Gunning Daily News

Q: What’s the Best Way to Choose a Home Loan?

November 26, 2013 4:54 pm

A: A lot will depend on the length of time you plan to live in the home, other financial obligations, and potential savings gained from comparing the monthly costs of a home against the up-front costs and closing costs involved with a particular loan.  

Also, you will need to be comfortable with whatever choice you decide to make.  Trust your instincts and do not be pressured into signing for a loan that will not really work for you.


Big Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

November 26, 2013 4:54 pm

(Family Features)--Are personal relationships why most consumers frequent small businesses? From the mom and pop coffee shop to the small bookstore just down the street, people enjoy the personal interactions and convenience small businesses offer.

In a recent survey about interactions between consumers and small businesses from Web.com, more than eight out of 10 consumers said it’s important that a small business is customer-focused and provides personal, face-to-face interaction with its customers. Respondents also wanted a small business to be local, convenient and reliable.  

Grow online: To account for consumers’ desire for personal relationships, small businesses should have a big presence on the Internet, but only 41 percent of small businesses surveyed even had a website. Those without a website said they didn’t see the need for one, or the cost of designing and maintaining a site was a barrier. On the other hand, 83 percent of consumers who responded said having a website and use of social media is important to their consideration and choice of a small business.  

“Small businesses have historically relied on face-to-face relationships to grow and differentiate themselves, but today’s consumers are demanding that these relationships extend into ‘e-Main Street’,” says David Brown, president, chairman and CEO of Web.com. “Our survey found a significant disconnect between how small businesses decision-makers think they are delivering on customers’ expectations versus the reality of consumers’ perceptions. The good news is small businesses are starting to realize the Web’s untapped potential to reach consumers who are eager for online engagement.”

Stay in touch: Everyone knows how important it is to stay in touch with friends. If you’re a small business owner, don’t forget to stay in touch with your customers so they don’t forget about you. Use social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, along with email to notify your customers about special promotions or to just remind them about the great benefits you offer.

While it’s easy to blast an email to every customer or post an endless stream of cute pictures on Facebook, it’s important to not overwhelm or annoy your friends and followers with too much of a good thing. Keep your messages consistent, concise and professional.  

If you’re not sure how to get started, the Internet offers a lot of resources about how to successfully set up your online presence and use Google, Facebook and Twitter to market and grow your business online.

Provide personal service: Set your business apart by giving every customer the personal interaction and convenience they crave. Simply asking customers about their purchases or how you can serve them better gives you a consistent stream of information you can use to refine your goods or services and increase sales. Make sure every employee understands the value in talking to customers and tracking feedback.

The bottom line for every small business is that consumers are demanding online interaction and involvement with businesses, both big and small. Consistently reaching out to your customers through a website, social media and face-to-face interactions will help your business thrive.

Source: www.Web.com.


Sunshine State Storm, Timeshare Scams Could Victimize Anyone

November 25, 2013 8:36 pm

I have learned a lot from various consumer protection agencies and other government agencies in virtually every state in the nation. In many cases, situations being reported in one state are actually happening across numerous states and even the entire country.

With the potential for serious storms and hurricanes threatening homeowners and properties this fall and winter, we picked up on this warning from Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

That agency recently noted that a frequent problem after a disaster is “fly-by-night” contractors who take deposits before starting work or final payment before finishing. The agency offers some good advice that is applicable far beyond Florida, however.

When seeking a post-storm contractor, the agency advises property owners to be cautious of repair businesses or individuals who:

  • Solicit door-to-door,
  • Arrive in unmarked vehicles,
  • Have a post office box or temporary address,
  • Claim they are from another county or state and are in the area solely to help disaster victims,
  • Or claim that they were doing work in the area and noticed that your home needed repairs.

The agency advises that if your home is in need of repair, you should get at least three itemized estimates and check each contractor’s address, license, and complaint history; never agree to a cash-only deal; and ask for a written estimate and inspect the terms carefully before signing and agreeing to any offer.

Honest contractors earn the majority of their business through referrals from satisfied customers, they don't have to to travel door-to-door to find business. Ask contractors to justify their bids by listing the work/materials that are included - this allows you to make valid comparisons between any estimates.

Florida's DBPR also recently issued a consumer advisory after learning that individuals falsely posing as Department employees are allegedly targeting victims of timeshare scams. The callers are asking victims for cash to pursue refunds for the money they lost in order to obtain full repayment for the victims.

Remember, no matter where you are, the rule of thumb is - do not respond to any unsolicited caller saying they represent a government agency by giving out personal information, by sending money or authorizing them to deduct money from a bank account.


5 Ways to Lighten Holidays for American Servicemen

November 25, 2013 8:36 pm

Until recently, it was possible to send care packages to U.S. service men and women by addressing the package “To Any Service Member” and sending it via the U.S, Postal Service. Increased mailing restrictions now make that impossible.

