Gunning Daily News

Question of the Day

March 21, 2012 4:22 pm

Q: Why do most homebuyers prefer a fixed-rate mortgage?

A: Long-term, fixed-rate mortgages are preferred by most homebuyers because they offer security and stability. The interest rate does not fluctuate over the life of the loan, so the total amount of principal and interest always remains the same. The monthly payment can change, however, if local property taxes, which are normally part of the monthly mortgage payment, increase.

Because the life of a fixed-term loan is usually long – anywhere from 15 to 30 years – you have plenty of time to repay it and there is no call provision written into the mortgage. A call allows the lender to demand the balance of the loan be paid in full before the actual payoff date.

On the negative side, the interest rate on a fixed mortgage is usually two or three full points above the current rate on an adjustable rate loan, at least initially. But for buyers seeking security, the comfort of knowing what their payments will be year after year, and no plans of selling their home in the foreseeable future, this is a small price to pay. If rates drop, they may be able to refinance their home loan and get a lower rate.

Word of the Day

March 19, 2012 5:54 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.

Protect Your Family against Foreign Lottery Fraud

March 19, 2012 5:54 pm

Every year thousands of Americans fall prey to scammers, with the elderly and disabled being the most vulnerable to their schemes. Luckily, there are safeguards in place to protect you, and to provide crucial guidance for spotting scams that could be targeting your family.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), founded by Benjamin Franklin, is the oldest law enforcement agency in the country. It works every day to stop these criminals from the millions of attempts they make to scam Americans.

During National Consumer Protection Week, which ends today, March 12, USPIS is making an extra effort to help you protect yourself. One of the most prevalent scams around is the Foreign Lottery Fraud, from as far away as Australia and Europe.

Scam operators target U.S. consumers by phone, Internet and direct mail to buy into high-stakes foreign lotteries. This is not only illegal, it also robs millions of Americans of billions of dollars. Lottery hustlers use victims' bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.

Tips and warning signs to protect yourself from foreign lottery fraud
Use these tips to ensure you and your family are protected against fraud. Remember to inform family members to look out for the following signs.

There are two main techniques used in a foreign lottery scam:
• They tell you that you've won and only need to send a few hundred dollars to claim your prize.
• They ask you to buy tickets to enter a foreign lottery, where the odds are better.
Either way you can't win.

If you are a caretaker to someone with diminished mental capacity, keep a close eye on warning signs that they have fallen prey to scammers. According to the USPIS these criminals are "deliberately targeting victims with dementia."

Signs include:
• Checks written or money wired internationally
• A telephone that rings constantly
• A stack of lottery or sweepstakes entries
• Calls from foreign countries, especially if they're calling your elderly family members
Scammers are constantly updating their methods:
Criminals are increasingly using new technology like VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and Caller-ID "spoofing," making it seem like the call is coming from the U.S. or even a government agency.

For more information visit www.deliveringtrust.com and postalinspectors.uspis.gov.

Workplace Woes: Feeling Valued Links to Higher Performance

March 19, 2012 5:54 pm

Half of all employees who say that they do not feel valued at work report that they intend to look for a new job in the next year, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Conducted online among 1,714 adults between January 12 and 19, 2012 on behalf of the APA by Harris Interactive, the survey found that employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who do not feel valued by their employers.

Almost all employees (93 percent) who reported feeling valued said that they are motivated to do their best at work and 88 percent reported feeling engaged. This compares to just 33 percent and 38 percent, respectively, of those who said they do not feel valued.

Among employees who feel valued, just one in five (21 percent) said they intend to look for a new job in the next year (vs. 50 percent of those who said that they do not feel valued). A variety of factors were linked to feeling undervalued at work, including having fewer opportunities for involvement in decision making (24 percent vs. 84 percent), being less satisfied with the potential for growth and advancement (9 percent vs. 70 percent), having fewer opportunities to use flexible work arrangements (20 percent vs. 59 percent) and being less likely to say they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (18 percent vs. 69 percent) and non-monetary rewards (16 percent vs. 65 percent). Overall, more than one in five (21 percent) working Americans said they do not feel valued by their employers.

