Gunning Daily News
October 21, 2011 5:34 pm
Q: What are the advantages of owning a home?
A: There are many. Among the most appealing: you own it, which gives you, instead of a landlord, control of your living space. Other benefits stem from potential tax savings and the build up of equity as your property likely appreciates in price over time. Equity can be used to help put children through college, purchase a second home, or make home improvements.
The mortgage interest paid on a home loan is tax deductible, as is the local property tax. If you get a fixed-rate home mortgage loan, you also can invest more wisely knowing your monthly mortgage payment, unlike rent, will not change substantially.
October 21, 2011 5:04 pm
Can I interest you in an incentive? I am not one to walk away from a good idea, and across the country, we are seeing more and more innovative incentives being packed into various local or national real estate programs.
For instance, Fannie Mae is currently offering buyers an incentive of up to 3.5% in closing cost assistance through October 31, 2011. Learn more at: fanniemae.com.
There’s a great program in Baltimore, where a total of $500,000 available for the first 50 buyers of Vacants to Value properties. (baltimorehousing.org) Homeowners can qualify either by finding a recently rehabbed home that the city qualifies, or by purchasing a still-vacant home with a rehab loan or 203(k).
Guy D. Cecala, the publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry trade publication says “Everyone is coming up with incentives—mostly (for) buyers in the market for a non-distressed home who can take the most advantage of incentives.”
Cecala also suggested a few things buyers can do to make the most of the incentives available today:
The best approach to negotiating incentives is knowing how much sellers are willing to pay and, if this is new construction, what the builders are offering, says Cecala. Often, builders are willing to work with buyers on things like customizations and property upgrades.
Talk to at least two or three lenders to see who will give you the best offer, Cecala says. Since real estate is very localized, the best way to find out about deals is to talk to people in your area of interest. In addition, if a friend or family member recently bought a home, find out what incentives were offered to them. Realtors are another great source of information.
Do your homework
Try to keep abreast of real estate market news. Besides this site, Cecala suggests the National Association of REALTORS®’ website, Realtor.org, and the National Association of Home Builders as good places to start.
October 21, 2011 5:04 pm
Grandma kept her house sparkling clean, and she did it on the cheap – long before the dawn of expensive cleansing agents and waxy aerosol sprays. She made the most of baking soda, lemon and white vinegar, which were – and are – non-toxic and eco-friendly.
From the household cleaning experts at Good Housekeeping magazine, here are eight of the cheap, easy, and effective solutions Grandma figured out that you can use to advantage for today’s cleaning challenges:
1. White rings on the table – Make a paste of salad oil and salt and rub it into the stain. Let it sit for an hour, then wipe clean with a cloth.
2. Dull copper pot bottoms – Take half a lemon, sprinkle with salt, and use to polish the copper. To keep copper shiny, rub with a little lemon oil and buff with a clean cloth.
3. Small drain clogs – Unclog by pouring ¼ cup baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of white vinegar. Cover with an upside down cup while it fizzes. Leave for 20 minutes, then flush with about a quart of boiling water. Doing this once every few months should prevent future clogs.
4. Dirty mirrors and windows – Fill a spray bottle with club soda. Spray and wipe clean with newspaper.
5. Dull wood furniture – Make a polish combining two cups of cooking oil and the juice of a lemon. Rub a little into the wood with a soft cloth.
6. Mildew on houseplants – Make a paste of a teaspoon of baking soda and a little salad oil dissolved in two cups of hot water. Spray or paint it on the leaves.
7. Funky coffeemakers – For smelly drip coffeemakers, or to improve the coffee’s burnt taste, pour a cup or two of white vinegar into the water receptacle and run it through a complete brewing cycle. Do it again, then flush it out by running two cycles using fresh water.
8. Stained garage floors – Cover oil spots with baking soda and sprinkle on warm water until a paste forms. Leave the paste on overnight, then scrub with a damp brush, rinse and wipe clean with rags.
October 21, 2011 5:04 pm
In cases of tragic and unforeseeable natural disasters, mobile technology has been increasingly helpful with communication. With cell phones and mobile applications abound, this technology has aided in activating relief efforts and saving lives in situations where lack of Internet or power outages have affected a majority. Here are a few examples of mobile applications you can use to continue communicating in times of need.
With the Signal application, users can combine mobile, social and email right into a single platform. During Hurricane Irene, some utility companies used Signal to further communications about power outages, going so far as even allowing its customers to opt-in for SMS updates regarding the current situation. Receiving up-to-date information during a hurricane became crucial for those without power who were cut off from the world temporarily. With text, emails and social media combined, the possibilities for advanced communication are endless.
Life360 allows users to set up private networks that allow each other to announce their location with the click of a button. Ideal for families, Life360 quickly and efficiently delivers messages throughout each private network so members can alert others that they are safe in an urgent situation.
