Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

October 4, 2011 5:39 pm

Lease-purchase option. Opportunity to purchase a piece of property by renting for a specified period, with the provision that the lessee may choose to buy after or during the leasing period at a predetermined sale price.

Question of the Day

October 4, 2011 5:39 pm

Q: How do I find government-repossessed properties?

A: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acquires properties from lenders who foreclose on mortgages that it insures. These properties are then available for sale to potential homeowner-occupants and investors only through a licensed real estate broker. HUD will pay the broker's commission up to 6 percent of the sales price.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also acquires properties as a result of foreclosures on VA guaranteed loans. These acquired properties are marketed through a property management services contract with a federal bank that then lists them for sale with local real estate agents.

Keep Your Home from Being a Target: 8 Ways to Help Keep Burglars at Bay

October 3, 2011 5:09 pm

Just-released statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation tell us a home is burglarized in the U.S. every 14.6 seconds—with an average loss to homeowners of more than $2,000 per theft. But, suggests Consumer’s Report, there are plenty of ways homeowners can help keep their homes from becoming a target for thieves.

Here are eight simple but effective suggestions for protecting your home and valuables:

1. Lock the garage door—leaving it open, or unlocked in your absence, is an invitation to thieves, who can simply close the outer door and gain access to your home from inside.
2. Don’t hide spare keys—Experienced burglars know where most keys are hidden; under a mat, above the door, in a planter box or under a statue. Instead of hiding one, give a spare key to one of your neighbors. 3. Don’t store ladders in an unlocked shed—Burglars can use them to gain access through an upper story window.
4. Think about a noisy alarm system—Silent alarms are fine, but most thieves know it will take at least 10 minutes for authorities to show up after an alarm is tripped. A noisy alarm will send them running.
5. Trim trees and landscaping—Trees near the house can offer a burglar easy access. Untrimmed shrubbery offers a pretty good hiding place.
6. Light up the dark—A darkened exterior gives a thief an entry advantage. Make sure your yards—front and back—are well lighted when you are away.
7. Secure sliding glass doors. Put a dowel down in the channel so the door cannot be opened wide enough to enter.
8. Don’t rely on a barking dog—Thieves may attempt to circumvent them by feeding them treats laced with tranquilizers or worse. Use timers to turn on lights, TVs, radios, etc. in random patterns.
9. Don’t ‘advertise’ at the curb—If you’ve just purchased a big-screen TV, a new appliance or other large item, cut the outer carton into small pieces that will fit inside the trash can.
10. Don’t post vacation photos on Facebook—at least not until after you are home. Wily thieves troll social media sites for such photos to learn when families are away.

The Art of Choosing the Perfect Interior Designer

October 3, 2011 5:09 pm

Don’t have the eye of a designer and the taste of a decorator? Or perhaps just looking for a little extra guidance? No matter what level of skill one processes in design, according to Lloyd Princeton of iMatchDesigners, anyone can have the home and business they have always dreamed of from the inside out in one easy process.

Here, Princeton shares his personal advice on how to efficiently achieve the best results for your design project in the timeline and budget desired.

• Look and Style: Select someone whose design style fits the look you’re going for. If you don’t know what your style is yet, encourage them to flip through the designers past work and portfolios and see what jumps out.
• Personality: Find someone you feel you can be open and honest about your likes and dislikes. Most importantly, find someone who understands the role you to play. If you want to be really involved, you can consult them on all details. If you want to hand over the reins, the designers will take full charge and create your project with minimal consulting.
• Scope of Project: Make sure the designer outlines the complete scope of the project. This helps avoid unforeseen costs and other surprises. If budget is an issue, be willing to compromise. Know when to splurge on the main pieces—the sofa and chandelier—and when to choose less expensive pieces for accessories like end tables and lamps. Also breaking up the project into phases helps keep the budget on track.

For more information, visit http://imatchdesigners.com.

Keep Listeria Out of Your Kitchen

October 3, 2011 5:09 pm

If you eat food contaminated with bacteria called Listeria, you could get so sick that you have to be hospitalized. And for certain vulnerable people, the illness could be fatal.

Unlike most bacteria, Listeria germs can grow and spread in the refrigerator. So if you unknowingly refrigerate Listeria-contaminated food, the germs could contaminate your refrigerator and spread to other foods there and increase the likelihood that you and your family will become sick.

