How to Shop For Your Once in a Lifetime Wedding Dress

He proposed, you said yes. The wedding planning is in full gear and its time to shop for your wedding dress. Your wedding dress is the most memorable and expensive dress you will ever purchase. Here is some practical advice to make your shopping trip fun and let you know what to expect.

Make an appointment to try on wedding dresses. Some bridal salons don’t require them, but an appointment will guarantee you the individual attention of a bridal consultant and space in the dressing room.

Time your shopping trip to your best advantage. If you shop on a weekday afternoon, you will get the most attention and you will not be competing with a lot of other brides like you would on weekends. You also get more time to shop.

You will get the best deals if you shop in November and December when the bridal salons are slow and new merchandise is arriving. There will be more sales and more incentives to buy because they need to clear out stock to make room for new stock that is arriving. Wedding dresses arrive in cycles, with the late fall and early winter being the time the manufactures ship out new merchandise.

Don’t shop too early, if your wedding is two years away and you are not prepared to buy, stay home and surf the net for ideas. The styles will change and your idea of your dream dress may change, along with your weight and wedding plan. The style may also be discontinued by the manufacturer.

Don’t shop too late. Wedding dresses should be ordered 9 months to a year in advance. The manufacturers take 16 to 20 weeks to fashion your dress because of all the hand work that is done on the dress. You also need to allow transportation time and time to have alterations done. If you shop at the last minute, you will risk major disappointment. You will either have to buy off the rack or pay the manufacturer extra for rushing your dress.

Shop prepared. This should not even have to be mentioned., Wear underwear on your shopping trip. Wear clean underwear and be freshly showered or risk major embarrassment. Some salons will send you home to shower or come back with underwear and who can blame them? You are trying on expensive white dresses! And if you don’t wear underwear, you’ll be standing in the dressing room buck naked. If you are uncomfortable, you consultant will be doubly uncomfortable.

Bring along a strapless bra if you have one and a pair of heels to get a feel for how the gown will look on you.

Don’t shop with a posse. Shop with someone you trust, your mom, your sister, your best friend. Don’t shop with your entire wedding party. Too many people means a lot of confusion for you and your consultant. Too many opinions will make you crazy. Are they giving you their true opinion, or picking out a dress they would wear to their own wedding? Invite your friends to see your choice after you’ve made your choice. They’ll be more interested after you’ve chosen your dress. Sure, a huge shopping trip sounds like fun, but you’ll totally regret it when you leave exhausted, confused and aggravated.

Don’t try to cram too many shopping appointments in one day. Trying on wedding dresses is exhausting. You’ll be standing up in heels for a long time. Some of the dresses are very heavy. Pretty soon you’ll be suffering from white blur, a wedding term that means that all the dresses are starting to look alike. Limit your appointments to no more than two a day and take time in between to grab something to eat and drink. The only way you can be on top of your dress shopping game is to be fueled up, hydrated and relaxed. Its going to be a long day!

Shop with an open mind and a good attitude. You have a dress etched into your mind. You are closing yourself to dresses that may be more flattering on your figure, cost less money and be THE dress. Be open and receptive to different necklines, body styles and fabrics. You may leave with the dress still etched in your mind, but you may just find THE dress if you stop telling yourself that you are picky. By constantly reinforcing your pickiness, you’ll make yourself and your shopping companion crazy. Bridal consultants are trained and experienced in finding dresses that make the most of your figure and hide the parts that need to be hidden. Stop whining and listen, you’ll be amazed at how fabulous you can look if you just open your mind and adjust your attitude.

What to expect when shopping for your wedding dress. Expect to be warmly welcomed into the bridal salon and meet your consultant. Your dress consultant will ask you some questions about your wedding. They’ll ask you about the type of wedding, the formality of the wedding and your wedding dress budget. They aren’t being nosy. They need to help you choose a dress from a mind boggling selection of dress styles. You can’t try everything on in the store, its physically impossible. They also need an idea of your dress budget, so you don’t fall in love with a dress that is out of your price range. If you want to see dresses under a thousand dollars or under five hundred dollars, tell them honestly to avoid a lot of disappointment on your part.

You will be shown styles, feel free to say no to anything you don’t like. Be honest, you will not like everything and it will help your consultant pull more dresses that are in line with what looks best on you and you like.

You will be helped try on the dresses. Dressing yourself in a bridal salon is difficult, so expect to be helped on and off with the dress, in addition to zipping the dress.

You will be asked more questions, for example, do you feel comfortable in this style?

Your consultant will categorize your dresses by the dresses you like, the maybes and the definite no way. You might want to retry the dresses you like to cut down on your selections. Your consultant will keep the dress style on file so when you return, the can find the style.

If you are uncomfortable in the style, its a no. If you feel overwhelmed in a style, its a no. If you feel fat in a style, its a no.

And above all, do NOT be pressured into buying a dress by anyone. If you feel pressured, gracefully say you’ll be back to try it on once your mind is cleared. Don’t buy anything from pressure. Buy the dress because you love it and its THE dress!

7 Top Tips For Choosing Your Maternity Wedding Dress

Tip 1: Your Maternity Wedding Dress Style

So … here’s the BIG question … “How far along will you be on your wedding day?” If you will still be in the early months of your pregnancy on your wedding day, you may not need maternity wedding dress tips or even a maternity wedding dress. You might just get away with a slightly larger size dress in the style you love already.

Do you have a good dressmaker on hand for last minute alterations? Double check with her that your dress can be altered or let out where needed before you buy or order anything … because you can’t predict how fast your bump will grow or how you will carry your baby. Ball gowns and dresses with a tight bodice are not generally very comfortable or flattering for pregnant brides-to-be because they’ll emphasize your expanding middle! Best to steer clear!

