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Step 1 to Pre-Foreclosure Success by Tim Mai

Step 1: Organizing Your Office

Setting up and organizing an office used to be an expensive affair. Thats no longer true thanks to todays technology. For a minimum investment, you can now set up a highly efficient and effective work environment. Heres a list of the basic equipment you need to get started:

* A computer-These days, computers are a bargain. You can buy one cheaply. However, it pays to get the latest model since the computer world is forever changing and improving itself. Id recommend that you buy one that has a minimum of 1 megabyte of memory and will allow expansion for more memory. This is important because new software applications get larger all the time and become memory hogs, which can slow down the computer While this may not be so important at the beginning of your career, itll become so as you become more successful and the complexity of your investments increases.

* A good office software suite-youll need software that includes word processing, accounting software, computer slide generation, etc. Microsoft Office is the most common suite, but there are other, cheaper applications available (WordPerfect Office, etc.). Often, the application comes with the computer you buy so make sure the office suite comes with the features you need. Eventually, if you move into other, more complex areas of real estate (multi-unit dwellings, commercial real estate, etc.), youll want to buy software thats designed specifically for the real estate market.

* A high speed Internet connection-whether its a DSL (direct subscriber link) or cable connection, access to the Internet is absolutely vital these days. The Internet is a great source for research and information on all real estate topics. Definitely do not use a dial-up connection! Although such connections are cheap, theyre maddeningly slow and tie up your phone line. Both you and your clients will end up frustrated at the inability to communicate quickly and effectively. In short, a high-speed Internet connection can win you business; a dial-up connection can lose it.

* A good laser or inkjet computer. Printers are dirt-cheap these days. The manufacturers make a greater profit from supplying the ink cartridges, so it pays to get a printer thats economical with the ink. It also pays to buy a printer that produces high-quality letters and images. This contributes to your image as a serious and professional investor. While image is not quite as important in the pre-foreclosure market, it will definitely be a vital factor once you move into other areas of real estate. Banks, mortgage brokers, title companies, etc.-they all expect to see a polished and professional image in the people they deal with.

* A reliable cell phone-as you probably already know, this is one of the most important tools you can have as an investor. A cell phone allows you to be in contact with buyers and other individuals quickly and easily. Basically, its an information-gathering device that helps you identify deals and set them into motion. So, its important that your service be of high quality and not subject to a lot of dropped calls. Check out the service records of the cell phone providers in your area and go with the one that has the best record of reliability at a fair price.

Those are the basics then, but we need to cover one more subject thats vitally important to your success-accounting and record-keeping.
Accounting and Record-Keeping

Real estate is governed by many local, state, and federal regulations. That means its vital for you to keep good records. As you start out, you may not need anything more than pad of paper and a pencil. However, once success arrives, youll definitely need computerized records and an accounting application. They not only help you keep your records straight, but make the whole process faster and easier. Theyre well worth the investment! Below is a list of items you should definitely make use of in maintaining your records:

* Accounting software-If you decide to move beyond pre-foreclosures, youll definitely need to add a spreadsheet program (Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks, etc.) for all basic accounting requirements.

And if you decide to eventually move into property management, then youll need to add software designed specifically for such properties as apartment buildings, commercial properties etc. This software should include the following:

* A complete accounting package (general ledger, accounts receivable/accounts payable along with check writing, budgeting and financial reporting capabilities). Ability to track work orders and reminders, prints late notices, leases, checks, 1099s, etc.

* Tenant and lease management capabilities (including rental management forms). Pop-up reminders to remind you of late rent, expiring leases, etc. categorized by building, unit, owner or tenant.

* Capabilities to organize tenants, contractors, etc.

* Templates for letters and forms, etc.

You can use the Google search engine on the Internet to study and evaluate property management software. To help you out, Ive listed several software package names and their URLs in alphabetical order. I dont recommend a particular package. I simply recommend that you try them out and see which one works best for you and is relatively easy to understand.

* MRI Residential (http://www.realestate.intuit.com/)
* RentRight (http://www.rent-right.com/)
* Spectra (http://www.spectraesolutions.com/)
* Tenant File (http://www.tenantfile.com/)
* TenantPro (http://www.propertyautomation.com/)

You should be able to customize any of these programs to fit your specific needs.

