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VOLUME I ~ ISSUE III Spring 2014


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The da Vinci® Si™

Memorial Hospital of Converse County has continued to bring advanced medicine and hometown care to Converse County and the state of Wyoming for more than 70 years. They’ve provided patients with many firsts, including the use of thrombolytics for acute heart attacks, a laparoscope for cholecystectomy, epidural pain management for all laboring women, 3D Automated Breast Ultrasound for diagnostics and SPECT CT imaging. In June 2013, another first was accomplished when they purchased the da Vinci® Si™ Surgical System. The da Vinci® Si™ in Douglas, more commonly known as a “robot”, is the first and only da Vinci® Si™ robotic surgical system in the region. Being an extension of the surgeon’s hands, this fine-tuned machine offers finer, more precise movements of the instruments inside the body, as well as 3 dimensional, high definition view. The surgeon, who is seated at a console near the patient, operates via the robot, controlling the instruments inside the patient’s abdomen. “The “robot” is just an extension of our hands and eyes,” said Dr. Brian Retherford, OB/GYN. “The high definition camera and advanced instrumentation gives the surgeon remarkable visualization during the procedure, much better than traditional laparoscopic procedures,” said Retherford. Continued on page 4

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DA VINCI SI™— Continued A unique feature of the da Vinci Si System is its ability to perform select surgeries from a single incision in the patient’s belly button. Traditionally, open surgeries were done by making a large incision on the abdomen of the patient. The recovery was longer and the patient often experienced more pain from this method. With the single-site surgery, the patient will experience a faster recovery time and less pain. There is also a reduction in blood loss and minimal scarring. “We believe that the extraordinary features of the da Vinci Si System will help us provide the best possible outcomes and its acquisition is proof of our commitment to provide our community as well as the entire region access to the latest advancements in minimally invasive surgery”, said Memorial Hospital CEO Ryan Smith. The da Vinci Si System can be used for a multitude of procedures, including but not limited to: prostatectomy, hysterectomy, myomectomy, coronary artery bypass, mitral valve repair and colorectal surgery. Memorial Hospital of Converse County plans to focus its robotic surgery program on GYN and general surgery procedures. Not all surgeons can be Robotics Surgeons. Before being allowed to perform a surgery with the da Vinci Si, a surgeon must go through extensive training. In addition to traditional hospital and medical credentialing, robotics surgeons must complete regimented training modules using simulation, live porcine labs, and finally proctored surgical procedures. Once a surgeon’s training is complete, they are then eligible to apply for their Robotics Surgeon Privileges. Currently both of Memorial Hospital’s general surgeons, Dr. William

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White and Dr. Jon Grosdidier as well as gynecologic surgeon Dr. Brian Retherford are certified to perform multiport robotic surgeries. Single-site surgeries require additional training for the surgeons, and they will all be certified to perform them in early 2014. Memorial Hospital of Converse County hit the ground running when it came to performing surgeries. They began making Wyoming history with the da Vinci Si System in July when the first surgeries in two specialties were performed in the same day! OB/GYN Robotics Surgeon Brian Retherford performed the hospital’s first da Vinci Si hysterectomy and assisted Robotics General Surgeon Jon Grosdidier in the first cholecystectomy, which removes the gallbladder. In early November, Memorial Hospital added to Wyoming history again by being the first Wyoming hospital to perform a single-site gallbladder surgery. Memorial Hospital of Converse County has been serving the eastern Wyoming region since it was founded in 1942. The 25 bed critical access hospital has been named as one of the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals in the country by the Rural Hospital Association since the designation was created in 2011 and continually ranks among the highest in patient satisfaction. Memorial Hospital is a winner of the Mountain-Pacific Quality Award and home to some of the most sought after physicians and surgeons in the region. With their sights set on becoming “The Best Healthcare Organization in Wyoming”, Memorial Hospital of Converse County is dedicated to delivering “Advanced Medicine, Hometown Care” to every patient who comes through their doors.

