Gunning Daily News

Q: Where Can I Get a Mortgage?

October 4, 2013 7:18 pm

A: You can get a home loan from several different sources—a credit union, commercial bank, mortgage company, finance company, government agency, thrift (which includes savings banks and savings & loan associations), mortgage broker, and even the seller.

Note, however, that many lenders have tightened their credit standards in light of increasing foreclosures and higher delinquency rates.  Begin your search by calling at least half a dozen lenders to inquire about the types of financing available, current rates on each loan type, loan origination fees and number of points, other loan features and their credit requirements for borrowers.

Once you actually apply for a mortgage, the lender will pull a recent copy of your credit report. That inquiry and any and all others are recorded and become a part of your credit file. Normally, several inquiries during a short period are viewed negatively, as a sign you are trying to open several new accounts. Such a move lowers your credit scores; and lower credit scores mean you will be offered a higher mortgage interest rate.

However, there is a caveat. Credit scoring software generally detect that you are shopping for a single mortgage, if you shop within a short, 30-day window. So multiple inquires pulled roughly within this time frame will only count as one inquiry and should not affect your FICO, or credit, score.

Checking your own score also will not lower your credit score.


Fall Security Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

October 3, 2013 6:57 pm

School activities are picking up and as daylight hours dwindle, it's more important now than ever to ensure that safety stays top of mind for all family members.

"With busy schedules and back-to-back school activities, it's important for families to remember to keep safety and security a priority," said Rebecca Smith, vice president, marketing for Master Lock. "Now that school year routines are established, it's a perfect time to address safety topics with your family, such as guidelines for social media use and getting to and from home safely."

Follow these top five tips from Master Lock to stay safe this fall:

1. Be aware of surroundings. As dusk and darkness creep up earlier each day, remind children to follow safety precautions on their way to and from home. Whether walking all the way home or just to a parked car, students are advised to be aware of their surroundings, stick with a friend or in a group, stay in well-lit areas, avoid short cuts and always observe traffic rules.

2. Establish a "home alone" routine. Sometimes situations arise where children and teens will be home without supervision, whether coming home after school to an empty house or due to busy weekend activities. It's natural for parents to feel uneasy at first, but with some planning, both parents and children can feel confident when the time comes. Set guidelines with your children to follow when home alone including, locking the door immediately after entering the house, calling to check in as soon as he or she gets home, not answering the door for any visitors and reviewing relevant emergency phone numbers and exit plans.

3. Set ground rules for social media sharing. Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than ever before*. As parents, it's necessary to evaluate the information your child is sharing and advise them on security risks of sharing too much identifying information. Set ground rules for what your child can disclose online, and teach your child how to set privacy controls so that photos, location and personal information do not end up in the wrong hands.

4. Lock down valuables on the field. Lockers help keep gadgets, wallets, house or car keys and other belongings secure while in class, but what keeps them secure outside of school? Keep valuables locked up with a small, portable safe, such as Masterlock's 5900D SafeSpace, which kids can easily fit in their backpacks, gym bags or lock down to a fixed object while attending after school activities.

5. Inspect to protect. While talking with your children about safety guidelines, fall is also an ideal time to create or practice a fire safety plan. Start with inspecting your home thoroughly ensuring all smoke detectors are functioning properly and review the sound of the alarm with children so they know what do to when it goes off. Make an evacuation plan by visiting each room in your home, designating two ways out and check that all windows and doors open easily. Lastly, designate a safe meeting place outside the home where your family can gather after exiting. This meeting place should be close to the home, but not too close to be in danger from the fire, and in front of the house so that fire safety personnel can easily see you as they arrive. It should also be somewhere easy to find in day or night, such as near a telephone pole, tree or mailbox. Most importantly, practice the escape plan. While 71 percent of Americans have a plan, only 47 percent of those have practiced it.