* A separate checking account-Definitely keep your real estate financial transactions separate from your personal checking account! This is extremely important because you dont want to invite a visit from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you dont keep a separate account, the IRS will be very suspicious of any claims for expenses, losses, and depreciation you put on your federal tax return. It may not consider you a legitimate business, and, if youre audited, you may have a devil of a time proving expenses if your records are mixed in with your personal checking account. Also, its wise to have a credit card in the name of your business and charge all business expenses to this account. This also keeps business records separate from personal accounts.

* Expense records-Document every expense you have and keep organized records. Expenses can include bank statements, cancelled checks, tax returns, invoices, etc. In short, always have proof available in case the IRS challenges items on your tax return.

* Mileage records-Its essential to keep business-related travel expenses well-documented. This is because the IRS has a requirement that tax payers maintain records of business-related mileage in order to claim that mileage as a business expense on tax returns. As of 2007, the standard mileage rate that can be deduced from federal taxes for the cost of operating a vehicle is 48.5 cents per mile for all business miles driven.

* Depreciation-Depreciation accounts for the fact that most assets lose their value over time and must eventually be replaced. You definitely want to take advantage of IRS rules to make sure you earn the highest profit possible. So, on your tax returns, claim the maximum depreciation allowed on such items as office equipment, software programs, cell phones, etc.

* Storage-Store all documents in an organized fashion so theyre easy to find and access. You dont want to waste valuable time trying to locate items when you could be out finding more business. Use an organization method that works best for you (three-ring binders, tabbed folders, etc.). Photocopies of documents are fine for your office, but you may want to store originals in a safe deposit box at your local bank. However remote, theres always the possibility of fire or water damage destroying originals, and, if that happens, you could spend a lot of time and trouble proving ownership of property and other items.

* Hire a professional for tax returns-Choose a board-certified tax attorney or CPA to prepare your taxes. This is a must. You may be tempted to use an off-the-shelf product (TurboTax, etc.), but I advise against it for the simple reason that these products cant represent you before the IRS! Also, an experienced professional will have knowledge that a tax program couldnt possibly possess. He or she will be well aware of all the intricacies of federal tax law and will be able to use them for your maximum benefit.

* Hire independent contractors-At the beginning of your career, you dont need the hassle of maintaining employee records (wages, social security, etc.) and dealing with a myriad of state and federal government agencies (OSHA, the Department of Labor, etc.). As your business grows, you may find it necessary to hire part-time and/or full-time employees. However, in the beginning, its much less trouble to hire independent contractors.

Step 1: Organizing Your Office

Setting up and organizing an part used to be an expensive affair. Thats no longer true thanks to todays technology. For a minimum investment, you can now set up a highly efficient and effectual work environment. Heres a list of the basic equipment you need to get started:

* A computer-These days, computers are a bargain. You can buy one cheaply. However, it pays to get the up-to-date model since the estimator world is eternally changing and improving itself. Id recommend that you buy one that has a minimum of 1 megabyte of memory and will allow expansion for more memory. This is important because new software applications get larger all the time and turn memory hogs, which can slow down the figurer While this may not be so authoritative at the beginning of your career, itll suit so as you go more successful and the complexity of your investments increases.

* A good part software suite-youll need software that includes word processing, accounting software, calculator slide generation, etc. Microsoft Office is the most common suite, but there are other, cheaper applications available (WordPerfect Office, etc.). Often, the application comes with the computing machine you buy so make sure the office suite comes with the features you need. Eventually, if you move into other, more complex areas of real estate (multi-unit dwellings, commercial real estate, etc.), youll want to buy software thats configured specifically for the real landed estate market.

* A high speed Internet connection-whether its a DSL (direct subscriber link) or cable connection, access to the Internet is absolutely vital these days. The Internet is a great source for enquiry and entropy on all real estate topics. Emphatically do not use a dial-up connection! Although such connections are cheap, theyre maddeningly slow and tie up your phone line. Both you and your clients will end up discomfited at the inability to intercommunicate quickly and effectively. In short, a high-speed Internet connection can win you business; a dial-up connection can lose it.

