10 Free Holiday Activities for Couples Paying off Debt

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This is where it all started guys. On a quiet summer afternoon I hit publish on my first post titled 10 Free Activities for Couples Paying off Debt and the rest is history. I thought it fitting to do one for the winter as well, seeing how we spend more money this time of year than any other.

1. Christmas Lights Home Tour

Every city has a neighborhood that really goes all out with the lights. Take a drive to look at them or walk if the weather isn’t frightful. In Florida, the weather is always great this time of year so we have a biking group that does a huge ride through the neighborhoods and ends back at a bar for beers.

You can make a trip out of it too. A city near us was featured on TV for their light displays so I’m looking forward to seeing it this year. Sometimes houses do the same thing every year so it’s fun to switch it up from time to time.

2. Holiday Movie Night

Put on your pajamas and pour the cocoa, there’s nothing better than a Christmas movie! While I’m partial to all holiday Claymation movies I loved the resurgence of quality seasonal cinema of the early 2000’s. For those with Netflix (or borrowing from a friend) here’s a list of movies for your viewing pleasure.

If you don’t have Netflix, channels like NBC, ABC, Freeform, etc always have a good variety (I’m judging you if you even try to add Hallmark Channel movies to that list.)

3. School Holiday Production

Elementary schools always have some type of performance with oodles of cute awkward kids singing carols and dressed like elves. The best part, these events are usually free. If you don’t have friends with kids that can keep you in the loop find some teacher friends with connections. They’ll know when all the good shows are. But word to the wise, don’t do this one if you look like these guys:

Do the Creep

Do the Creep

4. Live Nativity

These things can range from “plastic baby in a manger” to “drive-through re-creation of the gospels.” Even if you get a bad one there’s usually hot cocoa and cookies at the end so you win either way. The good ones really do bring the Christmas story to life and it’s a pretty cool experience. I highly recommend it.

5. Star Gaze

Winter is a great time for star gazing. Taurus, Perseus, and Gemini are some of the constellations you can find in the winter sky. Yes, I did Google that, so even if you’re not a budding astronomer who doesn’t enjoy looking at shiny things in the sky?

Download an app like SkyView Free and find all the starry patterns. If you’re lucky enough to live by a planetarium see if they do free shows. Ours does two every Friday that the college is in session.

6. Holiday Parade

Was anybody else in marching band? I was and it was absolutely for the parades. There are a lot in December! We have our pick of morning or evening throughout the month. And since we live near the water we even have a few lighted boat parades! Check your cities events calendar and cities around you to fill your weekends with candy canes and Santas!

7. Photo with Santa

Speaking of Santa, how ridiculous are the prices for photos with Santa these days!? I don’t even have kids and I feel like I need to start putting away for their Santa pictures fund. That was until I found out about Bass Pro Shop’s annual Santa’s Wonderland. On select days you can get a free personalized photo with Santa, free wooden picture frame, free crafts for the kids, and more!

And even if you don’t have kids you should definitely put on your tackiest Christmas sweaters and make this years’ card something the family will be talking about til next year. Why not? It’s free!

8. Volunteer

I included this in my last list but the opportunities for giving this time of year are too numerous not to share again. Aside from soup kitchens and caroling you can hand out Christmas cards at Hospice, collect cans of food from your pantry to give to a shelter, or connect with your local foster care licensing agency to help out a foster family in need. Your money is valuable but your time is just as needed.

9. Go Outside

This is the obligatory “make a snow angel or sled down a hill” spot. But I live in Florida so I don’t know how to do that stuff. Whether you’re in blizzard country or it’s a balmy 70 degrees outside (sorry not sorry) get your butt outside and experience the free entertainment mother nature has to offer. I for one love walks downtown during the day and bonfires with s’more at night.

10. Stay Inside

Okay, outside not your thing? Stay inside… if you know what I mean. When’s the last time you pretended you were on your honeymoon or your favorite vacation with your significant other? There’s never a good time to put on those nighties from your lingerie shower so make the time! Get romantic and see what happens. Hey, it’s free. ?

Any other ideas for free activities this time of year? I’m always looking for new things to try and include in new posts!

Free Activities for Couples

Free Activities for Couples

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If you want to get out of the house this winter, check out these activities! 10 Free winter activities for couples paying off debt. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg every single time you leave the house. #freewinteractivities #freeactivitiesforcouples #freewinteractivitiesforcouples #cheapactivities

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Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.

Source: modernfrugality.com

Benton County, Oregon VA Loan Information

Table of Contents

FAQ

What is the VA Loan Limit?

2021 VA Home Loan Limit: $0 down payment up to $5,000,000* (subject to lender limits) /2 open VA loans at one time $548,250 (Call 877-432-5626 for details).

How to Apply for a VA Home Loan?

