Gunning Daily News

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

With a national forecast for an "active" hurricane season this year, it's important for you to have a disaster recovery plan in place.

"With the devastation of Superstorm Sandy still fresh in our memory and another active season predicted, now is the time to set a plan to protect not only your family and personal property, but also your personal finances and business assets," says Louis R. Cestello, executive vice president, Southeast regional executive, PNC Bank. "Taking time in advance of a hurricane can make the potential process of recovery easier for individuals and businesses."

So what can you do to prepare and protect your assets in the event of an emergency? PNC Bank's personal finance experts suggest following these tips, including lessons learned from last hurricane season:

Personal Safety is Paramount: Create a thorough emergency plan including emergency supplies, evacuation routes, communications plans, personal property preparations and more. Municipal agencies can provide guidance to create and follow a comprehensive personal disaster preparedness plan.

Cash on Hand: In case power goes out and ATMs are not working, be sure to have some cash available in addition to debit and credit cards as well as personal checks.

Consider a Reloadable Debit Card: Worried about the risk of keeping too much cash on hand? Augment your cash with a prepaid reloadable debit card for safe, convenient access to your money. You can use the card to make purchases, pay bills and even get additional cash at the ATM.

Register for Mobile Banking: When the power goes out, your smartphone can be used for banking as well as communicating. With a smartphone, you can access your account, monitor transactions, pay bills and use a bank ATM locator app to find an ATM nearby that may have power.

Follow Your Bank on Social Media: Status updates are available via Facebook and Twitter, which serve as real-time communication tools in the event of a natural disaster.

Fill up Your Gas Tank: Given long lines at the pump after a disaster, filling your tank in advance is always a good idea. That full tank can also come in handy in case of a power outage where your car may be the only way to charge a smartphone or laptop, making mobile banking and other online transactions or communications possible.

Scan and Store Important Documents in a Safe Place: Make duplicates of all your important documents so you have copies if the originals are destroyed. Back up your electronic files and keep important documents, i.e., identification and insurance policies, in a safe place separate from home. Consider containers that are water-proof and portable.

Listen to Authorities: Adhere to guidance associated with weather watches, warnings and the advice of authorities. Take all necessary steps to help ensure the safety of you and your family. Follow evacuation plans if issued for your area.

Assessing the Aftermath: Lastly, once personal safety is assured and you are cleared to return, contact your financial institution or business banker. In disaster areas, customer assistance may be extended in the form of fee forgiveness for overdraft, returned item, late charges and ATM surcharges. Additional products, such as Home Equity Installment Loans, Personal Installment Loans and other municipal loans may be offered to customers for disaster-related relief purposes with accelerated review.

Source: www.pnc.com

 


Beyond Finances: Tips For First-Time Homebuyers

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

According to a recent PulteGroup Home Index Survey, more than half of renters aged 18-34 say their intention to buy a home has increased in the last year.

While their intentions are in many ways driven by personal, aspirational reasons – more space, family stability and the pride of homeownership – the low mortgage rate environment, increasing rental costs and scarcity of desirable rental options makes homeownership an even more attractive proposition for many.

"The propensity for young adults to test the waters of homeownership continues to increase and has become more evident as renters are seeing the overall value of owning a home," says Deborah Wahl, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PulteGroup, Inc., noting that more than 50 percent of millennials reported that the desire to own/build equity was the primary reason for purchasing a new home. "However, beyond finances, it is important for potential buyers to take several other factors into consideration."

Below are tips for first-time homebuyers looking for the right housing match:

Know Your Financial Situation – Start saving for a down payment and talk with mortgage lenders about available loans well in advance of your purchase. Understand there are special federal, state and locally administered financial programs for new homebuyers, such as FHA and HUD loan programs. Additionally, it's important to take into account other factors beyond your mortgage, including homeowners insurance and property taxes. By doing your homework, you will know what you can afford and comfortably make a decision about this important investment.