* A good laser or inkjet computer. Printers are dirt-cheap these days. The manufacturers make a greater profit from provision the ink cartridges, so it pays to get a printer thats sparing with the ink. It also pays to buy a printer that produces high-quality letters and images. This contributes to your image as a serious and master investor. While image is not quite as important in the pre-foreclosure market, it will definitely be a vital factor once you move into other areas of real estate. Banks, mortgage brokers, title companies, etc.-they all expect to see a polished and professional person image in the shack they deal with.

* A reliable cell phone-as you in all probability already know, this is one of the most authoritative tools you can have as an investor. A cell phone allows you to be in contact with buyers and other individuals quickly and easily. Basically, its an information-gathering device that helps you identify deals and set them into motion. So, its crucial that your service be of high lineament and not subject to a lot of dropped calls. Check out the military service records of the cell phone providers in your area and go with the one that has the best record of reliability at a fair price.

Those are the basics then, but we need to cover one more subject thats vitally of import to your success-accounting and record-keeping.
Accounting and Record-Keeping

Real land is governed by many local, state, and federal regulations. That means its vital for you to keep good records. As you start out, you may not need anything more than pad of paper and a pencil. However, once success arrives, youll definitely need computerized records and an accountancy application. They not only help you keep your records straight, but make the whole mental process faster and easier. Theyre well worth the investment! Below is a list of items you should decidedly make use of in maintaining your records:

* Accounting software-If you decide to move beyond pre-foreclosures, youll unquestionably need to add a spreadsheet plan (Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks, etc.) for all basic accounting requirements.

And if you adjudicate to eventually move into property management, then youll need to add software intentional specifically for such properties as apartment buildings, commercial properties etc. This software should include the following:

* A complete account statement box (general ledger, accounts receivable/accounts payable along with check writing, budgeting and fiscal coverage capabilities). Power to track work orders and reminders, prints late notices, leases, checks, 1099s, etc.

* Tenant and lease direction capabilities (including rental management forms). Pop-up reminders to cue you of late rent, expiring leases, etc. Categorized by building, unit, owner or tenant.

* Capabilities to unionise tenants, contractors, etc.

* Templates for letters and forms, etc.

You can use the Google search railway locomotive on the Internet to study and evaluate property management software. To help you out, Ive listed several software package names and their URLs in alphabetic order. I dont commend a particular package. I simply recommend that you try them out and see which one works best for you and is
You should be able to customize any of these programs to fit your specific needs.

* A single(a) checking account-Definitely keep your real estate financial proceedings apart from your personal checking account! This is extremely authoritative because you dont want to receive a visit from the intragroup tax revenue Service (IRS). If you dont keep a come apart account, the IRS will be very wary of any claims for expenses, losses, and derogation you put on your federal tax return. It may not believe you a legitimate business, and, if youre audited, you may have a devil of a time proving expenses if your records are mixed in with your personal checking account. Also, its wise to have a credit card in the name of your business enterprise and charge all stage business expenses to this account. This also keeps business records separate from personal accounts.

* Expense records-Document every expense you have and keep organized records. Expenses can include bank statements, cancelled checks, tax returns, invoices, etc. In short, always have proof available in case the IRS challenges items on your tax return.

* milage records-Its substantive to keep business-related travel expenses well-documented. This is because the IRS has a requisite that tax payers keep up records of business-related mileage in order to claim that mileage as a business expense on tax returns. As of 2007, the standard mileage rate that can be deduced from federal official taxes for the cost of operating a vehicle is 48.5 cents per mile for all business miles driven.

* Depreciation-Depreciation accounts for the fact that most assets lose their value over time and must finally be replaced. You definitely want to take reward of IRS rules to make sure you earn the highest profit possible. So, on your tax returns, claim the uttermost wear and tear allowed on such items as office equipment, software programs, cell phones, etc.

