Thursday, November 12, 2009

Operation Christmas Child

Want to bring some joy to a child who would otherwise not get any Christmas presents this year? You can through the Samaritan's Purse organization and the Operation Christmas Child project. Operation Christmas Child's mission is to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

It's simple to do, just get a standard size shoe box, choose whether you would like to buy gifts for a boy or a girl and then pick which age bracket: 2-4 years, 5-9 years or 10-14 years. (You can print out labels on the website that you'll attach to the top of the box.) Purchase your gifts and then wrap your box--wrap the lid separately. You can include a personal note from yourself and your family if you would like.

Include $7 per box to help pay for shipping costs; simply fill out the donation form that's on the website--it's on the same page as the labels--and write a check. Put those items in an envelope and place them inside the box on top of the gifts.

There are several drop-off locations and next week, November 16-23, is the collection week. This is so easy to do and what a difference you could make in a child's life--think of the smile you're going to bring to their precious face when they see the goodies you've given them.

Be creative with your gifts inside the boxes...here's some ideas to get you started:

TOYS small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch®, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky®, etc.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.

HYGIENE ITEMS toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc.

OTHER Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)

A PERSONAL NOTE In a separate envelope, you may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. (If you include your name and address, the child may write back.)

DO NOT INCLUDE: Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snowglobes or glass containers; aerosol cans

In case you missed the link to the Operation Christmas Child website at the top, here it is again:
OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD DETAILS

So, how many boxes will you fill?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit Extension

Good news potential home buyers!! The first time home buyer tax credit has been extended into 2010 and now there's even a tax credit for those current home owners looking to purchase a home as well!

First Time Home Buyer Extended Tax Credit Basics:
  • The $8,000 tax credit has been extended until April 30, 2010. As long as you have a written, binding contract in force by that date you have until July 1, 2010 to close.

  • You will not have to repay this credit as long as you live in the home as your primary residence for three years or more.

  • Eligible properties include single-family homes, condos, town homes and co-ops.

  • You qualify as a first time home buyer if you or your spouse has not owned a home during the previous three years.

  • Income limits have been increased: single buyers are now eligible with income limits of up to $125,000 and married couples are eligible with income limits up to $225,000

  • This extension was put into effect on November 7, 2009

Current Home Owner Tax Credit Basics:

  • Current home owners can get a credit of up to $6,500 when they sell their primary residence and purchase another home during the November 7, 2009 to April 30, 2010 time frame

  • You qualify to get the credit if you've used the home being sold as your principal residence for five consecutive years within the last eight

  • The other factors such as which homes qualify, whether or not you have to repay the credit and the income limits are the same as the first time home buyer tax credit.

Now it's a great time to buy in Georgia whether you're a first time home buyer or one who's lived in your home for at least five consecutive years. I would love to help you buy a new home or sell your current one! If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

(Please note, information in this post was obtained from the article written by the National Association of REALTORS and can be found at this link: The Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit.)

Also, if you have specific questions as to how this tax credit pertains to you or if you want more details please contact the Internal Revenue Service at 800.829.1040

Friday, September 11, 2009

Feedback from a Recent First-Time Home Buyer

Last week I helped another home buyer successfully purchase their first home. It was a great little home perfect for their needs and I'm very excited and happy for him. I know that it'll be a place where he'll create many happy memories. In addition...I'm thrilled that he purchased it in time to receive the $8,000 tax credit! I can only imagine how happy he'll be when he receives that awesome check in the mail.

If you're considering purchasing a home, now's the time...especially if you're a first-time home buyer! I would be honored to help you through the very important and sometimes overwhelming home buying process. Please don't hesitate to contact me!

Here's the feedback I received from that client:

As a first time homebuyer, I was unsure about a lot of the process that went into looking for a home. Working with the Rains Team really made it easy and comfortable for me to look at several homes and narrow down my choices. The method of narrowing down choices really made me realize what it was that I was looking for in a first home. I was able to place an offer down fast with full confidence because of the time and effort taken by myself and the Rains Team in finding the perfect home. I am a big fan of communication and the Rains Team was up front about all matters when the buying process came and were diligent in keeping me up to speed about everything. I now own my first home with no regrets in the least! I would recommend the Rains Team to first time homebuyers and even seasoned buyers.
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Anxious for Fall

I'm so ready for the cooler temperatures of fall to arrive and the beautiful array of colors found on the leaves!

