Caruso’s Homebuying Tips for BUYERS!


If you are considering a home purchase, be sure you don’t go it alone.  Buying a home in today’s market requires help and guidance from a real estate professional.  With multiple parties involved in most real estate transactions, pursuing a home alone, whether new or re-sale would make you feel like a goldfish in a pool of sharks.


The following are some excellent home buying tips to consider and questions to ask when selecting a real estate agent to look out for your best interests:

  1. First and foremost, select an agent who will represent you exclusively.  This type of representation will only happen if you choose an agent who represents buyers in their business.
  2. The real estate agent’s experience and negotiating skills are paramount to your success.  Be sure to ask how long they have been in the business.  Their expertise in short sales and bank-owned properties should be mandatory, with no exceptions.
  3. A good real estate agent must have excellent communication skills, but should be a better listener.  They should be attentive to your needs. They should explain the entire real estate transaction process to you, whether you are a first-time buyer or seasoned individual.
  4. After you select an agent to represent you, and before you make an offer on a home, be sure the agent provides you with the most recent documented sales in the neighborhood.  Only then will you make a determination on a price to offer for the home.  These documented sales, or what we call a “comparative market analysis”, must be homes within the neighborhood and have similar features as the home of interest.  Remember if you are financing the home, an appraisal will be performed prior to the close of escrow.  The appraisal will protect the buyer from “overpaying” for the home.
  5. The real estate professional should explain to you, the buyer, the entire home buying process, thereby limiting or minimizing surprises during the transaction.  Be certain that your representative follows through with the Title or Escrow Company, your mortgage lender, the appraisal, and home inspection.  The experienced buyer’s agent should have a list of licensed contractors, plumbers, and electricians for referral should the need arise.

These home buying tips will prepare you when first contacting a real estate professional by phone or email.  Be conscious of their response time.  This will be the first indication of how their communication skills, attentiveness, and punctuality will be toward all parties in the sales transaction.  Remember that this will be the most important financial decision of your lifetime, so don’t compromise and let the experience become stressful.


And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.

Best regards,


Past President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900


The List


Buyers have a long list of what they want when home shopping, but one of their biggest desires: A good deal. “And no matter where a seller prices their property, they’re looking to negotiate,” president of the MetroTex Association of Realtors, and having served as past President of the Orange County Association I agree.

But that’s not all they want. recently asked real estate professionals to chime in on the top desires of their buyers when home shopping. Here are four things that made the list of top home buyer preferences:

1) Homes that are in good condition. “There’s not a lot of flexibility in that,” says Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of REALTORS. Many buyers now take the attitude: “I’d rather spend the money getting into the house” and not have to spend more money later, Phipps says. One of the major reasons is that “buyers have limited amounts of cash,” he adds. “Even if they want to buy a fixer-upper, they don’t have the money to do it.”

2) A bargain with incentives. Buyers are looking for a good deal, even when considering bank-owned properties, says Joan Pratt, real estate broker with RE/MAX Professionals in Castle Pines, Colo. “They want the short sales and the foreclosures and they want them to look like they’re owner-occupied,” she says. “They don’t want to paint. They don’t want to put carpet in. They don’t want to clean.” And they aren’t only asking for a low price but they also want incentives to buy too. As such, sellers are offering everything from gift cards for new furniture to paint to financial assistance at closing.

3) Outdoor living areas. Homes with screen porches, outdoor kitchens, 2-way fireplaces are becoming increasingly competitive in the marketplace as more buyers say they want more outdoor living space.

4) Open kitchens. “The wall between the kitchen and the family room is evaporating,” Phipps says. “The kitchen is becoming part of the gathering space. 


And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.

Best regards,


Past President, Orange County Association of Realtors               (949) 753-7900        (949) 753-7900

Be Michael Caruso's Friend! Watch Caruso TV! Are You LinkedIn with Michael? The Voice of Orange County Review Michael Caruso! Tweet Michael Caruso!

Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist  Member of The Institute Luxury Home Marketing   Million Dollar Guild Member  Member of Proxio Pro - The International MLS


Caruso’s Favorite Things…

I have listed 12 of my favorite Real Estate Social Media Sites to help you with your business!

 1. Facebook: One of the fastest social networking sites. Facebook is one of the easiest ways of finding prospective customers within any given area. Using Facebook, we can target very specific groups according to our business needs; such a high level of targeting is not a possibility with other social networking sites or community sites. We can find our customers based on specific set of criteria including place, age etc.

