Thursday, January 22, 2015

Five Worst Mistakes First-Time Condo Buyers Make

First published on 

Investing in a condo can be one of your major life achievements; but it can also be one of your biggest downfalls, especially if it’s your first time, and you commit the same mistakes that some people did before buying their first homes.

For your first purchase to be successful, be cautious of your decisions, and avoid these five mistakes:

1. Not Getting Mortgage Approval 

Before purchasing a home, you must first secure a home loan and get your mortgage approved. Sadly, some first-time buyers fail to qualify for a mortgage due to poor credit history. If you’re applying for a mortgage, don’t secure credit for a new car or a bedroom furniture simultaneously. New financial obligations can lower your credit score.

Never co-sign a loan while you’re trying to close a home loan. Don’t act as a guarantor for someone else’s debt. Accumulating more debts can only diminish your mortgage eligibility.

Also don’t accept a new job offer while you’re applying for a mortgage because you will need a steady source of income to prove your liquidity to your lender.

2. Lacking Vision 

Lacking vision simply means not seeing what is about to come. A first-time buyer usually gets too excited about getting a house, but tends to forget the little, yet important, details. Be forward-looking—anticipate problems before they happen.

Besides the mortgage fees, buyers should not also forget to factor in the extra costs when buying a condo, which include taxes, insurances, monthly utility bills, and maintenance expenses.

Know what you can really afford before buying a condo.

Don’t settle on compromises. Again, be forward-looking; don’t decide depending on your current situation. For example, don’t buy a single-bedroom home if you’re planning to have children sometime soon.

3. Paying Extra for Upgrades 

Don’t be fooled by sellers, brokers, and agents who are trying to outsmart you. You don’t need those upgrades (wallpapers, flooring materials) for now. Physical imperfections are quite easy to resolve without spending too much. Minor upgrades, cosmetic fixes are actually inexpensive.

4. Not Doing Condo Inspection 

You need to inspect your future condo inside and out. If there are any adjustments to be made, you may want to reconsider your decision. Don’t spend extra cash on repairs and replacements.

To avoid this mistake, don’t close a sale until you have a concrete, full idea of your prospective property’s soundness and physical condition.

5. Not Hiring An Agent/Not Using Seller’s Agent 

You should hire a real estate agent to guide you throughout the home buying process. Agents, who follow ethical guidelines, should protect both the seller and buyer’s interests. To make sure that will happen, hire an agent for yourself first before dealing with the property seller’s own agent.

Your agent should lead you to various properties that fit your requirements and budget. The seller’s agent, on the other hand, may unearth important information that can guide you to making a wise decision.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Back to The Shire, Back to the True Essence of Christmas

By Oliver Oliveros, Editor-In-Chief

I am convinced it was a wise decision for Warner Bros. Pictures and Oscar Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson to move the official release of the first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's “The Hobbit” film series, “An Unexpected Journey (2012),” from summer to Christmas, which the next two parts, “The Desolation of Smaug (2103)” and “The Battle of the Five Armies (2014),” followed suit.

The fantasy novel and the films' main protagonist, 50-year-old hobbit Bilbo Baggins, accompanied by Gandalf the Grey and a company of militant dwarves, has only one true wish throughout his long arduous journey across The Shire to Erebor: to return home among his equally home-loving family and friends in the Hobbiton village, which I believe shares the same essence of Christmas: to return home—physically or virtually—for the holidays, and welcome back home Christ whose birth as a man more than 2,000 years ago is why we celebrate Christmas after all.

Welcoming back home Christ should be no less than festive, introspective, too. That is why we take time to dress up our houses with at least a four-foot-tall Christmas tree, adorned with colorful, glittery ball ornaments and small flickering light bulbs, in the living room—to accentuate our jovial spirits. That is also why Filipinos around the world attend a nine-day Christmas novena, often called Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo—to renew our faith in the infant Jesus, given birth by a virgin in a humble manger, whose main source of light came from the divinely bright, beautiful Star of Bethlehem.

Back at home, I made sure my family has an image of the infant Jesus as the centerpiece of our Christmas holiday decorations. This year, my family has also placed a recycled parol, a representation of the Star of Bethlehem, made from used soft drink straws and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, on the main entrance door. Appropriately so because Christmas should be a reminder of Christ's utmost humility and not of the world's hedonism and extravagance.

On that note, please allow me to wish you a joyous, peaceful Christmas and a prosperous new year!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Preparing for the Inevitable

By Oliver Oliveros, Editor-In-Chief

Sometimes life reminds us that life itself is short.

When my youngest sister, Joi, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in the afternoon of June 12, 2002, her critical care doctor straightforwardly told me and my parents to just go home; wait for the medical staff's phone call; and prepare for the inevitable. I can still vividly remember that Joi woke up early that morning; took over all the household chores; and fed her two-year-old son like nothing unforeseen was about to happen.

Alas, shortly after my parents and I got home, the phone rang; the voice on the other side of the line broke the sad news: Joi had already died. She was only 22 years old.

A death in the family is certain to happen, sometimes at the most unexpected time. Fortunately, my family's emergency preparedness at that time helped us get through those tough moments. Without missing a beat, my mom was able to pull her pre-need funeral insurance policy out of her drawer in the master bedroom. For my part, I was able to easily retrieve Joi's life insurance policy and her son's college education plan, along with the phone numbers of her former classmates and co-workers, from her desk drawer. We all--my mom, dad, and I, even my other sister, who was then teaching preschoolers in Bangkok--knew where to find those important documents because we were told their locations beforehand.