This is a quick look at how to apply for a VA home loan in Benton county. For a more detailed overview of the VA home loan process, check out our complete guide on how to apply for a VA home loan. Here, we’ll go over the general steps to getting a VA home loan and point out some things to pay attention to in Benton County. If you have any questions, you can call us at VA HLC and we’ll help you get started.

  1. Get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
    • Give us a call at (877) 432-5626 and we’ll get your COE for you.
  2. Are you applying for a refinance loan? Check out our complete guide to VA Refinancing.
  3. Get pre-approved, to get pre-approved for a loan, you’ll need:
    • Previous two years of W2s
    • Most recent 30 days paystubs or LES (active duty)
    • Most recent 60 days bank statements
    • Landlord and HR/Payroll Department contact info
  4. Find a home
    • We can help you check whether the home is in one of the Benton County flood zones
  5. Get the necessary inspections
    • Termite inspection: required
    • Well or septic inspections needed, if applicable
  6. Get the home appraised
    • We can help you find a VA-Certified appraiser in Benton County and schedule the process
    • Construction loan note: Construction permit/appraisal info
      1. Building permit
      2. Elevation certificate
  7. Lock-in your interest rates
    • Pro tip: Wait until the appraisal to lock-in your loan rates. If it turns out you need to make repairs, it can push your closing back. Then you can get stuck paying rate extension fees.
  8. Close the deal and get packing!
    • You’re ready to go.

What is the Median Home Price?

As of August 31st, 2020, the median home value for Benton County is $385,002. In addition, the median household income for residents of the county is $58,655.

How much are the VA Appraisal Fees?

  • Single-Family: $775.
  • Individual Condo: $825.
  • Manufactured Homes: $825.
  • 2-4 Unit Multi-Family: $950.
  • Appraisal Turnaround Times: 10 days.

Do I need Flood Insurance?

  • The VA requires properties are required to have flood insurance if they are in a Special Flood Hazard Area.
  • In Benton County, most flood hazard areas are located along the Willamette River which borders the county to the east. Several other creeks within the county are also prone to flooding. However, one of the most significant flood hazard areas is Marys River which floods areas within the city of Corvallis.

How do I learn about Property Taxes?

  • The Benton county tax assessor’s office is located at 4077 S.W. Research Way Corvallis, Oregon, 97333. In addition, the office can also be reached by calling (541) 766-6855
  • Oregon offers businesses that invest and hire within enterprise zones the option to be exempt from property taxes for at least three years. In addition, the Oregon Investment Advantage encourages new businesses to start and relocating to the state. For example, the program offers income tax subtraction, and it can also eliminate state income liability for new businesses for many years.

What is the Population?

  • The county’s population of 93,053 is 79% White, 7% Hispanic, and 7% Asian.
  • Most county residents are between 18 and 65 years old, with 16% under 18 years old and 17% older than 65.
  • In total, the county has about 35,056 households, at an average of two people per household.

What are the major cities?

The county has five cities, including the city of Corvallis, which serves as the county seat. In addition, there are four other cities Adair Village, Albany, Monroe, and Philomath.

About Benton County

Benton County is located in western Oregon and is home to a friendly local community and excellent dining options. Fun in the Oregon wilderness is waiting at any of the beautiful outdoor spots in the county. Many fun and interesting attractions can be found all over the area, including museums, art galleries, golf courses, and much more. Don’t miss out on any of the exciting festivals held in the county, where you can truly celebrate like a local! Benton County was officially founded on December 23, 1847, and was named after Thomas Hart Benton, who served as a U.S. Senator. The current population of the county is 90,951.

Enjoy all the beauty of the Oregon landscape at any of the scenic outdoor spots in Benton County. The E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area is the perfect place to get away from it all, featuring beautiful hiking trails and scenic campsites. For some of the best hiking and rock-climbing opportunities, be sure to check out Mary’s Peak, which offers majestic lookout points. Bring your friends and family to Riverfront Commemorative Park, which features walking paths, picnic areas, and much more. Other scenic outdoor spots in the county include the Alsea Falls Recreation Site and the Beazell Memorial Forest.

A great time is waiting at any of the amazing attractions in Benton County. The Arts Center is a can’t-miss for art-lovers, featuring a huge variety of paintings and sculptures made by talented artists. The Arts Center also hosts workshops, rotating exhibits, and special events. If you are interested in local history, then be sure to visit all the amazing exhibits and artifacts housed within the County Historical Museum. Check out the beautiful Darkside Cinema, which is independently owned and showcases both independent and art films. Other great attractions in the county include the Majestic Theater, Art in the Valley, and the LaSells Stewart Center.

A fun time for the whole family is waiting at all the exciting events held in Benton County. The County Fair and Rodeo bring out most of the local community to enjoy carnival rides, fun games, and delicious local food. Try a multitude of delicious drinks at Corvallis Beer Week. Other great events held in the county include the Corvallis Fall Festival and the Red Blue and Riverfront Festival.

