Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

October 18, 2013 6:27 pm

Brokerage. Business of a broker. Also, the amount charged for a broker’s service.


Q: Are Impound Accounts Required for All Mortgage Loans?

October 18, 2013 6:27 pm

A: They can typically be waived on a conventional loan if the loan amount is 80 percent or less of the purchase price. But the lender might charge you an additional 1/4 point for this option to waive the escrow.

One way to avoid an impound account on an owner-occupied mortgage is to raise your down payment amount slightly. The exact amount necessary to avoid the escrow will vary with the lender.

In some states, lenders let buyers set up separate accounts in which they place specific funds and then pay the insurance and property taxes themselves. These are called pledge accounts, and they must be set up before you close on the home.

An impound account can usually be dropped on an owner-occupied loan once the loan-to-value ratio equals 80 percent or less. But restrictions apply: payments will have to be current and your record of making on-time payments pretty solid.  Contact your lender if you meet these requirements and want to drop your impound account.


'Bat Appreciation Month' Brings Good, Bad News about Furry Fliers

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense to designate October as 'Bat Appreciation
Month.' These mostly tiny flying critters have been a boon and a curse to homeowners through
the ages - depending on if the bats stay outside, or get inside.

According to the Cincinnati, Ohio based wildlife outfitters bestnest.com, the presence of bats
in and around your yard provide a number of health-related advantages. Because bats are
sensitive to high pollution and pesticide levels, they are useful as a warning sign to potential
environmental problems.

Bats can also be important weapons in combating insects that are actually dangerous to
humans. Since the West Nile Virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes, which make up a
significant portion of a bat’s diet, bats can help reduce the likelihood of getting infected.
A small bat can capture more than 1,200 mosquitoes in a single hour, according to the post,
and bats cannot contract the West Nile Virus by eating infected mosquitoes.

Besides mosquitoes, bats can help control the populations of beetles, moths, and leafhoppers.
Many insects can hear bats up to 100 feet away and will avoid those areas occupied by bats.
The effectiveness of bats in some areas diminishes the need for pesticides that can harm both
the pests and their natural predators.

On the other hand, if a bat gets into your house, it's no fun for you or the bat. And in most
cases, it's the bat who comes out the loser. With that in mind, our friends at batsintheattic.org
publish a list of ways to humanely and safely remove a bat if it gets into the house.

The site advises the following:
1) Watch the bat, and wait for it to land, then drape a towel over it and bunch it up in the towel,
then bring it outside and unfold the towel.
2) If it lands on an unobstructed wall or floor, place a plastic container over the bat, then slide
paper under the container to trap it.
3) Open windows and doors and wait for it to fly out - although this is the alternative least likely
to work.
 


Five Insurance Tips for Married Couples

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

Whether you've dated forever or had a whirlwind romance, enjoyed a big wedding or kept it simple, one fact appears to be almost universal – those first months and years of marriage are a big adjustment.

Money matters are a source of potential conflict once the honeymoon is over. According to information from an Allstate Life Tracks survey released earlier this year, just half (50 percent) of Americans said they have money left over at the end of the month after paying for essentials.

"In real life, it's no laughing matter when partners have different approaches to financial matters but don't talk much about it before they marry," says Don Civgin, president and chief executive officer of Allstate Financial. "As you focus on the obvious money decisions, such as developing a joint budget and savings plan, insurance may be put on the back burner. That can be a big mistake."

Below are five insurance tips for newlyweds:

Assess your insurance needs. Make sure you have the right amount of homeowners' or renters' coverage for your newly combined possessions. Don't forget to insure your beautiful and costly-to-replace engagement ring via an insurance rider to your homeowners' policy. In addition, you may want life insurance to help repay the mortgage and take care of your children, should one of you die unexpectedly. Depending on your age and personal health situation, you also may want to consider disability insurance.

Consolidate your financial relationships. You each may have an accountant, insurance agent and financial planner. Now that you're a family, you should choose a single relationship in each area – whether that is a current advisor or someone new to both of you. You can rely on referrals from family or friends, or ask for a referral from other professionals you currently deal with and trust. For example, your insurance agent is likely to know financial planners in your community. A financial planner may be able to refer you to a local attorney or accountant.

Update your records. Make sure you are the beneficiaries of each other's existing life insurance policies.

Combine your "just in case" files so that you can quickly find important financial documents just in case one of you is incapacitated or dies unexpectedly. The files should include insurance policies, wills and other legal documents (such as trusts, durable powers of attorney, living wills and healthcare proxies). Store originals in a safety deposit box and make sure each of you signs the form to have access to the box.

