Gunning Daily News

Q: What Are the Disadvantages of Buying Foreclosures?

January 25, 2013 5:42 pm

A: Buying directly at a legal foreclosure sale is risky. Among the disadvantages:

There is no financing. You need cash and lots of it.
The title needs to be checked before the purchase. If not, you risk assuming a seriously deficient title.
It may not be possible to inspect the property’s interior before the sale. So you have no idea of the property’s condition.

Foreclosures are routinely purchased “as is,” which means you cannot go back to the seller for repairs.
Also, estate and foreclosure sales are the only property sales that are exempt from some state disclosure laws. In both instances, the law protects the seller – usually the heir or financial institution – who has recently acquired the property through adverse circumstances and may have little or no direct information about it.

Word of the Day

January 25, 2013 5:42 pm

Escrow. Money or documents held by a third party until specific conditions of an agreement or contract are fulfilled.

The Most Essential Pots & Pans for Any Kitchen

January 25, 2013 4:12 pm

I know all too well the clutter of hastily stored pots and pans jammed into 'the cabinet' every time the door is opened. Almost every kitchen has one.

But there has to be a better, and even more appealing way, to store the variety of pots and pans a typical homeowner needs to conduct their weekly culinary exercises with relative ease. And if one has to limit themselves because of space constraints, what are some of the most essential pots and pans.

J. Kenji López-Alt, Chief Creative Officer at seriouseats.com, recently blogged about it, and suggests the following:

  • All-Clad 12-inch Skillet with Lid
  • 10-inch cast iron skillet
  • 10-inch non-stick skillet
  • 3-quart saucier
  • 14-inch wok
  • 16-quart stockpot
  • An enameled Dutch oven

Focusing on a few of his picks, López-Alt,says:

Whether you stir-fry or not, a wok is one of the most versatile tools in the kitchen. It's perfect for indoor smoking, grilling, and steaming. It's by far the best vessel for deep-frying; its wide shape and large volume make it easy to fit plenty of food in there with minimal contact and oil-use, with virtually no danger of splattering the stove-top with hot oil - or worse, overflowing.

He says an enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven is the ideal vessel for slow braises and soups. In the oven, thick walls and a heavy lid make for really great low-and-slow heat transfer meaning your stews and pot roasts will come out more tender and juicy with minimal evaporation during cooking.

On the stovetop, the Dutch oven's tall, wide sides make for easy and splatter-free browning of large amounts of meat and vegetables, with plenty of heat retention. And if you opt out of buying a wok, López-Alt says a Dutch oven is also great for deep-frying.

Finally, there's the large skillet, what López-Alt, calls the true workhorse of the kitchen. He says it's perfect for rapidly browning large quantities of vegetables or meat, excellent for braising and reducing sauces, and has a tight-fitting lid making it oven safe.

9 of Grandma’s Laundry Tips that Still Work

January 25, 2013 4:12 pm

Back in the day, when Grandma had few of the myriad stain-grabbing products that flood the market today, she learned and shared a few old-fashioned methods for getting the family’s clothes clean.

California homemaker Nancy Hayven, who is collecting hundreds of such tips for publication in a new book, shared nine of her favorite old-tyme methods for removing the most worrisome stains and dirt:

  1. Ink, wine or fruit stains – Saturate well in tomato juice for at least 30 minutes before washing. (Tomato juice also works well for removing stains from the hands.)
  2. Grass stains – Simple fixes are to spread the stain with butter, then lay the article out in the sun – OR wet it with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt before laying it out in the sun.
  3. Grease stains – Mix four tablespoons of rubbing alcohol with a tablespoon of salt. Shake or stir until the salt is dissolved, then apply with a sponge.
  4. Blood stains – Grandma’s best remedy was soaking in cold water, then laundering in cold water with soap or detergent.
  5. Cocoa or chocolate stains – Use borax and cold water. Launder after soaking and add a few tablespoons of borax to the washload.
  6. Carpet stains – (ONLY works on a fresh stain.) Combine one part white vinegar to three parts water. Soak into the stain for three to four minutes. Using a sponge, rub the area gently from the center out, then blot with a soft cloth.
  7. No-streak window cleaning – Wash with a mixture of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Dry with a soft cloth.
  8. Non-drip candles – Soak candles in cool salt water before burning to prevent the wax from dripping. To remove wax drips from candlesticks, out the candlesticks in the freezer for a few hours before scraping.
  9. Cleaning copper – (including copper-bottomed pots) Mix lemon juice and baking soda or cream of tartar into a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Rub onto the copper with a soft cloth, then rinse with water and dry.