2. Localism: This is a very niche based community site. At Localism, we can interact with the local merchants. This is one of the best examples of social networking at a micro level. People of the same place can get together to share the happenings of their community. This community site is not only for the merchants and business people but it is also for common people.

3. Trulia: This is one of the top-rated sites for marketing any real estate related services. It has been estimated that Trulia attracts around 5 million potential buyers and sellers each month that are interested in real estate property in some way. Trulia Pro offers highly comprehensive marketing solutions for realtors as well as for professionals from the other fields who want to market their brand online.

4. ActiveRain: YAY that’s us! ActiveRain is one of the few networking sites that are exclusively meant for real estate professionals. We can make use of this real estate community site free of cost and its membership counts to 98,000 and still growing. We can post our profile online using the free membership. Making use of their referral service, it is possible to get in touch with the top real estate professionals and leads from both local real estate market and outside. The referral service allows us to search the local markets within each county.

5. RealTown: is one of the top real estate portals, which serves as a perfect meeting place for real estate buyers and sellers. This site offers a lot of useful resources for the real estate professionals as well as for people that are interested in buying and selling real estate properties.

6. FlippingPad: If you are a real estate investor who is interested in building relationship with other investors then FlippingPad is the place to be. FlippingPad provides a unique opportunity for the wholesalers whereby they can find many prospective leads. We will be able to interact with the investors using the forums. We can post our doubts; take part in discussions, which makes it a very interactive site.

7. LinkedIn: Almost all realtors will have an account in LinkedIn. This is one of the most happening places on the internet. Professionals from all fields want to be part of this network. This is a very sophisticated network with many tools and in built tools that we can use to interact with the other members. You can send invitations for others to join your network and send requests to other members to join their network. People can find us by our name or by using specific industry related keywords.

8. Puurple: Puurple is almost like We will be able to find and vote for posts that are related to real estate.

9. Zolve: This is another useful platform that serves as the meeting place for the buyers and sellers from the real estate industry based area.

10. Real Estate Webmasters: has an exclusive section for realtors whereby realtors can interact with the local as well as global real estate professionals.

11. WannaNetwork: is one of the high traffic real estate community sites. Here we can create new groups and also join the existing groups. This community networking site allows us to freely interact with the other members interested in the real estate industry. There is a lot of knowledge sharing here.

12. can ask real estate related questions in the forums and get your answers. You can also start a discussion on a hot topic or take part in other discussions. You will be able learn a lot about the real estate industry by becoming a member here.

Caruso’s Tips for Making Good Real Estate Videos


These tips are not necessarily meant for home tours, but rather for sharing content on a website, blog, Facebook or Twitter. A good video can help build trust and convey professionalism for your brand, while a bad video can accomplish the opposite.

1. Keep the camera steady. If it looks like there is an earthquake, you need to find someone else to hold the camera (or invest in a tripod).

2. You don’t need to buy a professional camera. You can use a basic handheld camera that takes both photos and videos. Most cameras are good enough to post on YouTube. The Flip is outstanding for videos.

3. When you film, make sure you record at the middle or higher size on your camera – not the smallest size. Look at your settings. The smallest size is usually 320 x 240 pixels and the middle or larger size is 640 x 480. Stick with the middle size because it’ll look better online. Most video players are larger than 320 pixels wide, so if your video is small in its original format, it can look odd or distorted when the online video player stretches your video. 

4. Shoot in good light and remember that vibrant colors help things look interesting. Avoid dim and dark places because it just looks depressing.

5. Don’t copy others. Be yourself and be personable. It’s easy to sniff out when someone goes into “selling mode” too. You want people to feel comfortable with you and not get the sense you’re intentionally marketing to them. Avoid the used car salesman vibe. 

6. Use a title or opening slide (with a photo or logo) and a closing slide with contact information. A polished slide in the beginning and end can help set your video apart from others and help your video look more professional. If you don’t know how to make a slide like this, I can help you (if you are a local agent – just call me). Examples below

7. Think about pacing. Your slide at the beginning should be about 3 seconds or so and the slide at the end with your contact information can probably be 5-7 seconds at most. If your opening slide is 10-15 seconds long, you’ll probably lose your audience. If you use a title on your opening slide, just make sure your slide is long enough so people can read the title, but not too long. Get straight to the point by having the slide fade in and then fade out before the video comes in. Make your video fade in and fade out too (that’s accomplished very easily with #11 below).

