Gunning Daily News
August 30, 2013 4:27 pm
A: Much like a stockbroker helps you buy stocks, a mortgage broker can help you purchase a home loan. Because the broker has access to many lenders, you will be able to select from a wide variety of loan types and terms that fit your specific needs.
Note, however, that brokers are not obligated to find the best deal for you. Of course, if you agree in writing to have one act as your agent, that is an entirely different story. This is why it is important when looking for a broker to contact more than one, just as you would any other lender.
Compare their fees and ask questions, particularly about how they will be paid. Sometimes their fees appear as points paid at closing or the compensation is factored into the interest rate, or both. In any event, haggle with the broker and the lender for the best deal.
Real estate agents normally maintain contact with several brokers. Ask your agent for recommendations.
August 30, 2013 4:27 pm
Little is more annoying than waking up to a house that smells like kitty litter or the remains of last night’s dinner. But there’s no need to run right out and load up on expensive deodorizers.
Home improvement guru Bob Vila suggests ten common household items that can help freshen and deodorize your home in record time:
- Green tea in the litter box – A box or two of dry green tea leaves sprinkled into the litter box will keep the cat john area smelling fresh.
- Dryer sheets in the trash bin – Stomp out persistently foul-smelling garbage bins with the same disposable dryer sheets you use in the laundry. Toss one or two in the bottom of the bin and the fresh scent will take over.
- Apple cider vinegar in the drains – Pour half a cupful into offending drains to get rid of yucky smells.
- Vanilla extract in the freezer – Freshen up the freezer by soaking a cotton ball in vanilla extract and wiping it around the inside.
- Lemon juice in the sink – Douse the odor in your sink or garbage disposal with a cup or two of lemon juice poured in. The disposal can take the lemon rinds, too.
- Onions in the basement – Musty smell in the basement after the rain? Believe it or not, a raw onion halved and left there overnight will banish any mold or mildew odor.
- Coffee grounds in the fridge – If your refrigerator tends to smell like spoiled food, fill a nylon stocking with fresh ground coffee and toss it in the back of the fridge,
- Baking soda for sneakers – sprinkle baking soda into foul-smelling sneakers to make them smell fresh and new again. Tap the powder out in the morning, and you and your shoes are ready to go.
- Salt and cinnamon for stovetop spills – If the soup’s boiled over, spatter a mixture of salt and cinnamon over the spill while it is still warm. Sponge off the residue after it’s cool, and no burnt smell will survive.
- House plants all around – To keep your home smelling fresh, let a few houseplants do the work. Scented geraniums and Arabian jasmines, in particular, can help banish household odors.
August 30, 2013 4:27 pm
The cooler temperatures of fall may be on their way, but cooler weather also brings an increase in home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than half (54 percent) of home structure fire deaths occur in the cooler months of November through March.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) recommends that every household have an escape plan in place, yet, in a recent survey by Omnibus, 44 percent of people reported that they did not have an escape plan for their home.
On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds to escape a fire.
"Every second counts when it comes to escaping a home fire," says Chief Metcalf, president and chairman of the IAFC. "That's why families need to have an escape plan in place, and ensure they have working smoke alarms to provide those critical early warning signals in the event of a home fire.
The "Change Your Clock Change Your Battery" program aims to help keep families safe by sharing the reminder to replace the batteries in your home's smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors each year when you change your clocks for daylight saving time. It's part of the Energizer philosophy -- that's positivenergy -- which represents the company's commitment to making a positive impact on the world. Here are some additional tips from the IAFC and Energizer to help protect your family room by room.
Make a Plan
Draw a floor plan of your home and find two ways out of every room. Sketch the exit routes clearly on the floor plan. A downloadable escape plan grid can be found on the Energizer Bunny Facebook page. If an upstairs window is one of the escape options, make sure you have a fire escape ladder long enough to reach the ground. Make sure every adult knows how to use it. Adults should be responsible for helping younger children. Assign an outside meeting place so if the family escapes from different routes, you can quickly locate each other.
Use the following checklist to eliminate as many fire hazards in your home as possible:
In a recent study, almost half (44 percent) of families did not know the peak time for home fire fatalities is when most people are asleep (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.). So, in addition to making sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within hearing distance of your bedrooms, take the below steps to fire-proof the bedrooms themselves:
--Do not trap electrical cords against walls. Heat can build up, posing a fire hazard.