What Millennials Know, Don't Know and Should Know about Retirement Saving

January 25, 2013 4:12 pm

(BPT) - While it's never a good idea to make blanket assumptions about any group of people, Millennials, in particular, are defying stereotypes. Take, for example, the convention that holds young people are too busy spending their income to think about retirement. A recent survey by Prudential Financial indicates this is far from true of Millennials - Americans born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

While their retirement days may be in their distant future, planning for those years is very much on their minds, the survey revealed. In fact, 81 percent of those surveyed agreed that saving for retirement is a must, even during a recession. Seventy-three percent say they are highly motivated to save for retirement now, and nearly half (42 percent) check their existing retirement accounts at least once a month.

"Saving for retirement ranks highly in this generation's list of financial priorities, and we are encouraged that these younger workers are taking responsibility for their future," says George Castineiras, senior vice president of Total Retirement Solutions for Prudential Financial. "This survey demonstrates that Millennial workers prioritize saving for retirement ahead of leisure spending, saving for a vacation or even a house."

Still, the survey also indicates Millennials need more overall knowledge and tools to help them with their retirement planning. Castineiras offers some tips for young workers thinking about their retirement savings:

When you see a chance, take it - If your employer offers 401(k) participation, take part and contribute the maximum allowable. This is especially valuable if your employer matches any part of your contribution. The Prudential study found that, when presented with an opportunity to save for retirement, Millennials take advantage of it: 63 percent of those eligible to participate in employer-sponsored plans do so, contributing an average of 7 percent of their annual salaries.

Take advantage of technology - Retirement calculators are a great way to understand how much you need to save now in order to have the income - and lifestyle - you desire in retirement. Calculators abound online and most are free. To download Prudential's mobile retirement income calculator, go to the app store or go to the Google play store and type "Retirement Income Calculator" in the search field.

Talk it out with those in the know - Discuss retirement planning with your grandparents and parents. There's no better way to understand the realities of retirement than by talking with those who are living it. Seek their insight into what they feel they did right and what they would do differently. Watching older loved ones struggle financially can be an eye-opener; 83 percent of those surveyed said that seeing what can happen to people who don't save enough for retirement makes them want to save more.

Don't be afraid to ask for help - It pays to educate yourself on retirement planning, but the reality is few of us will ever become experts on the subject. Talking to an experienced, knowledgeable advisor can help make your retirement planning efforts easier and more effective. Companies like Prudential Financial can deliver retirement planning solutions to help younger workers be well prepared to face retirement.

"Millennials are embracing the need for retirement planning," Castineiras says. "With the right kind of preparation and professional guidance, young workers can get and stay on the path to future financial security."

Q: How Do I Find Government-repossessed Properties?

January 25, 2013 4:12 pm

A: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acquires properties from lenders who foreclose on mortgages that it insures. These properties are then available for sale to potential homeowner-occupants and investors only through a licensed real estate broker. HUD will pay the broker's commission up to 6 percent of the sales price.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also acquires properties as a result of foreclosures on VA guaranteed loans. These acquired properties are marketed through a property management services contract with a federal bank that then lists them for sale with local real estate agents.

Word of the Day

January 25, 2013 4:12 pm

Escheat. Reversion of property to the state when the owner dies without leaving a will and has no heirs to whom the property may pass.

Word of the Day

January 24, 2013 6:28 pm

Equity build-up. Term used to refer to the increase of one’s equity in a property due to mortgage balance reduction and price appreciation.

Basements, Roofs and Melting

January 24, 2013 4:58 pm

In many parts of the country, I know winter brings a lot of concerns about basements and roofs. So this January, we'll not only focus on winter basement issues - we'll give you tips on turning that dark hole into wholly usable space.

We'll also cover some important territory about protecting and preserving your roof.

We recently found a post by Matthew Stock of U.S. Waterproofing, which serves customers Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. He knows clients who live in proximity to Lake Michigan experience a higher amount of basement problems associated with 'lake effect' snow, wind and sub-zero cold.

