Gunning Daily News

Q: Are Agents Responsible for Disclosing Material Facts?

August 3, 2012 4:42 pm

A: They can certainly be held accountable, particularly if they had prior knowledge of a material fact or should have known about it.

For example, if the seller has to use pans to collect water after a heavy rain, it is the agent’s responsibility to question the seller about the integrity of the roof, and then relay this information to potential buyers. However, if the seller duly hides a defect from the agent for which the agent had no prior knowledge, then the agent is not accountable. Experts say agents are not home inspectors, but they are expected to use their best judgement when something appears suspicious.

What to Buy—and What Not to Buy—in August

August 3, 2012 4:42 pm

Nearly everyone is buying back-to-school clothes in August – whether they are going back to school or not – and rightly so, since every item of clothing from kids’ socks to designer shoes will be on sale this month.

But August is a good month to save money on a variety of other goods – and a good month to resist purchasing certain other items. Consumer advocate Jenny Lee keeps an eye on shopping opportunities – and recommends a few purchases it might surprise you to make or not make in August:

• Buy jewelry – Summer is a prime time for getting good buys on both fine jewelry and costume pieces. They are discounted by merchandisers to boost lagging sales until the holiday and Valentine’s Day rush kicks in.
• Buy swimwear – prices will never be lower as stores clear space for back-to-school and fall/winter fashions. Stock up now for both adults and kids.
• Buy hotel packages – As traditional vacation time comes to an end, hoteliers are looking ahead at potentially empty rooms in fall and winter. Cruise various websites now to snag economical, book-ahead deals.
• Buy grills and patio furniture – The selection may not be as great, but prices will be slashed on what’s left in August to make room for winter-friendly merchandise.
• Don’t buy fitness equipment – Prices tend to go higher as summer wanes. That’s because people are looking ahead to exercising in cold weather. Wait till winter when competition between merchants yields better prices on exercise gear.
• Don’t buy furniture – sales are basically over now as the newest fall styles are coming into furniture stores. If you can do with what you have through the holidays, wait on buying new furniture until January.
• Don’t buy bicycles – It seems logical that bikes would be on sale during the warmer weather. But historically, the best prices on bikes will come just prior to the holidays.

Save Money by Putting Home on Autopilot

August 3, 2012 4:42 pm

(ARA) - Every homeowner can remember a time when they wondered, "Did I lock the front door this morning?" or "Did I leave a light on?" Others can attest to that feeling of dread knowing their air conditioner is running full blast while they're away on a weekend trip. There's nothing worse than worrying about the security of your home - or your rising electric bill - while you're away.

Fortunately, recent advancements in home technology offer peace of mind when it comes to energy efficiency, security and time savings. Almost any home can be put on "autopilot" without breaking the bank. Many areas of the home can benefit from some simple technology upgrades.

Efficiency

Heating and cooling a home accounts for 50 percent or more of a home's energy bill, so it's important to incorporate the latest technology to make it as easy as possible to be as efficient as possible.

"We have seen some great advancements in home technology that maximize the energy efficiency of heating and cooling products," says Bobby DiFulgentiz, an energy efficiency expert with Lennox International. "For example, as thermostats become more advanced, homeowners now have the ability to optimize home comfort and energy savings."

One example of these smart thermostats is the Lennox icomfort Wi-Fi thermostat. Homeowners can maximize energy savings through its one-touch away mode and remote control capabilities. Additionally, the thermostat communicates with a home's HVAC system and provides real-time alerts to service providers regarding any maintenance issues that need attention. The icomfort Wi-Fi also is the only thermostat that can blend into its surroundings by using customizable "skins" that match wallpaper or paint, or even allow it to be disguised as a piece of art or a family photo.

Water usage also is a concern when it comes to efficiency. Homeowners can cut down on water bills by using home sprinkler systems that incorporate Wi-Fi technology. These systems allow homeowners to start or stop sprinklers from anywhere, avoiding water waste when heavy rains have already saturated the lawn. Many systems now even include wireless capabilities that prevent sprinklers from activating during rain or freezing temperatures.

Security

Homeowners can rest easy, thanks to automated systems that ensure their home is safe and secure. Companies now offer products that check, open and close garage doors directly from a smartphone, tablet or computer. There are also lock systems that respond only to the fingerprints of residents of the home. If that's not enough, new technologies send text or email updates when doors are locked or unlocked, and can remotely lock doors through Wi-Fi.

