BBB warns homeowners about Spring home improvement scams
by CBS NewChannel 6
Wichita Falls, TX -Scam artists may come knocking at your door, claiming to be a contractor. Do not fall for it, at least not until you do a little homework.
Monica Horton, President of the Better Business Bureau North Central Texas, said during spring homeowners should be on the lookout for home improvement scams. Horton said, Con artist goes door-to-door, offering great deals to fix up your home all in an attempt to trick you out of your money.
There are plenty of contractors out there who say they can do the job and do it well, but the BBB said, unless you have their word in writing it means nothing at all and you may be putting yourself at risk of becoming a victim of a scam.
Here's how con artist or unqualified contractors try and target you. They go door-to-door offering great deals on a variety of services at a price you likely won't find anywhere else.
Horton said before you hire or pay a contractor to do work on your home, do your research first.
"The BBB advice starts with don't make a purchasing decision when someone is standing on your doorstep," said Horton. "You need to, if there's work that you're thinking about having down and it's something that you're interested in, take their information and have them give you an estimate."
She said it's best to get at least three different estimates on the job, including area of construction, materials, labor, and the amount of time needed to complete the project.
Once you have done that the BBB suggest you research the contractor to see what the bbb knows about them.
You are also advised to ask for the contractor's licensing, insurance, and references. Their references may really give you a second opinion.
Some questions you may want to ask:
Did they start the job on time?
Did they finish the job on time?
Did they cleanup after work was finished?
Were they available to answer calls or address concerns when the project was under construction?
A big red flag you should look out for is a contractor asking you to pay for the entire job up front. However, Horton said smaller contractors may ask for a small amount of money up front for supplies. If they do, go to store with them to purchase supplies and bring them back with you until they start the job.
Lastly, never pay for any work in advance. Arrange for payments to be made upon completion of the job. For example, a payment once the project is half complete and the last payment when the job is finished.
5 Keys to Running a Successful Business
There are a handful of principles that work in virtually every situation when you're trying to establish and grow a business. They work if you're trying to build an email list or close a sale. If you ignore them, you are almost certain to fail. If you do them halfway, you will soon be standing there watching your business as it is eclipsed by someone who is following all the principles, all the time.
So let's not waste any more of our time. Here they are:
1. Use Few Words
From an elevator pitch to a killer headline, the overriding principle is to use as few words as possible. If you can't tell someone what you're doing in a few sentences, your only hope is to eventually work for the government. If you can't explain the benefit of your product or service in an extremely short sentence or phrase, give up. Look at these examples:
- 1,000 songs in your pocket.
- Lose 5 pounds in 1 week.
- How to avoid lawyers.
- Increase conversions 132%.
You can probably think of several short phrases that got you to go to a web page, or push "add to cart" or fill out a contact form. Putting a well-crafted, short, descriptive phrase in front of your ideal customer is very powerful.
2. Make Things Easy and Obvious
Humans are by their very nature:
- Both A and B
I don't care how you answer that, because the implications for what you do are the same: You have to make things as easy-and obvious-as possible. This is true whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or a website, but it's doubly true if you're trying to accomplish something on the Internet, where patience is as scarce as hens' teeth.
I am still constantly amazed how small Internet conventions that cause me no navigational problems are major stumbling blocks for others. Because you're reading this on a sophisticated website frequented almost exclusively by people who live on the bleeding edge of new technologies, you are light years ahead of most Internet users.
Dumb down everything.
3. Sell the Benefit
Look at those sales phrases under the first point I made about keeping things short and sweet. Each one expresses a tangible benefit in six words or less. For many in business, it becomes difficult to separate the features from the benefits. Further, we tend to become so deeply in love with the features we have developed, we think that everyone should love them just as much.
Janet Jackson had a hit with the song What have you done for me lately? That's what you should always be asking yourself in regards to your customers, and the important word is "done." How will the action you want your prospects to perform benefit them?
4. Repeat Everything
If you've watched a Little League game, you've heard the guys on the field yell, "Hey, batter batter! Hey, batter batter! Hey, batter batter!" They repeat everything! Things that work and are important should be repeated.
I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to share or credit something in the social media, but the page I was on didn't have sharing icons or links to the social media accounts. They were on the front page, but not on inside pages. And because I might just be a little bit lazy sometimes (see #2 above) it's possible I'll just drop the idea of sharing or crediting the source.
Landing pages also fall in this category. You should have a great landing page for all the different attributes or "hooks" that will pull someone into your website. They are almost free and it's impossible to have too many.
5. Always Distill
You need to have good analytics that show you what is working and what isn't. With that information you are able to do more of the good stuff and stop doing the bad stuff. Pretty soon you have a business or website whose performance has significantly improved.
A business is never "finished." If you aren't always involved in an improvement project, the competition will eventually pass you.
The Time to Refinance Your House Is Right Now
by Money Talks New
If you've wondered about refinancing your home, this is definitely the moment to look into it. If you're like many other American homeowners, locking in a lower interest rate right now could save you thousands.
The housing market is recovering and mortgage rates are still in the basement.
