Author Archives: By Nathaniel Hutchinson

Struggling to Get a Mortgage? Here’s Some Help


The real estate market has been struggling for a while for a variety of reasons, leading to plummeting home values and a lot of empty properties. There’s growing belief that rising rental prices will lead to an upsurge in homebuying; however, numerous Americans are struggling to get a mortgage, because they cannot meet the modern demands of picky lenders. If you’re planning to apply for a home loan, be aware of the following:

Times Have Changed

Before the real estate crisis, banks gave loans to almost anyone. These days, that’s not the case. To get a mortgage in today’s market, you will need to meet some strict requirements. This means you will probably need to have a very good credit score, a solid job and enough money to put toward a hefty down payment. Most importantly, you must prove that you can afford the loan, or you will have no chance for approval.

Some Important Tips

Often, when prospective buyers approach a lender, they have no idea what they are getting into. Before you do anything, it’s important to get a free copy of your credit report to check for inaccuracies. If you find any, get them corrected. You should also use a mortgage calculator to figure out what you can actually afford. This will help ensure that you aren’t declined for applying for a loan that’s out of your reach.

Once you get involved with the loan process, don’t do anything that could hurt your chances. Don’t apply for any form of new credit; this can throw off your debt-to-income ratio and make you look bad in the eyes of lenders. Also, don’t change jobs, even if the new opportunity pays more. Banks want a long, stable history of employment and shiver at the thought of instability.

Finally, if you are struggling to get a mortgage, check out local and federal first time buyer programs. Their requirements are far more lenient than those imposed by private lenders. Many also offer second mortgages which can be used to pay for down payments and closing costs.

Finding the Right Local Internet Marketing Company for SEO


Nowadays, it can be hard for businesses to attain new customers unless they have a good web presence. Few people rely on the yellow pages in today’s modern world; instead, most look to Google to find service providers in their areas. The right local Internet marketing company can help businesses improve search engine rankings; so their customers can find them. Unfortunately, the wrong one could actually make a company go belly up.

Why it Matters

Research has demonstrated that most people tend to view only the first couple of pages of Google’s search results. This means companies that rank too low to appear on these pages tend to remain unnoticed, no matter how good they are at what they do. A good search engine optimization company can boost a business’s rankings; however, according to Ryan Lawrence of Ethical SEO Internet Marketing, a disreputable SEO firm could actually do serious harm.

“Years ago, SEO professionals used “black hat” tactics to try to fool Google’s algorithms and improve their clients’ rankings,” he said. “Nowadays, Google is watching closely for these tricks, and if your local Internet marketing company uses them, your business will be penalized severely.”

Damaging to Businesses

Recently, both and JC Penny received big penalties from Google, thanks to some unethical marketing tactics used by a firm they hired. In the end, both companies saw their rankings drop substantially. It will take years for them to regain their old positions, and millions of dollars will be lost in the meantime.

“If a firm uses unethical strategies to get your website higher rankings, you will be caught; make no mistake,” Lawrence said. “When this occurs, the search engine optimization firm will keep your money, and you will be left to endure the consequences.”

Choosing a Good Local Internet Marketing Company

According to Lawrence, business owners should look for two main qualities when hiring someone to market their local businesses online.

“First, you must ask how they will promote your company,” he said. “If they won’t tell you, be wary. Nowadays, the best way to enhance rankings is by generating content in the form of informative on-site and off-site articles. At Ethical SEO Internet Marketing, we employ a staff of experienced, professional journalists that specialize in writing newsworthy features that promote our clients’ businesses. These features attract links to our clients’ websites, which inevitably boosts their rankings. Because our journalists ghost write on behalf of the clients, the articles also promote the clients as experts in their specific fields. This is a very effective strategy, because it is exactly how Google wants companies to increase their rankings; so by following the rules and remaining ethical, we get risk-free, long-lasting results.”

Besides asking how a firm will go about improving rankings, Lawrence says companies should also try to avoid contracts.

“Most providers require contracts, but I’d recommend trying to find one that doesn’t.” he said. “In the end, a contract is going to protect the search engine optimization firm most of all, because it will ensure that it is paid regardless of whether it provides any real results.”

Painting Furniture a Dicey Proposition


Every day, numerous people attempt to transform the appearance of drab chairs, dressers and shelves by adding a coat of paint. Unfortunately, all too often, these do-it-yourselfers end up with significant finish failure in the form of chipping and peeling. Before you attempt this type of home improvement project, learn why painting furniture can be a dicey proposition.

Adhesion Problems

Many people end up with finish failure, because they don’t know how to encourage adhesion. According to do-it-yourself expert and professional contractor RJ Lawrence, proper preparation is the key to a beautiful, lasting painted finish.

“It doesn’t matter if the furniture is made of wood, plastic or metal; if you want the new finish to last, you have to properly prepare the surface,” he said. “This means cleaning it thoroughly to eliminate dust, dirt and unseen oils. Depending on the surface composition, it may mean abrading with sandpaper. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it means adding a base coat of primer to promote good coverage and better adhesion.”

Lawrence, who authored the eBook “Painting Furniture, Professional Tutorials,” says many people get too excited about the application process and fail to roll up their sleeves and do the less glamorous prep work.

“No one likes prep work,” he said. “But it really is the key to everything. It may be unpleasant, but preparation is the fundamental key to beautiful paint jobs.”