But if the holiday spirit moves you to remember service members or their families at holiday time this year, there are many non-profit (501c3) organizations dedicated to helping you do just that – and the donations you make are tax-deductible.

Here are a few suggestions to help get you started:

Operation USO – A visit to the uso.org website will enable you to donate $25 or more, which the USO will use to send care packages of needed and requested items to currently deployed service men and women.

Books for Soldiers – If you sign up at booksforsoldiers.com, you can send requested books, magazines DVDs and more directly to the soldiers who have asked for them.

Operation Wounded Warrior – The organization, which has mailed over 600,000 care packages to deployed service members, now provides Wounded Warrior Care Packages to service members recovering in military hospitals and transition units located on bases throughout the United States. You can start by going to operationgratitude.com.

Operation Shoebox – Donations to this organization pay for the supplies and postage of care packages sent to American troops worldwide. Learn more and get started at operationshoebox.com.

Camp Desert Kids – Through the website at campdesertkids.org, you can make a donation that will be used to pay for a camp experience for the children of service men and women. The camps use games, crafts, and regional food and drink to help teach kids about the place their parents are serving, helping military children to better understand the deployments that shape their lives.


'Tis the Season for Online Shopping Traps

November 25, 2013 8:36 pm

(BPT) - It doesn't matter if it's the day after Thanksgiving or the night before Christmas, cybercriminals don't take a holiday.

"People are spending with reckless abandon this time of year," says Christopher Elliott, consumer advocate and author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles and Shady Deals."

To avoid falling victim to these creative crooks, financial services company USAA advises consumers to watch out for these five common cyberscams.

Fake shopping sites

With all the hype about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers go into shopping mode expecting to find good deals. But it is possible to get sucked in by websites selling counterfeit goods or overseas-based sites that take your money and provide nothing in return.

"Deals that are too good to be true are a huge red flag," warns Scambook.com, a site that collects consumer complaints.

* Never follow links sent by email. If you're going to follow search engine results, learn about the site before you make purchases or provide personal information.

* Watch out for sites with names that sound similar to popular sites or include a brand name in the URL. Research the site by typing its name into a search engine with the word complaints. You can also put the name in the Better Business Bureau database. If you don't find anything wrong, that doesn't necessarily mean you're home free. It could indicate the site was recently created. Scam sites often pop up overnight and quickly disappear when enough people catch on. SiteJabber.com also publishes user reviews of sites.

Promises of free stuff

Promotions to like a company's Facebook page in exchange for a $1,000 gift card or getting texts with similar ploys have become more prevalent. Why? Because people fall for them. Identity thieves count on consumers entering their personal and financial information to get the freebie.

A company is not going to give away a $1,000 gift card in exchange for a like and won't randomly text you with a similar deal. If you see one of these come-ons, delete it.

Buying through online auctions or classified sites

If you're looking for a deal or an offbeat item, turning to online auctions or classified sites could make sense. But they are also home to numerous scams.

* Use a credit card when buying online. Credit cards can protect consumers against fraud.

* Don't make a payment using a money transfer service to anyone you don't personally know, and use the same caution when asked to pay with a prepaid debit card.

* Don't pay upfront. If you're buying something locally, pay upon receipt of the item.

Phony Black Friday or other ads

If you're planning to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you want to see the big sales in advance. Cybercrooks know that so they create sites that try to capture traffic from searches for sales fliers. The goal is to get your personal information or have you click a link that loads your computer with malware that captures and transmits your information to them.

* Don't click on random links, and don't download attachments from people you don't know.

* Be sure your malware and virus protection software is up-to-date and turned on.

* If you're looking for Black Friday ads, find legitimate sales information at sites such as BlackFriday.com or DealNews.com.

Holiday vacation deals you don't want

If the idea of spending the holidays on a cruise or lying on a warm beach appeals to you, you may be tempted by an offer laden with freebies. "Anytime you see the word 'free,' alarm bells should go off," Elliott says. "Free cruise. Free all-inclusive vacation. Free flights. All of those things are signs that you are probably looking at a scam."

In these sorts of deals, at some point you're going to be asked to a pay "taxes" or a fee. "Once you buy in, they'll promise you the world and they'll ask you to wire money," Elliott says.

* Use only trusted travel sites and rental agencies when booking.

* Don't fall for gimmicks that make a pricey vacation look like something you can get for a fee or a couple of hundred dollars. When those tantalizing promises are dangled, Elliott says, "don't walk away – run."


Word of the Day

November 25, 2013 8:36 pm

Broker. Licensed individual who acts independently in conducting a real estate brokerage business; also a person who buys and sells for another for a commission.


Q: How Do Lenders Define Bad Credit?

