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Owning vs Renting

I rented for three years before I realized that if I bought a home in the neighborhood where I was renting, my monthly payment would actually be lower than my monthly rental payment. On top of that, there were other additional benefits I’ll talk about here.

When renting, I paid $1450 per month whereas my mortgage payment is about $1197 (that includes property taxes but does not include a $200 a month Home Owners Association (HOA) fee for snow removal, building maintenance, landscaping, etc.)   So even with my HOA fee it comes out to about $1400. 

You might be thinking, “but that’s only a $50 dollar difference, that’s not so much.”  Well, that’s true, however, there’s a big reason to own if you can.  It’s called equity.

EQUITY

Let’s consider two scenarios: one in which you rent for $1500 per month and one in which you pay a mortgage + taxes, etc for 1500 a month to own.  Let’s say you stay at either of these properties for 15 years.  At the end of the 15 years, you will have paid $22,500.  However, with your rental, you will have nothing to show for the money spent.  However, if you were paying toward a mortgage each month, that $22,500 would have gone toward your loan amount.  Thus you own a percentage of the property in proportion to what you’ve paid on the loan.  That means that when you decide you want to move somewhere else, you will get a portion of that money back when the property is sold. Specifically, whatever portion of that $22,500 was used to pay off the principal you will get back one day.  This is what sold me on buying a home last year when I realized I would never see my rental money ever again.

MARKET EQUITY   

A second part to equity is related to the housing market.  The housing market fluctuates up and down just like the stock market.  In 2007-2008 there was a crash and home prices plummeted.  That means that if you bought a house just before the crash in 2007 for $300,000, your home may have been worth $200,000 shortly after.  Sucks right?  But this also works in reverse.  I bought my condo for $147,000 last October.  The market is on the upswing now and I’ve also put a lot of work into the unit.  Today, the property would likely sell between $170,000 and $185,000.  So who gets that money from the increase?  I do (when I decide to sell.) 

INVESTING EQUITY

We call this instant equity, and it is the concept that is used in home “flipping” in which someone buys a fixer-upper for let’s say $50,000 and puts $50,000 of work into it and then sells it for $150,000 for a $50,000 net profit.  The same concept is used for a more long term investment.  Many investors bought up handfuls of homes just after the housing crash of 2007-2008, not for flips but as long term investments.  Why?  Because they knew the prices would rebound (and are doing so now).  Once the market peaks, they will sell off their investments and make a huge profit.  The key is timing it before the next crash, but in the meantime they will have been renting the properties out to people, likely for higher than the cost of their monthly mortgage payment (if they have one.)  So these investors are doing quite well! 

I hope this has helped you understand some of the aspects of ownership vs renting.  It was longer than I had planned.  Oh well.  Have a great day!

 

 

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5 Attitude Adjustments That Will Change Your Career As a Teacher

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5 Attitude Adjustments That Will Change Your Career As a Teacher

Before I became a Realtor I taught 6th grade social studies in Colts Neck, NJ.  This was my first job post grad school and in the two short years that I spent teaching, I learned a ton about my students, myself and life in general.  Here are a few of my thoughts on everything teaching.

1.       Be yourself.  No really. 

If you take anything out of this article, take this.  Be yourself.  No shut up, I mean it.  This is the number one thing I learned from teaching that I’ve applied to all of my interactions in my post teaching life.  Whatever you love, whatever your passions are, be completely up front and passionate about them.  For whatever reason, I happened to open up to my students about my love for nachos one day.  It was so bizarre for these sixth graders to hear their teacher describe his passion for nachos in detail.  I’d slip images of nachos into my PowerPoint presentations and tell my students whenever I had a plate of nachos for dinner the night before.  They thought it was really weird.  But guess what?  It broke down barriers.  Kids saw me expose myself in a way that was goofy and also in a sense, vulnerable.  The fact that I made myself vulnerable by just being my weird self made them feel like it was okay to do so as well. 

The result was getting to know these kids in a very real way, and being able to be myself in a way that I had never really been before.

For a really long time, well into my 20s, I was always afraid of coming across as weird.  For most of my life I reduced my vivacious personality into a tepid, agreeable nicety that no one found strange but no one really appreciated either.  Being unapologetically yourself is something that will earn you respect, admiration and maybe a few strange looks.  But the strange looks come with an unparalleled sense of freedom, creativity and audacity.  When you embrace this level of authenticity in your social encounters, you start connecting with people in a very real way, whether it’s with a waiter, a cashier, or anyone else you might encounter.  Always be you.  Always be real. You’ll see that the fear of being yourself is silly.  And besides, life is way more fun when you’re keepin’ it real. 

2.       Have faith that you’re making a difference.

Teachers struggle with this daily.  As a teacher, you commit massive amounts of your time toward grading, preparing lessons and fielding paperwork that reminds you of renewing your license at the DMV.  You might be like me, having racked your brain to think of a more fitting metaphor, a more engaging story or a funnier way of getting across that concept.  Teachers work hard!  All that teachers ask in return is to be appreciated by parents, administration and most of all, students.   But it’s not always apparent that your efforts are valued.

Like the knowledge-artist you are, you care about your craft.  You probably spend more hours in meetings and workshops than Kobe spends in the gym.  And at the end of the day you are always asked, “What could you have done better?”  At the end of the year you’re asked, “How much have your students grown?” “Could they have grown more?” “Why should we value you?” 

It’s easy to feel apathetic when today your value is reduced to a number from 1-4, and the social art you love so much is so ardently reduced to numbers, percentiles and forms.

But here’s the thing:  even though students might talk over you in class, your administrators forget to tell you “good job in that lesson,” and parents always assume it’s your fault, the truth is this:  you’ve chosen a noble profession,  one that is difficult, time consuming and emotionally draining. But whether you feel it or not, you’re making a difference.  You’re doing a job that could be left to someone who doesn’t care as much as you do.  So keep your chin up, look in the mirror and say it: “I am a teacher, and I am proud!”  Even if it feels like no one else is.

