Jewish World Review March 7, 2000 / 30 Adar I, 5760
Don't expect compensation for ideas
DEAR BRUCE: Sometime back I submitted an idea to a brewing company for a tremendous pro-active marketing idea to directly address irresponsible drinking. They rejected my idea and then two months later came out with a similar program. They had said that they were moving in that direction in our telephone conversations, but I feel like they stole my idea. Is there anything that I can do? -- M.R. (e-mail)
DEAR M.R.: Not a whole lot, as I see it. However, you can probably understand why most companies are scared to death to talk to people about their ideas. If they come up with something parallel, you will swear that it was stolen, and understandably so.
I am reminded of the original "Star Trek," when Bones first came out with a thermometer built into the bed. Three different people across the country called to say that Gene Roddenberry had stolen their ideas.
All three had been working independently from each other developing beds with built-in thermometers.
Most big companies simply are not able or willing to accept ideas from outside without getting some kind of complete release. But having said that, you have little to lose by signing over all rights -- it would be difficult if not impossible for you to use the idea personally.
DEAR BRUCE: I have heard you say that one rule of thumb regarding investing in real estate is a return of 1 percent per month. What does that mean, and do you use a 15- to 30-year mortgage to figure that out? -- J.N., Conn.
DEAR J.N.: The length of the mortgage is not a factor. What I am referring to is a minimum return of 1 percent of the value per month. As an example, a $100,000 mortgage should garner at least $1,000 a month rent.
Frankly, I would be much more comfortable with a fraction above that -- up to 1-1/2 percent. Anything under 1 percent would be of absolutely no interest to me.
DEAR BRUCE: I own 101 acres in west Texas that I bought as a farm for retirement, but now I live in Florida and I have nothing to do with it. It has been paid off for 20 years and I keep the taxes paid up.
I believe that there is water and electricity out at the dirt road that fronts the property. Can you think of any use or way to make money off of it? If not, how would you advise me to sell it? -- A.F. (e-mail)
DEAR A.F.: Well, it is difficult to do much from 1,000 miles away. The first thing to do is to spend a little time in west Texas to find out the property's value. Hire a competent appraiser, and get his or her point of view. It is entirely possible that a lot of things have happened and that the property has increased in value. On the other hand, it may be that nothing has happened and the property is lying fallow. The answer, however, lies in west Texas.
You can inquire as to comparable sales in the area, whether or not the property is zoned and how is it zoned, and then proceed from that vantage
Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).
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