8. Keep your video to a few minutes or less if you can. People have a short attention span. They’ll certainly watch your video if it’s really good, but if your videos are consistently seven minutes long, you’d be wise to consider shortening them to 1-3 minutes if possible. You don’t have to try to make each video the definitive resource on whatever you’re talking about either. Just get on base and after a while you’ll begin to score runs.

9. Your content ought to be focused on being resourceful to others and providing helpful and good information. Having good content is the key to a successful video and more important than any point mentioned above. Think about what questions people are asking and also what sort of things you know that will be helpful to others. This is the type of stuff you can talk about. Add value. Be a resource. And don’t be afraid to fail forward. Some videos won’t be as good as others. Certain ones will be too long or something won’t be quite right about them. That’s okay. You’ll improve over time. For example, some of my early videos make me cringe. But that’s how it goes. We never get better unless we try.

10. Don’t oversell. You definitely want to tell people how they can contact you (briefly), but be cautious to not just talk about yourself the whole time. That’s old school and it makes you look self-focused. We build trust with others through video by being personable and providing good content. If someone senses they can trust you, they’ll contact you. Trust builds business – bottom line.

11. Last but not least, you’ll need video editing software. Here are a few options:

Microsoft Movie Maker: If you have a PC, you very likely already have Microsoft Movie Maker installed already. This is a free program and really the very bottom of the barrel when it comes to movie making. Your end-product can still be decent with Movie Maker, but only if you have a good looking intro image and contact image (seriously). The fonts you can use for titles and contact information with Movie Maker can really make a video look cheesy in my opinion, but if you use your own images like I mentioned in #6, it can help boost the overall quality to a decent level until you buy editing software. 

Sony Vegas Movie Studio: The non-professional “Sony Vegas Movie Studio 10″ will cost you about $100. This is a very powerful tool and you can even do some neat stuff with a green screen too. In my opinion, no video software is really all that user-friendly. There is a learning curve for using anything. I think this is definitely true when it comes to Sony Vegas. What has truthfully saved me countless hours is to watch tutorials on YouTube when I have questions. When I don’t know how to do something, I simply go to YouTube and there is bound to be a tutorial video for how to use Vegas and do the particular thing I’m trying to do.

iMovie: If you have a Mac, iMovie is a great place to start because you already have it on your computer. Everyone talks about how easy it is to use, but I don’t really think that’s the case. There is still a learing curve. Something becomes easy once you know how to do it. Overall though, this program offers a lot of bang and I’ve been impressed with the quality of the effects as well as the titles.

YouTube Video Editing: You can try out a free service by YouTube to make very basic edits. I honestly haven’t used this because my tools are working well for me, but I wanted to mention it as an option.


And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.

Best regards,


Past President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900

Be Michael Caruso's Friend! Watch Caruso TV! Are You LinkedIn with Michael? The Voice of Orange County Review Michael Caruso! Tweet Michael Caruso!

Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist  Member of The Institute Luxury Home Marketing   Million Dollar Guild Member  Member of Proxio Pro - The International MLS


Caruso’s Business Plan!

A full business plan allows you (an individual or business) to detail a strategic operating plan, define and execute your value to customers and others in the market, and develop a robust financial model that details what you need to accomplish in order to meet your projections. This is an extremely valuable personal process and document. You will find that a business plan is also a valuable tool if you want to bring on a business partner or get in sync with existing partners or employees, and if you ever want to raise money, it will likely be required by a potential investor or for a bank loan.

The sections introduced below are the most valuable topics to cover in a business plan and some may be more relevant to you specifically, and others less relevant, so use this as a guide rather than a golden rule.

1.) Cover Page and Table of Contents:

It may seem simple, but these are important. The cover page should make it clear what the plan will discuss – it could be you as an individual agent or your plans for starting and growing your own brokerage. The table of contents will allow anyone reading the plan to skip ahead to the sections most important to them (sections may be more relevant to you personally and also to whomever is reading the plan too).

2.) Executive Summary:

The first step to creating a personal business plan is to develop an executive summary. If you are working as an individual agent, this “step one” (the process and the actual document) should be enough to help you successfully define your role in the market, set goals and optimize your results. If you have a team, or hope to open you own business and/or hire people in the future, you’ll also want to take step two – creating a full business plan.

3.) General Company Description:

Discuss where you (or the business) has come from, the current state of operations and where you want to go.

