Gunning Daily News
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.
March 9, 2012 3:42 pm
Q: What are allowances and what should I know about them when planning with a remodeling contractor?
A: Rather than price specific products or materials, many contractors prefer to use product allowances, an amount included in the contract to be used toward the purchase of these products and materials as they are selected by the consumer. Typical categories where allowances might be used include flooring, cabinets, and lighting fixtures. Allowances allow homeowners more time to finalize exact selections as the project progresses, and they can simplify the cost control process. The disadvantage, however, is that the cost of final selections can easily exceed the amount of money allowed, resulting in significant extra charges to the homeowner. Shop for each allowance category before you finalize the allowance amounts provided in the contract. This way, you can budget for additional funds or adjust allowances to better reflect the actual monies required.
March 9, 2012 3:42 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.
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.
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.