Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

January 17, 2014 10:09 pm

Market price. Actual selling price of a property.


Q: Are Seller-Paid Points Deductible?

January 17, 2014 10:09 pm

A: For the buyer, yes, but not the seller – even though the seller pays them. Since January 1, 1991, homebuyers have been able to deduct points paid by the seller whereas, previously, they could only deduct the actual points they paid on the home loans themselves. 


5 Steps to Take toward Financial Independence in 2014

January 16, 2014 11:42 pm

The New Year is a great time to make some positive changes in your financial life.  While Americans are good at creating resolutions, we often find them difficult to keep.  We resolve to lose weight, save money or end bad habits, but few of us stick with those plans for long.

If your goal is to be financially independent, and it should be, you need to make some changes in 2014 that you’ll stick with for the rest of your life.  Here are a few suggestions for small resolutions that can have a significant impact on your financial future:

·        Spend less than you earn. If you take home $1,000 per week, you cannot spend more than $1,000 per week. That seems simple, but a survey released by Bankrate.com in 2013 found 76 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  Resolve to live on a budget that’s below your means.  You will never be able to out-earn your capacity to spend, so get your spending under control this year.

·        Credit cards are a last resort. Spending less than you earn will cause your savings to grow.  The savings account will be there when the car breaks down or the washing machine goes out, so you don’t have to turn to credit to handle the emergency. Most Americans are not prepared financially for any type of unexpected financial burden. Your goal should be to have three to six months of living expenses set aside in a liquid account for emergencies. 

·        Invest for financial independence. This is not the same as saving for retirement. The goal here is to get to the point financially where you no longer have to work to support yourself.  Set aside some of the money you’ve worked for today.  Allow it to accumulate and grow so one day that money will be working for you.  Start by controlling spending so you have money to save and invest.  Continue the process until the return on your investments exceeds what you earn by working.  Financial independence gives you the freedom to choose to continue working, change jobs, work part-time or not at all.  It is the ultimate financial goal. 

·        Pay less in taxes. Anyone looking for a place to cut expenses might start with their own tax return.  Too many Americans pay more taxes than they should.  Take advantage of tax retirement accounts through work and health savings accounts, if they’re offered.  There are tax credits available for children, higher education, dependent care and retirement savings.  Many of these credits go unclaimed each year.  Resolve to minimize your income taxes this year and put the savings into your new financial plan.

·        Make a plan. Baseball great Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you wind up someplace else.” This is especially true if you want to be financially independent. You need a short-term financial plan for controlling spending -- a budget. You also need a long-term plan that establishes the level of savings you maintain, a plan to get out of debt and an investment plan that will take you to financial independence. The plan becomes your road map. There will be detours along the way; your goals and plan will need adjusting as you progress in life. Keep working at it. Don’t be distracted by outside influences you can’t control. You don’t want to get to the end of your working career only to find you haven’t saved enough to maintain your lifestyle and you still have a mortgage on your home.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  Financial independence may seem like a thousand miles now, but start the journey in 2014 is taking the first step.


Top 10 Home Staging Tips

January 16, 2014 11:42 pm

If you're looking to sell your home quickly, it's necessary to amp up your home staging skills. Whether you hire a professional or DIY, take into account the following budget friendly staging tips provided by www.SureFit.com.

Consider curb appeal

You may not have the funds for a professional landscaper, but homeowners should make sure lawns are freshly mowed, leaves raked, and paths cleared. Scrub the front door, porch, railings and steps, pick up a new mailbox and welcome mat, and add a fresh coat of paint where needed. Add seasonal potted plants and a bench to the entryway to welcome visitors into a clean, fresh and relaxing space.

Forgo Family Photos

You may consider it the crown jewel of the living room, but future buyers will see outdated family photos as years of wear and tear. Clear the room of family portraits and other items that say "you don't live here" to potential buyers.


What Once Was Old, Should Be Newly Slip-covered

No need to splurge on new furniture and home assets when your budget is already tightened up, especially in the midst of a move. Cover up outdated, worn and loud furniture with neutral colors. SureFit.com offers a wide variety of products, with over 130 styles of fitted and tailored slipcovers, as well as throw rugs and even coordinating curtains and dining room sets to make your home décor look like new.

Rearrange Refresh

Arrange the room in a conversational way. You may have preferred for every piece of furniture to face the television, but potential buyers will appreciate more of an open room vignette.

Kitchen Clean Up

Kitchens play a big part in home resale value, so make sure buyers are impressed. Spend extra time scrubbing, cleaning and de-cluttering, and make sure counters are clear of appliances. Re-stain shabby cabinets, replace any mismatched hardware, add fresh cut flowers, turn on lights and open curtains for a clean, bright and attractive gathering space.

