster them, space them out every couple of minutes or you will end up annoying someone and then risk being 'unfollowed'.

Retweet good stuff - 'RT' Doing this is seen as compliment and shows a persons tweet as worthy of your followers attention. Spread these out as Timelines full of retweets don't look good at all.

Be interesting and current – Don’t talk nonsense and then expect followers, that’s just ridiculous. Nobody wants to hear about your daily bowel movements!

Engage with people - Try to write intelligent replies to other users tweets so that they can engage with you. Timelines are so fast that most cannot keep up with them so engaging with replies is a great way to get noticed.

A Tweet is forever – Like everything you do on the net, your Tweets are out there forever so don’t say or do anything that will get you fired, prevent you from getting a job or prosecuted by the authorites etc.

Be fun, generous and Kind – These are obvious ones but are often overlooked.  Funny people are easy to follow. Retweeting and mentioning other users tweets is seen as generous and will gain you followers.  Be nice, when you say something unkind or nasty about (or) to someone it can get you into trouble.

Check your followers daily – Report Porn spammers and block people who are obviously trying to redirect you to sites by false pretences. This is vital to keep Twitter free from ‘Bots’ that try to ruin the site.

Read Blogs and articles about Twitter – These will help educate you on Twitter etiquette and teach you the ins and outs that you need to know. 

Think how to Tweet things - Get into the habit of turning everyday things into Tweets. A boring task can be turned into a humorous event within 140 characters. It gets easier after a while.

My current take on Twitter
I have to say that I really enjoy using Twitter now.  I had set up my account over a year ago and then basically abandoned it because I just did not get it at the time. Returning to it sometime later and after spending a few days learning about it I realized that I had not given it a fair shot at all.  I now find that I can’t go too long without checking my account and engaging with people I follow and those that follow me.  

Twitter is totally misunderstood by most people who have never used it.  I hear from those people from time to time and the comments are usually all the same;  “Twitter is for  people talking utter rubbish” “Twitter is full of people updating their daily habits by the minute”  ie: “eating my Corn Flakes, mmmm” “Twitter is full of spammers” etc.  Yes Twitter does have all the above  but so does every other Social Network site out there. To those nay-sayers I say that you do not speak from experience at all and you should try it before you vomit out ignorant comments. Try Twitter today and make up your own mind.

The truth is that some of the most intelligent people I have ever met online have been on Twitter! 

If you want to follow me on Twitter click here

I am not in any way a professional writer as you will probably have guessed if you read his far. I am adding this article based on my own experiences only. If I have missed anything important or have huge grammatical errors then let me know but please be kind if you are adding comments to this article.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The revolution

Would you like to sell online but worry about the hidden costs? 
Read on for a brief outline of ebid, I'll try not to bore too much.  Please subscribe if you feel that my Blog has something to offer.  Any constructive comments are welcome.

The Truth about online selling
I have been selling online for about a year now and I've had a very interesting time doing so. Selling as a private individual has been an enjoyable albeit stressful experience and for those of you out there considering it as a hobby or a prelude to a business I can tell you it's a lot of work.

One of the early lessons you will learn is that it costs you money to list your items on high traffic websites like eBay or Amazon and those 'small' initial fees and 'Final Value Fees' don't take long to add up to considerable monthly sums.  From my own experience I didn't expect to recoup the full purchase price of my DVD collection but I had hoped to get a fair market value for selling my once loved movies.  That idea vanished fairly quickly when faced with stiff competition on eBay from other like minded sellers.  Not only did a lot of my DVDs go for less than I wanted but eBay and PayPal then got around 15% of my takings and more if I had to relist several times.

It's a familiar story and you will see many online sellers moaning about the cost of selling on ebay in various forums and blogs. The truth is you are paying for a high traffic website that almost has a monopoly on the market and you face cut-throat competition from every other seller there. "Is there anywhere I can sell online that won't cripple me in the process?" is a fairly common question and the solution is out there.... Background direct from Wikipedia
"eBid is an online auction website founded in December 1998. eBid operates in twenty-one countries where it allows sellers to sell from United Kingdom, United States of America,Canada, Australia , Ireland, Belgium,Austria, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Hong Kong, India, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore, South Africa and lists to buyers in over 100 Countries. eBid uses its own online payment service PPPay  to allow for buyers and sellers to pay each other in Euros and Pounds Sterling, although members are not restricted to using this form of payment, 'Paypal' and 'Google Checkout' for example are also popular payment methods on Ebid.
Listing a basic auction on eBid is free and a zero or small percentage final value fee is paid on selling your item.
The domain has 8 million page impressions a month and attracts around 60,000 visitors a day (15m unique visitors yearly) ranking.  eBid is recognized as the ‘Best eBay Alternative’ by Webuser Magazine.
Currently eBid has 3 membership levels available for new members, Buyer (free) buyer only, Seller (free but requires credit/debit card verification) occasional seller, final value fees are 3%, Seller Plus+subscription based membership aimed at professional sellers with a recurring fee, payable every 7,30,90 or 365 days, OR a one off lifetime payment (currently £74.49 or £49.49 if taken within first 24 hours of joining). Seller Plus+ members can open up to 5 shops free. For a basic auction Seller Plus+ members pay no fee, for a gallery one they pay 2% fvf. Options like BIN only auctions & Run until Sold, are also available for free."

My view of
For those of you out there who have been selling on eBay or elsewhere and are growing tired of increasing fees and restrictions, eBid is a fresh alternative. Very low or non existant fees (depending on which account you sign up for) and very flexible listing options give you a nice platform to sell your wares. Don't expect ebid to be a carbon copy of ebay and go in with an open mind and a little patience.

Sales are a little slow initially because ebid membership is small compared to the likes of ebay but the site has grown continuously over the last few years and will continue to do so.  ebay is pushing out all the small sellers and is moving to a more Amazon like marketplace so soon the auction element may be gone altogether.  More new members join ebid every day and this is highlighted in the forum on a daily basis.

If you are looking for a solid ebay alternative then visit the site today.

What you should take away from this article is that you have nothing to lose by joining ebid but you do have loads of possibilities that you won't get for free anywhere else.  Support on the site is human and not automated and the site is reliable. Don't just take my word for it, find out for yourself.

  You may sign up to ebid directly from here today for free, it's completely up to you.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The future of this Blog

After much internal debate over what format I should use on my Blog I have decided that micro-blogging is the way I should go and picking random topics that I find interesting will be my intended course.  These will hopefully be short and to the point pieces where the reader does not have to scroll down to read the whole article. My interests lie mainly in Auction sites, DVD, Blu-Ray, Movies and TV Shows so if those appeal to you the reader, then maybe this has a future. I may also stick in the odd current event topic that I find interesting.

Building my own website over the last year and writing articles for it has taught me one very important lesson; writing is extremely difficult.  As many people already know, putting words out there in the ethernet is the easiest thing in the world but having your thoughts progress in an easy, legible, natural and interesting way is not so easy.

I have never taken a course in creative writing nor had any formal writing training since leaving school in the 90's so anything I have written thus far seems (to me) unplanned, rushed and not at all appearing the way it does in my head.  Kudos to all of you who have mastered this craft, I doff my hat to you. Please be patient with me reader, if anyone does find my Blog :-)

Constructive comments are always welcome, trolls are not!