After setting up, users simply launch the application and “Check In”—notifying your contacts of your location and safety status. For extended use, background tacking allows members to continuously share their locations with one another. In addition, a panic alert feature lets others know where a user is located and that they need immediate help. With features like these installed into a mobile device, no one is ever beyond help during a hurricane or other natural disaster.
Plerts (short for “personal alerts) is a free app that captures image and audio from your mobile every 8-10 seconds, transmitting the data and GPS coordinates to Plerts servers. In the case of a natural disaster, users can hit an SOS button and all of the data gathered is then immediately sent to an emergency contact list, providing them with all the information necessary to help you.
Plerts can also record an automated message and deliver it immediately. If your battery dies on your cell phone, you can still get through to your contacts. Or if a cell network crashes, your location and recordings will be sent out the second the network comes back up.
In some cases, using one of these apps could be the difference between life and death. If a hurricane or other disaster is heading your way, or just to enforce a level of preparedness, have your family download one of the above applications. You may be glad you did.
October 21, 2011 4:34 pm
Whether you’re goblin or ghoul, vampire or witch, poor costume choices—including decorative contact lenses and flammable costumes—and face paint allergies can haunt you long after Halloween if they cause injury.
Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by following the “lucky 13” guidelines from FDA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
1. Wear costumes made of fire-retardant materials; look for “flame resistant” on the label. If you make your costume, use flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon.
2. Wear bright, reflective costumes or add strips of reflective tape so you’ll be more visible; make sure the costumes aren’t so long that you’re in danger of tripping.
3. Wear makeup and hats rather than masks that can obscure your vision.
4. Test the makeup you plan to use by putting a small amount on the arm of the person who will be wearing it a couple of days in advance. If a rash, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop where the makeup was applied, that’s a sign of a possible allergy.
5. Check FDA’s list of color additives to see if makeup additives are FDA approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use it.
6. Don’t wear decorative contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional and gotten a proper lens fitting and instructions for using the lenses.
Eating sweet treats is also a big part of the fun on Halloween. If you’re trick-or-treating, health and safety experts say you should remember these tips:
7. Don’t eat candy until it has been inspected at home.
8. Trick-or-treaters should eat a snack before heading out, so they won’t be tempted to nibble on treats that haven’t been inspected.
9. Tell children not to accept—or eat—anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
10. Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.
11. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
For partygoers and party throwers, FDA recommends the following tips for two seasonal favorites:
12. Look for the warning label to avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed, especially packaged juice products that may have been made on site. When in doubt, ask! Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not. Normally, the juice found in your grocer’s frozen food case, refrigerated section, or on the shelf in boxes, bottles, or cans is pasteurized.
13. Before bobbing for apples—a favorite Halloween game—reduce the amount of bacteria that might be on apples by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
For more information, visit www.fda.gov.
October 21, 2011 4:34 pm
Home fires may seem like the kind of event that happens to someone else, but the reality is, it could easily happen to you.
Approximately every three hours a home fire death occurs somewhere in the nation, according to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). Take action now to make sure your home is safer, and that your family knows what to do in case a fire does break out. And don't stop there—share some positivity in your community by reminding family and friends to change the batteries in their smoke alarms when they change their clocks this fall.
Make a Plan
When a home fire occurs, you have very little time to get out. Having an escape plan that everyone is familiar with is a critical part of saving lives. Yet only 23 percent of U.S. families have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan to ensure they could escape quickly and safely.
• Draw a floor plan of your home and find two ways out of every room. Sketch the exit routes clearly on the floor plan.
• If an upstairs window is one of the escape options, make sure you have a fire escape ladder long enough to reach the ground. Make sure every adult knows how to use it. Adults should be responsible for helping younger children.
• Assign an outside meeting place, so that if the family escapes from different routes, you can quickly locate each other.
Room by Room
The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most families are asleep.
• Do not trap electrical cords against walls. Heat can build up, posing a fire hazard.
• Use only lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Make sure cords are not worn or coming apart. Do not leave electric blankets switched on all night unless they are marked "suitable for all night use."
• Keep bedding, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. By law, mattresses made since then are required to be safer.
• Have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
• Do not overload electrical outlets.
• Never run electrical cords under carpets.
• Check all electrical cords for fraying or other signs of damage.
• Only light decorative candles when adults are in the room. Use stable candle holders that will not catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave.
• During a power failure, do not use candles or oil lamps for light. Keep battery operated flashlights and lanterns in easily accessible places.
• Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power cause one-third of fatal home candle fires.
• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in each room, including the living room.
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
• Never use extension cords to plug in cooking appliances. They can overload the circuit and start a fire.
• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Keep anything that can catch fire away from the cooktop. This includes potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains.
• Keep the cooktop, burners and oven clean.
• Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire. Wear short, close-fitting clothing or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
• Store all combustible materials away from regular sources of heat, such as water heaters, space heaters, boilers and furnaces.
• Keep wood finishes, spray paint, paint thinners and other flammable products in a dedicated storage container with a closed door.
• Store all combustible materials in their proper containers and be sure they are clearly marked.