3.       Vent about your students and know you still love them

You’ve probably complained about a student, students, or all of your students to someone else at some point.  Maybe you’ve felt guilty about it.  Well don’t!  All teachers complain about their students in the same way that parents complain about their kids, and even the way kids complain about their parents.  Complaining feels great!  And in a job that is as stressful as teaching, you better be doing a lot of complaining!  So don’t think that you don’t love your kids just because your faculty room sounds like the Maury Povich show.  Love manifests itself in a variety of ways, and you wouldn’t be so fired up about them not doing their homework if you didn’t love and care about them deeply and want to see them succeed in the future.  So cut yourself some slack and just say it: “I can’t even. I can’t.”  And then cowboy up and get back to changing lives. 

4.       Don’t label students and keep an open mind

When I was in 11th grade, I used to sleep during English class every day.  Second period was naptime for the first half of the year.  About half of the days I was asleep, my teacher, Mrs. Catanzaro, would wake me up and plead with me to pay attention. Truth is, I wasn’t interested in what we were learning, partly because I believed I was bad at English.  I hated the books we read and the year before I received low marks on most of my papers, most likely due to my status as a [cl]ass-clown.  But one day, something kept me awake.  It was a talk about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  This topic ignited me in a way I hadn’t experienced before.  When I handed in my essay on the chapter, she pulled me aside and sang my praises even though she probably hated me for sleeping through the first half of the year.  She was the first person to ever tell me that what I had to say was important and had value. 

She believed in me, and eventually I followed suit. 

The fact that she praised my essay led me to pursue philosophy as one of my majors in college, and to this day it’s a huge love of mine.  Shelly Catanzaro could have written me off as just another one of those lazy, disrespectful juniors. But she never gave up on me.  I can look back at her confidence in me as a turning point in the way I thought of my overall value as a person.  Never give up on a student.  It’ll pay off for them in the end.  It did for me.   

5.       Be a part of their world

So often, teachers separate themselves from students.  We stand in front of the room and they sit facing us: two opposing forces on the battlefield. You might be thinking, “that’s ridiculous, I offer them help every day, and I put my heart and soul into teaching.”  While that may be true, students might not see your nagging as love and care, but rather you just being annoying. 

Your language is teaching, but what is their language? 

For some of my students it was fantasy novels, for others, anime.  Some were basketball fans.  Others loved Justin Bieber.  You may care about their success and future marketability in the job market, but sometimes you have to connect with them on their terms first.  Start listening to Justin Bieber.  Ask them about the concert tour shirt they’re wearing.  Find out their favorite anime or favorite basketball player and Google it during lunch.  When you show an interest in kids, your return on investment will be tenfold in the form of increased engagement, deeper bonds, and improved performance in general.  Connect with them on their own terms and reap the many benefits.  It’s a lot like that Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves and their own interests.  But don’t placate.  Take a genuine interest and you may find yourself hooked on that anime, rooting for their favorite basketball team and singing Justin Bieber in the shower.  Best part about this is that when you take an interest in your students’ passions, you make genuine connections that will define your career and your life as a teacher.   

I hope you enjoyed this article on teaching.  Please share it if you found it enjoyable.    

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home I can make it simple and stress-free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.

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5 Awesome Date Ideas in Princeton

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5 Awesome Date Ideas in Princeton

Princeton is one of my favorite places in Mercer County and in New Jersey as a whole.  It’s a dynamic town, with more awesome things to do and try than you probably know.  And let’s face it, Princeton is one of the best places in New Jersey to take a date.  But, as fun as it is to just “walk around Princeton” you might be wondering if there are some specific things you can do to make it look like you’ve put a lot of thought into your planning.  Well, here are five complete date ideas to impress your crush, special someone, grandma, client or if you’re just looking to “treat-yo-self.” 

1.        Free lecture, Cross Culture/ Aurelios

We start off with one of my absolute favorite things to do in Princeton: attend a free lecture or event at the University.  The University frequently invites scholars, writers, journalists, researchers, psychologists and their ilk to give lectures and presentations on a range of topics.  One of my fields of study at Rutgers where I went to school was philosophy.  The philosophy department at Princeton is extremely active and generally has guest speakers every single week of the academic year.  There are a few other reasons these lectures are great, besides their inherent value of providing stimulation at an intellectual and emotional level. 


Just just about every Princeton lecture is followed up with free wine, cheeses, juice, snacks, etc so you can mingle with other lecture goers, students and professors. 


Stick around for this extra and you’ll feel quite fancy and part of something very special.  Just remember to dress the part (elbow padded blazers are a plus).  The other reason these lectures and events are great is that they are completely free to the public, all the way down to the fancy wine and cheese. Here's a complete calendar of lectures and events open to the public at Princeton University: Princeton University Calendar

After you’ve wrestled with the metaphysical and social justice dilemmas of our time you may have found that you’ve worked up a hunger.  Take a short drive over to Cross Culture, an authentic Indian restaurant that will transport your mind and body with its exotic flavors.  If Indian isn’t your thing, I highly recommend Aurelio’s Cocina Latina.  My favorite cuisine is Mexican, and I can tell you that Aurelio’s is a stand-out,authentic Mexican restaurant.  It’s a few minutes away from the hustle of Nassau Street but well worth wandering from the usual path.  Try the El Pastor Tacos.

2.        Afternoon picnic at Princeton Battlefield & Dancing

There are so many great restaurants in Princeton and I could name drop all day long, but one option worth considering is to forego the restaurants altogether.  Princeton Battleground is just a few minutes from Nassau Street and is a stunning open space to have a picnic.  It almost looks like something out of Downton Abbey.  So, grab your paPAH, your finest linen suit and your most charming under-butler for an old fashioned picnic on a beautiful day.  If you’re wondering what to bring to the picnic, you can also grab a delightful sandwich to go from Olive’s before plopping down.  

The next part of your date will find you at one of Princeton’s best kept secrets: dancing.  And I’m not talking about hitting up a club. 