4.) Objectives & Exit:

What are your “end game” goals? Do you want to save enough money to retire? How about sell the business to a larger competitor? Pass along the business to your children or a protégé? It is important to honestly define what you want the outcome to be so that you can tailor the rest of your plan towards these ends. It is also important to set expectations for those working with you.

5.) Management:

Provide a detailed biography for all key leaders involved (even if it is just you), and discuss how prior experience and success will help achieve current goals. You should also discuss any leadership positions that will need to be hired for as your business (and the plan) matures.

6.) Product & Service Description:

Provide details on what you provide to your customers. You should prioritize the most important revenue streams first, but all should be mentioned. If you are an agent, you might talk about each step of the process towards closing a sale with your clients (i.e. listings for review, mortgage options, showings, title insurance options, escrow options, making an offer, appraisals, inspections and closings – give or take a few steps). You should also talk about how and how much you get paid for each product you sell or service you provide.

7.) Market Analysis:

This section should provide a detailed description about your specific market. Include objective details like total market size, growth trends and customer behavior statistics. You should also provide subjective analysis on where you fit in and where customer behavior is headed. This section should also detail your competition. You may want to list the other brokerages that specialize in your region as well as the top individual agents in your region (include how you will overcome each competitor). You may also want to do a SWOT analysis of yourself/your own company here (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats). We’ll dig deep into SWOT in coming weeks.

8.) Marketing Strategy:

Detail your strategy to acquire and retain customers.

9.) Investment Opportunity:

This section is only relevant if you need to raise money to fund your business, but this includes both external money (i.e. bank or angel investor) and internal money (i.e. your savings or family money). Detail how much money you need, the premium that an “investor” will get for providing this money and how/when it will be paid pack. Even if it’s your money, you want to make sure you have a solid plan and a strong return on investment.

10.) Financials:

This is a vital component of every business plan, and as such, it will be detailed separately in coming weeks. Even if you only develop an executive summary and don’t do the full business plan – make sure you develop detailed financials. You need to build a sophisticated model that addresses all of your revenue and costs. You should not work backwards from your financial goals to build this model – that is a common, classic and huge mistake. You need to start with realistic business assumptions that match up to your plan and then work towards determining accurate final projections.

How to use your business plan

As with your executive summary, the process of creating this document is as important as the document itself. Once complete, your business plan is a detailed encapsulation of everything about you and your business. You can use it to recruit employees, add strategic partners in peripheral industries, and raise money. Do not ignore its value for you personally, though. Make sure your efforts are in line with the strategy you have mapped out. If market conditions change, then your plan likely has to change too. Finally, your financial model and projections should be used as an important (self) management tool. If your assumptions prove to be off, correct them and project how this will affect your business. If done well, this plan and your financial model will help you optimize your business and avoid problems as you grow. It will be your roadmap to success.

And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.

Best regards,


Past President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900

Be Michael Caruso's Friend! Watch Caruso TV! Are You LinkedIn with Michael? The Voice of Orange County Review Michael Caruso! Tweet Michael Caruso!

Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist  Member of The Institute Luxury Home Marketing   Million Dollar Guild Member  Member of Proxio Pro - The International MLS

Caruso’s 12 Days of Christmas ~ Day 8


On the 8th Day of Christmas Caruso Gave to me – 8 Questions to Ask Yourself before Buying a House!

Is it time to buy a home? The right of home ownership is an integral part of the American dream but thankfully, does not have to remain merely a dream. Like most dreams, desire is important and is the first ingredient. If you have the desire to own a home, you have already satisfied the most important step to home ownership.

Because your home is a financial asset, the desire for equity appreciation over time is certainly part of the dream. Besides gaining equity during some real estate cycles, pride of home ownership and financial security result from buying a house. Home ownership dates back to early American heritage. Our constitution providing freedom for home ownership strengthens our country and makes us proud.

Try to set aside the discomfort of applying for a mortgage since your home purchase is most likely based on obtaining financing. Let’s figure out if buying a house is right for you by reviewing some basic items.

#1 How much money you make is first on the list. Income should be consistent and dependable. A steady income refers to your income’s consistency. The more consistent your income the better! The reliability of your income mostly refers to its predictability. What is the likelihood of your income continuing into the future?

#2 We all understand that your job supplies the money. So the second question to determining if you are prepared to buy a home is related to job history. You’ll move quickly past the employment issue if you have been in the same line of work for over two years.

