Gunning Daily News

Simple Change Can Save Costly Engine Repairs

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

Family Features--The sticker on your car's windshield serves as a constant reminder that every car eventually has to be taken to get its oil changed. Go too long and a bright red indicator light will also start demanding attention.

If you're ever tempted to ask if all of those oil changes are really necessary, consider the important work oil performs for your engine.

Keep your motor running

  • Motor oil lubricates and cools the moving parts in your car's engine. Without clean oil your engine's metal-on-metal components can grind against each other, causing extensive wear. So, not having clean oil and the proper amount of oil can have serious consequences.
  • Even if oil is present, there's no guarantee it will properly protect an engine against damage. If you decide to forego changing the oil according to your car's maintenance schedule, dirt, sludge and varnish can build up leading to serious damage or, even, an engine replacement.  

Take time for a change

  • Extended oil change intervals are the number one cause of sludge and varnish build up. Motor oil degrades over time due to heat, pressure and contamination. Check the owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommended oil change interval for your vehicle and remember, oil is the lifeblood of your engine.
  • Conventional oil changes leave as much as 10 to 20 percent of metal wear particulates, dust and other contaminants behind. Using an oil system cleaner a day before any routine oil change will provide a more complete cleaning of your oil system helping to eliminate out unwanted metals, gums and varnishes that can lead to oil contamination. One day prior to your next oil change, just add the oil change system cleaner, and then change the oil and filter. For more information about this, visit www.synergynusa.com.

Inspect for potential problems

  • Most cars are designed for easy oil change maintenance so if you don't change your own oil, take this product to your professional service installer. Those who like to do the job themselves should always pop open the hood and inspect the car for fluid levels and leakage, cracked or frayed belts and bulging hoses.
  • Next, inspect for broken or worn parts that can't be seen from above. For protection from other issues that can't be seen, add the oil change system cleaner a day before changing the oil. It frees sticky valves and lifters, cleans gum and varnish from internal parts, improves oil circulation, increases lubricity, reduces friction, restores engine performance, and improves fuel economy. After that, add Synergyn XTrA MPG Engine Treatment when you change your oil and filter and let your engine run for 20-30 minutes to let the engine treatment circulate in your car's oil system. Finally, don't forget to rotate the tires after every third oil change.
  • Visit any reputable auto repair garage or lube shop to have all of these inspections and maintenance tasks performed during your car's oil change. They'll also dispose of the dirty, used oil for you.

Source:  Synergyn


Word of the Day

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

Master plan. Long-range, comprehensive guide for the physical growth or development of a community.


Q: What Is a Lease Option?

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

A: It is an agreement between a renter and a landlord in which the renter signs a lease with an option to purchase the property.  The option only binds the seller; the tenant has a choice to make a purchase or not.

Lease options are common among buyers who would like to own a home but do not have enough money for the down payment and closing costs.  A lease option may also be attractive to tenants who are working to improve bad credit before approaching a lender for a home loan.  

Under this arrangement, the landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property.  The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place.

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work.  Have an attorney review any paperwork before you and the tenant sign on the dotted line.


What a Home Inspection Can Do for You

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

BPT—While giving a new $900,000 home a thorough going-over, Salt Lake City home inspector Kurt Salomon found a problem under the deck. The builder had cut corners, using the wrong kind of fasteners to secure the deck to the house. Yet, the municipal building official had approved the work.

"In some cases, a building inspector is not going to crawl underneath the deck looking at the hardware. A good home inspector will," says Salomon, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Because it uncovers aspects of the home that are unsafe or not in working condition, an inspection is a must when buying a home, says J.J. Montanaro, a certified financial planner with USAA.

"You want surprises that come with homeownership to be happy surprises, not bad ones," Montanaro says. "A thorough home inspection by a certified professional can help ensure that's the case."

Salomon says an inspection of the house you want to buy helps identify not only safety concerns and failing structural elements but faulty mechanical systems and areas that soon may need maintenance.