Let in Some Air

Keep stuffiness and odors at bay by opening windows for at least 10 minutes prior to showing. Go easy on the air freshener, but bring in fresh cut flowers for a natural look and smell.

What’s Behind Door No. 3?

While shoving everything into a closet has been your go-to cleanup plan since your teen years, potential buyers will undoubtedly look behind every door in your home. Keep bedroom, linen closets and storage spaces neat and tidy to avoid any embarrassing surprises.

Scrub until It Sparkles

Clean bathrooms until they look like the model sets at Home Depot. Signs of use, like soap scum and toothpaste stuck to the sink, will turn buyers off. Replace any outdated fixtures with sleek and modern ones, and add fresh cut flowers to help with aroma and appearance.


Sleep Tight

Keep bedrooms neutral, comfortable and spacious. Buyers want to picture themselves relaxing here, so use soft colors, light scents and earth tones to “set the mood.” Make bedrooms appear larger by limiting items in the room to a bed, dresser and small seating area for the Master Bedroom. Update any outdated bedding and use a lavender oil diffuser to keep relaxation a priority here.

Better Backyard

Outdoor living spaces have become exponentially more important to potential buyers. Treat your back deck or patio like any other room in your home. Scrub down patios, touch up worn fences and banisters, and make sure your yard is free of clutter. A few decorating touches can make your space much more than just a “backyard.” Cover a worn picnic table with a bright tablecloth and replace worn chair cushions with new ones.

Source: www.SureFit.com


How Your Car's Computers Can Improve Your Gas Mileage

January 16, 2014 11:42 pm

(BPT)—Your right foot holds the key to better gas mileage. How aggressively you apply the gas or brakes affects how frequently you have to stop for fuel. And driving style is even more important with today's cars as the spread between a vehicle's best and worst mileage may be 10 mpg or more. Here are some tips you can use to improve your gas mileage during the miles ahead, using your car's technology.

* When you are in the driver's seat be aware of the vehicle's numerous computers. "Many newer cars have body, brake and transmission computers as well as engine computers," says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of auto parts retailer RockAuto.com. These computers adjust vehicle systems and performance. Gas will be wasted whenever you do something that misleads a computer into thinking you are not driving to maximize mileage.

* Aggressive steering, acceleration or braking tells your car that gas mileage is not your top priority. The car's computers calculate you must be having fun, avoiding a hazard or climbing a steep grade. The computer might adjust the transmission so the engine speeds up, activate the brake calipers on one or two wheels to avoid a skid or increase the flow of fuel and air in anticipation of the need for even harder acceleration.

* A hybrid car might turn on the gasoline engine once it receives input that the driver needs performance instead of gas mileage. Many modern engines deactivate cylinders to save gas. Cylinders shut down so a V8 becomes a V4. The computer reactivates all the cylinders when the driver's foot presses harder on the gas pedal. If the car continues to get mixed signals from the driver, it may remain in performance modes and continue to use more gas than necessary.

* Many drivers also mistakenly believe they can do a better job of saving gas than the computer. New cars frequently come with paddle shifters on the steering wheel so the driver can control the transmission. A driver might decide they will shift the gears manually to save gas. Modern transmissions may have eight or more gears. Meanwhile, continuously variable transmissions (CVT) have no conventional gears at all. The computers will always maintain some control of the transmission. Using the paddle shifters leads the computer to assume the driver wants to have fun or is driving in challenging conditions. While the paddle shifters are in use, the computers may completely turn off engine cylinder deactivation. This means all of the cylinders will be using gas all the time. The computers may maintain higher engine speeds and use more low gears to enhance performance.

* Shifting into neutral and coasting does not save gas. When the vehicle is coasting with the transmission in gear, the computers turn off the fuel injectors until the engine slows to near idle speed. The engine is still turning over but using no gasoline. "Turning off the fuel injectors means the drivetrain is turning the engine rather than the engine turning the drivetrain," says RockAuto.com's Taylor. "This actually helps slow the vehicle and slightly reduces brake pad wear when coming to a stop."

Some common-sense fuel saving tips are still valid. Follow the maintenance schedule outlined in the owner's manual and avoid hauling unnecessary weight in the trunk. Tires should be kept inflated, but air pressure is something the computers now also help monitor. "Cars in the near future are likely to be able to inflate their own tires rather than just warning the driver if the sensors detect that pressure is low," says Taylor.

A recent EPA report states that vehicles sold in the U.S. attained a new fuel-economy record of 23.6 mpg for model year 2012. Impressive, but vehicle manufacturers need to more than double that to meet a regulatory goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Expect to find all sorts of new technology and materials in future cars. To maximize gasoline mileage, just drive smoothly and let the computers do their work.


Word of the Day

January 16, 2014 11:42 pm

Grantor. Person named in a deed who conveys ownership of real estate; the seller.


