Gunning Daily News

Q: What is the difference between a conforming and non-conforming loan?

April 4, 2011 8:45 am

A: Conforming loans have terms and conditions that adhere to guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two, big quasi-government corporations that purchase mortgage loans from lenders then packages them into securities that are sold to investors.

Their guidelines are far-reaching and as such set borrower credit and income requirements, as well as the down payment, and maximum loan amounts.

Non-conforming loans are for buyers, such as the self-employed or people with poor credit histories, who do not qualify for mainstream loans.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Avoiding the Con in Construction?Homeowners Save Money when Renovations Are Done Right

April 4, 2011 8:45 am

RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011-After a long winter, many homeowners are looking forward to the warmer weather of spring-and the home improvement projects that come with milder temperatures. In today's challenging economy, however, many homeowners look for ways to save money. But they need to be careful not to cut corners that may end up costing substantially more money down the road.

Homeowner education is the best defense against the unplanned expenses that often erupt in the wake of an unscrupulous or improperly licensed contactor. The good news is that homeowners can easily educate themselves for free via state websites that contain information about contractor licensing and insurance.

"Professional licensing is a way for the government to regulate professionals that can cause harm," says Kia Ricchi, a licensed contractor and author of Avoiding the Con in Construction. Ricchi stresses the importance of using state websites. She teaches homeowners how to use these sites to find vital information about prospective contractors' conduct and character. Ricchi also recommends working closely with the local building department and having the contractor pull a permit for the work directly. "A building permit is important because it helps ensure that the work is code compliant and that the contractor is licensed and insured as required by the state. Beware of the contractor who asks you to pull a permit yourself," says Ricchi.

Ricchi and her book are fonts of information for homeowners who, without education about the contracting process, might easily fall prey to unsavory contractors who "seem" competent and professional.

For more information visit

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Quarterly Hiring Outlook Is Strongest in 3 Years

April 4, 2011 8:45 am

RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011-According to CareerBuilder and USA TODAY's latest job forecast, nearly three-in-ten employers (28 percent) reported they hired full-time, permanent employees in the first quarter of 2011, the highest since the first quarter of 2008. The momentum is expected to continue with the same amount of employers planning to add full-time, permanent positions in the second quarter. The survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive from February 21 to March 10, 2011, included more than 2,800 hiring managers and human resource professionals and more than 5,600 workers across industries and company sizes.

"While employers are keeping a close eye on world events, their confidence levels in regard to recruitment have remained intact," says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Job listings on CareerBuilder are up across all categories, from healthcare and technology to manufacturing. Our latest survey points to continued, measured gains over the next three months. As the nation moves toward greater financial stability, more employers are investing in talent for the long-term."

Hiring in Q1 2011

In the last survey completed in December 2010, 23 percent of employers expected to hire full-time, permanent employees in the first quarter of 2011. The number of employers who actually added headcount in the first quarter was 28 percent, signifying seven consecutive quarters where actual hiring exceeded projections. This is also a jump from last year, when 23 percent of employers reported they had added full-time, permanent headcount in the first quarter of 2010.

Ten percent decreased headcount in the first quarter 2011, an improvement from 12 percent last year. Sixty-two percent said there was no change in their number of full-time, permanent employees while one percent were undecided.

Hiring in Q2 2011

Twenty-eight percent of employers plan to increase their full-time, permanent headcount in the second quarter, but if current survey trends persist, that number may ultimately come in higher at quarter end. Six percent expect to downsize staffs. Sixty-three percent anticipate no change while 4 percent are undecided.

Looking at actual hiring for the second quarter in 2010, 24 percent of employers reported they had hired full-time, permanent staff while 11 percent decreased headcount.

Competition for Highly Skilled Talent Increases

With more job openings comes more competition for highly skilled workers. One-third (33 percent) of employers are concerned that top performers will look for employment opportunities outside of their organization as the economy improves. Fourteen percent reported that top talent already left their organization in the first quarter of this year.

Workers in general reported more optimism about the job market, according to the survey. Thirty-one percent of workers said they are likely to start looking for another job as the economy improves.

Temporary Hiring

Employers continue to leverage temporary staff to help meet increased business demands. Twenty-nine percent of employers reported they hired contract or temporary workers in the first quarter. Twenty-six percent plan to do so in the second quarter. Seventeen percent said they are planning to transition some contract or temporary staff into permanent employees in the second quarter.