Time Savings

Finally, kitchen appliances are beginning to integrate technologies to streamline the day-to-day routines of homeowners, allowing for maximum time savings. Consumers can take the hassle out of finding the perfect cooking setting by using a microwave that can scan a bar code on a dish and automatically adjusts to the correct time and power for the particular product. Ovens equipped with Wi-Fi allow cooks to monitor their meals on a mobile device and put the crock pot to shame.

Families can also save time while enjoying the convenience of home automation. Wi-Fi-enabled mailboxes send text or email alerts when mail has arrived. Parents can even save the time it takes to beg their child to stop playing video games by using a tool that automatically limits the time spent on an electronic device.

Peace of mind isn't all about expensive, over-the-top upgrades. Home automation can save time and money, and offer customized comfort and security, often through simple technology tweaks.

Smart Habits for College Freshmen

August 3, 2012 4:42 pm

(ARA) - Got your extra-long sheets? Check. Flip-flops for the shower? Check. What about your school-branded hoodie, hat and T-shirt? You may think you've thought of everything for your first year of college, but without a plan to achieve success you are still unprepared.

Sara Rathburn, associate dean of Student Affairs at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Maximillian Matthews, student engagement advocate and coordinator of Academic Support at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, offer habits to help you make the most out of your college experience and lay the foundation for an academically successful future.

1. Get involved
"Freshmen who feel connected to campus through student organizations and campus events tend to strive for success," says Matthews. Getting involved will not only enrich your college experience, but it will also pay dividends once you graduate. According to Rathburn, "Your college degree will one day show that you have knowledge in a field. Your out-of-class experiences will demonstrate that you have a skill base to go along with that knowledge."

2. Get out of your comfort zone
Don't be afraid of new experiences. "College is a time to test yourself - make mistakes, grow your strengths," says Rathburn. She recommends trying something completely new, such as joining a club dealing with a topic that is foreign to you.

3. Manage your time
"Make the most of every minute," says Rathburn. "Every hour of every day presents a choice - decide early on in your college experience that you will make the most of your time." Matthews agrees. "Freshmen should get in the habit of prioritizing and planning ahead to balance their workload and increase productivity," he says.

4. Manage your money
College not only helps you prepare to pursue a successful career, but can also teach you the skills that are necessary for financial success in the future. Rathburn suggests making meals instead of eating out, taking advantage of free local events, and making sure what you want is really what you need. "Don't sacrifice a financially secure future for fleeting fun now," she says.

5. Go to class

Even on days when you feel like sleeping in, Rathburn recommends making it a habit to go to class. She encourages students to make the most out of their time and financial investments.

6. Overcome fear of seeking help - talk to faculty and staff
Both Rathburn and Matthews recommend communicating with your professors. "Freshmen should get in the habit of letting their professors know when they will be late, absent or have questions about class material," says Matthews. Rathburn adds, "Speak up and make yourself known. Building connections can lead to greater opportunities today, tomorrow and in the years to come."

7. Personal organization

"Develop a system that works for you," says Rathburn. She recommends starting a filing system that is simple and can be built upon.

8. Learn about resources

Whether you need a tutor, help with a resume, or have questions about financial aid, campuses offer a variety of resources designed to help guide you through every aspect of your college career. Matthews recommends attending campus events, especially orientation. "Freshmen need to know who to go to when they need help, not only in academics but in financial aid and career counseling. This is why freshman orientation events are essential."

9. Remember your goals
"Stay focused," says Rathburn. "You are starting college for a reason - remember that reason. Let that reason motivate you when you are bogged down with homework or struggling with an assignment."

10. Be an active learner
"Active learning means concentrating on the current task, taking notes and asking questions," says Matthews. He says that if freshmen practice active learning from the beginning, "it will be natural for the remainder of their time in school."

Source: www.artinstitutes.edu

Word of the Day

August 3, 2012 4:42 pm

Private mortgage insurance (PMI). Required by most lenders for conventional loans with a down payment of less than 20 percent. Insurance is paid by the borrower and guarantees the lender will not lose money if the borrower defaults.

Q: What Is the Best Advice on Negotiating?

August 3, 2012 4:42 pm

A: Be patient, know your home’s worth, adopt a positive attitude, and do not let emotions – anger, pride, greed, or prejudice – get in the way of negotiating the best deal.

Your home obviously means a lot to you, but you have already made the decision to move on, so begin to think of your home as “the house” or “the condo,” instead of “my home.”