Have you ever wanted to learn to Tango?  Or swing dance like they do in Hellsapoppin?  How about learn to salsa? 


Well, you can stop wishing because the awesome secret of Princeton that people don’t know to take advantage of is their high quality and very affordably priced dance lessons at the University.  I’ve done ballroom, latin and swing dancing since I was a wee lad, and going to the University for some dancing is one of the best parts of my weekly routine.  Here are the links for each club, all of which are open to the public and welcoming of newbies: Princeton Swing Club, Princeton Tango Club, and Princeton Salsa Club.   Swing Club is free for all, Tango Club costs $10 per lesson, and Salsa Club costs $15 for the whole night.  All of these clubs offer beginner and intermediate level lessons and have open dancing afterward.  This can be a great activity for a night out with friends or family, and an especially fun date night with your special someone.  If you find yourself at one of these clubs and recognize me please say hi!

Most of the clubs meet on Prospect Street which is quite close to our last stop of the night.  We’ll top off the night by sitting at the fountain next to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  The famous zodiac heads line a beautiful fountain, illuminated by the tungsten light reflecting off the water.  It’ll be a beautiful place to catch your breath and talk about your fun day out! 

3.       PU Art Museum, House of Cupcakes, Triumph

This next one is a fantastic way to spend a romantic evening with someone special.  Our first stop is the Princeton University Art Museum.   Though a night at the museum is great for all couples, this is an especially nice date for early in a relationship.  You’ll never run out of things to talk about since you’re constantly interpreting and judging artwork together.  It’s also a nice change of pace to be walking around together rather than sitting and staring across the table at them like most traditional dinner/ drink dates.  Plus, admission is completely free!

A short stroll from the museum, your next stop is to enjoy a delicious treat at Cupcake Wars Winner, House of Cupcakes


You’ll be blown away by the bombast of their baking-ballsiness. 


Don’t forget to use the trick my dad taught me when I was a kid: ask your date if you think their cupcake smells weird.  When they go to take a sniff, run out of the restaurant and leave them with the bill. Just kidding.  Just get a little icing on their nose. It’s cute and your date will laugh.  Or they’ll dump you on the spot.  But probably they’ll just laugh. 

If your date is still with you, top off the night with a frosty brew from the micro brewery, Triumph, just a few minutes’ walk from House of Cupcakes.  You can get a plethora of craft brews at this hipster-hub-O’-hops.       

4.       McCarter Theater and Mediterra

Your next date in Princeton will start with a show at McCarter Theater.  It’s a great spot to watch a performance that interests you, your family or your significant other.  Shows are an especially great date idea because when you hang out after you can mutually revel and discuss how much you liked or disliked what you saw.  Whether you liked the show or not, it’s a win—win since it’s engaging conversation either way!  But where should you go to talk about the performance?  Well I have the perfect place for you.

You’ll be taking your date to Mediterra.  Mediterra is swanky, and the prices reflect that.  However, since I’m a cost-friendly blogger, my recommendation is to go during happy-hour which is Monday through Thursday, 4:30-6:30 and 9:00-11:00.  Let me just say, that Mediterra’s happy-hour is no normal happy hour.  They should rename it “very happy-hour” because it really is a cut above the rest.  This window-O’-bliss gets you $2 tapas (bites of heaven).  Check out the tapas menu here to get an idea of the luxury about to adorn your taste buds. The wine selection is delightful as well and is subject to a generous discount.  You’ll feel like a Queen (as I’ve vocalized to my friends when we are there) as you dine on their latest and greatest culinary concoctions.

5.       Terhune Orchards

Our last Princeton date is one that is a little different but just as enjoyable as the others.  This one has rustic charm and character.  Terhune Orchards is beautiful little farm where you can pick your own apples.  After you pick apples with the apple of your eye (make sure to drop that line while you're there,) take a walk over to the barnyard where you can pet and feed goats, ponies and chickens.  I’m an animal lover so seeing the goats is probably the coolest thing about this date to me.  But wait! There’s more.  Sometimes (you’ll have to check the calendar,) Terhune has Sangria tastings that you will definitely want to attend. 


Sangria? Goats? Nature?  Good company?  You’ll remember this day the rest of your life. 


Your last stop will be the bakery where you’ll purchase some apple cider and apple cider donuts.  You can eat these delicious treats right there on the farm, or eat them amid a setting sun at the Princeton Battlefield or even Nassau Street.  The limits are endless when you have a delicious donut in your hand. 


I hope you enjoyed this article on cool date ideas in the lovely town of Princeton.   

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home I can make it simple and stress-free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.


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Robbinsville: The Brooklyn of NJ?

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Robbinsville: The Brooklyn of NJ?

Robbinsville: The Brooklyn of NJ?

Brooklyn used to be thought of as a place where tough guys come from.  “I’m from Brooklyn!”  If you said that in the voice of an Italian mobster, you’re not the only one.  Yet today, Brooklyn is a far cry from its former self.  The borough now conjures images of skinny jeans, beanies and thick-rimmed glasses.  Regardless of whether you’re a hipster-hater or not, Brooklyn’s renaissance is an undeniable model of urban revitalization.   Though Robbinsville is a distance from New York, it’s easy to see some parallels to such a reinvention. 

I’m a lifelong resident of Robbinsville, NJ.  I was here when it used to be Washington Township.  I remember as a kid, peering out at a vast sea of dirt from the back seat of my mom’s old Nissan Sentra, wondering what in the world they were building where Centro now stands.  As a member of the last Robbinsville class to be exported to Lawrence High School, I can remember being teased that we Robbinsville kids were all farmers.  Seems ridiculous, I know.  But we all got pretty excited when they put that Taco Bell in, didn’t we? That can’t be a good sign. 

And there are questions that frequently cross the minds of Robbinsvillians which can be revealing about our quaint little town - 

Will we ever get a grocery store to fill that Marrazzo's-size hole in our hearts? 