Empire line gowns and A-line dresses look fabulous on most pregnant women thanks to their loose structure which creates a beautiful silhouette. “Proper” maternity wedding dresses aren’t second best … they are beautiful! Designers understand the modern pregnant bride’s desire to look fabulous and there are some amazing maternity wedding dresses to choose from … whatever your budget.

2. Where will you be tying the knot?

Brides usually choose a long formal gown for a religious ceremony although long gowns are equally suited for civil celebrations too. If you’re planning a small or informal civil or beach maternity wedding, maybe you will prefer a shorter, less structured dress?

There are no hard and fast rules … it’s all about you finding a maternity wedding dress that makes you feel great on your big day!

3. Enhance your beautiful blooming figure!

Traditional brides look for a dress to enhance their natural assets and as a pregnant bride, that’s just what you should do too. So, here are some physical considerations before choosing your pregnancy wedding dress

What shoes will you be comfortable in and how will your chosen dress look with the wedding shoes you plan to wear?
Do you have a great cleavage … why not show it off?
Would you like a strappy or strapless gown? Think about the width of your maternity bra straps …will you be able to cope with a strapless bra for the day or do you really need a bit more support?
Do you want to hide your baby bump?
Are your arms toned and beautiful or would you like to hide them away? Would you be happier with a dress that has sleeves if you’ve gained weight on your arms in your pregnancy. What about a stylish wrap or bolero jacket?

4. Fabulous Fabrics

You should think as carefully about the fabric of your maternity wedding dress as the style of the dress itself, especially when thinking about the season of your wedding. The same dress in different wedding dress fabrics will look and feel quite different. It will certainly drape quite differently around your body.

5. Think about the colour of your gown!

Traditional western brides have married in white: the colour of maidenhood and purity. Today white is simply considered to be the colour that represents joy. As a pregnant bride, you CAN wear white if you want to … if you want to inject a little colour, you can do that too!

Natural shades such as champagne, ivory, grey and very light pastels are always popular, but striking reds, blues, pinks and black are very fashionable. It’s your wedding … and as a twenty first century bride … you really can have exactly the colour scheme you want. And if you love bold colour, but want a traditional coloured maternity wedding dress, why not introduce your chosen colour with your flowers and accessories?

6. Your bridegroom, attendants and guests

Once you’ve found your dream maternity wedding gown, it’s time to think about the other key people who will take part in your maternity wedding!

What ideas do you have about wedding attire for your husband-to-be, the best man and the ushers?
How would you like your bridesmaids, flower girls or page boys to look?

As you’re working to a tight time budget with a maternity wedding, don’t forget to keep it simple … and accept help when it is offered to you!

7. Preserving Your Maternity Wedding Gown, Once the Big Day is Over!

After you’ve spent time and thought selecting your maternity wedding gown, you’ll probably want to hold on to it for sentimental reasons. If it is properly, professionally cleaned and preserved, your wedding gown can last for years to come. What a wonderful and meaningful keepsake to share with your family in the years ahead!

Choosing the Right Wedding Dress – What “David” Won’t Tell You

As a wedding planner, I have spoken to thousands of brides and witnessed, at close hand, at least a thousand in their wedding dresses. As a photographer, I have closely studied the bride’s photographic images in print. I, therefore, have an experienced eye and feel qualified to give some good advice.

I know many brides go out shopping for the perfect wedding dress within days and even hours of the proposal. Some go even before the proposal. Almost every bride I talk to discusses her dress. I know that the choosing of the right wedding dress is very important. Every bride I have seen is beautiful, but not every bride’s dress suits her. Some wedding dresses are a definite detriment to the bride’s appearance, the pictures and even the whole wedding.

So brides, I want to offer you some criteria for picking the right dress. Let these three principles guide you:

1) YOU LOVE IT AND WILL LOVE IT ON YOUR WEDDING DAY.

Above all else, you need to feel beautiful and comfortable. Don’t let your mother, sister, bridesmaid, shop clerk, Goth teenage cousin, or even your groom decide. This is YOUR day, and you need to trust your own taste and style. You will be the one walking down the aisle – the “Star of the Runway.” You will be the one looking at your wedding pictures for the rest of your life. So, how will YOU decide what the best dress for you is?

2) MAKE SURE IT IS COMFORTABLE AND FITS YOU.

Don’t buy your dress a year in advance – your taste or your shape might change during that time. Don’t buy your dress to fit after you have lost twenty pounds. You might not, or you could lose even more. In either case, it won’t fit.

Definitely enjoy browsing wedding magazines, but keep in mind your own budget, taste and figure. Too many of those dresses in magazines can actually only be worn by the anorexic thirteen-year-olds modeling them. Also beware of knock-offs or imitations of expensive wedding dresses in a magazine. They are often poorly fitted, badly sewn, and made of cheap, synthetic material. They might look alright on the mannequin in the shop, but they won’t look good on you in natural light.

Poorly made dresses often fall down, are too tight in some places and too baggy in others, with crooked seams and zippers that show. The bride is continually pulling and wrestling with her dress throughout the wedding and reception. Much too often, the bride’s underwear shows. It’s alright to buy an inexpensive dress, but, make sure it looks good in natural light – natural fibers such as silk or cotton are preferred. Make sure you have the right underwear to go with the dress, that can’t be seen. Walk around in the dress, sit down and move and check bra straps and panty lines. If they appear at home or in the shop, you can be sure that they will at the wedding. If necessary, you can have your dress altered by a good seamstress. A proper fit cannot be over estimated.

You might want to consider having the seamstress make your dress from scratch. This way, you can have total control over the style and fabric and be sure of a perfect fit. Make sure to get an accurate estimate of the price of the dress and labor before the seamstress starts sewing, so there will be no unpleasant surprises. And, allow enough time for delays and fittings. It is a wonderful feeling of power and creativity to design your own wedding dress, if you are so inclined, and it doesn’t have to be more expensive than buying off the rack.