Hiring By Region

Hiring is expected to pick up more in the West in the second quarter. One-third (33 percent) of hiring managers in the West expect to increase full-time, permanent headcount compared to 28 percent in the Northeast, 27 percent in the Midwest and 24 percent in the South.

Although employers in the South are less likely to add full-time, permanent employees than other regions in the second quarter, they are also less likely to downsize. Four percent of employers in the South expect to decrease staff levels compared to 6 percent in the Northeast, West and Midwest.

Hiring By Company Size

Hiring among small businesses-the major driver behind new job creation in the U.S.-is showing signs of improvement. Twenty-three percent of companies with 500 or less employees plan to recruit full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter, up from 19 percent last quarter. Seventeen percent of companies with 50 or less employees expect to add new employees, up from 14 percent last quarter.

Hiring in larger organizations is also trending positive. Thirty-six percent of companies with more than 500 employees plan to add full-time, permanent staff in the second quarter, up from 30 percent last quarter.

The survey also indicates fewer employers are planning to reduce staff levels. Five percent of companies with 500 or less employees plan to decrease full-time, permanent staff, down from 7 percent last quarter. Among employers with 50 or less employees, 4 percent expect to decrease staffs, down from 6 percent last quarter. Seven percent of those with more than 500 employees plan to downsize, an improvement from 9 percent last quarter.


Thirty-nine percent of employers anticipate no change in salary levels in the second quarter compared to the same period last year. Thirty-eight percent expect there will be an increase of 3 percent or less. Fifteen percent expect their average changes will be between 4 and 10 percent and 2 percent predict an increase of 11 percent or more. Three percent anticipate a decrease in salaries.

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Can the USDA Guidelines Really Lead to Healthier Eating Habits?

April 4, 2011 8:45 am

RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011-As National Nutrition month comes to a close, Alere Health, the health management services business of Alere Inc., highlights four ways that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) updated dietary guidelines can be used to encourage actionable changes in behavior.

In January, the USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), using the most blunt language to date about the need to confront America's obesity epidemic. The guidelines also include changes that reduce recommended sodium and trans fats levels.

But to Alere, a global company that provides industry-leading health and wellness programs, the most important takeaway is the emphasis on empowering individuals to make changes in behavior. Alere encourages health plans and employers seeking ways to improve health to look beyond the words and focus on practical ways to encourage action.

Below is a look at the top four ways the dietary guidelines can encourage practical lifestyle changes:

1. "Empower individuals and families." People are more likely to make lasting changes in behavior if they are truly motivated. The new guidelines emphasize ways to focus on the positive aspects of adopting a healthier lifestyle, building skills to help people "heighten enjoyment of preparing and consuming healthy foods." This includes activities such as gardening, cooking together and eating as a family.

2. Promote "behavior change through environmental strategies." The guidelines acknowledge that many individuals lack the knowledge or motivation to change behavior without support. Given this, it's critical that organizations embrace changes that can make environments more conducive to healthier lifestyles.

3. Advocating a "healthy eating pattern." The guidelines also acknowledge that rigid prescriptions simply don't work when encouraging dietary changes. They emphasize flexible "eating patterns" that accommodate personal preference, cost and availability. Specific dietary recommendations include:

Mediterranean-style diets: The guidelines cite extensive research on Mediterranean-style diets that emphasize vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil and whole grains, with only a small amount of meat products.

Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods: The guidelines go into detail about how nutrient-dense foods can help individuals limit their calories, particularly from solid fats and added sugars.

4. "Set the stage for lifelong healthy eating, activity and weight management." The guidelines cite obesity prevention as one of the most urgent public health issues in America. They note that "lifelong habits are developed throughout childhood," and focus on ways to support healthier approaches for families. Alere has taken the lead in helping organizations work proactively to provide tools to combat childhood obesity with its Healthy Kids Program. This six-week online program provides parents with specific strategies they can use to improve their family's health.

"When you consider the state of our nation's health, blunt talk and specific guidelines are necessary," says Heather Zeitz, R.D., vice president of health content and programming for Alere. "But the new guidelines demonstrate that the most powerful way to change lifestyle behaviors is with a coordinated, participant-centered approach. At Alere, we recognize the scope of the challenge, but are hopeful that the USDA's call to action will help unite the cause for encouraging real changes that can have a real impact."

