Gunning Daily News

Q: Are Seller-Paid Points Deductible?

August 30, 2012 5:24 pm

A: For the buyer, yes, but not the seller – even though the seller pays them. Since January 1, 1991, homebuyers have been able to deduct points paid by the seller whereas, previously, they could only deduct the actual points they paid on the home loans themselves.

Top Tips for Finding the Perfect Sofa

August 29, 2012 6:06 pm

Whether you're browsing sofas online or hitting the stores, it can be tricky to find the right couch. Take a look at the following sofa buying guide to make sure you'll be sitting pretty on your new furniture.

Size
Before you start sofa shopping, you need to work out the exact size of your living space and how many people may be sitting at one time. Most large sofas will seat three adults comfortably, while a smaller sofa may only be suitable for two people. It's also important to work out the safe distance from a sofa to a radiator to prevent the risk of fire. You should also gauge whether a new sofa will fit through a tight doorway or space.

If you're short on space or have low ceilings, consider choosing a sofa with a low back to create the illusion of more room. Modular sofas are also a great flexible option for open-plan rooms or smaller spaces.

Material

Leather or fabric has become one of the biggest dilemmas when it comes to buying a sofa. Plain leather sofas are a fantastic way to add a contemporary feel to a home, while fabric furniture offers a greater range of colors and patterns. A leather sofa is a great choice if you would like your furniture to age over time, becoming part of the family as the years go by. A fabric sofa with washable loose covers, on the other hand, is perfect for anyone with young children or pets.

Filling
The filling of a sofa determines its level of support and appearance. Foam-filled sofas offer a structured look and provide firm support for anyone with limited mobility. Fiber upholstery offers a more relaxed finish with a softer sit, while feather-filled upholstery needs to be plumped up regularly, but is ideal for anyone who loves to curl up on the sofa for hours on end.

Make sure to browse, compare prices, and do a lot of test sits before choosing your next piece of furniture.

Source: http://www.csl-sofas.co.uk

Word of the Day

August 29, 2012 6:06 pm

Reserve account. An account for money collected each month by a lender to pay for property taxes and property insurance as they come due.

Q: How Does a Lease Option Work?

August 29, 2012 6:06 pm

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property. The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place – whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work. Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you and the tenant sign on the dotted line.

7 Steps to Start the School Year Right

August 29, 2012 5:06 pm

September is an exciting time for kids and parents alike. But as your little ones get ready to board that big yellow bus again, it’s important to make sure they are starting the year strong—and safe.

"The first weeks of a new school year can be an exciting and anxious time," says Irene van der Zande, Kidpower founder. "Children may be thinking or saying:
“It will be nice to see my friends.”
“I hope the teacher likes me.”
“I hope the other kids like me.”
“I hope it won’t be too hard.”
“I am worried about that kid who picked on me last year.”
“I am sad that summer is over.”

Van der Zande says that most of the parents she hears from have mixed feelings about the start of a new school year. "As adults, we know that having a positive beginning for any new experience sets the stage for success. An unhappy beginning to a school year can be very upsetting for everyone."

Below are steps for parents to plan and practice communication and safety skills with their kids, as well as advice to help support teachers — all aimed at helping children start the school year off so they can be "strong, safe and sound at school, and everywhere they go."

1. Take a realistic look at your child’s emotional school-readiness.
"Qualities like being more sensitive or less sensitive, more outgoing or more reserved, louder or quieter, are all normal and have both benefits and potential liabilities," writes van der Zande. "The sooner children can learn to be in charge of their qualities so these are gifts instead of problems, the happier and more successful they will be – not only in school, but in life."

2. Be clear about both safety and learning expectations.
Van der Zande advises: "Tell your child clearly, 'I expect you to feel respected and safe at school. And I expect you to act in safe and respectful ways towards others.' Be explicit about what this means, using specific examples relevant to your child."

3. Make a plan for potential problems.
"Children can suddenly find themselves struggling with some academic subject or having emotional or social problems with someone in their circle of friends," says van der Zande. "Explore ways to make learning and interacting with friends easier. Sometimes children need major support, but often a little bit of help can make a huge difference."