Stress at Work
Many Americans continue to report chronic work stress, with two out of five (41 percent) employees reporting that they typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday. Commonly cited causes of work stress include low salaries (46 percent), lack of opportunities for growth or advancement (41 percent), too heavy a workload (41 percent), long hours (37 percent) and unclear job expectations (35 percent).

3 Quick Ways to De-stress:

If you’re feeling stressed at work, try the following calming methods.

Walk it out. Walk away from your office or desk for 5 minutes. Deep breathe and take a lap around the building. When you come back, you will feel more centered.

List it. Write a list of what needs to be done in order of importance. See if you can delegate any tasks to other employees or place low-priority projects on the back burner.

Keep a Smile File. Keep a file on your computer of inspiring images, photos of family and friends, funny jokes or any material that will bring a smile to your face. Open the file when you need a quick pick-me-up.

Source: http://www.apa.org, http://www.phwa.org

5 Tips for Mold Removal from Walls

March 19, 2012 5:54 pm

Spring is here, and that means the rainy season may very well be upon us. With rain comes water damage and with water damage comes every homeowner’s worst nightmare: mold. Okay, that might be a bit extreme, but mold is a pesky problem.

Mold is the single most common byproduct of water damage, appearing in as little as 72 hours following a water damage event (sooner if the water is sewage based), and proving extremely difficult to remediate. Even worse, mold can be the cause of all kinds of health problems, ranging from mild allergic reactions and skin irritation to more serious neurological disorders and respiratory problems.

RestorationLocal.com, a provider of water damage restoration and mold removal services, has come up with the following tips on how to best remove minor mold growths from walls and ceilings in your home and office.
• Start at the top of the wall and work your way down. This will prevent any contamination of clean areas with drips or runs as you move down the wall.
• Wear proper protective gear. Long pants, sleeves, rubber gloves, and a filtration mask are necessary items in order to prevent exposure to mold spores.
• Don’t even try to clean porous surfaces. You will not be successful. Mold gets down inside the surface and cannot be reached. Porous surfaces affected by mold will need to be cut away and replaced.
• Make sure all cleaned surfaces are properly dried out. Moisture is the single most important factor in mold growth.
• Removing mold is never just as easy as killing off the growth. The environment must be properly treated to make sure the problem doesn’t return. This involves disinfecting, sanitizing, improving the ventilation, and reducing humidity and moisture levels. Appropriate humidity levels in any residence of business should be maintained at 40-45 degrees.
Source: RestorationLocal.com

Simple Steps to Home Safety

March 19, 2012 5:54 pm

Keeping your home and family safe is a high priority. If home fires, break-ins or weather-related disasters have you worried, here are some simple steps you can take to make your home a safer place.

Be Forewarned
Every home should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors, but they require some minor maintenance and don't last forever. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a home fire.
• Make sure you have smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, including the basement. The USFA recommends installing them inside and outside of sleeping areas.
• Replace your batteries regularly. While having a working smoke detector more than doubles your chance of survival, it's estimated that one third of smoke alarms are not working, often due to worn out batteries. Many people use the time change each spring and fall as a reminder to change batteries.
• Replace old smoke alarms. According to the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. It is also recommended that homes have both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms, or dual sensor smoke alarms which have both types of sensors. (Ionization alarms sound more quickly in a flaming, fast-moving fire. Photoelectric alarms are faster at sensing smoldering, smoky fires.) When the time comes to replace your detectors, consider a First Alert product. You can find affordable options with both types of sensors.
Seeking Security?
Taking precautions to protect your home extend to home security, as well. According to the Bureau of Justice, many home burglaries occur simply by a thief walking through the front door.
• Protect yourself and your family through the use of deadbolts on doors and locks on windows.
• Installing motion-sensor lights on walkways or driveways can potentially deter a thief.
• Many home security kits are available in a "do it yourself" complete package, allowing you to customize sirens, entry points and more.
• If installing an entire security system seems too much, something simple like a keyless entry system provides peace of mind and easy installation. A garage door keyless entry using fingerprint identity ensures that only the right people gain access to your home.
Weather the Storm
Protecting your home from inclement weather is an essential part of ensuring your family's safety.
• The first step is having a family discussion about safe rooms in the house and a plan in case of dangerous weather.
• According to FEMA, a weather radio with NOAA technology allows as much as eight minutes lead time before public alarms sound to move family and pets to a safe room or secure location.
• Make sure you have a weather safety kit that contains a flashlight, portable power for your electronics, an emergency radio, walkie talkies, bottled water and dry goods. Let each child choose 1 to 2 items to put in the weather prep toolkit, such as a toy, game or personal item to help keep them occupied and calm in the case you have to take shelter for a long period of time. Additional alkaline batteries are always good to have on hand in case of emergency.
Source: www.radioshack.com