Another option is to browse small boutiques. Some of the most lovely wedding dresses I have seen were not wedding dresses at all, just great dresses, usually white but not always. It is amazing what you can find when you venture away from the wedding dress department or shop. Some of our brides wait until they come to Hawaii and find real treasures that fit perfectly in one of the local shops. They are also perfect for a Hawaiian wedding, which brings me to my last criteria.

3) MAKE SURE YOUR DRESS IS APPROPRIATE FOR THE PLACE AND CLIMATE WHERE YOUR WEDDING WILL TAKE PLACE.

Even if you love your dress, and it fits and it looks great in your bedroom mirror, there could be a problem on your wedding day.

These are some problems I have seen: A bride buys a beautiful but elaborate and heavy dress for a tropical beach wedding. The result is misery – red, flushed, sweaty skin, heat stroke and even fainting! Another common problem is veils and trains worn for outside weddings. Trains drag in the dirt and sand, catch on twigs, and inhibit free movement in an outdoors wedding. You may think that your bridesmaid will carry the train, but do you truly want her trailing after you, always in your pictures, as you try to stroll on the sand, romantically, with your groom? Brides often come back from the beach with their train, heavy with sand and water. Unless you want to participate in the Trash the Dress fad, this is not recommended.

And, Veils – Now they can cause a spectacle on a windy day. The veil becomes a kite or parachute. I swear, I have seen brides nearly pulled away from their groom by a six foot veil unfurling in the wind. You don’t want to do a “Mary Poppins” on your wedding day. At the very least, the flying veils end up destroying hairdos, blowing in the groom’s face and being a general nuisance. If in doubt, make sure your veil can be easily removed, if necessary. The same goes for trains. Some can be removed or clipped to the dress for easy movement. But, make sure you test these apparatus before purchasing. I have, actually, witnessed four or five people trying unsuccessfully to figure out how to pin-up the train.

Or, perhaps, you are going to have your wedding in a church. Veils and trains won’t be a problem, but still consider temperature. Is the church or event room hot or cold? Don’t overdress or under dress. If you’re planning a winter wedding, or your venue is overly air conditioned, make sure an appropriate shawl or jacket is part of your wedding outfit, or wear a long-sleeved wedding dress.

Blue “chicken skin,” is not much more attractive than red, sweaty skin. Neither is teeth chattering. You want to be comfortable, because you want that smile on your beautiful face to be real, not forced. Your smile and joy and love are your most beautiful “apparel.” So, even if you don’t pick the right dress, don’t let it ruin your wedding day. Think about that sweet guy who is pledging to love you for the rest of your life and be merry.

Perfect Wedding Dresses for Your Wedding Party

Wedding is a special moment for couples who fall in love. From first meeting and first to looking intently arouse which deepens impression, including the wedding once for couples to get married.

That is why wedding moment has beautiful and impressive for guess particularly for married couples. Each wedding planning have nice piled and perfect, so that wedding to go on nice and fluent.

Are not only one of the well planning like wedding vow, reception place, food, or ride. But other things must be planned, for example invitations souvenirs, guest chairs, comfortable rooms, and wedding dresses.

To choose beautiful wedding dresses is a little difficult, dress is important thing in wedding, but it’s one of successful factor from wedding vows. Choosing the right and nice wedding dresses must be suitable with wedding theme that we choose, if couples choose right wedding dresses to get married they will have a harmony and synchronize wedding situation, because the spirit from the dresses will not directly shines a beautiful scene for the guess.

So that for couples who want to get married must follow some tips to choose well wedding dresses, they are :

Wedding dresses must be suitable with the wedding theme it self, for example, what is a traditional wedding ? or a modern and a classic wedding.
Wedding dresses must be suitable with the place / building is used for wedding vows, for example : a unique building, a conventional home, or a hotel room.
A wedding room determine what kinds of dresses must be used, it’s an indoor or an outdoor room ?
Choosing wedding dresses must be suitable with the wedding theme, just choose some colors which are compounding.
The cleanliness of dresses must be considered

These some tips to find wedding dresses suitable with your personality and character, they are :

Classic Bride. Good for classic type of people that don’t like experiment and always conservative. Classic bride likes an insignificant, simple but elegant dress and to fit the body.
The Diva. This type is designed for people to want always be eyed catching wherever she goes. Diva type does not a like conservative or an unattractive but dare to show her neck, beauty of the shoulders and sexy hands. Tube choice, backless, which dominated by colors and special details very good for this type.
Natural Bride. This bride doesn’t like over detail, much style, and too modern. Natural bride wants a simple impression, sweet but neat. This style inspiraties an elegant and a simple dress. Simple soft chiffon material, A-Lined waist and clean white color will represent the impression of this dress.
Romantic Bride. A romantic type have a soft personality, romantic, dreamer, and feminine. Satin and chiffon material and other soft material can be good choice for them. Use corsage and addition laces give a romantic impression such as “Georgia Style” or party dress style for princess in the period of conservative England Kingdom.
The Fashion Plate Bride. This bride type likes fashion. The suitable dress for her is a dress made by her favorite designer. For model and style of the dress usually arranged by the designer, so must go with trend style, elegant and reflects her personality

Beside the tips on how to choose wedding dresses and also tips to find wedding dresses suitable with your personality and character, we also give some tips for couples who want to get married.

Below we also present some tips for couples who want to get married :

Choose suitable colors that compound with the wedding theme decorations. It’s better if we choose the neutral colors for our wedding theme.
Choose a suitable bride bouquet that fits with the posture of body and the height of body. Make sure your body posture when you order the suit and ask for the best bouquet to your bridal.
Ask how many bride bouquet which they make in our wedding day.
Make sure all the orders are OK a week before the wedding.
Ask the florist who makes that bouquet and ask them if they have a certificate from a professional school.

