Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

December 30, 2013 3:15 pm

Homeowner’s insurance policy. Packaged insurance policy for homeowners and tenants that cover property damage and public liability, such as fire, theft, and personal liability.


Q: Are Home Selling Costs Deductible?

December 30, 2013 3:15 pm

A: If you sell your home and realize a taxable gain even after the exclusion, you can reduce your gain with selling costs.

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.

Real estate broker’s commissions, title insurance, legal fees, administrative costs, and inspection fees are all considered to be selling costs.


Top 2014 Home Improvement Trends: Smart Homes and Home Automation

December 27, 2013 4:36 pm

(BPT) - From smartphones to smart cars, technology is transforming virtually every aspect of our busy lives. Technologies not only make life easier while on the go, but new options are quickly simplifying life at home as well. Home automation is proving to be a top home improvement trend, making the Jetsons' futuristic lifestyle more realistic than ever before.

Some experts are predicting 2014 will be the year of the smart home, but what does that mean to the average homeowner? The term smart home refers to a house with technology and automated features for things like heating, lighting and electronic devices. Automation is becoming the new norm in three main areas of the home.

1. Energy management and environmental impact

A home's heating, cooling and electrical systems can be enhanced through home automation technologies. Boosting comfort levels, these technologies make it easier than ever to monitor energy and water usage, helping to reduce a family's environmental footprint as well as their energy bill.

Imagine turning your lights on remotely or adjusting the heat so your home is toasty warm by the time you return from work. Home management systems let you access and adjust comfort controls from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Monitor and control lights or the thermostat from anywhere with Internet access, making it easy to save energy while away. You can even add water leak detectors to plumbing spaces within the home and receive an alert if the sensor comes in contact with water, helping you to react faster to reduce property damage and water waste.

2. Streamlining the kitchen and cooking processes

The kitchen is the heart of the home, so it's no surprise that this area is getting a makeover thanks to technology enhancements. From basic motion-sensing faucets that eliminate the need for touching them with messy hands when cooking to appliances that think for you, the kitchen is a key component of a smart home.

For example, today's dishwashers clean faster and more efficiently than ever, thanks to technology that assesses soil levels and adjusts cleaning intensities. Ovens now come with sensors that evenly heat dishes, eliminating the need to rotate pans or use baking stones. Refrigerators even come with options that allow you to rapidly cool or freeze foods when they need to be brought down to a lower temperature quickly for food safety purposes.

3. Safety and security of a property

Security systems have never been more interactive, and new options are surprisingly affordable for homeowners looking to take the first step toward upgrading to a smart home.

The Iris Safe and Secure Kit is an inexpensive option that includes motion sensors, a keypad, and door, window and cabinet sensors. A novice DIYer can install the entire system in about an hour.

How does this system help your home to think smarter and be more secure? After installation, you will receive an email, text or call when an alarm sounds at home, allowing you to check in or alert authorities. Working parents find comfort in getting an alert when children arrive home from school or a package is delivered to the home. -You can even opt to have alerts contain video of the designated alarm event, such as a door or cabinet opening. The basic monitoring service is free, making this smart home security system fitting for virtually any budget.

As home automation looks to take off in 2014, it's time to take control, manage your home and simplify your life. From saving money to conserving resources to keeping loved ones safe, a smart home is quickly becoming the home of the future.


Easy-to-Update Items to Make Your New Home Yours

December 27, 2013 4:36 pm

(BPT) - This year more than 5.4 million homes were sold by the end of August, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Are you one of these millions of new homeowners? If so, you've most likely felt the urge to settle in immediately. However, before making any major renovations, it's a good idea to live in a new home a while to see how the space is meeting your needs. Here are a few swift swaps that will have a big impact in making that new house feel like home sweet home.

Personalize with paint

It may be the most obvious update but painting is an easy solution to change the look of a room in an instant. Whether you paint an entire room, create a bold accent wall or incorporate glossy white trim, paint is an affordable fix for any home.