Question of the Day

March 19, 2012 4:54 pm

Q: Are up-front fees and closing costs deductible?

A: Many of the costs paid at closing are not immediately deductible.

The exception is points you pay to purchase your home loan. They are deductible for that year. Points paid when you refinance an existing mortgage must be deducted over the life of the new loan.

Some fees – including loan application, appraisal, document preparation and recording fees – that are assessed when purchasing a home can be recouped by adding them to the adjusted cost basis, the starting point for figuring a gain or less when selling the home.

Significant home improvements also can be calculated into your cost basis.

Question of the Day

March 16, 2012 4:44 pm

Q: Are up-front fees and closing costs deductible?

A: Many of the costs paid at closing are not immediately deductible.

The exception is points you pay to purchase your home loan. They are deductible for that year. Points paid when you refinance an existing mortgage must be deducted over the life of the new loan.

Some fees – including loan application, appraisal, document preparation and recording fees – that are assessed when purchasing a home can be recouped by adding them to the adjusted cost basis, the starting point for figuring a gain or less when selling the home.

Significant home improvements also can be calculated into your cost basis.

Word of the Day

March 16, 2012 4:44 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.

Protect Your Family against Foreign Lottery Fraud

March 16, 2012 4:44 pm

Every year thousands of Americans fall prey to scammers, with the elderly and disabled being the most vulnerable to their schemes. Luckily, there are safeguards in place to protect you, and to provide crucial guidance for spotting scams that could be targeting your family. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), founded by Benjamin Franklin, is the oldest law enforcement agency in the country. It works every day to stop these criminals from the millions of attempts they make to scam Americans.

During National Consumer Protection Week, which ends today, March 12, USPIS is making an extra effort to help you protect yourself. One of the most prevalent scams around is the Foreign Lottery Fraud, from as far away as Australia and Europe.

Scam operators target U.S. consumers by phone, Internet and direct mail to buy into high-stakes foreign lotteries. This is not only illegal, it also robs millions of Americans of billions of dollars. Lottery hustlers use victims' bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.

Tips and warning signs to protect yourself from foreign lottery fraud

Use these tips to ensure you and your family are protected against fraud. Remember to inform family members to look out for the following signs.

There are two main techniques used in a foreign lottery scam:
• They tell you that you've won and only need to send a few hundred dollars to claim your prize.
• They ask you to buy tickets to enter a foreign lottery, where the odds are better.

Either way you can't win.

If you are a caretaker to someone with diminished mental capacity, keep a close eye on warning signs that they have fallen prey to scammers. According to the USPIS these criminals are "deliberately targeting victims with dementia."

Signs include:
• Checks written or money wired internationally
• A telephone that rings constantly
• A stack of lottery or sweepstakes entries
• Calls from foreign countries, especially if they're calling your elderly family members

Scammers are constantly updating their methods:

Criminals are increasingly using new technology like VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and Caller-ID "spoofing," making it seem like the call is coming from the U.S. or even a government agency.

For more information visit www.deliveringtrust.com and postalinspectors.uspis.gov.