Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

Master deed. Document that converts a parcel of land into a condominium subdivision.


Q: Are Interest Rates Negotiable?

October 11, 2013 6:57 pm

A: It depends who you negotiate with.  Some lenders are willing to haggle on both the loan rate and the number of points, but this is not typical among more established lenders.

This is why it pays to shop around for the best loan rates.  And know the market so that you sound informed when talking to a lender. Read the published rates in local newspapers or check the growing number of Internet sites that publish such information.

Also, always make a point to consider the interest rate along with the points to access which loan is truly the best.

Interest rates are much more open to negotiation on purchases that involve seller financing. While they are usually based on market rates, some flexibility exists when negotiating on the rate.


Finding a Builder for Your New Home: Hire a Professional

October 10, 2013 6:09 pm

Contracting the right builder is a critical first step in the construction process of your dream home.

Some homeowners liken it to hiring an employee -- while others compare the experience to a marriage – you have to spend a lot of time together, make a lot of big decisions and ultimately trust each other to build something that lasts.

“This is the biggest purchase you make – period,” new homeowner Amy Greene says.

Don Ghiz also has recent experience in hiring a contractor. He is in the middle of a construction project and said he spoke to several candidates before making his selection.

Before picking a contractor, Ghiz evaluated a number of builders based on their level of experience, competency, style of house they were comfortable building, method of accounting, communication skills and willingness to stay positive.

“In a city like Houston, we are fortunate to have many good quality builders that meet those basic requirements,” he says.

Both homeowners and builders offer the following advice on what to look for when choosing a builder:

1. Ask for recommendations. Greene said she found her builder, Brandon Lynch, by asking her friends. Having a recommendation helps. “I’d definitely do my homework and look at a lot of custom builders,” she said. “Then go look at their houses and spend time talking with them.”

Lynch agreed. “Get to know the builder,” he suggested. “Get to know who they are and what they stand for – are they passionate about building homes or are they all about the money.”

2. Get lost in the details.

Greene said that Lynch’s detailed bid sealed the deal for her. She explained that costs can go up if builders do not give all the information up front.

“Without details, prices can skyrocket,” Greene said. “You want a builder who has a really good idea of what things will cost.”

Ghiz noted that customers need to assess the builders’ choice of quality materials and be assured that contractors will not cut corners to save expenses without discussing the options.

“In my case, I looked for a builder with genuine concern that I get what I want at a fair price,” he said. “I looked for a person who would say, with honesty, ‘I don’t think you’ll like that, and here’s my reason for saying it.’”

3. Talk it out. As in any good relationship, communication is key.

Greene and Lynch spent hours talking before they began to work together.

“We discussed every detail of the project in full before we started construction," Lynch said.

4. Trust your instincts – and back it up.

For Ghiz, it all came down to trust.

“When all is said and done, your builder will spend many months on what you may live in for the rest of your life, so consider the choices carefully and don’t ignore your gut,” he said.

Hann was the builder who fit the bill for Ghiz.

“We have barely started construction, but I already like the choice I made,” Ghiz said.

“I feel fortunate to have a professional builder like Stephen Hann.”

Ghiz' builder, Stephen Hann, agreed that trust is essential, adding that his years of experience in the business help his clients believe in him as a builder. He also has several certifications in construction, as well as several examples of other homes he has built to show.

“I come with a confidence level that clients appreciate,” Hann said. "The whole decision boils down to comfort level and proficiency.”

5. Use your resources. Building groups, like the Custom Builders Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association, can be great resources for homeowners.  

Source: www.ghba.org/consumers


Protect Your Business from Disaster

October 10, 2013 6:09 pm

Businesspeople know that when a disaster occurs recovering and restoring business operations is far easier when you are prepared with a detailed plan.

With that in mind, below are tips to help business owners minimize risks and plan for a safe, speedy recovery in the event of an emergency.

