Gunning Daily News

Stress-Free Trip Planning

June 3, 2013 6:02 pm

According to data from the U.S. Travel Association, three out of four domestic trips are taken for leisure purposes. And, in 2012, planned travel spiked by 61 percent between May and October as the summer months and warmer weather hit the nation.

To help take the guesswork and stress out of trip planning this travel season, below are several trips to consider, courtesy of LiveLifeLocal:

The Internet is the best traveler's guide out there. An unplanned adventure can bring a sense of excitement to summer travel plans. But, when heading on vacation with a family or a large group, spontaneity isn't always an option. Online resources can make it easy to plan a full itinerary for your trip – whether it's a road trip across country or a day trip to a local town.

Plan ahead and pack smart. Packing for an extended trip can quickly take the joy out of traveling. Avoid this stress by packing compact. Other tips like using vacuum bags to conserve space or packing multipurpose items, such as a sleeping bag that works as a picnic blanket, can help eliminate clutter.

Don't let gas costs limit destination desires. The drive can be just as fun as the destination itself when it comes to summer road trips. Simple tips for how to save at the pump, like fueling up in larger cities and leveraging the cruise control, can help limit gas expenses and enable travelers to take advantage of the open road.

"With kids out of school for the summer, we see families and individuals alike out traveling and experiencing new events now more than ever," says Eric Trott vice president of marketing, Safeco Insurance. "Regardless of the vehicle you're traveling in, summer is the time to explore a new city or become a tourist in your own town. LiveLifeLocal is geared directly towards making that possible with inspiration of where to go and tips on how to get there."

Source: www.livelifelocal.com

 


Packing Tips for Summer Moves

June 3, 2013 6:02 pm

(BPT) - Let's face it - moving is hard. Along with the stress of leaving a familiar place and adapting to new surroundings, moving means packing, loading, transporting, unloading and unpacking everything you own - as well as everything you forgot you owned.

While relocation may never be completely carefree, there are ways to ease the anxiety. A well-thought-out approach to boxing up belongings can help simplify the moving process and bring you one step closer to making your new house a home.

Box it up. To be prepared for packing, seek out a large quantity of clean, sturdy containers in a variety of shapes and sizes. When selecting boxes, you may choose to purchase new ones, helping to ensure they can withstand the rigors of moving. You can also purchase dividers, which come in handy for packing glasses and other small, fragile items. No matter what you are using, remember not to over-pack. As a general rule, heavier items should be placed into smaller boxes to avoid too much strain on the box (and your back).

Leave it. The easiest packing is no packing at all. Moving is the perfect time to clear the clutter out of your life. Before boxing up your belongings, decide what to keep. Clothing and housewares in good shape can be donated, and broken or unused old items can be tossed or given to someone who can repurpose them.

Mind the supplies. The right tools can go a long way toward easing the moving process. Pick up plenty of quality wrapping material, like Bubble Wrap Brand cushioning, as well as strong packaging tape to help make boxing up your belongings a painless process. Don't get caught up in common frustrations that cause stress and waste time, such as tape that constantly tear or splits or struggling to find the tape end. Choose a quality tape, like Duck brand EZ Start packaging tape (packagingtape.com), for your moving needs; the brand's Frustration Free special release technology ensures that you never lose the tape end. And EZ Start unrolls smoothly and easily, without splitting or tearing.

Organize and prioritize. Pack from room to room and label boxes based on box contents, where boxes will be unpacked in the new location and priority. EZ Start packaging tape provides a solution here, too - with different prints to choose from, boxes can be organized and prioritized according to the particular design used.

Get help. Be organized to help the entire moving day run smoothly, so that your volunteers aren't waiting around for a job to do. Providing tasty snacks and drinks is a thoughtful way to say thank you, as are gift cards for coffee, movie theaters or their favorite stores.

Pack a survival kit. Moving can be exhausting, and an all-day move may not wrap up until late in the evening. Don't spend your first night in your new home unpacking. Instead, pack a survival kit or an "Open Me First" box with essentials to get you through that first night. Make sure to include some fun items, such as your favorite movie or a batch of brownies, to reward yourself for a hard day's work.

Moving day may never rival a beach vacation, but these simple tips can make it a lot less stressful and help you enjoy your new home faster and easier.