When reasonable offers come along, take them seriously. You can always counter any offer made by the buyer that comes near your asking price. Do not spoil a good deal over a few hundred dollars.

Learn about the Latest Flood Insurance Reforms, Facts

August 2, 2012 6:06 pm

I occasionally like to provide important updates to property and homeowners about flood insurance.

The latest news on this front is the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 was signed into law Friday, July 6 by President Obama. The reforms include increasing access to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for some residents whose homes were impacted by flooding from federal land that resulted from wildfires.

Remember, homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding. And if you're shopping for a house in a designated Special Flood Hazard Area (deemed at high risk), then federally regulated or insured mortgage lenders must, by law, require you to buy flood insurance as a condition for the loan.

Even if you are not required by law to buy flood insurance, you should consider it based on these facts:

• Floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states.
• Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property.
• Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
• Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
• New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
• You are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Check the floodsmart.gov Community Status Book to see if your community is already an NFIP partner.
• It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it's important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise.
• In a high-risk area, your home is more than twice as likely to be damaged by flood than by fire.
• Anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. People outside of high-risk areas file over 20 percent of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.
• The average annual U.S. flood losses in the past 10 years (2001-2010) were more than $2.7 billion.
• When your community participates in the Community Rating System (CRS), you can qualify for an insurance premium discount of up to 45 percent.

For everything you need to know about flooding risks and flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov.

Is Your College Student Going Back to Bugs? Inspect Dorms for Pests

August 2, 2012 6:06 pm

In September, college students will be pouring back onto campuses across the country. As they do so, they should be aware of pests that can be hidden inside furniture or housing. Temperatures so far this year are the hottest on record, which has led to a more active and increased insect population. According to a national survey by HomeTeam Pest Defense, 84 percent of homeowners experienced a problem with pests in 2011 and weather has given them a boost this year.

"Bugs are thriving and they aren't just a nuisance to homeowners. College students about to set up residence should take some precautions when it comes to pests," says Kim Reynolds, entomologist and regional technical director for HomeTeam Pest Defense.

"Before purchasing used furniture, check it carefully for Drywood termites and German cockroaches," continues Reynolds. "If you are moving furniture that has been stored over the summer, or if your dorm room or apartment comes furnished, check for these pests in all furniture (especially desks and dressers)."

Reynolds also says that used, previously stored or furnished mattresses and couches should be carefully checked for bed bugs (summer is the peak season). Moving vans, plus the constant rotation of tenants in college dorms and apartments make it all too easy for these pests to hitch a ride from one location to another.

Residents should thoroughly inspect the property before moving in and report any problems to their R.A. or property manager. HomeTeam Pest Defense recommends the following:
• Look for signs of termites in furniture—like chipping away in wooden parts of the furniture or mysterious sawdust on the floor. Drywood termite swarmers are commonly mistaken for winged ants. They can be found in furniture because they survive and breed in very little moisture and do not require soil.
• Check furniture and living spaces for German cockroaches, which can hide easily and fit into very small cracks and crevices. They are only about a half an inch long (much smaller than most common cockroaches) and are most active at night.
• Inspect your mattress, box spring and headboard for bed bugs. Pull back creases and folds in the mattress fabric where they like to hide. Look for the bugs themselves (adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed) or tiny black or reddish dots that might be signs they are present. They feed off blood and hide in cracks and crevices near warm-blooded human hosts.
• Inspect corners, behind refrigerators and inside cabinets and drawers to remove cobwebs (also keep an eye out for cockroach and rodent droppings). Make sure window screens do not have tears or holes. Mice can enter a space through an opening the size of a dime and rats can enter through an opening the size of a quarter.
• Check for leaky pipes and dripping water in bathrooms and kitchens. Most household pests only need small amounts of water to breed and survive.
“Move-in day is not the only time to be concerned about pests," says Reynolds. "Many fall pests, like stinkbugs, rodents and crickets, have arrived early this year and in abundance. They will begin to look for a way indoors when cooler weather arrives."

HomeTeam Pest Defense suggests the following tips for college students to help prevent pests:
• Dust and vacuum your living space often.
• Store food in tightly sealed containers or storage bags.
• Pick up after yourself. Clothes and towels (damp or not) left lying around can be a warm environment for pests to live under.
• When visiting home or friends at other campuses, be careful where you put and store your belongings to avoid carrying pests back with you.
• Always wash your bedding in hot water and dry on high heat.

