Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

November 14, 2013 9:57 pm

Quit-claim deed. A conveyance by which the grantor transfers whatever interest he or she has in the real estate without warranties or obligations.


Q: Is Private Mortgage Insurance Always Required on Low-Down Payment Loans?

November 14, 2013 9:57 pm

A: Lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) on most loans with less than a 20 percent down payment.  They believe there is a correlation between borrower equity and default.  They have found that the less money borrowers put down, the more likely they are to default on a loan. PMI guarantees the lender will not lose money if this happens and a foreclosure is necessary.

A growing number of private lenders, however, are loosening up their requirements for low-down payment loans. In fact, the Homeowners Protection Act states that PMI must be dropped on any loan originated after July 29, 1999. Borrowers can request that PMI be canceled when they pay down the principal balance on their mortgage loans to 80 percent of the purchase price. Lenders must automatically cancel PMI when the balance hits 78 percent.


Are You Ready to Downsize Your Kitchen

November 14, 2013 8:57 pm

In our last segment, I dove into the subject of downsizing kitchens. Whether it's simplifying arrangements of cabinets and appliances as we age in place, or a desire for a modern or minimalist cooking zone, there is no shortage of good advice on how to get started and get through it.

Mariette Mifflin, a housewares and appliances writer at about.com says a large number of baby boomers are eyeing moving to low maintenance apartments or condos, while others will plan to retire to their smaller cottages or vacation homes to age in place.

Mifflin says consider the many more compact appliances that offer energy saving options, like an economy dry settings on dishwashers, 1 and 2 hour auto shut-off on coffee makers, and low water features on washers.

According to Mifflin, delay start has now become a great energy saving option for those areas that pay for electricity based on when they use it, with peak and off-peak rates. You can set a dishwasher with this feature while you're loading it, but it will only start later in the evening when energy off-peak rate is lower.  

Cambria Bold design and lifestyle editor for The Kitchn (thekitchn.com) says don't be afraid of using darker colors - done right a darker color scheme can actually make a smaller kitchen space appear bigger.

At cultivate.com, Susan Serra writes that visual tricks will be actively incorporated to create a more open feeling. For example, backsplashes that are more simple in design than ever before, such as single sheets of glass (a hot material), engineered stone or other seamless surfaces, such as stainless steel.

The reason this works: A seamless backsplash has a huge effect on a kitchen's "visual clutter", is a natural complement to the modern kitchen and a practical solution for small kitchens where appliances are in close proximity to surfaces.

Serra says large interesting nooks and crannies decoratively illuminated in the kitchen can create new focal points as well as adding a spacious look. And she says appliances will largely disappear from view in 2013, allowing even high-end, chef's style appliances to be seamlessly incorporated into any kitchen space.  


8 Tax breaks Set to Expire This Year

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

April 15 may seem a long way off, but consumers should check with a tax advisor to see if they qualify for one or more of eight tax breaks scheduled to expire at the end of 2013:

Teacher’s classroom expenses - Educators can deduct up to $250 worth of unreimbursed classroom expenses. This is an above-the-line deduction, which means teachers can take this deduction before they get to adjusted gross income.

Exclusion of indebtedness cancellation on principal residence – The U.S. tax code treats forgiven debts as taxable income. But if your principle residence is foreclosed or sold in a short sale before the end of the year, this provision allows you to exclude up to $2 million of forgiven debt from taxable income

Transit benefits. In 2013, employees can spend up to $245 pretax per month on transit benefits like rail passes, which is on par with the $245 pretax they can spend on parking. That parity is scheduled to end this year, so the benefit for public transportation would drop to $130 per month pretax, while higher parking benefits remain.

Mortgage insurance premiums - Homeowners who have less than 20 percent equity typically pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). The provision to deduct those premiums is scheduled to expire.

IRA distributions to charity - People older than 70 1/2 must take minimum distributions from their individual retirement accounts. This provision allows them to contribute that money to charity without counting the distributions as income.

State and local sales tax - State and federal sales taxes are deductible from federal taxes if you itemize. This provision allows you to deduct state sales tax if your state doesn't have sales tax (i.e. Florida) or if the amount you paid in sales tax was higher than income tax.

Electric vehicles - Consumers who buy a qualified electric plug-in vehicle may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500 depending on the size of the car's battery pack.  Some lessees may also be eligible for this credit.

Remodeling for energy efficiency - Homeowners who remodel for energy-efficiency can take a credit of up to $500 over their lifetime. There is a separate $500 credit available for energy-efficient appliances. If you haven't used the credit yet, there are two months left to install new windows or an energy-efficient air conditioner.


Smart 'Green' Options that Help Homeowners Save Green

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

(BPT) - With the average American household spending more than $1,000 on heating and cooling expenses each year, more homeowners are seeking smarter, green options to reduce the strain on their wallets. Incentives through the U.S. government's Energy Star program and other state and federal programs have made it easier for homeowners to create an energy efficient and greener home.