You'll pay around $300 to $500 for an inspection, which can take two to three hours. The cost can vary based on your geographic region, and the size and age of the home. Requesting other services, such as septic and radon testing, will add to the fee.

"An inspection is money and time well-spent," Montanaro says. "If your inspector finds things that should be repaired, you can use that report as leverage to have them fixed or negotiate a lower price."

To help get the most from a home inspection, Salomon and Montanaro advice you to follow these steps:

Do your homework: Many contracts include a home-inspection deadline, so start shopping for an inspector when you qualify for a mortgage. This gives you time to find a qualified, professional inspector.

Look for the inspection clause: Before you sign a contract, make sure it includes a clause that makes your purchase contingent on the findings of an inspection with the inspector you choose. This can provide a way out of the contract if the inspector finds a major problem the homeowner won't address.

Make sure the clause is included even if the contract specifies an as-is sale, meaning the seller does not agree to make repairs. "If a seller's not willing to let you inspect the house, that's a big red flag," Montanaro says.

Hire a pro: Shop around. Ask friends, neighbors and real estate agents for recommendations. For help online, the American Society of Home Inspectors has a database of its certified inspectors. And the Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a list of 10 questions to ask inspectors.

Ask to see a sample report: Inspectors fill out reports, following checklists for different areas of a house. It should be clear and informative. Reports longer than 25 pages filled with lots of legal print — usually meant to protect the inspector against liabilities — raise a red flag. By the same token, a few pages aren't enough.

Accompany the inspector: Take notes and ask about maintenance issues you'll need to address, such as waterproofing the deck, caulking the siding, changing air filters and other matters.

Review the report: The inspector will send you a written report detailing his or her findings. Read it closely and ask questions to make sure you understand the condition of all areas of the home.

If your inspector finds a leaky roof, a faulty water heater or some other problem, you may have the right to ask the seller to correct it to your satisfaction or to lower the price. If the seller refuses, you may be able to break the contract without penalty.

If a seller agrees either to make the repairs or offer to lower the price, take the money and then fix the problems yourself.


Choosing the Right Model for Your Small Business Dream

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

Family Features—Millions toil away in their office cubicles, dreaming of owning their own piece of the American dream. Meanwhile, many entrepreneurial thinkers are using rough economic times as the catapult for making their small business dreams come true.

With so many types of business models available, it can be hard to determine which one is the best fit for you.

Brick and mortar

Commonly thought of as the most traditional of plans, this business model involves businesses housed in physical buildings from which they sell their products. One major advantage of brick and mortar businesses is the personal interaction typically achieved between consumer and owner. Due to the rising popularity of online shopping, many brick and mortar businesses are turning to the internet, combining a physical location with an online presence.

Bricks and clicks

The "bricks and clicks" model is typically used to describe a business with a both a retail and an online location. A major advantage of the brick and click model is it allows customers to see the product physically, coupled with the option to buy products with the convenience of a mouse click. One disadvantage of the brick and click model is the higher overhead required to run both a physical location and keep a website fresh and current.

Many examples of successful bricks and clicks businesses are retailers which, in particular, sell clothing and footwear. Local customers can go in to try on the wares physically and then purchase from the comfort of their own home.

Franchise

A franchise is a business model that involves two parties - a franchisor and a franchisee. Franchises are a good fit for those with an entrepreneurial spirit but who also may lack business experience and would benefit from the structure, support and guidance the franchise model provides. To become a franchisee, an entrepreneur pays a fee and/or shares the revenues of the business. Because a franchise is owned by a franchisor, the franchisee must follow set guidelines.

If you're trying to narrow down your options, knowing your location and community is essential. Some franchise opportunities, such as The UPS Store, specialize in building franchise opportunities in small towns and rural locations. As many of these areas are underserved in business, packing and shipping amenities, such franchise models deliver a sought-after service for other small businesses and citizens within the community. Having a clear understanding of your community's needs can ensure your new business venture is successful and profitable.