Those most at risk for listeriosis—the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes—include pregnant women, older adults and people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

Recently, a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis tied to contaminated cantaloupes has caused illnesses and deaths. Listeria has also been linked to a variety of ready-to-eat foods, including unpasteurized milk and dairy products, Mexican-style or soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, processed deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood and store-prepared deli-salads.

Donald Zink, Ph.D, senior science advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says FDA is aware of cases of foodborne illness caused by bacteria that can live in the kitchen and spread to foods.

Consumers are advised to wash all fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking, even if you plan to peel the produce first. Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush.
To further protect yourself and your family from Listeria, follow these steps:

Keep Refrigerated Foods Cold
Chilling food properly is an important way of reducing risk of Listeria infection. Although Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, it grows more slowly at refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees F or less.
• Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or lower and the freezer at 0 degrees F or lower.
• Wrap or cover foods with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil or put foods in plastic bags or clean covered containers before you place them in the refrigerator. Make certain foods do not leak juices onto other foods.
• Place an appliance thermometer, such as a refrigerator thermometer, in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically. Adjust the refrigerator temperature control, if necessary, to keep foods as cold as possible without causing them to freeze. Place a second thermometer in the freezer to check the temperature there.
• Use precooked and ready-to-eat foods as soon as you can. The longer they are stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria has to grow.

"If you have leftovers in your refrigerator, it’s best to throw them out after three days, just to be sure,” says Zink. “It's better to be safe than sorry."

Clean Refrigerator Regularly
Listeria can contaminate other food through spills in the refrigerator.
• Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away—especially juices from hot dog and lunch meat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry. Consider using paper towels to avoid transferring germs from a cloth towel.
• Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with warm water and liquid soap, then rinse. As an added measure of caution, you can sanitize your refrigerator monthly using the same procedures described below for kitchen surfaces.

Clean Hands and Kitchen Surfaces Often
Listeria can spread from one surface to another.
• Thoroughly wash food preparation surfaces with warm, soapy water. As an added precaution you should sanitize clean surfaces by using any of the kitchen surface sanitizer products available from grocery stores, being careful to follow label directions.

You can make your own sanitizer by combining 1 teaspoon of unscented bleach to one 1 quart of water, flooding the surface and letting it stand for 10 minutes. Then rinse with clean water. Let surfaces air dry or pat them dry with fresh paper towels. Bleach solutions get less effective with time, so discard unused portions daily.
• A cutting board should be washed with warm, soapy water after each use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be washed in a dishwasher.
• Dish cloths, towels and cloth grocery bags should be washed often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
• It’s also important, to wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

For more information, visit www.FDA.gov.

Word of the Day

October 3, 2011 5:09 pm

Lease. Contract that conveys the right to use property for a period of time in return for a consideration, usually rent, paid to the property owner.

Question of the Day

October 3, 2011 5:09 pm

Q: What happens at a trustee sale?

A: When a homeowner falls behind on three payments, the bank will record a notice of default against the property. When the owner fails to pay up, a trustee sale is held, and the property is sold to the highest bidder. The lender that initiated the foreclosure proceedings will usually set the bid price at the loan amount. Successful bidders receive a trustee's deed as proof of ownership.

Trustee sales are advertised in advance and require all-cash bids, which can include cashiers’ checks. Normally, a sheriff, constable, or lawyer conducts the sale and acts as the trustee. Because these sales typically attract savvy investors, inexperienced buyers should come extremely prepared.

Word of the Day

September 30, 2011 5:09 pm

Junior mortgage. Any mortgage, such a second or third mortgage on a property, which is subordinate to the first one in priority.

Surviving Post Storm Property Damage

September 30, 2011 5:09 pm

While I suffered no major property damage in the recent northeastern tropical storms, the experience of being in Vermont’s hardest hit community where storm Irene wreaked some of the state’s worst damage left an indelible memory of what intense and unanticipated flooding can do.

In the wake of this summer’s storms, property damage could keep showing up through the fall and into winter. With that in mind, my friends at the Better Business Bureau are warning consumers to be careful when hiring contractors to repair property damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, unscrupulous, unregistered and uninsured contractors offer lowball estimates for repairs that affect the value of a property. If storm-related problems are not fixed properly, they can create long term problems that put homes at risk of further structural damage, mold and problems with electrical, heating and cooling systems.

The Better Business Bureau has the following tips for selecting home repair or improvement contractors:

• Avoid making quick decisions - Most property owners are inclined to get repair work done as quickly as possible, however, it is vital that they obtain bids from several contractors. Check with your insurance company to verify coverage and procedures for filing claims.

