Thursday, 17 April 2014

ZOO TIMES: Baby Red Pandas

Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas Red Pandas

There is nothing cuter than seeing a couple of nine month old Red Pandas. For the first time we managed to catch them playing as they were brought back onto the exhibit at the Detroit Zoo on our last visit. Ta-Shi (mum) and Shifu (dad) had their first litter together in June of 2013, they were first announced as male, but in fact they are both girls and are spending their time occasionally outside in their exhibit before they both go off to another zoo for breeding programs.

As Red Pandas are on the vulnerable species list due to deforestation, they are selected into breeding programs as soon as they are born and despite their name, they aren't closely related to the giant Panda. Slightly larger than you domestic kitty, they mainly snack on bamboo but are omnivorous creatures. Typically they are largely sedentary begins and enjoy their own company and normally when we visit in the summer months they are lost high up in the trees so to be able to seeing all four of them out and playing, was a very rare treat indeed. Contrary to the norm, Shifu a first time dad has apparently been a bit of a hands on father with his babies, mother is especially playful as you can see in many of the photographs she actively plays.

Aren't they all just adorable?!
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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

EBAY: How To Price and List to Sell on Ebay

I thought I'd share some of my ebay wisdom, I've occasionally done things like this on the blog in the past, but it's high time for a bit of an in depth look on how to word and list your items so that they actually sell. To give you some background I run an ebay store and generally spend hours on the site daily listing, researching to relisting items, I've come across ways and means to get the most from your listings and hopefully they'll help you regardless of if you're an active ebay seller or you just list when ebay throws some free listing safter you've had a clear out.

So many times people share or I see listings that just lack the key information buyers are actively searching for they basically tell you nothing and it's any wonder the item sells. There are millions upon millions of listings upon ebay at any one time, you need to know how to make yours stand out through great photographs, full descriptions or free shipping.

So let's start at the beginning with the listings title. 

Full, concise key word heavy descriptions are your way to get your items into the search results. You need to cram everything in - colour, size, brand, date (if applicable), fabric, company. Take for example your selling an Old Navy tee - simply saying "Old Navy tee" might get you some views, but "Old Navy Tee Green Striped Medium 36" Bust Cotton" probably will get you more.

Next up are photographs, you can never have to many. Photograph the front and back of everything, tags and all flaws or issues - all of which need to be noted in your selling pitch - the description. You're photographs should be taken in a well lit place, keeping the item as true to the real colour as possible, this isn't the place for showing off your photograph editing and effect skills.

So you have your photographs and you're ready to get to the meaty part of the listing itself.

Selling on Ebay

Ebays made a push the last couple of months to make sure sellers are filling out the category listings. While they can be a pain to fill out and ebay often forgets them when you're relisting, they are basically the mini searches buyers can click (say colour, used/new) to narrow down their searching for a specific item. Sometimes there will be categories you just can't fill out because you don't have the information, just do all that you can or type in unknown.

Now the description - you'll find some sellers cram this with every piece of information, some barely say anything. What I do is repeat and elaborate what's in the title, but what else should you include? Well think about;
  • Measurements - not just the clothes size, actually measure and mention the length, waist- actual figures are better then just saying "medium" as as all know how much store size differs
  • Colour - now colours don't always sure up true in photographs so describe the colour as best you can - not need to be all fancy just pale, dark, medium
  • Issues - noting any issue is super important, it pays to be honest - mention tears, scuffs, stains etc
  • Extra details - is it still sealed? New in it's original box? New with tags? Heavily used? With or without instructions?
Selling on Ebay

While I know it's super tempting to start everything at 99p/c or lower, you really might be underpricing your items, especially when you factor in both ebay and paypal fees alongside the cost of buying your shipping materials - you might end up loosing money. And do you really want that dress going for 99c/p?! Make sure to use the search facilities yourself that ebay provides to check the price of what an item, or similar items have sold for in the past, or if they sell at all. Start the bids at a price you would be truly comfortable at parting with the item.

If you're in it for the long haul, becoming a top rated seller is another way to grab a buyers attention by getting your listings higher in the "best match" offerings, but that takes time and is also dependent upon your return policy (you have to expect returns), feedback scores and your handling time. Free shipping can attract some buyers however you need to factor in the costs in the selling price, but in honesty, if you have high price items you might be better off considering selling via the buy it now option. That's probably too much of a gloss over with regards to stores and buy it now options but if you're interested I can whip out a post about those alone just let me know!

Do you sell on ebay? What are your tips and experiences? Feel free to ask me any questions below or through twitter!

