Gunning Daily News

Q: Can I Deduct Improvements Made to My Home?

December 5, 2013 8:42 pm

A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Your gain is defined as your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.

The IRS defines improvements as those items that “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses” – such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.


5 Tech Toys You Can Find at the Dollar Store

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

It’s easy to break your budget at holiday time. But blogger Marc Saltzman, whose Digital Crave seeks out bargains for stingy shoppers, has discovered a handful of tech toys regularly found and sold way below retail at dollar stores including Dollar Tree, Dollar King, Family Dollar, National Dollar and others.

Check your local store for these techie bargains that are worth putting under your tree:
 

  • LED book light - This clamp-on, a steal for a buck, does the same thing as the $20 version at your local book store, illuminating a book for reading in low-light. Available at Dollar Tree locations, the slender, silver book light attaches to a soft- or hardcover books. Includes three AG13 watch batteries.
  • Retractable Mouse – If you need a spare computer mouse, look for a retractable USB Mouse from Tech-1, available in white or black for less than two bucks. Plugs into an available USB port on your PC or Mac – no drivers needed – and you can pull on the cord to give yourself as much space as you need. It’s not wireless, but this small and affordable accessory could be an invaluable travel companion.
  • Maplock GPS anti-theft device – If you have a standalone GPS navigation device, you know it can attract thieves. Instead of spending up to $30 elsewhere, you can pick up the Maplock for a couple of dollars. It clamps onto your GPS, locks it down and tethers it to your steering wheel via a security cable. Be sure to buy the correct Maplock to fit your specific GPS model.
  • Double headphone adapter – If you’re hitting the road for the holidays, siblings might want to listen to the same music, movie or game in the backseat – without disturbing you. Whether using a smartphone, portable media player, tablet, laptop or gaming system, they can split the enjoyment with the HRS-Global Double Adaptor ($1). On one end is a male 3.5mm jack to snap into your device. On the other end are two female ports to plug in earbuds or headphones.
  • Tilt Top Calculator (Studio) – A solar-powered Tilt Top Calculator from Studio ($1.50), has an easy to read, adjustable display. Scientific calculators were also offered at some dollar stores.

Is Your Home Properly Winterized for Your Pets?

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

With autumn quickly giving way to the cold and inclement weather of winter, I want to take a moment to make sure our four-legged friends have a good winter, too. A recent post from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT - apdt.com) had a lot of good information for homeowners about wintering pets.

According to the APDT post, puppies, senior dogs and dogs with certain disease conditions (such as thyroid conditions) are more susceptible to cold temperatures. Remember - temperature related illnesses require immediate removal to a warm, dry environment and medical attention by your veterinarian.

Hypothermia can result from extended exposure to cold and is a life-threatening condition. Watch your dog for signs of shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse or lethargy.

Frostbite is a temperature related tissue injury and most commonly occurs on ears, tails, scrotum or feet. Signs include discolored skin (red, pale, or grayish) swelling, or blisters. Check your pet often for signs of frostbite which may be hidden beneath fur.

Special Considerations for Outdoor Dogs

The APDT says you should bring your dogs inside for the winter if at all possible. If bringing your dogs inside for the season is not possible your dogs must have warm, windproof shelter - preferably heated.

Dry, clean bedding is essential to keeping warm and straw or bedding needs replenished all winter season long.

Water & food can easily freeze. Use heated bowls to prevent freezing and make sure that the electrical cords are out of reach of your pets.

Outdoor dogs will burn more calories (up to 30%) and need extra food. Make sure that you are feeding additional rations during cold temperature.

The Humane Society of the United States also weighed in on winterizing for pets saying if pets cannot come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat.

Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.


Word of the Day

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

Judgment. Court decree stating that one person is indebted to another. Also specifies the amount of the debt.


Q: Can I Split My Mortgage in Two and Pay Biweekly?

December 4, 2013 10:00 pm

A: The biweekly mortgage has become increasingly popular as more people favor paying off their home loan early and reducing interest charges.

