Gunning Daily News

Moving Blankets are the Main Carrier of Bedbugs

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Summer is upon us, which means that it is officially "moving season.” As residents begin thinking about this major undertaking, they should be sure to take precautions against bedbugs. iMoveGREEN, an agent for Bekins Van Lines and a premier green moving company in the United States, has recently discovered the main carrier of bedbugs: moving blankets. While bedbugs continue to be a pandemic across the United States, most moving companies still do not take preventative measures to aid against bedbug infestation. Moving blankets especially, are often neglected and left un-cleaned between moves, leaving your belongings susceptible.

After a routine inspection one year ago, iMoveGREEN discovered that moving blankets are the main carriers of bedbugs. Jeffrey E. Sitt, President and CEO, was notified that, while his facility and fleet of trucks were clean, a few of the company's moving blankets contained bedbugs. This shocking discovery, which could easily have been over-looked, caused iMoveGREEN to spring into action.

"We immediately quarantined the blankets, sprayed them with anti-Bed Bug spray, and heated them in the trucks," says Mr. Sitt. Now, iMoveGREEN has a new protocol, whereby after every single move, the blankets that were used are taken in large sealed bags to the company's drying department, where the blankets are sprayed down and heated in commercial dryers on high heat for 1.5 hours.

"Learning that bedbugs are primarily carried through moving blankets brings me to the terrifying realization that other moving companies may be unknowingly transporting these disgusting bugs into homes! It makes me wonder if other moving companies are aware of whether or not there are bedbugs on their blankets," cautions Mr. Sitt.

For more information, visit www.iMoveGreen.com.

It’s Time for a Mid-Year Financial Check-Up

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Six Things to Look for and How to Fix Them

Most of us started the New Year with resolutions to get our financial house in order—like saving more and reducing debt. With half the year gone, says Wall Street financial consultant Sheryl Nance-Nash, it’s a good time to examine whether you are meeting your goals—and to redouble your efforts if you aren’t.

Nance-Nash provides practical ways to take your financial pulse:

• Deal with your debt – Pull out your credit card statements, see how much you owe, and take steps to reduce it—even if it’s just by paying $10 more per month on each account. Then put your credit cards in a safe place and try to do without them for as long as possible. Going even a month or two without charging can make a big financial difference.
• Get serious about saving – Savings can help you stay out of debt, and everyone needs an emergency fund. Set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings, even if it’s only $20 a month. If you have one in place, increase the transferred amount.
• Check your retirement fund – Can you sock away more into your IRA or 401k? If you need to pull in your belt to do so, do it anyway. You’ll appreciate it later!
• Tackle tax stuff early – Are you keeping receipts and records in order for your 2011 tax return? Save canceled checks, invoices and other proof of money spent on tax-deductible expenses. If planning a life-change—like a marriage, divorce or the birth of a child—check with your tax preparer now about how it may impact your tax position and what steps you should begin to take.
• Look for loopholes – Are you getting the most for your money on insurances? Flexible spending accounts? Cell phone and communication plans—even fees and commissions on investments? Take the time now to check with providers. You may be able to save a bundle while accumulating wealth.
Grapple with spending issues – Do you know where your money is going? Mid-year is a good time to figure out what you are spending and what you are spending it on—and make serious changes if that’s what’s keeping you from dealing with debt and saving more.

Pruning Matters

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant has written a lot about landscaping, shrubbery and lawns, so now it is time to focus on a loftier target—trees. According to the U. S. Forest Service, trees are worth much more than their value of wood—25 times more than their country cousins in the forest—because trees enhance the value of real estate.

In some cases, the USFA says trees can raise the value of a lot compared to the same lot without trees by as much as 20 percent. On average, trees add between 5 and 7 percent to the value of a residential lot. Nationwide, that added value results in an extra $5,000 per lot.

Any property with trees invariably sells faster, too. So how do you enhance or best take care of the trees on your property? In this segment we’ll talk about pruning—an oft needed maintenance treatment that promotes good tree health and keeps trees and your yard safe—as well as looking good.

Just remember, pruning without a good reason is not good tree care practice. Pruning just because your neighbor is doing it may not be beneficial for the tree, and could result in too much live tree tissue being removed. This can cause the tree to become stressed, and perhaps decline.

In fact, industry tree pruning standards (ANSI A300) say no more than 25 percent of a tree’s foliage should be removed in a single season, and if the tree cannot tolerate a lot of pruning, even less should be removed.

A good arborist will work with a property owner to set an objective for the pruning job (i.e., what you want accomplished when the work is done). Pruning objectives usually include one or more of the following:

• reduce risk of damage to people or property
• manage tree health
• provide clearance for vehicles or roadways
• improve structure
• increase or improve aesthetics
• restore shape

Once tree pruning objectives are established, the arborist can provide specific details on how to prune your trees, without harming them, to get the desired result. In our next segment we’ll take a look at a common tree pruning practice that can actually take away from your real estate’s value.

