Gunning Daily News

Expert Advice: Consider Buying Your Office Space

November 27, 2012 2:56 pm

If you’re really serious about your business, then perhaps it’s time to think about owning your building, as opposed to renting. According to financial expert and small-business advocate, Chris Hurn, it’s not a question of if, but when most business owners should think about owning commercial property.

Owning your workplace is a path toward long-term wealth – one that doesn’t rely on constantly bringing in new income, says Hurn, author of “The Entrepreneur’s Secret to Creating Wealth: How the Smartest Business Owners Build Their Fortunes.”

“Once they’ve established their business, usually after about three to six years of operation, they should look into property ownership – owning their store, office, or other workspace,” says Hurn, who has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek and other financial publications and TV news shows.

“The smartest way to do that is through the SBA 504 – a little-known loan program administered by the Small Business Administration. It offers long-term financing at below-market fixed rates, which businesses generally can’t get through banks.”

Whether or not business owners qualify for the SBA 504, they will benefit by knowing the “five Cs” lenders look at when considering loans, Hurn says.

• Collateral: Lenders – usually banks – will want to know that the property in question is worth the loan. The property to be purchased is the lender’s collateral, so it must have the potential to cover the loan if for some reason owners can’t. Lenders will consider the age of a property and other factors, including whatever equipment may be involved.
• Cash flow (or capacity): The lender will look to see how much cash the business generates along with the amount of existing and proposed debt. In other words, they’ll want to know the cash available to service the total debt. A lender will also consider current rental payments, plus noncash expenses such as depreciation, amortization and interest costs.
• Credit analysis: This reveals the business owner’s history of making good on debts and other obligations. The higher the credit scores, the better. Lenders generally shy away from credit scores lower than 650, however, they will often listen to credible explanations on lower scores.
• Character: Numerous late payments, for example, suggest that owners do not manage debts responsibly, which will likely be indicated in a credit score. Factors that determine character judgment are largely subjective. An applicant can supply evidence in his or her favor.
• Conditions: What are the conditions in the industry and the economy? The better those conditions, the more likely lenders are to give applicants a plus in this bracket. Conditions are often out of a borrower’s control, which makes a positive showing of the other four factors that much more important.

Chris Hurn is CEO and co-founder of Mercantile Capital Corp. based in Orlando, Fla.

For more from Hurn, visit

Home Design: Taking a Look at Nooks

November 27, 2012 2:56 pm

I was looking for an opportunity to explore the magic of nooks, and the incredible potential they hold for creativity and functionality. So let's put some eggs on to boil and consider kitchen nooks.

The nook-meisters at say, whether you have one of those large kitchens with giant windows begging for built-in seating, or a strangely small corner in your rental where you can simply throw a bench and a small table, a kitchen nook can make a warm and inviting space for creating a happy place to relax or host small gatherings.

Renters, especially in cities where many old buildings have been remodeled, are inevitably going to discover space in some kitchen apartments that seems strangely small. So drop a pendant lamp, throw down some pillows and pull up a chair.

A kitchen nook can serve as a cozy place for hosting wine and cheese nights, playing cards, or just reading the morning paper. The experts over at also talk about converting a nook into intimate meal space for small gatherings, or just the two of you.

They say breakfast nook can be tucked away in the corner of a kitchen or within a bay window, and offer these tips:

Add a padded window seat -- a great opportunity to show some personality and add some color to your space with an interesting fabric pattern and a few charming pillows.

Choose a table -- just remember, a breakfast nook is supposed to be small and quaint. Instead of a table rivaling the size of your dining room set-up, a small café table should suffice.

Arrange two or three small chairs around the table opposite the window seat. If you do not have a window seat, add more chairs. And your breakfast nook can also be one-sided.

When decorating your breakfast nook, it doesn't need to be an extension of your existing kitchen décor. As long as it complements the space, it’s okay to add different colors, patterns and textures to give your nook its own identity.

In the end, a kitchen nook could become your favorite place to enjoy a hot cup of joe and a good book -- or a cozy gathering space for intimate groups and stimulating conversations. In part two, we'll focus on putting that nook to work as office space.

Tips for Rebuilding after a Storm

November 27, 2012 2:56 pm

In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, thousands of homeowners along the East Coast are assessing the damage their homes sustained in the storm and will soon begin the rebuilding process. A natural disaster of this magnitude can be daunting, leaving many unsure of where to begin. If your home was affected, read the following tips before diving into the rebuilding process:

Know the code. There are certain rules that apply when rebuilding in coastal areas. While most homeowners will not know the ins and outs of these regulations, getting up to speed now can save in unnecessary delays or costs. Contact your local building code authority and discuss with your contractor to ensure that all work is in compliance.