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Kindness Ranch is a 1000 acre ranch nestled among the rolling hills of Hartville, Wyoming and is the only sanctuary in the US that takes in all kinds of research animals including dogs, cats, horses, pigs and sheep. Since it was founded in 2006, Kindness Ranch has provided sanctuary to almost 250 animals. The mission of the Kindness Ranch is to provide a sanctuary and place of rehabilitation for animals who have previously been used in laboratory research. Working to rehabilitate dogs and cats in a home-like environment. Cats and dogs at The Kindness Ranch live together with their human caretakers in spacious yurts specially designed to meet their needs. They receive round-the-clock care to help them adjust to their new lives. The Kindness Ranch also provides an adoption program for all the animals that can be rehabilitated. Most of the

animals that come to Kindness Ranch go on to their fur-ever homes, leading happy and fulfilling lives as a family pet. Those who are too debilitated, old or ill to be placed in a loving home can remain on the ranch to live out their days, surrounded by caretakers and volunteers who put the animals’ well-being first. In many cases when research dogs come to Kindness Ranch, they have never played with another dog or toys, experienced the outdoors, touched grass, been on a walk and they are not potty trained. The rehab program at Kindness Ranch assists these amazing animals through this process, helping them work towards their fur-ever homes. The Kindness Ranch is a nonprofit tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code Website is www.kindnessranch.org

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What are the best man’s responsibilities? While the bachelor party may be what your fiancé and his best man considers the most important task, there are indeed other duties he is expected to perform. As the maid of honor is to the bride, the best man is the groom’s biggest source of support. Generally he’s the groom’s brother or best friend (the groom’s father is another popular choice). • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Staging the bachelor party Helps coordinate the groomsmen’s formal-wear fitting Picks up the groom’s attire Confirms the honeymoon travel reservations Orchestrates the rehearsal-party toasts. On the day of the wedding, the best man makes sure the groom gets to the wedding ceremony site on time He brings the bride’s ring Holds the officiates fee until after the ceremony Signs the marriage license as the groom’s witness Organizes the groomsmen for formal pictures Makes the initial toast during the reception Finally, he makes sure that the getaway car is ready and the couple’s luggage is inside After the celebration, he sees that all rented formalwear is returned.

Continued on page 9

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What are the maid of honor’s responsibilities? The bride relies most heavily on the maid of honor (called a matron of honor if the woman is married). • Before the wedding, the maid of honor’s duties include coordinating the bridesmaid’s activities (such as meeting for the dress fittings) • Organizing the bridal shower. • Help the bride with any organizational wedding planning tasks, such as addressing wedding invitations. • On the day of the wedding, the maid of honor helps the bride dress and accompanies her to the wedding ceremony. • She precedes the bride and her father down the aisle • Arranges the bride’s veil and train whenever necessary, and holds her bouquet at the altar • The maid of honor also carries and passes the grooms ring to the bride during the vows • Signs the marriage license as the brides witness after the wedding ceremony • Helps to organize the bridesmaids for formal photographs • Before the couple leaves for their honeymoon, the maid of honor should help the bride change her clothes, and then make sure her dress and bouquet are taken care of until the bride returns.

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Love potions!!! For that special night Aroma therapy may help you and your partner celebrate the magic you share, that mysterious, fascinating, strangely beautiful emotional and physical appeal. Aroma Therapy affects the senses in order to enhance personal qualities, improve health, body, mind, spirit and emotions. It may increase intimacy / enhance the magic you share, with exotic, romantic fragrances. Whether you prefer a night on the town or romantic walk under the stars, subtle scents may relax you and help awaken sensations of comfort and warmth that could change into loving, intimate desires. The use of essential oils that work by soothing the mind and the senses may happen to be excellent choices in order to obtain big improvements in the intimacy department with a partner. Spark the flame between you in the form of Aphrodisiac Aroma Therapy, an excellent natural alternative to drugs or chemicals. Just remember, an aphrodisiac to one person may not be to another. Essential oils may provide, at least, an interesting different experience. Since a balanced person is more likely to extend love, find an oil that brings balance to YOUR mind, body, spirit and emotions. My favorite essential oil is doTerra’s Whisper®- a special blend made just for women. This blend of dōTERRA’s blends with your individual chemistry to create a beautiful and unique personal fragrance. Whisper contains rose, jasmine, bergamot, cinnamon, citrus, vetiver, ylang ylang, cocoa, vanilla, sandalwood, and patchouli. -AromaTouch & Reflexology

