Gunning Daily News

Report Highlights Data Trends in Home Improvement

August 5, 2014 12:24 am

Preparing to buy or sell a home? Porch.com recently released a report that surveys over a half million home improvement projects, sharing the most popular online searches for home improvement professionals.

When asked which home improvement professionals they were most likely to search online before selling a home, 19 percent of homeowners searched for a general contractor in an effort to take care of projects before they list the home on the market.

Seventeen percent were more likely to search for an electrician, and 15 percent would call upon an HVAC professional. Handymen and plumbers rounded out the remaining percentages; 14 and 13 percent, respectively.

When asked which home improvement professionals were most likely searched for after buying a home, 41 percent searched for a painter. This reflects the continuing trend of new homeowners seeking to immediately tackle painting projects, both exterior and interior. Four percent searched for a home inspector, three percent an appliance installer, and two percent a roofer.

Based on survey responses, painting is the number one priority for many homeowners nationwide. In the South, painting was found to be 26 percent higher than the national average of searches, due to a generally warm and dry climate. In contrast, homeowners in the Midwest searched for landscapers. Homeowners in the Northeast were most likely to search for tree contractors.

Source: Porch.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Expert Tips for Laundry Machine Maintenance

August 4, 2014 1:18 am

Owning a washing machine and dryer can be a major convenience when it comes time to do laundry, but without regular maintenance, your machines may not be cleaning as efficiently or as thoroughly as you might think. Take these simple steps to get the most out of your washing machine and dryer.

With washing machines, check rubber water hoses for leaks or bubbles. Hoses with bubbles are prone to burst, wasting water and money. Manufacturers recommend replacing rubber hoses every two years, as the rubber can dry and crack over time.

Routinely clean the washing machine by running a wash cycle on the hottest water setting with a cup of bleach and no clothes. This will disinfect your washer and help to remove soap buildup. If your washer has a bad odor, use a product like Affresh to clean your washer and remove the odor.

Plan carefully and always wash full loads. This will decrease the number of loads required, lessening the amount of water used and extending the life of the washing machine. However, be sure not to overload the washer, as this can result in shortened life of the appliance and clothes that are not thoroughly cleaned.

With dryers, be sure to clean the lint trap after each load. While the lint trap doesn't catch all of the lint from your laundry, keeping it clear can help it catch as much lint as possible. This lessens the amount of lint that passes into the ventilation system and may block air flow.

Routinely check your dryer vent hose to be sure that it is not kinked or bent in a way that can restrict airflow. A bent air hose can limit the flow of air out of the dryer and increase the risk of lint building up in the hose. If your dryer vent hose is made of vinyl or plastic, replace with a rigid or flexible metal vent hose, as vinyl or plastic hoses can be a fire hazard.

Finally, don't overload the dryer. Using full loads can help cut down the number of loads you will do. However, overloading the dryer can restrict airflow, causing clothes to take longer to dry.

Source: Mr. Appliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Locally Grown Foods Give Household Gardening a Boost

August 4, 2014 1:18 am

Gardening is growing as the number one hobby in America, with 5 million more households digging in and planting than in 2010, according to a recent National Gardening Survey. The edible gardening category, which includes vegetable gardening, herb gardening, fruit trees and growing berries, recently hit a six-year high in both participation and spending.

Looking to source locally grown food straight from their backyards, nearly 80 percent of gardeners aged 18-30 purchase vegetables to grow, according to the 2014 Home Garden Panel by Metrolina Greenhouses, the nation’s largest greenhouse.

Growing berries emerges as the most popular trend in edibles, likely due to the reported health benefits of antioxidant-rich foods.

Regardless of age, gardeners grow edibles for the pride of harvesting their own fresh produce, to experience the growing process and to share. Almost two-thirds report plans to share their harvest with family, friends or neighbors, lending to the growing trend of community gardening.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pet Insurance: Worth the Cost?

August 4, 2014 1:18 am

The pet insurance industry, which has grown exponentially since TV star Lassie was first insured in the 1980s, offers more options to pet owners today than ever before – at rates that vary widely. For owners who consider Fido or Cuddles part of the family, the question is: is insuring them worth the cost?

As with life insurance for humans, the younger an animal is when covered, the cheaper the premium will be. Beyond that, say researchers at PetRX.com, pet owners need to weigh the pros and cons of insurance to decide what’s right for them.