• Keeping the garage tidy can also help keep it safe. Get rid of stacked boxes, newspapers, recycling and trash. They can be instant fuel for a fire.
For more tips, visit www.Energizer.com.
October 21, 2011 4:34 pm
To help maintain health this season, it's important to get the nutrients your body needs every day, through your diet as well as through high quality vitamins and supplements. In a recent nationwide survey, three in four people agree they feel more confident about their health when they take vitamins and supplements. However, many people are not aware of what types of vitamins they need in order to support a healthy immune system.
"Most Americans have nutrient gaps in their diet, but people can make up for the nutrients they lack by adding vitamins and supplements to a daily wellness routine," says Suzy Cohen, registered pharmacist and author of "The 24-Hour Pharmacist." "There are a variety of ways vitamins and supplements can support a healthy immune system, but when you're in the vitamin aisle it is important to look for quality products."
As the number of products in the vitamin aisle can be overwhelming, Cohen recommends first looking at the brand, seeking only those committed to science-based protocols for product development, and those that are tested and verified by third-party public health organizations such as the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP). Only products that meet the stringent criteria set forth by USP are allowed to use the USP verified mark on their label.
Immune Supporting Supplements
Vitamin C - A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C helps maintain a healthy immune system and protects against damaging free radicals. Additionally, Vitamin C, such as the Nature Made Vitamin C 1000mg, is necessary for the body to manufacture collagen, which is essential for healthy skin.
Vitamin D - Supports teeth, bone and immune health, and healthy levels of Vitamin D in your body may promote your heart health as well.
Probiotics - Certain types of probiotics supply "good bacteria" that can help maintain immune system health.
Zinc - Maintaining healthy levels of zinc in your body is necessary for healthy growth, development and proper immune function. Zinc also provides antioxidant support which helps to protect the body against damaging free radicals.
Echinacea - Echinacea may support healthy immune function.
Additional Immune Boosting Techniques
• Strive to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
• Practice relaxation techniques to get rid of stress and the harmful hormones it can trigger.
• Wash your hands regularly, especially before meals.
• Eat a balanced diet. Check out the new dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.choosemyplate.gov.
• Exercise regularly. According to Harvard Health Publications, exercise may additionally support a healthy immune system by promoting healthy circulation, moving immune system cells throughout the body.
If You Get Sick
If you do get sick this cold and flu season, there are a number of things you can do to stop the spread of the virus.
• Cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
• Wash your hands often.
• Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Try to avoid close contact with others to minimize the spread of the germs.
For more information, visit www.NatureMade.com.
October 21, 2011 4:34 pm
All across the country ordinary people are serving their neighbors and communities by volunteering—and it's making a big difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.
In 2010, 62.8 million adults volunteered for almost 8.1 billion hours in local and national organizations, according to Volunteering in America. This service is valued at nearly $173 billion.
When you volunteer, your time and effort not only helps others, but can actually benefit you in tangible ways. Studies have shown that adults who volunteer one to two hours a week have:
• Lower mortality rates.
• Greater functional ability.
• Lower rates of depression.
Volunteer activities strengthen social connections, which protects people from a sense of isolation during hard times. And helping others not only expands your own horizons, it can make you feel better about yourself.
What Can You Do?
There are many ways you can volunteer. Some of the most popular ways, according to Volunteering in America, include:
• Mentoring or tutoring youth.
• Helping raise money or selling items to raise money for an organization.
• Collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food.
• Providing general labor or transportation.
You can find volunteering opportunities through your local house of worship, community center, workplace or school. You can search online at sites such as www.volunteeringinamerica.gov and www.volunteermatch.org, as well.
Tips for Becoming a Volunteer
If you would like to volunteer but aren't sure how to get started, here are some tips to consider:
• Go with your strengths. If you have some specialized skills, such as teaching, cooking or sewing, look for places that could use those skills. Keep your own personality in mind, too—if you're an introvert that gets worn out by crowds, don't offer to be the greeter at a big event or the emcee at a banquet.
• Think about your availability. There are different levels of commitment for different types of volunteer activities. Mentoring or tutoring requires a regular, rather intensive commitment, while serving at a charity race is a much shorter-term commitment.
• Volunteer with friends or family. Volunteering with others is a great way to strengthen your relationships and help others at the same time. Consider opportunities suitable for parents and children, a husband and wife, or even a small group of friends to take on together.
No matter where you decide to serve, as a volunteer you'll feel good knowing that you're doing good right in your own back yard.
For more information, visit www.foresters.com.
October 21, 2011 4:34 pm
Master plan. Long-range, comprehensive guide for the physical growth or development of a community.
October 21, 2011 4:34 pm
Q: What’s the best way to choose a home loan?
A: A lot will depend on the length of time you plan to live in the home, other financial obligations, and potential savings gained from comparing the monthly costs of a home against the up-front costs and closing costs involved with a particular loan.
Also, you will need to be comfortable with whatever choice you decide to make. Trust your instincts and do not be pressured into signing for a loan that will not really work for you.