Compare Owning vs. Renting – Buying can be smarter than renting from a financial standpoint, but it has other advantages, as well. Owning a home provides you with a great deal of freedom and decision-making autonomy. No more will you have to worry about the noisy neighbor upstairs or accidental scratches on the wall from decorations. You'll have the power to select paint colors and plant flowers throughout the yard. Also, houses tend to offer more storage space.

Weigh New vs. Used – If you want to choose the floor plan and customize a home to fit your needs and lifestyle, building a new home may be the right choice for you. Popular options new homes offer today include more open, larger spaces, master bedroom suites, island-centric kitchens and bigger outdoor living space. Customizing a new home also provides the opportunity to design your home and include amenities that meet the needs of your growing family – if that's in your future. Additionally, new homes can be up to 30 percent more energy efficient and often come with a builder warranty. If you're handy and don't mind a fixer upper, resale can be an attractive route as well.

Examine the Location – Consider your surroundings when deciding upon where you want to live next. If you plan to start a family, research the local school district and other family offerings such as nearby parks and community centers. For fun, test out the local retail scene and entertainment options to see if it caters to your lifestyle. If you're a commuter, determine if the area is supported by adequate public transportation or provides easy access to major highways. Many in the housing market also care about ensuring they still live within close proximity to family and friends, as only 21 percent of homeowners are willing to move away from their families.

Select the Right Builder – If you decide on a new home, select a builder who has experience in the type of home and in the location you want. Make sure they have a history of building quality homes and are financially stable. Moreover, how easy are they to work with? Some builders today have gone digital to enhance customer service and help buyers stay on top of the latest with their new home. Look for on-line design centers that can help you make important design decisions, for example, or portals in which you can stay up-to-date on how your new home is progressing. Lastly, take time to check their references and talk to past customers.

Confide in Trusted Sources – More than 90 percent of home shoppers today are plugged-in to the internet and use it as their main source of information. While this is particularly true with millennials, don't forget to seek advice from two trusted groups: real estate agents and your personal network, including your parents. Approximately 60 percent of millennials say they would rely on both sources, as each has extensive experience in purchasing homes and can provide personal guidance toward the successful purchase of their home.

"With third party data showing that 90 percent of millennials plan to purchase a home at some point in their lives, it's important first-time homebuyers have access to the right tools and information to ensure their first home purchase is one they are proud of for years to come," adds Wahl. "With many options to choose from, starting from a point of knowledge will go a long way towards achieving their dream of homeownership."

Source: www.centex.com

 


Word of the Day

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

Market value.  Generally accepted as the highest price that a ready, willing, and able buyer will pay and the lowest price a ready, willing, and able seller will accept for a property.

 


Q: What Home Improvement Cost Controls or Budgeting Ideas Might Be Helpful?

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

A:  Plan ahead and create a realistic budget.  Decide on the items and materials you would like to have in a room and set your budget accordingly.  This will prevent hasty, and costly, decisions down the road.  The experts suggest setting aside 10-20 percent of your budget to cover unforeseen problems and miscellaneous charges.  Then, choose less expensive products that will help you achieve the look you’re trying to obtain.  Avoid labor intensive design features, such as tiled floors. You may also want to pursue your home improvement in stages, if you can’t afford to pay for the entire project at once.  If possible, avoid too many take-out meals and/or hotel stays.  Try isolating construction areas so that your living space isn’t interrupted and other household space can be used to heat or prepare meals once the kitchen is being remodeled.


Disaster Preparedness: A Quick Review

June 6, 2013 6:36 pm

Nearly every state in the Union is at some risk for tornadoes, and earthquakes are possible, if not probable, in 45 American states. Floods, fires, and hurricanes can happen anywhere.

In the aftermath of the recent killer tornado in Oklahoma, it’s time for every family to review – or perhaps establish – a workable plan to help keep the family safe in the event of a natural disaster.