--Use only lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Make sure cords are not worn or coming apart. Do not leave electric blankets switched on all night unless they are marked "suitable for all night use."
--Keep bedding, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
--Never smoke in bed.
--Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. By law, mattresses made since then are required to be safer.
--Have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
--Do not overload electrical outlets.
--Never run electrical cords under carpets.
--Check all electrical cords for fraying or other signs of damage.
--Only light decorative candles when adults are in the room. Use stable candle holders that will not catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave.
--During a power failure, do not use candles or oil lamps for light. Keep battery-operated flashlights and lanterns in easily accessible places. Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power cause one-third of fatal home candle fires.
--Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in each room, including the living room.
Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, according to research by the National Fire Protection Agency.
--Never use extension cords to plug in cooking appliances. They can overload the circuit and start a fire.
--Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
--Keep anything that can catch fire away from the cooktop. This includes potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains.
--Keep the cooktop, burners and oven clean.
--Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire. Wear short, close-fitting clothing or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
--Have a fire extinguisher installed in or near your kitchen, and be sure every adult family member knows how to use it.
--Store all combustible materials away from regular sources of heat, such as water heaters, space heaters, boilers and furnaces.
--Keep wood finishes, spray paint, paint thinners and other flammable products in a dedicated storage container with a closed door.
--Store all combustible materials in their proper containers and be sure they are clearly marked.
--Keeping the garage tidy can also help keep it safe. Get rid of stacked boxes, newspapers, recycling and trash. They can be instant fuel for a fire.
August 30, 2013 4:27 pm
(BPT) - A job transfer usually is a good thing. Hopefully the transfer signals a promotion as you take your career a step further up the ladder, bringing about new and fun challenges in the workplace. But the transition itself is often not easy, especially if it involves moving your home and family to a new location.
Businesses often give transferred employees less than two weeks (11 days) to accept a transfer offer and once accepted, an average of 33 days to move and report to the new job, according to Worldwide ERC, a professional association for workforce mobility. That isn't much time to find a new home, put the old home up for sale or subleasing and plan a move that could be across town, across state lines or across the country.
Resources are available to help ease the stress of your job transfer. They include:
Your company - Before you accept the job transfer offer, check with your human resources department on what services or financial compensation your company offers. Many companies outsource relocation services or cover selected services like providing rental moving trucks for employees. Be aware that the average cost of shipping household goods for a domestic transfer was around $12,459 in 2012, according to Worldwide ERC.
Truck rental - Much of the moving process involves the transfer of your household goods. Truck rental companies help to make this process much easier. For example, Penske, which is a member of Worldwide ERC, has a dedicated customer service and sales team within its existing call center to serve the specialized needs of employee relocations.
"Time, cost and ease of use are of the essence with an employee relocation move," says Don Mikes, senior vice president of rental for Penske. "We have a solid solution to make the process easy ranging from rental trucks, towing equipment and moving supplies to services beyond the truck such as self-storage and moving labor."
House hunting - Searching for a new home could be the most stressful part of relocating. Many employees will opt for temporary housing like apartments or extended-stay hotels for the first couple months of the transfer. This allows them to get a feel for the community and take the time to review homes for sale. However, if you prefer to purchase a home right way, contact the human resources department at your new location to ask for real estate agents referrals. Also take your search online. Between MLS listings with photos and online mapping tools, you can narrow your search quickly to preferred homes, allowing you to make an appointment once with your real estate agent to tour the homes and hopefully make an offer.
House selling - On the other end of the spectrum, you also have a home to sell. Many homeowners are opting to hire a management company and rent out the home, with the intent to sell in the future once they have their life organized in the new location and have the time to list the home with a real estate agent. Management companies handle the review of rental applicants, the background checks, collect the rent and take care of any emergency maintenance concerns that might occur, allowing the homeowner to concentrate his energies on the new job.
The job transfer process may feel overwhelming, but with these resources available to assist you with the transfer, you'll find yourself quickly settling into the new office and digging into the challenges of the new job.
August 30, 2013 4:27 pm
Adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). Mortgage loan on which the interest rate falls and rises with changes in prevailing rates. The mortgage rate is tied to a selected index and may be adjusted annually. Also called a variable rate mortgage.