To show its commitment to healthy eating, Alere will feature live cooking demonstrations by celebrity chef Carla Hall, a finalist on the TV show Top Chef and now competing on Top Chef's All Stars, at the World Health Care Congress April 4-6 in Washington, D.C. An advocate for healthy cooking, Carla supports Michelle Obama's child obesity campaign by demonstrating healthy cooking in school cafeterias. She will perform a series of demonstrations on April 4 and 5 in booth No. 203.

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Attention 'Do-It-Yourselfers': Avoid Putting Your Community's Safety at Risk

April 4, 2011 8:45 am

RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011-The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, today announced results from a recent survey that found 49 percent of Americans who plan to dig this year will put their community's safety at risk by not calling 811 to learn the approximate location of underground utilities.

There are more than 100 billion feet of underground utilities in the United States, according to data compiled by CGA from various industry groups. Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities increases the likelihood of an incident, which can cause serious injuries, service disruptions and repair costs. An underground utility line is damaged by digging once every three minutes nationwide, and one-third of these incidents are caused because the digger did not call 811, according to CGA data.

Everyone who calls 811 a few days before digging is connected to a local one-call notification center that will take the caller's information and communicate it to local utility companies. A professional locator will then visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint or flags. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas.

The national public opinion survey of 689 homeowners, conducted March 17-21, also found that 69 percent of Americans believe they would be unlikely to damage or disturb an underground utility if they were to dig without calling 811 to determine the approximate location of the lines.

"The results of this survey are concerning because the math just doesn't add up in safety's favor," says CGA President Bob Kipp. "With millions of shovels entering the ground near billions of feet of unmarked underground utilities this year, we will continue to see damages occurring every few minutes, leading to inconvenient outages, and in worst-case scenarios bodily harm-not just for the do-it-yourselfers, but for entire communities."

CGA's 1,400 members and most governors have proclaimed April as National Safe Digging Month as a way to bring extra attention to the issue and reduce the risk of unnecessary infrastructure damage.

As part of National Safe Digging Month, CGA encourages homeowners to take the following steps when planning a digging project this spring:

Always call 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.

Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.

Confirm with your local one-call center that all lines have been marked.

Learn what the various colors of paint and flags represent at

Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.

If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don't allow work to begin if the lines aren't marked.

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Mom Versus Dad: Financial Literacy Poll Reveals the Role of Parents in a Fiscally Fit Family

April 2, 2011 11:45 am

RISMEDIA, April 2, 2011-According to the TD Bank Financial Literacy Poll released recently by TD Bank, 62 percent of all parents agree they should start teaching their children about money by 12 years of age. While mothers and fathers generally agree on when to start money-related conversations, the survey reveals they differ on how they teach their children financial literacy. The results also show there is a confidence gap between the two genders in how they feel about making sound financial decisions.

TD Bank surveyed 1,637 consumers within the Northeast as well as in Florida and Washington, DC to better understand their financial literacy and attitudes, specifically examining the role of the parent and how this can differ between mothers and fathers.

"The survey shows that each parent contributes different money-related lessons when it comes to a child's financial education," says Suzanne Poole, executive vice president, TD Bank. "This indicates that it's important for moms and dads to combine efforts to ensure that their children learn all aspects of financial literacy from monthly budgets to everyday spending. Being that April is National Financial Literacy Month, now is the perfect time to begin having these conversations with our kids."

Mom vs. Dad: Financial Confidence

According to the survey, 34 percent of respondents rated their financial knowledge as "good" or better. From that, dads are found to be nearly 10 percent more financially confident than moms. Despite these findings, 66 percent of dads also report they wish they had more conversations with their children about money.

Moreover, while moms perceive themselves to be less financially confident, 52 percent report feeling they take all or most of the responsibility to teach their children about financial matters.

Mom vs. Dad: Budgeting

Despite evidence that better budgeting can contribute to a more financially fit family, 43 percent of families surveyed are still not creating or following a monthly budget. Even more interesting are the parental disparities in the reasons why they don't budget:

35 percent of dads versus 22 percent of moms feel they do not need a budget

19 percent of moms versus 12 percent of dads feel they find budgets too complicated and don't know how to create one

Moms vs. Dads: Financial Education Actions

When it comes to the actions taken by individual parents toward their child's financial education, moms are more likely to engage in everyday financial conversations:

Teaching children how to count money (81 percent)

Teaching money matters while shopping (70 percent)

Saving money in a piggy bank (70 percent)

Dads, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on the tangible aspects of money:

Providing an allowance (52 percent)

Setting a savings goal (32 percent)

Other Key Findings From the Survey Include:

Given the recession, 55 percent of families say they are talking to their children more often about money

30 percent of families feel they are being more proactive and having conversations with their children before matters arise

Only 1-in-3 parents are setting a savings goal

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Word of the Day

April 2, 2011 8:15 am

Replacement cost. The cost at today's prices and using today's construction methods, of building an improvement having the same usefulness as the one being appraised.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Q: How can I protect my home from creditors?