Q: What Is a Wraparound Loan?

January 16, 2014 11:42 pm

A: Also called an all-inclusive mortgage, it is where a new home loan is placed in a subordinate or secondary position to the original mortgage and the new loan includes the unpaid balance of the first.

The wraparound allows the buyer to purchase a home without having to qualify for a loan or pay closing costs. The contract is made between the buyer and seller with the seller remaining on the original mortgage and title. The buyer pays the seller a fixed monthly amount and the seller uses part of this money towards the existing loan.

The seller benefits by offering the buyer a loan at a higher interest rate than the existing mortgage, and the lender profits from the difference in interest in the two loans.

Wraparounds are not for novices and cannot be used when there is a legally enforceable "due on sale" clause in the first mortgage.

Consult an attorney if you are considering this type of financing.


Keeping Pets Safe in Furr-eezing Weather

January 16, 2014 12:30 am

Frigid weather is as tough on our pets as it is on us. The simple fact is that we are cold, they are cold. That’s why veterinary experts suggest limiting the time your pets spend outdoors in the cold – and most agree that a doggie sweater is no laughing matter. They also recommend these timely tips for keeping pets safe this winter:
 

  • Give puppies some slack – Potty training can be tough on puppies, who may not want to go out in the cold and snow. A little extra attention and some forgiveness may be necessary to keep the training on track.
  • Leash and collars are necessities – Make sure collars are secure and don’t let dogs off the leash. Their scent trails are compromised in the snow, and frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly, leaving them unable to find their way back home.
  • Watch out for frostbite – Frostbite most commonly occurs on a dog’s thin, exposed areas such as their ears, tail, scrotum, and paws. The skin may look blue or white but will appear red and inflamed when circulation comes back. The surface of the skin may peel and eventually turn black. Treat with warm (not hot) compresses on the affected areas and then seek medical care.
  • Cars can be death traps – It’s worth remembering that a cold car can be just as deadly as a hot car for a dog. Because cars can act as a refrigerator, keeping all the coldness inside, dogs left in a vehicle with no heat can easily freeze to death
  • Stay away from salt – When walking your dog, steer clear of salted sidewalks and driveways, which can irritate and even burn your pet’s paws. When you get home from a walk, be sure their paws are salt-free by wiping them off with a paper towel or a warm cloth.
  • Check on neighboring pets – When neighbors are not at home, be alert to sounds of distress from their pets, especially during freezing weather. If you notice strange dogs out on their own in your neighborhood, secure their welfare by reporting their presence to the proper authorities.

Did Your Credibility Crumble in 2013? Top 10 Credibility Repair Tips

January 16, 2014 12:30 am

Was 2013 a bad year for your credibility rating? If you’re honest, you might have to admit to a slip-up or two. (Maybe not on par with the most notorious celebrities and politicians, but bad enough!) Perhaps you were late more times than you would like to admit, you missed several deadlines, you told a few white lies to clients, and somehow you turned into one of the office’s top gossips. There may even have been a couple of bigger transgressions: like promising to increase your sales by 50 percent and then coming in way under the mark (tanking your department in the eyes of the higher-ups).

Now, you’re dealing with the fallout. You have a sneaking suspicion that your fellow employees would rather not have you on the team. Water-cooler whispers tend to stop when you arrive—and start again when you walk away. And when the time comes to suggest names for a project, yours is no longer on the short list. Is it too late to redeem yourself?

Probably not, say Julie Miller and Brian Bedford, coauthors of Culture Without Accountability—WTF? What’s the Fix? Chances are you haven’t hit the credibility point of no return just yet—but salvaging your image requires making a herculean effort to be more accountable in 2014.

“Credibility is a bit like Humpty Dumpty: easy to crack and substantially more difficult to put back together after the fact,” says Miller. “That said, restoring your credibility isn’t impossible, either, as long as you’re willing to follow a specific set of rules from now on.”

Here, Miller and Bedford share 10 rules to help you repair your credibility after it has taken a hit:

Cop to it when you screw up. It’s only human nature to make excuses when things go wrong. How often have you said, “It wasn’t my fault,” or worse, “It was his/her/their fault, not mine,” when you knew perfectly well that the blame should be placed at your feet?

It’s always best to “fess up” as soon as possible and take the heat, because as Miller and Bedford write in their book, “The truth almost always comes out, and the impact is worse than it would have been if the person had owned up to it in the first place.” Plus, points out Bedford, the way you handle your screw-ups defines the kind of person you really are. Are you credible, or are you a lying weasel?

Always do what you say you’ll do. Doesn’t it make you crazy when someone says, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow on that,” and days later you haven’t heard a word? Or, “We’ll make sure you get it on Monday,” and nothing happens?