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How a Destination Wedding can Save You Money Imagine escaping to a tropical paradise to get married in a picturesque setting at a beautiful resort. Sounds expensive right? Well the truth is that you could save a lot compared to getting married locally. In this article we’ll explain how a destination wedding can save you money. Fewer Guests = Lower Costs Typically wedding costs are directly related to the number of guests in attendance. More guests equals more money spent on food, beverage, chair and linen rentals, favors… you get the idea. The beauty of a destination wedding is that the distance will automatically limit the number of guests who will be able to attend. Some guests just won’t be able to make the trip. It’s also easier to limit your guest list to close friends and family for a destination wedding without feeling like you are snubbing uninvited guests. For the bride who wants a big wedding with all of her friends and extended family, a destination wedding could be a deal breaker. But for the couple looking to keep their wedding costs low, this is an easy way to keep your guest list in check. Have an Amazing Wedding and Honeymoon— All in One Place Planning a wedding and a honeymoon can be overwhelming. There are so many details to figure out for each event that it can get overwhelming. But if you honeymoon in the same location as your destination wedding, it’s more like planning one big event. Many resorts have all-inclusive wedding packages, and can provide all of the services you’ll need for the ceremony and reception. Having the resort handle these services means you’ll only have to deal with one vendor—the resort—as opposed to hiring each service separately and dealing with many different people. Resort staff are usually very knowledgeable and experienced (they do this all the time) so they can do most of the hard work for you. Not only will this reduce the amount of stress in your life, but it could also help you cut your overall wedding costs. Some resorts also offer deals, like “Book your wedding with us and get a 4 night stay.” Even if this type of deal is not offered, ask if they can offer a discounted room rate or other incentives. They want your business after all, so they may be able to do something for you. If you’re planning a destination wedding, here are a few tips to remember: Continued on page 12

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DESTINATION WEDDING—Continued •

Pick the all-inclusive wedding package if your resort offers one An all-inclusive package will almost always be more affordable than piecing together a custom wedding. The resorts put these packages together to maximize efficiency, which means lower costs for them, and for you. Choose a location that is accessible for your guests Getting married in an exotic locale can be amazing, but if getting there is a pain, your guests wont enjoy themselves. Try to choose a location that is close to transportation routes, and organize transportation to and from the ceremony/reception if possible. Get officially married before you leave. Every country has different rules and regulations pertaining to marriage licenses, so the safest bet is to get it all sorted out before you leave home. That way your wedding ceremony becomes just that—ceremonial. All of the legal stuff has already been taken care of, so you can just enjoy your big day without having to worry. Get married in the off-season. Many destinations have a busy season and an off season. Choose the off season for your wedding and you can usually save a bundle.

A destination wedding is not for everyone, but for the sav-

vy bride and groom it can be a great way to get away and save money in the process.

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Glenrock , Wyoming

Then & Now

Hotel Higgins 1921

Glenrock, Wyoming 1909

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5 ways to protect your child in flu season