Hopefully the tips above can give an inspiration and planning in arranging the wedding party, wedding reception, and wedding dresses. Usually an excellent wedding party will reflects a nice impression for both groom and bride and the guess.

Wedding Dresses

The excitement behind the wedding dress phenomenon is something most women undergo. It is the one special day of their life they have been waiting for and as such, when the time is right they go through great measures in order to be able to find wedding dresses that they have always pictured themselves in.

When it comes to choosing between wedding dresses, two things play an important part. One being, the visionary sense you have and what you have always imagined your wedding dress to be and the other being what suits your body type. This of course is the more realistic approach, and being able to combine your thoughts with what’s available will certainly ensure that your wedding dress is truly unique. The idea behind selecting a fine wedding dress is that it should make you feel, that this particular design and fit was meant specifically for you, let it be unique in every aspect.

Wedding dresses are available in varied colors, patterns and lengths. What you select is certainly a matter of personal opinion. One thing you should be attentive towards when it comes to selecting wedding dresses is that you shouldn’t always depend on a second or third opinion entirely. When selecting through wedding dresses ensure that you take along a really close friend or relative who understands just what you need, because eventually it’s your big day, so choose just as you please.

You can look for patterns from scores of magazines or even online. There are zillions of pattern available and even cutting and stitching tips. You can use these tips to get yourself just the pattern you have been contemplating. If you are working with a renowned designer, you can let them know just what you have been thinking of and let them do the professional bit. The good part being, professionals know a lot more in this field and will be able to give you just the right advice.

Armed with your specific design, it’s truly like conquering the world. It’s not necessary that you need to go the traditional white dress. Times have changed and there’s no stigma attached to wearing a colored wedding dress. It’s not like earlier wear specific shades of wedding dresses denoted an underlying meaning. This included pronouncing that it’s your second wedding, or a pregnancy status. If you are fond of the color pink, or lemon yellow, maybe even sky blue, you can happily wear your preference.

You can pick up your wedding dress from the numerous wedding dresses stores itself. Here you have an added advantage of actually trying out many dresses. There are so many designs and patterns on the racks, so you can take a good look at each of them and try the ones that you think are nice. This way you can finalize, just what you like and if you want make alterations to a particular design itself. The good thing about trying on the dresses gives you a real feel of the wedding dress rather than counting on wedding dress concepts.

Once you have picked and finalized a design, the store can create just what you need, and you’ll certainly need to make a few more trips in regards to alterations and last minute touch ups. Wearing sample-wedding dresses gives you a real picture of the weight of the dress too. This will help you determine how much layering and frills you would want because you surely don’t want to be weighed down by the dress.

Once you have finalized amongst the wedding dress at your disposal, you can start looking for a well matched, veil, gloves, shawls and tiara. All of these accessories are not an absolute necessary when it comes to wearing a wedding dress, but it certainly compliments your dress. You need not have to head to a wedding dresses store if you have a family member who is in the wedding business because they would surely be able to tailor your needs perfectly. If you choose to order your wedding dress from exquisite high end stores located at remote facilities, make sure you have adequate time in hand between the big day and the date you receive your dress on. This will give you enough time to make alterations if need be.

If you are not in the mind frame to buy a new wedding dress, then you can approach a wedding dress store regarding wedding dresses rentals. Along with the dress you can even rent jewellery and accessories. This is a great option because on a realistic note, your wedding dress is a onetime affair and it certainly costs money. Whatever your wishes are for this big day, you never have to compromise on your wedding dress needs, be it a new purchase or rental option. So go on and look like the pretty princess on your big day and feel the real happiness.

Shopping Online for a Pre-Owned Wedding Dress? You Need These Seven Tips First

Once upon a time, several decades ago, I spent more for my wedding dress than I’d ever paid for a single article of clothing in my entire life. Including tax, it came to a whopping $200.34! Back then, it seemed extravagant for a dress I knew I would only wear for a few hours. Today, according to the Conde Nast Bridal Group, the average price for a wedding gown is $887.00, with designer wedding dresses reaching into several thousands of dollars.

No wonder the cost of getting married continues to spiral upwards. And no wonder many smart brides are opting to buy a pre-owned wedding dress. If you think about it for a minute, it really makes good sense. Why do women feel the need to own their wedding dress when it’s not only acceptable, but downright expected that men will only rent their wedding day garments?

Perhaps this made sense ‘back in the day’ when a wedding dress was passed down from mother to daughter, over and over again. But in today’s society, how often do you see a woman wearing her mother’s wedding dress? Even three decades ago, when we still chiseled on stone tablets, I didn’t want to wear my mother’s wedding dress. It just looked ‘old’ and I wanted something new to wear as I started my new role as a wife.

Today’s bride to be has many options not available to brides of yesteryear. Today’s bride can choose to rent her wedding gown, or buy one gently worn by a previous bride. And thanks to the internet, even brides in remote areas have access to a multitude of gorgeous pre-owned wedding gowns, or in some cases, new gowns that were never worn at all. Sadly, not all weddings actually take place.

I even heard a story of one bride who ended up with four wedding dresses because she couldn’t make up her mind and didn’t want any of them to get away from her before she had time enough to decide. She knew she could turn around and sell the ones she didn’t want! There are a number of online wedding sites that will post your wedding dress for sale at no charge, taking a small fee only if and when your dress sells.

Shopping for your wedding dress online, while very convenient, does have a few guidelines you need to remember.

1. Not all pre-owned wedding dresses are ‘used’. As I mentioned earlier, some dresses were bought, but for whatever reason, were never worn. You may find the biggest savings on those dresses that were actually worn for a few hours.

