Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

July 26, 2013 12:18 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: How Much, on Average, Can I Expect to Spend on Home Maintenance?

July 26, 2013 12:18 pm

A: Expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows, and routine system repairs and maintenance.  

An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.

Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly.  Otherwise, your home’s value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property’s condition and its market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.

Also, adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousands dollars.

 


Hold That Hybrid - Diesel May Be an Option for Green Consumers

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

These days it's not just about having a green home.  The pursuit of a green lifestyle doesn't end at your property line - it certainly extends beyond, especially to the vehicles you drive.

A recent University of Michigan study was released at the 2013 Alternative Clean Transportation Expo in Washington D.C. And overall, the results show that diesel vehicles provide a TCO (total cost of ownership) less than that of gasoline versions of the same vehicles.

According to the study, the estimates of savings for three and five years of ownership vary from a low of $67 in three years to a high of $15,619 in five years, but most of the savings are in the $2,000 to $6,000 range, which also include the extra cost that is usually added to the diesel version of a vehicle.

Highlights from the diesel-gasoline comparisons include:

  • Total Cost of Ownership: In a three year timeframe, diesel vehicles in the passenger car segment save owners significant money, with the VW Jetta owner saving $3,128, the VW Jetta Sportwagen owner saving $3,389, and the VW Golf owner saving an estimated $5,013.
  • In The Luxury Segment: all the diesel versions of the Mercedes-Benz E Class ($4,175), Mercedes-Benz GL Class ($13,514), Mercedes-Benz M Class ($3,063), Mercedes-Benz R Class ($5,951) and VW Touareg ($7,819) save owners money in the three year timeframe.
  • Fuel Efficiency: All of the diesel vehicles had better miles per gallon than the gasoline versions with diesels logging between 8 to 44 percent more miles per gallon.
  • Fuel Costs: All of the diesel vehicles had lower fuel costs than all the gas versions of comparable vehicles, with 11 of the 12 vehicles showing double digit reductions in fuel costs - as high as 29 percent.
  • Depreciation: Eleven of the 12 diesel vehicles held their value better than comparable gas vehicles over the three year timeframe with eight vehicles showing double digit percentage savings as high as 46 percent. And 9 of the 10 diesel vehicles held their value over comparable gas vehicles in the five year timeframe, with five vehicles showing double digit percentage savings ranging from 10 percent up to 39 percent.

Home Remodeling for the Long Haul: Making your Space Work for You

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

(BPT) - As more people choose to stay in their current homes longer, Americans are diving into large remodel projects. Forty percent of homeowners plan to remodel or build an addition to their existing home within the next two years, with kitchen and bathroom projects remaining the most popular remodeling jobs, according to the 2013 Houzz and Home Survey.

Home remodeling for the long term can be challenging, as newer designs may clash with the existing style of the home. The key to a successful remodel is to choose elements that will create a cohesive design throughout, yet remain fashionable and functional well into the future.

"Whether it's upgrading their existing home or renovating a newly purchased one to fit their long-term needs, homeowners are settling in and want quality products that will look great, provide design flexibility and perform well over time," says Andy Wells, vice president of product design, MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc.

Here are a few tips to help make your remodel work for the long haul:

Keep your space flexible with neutral color choices

As homeowners stay in one place longer, they are passing on bright, bold colors, especially in the kitchen and instead choosing neutral colors and clean styles that work well with a variety of design elements. Many new earthy, neutral color palettes provide visual warmth while seamlessly blending with the rest of a house. Moreover, neutral hues can increase dramatic impact when carried throughout the kitchen in various textures, such as flooring, a backsplash or cabinets.

Complement existing design elements with transitional styles

Modern cabinets can clash with traditional elements in other rooms, especially when remodeling older homes. Choose cabinets with design elements that easily transition across differing styles and bridge the gap between your desire for a contemporary kitchen and the traditional reality of an older home.

Create a functional, organized space

Functionality is essential to a kitchen or bath that will continue to meet the changing needs of your family over time, whether it's ensuring there's enough storage space for a growing family or making the home more accessible for family members of all ages and abilities. Remodeling for the long haul also means creating a planned, practical space and many new products are available that can help improve the organization in your home.

With these tips and a wide breadth of cabinetry, colors and styles designed for today's transitioning homes, remodeling for the long haul has never been easier.

Source:  MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc

 


Simple Ant Prevention

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

Of all the pests that can take up residence in your home this summer, ants are among the most common, and they don't discriminate.

"Treat ants proactively, even if you only see one or two," advises Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network's Desperate Landscapes. Jason's long experience in home remodeling and carpentry makes him an expert on how to detect and discover entry points for potentially destructive ants to enter the home. "Taking preventative measures will help you protect both the inside and outside of your home from these pesky insects."