"A solid disaster plan will help minimize damage in the event of an emergency, while also providing a clear path to quickly recovering your business operations," says Jack Roche, president, business insurance at The Hanover. "And disaster planning doesn't need to be an overwhelming task. Begin by contacting your independent insurance agent to review your coverage and risk management solutions, to make sure your business is adequately protected."

Minimize risks ahead of time

  • Review your business insurance policy with your insurance agent or advisor: Discuss possible disaster threats, including fire and weather, and make sure your policy includes the proper coverage and endorsements


​Develop a strong disaster plan

  • Identify business-critical activities and resources: Lining up resources now with clear accountabilities, will enable you to maintain customer service, if and when your business facility is closed for repairs.
  • Keep up-to-date duplicate records of both computerized and written records: Maintaining and safeguarding accurate business records isn't just practical—it's the law. Having this information will also help you to get back into business much quicker.
  • Plan for the worst: Before disaster strikes, find and develop a list of alternate facilities, equipment and supplies, and identify qualified contractors to repair your facility.
  • Consider emergency resources: Your disaster plan should include sources for back-up power and for employee and customer communications, as well as first-aid kits, water, and flashlights.
  • Compile and share a list of important phone numbers: In addition to your employees and company officers, your emergency contact list should include local and state emergency management agencies, major clients, contractors and suppliers, realtors, financial institutions, and your insurance agent. Be sure your list includes primary and cell telephone numbers.
  • Include a plan for contacting customers: You don't want to lose your customers because of a fire or other disaster. So make sure your plan includes a way to stay in touch with your customers. Depending on your business model, you may want to be prepared to post information on your website or reach out by telephone, email, or social media channels.
  • Train your employees and establish your emergency response plan: Build your plan and make sure employees are trained on how to execute it, including evacuation procedures.
  • Review and update your plan on a regular basis: Keep you plan current and communicate any changes to your employees. Do it at least annually or more frequently.
  • By planning ahead for a fire or other disaster, you will help protect your business, employees, and valued customers.


Source: www.hanover.com.

 


Stay Safe: Kitchens Often Top Location for Home Fires

October 10, 2013 6:09 pm

Cooking is the No. 1 cause of home fires, and a significant contributor to home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

It's a good idea for parents to talk to their children about fire safety in the home.

"Children practice fire drills at school, and adults practice them in the workplace, but many families have not practiced a fire escape plan in their homes," says Kathy Krafka Harkema, Pella Windows and Doors spokesperson and fire safety educator. "Make the time to help protect your loved ones. Consider what you can do to observe fire safety, as well as window and door safety."

Through its Close the door on fire® campaign, Pella encourages consumers to practice home safety year-round:

Identify, Prepare, Practice

  • Evaluate fire safety risks inside your home and immediate surroundings. Equip your garage with smoke detectors since garage fires can start and spread quickly. Also, properly extinguish fire in indoor fireplaces or outdoor fire settings like grills or fire pits to help prevent the risk of fire spreading around your home or elsewhere. Check for local burn ban ordinances and follow them.
  • Identify two exits - Designate two exits from every room in your home -- a door and a window. Make sure doors and windows open quickly and easily to help ensure a quick exit; if not, consider replacing them for safety's sake.
  • Have a plan - Draw a floor plan of each level of your home. Before an emergency strikes, establish and communicate a meeting place a safe distance outside your home for your household members to gather in the event of a fire.
  • Check the alarms - Install working smoke alarms in or near every sleeping area and on every level in your home. Test alarms monthly, change batteries regularly, and every 10 years replace alarms not permanently wired into your home's electrical system.
  • Make smart purchases - Keep fire extinguishers in your home. If your home includes more than one story, consider keeping a fire escape ladder in bedrooms and sleeping areas to help prepare for an exit from an upper story in the event of an emergency. Mark their location on your home fire plan and share this information with those in your home. Since many fires start in the kitchen, keep a fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen.
  • Test the alarm - Sound smoke alarms when household members are awake so everyone knows what they sound like, and test your family's ability to awaken to alarms during sleeping hours. If those in your home don't awaken easily, assign someone to awaken sound sleepers in the event of an emergency.
  • Practice makes perfect - Practice your home fire escape plan with everyone in your home at least twice a year. Practice your plan first in the daytime, to familiarize everyone in your home with what to do in the event of a fire, and then at night, when most home fires occur.