Mortgage Interest Deductions: Are We Leaving Too Much 'Free Money' on the Table?

June 3, 2013 6:02 pm

I was somewhat shocked to discover a recent Pew survey showing about half of homeowners who might qualify to take a mortgage deduction on their federal income tax, chose not to do it.

According to the survey, one of the largest tax expenditures in the U.S. tax code is the deduction for home mortgage interest. Tax filers who own a home and itemize their deductions are allowed to subtract interest paid on mortgage debt from their income.

The report states that before the onset of the housing crisis and the beginning of the Great Recession, the total mortgage interest deducted by tax filers hit its peak in 2007, resulting in $543 billion in deductions and roughly $85 billion in forgone revenue.

But between 2007 and 2010, the total deduction amount fell 28 percent, and the number of claims declined by 12 percent. The report also shows that the geographic distribution of this tax expenditure generally is skewed toward areas with relatively high incomes and property values.

The report, for the first time, uses detailed ZIP-code-level data from the Internal Revenue Service to show that the distribution of the deduction appears even more skewed at the metropolitan area level, with tax filers in and around major metropolitan areas generally claiming the deduction at much higher rates and greater average amounts than filers in less-populous areas.

Other factors influencing the distribution, including differences in housing turnover frequency and the proportion of tax filers living in rental housing.

With changes to tax expenditures under consideration, the Pew study poses that data showing the current geographic distribution of the mortgage interest deduction should initiate informed discussion about how changes to tax policy would affect home owners in individual states.

Any modification to the deduction — such as eliminating it, capping itemized deductions generally, limiting deductions to mortgage interest paid for first homes, or replacing the deduction with a credit — would likely alter the distribution of this federal tax expenditure across geographic areas.

Depending on how any changes are structured, federal taxes could increase in some areas and decrease in others. So the issue of home mortgage deductions may be a topic worth following whether you are taking advantage of the tax benefit or not.

 


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

June 3, 2013 6:02 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.


Word of the Day

June 3, 2013 6:02 pm

Listing.  Contract used for hiring a real estate agent to sell a piece of property.  Also a piece of property that is for sale.

 


Top Five Summer Home Maintenance Tips

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

The warmer weather has us all heading outside to soak up the sun, but it’s also a good reminder to take care of some basic things around your house. Here are the top five home maintenance tips for the warmer months, from Pillar To Post.

Inspect air-conditioners: If you have central air, you’ll want to clean the exterior condenser unit and all of its components, removing debris and trimming back any plants that are growing near it. You should also rinse down the interior of the unit, straighten out bent fins and lubricate the motor. You’ll also want to clean or change the air filters, inspect the drain line for debris and make sure all hoses fit securely. You can do this all yourself with guidance from the unit’s owners’ manual or call in a professional. If you have window units, the job is a little bit easier. You simply have to install the units and clean the filters. This is also a good time to deep clean all the fans and ceiling fans in your home.

Mulch: adding a layer of mulch to gardens and other non-grassy areas helps prevent weeds. It also helps the soil to hold moisture and nutrients during the warmer months, giving your plants a better chance of growing.

Inspect for leaks: Checking exterior hoses and faucets for leaks can lead to big savings. Even a small leak can cost big bucks. Many small leaks can be fixed with a piece of electrical tape. You’ll want to call in an expert for larger leaks.

Clean siding: Avoid streaks by applying the cleaner starting at the bottom and working your way up and rinsing from the top down. Cleaning your home’s siding yearly can help prevent mold, mildew and staining. It also keeps it looking brand new, adding value to your home.

Inspect your crawlspace: check for signs of termites and moisture. Even floors that appear dry can be damp. Dampness can cause damage to the entire house. If you have a dirt floor, installing a vapor barrier is recommended. If you have concrete, sealing it is ideal. This annual check is also a great time to check sewer lines, particularly beneath toilets and sinks, for evidence of leaks.

Source: www.pillartopostfranchise.com

 


Green Your Summertime Soiree

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

Now is the time many people are planning summertime get togethers, so I wanted to pass on a few ideas about hosting an environmentally friendly backyard barbecue, graduation ceremony, wedding, or when enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.