When in doubt, take it out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends removing all porous items, such as carpet, upholstery, drywall and ceiling tiles that have been wet for more than 48 hours and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and could pose a health threat. Always wear proper protection when removing these items to avoid any potential health risks.

Air it out. If a home has flooded and been closed up for several days, it is very likely the home has been contaminated with mold. Upon reentering the home for the first time, open windows and doors to allow the house to air out for 30 minutes or more to reduce exposure to mold. If an area larger than 10 square feet is affected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends hiring a qualified mold remediation specialist.

Partner with a qualified contractor. Widespread disaster areas like those recovering from Hurricane Sandy often draw large numbers of contractors from out of town or out of state, so homeowners should exercise caution.

Look for Products Well-suited for Coastal Areas. There is a wide array of products that are well-suited for coastal areas. For example, vinyl or polymer siding will stand up to the weathering effects of sea salt spray. Certain roof and fence products are backed by wind warranties of up to 110 miles per hour or more.


Word of the Day

November 27, 2012 2:56 pm

Cancellation clause. Stipulation in a contract that allows a buyer or seller to cancel the contract in the event of a certain specified occurrence.

Question of the Day

November 27, 2012 2:56 pm

Q: Where Can I Find Foreclosure Properties?

A: Look in the legal notices section of your local newspaper. A notice is also usually posted on the property itself and somewhere in the city where the sale will take place.

However, real estate agents are the best source for information about foreclosures before they begin. Often a property will be listed and the agent will know if it is approaching foreclosure. Perhaps the best way to get the information is to have your agent put the word out that you are looking for properties with pending foreclosures.

Another source can be the bank or financial institution that holds the mortgage. Of course, they generally will not give you the names of those who are facing foreclosure, but they may give the property owner your card or phone number.

Buying foreclosures is not easy. Savvy investors are highly skilled at nabbing these properties. Inexperienced buyers may find themselves surrounded by pretty stiff competition. They will need to get as much information as possible, including a "foreclosure inspection report" and an appraisal from the lender.

Q: Are window replacements tax deductible?

November 26, 2012 4:10 pm

A: Yes, at least for a limited time. Congress made it a little easier to upgrade your windows while reducing your taxes. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 offers consumers a tax credit for replacing old appliances and home products with energy efficient models. The tax credit is up to $200 with the purchase of qualified doors, windows, and skylights. Look for the ENERGY STAR label. The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency developed the designation for products meeting certain performance criteria. The tax credit is good for purchases made in 2006 or 2007 but does not include installation costs.

Teaching Kids the Joy of Giving

November 26, 2012 3:40 pm

The holiday season is upon us, and children everywhere will soon be writing letters to Santa and making lists of the toys and gifts they wish to receive. But some parents worry that their children are focused on the joy of receiving at the expense of learning and practicing the joy of giving to those less fortunate.

“The holiday season offers a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to work together to put a little more joy in the lives of those who need help,” said California family counselor Dolores Hoffman. “The bonus is that families share the pleasure of working together for a worthy cause and kids experience how good it feels to do something nice for others.”

Hoffman suggests three ways for families to plan and organize their holiday giving projects:

Go online together
– browse a site like or to help choose a charity your family would like to support. Go to for guidelines on sending holiday gifts to service men and women – or to to learn about donating toys for needy children. Read about several organizations, who they help and how, and the ways in which you can support them. Then decide as a family how much you can afford to spend and how you would like to get involved.

Keep it local –
Contact local houses of worship or social service organizations for information on helping local families in need. Let the children help determine how you will help: pack up a turkey and all the fixings for a family in need…fulfill the “wish list” of local kids or senior citizens…conduct a food drive in your neighborhood and donate the food to a local food pantry.

Make it personal – There are many ways to incorporate your family’s talents in your giving project. Call a local food pantry, soup kitchen or senior center to find out how and when your family can help pack food, serve meals, or entertain. Arrange a time to go caroling at a nearby hospital or senior center. Take along handmade lap blankets or holiday decorations to hand out as you move from room to room.

Whatever program you choose to support, make the kids responsible for contributing some of the funds, choosing and purchasing toys or gifts, and/or participating first-hand in the service project.