4. Stay in touch with what is going on at school.
"Many children are tired of school by the time they get home and don’t give much information when asked general questions like, “How was school today?'" writes van der Zande. "At the same time, most children like to share what’s going on in their lives if they are listened to without being lectured or having to hear negative comments about themselves, their school, or their friends."

5. Offer support to your child’s teachers and schools.
"Teaching is a hard job and schools face many challenges," says van der Zande. "Supporting teachers and not taking them for granted - all year long - is vital to helping kids have a good experience at school."

6. Prepare your children to set boundaries and to advocate for themselves.
"In an ideal world, people would always be kind to each other rather than being mean to each other. However, even people who really care about each other annoy and bother each other sometimes," writes van der Zande. "Rehearsing how to handle specific problems will help to increase confidence, reduce anxiety, and build competence. For example, you can teach children how to protect themselves emotionally from insults...You can also teach children to project an attitude of confidence. We are all more likely to be listened to and less likely to be targeted for bullying if we greet the world with awareness, calm and confidence. "

7. Advocate for your children when things go wrong.
"Remember that, as parents, our job is to make sure that our children are in places that are emotionally and physically safe and with people who are creating a supportive, effective learning environment," writes van der Zande. "If something goes wrong, be prepared to advocate in a respectful, powerful way for your child."

Source: www.Kidpower.org.

How-To: Take the ‘Labor’ out of Housecleaning

August 29, 2012 5:06 pm

It's the stacks of dishes, piles of papers, and toys strewn everywhere that makes cleaning seem like an overwhelming chore for most homeowners. But once the clutter is removed, spaces look bigger, homeowners experience less stress and every room is easier to clean.

Below are five tips to make things easier:

Get organized
De-cluttering a home takes more effort and time than any other chore, but once it’s done, cleaning will be a snap. Start by tackling one room at a time. Go through the room and decide what to keep, what to sell or donate, and what items will go directly into the trash bin. Once that is finished, find a place to stow away all of the items you want to keep. Remember, the floor or the tops of tables, dressers or countertops are not storage areas. If you don't have enough storage space, invest in bookshelves, under-the-bed containers, or wicker baskets. Once your home is organized, don't bring in new items without eliminating something you already have.

Clean as you go

Housework is easier, less intimidating, and less time-consuming if you integrate individual chores into normal, daily activities. In the kitchen, for instance, clean as you cook. Fill the sink with soapy water and wash items as you use them or immediately place them in the dishwasher. While you wait for food to cook, get out the broom and dustpan and sweep the floor, or go through the mail and recycle what you don't need. In the bathroom, wipe down the tub or shower stall immediately after you've finished your morning routine. Do the same after you've used the sink. Remember to wipe the adjoining counter, too. All through the day, as you move from room to room, keep an eye out for items that are out of place and give them a home.

Keep cleaning supplies close at hand
Keeping supplies in the rooms where you will use them saves steps and time, and you will be more likely to clean up a mess as soon as you see it. Store a whisk broom and dustpan, a sponge or cleaning cloth, as well as other necessary cleaning products in the kitchen. Place appropriate cleaning supplies in each bathroom, too. If your home has several levels, keep a vacuum cleaner on each level.

Follow a schedule

For most busy people, it helps to build time to clean into their schedules. Clean the toilets every Saturday morning, for instance, and do the laundry on Thursday nights. Or you might choose to focus on one room each day. Schedule small cleaning tasks throughout the week, too, to make chores less onerous.

Now, not later
It only takes a few minutes to do some chores, so don't put them off. Make your bed every morning, throw out the trash as you leave the house for work, wash and fold the clothes while you're watching television, and pick up toys every night before bed.

Source: The Maids

20 (Painless) Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

August 28, 2012 5:22 pm

Fitness gurus say a 150-pound woman can drop about a pound of day by cutting 500 calories out of her daily diet. While this greatly depends on what you’re already eating, and your activity level, it could mean shedding weight relatively painlessly—if you do it right.

Shaun Chavis, writing for Health.com, suggests 16 simple ways to trim back calories.