November 25, 2013 8:36 pm

A: It is all those things that appear on your credit report that are unflattering. They include: missing a credit card payment, defaulting on a previous loan, filing for bankruptcy in the past seven years, or not paying your taxes.

Other black marks include a judgment filed against you – perhaps for non-payment of spousal or child support – or any collection activity.

 


Itchin' to Update Your Kitchen? Five Steps to Create the Kitchen of Your Dreams

November 22, 2013 5:09 pm

Remodeling the kitchen. When you decide to tackle this daunting undertaking, you want to do it right. And, you're not alone. Forty-nine percent of homeowners plan to completely gut their existing kitchen and start with a clean state, according to a recent survey by Houzz.com. Regardless of the scope of your project, if you're itchin' to update your kitchen, follow these five steps to design the space you've been dreaming about.

Step 1: Create a budget

Before picking up a single tool or seeking contractor recommendations from friends, it's important to determine how much you're willing to spend to achieve your ideal kitchen. Whether needing basic upgrades or a complete remodel, setting your budget will help to create a realistic plan from the start. There are a wide range of impactful updates to change the look of your space no matter what the price tag.

Step 2: Think about what you need (and what you want)

Take a step back and think about how you use the kitchen. Are you an avid baker who needs more counter space for rolling out confections? Do you like to make homemade pizza and the thought of a stone oven makes you drool? No matter what your dream space looks like, there's one area that everyone should update - the kitchen faucet.

Because it sees so much use on a daily basis, think about ways to make tasks easier, like installing a new pulldown faucet. From preparing meals and washing dishes, to watering plants and filling pitchers, you'll quickly notice the difference made by this simple update.

Beyond a new faucet, here are some of the most popular - and most desired - items for the kitchen, according to the Houzz survey:

  • Fifty percent said a chef's stove was their dream appliance
  • Seventy-five percent of respondents want soft, neutral colors in the kitchen
  • Sixty-five percent are looking to coordinate with stainless steel appliances
  • A custom pantry is the most popular kitchen storage item, followed by a utensil drawer
  • Granite is still the most desired countertop material

Step 3: Research and plan

Sources for ideas and inspiration are infinite - especially online. Sites like Pinterest and Houzz provide endless eye candy and design concepts for your new kitchen space; Houzz can even provide recommendations of local professionals to contact. To visualize a few of the upgrades you're considering - not to mention touch and feel them - visit a local kitchen showroom as they have a number of vignettes and "rooms" designed throughout. Magazine articles and features can also provide valuable how-to information and design advice. Just be sure to save any favorite ideas in one place, making everything easily accessible when it's time to get started.

Step 4: Determine your approach

Will you hire a pro or do most of the work yourself? If you're going to change the layout or remove walls in the kitchen, it's best to work with a professional contractor. Rewiring electrical or adding new light sources are also jobs best left to a certified electrician. If you're an avid DIYer, you may feel comfortable installing new cabinets, flooring and countertops. But there are certain projects, like the demo, painting and installation of a new faucet that anyone - and any skill level - can easily tackle.

Step 5: Get to work

If you haven't begun working on your kitchen project yet, you're not alone; 68 percent of Houzz respondents haven't started construction, either. But with the perfect plan and a list of updates to incorporate, it will be simple to create your dream kitchen space.

Source: Houzz, Moen

 


Do You Have a Family Business Succession Plan?

November 22, 2013 5:09 pm

A solid succession plan is essential to the longevity of a family business.

Though family businesses account for a staggering 50 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States, only 52 percent of family business owners have faith in younger relatives' ability to sustain the business for generations to come, according to a PwC survey reported by Forbes.

To assuage such concerns, here are five tips on how to form a family business succession plan:

  • Discuss the succession with the family. It's not uncommon for business owners to make bold business decisions without consulting anyone. But to get your family members on the same page, develop a collective vision and establish shared goals and objectives for the business.
  • Recognize blood isn't always thicker than water. Continued family involvement in the leadership and ownership of the company doesn't mean you need to shy away from professional management. As Forbes suggests, identify and retain a team of professional advisors.
  • Establish the succession plan's involved parties. Identify successors -- both managers and owners -- and decide who will run the day-to-day operations. Have a clear idea of the active and non-active roles of family members.
  • Plan for an ownership transfer. There are many different options for transferring your ownership interest to the next generation. Talk to your attorney and your accountant about the best way to transfer your business to limit gift and estate taxes. Be sure to address these issues in the event of death or divorce, too.
  • Balance the needs of the aging and the youthful. Address the retirement needs of family owners, but don't brush off the goals of next-generation management. To avoid future decision-making disputes, put meeting minutes in writing and share these documents with everyone.

To explore family business succession strategies that meet your specific needs, consulting a small business attorney may be a good place to start.

Source: FindLaw

 


Word of the Day

November 22, 2013 5:09 pm

Seller’s market. One with few sellers and many buyers.