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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tips on Enhancing the Heart of the Home: The Kitchen

You probably already know that the kitchen is the heart of the home. It's where you entertain your friends and family, it's where a large part of your time is spent each day whether preparing meals or sitting around the table eating or helping your children with their homework. The kitchen is one of, if not, the most important room in your whole house, which is precisely why you should spend some time and money making sure it's looking its best.

Something to consider: does your kitchen already have great bones? Meaning, are the cabinets stylish, are the countertops granite and are the appliances stainless steel? If so, then you may just need to work on the details, which I'll get to in a little bit. If not, this is where you should really spend your time and money to begin with. Upgrading your kitchen is one of the rooms in your home that will give you a bigger return on your investment when you sell. People want awesome kitchens, is yours great or just mediocre?

Now if you already have great bones to your kitchen, then you may just need to get rid of the clutter and consider whether or not your kitchen is stylish and inviting. Do you feel like you've walked into the pages of a magazine when you enter your kitchen? You can enhance stylishness by adding details which can be as simple as adding beautiful glass bowls full of colorful fruit and vases of flowers. Use collections you already have such as great china pieces.

Another key to enhancing your kitchen is to change it up often. In doing so it will keep the room fresh and inviting, energizing and more appealing. This doesn't have to be fancy changes--maybe change out the decorations--use different flowers or different fruit or incorporate a different piece of china. An easy change to do is to swap out the drawer and cabinet knobs for more modern ones. Don't get stuck in a rut and don't be afraid to move things around.

The video below by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate shows exactly how to implement the upgrades discussed above. Enjoy and have fun decorating!

To watch the video, please click the link: KITCHEN VIDEO
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Comfort Food at its Best: Pot Roast!

Who doesn't enjoy a good pot roast? There's just something about that tender, juicy meat that fills you right up and comforts you at the same time. I love pot roast, especially one that I can put in the crock pot in the morning and forget about until dinner time.

This recipe is so easy and delicious that I bet you make it this weekend! And it tastes perfectly when paired with garlic green beans and horseradish mashed potatoes. Doesn't that sound like a delightful combination?



INGREDIENTS:
  • One 3-lb boneless chuck roast
  • 1.5 teaspoons House Seasoning (See note at bottom)
  • 1/4 Cup vegetable oil (or extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 or 4 beef bouillon cubes, crushed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 10.75 oz. can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Cup Chardonnay wine

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Sprinkle roast on all sides with House Seasoning; seasoning well
  2. In moderately hot skillet, brown roast on all sides in oil
  3. Place roast in Crock Pot
  4. On top of the roast, layer onion, bay leaves, crushed beef bouillon cubes, crushed garlic and cream of mushroom soup
  5. Add Chardonnay
  6. Cover with just enough water to cover all the ingredients sufficiently
  7. Cook on low setting approximately 8 hours

House Seasoning is made of: 1 Cup salt, 1/4 Cup black pepper and 1/4 Cup garlic powder. Stir all ingredients together.

I hope you enjoy this delicious recipe! Bon Appetit!

(Recipe is from the cookbook: Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics)

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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Wildflower Bouquet


It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tips on Creating a Cozy Family Room

Whether you currently have your home up for sale or not, everyone can benefit from some great decorating tips for creating a warm, friendly atmosphere in their home. I found this video from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate that has some wonderful suggestions for making your family room a cozy space that encourages conversation and is perfect whether you're entertaining friends or just living your everyday life.

I hope you watch the video because the designer really has great ideas. Here's three tips that I found especially helpful:

  • Look for the focal point of the room, whether it be a fireplace or another unique feature, and build the room around that. Make the focal point be what pulls everything together.

  • Don't be afraid to bring furniture forward in the room, by floating the furniture in the room and not lining everything up against the walls it creates a more intimate and cozy atmosphere.

  • When you're ready to change up the look of a space, look around your home at pieces you already have. It'll save you a lot of money if you mix up your furniture throughout your home and will achieve the feel of a new look at the same time. Then you can use your money to either freshen up the paint, add a new coffee table or other accent piece or get some great accessories such as candles, lamps, books or other decorative touches.

Click the link below to watch the video:

Video on Family Room


I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did and learn some neat decorating tips in the process. Have a wonderful day! Thanks for stopping by! If you have any tips for improving the family room (especially Stagers--I know y'all will have wonderful ideas), please leave them in the comment section!

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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Moody Skies


Photos ©2009 Anne Rains Photography, All Rights Reserved.

If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today! 404.357.2231

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dear Seller: Are You Sure You Want to Sell Your Home?