* Storage-Store all documents in an organized fashion so theyre easy to find and access. You dont want to waste of value time nerve-racking to locate items when you could be out determination more business. Use an organization method that works best for you (three-ring binders, tabbed folders, etc.). Photocopies of documents are fine for your office, but you may want to store originals in a safe depository box at your local bank. How remote, theres always the possibility of fire or water hurt destroying originals, and, if that happens, you could spend a lot of time and put out proving ownership of property and other items.

* Hire a professional for tax returns-Choose a board-certified tax attorney or CPA to prepare your taxes. This is a must. You may be tempted to use an off-the-shelf product (TurboTax, etc.), but I notify against it for the simple grounds that these products cant represent you before the IRS! Also, an experienced professional person will have knowledge that a tax computer programme couldnt mayhap possess. He or she will be well aware of all the intricacies of Federal tax law and will be able to use them for your maximum benefit.

* Hire main(a) contractors-At the starting time of your career, you dont need the hassle of maintaining employee records (wages, mixer security, etc.) and dealing with a myriad of state and federal governing agencies (OSHA, the Department of Labor, etc.). As your business grows, you may find it necessary to hire part-time and/or full-time employees. However, in the beginning, its much less incommode to hire freelance contractors.

Are you listening to me? Professional web design is a joke. People in that industry are rarely qualified to build great websites that are really nice and the ones who are charge an arm and a leg.

Satellite Internet’s advantages over Cable and DSL

For the majority of users, Cable and DSL are the options for connecting to the internet. However for those living out in rural and isolated areas these options aren’t alwaysavailable. Cable and DSL depend upon a land-based connection which means they connect through a wire. However, remote areas, such as the outback of Australia, don’t always have the telecommunication infrastructure required. As users depend more and more on the Internet to say in touch with their businesses, and family and friends in far off countries, the inaccessibility of these locations has become a real problem. So, what is the alternative?

Satellite Internet access offers a high speed solution for people in these locations. Using a satellite, the information is sent through the air and not a land-based connection. Satellite broadband technology has actually been around and used for a while but recent developments and upgrades are creating a higher level of awareness of this type of service. Slowly, it is becoming a close competitor to Cable and DSL services.

The satellite broadband Internet connection functions by transferring data to a system of satellites that are circling above the earth. The data is then re-directed back down to earth where it becomes decoded and displayed on your computer monitor. Anyone who has a view of the southern sky within the Northern Hemisphere can receive satellite internet.

Satellite internet has many benefits including a high speed connection that is seldom broken with 90% uptime. Using a portable tripod mounted dish it will be possible to travel to remote areas whilst still receiving an Internet connection. Satellite broadband has a high speed for surfing the web and also a fast download speed and your emails can be checked wherever you are.

Accessing the Internet through a satellite is a relatively new idea facilitating users to interact with the Internet all over the world. It is gaining popularity as it can supply internet services to those in remote areas and has unlimited business functions. The service is around the same price as you would give for cable or DSL services each month, but there is a higher opening cost as you have to acquire a satellite dish and receiver which are more costly than buying a modem.

Before choosing a satellite broadband provider, find out any equipment the company agrees to offer and any you have to obtain yourself. If you have to purchase any yourself you will need to know how much it will cost as these could be significant. Other important facts you need to know will be in regard to the speed of the connection. If you are planning to run a business from the location you may need more than one computer, make sure you have the information on how multiple computers will be connected to the same terminal. Check out how long you have to sign a contract for, if you need to finish the contract early you still might have to pay the remainder of it. Finally, ask them about the type of technical support they offer, is it 24 hours a day, online help or a telephone service.

Nearly all business’ today marketing and retail their products and services online. It has become automatic for most people to check out the Internet for products and prices before making a purchase. A business without Internet access has little hope of enduring due to fierce competition. At the moment, Cable and DSL are the leading options for broadband internet access providers. As the technology improves with broadband satellite internet, it could soon be a possibility that land based communication will become outdated and everyone will be getting their internet connection via a satellite.

Billing System vs. Billing Methodology

If you are 5,000 subscribers today and plan on being 5,000 subscribers next year, this article is not for you. If you already have 65% of the houses passed in your franchise area with 60% high speed data penetration and 25% phone penetration, then this article is not for you.