Fabulous frames

When moving into a new space, the things you love should take center stage. Once your home reflects who you are, the rest will slowly fall into place. Photo frames are the ideal choice to add a decorative and personalized touch to any room. Bring this common decor pick into the modern age by creating a personal gallery and displaying frames of varying shapes and sizes. To do this, plan the layout of the frames before hanging, either with paper on the wall or by arranging them on the floor. Or, you can simply purchase pre-arranged frame galleries at home decor retailers.

Faucet focus

Kitchen and bath makeovers tend to have the biggest impact on a home and its resale value. However, new homeowners who are strapped for cash may not have a large budget for a full-scale bathroom remodel. Fortunately, there are several basic swaps that can quickly change the look and feel of a bath.

The easiest way to remodel your bathroom is to replace its hardest-working fixture - the faucet. This is a project new homeowners can tackle themselves at a reasonable price.

Energy-saving essentials

Wasting energy means wasting money. When you go from a renter to a homeowner, it's important to recognize and fix energy-draining areas before bills pile up. Caulking around windows and spaces between the floor and baseboards in attics and sun rooms will help prevent drafts. Consider purchasing a draft stopper for the bottoms of doors so wind or heat doesn't slip through. Additionally, service your furnace annually, so it produces more heat while using less energy.

Let there be light

Lighting is a great way to add warmth to a sparse space. If you're looking to create an intimate atmosphere, place several table lamps throughout the room. You can also amp up energy savings by switching to LED bulbs - these bulbs don't cause heat buildup and last up to 10 times as long as compact fluorescents and 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

It's very easy for decorating to become overwhelming for new homeowners. By starting with these few swift home decor swaps, your new home will be a comfortable and welcoming environment in no time.


5 Ways to Fight Retail Return Fraud

December 27, 2013 4:36 pm

In order to combat a wave of phony returns that come after the holidays, big toy and electronics retailers are shortening their return periods this year, reports NBC's "Today."

Don't be caught snoozing after Christmas. Here are five ways your business can combat retail return fraud:

1. The 'Big Black Tag.'

Every year, consumers will purchase clothing for loved ones which they will wear once ... and then return. This practice is called "wardrobing," and it's an issue for clothing retailers year-round.

Department store mainstay Bloomingdale's has come up with a way to lay waste to wardrobers: require a giant ugly tag for any returns that will prevent anyone from wearing the garment in public.

2. Tighten Return Periods.

Consumers may be mindful to check each store's return policies, so it might behoove your business to update them. According to a ConsumerWorld.org survey, Best Buy, Sears, and Toys R Us will be slimming their holiday return periods to reduce return hassle, reports "Today." In some cases, the deadline for returns may be as soon as January 9.

3. Maybe No Returns?

Assuming that your business has its return policy posted in its brick-and-mortar locations and online, there is no legal obligation to offer returns for any non-defective items outside of your store's policy.

Retail fraudsters may try to take advantage of more lenient policies in order to get cash or credit for unpurchased or out-of-store items, but you can easily close off this liability by offering no returns.

4. No In-Store Returns for Online Purchases.

Business owners might take a page out of Sports Authority's book and state that "online purchases cannot be returned to our stores." Requiring returns directly to the dot-com side of your store may deter would-be fraudsters who rely on the confusion of the in-store return rush to bamboozle store employees.

5. Do Not Offer Cash for Returns.

Offering cash for returns is an invitation for massive return fraud. Retailers are not at all required to offer cash for returns -- even for defective items -- and store credit will serve most honest consumers just as well.

If you're worried that your policy is skirting the law, contact an experienced business law attorney near you.

Source: FindLaw


Word of the Day

December 27, 2013 4:36 pm

Lease-purchase option. Opportunity to purchase a piece of property by renting for a specified period, with the provision that the lessee may choose to buy after or during the leasing period at a predetermined sale price.