The other day I was out showing a Buyer a few houses and the most embarrassing thing happened! We arrived at our final home of the day; I walked to the front door--rang the doorbell and knocked loudly (just in case the Sellers had not left the property yet), retrieved the key from the lock box and let ourselves in...

What we encountered upon entering took me completely by surprise...the stench that flooded our noses was disgusting, no lights what so ever were turned. We creeped in a little further in the living room and about tripped over the mounds and mounds of dirty clothes, toys and other crap haphazardly tossed everywhere.


The place felt so dirty I was hesitant to even turn on the lights! My Buyer and I walked over to the kitchen...we had found the source of the smell!! Stacks and stacks of dirty dishes with leftover food stuck to the plates. Oh gross!

I cautiously looked over at my client to see how he was handling the place--one look at his face and I suggested we leave right then, no need to see the rest of the home! My client wondered aloud as we left "if that's the way they take care of their home, I wonder what maintenance and other repairs they've neglected to take care of." He is absolutely right!

Where is their pride of ownership? Has their agent not explained to them how a home should look for a showing...it's not like I didn't call two days in advance to schedule the appointment!! Do they not want to get their home sold?

I was completely embarrassed that I had chosen to show my client that home!! Especially since we had just come from a home that was perfectly staged and had great curb appeal--the owner of that home is also an agent, but still! Upon entering her home we were greeted by soft, pleasant music, the lights were on and the blinds were opened. It smelled good, but not too overbearing. And except for a few of the closets, it was clutter free! No dirty laundry, no gross dishes, everything in its place so the true features of the home could shine! Now THAT is how every home should look for a showing!

Sellers: If you want your home to sell, make it looks its best for showings! Agents: Please coach your client on what to do before a showing!

(Not an actual photo from the place, we weren't there long enough to take one!)
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Looking Up

Photos ©2009 Anne Rains Photography, All Rights Reserved.

If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today! 404.357.2231

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Do I Need to Know About Getting Pre-Qualified for a Home Loan?

I work with a lot of first-time home buyers, you may be one of them, and I'm asked all the time what is involved with getting pre-qualified for a home loan. To be honest I didn't have all the answers, so I interviewed the loan officer that I trust the most, Kurt Owen from BB&T's Covington, Georgia branch. Here's what he has to say on this topic:




1. What documents do people need to get pre-qualified? For a preq-ualification, it is helpful to have your most recent paystub, bank statements, W-2, and tax returns available. Though no documents are actually collected at this stage, it will help you be more accurate with the lender, which in turn will give them a better idea of what you can qualify for.

2. What are the basic requirements for obtaining a loan? I've always heard you must hold the same job for at least two years, is that true? Requirements vary from loan to loan, but 2 years in the same line of work is preferred. It is not a requirement, though, unless they are self employed, commission paid, or paid with a 1099.

3. What kind of questions do you ask people? Normally, to take a pre-qualification, I ask for: Names, birthdates, social security numbers, address history (2 years), contact numbers, work history (2 years) including addresses phone and pay, family information (married/single/divorced, kids, how many), Asset information (checking, savings, retirement, other), and what they are looking for as a payment. Then, based on the answers given, I may ask follow up questions that could range from child support to gift information for the down payment.

4. Once you're pre-qualified, how long are you approved for? It is important to know that a prequalification is not an approval or even a pre-approval. Pre-qualifications are based on verbal information only, do not set an interest rate, and are not underwritten. However, most major roadblocks can be identified through a prequalification, and they are normally accepted by most agents as an indication that the borrower they are dealing with is, barring an unexpected issue, probably able to obtain financing. For the most part, any lender can issue a prequalification without much of a problem, but it could have many "holes" in it. A true pre-approval means that documents are collected just like an application, and the loan is approved "subject to" an appraisal and identified property.

5. Is there anything else you would like to add to explain how this process works? Most prequalification's can be taken over the phone or in person in about 30 minutes, but leave more time available so that you can ask questions. You should have a response in 24-48 hours after applying for a prequalification, though you should ask the lender for a time estimate. Always tell the lender how much you are comfortable spending and have your prequalification based on that number.


Here's a little information about Kurt so you can get to know him better:

My name is Kurt Owen. I started in the mortgage industry in 2003, but have been with BB&T since 2006. I have lived in the area for 25+ years and have no plans of leaving. We have a wide range of products to service clients with varied needs including FHA, VA, USDA, Conventional, Construction/Permanent, and Non Conforming loans. I will work hard to make sure my clients are in a loan they are comfortable with, understand, and can afford. BB&T is safe and strong.
Our mission is "Helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security."

