Gunning Daily News

Question of the Day

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

Q: What contingencies should appear in the offer?

A: When you look to purchase a home, anticipate potential problems. But protect against them so that if something does go wrong, you can cancel the contract without penalty. This is what contingencies allow you to do. They should be included in any offer you present to buy a home.
Most offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on your ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows you to have a professional inspect the property.


Word of the Day

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

Assessed value. A value placed on a property by an agency of the government for taxation and other purposes.

Second Round Knock-Outs: How Public Adjusters Work for Homeowners to Gain More for Insurance Claims

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

AAA Public Adjusting Group, Inc. would like to educate potential consumers about the roll of public adjusters. Living in a volatile environment like South Florida often makes homeowners, business owners and vacation-property owners the victims of natural disaster. In such cases the homeowners (hopefully) have insurance coverage for their valuable property. When a property owner makes a claim the insurance company usually awards them an appropriate sum for any incurred damages; however, there are many times when the insurance company offers insufficient amounts or finds loopholes as to why damages are not covered. In such cases residents of South Florida have the unique opportunity to attempt a second-round knockout of unfair settlements, by hiring a public adjuster. This freedom is not enjoyed in all 50 states and in most states a person would have to independently hire a paid-by-the-hour attorney in order to investigate unfair settlements. 

A public insurance adjuster is an authority on loss adjustments that property owners can retain to assist in preparing, filing, and adjusting their insurance claims. One's home or business is often their largest investment. What follows are six reasons to call a Public Adjuster: 
1. According to a recent Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) Report for 2005, individuals were awarded $2029 without a PA and $17,187 with PA representation for hurricane claims; for non hurricane claims individuals received $1,391 vs. $9,379—a difference of 547 percent.
2. Public Adjusters represent YOU and YOUR interests exclusively.
3. Insurance companies have the benefit of representatives protecting their interests. Why shouldn't homeowners?
4. They are knowledgeable about Insurance Contract provisions and continuously stay abreast of ever changing laws and regulations in the realm of insurance case law.
5. When the insurance company has estimated your loss or made an initial settlement offer, homeowners are not required to accept their assessment of the claim. Public Adjusters can help to properly contest or appeal Insurance Company's findings and maximize claims and settlements to adequately compensate for loss.
6. They can make sure that all required paper work and claim documentation are submitted to the insurance company in a timely manner.

Hip to Be Square: Custom QR Codes Can Help Brand Your Product and Deliver Results

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

Advanced Telecom Services announces its new ATS QR code service that provides custom QR codes to businesses and organizations. 

With ATS QR Codes, products and organizations can brand custom QR codes with easily recognizable logos and graphics. This gives added emphasis to the QR code and enables it to better represent the brand or product and stand out in the advertisement to secure larger amounts of scans from consumers. 

“One of the raps against QR codes has been that it is nothing more than a square box of squiggly black and white lines that don’t represent one brand over another,” says Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services. “Custom QR codes enhance the look and feel of the customer interaction.” 

According to Bentz, custom QR codes have been one of the most talked-about mobile marketing products in the last few months. Companies are using them mostly because of the unique design. And, they are enhancing the promotions with a mobile web site that shows up better on the smaller screen of the mobile phone. 

“It is important to look like your brand from the outside and the inside,” adds Frank Mazza, lead designer for Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code division. "A custom QR code does just that." 

QR codes were invented by Denso-Ware—a subsidiary of Toyota—in 1994, to track parts for vehicle manufacturing in Japan. The bar codes have been popular in Japan and Korea for many years, but are more recently becoming part of marketing efforts in the United States and Canada. 

In Canada, QR codes are used on the front page of the Canadian passport application to speed up the processing of new passports. United Airlines, among other innovative airlines, uses QR codes as boarding passes. And, when you sign up for Google Places, you’ll receive a decal QR code for your front door that links visitors to your web site.