Starting conversations on essential preparedness planning should come early on among Filipino families, whose topic of death, even sex, is, sad to say, traditionally taboo. Besides discussing preparations for loss of life, members of any family should also talk about steps to do when someone gets laid off from work; when someone gets sick; or when someone retires at 50+ or 60 years old, which AARP Community Ambassador (Ret.) Major General Tony Taguba—our cover subject this month—has been strongly advocating to Filipino-Americans.

“Somebody has to start that conversation. It should be the parents, but in case the parents do not do that, the oldest child, or the youngest child, or whoever wants to talk about it should bring that up,” Major General Taguba says.

As we grow older, we are also bound to realize that the things we regret most in life are the things we did not bother to do earlier.

So be wise, and plan ahead.

Life is fleeting.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

“Practice Makes Permanent”

By Oliver Oliveros, Editor-In-Chief

Several times in the past 10 years, I was able to work with Philippine-based concert and theater director Freddie Santos, who is now directing the well-received Manila run of “Noli Me Tangere: The Opera,” the same production, produced by businesspeople Loida Nicolas Lewis, Jerry Sibal, and Edwin Josue, which premiered in Manhattan last Fall, and played at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. last summer.

Interestingly, besides the fact that Direk Freddie was one of the pioneering image consultants of singer Chona Velasquez aka Regine Velasquez when she was just starting out in the music business in the '90s; and Direk Freddie has written one of my favorite songs recorded by Gary Valenciano, which was “Could You Be Messiah”; it was also Direk Freddie who tried to correct me when I once told a theater actor that “practice makes perfect.”

“Oliver, practice makes permanent, not perfect,” Direk Freddie said.

Come to think of it, he was right. Perfection is not always attainable, but developing permanent habits—could be either good or bad though—is within reach. “Practice can [also] be wasteful and unproductive unless you practice fewer; practice more important skills better; and practice deeply,” as reiterated by Mark Lewis, Esq.

The same rings true when striving for excellence at your work: aiming at excellence is a good habit, which hones your leadership skills better, and encourages deeper thinking when analyzing processes and evaluating outcomes, which, by the way, reminds me of our cover story, the inspiring real-life story of Queens' practicing internist-cum-entrepreneur par excellence Dr. Marissa Santos, found in this Fall issue of Fil-Am Who's Who.

“I really strive hard to be successful, and I don’t settle for mediocrity. If I want to do something, I want to do it my best. If I knew that I was not going to do my best, I would not do it. I don’t force myself to do things that I am not prepared for. Dapat pinaghahandaan,” said Dr. Marissa in an interview with contributing writer Maricar Hampton on page nine.

Ensuring “permanent”quality is an important component of achieving excellence.

Evidently, that would take a whole lot of serious practice.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hit the Road and Go

Amidst the rolling hills of Lonesome Pine Country Club in Big Stone
Gap, Wise County, Southwest Virginia
By Oliver Oliveros, editor-in-chief

With American country singer Johnny Cash’s “Hit the Road and Go” playing on my phone, I recently escaped the bustling sounds of New York City—on board a Greyhound bus—to explore the sprawling roadways, hills, and valleys of Southwest Virginia. 

That is usually how I spend summer vacations: hit the road—with my 70-liter trekking backpack; my mind set on a shoestring budget—and go to places I have never been to. Proud to say that made my first time visit to the busy streets of Jakarta, Indonesia in 2008; pristine, pure white sand beaches in Krabi, South Thailand in 2010; and for that matter, the star-studded Broadway theatres in New York City, United States of America in 2009, in cliché, unforgettable.

My first trip to Southwest, Virginia was no different in any other way. In fact, spending nearly 19 hours in transit on a Wi-Fi friendly, Dallas-bound Greyhound bus was somehow a thrilling experience. I got to meet a bunch of interesting people: first, the lady bus driver who intimidatingly announced into a microphone her ground rules—for instance, keep your headphone volume low (she actually stopped the bus in the middle of the New Jersey Turnpike because one passenger did not adhere to the rule); and do not chat with your seatmate during the night, among others—before leaving the Port Authority in New York; second, the traveling chemistry professor from Tennessee who frequently visits the Philippines, particularly Cebu and Davao, to spend his holidays with family and friends; and the list goes on.

I got off the bus in the more urbanized area of Kingsport, Tennessee, where my hosts, Dr. and Mrs. Francis and Nilda Jaynal, fetched me and gave me a little tour of Big Stone Gap, Wise County and Norton City, Southwest Virginia—the couple’s second home away from New York for more than 20 years.

Two of the most scenic spots that were a feast for the eyes were the Powell Valley Overlook, near Norton City, where a number of residential houses, vast farmlands, and a slew of churches of different religions are located in the valley below the overlook; and the Lonesome Pine Country Club, an 18-hole golf course surrounded by the wide-ranging views of the Appalachian Mountains.

Interestingly, Norton City is a city populated by nearly 5,000 people only. But it has everything a city has to offer: chained-brand hotels, popular U.S. banks, a row of restaurants, and convenience stores. However, the nearby Wise County seems more progressive with its cineplexes and chained-brand wholesale stores.

For the faithful, the devotion to the First Filipino Saint San Lorenzo Ruiz is alive and well at Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church (1009 Virginia Ave.) in Norton City. The church is set to celebrate the feast day of the saint on Sunday, September 14, at 2 p.m. I must say that is all the more reason to pay a visit to both Wise County and Norton City, Southwest Virginia, which are also accessible by plane; nearest airport is the Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee.

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