Wednesday, February 16, 2011

20 benefits of having me house-sit your home or apartment

My free home-sitting service (tipping is appreciated) is ideal for single people in hospital who have nobody responsible to watch their homes, keep the heat and lights on, water plants, feed and walk pets, keep bills paid, and protect homes from burglaries, fire, frozen pipes, gas leaks, and water damage. Insurance companies prefer homes that are inhabited over vacant homes. I will even visit you in hospital to bring you personal items from home. It’s a reciprocal arrangement: I protect and maintain homeowners’ property and my payment is having a rent-free roof over my head.

Most of my clients have been teachers, realtors, business owners, or writers on assignment who
want the peace of mind that their homes and pets are being maintained and inhabited 24 hours a day. Others are travel agents on fam trips, event planners, authors on book tours, consultants on assignment, public speakers, military personnel, transferred executives who haven’t yet sold or rented their former homes.

I began house-sitting for vacationing Bed & Breakfast hosts in Toronto in 1994, and pet-sitting in 1976. As a member of and and, I have house-sat for free – as far north as Toronto to as far south as Washington DC, while promoting my how-to e-books online. But when several homeowners in a row changed their vacation plans, suddenly I was stranded hundreds of miles from Erie with an empty wallet. So for now I am accepting house-sitting assignments in Erie County only. All my belongings are in storage here in Erie.

20 Benefits of Retaining a Housesitter (by Andrea Reynolds)

1. It's a free service. There is no charge for basic home and pet-sitting services on a 24 hour basis for the length of your absence.

2. Pets get to stay in their own familiar home on their own schedules, which means less stress for them.

3. Homeowners can avoid the $20+ per day cost of boarding pets.

4. Pets avoid the possibility of "kennel cough" and any other infection or fleas from other animals.

5. Pets have 24 hour human attention and affection.

6. Plants are watered and tended as instructed.

7. Newspapers and mail are collected daily.

8. Lights are turned on and off at appropriate times of the day.

9. Phones are answered and messages are recorded or forwarded.

10. Trash and recycle bins are put out for pick up on time and brought back inside.

11. Walks are kept clear of ice and snow to prevent pedestrian falls and potential liability.

12. Insurance companies won't jack up insurance rates for homes that are inhabited.

13. Appliances such as freezers, furnaces, water conditioners, humidifiers, water heaters are monitored for maintenance and breakdowns.

14. Homeowners can receive email updates, photos, videos, or Skype communication from their house-sitter.

15. Expected deliveries are accepted.

16. Potential burglars who are "casing" for vacant homes are deterred.

17. Homes are kept clean: vacuumed, dusted, etc.

18. Emergency situations such as frozen pipes are averted.

19. Perishable food is restocked when requested.

20. Laundry is clean and folded when requested.

Home owners can use this handy checklist to determine their housesitting requirements:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Essay Contest: Become my heir

As I approach my 62nd birthday I realize I need to revise my Will.... but I don't have any heirs to leave my things to. So, I'm developing an essay contest to find someone worthy of inheriting my stuff when it's my time to go. (I'm in good health, so it won't be any time soon.)

What do I have to give someone? A paid for van, a storage unit full of books, dishes, small appliances, a few computers, several business web sites, and a list of copyrighted works.

To enter the contest I want to know, in 500 words or less:
1. What do you know about me?
2. What should I know about you?
3. Why should I pick you to be my heir?

This contest is open to anyone over the age of 18, in Canada and the United States.

More details will be provided in this spot by February 14.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reclaim your own money

Posted on August 4, 2010
© Andrea Reynolds 2009-2011

In a recession money becomes more precious. We’re more careful to find ways to spend it more wisely. Yet I continue to see smart people abandoning money. I know this because I see authors, speakers, and experts who expect no payment for their work even when payment is available. When I decided to pursue damages after my constitutional rights were violated resulting in no income for several years, my friends all tried to convince me that I should let the money go and forget about it. Why? Should Bernie Madoff’s victims just forget about their losses? I hope not.

While you may not have lost millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you could recover several thousand dollars over the course of a year. That money could pay off a debt, buy groceries for a year, or cover multiple mortgage payments. Why deny yourself your own money?

The following eight suggestions may bring you small amounts of money for a little effort and time, yet when added up, could bring you a significant sum of “bonus” money.

1. Overcharges. Check hotel bills and grocery bills. If you were overcharged you’re entitled to a refund of the overpayment, and some stores will give you the product free and/or give you double your money back.

