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The landlord as a consumer of goods and services, whether for personal use or for use in his landlording endeavors, is on a never ending quest for the best “bang for the buck.”  He has to be.  Despite the myths, the margins in the landlording business can be terrifying, and the profit to be gained from property appreciation or tax benefits can be erased on the whim of a few politicians.  The landlord, whether he is buying one or hundred of the same product, wants the best product for the job, at the best price he can manage.  In other words, he wants “value,” that is, to pay no more than is necessary for what he needs.  If he is to be successful in his landlording business, he must not overbuy, but neither should he under buy.  As a wise man once said, “I am not wealthy enough to afford cheap goods.” This is especially true for apartment communities and property management companies who spend hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of dollars purchasing products.

            As all know, the Internet is a huge edifice of useful and useless information and disinformation.  Nevertheless, it has spawned very useful resources, including those that will permit the discriminating purchaser to contrast products and services to assist in finding the best value.  The Web savvy landlord will use the Internet to assist in finding the best deal at the best time.  Many of the resources that the landlord would have had to find at the local bookstore or newsstand are now available on line, and can help in that never-ending endeavor; to make money by saving money on purchases.

            Product and service review sites can fulfill three valuable needs.  First, they can educate as to the benefits and capabilities of product lines and types.  Second, they can compare and contrast different technological approaches to real life needs.  Third, they can narrow the number of products the consumer has to choose from, contrasting the products and services available within specific technological approaches.

            The degree of ignorance among consumers as to the benefits and deficits of product lines and types is staggering.  The truth is that there are literally millions of little packages of different products, some with not so little price tags; and advertising, consisting largely of puffery and exaggeration does almost nothing to educate the consumer about what the product can actually do.  There are consumers who will walk into a store and angrily stalk out when they find out that a CB walkie-talkie will not usefully transmit a signal 45 miles.  Others will sign up for a cell phone contract but be surprised when they lose signal while sitting in their car under a freeway underpass during a rainstorm.  General reviews about products and technologies will give a real-world view of what to expect.

            Often there is more than one approach to a specific problem, for example, what type of pest control approach should be taken in a given situation?  Should it be the traditional chemically based approach or one of the new “green” ones?  If one water heater manufacturer provides a 3 year warranty and another 5 years, is always best to go with the longer one? Or if you see an ad for a dishwasher that has a bunch of bells and whistles, is it really a good deal for you? Product and service review sites can help you decide, so you can make an informed decision.

            The major use of product and service review sites is to narrow the number of options among products that are available, and the opening of ideas as to new manufacturers that may not have occurred to the buyer otherwise.  As distressing as it may be, nowadays brand names do not mean as much as they once did.  Major manufacturers manufacture little and outsource their products to factories that may build appliances and other products for half a dozen different brand names.  The quality difference may be trifling, and the warranties will depend more on who markets the product than on who actually assembles it. And what about those extended warranty programs? Are they really with the price?

            The product reviews you will see on the Web, or for that matter in the magazines you can buy at the drug or book store, can be differentiated by whether they are general or specific.  The general articles will discuss new technologies and approaches, and the specific will contrast products within the technology that are designed to meet specific needs.  Both are valuable.  After all, New York, in the last century, had a pneumatic subway system that traveled for a couple of blocks at its greatest extent.  New is not always best, and the review can help you avoid similar mistakes, albeit even small ones.

            There are quite a few sites on the Web that we like, but we do not want to make specific recommendations.  After all, in some cases, there is controversy about the approach the site takes.  Consumer Reports, for example, emphasizes product reviews authored by professionals many of which compare products from a number of different companies.  Others emphasize reviews from actual consumers, which can tell a lot about how the reviewer liked the product he bought, but not always much about how the product stacks up against competing ones.  Both are valuable.  When beginning the shopping process more than one source should be consulted, particularly if the purchase is a major one. With the web sites we visited you will now have the necessary information to reach the best decision on any just about any product you plan to purchase.

Consumer Reports is the granddaddy of them all, first in print, then online ($3.95 per month).  Caveat emptor.  Do not permit the product and service review utility to make your buying decision for you, use their information to make your own decision.

With all this in mind, here are some sites we like and think will be of use to you, listed in no particular order. We quoted that site’s mission statement.

Consumers Digest,  “The editors of CONSUMERS DIGEST are committed to helping consumers spend wisely maximize their value by providing practical advice, comprehensive product evaluations, and specific recommendations.”

ProductCopia,  “Productopia gives consumers a new and better way to shop. Productopia's free, unbiased product information and advice helps shoppers find products with the quality, value, and style they're looking for in more than 450 categories, from appliances to toys. Extensive where-to-buy links and listings provide a full range of options for completing the purchase, both online and off, and deliver ready-to-buy customers to merchants.”

Active Buyer’s Guide,  “Active Buyer's Guide is a free product recommendation service that finds the best products for you based on your needs.  Completely Unbiased and Comprehensive Active Buyer's Guide provides completely unbiased product recommendations. Unlike most shopping sites, we do not bias you toward certain products. In fact, each guide includes every product available on the market. We are only interested in helping you decide which products are best for you based on your personal preferences.”,  “Epinions brings the power of word of mouth from the offline world to the online world. We help shoppers make the right decisions using a platform that delivers real advice, ratings, and reviews from consumers who have actually used the products and services.”

Computer,  Shop for computers and computer related items and compare at the same time.

Consumer,  “ provides consumers the opportunity to review and learn about the products they use, as well as have a forum to interact with people who share a common interest in a hobby or recreational activity.”

ValuStar, A site that rates service companies.  “ValueStar is the nation’s leading rating organization of local service businesses and professionals. ValueStar sets the rating standards, administers the rating process and posts the rating levels for 2 million service businesses in over 300 industry categories. The ValueStar rated company listings are distributed through the ValueStar Web site, affiliated partnership sites, and The ValueStar Report print directory.

Conclusion; In no event will your particular situation be defined by the product or service review you see on the Web, or in a magazine, for that matter.  They will, however, let you know how the service or product you are researching has measured up over a large number of tries by a lot of consumers before you happened on the scene.  Professional testing will show how the product measures up in an objective way.  You now have several places on the Net to quickly research products and services performance which will allow you to make the best decision, and that translates into more cash flow.

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