What Exactly Is Escrow?

“Escrow” refers to a method in which big payments for things like houses, deeds, and other securities are processed.

Essentially, being ‘in escrow’ means that a payment is temporarily held by a safe third party until it has been determined that the seller has fulfilled their end of the bargain. It is a simple way to keep large scale transactions safe and ensure that neither party loses money if the deal doesn’t work out.

This guide to the basics of escrow will tell you a little more and help you get to grips with what it might mean for you.

The Classic Example

So, the best example of being in escrow is if you were to buy a house. You wouldn’t pay the sum directly to the seller (or at least, they wouldn’t receive it right away). It would be paid into a secure escrow holding account until all of the paperwork and supplementary fees have been paid on both sides of the arrangement.

When the process is fully complete, the escrow agent (manager of the account) releases the sum to the seller and the deal is closed. In some countries, they use a similar rule to protect rental deposits. A deposit is paid at the beginning of the rental term, but it doesn’t go directly to the landlord. Instead, it sits in a holding account, until the lease is expired or terminated.

This ensures that the landlord can’t spend the deposit and then refuse to return it when the tenant wants to leave. It is similar to escrow but on a smaller scale. The service itself has to be provided by a company that is not affiliated with either yourself or the seller. Otherwise, the whole point of escrow would be moot.

The third party can’t have any stake in who the money is eventually released to.

Deciding to Waive Escrow

It is also possible to waive escrow if it doesn’t suit your situation or you want to speed up a sale. This is the most common reason why people reject it; they’re buying a house and they want to move in as quickly as possible. There are fees required to do this, however, so it isn’t usually the best option.

It is also important to understand that escrow is a secure method of transaction. It is designed to protect the interests of both parties, but particularly the buyer. It isn’t every day that a person hands over the huge sum of money needed to purchase a property and it shouldn’t be done as casually as you might buy a new suit.

Escrow is a robust and secure form of financial protection. It ensures that you never do your bit and pay your fees, only to receive less than what you were promised. It does mean that transactions take a little longer to be processed, but the extra security is worth the wait. Use reputable and professional corporate advisors to help you along the process

Always take the correct professional advice before undertaking any legal agreement


Moving to Spain- There’s No Place Like Home!

You have found that picturesque destination and you have discovered the perfect place to invest in Spanish real estate. You have also done your research and you have made a budget for how you can live comfortably for years to come. Everything is perfect… or is it? No matter how cheap and wonderful everything may seem, the most important question to ask when moving overseas is, can you really love this new place you are putting so much effort into? Just because you are able to get the most of your money doesn’t always mean that life is always going to be happy.

What you need to do is take a step back and examine the clues. It is unreasonable to expect that all the conveniences of your former residence will be present in your new home. So you are going to need to learn to make do with what is at your disposal. Therefore it is important to like or at least appreciate almost every aspect of your new home: Such as the culture, the food, the weather, and the entertainment. If you can’t like the basic things, then the transition is not going to be as satisfactory as one may hope.

It is normal to experience a certain amount of culture shock in the beginning: Also a bad day every once in a while is unavoidable, no matter where you live. The important thing is that once the bad day has passed you can sit back and enjoy your home. Home is the key word here; feeling like a stranger in your new environment is no way to spend your life, after all the effort and research you put into actually getting yourself to that point.

So before making the final commitment, close your eyes, step outside of the moment, and click your heels three times saying “there is no place like home”. Hopefully when you open your eyes, your new place of residence will be exactly that; HOME.


Learning to Cope with Arthritis

Having dealt with rheumatoid arthritis for 28 years, I would like to share some strategies I have developed that enable me to live life on my own terms.

At 36 I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I have been dealing with this debilitating disease for the past 28 years. During that time I have endured 11 surgical procedures, a variety of medical cocktails, and a significant vision loss due to pharmaceutical side effects. But at age 64 I am still biking, hiking, cooking and playing with my four grandchildren. With the use of visual aids I write a regular blog on education. Below are the guidelines I employ to ensure that my life will continue to be lived on my terms.

Be the most effective patient possible

Physicians treat hundreds of patients. You are responsible for only one. Consequently, the person who is best positioned to give you intense and focused attention is the one in the mirror. Only you can ensure that your medications are always taken correctly, your diet is healthy and balanced and your exercise regimen is as rigorous as possible. You are the best person to monitor your symptoms and accurately report any significant physical changes to your doctor.