2. Unfortunately, not every pre-owned wedding dress advertisement online is 100% completely honest. Have an idea about the retail value of the dress you’re considering to determine if you’re getting a true bargain.

3. When shopping for a pre-owned wedding dress, be sure there are numerous pictures of the dress from several different angles. You’ll want to at least see the dress from the front and back and if there are close-ups of intricate lace patterns or beadwork, even better!

4. Be careful about size. Wedding dresses, for reasons I cannot fathom, tend to run small. If you’re in between sizes, the safer option is to get the larger size. Remember to ask the seller if the dress has already been altered, and how much, to better gauge whether the dress is suitable for your body type.

5. Be sure to ask the seller if the dress has been cleaned and about any stains that may be left on the dress. Brides tend to be a little careless at times, knowing they’ll never wear the dress again, and you don’t want to be surprised with dirt or grass stains around the hem…or anywhere else. Tip: Don’t forget to ask about underarm perspiration stains!

6. If alterations or cleaning will have to be done on your part, consider those costs when determining if the dress you’re considering will still be a great deal. Depending on how much altering needs to be done, it can become pricey and cleaning can run as much as $100.

7. Finally, be smart with online shopping. Make sure it’s a secured site before entering any credit card information. You can tell by looking for ‘https’ in the address bar, instead of the usual ‘http’. Another advantage of using your credit card is in the event you never receive your dress or it looks nothing like the pictures, you can dispute the charges. If you’re dealing with an individual seller, consider paying with PayPal; they have a dispute resolution center to help resolve any issues you may encounter.

Buying your pre-owned wedding dress online has many advantages and can save time and money, precious commodities when you’re busy planning a wedding. Keeping these guidelines in mind as you shop can help make purchasing your wedding dress online a pleasurable event.

Spank the Bank! Confronting the Biggest Bully in the Neighborhood!

It is an unspoken reality that for those of us making our living in the real estate industry, we unfortunately continue to have to work in the “short sale” arena. I say unfortunately for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that as realtors we see firsthand how traumatic it is for the homeowner and the buyer when a short sale transaction becomes a casualty of disorganized corporate banking staff and understaffed bank short sale offices.

The issues of the short sale “nightmare” were, and continue to be, promulgated almost specifically by the banks themselves. It has created a growing and aggressive stealth movement towards forcing the banks to start being good neighbors with the real estate industry.

Anecdotally, in two very recent short sale transactions with major banks, (the lien-holders of the respective properties), none of the professionals on the realty side involved with the transaction, (realtors, title agents or closing coordinators), could get anyone at the bank’s short sales offices to respond to communications or queries of any sort. Phone calls, emails, faxes, and even an outreach by courier… “Holy Foreclosure Batman, I smell a rat!”

In one case the short sale price had been approved by the bank, the buyer had made a full price offer, the contract was fully executed, the home was vacant, (on a very short leash for foreclosure), and we still could not get the bank to respond! For two months we could get no answer of any sort from the bank or their representatives! It is an extremely unfortunate, but well known issue, (there is no doubt that all of the realtors out there are shaking their heads with the same nightmare stories of their own)… it’s got to stop!

Approaching the point at which this particular home was about to go on the chopping block at the county courthouse, the selling agent, (and myself on the buyers side), decided to take matters into our own hands and become more “proactive” at getting the bank’s reps to respond. We made a very aggressive effort to reach out to the people at the bank’s senior management level who COULD make a decision, while also convincing them of the need to respond.

Drafting an email to the CEO of the bank, along with a number of members of his board of Directors, VP of Short Sales, and numerous other banking officials, we started moving forward in short order to alert these officers to the shenanigans of their local office. After looking over that email with a fine tooth comb and making a number of changes, the email was sent to all of the bank officials and board members, copying the local bank short sale reps, (remember, the ones who refused to respond to our queries).

In a matter of hours, literally, after sending that email, we had numerous calls from the bank CEO’s office wondering why we were having problems and what they could do to help. Due to this “re-energized” focus on this case we ended up closing the sale only days later… after two months of senseless inactivity and non-response on the part of the bank office assigned to handle the case.

This particular situation ended up working out for the buyer and seller, but unfortunately it was just one of thousands of these cases occurring daily nationwide. The big banks and their short sales offices literally BULLY everyone involved in a short sale transaction, from realtors to title and closing agents, to the homeowners themselves! Why?… well, for the same reason a dog chases its tail, because they can! They know they can just refuse to answer any queries in reference to a particular transaction, and there is very little, if anything, that anyone in the real estate industry could do about it, (up till now). Think about it. What other phone numbers would you call? What other fax number would you use? What other contact point do you have? You all know the drill, and it’s not pretty.

Remember how we hated bullies in grade school? To be more specific, who do you know that doesn’t hate a bully? I always have and always will. Realtors and others in industries dependent on real estate sales must come together as a group to put pressure on our elected representatives to create better legislation to force banks to behave! We cannot continue to allow the biggest bullies on the real estate block to continue making their own rules to the detriment of the rest of the country and entire industries.

Obviously, the banking industry hasn’t received the message loud and clear that the citizens of this country are sick and tired of the crass, unresponsive way in which banks are handling their affairs… and specifically in this case, the administrative issues and transactions with short sales.

Short sale homeowners are certainly not happy that big corporate banks earning billions of net profit per quarter, are having their homes foreclosed on, in many cases, due to the shoddy, unprofessional work ethic, and haughty bank employees simply refusing to respond to realtors, title agents, closing coordinators and homeowners.

Obviously not all bank employees are “haughty” and / or have a poor work ethic. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked a short sale yet, nor have I spoken with a realtor who doesn’t agree that in almost every case at some point in the game one of those “special” bank employees ends up being an integral part of why the transaction is not moving forward.