Source: www.masterlock.com


Electrical Wires and Fall Pruning Are a Dangerous Combination

October 3, 2013 6:57 pm

Before you begin the chore of fall pruning, I want to reiterate a warning homeowners have heard here before. Do-it-yourselfers who attempt to work with trees near overhead electrical wires often underestimate the danger potential.

According to the Tree Care Industry Association, terrible accidents can happen when a homeowner uses pole-mounted cutting tools and/or metal ladders to trim backyard trees and shrubs because they can conduct electricity.

When trees grow near overhead electrical wires, they can contact the wires and become energized. Trees and wires are dangerous, full of electrical power that can injure or kill humans.

There are several things that can go wrong for do-it-yourselfers trying to trim tree branches. For example, if proper tree cutting techniques are not understood, the cut branch can swing in unpredictable directions as it falls and could easily land on an energized wire.

Here are a few tips to avoid trees in wires:

  • Look for power lines before pruning trees and large shrubs. If lines are anywhere near the tree, don't attempt any tree work. Professional tree climbers have the training and equipment needed to perform these tasks safely.
  • Never climb a tree in order to prune it. Even if the wires aren't currently touching the tree, remember that the trees branches will shift once you begin climbing or removing limbs.
  • Wearing rubber-soled shoes or rubber gloves while tree pruning will not protect from a fatal shock.
  • Never extend long-handled saws or pruners into a tree without checking for power lines. Electricity is always trying to go somewhere, and it will easily travel through metal, water, trees, and/or the ground.
  • Don't move ladders or long-handled pruning tools around the yard without first looking up. Always read and heed ladder-use safety labels.
  • More important, the association recommends you hire an insured, tree care professional with the experience, expertise and equipment to safely take down or prune trees in wires. Require proof of liability insurance, and check to see if the cost of the work is covered by your insurance company.

Source: www.treecaretips.org.

 


Four Tips for Fall Car Care Month

October 3, 2013 6:57 pm

October is Fall Car Care Month, so use it as an excuse to make sure your vehicle is ready for the harsh winter weather ahead. Taking a few simple steps now can save you the headaches and cost of an emergency breakdown later, says the Car Care Council.

Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, the Car Care Council recommends the following proactive steps to make sure your car is ready for winter driving.

Battery – Keep the battery connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Cold weather is hard on batteries, so it's wise to check the battery and charging system. Because batteries don't always give warning signs before they fail, it is advisable to replace batteries that are more than three years old.  

Heater, Defrosters and Wiper Blades – Check that the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system are working properly as heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons, such as defrosting. Wiper blades that are torn, cracked or don't properly clean your windshield should be replaced. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months. When changing the blades, be sure to also check the fluid level in the windshield washer reservoir.

Tires – Check the tires, including the tire pressure and tread depth. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly as tires lose pressure when temperatures drop.

Brakes – Have the brake system checked, including brake linings, rotors and drums. Brakes are critical to vehicle safety and particularly important when driving on icy or snow-covered roads.

"Getting your vehicle ready for winter while temperatures are still mild is a proactive approach to preventive maintenance that helps ensure safety, reliability and fewer unexpected repairs when severe winter weather strikes," says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

Source: www.carcare.org


Word of the Day

October 3, 2013 6:57 pm

Blanket mortgage. Single mortgage that covers more than one real property, i.e. – a house plus the vacant lot next door.


Q: How Do I Qualify for a Home Loan?

October 3, 2013 6:57 pm

A: Your real estate agent has information on lender loan requirements and will be able to calculate a rough monthly figure you can afford based on the maximum monthly payment for the loan, taxes, insurance, and any type of maintenance fees.  This pre-purchase evaluation by the agent can save you a lot of time spent looking at properties you cannot afford.  

Lenders also routinely calculate what you can afford and can pre-qualify you for a loan even before you begin your home search.  This way, you know exactly how much you can afford to buy.  

Lenders generally stipulate that you spend no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment or 36 percent on total debts.

Ultimately, the price you can afford to pay for a home will also depend on other factors besides your gross income and outstanding debts.  They include the amount of cash you have available for the down payment, your credit history, current interest rates, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender, and the type of mortgage you select.


