Gunning Daily News

Q: Should I Put More or Less Down, If I Can Afford It?

December 6, 2013 10:00 pm

A: Putting down as little as possible lets you take full advantage of the tax benefits of homeownership. Mortgage interest and property taxes are both fully deductible from state and federal income taxes. Also, making a small down payment frees up cash that you can use to meet unexpected home improvements. 


Facebook and Public Relations: It's All in the Strategy

December 6, 2013 10:00 pm

When it comes to using any type of social media for your public relations campaign, strategic planning is essential. There are too many businesses that jump head first into social media, Tweeting, posting and attempting to sell themselves, with no real plan of attack. These are the people that you can feel certain will fail. In order to create value, which is what will increase brand loyalty, you must first create a strategic plan for meshing your public relations efforts with Facebook.

When you decide to cross this threshold and use Facebook for PR purposes, you need to remember that for many users, it is an extremely personal space. The communication between your brand and users should be intimate and it is important to take note of individual preferences and boundaries of users. With that said, initiating a PR strategy with Facebook requires planning and consideration of the following:

Create a Clear Call to Action 

If you are going to attempt to build your brand with Facebook, you need to let users know exactly what you want them to do. Make it clear, simple and unmistakable the action that should be taken. "Click here," "Find out more," or "Go" are all simple instructions that will prompt action.

Provide "Human" Interaction 

With the trend of embracing technology, there are many businesses that have set up automatic responses to social media comments, questions, etc. Instead take time to answer questions, be available for life chat and humanize your efforts, making you more relatable and therefore encouraging more people to follow, Like or engage with you and your brand.

Provide Value

Modern users need some sort of value or incentive to choose to interact with your brand, over all the others that are out there. This value can be in the form of discounts, free products or simply your advice and knowledge.

Source: Social Media Gal


Bold New Door Colors for 2014

December 6, 2013 10:00 pm

Raucous Orange. Quixotic Plum. Relic Bronze. These are just some of the bold colors that national color expert Kate Smith predicts will be most popular on residential door exteriors in 2014.

"There are two trends I see influencing front door colors for 2014," says Smith, chief color maven and president of Sensational Color. "First, there's the trend of people painting their doors with exuberant hues as a way of telling the world they're tired of spinning their wheels in place. These people are ready to move forward, embrace challenges and show their energy through vibrant colors like Capri blue and Dynamo raspberry.

"The other trend is that some people are seeking colors that are vibrant yet at the same time connect us to a sense of community and culture. These simpler colors, like Classic French Gray and Polished Mahogany, give us comfort, warmth and reliability, which are found in these rich paint colors."

For homeowners looking to express their "colorful self," Smith recommends selecting paintable doors. "Smooth-finish doors are ideal for adding personal expression to a home," says Smith. "They feature clean lines, crisp angles and attractive glass configuration options. By painting the doors in unique colors to match the homeowner's personality, people can really make a statement with these durable doors."

Top 10 Door Colors for 2014

The top five door colors Smith has identified as gaining popularity in 2014 that match up with the "exuberant homeowner" trend include:

            1 - Capri - A tropical blue that wakes up natural woods and neutral surroundings, this color adds a splash of energy on the door for a home.

            2 - Raucous Orange - True to its name, this vibrant color demands attention with its energetic orange tone and makes the perfect punctuation point for the front of a home with a modern look.

            3 - Dynamo - This flirty violet hue instantly updates a traditional color scheme on a home exterior to a trendier home front.

            4 - Relic Bronze - A deep, almost brown mustard color, Relic Bronze reflects aged beauty on a home that shows up in unexpected exterior element combinations.

            5 - Quixotic Plum - This sophisticated deep purple breaks out of its noble bonds in 2014 to dance along the edge of where trendy meets timeless as it graces the front entry of homes.

The remaining top five door colors that follow the trend of "community and culture" identified by Smith include:

           6 - Georgian Bay - Brighter and more moving than dark navy, this step-above reserved blue is a trusted color when it comes to the welcoming message it sends on a door to family and friends.

            7 - Show Stopper - Like classic red at dusk, Show Stopper adds a touch of mystery to this bright hue. A slight spin on traditional red, this color warmly welcomes people to a home.

            8 - Polished Mahogany - The deep, rich shade of this brown color has a staying power that traverses trends and captures a solid feeling for homeowners.

            9 - Classic French Grey - Stepping out of the shadows to stand on its own, this cool, neutral grey will continue to rule the palette in 2014.

            10 - Gulfstream - This bright, modern blue has an of-the-moment appeal. At the same time, it still feels rooted in something familiar and nostalgic for homeowners.

KateSmith is a career color trend forecaster who recently authored the free e-book, "FRESH Color Schemes for Your Home Exterior" 


Eight Efficient Organization Tips for your Busy Life

December 6, 2013 10:00 pm

(BPT)—If you run a small business or you manage your family's household, you know that time is a precious commodity, one that you never seem to have enough of. And despite your best efforts, you can't create time. So how do you save it and make yourself more efficient?

