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Featured Posts

5 Of the Best Family Destinations that “Won’t Break the Bank”….

Cass : April 2, 2014 6:26 pm : Blog, Parenting

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Even in these difficult economic times British families are loathe to give up their annual fortnight in the sun. Many of us will scrimp and save all year to ensure a couple of weeks of fun and relaxation so it’s essential to make savings wherever possible. The best way to save money on your holiday is to choose somewhere that offers low-priced accommodation, food and drinks, travel and other amenities.

Here’s five family friendly destinations that can help you cut your holiday budget….

Bulgaria
Bulgaria has been a popular budget destination for about 20 years. Perhaps because it is not located on the Mediterranean, but on the Black Sea, therefore people do not think of it as a usual holiday destination. But those who have visited have certainly discovered its delights and its unusually low prices. Sunny Beach is the most popular resort in the country and is home to in excess of 500 hotels and 200 bars and restaurants.

The resort’s lower cost of living combined with competition produces a win-win situation for holidaymakers. If you opt for Artist Street eateries such as Malin’s or Jupiters a good meal complete with drinks could cost you £5. A variety of local beer will cost as little as 50p a pint and a large whiskey will set you back just £1. Check out the best time of year to visit

Turkey
Always known for offering cheap and cheerful holidays, this year they are cheaper than ever thanks to a huge surge in the exchange rate. While there are many resorts around Turkey on both the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. There is one that will always come out top when searching for bargain holidays; Marmaris. In terms of value for money and with literally hundreds of choices for both accommodation and eating out. And being spoilt for choice means making your money go a lot further. One tip; whatever the exchange rate in the UK you will get better than in Turkey.

Every area of Marmaris has its own little selection of restaurants and bars but the best bargains to be had are on Kenan Evren Boulevard. This is the main thoroughfare which is directly behind the sea front. Here you will find numerous bars and restaurants where it is easy to pick up a beer for £1 and an all day breakfast for £1.50. One of the best is Always at the Icmeler end of the resort. You can get a really good meal here with wine for less than £10. Look for reviews of hotels before you book.

The Algarve
For a long time the Algarve area of Portugal was considered an expensive, luxurious, part of the world and much favoured by retired couples and golfers. Times have certainly changed on both accounts as while it is still one of the loveliest places to visit it is also now very affordable and family friendly. One of the prettiest and safest resorts is Praia da Rocha. Set on top of a cliff with one of the best beaches in all of Portugal at the bottom. This is a small resort but there is a good selection of hotels and restaurants especially along the main pedestrianised area.

Praia da Rocha has a great choice of the menu of the day options at most of the restaurants. If you love Chinese food then you must try Nova China upstairs above Tribu on the main Tomas Cabreira thoroughfare. You will struggle to get through all the courses that will set you back around £25 for two people for 4 courses including wine. Beer will cost around £1.50 to £2.00 for a pint whilst soft drinks can be bought for around £1.  For more details have a look at the official tourist info site.

Mainland Spain

Mainland Spain, for a budget holiday, it has to be Benidorm. Forget the stories about old people and stag and hen parties, Benidorm ticks all the boxes when it comes to a family holiday. Two gorgeous beaches, a theme park, a circus, hundreds of hotels and more choices of places to eat than you can imagine. 

There are two next to each other with the same name, except the second calls itself the Original John & Joseph’s. Each have their fans but as far as food and drink go they are very much alike. Go out of high season and you will get a pint of beer at either for 1 euro, the food is cheap and of good quality and starts from 3€ and if you like a nightcap you won’t get better than a hot Lumumba. A delicious hot chocolate with a very generous measure of brandy for 1.25€. Try Icelolly for availability this Summer.

Croatia
When Yugoslavia disappeared and became two separate countries, Croatia grabbed the bull by the horns and put a lot of hard work into promoting itself as a top tourist destination. It has certainly achieved its aim as there are some fantastic resorts on the Adriatic Sea. One of the best is Dubrovnik, or to give it it’s official title the Dubrovnik Riviera. The coastline here is stunning and the quality of the water caused the area to adopt the tourist slogan “The Mediterranean as it once was”.