Monthly payments on these loans are split in half, payable every two weeks.

Because there are 52 weeks in a year, you actually have 26 half-payments, or the equivalent of 13 monthly payments per year instead of 12.

Under the biweekly payment plan, a homeowner can save tens of thousands of dollars in interest and pay off their loan balance in less than 30 years.


Converting Your Kitchen to a Great Room? Consider This First

December 3, 2013 11:12 pm

In our last segment, I began exploring the idea of expanding your kitchen space into a "great room" configuration. In a search for top resources on the subject, we hit upon the Virginia and DC firm CASE Design Remodeling (casedesign.com) .

CASE offers a wealth of information for those considering a great room conversion in their own home, or having one built into a new home. According to its design team, the first things to consider when opening up a floor plan, are the advantages closed floor plans offer:

More privacy - Many households have people contending with different ages and schedules, from babies to teenagers and grandparents or nannies that all live in the same home. Enclosed spaces may work better in a house where everyone needs their space.

More walls for artwork - If you are an art enthusiast and need ample space to display your favorite works you will need wall space. Also, depending upon the delicacy of the work, direct sunlight may damage the art. In this case, walls are a good thing! Easier to clean/contain messes. You may prefer an enclosed playroom for kids or rooms with doors that can keep messes out of the main rooms, making you look and feel like a better housekeeper.

Noise doesn’t travel as far - Open floor plan designs have more acoustics and cause noise to travel further, while extra walls can help contain and limit noise. Specialty rooms. More rooms means more separate spaces dedicated to individual uses, such as home offices, art studios, craft rooms, workout rooms, and guest rooms.

The designers at CASE suggest you start planning for your great room conversion by making a prioritized list of the changes you’d like to make:

  • Visit each room in your home individually, making notes about the room’s location, adjacent rooms, natural light, and current uses.
  • Ask yourself, how can the room you’re standing in become a better room by combining it with the one next door?
  • Remember, a lot of bathroom expansions begin with the realization that a current, cramped bathroom is right next to a small, seldomly used room or linen closet.
  • Also, two adjacent bedrooms can be combined to create one larger bedroom or office.
  • And a garage can be finished and turned into a master bedroom, family room, or entertainment room.

4 Tips for Enjoying Life to the Fullest

December 3, 2013 11:12 pm

Have you ever felt like you need an upgrade on your life? Most of us have – and there’s a way to get it, says veteran physician Sanjay Jain.

“First, I tell people, ‘Don’t be afraid of making your life clearer.’ Many argue that life is not simple and, therefore, there are no easy answers, but as we have paraphrased from Chinese philosopher Laozi, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,’ ” says Jain, whose specialties include integrative medicine. He’s also an international speaker and author of Optimal Living 360 – available February 2014 (www.sanjayjainmd.com).

“Lives are built from many small components which, when viewed as an assembled whole, can appear overwhelmingly complex,” Jain says. “But when we break them down and consider the pieces as we make decisions in our lives, it’s much easier to see how small adjustments can result in a better return on all of the investments we make – not only in health, but in relationships, finances, and all the other essential aspects of our lives.”

Jain offers four points to keep in mind as you start the journey.

• Life is short, so live it to its fullest potential. Live it optimally. This is your life, so don’t waste its most precious resource – time. No matter one’s spiritual leanings, economic and education status, health, intelligence level, etc. – one thing is true for all: Our time on Earth is finite. There will be a time for most of us when, perhaps after a frightening diagnosis from a doctor, we reflect deeply upon our time and consider the most important moments, and all the time that may have been squandered.

• Balance is key. Too much or too little of something, no matter how good, is actually not good. Balance is one of the easiest tenets to understand, but arguably the most difficult to maintain. Obviously, too much alcohol is bad; then again, there are some health benefits to moderately imbibing red wine. What about too much of a good thing; can a mother love her children too much? Yes, if she is an overprotective “helicopter parent.” The best antidote to overkill of anything is awareness; try to be aware of all measures in your life.