Will it be a Trader Joe's?   

Why is there a fourth drug store going up?

Is it still Catherine's Birthday?

Or perhaps you’ve wondered why we’re still constructing more city-scape store fronts when a quarter of them are still empty?  Maybe you’re like me and dreamed up the possibility of a Starbucks in Town Center.  Or better yet, a Chipotle. 

Let’s face it, Robbinsville has had a sort of identity crisis over the last two decades.  Are we a farmer’s paradise?  Surely not.  At least, not anymore.  We’ve transformed.  Like a phoenix, nay, a raven, rising from its own smoldering ashes.  We are up-and-coming, evolving and building ourselves into something we can all be proud of when we try to explain to people where Robbinsville is.  We’ve made some changes, but is our metamorphosis complete? 

Not too long ago, on our first date at Centro, my girlfriend and I found ourselves laughing hysterically at our town’s new, self-branded slogan:  She pointed out the sign across the street, “Robbinsville: Be at the Center of it All.” 

In a town lovingly referred to as “The bubble,” such a statement seemed ridiculous and yet affable, in the way a heavy-set, unattractive man might introduce himself as an underwear model to an attractive woman.   It’s kind of pathetic, but cute and likable at the same time.

A year or two ago I lived with a roommate in Foxmoor, both of us lifelong residents of Robbinsville.  I was a substitute teacher at Robbinsville Schools at the time, and my roommate, Brent, taught English at the high school.  When we would have friends over from out of town, we half-lovingly and half-jokingly referred to Robbinsville as "the Brooklyn of New Jersey.”  This was especially audacious since some of our friends actually lived in Brooklyn.   Joking about Robbinsville is like teasing a younger sibling;   you can make fun of Robbinsville if you’re in the family, but we get pretty defensive if an outsider has something to say about it.

“The Brooklyn of NJ," we called it.  Our friends would laugh, and yet, even they appreciated its charm.  As much as we were joking and poking fun of our hometown, there was a part of us that was undeniably serious about our hyperbolic statement.  Robbinsville, as much as it drives us crazy to lack the amenities some towns take for granted, is a unique town of great character.

We may not have a grocery store.  And we may lack some name-brand stores in town center, but damn-it, we’ve come a long way. 

Ever go to DeLorenzo’s?  It’s a pizza-Mecca.  Ever go to Centro on a Friday night?  That place is bumpin' but still keeps it classy. 

Have you sat at the Town Center Lake with a sandwich from Dolce and Clemente’s watching the sunset?  Nothing’s better.  Just be careful, the geese can be aggressive.    Ever go to Ernie’s?  Ernie’s is indescribable.  Really, I’m not even going to try to describe Ernie’s.  It’s a little bit like trying to describe the Mona Lisa.  You just have to see it for yourself. 

Sometimes I walk my dog late at night in Robbinsville (you’ve probably seen me) and I feel completely safe.  Heck, I usually leave my car door unlocked because I feel so safe in Robbinsville (good thing you don’t know which car is mine).  

And how about the people?  The people are great. 

Robbinsville is a family town.  No doubt about it. 

Back when I used to work at Marrazzo’s in high school, I’d see neighbors, friends, coaches and the like, all happy to be running into one another.  Marrazzo’s was the sort of central plaza of our town.  A meeting place where people gathered for 50-cent hamburgers.  That sounds like something out of the 40s, not the 90s.  But really, there was something magical about those 50-cent hamburgers! 

Even though we’ve had some losses (RIP Marrazzo’s), we’ve gained so much, and we’re picking up steam.  I think we all know, even though we may criticize it sharply at times, that Robbinsville is a special hometown.  It may be hard to describe why it’s so special to those who haven’t experienced it.  It may be hard to understand how it can be so inconvenient at times and yet a sort of suburban, small-town paradise in another sense.

So next time you hear it or see the sign:  Robbinsville: “Be the Center of it all.”  Allow yourself a loving chuckle, but don’t be surprised if a few years from now Robbinsville comes to be known as “The Brooklyn of New Jersey.” 

 


I hope you enjoyed this article about Robbinsville!  Please share with your friends and family, and be sure to check out the rest of the Rasmussen Homes website here.

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home I can make it simple and stress-free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.


Other articles you may enjoy:

·         4 Reasons You Haven’t Bought a Home Yet

·         5 Benefits to Staging Your Home

·         5 Rights You Didn’t Know You Had as a Renter

·         5 Reasons Your Home Hasn’t Sold Yet

·         6 Tips for Staging Your Home

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4 Reasons You Haven't Bought a Home Yet

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4 Reasons You Haven't Bought a Home Yet

4 Reasons you haven't bought a home yet

 

1.       You want everything

Sometimes we become so intense about finding our dream house that we forget to be realistic.  If you have a long laundry list of specific features you want in a home, don’t be surprised if you can’t find a home that has exactly everything you’re looking for.  Of course, you may get lucky and find that perfect home, but if you don’t, try to remember that you can always alter parts of a home to make them your own.  If a home checks most of your boxes, but it doesn’t have those granite countertops you want, well that’s something you can easily alter.  Be careful not to cast a home to the wayside if it doesn’t meet all the requirements at face value.  Ask yourself if you would be able to make simple updates after a move-in to make it your dream home.

 

2.       You’re waiting for that "spark"

This may come to some as a shock, but houses are not people.  They don't have souls.  (Unless you believe in animism, in which case skip this point, because it doesn’t apply to you.)  When you think about your future home you probably do more than picture yourself in it.  You can probably feel the emotions that the very idea of “home” evokes.  As we shop for that home, it’s very easy for the shopping process to become an emotional one.  We want to feel that instant “this is the one.”  Kind of like you see on that TLC show about the wedding dresses.  Sometimes the bride breaks down in tears as if they’ve reached wedding gown-nirvana.  On the other hand you see some brides that come in and they’ve over romanticized what it will feel like to find that dress to the point that it is almost impossible for the reality measure up.  Or, like finding that special someone, we can easily psyche ourselves out if we over romanticize what it will feel like with this person.  You may find yourself passing someone up very special because “the spark” isn’t there on the first date.  This can easily happen when finding a home. 