Office: 770.385.2635 E-mail: kowen@BBandT.com

I hope this has increased your knowledge on the pre-qualification process, especially if you're a first-time home buyer in the beginning stages of looking for a home. It's best to get pre-qualified for a loan before you start looking at properties--this will ensure that you don't fall in love with a home that is out of your price point. Kurt would be happy to help you determine how much you can afford and be comfortable with.

If you don't currently have a Realtor and you want to purchase a home, please contact me at 404.357.2231. And if you're a first-time home buyer you still have a few months left to take advantage of the $8,000 federal tax credit and the $1,800 Georgia tax credit.
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Who Doesn't Love Banana Pudding?

Gooey. Creamy. Tasty. Easy. Those are the words I would use to describe this banana pudding recipe! It's so simple to make yet so delicious that you better watch out or you may eat the whole thing! The great thing about this recipe is that it makes a huge amount. It serves at least 12 people so it's great to take to the next family gathering or the potluck supper at church on Sunday.



INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 bag of vanilla wafers or 2 bags Peperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
  • 6 to 8 bananas, sliced
  • 2 Cups milk
  • 1 5-ounce box instant French vanilla pudding
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line bottom of a 13x9x2-inch dish with cookies and put bananas on top.
  2. Blend milk with pudding mix well with a handheld electric mixer.
  3. Beat cream cheese and condensed milk together in a bowl until smooth; fold in whipped topping.
  4. Add to pudding mixture, stirring until well blended.
  5. Pour mixture over cookies and bananas; cover with remaining cookies.
  6. Refrigerate.
  7. Eat, eat, eat!

Okay, a few quick notes about this recipe: if you want to make a lighter version of this (so you can eat more *smile*) then use skim milk, neufchatel cheese (it's the low-fat version of cream cheese--tastes the same) and light whipped topping. It still tastes the same I promise!

Also, I think that crushing the cookies for the top layer makes the presentation prettier. And I think this recipe is better if it's made a day in advance and has time to chill in the refrigerator for several hours--I believe it makes the texture better because the cookies get soft and gooey.

ENJOY!


You know, I would really enjoy any wonderful dessert recipes you have...leave your best recipe in the comment section please

(This recipe is found in Paula Deen's cookbook: The Lady & Sons: Just Desserts)
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pathways to Professionalism: Respect for Peers

The following are some professional courtesies that every REALTOR should strive for. Using good manners is important in this business that is built on relationships. These 12 suggestions are all ways that show respect for peers.
1. Identify your REALTOR and professional status in all contacts with other REALTORS.

2. Respond to other agents' calls, faxes, and e-mails promptly and courteously.

3. Be aware that large electronic files with attachments or lengthy faxes may be a burden on recipients.

4. Notify the listing broker if there appears to be inaccurate information on the listing.

5. Share important information about a property, including the presence of pets; security systems; and whether sellers will be present during the showing.

6. Show courtesy, trust and respect to other real estate professionals.

7. Avoid the inappropriate use of endearments or other denigrating language.

8. Do not prospect at other REALTORS open houses or similar events.

9. Return keys promptly.

10. Carefully replace keys in the lockbox after showings.

11. To be successful in the business, mutual respect is essential.

12. Real estate is a reputation business. What you do today may affect your reputation - and business - for years to come.

If you missed the other two parts of this topic, please click the links:
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Sweet Summer Time


Photos ©2009 Anne Rains Photography, All Rights Reserved.

If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today!

Monday, July 6, 2009

All About Georgia Property Taxes: Part 2

In the first part of this short series I explained what the Georgia property taxes are based on, how the assessed value is determined and what a millage rate is. Today I'm going to discuss the homestead exemption and how to appeal tax assessments.

If you want to catch up on the first part, click the link: All About Georgia Property Taxes: Part 1

Homestead Exemption:

In Georgia, the most common exemption people apply for is the Homestead Exemption, which allows Georgia homeowners to receive a reduction in the tax assessed against their primary residence. This exemption and most other exemptions are not automatically given; instead, they require the homeowner to apply for them and the exemption then must be approved.

You may apply for this exemption if you have lived in your home since January 1st of the year in which the tax becomes due and it must be your primary residence. Also, you need to file for this exemption by April 1st or else you'll have to wait until the following year. Once you've been approved for this exemption though you don't have to file for it each year; the only time it would need to be filed again is if ownership of the home changed.

Other exemptions that are available are ones for disabled veterans, housholds that have an income of less than $30,000 annually, and to surviving spouses of firemen or policemen killed while on the job.