play dates or postponing birthday parties. If possible, ask teachers to keep desks in the classroom separated By Dr. Jennifer Shu, Special to CNN rather than pushing them together to form larger tables. To help prevent your child from Keep sick children in their own having to seek care for influenza or room, or if the rest of the fama similar illness, here are some tips ily is already sick, “quarantine” to keep in mind: children without symptoms to 1. Make sure your child gets this keep them away from the flu season’s flu vaccine. virus. If flu is hitting your comWhile the vaccine cannot community hard, consider avoiding pletely prevent children from getlarge crowds (such as going to ting the flu (it’s about 62% effective, movies or out to dinner) until according to the latest numbers things settle down. from the Centers for Disease Con3. Keep hands and shared obtrol and Prevention), it can shorten jects/surfaces clean. This is the the illness if they do get sick and keep most important time of year for hand-washing. Teach symptoms milder. kids to their wash hands for at least 20 seconds -- or Flu shot myths addressed 2. Practice good cough etiquette and social distanc- about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” ing. Flu germs can spread up to 6 feet through coughs song. and sneezes, so teach children to cover their mouth Flu viruses can live up to 8 hours on surfaces, so try to remove germs from toys, handles, counters, tables, and nose with a tissue and to throw away the tissue. phones, TV remotes, etc. using hot soapy water or a • Make sure to clean their hands afterward! cleaning product that removes influenza. The EPA has • What you need to know about the flu a list of disinfectants that are effective against the flu. • Family grieves for teen killed by flu 4. Stay healthy. The usual good health practices still • How to avoid catching the flu apply during cold and flu season; good nutrition, • Dealing with and preventing the flu Continued on page 16 Also, keep your kids home if they are sick (and discourage sick kids from visiting). This may mean canceling

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FLU—Continued

moderate exercise and adequate rest help optimize the immune system. Offer your child a well-balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, milk and water. Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep (at least 10 hours for school-age children and 12 hours for toddlers). Encourage at least one hour of physical activity on most days of the week. 5. For kids with flu, treat the symptoms and keep them comfortable. Home remedies should include rest and plenty of fluids. Offer your child honey for the cough (for kids over 1 year, it’s a good cough suppressant without potential side effects), medicated chest rubs for cough/congestion, a humidifier/vaporizer, and saline nose drops. Fever reducers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) can help, but remember to avoid aspirin, which can cause a serious illness called Reye Syndrome in children with a viral illness. An antiviral medicine like Tamiflu or Relenza may be prescribed for certain patients within the first 48 hours of the illness; the medication can shorten the symptoms and severity of the flu as well as the child’s contagiousness. Most healthy kids over 2 years old get better within a few days without any antiviral medicine. Just be sure to watch out for worsening fever or cough, as this may be a sign of a complication such as pneumonia.

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VOLUME I ~ ISSUE II I Spring 2014


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Wyoming Vacations

Wyoming is one of the best vacation spots in the U.S. There are a number of places of great tourist attraction. Some of them are The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne, Cody Night Rodeo in Cody, the Grand Targhee Ski Resorts in Jackson and Alta. For tourists who prefer the wonders of nature to man made ones, Wyoming presents the Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, and Thunder Basin National Grassland. Wyoming is Continued on page 4

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WYOMING VACATIONS— Continued

famous for its game and fishing. It also offers horseback riding, golf and rock climbing Each season provides a different experience in Wyoming. Summer is the best time to visit the state. Climate is moderate at this time of the year. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are open to cars in summer. In summer, tourists can enjoy disc golf, hiking, and horseback riding, biking, rafting and kayaking. In winter, Wyoming offers skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, dog sledding, paragliding, and ballooning. Winter is the time for heli-skiing, snowcat skiing, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, sleigh rides, hot spring sightseeing, and much more. The spring season is a beautiful time to visit Wyoming too. Wildlife is aplenty in Wyoming and viewing animals is more common during spring, as they come down to the snow-free valley to feed. Fall brings with it a huge crowd of elks. It is the time for hunting. However, hunting is not allowed in the National Parks. There is a variety of accommodation available in Wyoming, ranging from luxury spa resorts, ranches, log cabins, hotels, motels, lodges and houses for rent. There are direct flights to Jackson Hole and Cody.