While it may be tempting to take advantage of every incentive program available in your local area, experts recommend taking the time to assess your home's overall performance. A home inspector or certified Energy Rater can inspect your home and provide cost-effective recommendations that provide immediate and long-term savings and efficiencies.

For example, one area homeowners often overlook is their home's envelope - that is the walls, windows, ceiling and floors. Gaps and cracks within the building envelope can add up to the size of a basketball. While that may not seem sizeable, the U.S Department of Energy Savers suggests that air leakage from these areas can account for up to 40 percent of the energy lost by your home. Air leakage could potentially cost thousands of dollars annually.

Homeowners can reduce air leakage in several ways. Ensuring your home has a polyolefin plastic house wrap is one common method to minimize air leakage. Caulking and sealing is another simple, common and quick approach that provides some relief to rising heating and cooling costs. Another consideration for homeowners is high-efficiency windows. The U.S Department of Energy Savers says that air leakage through windows equates to around 10 percent of the energy lost in the home. High-performance, low-emissivity, double-glazed windows can help homeowners conserve energy, reduce heating and cooling bills, and add value to their home.

One of the most effective methods to eliminate air leakage and live greener is replacing your home's traditional fiberglass insulation. Traditional insulation types are prone to sagging, leaving gaps as well as absorbing moisture which can have significant health impacts on occupants. Replacing your home's insulation with a high-performance material such as spray foam insulation will both insulate and air seal the entire home and lead to major cost savings. Insulation experts from Icynene suggest that quality spray foam insulation can noticeably reduce heating and cooling costs, in some cases by up to 50 percent.

A growing number of building professionals are recommending spray foam insulation as a valuable, cost-effective solution. Suitable for any climate, spray foam insulation helps retain the conditioned air within the building, allowing the heating and cooling equipment to work more efficiently rather than excessively. As a result of the improved energy consumption, heating and cooling costs are kept down and air leaks become a thing of the past.

Source: icynene.com


Uncontested Divorce Basics: 5 Things to Consider

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

Thinking about getting an uncontested divorce? You'll want to know some basics first.

Many couples who are ready to end their marriage will pursue an uncontested divorce, thinking it's a shortcut to living happily apart for ever after. But it may not be quite as simple as you think to get a "quickie" divorce.

Before you and your soon-to-be ex start down this path, here are five things you'll want to consider about an uncontested divorce:

  1. You and your spouse will need to agree on everything. Uncontested divorces are meant for couples who are on the same page regarding all crucial divorce issues, including child custody, spousal support, and property division. You can come to your own agreement or use state-provided forms, but read those forms carefully -- for example, some states' uncontested divorce forms say that both parties agree to give up their rights to alimony.
  2. You still need to fulfill eligibility requirements. Just because you've both agreed to divorce doesn't mean you can skip over the basic eligibility requirements for any divorce. This includes meeting residency requirements and paying court filing fees, among others.
  3. You may still need to wait a while for the divorce to be finalized. While an uncontested divorce may entail a more streamlined process, you still can't avoid the mandatory waiting period. Most states have a specific waiting period (some more brutal than others) before you can finalize a divorce.
  4. You may be giving up more than you realize. When it comes to property division in an uncontested divorce, many couples will simply agree to walk away with the assets that they brought into the marriage. But if you're in a community property state, know that by default, you are generally entitled to 50 percent of all community assets -- including real estate and your spouse's job earnings -- acquired between your date of marriage and your date of separation.
  5. You may want to consult a lawyer. Property division is just one of the reasons why consulting an experienced divorce lawyer is still advisable for each spouse, even in an uncontested divorce. A local attorney will be familiar with your state's laws, and will be able to make sure you're looking out for your own best interests.

Source: Findlaw.com


Q: What Can I Do to Minimize Danger and Stress Once a Construction Project Has Begun?

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

A:  Plan ahead.  Since your home will become a worksite once the remodeling begins, inconveniences will arise that can be minimized with a little planning.  Begin by having a frank discussion with the contractor to set guidelines and develop a clear understanding upfront about the various project stages and the processes involved.  Talk, for example, about where building materials will be stored, how to best protect your belongings from dust and debris, areas of your home that will be off limits to workers and whether you will need to vacate the home for any reason over the duration of the work.  

If a kitchen or bath will be out of commission, plan accordingly.  It’s okay to move the refrigerator, microwave and toaster oven to the basement or another designated area where you can prepare meals to avoid eating out.  Equally important are the rules that dictate how workers can conduct themselves in your home.  Will they be able to use your bathroom and the telephone?  Will they be prohibited from smoking, playing their radios or using profanity? Finally, remember to preserve a safe haven in your home where you can flee the chaos and dust and attempt to maintain your sanity.


Word of the Day

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

Gentrification. Process whereby private or government-sponsored development of certain aging neighborhoods results in the displacement of low- or moderate-income families by the more affluent and leads to an increase in property values.