2. Overpayments. Did you pay your utility company more money than you owed before you moved out of state? Maybe you threw the statement into a box before you moved and never gave it another thought. And maybe you forgot to notify the utility company of your new address.

3. Unreturned deposits. Perhaps you left an apartment and never received your security or key deposit. That’s your money. Write a letter and insist on payment. If you posted a $100 security deposit with a utility company, get it back.

4. Unpaid invoices. Did you do work for a client who never paid? Did you earn commissions that you never received? Follow through with documentation, and remind them that you still expect payment.

5. Payment made on services not provided. Did you pay a retainer to a professional but they didn’t show up. Don’t just forget it, get it back.

6. Price matches. Take the time to check out prices in various stores even after you have purchased an item, like a camera, lawnmower, or bed. If the store has a price match guarantee, take your receipt and proof of a competitor’s better price, and ask for the difference.

7. Unpaid loans. Did you give up trying to recover money lent to a friend? If they are doing well now ask them to start paying you back in regular installments.

8. Damages. If a dentist breaks your tooth while drilling, insist on payment for the extra cost of repairing or replacing the tooth. If someone plagiarized your work, invoice him for stealing your intellectual property.

If you treat money with respect, more of it will show up in your life. Say yes to recovering your own money.

Several years ago I launched a service to assist individuals in recovering large amounts of money swindled from them. Not a lawyer, I have had a 100% success rate so far, without employing bullying tactics, insults or harassment. Contact me if I can write a mercy letter for you. You did keep the original documents, didn't you? Click on the headline above for details.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Landlords, do you treat your tenants like bad children?

The Problem: Many landlords treat their paying tenants as if they were their enemies instead of their sources of income.

Here's what I discovered when renting apartments:
1. Age discrimination… younger prettier tenants get breaks not provided to older female tenants.
2. Pet discrimination… pet deposits for dogs are sometimes less than for cats.
3. Dangerously wet basements, rotten roofs and porches.
4. Flea and cockroach infestations.
5. Non-working lights and appliances.
6. Missing doors, broken windows, ripped screens.
7. Peeling paint.
8. Stained and smelly carpets.
9. Not returning security deposits or refunding overpayments.
10. Requiring tenants to pay other tenants’ utility bills.
11. Asking tenants to spy on neighbor tenants and expecting other free services from tenants.
12. Toxic chemicals used in repairs.
13. Lack of snow removal/salting, causing older tenants to fall and/or hurt themselves.
14. Different rules for different tenants.
15. Allowing tenants to bully and vandalize other tenants with no intercession.
16. Giving keys of single women’s apartments to male tradesmen without consent.
17. Charging for unnecessary, unwanted services.
18. Nicotine-stained walls.
19. Only emergency fire escape is through another tenant’s unit.
20. Leases that take away a tenant’s fundamental rights under the US constitution.
21. Allowing other tenants’ unneutered pets to run unleashed, reproducing, adding to feral colonies.
22. Foul odors throughout unit.
23. Demand for 13 months’ payments upfront before being shown available units.
24. Shards of glass imbedded in carpeting.
25. Exposure to fire hazards.
26. Leases with poor spelling, poor grammar, and confusing language.
27. Four- and five-page leases in tiny print written by lawyers who aren’t concerned about tenant rights.
28. Dog poop from other tenants’ pets where other tenants have to walk.
29. Allowing tenants to smoke drugs that tenants in adjoining units have to breathe.
30. Rewriting the lease before the tenant receives a signed copy.
31. Not providing tenant with a signed copy of the lease for several weeks.

The Solutions:
My services include:
1. Seminars for landlords and property managers to provide/brainstorm specific suggestions for better/kinder management practices.
2. Private (affordable) written reports for landlords – with photos - listing what in their units and leases could be improved to obtain/keep great tenants and reduce losses to their bottom line.
3. Quick, affordable, mediation to handle disputes between tenants and landlords.
4. A tenant hotline promising same day reply (unlimited), for a nominal annual fee.

The Results:
If tenants feel appreciated you’ll increase the likelihood of your tenants being honorable and responsible. The results of my services over time:
1. Not only more pleasant, but healthier rental accommodation across Erie county.
2. Better living standards for tenants.
3. More appreciative tenants who are more responsible.
4. Happier landlords and property managers who have fewer headaches, increased profit.