• Learn to tap your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. Engaging your strengths at work and in your personal life is important. When we do what we’re good at and what comes easily, we feel self-confident and satisfied. Some people, however, are not in jobs that utilize their strengths, or they don’t put their talents to work at home because they’re mired in the prosaic work of living. It’s important to identify your strengths and find ways to engage them. It’s equally important to recognize our weaknesses and work on improving them (because we can!) This is essential for achieving balance.

• Life is about making the right choices. Integrative decision-making makes this easier. There are many different types of decision-making, including systematic, hierarchal, impulsive, decisive and flexible. Integrative decision-making can be used for problems large and small, and includes the following process:

1. Define the problem. 2. Frame the problem. 3. Develop all your options. 4. Analyze your options. 5. Make the decision. 6. Execute your decision. 7. Debrief yourself.

While experts may be the best consultants for compartmentalized areas of your life, only you know the other aspects that affect your well-being and can determine how a decision in one area will affect another area. 


Create Inviting Entrances to Welcome Holiday Guests

December 3, 2013 11:12 pm

BPT—Holiday season guests will soon come knocking at your front door. What's the first impression your home's entryway creates? Is it a warm, friendly welcome, or is the cold hard truth that your home's entryway could use some improvement?

If the latter is true, try these handy holiday entryway-decorating tips from Pella Windows and Doors to create an inviting entryway and make everyone feel right at home.

Tips for creating a positive first impression with an inviting entry into your home:

  • Clean fingerprints or pet nose prints from doors, sidelights and visible window glass surfaces.
  • Appeal to the senses by placing fragrant arrangements nearby or light a candle just before guests arrive. For safety purposes, never leave burning candles unattended.
  • Make sure your entryway is well lit. Place groupings of festive battery-operated lanterns on tables or in corners to illuminate darker areas.
  • Designate space for guests to put coats, boots, bags and gifts when they first walk in.
  • Before guests arrive, do a walk-through to eliminate potential tripping or fall hazards, especially if you're hosting elderly guests or those with limited vision or mobility.
  • Immediately wipe up any spills or melting ice or snow from shoes to help prevent slips or falls.

Tips for festive outdoor decor to accent your front door:

  • Hang small wreaths, bells or seasonal signs from doorknobs or door hardware.
  • When hanging larger wreaths on the door exterior, use removable, temporary outdoor hooks to help prevent door damage. Magnetic hooks work well on steel doors.
  • Add ribbon for a more dramatic look and add an extra pop of color. Try burlap ribbon for a rustic touch, or smooth satin and modern metallic textures for additional holiday sparkle.
  • Frame your doorway with a natural or artificial pine garland, accented with pine cones and shatterproof ornaments. Use temporary outdoor hooks to hang garland around the doorway. Avoid placing nails into windows or doors, which could hamper the product's performance, or even void the manufacturer's warranty.
  • Fill planters with festive arrangements of evergreens, silk poinsettias, branches, ornaments and outdoor lights.
  • Hang wreaths, ribbons and baubles from outdoor arbors, fences or sconces.
  • Consider colored spotlights or solar-powered lights to illuminate your home's exterior doorways and walkways.

Source: www.pella.com/news.


Word of the Day

December 3, 2013 11:12 pm

Cancellation clause. Stipulation in a contract that allows a buyer or seller to cancel the contract in the event of a certain specified occurrence.


Q: What Is a Second Mortgage?

December 3, 2013 11:12 pm

A: It is a loan against the equity in your home. Financial institutions will generally let you borrow up to 80 percent of the appraised value of your home, minus the balance of your original mortgage.

You may incur all the fees normally associated with a mortgage, including closing costs, title insurance, and processing fees.

Home improvement loans are often written as second mortgages. And sometimes you can get a college tuition loan by using a second mortgage.

In case of default, the loan is paid off from the proceeds of the sale of the property, after the first mortgage has been paid off first.