Tap your feet – Fidgeters burn up to 300 calories daily just from restless movement. Walk around while on the phone. Tap out a tune with your feet under your desk.
Limit the nuts – They’re heart healthy but packed with calories. Best if you must: pistachios at 159 calories in two handfuls.
Eat at the table – Researchers say people who eat in front of the TV consume up to 288 calories more than those who watch their plates.
Watch your salad toppings – Salads are low-cal, but not if you pile on the cheese, nuts, croutons, and full-fat dressing.
Use smaller plates – The larger your plate, the more food you are likely to pile on it. Swap the 12-inch plate for a 10-incher or less.
Count out chips and crackers – Eating from a bag or box makes tracking calories next to impossible.
Serve to the plate – Serving food family-style makes it too easy to reach for seconds.
Skinny up mixed drinks – Mix your wine with seltzer, tonic water or sugar-free soda.
Watch the pasta – One cup is just 220 calories. But restaurant portions are triple that and loaded with heavy sauces.
Leave a little – Leave as much as 25 percent on your plate. Save it for lunch the next day.
Eat mini-desserts – If you can’t resist, ask for a half-portion.
Skip the oil – Cook with stock or non-fat spray instead.
Sleep enough – Research shows people short on sleep nosh more during the day.
Dine in – There are fewer calories in most home-cooked fare than in restaurant food.
Choose sugar-free sips – Pass on any sugared tea, coffee or soda.
Be mindful – Put down your fork as soon as you feel full.

For Your Student: Handle Credit Wisely

August 28, 2012 5:22 pm

Students are heading back to school, and many are armed with their first ever credit card. While they may start off with the best of intentions, occasional splurges can turn into regular spender-benders as they dine out and shop for the latest fashions and electronics. Talk to your student about smart spending before a few big purchases—flat screen TV for the dorm, anyone?— make a major mark on their credit.

“As college students work toward their professional goals by obtaining educational degrees, we urge them to also consider their financial future and the role that credit plays in helping them achieve their personal and professional goals,” says Jeff Gerhart, chairman of ICBA and of Bank of Newman Grove, Neb. “The fact is that no one may ever need to see your transcript after you leave school, but your credit report will be with you for the rest of your life.”

New rules governing credit cards aimed specifically at protecting students went into effect in 2010. According to these rules, credit card companies are prohibited from issuing cards to anyone under the age of 18, and those under 21 need either an adult co-signer or proof of income. Educational institutions must disclose any agreements they have with credit card companies that market to students, and credit card companies may no longer entice students with free gifts. All other provisions in the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act that cover consumers—such as advance notice of changes, more time to make payments and terms that are easier to understand—apply to students as well.

Even with these safeguards, the best protection against getting deeply in debt is knowing the pitfalls and how to avoid them. ICBA offers the following tips to help students use credit cards wisely:

• Set up and follow a budget that includes paying off a credit card balance. “Maxing out” or charging up to your card’s credit limit can make sticking to your budget more difficult.
• Remember that cash advances, unlike purchases, generally have finance charges that apply immediately.
• Pay on time, every time. Whenever possible, pay more than the minimum payment owed (for example, 150 percent of the minimum) to pay off the balance faster and save on finance charges.
• Keep records of your account number, expiration date and the phone number of your card issuer in a safe place.
• Keep your account information confidential.
• Never give out your credit card number, card verification number (which appears on or near the signature panel) or expiration date over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know who you’re dealing with.
• Elect to receive your statement information online. Many sites offer an alert for unusual transactions and reminders of when your bill is due.
• Consider making your credit card payment online to ensure it is received by the monthly due date.
• Routinely access your account information online to track your spending and to quickly identify fraudulent transactions. If you see a transaction that is not yours, notify your card issuer immediately.
• If there’s an error on your account, report it immediately by notifying your card issuer. Look for complete instructions on your monthly statement or your bank’s website and follow them carefully to protect your rights.
• Keep a copy of your sales receipts so you can compare what you bought with the charges on your bill.
• When making online transactions, be sure the site is secure. Don’t let others see you enter card information.
• Don’t lend your credit card to anyone, not even a friend. Ever.
• If you move, notify your card issuer immediately.
• If you encounter financial difficulties, contact your card issuer as soon as possible.

Source: www.icba.org.