But interest rates won't stay that way forever and already are creeping up from historic lows.
"Mortgage rates dropped sharply at the end of 2014, breathing new life into the refinance market," Leonard Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac, said in a recent analysis. Refinances made up about 52 percent of single-family home loan originations in 2014.
"Borrowers who refinanced in 2014 will save on net approximately $5 billion in interest over the first 12 months of their new loans," Kiefer reported.
For the first time since 2009, the median appreciation of a refinanced property in 2014 turned positive, meaning that over half of all borrowers who refinanced saw their home equity increase since taking out their original loan, Kiefer said.
For those refinancing in the fourth quarter of 2014, the average interest rate reduction was about 1.3 percentage points. On a $200,000 loan, that translates into mortgage interest savings on average of about $2,500 during the next 12 months, Kiefer said.
In February 2015, according to Freddie Mac, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.71 percent, up from 3.61 percent a month earlier.
The February rate still was considerably lower than it was six years earlier, in February 2009, when mortgages averaged 5.13 percent. Six years is the average age of a loan refinanced, Freddie Mac says.
The monthly payment on what was a typical $165,000 mortgage in 2009 would have been $899, according to an HSH.com refinance loan calculator. If you refinance now for the remaining balance of $148,460 for 24 years (the rest of the original loan's term), the 1.52-percentage-point difference in the rate would mean a new monthly payment of $779, or a savings of $120 a month, if there were no costs associated with the loan. Adding typical loan refinancing costs of about $2,970 would make the payment $795, still a monthly savings of $104, or nearly $30,000, over the life of the new loan.
About one in three homeowners refinancing in 2014 took out shorter-term loans, allowing them to pay down principal and build home equity faster than on their previous loans, Kiefer noted.
That tactic should save you money in the long term, but your monthly payment could go up.
The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage in February was 3.01 percent, Freddie Mac reported. With no closing costs, refinancing the $148,460 balance on your 2009 loan would boost your monthly payment to $1,026, or $127 more a month than the original $899 payment. But over the next 15 years, you would pay a total of $184,680, or $74,232 less than the $258,912 total you'd pay for the next 24 years if you never refinanced. The 15-year loan refinancing still would be $39,672 less than the $224,352 total you'd pay if you refinanced the balance for 24 years at $779 monthly.
Either way, your house would be paid off nine years sooner, and the money you spend on mortgage payments could be redirected toward investing, kids' college bills or even a vacation.
The key is paying less interest through shorter terms or lower rates.
"There are two ingredients to the best possible mortgage rate: having stellar credit and shopping hard," according to the Money Talks News Mortgage Solutions Center.
Time may run out soon to make a great money-saving deal on your mortgage refinancing.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on March 27 that an increase in the central bank's key federal funds rate could come later this year. The Fed has maintained a near-zero federal funds rate - the amount banks charge each other for overnight loans - for more than six years to help the United States economy recover from the Great Recession. An increase "will influence the borrowing costs faced by households and businesses, including the rates on corporate bonds, auto loans, and home mortgages," Yellen said.
Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, speaking to the Economic Club of New York on March 23, said, "it is widely expected that the rate will lift off before the end of this year, as the normalization of monetary policy gets underway."
Even though Yellen and Fischer didn't say exactly when rates would rise, borrowers anticipating a rate hike are rushing to lock in lower interest rates now. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey for the week ending March 20, the Refinance Index increased 12 percent from the previous week. Although Freddie Mac expects the refinance share to be about 40 percent in 2015, the MBA says refinancing has been running around 60 percent of total applications.
If you're underwater on your mortgage, take a look at The Home Affordable Refinance Program, a federal refinance program, advises partner website hsh.com.
9 Types of People Who Simply Aren't Marriage Material
by Huffington Post
He's perfect for you... but he has an excuse every time you invite him to meet your friends and family. She's everything you've ever wanted in a partner... but she's hyper-critical of all the decisions you make.
It's easy to disregard your reservations when you've found someone who seems perfect for you on paper. But trusting your instincts in the beginning of a relationship could save you a tremendous amount of hurt down the road.
Below, relationship experts offer nine types of people who just aren't marriage material.
1. The flake.
The two of you have so much in common and the chemistry is undeniable. You can't wait until the next date -- whenever that will be; it's damn near impossible to get him to pencil in time for you. The last thing you need is someone who comes in and out of your life but never really commits, said Brenda Della Casa, the author of Cinderella Was a Liar: The Real Reason You Can't Find (or Keep) a Prince.
"They might tell you to be patient or to 'trust' them, but you're probably feeling more anxiety than butterflies," she said. "You have an instinct for a reason and it's OK to trust and protect yourself in relationships. Those who want to be with you will make adjustments and those who want to be with you out of convenience will fall by the wayside when you set strong boundaries in place."
2. The too-much-too-soon type.
It's only date number three and you've already been handed a set of keys to her apartment and heard her top five private school choices for your future offspring. That spidey sense you're picking up, telling you to back away slowly from this person? Listen to it, said Amy Van Doran, a New York City-based matchmaker and founder of The Modern Love Club.