April 2, 2011 8:15 am

A: Check with your state. It may provide special protection through the filing of a homestead exemption, which exempts some or all of the value of your equity in the homestead or home that you live in and the land on which it sits from claims of unsecured creditors.

Whether to file a homestead exemption will depend on your situation. Contact your county recorder's office for details.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Survey Reveals 77 Percent of Americans Are Stressed About Something at Work

April 2, 2011 8:15 am

RISMEDIA, April 2, 2011-From paltry paychecks to annoying coworkers, more than three quarters of Americans are stressing out about something related to their job, according to data released today in the 2011 Work Stress Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College.

The survey of nearly 1,000 adults found that a majority of Americans (77 percent) are stressed by at least one thing at work. Overall, 14 percent of adults ranked low pay as the most stressful aspect, followed by commuting (11 percent), unreasonable workload (9 percent) and fear of being fired or laid off (9 percent). Of these complaints, annoying coworkers ranked in the middle (8 percent), followed by the boss (5 percent), poor work-life balance (5 percent) with lack of opportunity for advancement (4 percent) bringing up the rear.

"We've seen numerous surveys that confirm workplace stress has increased during the last several years, and this time we wanted to rank from top to bottom some of the root causes," says Wendy Cullen, vice president of employer development for Everest College. "Most employers are becoming well aware of the need to address rising employee stress, and those who don't address it are likely to suffer lower morale and productivity."

The survey was conducted to coincide with April's National Stress Awareness Month, when health care professionals across the country join forces to increase public awareness about the causes and cures for the modern stress epidemic.

"The impact of stress cannot be overstated," comments Davis K. Brimberg, a Los Angeles-based psychologist who focuses on workplace issues. "Almost all psychological problems are worsened by it. People of all occupations and income levels are greatly affected. Counseling can be very helpful in relieving signs and symptoms of stress-related issues."

Anxiety Runs High Among Young Adults

The survey found that workplace anxiety levels are high among young adults ages 18-34. The age group ranked low pay (18 percent) and annoying coworkers (11 percent) as the top two stress factors. Other key stressors include commuting (9 percent) and fear of being fired (9 percent).

Similar to other Americans, 13 percent of college graduates ranked losing their job as the biggest stressor, followed by unreasonable workload (12 percent) and low pay (11%).

"There have been some positive signs in the labor market regarding employment recently, but the wheels of recovery are moving slowly," Cullen notes. "Instability will be something that Americans will have to live with, making career preparation even more vital in the decade ahead.

"One change we are seeing is that more and more Americans are pursuing careers in industries like healthcare, which offers more long-term stability."

Top Careers For Stability

The following occupations will continue to see high demand through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Medical Assistant

Pharmacy Technician

Legal and Accounting Administrative Assistant

Network Systems Administration

Dental Assistant

By the Numbers: 2011 Work Stress Survey Fast Facts

While 77 percent of Americans said at least one thing is stressful about their jobs, 21 percent said nothing stresses them out about their jobs. At the same time, married people are less stressed (24 percent) when compared with singles (14 percent).

Low pay is the most stressful aspect of the job for every region of the country except the Midwest, where fear of being fired or laid off ranks first at 13 percent. Only 6 percent of Midwesterners ranked low pay as the most stressful aspect of their job, compared with approximately 16 percent of those who live in the Northeast, South and West.

For more information, please visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Spring Cleaning Your Garage

April 2, 2011 8:15 am

By Starre Vartan

RISMEDIA, April 2, 2011-Quick cleaning tip: For organization, separate your clutter into four categories - garbage, recycling, keep, sell/donate.

Whether you approach spring cleaning with dread or a sense of positivity is entirely up to you, but either way, it has to get done. With a bit of preparation, the right tools, a good attitude and some information, you can zip through your cleaning quickly and feel great about it afterward.

Prepping for spring cleaning

Materials to have on hand: Clothing to cover skin, gloves, bucket of soapy water, trash bags, recycling bin, pencil and paper for notes.

