Gunning Daily News

Q: How does an unsecured loan work?

August 15, 2013 3:45 pm

A: The interest rates on these loans are often higher than on secured loans and you generally will not be able to get a tax deduction for the interest paid.  However, the costs to obtain an unsecured loan are usually lower. And the relative ease of getting this type of loan makes it popular for small projects costing $10,000 or less. The lender evaluates applications based on credit history and income.


Make your Offer Stand Out Against the Competition

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

Finding your dream home is no simple task. You may start by considering a price range or maybe you’re looking for a particular style of home. Often times, homebuyers have to meet certain work or family needs – location, a particular number of rooms, the need for a big backyard or a specific amount of garage space.

There are several factors to consider as you narrow the search down to just a few properties. But what do you do when you find your dream home, only to discover other potential buyers have already made offers? In today’s competitive market, buyers need ways to make their offers stand out against the competition. When faced with a multiple offer situation, consider these tricks of the trade:

Include a Sales Price Escalation Addendum with your offer.

A Sales Price Escalation Addendum is a document attached to your offer that allows it to be increased by a specified amount, which is activated if competing offers meet certain perimeters. The Sales Price Escalation Addendum is triggered if the seller receives one or more legitimate additional offers, which have a higher net value – the final sale price, after closing costs and buyer concessions have been agreed upon – than the offer with the escalation addendum. Specific values will vary from offer to offer, but this Addendum gives your offer room for adjustment.

Don’t ask for Closing Cost Credits and increase your Earnest Money Deposit.

In the real estate business, money talks! Closing costs credits assist the buyer in purchasing the home and reduce the net cash to the seller. Oftentimes with multiple offers in the current sellers’ market, these requests have the offer thrown out immediately. Like a security deposit, earnest money is the initial deposit with the offer as an act of good faith. It shows the seller that you’re serious about your offer and moving towards the purchase. If the offer is accepted, this money goes towards the eventual down payment. When there are multiple offers, increasing the earnest money tells the seller you’re committed to the purchase, and they should give your offer more consideration.

Be prompt with inspection scheduling.

When submitting an offer, every property is subject to inspection. Having a tightly scheduled inspection period not only shows you’re serious about moving forward, but also indicates to the seller that you’re in control of the situation. Industry standard is 17-day inspection period; reducing to 10 or 12 days is much more appealing. Being proactive expedites the sales process to closing, which will make any seller happy. By initiating the inspection process and keeping a tight schedule, you make your offer look more serious and closing attainable, which is the mutual goal.

Make sure your agent reaches out to the listing agent prior to submitting an offer.

This will help expedite the offer process, again setting your offer apart from the competition. Using the selling agents preferred vendors for items such as Termite, Title, and Escrow go a long way to suggesting a smooth transaction. Also, the buyer may need a rent-back period after the sale, and give an idea whether they are willing to give any credits for repairs, etc. This eliminates many of the minor countering items and reduces back and forth negotiating up-front.

Use DocuSign

This cloud-based electronic signature technology facilitates the exchange of contracts, tax documents and other legal materials. DocuSign simplifies the real estate buying process by organizing all of your documents, making them mobile and easily accessible. Also, your electronic signature will be honored and secure. Since all the documents are saved as electronic files, they can be easily emailed to listing agents. Again, this shows that you are a serious buyer, working with you may be easier than others and they should consider your offer with more earnest.

Keep in mind offers CAN be too high

Some homebuyers may think no price is too high to pay for their dream home, but the highest offer is not always the strongest. Mortgage lenders must approve the value. Lenders won’t approve a loan for more than the appraised market value of the property. Even though the seller may love an offer higher than list price, the bank may not approve.

Following these steps through your next real estate purchase will help you compete with multiple, legitimate offers on your dream house, making yours stand out above the rest.

Source: Renovation Realty

 


5 Back-to-School Issues to Discuss With Your Kids

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

Before your kids head back to school, you may want to have an honest chat with them about peer pressure and all the legal risks that come with it.

They may look apathetic and roll their eyes at you -- but rest assured, it's important. If you take the easy way out and keep mum, consider yourself warned: In many states, parents can be held civilly liable for their kids' actions.