We are searching for the space where a significant portion of our lives will happen.  And so, we become so acquainted in our imagination with the joy that will ensue in this place, that when we step inside it don’t get butterflies, we wonder “where’s the spark?” 


I’m all about trusting your gut, but it’s important to consider that this type of approach may be a trap.  Now, even if houses were people, consider this: some people fall in love at first site and fireworks are going off and its like something out of a movie.  Other people think rationally and think wow this person offers a lot and the love grows over time.  Buying your “dream” house is an emotional decision but don’t let your desire for that instant spark keep you from deciding on a great house.  And after all, it’s not necessarily the house that makes a home special, but the people and interactions inside it.

 

 

3.       You’re a maximizer

In the age of instant information we have a wonderful supply of inventory available to us, and that’s a good thing.  Gone are the days of flipping through the Real Estate Book.  But, think about how your perspective might be different if you didn’t have the internet to find a home.  I imagine that people would feel a whole lot more in love with the homes they liked.  With the internet, you might find a home you really like and instead of thinking “Wow, I’m so lucky to have found this!” you are thinking “well I like it, but there might be something better.”  In psychology, they call this type of thinking maximizing.  I have to admit, I’m one of them. But let me attest personally that this attitude can actually set you back in some cases.  Some people just make a decision and stick with it without an overly exhausting search.  Some people, like me, can’t even make small purchases without finding the best possible option via extensive research.  They exhaust all of the options until they’ve found the best possible choice.  But the funny thing about these contrasting types is that studies show that the person who makes a quicker decision tends to be happier with it when compared to the maximizer.  Don’t get me wrong, you should search hard for the right home, and it’s a decision to be made with great care and due diligence.  However, if you’re obsessed with using the internet and think there’s always something better no matter how much you like a house, then you may just be a maximizer.

 

4.       You’re closed-minded about neighborhood

Sometimes we absolutely know where we want to live and aren’t willing to compromise on that, and that’s fine.  When it gets tricky however is when the location that you’re dead set on becomes unnecessarily restrictive. When this becomes a recurring issue, you may want to consider another nearby location which is going to give you more of the features you're looking for.  Another important idea worth considering is to examine why you really want to live in that area.  Are you committed to Robbinsville for the school system?  Or do you really want access Princeton’s restaurants and culture?  Well you may or may not be able to compromise for a nearby town depending on what your reasons are, but it's worth making that clear for yourself.


When you know what you want and why, it can be empowering and helpful.  Just make sure you don’t needlessly limit yourself until you see what other locations have to offer. 

  That’s not a knock against Hamilton.  It’s a lovely place.

That’s not a knock against Hamilton.  It’s a lovely place.


I hope you enjoyed this article buying a home!  Please share it with your friends, your family and your dog.

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling or renting a home I can make it simple and stress free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.


Other articles you may enjoy:

·         5 Benefits to Staging Your Home

·         5 Rights You Didn’t Know You Had as a Renter

·         5 Reasons Your Home Hasn’t Sold Yet

·         6 Tips for Staging Your Home

·         Robbinsville:  the Brooklyn of NJ?



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5 Benefits to Staging Your House

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5 Benefits to Staging Your House

Glamour shots for your house?

5 reasons to stage your home in the Robbinsville and Princeton area.

 

1.       You get what you give

When selling a home, everyone wants to maximize the value they get out of their transaction. So when your Realtor tells you to start spending money to prepare the home for sale, it seems counter-intuitive.  However, I’m here to tell you that spending a little bit of cash to properly market your property will give you exceptional return on your investment.  


In fact, when sellers spend an average of 1% of the value of their home on staging, they see an average 1000% return on investment. Not only will they statistically sell for a higher price, but staged homes sell 72% faster when compared to unstaged homes.  


And If you are selling your home in a desirable locale such as Robbinsville or Princeton, the most important piece of the puzzle is already in place: location.  Now all you have to do is be smart about how you appeal to buyers.  Staging is an essential part of this marketing process.

 

2.       Your house is a pair of jeans:

Buyers are “trying on” your home.  When a home is properly staged, buyers can more clearly visualize and imagine themselves living there.  Staging is like getting glamour shots at the mall.  Yeah, you look pretty amazing with a righteous perm and a feather boa , but you probably don’t look like that on a regular basis.  Nevertheless, glamour shots are a fun way to say, “hey check out how great I can look when I’m all done up.”  In the same light, staging provides the buyer with that same done-up look to help them visualize the maximum potential your home has to offer.  The buyer knows that once they put their own stuff in it will look differently, but always remember that you are selling your home on an emotional level.

 

3.       “Hold on let me fix my hair.”

Do you take selfies before rolling out of bed in the morning?  Probably not.  People generally want to look good for photos. So before you post those photos of your house, think to yourself, “hold on let me fix my hair,” and give your house a facelift that is going to maximize its appeal. Using 21st century internet marketing can help you reach a wider audience, but if the photos and video are unappealing then what’s the point?  Staging and professional photography solves this problem and maximizes the effectiveness of your marketing.   

 

4.       Selling your house is a competition.

Here’s a scary thought for you:  If you want your home to sell, you have to be smarter than the competition.  It helps to have the best home in the neighborhood for an awesome price, but even if you’re not the best in your neighborhood, there are things you can do to give yourself better odds.  View your listing as a competition.  Like the old saying goes, "hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard."  Don’t be the only home on a buyer’s prospect list that isn’t staged properly.  Buyers out there are looking at a variety of homes.  If they’re interested in your home along with three others, and yours is the only one that isn’t staged, which one will they eliminate first?   