Hanging On to Good Manners—Six Ways to Raise Socially Gifted Children

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

In today’s electronic social environment, where a text or a Tweet is a commonplace stand-in for personal or vocal contact, it is not surprising that even very young children seem to be born with their fingers on a keyboard. But, according to proponents of the social graces, children need to be taught the value of old fashioned courtesy.

“Demonstrating good manners makes others feel good,” says Arizona teacher Donna Holmes. “It also marks your child as caring and respectful.”

Holmes, who teaches that “courtesy is cool,” suggests six ways to keep your child on the right track to being polite:
• Be a model—Children learn manners from their parents. If you routinely say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ both at home and in the community, they likely will as well.
• Set your standards—Anything that is not appropriate at Grandma’s house is not appropriate at home. “I want some juice” should be rephrased as, “May I have some juice, please?” or “Please pass the potatoes.”
• Table manners matter—Children should be taught early to stay in their chairs, use a napkin, use utensils rather than fingers, and say, “please” when asking for something.
• Voice matters, too—Shouting is not appropriate except perhaps on the sports field—and even then, parents should refrain from yelling at the Little League umpire. Children should be taught to speak in a moderate tone of voice, and to identify themselves when answering the telephone.
• Meeting and greeting—Many young children are naturally shy. Good manners when meeting someone new should mean looking them in the eye, smiling, and shaking hands or saying, “nice to meet you.” Practice with your children to help them develop these skills.
• Mind those p’s and q’s—Children should learn from adults not to be rude or insolent. The rule for good manners should be, “never intentionally hurt someone else’s feelings.”

Grow Your Own Apartment Garden

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant devoted some ink recently to homeowners looking for better looking lawns—so how about some springtime conversation for you apartment and condo-dwellers? 

Why not make this your year to eat off your balcony—by growing your own patio or balcony garden of course! You can really enjoy a grow-your-own bounty from as little space as a window box provides. 

The folks at veggiegardener.com recently blogged about the five best vegetable planters for patios and balconies, so let’s take a look at a few: 

The EarthBox Garden Kit (earthbox.com) claims to be a super easy-to-use container gardening kit that features wheels for easy mobility, and takes just a few minutes to set up. It comes with everything you need to quickly grow great vegetables, including fertilizer, domolite and two germination covers. Just add potting soil and your favorite vegetable plants. 

The EarthBox fits in a spot as small as 30” by 13-1/2” by 12” and has a 2-1/2-cubic-foot soil capacity, so you can certainly start by planting plenty of herbs. But some owners of the EarthBox say they’ve had success with tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, peppers, cucumbers, squash and corn—up to 16 corn stalks for one user!
For really cramped patio or balcony space, go for the Mini-Garden Stacker. It features nine pockets to hold herbs or flowers, is self-watering, and collapses for easy storage. 

These planters can also be used for dry climate vegetation with a simple modification, and these planters can be stacked up to ten tiers high. You can even grow your own strawberries. The Mini-Garden Stacker is available at many home and garden centers and sites starting around $50. 

Finally, if you love tomatoes pick up a set of Tomato Grow Bags, which are gaining popularity as one of the preferred ways to easily grow tomatoes without any weeding or digging. The grow bags are porous so the plant roots can breathe and to allow for water drainage. Each bag holds about 15 gallons of soil and can accommodate two tomato plants. 

These little beauties are also widely available on the web or at local gardening establishments. If you want more tips, go to veggiegardener.com to grab a free copy of their e-book with 101 tips for growing your own fresh vegetables.

Question of the Day

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

Q: What about a hybrid loan?

A: Also called a fixed-period ARM, these crossbreed loans combine features of fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages.

They start out with a fixed interest rate for a number of years—usually 3, 5, 7 or 10 years—and then convert to an ARM.

Initially, the interest rate for the fixed period of the loan is much lower than the rate on a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage by about 1.5 percentage points. As a result, the hybrid allows borrowers to buy a lot more home than they can afford —but at greater risk.

The terms and fees for these loans vary widely and when the fixed-rate period expires, homeowners could end up paying considerably more than the current rate of interest.

Before considering a hybrid, pay close attention to the terms, fees, and prepayment penalties.