When undertaking a dirty and demanding chore like cleaning the understory of your home, have what you need before you start. There's nothing worse than getting covered in dust only to realize that you forgot something at the store.

Set aside a long-sleeved shirt and pants that will cover your skin and that you don't mind getting dirty. Sometimes there can be toxic materials in a basement or garage, and it's easier to clean clothes than one's skin of paint, glue or random unidentifiable dripping materials circa 1997. I always put my hair back and cover it too, as sometimes hair can get caught when moving things around awkward spaces.

Make sure you have a set of good thick gloves-plastic kitchen gloves or something non-permeable is best-to deal with materials that may irritate skin. Keep a bucket of warm soapy water and plenty of rags on hand. Be sure to have trash bags-especially if you expect a lot of trash-and a couple boxes for recyclables of various kinds. Lastly, keep a paper and pencil handy to make a list of items you might need to refresh, repair or otherwise remind yourself to deal with later.

Getting started

Rule: If you pick it up, you have to find a place for it.

It can be daunting when you first walk down the stairs and see the mess and jumble of useful stuff and what you know is garbage. The best way to begin is to pick the furthest corner from the door and work in a grid or quadrangle, if your basement is relatively square.

Try to avoid walking from one area to another picking up random stuff. Make it a rule that when you pick something up, you don't put it down until it's in an appropriate pile, put away where it belongs or in the trash/recycling.

Sorting and tossing

Create categories: garbage, recycling, keep, sell/give away.

As you pick up each item in the grid or quadrangle you are working in, ask yourself if you can put it in one of four categories: garbage, recycling, keep, sell/give away. Force yourself to choose one of the four categories for each item.

For items you are keeping, try to group things that are used together in one area of the basement. For example, flower pots, cloth gloves, rakes and seeds should all be together in a gardening section. Paint brushes, caulk, paint, trim and your toolbox can all go together as they are most often used for minor home improvement projects.

Use available wall space to hang things so they are within reach, and any unused bookshelves or tables can be repurposed to display categories of things so you don't have to dig through boxes; camping equipment or winter sports gear is easier to get to if you can see just what you need.

Dispose of items that are broken and can't be fixed, or are too old to be of use to anyone. Donate items that are usable, and be sure they are relatively free of dust and dirt (basements can be musty) before doing so.

Recycling rules has lots of great resources for figuring out where to recycle in your area, so for anything not covered below, use the search box on the top of this page to figure it out. Below are some common basement-dwellers that can (usually) be recycled:

Old electronics

Otherwise known as e-waste, defunct electronics can be one of the more confusing things to know what to do with. This includes old TVs, computer monitors and CPUs, phones, cords and peripherals. They contain some very toxic components, so DO NOT throw them in the regular trash. Many retailers will accept e-waste for recycling-including Circuit City, Best Buy and Staples-and if you have an old Apple, Dell, Sony, or HP product, they will all accept their old products for proper disposal. All types of batteries can be recycled through Call2Recycle.


Paint is another common material that can-and should-be recycled, since it is made from toxic materials. Many people still think pouring paint down the drain is OK, but the combination of chemicals that holds color for years and enables one to clean it with a cloth can wreak havoc on water health-paint becomes part of the water supply if it is poured down the drain and will end up in your local lake, river or sea.

Lumber and wood

Lumber and wood are commonly found in basements, piling up after new shelves are installed or improvements are made. It seems like wood is recyclable, since it's easy to do so with paper, but it's not. It has to be reused. Some ideas include donating old plans and boards to a local high school that has a shop class, or to Habitat for Humanity to help reduce their buying costs for new lumber. There are also home construction waste recycling companies popping up across the country.

Recreational equipment

Used sneakers can be recycled through Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program, and polyester fleece jackets, blankets and pants can be sent or brought to a Patagonia store for recycling through its Common Threads program. Old skis and snowboards can be made into benches or shelves-be sure to remove the bindings first.

Toilets and other fixtures

Bathroom fixtures and porcelain get put in the basement when new ones are installed (hopefully low-flow, water saving options!), and most dumps won't accept toilets. What to do if your contractor has left the old one behind? This is one that really depends on your community. There are some companies out there that grind porcelain and glass up and make fill, paving or other materials, like CPRC in Maine. In Virginia, old toilets are used to create homes for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.

Starre Vartan is the author of "The Eco Chick Guide to Life" and publisher of

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.