 

5.       Speak the buyer's language and woo them.

Buyers are emotional.  Sure, they may look at objective items such as how new the A/C unit is, or the cost of property tax, the school system and so on, but understand that buyers are going to buy the home that they “love.”  So speak their love-language.  Treat your home like you’re going on a first date.  Get clean.  Put on your best outfit and make sure the house smells nice.  Appeal to buyers’ emotions.  Staging does this at an almost scientific level.  Now that you know that staging is an essential part of selling your home, check out my article on some free, highly effective staging you can do yourself, here.

 


I hope you enjoyed this article on why you should stage your home!  Please share it with your friends and family.

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home I can make it simple and stress-free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.



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6 Tips for Staging Your Home

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6 Tips for Staging Your Home

Six essential staging tips for selling your home

This is a 5 minute read, listing a few simple things you can do to stage your home for maximum buyer interest.

 

1.       De-personalize your home.

I have a funny story about this one.  A few years ago, back before I knew anything about interior design, I asked my mom and sister to decorate some of my first apartment.  One of the things they put up was a stick-on phrase in my bathroom wall: “relax, refresh and renew.”  Being a 24 year old bachelor, I found it especially fitting (sarcasm.)  Every time I stepped into my bathroom I felt emasculated by the domineering cursive commands commandeering my wall (how’s that alliteration?).  In selling your home, you want to avoid any words on walls.  A common one is to put up words like “love” or “family,” or “live, laugh, love,” etc.  While these commands are universally appealing in a sense, they are a problem in a few ways

No one likes being told what to do.  I don’t walk up to a girl I like and yell “love me.”  People like feeling love, but a giant bold command on the living room wall instructing you to do so is off-putting to prospective buyers.


When people shop for homes, it’s like trying on a pair of jeans at a clothing store. 


The jeans have to be nice, but what’s more important is that you feel good about yourself wearing them.  They might arguably be the best jeans money can buy, but if they don’t fit why would you buy them?   Same thing goes for buying a home.  The person has to be able envision living in the home.  It may be hard for the young newly-weds to imagine starting their own family in your house when you have pictures of your own kids hanging on the wall with the words “live laugh love” underneath.  It’s just too personal.  It’d be like if you were trying on a pair of jeans and someone came up and was like “Oh I just tried those on.  I think they looked nicer on me.”  A little off-putting, even if you liked those jeans.

 

2.       They just hate us 'cause they paint us.

If you decide to repaint, use a neutral color!  You might be thinking, “do I need to repaint?”  Well good sir, if you have to ask then you probably should.  Your 5th grade son might love the Spongebob-yellow walls in his bedroom.  But maybe the perspective buyer doesn’t have kids and was planning to turn an extra bedroom into an office.  It’ll probably be hard to picture for that buyer if all they can think of when looking at that room is “who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”  Also, even if the color isn’t obnoxious like that example, consider going neutral over your currently colored walls.  You may love baby blue, but I know there are many young buyers that equate baby blue designs of the 80s.  Maybe the red on your walls isn’t going to appeal to the perspective buyer that is a former matador with PTSD.  A fresh coat of a soft earthy gray, or greige (gray + beige) will go very far in making your home palatable to the masses, and allow their imagination to work with what is in front of them.  I sound dreary, but avoid bold colors in general, even on accent walls. 

 

3.       Pre-pack.

I have news for you.  You are going to have to pack at some point.  Why not do most of it now? 

This costs you no money and has a huge impact on appeal.  Remove and or pack as much as you can.  Throw it in your basement, attic, a friend’s house, etc. until you’re ready to move.  I guarantee that the more you pack away, the larger, cleaner and more inviting your space will appear to perspective buyers. 

 

4.       Bathrooms and kitchens.


You may have heard that bathrooms and kitchens sell homes.  I guess it’s because people love to eat and as a result have to use the bathroom. 


When it comes to your kitchen, clear away as many appliances as possible.  You want negative space.  Negative space is beautiful in interior design.  If you are handy and want to go the extra mile, install a simple backsplash.  If the design is congruent with your space, a white subway tile backslash is cheap, modern and non-alienating to young buyers that tend to avoid browns and bold color. Painting cabinets is a huge job that I don’t recommend trying to squeeze in unless you have a lot of time, energy and know how.  Something simple you can do however is purchase brushed nickel hardware.  You can get great hardware from Amazon for a third of the price compared to Home Depot or Lowes. Installation is easy peasy with a template like this one: (template).   When it comes to bathrooms, there are two things to remember: clean it thoroughly (no grime in your tile.  Get in there with CLR and a toothbrush if need be), and put your toiletries out of site.  Throw them in your vanity or somewhere no one can see them.  Toiletries are both unappealing and alienate buyers by being personal.  Put out clean white towels on towel racks, make it smell nice and don’t poop before a walkthrough. 

 

5.       Make the space look larger.

There are a few things you can do here: The easiest is to make sure all drapes and curtains are pulled open so the room is flooded with as much light as possible.  I’m a light freak.  I bought my first home with based on how much light it gets and I haven’t regretted it.  It’s really important to some people so don’t underestimate this tactic.  Consider mounting your drapes higher on the wall.  This makes the ceiling look higher and the room larger.  And of course, the less stuff you have, the bigger the house is going to feel, so pre-pack! 

 

6.       Consider updating your home:

Updating your home is not for the faint of heart.  If you do it yourself it takes a lot of time, energy and stress.  If you hire someone it can be very costly and still take some time.  Consider however that when you update your home you will get your money back and then some.  Updating a kitchen and bathroom will give you the most return on your investment.  Make sure however that you do not spend money on updating these rooms only to have a design that is unappealing.  It’s a sad story when I see someone spend a lot of money on redoing a bathroom or kitchen and the design is outdated. 


Just because something is new doesn’t mean it is going to look new to a buyer. 


