Gunning Daily News

Q: Where Can I Find Foreclosure Properties?

November 21, 2012 11:04 am

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.

Think ‘Function’ and ‘Scale’ When Weighing Design Option

November 20, 2012 4:54 pm

After a couple of chilly or rainy early fall days, I am ready to turn attention inward. With holidays coming you can never have enough advice on improving your interior living space –whether it is a sprawling mansion or cozy apartment.

With that in mind, we turned to Vanessa Pereira an Interior Design Consultant at Mid-Atlantic Builders ( who offered these tips about planning for fall interior design projects that will impress all your holiday guests.

Before investing your time and money on the interior design of a room, Pereira suggests evaluating the following:

Function – Decide the purpose of the room up front. As an example, a family room should have furniture that is both durable and comfortable, as you will likely spend a lot of time in that room. The function of the space will help determine fabrics, furniture placement, lighting and what color scheme to use.

Scale – Fitting properly sized pieces into the appropriate space helps to bring out naturally beautiful features of your home like floor to ceiling windows and fireplaces in the family rooms. A room that is designed with scale in mind will have the right size furniture and a fitting amount of wall treatments with a noticeable focal point.

In rooms with natural focal points, the furniture should be oriented in a way so as to accentuate those features. Pereira says there should be enough room for traffic to navigate between the furniture.

Avoid placing many small pieces of furniture in an oversized room. Instead use two larger pieces complemented with a few smaller pieces such as side tables or accent chairs.

Pereira also says each room should be a reflection of your individuality. The mood of a room comes together by the color scheme, style of furnishings, fabric textures, patterns and accessories.

An inspiration piece such as an antique sofa or painting can lead the way for the rest of the room’s design. To make it easy, Pereira suggests you make sure all the fabric patterns in a room have at least one color in common.

And resist the urge to be trendy - everyone else has already done that and seen that. Since trends come and go, your best bet is always going with an overall plan to fit your personality or your lifestyle.

Prepping for Thanksgiving Travel

November 20, 2012 4:54 pm

Thanksgiving is a time for great food, fun and family. Unfortunately, family isn’t always local. Traditionally over 40 million Americans travel more than 50 miles from their home each Thanksgiving, to connect with friends and family in all corners of the country.

Recognized as one of the most travel intense weekends in the year, packing becomes just another part of life we must be thankful for.

Whether you and your crew are jamming five people into a sedan, or you have the luxury of running through crowded airports, there are a few packing tricks you can use to take some of the stress out of Thanksgiving weekend travel.

Travel light

First and foremost, select a suitcase that ensures your bag isn’t one of the items weighing you down.
Step two, pack only what you need. While we all like to have a few choices, depending on different scenarios we may encounter on the long weekend, making the commitment to travel light will ensure your packing (and equally as important, your unpacking!) experience is a much easier task. Take some time to check the weather forecast for your destination to choose appropriate attire. And do throw in a few back-up items, just in case! Best of all, by packing light, you may just have some room to pick up a few souvenirs along the way.

Leave your self room to maneuver

We’ve all been there – packed perfectly, maximizing each nook and cranny of our luggage. But what about those extra items you may need to bring home? Could a friend or relative have something to pass your way? Are you planning on doing any shopping?

Designed with the traveler in mind, the Helium Fusion 3.0 Trolley bags feature two additional inches of packing space with the expandable zip, so that you can accommodate all your new treasures. Exclusive to Delsey, the bags also include the patent-pending Over Weight Indicator, which signals packers when their bag exceeds the standard 50 lbs limit, and providing peace of mind by avoiding overweight baggage fees at the airport. And in case your bag is over the limit, the Pocket Tote-a-Long clip with an adjustable webbing strap allows you to attach and effortlessly carry another bag.

Pack smart
Once you have selected the correct combination of clothing, take some time to properly place these items into your suitcase. Think of what you will do when you arrive – will you unpack or live out of your suitcase for the weekend? Then, arrange accordingly.

Also, think of what you will need as soon as you arrive, and make sure those items are easy to access.


5 Habits That Destroy Your Smile

November 20, 2012 4:54 pm

You’ve heard that too much coffee and red wine can stain your pearly whites. But the Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Steven A. Ghareeb, DDS, FAGD, offers advice on how to keep your smile healthy and pretty by avoiding these five bad oral health habits.

1. Not flossing

Brushing your teeth twice a day is important, but many patients don't realize that flossing at least once a day is just as critical to achieving—and maintaining—a healthy smile. Flossing removes the cavity-causing bacteria left behind from food particles that get stuck between teeth. "Although bleeding and irritation sometimes can occur when you first start flossing, it's important to keep at it," says Dr. Ghareeb. "Your gums will toughen up and your oral health will be better for it."