Tips and Tricks for Planning the Perfect Halloween

October 2, 2013 6:00 pm

BPT—Planning the perfect Halloween can be pretty spooky, and it's not just because of the ghosts and ghouls that run from door to door. Coordinating Halloween activities, planning a festive party and pulling off the perfect costume for each family member can be frightening. But with a few technology tricks, you'll be rewarded with a lot of treats and plenty of fun to make this holiday one to remember.

Eerie e-vites set the tone for parties

Planning a Halloween party? Email invites are perfectly acceptable for a casual soiree. Send out e-vites a few weeks ahead of time to give friends and family plenty of notice. Be sure to mention that costumes are encouraged, and list any other important details, like if the party is potluck style. The best part of email invites is you'll receive RSVPs electronically, so you can track responses and get the perfect amount of party supplies for all attendees. And if you have an Outlook.com email account, you can flag RSVPs to the top of your inbox for easy reference, and instantly chat with friends on Facebook, Skype or Gmail to firm up last minute details, right from your inbox.

Scary inbox? Organize email easily

If your inbox is a scary sight, it's time to tap your magic wand for an organization transformation. With Outlook.com, it's easy to sort through hundreds of messages in a few clicks. You can use the "sweep" feature to get rid of outdated emails you don't need, like all those costume coupon deals that have expired. 

Frightful or friendly, find the perfect costume

Whether young or old, Halloween is a time to let imaginations run wild and play pretend for the day. Finding the perfect costume for each member of the family can be a difficult and costly process. Track sales from your favorite Halloween supply stores and subscribe to email newsletters to get the latest alerts on costume trends and discounts. After Halloween is over, you can use Outlook.com's one-click unsubscribe to get off all those emails lists with little effort.

Access the perfect trick-or-treat schedule

Hit the candy motherload and have fun with all the neighborhood kids and parents by plotting your trick-or-treat schedule ahead of time. Upload it to SkyDrive and everyone can access it while en route on any device. Then, all you have to do is get your flashlights, candy bags and giggles ready.

Share boo-tiful photos from the day's festivities

Whether you love your smartphone or are a diehard digital camera guru, there are bound to be plenty of fun photos the group needs to exchange. Use Outlook.com and SkyDrive together to share all your Halloween snaps in one mail - the file size doesn't matter - and they will arrive in slideshow format! There's no limit to the number of photos you can share and, since they're all stored on SkyDrive, you can access them on any device anywhere, anytime. Share with Grandma and Grandpa, or gather the kids and relive the Halloween fun over and over again.

 


5 Fast Personal Finance Tips from GreenPath Debt Solutions

October 2, 2013 6:00 pm

As the U.S. government faces its first days of furloughs, many government workers are facing days off without pay. GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nationwide, non-profit credit counseling and education organization, with offices across the United States, reminds furloughed employees that they need to have a plan in place, when it comes to their personal finances.

Here are some steps:

1. Set Up a Budget - Many people think if they have money in their account at the end of the month, they are doing okay. "While this may work in some cases, individuals who may see a drastic cut in their income will need to prepare ahead to make sure their expenses are covered," said David Flores, GreenPath counselor.

A simple way to build a budget is list all income. Then, list all your major expenses (mortgage, car payment, insurance premiums and utilities, etc.) and subtract from your net income. From there, track other expenses, like groceries, gasoline and credit cards.

2. Maintain Your Budget – "Years ago, we taught our clients to place cash each month in an envelope system, for a certain expense," said Flores. "Nowadays, we teach the envelope system as a budgeting concept with the idea that you only spend what has been allotted, and once it's gone, you stop spending." Try to maintain each monthly allotment without borrowing from other "envelopes."

3. Track your Expenses - Tracking expenses is a key aspect of maintaining the budget that you have created. If you do not track your expenses, there is no way of knowing whether you are staying within the budget you have established. "The most basic tracking method involves writing down all of your expenses in a notebook every day," said Flores. "Another tracking technique involves saving receipts for purchases and documenting that information in a notebook or on your computer."