Here are five back-to-school legal issues you need to talk to your kids about:

  • Cyberbullying. It's often at the beginning of the school year when kids try to climb up the social ladder. Kids can be incredibly cruel to one another for the sake of popularity. In times of social flux, it's important for parents to talk their kids about cyberbullying.
  • Sexting. Gone are the days of talking about the birds and the bees. Now it's all about keeping those birds and bees far, far away from the World Wide Web. Rather than "shaming" your kid, treat him or her like an adult and have an honest talk about how sexting can come back to haunt a person for years to come.
  • Dangerous dares and pranks. You'd be amazed by how many dumb things can attract your kid. Before your kids head back to school, remind them to keep their hands -- as well as teeth and other body parts -- to themselves.
  • Drinking and drugs. This is the timeless golden rule. Now that some private schools are randomly testing students for alcohol consumption, it's all the more important to have a firm conversation about the dangers of underage drinking, as well as drugs. It may feel like a stale topic, but you won't feel that way when you get arrested for it.
  • Driving habits. Teen drivers crash at a rate four times higher than any other age group -- in part, due to risky driving habits. Give your precious cargo a refresher on the dangers of distracted driving, not wearing seatbelts, and any other safety issue that keeps you awake at night.

Source: Findlaw.com


Buying a Car: New or Used, That is the Question

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

(BPT)—Conventional wisdom says that a new car will always cost you more than a used one. Why? There's a higher price tag and you have to face the depreciation that comes when you drive off the dealer's lot. Previously, if you were looking to save money, used vehicles were thought to be the best option. However, as supply may not be meeting demand, conventional wisdom may not hold true.

"Several years ago, we would have advised shoppers to go the used route in order to save money, but in the current economic state, used car prices have skyrocketed, which could make buying new just as economical," says Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief of Cars.com.

Experts suggest that the sluggish economy pushed more people out of the new-car market and into the used-car market. This resulted in a strain on used inventories, jacking up prices. Additionally, the 2009 Cash for Clunkers program also removed more than a million used cars from the market.

"It's all about supply and demand," says Olsen. "Low supply means car shoppers can expect to pay a premium for a used car that would usually be affordable, since new cars are so much more plentiful."

While used-car prices have dropped a little in recent months, they remain high compared to historical standards. Aside from looking just at cost, experts like Olsen, say that buying new or used has many different benefits.

Some of the advantages to buying a new car:

  • Reduced maintenance expense, largely because of warranty coverage
  • Free roadside assistance
  • Often lower financing charges, which can be spread over a longer loan term
  • Peace of mind knowing that you are the first owner
  • That unique feeling of owning something brand-new

On the contrary, there is a definite case to be made for buying used. "If you aren't married to the idea of buying a new car, used vehicles also offer some great benefits," says Olsen. "The top perk remains affordability. Buying used can often let buyers drive a nicer, more luxurious car than they could afford if buying new."

Other benefits of buying used:

  • Someone else paid for the depreciation
  • Often there is leftover warranty coverage

Another trend that makes buying used an intriguing option is the proliferation of certified pre-owned programs. The idea started with luxury brands, but today, most manufacturers have these programs.

"Consumers can be assured that they are getting a great car when buying through a certified program," says Olsen. "Only newer, low-mileage cars are usually included, and they have to undergo a rigorous inspection by the manufacturer to be considered for the program."

Certified vehicles are normally covered by a new warranty that extends beyond the original factory warranty. There are also sometimes special low-financing options for certified vehicles.

What the future holds for the great new or used debate remains uncertain, but the improving economy has resulted in record-breaking new-car sales in 2013.

"This means that, in theory, the supply of used cars should go back to normal, and buying used should once again be cheaper than buying new," Olsen says.


Word of the Day

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

Subletting. The leasing of premises by a lessee to a third party for part of the lessee’s remaining term.


Q: What are the advantages of owning a home?

August 14, 2013 4:57 pm

A: There are many. Among the most appealing: you own it, which gives you, instead of a landlord, control of your living space. Other benefits stem from potential tax savings and the build up of equity as your property likely appreciates in price over time. Equity can be used to help put children through college, purchase a second home, or make home improvements. The mortgage interest paid on a home loan is tax deductible, as is the local property tax.  If you get a fixed-rate home mortgage loan, you also can invest more wisely knowing your monthly mortgage payment, unlike rent, will not change substantially.


Pool Party Trends: Salt Water

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

BPT—Pools are great fun for kids and adults and when it is hot in the summer time or you're on vacation, there is no better way to cool off. Most pools do require a lot of work to keep clean, however, and there is always that chlorine smell and the burning sensation that affects the eyes and skin. For many people it is the memory of the chlorine that is inescapably associated with all pools.

But for kids today this memory is quickly becoming a non-event thanks to the increasing popularity of saltwater pools.