Fire safety especially critical during drought

  • Keep grass cut short around your home and property
  • Remove dried leaves and other potentially flammable debris
  • Clear debris from your home's gutters
  • Trim and remove dead plant material, like trees and shrubs, from your landscaping
  • Observe burn bans and refrain from starting outdoor fires, including campfires, fire pits and grills with exposed embers

Share window safety tips

  • Keep children's play away from windows, doors and balconies.
  • Teach people not to lean against a window screen. Insect screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep a person in a building.
  • Keep windows closed and locked when not in use to let in fresh air. When opening windows for ventilation, open those that a child cannot reach like the upper sash on a double-hung window.
  • Keep furniture like beds and dressers -- anything children can climb -- away from windows.

Source: pella.com/news


Word of the Day

October 10, 2013 6:09 pm

Exclusive-right-to-sell listing. Listing that gives the broker the right to collect a commission no matter who sells the property during the listing period.


Q: What If My Contractor Bungles the Job?

October 10, 2013 6:09 pm

A:  If you have a legitimate complaint, keep after the contractor until the needed repairs or alterations are made.  If this fails, contact your local Consumer Protection Agency.  Keep a copy of the contract, receipts, and photographs of the work.  Although it has no legal authority, you also may want to contact the Better Business Bureau, as well as your state’s Contractor License Board.  And you can take the contractor to Small Claims Court, although the amount you would be able to recover varies from state to state.  California, for example, allows judgments up to $7,500. It’s $5,000 in Virginia and less in other jurisdictions.   


What Is Your Lawn Saying About You?

October 9, 2013 8:54 pm

I just reviewed TruGreen’s Lawn Lifestyles National Survey of America. According to the survey, 52 percent of respondents believe a homeowner's lawn can tell you a lot about their personality, while nearly 8 out of 10 surveyed said, “in selling a home, it is important for the lawn to be in top shape to get the best price.”

So we'll take one final look at lawn care for this season, since fall is the best time to prep lawns, trees and shrubs for spring’s growth cycle, especially with the home buying season right around the corner.

Ben Hamza, Ph.D., TruGreen's director of technical operations says lawns become distressed from summer entertaining with family and friends and require care throughout fall. Dr. Hamza says a good fall feed is important to lawn, tree and shrub health as roots continue active growth before the dormant winter months and store reserves needed for hungry plants in spring.”

Home improvement expert Danny Lipford (todayshomeowner.com) says there are two basic types of grasses - cool-season and warm-season - with different needs and requirements:

  • Cool-season lawns (fescue, bluegrass, and rye) have their peak growing season in the early fall. This is the absolute best time of year to establish, strengthen, and cultivate these types of grasses.
  • Warm-season lawns (Bermuda, centipede, St. Augustine, and zoysia) wind down their growing season as the weather cools. Warm-season grasses go brown and dormant after the first hard freeze, so fall care for them focuses more on weed control and planning for winter color.
  • Lipford says fall is also a great time to tackle weed control with post-emergent herbicides. He says weeds, like other plants, spend the fall drawing nutrients from their leaves into their roots for winter survival.

    The increased absorption means that your weed-control products will quickly be drawn into the roots for rapid results. Correcting Soil pH can be done in the fall for any type of lawn as well.

Lipford suggests conducting a soil test to determine what amendments, if any, are needed for your lawn. Then apply lime to acid soils or sulfur to alkaline soils according to the recommendations of your soil test.

Soil tests can be analyzed through private local environmental labs, and some counties and states offer soil testing through college or university extension services.