#3 How you handle debt is extremely important to your financial health and is the third question to address if you are preparing to buy a home. Paying your bills before they are late will get you further toward your goal of home loan approval than anything else. Make a conscious decision today to begin paying your obligations timely. Going past the due dates of your bills damages your credit rating but you can alter this behavior today.

#4 The amount of money owed is the fourth consideration for home buyers. Bluntly expressed, are you over your head in credit card debt? Some people have large car payments plus high balances on credit cards. Other debts may include boat and recreation vehicles, installment payments for jewelry, furniture, and other items. Credit is easy to get but when qualifying to buy a house the volume of debt can obstruct your ability to get the house you dream about.

#5 In addition to examining your total debt; are you saving for a down payment? For those who have saved for the cost of buying a home including a down payment, they are a step ahead. It is never too late to begin a gradual savings plan toward a buying a house.

#6 Does the cost of owning a home compared with renting make sense to you? You should be able to determine the differences between owning your own home to renting a home. If you don’t understand the difference, we need to start from the beginning again.

#7 Does owning your first home excite you or lead you to stress? Of course finding the perfect home for you is going to be stressful. However if the price of buying a new home is taking over and causing you anxiety & you’re losing sleep, maybe it is not time to buy a house. You want to be make sure you are in the right frame of mind when looking to buy a home because you don’t want to do something you will regret in the end.

#8. Can you afford to make monthly payments plus the additional cost related to owning a home? Owning a home also includes expenses such as liability and fire insurance, real estate taxes, roofs, furnaces and water heaters.

Don’t allow doubt to extinguish your hopes of home ownership by taking the next step. Now is the best time to contact a home loan lender and begin the application process. Understanding your options will increase your opportunity of home ownership. A reputable and experienced mortgage lender can help you zero in on the most important issues that you may need to address.

And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.

Best regards,


Past President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900

Caruso’s 12 Days of Christmas ~ Day 7



On the 7th Day of Christmas Caruso Gave to Me –

7 Social Media Tips for Real Estate Agents!


If you are a real estate agent, then understanding how to use social media to draw in business is not difficult. There is a whole world full of ways to get your name out and among people that may become a potential customer and bring you their business. Let’s discuss the seven social media tips for agents.

Tip #1: Beneficial Real Estate Sites: You can use a social media site set up exclusively for real estate professionals like Active Rain, to help aid you in connecting with people that are local and within your community. Sites like this one is geared towards you particular field of Real Estate and networking.

Tip #2: Facebook How To’s: Register and use a site such as Facebook. This site is growing by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. This site is growing everyday at an astounding pace and professionals in any field are into keeping up with one another and their clients within the network. The site also allows for agents to become close to and develop long lasting business relationships, as well as making contacts that may become a potential customer. You can also use their ads to help grab the attention of your audience.

Tip #3: Keeping an Updated Profile: Real Estate agents need to check out LinkedIn. This site lets you develop long lasting relationships with many other Real Estate business and professionals just like you. You can sign up for free on their site. Take extra care with filling out your profile when registering, as the keywords and information you list to describe yourself, will allow others to find you better. Reach out across the web!

Tip #4: Twitter for Business Connections: Sign up with Twitter. Another site to stay connected to people, yet a bit different from others. Twitter uses a posting platform, a sort of mini-blog if you will to stay connected or make connections. This site will allow you to follow others and others can keep up by following you. Make sure you create interesting and informative posts for your followers.

Tip #5: Using Real Estate Networking Sites: Signing up with WannaNetwork will be tip number five. This site allows you to blog, use a forum to ask and answer questions, find groups and Real Estate professionals. This site is everything Real Estate community related. It is site with a community platform that is ideal for making connections, keeping up with buyer and seller information as well.

Tip #6: Letting Your Audience Get To Know You: Use YouTube to get your message out and help people find you. You can post webinars that are informative, helpful and vital to your audience. Also creating videos telling the world about what you do. Use keywords wisely in the title of your webinar or video, so people who are interested can easily find you.

Tip #7: Creating Your Own Real Estate Forum on Your Website: If you have your own website, you can network and create your own strategies through use of a forum on your website. It is a really great way to exchange links that may help you grab potential customers.


And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.

Best regards,


Past President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900


Caruso’s 12 Days of Christmas ~ Day 5

On the 5th Day of Christmas Caruso Gave to Me – 5 Fundamentals of Real Estate Marketing.