My Credentials:
I'm not an employee, but a retired public relations firm owner, with a dual-degree from Kent State University in Consumer Science, and Marketing/Communication who is also a former broadcaster and author of multiple how-to and how-not-to books. I have been a renter in the City of Erie, Millcreek, Lake City and Girard and owned/sold property outside of the United States. I studied and passed Pennsylvania’s real estate courses just to learn state law.

I am also:
Creator of
Author of Sell Your Mobile Home in 60 Days
Author of Jump Start Your Creative Genius
Author of The Bed and Breakfast Guest Etiquette Quiz

If you need my assistance, email me:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Egg Purchasing Tip

Here's a quick grocery shopping tip. To ensure all the eggs in the egg carton you're buying are crack-free and unbroken, gently wiggle each egg in it's "cradle" with a finger. If any one egg sticks to the carton it means the shell is cracked or broken and some of it has oozed into the carton.

If it's glued to the carton, trying to remove it will only break it. If it's only cracked it should not be eaten. Micro-organisms may have contaminated the egg... and you don't want to get sick do you?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Download and print Handy Ande's brochure and bookmark

Link to my 2 page Handy Ande services brochure:
This is a MS Word document. For best results print this out on 24 lb stock, back to back. Or not.

Link to my Handy Ande business card (actually 3 bookmark size cards):
This is a MS Word document. For best results print this out on heavy card stock and cut apart on a paper cutter. Or not.

Print as many as you like and distribute them to friends, family, neighbors, clients, customers and co-workers who you think will appreciate receiving them. Be careful to not insult anyone.

PS There is a finders fee in it for you if I know you're responsible for bringing me a client, and if you're willing to accept it.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

It pays to retain me... this will tell you why

By Andrea Reynolds © 2010

Are we too skeptical and suspicious to accept genuine kindness and generosity? I’ve been conducting an experiment for 13 years - and telling everyone about it - to see how receptive people will be to helping an older woman start over. This is after helping police stop criminal activity and losing everything as consequence of my being a good citizen. To acquire only a safe place to park my van, a little water and electricity, I’ve offered very generous tasks and services to people who are financially comfortable as well as to those who are not. I’ve been documenting my experiences for a future book because, despite announcing upfront exactly what I’m doing, 99% of my offers have been rebuffed.

When I heard about a local man who died in his home a week before anyone noticed, I was sad that he’d been so alone. So in February I was surprised when his sister called me from California. I didn’t know her, but wanted to help any way I could. Her brother was a hoarder and she wanted someone to clean out the house and stage it for sale. Having those skills, I was willing to do it for no charge just to have a driveway to park in where I could sleep safely at night. I knew the house could be worth $100,000 if fixed up and I knew my de-cluttering and interior design services – my degree is the same as some HGTV hosts - would add another $10,000 in value to the home and sell it faster despite its being a stigmatized property. I expected no payment, yet she blew me off!

Yesterday (August) I drove by the house, saw that the property had never received any attention, and found a sold sign in front. I looked up the listing to find the list price was $32,000. I determined that if the house did sell for that much the owner - the one who blew me off - likely received $30,000 after the agent’s commission. Had she allowed me to do the work for free to allow me a place to stay and allow me to document the progress of my work for my portfolio on this web site to show future prospective clients, she may have netted an additional $75,000 for just saying yes to me. Her refusal to be kind-hearted deprived her of a $75,000 gift.

Not only that, but with loans perhaps I could have bought the house from her for $30,000 in February when she called me and she would have had her $30,000 five months earlier. But she had refused to give me the address or a key so I could even look at it inside and out. (In June I found both the address and a photo of the home in a newspaper article.)

My book will be filled with these stories of self-defeating choices. And all I wanted was a safe driveway to park in and an opportunity to acquire testimonials for doing good work so I could begin to land paying assignments.

In most cases I will not be able to provide free work. I need to charge for my services because I have expenses and I will need to pay to have a roof over my head in the bitter cold winter. But with my creative mind there is usually something else of value I can do for clients that is unexpected and sometimes outrageously delightful.

My advice? Be cautious, but before you reject a proposal out-of-hand, research who the person is and what they are asking in return. It’s not always a case of if-it-sounds-too-good-to-be-true-IT-IS. If you let your skepticism guide your decision-making, you may deprive yourself of valuable gifts from someone with a good heart and good character. (Like me.)

Andrea Reynolds is still working on her book, The Kindness Experiment. She offered to share 40% of the book’s profits with early buyers, but stopped after 6 months due to public skepticism.