August 30, 2013 4:27 pm
A: When you apply for a loan, long, steady employment is always seen as a plus, as is a large down payment, a good credit rating, a history of regular savings, and property located in a “good” neighborhood.
Not so good in the lender’s mind: frequent job changes without salary increases, self-employment in a new venture, bad debt history, no previous borrowing record, and dilapidated property.
Do not be discouraged. These are standard lender pre-dispositions when evaluating your application, but when it comes to making a loan decision, most lenders will tell you nothing is completely carved in stone.
Consider, too, that credit you have qualified for—say, credit cards—can work against you, even if never used. This is because those credit cards are looked upon as being open credit lines—and while they have not been used, they could be used, and potentially used up to the maximum dollar amount allowed by the credit card companies. As a result, their perceived risks lower your credit, or FICO, score.
August 29, 2013 8:06 pm
I previously talked about the Streamlined Modification for mortgage holders who are delinquent in their payments by 90 days to 24 months. But there are many other options for homeowners in various other situations, who are looking to lower their payments or get out of rough financial waters.
Knowyouroptions.com, a site operated by Fannie Mae, lays out the following options for homeowners:
Refinancing - A new loan, with new terms, interest rates and monthly payments, which completely replaces the current mortgage. Even if a home value has decreased or the owner owes more than the home is worth, they may be able to refinance their loan as part of the government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). HARP makes payments more affordable by lowering the interest rate or adjusting the terms of a loan, and it creates no negative activity or event on your credit history.
Repayment plan - An agreement between the owner and the mortgage company that lets them pay the past due amount - added on to the current mortgage payments - over a specified time period to bring the mortgage current. The reayment plan resolves the delinquency; lets homeowners catch up on past due payments over an extended period of time; and is less damaging to a credit score than a foreclosure
Forbearance - An offer by a mortgage company to temporarily suspend or reduce the monthly mortgage payments for a specified period of time, providing a homeowner time to improve their financial situation. This option is less damaging to the credit score than a foreclosure
Modification - An agreement with a mortgage company to change the original terms of a mortgage - such as payment amount, length of loan, interest rate, etc. Candidates may also be eligible for the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
Deal for Lease - A program that allows the homeowner to temporarily lease the home by transferring the ownership of the home to the mortgage company (called a Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure) in exchange for a release from the mortgage loan and payments. the former owner can then rent the property back - at an affordable rate - and remain in the home as a tenant.
August 29, 2013 8:06 pm
Some Moms sneak veggies into their picky eaters’ diets by grating a little carrot into the tuna salad or even zucchini into chocolate cookies. Nutritionist Rachel Warren suggests eight more easy ways to make all your family meals more nutritious:
Split the fats and spare the sugar – Most recipes don’t need to be followed exactly. Sautee ingredients in a mixture of butter and olive oil instead of butter or corn oil – and you can shave a quarter cup of sugar from most cake and cookie recipes without sacrificing taste.
Dress chicly – Instead of using dressings made with oil, puree an avocado with herbs of your choice and pour it over your salad. Or use a little balsamic syrup (thicker and sweeter than balsamic vinegar) to dress salads or drizzle on meats before grilling.
Skim the cream - Take fat and calories out of classic comfort foods by mashing potatoes with unsweetened almond milk and roasted garlic – or creaming spinach of other vegetables with tapioca flour and unsweetened almond milk instead of butter and heavy cream. You can even halve the suggested amount of cheese without giving up much flavor.
Tenderize with yogurt - The naturally occurring lactic acid in Greek yogurt helps break down protein to make meats, fish, and even veggies more flavorful and tender. Combine nonfat plain Greek yogurt with fresh herbs and seasonings to create an oil-free marinade and save about 110 calories per tablespoon.
Add a leaf to the beef – Boil or steam kale, a nutrient-rich veggie, then chop finely and add a half cup to a pound of ground beef for delicious, more nutritious meatballs.
Pick the right pan – Using a good quality non-stick pan will enable you to cook with less fat and still keep foods from sticking.
Turn up the heat on veggies – Cut up assorted veggies, toss them with a bit of olive oil and herbs on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 or 20 minutes. Yummy flavor with crunchy, toasted edges and without any butter at all.