A good local beer can be purchased for the equivalent of £1.63 and a decent meal from £3.00 upwards. Dubrovnik has a huge number of restaurants at both end of the scale and this is just a rough price in a mid range eaterie. The Azure Dubrovnik is the best rated restaurant and a meal here will still only cost you around £6. You can check availability for this Summer.

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Flying the nest – what are the best education options for my teenagers?

Cass : February 20, 2014 6:10 am : Blog

If your children are quickly approaching the end of their time at school, the question of what to do next will probably be looming in all of your minds.  In fact, even if your children aren’t even in senior school (like mine) you might still want to consider your options because time goes so quickly.  I can’t believe that Miss Frugal is starting senior school in September and even that involved one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make as a parent.

These days, the educational choices for teenagers are pretty open, giving them a lot of options for getting into work or university. So what are the best options for your children and how can you help them to achieve their goals?

Careers
If your teenagers already have a clear idea of the career that they want to pursue, the best way to decide on an educational institution or course is to contact people already active in their chosen industry and ask for advice.  Some careers are best supported with university degrees, whereas others favour people who learn on the job, so always try to get expert advice before making any decisions.

College
For hands-on careers like plumbing, mechanics, hairdressing and horticulture, a college course could well be the best path for your teenagers. Colleges often have strong links with local businesses, making it easier for graduates to find work in the nearby area. Plus, college courses are generally a lot cheaper than university courses, allowing your children to enter the world of work debt free.

University
Though university is now expensive, it is still the best educational option for anyone who wants to get into medicine, law, finance, teaching and a whole host of other professions. If your children want to pursue a professional career but become frustrated with some assignments or university work, tell them to check out Ivory Research, a company whose services allow university students to obtain the grades that they deserve.

Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships are a fantastic option for anyone keen on becoming qualified in a trade. Normally affiliated with local colleges, apprenticeships guarantee your children a job on graduation and some even pay wages while they are still training. This makes for a very secure educational option and one which will stand them in good stead for the future.

Helping your children to take the next step once they’ve finished school can be a challenge. However, by doing some research and encouraging your kids to think carefully about the options that are available, you can help to steer your teenagers onto the perfect educational path that will see them succeeding and achieving in the years to come.

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Why it is important to teach children the value of recycling and eco-friendliness….

Cass : December 23, 2013 9:29 am : Blog

Your children are never be too young to be taught about the value of recycling. In fact it could be argued that the earlier a child learns about the environment the more likely it will be that he or she will develop a commitment to recycling. What’s more, parents and pre-school carers can teach these topics in a fun and engaging way, whilst supporting a child’s personal development.

What is great about environmental education is that it is based on real life experiences. This means that young children will be able to see first-hand about how to practice recycling and other eco-friendly initiatives.

Interaction with nature
Young children learn about the environment because they interact with it. It is important that adults encourage a child to interact with the environment during their early years. If children spend most of their early years indoors, doing activities that essentially keep them isolated from the natural world, they will miss out on this important early contact with nature. To ensure that your child gets acquainted with the natural world, take them on walks in the countryside and describe and explain the different aspects of nature you see.

Take a picnic on your walk and talk to your child about why it is important not to drop litter and to clean up after yourselves. Take this one step further by taking the empty bottles and containers to a recycling bank on the way home. Get your child to be actively involved with the organising of the waste by asking them to place the rubbish in the relevant bank.

Young children, generally speaking, enjoy sorting out items and are likely to relish the opportunity of placing objects into certain places – this recycling practice can also be introduced at home. Make sure that you have designated bins and containers for certain types of rubbish which are clearly marked. Encourage your child to put all the plastic bottles together in a certain container and all unwanted paper in another. Not only will this help promote organisational skills in young children, but it will also increase their awareness of recycling. This will ultimately mean that children are more likely to continue this important environmental trend into their adult life.