Promoting Adhesion

According to Lawrence, do-it-yourselfers should use the following prep strategy based on the composition of the furniture they are working on.

  • Varnished wood furniture: Sand the varnished topcoat until it appears dull; wipe down the wood using a rag, which has been moistened with mineral spirits; add a coat of water-based primer.
  • Bare wood furniture: No need to sand this; however, you do need to wipe down and prime the wood.
  • Metal furniture: Clean this using a water-based degreaser; then add a coat of metal-etching primer.
  • Plastic furniture: Scour the plastic using 180-grit sandpaper; keep sanding until the plastic is slightly rough; wash the furniture; add a coat of water-based primer.

How to Make Your Home Cooler


Every year, it seems new record highs are going on the books. Unfortunately, the relentless heat can send utility bills soaring, leaving many people forced to cut back on other necessities just so they can afford to pay their monthly cooling bills. If you’re interested in learning how to make your home cooler, our home improvement expert has some good advice.

Paint Your Home

According to our in-house home improvement expert, Jim Dugan, paint color can really make a difference in home energy efficiency.

“Most people tend to choose paint colors based on personal taste,” he said. “This may be alright for people who live in mild climates; however, it shouldn’t be your only consideration if you live in one of the hotter regions of the country.”

Dugan says light colors of paint tend to be the best choice for people who want to reduce their energy costs, because these colors reflect more sunlight.

“If your home is painted a dark color, it’s going to soak up a lot of heat,” he said. “This will make the interior much hotter, and your air conditioner is always going to be running. Invariably, lighter colors make your home cooler, while darker ones make it warmer.”

Cover Your Windows

When light invades your home, the temperature will rise. By keeping your glass doors and windows covered, you can drastically reduce your energy costs. That said, according to Dugan, curtains and window shades typically don’t prove as effective as reflective covers.

“Reflective solar shades send a lot of sunlight in the opposite direction, which can really help to make your home cooler,” he said. “Solar privacy shades have been proven to lower utility bills by as much as 30 percent in homes that have a lot of windows. Although they are a bit more expensive, in the end, they can save homeowners a considerable amount of cash.”

Is TheSmartBid a Scam or Are Penny Auction Reviews Unfair?


In our continuing report on bidding fee websites, we’ve taken a look at many different companies. While some have been accused of using misleading or unethical strategies to deceive consumers, others enjoy high ratings from the Better Business Bureau. Currently, you’ll find numerous online penny auction reviews complaining about a supposed TheSmartBid scam. Before you invest a single penny at this site, learn what our tech expert has to say.

A Little Background

Penny auctions have taken a lot of heat from some major consumer advocates. According to technology expert Sarah McDaniels, users should know that these sites can be risky.

“Recently, the AARP and Federal Trade Commission both issued troubling consumer reports warning that many penny auction websites use unscrupulous strategies to take advantage of customers,” she said. “The FTC warns that some of these companies use automated bots, known as shills, to make fake bids on behalf of the companies themselves.”

McDaniels says this unscrupulous strategy can drive up prices and prolong auctions.

“The longer an auction lasts, the more people can get involved,” she said. “This generally encourages bidder failure and increases profits for the companies.”

Are TheSmartBid Reviews Fair?

A quick online search reveals numerous reviews complaining about an alleged TheSmartBid scam. According to McDaniels, this company is not alone.

“It’s difficult for consumers to know who to trust, because many online reviewers are just mad that they lost money and want to slander the penny auction,” she said. “That said, many of these companies do use deceptive tactics.”

Recently, QuiBids conducted a third-party audit to prove it didn’t use shills to scam consumers. Ultimately, the Better Business Bureau awarded the company an A- rating because of this. On the other hand, has not conducted a similar audit; however, it has also earned an A- rating from the BBB.

“If you are dead set on participating at a penny auction, your best bet is to trust the BBB’s ratings,” McDaniels said. “Just know that this type of bargain-hunting is high risk. You are probably going to lose money no matter where you play.”

Before You Buy a Home: Real Estate Tips


Freddie Mac recently released its latest survey, and the news was good for prospective buyers. Record low mortgage rates have combined with descending home values to create a buyer’s paradise. Unfortunately, many borrowers are having trouble securing loans. Before you buy a home, consider the following real estate tips.

Why it’s So Hard Nowadays

Just a few years ago, banks were passing loans out to all-comers; however, that all changed when the foreclosure crisis hit. Now lenders have implemented very tough requirements that make it hard to get approval. These standards are centered on three big factors: your credit rating, your job and your cash flow. Before you buy a home, learn how to keep from hurting your chances.

Your Credit Report

Get the latest copy of your credit report to ensure that everything is accurate. Even a few minor errors could keep you from securing a mortgage. If something is amiss, file a written or online report to get it corrected.

Your Job

Lenders value economic stability above all else. If a new job opportunity becomes available, you’d be best served to stay put at least until you are able to close on your home. Job security is an important part of the borrowing process. Even if the new job pays more, the lender is likely to view the move as risky.

Your Cash Flow

Before the economic downturn, you could get a mortgage without much of a down payment. That has changed. Nowadays you will be asked to put up roughly 20 percent of the home’s worth. If you have this kind of money, you’re in good shape. If not, you may have to make other arrangements. Before you buy a home, look into local home buying programs. Not only do many of these require much lower credit scores and offer lower mortgage rates; they often allow borrowers to take out smaller, second mortgages which can be used to fund down payment and closing costs.

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