4. Have the Talk – Communication is key when it comes to personal finance. Flores said that individuals should sit down today with their spouse and family and have an honest discussion about money. "People have misconceptions about how they should use money in a household," he said. "Some view money as something they should spend freely each month, while someone else looks at money as something that needs to be saved." Furloughed employees need to talk now about what steps they will take today, in case the government shut-down goes on for an extended amount of time.

5. Ask for Help – GreenPath Debt Solutions offers free debt counseling and coaching sessions, in-person, over the phone or Internet, with no obligation. "We work with thousands of people each year in helping them build a budget and a work plan to prepare for the future," said Flores. "We provide impartial advice from an experienced, degreed professional credit counselor."

A GreenPath counselor will thoroughly assess household income and expenses, find places to save, and develop a customized budget and action plan for achieving personal finance goals. "We encourage any furloughed employee, who has questions around budgeting and expenses, to reach out to us today for free help," he said.

Source: www.greenpath.org.

 


Protect Your Kids from Cyberbullying

October 2, 2013 6:00 pm

Cyberbullying is more than just "kids being kids." While it generally starts as a face-to-face encounter with someone the victim knows, texts and social media can quickly evolve the situation into widespread harassment and public humiliation. Digital abuse or "cyberbullying" can take many forms from sending mean messages or threats, spreading rumors, posting unflattering pictures or pretending to be someone else online. More than 80 percent of teens use cell phones regularly, and about half have experienced some kind of abuse through social and digital media.

"Cyberbullying is a growing issue and it's critical that young people understand the consequences of what they post online," says Ann Cosimano, General Counsel of ARAG®, a global provider of legal solutions.  "Even something intended as a joke could reflect badly on them later when they apply for college or a job. And if remarks are intended to hurt or harass someone, the sender could lose a cell phone or online account. As laws in every state become stricter, cyberbullies – and their parents – are more frequently facing legal charges for harassment."

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, an annual event created to unite communities and educate the public on how to protect children from the effects of bullying.  It's a good opportunity to talk with your children and find out more about their school and online experiences with cyberbullying. Consider these tips to as a way to start the conversation and stay safer online.

"Once your child has a personal phone or social media account, it's time to explain the consequences of what's posted," says Cosimano. "Set – and keep – boundaries that consider loss of phone or computer privileges if damaging pictures or messages are posted or forwarded."

  • Make sure teens know that what goes online, stays online. "Any electronic message is, or can be, made, public very easily," says Cosimano. "I remind my kids regularly: if you don't want everyone to know, don't send it online. Better yet, follow the old adage, if you'd be embarrassed if it was published on the front page of the newspaper, then don't write it."
  • Encourage your children to tell an adult if they see cyberbullying happen. Let them know they will not be punished if they are the victim and reassure them that being bullied is not their fault.
  • If your child is harassed, keep all cyberbullying messages as proof. Depending on the severity of the message, parents may want to involve the school or the police. While going directly to the bully's parents might provide relief, it is not always practical or possible. In this case, letting the school, the cell phone carrier or Internet service provider intervene may be an effective first step.
  • If necessary, block the person who is sending harassing messages. You may also need to get a new phone number or email address and be cautious about who receives the new contact information.
  • "Make sure teens never share passwords with anyone except a parent," says Cosimano. "Don't write it down or place it in a place where others could find it."
  • Parents may want to keep the computer in a shared space such as a family room and limit Internet access in a teen's room. "It's also important to have times when everyone simply turns off all the technology. It's tough when everyone is busy, but set boundaries at meal time or a certain time in the evening when everyone turns off cell phones, tablets and computers."

Source: www.araggroup.com

 


Word of the Day

October 2, 2013 6:00 pm

Mortgage company or mortgage banker. Financial intermediary that offers mortgages to borrowers, and then resells them to various lending institutions, government agencies, or private investors.