3 Easy Holiday Shopping Strategies

November 8, 2013 3:42 pm

(BPT) - Thanksgiving comes late this year, which means a shorter-than-usual holiday shopping season. If you're not the type to buy gifts throughout the year, getting an early start on holiday shopping can help ensure you have enough time to find gifts for everyone on your list, and perhaps, most importantly, save money.

Here are three things to do now to save money and time this holiday season:

Create a list (and budget) for everyone on your list

Greet the holiday season with cheer by keeping an organized list of names of everyone you need to shop for and an estimated budget for each. From family and friends to hair stylists and teachers, more names will likely appear on your list than you originally planned. Holiday shopping can be overwhelming, but if you approach it with an organized plan, you're likely to avoid overspending and can better stick to your budget. Gift cards are a great option this year, since they are the top gift people want to give and receive, according to a recent shopping survey from Discover.

Savvy shopping tip: Look into your credit card rewards programs to see if you can cash in your accumulated rewards for gift cards, some of which are offered at a discount. Redeeming rewards for store gift cards is one of the easiest and most valuable ways to save cash, which means you won't need to reach as deep into your pockets this season.

Do your research on sales and promotions

From gifts to groceries, holiday shopping includes a wide range of items, so it's important to try to find the best prices on everything. According to the survey, Americans are most influenced by sales and promotions when it comes to their holiday spending plans. In fact, 70 percent of consumers are planning to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Whether you're brave enough to face the crowds on Black Friday or prefer the convenience of Cyber Monday, shopping these big sales is a great way to stick to your budget and make a large dent in your holiday shopping list.

Doing your homework before making holiday purchases can also help you save even more. Price monitoring sites, like PriceGrabber, can compare and contrast prices for more than 1 million items, including electronics, appliances and clothing, and can be accessed right from your mobile device. If you're shopping online, your credit card may offer extra rewards on online purchases this season that'll help you save money on holiday gifts.

Savvy shopping tip: Mark your calendars with the dates of big sales and keep coupons in your wallet so you can use them at a moment's notice. If you're shopping online, do a quick search for coupon codes that provide extra discounts, as well as free shipping or gift wrap.

Use credit card benefits and rewards to save extra cash

Whether you prefer to shop in-store or online, credit cards can enhance your savings and provide added value to your shopping. Many credit card companies provide rebates, rewards and discounts on holiday essentials - at no added cost. Once the hustle and bustle of the season is over, you might find an item you want to return, but what happens if your purchase is no longer eligible? You won't have to write it off as a loss if the purchase was made with a credit card that offers a return guarantee.

Savvy shopping tip: Use a credit card that provides added security and purchase protection including warranties and return guarantees that will help you save in the long run.

Taking a little extra time to shop smart and plan ahead will help you save and stay organized while shopping for holiday gifts and essentials. You may be surprised by how many resources are available to help stretch your budget further this holiday season.

Source: Discover


Find Classic Style in Carriage House Garage Doors

November 8, 2013 3:42 pm

(BPT) - The carriage house garage door is to your house what the little black dress and strand of pearls are to a woman's wardrobe: classic style elements that never go out of fashion.

At the dawn of the automobile age, those who were affluent enough to own a car kept it in the carriage house, where the horses and buggy would have been stored. But this cohabitation became a little, well, smelly, and the need for separate storing structures was soon realized.

Enter the garage. Built in the style of the original carriage house, the garage's sole intent was to store the car away from the animals and elements. The word garage actually comes from the French word, garer, which means to shelter and protect. Naturally, the garage needed a door to offer protection to the automobile. The ensuing "carriage house door" was a hinged, double door that swung outward, and is considered the original garage door.

In the early 1920s, the kickout door was invented and progress continued from there, bringing us the modern conveniences we have in overhead garage doors today. Modern carriage house sectional garage doors open overhead, and continue to gain in popularity, constituting 35 percent of the volume in the garage door industry with projections to remain a huge trend.

When it comes to the style of garage door chosen, most homeowners want something classic, that won't fade in popularity over the years and will also enhance curb appeal. This is especially true if home resale is a factor. A carriage house garage door is the exterior equivalent to white subway tile in the kitchen and hardwood floors inside; classic design elements that never fade in popularity.

The carriage house door also offers myriad design elements. For example, the Classica Collection by Amarr offers a dual-directional wood grain design that provides the realistic look of wood with the practicality and low-maintenance upkeep of steel. With a three-section design and the option of larger windows, this door offers a more authentic carriage house look with the benefit of additional natural light flow into your garage. Two-tone looks are also available with many color combinations and panel designs, and hardware and window choices are plentiful. These different design options can be tailored specifically to your home's facade and will further enhance curb appeal.

If you're thinking of replacing a tired garage door in an effort to boost your home's curb appeal, consider the classic carriage house door, whose popularity has only continued to grow over the last century. With a timeless design that can be specifically tailored to your house, it's a choice that both you - and future owners of your home - can happily live with for a long time.