Consider combining your health insurance. If you both have health insurance through work, compare the coverage to see if it makes sense for both of you to be covered under one of the plans. It's likely to be less costly to insure an employee and spouse under a single plan. Many plans allow you to add a spouse within 30 days of your marriage without providing proof of insurability. Depending on your personal health situation, you might consider supplemental health insurance, which can help with doctor bills, hospital stays and even nonmedical expenses (such as transportation) if you're dealing with an accident, disability, cancer or critical illness.


Source: Allstate


Six Things Every Woman Should Know about Money

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

Women often rely too heavily on others when it comes to making important financial decisions. That's according to Lori Embrey, a Certified Financial Planner ™, associate vice president of Hamilton Capital Management and a founding member of the Women's Exchange, which works to develop greater financial literacy among women. She offers six tips for women looking to take charge of their own financial security.

Your choices should reflect your goals. "Look in the mirror," Embrey advises. "Your financial situation is likely to be a reflection of the choices you've made: choices to spend or save, to use cash or credit, to invest or not invest, to cover your eyes and hope for the best or to take charge of your finances. If you want to change your reflection, spend some time carefully considering your short-term and long-term goals. Write them down, including an estimated cost and date of completion. Be specific. Then make sure that your goals define your choices rather than your choices defining you."

Take a closer look. "Once you've defined your goals, learn what it will take to achieve them," she says. "Start by taking inventory to see where you stand. Know your assets (what you own) and your liabilities (what you owe) and review your financial statement regularly."

Don't pass the buck on money matters. "Women are often the managers of household cash flow, but we tend to pass the buck to partners, husbands or fathers when it comes to making big financial decisions or investing for our future," says Embrey.  She encourages women to take an active role in making decisions and gain confidence by talking money with a trusted friend or joining a financial discussion group for women.

Put your money to work. "When a $10 store coupon arrives in the mail, we rush right out to use it," she says, "but we leave a 401(k) match sitting on the table. An investment in your employer retirement plan may be worth far more in tax savings and could earn you an employer matching contribution as well. It's putting your money to work. Take advantage of opportunities like these. While volatility will always be a risk, the price of doing nothing is a certain decline in your standard of living each year. Because the price of groceries isn't going down and your savings account can't keep up."

Test your safety net. "I've counseled countless clients who 'thought this would never happen to me,'" Embrey recalls.  "The death of a loved one, disability, job loss, divorce or other personal trials derailed their life plans and upset their financial security. They were forced to make big financial decisions with little knowledge when they were least emotionally prepared to tackle the challenge. Test your own financial safety net before you need it to be sure your household can continue to thrive."

Money is a tool. "Learn to view money as a means to get where you want to go, to help further causes that are important to you or to take care of loved ones," she recommends. "Managing money with forethought will help you use it more efficiently and make good choices."

Source: Hamilton Capital Management

 


Word of the Day

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

Improvement. Any form of land development or man-made addition, such as the erection of a building or fence, to enhance the value of private property; also an improvement to publicly owned structures, such as a sewer or road.


Q: What Kind of Return Can I expect from Home Improvements?

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

A: Some improvements offer a greater return than others do. This will vary greatly depending on the type of work you have done.  Remodeling magazine publishes an annual "Cost vs. Value Report'' that can answer this question in more detail, based on the top 15 home improvements. A recent study it conducted says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from siding and window replacements, major kitchen remodeling, bathroom and family room additions, and mid-range master bedroom suites.  

 


8 Easy Ways to Lower Food Costs

October 14, 2013 4:03 pm

Grocery shopping for the family’s meals can be a fairly mindless chore, though coupon clipping has become increasingly popular as a way to save dollars in a tight money environment.

Savvy shoppers at thesimpledollar.com suggest eight more ways to help cut food costs:

  • Determine where the best prices are – Make a list of 25-30 items you buy often. Shop once at each of several markets in your area and write down the prices of each of those items. From that, you should be able to determine where prices are generally lowest.
  • Start with a list – Take the time each week to write out a meal plan and a shopping list. Resist impulse buying unless the item is on sale at a really great price and/or can be substituted for something else on your list.
  • Buy unprocessed foods – The more processed it is, the more expensive it will be. Choose raw pasta, rice and veggies instead of canned or frozen varieties. It will cost far less and taste better.
  • Buy produce in season – The produce you buy in summer is often twice as costly in mid-winter. Buy lots of in-season fruit and veggies, cooking and freezing to use in family meals months later.
  • Think about a deep freezer – It may be worth the cost if you use it to buy meat and other items on sale and to store casseroles and sauces you cooked while ingredient prices were at their lowest.
  • Try a garden – Cooking staples like tomatoes, onions, and squash are fairly easy to grow, and the savings mount up when you don’t have to buy them at the market. If gardening isn’t your thing, shop for produce at a local farmer’s market.
  • Buy in bulk – Detergents, paper products, and multi-packs of the items you use frequently are much cheaper per unit. Buy items in bulk if you can store or freeze them until needed.
  • Prepare more of your own food – Making cookies from scratch or soup from fresh veggies is cheaper and better-tasting than anything in a box or can. Get a basic cookbook, involve the family, and learn to cook better together.