2. Brushing too soon after eating

Consuming acidic foods and beverages, such as sports and energy drinks, citrus fruits, wine, and tomatoes, can erode tooth enamel—the glossy outer layer of the tooth. Brushing your teeth too soon after eating and drinking these items can cause more damage because you are essentially brushing the acid into the teeth, not getting rid of it. Instead, you should rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic foods and beverages and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your pearly whites!

3. Not replacing your toothbrush often enough
Not only are old toothbrushes ineffective, but they also harbor harmful bacteria that can cause infections. Toothbrushes should be changed every three to four months. "It's also important to change your toothbrush after you've had a cold," says Dr. Ghareeb.

4. Excessively bleaching your teeth

Overzealous bleaching can cause your teeth to look unnaturally white and increase tooth sensitivity. Before using an at-home bleaching product, talk to your dentist. "He or she can advise you on proper use of these products as well as which type of bleaching system will provide you with the best results," says Dr. Ghareeb.

5. Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
A hard-bristled toothbrush coupled with an aggressive brushing technique can cause irreversible damage to your gums. Use a soft toothbrush and gently brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle, in a circular motion. Using a back-and-forth, sawing motion causes the gums to recede, and can expose the root of the tooth, making teeth extremely sensitive.


Word of the Day

November 20, 2012 4:54 pm

Undivided interest. Ownership by two or more persons that gives each the right to use the entire property.

Q: What to Consider when Buying a Vacation Home

November 20, 2012 4:54 pm

A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.

Some of the tax benefits mirror those for a primary residence. Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible, which helps to offset the cost of the home payment. And if you treat your second home as a rental property, you can fully depreciate it as well. But you are only allowed to occupy it for two weeks a year, or 10 percent of the total rented time, whichever is less.

Before taking the leap, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.

Smart Or Programmable - What's In Your Thermostat?

November 19, 2012 5:42 pm

On occasion, your RIS Consumer Confidant takes a look at those little pieces of equipment in our homes we walk past a hundred times a day, and often take for granted until they go out of whack. In this segment we'll get a fix on the latest technological advances in thermostats, from the Alliance to Save Energy.

Miriam Berg recently wrote about the differences between the newest smart thermostats, versus the programmable units that adorn millions of homes.

Berg wrote that programmable thermostats allow you to schedule temperature settings. So, you can pre-program the system to turn down while you're at work and asleep.

If you program it correctly, these thermostats can lower your heating and cooling bills by about $180/year, says Energy Star. That's a quick return on your investment, as programmable thermostats cost $50-$100.

Alas, some people still don't bother to program their programmable thermostats. That's where smart thermostats come in, Berg says. For an increased investment ($100-$500), you get a gizmo that works with your irregular schedule and your aversion to fiddling with the controls on your wall.

She writes that some smart thermostats come with a smart phone app. For instance Berg says, the Nest – which is so app-centric it's been called an “appcessory” – has an app for Apple products like the iPhone, iPhoneTouch, and iPad, as well as for Android 2.2 or newer.

The Nest learns how to "program itself around your life" through occupancy/motion sensors, ambient light and humidity monitors, and by remembering manual adjustments, according to the Nest website This includes an "auto away" setting that drops the system down to your pre-set minimum when it doesn't detect movement.

Smart thermostats also come with monitoring systems that track your energy use and, through your personal online account, offer charts that show how much energy you're using across the week. With this information, you can identify areas where you are wasting energy and adjust accordingly.

Tips for Home Buying in Sandy Affected Areas

November 19, 2012 5:42 pm

Much of the East Coast was devastated with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, and the storm certainly left its mark. If you were in the process of buying a home -- or refinancing your current mortgage – in a Sandy-affected area, you are most likely experiencing delays with your lender now. Now you're wondering if the closing will ever happen! Rest assured, eventually everything will return to normal, but in the meantime, here are some tips you can follow to help make everything a little easier:

1. Expect delays
Clearly, no one can predict the exact path of a storm -- or the magnitude of its destruction -- before it actually makes landfall. Now that it has passed, if you live in an area affected by Hurricane Sandy, be prepared to play the waiting game. Just like everyone else, lenders are trying to sort through the situation the best they can. However, if your rate lock expires due to a delayed closing, ask the lender to honor the rate. Typically, they will. After all, they know neither of you are to blame for the delay, so you should get the same rate they were offering before the storm.