If you are serious about encouraging children to group and organise items together in terms of what they are made out of, you could put a storage unit in their room, playroom or in other areas of the house. For example, the Liberty House Transport 3-bin Storage Unit provides the ideal place for youngsters to store their things. Such handy storage units will encourage a child to organise their items, which is of course the dominant trait of recycling.
Incorporate recycling into games that encourage a child’s development

Use recycling as a means of helping your child learn to count, spell and identify shapes and colours. For example, ask your child to count the number of plastic bottles in the plastic recycling box, or to identify all the blue cans in the container marked ‘cans’. Classifying the cans in accordance with their colour will help young children recognise different colours and shapes, as well as developing numerical skills.

Making crafts using recycled materials
The opportunities of using recycled materials to make all kinds of interesting crafts are almost endless. Young children adore spending an afternoon cutting, gluing, sticking and painting items that were previously something else in the home. Such activities help develop creativity in children, not to mention promote hand/eye coordination. Some fun activities could be sticking colourful beads on to empty toilet rolls or putting plastic bottles on top of each other to make a totem pole.

Play kitchens
Many children love to play with toy kitchens where they pretend to cook meals and be a chef. Reinforce the recycling aspect of cooking by encouraging your child to put pretend scraps into a recycling bin. Urging your child to put certain scraps and waste in specific places will help develop an understanding about recycling and what type of waste can and cannot be put together.

One of the greatest components of teaching a young child about the importance of recycling is that you can be as creative as you want to be – your child is also likely to lap up learning about this increasingly imperative aspect of life.
For a range of toys and craft materials that could help develop your child’s interest in recycling and environmentally-friendly living, visit www.borntotoddle.com.

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Eight Ways to Move Ahead Financially for 2014….

Cass : December 22, 2013 8:58 am : Blog

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Like many other people, you’ll probably come out of the hectic Christmas period determined to get ahead financially in the next year. While reviewing and updating personal finances is a good step to take anytime, the beginning of 2014 provides the perfect opportunity. These eight money-wise suggestions are intended to help you set priorities so that you can move forward in the New Year.

1 – Use a Family Budget:
You probably have some sort of budget in place, but it may not be working and the chances are that it will need reviewing.  The beginning of a new year is the ideal time to make sure that it’s up-to-date and suitable for your family’s needs. A fresh financial start includes keeping an accurate record of income and expenditures (you can use my free tracker here). From there, you will be surprised at how much you can save on car payments, cell phone bills, and other monthly expenses.

2 – Review your Income:
Take a look at the general market to see how your salary level compares to current trends in order to avoid being underpaid. It’s also important to make sure that your family’s spending doesn’t exceed your earnings.

3 – Eliminate Credit Card Debt:
Resolve not to use your credit cards. While you will want to keep a couple of cards for specific purposes, set up a payment schedule that allows you to pay monthly charges and to eliminate any outstanding debts as quickly as possible. Once you have paid off a debt use the budgeted amount towards paying off other debts.  This is commonly called Snowballing.

4 – Retirement Plans:
If you are in your 30s with a family, it may be difficult to think about your retirement plans, but it is important for the security of your future and family. First and foremost, make sure you are part of your company’s pension scheme and take a long term view on these pension investments as opposed to just taking the default option. Strongly consider taking on an ISA and continue to contribute to it every year to collect tax-free savings you’ll need for your retirement.

5 – A Savings Plan:
Make the commitment to set aside a certain amount each month. Whether it’s 5% or 10% of your income, plan to deposit the amount before paying your bills. An automatic deposit made directly from your monthly pay-check, into a separate savings account, may be another good option.

6 – Invest Smartly:
Research some investing options, including online trading. Today, it is quite easy and simple to set up an online account, but you’ll need to compare different online brokers. It is possible to trade stocks, options, and get involved in online binary options trading. Diversify by making investments beyond your savings-retirement plans to give you a more well-rounded portfolio.

7 – Insurance Coverage:
Most families pay more than necessary for disability, life, auto, and home insurance. While it is important to have adequate coverage, it is wise to periodically review current policies so that they are in line with your family’s changing needs.

8 – Keep Organised Records:
Maintain efficient access to organised files. If your financial records aren’t up-to-date, you’ll be more likely to overlook income tax-credits and deductions. Find a system that’s easy to keep year-round, and is accessible and organized at tax-time.