"What's the rush here? If it's real, you are not going anywhere. This excitement is less about you, and more about their insecurities and who they are as a person," she said. "It's a red flag when they are too effusive with their words and their actions before they get to know you as a person. The second you share their excitement, the whirlwind has already passed and they are onto their next romantic conquest. Time is the best indicator for who a person actually is."
3. The selfish S.O.
A great romantic partner is generous and willing to indulge the occasional "ugh, today at work..." rant. If you get the sense that the person you're seeing isn't totally supportive, it's a good idea to press pause on the relationship, said dating coach Jeffrey Platts.
"This is really about all forms of giving," he said. "Is he generous with his compliments? Does she listen to you when you're having a rough day? Overall, do you feel that he or she is your absolute biggest fan and cheerleader? And just as important as giving, are they able to pause and fully receive whatever you're giving? If not, what's the point? It takes a healthy self-esteem to openly give or receive an expression of love or support -- and you need that in a partner."
4. The critic.
You can't seem to do or say anything right with this person. Ever. Your theory on what really happened in the "Serial" murder case? Implausible at best. Your unapologetic love for World of Warcraft? A total time-suck. The judgement is incessant -- and in the long-run, who wants to be in a relationship with someone that critical?
"Initially, their stubbornness and convictions might seem attractive -- it's hot when someone knows who they are and what they want," said Julie Nguyen, a matchmaker at The Modern Love Club in New York City. "Those qualities start to turn ugly when you realize there's no room for what you want. These critics demand things to be done a certain way, their way. Real relationships are negotiated by compromise, empathy and the capacity to want to understand where the other person is coming from."
5. The sidekick.
Anything and everything you propose gets the OK, from your plans for the weekend to when you'll move in together. And time apart is virtually non-existent -- you're joined at the hip. You wanted a partner who'd be willing to compromise; not someone who sits on the sidelines and lets you take the lead on every decision, Nguyen said.
"Instead of delving inwards, this type of person intensely picks up your hobbies, follows your passions and does whatever you want to do," she explained. "In the beginning, it's easy and flattering to have someone like you without much effort. However as the relationship progresses, it becomes unfulfilling when you start to realize there's no challenge in the partnership because the other person has nothing else to offer. You need a partner, not a sidekick."
6. The narcissist.
It's my way or the highway with the narcissist. A narcissist can't admit when he or she is wrong and has hissy fits when others try to assert their needs. Clearly, those aren't qualities you're looking for in a long-term partner, Della Casa said.
"This is someone who has the inability to empathize with those around them," she said. "Think about being in a relationship with a narcissist for a minute: Any time you're hurt, need support or count on them to consider how you might feel -- they won't be there for you. No real understanding, no sincere apologies, no consideration. That's definitely not the relationship you want."
7. The job hopper.
Don't write someone off simply because they're in the middle of a career change or looking for work after going back to school. But if the person you're seeing is constantly unemployed, getting fired or changing jobs every few months, it may signal a bigger problem, said Della Casa.
"It showcases an inability to make a long-term commitment to something and also gives some insight into their value system," she said. "Whether their movement stems from a sense of entitlement, a lack of self worth or an inability to work well with others, that negative behavior or trait will ultimately find its way into your relationship."
8. The over-reactor.
Arguments and disagreements are bound to happen in any healthy relationship. (It's a good thing, too; you wouldn't have the occasional fight with your partner if you didn't care about the relationship.) That said, you need an S.O. who has the emotional wherewithal to fight fair, not someone who will flip out at the slightest hint of disagreement, Platt said.
"Both partners need to have to the emotional skill of hold space for the other's feelings and perspectives," he said. "It's a big red flag if the person blows up at the first sign of fight and threatens to end the relationship. Our emotional triggers are opportunities to explore our emotions and grow closer, not automatic reasons to question your compatibility or the relationship. The question to ask is: 'Do I feel safe to express myself, even during the heated and stressful moments? And does my partner feel the same?' And if the answer is no, find out why."
9. The lone wolf.
It's essential that you both have lives outside of your relationship. But if you're with someone who's so good on her own, she hints that she doesn't need you in her life, take that as your exit cue, Van Doran said.
"The truth is, a little dependency in a relationship is not a bad thing," she said. "All humans crave connection and a relationship, it's an innate need for people. The overly independent person might say that they want a relationship but won't actually make the space in their life for two people. No matter what, you can't fit in because they won't let you get closer. The more you need... the further you push them away. Ultimately, you don't want to deal with that kind of emotional distance in a relationship."
19 Awesome Drunk Purchases You'd Never Regret In the Morning
by The Huffington Post
How does that saying go, again? Beer before liquor, never been sicker, beer before Amazon, you just purchased 11 pounds of cheese?
Thanks to the click-happy fingers of some boozy Redditors, we've rounded up yet another batch of hilariously awesome purchases made online ... while drunk.
Don't get it wrong, S.U.I. (or, shopping under the influence) is a dangerous game to play, but every once in a while, a few too many drinks has lead to some mind-blowing Amazon, eBay and even Dominos orders that are too good to regret in the morning. Check out some of our recent faves here.