Veteran Information

There are about 5,249 veterans currently living within Benton County, which offers assistance to veterans through:

Benton County is home to one VFW post:

  • Post 3957 Monroe Post – 605 Main Street, Monroe, Oregon 97456.

VA Medical Centers in the county:

  • Benton County VSO – 777 NW 9th Street, Suite 202, Corvallis, Oregon 97330.
  •  

VA Home Loan Information

  • For more information about VA Home Loans and how to apply, click here.
  • If you meet the VA’s eligibility requirements, you will be able to enjoy some of the best government guaranteed home loans available.  
  • VA loans can finance the construction of a property. However, the property must be owned and prepared for construction as the VA cannot ensure vacant land loans.

VA Approved Condos

There are currently no VA approved condos in Benton County, Oregon. However, if you’re interested in getting a condo through the approval process give us a call at (877) 432-5626. We can help you through the condo approval process.   

Oregon VA Loan Information: https://www.vahomeloancenters.org/oregon-va-home-loan-limits/

VA Loan Information by State: https://www.vahomeloancenters.org/va-loan-limit-maximum-va-loan-amount/

Source: vahomeloancenters.org

Wallowa County, Oregon VA Loan Information

Table of Contents

FAQ

What is the VA Loan Limit?

2021 VA Home Loan Limit for Wallowa County is $0 down payment up to $5,000,000* (subject to lender limits) /2 open VA loans at one time $548,250 (Call 877-432-5626 for details).

How to Apply for a VA Home Loan?

This is a quick look at how to apply for a VA home loan in Wallowa County. For a more detailed overview of the VA home loan process, check out our complete guide on how to apply for a VA home loan. Here, we’ll go over the general steps to getting a VA home loan and point out some things to pay attention to in Wallowa County. If you have any questions, you can call us at VA HLC and we’ll help you get started.

  1. Get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
    • Give us a call at (877) 432-5626 and we’ll get your COE for you.
  2. Are you applying for a refinance loan? Check out our complete guide to VA Refinancing.
  3. Get pre-approved, to get pre-approved for a loan, you’ll need:
    • Previous two years of W2s
    • Most recent 30 days paystubs or LES (active duty)
    • Most recent 60 days bank statements
    • Landlord and HR/Payroll Department contact info
  4. Find a home
    • We can help you check whether the home is in one of the Wallowa County flood zones
  5. Get the necessary inspections
    • Termite inspection: required
    • Well or septic inspections needed, if applicable
  6. Get the home appraised
    • We can help you find a VA-Certified appraiser in Wallowa County and schedule the process
    • Construction loan note: Construction permit/appraisal info
      1. Building permit
      2. Elevation certificate
  7. Lock-in your interest rates
    • Wait until the appraisal to lock-in your loan rates. If it turns out you need to make repairs, it can push your closing back. Then you can get stuck paying rate extension fees.
  8. Close the deal and get packing!
    • You’re ready to go.

What is the Median Home Price?

As of March 31st, 2020, the median home value for Wallowa County is $283,615. In addition, the median household income for residents of the county is $44,953.

How much are the VA Appraisal Fees?

  • Single-Family: $775.
  • Individual Condo: $825.
  • Manufactured Homes: $825.
  • 2-4 Unit Multi-Family: $950.
  • Appraisal Turnaround Times: 10 days.

Do I need Flood Insurance?

The VA requires properties are required to have flood insurance if they are in a Special Flood Hazard Area.

How do I learn about Property Taxes?

  • Randy Wortman is the Wallowa county tax assessor. His office can be reached at 101 South River Street Rm 104 Enterprise, Oregon 97828. In addition, his office can also be reached by calling (541) 426-4543 Ext: 1147.
  • The state of Oregon offers businesses that invest and hire in enterprise zones the option to be exempt from property taxes for at least three years. In addition, the Oregon Investment Advantage program encourages new businesses that are starting as well as the ones who are relocating to the state with various incentives. For example, the program offers income tax subtraction and elimination of state income liability for new businesses for many years.

What is the Population?

  • The county’s population of 7,208 is 92% White, 3% Hispanic, and 2% mixed race.
  • Most county residents are between 18 and 65 years old, with 19% under 18 years old and 29% older than 65.
  • In total, the county has about 3,165 households, at an average of two people per household.

What are the major cities?

There are four cities within the county including the city of Enterprise which is also the county seat. The three other cities in the county are Joseph, Lostine, and Wallowa.

About Wallowa County

Named after the word used by natives to describe the area, Wallowa County, Oregon was home to the Nez Perce people who had lived in the area for about 11,500 years. Eventually, the first white settlers in the county arrived in 1871 and in 1877 the native people got removed from the area and were sent to the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. However, they did not go quietly and under the leadership of Chief Joseph had several battles until they were ultimately defeated and forced to relocate. Eventually, in 1880 the town of Joseph was named in honor of the chief.

Today, the county is a member of the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District which provides businesses in the region with assistance. Assistance is provided through training, and technical assistance for businesses, non-profits, and local governments.

Educationally speaking, the county is served by four school districts which include a total of six schools that range from kindergarten to high school. In addition, students in the county get to take part in classes with a student to teacher ratio of 11 to 1, allowing for education to be more adaptive and personal.

Finally, in addition to its workforce and education, the county is also home to beautiful natural scenery which has been said to work as a magnet for tourists. Several recreational areas exist within the county like Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. 

Veteran Information

The county is currently home to 655 veterans, and they all have access to:

  • Wallowa County is home to two VFW post:
    • Post 4307 Eagle Cap Post – 800 N River St. Enterprise, OR 97828.
    • Post 4060 high Valley Post – 518 N. Main St. Union, OR 97883.
  • VA Medical Centers in the county:
    • Wallowa County VA Telehealth Clinic – 401 Northeast 1st St. Suite A, Enterprise, OR 97828.
  • County Veteran Assistance Information
    • Wallowa County Veteran Service Office – 401 NE 1st Enterprise, OR 97828. 

Apply for a VA Home Loan

  • For more information about VA Home Loans and how to apply, click here.
  • If you meet the VA’s eligibility requirements, you will be able to enjoy some of the best government guaranteed home loans available.  
  • VA loans can finance the construction of a property. However, the property must be owned and prepared for construction as the VA cannot ensure vacant land loans.

VA Approved Condos

There are currently no VA-approved condos in Wallowa County, Oregon. However, it is still possible to get a condo through the condo approved and we can help you through the condo approval process, just call us at (877) 432-5626.  

Oregon VA Loan Information: https://www.vahomeloancenters.org/oregon-va-home-loan-limits/

VA Loan Information by State: https://www.vahomeloancenters.org/va-loan-limit-maximum-va-loan-amount/

Source: vahomeloancenters.org

How to Add Your Business to Yelp and Optimize Your Listing

If you’re like most Internet users, you’ve used a business listing or directory website to find a restaurant, specialty store, tax preparer, or other service provider in your area.

Yelp, arguably the most popular business information directory for customer-facing services businesses, welcomes many millions of unique visitors per month. According to Expanded Ramblings, Yelp draws more than 175 million monthly visitors, with mobile traffic accounting for the majority.

Consumers use Yelp to search for service providers near them, navigating to its website or mobile app for a few minutes at a time and closing out when they’ve found what they’re looking for. But business owners have a much more intimate relationship with business directory sites like Yelp. For many small, independent outfits, business listings represent a significant source of new customers — far more than word of mouth marketing alone. If your small business doesn’t yet have a listing, it could be time to set one up.

Yelp for Business Owners: Does It Make Sense to List Your Company?

Yelp isn’t ideal for every type of business. Generally speaking, the most popular Yelp searches pertain to businesses that offer sensory experiences, such as restaurants, bars, venues, and specialized experience providers like tour companies. Searches for retailers — both independent and those tied to a larger chain — are popular as well.

Other popular Yelp categories include:

  • Hotels and travel services
  • Beauty shops and spas
  • Automotive
  • Home services, such as house cleaning, plumbing, and general contracting
  • Health and medical

Yelp also segments listed companies by location: county, municipality, and sometimes neighborhoods (mostly in bigger cities). If your business lives and dies by the number of people who walk into its physical location — for instance, you run a restaurant or retail outlet that does a large amount of business through a storefront — a business directory listing is basically mandatory.

On the other hand, if your company doesn’t have a storefront or doesn’t rely on one to drive sales — for instance, if you sell things online — then other means of driving customers to your business, such as social media marketing techniques or a listing on an e-commerce website like Etsy, are likely to offer a better payoff.

Pros of Listing Your Business on Yelp

Listing a business on Yelp has some key benefits, including legitimacy for businesses who’ve claimed their listings, high search rankings for Yelp business profiles and business owner accounts, and value for customer research.

1. Claimed Listings Confer Legitimacy

Regardless of how much effort you put into optimizing and curating it, the simple act of claiming your business directory listing can change how prospective customers see your business. On most business directories, including Yelp, unclaimed listings are plainly displayed as such. To the man or woman on the street, a highly visible prompt to claim a particular listing — which takes a matter of minutes — doesn’t inspire confidence that the listed business is well-run, or that the owner cares about courting new customers.

Although this is an admittedly subjective measure of an owner’s buy-in or a business’s quality, I know that I personally shy away from businesses with unclaimed directory listings unless they’re backed by a recognizable brand or I’m familiar with them by other means, such as word of mouth.

2. Listings Typically Rank Well in Organic Search (Good for SEO)

Although the details of popular search engines’ algorithms are proprietary and ever-changing, it’s clear that online directory listings rank highly in organic search results — the lists you see when you type a search term into the Google or Bing search bar.

The upshot of this: Unless its name can easily be confused with common or generic terms like “Tasty Pizza,” a typical business’s Yelp listings are likely to appear on the first results page of a search engine — an important point, since most searchers never make it to subsequent results pages. And because Yelp is a well-known and ostensibly unbiased source of information, searchers who want to get the unvarnished truth on a given business are likely to click on the results for its listings.

3. Consumers Rely Heavily on Directory Listings for Research

Despite a recent study reported by PCMag that found roughly 40% of online reviews to be bogus, 60% of consumers consider online review sites as useful as recommendations from real-life acquaintances, according to a 2017 ReportLinker survey. In an increasingly jaded world, that’s a pretty high mark — and a strong case for creating and maintaining listings on popular directory sites.

Cons of Listing Your Business on Yelp

Listing your business on Yelp does have some drawbacks, including a significant time component, limited control over reviews, and the potential for abuse.

1. Maintaining Your Business Profile Takes Time and Resources

Claiming or creating a business listing doesn’t take much time or effort. You can handle either in a spare moment.

However, optimizing and maintaining your listing is not so easy. Even free activities such as uploading photos, analyzing customer data, and responding to reviews all take time that you likely don’t have as a busy entrepreneur. If you have other social media accounts or an online store, your digital responsibilities could become overwhelming, diverting your attention from more immediate business needs.

One solution is to hire a part- or full-time marketing employee or social media manager, but that requires a new addition to the payroll — not always a realistic proposition for cash-poor small business owners. Another option is to retain an outside firm to handle your digital marketing needs, although that can be just as expensive as hiring a part-time employee.

If you currently lack the time or resources to produce a first-rate business directory profile, there’s no shame in concluding that it’s better to wait until you do have those luxuries. If you can’t do it right, don’t feel pressured to do it at all.

2. May Not Display All Users’ Yelp Reviews (or Any at All)

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, some online business directories — particularly Yelp — took lots of blowback for failing to do their part to contain the untold millions of fake reviews spreading across the Internet. Fake directory reviews came in several different flavors, but it was particularly common for listed businesses to purchase positive reviews — typically with gushing praise and the highest possible ratings — for their own listings, or post positive reviews themselves using dummy accounts. In competitive markets, less scrupulous companies likewise had no qualms about posting fake negative reviews on competitors’ listings.

Although they haven’t totally eradicated fake reviews, online directory sites have definitely cracked down on the practice. In fact, the crackdown has been so good that some legitimate reviews don’t make it through the directories’ quality filters, which are controlled by proprietary algorithms similar to those used by search engines.

If you want the opportunity to see — and ensure that your customers see — every review of your business, good or bad, this is a big drawback. And although the particulars of directories’ visibility-controlling algorithms aren’t public, one can envision an algorithm deciding that an overly enthusiastic but legitimate positive review is a fake while allowing a tepid review to be seen.

3. Directory Listings Contain Sensitive Information

If you need your customers to come to your physical place of business, they need to know where it’s located and how to contact it. A restaurant can’t survive if no one’s coming in to eat or calling to order takeout.

On the other hand, there are times when it’s better to conceal your business location, and possibly contact information, from the public. For instance, say you provide white-collar services, such as accounting or legal advice, to local businesses — but you typically visit with clients at their offices and don’t want them to know you work out of a home office or coworking hub. Listing your home address as your business address reveals where you live, while listing a coworking space can lead judgmental clients or your competitors to conclude that you can’t afford a “real” office.

Note that if an unclaimed listing already exists for your business, you may need to claim it and edit out sensitive information or request its removal altogether.

4. Your Listing Could Attract Abuse

Even if you’re not paranoid about people knowing where you live or looking down on you for basing your company out of a coworking space, there’s another reason to eschew a public business directory listing: the prospect that your listing could become a venue for abusive or hateful reviews.

Because business directory sites allow rank-and-file Internet users to post reviews on a given business’s listing without proving that they’ve actually interacted with the company in real life, it’s relatively easy to organize a negative publicity campaign utilizing Yelp or another directory site that permits user reviews. (Directories occasionally step in to delete or moderate obscene or threatening reviews, particularly in response to user flags, but you shouldn’t bank on this to single-handedly keep vitriolic reviews off your listing.)

These negative campaigns typically center around a major service gaffe or prominent public support for a controversial political position. A great example: In early 2015, the owners of a small-town Indiana pizzeria called Memories Pizza made headlines when they said they would follow the letter of the state’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many observers interpreted as giving businesses wide latitude to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The ensuing backlash saw thousands of sarcastic, occasionally obscene comments posted on Memories Pizza’s website. The Indianapolis Star reported that the shop closed shortly thereafter, with the owners citing safety concerns.

In the past, lower-profile incidents of a similar nature have hit businesses expressing opposition to state minimum wage increases or support for creationism and intelligent design. To be fair, some argue that the old saying, “All press is good press,” applies here, as negative directory campaigns sometimes spark a backlash that pays off for the affected business. It’s worth noting that, as reported by Forbes, Memories Pizza raised more than $800,000 in a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign in the four days following its closure.


How to Claim or Create Your Yelp Listing

Yelp uses publicly available and user-submitted information to generate listings for operational businesses. If you’ve been open for some time, there’s a good chance you’re already in Yelp’s database. Yelp allows the legitimate owners of such a business to “claim” their existing profile.

Claiming your profile provides certain privileges:

  • Updating Listing Information. You can edit critical information about your business, including its physical address, phone number, business hours, and website address. This is important because Yelp doesn’t guarantee that its unclaimed business listings are accurate.
  • Adding Photos and Links. You can upload photos of your storefront, merchandise, and the inside of your business. This is great for restaurant owners who want to show off tasty-looking menu items, or service providers who want to display photos of a van or truck bearing a distinctive logo, which users are more likely to recognize than a faceless storefront or generic uniform.
  • Interacting With Reviewers. Claimed profile owners can respond to user-generated reviews, either by sending the user a private message through Yelp’s system or making a public post on the comments feed. This is particularly useful for owners who want to address negative feedback from users and contain issues that could hurt business. Note that you can’t edit or delete negative reviews, which might call Yelp’s objectivity into question, but you can respond to them.
  • User Views and Leads. Yelp tracks your listing’s page views and displays this information to verified business owners. It also creates Customer Leads, which provide hints about how customers are interacting with your business. Data sources for Customer Leads include:
    • Mobile check-ins
    • Mobile calls made directly to your business using Yelp’s on-site click-to-call feature
    • Map views
    • Click-throughs from your Yelp listing to your company website
    • User-uploaded photos on your business page
    • Bookmarks placed on your listing using Yelp’s bookmark feature

Claiming an Existing Business Listing

To get started, click Yelp’s “Claim Your Listing” button, then type in your exact business name and city. This takes you to a results page that displays similarly named businesses nearby and indicates whether they’ve been claimed. If your business is listed, it should say that it hasn’t been claimed.

To claim your listing, you need to create a Yelp account with your first name, last name, email address, and password. Make sure the phone number on your listing is accurate, then click “Call Me Now.” This prompts Yelp to robo-call the listed business number with a unique verification code.

Once you receive that code, you can enter it into the proper field and start editing your listing. If you’re unable to complete the phone verification process for any reason, you can also manually verify your identity as the business owner by emailing Yelp’s support team.

Creating a New Business Listing

If your business doesn’t have an existing listing to claim, you need to create one. At the bottom of the business search results page, click the “Add a Business” button and enter as much information as possible into the fields on the next screen: your business name, exact address, phone number, and website at a minimum.

After you submit this information, it takes Yelp some time — usually no more than two business days — to verify that the business exists and add it to its listings. Once added, you can search for it as described and claim the listing as your own.


How to Optimize Your Yelp Listing

Claiming or creating a Yelp listing is an important first step. However, building a top-notch Yelp presence takes time and effort.

These tips and resources are useful as you work to set your listing apart from your competitors’:

1. Fill Out Your Profile Completely

The more complete your listing is, the better it looks to Yelp’s internal algorithm — and the higher it’s likely to appear on Yelp’s search results pages. There’s no reason not to fill out your profile completely.

2. Use Google Keyword Planner or a Similar Tool

Yelp listings are visible to Google and other search engines, so it pays to use a keyword planning tool — such as Google Keyword Planner, which requires a free Google AdWords account to use — to identify keywords that relate to your company.

For instance, if you specialize in Neapolitan-style pizza and discover that your company website ranks highly for the term “Neapolitan pizza,” make sure that keyword appears at least once in your business listing.

3. Add Lots of Photos

Photos breathe life into your Yelp listing and boost customer engagement. An internal Yelp study found that consumers linger on photo-enhanced Yelp pages for two and a half times as long than on pages with no photos.

Photos are especially useful for showing off your logo — particularly if it’s already plastered on your company’s vans or outdoor advertising properties, and thus recognizable to prospective customers — as well as for highlighting particular products, especially food. If your business is open to the public, include pictures of its interior and outdoor seating areas to give visitors a sense of what to look forward to.

4. Solicit and Respond to Customer Reviews

Yelp frowns on businesses that court reviews by giving away free stuff or offering special deals to those who post positive reviews — it sees this behavior as a form of manipulation. However, you can skirt this prohibition and stay in Yelp’s good graces by placing the Yelp logo in a visible location in your store (such as at checkout or on a menu), linking to your Yelp page from your company website, and straight-up asking for reviews with no strings attached.

Separately, be sure to respond to detailed, thoughtful reviews, whether they’re good or bad. It’s especially important to respond to negative feedback, which shows other page visitors that you’re willing to address service issues and other problems. Just remember to follow social media etiquette best practices at all times.

5. Try Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates

Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates can help you monetize your Yelp listing and generate buzz around your business. Like Groupons and other social deals, both offer heavy discounts on transactions with the issuing business. Yelp Deals focus on discounts for specific local services — for instance, “20% off a haircut-and-shave package.” Yelp Gift Certificates offer across-the-board discounts — for example, “$20 in merchandise for $10.”

In both cases, Yelp takes a cut of the proceeds: 30% of face value for Deals and 10% of face value for Gift Certificates, subject to change with company policy.

6. Consider Buying Ads

If you can afford another line item in your marketing budget, consider buying ad space on Yelp. Yelp ads appear above the first non-promoted listing in Yelp’s internal search results pages, similar to the paid search ads you see on Google and other search engines.

Although they’re clearly marked “Ad,” they’re highly visible and appear only with relevant search terms, so they’re great for attracting people actively searching for what you have to offer. And because they effectively give you priority placement over competitors, they’re great if you operate in a crowded market.

Costs vary widely depending on your location and industry, but expect to spend at least $50 per month for a high-visibility ad campaign.


Final Word

Yelp isn’t the only business listing site worth looking into. There are dozens of other sites that could get your company’s name in front of potential customers. Listings on some of these sites are free to claim, while others require a one-time or monthly fee. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Rather than spend significant amounts of time and marketing dollars going after them all, take a weekend or evening to research the options that work best for your business’s needs. Don’t be afraid to talk to other business owners in your industry, even if you’d normally be reluctant to share trade secrets with them. After all, with everything else you need to keep track of, the last thing you need is to make an investment with little to no chance of paying off.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Where More Young Residents Are Buying Homes – 2021 Study

Where More Young Residents Are Buying Homes – 2021 Study – SmartAsset

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The homeownership rate in America peaked at a little more than 69% in 2004 before falling to 63.7% in 2016, according to U.S. Census data. Despite the fact that it has rebounded to a little more than 65% in 2019 overall, only 36.4% of Americans younger than 35 own their homes. It may be easier in some places, though, for this young cohort to buy homes. To that end, SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find the cities where people younger than the age of 35 are most likely to own their own home – and to see where this number has gone up in recent years.

To find the cities where more under-35 residents are buying homes, we compared the homeownership rate for this demographic in 2009 with the homeownership rate in 2019 for 200 of the largest U.S. cities. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Young homeownership has decreased overall since 2009. While there are plenty of cities where homeownership among younger residents has increased, over the past decade the under-35 homeownership rate decreased by 3.71%, on average, across the 200 cities we analyzed.
  • Under-35 homeownership lags compared to that of older generations, particularly in large cities. Though some two-thirds of all Americans owned their homes in 2019, just one-fourth (26.15%) of residents younger than 35 did in the 200 cities we analyzed. Homeownership rates are particularly low for the under-35 set in America’s largest cities: of the 10 with the highest populations, nine are in the bottom half of the study for 2019 homeownership rate (only Phoenix cracks the top half at No. 67), and all 10 had decreasing homeownership rates from 2009 to 2019, with six out of 10 — Phoenix, San Jose, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Chicago — ranking in the bottom half of the study for change in homeownership rate from 2009 to 2019.

1. Midland, TX

Midland, Texas has seen a 10-year increase of 17.11 percentage points in the homeownership rate among people younger than 35, the largest growth seen in this study. The total homeownership for that age cohort in 2019 was 52.42%, the fourth-highest rate we analyzed for that metric. Together, this makes Midland the top place where more young residents are buying homes.

2. Cape Coral, FL

The homeownership for younger Cape Coral, Florida residents in 2019 was 55.54%, the third-highest rate in the study for this metric. That’s an increase of 8.71 percentage points compared to 2009, the fourth-highest increase for this metric across all 200 cities we considered.

3. Joliet, IL

Joliet, Illinois, located about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, had a homeownership rate of 63.48% for under-35 residents in 2019, the highest rate of all the cities we studied. Joliet ranks ninth for the 10-year change in homeownership, increasing 5.48 percentage points from its 2009 rate of 58.00%.