Financial management may be tedious; it’s not always easy to stick with a budget while managing your home and family. However, a well-organized system can reduce frustrations and give you the opportunity to better allocate your money. Step outside your comfort zone, research various investment options and you can very well get ahead financially in the new year!

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Creating a home office on a budget….

Cass : December 19, 2013 8:00 pm : Blog

If you’re about to start working from home, it’s really important that you have access to a suitable office area. While lounging around on your couch with your laptop may seem like a good idea initially, the novelty of this approach will quickly wear off. Neck ache, frequent interruptions, lost documents and other problems could plague your home working experiences if you only have a casual base. The good news is, it’s easy to create an effective home office, and you needn’t spend a fortune in the process. First and foremost, you’ll have to find a suitable space. Ideally, this should be a completely separate room, away from distractions and with access to phone and internet connections. Next, it’s vital that you choose a decent office chair. Especially if you’ll be spending long hours at your workstation, it’s important that you have access to well-designed seating. To save cash, you can check out second-hand and charity shops. There are some great finds in these stores, but make sure you test the items out first to ensure they are still in good condition. Then comes your desk. No home office is complete without these products. If you’re lacking in square footage or simply want to create a compact working area, corner desks can be ideal. With this kind of design, larger rooms – and therefore larger corner desks – can allow you to have two distinct work surfaces. If this seems above budget, search around online because there are plenty of discount sites and supermarket stockists offering cut-price deals. Storage is also crucial. Without the necessary drawers, shelving and so on, you may quickly find that chaos descends. You may be able to save yet more money by taking unused storage items from elsewhere around your home. For example, perhaps you have a compact set of drawers in your bedroom that could be better utilised in your office. You could always go for the DIY option and buy or upcycle some sections of wood to use as shelves. Remember, the smaller the surface area of your new office, the more you should utilise the vertical space around your walls. Of course, it’s vital that your working area looks the part too. For hardly any money, you can buy items of artwork and new plants to make it look more organic; research has shown that creativity can be enhanced by the presence of natural objects and certain colours. So, with a little careful planning, it’s certainly possible to create visually appealing, comfortable and practical office areas, without busting your budget. Do some digging in second-hand stores, online and even round the house – just make sure you end up with a space that’s all your own so you can get on with your work in peace!

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Be careful at Christmas….

Cass : December 12, 2013 8:12 pm : Blog

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Every year you hear at least one story of someone who’s Christmas has been ruined because of crime don’t you?

Last year there was an awful story about a family in a town near us being burgled in the week before Christmas and having all of their Christmas presents stolen.  They didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford to replace the presents that were stolen so if it wasn’t for the generosity of their friends, families and local businesses their Christmas would have been completely ruined!

And then there was the poor lady that I heard about a few years ago who saved all year and went on one big Christmas shopping spree except a few shops in, she realised that her purse had been taken our of her bag!  I don’t know if she received any help from anyone but I’m sure however it turned out, it wasn’t the Christmas she was hoping for!

It’s a fact apparently that crime does spike at Christmas time but there are ways you can cut down on the risks of it ruining your Chritsmas….

  • Don’t post on Facebook or other Social Networking sites that you’ve got a stack of expensive presents stashed away.  You may trust your friends completely but there’s always a chance other people will see your posts.  And to be fair, most of us have at least a few randoms on there!
  • Don’t leave presents under the tree before Christmas Day as someone passing may see them and be tempted.
  • Make sure your home insurance covers is up to date and will cover everything you’ve bought.
  • After Christmas, try not to let the packaging for the expensive things be seen.  I break down the cardboard boxes and put them in one big box so they can’t all be seen unless you’re really looking.
  • Don’t leave presents you’ve just bought on display in the car.
  • Try not to get cash out from an ATM at night – during the day is much safer.
  • Pay with a debit card instead of taking cash out where possible.
  • Keep your purse close to you and definitely not on the top of your bag.
  • Use the free ‘Keep it safe and log it’ service at Immobilise which helps police track stolen goods if the worst happens and something is stolen from you.
  • Get yourself an ultaviolet pen and write your postcode and house number on your valuables.