And sadly, many contractors are stuck in the 80s and 90s and just don’t understand what a good kitchen and bathroom looks like in the year 2015.  Clean lines and neutral colors will appeal to the masses. Stay away from brown cabinets, brown countertops and pretty much anything brown.  Brown was in during the 90s.  Guess what it will look like if you go brown?  Probably about 15 years old.  Pinterest, Houzz and HGTV are great ways to find modern deigns that sell.  Gray, white and neutral colors are in at the moment.  Another thing to consider:  do you have carpet?  Is there a wood floor under the carpet?  If so, you’re sitting ongold mine.  Okay not really a gold mine, but it’s a no-brainer to rip that sucker up and buff that floor.  The 80s and 90s were a very strange time.  Why would anyone put a nasty carpet over that gorgeous floor!?  Time for you to benefit from someone else’s (or your own) silly 80s antics.  Hardwood floors are in. 


I hope you enjoyed this article on tips for staging your home!  Please share it with your friends and family.

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home I can make it simple and stress free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.


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7 Reasons Your Home Hasn't Sold Yet

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7 Reasons Your Home Hasn't Sold Yet

7 reasons your home hasn’t sold yet

 

1.       Your home is overpriced

Probably the most common offender.  You might be thinking when you start out: I can realistically get “x” for my house but maybe there’s someone out there that will pay X+20,000!  This is wishful thinking.  You may think “well there’s no harm in trying it out for a while and if no one bites we can lower it.”  Well, I’m here to tell you why that’s wrong.  While it is certainly your prerogative to price your home however you’d like, keep in mind that homes which go on the market overpriced are likely to sell slower even after price reductions.  When a buyer sees that your home was lowered 20000 over the course of two months, their mindset is “there must be something wrong with that house.” 


It’s kind of like being picked last for kickball.  Once everyone sees you as the kid who gets picked last, it’s very hard to break that label. 


After price reductions and time on the market, people no longer see the house as a great home at a fair price, but rather, they see it as “the home that no one wanted,” therefore, “I don’t want it either.”  So, before you’re tempted to squeeze every last penny out of your house, consider the psychological impact an overpriced home may have on buyers out there.  A good rule of thumb is to realistically determine what you would pay for your home if you had to buy it again.  Try to put yourselves in the buyer’s shoes.  Chances are, the buyer is in the opposite frame of mind.  You may be thinking as a seller, “let me see what sucker will buy my house 20k over what it’s worth,” while the buyer is thinking “let me low ball an offer toward a desperate seller.”  In fact, if the buyer sees that your house is on the market for several months because it was overpriced, he or she may think that they are entitled to a low ball offer because now you look desperate.  And there’s a good chance you might be at this point, or at least highly impatient.  The alternative is to come out the gate with a fair price that is based on comparable homes sold in your area.  In the best case scenario, you’ll have multiple interested buyers who view your property with the “I need to get it because everyone wants it,” mentality.  And then you may have multiple offers from which to choose.  Some may even be over asking price if they think there’s a chance of losing it. 

 

2.       Your Realtor hasn’t utilized contemporary marketing vehicles

The MLS is not internet marketing.  Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com are a step in the right direction, but more could be done.  Here at Rasmussen Homes we utilize all of the above as well as a social media marketing campaign optimized for Google search.  Furthermore, we use professional photography and video walkthroughs of every home.  These facets of home marketing are data driven methods proven to sell homes quicker and for more money.  Make sure you are using all tools at your disposal to reach your audience.  Not every buyer is going to show up to an open house.  Some buyers will only go to open houses after selecting a few that catch their eye on the internet.  So, if your pictures are average (ours are not) no one is going to come see it in person.  And better yet, if you have a video, the lazy buyer whose only day off is Sunday has already seen your home from their couch and have the luxury of showing the video to their friends and family who will talk up your awesome home about how awesome it is. 


Buyers want instant information and instant gratification.  Play their game and you’ll reach your goals quicker.  You never get a second chance at a first impression, so make sure you succeed out the gate!


 

3.       Your description is not honest

What’s more appealing to you: A meh house that is described as “immaculate,” or a meh house that is described as “solid bones with great potential.”  Believe it or not, buyers are not morons.  Calling a house “immaculate” that clearly is not immaculate in the photos does not convince anyone.  In fact, it probably makes them question everything else you’ve said about the home and potentially even what you’re not saying about it (such as concealing a flaw or defect). 

Using hyperbolic or overused words like “immaculate,” “stunning” and “motivated seller” statistically prolong the sale of a home by up to 10%. 

Also, and this hopefully is needless to say, but do not use an agent that is going to use improper grammar or WRITE IN ALL CAPS in the description.  Not only is it tacky, but a buyer is going to wonder why you are yelling the word “immaculate” at them.  I immediately don’t trust a Realtor when they write in all caps, or don’t know the proper usage of words like “your/you’re” or “there/their/they’re.”  You’re paying a Realtor to market your home.  No marketing agency will ever put out copy with improper usage, and neither should your Realtor.  Their improper grammar will reflect poorly upon the sale of your home and your intelligence as a person.

 

4.       Location, location, location

Here’s the solution: pick your house up and move it somewhere more desirable.  Don’t you wish it could be that simple?  You may have updated your whole house to look like something out of a magazine, and that will surely increase the sale price, however, there is a realistic cap upon which that home will sell based on your location.  Schools, amenities, taxes, accessibility and the like are items that are out of your control. They nonetheless are going to have the number one impact on the sale of your home.  So keep that in mind and be realistic about how location impacts the listing and selling price of your home. 

 

5.       Staging

Staging is important not only for walkthroughs and open houses but for photos and videos you’ll use in your online marketing campaign.   Repainting in neutral colors, pre-packing and de-personalizing your space can make or break your home to a buyer.  You might be thinking to yourself, “You mean buyers don’t like my lime green walls and billboard commandment of ‘live laugh love’ streaked across my living room wall?”  The answer is no.  And no one wants to see your dirty razor on the bathroom counter either.   Staging is hugely important.  

Check out my other articles on staging here:

·         5 Benefits to Staging Your Home

·         6 Tips for Staging Your Home



6.       You’re emotionally attached

This is one of the reasons you hire a Realtor to sell your house.  Maybe you think your home which has been passed down for five generations really is worth 2 million dollars.  And to you maybe it is.  It may even be priceless.  