Homeowners to Inspect, Repair Home Heating Oil Tanks

October 9, 2013 8:54 pm

As cold weather approaches, the Department of Environmental Protection is urging homeowners to act now to save energy and money by inspecting indoor and outdoor home heating oil tanks for potential problems prior to refilling them.

"It is very important to properly maintain heating oil tanks not only to save energy and money, but to protect the health of you and your family," Acting DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo says. "Don't put it off; inspect your tank now to ensure a safe, warm winter."

Leaking heating oil can cause indoor air problems and potentially contaminate groundwater and private drinking water wells. A spill cleanup can cost up to $50,000 and may not be covered by homeowner's insurance. Residents who think their oil tank may have a problem should immediately contact their oil company for help.

A quarter of all Pennsylvania homes use heating oil to stay warm in the winter.

DEP encourages homeowners to consider these tips:

  • For safety reasons, always assume the tank contains at least some oil;
  • Routinely inspect the exterior of the tank and all attached equipment;
  • Check for signs of rusting on the tank and its structural supports;
  • Examine the tank's fill line and feed line to the furnace for leaks;
  • Never tip over or empty a tank on the ground;
  • Enlist a professional to perform maintenance or alterations to a heating oil tank system;
  • Recognize that wet spots or odors near the tank may signal a problem;
  • For fuel delivery, make certain that the home address is clearly visible and the tank's fill line clearly marked. If a resident cannot be home when fuel oil is delivered, mark the fill pipe with a red flag or marker and inform the oil company of the location. Ensure that any disconnected fill pipes that remain above the ground are permanently sealed and cannot be opened.

Residents are urged to inspect and maintain their heating oil tanks to avoid needlessly losing fuel and to protect the investment they have made to keep themselves warm.

Source: www.dep.state.pa.us


Leak-Proof Your Shower Update

October 9, 2013 8:54 pm

(BPT) - Bathrooms are certainly among the busiest rooms in any home. But a bathroom can be so much more than just the place where you get ready during your hurried morning routine. One of the hottest trends in home decorating and remodeling is creating a bathroom that serves as a spa-like retreat.

Soothing colors and natural materials are right on trend, but if you really want your bathroom to be an oasis of calm, it also needs to be low-maintenance. If you're worried about your beautiful new shower leaking, it's hard to enjoy the experience. Instead, start by taking steps that ensure you don't have to worry about leaks and the damage they cause.

Whether you're a DIY expert or hiring the job out to a professional, it's important to carefully review the plans for a new shower. If you're bringing a contractor on for the job, ask what kind of materials and practices they'll be using to ensure that they're not cutting corners. If you're up for a do-it-yourself job, carefully consider the materials you'll use - look for options that make your job easier but don't skimp on quality. For instance, the new Shower System from USG is designed to streamline installation without compromising on performance.

Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your shower is as durable and leak-proof as possible:

  • The shower tray: Having the right base in your shower makes all the difference. There's a perception that the best way to ensure a leak-proof base is an expensive and labor intensive mortar bed. But there are solutions that can cut down on cost and labor. The pre-sloped, high-density, molded-foam shower tray in USG's DUROCK Shower System, for instance, has a 2 percent slope that makes it easily compatible with a wide array of tile shapes and sizes, offering comfortable flooring and simplicity of installation.
  • Waterproof membranes: No matter how beautiful your tile, it's what's underneath that counts. Using a waterproof membrane ensures far better performance long term. A strong (tear-proof) and thin waterproof membrane over a durable backerboard ensures that your shower stays waterproof, even beyond what your eye can see.
  • The drain: A securely fitted drain will help keep water flowing where it's supposed to go. If you're installing a shower system, consider using the proper drain assembly that goes along with it. There are many systems that offer a versatile drain assembly and wide range of drain grates. Keep in mind that grate height might need to be adjusted to match tile thickness.

A carefully constructed shower will hold its beauty for a long time. And that means your bathroom will remain a retreat where you can think about relaxing instead of repairing.

Source: www.durockshowersystem.com