From the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), here are steps for every family to follow:

  • Make a plan - Go to ready.gov or other websites to learn about natural disasters that could occur in your area. Recognizing the hazards and possible warning systems will help you formulate a plan for coping with, and recovering from, disaster.  Making a plan should include being sure each family member knows where the family plans to reunite after the danger is past and/or which relative to call and check in with in another state.
  • Build a kit – Prepare and keep updated an emergency kit in your home and office. A basic kit should include a gallon of water per person for three days and enough food for three days (including a can opener), plus supplies such as a flashlight, radio and batteries, a first aid kit and a whistle, moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal sanitation,  and a wrench to turn off utilities. Go online now for more information on other supplies to keep in your disaster kit, such as pet food, cash, and more.
  • Be a volunteer - Our nation’s emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they cannot do it alone. Stay informed and volunteer with a local Citizen’s Corps Council (citizenscorps.gov) or local disaster preparedness group.

Maintain Your Deck for Years of Summer Fun

June 6, 2013 6:36 pm

A deck is a great investment. It increases your home’s usable living space at a fraction of the cost of adding an inside room. Remodeling magazine estimates a properly maintained deck will return about 77 percent of its original cost. But, no one wants to buy a home where they are going to immediately incur costly deck repairs. Pillar To Post is the leading home inspection company in North America, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. With more than 400 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Pillar To Post provides real estate agents and homeowners, the most professional inspectors and the most comprehensive inspection reports in the industry. Here are their tips for caring for decks:

Deep Clean: This is best done on a cloudy day before the weather gets too hot. Start by sweeping the deck and removing debris that’s trapped between the deck boards. A putty knife is great for this. You can attach it to a pipe or dowel rod so that you don’t have to bend over the entire time. Then, wash wood decks and all railings with a standard deck cleaner. You can also mix bleach and water at a ratio of one-to-one. If you have composite deck, make sure you use a cleaner specifically formulated for composite material.

Seal the deck: This should be done 48 hours after the deep clean. You can test if your deck needs sealing by splashing some water on it. The water should bead up. If it soaks into the deck, you need to reseal it. Most decks will need to be resealed annually.

Inspect and Repair: In the warm, dry summer months, inspect the deck for signs of rot. This is easily done by poking a flat-blade screwdriver into areas that look worn. If you can push the screwdriver more than a quarter-inch into the deck, you should repair it. Small areas, anything about an inch or smaller, can be chiseled out and treated with wood preservative. If the rot covers a larger area, you should consult a professional to evaluate the deck and recommend repairs. Also, you’ll want to tighten any screws that are loose on the railing and add galvanized lag screws to posts that need extra support.

Preventive measures: Before winter comes, secure or replace loose and missing nails. Trimming back bushes near the deck will prevent mold, moss and rot. Moving planters, chairs, tables and other items that are on the deck will prevent the deck from becoming discolored.

For more information, visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com.


TOP 5 RC - Steps to an Updated Outdoor Entertaining Space

June 6, 2013 6:36 pm

(BPT) - With milder weather finally here, it's time to start planning your outdoor projects. Is your outdoor patio or deck looking a bit dated and dingy? Does it reflect your home's personality? Whether you're planning to host outdoor festivities with friends and family or just grilling up gourmet creations, a few changes can really liven up your outdoor space and add value to your home. Follow these simple steps for an updated look that will create a more enjoyable area.

Clear it off

The first step when updating any patio or deck is to remove all items from the area; this includes furniture, planters and even the weathered layer of grime that sits atop the wood. Use a power washer to really remove any mildew and debris. By starting with a clean surface, you'll be able to see the current state of the wood. If the stain is faded or wearing away, consider re-staining it. Wood exposed to the outdoor elements should be coated with an oil-based finish, never a latex or acrylic paint. Paint is more susceptible to weathering, fading and flaking. Oil-based stains soak into the wood and result in better and longer-lasting results.