Property Flipping: Selling for a Quick Profit “Flipping property” is as legal and ethical as the person doing the flipping. It can be potentially lucrative if you know what you are doing. Potential buyers looking for the perfect house will not care that the house was purchased for less if the work and repairs were done in a professional manner. Many people do not have time to “fix-up” houses and prefer one that they can just move into without any hassle, as long as the house is not overpriced for the area. A vacant house with fresh paint, new kitchen, bathroom, windows, roof, etc., will give the buyer a better picture on how they want to decorate and arrange their own prized possessions. “Flipping” is when an investor buys a piece of real estate and then quickly resells it at a higher price, either a few days or months later. It has gotten a bad rap, though, for several reasons. In order to succeed, some investors have been known to commit fraud, often through the use of stretched appraisals that improperly push up the value of the property. There are also many honest investors who make good money by flipping properties, without disrupting their local markets. The strategy is to find properties that are underpriced with values that can reasonably be marked up after they are fixed or repaired before they are resold.

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Essentials in Operating a Cattle Ranch A cattle ranch is a business and should be treated as such. Many who want to start raising cattle probably have had the romantic visions of cowboys riding the range and herding cattle all sunny day and would love to be ones to do that on their own ranch. If only they knew they could do that simply by visiting a dude ranch on their summer vacations! Sitting in the saddle watching or herding cows all day doesn’t earn you much money either. A ranch must be operated in a manner that best suits your production practices and will hopefully give you enough income to keep you going for years to come. The following should be considered essential in operating a cattle ranch: Keep and maintain all your records. This ranges from calving to financial records. Software is available for these sort of records, though many ranchers still like to use the old pencil-and-paper method over the computer tablet. Fix and maintain fences and buildings. Fences are more important and more often fixed than buildings. Pasture permanent perimeter fencing should be checked regularly, ideally before and after moving cattle from one pasture to another. Fix and maintain machinery. All machinery involved in a ranching operation must be maintained and in good Continued on page 8

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CATTLE RANCH— Continued working order to be able to be used in the fields every year. Grease, oil, inspect, replace and repair any and all parts of machinery, from the tractor to the combine harvester. Manage your grazing operation. A big part of a ranch is the space utilized for cattle to graze. Pastures and grass must be monitored in order for them to keep producing healthy stands season after season, year after year. Know your stocking rates, rest/recovery periods, grazing pressure and soil quality to determine how long your pastures and range can be grazed. Ideally, you should manage your grazing operation on your ranch so that you are improving and maintaining soil quality, water quality, and habitat for

other wildlife that reside on your ranch. Manage how you are feeding your cattle. There will be times when you cannot graze your cattle on pasture. This means you need to feed your cattle feedstuffs like hay and/ or silage instead. Winter time or times of drought are particular times when feeding cattle is necessary, or any time when grazing cattle is no longer practical. You have a choice of feeding your cattle in a drylot, or adopting more sustainable and lower-cost practices of winter grazing them. Note though that the greatest source of financial loss is during winter and/or drought feeding, and is what makes or breaks the ranching business. Manage your forage/grain enterprises. Not all ranches are the same. Some may just have hay and grazing enterprises, others may have hay, silage, crop, drylot and grazing enterprises. Whatever you choose to have or have already, manage them according to when to seed, fertilize, spray herbicide, cut and harvest. Keep up to date with vaccinations and dewormers. Check with your local large animal veterinarian for vaccination and dewormer products best to use for your cattle in your area. Prepare for and manage calving season. Depending on what time of year you’re calving, be prepared for the start of calving by getting supplies necessary, keeping an eye on cows that are getting close, and readying facilities--if necessary--to be used in calving out cows. Heifers generally are calved out before cows are. Manage cows and calves post-calving. Keep an eye on Continued on page 9