Curb the carbs - Lighten pasta dishes and boost nutritional content by replacing half the noodles with lightly sauteed julienne vegetables like peppers, snow peas, and mushrooms.
August 28, 2013 7:48 pm
(BPT) - Chances are you've thought about adding a splash of color to the exterior of your
home, and you're not the only one. Many people have the same idea, but they don't act
because they're worried they will choose poorly. Selecting the wrong color for your home's
exterior isn't only costly, it's embarrassing as well.
"Many homeowners are afraid to add color to their home's exterior because they don't want to
make a mistake," says Sensational Color's Kate Smith, Color Marketing Group (CMG), a
career color trend forecaster. "Especially when people look at the style of their homes, they
can become confused by what colors will enhance their exteriors."
One common mistake homeowners make when seeking to add color to their home's exterior is
they fail to identify a full color palette. They set out to choose that perfect color for their home
without thinking about how it will interact with the newly-installed window frames or new roof.
Smith says the selection of your main color should take into account the colors of fixed
features related to your home, such as the brick, stone or stucco found on your foundation,
porch or walkway. Selecting color options for the trim, shutters and the front door should only
come after the main color has been selected.
Smith, author of the free 36-page ebook "FRESH Color Schemes for Your Home Exterior,"
advocates for taking a "top down" approach to adding eye-pleasing color palettes to the home
exterior. She says people who are interested in making a color change to their exterior should
start with the roof color and work their way down, taking into account the siding, window
frames, front entry door and trim.
The ebook includes specific tips for home styles including: ranch, colonial, bungalow,
Victorian, Spanish mission, European and new American homes. Smith provides several
color combinations for each home style as well as tips for making the homes complement their
"One of the hottest trends in the marketplace right now is to 'shake up' home exteriors with
color," says Smith. "This tutorial provides guidance on understanding the home's exterior
features and playing off them with color accents."
"No homeowner should feel locked into blah or standard colors on their home's exterior," says
Smith. "A shake or slate polymer roof can have an appealing blend of colors, such as browns
and autumn tones. Low-maintenance vinyl window frames and grids come in pine green,
chocolate and even brick red to add pizzazz to the home. And, homeowners can create a
welcoming front entrance by painting a fiberglass door a striking accent color. Tie that all
together with painted urethane trim pieces that add the 'icing on the cake' for the home and
you can really make a home more appealing with coordinated colors."
August 28, 2013 7:48 pm
Many of us have buyer's remorse after completing a purchase or closing a deal. But luckily, there are some situations in which you can cancel the deal within three days.
Caveat emptor (buyer beware) no more with these easy steps to cancel a recent contract:
1. Contact the Company
Before you use your state and federal law options for canceling your contract, you may want to try simply contacting the business via mail or email to release you from the contract. Depending on the type of contract, you may be able to cancel for free or possibly a small fee.
2. Check State Laws
Many states, like California, grant consumers a statutory "cooling off" period, typically three to five days, during which a consumer can cancel a contract for any reason by sending the seller a written cancellation notice.
Each state has its own methods and official forms for giving cancellation notice, but in most cases, a contract can be cancelled within three days if notice is sent by certified mail before the third day.
3. Determine FTC Options
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put in place several safeguards to protect consumers from making hasty contract decisions. In particular situations, there is a three-day cooling-off period during which a consumer can cancel a contract.
This FTC cooling-off period only applies to purchases made in a buyer's home or a location outside the seller's permanent place of business (e.g., at a trade show).
Regardless of the location, a buyer cannot cancel a contract under the cooling-off period for a transaction that:
- Totals less than $25;
- Involves business or education goods (i.e., not personal or household goods);
- Involves cars (even if it's at a car show);
- Involves arts and crafts at a fair-type venue; or
- Involves real property, insurance, securities.
4. Send a Cancellation Notice
If your contract is eligible for the three-day cooling-off period -- or even a longer period under state law -- you need to give cancellation notice to the seller.
Some businesses may offer their own cancellation forms, but you can always draft your own cancellation letter. Just make sure your notice includes:
- Your name, address, and contact information;
- Identifying information for the goods or services you're wishing to cancel (e.g., order number, account number, etc.); and
- An unequivocal statement that you are canceling the contract.
- As long as you send the notice by mail -- or even better, hand delivery -- within three business days of the sale, the company may not sue you for breach of contract.