Don’t let Crime ruin Christmas!

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How you can get your children away from gadgets….

Cass : December 5, 2013 9:01 pm : Blog

Gadgets like smartphones, games consoles and tablets are swiftly taking over all aspects of children’s lives from listening to music to providing a handy distraction just when a parent needs it.  I’m a big fan of the technology that’s available to our children these days but I’m very aware that the rise in the popularity of these gadgets definitely has some drawbacks. Yes, they’re a convenient device to have to hand and children increasingly want one.

Many children are now spending a large portion of their time using gadgets instead of being pro-active and interacting with parents, family and friends and I often see children so engrossed in their gadgets that they pay very little to no attention to what’s going on around them – wandering around supermarkets, at the local soft play (honestly!) and even at the skate park.

Playing with other children face to face and spending time with adults is essential for children’s development and allowing them to reach their full potential in life so whilst technology is brilliant, it’s vital that we make sure that we make sure that our children aren’t missing our on personal contact!

Here’s a few tips for getting your children away from gadgets:

Set boundaries
While the rise of gadgets is unstoppable as a mum you can curb how often your children use them. Set boundaries and talk about the consequences to their health of staying a home playing gadgets, instead of playing outside.  Don’t be too strict on this though as it can feel like a punishment to them, compromise is the name of the game!

Mix it up
It may not be feasible to assume children will give up their right to gadgets in favour of family activities all the time. Achieve the right mix by encouraging your child to take part in activities like swimming, cooking, walking etc, whilst allocating fixed slots of time that can be spent on their gadgets.

Be creative
It can be difficult to constantly prize kids away from their gadgets and get them involved with something equally interesting. Use all your available resources both in and out of your home. Make use of the local leisure centre, library, parks and cafes.  At home you can set up a book club or get your kids drawing or playing board games together as a family.

If you can’t beat them, join them
Electronics can be a great family activity as well so don’t be afraid to join in with them – you might be surprised at how much fun you can have.

Of course, lots of us will be buying at least one gadget of some form this Christmas so you need to make sure that you’re getting the best deal on what you’re buying.  Make sure you shop around for the best deal, use cashback websites to make your purchase and also it is important to find the right credit card for your needs as some will offer you additional cashback on your purchases.  The cashback amounts may not seem like a massive amount on paper but it quickly adds up and any amount of money is better in your pocket than anyone elses!

Oh, one last thing.  If you do buy any gadgets for Christmas, I’d strongly recommend charging it (in secret) the day before as there’s nothing worse than not being able to play with something straight away!

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Where do you hide the Christmas Presents….

Cass : October 8, 2013 11:14 am : Blog

The problem with trying to get Christmas organised in advance is finding somewhere to hide the presents!

Last year, I had some presents on top of the dresser in the kitchen, some on top of our wardrobe upstairs and the rest were hidden in the en suite bathroom that I locked from the outside – none of which are ideal hiding places when you live with Mini Miss Marple and little Sherlock Holmes.

We couldn’t put them in the garage, which would have been the ideal hiding place, because the garage was so full that there was barely even space to get in there ourselves to hunt out our old Christmas tree last year. Mr Frugal disappeared in there for at least half an hour and despite all of the banging noises we heard, he emerged without the tree and without some of my favourite decorations and Christmas lights.

We shut the door to the garage and like the old saying goes, the mess was out of sight, out of mind.  We’ve said numerous times since then that we need to get it cleared out but until yesterday, we always found an excuse not to actually do it.

But yesterday, I got a great deal on the BMX bike that Master Frugal wants for Christmas – half price with an extra 10% off for the weekend which meant that it was only £53.00!  Too good to pass up but we have to collect it today and I’m pretty sure that he’d notice a bike sitting on the wardrobe or in the kitchen so it was a case of having to clear out the garage so we had somewhere to put the bike.

We hired a skip for the afternoon and got to work and you wouldn’t believe the amount of junk we threw out!  We filled a skip in an hour, then dropped off a car full of filled black bags to the charity shop and then took a car full of cardboard to the recycling plant!  Exhausted doesn’t even cover how we felt!