Saltwater pools work by converting salt to chlorine using an electrolytic converter. This produces the same type of bacteria-killing chlorine found in a traditional pool, but in a radically different fashion. Since the salt generator is adding chlorine to the water at a constant rate, it is capable of displacing the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine and maintaining the right amount at all times.

As the water exits the converter and enters the pool, the sanitizing chlorine eventually reverts back to salt, and the process repeats itself, conserving salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced. However, new salt does need to be added occasionally as salt levels can drop due to splash-out, rain and filter back-washing. Pool owners still should test weekly for pH and chlorine and monthly for other water balance factors.

Saltwater pools require far less maintenance than traditional pools and are much less expensive to maintain as pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United State have already made the switch. Plus when it comes to initial construction and installation, the additional cost of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater can be paid off quickly.

Saltwater pools are certainly not new. The technology started in Australia in the 1960s and today over 80 percent of all pools there use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and today have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are salt water, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

Some may be concerned about the effect of salt on pool equipment, construction materials, decks and surrounding structures. However, the actual amount of salt used is very low, less than .01 as salty as sea water. You may be able to taste the salt in the pool, but much less so than you can taste and feel the chlorine in a standard pool. When pools are properly constructed and normal maintenance is followed, salt water has no effect on pool finishes, equipment and decks.

Since the Evergreen Commons senior center in Holland, Mich., converted its 65,000-gallon pool to salt water, members have been pleased with the results. "The minute you walk into the pool area you notice a big difference," says Jodi Owczarski, the center's community relations director. "There is no longer that chemical smell. People also tell us that the water is much softer. In the old pool, people said they sometimes had to wash twice to get all those chemicals off, but in this pool, they only have to wash once. All in all, people have been thrilled with this new system."

Source: saltinstitute.org.

 


4 Simple Steps to a “Clean Enough” Home

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

A thorough spring housecleaning, or any single day of dedicated mopping and scrubbing can leave your home sparkling and you with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. But in between those cleaning marathons, four simple steps are enough to keep your living quarters clean enough for comfort and safety without devoting hours to the task.

So says decorator Melissa Michaels, whose blog, “The Inspired Room,” makes short work of household maintenance. Michaels offers four simple daily or weekly routines that can make your housekeeping a breeze:

  1. The morning hustle – In the midst of your daily morning routine – showering, dressing, packing lunches and the like, throw a single load of laundry into the washer and dryer. It will take only minutes, but can help you do away a cumbersome weekend wash day.
  2. Clean sinks – Once a day, in the morning or evening, do a quick a clean-up of the kitchen and bathroom sinks – or assign the task to another family member, perhaps as an after-school chore. Clean sinks can discourage a pile-up of dirty dishes and spare you the icky sight of hair or toothpaste blobs in the bathroom.
  3. Family frenzy – Once a week, perhaps on Saturday or Sunday, insist that all family members take part in a 15-minute cleaning frenzy. Dole out simple chores to the youngest while the rest of you whip through vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the toilets and showers. With everyone working, and a time limit in place, the chores seem less onerous and everyone can go on with their day. (A pancake breakfast after the frenzy might make everyone work harder and faster.)
  4. Nightly kitchen mop-up – After dinner, be sure to load the dishwasher, wipe off the counters and thoroughly wash out the sink. Getting up in the morning to a clean-looking kitchen can get everyone off to a better start.

Word of the Day

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

Maturity date. Date on which principal and interest on a mortgage or other loan must be paid in full.

 


Q: Can a home be sold for less than its mortgage?

August 13, 2013 8:42 pm

A: Sometimes. But it is a complicated process and a lot will depend on the lender.

This process is called a “short sale,” which occurs when a lender agrees to write off the portion of a mortgage that's higher than the value of a home. But, usually, a buyer must be willing to purchase the property first.

A short sale may be more complicated if the loan has been sold in the secondary market.  Then the lender will need permission from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the two major secondary-market players.

If the loan was a low down payment mortgage with private mortgage insurance, the lender also will need to involve the mortgage insurance company that insured the low down payment loan.

The short sale can keep the homeowner from landing in bankruptcy or foreclosure. But it is not an easy procedure to approve, and it involves as much, if not more, paperwork than an original mortgage application.

Instead of proving your credit worthiness and financial stability, you must prove you are broke. And any remaining difference between your home's value and the balance on your mortgage is considered a forgiveness of debt, which usually means it is taxable income.