Question of the Day

June 24, 2011 3:51 pm

Q: Should I consider a “B,” “C,” or “D” paper loan if I have bad credit?

A: B, C, and D paper loans are types of sub-prime loans. There was a time when they were hard to find. Then when the housing market took off, so did the number of lenders offering them. Not so today. High default rates on sub-prime mortgages made to high-risk borrowers with bad credit or those who had filed for bankruptcy or had a property in foreclosure, now have many lenders either shunning these loans or tightening credit requirements on them.

As a rule, these loans have not met the borrower credit requirements of “A” or “A-” category conforming loans. Because mortgage lending is divided into various credit grades, several factors influence whether you receive, say, a “B” or “D” designation, including past credit history, documentation, and your debt-to-income ratio. The more serious a borrower’s problems, the lower the grade of the loan and the higher the rates and fees associated with the loan.

At one time, the outrageously high rates on these loans had dropped as more lenders began to offer them. Since the credit crunch spurred by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, rates on these paper loans have shot back up, reflecting in more stark terms their heightened risks.

Word of the Day

June 24, 2011 3:51 pm

Brokerage. Business of a broker. Also, the amount charged for a broker’s service.

Growth in Mobile Banking to Come from Consumers Who Plan to Buy a Smartphone or Tablet in the Next Six Months

June 24, 2011 3:51 pm

A recent study of over 1,400 U.S. consumers conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that 45 percent of US consumers own a smartphone or tablet. Of that group, 52 percent currently conduct some form of mobile banking. However, the real growth in the mobile banking market will come from those who don’t yet own smartphone or tablet.

The study shows 39 percent of those who plan to buy a smartphone or tablet in the next six months are highly likely to use their smartphone or tablet for mobile banking. By contrast, only 6 percent who already own a smartphone or tablet, but don’t mobile bank say they are highly likely to start in the next six months.

“I think what we’re seeing is that mobile banking among current smartphone owners has plateaued,” says Jim Garrity, vice president of Chadwick Martin Bailey’s Financial Services practice. “For all intents and purposes, those folks have already made a decision about whether or not they want to participate in mobile banking. The real opportunity is in the 14 percent of consumers who are planning to buy a smartphone or tablet in the next six months, because among that group many say they are highly likely to participate in mobile banking.”

For many it’s simply the convenience of being able to have access to account information and transfer funds from anywhere. For others, security concerns outweigh any convenience mobile banking has to offer. Qualitatively, a few consumers said:

“I always have my phone with me and prefer to take care of things when I think about them…I can check on things more frequently and move money around,” says a female surveyed, age 18-24.
“When away from my desktop it allows me to check my credit card balances. That’s mainly what I use it for…it helps me stay on track for budgeting,” says a male surveyed, age 25-29.

“If my phone gets lost or stolen I don't want that information to be easily accessible if my log-in information is saved…it seems easy to access and find out my financial information,” says a female surveyed, age 25-29.

The study also indicates that consumers are becoming more comfortable with using smartphones to make purchases. The research shows 45 percent of smartphone owners have made a purchase using their smartphone over the last year. And when it comes to paying for those purchases only 49 percent use their credit card, while over 40 percent used either a debit card or PayPal. There were also some gender differences. Men are more likely to use PayPal, while women are more likely to use a debit card.

For more information visit http://www.imoderate.com

For more information on Civility in America—2011, please visit Weber Shandwick at www.webershandwick.com.

Incivility on the Rise in Other Aspects of American Life

June 24, 2011 3:51 pm

Over one-half of Americans (55 percent) believe that civility in America will get worse in the next few years. This is significantly higher than Americans' perceptions on incivility measured last year (39 percent). Civility in the workplace, schools and the Internet were explored in our second annual survey:

Incivility at Work

Over four in 10 Americans—43 percent—have experienced incivility at work. A nearly equal number (38 percent) believe that the workplace is becoming increasingly uncivil and disrespectful.

Workplace leadership is blamed for this decline by approximately two-thirds (65 percent) of those who perceive greater incivility in the workplace. This perception could possibly be fueled by the cynicism towards CEOs brought on by the recent recession or the belief that bosses are responsible for setting the tone at the top for acceptable behavior.

After workplace leadership, Americans who perceive greater incivility in the workplace cite employees themselves (59 percent) for workplace incivility. Other reasons include the economy (46 percent) and competitiveness in the workforce (44 percent).

As a consequence of this growing trend on the job, the majority of Americans (67 percent) agree that there is a critical need for civility training in the workplace.