Organization is the key. To help people achieve this goal, professional organizer and author Barbara Reich has partnered with Brother International Corporation, creator of the P-touch(R) label maker, to help families and small businesses get organized and regain their sought-after lost time.

Reich offers these tips to help you organize your home or business:

  • Start small. If your home or office is completely disorganized, don't try to accomplish everything at once. Start with a single project or location and work forward, building on your successes.
  • Group similar things together. It's the only way you'll know how much of something you have and when you'll need more. Having multiple storage locations is a recipe for frustration and breeds a chaotic environment.
  • Once you've purged your possessions and streamlined the storage space, use an electronic label maker, like a Brother(TM) P-touch(R), to label the shelves, drawers, boxes, and bins; it's a great way to maintain the organization you're worked so hard to create.
  • Store things where you use them. If you charge your phone by your bed, then that's where the charger belongs. The printer paper and ink refills should be stored next to the printer and the glasses in the kitchen should be stored next to the refrigerator. You'll be most likely to stay organized when convenience dictates the designated storage spaces in your home or office.
  • Use one kind of storage container. Having uniform hangers, folders, bins, and boxes eliminates the visual noise. You'll feel calmer when you can view your possessions without focusing on a mess of mismatched containers.
  • Put things back where they belong. Whether you're talking about toys or tumblers, return them to their rightful place when you're finished using them. It takes a few minutes a day to stay organized; eliminating clutter build up is the key.
  • Use a simple filing system. Even in this digital age, there is still plenty of paper traveling about. If you find yourself inundated with paper clutter, a simple filing system will ease the mess. Make sure to keep your filing process as easy as possible. You will be less likely to adhere to a complicated system.
  • Create a landing zone. Daily-use items such as keys, cell phones and wallets are easily lost. Set a basket or a tray near your doorway for an easy location to drop these items when you come in the door. That way, when you need them again, you'll know where to find them.

Source: www.brother.com.


Word of the Day

December 6, 2013 10:00 pm

Real estate investment trust (REIT). Entity that allows a very large number of investors to pool their money in the purchase of real estate, but as passive investors. The investors do not buy directly. Instead, they purchase shares in the REIT that owns the real estate investment.  


Q: What Should I Know about Low Down Payment Loans?

December 6, 2013 10:00 pm

A: Such loans are offered by government agencies and private lenders, including nonprofit groups and employers. In fact, there are government programs at both the federal and state level to help cash-strapped buyers. Under many state housing agency guidelines, borrowers must usually be first-time homebuyers or have a limited family income to qualify for low down payment loans.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers several programs through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that require down payments of 3 to 5 percent.

Several times over the past few years, President Bush has proposed a “zero down mortgage” insurance program for first-time homebuyers with good credit. First proposed for his 2005 budget, it was promoted as a tool that would qualify about 150,000 FHA-insured borrowers in the first year alone. The 2006 budget indicated 200,000 potential borrowers would be helped. The plans, which required congressional approval, never got off the ground.

Fannie Mae, the nation’s largest supplier of home mortgage funds, has a popular program for low- and moderate-income homebuyers called Community Home Buyers. Under the program, borrowers may buy with just 3 percent down—with a 2 percent gift from family members, a government program, or nonprofit group—and obtain private mortgage insurance to protect the lender against default. The program is available through participating mortgage lenders and requires that borrowers take a home-buyer education course.


Kitchen Fires Spike during Holidays: Keep Your Family Safe

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

(BPT)—During the holidays, more Americans spend time in the kitchen preparing meals for family and friends. That additional kitchen time also means added risk of home fires. In fact, according to claims data from Liberty Mutual Insurance, three times more fires occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day than on any other days of the year, yet many Americans aren't practicing basic kitchen safety.

More than half of Americans plan to cook for family and friends during the holidays, with 42 percent of those cooking for groups of 11 or more, based on findings from a new survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance. However, the majority of people admit to engaging in dangerous cooking behaviors which increase the likelihood of kitchen fires, including leaving cooking food unattended to watch television, talk or text on the phone, or do laundry. Even more concerning is that nearly one-third admit to disabling a smoke alarm while cooking.

These dangerous cooking behaviors not only risk the safety of your loved ones, but can result in significant economic repercussions. In 2011, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,300 home structure fires, and caused 470 deaths, 5,390 injuries and $1 billion in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

"The hectic nature of entertaining during the holidays makes it easy to overlook even the most basic cooking safety rules," says Tom Harned, fire safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and Chief Fire Officer in Gilbertsville, Pa.

Harned encourages all home chefs to follow these simple fire-safety tips:

1. Stay in the kitchen. Don't leave the kitchen when you are frying, broiling or grilling. If you leave the kitchen even for a brief time, be sure to turn off all the burners on the stovetop. Don't use the stovetop or oven if you are tired or have consumed alcohol or drugs.