Word of the Day

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

As is. Said of property offered for sale in its present condition with no guarantees as to quality and no promise of repair or fix-up by the seller; property is purchased in exactly the condition in which it is found.

Concrete Design Options That Enhance Home Exteriors

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

Enhance the curb appeal of a home’s exteriors with six innovative concrete design options compiled by ConcreteNetwork.com. These six popular options—great for exterior home design and improvement—show how concrete can be applied to various areas of a home’s façade, transforming the overall character of a home. 

Over the years, home builders have started to focus less and less on the exterior design of a home, while putting more emphasis on interior design. Homes are more frequently being designed with little to no exterior character, which can lessen curb appeal. 

Simple upgrades made to exterior siding, entryways, walkways, driveways, landscaping and architectural elements can make a home unique and more alluring. Here are six concrete design possibilities to enhance a lackluster home exterior:

1. For driveways, colors and textures can make a noticeable difference.

2. Walkways can benefit from custom stamped patterns and staining.

3. Landscaping can be accentuated with the use of decorative concrete curbing.

4. Entryways can be more inviting by adding a flight of steps and a decorative finish.

5. Adding architectural accents with precast concrete columns, arches and more can personalize a home.

6. Exterior siding can be enhanced with faux stone and stucco applications made from concrete. 

For more design ideas and tips on increasing a home’s curb appeal through landscaping, visit LandscapingNetwork.com.

Why Don't My Credit Scores Match?

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

Perhaps your clients have truly realized that now is a great time to buy and they want to take advantage of some great home-buying opportunities before they disappear.

Interest rates are still low for people with excellent credit, so advise your clients to update their records and purchase a credit report from a reputable credit report provider.

However, while the score they saw was a 920, they score the lender pulls up is an 810—what happened?

First, you need to understand a little about credit scores. Your credit score is a three-digit number that helps lending institutions assess their risk associated with lending you money. Credit scores are used for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and credit cards.

However, it doesn’t end there. Your score may also be considered for non-lending purposes, such as new utility services, cell phone services, renting an apartment, a lease, auto insurance and even to assess your character as part of a new job background check.

People with lower credit scores may pay higher interest rates or may not be approved at all. Whereas, those with higher, less-risky credit scores often qualify for lower interest rates and special options. Credit scores are calculated based on computer “predictability” models. These models are designed to compare and analyze credit information and credit utilization patterns from your credit report against thousands of other consumers. The data is then evaluated using a complex mathematical algorithm that generates a credit score the moment a report is ordered.

There are literally trillions of score combinations used in the calculations. Most credit scores are calculated and provided individually by each credit bureau, including the three major ones in the U.S., which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Additionally, many lenders use third-party credit scoring systems, such as FICO, NextGen, CE Score and VantageScore. For consumers, the variations in scoring models and score ranges can create some confusion.

In 2006, the three major bureaus joined forces to create a single credit scoring system called the VantageScore. The VantageScore and FICO model lead the industry as competitive rivals in credit-scoring systems.

VantageScore provides a standardized universal mathematical formula to create a credit score from data found on reports from the three major bureaus. Your VantageScore may not be exactly the same if your lender only orders a credit report from one of the bureaus. This is because the data each bureau receives may be slightly different.

As an example, if your auto loan lender does not report your payment history to Equifax but does report it to Experian and TransUnion, it will create a difference in scores. In theory, the VantageScore should be more consistent across all three bureaus since the mathematical formula is the same.

Unlike FICOs traditional 300-850 credit score range, the VantageScore ranges from 501-990. There is no true way to compare the results of the VantageScore to a FICO score especially when the formulas are constantly changing. However, to put some perspective in place, a 650 FICO score approximately compares to a low, 800-range VantageScore.

Although the exact formulas and algorithms for calculating credit scores are closely guarded secrets, FICO and Vantage do provide general key characteristics that drive their credit scoring models. The one constant for both scoring systems is that paying your debts on time will typically be the primary factor that positively impacts your credit score.