Incivility Online

Asked about the civility of social networks, nearly one in two (49 percent) say that they are uncivil, an increase from 2010 (43 percent). However, Americans are much more inclined to name other sources besides social media and the Internet as uncivil—political campaigns, pop culture, media, government, the music industry and the American public.

Incivility causes Americans to change their online behavior—49 percent report that they have defriended or blocked someone online, 38 percent stopped visiting an online site because they were uncomfortable and 27 percent dropped out of a fan club or online community or forum.

Chris Perry, President of Weber Shandwick Digital Communications, says, "Digital conversations are meant to engage and foster multi-dimensional dialogue. They are not meant to demean others or be hurtful. Although this research shows online incivility slightly on the rise, the connectivity and opportunity for dialogue ultimately outweighs the risk."

Cyber bullying or online harassment of children or teens is of great concern to Americans today. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans—69 percent—report that cyber bullying is getting worse. An equally large number—72 percent —worry about children being cyber bullied. These high figures underscore parental concern about online incivility and youth. The majority of Americans—78 percent —believe that civility training should be offered in our nation's schools.

1.2 Million Plan Fourth of July Travel, Reports AAA Michigan

June 24, 2011 3:51 pm

Nationally, AAA projects approximately 39 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles from home, down 2.5 percent. The Fourth of July holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.

AAA projects a slight decline in holiday travelers mainly due to fuel prices being about $1 more per gallon more than last year. The July 4 holiday period is typically the busiest time of year for family auto travel. In Michigan, an estimated 87 percent of travelers will go by vehicle—compared to 84 percent nationally—with five percent flying and eight percent going by bus or train.

"While gas prices are significantly more than they were last year, prices have come down in the last two weeks and we are seeing travelers taking to the roads this summer holiday to enjoy our Great Lakes and outdoor destinations," notes AAA Michigan President Steve Wagner. "Travelers are making some adjustments to pay for the increase in gas costs."
While AAA's survey of intended travelers found that 56 percent said rising gas prices would not impact their travel plans, the remaining 44 percent who said it would said they would economize in other areas, including taking a shorter trip.

The average distance traveled by Americans this Fourth of July holiday weekend is forecast to be 573 miles, seven percent less than last year's 617 miles. Median spending is estimated to be $807, up 25 percent from last year's $644. The increase includes higher hotel prices. Rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase three percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average $147 nightly, compared to $143. Those heading to AAA Two Diamond hotels will pay $110 per night, up eight percent.

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the holiday weekend are expected to increase 11 percent more than last year, with the average lowest round-trip rate of $213 for the top 40 U.S. air routes.

The complete AAA/HIS Global Insight 2011 July 4th holiday forecast can be found at www.AAA.com/news.

Americans Closing Their Wallets Due to Incivility, According to New Survey

For the second year in a row, about two-thirds—or 65 percent—of Americans say that civility is a major problem, according to the annual Civility in America poll released by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research. Among the many aspects of American life impacted by incivility—such as politics, sports, schools, workplaces, among others—is American business, considered by 48 percent of respondents to be uncivil. At a dramatically increased pace from 2010, Americans are voting out incivility with their wallets by severing their patronage to companies (69 percent), redefining their perceptions of brands (69 percent), and spreading negative word-of-mouth about companies (58 percent).

The 2011 online survey was conducted in May among 1,000 American adults to assess attitudes towards civility online, in the workforce, in the classroom and in politics. An earlier release covered civility and politics.

Micho Spring, chair of Weber Shandwick's Global Corporate Practice, states: "Our second annual Civility in America poll confirms that the decline in civility is seeping into all facets of American life, including our workplace, our schools, our online lives and consumer sentiment. The risk of companies losing business because of incivility is startling and growing. The topic of civility deserves to be part of the growing national debate on how we communicate responsibly in our daily lives." Further underscoring incivility's power on the wallet, a recent survey by Consumer Reports found that 64 percent have left a store due to poor service. This data coincides with our finding that 65 percent of Americans have experienced incivility during a shopping trip.

In a related finding important for the marketplace, nearly six in 10 Americans (58 percent) report "tuning out" advertising because of perceived incivility. Companies whose businesses depend upon consumer perception should heed these findings as they try to emerge from the recession.

Question of the Day

June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

Q: What is a balloon mortgage?

A: It is a mortgage in which the entire unpaid principal becomes due and payable on a given date, five, ten, or any number of years in the future. The borrower must pay up, refinance, or lose the property.

Interest rates on balloon mortgages are lower than for fixed-rate mortgages. So their monthly mortgage payments will be lower than the monthly payments for conventional mortgages.

Balloon mortgages are a good way to keep monthly housing costs to a minimum if you plan to move or sale well within the period of the balloon.


Word of the Day

June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

Broker. Licensed individual who acts independently in conducting a real estate brokerage business; also a person who buys and sells for another for a commission.