Real estate marketing is based on fundamentals which are often overlooked because real estate sales are considered by many people to be sales work. It is actually marketing because the customer cannot be sold until the real estate agency understands the customer, and what the customer wants.

1. The first fundamental is research. Effective marketing requires thorough research, and it is difficult to do too much research. Research is the first and most important of the fundamentals because it is the beginning of knowledge. You cannot advertise or create a web site to attract clients without knowing everything about your audience. It would not be practical to market a property to people earning $25 per hour if $50 per hour would be required to pay for it. Knowing what the market is intended to generate is critical to finding the people who will respond to the marketing. Marketing your agency to the people you want to attract as sellers and buyers is nearly an art. Professional web site development help can be invaluable.

2. Fundamentals of Focus. Focus and consistency result in success. Focus on your target clients and do not lose sight of their objectives. Focus on the learning process no matter how long you have been marketing real estate. There is always something to learn about your business, services, customer preferences, sales techniques, and the competition that will help your marketing efforts. New ideas and strategies are being developed every day, and there is something new to be learned every day. The business does not stand still. Competition requires advancement in every aspect of the business.

3. Give Free Advice. Customers appreciate good free advice or tips that will help them. Make yourself the person that customers consider a steady resource. Make yourself an indispensable advisor. New and repeat customers will be profit making customers. Often, giving people advice about potential governmental actions that might affect some property values or usage will always be appreciated.

4. Be Predictable. People are always looking at you for the quality of help that you might provide them. Honesty, promptness, keeping your word, delivering when you promised, and always making sure your actions match your words are essential characteristics of a successful real estate sales person. People will talk about you regardless of what you do, so they should be able to talk about you in a positive manner. The real estate sales person’s reputation in the community is vital to their success.

5. Adaptability Is an Important Fundamental. Successful people and particularly successful real estate sales people need to be flexible and willing to change where appropriate. A sales person will fail if they cannot follow their client’s lead, and accept their personal characteristics. It’s a good idea to mirror the behavior of the client. For example, if the client is quiet and reserved, avoid loud talk or boisterous talk and laughter. Use language that reflects their language. For example, if the client describes a property as a fixer, do not try to position the property as a potential charmer. If the client is chatty decide whether they want you to listen, or whether they want to be chatty also.

Caruso’s 12 Days of Christmas ~ Day 6

On the 6th Day of Christmas, Caruso gave to me, 6 Holiday Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe!

If your pets are anything like mine, the holidays are a festive time with a house full of goodies – from the edible to the not-so edible. To help keep your pets safe from holiday gremlins, I’ve put together some tips with help from the Humane Society of the U.S.

Gate off the tree or arrange chewy stuff up high: Keep holiday decorations away from pets. Tinsel, bows, ribbons and wrapping paper can be tempting chew toys for pets but can damage their digestive systems. Remember to keep tree ornaments out of your pet’s reach.

Create a safety zone: Provide your pet with a quiet, out-of-the-way room during holiday parties. Though some pets may enjoy socializing opportunities, others will be overwhelmed by the excitement of a party.

Hide the candy: As you enjoy your See’s Candies and other holiday treats, avoid sharing them with the dog and cat. Chocolate can be hazardous, especially in smaller dogs with less body mass. Also watch out for Xylitol, a common sweetener. Individually-wrapped candies are double trouble as some pets might eat both the candy and the wrapper.

What not to serve: Avoid the urge to give pets table scraps, especially bones. Cooked bones easily splinter and can cause serious health problems.

To travel or stay? For trips to family and friends, be sure to contact them in advance to find out if your pet is welcome. To avoid stressful situations, consider hiring your pet’s favorite sitter while you’re making the holiday rounds.

Fire, fire! Don’t leave candles unattended. Pets can accidentally knock them over, spill wax or start a fire.

In our household, the pets are always welcome to partake of the holiday festivities. We are quick, however, to use gates to keep the dogs from family and guests at the dinner table, and treats are given conservatively in the form of a piece of dry meat or raw carrots here and there. On Christmas morning there are gifts for every furry family member: catnip contraptions for the felines and new squeaky toys for the dogs. I especially love how the wrapping paper becomes the biggest hit of all. No matter how big or small your holiday festivities are this year, take a minute or two to consider the fate of your non-speaking family members. They can’t tell you they’re hurting, so get ahead of potential problems and avoid them from the start.