Direct sales

Without a physical retail structure, the direct sales model sells products through independent distributors who specialize in face-to-face experiences with the consumer. One main benefit of direct sales is the ability to sell without overhead or supply costs of running a facility. Many direct sales entrepreneurs purchase their products directly from the parent company piecemeal, so no additional storage space is needed to house the product.

Source:  The UPS Store

 


Most Common Fall Home Improvements for Homeowners This Season

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

With over half of all homeowners planning to make some type of improvement to their home this year, the question is, what exactly are they changing? Homeowners are choosing to wait until the high temperatures break and cooler weather hits to begin outdoor work, and home improvement companies are looking to unload new products to prepare for the new season, allowing homeowners to grab some great deals as autumn begins.

The most common fall home improvement projects include fencing, interior and exterior painting, window work, flooring, and roof repair, all of which are in preparation for the cold winter weather when home improvement projects are not at the top of your priority list. By getting these projects done before winter, you can put your home improvement projects to rest until spring without worrying about leaky roofs, cold air coming through cracks in the windows, and maintaining the value of your home with fencing and a fresh coat of paint.

"The cooler autumn temperatures make for the perfect time to focus more on the home and any remodeling projects," said Jeremy Floyd of Fence Center. "Such projects like adding in bamboo or aluminum fencing, not only increases your family's security, but the value of your home. Now that autumn is officially here, people are likely beginning to get these home improvement projects rolling."

According to Floyd:

  • Projects such as flooring, such as wood, can only be done during certain months of the year because certain types of flooring employ adhesives that need temperatures inside the home to be within a certain range, usually between 70 and 80 degrees. Attempting to employ these types of flooring in the winter can make it difficult for the flooring to dry and bond, which will prove problematic down the road.
  • Fall offers the perfect time to increase the security of your home, particularly for fencing, as the ground is not too hard to work with.
  • Painting provides a pungent scent and sometimes toxic fumes, making fall the perfect time for painting. Without the humidity, paint can dry quickly, keeping the aromas of the paint to a minimum.

Word of the Day

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

Master deed. Document that converts a parcel of land into a condominium subdivision.


Q: Are Interest Rates Negotiable?

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

A: It depends who you negotiate with.  Some lenders are willing to haggle on both the loan rate and the number of points, but this is not typical among more established lenders.

This is why it pays to shop around for the best loan rates.  And know the market so that you sound informed when talking to a lender. Read the published rates in local newspapers or check the growing number of Internet sites that publish such information.

Also, always make a point to consider the interest rate along with the points to access which loan is truly the best.

Interest rates are much more open to negotiation on purchases that involve seller financing. While they are usually based on market rates, some flexibility exists when negotiating on the rate.


Finding a Builder for Your New Home: Hire a Professional

October 10, 2013 6:09 pm

Contracting the right builder is a critical first step in the construction process of your dream home.

Some homeowners liken it to hiring an employee -- while others compare the experience to a marriage – you have to spend a lot of time together, make a lot of big decisions and ultimately trust each other to build something that lasts.

“This is the biggest purchase you make – period,” new homeowner Amy Greene says.

Don Ghiz also has recent experience in hiring a contractor. He is in the middle of a construction project and said he spoke to several candidates before making his selection.

Before picking a contractor, Ghiz evaluated a number of builders based on their level of experience, competency, style of house they were comfortable building, method of accounting, communication skills and willingness to stay positive.

“In a city like Houston, we are fortunate to have many good quality builders that meet those basic requirements,” he says.

Both homeowners and builders offer the following advice on what to look for when choosing a builder:

1. Ask for recommendations. Greene said she found her builder, Brandon Lynch, by asking her friends. Having a recommendation helps. “I’d definitely do my homework and look at a lot of custom builders,” she said. “Then go look at their houses and spend time talking with them.”

Lynch agreed. “Get to know the builder,” he suggested. “Get to know who they are and what they stand for – are they passionate about building homes or are they all about the money.”