The Pros:
  • Advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to treat pets with new surgical techniques, chemotherapy and other therapies that help prolong life. But it is expensive, and insurance can make it affordable.
  • Coverage can be customized with varying deductible amounts, accident-only options and other choices that impact the amount of the premium you pay.
  • There are more pet insurance companies than ever to choose from, making it easier to select the exact coverage and riders you want – such as dental care or prescription-only.
The Cons:
  • Because cost is not an issue, an emotional owner may agree to treatments that may prolong the pet’s life for only a short time – and with questionable quality of life.
  • You need to examine the fine print of your policy, as some pets may turn out to be uninsurable due to age or certain applicable exclusions, such as conditions that are considered common to a particular breed.
  • Studies show you are likely to pay out more in premiums than you will ever get back in service. According to Consumer’s Report, owners might be better off to skip insuranc premiums and put money aside in a special savings account to be used in the event of a pet emergency.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Set the Mood for Summer at Home

August 1, 2014 1:15 am

(Family Features) Creating a happy, energized home during the warmer months starts with getting organized. Set the mood for summer with these fun, simple and creative tips:

Get “chore-ganized.”
Before heading off to bed, take a few minutes to do basic prep work for the next day: slicing fruit for breakfast, portioning out sandwich meat for lunch, laying out clothes for the next day. Finish up by swiping counters for a clean slate in the morning. Taking care of a few chores the night before provides a few extra minutes to spend with the kids or relax over coffee before the start of a new day, which will give your mood a much-needed boost.

Cut down chore time.
Improve your mood by checking laundry off your to-do list. Streamline the process by clearing up clutter and creating plenty of open room for sorting and folding. Put all of your laundry-related items on shelves within reaching distance of the washer and dryer. A mounted ironing board is perfect for smaller spaces – you can keep it out of the way, yet easily accessible.

Elevate the ambiance.
Sensory triggers can affect your mood in positive way. Create a relaxing environment with lamps, dimmer switches and candles. Choose light bulbs that mimic natural light. Consider hanging a fixture in the center of the room and additional smaller lights around the periphery to create a wash of warm, beautiful light and eliminate any dark, shadowy spots.

Source: Snuggle

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Home Financially From Disasters

August 1, 2014 1:15 am

The Insurance Information Institute recommends that homeowners take time to review their insurance policies to ensure they have the right amount and type of coverage before disasters wreak havoc. Properly insure your home with these five tips:

1. Review Insurance Before You Experience a Loss
Read the Declarations (“Dec” or front) page of your policy, as it provides a useful summary. Review all policy documents and contact your insurance professional with any questions.

2. Understand Which Disasters Are Covered
Hurricanes, windstorms and tornadoes are covered by standard homeowners and renters policies. Floods and earthquakes are not covered—you must buy separate policies for these disasters. Coverage for flooding and storm surge is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and from a few private insurance companies. There is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to go into effect, so buy it now if you need it.

3. Have Enough Insurance

Get enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace your personal possessions. Know the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value coverage; understand your additional living expense coverage; and consider getting law and ordinance insurance so you can rebuild to current building codes.

It is equally important to have an up-to-date home inventory to ensure your personal belongings are properly covered and to help file a claim. If you are a renter and don’t have an insurance policy, now is the time to get one.

4. Understand Your Deductibles
A deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket for a loss before the insurance coverage kicks in. Know the difference between a standard dollar deductible and wind or hurricane deductibles, and when they would be applied. This information is available on the Dec page.

5. Consider Special Coverages
You may want to get coverage for sewer backup if you live in an area with an aging infrastructure. Consider a floater or endorsement for expensive jewelry, artwork, musical instruments or collectibles.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Residents Give High Marks to Community Associations

August 1, 2014 1:15 am

The more than 65 million Americans who are part of homeowners associations or living in condominiums are overwhelmingly satisfied with their communities, according to a national survey released by the Community Associations Institute.

Almost two-thirds of community association residents rate their overall association experience as positive, while 26 percent are neutral on the question. Only 10 percent express some level of dissatisfaction.

The survey also revealed that:
  • 90 percent of residents say association board members serve the best interests of their communities
  • 83 percent say they get along well with immediate neighbors
  • 92 percent say they are on friendly terms with their association board members (the homeowners who are elected by their neighbors to govern the community)
  • 83 percent say their community managers provide value and support to residents and their associations
  • 70 percent of residents say their association rules protect and enhance property values
The typical community association is governed by homeowner volunteers who are elected by their fellow owners to set policy for the community. Smaller associations with limited budgets may rely on resident volunteers for various management responsibilities, such as accounting functions and assessment collection, while larger associations contract for the services of a professional community manager or association management company.