Appealing Tax Assessments:

The proper time to appeal a tax assessment is whenever the homeowner receives assessment notice in the mail; it will be marked "This is not a bill." A lot of homeowners will disregard it since it's not a bill, but as soon as you get it in the mail you'll want to go on your county's website and file a property tax return. The deadline for this in most counties is April 1st, but you'll want to check your country's website to be sure.

Once the property tax return is filed, the Board of Assessors will get the property re-appraised. If the Board accepts the lowered value, the assessed value will also be reduced and nothing is left for the homeowner to do. However, if they re-appraise it at a higher value, a new assessment notice will be mailed and the homeowner can then file an appeal.

A reassessment notice will show the previous year's value of the property, the current year's value and a statement saying the owner has 45 days to appeal the assessment. You must make your appeal in writing, to do so simply write a letter to the Board of Assessors. It's best to send this via certiifed mail. In the letter you need to include the property address, the tax identification number and state your reasons for the appeal.

After you've filed your appeal, you should follow it up with a more thorough detailed letter with your reasons to appeal. In addition, it's wise to arrange a meeting with the appraiser assigned to your property to discuss your appeal. However, the more non-confrontational you are with the appraiser, the more likely your meeting will go in your favor.

At the meeting with the appraiser, present your evidence for lowering the value of the home--this could be a settlement statement showing the purchase price of the property, comparable sales information or an appraisal. Other ways to prove your case are if portions of the property are in a flood zone, zoning restrictions or covenants that bring the property's value down.

The Board of Assessors will then make their decision, which must be in writing and will either be: 1. no change to the assessment, 2. a change in the assessment to the amount claimed by the owner and 3. an altogether separate change. If the Board chooses not to make any change to the assessment, they must write both the homeowner and the Board of Equilization stating their reasons for denial; the homeowner can then file an appeal with the Board of Equilization. If they make an altogether different decision, the owner may either accept it or file a written appeal within 21 days to the Board of Equilization.

I hope you've learned a lot more about Georgia property taxes and what it takes to file exemptions and appeals.

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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Listing: 3 Bed/3 Bath Home for Sale in Monroe, GA on 2.5 Acres

If you are shopping for a home why not take a look at this beautiful 3 bedroom and 3 bath home for sale in Monroe, Georgia. It's located a large 2.5 acre lot and also has an 18'x20' shop on the property.

Come sit on the large rocking chair front porch and cool off with a glass of sweet tea. Or enjoy the stacked stone fireplace and built-in shelving in the family room.

You'll love the over-sized master bedroom with its trey ceiling. And the master bath is spacious and features dual vanities, a garden tub, separate shower and walk-in closet.

For more photos or information about this property, please visit:

Watch the virtual tour:


Make an appointment to view this home; call Anne at 404.357.2231
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: It's a Great Day to be Alive!


It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All About Georgia Property Taxes: Part 1

If you are a Georgia homeowner, especially a first-time home owner, you may be curious to learn more about the property taxes you're required to pay. In this first part, I'll explain some general information about Georgia property taxes, how the valuation and assessment process works and what a millage rate is.


To begin with, all Georgia property is subject to paying property taxes, called "ad valorem" taxes which means a tax based on the value of the property. The ad valorem tax is based upon the value of both the house (the improvements) and the lot on which the home sits. However, your personal property, such as your furniture and other possessions, are not included in this valuation.

The Board of Assessors in the county in which the home lies is responsible for valuing and assessing the property. The Board has a few appraisers which they use to determine the value of the property based upon market analysis, comparable sales and other criteria. Your Georgia property taxes are assessed at "fair market value," in other words, the price that a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and that a willing seller would accept.

After the property has been assessed and a value is determined, the Board of Tax Assessors reaches an assessed value by taking 40% of the appraised value. To reach the amount that appears on your tax bill, the assessed value is multiplied by the millage rate for the tax district in which the property lies.

The Latin word "mille" which means "thousand" is where the term "millage" rate originates. So in the property tax context, the millage rate is the amount of tax due on every thousand dollars worth of property. This rate is set based on the budget requirements of the different units of government which depend on the taxes. Usually this includes the county government, school system, the cities within each county and the state government.

The millage rate is determined after the annual budget is set; once that happens, the Board of Assessors looks at the total value of all the property in the county, they then reduce the value by 40% to reach the assessed value. Next, through long division, they reach the millage rate necessary to bring in tax revenues necessary to cover the budget.

I hope that this information has helped you understand a little more about Georgia property taxes. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I'll cover the Georgia Homestead Exemption and how to appeal your tax assessment.