Stock says lake effect snow occurs when cold winter winds blow across the warmer waters of large lakes. In the U.S. and Canada, it occurs primarily around the Great Lakes region - that means more significant snow accumulations.

He says an unseasonably warm winter day or long-awaited spring can cause water invasion from the ground from snowmelt, even before spring rains begin. Additional snow on roofs, Stock addes, causes not only basement seepage but water problems in completely different areas of the home.

So if you have one, now is the time to be sure your sump pump - a crucial part of any basement waterproofing system - is working properly. If you don't - and begin to experience a need for one to divert excess water seepage from your basement - your local or county health agency can provide referrals for companies doing installations in your area.

Stock also warns about ice dams that occur when snowmelt runs into gutters and re-freezes at night, pushing up under shingles and causing roof leaks. Ice dams can also damage gutters, causing them to bend outward and sag from their mountings dumping water runoff next to the foundation.

He says you can avoid ice dams and the resulting damage making sure gutters are clean and flowing freely before the snow flies - and downspouts are clear of obstructions. Roof damage can also be averted by maintaining adequate insulation in the attic and ensuring that there is proper outside air flow under the roof.

Get more information by visiting U.S. Basement at www.seepage.com.


7 Tips for Keeping Your Financial Fitness Resolution

January 24, 2013 4:58 pm

The new year is a great time to get yourself pointed in the right direction financially.
“Making small improvements at the beginning of the year is a lot easier than trying to play catch-up,” says financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of “The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning”

“Just as you would embark on an exercise program to lose weight and get physically fit, there are simple steps you can take that will lead to being financially healthy and fit.”

Here are Rodgers’ seven tips for improving your financial life in 2013.
• Review your credit report - Borrowing money isn’t the only reason to check your credit. Employers check credit reports and so do insurance companies. Your credit score can have a profound effect on the amount you pay for auto and homeowners insurance -- and perhaps on health and life insurance in the not-too-distant future. Order your free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

• Set up an Automatic Savings Plan (ASP) - If your employer doesn’t offer this through payroll deduction you can set one up through your bank or brokerage account. Simply have a certain amount of money withdrawn from your checking or savings account each month and deposited into your investment account. That way, you save it before you ever have a chance to spend it. Try to increase the amount you invest at least once a year.

• Establish a cash flow plan
– Business owners know you can’t control what you don’t track. Take the time to forecast your income and expenses for the year, and put it in writing. Then adjust those numbers to reach your goals, such as paying down debt or replacing a car. Track your progress on a regular basis by holding a monthly family finance meeting to review the plan.

• Pay off your credit cards
– It’s especially important to take action on debt in 2013. Cash doesn’t earn much interest sitting in a deposit account (less than 1 percent) and even “low interest” credit cards charge 10 to 12 percent. So if you're sitting on any extra savings, consider using it to pay down credit card debt. Your cash flow plan should include a schedule to eliminate credit card debt as quickly as possible.

• Shop your insurance – Insurance agents are often paid commission based on premium levels, so they have no incentive for finding existing customers lower premiums. However, there is a huge incentive for a competing agent to find you the lowest premium in order to win your business. Make note of the coverage levels you have for your homeowner’s and auto policies and use them to comparison shop. Look at ways to save on your health insurance coverage, too, such as switching to a high-deductible plan and opening a Health Savings Account.

• Write an estate plan – At a minimum you need to have a valid will, power-of-attorney (POA) for your finances and health-care decisions, and a living will (Advanced Healthcare Directive in some states). Decide who will be your personal representative in the event you become incapacitated (POA) or at your death (executor). If you have minor children, choose who will raise them in your absence and establish a testamentary trust for their finances.

• Meet with a financial adviser
– An adviser is to financial planning as a personal trainer is to an exercise program. Allow yourself to be held accountable by a third party who will push you to help yourself. Good advisers will help you develop a budget, look at your debts, tax situation, retirement and college savings, estate planning and insurance. You don’t have to be a high-net-worth individual to seek the assistance of a financial adviser. Visit the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) online and search for one in your area.

Don’t just make a vague resolution to save money. According to Psychology Today, of the millions of American’s who make a New Year’s resolution, 40 percent have already failed by Jan. 31. Let 2013 be the year you make lasting changes to improve your financial life.

Certified Financial Planner Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa. He’s a Certified Retirement Counselor and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers.

For more information, visit www.RodgersSpeaks.com.