Q: What factors should determine whether I decide to move or remodel?

December 27, 2013 4:36 pm

A: Your personal needs, preferences and finances are all factors. If you’ve lived in your home awhile and prefer to stay in your school district or neighborhood, improving your existing space may work best for you. If a second bathroom is what you desire, it may also be cheaper to convert existing space than to relocate to another home. According to the American Homeowner Foundation, you can expect to spend 8-10 percent of your current home’s value when you move. Ask yourself if that money could be better spent on a remodeling project instead. Chances are you’d increase your home’s value, derive more pleasure from your home than you did previously, and save yourself the time, expense and headache of a move.


A Resolution You Can Keep All Year: The One-Day Identity Checkup

December 27, 2013 3:36 pm

(BPT) - Exercise. Lose the weight. Answer every incoming email.

Those are the hard kinds of New Year's resolutions, because you have to think about them every day for the rest of the year. Many are forgotten long before Valentine's Day.

But here's one important resolution, one you can fulfill today and easily keep all year: protect your identity.

Identity theft is a fast-growing crime, but there are ways to reduce your chances of being a victim. The identity theft protection experts at LifeLock recommend doing these five quick things today to help keep your identity safer all year long:

Use safe passwords

Are you among the people who use simple passwords like "123456" or "qwerty" or "abc123" to protect your personal information? Or even the word "password" itself? Many people do, so identity thieves can often break in just by trying the most popular passwords.

To create a safer password, avoid using words that are in the dictionary. And stay away from your own personal information, like a nickname, pet's name or birthdate. One option is to come up with a memorable phrase that includes numbers and symbols, and use the first letter of each word. "My Tigers are Number One in Football!" might become "MTaN1iF!" - a good example because it uses capital letters, lower-case letters, a number and a symbol.

Use multiple passwords

Stop using the same password for every account. Several big companies and websites have recently had their users' personal information stolen by hackers. If your password for one site is compromised, and you use the same password for your bank and credit accounts, it's much easier for a thief to get into all of them.

At least have a different password for each account that has personal or financial information. And consider using a password-management program, which lets you set more cryptic passwords for each site you visit and control them with one master password.

Stash that Social Security card

Do you carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet? Don't.

You may, on a rare occasion, need to show a Social Security card to an employer or a government agency. Aside from those days, keep it locked up in a safe place. Your Social Security number is a thief's ticket to everything from opening new accounts in your name to stealing your tax refund. Don't run the risk of losing it.

Protect your mail

Do your bank statements, credit card bills and utility invoices arrive by mail? If your mailbox is outside your house, thieves can take those bills and collect personal information that helps them steal your identity. And once those documents are in your house and no longer needed, they can be stolen from a trash can or recycling bin.

First, if your mail is delivered outside your home, install a locked mailbox. And use a shredder, or the shredding services offered by local shipping stores and some credit unions, to destroy documents once they're no longer needed.

But you can also take steps to keep that paperwork from ever arriving at your home in the first place. Have bills sent to you electronically; you'll get them by email, save paper, reduce clutter and never have to worry about stolen mail or shredding. Opt out of credit card and insurance offers by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. And dramatically reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive by opting out of junk mail at www.dmachoice.org.

Be prepared for a loss

If your wallet or purse is stolen, you'll want to cancel all of your credit and debit cards before they can be misused. Keep a copy of each of your cards, or use a digital wallet program like LifeLock Wallet, which is available for your smartphone from the iOS and Android app stores. It gives you instant access to copies of your cards and also helps you track your balances, monitor transactions and cancel cards that are lost or stolen.

Do these things today and you can proudly declare that you'll keep at least one New Year's resolution all year long: Protecting your identity.

Source: www.LifeLock.com/education.


Stretching Your Ski Vacation Dollar

December 27, 2013 3:36 pm

(BPT) - With the Olympics right around the corner, skiing is on a lot of people's minds. While ski trips can get pricey quickly, there are ways to give your budget a lift.