Please click this link if you would like to see the current millage rate for each county and city in Georgia: Millage Rates.
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Mmmm...Supper!!

Wordless Wednesday: Mmm...Supper!
One of my catches on a recent deep sea fishing trip in Destin, FL
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pathways to Professionalism: Respect for Property

The following are some professional courtesies that every REALTOR should strive for. Using good manners is important in this business that is built on relationships. These 8 suggestions are all ways that show respect for property.


  1. Be responsible for everyone you allow to enter listed property.

  2. Never allow buyers to enter listed property unaccompanied.

  3. When showing property, keep all members of the group together.

  4. Never allow unaccompanied access to property without permission.

  5. Enter property only with permission even if you have a lockbox key or combination.

  6. When the occupant is absent, leave the property as you found it (lights, heating, cooling, drapes, etc). If you think something is amiss (e.g. vandalism) contact the listing broker immediately.

  7. Be considerate of the seller's property. Do not allow anyone to eat, drink, smoke, dispose of trash, use bathing or sleeping facilities, or bring pets. Leave the house as you found it unless instructed otherwise.

  8. Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside property.

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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mixed-Berry Crumble Tart Recipe

I love trying out new recipes and luckily last night I had the opportunity to as it was my night to bring snacks to my Small Group Bible Study. One of the recipes I attempted was this Mixed-Berry Crumble Tart and afterwards everyone said it was a keeper...so I thought maybe you would like to try this one out too!

Now, I forgot to take a before picture...but here's an after picture...it's nearly gone, so that's got to tell you that it's delicious. It's made from a mixture of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries which I thought was perfect for the summer time. And berries are really good for your body too--full of antioxidants and vitamins, which is great--okay, okay there's definitely some sugar and butter in this so it's not the healthiest but what can I say? I love the sweets!!

Ingredients:

  • Pastry for One-Crust Pie (You can use a store-bought pie crust)
  • 1 1/2 C. sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 1/2 C. fresh blueberries
  • 1 C. fresh raspberries
  • 2/3 C. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. grated orange peel
  • 1/3 C. butter/margarine, melted

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degree F. Press pastry against bottom and side of pan. Trim any overhanging edge of pastry even with top of pan.

In large bowl, gently toss berries with 2/3 C. sugar and the cornstarch. Spoon into pastry-lined pan.

In small bowl, stir flour, 1/2 C. sugar, the orange peel and butter with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over berries.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until fruit bubbles in center. Serve warm.
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Just a few little tips and hints. If you don't want to make your own pastry, it's perfectly fine to use the store-bought crust...nobody will be able to tell the difference. Also, since berries can be pricy, I bought the frozen ones. I found a blend of raspberries, blueberries and black berries and then also bought a package of strawberries. Let the thaw and then they'll be fine to use. If you don't want to use a tart pan, you can also use a regular pie pan as I did.

Well, I hope you enjoy this delicious treat as much as we did! Bon appetit!!

It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pathways to Professionalism: Respect for the Public

The following are some professional courtesies that every REALTOR should strive for. Using good manners is important in this business that is built on relationships. These 21 suggestions are all ways that show respect for the public.

1. Follow the "Golden Rule" - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2. Respond promptly to inquiries and requests for information.
3. Schedule appointments and showings as far in advance as possible.
4. Call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment or showing.
5. If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the occupant.
6. Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
7. When entering a property, ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
8. Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules.
9. Never criticize property in the presence of the occupant.
10. Inform occupants that you are leaving after showings.
11. When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock - and announce yourself loudly - before entering. Knock and announce yourself loudly before entering any closed room.
12. Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and drive a clean car.
13. If occupants are home during showings, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.
14. Encourage the clients of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
15. Communicate clearly; don't use jargon or slang that may not be readily understood.
16. Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
17. Show courtesy and respect to everyone.
18. Be aware of - and meet - all deadlines.
19. Promise only what you can deliver - and keep your promises.
20. Identify your REALTOR® and your professional status in contacts with the public.
21. Do not tell people what you think - tell them what you know.
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It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today: 404.357.2231!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Additional $1,800 Tax Credit for Georgia Buyers

Georgia buyers can now receive an $1,800 tax credit in addition to the $8,000 federal tax credit. Governor, Sonny Perdue, signed House Bill 261 on May 11, 2009.