2. Get lost in the details.

Greene said that Lynch’s detailed bid sealed the deal for her. She explained that costs can go up if builders do not give all the information up front.

“Without details, prices can skyrocket,” Greene said. “You want a builder who has a really good idea of what things will cost.”

Ghiz noted that customers need to assess the builders’ choice of quality materials and be assured that contractors will not cut corners to save expenses without discussing the options.

“In my case, I looked for a builder with genuine concern that I get what I want at a fair price,” he said. “I looked for a person who would say, with honesty, ‘I don’t think you’ll like that, and here’s my reason for saying it.’”

3. Talk it out. As in any good relationship, communication is key.

Greene and Lynch spent hours talking before they began to work together.

“We discussed every detail of the project in full before we started construction," Lynch said.

4. Trust your instincts – and back it up.

For Ghiz, it all came down to trust.

“When all is said and done, your builder will spend many months on what you may live in for the rest of your life, so consider the choices carefully and don’t ignore your gut,” he said.

Hann was the builder who fit the bill for Ghiz.

“We have barely started construction, but I already like the choice I made,” Ghiz said.

“I feel fortunate to have a professional builder like Stephen Hann.”

Ghiz' builder, Stephen Hann, agreed that trust is essential, adding that his years of experience in the business help his clients believe in him as a builder. He also has several certifications in construction, as well as several examples of other homes he has built to show.

“I come with a confidence level that clients appreciate,” Hann said. "The whole decision boils down to comfort level and proficiency.”

5. Use your resources. Building groups, like the Custom Builders Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association, can be great resources for homeowners.  

Source: www.ghba.org/consumers


Protect Your Business from Disaster

October 10, 2013 6:09 pm

Businesspeople know that when a disaster occurs recovering and restoring business operations is far easier when you are prepared with a detailed plan.

With that in mind, below are tips to help business owners minimize risks and plan for a safe, speedy recovery in the event of an emergency.

"A solid disaster plan will help minimize damage in the event of an emergency, while also providing a clear path to quickly recovering your business operations," says Jack Roche, president, business insurance at The Hanover. "And disaster planning doesn't need to be an overwhelming task. Begin by contacting your independent insurance agent to review your coverage and risk management solutions, to make sure your business is adequately protected."

Minimize risks ahead of time

  • Review your business insurance policy with your insurance agent or advisor: Discuss possible disaster threats, including fire and weather, and make sure your policy includes the proper coverage and endorsements


​Develop a strong disaster plan

  • Identify business-critical activities and resources: Lining up resources now with clear accountabilities, will enable you to maintain customer service, if and when your business facility is closed for repairs.
  • Keep up-to-date duplicate records of both computerized and written records: Maintaining and safeguarding accurate business records isn't just practical—it's the law. Having this information will also help you to get back into business much quicker.
  • Plan for the worst: Before disaster strikes, find and develop a list of alternate facilities, equipment and supplies, and identify qualified contractors to repair your facility.
  • Consider emergency resources: Your disaster plan should include sources for back-up power and for employee and customer communications, as well as first-aid kits, water, and flashlights.
  • Compile and share a list of important phone numbers: In addition to your employees and company officers, your emergency contact list should include local and state emergency management agencies, major clients, contractors and suppliers, realtors, financial institutions, and your insurance agent. Be sure your list includes primary and cell telephone numbers.
  • Include a plan for contacting customers: You don't want to lose your customers because of a fire or other disaster. So make sure your plan includes a way to stay in touch with your customers. Depending on your business model, you may want to be prepared to post information on your website or reach out by telephone, email, or social media channels.
  • Train your employees and establish your emergency response plan: Build your plan and make sure employees are trained on how to execute it, including evacuation procedures.
  • Review and update your plan on a regular basis: Keep you plan current and communicate any changes to your employees. Do it at least annually or more frequently.
  • By planning ahead for a fire or other disaster, you will help protect your business, employees, and valued customers.


Source: www.hanover.com.