While balloons are a popular celebrating tribute, do not release helium balloons into the air.  In Connecticut, for example, it is illegal for any person or any group to intentionally release 10 or more helium balloons per day.

A summer breeze can transport balloons released in inland areas all the way to Long Island Sound or any adjacent water body. Once in the water, deflated balloons – just like plastic bags and other floating plastic garbage – look like food.

When marine animals eat the floating plastic, their digestive systems become blocked. The “Balloons Blow... Don’t Let Them Go” website (balloonsblow.org) is a resource for environmentally friendly alternatives, and ways to spread the word about balloons.

Other green summer event tips include:

  • Using reusable plates, cups and cutlery if possible. If you use disposable plates or napkins, look for those made from recycled content, and avoid polystyrene foam products.
  • "Compostable" utensils and plates are only “greener” if you have made arrangements for composting them. For light snacks, try to serve "finger food" or food that can be served with minimal plates and utensils.
  • Use cloth or reusable tablecloths. These can be rented along with tables and other event supplies so that you don’t have to buy a lot of items unnecessarily.
  • Serve drinks from pitchers or bottles rather than individual drink bottles.
  • Serve locally grown foods whenever possible. It is possible to find many different fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads, dips, beers and wines. Check with your state or county Dept. of Agriculture for Local Grown programs.
  • Provide separate containers for trash and recycling and have them clearly marked. Make sure trash containers are paired with recycling containers. For some regionalized information on event recycling, go to www.ct.gov/recycle.
  • For favors or centerpieces, choose edible or plantable items, which are less likely to end up in the trash. Buy local flowers or plants from farmers markets or farm stands, or, for real freshness, find a “pick your own” location.

5 Tips to Avoid Fees, Traps and Moving Scams

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

A recent Consumer Reports story found that last year, Massachusetts officials sued one moving company and New Jersey officials sued two for providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating fees after loading the trucks. One of the companies had threatened to auction the possessions of customers who didn’t pay.

Hiring a moving company can be complicated, and even an honest mover can disappoint a consumer unless they know their rights. And those rights can vary depending on whether you’re moving between states or within one. Consumers need to protect themselves, and here’s how:

Get recommendations. Try not to rely on newspaper, phone-book, or online ads for the names of movers. Instead, get recommendations from friends, family, or reliable real-estate agents. Plan to obtain estimates from at least three companies. Avoid movers that can’t provide an address or licensing information. Ask if they have marked trucks, and use a mover that does. Never hire a company that relies solely on a phone or online estimate, or one that requires a large deposit.

Verify licensing. In August New Jersey officials announced a sting operation that resulted in fines against 25 unlicensed moving companies with listings on Craigslist, Angie’s List, and other websites.  Several movers had outstanding warrants; two were wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which offers information on how to screen them, at www.protectyourmove.gov. The site also has a list of state regulators who oversee in-state movers. (Click on “State/Local Resources.”)

Check for complaints. Along with licensing information, the federal website and some state sites list complaints against movers. Also check the BBB (bbb.org), and search with the company’s name to find reviews and complaints on online forums and complaint websites.

Know your rights. The federal government and some states require movers to provide booklets explaining your rights. Although the federal “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” doesn’t apply to in-state movers, it’s a must-read for all. Find the title under “Are You Moving?” at www.protectyourmove.gov. Also check the consumer information on the American Moving & Storage Association’s website (moving.org).

Making Complaints. If there’s a problem after the move—you notice items are damaged or missing—contact the mover immediately. The mover should have given you a copy of its procedures for handling complaints and inquiries. If you think you’ve been defrauded or that the mover violated the law, contact your state attorney general or consumer protection agency. If you think the mover is illegally holding your possessions and trying to rip you off, contact the police. If ultimately you need to sue in small-claims court, send your mover a demand letter with your complaint and what you’re seeking.

Source: Consumer Reports


Q: What Are Some Costs Associated with Buying a New Home?

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

A: You can expect moving expenses, loan costs, the down payment, a home inspection, title work and policy, and paying for a new hazard insurance policy. Your lender can give you a disclosure of estimated costs when you apply to be pre-approved for a home loan.


Word of the Day

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

Lien. A debt on a property which encumbers it until the obligation is paid; a mortgage, back taxes, or other claim.