2. Be prepared for extra inspections
Before the lender approves the loan, they will want to make sure the property is still structurally sound after the storm. That means they will most likely require an exterior inspection of the home. They might even request an interior one as well. If the property you intend to buy (or refinance) is located in an area declared as a disaster by the federal government, (which includes parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island), you can bet that the exterior inspection will be a requirement. But even if you don't live in a specially-designated disaster area, your lender may still require extra inspections. This is designed to protect you and the lender, though! After all, they don't want to approve a loan on a property (and you don't want to purchase one) that could have possibly been damaged by the storm without knowing the extent of those damages.

3. Consider requesting an inspection yourself
Just because your lender doesn't require a re-inspection of the home, doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for one! After all, you're going to be the one living in the home, so you need to know what condition it is in, and if the storm affected the property's value. How do you determine that? It's easy. Ask for a re-inspection or an appraisal to get an accurate, up-to-date analysis of the home's condition and value.

4. Determine who is going to pay for damages
After all of the inspections and appraisals are complete, you should have a list of any damages caused by the storm, and you should roughly have an idea of how much it will cost to repair them. But who is going to pay for those home repairs? Sort all of this out before you sign any paperwork! If you and the seller agree that they will pay for any needed repairs, get it in writing, as part of your legal purchase contract. If the damages are fairly minor, ask the seller to reduce the asking price in the amount of the needed repairs. In other words, ask that they credit you for the money you'll have to spend to fix up the place. Another option is to have the seller set up an escrow account with the amount of money needed to make the repairs, after a contractor has given a price estimate.

By following these simple (yet time-consuming!) steps, you will get approved for the loan you were expecting to receive prior to the storm, and be able to purchase the home you wanted before Hurricane Sandy came along and delayed the process.


6 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

November 19, 2012 5:42 pm

With the holidays soon to be in full swing, your stress levels may be through the roof. You have gifts to buy, food to prep, and you really wanted to redo your dining room before the in-laws arrived. Therapist, author and Positive Living Expert, Diane Lang offers the following tips on how we all can have a stress free, balanced and happy holiday season.

1. Remember what the holidays are really about - spending quality time with family, friends and loved ones. It's about giving love and joy to others. Watch your expectation; make sure they are realistic. We try for perfection during the holidays and we tend to forget what the holidays are really about. Remind yourself that the holidays are about being close to your loved ones while everything else come second.

2. Take care of you; during the busy holiday season we forget about ourselves. We worry so much about setting a nice table; buying and cooking the food; decorating the house; buying the presents; etc., we forget to take a time out and spend some quiet time alone. Yes it's the season of giving to others, but make sure to put yourself on your priority list and put yourself high up on the list. If we aren't feeling mentally, physically and emotional healthy, how we will be able to have a good holiday? The more time you put aside for you, the healthier and happier you will feel this holiday season.

3. Start early - before the holiday season is in full swing, start making your things-to-do lists, start your holiday shopping early this way when the holidays approach you're not scrambling for presents. Buy wrapping paper, holidays cards, etc. Wrap your gifts as you buy them. Be proactive. Having a lot done ahead of time is a huge stress relief and then you will enjoy going out for any last minute things knowing that the bulk of it is complete.

4. Ask for help - there is no reason why you have to do everything on your own. Delegate this holiday season. Ask each person who is coming to prepare a dish or a dessert. Make your holidays not about the cooking but more about the socializing. If everyone brings a dish this will make your shopping and cooking much easier. Don't feel guilty about it. Each year have everyone make it a point to help each other so everyone can enjoy the holidays. This can also be a great way to clean up after the holidays. Delegate the clean up from the dishes to vacuuming the house. If everyone chips in, it won't be so bad.

5. Be up front financially - tell family and friends what you can and can't do early on. If you know this will be a tough financial holiday season, then recommend other options such as: buying for the kids only, a grab bag, the charity option (everyone gives to a charity - whatever they can afford) instead of a gift, play a fun game like Yankee Swap where everyone buys one gift (set a value for it), or learn from our children - homemade gifts!

6. Gratitude - this is the time of year that we should spend more time counting our blessings, remembering what we have instead of worrying about what we don't. Instead of "Keeping up with the Jones's," take a minute to appreciate the abundance of love, health, family and friends. Teach your kids about abundance. They should know that the most important things in life are the things that make us the happiest: good relationships with family and friends, a partner we can share our life with and a full schedule of social activities that involve lots of smiling and laughing.


Word of the Day

November 19, 2012 5:42 pm

Buy-down. Cash payment to a lender to reduce the interest rate a borrower must pay on a new mortgage loan. Commonly used by builders to sell new homes.