If you are a small or mid-size cable company and are looking to grow your subscribers and revenue, keep reading. When most small and mid-sized companies think of a billing system they think about a glorified accounting package that gets a bill from your office to your subscribers. A Tier 1 billing system is NOT simply software. It is a collection of processes and software that have been developed over a long period of time to support the largest companies in our industry.

An effective and efficient billing system becomes the cornerstone to a solid financial foundation. It is ready for you to grow in regards to the number of subscribers or the services you offer. It is also the center of your data. It holds information on your subscribers, where they live, the equipment they have, technicians’ notes as well as the call history details.

For decades, most of the major phone and cable companies have outsourced their billing operations to third party billing service bureaus. As we all know, as cable companies have rolled out new service offerings such as triple and quadruple play packages and advanced features such as video-on-demand and mobile video their billing operations have rapidly become more complex.

The decision to outsource the billing function is most often driven by a need to reduce operating costs, but in reality, a better billing system is a competitive advantage.

What Is A Tier 1 Billing Solution?

As mentioned earlier, a Tier 1 billing solution is an entire set of billing systems and processes that are utilized by large franchise and satellite companies, i.e. Time Warner, Comcast, Charter, Dish Network, DirecTV, etc. A Tier 1 vendor generally is one of the largest and most well known in its field often enjoying national or international recognition and acceptance. A Tier 1 billing solution has been tested and proven. You and your subscribers are not the guinea pig.

Top 10 Reasons To Choose A Tier 1 Billing Solution

1. Research and Development budget equaling millions of dollars annually

2. Future proof your organization

3. Round-the-clock/24×7 customer care for your subscribers

4. Convergence solutions to bring new services to market quickly

5. Robust reporting to give you the data to make better business decisions

6. Proven, pre-integrated solutions to eliminate risk, cost and installation

7. Reduce operating costs and adopt economies of scales

8. Scalable technology

9. Ability to make statements into personalized marketing tools

10. Workforce management

Research And Development

A Tier 1 billing provider will typically spend 10% to 15% of their annual revenue on research and development. This is $40 million dollars + for each of the largest providers in our industry!

As a small or mid-sized cable company you don’t have a budget for mistakes. You don’t have a budget for billing experiments. You need the system to work day one. With a Tier 1 billing system the probability is great that a larger company has already proven any solution you are considering for your business. They have gone through the expensive initial development process and you are simply able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

In addition, a Tier 1 billing system will take the time to determine the most efficient way for a particular process to work. For example, what is the absolute fastest way to take a triple-play order? Millions of dollars have been spent on this question alone.

Future Proof Your Organization

Tier 1 products touch more than 90 million North American customers and balance billions in client accounts receivable to the penny each month. They have a reputation for unsurpassed quality in its service offerings. The reality is that because these systems are used everyday in some of the largest cable and satellite operations their commitment to quality is constant. They have been around for years and are going to be around for many more. The software is regularly updated and there are plenty of resources available for questions.

Round-the-Clock Coverage

In today’s fast paced world, 24/7 is becoming the standard. Your subscribers demand it and you have to deliver it. Each client interaction, whether it is for technical support, billing or sales requires whomever answers the phone to know quite a bit about your business and, in many cases, the various previous interactions with that particular subscriber.

A Tier 1 billing solution incorporates what customer service has to do in the meticulous design of the user interface. They make sure that your customer service representative is able to treat each of your subscribers personably, quickly and accurately.

Convergence

When you need to introduce new types of services, flexible pricing plans, and creative offers, a Tier 1 billing provider offers proven solutions that help you bring them to market quickly. These solutions are designed to support convergence from the ground up. When you work with a Tier 1 billing partner, you can easily enter new lines of business with confidence while leveraging your existing billing and customer care investment and infrastructure. As you read this you can be sure that somewhere out there one of the mega-franchise operators is testing an interface between the newest greatest product you haven’t heard of yet and their Tier 1 billing system. Maybe the product won’t sell. Maybe it will. The benefit for you as a small or mid-sized operator is that if you decide the product will sell you can be reasonably confident that the interface is already built.