2. Set a timer as a reminder that the range or stove is on. Ranges were involved in three of every five home cooking fires in 2011, with ovens accounting for 16 percent of home fires, according to the NFPA. Check your food frequently, and use a timer to remind yourself that the range, stove or oven is on. If you tend to do a lot of cooking, invest in a second or third timer. They're an inexpensive way to stay safe while ensuring that your holiday dishes do not overcook.

3. Keep anything that can catch on fire away from the stovetop. Pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and other flammable objects should be kept a safe distance from the stovetop.

4. Keep a lid or cookie sheet, baking soda and oven mitt nearby when you're cooking to use in case of a grease fire. Fire extinguisher use without training can cause a grease fire to spread and increase the chances of serious injury.

5. Ensure your smoke alarm is fully functional before the holiday cooking season begins. Install a photoelectric smoke alarm (or one having a hush button feature) that is at least 10 feet away from your kitchen and use the test button to check it each month. Replace the battery at least once per year and never disable a smoke alarm.

"If you're considering disabling a smoke alarm, think about this: almost two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms," says Harned. "In addition to following basic safety rules in the kitchen this holiday season, everyone should have a home fire escape plan with at least two ways out of every room. Practice at least twice a year to ensure the safety of everyone in your home all year long."

Source: www.LibertyMutual.com/holidaycooking.


Forget about the Man Cave, How about a Home Recording Studio?

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

I have explored every sort of feature, fixture and specialty room one could want in a practical home. But it appears the latest rage for amatuer and professional musicians is to establish their own home recording studio space - but how does one begin the task?

The latest update of Jeff Towne’s primer on setting up a small recording studio (transom.org) notes that one doesn’t need a perfectly-tuned space in order to make decent sound mixes.

Towne says place monitor speakers so that the two monitors and the spot where you’ll sit make an equal-sided triangle, and position them at about ear-level when you’re in your working position.

Keep a clear path between your ears and the speakers (it’s tricky to keep computer screens out of the way, but it’s crucial that you do) and try to soften or break up any hard, flat surfaces between you and the speaker (like your desktop), which could create interference from sonic reflections.

Don’t get the speakers too close to a wall, or too far into a corner; the bass response will be affected.

If you’re having problems with echo, or a resonance problem that sounds like a ringing or unnatural build-up of certain sounds when you’re listening, you may need to do some treatment of your room.

Towne says skip the cardboard egg-cartons on the wall, they don’t really do much of anything, but some strategically placed acoustical foam might. Even without investing in a full-on studio treatment, just getting some soft materials on your walls, like drapes or other heavy fabrics, will help a lot.

If you can break up plain flat surfaces, especially behind your mix position, you’ll reduce many problems. Professional studios use specially built diffusers for that, but if you can place a bookshelf or some other irregular surface that will scatter audio reflections, it will help.

Check out the full article for lots more info on setting up your home recording studio at http://transom.org/?p=23904.


Should You Ban Facebook at Work?

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

Facebook use in the workplace is a mind-boggling issue for employers. On one hand, employers don't want to come across as controlling "Big Brothers" who don't trust employees to get their work done. But on the other hand, well, your employees may not be getting their work done.

But from a productivity standpoint, should you ban Facebook at work? And would doing so raise any legal concerns?

Facebook Use at Work

Just how much time are employees spending on Facebook at work? In Oklahoma, state employees (using the state's computer network) made more than 2 million visits to Facebook in a three-month span, according to Oklahoma's Cyber Command Security Operations Center as reported by United Press International.

Though the finding isn't representative on a national scale, it signals a growing trend of employees frittering away a fair amount of time at work on social media. In response, many companies have banned Facebook at work.

If you decide to jump on the corporate bandwagon and implement a Facebook ban, remember that your social media policy can't be too restrictive. It's crucial that your Facebook ban doesn't unlawfully interfere with your employees' free speech rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The actual process of blocking access to Facebook from work computers is pretty straightforward. It merely requires updating your "Approved Sites" Internet settings, as Demand Media explains.

Despite the simplicity of setting up a Facebook ban, employers should give pause to consider whether a ban is even necessary.

A Potential Non-Issue

In a way, this whole "should you ban Facebook" debate may be a solution looking for a problem. According to a study conducted by the National University of Singapore, "cyberloafing," or surfing the Web at work, can actually increase employee productivity.

In the study, the Web-surfing group was not only more productive but also reported less mental exhaustion and a higher level of engagement in their work, compared to those who were given breaks but were prohibited from surfing the Web.

Two other recent studies -- one by the start-up "Big Data" firm Evolv and the other by a Warwick Business School professor -- also found that social networking at work appeared to boost both productivity and retention, reports Forbes.

So before you go willy-nilly with a new Facebook policy, carefully examine your employees' actual productivity numbers. If their numbers are good, your "Facebook ban" idea may actually be a solution looking for a productivity problem that simply isn't there.

Source: FindLaw


Word of the Day

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

Private mortgage insurance (PMI). Required by most lenders for conventional loans with a down payment of less than 20 percent. Insurance is paid by the borrower and guarantees the lender will not lose money if the borrower defaults.