Dealing with a long-term disease is a partnership

The more you know about your disease, the more you will be able to help in your treatment. Read everything about your illness, talk to others who have had similar experiences and most of all ask questions. Medical practitioners want patients who work with them, ask good questions and offer critical insights into their condition. There is one inescapable reality that every patient must understand – no medical professional, regardless of how devoted or dedicated, will care as much about you as you do. And the best way to advocate for yourself is to understand your situation as completely as possible.

There is no “lemon law” for your body

Dwelling on the “what-ifs” of your health is a waste of time and resources. The sooner you accept that there are no recalls, re-dos, or returns for your body, the sooner you can maximize the rest of your life. Your joints may hurt, but you are still moving. Your vision may be limited, but you can still see beautiful things. Each day may be far from perfect, but it could always be worse. Reminiscing about when you were healthy or worrying about tomorrow will not improve your current health. The present is the only phase of your life you can actually control.

Use pain medications aggressively

The purpose of pain is to inform the brain that something is wrong with your body. At this point in time you probably already have more than enough data to confirm that fact. Enduring more pain than necessary can be as crippling as the disease itself. There are wonderful medications available that, when used appropriately, will result in a vastly improved quality of life. More times than not, “toughing it out” results in straining personal relationships, thwarting physical improvement and ultimately narrowing one’s life.

Never lose hope; medical history is rewritten every day

New medical breakthroughs are occurring on a daily basis. Diseases that were terminal 20 years ago are now being routinely controlled. Surgeries that required weeks in a hospital and months of recuperation are now outpatient procedures that find the patients back to their normal routine in days. Think of yourself as the backup quarterback at the Super Bowl. Always be prepared for your big opportunity. Keep your body and mind in the best shape possible and wait for the medical cavalry to arrive with an amazing new approach to your disease.

Surgery can be a good thing 

Surgical procedures do not come with guarantees of positive outcomes. Manual corrections to something as complex as the human body should never be equated to auto repair work. In many cases the risks far outweigh the potential gains. But if you talk to ten people who have had a knee or hip replacement, at least nine will tell you their only regret was they did not have it done sooner. Although the procedure may be exceedingly painful and the rehab can be long and arduous, many joint replacements can restore activities that had either become impossible or terribly difficult. Three to six months of work is a bargain for fifteen or more years of vigorous activity and reduction of pain.

Accepting help is not a sign of weakness

If there are people who can help you lift, read, explain, or encourage, let them. Save your strength and energy for the activities you can do without the aid of others. Combining “stubborn” and “disease” too often results in “failure.” People with a long-term disease need someone they can talk to when in crisis. Venting anger, frustration and sadness is critical to coping. This person can provide a haven where complaining and self-pity are acceptable.


Five Fab Ways To Improve Your SEO

SEO tip #1 – Don’t ignore the social media revolution!

Social media has grown to a massive degree over the past 3 or 4 years. Ignore it and you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Whether it’s Facebook, Linkedin, Digg, Twitter, Youtube or any other site, you should be looking to raise your brand awareness across them all. You will not only raise awareness, but also bring in traffic to your site. Most of these sites allow you to add widgets to your site to allow users to cast votes on your content. Again, great content will command greater votes, which ultimately will lead to greater traffic.

SEO tip #2- Get your link structure right

Link structure is important for a number of key reasons. First of all, it is important that your visitors can find what they are looking for, and a logical and easy to follow navigation will help them to do just that. Equally as important is having a good linking structure to help the Search Engine spiders from indexing every page on your site. There are an overwhelming number of webmasters that query why only certain pages have been indexed. A bad / disorganized linking structure is usually one of the key attributes behind this (along with the omission of a site map and robots.txt file – this is covered next).

You want to have all your key web pages linked to from every page on your site. This helps optimize internally through building link popularity for these pages. Use the keywords in the anchor text that you are looking to rank for on the target page. For example, don’t use the word ‘Home’ in your navigation. If your site is about Computers, use ‘Computers’ or ‘Best Computer Buys’ as this optimizes your home page for these keywords.

You should also look to have relevant articles posted across sections on your site. If you have a section on ‘Poker Tournaments’, create a number of articles on ‘Poker Tournaments’ that relate to that section alone. This increases internal link relevancy and helps boost your SEO. Remember if you have one page about a topic across a large site, the Search Engines will see it as a standalone page. Build 100 articles on the same topic (and interlink them) and you will be given more relevancy kudos!

SEO tip #3 – Include a Robots.txt file

This helps the Search Engine bots index your entire site. It sits in the root directory on your server and tells the bot which pages to index and which to ignore. It is important to make sure that the file is formatted correctly or you may mistakenly stop a page from being indexed. Stay secure – there are spamming bots that collect data and don’t pay attention to a Robots.txt file. If you have sensitive information (eg email addresses or customer details), put it in a secure directory.