Referencing the aforementioned net profits of the banks, and for some speculative insight, here are the 3Q 2011 net earnings for three of the major banks, Bank of America – $6.2 Billion, Chase – $3.1 Billion, Wells Fargo – $4.1 Billion. (These banks, just coincidentally, also have huge numbers of short sale properties on their books).

That’s just three months earnings folks. Think about it.

Why do we allow banks to bully the parties involved in a real estate transaction? Individual realtors and brokerage firms are just the tip of the iceberg. All of the tangential businesses that revolve around a real estate sale realize a huge negative impact from laggardly bank employees just simply refusing to do their job professionally and in a timely manner.

Contrary to some populist belief patterns, the men and women of senior management running large corporate banks are not stupid! Neither are our elected representatives, (although some of you may disagree with that latter point). Why is it then, seemingly, that none of those individuals can see what we in the real estate industry see on a daily basis.

For instance, if a particular short sale is neglected by the bank and continues to be denied any attention for months, the buyers in the transaction most probably walk from the contract. The home then ends up being put back on the market, forced to continually lower its sale price to sell, or the bank moves in to foreclose on it.

Due to the recalcitrant bank staff, not only does that particular home’s price get lower and lower, (in order to sell prior to foreclosure), so then do the values of the homes around it become diluted. Previously where there were only one or two homes in a sub-division that were possible short sale candidates, the callous, maybe even devious inattention of bank “professionals” has diluted the equity in the surrounding homes so much, they now become short sales themselves. It’s a virus and this never ending idiocy goes on and on, simply because bank employees refuse to do their jobs! Any suggestion that this was bordering on criminal… would be an understatement.

Everyone in this country took a tremendous negative impact to their financial health over the last five years, and it is becoming tiresome to continue to listen to bank CEO’s whining responses to congressional queries with, “we just don’t have the manpower to handle all of those cases”. Really? A reasonable person would submit that if your corporation earns $6.2 Billion in net profit in just three months, you might be able to hire the staff necessary to process those short sales, or at the very least answer your phones.

After discussing these issues with a number of colleagues concerning some method with which to reconcile the plethora of problems manifest in a short sale transaction, we all came to the same conclusion. Banks will not start to be professional business partners until they have some reason to be.

Discipline is a necessary element of any behavior modification program, and the type of discipline needed now is parent-to-child type of discipline! Ipso-Facto – if you act like a child, you should be disciplined like a child… until you start to behave appropriately.

Not being a fan of “big government”, I would submit in this case, that our government is going to have to oversee some parenting responsibilities and to that end, a number of proposals surfaced that we believe will work.

First, a bank has to be held accountable for its inactivity in a transaction. In other words we’re going to have to “Spank the Bank” if they don’t behave. This disciplinary action should have some monetary impact on the bank’s bottom line attached to the individual transaction. For instance, if the bank is supposed to get back to you, the realtor, in ten days on a decision to accept or deny an offer, or send you an approval letter to sell, then they should take a hit on a daily basis for that refusal to respond by perhaps a fine of $250 per day, (taken off their bottom line from the sale).

Second, the bank’s team, office, or group handling that transaction, should receive some internal disciplinary financial action for their substandard time and resource management, that would come from that team or group’s budget,… $100 per day?, ( added to the upcoming total).

Third, the individual(s) working for the bank, assigned to work directly with that particular case should receive job or financial action for their delay and inaction… $50 per transaction per person?

Those three financial deductions would be totaled and taken off the bank’s bottom line for that short sale.

Here’s the best part, 90% of whatever money the bank ends up being fined on a daily basis due to its inattentive, slovenly attitude and unprofessional response time goes straight to the closing costs of that transaction, (taken off the final number of the HUD), to be split evenly between buyer and seller! The other 10% could go to fund short sale and foreclosure counseling programs. Let’s see how THAT sits with the bank. I would suggest that with those legislative requirements in place, all “short sales” would become “instant sales” overnight.

We could see bank employees finally start to answer their phones, respond to homeowners, get the right file to the right person, and finally “find” the financial packet that had been sent in months ago, THREE separate times!

The bottom line is that until this country’s legislators create some very strong language to actually hold the banking industry accountable, and we in the real estate industry along with other concerned groups and citizens make our voices heard forcing the banks to comply and cooperate, we will not realize any positive movement towards ending the short sale fiasco with the large corporate banks and their callous, haughty, unresponsive short sale departments.

Do NOT allow yourself to be bullied by a bank’s financial legerdemain and lack of professionalism! Think outside the box!

Let’s not watch our country continue to dig the “short sale” hole for another decade. For many people, doing nothing is doing something! In this case doing nothing is an invitation for the bullies to become even more aggressive.

Agile Banking – Managing the Challenge of Change

Business Agility

Business agility is the ability of a business to adapt rapidly and cost efficiently in response to changes in the business environment. Business agility can be attained by maintaining and adapting goods and services to meet customer demands, adjusting to the changes in a business environment and taking advantage of human resources.

Agility in Banking

Agility in the context of banking doesn’t mean just speed in execution; it also means that the bank is nimble and flexible. Agility helps the bank to win a marathon, as opposed to a hundred meter dash.

A bank, which is agile, will be able to roll out new products at a much more rapid pace to meet the target of treating each customer as a segment of one. This rapid product development and rollout can be managed only if the bank is backed by a clear process strategy to handle product complexity and accompanying growth. This combination of product and process in an agile bank is expected to increase the quality of customer experience, which can be benchmarked using a metric of growth combined with stickiness. By growth, we mean that a bank is able to attract new customers as well as more business from existing customers. High stickiness means low customer attrition.