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CATTLE RANCH— Continued calves for illness or injuries. Things like scours, pneumonia and coccidiosis are common in young calves. They may also be at risk of broken bones from being stepped on. Cows may also not accept their calves, have little to no milk for their calves, lose their calves to disease or predators and may need to graft another orphan calf onto them. Process your calves. Post calving involves tagging, vaccinating and castrating bull calves. Branding is not done until the calving season is over and most calves are around two to three months of age. Branding is and should be a social event where you have the opportunity to invite out family, neighbors and friends out to help with the processing of your calves. Prepare for and manage breeding season. Get your bulls semen tested a week before putting them out with cows and heifers. Heifers should be bred a week before the cows so they calve earlier. Bull power should be set to one bull per 30 to 50 cows, depending on pasture size and age of the bulls. You should have your breeding season to be around 45 to 60 days long. Select and manage replacement heifers. Your cows can’t be expected to live or last forever. Replacements are needed to replace cows that are culled or die of disease or illness and to improve your herd’s genetics. Heifers need to be managed like cows because they will be growing into cows, not as feeder cattle being turned later on into beef. Make culling decisions in your cowherd. Cows and bulls need to be culled based on factors such as disposition, teeth, age, conformation, performance, breeding status, health, prolapse and forage/feed efficiency. Wean calves from the cows. At 6 to 10 months calves must be weaned off their dams. Whatever weaning method you choose to use is up to you: on the truck or pre-conditioning with or without the use of fence-line weaning or nose-rings. Sell excess livestock. All cattle that do not need to be on your ranch should be sold. Manage your cow herd. Cows need to be managed to breed back and raise a healthy “soggy” calf. They need to be managed so that they are in good health, good condition and live as long and productive a life as possible on your ranch. Manage your bulls. Just like above with your cows, your bulls need to be managed so they remain fertile, in good health and in good condition so that they are ready for the next breeding season. Manage any dead animals you may get. With livestock you will get deadstock. It’s your responsibility to dispose of these dead animals according to local laws. Take care of your horses and stock dogs. If you are more the type of rancher that loves and would rather stick with the traditional ways of working cattle, relying on horses and some good stock dogs to herd, doctor and brand cattle (among other things), then you need to look after those animals too.

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4 Must Know Tips to Sell Your Home Be Bold! The secret of getting buyers’ hearts to beat faster is to pull out the stops when it comes to expressing you personality! Be creative, imaginative! There is a happy medium whereby you can enhance the look of your home without making it off-putting. Don’t Be Ageist! You can give a modern interior an additional layer of individuality by adding an odd a...ntique to the mix. Likewise, you can give period rooms an extra edginess with a few modern pieces. Bright vivid colors can bring fresh life to an old-fashioned décor!

Administer the Kiss of Life! If your floors are dreary, enliven them with a rug! Put some lovely fresh bed linens and new bath towels out to show! Flower Power! Put out vases of freshly cut blooms! It’s all part of creating that fresh feel!

-Casper Real Estate

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10 tips for homebuyers and sellers in 2014 By Steve McLinden • Bankrate.com Sellers: Jump-start the process.

You may be an avowed procrastinator, but if you want to sell a house this year, start planning now. The process, say sellers, always takes longer than expected. So get your home inspected now; there may be unseen major repairs to address. Declutter, clean closets and shelves, store extraneous possessions and furnishings and other stuff that might keep sellers from picturing themselves in your space. Attend an open house or two to get an idea of how to stage yours. And move along: Owners still waiting for the market to peak should beware that this real estate cycle may be shorter-lived than last.

Buyers: Be credit-ready.

There’s a lot of competition out there for homes, so tarry not. Get your credit report and start repairing any blips. If your scores are below 620 or so, a conventional loan will be a challenge. But if they’re under 740, you still might not get the best rates. Many buyers get a prequalification letter from the lender, but you can one-up them with a preapproval, which comes after a more thorough evaluation of your finances. A preapproval letter shows the seller that you’re good to go and can close quickly.

Sellers: Vet your real estate agent, then follow the agent’s advice.

Sellers lose time and money by hiring poorly. Interview several potential agents. You’ll want a full-timer who is Web savvy and uses mobile technology, because at least 4 in 5 buyers view their homes first online. Your agent should be a proven performer in your submarket and be willing to walk you through the financial aspects of your deal. The more the agent knows about schools, commutes and other local details, the better. Once vetted, accept your agent’s advice on pricing, marketing and negotiation.