Celebrate the Holidays New England Style

November 26, 2012 3:40 pm

If you are getting your home ready for the holidays, adding a dash (or dollop) of quaint New England charm can make all the difference. So we checked in with Linda Gottlieb, DecorDesigner up in Litchfield County, Connecticut for some ideas about how to make your home warm and welcoming the old fashioned New England way.

Gottlieb suggested these ideas, which can be foundational elements you employ before adorning your home with holiday trimmings:

  • Adding a new candelabra as your main table centerpiece can instantly add glamour and warmth to an otherwise boring tabletop. And instead of white candles, use gold or red during the holidays.
  • Year-round wreaths are always a welcoming addition to your entry – and a silk floral wreath will never wilt. Find one for each season, and always have beautiful pops of color.
  • Try soft treatments like new pillows, rugs and more. Just by adding an area rug over your wall-to-wall carpet or hard surface, you can brighten the whole room. Continue to add touches of color using pillows of all sizes and textures.
  • Paint and Wall Coverings - Changing the look of a wall can transform a room and is a very cost effective change, and with the new no/low VOC paint, you can skip the smell of traditional latex paints. Also, if you're a wallpaper skeptic, you'll be amazed at the textures, colors, and styles available in today's wallpaper selections.
  • Throw out the card table this holiday season and consider shopping for new tables and chairs that can transform a room at any budget. Bring color to a dining area with different chair fabrics and accessories that complement your color schemes.
  • Windows - There are new options for shades, blinds, and curtain treatments that not only dress up those windows, but make a fashion statement at the same time, without blocking out winter light.


How-To: Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

November 26, 2012 3:40 pm

The holidays are a time to relax with family, spend time giving thanks for all that life has to offer and partake in holiday traditions. However, for many of us, those holiday traditions don’t involve plates of fresh vegetables or long afternoon walks. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and a celebratory time full of temptations and demands due to family gatherings, parties, shopping and entertaining. Unhealthy habits may be inevitable this time of year, but there are simple strategies to help you stay on track to enjoy the season with your health in mind.

"Between busy schedules and a plethora of snacks and treats, it's difficult to stay motivated," says Hannah El-Amin, RD, a registered dietitian at Northwestern Integrative Medicine. "It is possible however to indulge a little without gaining a lot."

According to recent data, Americans gain an average of five pounds during the winter, due to the abundance of holiday feasts and parties where food and beverages are often high in calories and fat.
El-Amin regularly counsels patients on ways to focus on healthy eating habits, and offers the following tips for maintaining a healthy body this holiday season:

Plan ahead – Eat a healthy snack before attending holiday parties. A large apple, reduced fat flavored yogurt, or vegetables with hummus, are low calorie snacks that are filling. These will take the edge off the hunger before you arrive and, therefore, help with portion control. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help curtail your appetite and prevent overindulging.

Don't miss a meal – "A common misconception is that skipping meals will save room for large amounts of food later in the day," said El-Amin. "Instead, this sets your hunger into overdrive and by the time you finally eat, excess hunger will make you more likely to choose food impulsively and overeat."

Control your portions – Avoid the clean plate club by eating until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Take time to pause during the meal to check your level of fullness. When you feel satisfied, reinforce your decision to stop eating by leaving the table, washing your plate and going to watch football. Choosing smaller portions from a variety of foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, will allow you to still enjoy your favorite holiday treats while eating less.

Swap this for that – Offer to make a dish to share that uses fresh, healthy ingredients or makes substitutions to lower fat and sugar. At the holiday gathering, balance out your meal by swapping fattening ingredients with lower-calorie options. This includes liquid calories; drinking high-calorie beverages like soda, juice or alcohol can easily add another 500 calories to a holiday meal. Instead, opt for sparkling water or low-calorie beverages.

Keep moving – Don't park in front of the buffet at a party. Research shows that having food in front of you prompts you to eat more, even if you're not hungry. Add fitness into your holiday celebration with exercise that is fun for the whole family. Take a walk after a large meal, play a friendly game of flag football, or build a snowman with the kids.

"The key to enjoying a healthy holiday season is moderation," says El-Amin. "Allow yourself to enjoy a little while still striving to make nutritious choices."


Word of the Day

November 26, 2012 3:40 pm

Buyer’s market. Describes an excess supply of homes for sale, in which there are few buyers and many sellers. In such a market, the buyer can typically negotiate more favorable prices and terms.