Source: www.pestdefense.com

Power up Your Productivity at the Office

August 2, 2012 6:06 pm

In today’s multitasking mayhem, it can be easy to get distracted at work. And for small business owners or up-and-coming entrepreneurs, there are constant demands on time, decisions to be made, and stress about the bottom line.

For entrepreneurs who think that multitasking is the answer, numerous studies have shown that multitasking is not an efficient way to work. It has even been suggested that this common practice can limit one's ability to make decisions, decrease short-term memory and even lead to weight gain.

"I haven't met a business owner yet who doesn't wish there were more hours in the day," says Jim Sathre, Senior Vice President, M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group. "They always feel stretched so thin between work and family, but much of that stress can be eliminated using more effective time management."

Sathre offers a few ways that business owners can refresh and revise their workday habits to work more efficiently and make the best use of their resources.

1. Prioritize your to-do list. Differentiate between things that must get done, things that should get done, and things that can wait. Then tackle the tasks accordingly. But be realistic about how much you can accomplish in one day.
2. Focus. Jumping sporadically from one task to another isn't efficient. For example, set aside times during the day to reply to email and phone messages rather than responding to them throughout the day.
3. Delegate whenever possible. You have staff for a reason – use them! You'll probably always have more on your task list than you can reasonably tackle, so this change will be especially important.
4. Utilize outside resources. Talk to your business partners – bankers, CPA, lawyers, etc. – about ways you can streamline operations. Brainstorming with these groups can lend a crucial outside perspective on potential business improvements.
5. Learn to say "no." Be realistic about the constraints on your time, and what tasks you really need to take on. This can be hard at first, but both you and your colleagues will be better off if you make an honest assessment.
6. Make time to be away from the office. Don't fall prey to the misconception that more hours at the office will create more success. Everyone needs a chance to recharge, and those times away from work will give your mind a chance to relax and refocus.

Controlling the time you spend managing your business finances can be made easier when you engage your banker. Many banks offer a complete line of cash management tools all designed to help businesses improve their bottom line. Among the options are products to help you speed up collection of receivables, better utilize cash on hand, manage automatic payroll processing, and perform remote deposit capture, to name a few.

"Changing your time management habits isn't easy, and it won't happen overnight," said Sathre. "But in the long run, these modifications can be well worth the effort."

Business owners who can become more efficient and effectively manage time can lead a more balanced life, and perhaps even have increased business success and personal peace of mind. However, it will require some dedication and a lot of practice.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Fuel for School

August 2, 2012 6:06 pm

For parents, school day mornings are typically rushed. Getting the kids out of bed and on the bus is one thing, but managing to whip up breakfast, pack lunches and get everyone out the door on time requires planning and preparation.

As the morning rushes by, there's little time to pack a unique lunch or make snacks for everyone, including mom and dad. In fact, according to a national survey commissioned by DOLE® and conducted by Wakefield Research, 73 percent of moms say they have eaten their child's snack in a pinch.
To help save time and energy each day, check out these simple lunch-packing tips to revamp your morning routine and help create a smooth and stress-free school year.

Leverage last night's leftovers. Don't stick to the same old sandwich, juice box and snack regimen. Try adding instant rice to leftover chicken, transforming leftover steak into a hearty chili, or boiling some pasta to add to leftover hamburger meat. These simple tricks to repurposing yesterday's meal will save the family time and money this school year.

Share a smile. Lunch doesn't have to be elaborate every day. But there are plenty of fun, creative ways to make a simple lunch exciting, especially for the kids. For instance, cut sandwiches into different shapes with cookie cutters (you can find animal shapes and even puzzle-shaped cookie cutters online). Make the kids smile with a simple note or googly eyes on their sandwich wrapper. Try putting contact paper inside the lid for games or dry-erase notes that the kids can leave for you, too.

Keep it cool. There are plenty of ways to preserve your lunch so it's still tasty in the afternoon. Think outside the thermos and try freezing a yogurt cup or a juice box to keep lunches cold throughout the day.
Snack attack. With an on-the-go lifestyle, it's important to keep snacks on hand should hunger strike. In fact, according to the DOLE survey, 77 percent of women say they can't get through a normal day without a snack. After you pack up the family's lunches in the morning, be sure to grab some healthy snacks for your desk drawer or your purse so you can have a quick bite when necessary. The kids always need a pick-me-up after their school sports and activities, so make sure to have some fun snacks in the car.

Source: www.DOLE.com.