SEO tip #4 – Include a Site Map

It is sensible to have a site map both for your visitors to find what they want and also for the Search Engines to be able to find every page and index it (it it isn’t indexed, it won’t be displayed in the results = no traffic and no benefit from the potential internal linking). Make sure it is compliant with the new Google sitemap format. The entries on your site map need to be intuitive and grouped logically to provide the perfect blueprint of your entire site. Do some research. Look at the top websites and see how they organize their site maps. Remember, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. SEO is about analyzing the sites that are already considered to be best and seeing what they are doing to get there.

SEO tip #5 – optimizing your code / writing clean code

Just because you can’t see the code that supports the words, doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Tools like Dreamweaver don’t write code very well. Whilst this isn’t the post to teach you how to write good code, here are a couple of examples:

  1. a) All websites have graphics. Use your keywords to name your graphics (.i.e. arm-chairs.jpg) and also use your keywords in the ALT tags that you assign to your graphics. This adds to the relevancy on the page. The same logic applies as mentioned previously in tip #4. Alter the keywords that you use so not to be considered spamming.
  2. b) The less code on the page the better. There are ways of reducing the code on the page. For example, you can bold a word by adding <strong>This word bolded</strong>. It can also be written as <b>This word bolded</b>. Programs like Dreamweaver bold using the STRONG tags, which can be improved by using the ‘b’ tag. Note that the only reason this hasn’t been done in this article is that Hubpages don’t allow the <b> tag! There are many other examples of ways you can reduce the text on the page. CSS achieves this to a far greater extent as things like graphics are not embedded on the page. This also helps reduce load time.
  3. c) If you have written your code in HTML, use an HTML validator to validate the code you have written. A good one is :
  4. d) Use title tags in your links – this is the text that is displayed when a user hovers over your link. This helps optimization. An example of how this can be done well: <a title=”Custom Arm Chairs” href=””>Custom Arm Chairs</a>. Notice the use of our keywords.
  5. e) Putting emphasis on your keywords – this can be done by bolding, underlining or having keywords in italics. This is best done at the top of your page. This simply emphasises the importance of the keyword in relation to your article.

All this work is best done using a professional digital agency that has a strong reputation of complying with Google’s guidelines, if not, you can find yourself falling foul of the penalties they can apply to your website


Moving To Spain? Let’s Talk About The Cost of Living

If you are considering moving to a new life in Spain then it is important that you plan your budget in advance. If you have a job offer on the table you need to get an idea of how far the salary will take you. Don’t get on the plane without a clear idea of the cost of living in Spain. Whilst Spain has a reputation as one of the cheapest destinations in Western Europe, one must not lose sight of the fact that wages are low, and that real estate is disproportionately expensive.

This article has a lot of data points, but here are a few fast facts to give you a sense of pricing: you can get a haircut for 10 Euros, a beer for 2, but may have to pay 50 Euros a month for a gym to work off the calories. A cheap date can be had for 16 Euros if you take in a movie (6 Euros) and tapas for two (10 Euros).

With real estate, if you are thinking of buying in one of the major cities then as at February 2010 you will be paying around 3,500 Euros per square meter for a centrally located flat. This is about 30% less than 2009 prices, and compares to around 11 Euros per month per square meter if you want to rent. This data applies to Barcelona and Madrid, but rent gets cheaper in cities like Seville where it drops to as low as 6 Euros per square meter per month.

One thing to watch out for is the Balearic Islands: The prices can be higher than the mainland.

Once you are in your property; whether purchased or rented, you are responsible for paying the utilities. Even in a modest flat these expenses can soon rack with gas costing around 25 Euros per month per person when used to heat water and a stove. Electricity costs around the same, and will rise in the summer by 15 Euros per month if it is used for air conditioning. Phone bills will depend on your usage, but bear in mind that a landline costs at least 20 Euros per month just for line rental. Parking is usually extra when you rent a flat, and in cities expect to pay around 100 Euros a month.

The cost of healthcare will vary depending on your country of origin. If you are from Europe then you may benefit from a reciprocal arrangement with your home nation insurance. The important thing is to check the facts and make sure that you are insured; otherwise this could end up being an expense that bankrupts you.

Eating out need not be expensive if you know the right places: A meal for two can cost as little as 10 Euros at a decent tapas joint, and you can get a beer for 2 Euros – these are prices far lower than places like London and Paris. And some say the food it tastier too! Groceries for one can come in at under 200 Euros a month.

So all told what is the cost of living in Spain? Well it will vary with income, but to have a decent lifestyle you should make sure you have at least 1,500 Euros of disposable income each month.