Monday, 14 April 2014

LIFE: Spring Tidings

Spring Spring Spring Spring Spring

It's certainly been more spring like here in Michigan the last couple of weeks. About time right?! Thing is, it goes from being 0 degrees to 20 degrees in the space of two weeks, there's barely any transition period, and being British, spring time Michigan weather is pretty much British summer weather. I'm still not fully use to it. Nevertheless it's a very welcome change and has certainly been a great excuse to get out more. Yesterday we took a trip to the zoo and spied my first daffodil sights of the year - a plant that always reminds me of the homeland for whatever reason. Swans, to ducks and geese were building and sitting on nests a handsome red-winged blackbird (bottom photo) was tweeting rather happily and we finally saw the most adorable nine month old red pandas who were out for a play with their parents (which are worthy of having their own post so stay tuned). Sadly any signs of life on the trees, yet alone cherry blossom seems a bit of a stretch away.

What do you love about spring?

Friday, 11 April 2014

HOME BUYING: What I've Learnt So Far


We're about a month into our full ongoing first home search and it's probably about time for an update. I've learnt a lot, both about myself, and the process of buying your first house. It's all been about home buying classes, mortgages, visiting places and waiting.

So what have we learnt and what you don't see on home buying shows;
  • I have zero patience, like none whatsoever
  • Joe is as cool as a cucumber 
  • I get too emotionally attached to a house but then I struggle with the concept of not having any attachment when you're going to be spending so much money and will be living in said home for an extended period
  • Insomnia is a regular occurrence, although it's been getting better
  • Try and attend a home buying course - you might think you know everything about home buying or mortgages, you probably don't
  • Black mold of doom really is a thing and mortgage lenders don't like mold
  • There's more to just "sticking in an offer on a house" dam you TV house buying shows - they never show you all the paperwork - like 20 pages of contracts to sign
  • Basements seem to leak, quite often and mortgage lenders don't like that either
  • Don't assume a house has gutters - oops
  • Some houses have really odd layouts
  • Some houses are missing their basements, they had them once, you can still see the original windows, yet you can't find the way to get into them .... are their bodies hidden inside?!
  • Bungalows with tight, steep spiral staircases are scary to get down
  • Hardwood floors are the in thing right now
  • Oh and I have lots of blog posts about home buying lined up - but I a) feel like it's tempting fate to publish them and b) that they won't be of interest to people - le sigh!
So we found a house, it had a great living space, was one short on the number of bedrooms we wanted but it had an open "living" space upstairs so it was workable. It's basically been a flip house, it's had some work to it but there's a lot of things that could be added to, a project house but it looked okay and okay enough for us to tackle. The way things work in Michigan is that you see a house stick a bid in and then do the home inspection but the contracts are written in a way that you see the results of the inspection and then ask the seller to fix them, ask for a lower price or walk away.   

I guess we weren't expecting there to be so many issues. Like big electrical safely hazard kind of issues, like exposed wires, and missing circuit breakers and ungrounded plugs in the kitchen of all places. So we sent off a list of 14 things that need fixing before we'd consider moving forward.

This is where home inspections are worth their money in gold (ours cost around $350), I was a little on the fence about them prior to this I will admit. We went through the Buyer Projection Group (who were recommended to us through a lady at the home buyers course and who we'll certainly be using again if the occasion arises) who offer a really thorough attic to basement plus exterior inspection and you'll end up with a number of reports filled with advice, photographs and actions that should be taken or considered. Big tip is to always tag along and attend the inspection too (although I was out with the lurgy so only Joe attending ours).

So here is a snap shot taken from our home report which was comprised of two thorough room by room inspection reports, this part being from the electric panels inspection which as you can see, has some rather interesting issues.

The home inspection was especially helpful for us as we're inexperienced first time buyers doing this alone, I wouldn't have known the fume was missing a screw or to have looked that the bedroom ceiling fan was incorrectly fitted. To be honest I'm glad we didn't even touch let alone look inside the electric box after seeing how dangerous it is as it currently stands.

So the inspection helps you the buyer know what to do next - to carry on with the sale, back out or ask for changes. For us, right now it's in the sellers hands, we've sent what we want changing, it's up to them. Nevertheless with the majority of the issues being dangerous and electrical all these concerns are going to come up again with another buyer if we back out, it's probably in their own interests to get it fixed. Also as a side note, any buyer that backs out of a sale, this report has to be passed on to any future buyer by the seller.

This whole house buying malarkey is certainly a huge learning curve. If things don't work out with this house, knowing what we know now about the process of sticking in bid and all the paperwork that goes into it alongside what we should look out more for from doing this inspection it will have been worth it.

Every had a home inspection turn up anything funky? What did you learn when you were buying a house?