Unfortunately, your emotional attachment doesn’t equate to dollar signs on your home.  Approach the sale from an objective, non emotional standpoint based on comparable sales. 


Fortunately, Realtors are there to do this for you and should be able to talk you down from your overly attached metaphorical ledge.  Buyers don’t have the memories you have of Johnny learning to ride a bicycle, or Susie learning how to pogo stick, or that time at dinner you laughed so hard you peed your pants (take the table and chairs with you.)  Like I said, Realtors should make this plain enough so make sure to use one.   

 

7.   Just plain luck

Sometimes all the right pieces are in place and you just have to stick it out.  It may be that you aren’t doing anything wrong and it’s simply because the right buyer hasn’t come along yet.  Different regions of the country sell better at different times of the year.  That might be worth looking into if your home hasn’t sold yet.  A tactic that may work if your home has been on the market for a long time is to take it down, wait a week or two and re-list it. You may find that you just listed at a bad time originally and this may solve your problem.  Or, nobody wants your house and you’ll live there forever. 

 


I hope you enjoyed this article about selling your home!  Please share with your friends, family, and your dog.

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home I can make it simple and stress-free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.


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5 Rights You Didn't Know You Had As a Renter

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5 Rights You Didn't Know You Had As a Renter

5 rights you didn’t know you had as a renter

 

Your landlord has to follow a lot of rules:  When you think of your landlord, do you think “I love that guy!”  I hope so.  But if you don’t, you should question if they’re holding up their end of the bargain.  If they’re not, you can certainly do something about it.  You may feel like your landlord has all the power in the relationship, but I’m here to tell you why that’s not true.  In fact, most states (including NJ) go to great lengths to protect the rights of renters.  But most lessees don’t know what they’re entitled to.  Well I’ve got your back.  Have a taste of this knowledge-sandwich:

Security Deposits:

A major topic of complaint of lessees is regarding security deposits.  Here’s what you should know:

How much is too much?:

Your landlord may only charge you up to one and a half month’s rent as a security deposit.  And if they wish to increase the security deposit amount due to a pet, they are still bound by this magic number of a month and a half.  They are always welcome to charge less than this amount, but never more.

Giving the deposit:

Your security deposit doesn’t belong to your landlord.  When you provide a security deposit, your landlord is to immediately put the amount in an interest bearing account.  Here’s the part most don’t realize: Landlords are required to give tenants a statement in writing including the name and address of the bank, along with the type of account, current rate of interest and amount deposited within 30 days of receipt of a security deposit.  And here’s the really great part: If notification is not given or if the security is not deposited or invested in accordance with this law, the tenant has the right to require that the security deposit, plus 7 % per year actually be used to pay thr rent rather than function as a security deposit.   Failing to provide this information to the renter forfeits the landlord’s right to the security, and they may not ask for another deposit during the lease term.  I don’t know about you, but my last landlord could have been held accountable for this.

Returning the deposit: 

Here’s another one that’s really important:  If the landlord fails to return the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days, then the tenant is entitled to sue the landlord for the return of the security deposit in small claims court.


If the tenant sues successfully for the return of the security deposit, the Court can award recovery of double the amount of money, along with full costs of any action and, in the Court’s discretion, reasonable attorney’s fees. 


I don’t mean to beat up on my last landlord. Though he was a decent enough guy, he messed up on this one too.  It took him nearly two months to return my deposit.  I wish I was a Realtor back then because I didn’t realize my rights were being violated.  The worst part about it was that he used about seven hundred dollars for repainting, cleaning and spackling minor holes.  I thought that seemed like a lot and so I asked him for receipts.  Well, I never heard back from him.  And guess what?  A landlord is not allowed to spend any of your money without providing you an itemized receipt of the exact amount that was spent.  Furthermore, a landlord may not spend your deposit amount on any normal wear and tear.  There’re specific guidelines in NJ’s “Truth in Renting” guide which you can find here. 

Repairs:

Here’s another gem no one knows about.  So your AC is broken and your landlord isn’t exactly jumping t have it fixed.  Well, you may want to take advantage of something called “Repair and deduct.” 


Repair and deduct is a legal right a tenant can take to remedy a “vital facility” by paying for the repair and then subtracting it from the monthly rent. 


Vital facilities are those things necessary to make the apartment habitable, such as a heating system, running hot and cold water, an operating toilet, air conditioning and so on.  Keep in mind that you have to give your landlord adequate time to respond.  You can’t repair and deduct if your landlord hasn’t answered your text from earlier this morning.  But if they are negligent or unreasonable, repair and deduct makes sense for you.  Just make sure to keep a record of the request.  But next time you think you’re out of luck and have to suffer because of your landlord’s negligence, remember your rights as a renter.

Sale of the space:

Finally we have the case of a sale of your rented space.  Your landlord cannot simply decide that he wants to sell his house (the one you’re paying to live in,) and kick you out.  If he or she decides that they want to sell, they must give you, the lessee, an opportunity to make an offer on the home first.  Assuming you don’t buy it, lets consider this: your landlord sells your rented home six months into your lease to someone else.  Well, you really don’t have to worry about that sale.  The lease is still binding on the new owner and they may not move in until your lease term has expired. 

Like I said, renters have plenty of rights which are protected by the legal system.  Its just a shame more people don’t know about these rights.  So if your best friend is always complaining about her landlord, you may want to send this one over to her.   

 


I hope you enjoyed this article about your rights as a renter.  Please share with your friends, your family and your dog.

My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor.  If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home, I can make it simple and stress-free.  Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167.  Or shoot me an email at brandon@rasmussenhomesnj.com.


Here are a few other articles you may like:

·         4 Reasons You Haven’t Bought a Home Yet

·         5 Benefits to Staging Your Home

·         5 Reasons Your Home Hasn’t Sold Yet

·         6 Tips for Staging Your Home

·         Robbinsville:  the Brooklyn of NJ?

 

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