But, we have space to store all the presents now and we even found our old Christmas tree, although it was looking rather worse for wear so it ended up going in the skip along with some old Christmas decorations that had definitely seen better days. I’m not sure what we’re going to do for a tree this year because the one we bought last year is HUGE and I don’t really think we have space for it in the living room now that we’ve got our sideboard in there!  I know I don’t want to spend much on a new one though so I’ll have to have a good look around – there’s some great budget Christmas trees from Christmas lights etc online which I quite like the look of but the kids are after a real tree so I’ve got a fight on my hands at the minute.  The one I’ve got my eye on is like a half tree that you push up against the wall which would be great for space!

I’m so pleased we finally have space again in the garage, I’ve got loads of stuff to go out there now that’s been cluttering up the house for ages – I’ll probably have it filled again in a week!

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Wish us luck….

Cass : October 3, 2013 8:59 pm : Blog

I can cope with most types of weather this weekend but please, NO snow!

I can cope with most types of weather this weekend but please, NO snow!

I know I’ve moaned whinged mentioned that for a good few weeks now we’ve hat at least one ill person in the house but (touch wood) in the last day or so, the lurgy seems to have left the building taking all of it’s germs with it!

And we’re taking full advantage that we’re all well again by booking a cheeky weekend away this weekend.  To be fair, Mr Frugal and I had actually booked in time off work over the next week to take the kids on holiday abroad but the new school rules that say we’re not allowed to take them our of school mean that we having to cram a week’s worth of holiday into a weekend!

So we’re all packed and ready to go and straight after school tomorrow we’ll be off to a holiday park for the weekend.  I only booked it this afternoon so we got a fantastic deal and we’re staying in a caravan with full kitchen so we’re not planning on spending much at all.

We’ve got a car boot full of board games and books along with everything from wellies and raincoats to Converse and Summer cardigans because we have no idea what the weather is going to be like – it seems to vary over the weekend between sunny

spells and torrential rain.

We also have some warm hoodies, thick socks, onesies and cosy blankets because the only caravan they had left was one with no central heating so it could get cold in there – they must have some form of heating though surely!

And, I only noticed after I booked it that it doesn’t say WiFi anywhere in the description.  This must be a mistake ;-)

I hope you all have as lovely a weekend as we’re planning to – see you on the other side!

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Saving money for house movers….

Cass : October 1, 2013 2:23 pm : Blog

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It’s been a tough old time since the economy started to flounder and then sank to an all-time low. With soaring prices, wage freezes and interest rates at historic lows, anyone that says they have managed to completely dodge the financial bullet is either stretching the truth or extremely lucky!

Moving house is one area where you need to make sure that you not only buy the right house for you and your family but you also need to make sure that you save money at every stage of the house buying process right from start.  To start you off on the right foot, here’s a few tips on what you should be looking for when it comes to viewing a property.

House viewing checklist
A comprehensive house viewing checklist can save you hassle and money later down the line by ensuring you put the time in at the beginning of the process to make sure everything is in good working order. There are so many things to look for that it’s all too easy to miss something important without the help of a good checklist, like this one by Everest:

In addition to noticeably mouldy ceilings or sloping floors, a full checklist also reminds you to check for accessible power points, good garden drainage, loose curtain rails and a whole host of other things you might otherwise forget. Remember to check whether the windows are doubled glazed and if doors are draught proofed for both comfort and ‘green’ points.

Don’t let your love of a house blind you to it’s faults.

Is the owner in a hurry?

Whether they’re in a chain or in a rush to exchange contracts, experiencing financial difficulties or they’ve taken out a bridging loan on their next home, you have an excellent footing with regards to price negotiations if the owner is seeking a quick sale. Of course, you have to be in a position to move properties fast too.

Another key question to ask is whether the house has been on the market for long. Good value houses are snapped up fast, so if the property has been on the market for a while, there may be a problem either with market conditions or the property itself. Don’t be afraid to let the owner and agent know you’re aware of this as it could put you in prime position when it comes to making an offer.

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