Tips for Securing Your Summer Home in the Off Season

August 28, 2012 5:22 pm

According to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2012 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, vacation home sales rose 7.0 percent to 502,000 in 2011 from 469,000 in 2010. With summer homes on the rise in a down economy, it is vital for homeowners to protect their investments from the threat of crime in the off-season.

"Empty summer homes are easy targets for potential intruders, and according to the FBI, the most recent burglary statistics indicate a 3.5 percent increase in the Northeast region," says former Boston Police Commissioner and Netwatch board member Kathleen O'Toole. "In today's world, high net-worth individuals require more sophisticated security solutions to protect themselves, their families, their data and their property."

As homeowners begin to close up their second homes for the off season, Netwatch CEO David Walsh provides the following safety tips to keep in mind:

Ask a neighbor or professional property manager to help. Enlist people to mow lawns and even park in your driveway while you're gone if possible.
Give local police the heads up. Your town may have a community safety program that allows a police officer to come to the house and do a safety check before you leave to alert you to any potential security issues.
Think defensively. Make sure you stop all mail, lock all windows and doors, pull your blinds so thieves can't see your valuables inside, and even put dowels in sliders so they can't pull them open.
Lighting is key, even when you aren't there. Take advantage of outdoor lights with motion sensors, solar lights on walkways, or even using lights and radios on timers inside.
Don't forget about your pipes. Make sure to seal up your basement and pull in any air conditioners that may contain copper piping.
Keep your driveway plowed, even if you aren't there. In case something does go wrong, you want to be sure that police and firefighters can easily access your home.
Monitor your house remotely. Set up your smartphone to monitor cameras inside and outside of your home. This allows homeowners to rest easier knowing they can see what's happening at all times.

"We've seen increases of up to 62 percent in unoccupied housing being targeted in the off season," says Walsh. "As the advances in technologies and the introduction of more stringent security measures mean commercial properties pose a higher risk of apprehension, criminals are turning their attention to more vulnerable but similarly lucrative targets such as the summer homes of high net-worth individuals."

Source: www.netwatchusa.com

Good Sense for Sensitive Skin

August 28, 2012 5:22 pm

Sensitive skin is a problem for millions of people. The uncomfortable feelings of stinging, burning, itching, redness and tightness can occur when certain ingredients found in everyday household products react to delicate skin after contact. Being mindful of chemicals your skin comes in contact with and incorporating more natural, gentle products into your daily routine can help reduce these unwanted reactions.

"When it comes to choosing products, I recommend those that are hypoallergenic and have been clinically proven to be gentle on the skin," says dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale, Ph.D. "Skin-friendly products include those that are mild in nature and free of alcohol, preservatives and dyes."

Instead of disrupting your skin with irritants found in everyday household items, you can choose more gentle, dermatologist recommended products to keep your skin healthy and comfortable:

Soap - Washing hands with antibacterial soap strips the natural oils and can result in dry, chapped skin. Choose mild soap, free of heavy scents or artificial dyes and wash hands with warm, not hot, water.
Household cleaners - When it comes to household cleaners, it can be difficult to avoid harsh chemicals. To ensure your skin is protected, wear rubber gloves and long sleeves when it's time for heavy cleaning. Look for products labeled for sensitive skin or consider making at-home cleaners with everyday products like baking soda for an all-natural alternative.
Laundry products - If you've experienced discomfort where the skin is covered by clothing, there may be something in your laundry products causing the irritation. Try dye-free or skin-friendly scented options.
Facial creams - Wrinkle creams, skin peels and cleansers can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. Check the label for common irritants such as ascorbic acid, paraben preservatives, and the alpha hydroxyl acids glycolic acid, malic acid and lactic acid. Test a new product by dabbing a small amount behind your ear and leaving it on overnight each day for five days.
Clothing - Rough fabrics such as wool can cause itchiness and rashes. Wear clothing made of soft, smooth, natural fabrics like cotton and silk. Clothing should be loose fitting, but with a minimum of creases and folds, which can cause more irritation.

If you're unsure of how your skin will react to certain products, talk to your dermatologist. Taking good care of your skin just makes good sense. And taking a few simple precautions can keep your sensitive skin feeling good.

Source: www.armandhammer.com.