Here are a few of Jason's tips and tricks to help protect your home and outdoor spaces from ants:

Treat Using a Systematic Approach
Even if you only see a few, adopt a systematic approach to help treat the ants you see and even those you don't. Start by treating the perimeter of your home using a product such as Raid Max Bug Barrier to defend against ants that want to enter your house. Next, use an instant-action product indoors to kill them on contact. Treat areas such as baseboards and entry points, as they are prime locations for ants to infiltrate homes. Finally, place baits in areas where you see individual ants or ones following a trail or path to protect against bigger problems in the future. Do not place ant baits in areas where sprays were used.

Clear Damp Areas
Ants love to build their colonies in moist areas, especially those in which organic mulch, leaves, weeds, branches and brush remnants collect. Places like where rain gutters overflow are perfect environments for ants so be sure to clean them out regularly. If you have an ant problem year after year, see if there is any wet debris up against your home and get rid of it. Use stone mulch and cut back weeds around the foundation.

Store Food Properly
To help protect the inside of your home from ants, store food in sealed containers, use dried goods in a timely manner and sweep up crumbs immediately. Even a small crumb on the floor is a large meal for an ant colony. Also, be sure to clean up after your pets. Many ant problems are the result of pet food bowls being left out with food remnants in them. Be sure to have an instant-action spray on hand, such as Raid Ant & Roach Killer, to kill bugs on contact. Be sure to read the label carefully when treating in and around food-prep areas.

Monitor Mounds
Outdoor mounds are nests that are underground. They are a big cue for a colony of ants, so when you see them be sure to treat them right away with a pest control product.

Check Trees
Carpenter ants are the largest of all ant species and usually get into homes from nearby trees. Inspect trees on your property for nests and treat as needed. Most carpenter ant nests are found in decaying wood in trees with holes or imperfections. In fact, carpenter ants can hollow out the wood throughout your home, causing problems that can be costly to repair.

Source: www.RaidKillsBugs.com.

 


Word of the Day

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

Valuation.  Estimated or determined value; synonymous with appraising.


Q: Are Buyers Protected against Housing Discrimination?

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

A: By law, real estate agents may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. They also cannot follow spoken or implied directives from the home seller to discriminate. If you suspect you have been discriminated against, a complaint may be filed with the local Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office nearest you.  You may call HUD’s toll-free number, 1-800-669-9777, or visit its web site at www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm.

 


4 Car Maintenance Tips

July 23, 2013 3:58 am

Cars last longer and perform best if they are kept in top condition. But that may not mean spending extra money on car care that isn’t necessary.

From Consumer Reports come the money-saving truths about four of the most common car maintenance myths:

Change oil every 3,000 miles – Although lube shops put those 3,000 mile reminders on your windshield after every lube, they really are not necessary. Save your money and stick to the guide recommended in your car owner’s manual. In most cases, under normal driving conditions, your car can safely go 7,500 miles between oil changes.

Air conditioning hurts fuel economy – Using the A/C does put more load on the engine. But Consumer Reports tests show only a very slight decrease in fuel economy as compared to opening the windows – primarily because opening windows increases aerodynamic drag. Also, using the A/C helps keep the driver alert and more comfortable, which is safer for everyone on the road.

Inflate tires to pressure shown on sidewalls – The pounds-per-square-inch figure on the side of the tire is the maximum pressure the tire can safely hold, not the automaker's recommended pressure, which provides the best balance of braking, handling, gas mileage, and ride comfort. That number is usually found on a doorjamb sticker, in the glove box, or on the fuel-filler door. Check the tire pressure monthly after the car has been parked for a few hours.

Premium gas is better for your car – Most vehicles run just fine on regular-grade (87 octane) fuel. Using premium in these cars won't hurt, but it won't improve performance, either. A higher-octane number simply means that the fuel is less prone to pre-ignition problems, so it's often specified for hotter running, high-compression engines. So if your car is designed for 87-octane fuel, don't waste money on premium.  But some cars really do require premium gas, meaning you're stuck paying extra. Keep this in mind when shopping for your next car.


Cool Your Home, Save Your Cash: AC Tips

July 23, 2013 3:58 am

(BPT) - Home cooling costs rise with the temperature, making many homeowners dread the arrival of their monthly electric bill during the good ol' summertime. Fortunately, with a few simple strategies, it's easy to cut down on cooling costs so you can enjoy summer, even through record-high temperatures.

"Air conditioning is the main way homeowners cool their home, but it's far from a one-size-fits-all solution," says Laura Johnson, home economist for LG Electronics USA. "How you choose to cool your home can make a big difference in comfort levels and energy costs."