Multiple Forms Of Accurate Reporting

Over a Tier 1 billing provider’s history effective reports have been developed by many of the most successful cable and satellite operators. You need a solution that enables you to monitor and track subscriber behavior in order to conduct analyses that will allow you to better serve your subscribers.

Your billing solution should include many standard reports as well as the ability to conduct ad hoc reporting and analysis such as general or detailed operational analyses to report critical performance information. These reports will allow you to concentrate on how to use such data to make informed decisions.

Proven, Pre-Integrated Solutions

Because Tier 1 billing systems work with larger operators, solutions are extensively tested before they are released to market. In addition, because the Tier 1 provider has the capacity to support millions of cable customers nationwide, the ancillary products have been designed to equally scale within these parameters. In short, what you need works.

Cost Savings

The issue of total cost of ownership of a customer care and billing system is a critical element in managing overall costs. Economies of scale represent one of the most important elements in managing these costs. While economies of scale in pricing can be experienced with packaged billing solutions, they are not usually experienced until the software manages a very large number of end customers.

In contrast, a Tier 1’s outsourced solution manages and invoices millions of subscribers every month. As a result, these providers already experience significant economies of scale in its outsourced billing operations.

Scalable Technology

Tier 1 billing providers think in terms of millions. They want you to be successful and to grow to your maximum capabilities. Because of this their entire systems are designed to scale to 100 million+ subscribers. With a Tier 1 solution, you simply don’t have to worry about hitting a wall with any part of your solution.

Marketing Tools

As a communications provider you already know that the monthly statement is one of the most consistent channels you have to communicate with your customers. It is also the opportunity to begin a real conversation with your customers; a tool that can help improve revenue, decrease customer care costs, and increase up- and cross-selling of new services.

When you outsource your billing, the vendor needs to process each statement, billing insert, letter and notice according to strident quality and accuracy standards. They should offer statement and invoice design, formatting and printing; archival services, customer letter creation, marketing services, online view and past-due notices.

Workforce Management

A Tier 1 billing system solution has the capability to automate your workforce management. Because these providers support tens of thousands of technicians and thousands of dispatchers, they have the tools you need to maximize your truck rolls and measure your performance. With these tools you are able to tell your customers the exact time their technician will arrive and mean it.

The tools of a Tier 1 billing solution are just manifestations of the best practices and processes that have been developed over years and based on millions upon millions of subscriber interactions.

The expectations of our subscribers are already being set by the competition. By using a Tier 1 billing system you are able to level the playing field and at least have access to the same tools and methodologies they have.

Making It Work: Tips For Choosing A Tier 1 Billing Partner

Whatever course of action you choose to take be sure that the solution meets your business requirements tactically and strategically. If you choose to outsource your billing services, make maximum reuse of solutions already developed and expertise by industry leaders this will help you avoid reinventing the wheel in-house and get you up and running quickly.

Therefore, there are many factors to consider when choosing a billing partner. Here are a few:

1. The billing vendor must have specific domain knowledge necessary to be an effective extension of your organization. Key questions to ask are: What expertise is the vendor bringing to the deal? Do they have expertise in the cable industry? Within their cable expertise, are they experts within specific business segments — such as digital versus satellite?

2. The billing vendor’s product has to be designed for the task. What are the products that will deliver the flexibility and pricing models? Is it the best product available to deliver those capabilities? Also, consider the risks involved, like whose product is it? Is the vendor the outsourcer, or is the outsourcer dealing with someone else’s product?

3. The billing organization’s system capabilities and business practices must be aligned with business goals. Different vendors have different strengths and weaknesses. Cable providers should ask questions such as: What intellectual capital does the vendor offer? What do their offerings look like? Is their organization able to align with my business?

4. Your new billing vendor should offer flexibility in its own outsourcing business model. To structure a deal that will work requires flexibility: What scope and expertise will the service provider utilize? How do you work out a deal that optimizes the strengths of your cable organization with those of the supplier?

5. Is the vendor in question a Tier 1 service provider? Does it perform with Tier 1 reliability and scalability to comfortably support millions of subscribers? Can it be installed to serve a large provider with low cost hardware to support most service providers’ requirements?

6. Am I able to get support for my billing system from a team of experts at whatever time the support is needed?