Mini-rollers are the perfect size for applying stain to railings, spindles and any other small areas of the deck. The covers are available in 4 1/2- and 6 1/2-inch lengths and come in all fabric types, including fabric that works well with oil-based finishes. If your deck is currently painted, be sure to scrape away any flaking areas from the deck flooring, the steps and handrails. 

Dress it up and add some color

Is your existing outdoor furniture looking a bit drab? Repaint it and dress it up with outdoor pillows and cushions. Change up the layout of the furniture for another fresh look. By moving furniture into a more square or circular shape, you'll increase conversations. If a focal point exists, such as a fire pit or great view, arrange furniture to face that. For a more embellished look to your railings, replace existing spindles and ball tops with more decorative ones. Repaint planter boxes and add in colorful accessories such as rugs, lawn ornaments and small plants. Flowers, herbs and many vegetables can be grown in planters, boxes and any other small space.

Lighten up your space

Many outdoor gatherings can carry on past sunset, so lighting your deck area is important. There are hundreds of options available to lighten up any outdoor area. You can create whatever atmosphere you prefer. Solar lamps are a smart, energy-efficient way to light the walk and seating areas, while Chinese lanterns hanging in the trees create a fun, party feel.

Lights lining railing walkways will direct attendees to and from the gathering areas safely, and an enclosed bonfire pit or portable fireplace is a great way to gather people for post-dinner carousing. Sufficient lighting will encourage guests to stay past dark and allow everyone to enjoy a warm summer evening.

By following these simple steps, you'll be spending more time outdoors and have a fresh space to enjoy with family and friends all summer long.

 


Word of the Day

June 6, 2013 6:36 pm

Tax credit.  An allowed deduction that can be subtracted from your income tax.  If you are entitled to a $1,500 credit, and your income tax would otherwise be $10,000, the credit would reduce the tax due to $8,500.


Q: How Long Do Bankruptcies and Foreclosure Stay on a Credit Report?

June 6, 2013 6:36 pm

A: They can remain on your credit record for seven to 10 years.

However, a borrower who has worked hard to reestablish good credit may be shown some leniency by the lender. And the circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy may also influence a lender's decision. For example, if you went bankrupt because you were laid off from your job, the lender may be more sympathetic. If, however, you went through bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, it is unlikely the lender will readily give you a break.

 


5 Frugal Habits of the Rich

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

It stands to reason that people who live modestly and invest wisely are on the surest pathway

to wealth and financial freedom. Frugal shopper Kyle James, who operates a website called

RatherBeShopping.com, makes a habit of tracking the ways wealthy people spend their

money.
 

From his observations, here are five widespread frugal habits endorsed by many of the rich

and/or famous:

1.Drive a modest car – Some people allow the car they drive to define their character or

image. But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg drives a $30,000 Acura sedan, the kind

of decision seconded by many wealthy people who know the purpose of a car is simply

to get us from place to place.

2.Buy a modest house – As many people know, Warren Buffett still lives in the Omaha,

Neb., home he bought in 1958 for $31,500. Taking his cue, and not undertaking a large

monthly mortgage payment, will allow you to use the money you save to build up a

savings and retirement fund.

3.Don’t carry a full wallet – Walking around with a wallet full of cash, or a credit card or

two, can make it tempting to buy more than we need.  Texas oil executive T. Boone

Pickens still shops with a grocery list and carries only enough cash to buy what he

plans to buy.

4.Don’t pay full price – Actress Hilary Swank, who has a net worth of more than $40

million, is frequently seen using coupons at the grocery store – and First Lady Michelle

Obama often opts to shop at Target. Looking for bargains leaves you with more money

to save or invest.

5.Have an action mentality – Almost all self-made millionaires are people of action.

They do not have a “lottery mentality,” waiting for something good to come their way.

Rather, they take appropriate risks, are always looking to improve themselves, and

seek knowledge as the best way to gain a competitive financial advantage.