Hence, agility helps a bank to streamline its process such that it can roll out newer products at a rapid pace to increase the quality of customer experience, and thereby retain existing customers and attract new ones.

Types of Agility

Agility can be classified in two ways. A bank can be either Range Agile or Time Agile.

Range Agility defines the ability of the bank to broaden or shrink specific aspects of its capabilities. This also implies that the bank is able to increase or decrease the portfolio of its products and services. This can happen by simultaneously expanding or shrinking the bank’s processes and the capabilities of its people. A range agile bank will also be able to tap new and emerging platforms and channels like Social Media, which can be used to crowd source the development of products that can cater to the needs of a particular segment.

Time Agility defines the speed with which a bank can roll out new products and services to take care of the varying needs of customers. For a bank to be time agile, the processes and systems that underlie operations should be capable of handling the frequent changes in the bank’s offerings. The use of state-of-the-art banking solutions will enable the bank to turn around newer products quickly and manage diverse products and services as time progresses.

Challenge of Change

Hence, an agile bank is one that is on the move and constantly undergoing change. An agile bank will also have a large number of alliances with partners who contribute to various parts of the product and service offering. The way the change is managed will determine whether the bank succeeds at increasing customer satisfaction and profitability or ends up with a large number of offerings that add to the chaos, but not to customer satisfaction.

Some of the key steps on the journey towards agility, which will help in managing the challenge of change, are as follows:

Identify the Change Driver

The need for agility in a bank can arise from a change driver. This change driver can be internal or external. External change drivers arise from factors over which the bank has almost no control, like a reduction in margin because of a hike in interest rates, or an increased regulatory compliance burden on account of heightened Central Bank norms. Internal change drivers can arise from factors such as merger and acquisition or a reduction in workforce. The driver of agility needs to be identified and communicated clearly within the bank and to all its stakeholders.

Identify the Agility Enablers

After identifying the change drivers, the bank needs to identify the agility enablers against each. The current and target states need to be identified for each of these drivers as well as the enablers that will take the bank to its target. For instance, the loss of customers due to the unavailability of mobile banking, can be a change driver. The agility enabler in this case could be the adoption of a new technology solution for Mobile Banking. Another driver could be the need to reduce the waiting time at the teller window. The agility enabler in this case could be service automation through an ATM or kiosk, supported by IT infrastructure at the backend.

Strategy Formulation and People Management

The top management of the bank needs to identify the strategy for each of these enablers and communicate the same to the unit or department concerned. In each unit, a core team must be formed to manage the transition, as well as communicate with the people within. More often, the strategy formulated by the bank must encompass the change in its technology landscape. The bank might replace the legacy systems with the latest Banking system to cover its end to end operations. This might necessitate developing the skills of the bank’s employees. Hence, every strategy formulated to reach the target state of an agility enabler must consider the people dimension, especially from the standpoint of minimizing chaos.

Effective Business Process Management

The business processes needs to be clearly documented; in the case of an agile bank, Business Process Management (BPM) needs to be constantly updated, preferably by the people who carry out the business processes. The business rules, constraints, processes and policies need to be documented as part of BPM. The generation of business process maps is not a one-time activity and will constantly undergo change as the bank changes its products and processes to become more range agile. Hence, it is prudent to identify the owners for each business process, who will be responsible for keeping the process documentation up to date. An enterprise BPM solution will help the bank in managing business processes and also making them accessible to all their respective stakeholders.

Effective Decision Making

An agile bank, working in a dynamic business environment, needs to respond to change to tap growth opportunities. The effectiveness of decision-making will determine the quality of the response. The performance metrics and data relevant to the bank need to be extracted and presented within the shortest possible lead time for agile decision making. The best-in-class IT solutions for banks come with their own analytics solutions, capable of generating the data required for analysis, at a click. If there are multiple enterprise systems and multiple subsidiaries operating within the bank, it is worth exploring an Enterprise Decision Dashboard (EDD). An EDD will have the data extraction and presentation capabilities to take the output from multiple systems and present it to the decision makers.

Review and Monitoring

A steering committee consisting of the CXOs of the bank needs to be formed, and charged with conducting periodic review and directing course correction if required, in the journey towards agility. Under the steering committee, a core team comprising members from each concerned SBU or department must be formed that will drive and monitor the progress made in their respective departments.

Conclusion

The journey towards making a bank agile involves changes, which affect its people, processes and products. This is accompanied by a change in its technology landscape to facilitate rapid innovation and transformation. These changes needs to be carefully calibrated and managed so that the bank’s existing customers do not feel any adverse impact and the bank also attains a larger market share and higher customer satisfaction at the end of the journey.

An Overview of Multi-Channel Banking

Banking Turns Increasingly Digital

It is not an exaggeration to say that digital consumers are like no other. They belong to a generation that is more educated, more technology savvy and better connected socially than any other that came before. If they need information, they will research it on the Internet; if they want advice about a particular purchase, they will ask their social network. Their demands fuel innovation in the technology and communications space, giving rise to new, better products that they can’t get enough of. They seek convenience, reach, availability and instant gratification.

These expectations have split over to their banking activities too. Now, digital consumers want their banks to acknowledge these needs and fulfill them, just like other retail businesses are doing. Banks are responding by delivering their services over a range of digital channels including the mobile and the Internet.

Digitization in Africa and the Middle East

Today, digitization is a worldwide phenomenon. The following data indicates how it has pervaded banking in this part of the world.

Banks in Africa and the Middle East record the highest number of average monthly ATM cash withdrawals. In 2009, this figure was 3,914 compared to 1,631 in North America, 2,797 in Western Europe and 2,789 in the Asia Pacific region.