4. Mesquite, TX

Mesquite, Texas is part of the Dallas metro area, and in 2019, the homeownership rate among residents younger than 35 was 45.46%. That ranks 11th in our study, but in 2009 the rate was just 35.47%, meaning the increase over 10 years was 9.99 percentage points, third place for this metric.

5. Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield, in central California, ranks 20th for homeownership rate among younger people in 2019, at 39.75%. That’s a 10.01 percentage point increase over the 10-year period from 2009 to 2019, the second-highest jump for this metric in the study.

6. Aurora, CO (tied)

Aurora, Colorado ranks 15th for the 2019 homeownership rate among people younger than 35, at 42.28%. That is an increase of 5.29 percentage points from 2009, the 10th-largest jump we observed in the study.

6. Port St. Lucie, FL (tied)

Port St. Lucie, Florida has the fifth-highest homeownership rate among younger people in 2019, at 51.93%. It ranks 20th for its increase in that percentage from 2009, at 2.70 percentage points.

8. Gilbert, AZ

Gilbert, Arizona, located near Phoenix, has the eighth-highest homeownership rate among residents younger than 35, at 50.08%. That increased 2.69 percentage points since 2009, good enough for 21st place in that metric.

9. Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, Indiana ranked 17th in both of the metrics we measured for this study. The homeownership rate among those younger than 35 was 41.24% in 2019, a 3.32 percentage point increase over the previous 10 years.

10. Rancho Cucamonga, CA

The final city in the top 10 of this study is Rancho Cucamonga, California, which ranked 21st for under-35 homeownership in 2019, at 39.39%. That is a 3.77 percentage point jump since 2009, the 14th-biggest increase we observed across all 200 cities in the study.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where more young Americans are buying homes, SmartAsset examined data for 200 of the largest cities in the U.S. We considered two metrics:

  • 2019 homeownership rate for those under 35. This is the homeownership rate among 18- to 34-year-olds. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • 10-year change in homeownership rate for those under 35. This compares the homeownership rate among 18- to 34-year-olds in 2009 and 2019. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.

First, we ranked each city in both metrics. Then we found each city’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Tips for Buying a Home

  • Never too old for some expert guidance. No matter what age you are, buying a home is a big step, and a financial advisor can help you get ready to take it. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Meticulous mortgage management. Chances are you’ll need a mortgage to facilitate buying your home. Use SmartAsset’s free mortgage calculator to see what your monthly payments might be based on your financing rate and down payment.
  • Taxes don’t always have to be taxing. If you’re moving to one of the cities on this list, your tax burden might change. Use SmartAsset’s free income tax calculator to see what you’d owe the government each year if you pick up stakes and move.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo Credit: © iStock/valentinrussanov

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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Money Etiquette: How to Politely Ask for a Honeymoon Fund

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Have you been to a wedding that used Honeyfund or similar registry in place of traditional gifts? These new-age registries are becoming more and more popular and a variety of reasons has lead to the sudden increase. Couples are more likely to live together before marriage and are moving to smaller apartments in big cities.

Either way, a honeymoon fund – commonly referred to as a honeyfund – is a great option for those who want to take a grand vacation after their wedding but need a little help. But, what is the polite way to ask for this kind of gift?

How to Spread the Word

The best place to spread the word is your wedding website. Most templates come preloaded with a page specifically for registries, making it easy to add the link to your honeymoon fund there. You can also add a small story, or give some context, to why you are choosing a honeymoon fund over traditional registries. When my husband and I were engaged we did just this. We explained we were about to move to NYC, a city notorious for tiny apartments and were only moving with the bare minimum. We told our guests that coming to our destination wedding was a gift itself! But, if they still wanted to gift us something we had a honeymoon fund set up.

You can also choose to add a small registry card to your main wedding invitation. This is very popular as well and an easy way to reference your honeymoon fund and your wedding website.

Setting up Your Honeyfund Account

Setting up an account with Honeyfund, the most popular of the honeymoon fund websites, is extremely easy. Once you register, you create a profile adding your wedding details and honeymoon dreams. You can then design custom gifts for your guests to choose from. Money for airline tickets, hotel upgrades, spa visits, excursions. All of these are created by you, so the sky’s the limit! Do be aware if a guest gifts you $100 towards airline tickets you don’t have to use the money on airline tickets. The gifts are in name only.

Fees on Honeymoon Funds

There are actually very few fees that are associated with most online honeymoon funds. If guests gift you via gift cards bought through the web services or offline they pay zero fees. Any credit or debit gift is charged a small fee between 1-3%.

Other Registries Besides Honeyfund

While Honeyfund was the first and most well known of the new-age registries, there are a couple other choices that all offer different advantages. Check out Zola, Blueprint Registry, or Travelers Joy for other options.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day if you still feel weird, remember that all wedding registries used to be considered tacky and these new registries are becoming much more common. Just don’t forget to send out thank you cards!

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