“Don’t be that person,” instructs Miller. “If you make a commitment to do something, move heaven and earth to do it, or if you can’t—because circumstances beyond your control have impacted you—let people know immediately, with a plan to fix it. You’ll find that generally others are pretty understanding when you give them legitimate advance notice.”

Tell the truth. Remember those little white lies you told to get out of a commitment (“Oh, that email must have gotten lost in my spam folder!”) or those misleading statements you made that contained enough truth to sound legitimate?

“Do that too often, and you’ll become known as someone whose word isn’t worth much,” comments Bedford. “Telling the truth can be hard, but it’s always worth it in the long haul.”

Speak up when you see something wrong. Remember that time when one of your peers was throwing his weight around and bullying one of his employees? Not wanting to get involved in the drama, you took the “none of my business” approach to dealing with the problem. You chose not to speak up about the guy’s bad behavior to keep yourself out of the line of fire.

“Here’s a reality check,” says Bedford. “Ignoring someone else’s bad behavior is just as bad as committing the act yourself. When people see you ignoring these problems, especially when you’re in a position to do something about them, they think you’re approving the bad behavior. They assume you’re the same kind of person as the manager yelling at his employees. Don’t be guilty by association. Speak up and show that you value fairness and respect.”

Give constructive feedback (and do it thoughtfully). Miller and Bedford say, “Most people don’t like giving feedback and like getting it even less.” That’s because feedback usually involves suggestions for improvement. (Ergo, your work isn’t currently up to snuff.) That’s why it’s important to give helpful feedback and to do so in a way that won’t offend the recipient.

“When you decide that feedback is required, give it some thought and plan what you’re going to say,” advises Miller. “Don’t just blurt out your spur-of-the-moment thoughts—chances are, you’ll make a mess of them. You may even come off as superior or hostile. Instead, choose a time and place when the recipient will be most receptive. By showing that you truly care about the other person’s feelings and performance, you’ll reinforce your credibility as a coworker, supervisor, friend, or mentor.”

When you’re on the receiving end, accept feedback gracefully. Hopefully, if someone has chosen to give you some feedback, it’s the product of a lot of thought and is meant to make you better.

“Feedback should be considered a gift,” says Bedford. “Treat it that way—even if the person delivering it isn’t as gentle as you would prefer. Pay attention, learn, and improve your performance going forward. A willingness to accept and incorporate feedback also helps your credibility, because it shows that you put your work, not your pride, first.”

Be respectful. No matter how many other things you get right, if you’re a total jerk, people aren’t going to think very highly of you.

“You might be having a bad day, but that doesn’t give you the right to lash out at someone,” says Miller. “Turn the scenario around whenever you’re tempted to be curt, condescending, or nasty. If you were in a service position, for example—say, a bank teller or grocery store cashier—you’d dread dealing with those inevitable customers who dumped their frustrations on you. Yes, being respectful can sometimes require effort and restraint. But it costs nothing, helps maintain and build relationships, and makes you a better person.”

Say yes only when you mean yes. There are a lot of reasons why you might say yes to another person’s request when you truly don’t feel comfortable doing so. Maybe you’re a “pleaser” who hates disappointing others. Perhaps you want to avoid conflict. Or maybe you simply want to shut down an interaction that’s dragging on and on.

“Whatever your reasons, ‘yes’ doesn’t ultimately work unless you mean it,” points out Bedford. “You’ll either have to perform a task you don’t believe in or don’t want to do (which is bad), or you’ll have to break your word (which is worse). Say yes only when you mean it. Even if others don’t like hearing ‘no,’ your credibility will stay intact.”

Over-commit and over-deliver. The world is full of people who want to do only the bare minimum. When you push yourself to commit to just a little bit extra, then make sure you get it done, you set yourself apart in the best possible way.

“Take the opportunity to differentiate yourself, even if it means staying at work a bit later or learning a new skill,” advises Miller. “Pretty soon, you’ll have a reputation for being someone to rely on, someone who’s good to have around.”

Be on time. Sure, there are legitimate reasons why even the most responsible person might be running late: a fender bender, a sick child, or an unfortunate coffee spill, to name just a few. And yes, everybody gets a pass on this one from time to time when life’s curveballs happen.

“But by and large, being late—especially if it’s a habit—is disrespectful,” points out Bedford. “It communicates that you don’t value others’ time, and that you think you’re more important than they are. On the other hand, being on time just takes a little effort and a little planning, but will garner a lot of respect and appreciation.”

“Focus on these 10 things in 2014 even if your credibility is doing fine…but especially if it isn’t,” concludes Miller. “Soon, you’ll differentiate yourself from the credibility-optional pack, and you’ll be the first name picked when it comes time to assemble the team for the first big project of 2014!”

Source: www.millerbedford.com.


Word of the Day

January 16, 2014 12:30 am

Conventional loan. Real estate loan that is not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA