Gunning Daily News
March 13, 2012 6:16 pm
Q: What should I know about mechanics’ liens?
A: A mechanic’s lien is a “hold” against your property that provides contractors and suppliers legal recourse to assure payment for services. The liens vary from state to state and allow for a cloud on the title of your property and foreclosure action. Also, if you paid the contractor, but he failed to pay the subcontractors and laborers – who do not have a contract with you – then the workers may file a mechanic's lien on your home. This could result in a double payment by you for the same job. You can protect yourself from unwarranted liens by selecting your contractor carefully and managing your construction project responsibly. Also, most construction lenders will specify a payment distribution process that involves the securing of lien waivers. The remodeling contract should address this as well, assuring that the general contractor is responsible for all payments as well as any costs required to remedy lien disputes that may arise.
March 12, 2012 6:08 pm
The weather is warming and pretty soon it will be time to throw open your windows, enjoy the fresh air and partake in a bit of spring cleaning. However, decluttering isn’t the only thing you should be focusing on this spring. Following winter months spent indoors, it's important to take the time to get rid of the dust, dirt and allergens that accumulate in your house. Use these tips to get your home organized and clean:
Gather your arsenal. Save yourself time and hassle by organizing the items you'll need, such as rubber gloves, scrub brushes, multi-purpose cleansers, etc. into one bucket with a handle.
Cover the basics. Make sure to dust, disinfect and clean all of your surfaces, as well as those areas that get the most use. Sanitize telephones, remote controls, door knobs and counter tops. Take down and launder curtains and wipe down window blinds using a damp sponge.
Tackle the kitchen. Focus on the key areas. Using a solution of half water, half white distilled vinegar, wipe down the plastic and glass components of the refrigerator. Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge and clean counter tops, stainless steel sinks, the oven range, and within your microwave. To remove soap buildup in your dishwasher, pour a cup of white vinegar in an empty machine and run through the cycle.
"Most people are unaware that the kitchen sink is one spot with the most germs," says Clay Nichols of www.DadLabs.com, a website that helps modern dads tackle the challenges of paternity, one day at a time. Nichols understands the challenges of juggling a busy schedule and tackling household chores. He suggests using the moments in between other tasks to clean as you go.
Clean early and often. If areas of your house are forgotten for weeks at a time, dirt, dust and allergens can build up quickly. "Kids and pets can create a lot of mess in a house," says Nichols, "It is important to clean daily, and in doing so, you free up your weekend for quality family time."
Don't forget to look high and low. Dirt and dust don't only settle on the ground. To reach the tops of bookshelves and ceiling corners, use a high powered vacuum that allows for optimal cleaning reach.
Check behind the lines. When cleaning carpets, flooring and baseboards, move furniture out of the way. If you're looking to refresh a room, try placing key pieces in new spots. To get rid of the carpet indentations left behind by heavy furniture, place ice cubs an inch to an inch-and-a-half apart within the indentations and allow them to melt. The carpet fibers will absorb the moisture and begin to take form.
Source: www.Hoover.com and www.DirtDevil.com.
March 12, 2012 6:08 pm
Running your own business is hard work. To make it, you need a fully functioning team that works together to make goals, just like your favorite sport. And, like any good sports team, every business needs a good coach. Marketing consultant John Jantsch, bestselling author of "Duct Tape Marketing" and "The Referral Engine," has some low-cost ideas that will help you create a strong message and communicate it to the right people.
• Keep Score - If you want to determine who your ideal client is, go through your entire client list and rank your clients by profitability. Then look at your most profitable clients and identify those that are already referring business to you. Figure out the common characteristics in this group and you've got a pretty good picture of your ideal client.
• Find Your Zone - Once you've identified who you're marketing to, you need to fine tune your message. Ask how you're really different from your competitors, Jantsch advises. The best way to find out is to ask your customers. Get with five to eight ideal customers and ask them to tell you one thing they love about your business. Listen closely to words they use. There's a good chance the words your clients use to describe what you do that's unique should be part of your value proposition -- no matter how simple they may sound to you.
• Be a Coach Yourself - Instead of advertising your products and services, promote valuable content that tells your prospects how to do or get something you know they want more of. This can be an ebook or video, but make sure you're creating awareness for educational content and you'll have the chance to build the trust required to start a sales conversation.
• Know Your Fans - A lot of small business owners want to know how to make social media pay off. Jantsch recommends that you go through your client list and append every record with the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles for each. You can do this by hand or use a service like RapLeaf. Now every time you make a client call you'll know a great deal more about what's going on in their world.
March 12, 2012 6:08 pm
Reading is one of the most important skills your child can acquire. Since no two children are the same, most learn to read at different paces. For many parents, encouraging their child to become an active reader can be difficult. And because each child learns at a different pace, it can be hard for parents to determine how to best further their child's reading skill growth.
"Get caught reading! Nothing motivates the youngest learners like mom and dad can. If you read for pleasure, your kids will want to read for enjoyment, too," says K12 Inc. Director of Primary Literacy, Kristen J. Kinney-Haines, Ed.D. "Also, read as a family. No matter your age, we never outgrow the enjoyment and comfort of hearing a great story read to us. Allow everyone a chance to be the reader— even the littlest ones, who can chime in with sight words."
Here are more tips for encouraging your child to read, which in turn expands their vocabulary and helps aid in further studies.
For those children beginning to learn letters and words, remember that story time alone is not the only key to unlocking their reading potential. Many early reading programs are designed to help children recognize the relationship between sounds and letters, to develop fluency, and to continue to develop a more extensive vocabulary.
• Start with picture books. Remember that you must make the act of reading a story exciting. Picture books are a great way to introduce the act of reading—or simply flipping through a book—to young children.
• Let them read with you. As you read to your child, ask them to help you spell out words. Make sure you point out words as you read, to reinforce the sounds each letter, and combinations of letters, makes.
• Recommended books for early readers: "The Doorbell Rang," by Pat Hutchins, the "Frog and Toad" series by Arnold Lobel, and the "Amelia Bedelia" series by Peggy Parish.
As your child continues to develop their skill level, look to books they can enjoy on their own.
• Visit the library often. Updating your child's book shelf is crucial for independent readers. Parents should ensure their child has access to books that will garner their attention and challenge their vocabulary.
• Study challenging words. Because new reading materials will provide further vocabulary, practice looking up tricky words in the dictionary with your child and encourage them to keep a list of new words and definitions learned from each new book.
• Recommended books for independent readers: "The Chronicles of Narnia" series by C. S. Lewis, "Chocolate Fever," by Robert Kimmel Smith, and "The Borrowers" series by Mary Norton.
For children reading at an advanced level, it is important to ensure they are exposed to an ever-increasing library.
• Find a reading program. Enroll your child in a regional or national reading program to help further motivate their reading practices.
• Start a book club. Encourage your child to start a book club with friends. Making the act of reading a more social practice is important as your child gets older. In addition, you are preparing your child for classroom conversations focusing on reading materials for when they attend a higher educational institution.
• Recommended books for advanced readers: "The Catcher in the Rye," by J. D. Salinger, "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen and "Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury."
March 12, 2012 6:08 pm
Bylaws. Rules and regulations that govern how a homeowners’ association will be run.
March 12, 2012 6:08 pm
Q: What is seller financing?
A: Also known as a purchase money mortgage, it is when the seller agrees to “lend” money to the buyer to purchase and close on the seller’s home. Usually sellers do this when money is tight, interest rates are high or when a buyer has difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan or meeting the purchase price.
Seller financing differs from a traditional loan because the seller does not actually give the buyer cash to complete the purchase, as does the lender. Instead, it involves issuing a credit against the purchase price of the home. The buyer executes a promissory note or trust deed in the seller's favor.
March 9, 2012 3:42 pm
Traditionally, spring marks a busy period of time for housing market activity. Buying a home can be the largest and most important financial decision one can make, so it is important to be aware of all the factors that go into making a responsible purchasing decision, especially if you’re buying for the first time.
"The first step is figuring out how much you can afford to spend on homeownership, which means an honest assessment of the household balance sheet," says Dave Sheedy, mortgage market manager for M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group. "Once you have a clear idea of where you stand financially, you can then make a responsible decision of what you can afford, including your down payment, monthly mortgage costs and other expenses like utility costs and property taxes."
M&I offers the following tips for people looking to buy a home.
Making an affordability assessment
Sheedy noted that there are two rules of thumb first time homebuyers can use to determine what they can afford.
"First of all, housing costs, including mortgage payments, property insurance and taxes, should not take up more than one-third of your income. In addition to this, servicing your overall debt, including loans, credit card payments and lines of credit, should not account for more than 40 percent. If you can land safely within these parameters, than homeownership is an affordable and realistic option."
Many banks offer free online tools to help you wade through the home-buying process. For example, Mibank.com/mortgages provides useful information for the potential homebuyer including: affordability calculators, term options, and mortgage qualification estimates.
Coming up with the down payment
The bigger the down payment you come up with, the less interest you'll pay over the life of your mortgage. Financial institutions may offer special savings accounts designed to help you save for that first home. Consider opening a savings account specifically to fund your down payment. One easy way to save is to set up an automatic monthly deposit from your checking account to your savings account, allowing you to build the balance over time.
Choosing the right mortgage for you
Your mortgage needs to fit in with the rest of your financial priorities – which could mean increased flexibility or security. Consider the following when choosing your mortgage:
• Choose a shorter amortization period – The shorter the life of the mortgage, the lower the overall cost. Consider choosing a 20-year amortization rather than a 30-year amortization to save you money on interest costs and help you become debt-free sooner.
• Fixed vs. variable – Variable-rate mortgages have been a winning strategy over the long term, but fixed rate mortgages (currently at historic lows) provide cost certainty and peace of mind.
• Stress-test your mortgage payments – Use a mortgage payment based on a higher rate to stress-test your budget; total housing costs (mortgage payments, property taxes, and insurance, etc.) should not consume more than one-third of household income.
Applying for pre-approval
A pre-approval establishes the amount you can reasonably afford to pay for your first home. Consider the following benefits to getting pre-approved:
• Have a good idea of your finances – You will receive a better idea of how much you are qualified to borrow, saving time looking at homes out of your affordability range. Your term and amortization, as well as estimated monthly payments, are provided at approval so you can use these figures when planning your overall budget.
• Moving quickly – If you are pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll be able to move quickly to make an offer when you finally find the perfect home for you.
March 9, 2012 3:42 pm
The promise of a quick profit in real estate can be hard to resist. But consumers who misrepresent information when buying or refinancing a home could end up being responsible for any shortfall when the property is sold. If the misrepresentation is intentional, they could also be held criminally responsible as accomplices to mortgage fraud.
The most common form of mortgage fraud, called straw buying, occurs when someone with good credit is convinced to put their name on a mortgage application for a home that someone else will be buying, usually in return for the promise of a quick profit. To protect your name, your credit and your family, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips on how to avoid becoming part of a mortgage fraud scheme:
• Never accept money, guarantee a loan or add your name to a mortgage unless you fully intend to purchase the property. If you allow your personal information to be used for a mortgage, even for a brief period, you could be held responsible for the entire debt even after the property is sold.
• Always know who you are doing business with. If you are buying or selling a home, use only licensed real estate agents and other industry professionals. And never sign anything until you know exactly what you are signing.
• Determine the sales history of any property you are thinking about buying, and consider having it inspected and appraised. Ask for a copy of the land title search, and find out if anyone else has a financial interest in the home. If a deposit is required, make sure the funds are held "in trust" by the vendor's real estate company or lawyer/notary.
• Get independent legal advice from your own lawyer. Talk to your lawyer about title insurance and other alternative methods of protection.
Most importantly, be wary of anyone who approaches you with an offer to make a quick profit in real estate. Remember: if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
March 9, 2012 3:42 pm
This weekend marks “Spring Forward,” the time when we lose an hour of sleep to welcome the new season. Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann recently urged residents to change the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when they turn their clocks forward this weekend.
"It's a message that's repeated twice a year, and that's because it's important for people to realize that this simple step takes just a few minutes and it saves lives," Mann says.
Working smoke alarms cut in half the risk of dying in a home fire. Worn or missing batteries are the most common cause of a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector malfunction. Changing the batteries at least once a year is one of the simplest, most effective ways to prevent tragic deaths and injuries.
Carbon monoxide is created when combustible materials burn incompletely. Often called "the silent killer," it is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can incapacitate victims before they're aware they've been exposed. Sources include wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, gas-fired appliances, grills, and motor vehicles. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for the flu and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, disorientation and fatigue.
Before installing a detector or an alarm, Mann suggested writing the purchase date inside the unit. Whether a unit is battery-powered or hardwired, it should be replaced every 8-10 years.
Mann says this weekend also serves as an ideal time for families to review their home evacuation plans; planning two ways to escape from each room and practicing escape routes with the entire family.
March 9, 2012 3:42 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.