"It's not unusual for 'ski vacation' to be synonymous with 'expensive getaway,'" says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for the travel booking website Orbitz.com. "But it doesn't have to be that way. These seven simple tips and tricks can stretch your dollar and get you slopeside for a fraction of the price."

  • Borrow your ski equipment. One of the big expenses of a ski vacation - especially for new skiers - can be gearing up. Tap friends and family to borrow ski gear for your trip - from coats and ski pants to ski boots and snowboards.
  • Travel's new rule: Pack light. Most airlines let you travel with a ski bag as one of your checked bags. Just be conscious of the weight allowance and take as much as you can in a carry-on bag to avoid extra fees.
  • Choose an easily reachable resort. Flying into smaller airports can mean heftier prices and inconvenient connections. Look for ski resorts that are within close proximity of major airports where there is more airline competition. Ski destinations like Keystone and Breckenridge are both family-friendly and an easy drive or shuttle ride from Denver International Airport.
  • Stay in a vacation rental. Large ski areas have plenty of lodging options aside from hotels. From condos, cabins and private homes, vacation rentals are a great alternative, especially for large groups and families. Vacation rentals typically go for a flat daily or weekly fee, so the more people you invite, the less it will cost per person.
  • Location, location, location. While slopeside hotels let you walk out your door and hop on the lift, opting for lodging a little farther from the mountain can save you cash. And most ski resorts offer free shuttle services with stops throughout town, so getting to the lifts is not a hassle.
  • Discount lift tickets. If you're a student or a senior, be sure to bring identification to take advantage of any discounts available. And for those who enjoy sleeping in, you can opt for half-day or evening lift tickets that are discounted compared to full-day passes.
  • Timing is everything. Many travelers end up paying too much for a ski vacation simply because they choose to vacation when everyone else does. In general, lift tickets and lodging will be most expensive over Christmas and New Year's, MLK weekend, the President's Day holiday and spring break during the month of March. Prices are relatively low in the early season, which occurs November through mid-December. They will often drop again in April, after spring break. The month of January is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets to skiing on a budget. After the December holidays, you'll find plenty of snow without the crowds, typically resulting in lower lodging rates.

Small Room, Big Difference

December 27, 2013 3:36 pm

(Family Features)--Food and beverage containers, glass, newspapers and other paper items are commonly recycled in households across the nation. But outside the kitchen, living room or office, where many of these items are found, there are other areas where you can find unexpected opportunities to recycle -like the bathroom.

While 7 out of 10 Americans say they always or almost always recycle, only 1 in 5 consistently recycles bathroom items, according to a report commissioned by the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies.

"Because many of our personal care products are used or stored in the bathroom, we wanted to understand if Americans are recycling there," says Paulette Frank, Vice President of Sustainability for the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies.

The study further revealed that 40 percent of Americans don't recycle any bathroom items at all. Among the reasons cited, 22 percent reported they had never thought about recycling in the bathroom and 20 percent didn't even know that products in the bathroom are recyclable.

"We saw an opportunity to help reduce waste going to landfills by educating people about the recyclable items they use in the bathroom," Frank said. "We created the Care to Recycle(r) campaign to be a gentle reminder to recycle empty containers from the bathroom rather than throwing them in the trash."

Here is some helpful information about which common bathroom items can be recycled:

  • Plastic bottles marked No. 1 (PET) or No. 2 (HDPE) containing products such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, baby powder, face cleanser and body oil are recyclable in most communities.
  • Plastics marked No. 4 (LDPE) and No. 5 (PP) are recyclable but may not be accepted for recycling via curbside programs. Check with your municipality and the Care to Recycle(r) locator developed in partnership with Earth911.
  • Paperboard items such as toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes and cartons for things like medicine, lotions, soap, bandages, etc. can all be recycled in most communities.

Source: Johnson & Johnson