Buyers: Adjust your negotiating expectations.

Lowball offers are off the table in this environment and could eliminate you from consideration. Respond to counteroffers quickly to keep other buyers from entering the picture; you don’t want to encourage a bidding war. If one breaks out, be prepared to get fewer concessions and pay more money. And have a few other homes in mind so you can be willing to walk away if the price soars.

Sellers: It’s your market (finally) so make the most of it.

At long last, it’s a seller’s market! While you’re interviewing agents, be wary of those offering too-good-to-be-true price opinions because they may be trying to “buy” your listing. And don’t jump at that first (seemingly) generous offer, especially if sellers are getting multiple offers. If you’re getting your price and then some, give something back to the buyer in good faith, such as an early move-in date or some personal property you’re not attached to. Never let the buyers’ agents know what you’re willing to do, though. Make them ask.

Buyers: Find life after foreclosure.

Have a foreclosure in recent years? Join the crowd. Though you might think you have to wait seven years to get another conventional mortgage, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA say they

actually require just a three-year waiting period if the foreclosure was caused by extenuating circumstances. There are plenty of nonconforming lenders -- often called “shadow bankers” -- out there if you can endure a big down payment (around 20 percent) and above-market interest rates. Or consider a lease-purchase or lease-option where you pay the homeowner a monthly premium above your rent for the right to buy at a set price later.

Sellers: Hesitate to renovate.

We hear that newly renovated homes are easier sells, and that’s true. So is it time to remodel that outmoded kitchen? Not if you plan to sell soon. According to remodeling surveys, the average renovation project returns only about two-thirds on investment. For example, a major bathroom remodel costing $15,000 yields about $10,000 in resale value. The same goes for a major kitchen remodel. In most cases, it would be cheaper to issue credits to buyers or drop your price a few grand. Lighter jobs like new doors are more practical and return about 85 percent. But feel free to spend a bit on paint (basic colors), curb appeal and fence replacement to enhance exteriors.

Buyers: Ask and you won’t receive (an unpleasant surprise).

You’d be dismayed at the things sellers aren’t obliged to disclose in most states, including onpremises felonies, suicide, murder or a neighboring sex offender. Don’t be afraid to thoroughly question the selling party in writing before signing the contract. Some questions: Is there a cell tower, water tower, natural gas well, oil well or other non-residential construction scheduled to be built in this neighborhood (then define “neighborhood”)? Is there commercial zoning on nearby vacant land? Is the yard prone to flooding? Are train whistles or other regular loud noises audible there? Did known criminal activity occur in the house? Have there been reported hauntings? Are there loud neighbors, dogs or other noise pollution? Are there registered sex offenders or other known criminals living nearby? If the selling party refuses to answer any of these questions, that’s a bright red flag.

Sellers: Tailor your local game.

Folks who base their selling decisions on trends on cable news are often left wondering, “Why can’t I sell at this price?” The truth is, all markets are different and all real estate is local, and prices can vary greatly even in adjacent subdivisions. Home prices are dictated largely by demand, land availability, foreclosures and employment. Most local real estate offices will provide market stats and at least a few recent comp sales in hopes of earning your business. Additional trend data can be found online or in local newspapers and business journals. A polite call or email to a local real estate appraiser might net more info or links to local statistics.

Sellers and buyers: Heed changing trends.

Pay attention to trends and react accordingly. Thinking of laying carpet? Agent surveys in the past few years show homes with hardwood floors or faux wood laminate floors are far faster sells. You still want to be in suburbia? Millennials don’t. Numerous cities -- such as Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Minneapolis -- have watched this more environmentally conscious generation flock to “mixed-use” urban districts served by trendy cafes, nightclubs, bike paths, civic events and mass transit. For now, they’re not buying condos, which haven’t recovered like the single-family market. They’re renting -- but watching the condo market ever so carefully.

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