In the Middle East, Internet penetration is 33.5% which is 3.3% of the world’s Internet penetration. Mobile penetration in the UAE is already in excess of 200% and broadband penetration is expected to reach 100% by 2012. On the African continent, mobile adoption has crossed 50% in 26 nations; South Africa achieved twice that number at the end of last year. As a natural progression, this region will surely see high rates of adoption of these media as banking channels in the Middle East and African regions.

What is Multi-channel Banking?

With the availability of alternative modes of banking, consumers started to use more than one channel. They went to the ATM to withdraw cash and enquire about their account balance. Then they started to use Internet banking, first to monitor their accounts, and then to make payments and transfer funds. At the same time, they also made visits to the branch. This was the time when consumers “banked on multiple channels”.

The drawback of this kind of banking was that each channel was isolated from the other. Data generated on one was not visible on another, which meant that if a consumer initiated a transaction at the call center, but resumed it at a branch, he would have to explain the entire situation all over again to the staff. Banks too lost the opportunity to render efficient service or cross-sell, to these channel siloes.

With the integration of channels on a single platform, multi-channel banking became reality. Today, banking is integrated across devices, channels, products, and functions to provide seamless experience to customers across all touch points. Accordingly, banks have a 360-degree view of customer activity on every channel at any point of time. Customers enjoy similar visibility, and are also able to seamlessly transition from one channel to another, even during the course of a single transaction.

What Multi-channel Banking brings to Banks

A recent report by a research firm indicates that although branch investment still tops the list of a bank’s spending, investment in other channels like Internet and mobile banking is on the increase. In Middle East and Africa, spending on online banking channels is expected to touch US$ 50 million in 2012.

Banks stand to gain substantial benefits by investing in integrated multi-channel banking.

• Cost reduction

Multi-channel banking helps banks optimize operating costs and resources. For instance, branch staff engaged in routine operations such as cash disbursement may be deployed in other, more critical functions. With fewer customers walking in, branches can be smaller, and more cost effective to establish and maintain. Channel integration reduces data duplication. Overall, it is estimated that the cost of serving a customer or transaction through Internet and mobile banking is a fraction of that incurred at a branch.

• Customer satisfaction

Seamless multi-channel banking makes banking convenient for customers as it allows them to transact from anywhere, at any time. Since transactions and data are updated in real time, customers have access to the latest information irrespective of the channel. Integration also provides customers a single view of all the accounts held by them at the same bank. These facilities improve customer satisfaction and with time, loyalty.

• Customer acquisition

Banks with an advanced multi-channel banking system can attract customers of other banks, which are lagging in channel integration. They can also use channels – such as mobile banking – to make in roads into markets where they have insufficient branch presence.

• Revenue enhancement

By providing a unified view of customers and enabling tracking of their channel usage, integrated multi-channel banking improves banks’ cross-selling efficiency to bring them more business from existing customers. By reducing cost per transaction as mentioned earlier, and improving sales, multi-channel banking can make a reasonable impact on banks’ top and bottom lines.

The Profile of an Ideal Multi-channel Banking System

A multi-channel banking system should be simple, convenient, affordable and anytime anywhere accessible, providing a unified view of customer’s banking relationships for customers as well as for relationship managers. True multi-channel banking extends beyond the provision of banking access over multiple channels, to add value through:

• Superior user experience

Seamless customer experience is the essence of multi-channel banking. A customer should be able to use a bank’s service on any of its channels. Also, having initiated a transaction, he should be able to continue it on another channel without obstruction. For instance, if he receives an offer about a new high interest deposit on SMS, he should be able to buy into it using his mobile, but send all the supporting documentation via the Internet banking channel.

• Personalized banking

Today’s consumer has a strong sense of uniqueness that he would like service providers to acknowledge with personalized products and services. He desires personalized banking facilities that enable him to set reminders, quickly access links and”favorite activities”, and choose the channels on which the bank must send alerts or initiate contact. Not only that, he may also want to personalize each channel separately. Multi-channel banking must be able to fulfill all these expectations.

• Interactivity

While customers are happy to conduct routine transactions on self-service channels, they invariably seek human assistance when faced with a problem. If ready help is not available at that time, they may give up the channel altogether. Banks can prevent this eventuality by making help available to customers on every channel, at the touch of a button. This can be achieved with a text chat facility – already provided by many – or an audio/video help service, or even co-browsing, whereby a customer care representative can remotely see the customer’s desktop and walk him through the solution. What’s more, using social media, banks can not only make these situations more interactive but also enable a customer to seek assistance from other customers who have had similar issues.

California Wedding Provides Beach Atmosphere

If you want to have a memorable wedding you likely have put a lot of thought into where you will have the wedding and a California wedding may be perfect for you and your partner. California is the perfect place for a beach wedding. Couples who are looking for adventure typically love outdoor weddings and sunny California is the perfect place for it.

A California wedding is the perfect wedding for a couple that loves the sun. Having an outdoor wedding under the sun gives you a lot of choice for planning. You can choose the time of the day and have the freedom to choose any kind of clothing. Sunrise and sunset are particularly pleasant times of the day for a beach wedding. Beach weddings are typically very casual and relaxing and guests are free to dress more casually.

If you prefer a smaller beach you might prefer LaJolla, New Port Beach or Oxnard. San Diego, Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica offer larger beach scenes. All of these beautiful beaches have many hotels that are very close by so there are plenty of choices of places for guests to stay and your honeymoon suite is only a short step away.

One of the traditions of a California wedding is for the newlywed couple to give the guest “blessing shells” as gifts. Guests are asked to say something personal or say a prayer for the newly married couple and then toss the shell into the ocean.

A California wedding is a great way to have a special day that is relaxing and informal. There are plenty of locations where the bride and groom can continue their honeymoon. If guests wish to extend their stay after the wedding there are many tourist attractions and exciting venues to visit as well.