• Don’t hire on the basis of the lowest estimate – Unscrupulous contractors may offer very attractive estimates, but perform the work with substandard craftsmanship and materials, and in some cases, take a deposit and simply disappear. If one bid is substantially lower than others, ask why, and compare the details in the various estimates.

• Verify contractors’ history – Check other consumers’ experiences with contractors by looking up their BBB Business Reviews at www.bbb.org. Contractors’ registration may be verified through local, county or state registries.

• Get it all in writing – Once you have selected a company or individual to fix storm damage, make sure all of the details are in a contract, including any verbal promises. A contract should contain details about required materials, labor and financing, and a timeframe for the beginning and completion of work. A typical payment schedule would involve paying one third of the total cost before work begins to help pay for materials, one third when work begins and one third upon completion.

• And ask contractors whether their workers are employees or third parties, and request proof of insurance in case they are injured while working on your property. And in the event of a dispute, complaints can be directed to your state office of consumer affairs or protection, and you can also submit to your state BBB office.

People Skills Pay the Bills

September 30, 2011 5:09 pm

To succeed in today's workplace, it's not enough to be smart, technically savvy, and experienced. You also need to develop people skills to get along well with people and bring out their best.

Five people skills help ensure success on the job:

Connecting

Connecting is the ability to establish an appropriate relationship with others, tune into their feelings and moods, understand their values, perspectives, and opinions, and to show an interest in their cares and concerns. Here are some tips for connecting with others:

• Establish rapport with people.
• Pay attention to people's facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
• See things from the other person's point of view.
• Adjust your communication style to match theirs.
• Avoid criticizing, making negative judgments, or saying that the other person is wrong.

Listening

Listening is the ability to encourage other people's open and honest communication, to understand what they mean (not just what they say), and to make them feel understood. Follow these tips for more effective listening:

• Encourage people to talk.
• Show your willingness to listen. Minimize distractions. Attend to the other person with your whole body (your body language, eyes, facial expressions). Nod your head and give verbal cues to communicate that you are paying attention.
• Ask open-ended questions. Closed questions (like, "Do you agree with my proposal?") limit people's ability to communicate. Open-ended questions (like, What's your impression of my proposal?") invite reflection and sharing.
• Listen to what people are trying to communicate, not just to what they are saying. Listen to their emotions. Listen, also, to what they want.
• Check to make sure you understand. Use your own words to reflect what you have heard and noticed.

Communicating

Communicating is the ability to communicate who you are, what you mean, and what you want in a way that wins people's understanding and cooperation. Here are some ideas for better communicating skills:

• Speak with sincerity and conviction.
• Be sensitive to other people's communication style.
• Know what you want to accomplish. Do you want people to understand your position? Lend their support? Approve your request?
• Listen at least as much as you talk.
• Attune what you say with how you say it. Keep your message congruent with your tone of voice, facial expression, and body language.

Speaking

Speaking is the ability to present yourself and your message to an audience of any size in a way that gains people's attention, interest, and cooperation. Learn to speak more effectively with these helpful suggestions:
• Project confidence.
• Connect with your audience. Establish eye contact. Use words and concepts they'll understand. Speak to their interests and concerns.
• Know what you want to accomplish. Do you want people to understand your position? To lend their support? To approve your request?
• Keep it short and simple. Most presentations can accomplish only one objective, develop only three main points, and hold people's attention only so long.
• Keep yourself front and center. Use PowerPoint™, slides, or overheads to clarify or illustrate your points, not to hide behind.
• Encourage questions. Think of any presentation — even a technical one — as a dialogue with your audience.

Influencing

Is the ability to change people's attitudes and behaviors, to gain their support for your proposals, and to get them to do what you want them to do without manipulation or coercion. Good influencers:

• Make people feel understood.
• Find common ground. Begin with the concerns, values, and goals you share.
• Listen. This is the best way to make people feel understood and to find common ground. It also expresses respect.
• Don't argue. Even if you "win" the argument, you rarely win the other person's cooperation.
• Care about the person you want to influence. Have their best interests at heart. Respect them and they'll respect you.
• Help people believe change is possible. Give people hope, reason to believe that they can change the situation for the better.
• Time your request well. People are never at their best when they're stressed, or hungry, or tired, or angry.

Chris Witt, a coach based in San Diego, works with executives and with technical experts who want to improve their presentation and communication skills.