Keep Your Home Healthy: Use a Whole-House Humidifier

October 14, 2013 4:03 pm

(BPT)—Dry, winter air causes numerous problems that can adversely affect the health and comfort of your family. Many of these issues materialize indoors, where countless people suffer from dry noses, cracked, itchy skin and sore throats. These health and comfort issues arise because the relative humidity (RH) of cold, outdoor air drops significantly when brought into your home and heated, resulting in dry and potentially damaging indoor air.

Dry indoor air can cause myriad problems, including:

  • Increased likelihood of colds, flu and other upper respiratory ailments. Viruses that cause colds and flu thrive in low humidity—dry indoor air can spread airborne viruses more easily than air that is properly humidified. And dry air can make people more susceptible to infection, according to The American Society of Otolaryngology. In addition, dry air can aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms.
  • Home damage. Dry air causes walls, woodwork and hardwood floors to crack. Electronics can fall victim to static electric charges, requiring expensive repair or replacement.
  • Higher energy costs. Dry air can make you feel cold at normal temperatures, leading you to turn up the thermostat. This leads to higher energy bills.

"Dry air is also responsible for many of the physical discomforts we experience during the winter including a sore, scratchy throat, nose bleeds and dry lips and skin," says Mike Rimrodt, product director at Aprilaire, a leader in the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) accessories industry since 1954. "The best way to alleviate these symptoms and prevent home damage is by controlling the humidity levels in your home with a whole-home humidifier."

A whole-home humidifier, installed as part of your heating and cooling system, is designed to deliver the perfect amount of moisture to your home without constantly making adjustments or refilling the water. Whole-home humidifiers are uniquely efficient and effective because they accurately measure the outdoor temperature and indoor humidity levels to automatically provide the ideal amount of indoor relative humidity - meaning home owners don't have to constantly adjust humidification settings. Simply set it and forget it.

"In the winter months, the average household needs upwards of 400 gallons of water to properly humidify the air," says Rimrodt. "Unlike a portable room unit, a whole-home humidification system is connected directly to your home's HVAC and water system, saving you hundreds of trips to the faucet, and hours of messy cleaning over the season."

Whole home systems deliver proper humidity levels throughout your entire home and require simple, inexpensive and infrequent maintenance by simply changing an internal water panel once a year.

Source: aprilaire.com/humidifier


5 Permits Your Small Business May Require

October 14, 2013 4:03 pm

Local permits can often be a roadblock to allowing a small business to actually open its doors to customers. Dealing with permit problems can leave owners in a financial bind.

Before you even register as a corporation, it's crucial to square away all the necessary local permits before you plan on your company's grand opening.

To that end, here are the five most common permits you'll need to enable your small business to open and thrive:

1. Zoning Permits

Almost all major cities -- except Houston (and there may be a few others) -- have commercial zoning laws that prevent certain parcels of land from being used for certain commercial or industrial uses.

Whether you plan on starting a business from the ground up, literally, or you plan to take over and repurpose a current structure, you should consult the local zoning ordinances to see if your business conforms to the current designated use for that area. If your company's main business activities fall outside the zoning in that area, you may need to file an application with the city or county zoning board and be prepared to show building plans.

2. Building Permits

Any sort of new construction or significant renovation for your business will require a building permit from the city or county.

Some cities now offer e-permits for minor construction -- like kitchen remodeling or electrical rewiring -- which can be settled without visiting a local clerk's office.

3. Health Permits

Even if your business is making artisanal bread to sell at farmer's markets, your business well need a permit from the local health department to sell anything other than fresh produce.

That means all restaurants and food-related businesses should make getting a health permit a necessity.

4. Signage Permits

One of the best ways to advertise your business' existence is with a brand-new, flashy sign, but altering an existing sign or installing a new one requires a local signage permit from the city or county.

Larger cities like San Francisco have more specific rules about signage requirements, and any sign that needs to be physically built on to an existing structure may also require a separate building permit.

5. Fire Permits

Restaurants and businesses that plan to store flammable or explosive materials will need to obtain a permit from the local fire department before being legally allowed to open for business.

Applications will typically require a detailed description of the building's uses along with fire safety systems (e.g. smoke detector, fire extinguisher, fume hood, etc.) and will likely require an inspection by the fire department before it is granted. Not only will the permit keep your business legal to operate, but it will help out if you ever have to file a fire insurance claim.

Lacking these permits can easily put your small business dreams on ice, so if you have any questions about whether your company needs a specific permit consult an experienced business attorney in your area.

Source: Findlaw.com.