The $1,800 tax credit is only available for six months; you must close on a home between June 1 and November 30, 2009 to receive this credit. Here are the other important details:
  • AMOUNT: the credit is equal to either 1.2% of the purchase price or $1,800, whichever is lesser
  • WHO QUALIFIES: this credit is for ANYONE purchasing a home between the deadline--NOT just first-time home buyers!
  • HOW DO YOU RECEIVE IT?: You may claim one-third of the credit available in each taxable year, and may carry forward unclaimed amounts--essentially, you'll receive this credit over the course of the next 3 years

Also, there aren't any income restraints to this credit and as I mentioned before, this is not limited to just first-time home buyers. You just have to buy a single-family property within the time period.

Representative Ron Stephens said this about the bill: "I'm proud of Governor Purdue for signing this legislation, and I'm proud to have brought it before the state legislature. This bill will put people to work, reduce the inventory of unsold homes, and kick start Georgia's economy."

To determine the specific forms you need to use to obtain this credit, please contact your tax professional.

If you are a first-time home buyer and would like to learn more about the $8,000 federal tax credit, please read this article:
Understanding the New $8,000 First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

It's a great time to buy a home in Georgia, whether you're a first-time home buyer or not, and I would love to walk you through this process. If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today!

(The information from this post was obtained from this article)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: A Charleston Steeple

A Charleston, South Carolina Steeple


Photos ©2009 Anne Rains Photography, All Rights Reserved.

If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Vet and the Duck

Here's a funny story to bring a smile to your day.

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she lay her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest. After a moment or two, the vet shook his head sadly and said, "I'm so sorry, your Duck Cuddles has passed away". The distressed owner wailed, "Are you sure??" "Yes, I am sure. The duck is dead," he replied. "How can you be so sure," she protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left theroom, and returned a few moments later with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put its front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head. The vet patted the dog and took it out, and returned a few moments later with a cat. The cat jumped up on the table and also sniffed delicately at the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on it's haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of theroom.

The vet looked at the woman and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely,100% certifiably, a dead duck." Then the vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman. The duck's owner, still in shock, took thebill. "$150.00!!?" she cried, "$150.00 just to tell me my duck is dead!!??" The vet shrugged, "I'm sorry. If you'd taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it's now $150.00.
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If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today!

P.S. I'm not sure who was the original author of this joke because it was e-mailed to me. Also the photo is by: tifotter

Friday, May 29, 2009

8 Ways to Save Money Through Your Mortgage, Banking or Credit Cards

My office is cluttered and unorganized, which absolutely drives me crazy. So, last night I decided to start tackling this huge project...not to point fingers here, but it's mostly my hubby's mess that I'm trying to sort through. However, I did go through all the files in my desk and found a lot of things I didn't need.

What does this have to do with saving money you may ask? Well, I found a magazine dated July 2008 that caught my eye--one of the headline stories was "Easy Tips to Save $1,000's"--I knew I had kept this for a reason! Today I'll share the tips on saving money through your mortgage, your bank or credit cards.

For previous articles of how to save money, click on the following links:

Simple Tips on How to Slash Your Grocery Bill

"If You Play With Snakes You're Gonna Get Bit"


MORTGAGE TIPS:

* PAY THE POINTS: With most home loans, the biggest expense is the interest. One of the best ways to lower that expense is through the wise use of discount points--upfront fee paid to the lender. One discount point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. Generally, the more discount points you pay up front, the lower the interest rate. This is also known as "buying down the loan." A good rule of thumb: If you can recoup the cost of the points within the first 2 years through the lower monthly payments, go for the points.
  • Example: You can get a 30-year fixed-rate $200,000 mortgage for 5.75 % plus 2 points (which cost about $4,000), or 6.75 % with no points. If you go with the lower interest rate you save $130 a month. It will take you about 2.5 years to recoup that $4,000 you had to pay up front to get the lower rate. However, over the following 28 years you will save $46,818 due to the lower interest rate and payments.


* PREPAY THE PRINCIPAL: Each month when you make your regular mortgage payment, write a second check for one-twelfth of the regular mortgage payment. Do this every month and at the end of one year you will have made the equivalent of 13 monthly payments. On a 30-year $200,000 mortgage at 6.75 % interest, this tactic pays off your mortgage in 24 years and saves a whopping $62,750 in interest.


* GO SHORT-TERM: Although your monthly payment may be higher, you can save tens of thousands of dollars in interest by shopping for the shortest-term mortgage you can afford. For each $100,000 you borrow at a 7 % annual percentage rate (APR), for example, you will pay over $75,000 less in interest on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage than you would on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.