More than two million Americans serve as volunteers on community association boards and committees.

Source: Community Associations Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Tips for Air Conditioner Maintenance

July 31, 2014 1:03 am

The season’s warm weather means homeowners will be increasingly reliant on air conditioning to make the long, hot days more tolerable. Keep in mind these five maintenance tips to keep air conditioners running smoothly through the summer months.

Combat moisture - Air conditioning systems should not have moisture within the refrigeration system. Most systems have moisture indicators located on the high or low-pressure lines. Once the system is running and the compressor has started, a color indicator on the pressure line will show if moisture is present. If moisture is in the refrigeration system, a trained air conditioning technician will have to vacuum the line and make any necessary repairs.

Clean air conditioning condenser coils - At a minimum, air conditioning condenser coils should be cleaned at least twice a year. It is best to clean the condenser coils before starting the system for the season and again when the weather starts to get hot for prolonged periods of time. Typically the second cleaning will be done in July or early August. If the system is located near trees, it may require additional cleanings to keep debris from entering the system and blocking the coils.

Maintain the evaporator coil - The evaporator coil is an important part of an air conditioning system. Air conditioning evaporator coils are used to transfer heat. The heat transfer surfaces should be kept clean so airflow is not obstructed. Homeowners should ensure filters are present, clean and changed out regularly.

Inspect for leaks - Air conditioning units should be checked for any leaks that may have occurred when it is not in operation. Air conditioning systems should also be checked during operation and after the system has been shut down. Preventative maintenance can keep repairs and costs down. Checking for leaks will prevent air conditioning systems from sustaining more damage, and it is also good for the environment.

Understand normal air conditioning operation - The best way homeowners can tell if something is wrong is by understanding how the air-conditioning system should sound and appear. If the system is vibrating loudly, making abnormal sounds or not performing the way it was, you will want to have it checked by a licensed technician.

Source: Aire Serv

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Evaluate Long-Term Care Insurance Costs

July 31, 2014 1:03 am

Why would a 60-year-old New York couple pay $3,250 yearly for long-term care insurance when virtually identical coverage costs $1,800, some 57 percent less?

According to a policy cost comparison recently conducted by the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, it is because prices vary depending on state, marital status, and pre-existing medical conditions. The addition of new policies on a regular basis also creates challenges for insurance agents, financial advisors and policy holders.

Comparison shopping on your own is virtually impossible for consumers, experts advise. Health sweet spots exist in all three categories, but plans must be evaluated individually to ensure the policy holder saves the most money.

When deciding who will evaluate and cover you or a loved one’s long-term care, consider these questions:

How long has the insurance agent been selling long term care insurance?
"A minimum of three years is suggested, though five or more is going to be better," Jesse Slome, executive director of AALTCI, notes.

How many policies have they sold?
"A long term care insurance specialist will have helped at least 100 individuals get coverage, though many will have helped 500 plus," he adds.

Is the financial advisor or insurance agent appointed with multiple insurance companies?
"‘Appointed’ is insurance industry jargon that means they can actually sell that company's policy. At the end of the day, an agent is only going to recommend and tell you about policies they can actually sell," he shares.

Source: American Association for Long Term Care Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Three-Quarters of American Homeowners Have Used a Real Estate Agent

July 31, 2014 1:03 am

According to the results of a housing survey recently released by BMO Harris Bank, three-quarters of homeowners have used a real estate agent.

"While a notable number of Americans feel they could buy or sell a home without a real estate agent, our survey tells us that when the time came, the majority of homeowners did seek the added professional help and enlisted an agent," said Kevin Christopher, Head of Mortgage Sales.

Word-of-mouth is the top way that home buyers select an agent (41 percent), followed by:

• Past experience (22 percent)
• Reference from bank (9 percent)
• Advertising or a flyer (9 percent)
• Came to the door (2 percent)

The survey also asked Americans about where they felt real estate agents had the most value-add. The top three benefits for having an agent when buying are:

• Handling paperwork (67 percent)
• Having someone who understands market value (59 percent)
• Access to market information (53 percent)

The top three benefits when selling are:

• Handling paperwork (64 percent)
• Advertising the home to bring in offers (58 percent)
• Having someone to price the home appropriately (57 percent)

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Published with permission from RISMedia.