She suggests starting by asking yourself a few simple questions:

* How hot is it likely to get in the region where you live? 
* What is the square footage you want cooled? 
* Do you have one room that just doesn't cool effectively while others are fine? 
* Do you have an existing duct system? 
* Do you want to install a whole home system, but don't have months to work with a contractor?

If you have an existing system that doesn't seem to be cooling your home as well as it should, it's time to explore other options. If your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is more than 12 years old, it's likely not working as efficiently as it could. Have a professional HVAC contractor evaluate the system. A tune-up may help the system work better, or reveal that it's time to consider a replacement.

Heating and cooling costs the average homeowner about $1,000 a year - nearly half the home's total energy bill, according to EnergyStar.gov. When researching new air conditioners, always look for the Energy Star label. If your air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an Energy Star qualified model could reduce cooling costs by 30 percent.

A variety of air conditioning systems are available. If you have an existing duct system, installing a central air conditioning system is a good option. Those without ducts aren't stuck choosing between inefficient window units or extensive construction - newer duct-free systems provide efficient cooling with high energy-efficiency ratings.

For example, duct-free systems like ArtCool models from LG, allow you to cool your entire home or just a single room without the need for invasive ductwork. There's no tearing down walls or altering your home's appearance. In most cases, a professional contractor gets the job done in less than a day. The contractor will help you determine if you need a single- or multiple-room system. Be sure to research your contractor carefully, because proper installation is key to achieving maximum energy efficiency. Plus, some duct-free systems qualify for a tax credit of $300 if you install your system before Dec. 31.

No matter what air conditioning system you choose, be sure to check the "SEER rating." SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and is the industry-wide performance rating. The higher the number, the more efficiently a product will perform. The average air conditioner rating for an Energy Star-qualified window unit is a 9 to 11, while duct-free systems like the Art Cool Premier have SEER ratings up to 28, which can translate to bigger energy savings.

You can also take steps to conserve energy in other areas. During sunny, hot periods of the day, use appropriate window coverings to block heat and conserve the cool air. Avoid using the oven or excessive electronic devices - like TVs or computers - which can put off a lot of heat.

Always adjust the thermostat to the highest temperature that is still comfortable during summer. A smaller difference between the indoors and outdoors means a smaller energy bill. Use a programmable thermostat that increases the temperature setting when you're away from your house, such as during work hours. Set the system to automatically adjust to a cooler temperature setting an hour before you return home and you won't even know the difference.

"By evaluating your air conditioner and taking a few efficiency-improving steps to cooling your home, you'll stay comfortable and help lower your energy bills," says Johnson.

 


Turn Your Balcony into an Edible Garden

July 23, 2013 3:58 am

Improvements in container gardening equipment and techniques have cleared the way for even the most “brown thumb” city dwellers, and anyone without a yard, to grow their own groceries.

“There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants a garden from having one,” says Roy Joulus, CEO of Greenbo.

“Plants add a great deal to our quality of life – from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they’re convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.”

While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, Joulus says starting a balcony garden needn’t cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you’ll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.

He offers these tips especially for balcony gardeners:

Plant the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have:

Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn’t get that much sun?

• Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or lightly shaded all day.)

• Remember, pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive. Plants in regions with short growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day. 

Choose the right pots:

• Bigger pots require less water and are less likely to blow over on high-rise balconies where the winds can be fierce. Terra cotta allows moisture to escape fairly quickly, which is helpful for people who like to water a lot. Non-porous plastic or glazed pots hold water longer and are better for windy balconies, where soil dries out quickly. Use brightly colored containers to add style and visual interest to your garden.

• Most vegetable plants require even watering – don’t let them dry out completely and don’t keep them soggy. Apply water directly to the soil.

• Make sure your containers have drainage holes or a drainage system. If they have an attached tray to catch excess water, don’t allow the plants’ roots to sit in the water, which promotes rot and fungus. Either empty the tray regularly, or use a design that holds the water away from the roots.

Use the right dirt:

• It’s important to use dirt that allows for good drainage. Most edible plants don’t like to sit in wet dirt, and soil without good drainage tends to become compacted – a difficult medium for plants that like to stretch their roots out. You can buy a sterile soilless potting mix, a soil-based potting mix, or mix up your own batch using 1 part compost, 1 part perlite and 1 part potting soil.

• Don’t use garden soil or top soil, which won’t allow adequate drainage.

• On windy balconies, top-dress your container with small rocks to keep the soil from drying out so quickly.

Joulus offers one more tip for high-rise dwellers: Rely on self-pollinating plants, or plants that don’t need pollination by insects, unless you’re willing to hand-pollinate.

“You likely won’t see many bees buzzing around the 40th story,” he says.

Don’t worry about pollination for root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes. Some self-pollinators include beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.