* DROP THE PMI: Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is extra insurance lenders require from most homebuyers who obtain loans that are for more than 80 % of their new home's value. However, thanks to the Homeowner's Protection Act (HPA), PMI is now automatically cancelled once your mortgage is paid down to 77 % of the original value of the property. Typically, PMI premiums range from $250 to $1,200 a year.


CREDIT CARD AND BANKING TIPS:

* PAY EARLY: Most credit card companies compute interest charges based on your average daily balance, so making your payment early in the billing cycle (as soon as you receive your statement rather than waiting until the payment is due) will save $5, $10 or even more a month. Why? Because you reduce the daily balance for more days in the cycle.


* JUST ASK: Tired of paying 16 % interest on your credit card balance? Pick up the phone and call customer service (the number on the back of your card). Ask for a lower rate. If you have a good payment history, chacnes are they'll lower it on the spot. The difference between 18% and 7% on a $5,000 balance is $46 a month, or almost $600 a year.


* FIGHT THE FEES: If your credit card issuer smacks you with a fee, don't be shy. Nearly all banks will waive at least one late fee ($15-$39) or over-limit fee (up to $39), but you have to ask. If you're paying an annual fee (anywhere from $50 to $300) just to have the card, ask to have that waived too.


* PAY ONLINE: If you pay 15 bills a month by mail, you're spending at least $75 a year in postage. Most large banks offer free online bill paying for customers that lets you pay any vendor, or you can also pay the vendor directly online. Go to your bank's website or the vendor's website to learn more.

You know, it's a tough economy we're in right now and whether you're on a tight budget, struggling to meet ends each month or you've saved up some cash and are more flexible with your money, it doesn't hurt to make the smartest decisions possible and find ways to save as much money as you can. I hope this tips helped you; as a first-time home owner myself, I learned a lot about mortgages through these tips.

I would love to hear what you're doing to save money during our current economic times?

If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today!
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Photo Credit: AMagill

Original article was written by Mary Hunt and found in the July 2008 edition of Woman's Day magazine

Thursday, May 28, 2009

45 Life Lessons We Should All Learn...

My awesome team leader, Janice Baldwin, sent these life lessons to everyone this morning. It was written by Regina Brett, a columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. In the e-mail it talked about how Regina had just turned 90 years old; I had never heard of this woman before so I did a little research. I found her website: ReginaBrett.com and as it turns out she just turned 50 in 2006...so the e-mail floating around is inaccurate as to her age, but still contains a wonderful amount of life lessons we can learn from.

According to her website, the following article is being turned into a book titled: "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours" --it will be released April of 2010.

So without further ado...here are the 45 Life Lessons we should know by Regina Brett:

  • Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
  • When in doubt, just take the next small step.
  • Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  • Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
  • Pay off your credit cards every month.
  • You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  • Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
  • It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
  • Save for retirement starting with your first pay check.
  • When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

  • Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
  • It's OK to let your children see you cry.
  • Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  • If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
  • Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
  • Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
  • Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
  • Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
  • It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
  • When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

  • Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
  • Over prepare, then go with the flow.
  • Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
  • The most important sex organ is the brain.
  • No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
  • Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
  • Always choose life.
  • Forgive everyone and everything.
  • What other people think of you is none of your business.
  • Time heals almost everything. Give it time.

  • However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  • Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  • Believe in miracles.
  • God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
  • Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
  • Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
  • Your children get only one childhood.
  • All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
  • Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
  • If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
  • Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
  • The best is yet to come.
  • No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  • Yield.
  • Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

I think that Regina really knows what she's talking about! All of these tips and lessons are great ways to live your life and reminders that we only get one shot at life here on Earth. Which one was most meaningful to you?

For me, as a Christian, my favorite one is "The best if yet to come!" This one means the most to me because while this life is great, I know that I have an even better one in store for me in the future--eternity in Heaven with my Savior and Lord! Life on Earth is just preparation for eternity spent with God.

In fact, I'm reading an awesome book on Heaven by Randy Alcorn simply titled "Heaven." I am just beginning it but so far it's been very good--I'm learning a lot and it's one that I would recommend every Christian to read.

So, please tell me, which Life Lesson means the most to you?

P.S. In case you're interested...all the photos were taken by me while on my study abroad trip to Australia...a truly beautiful place! I would highly recommend a trip there if you've never been!!

Photos ©2009 Anne Rains Photography, All Rights Reserved.

If you are in the market to buy or sell your home in the Bethlehem or Dacula area, I would be happy to assist you! My passion is helping people find their dream home and stepping them through this exciting journey. I serve the Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett county areas. Call or text me today!