Gunning Daily News

Q: Is There Anything I Should Not Tell My Agent?

February 19, 2013 5:58 pm

A: Most definitely! Never reveal the top dollar you are willing to pay for a home. It will severely undercut your chance to negotiate the home price with the seller. While an agent may spend a lot of time showing you homes and sharing information, the reality is that she works for the seller, who ultimately pays each and every agent involved in helping to complete the home sale. The seller pays the agents in the form of a commission, a percentage of the proceeds from the home sale. The exception is hiring your own real estate professional, now commonly known as a buyer’s agent or a buyer’s broker.

5 Often Overlooked Tax Deductions

February 18, 2013 4:14 pm

According to tax experts at Kiplinger Personal Finance, there are five legitimate tax deductions taxpayers frequently overlook. Consider these, which can save you a bundle if they apply:

  • State sales tax – The state sales tax deduction, which expired at the end of 2011, was re-instated on January 1 as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations – and is retroactive for 2012. Congress offers a choice between deducting state income taxes paid or state sales taxes paid. Choose whichever gives you the largest deduction. (The IRS has tables that show how much residents of various states can deduct based on income and state and local sales tax rates.)
  • State taxes paid last year – If you paid tax when you filed your 2011 state income tax return in 2012, include the amount in your state-tax deduction this year along with state income taxes withheld from paychecks or paid via quarterly estimated payments.
  • Charitable deductions – Most of us take deductions for our larger charitable gifts, but you can write off smaller out-of-pocket costs incurred while doing work for a charity – including food you donate to a nonprofit organization or stamps you buy for your school. Keep receipts and if your contribution totals more than $250, get an acknowledgement from the charity. If you drove your car for charity in 2012, deduct 14 cents per mile plus parking and any tolls paid.
  • Job hunting costs – Qualifying expenses incurred during a job search may be written off even if you didn't land a new job, to the extent that your total miscellaneous expenses exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. Deductible costs include transportation expenses, including 55.5 cents a mile for driving your own car, plus food and lodging expenses if your search took you away from home overnight, plus cab fares, employment agency fees, and costs of printing resumes, business cards, etc. (Job-hunting expenses incurred while looking for your first job may not qualify.)
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit - Unlike the Hope Credit that this one has temporarily replaced, the American Opportunity Credit is good for all four years of college, not just the first two. The tax credit is based on 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent on qualifying college expenses and 25 percent of the next $2,000, for a maximum annual credit per student of $2,500. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less ($160,000 for married couples filing a joint return).

2013's Hot Home Trends and Easy Updates

February 18, 2013 4:14 pm

(BPT) - The top home decor trends for 2013 are already emerging, and homeowners seeking a fresh look will find a lot to love. Not only can these looks be accomplished in minimal time - they're budget friendly and easy enough for DIYers to finish in a weekend or less.

Giving your home an updated feel doesn't require a full-scale renovation. Instead, focus on simple updates for the most frequently used rooms in your house. When you're ready to get started on your home's new look, let these trends of the year be your design guide.

In the kitchen

Kitchens need to be functional, but in this hub of the home style is just as important. Upholding practicality while adding visual interest is a top trend this season. Two-toned upper and lower cabinet colors are rapidly growing in popularity as a way to let homeowners customize their kitchen spaces and express their personalities.

  • Maple is the style frontrunner when it comes to wooden cabinets, but painted cabinets in white, black and gray tones are also on the rise. Whether you opt to replace your cabinet fronts or paint them, your efforts will give you impressive - and fast - results.
  • On the functionality front, innovative hands-free faucets simplify cooking and cleaning tasks while requiring minimal effort to install.
  • Open shelving is seeing a boost in popularity. Both glass-fronted cabinets and simple open shelves capture this trend, allowing you to put your style on display while creating a sleek, updated look.

In the bath


A luxurious-feeling bath doesn't need to make big demands on your wallet. By making a few on-trend updates, you'll give your room designer appeal guaranteed to make an impression.

  • Updating the vanity, often the focal point in a bathroom, provides immediate results. Customizable modular options let you create a storage-savvy vanity that fits virtually any bathroom while also adding functional drawer and countertop space.
  • Tiling provides the perfect solution to add extra personality to your bath. Right now, trends offer two different but equally chic directions - large-scale tile and small-scale mosaics. Tiles with wood-like appearances are also gaining popularity; they create a warm, inviting look, but offer the wet-space practicality of tile. If it's your first time tiling, home improvement experts at stores like Lowe's can provide guidance to get started with your tile flooring.

Throughout the home

When it comes to low-effort, big-impact changes, it's hard to beat a fresh coat of paint. For walls that feel drab, boring or outdated, new paint makes a color statement and draws attention to architectural details. Follow these paint tips to make an instant, dramatic impression:

  • Alter the dimensions of a space by painting ceilings a slightly lighter color than the walls.
  • Create patterns and shapes using painter's tape. Stripes, chevrons and ombre effects are perfectly on-trend.
  • Highlight architectural details by painting interior doors and trim in a colorful hue instead of traditional white.
  • In one weekend or less, these simple changes will make your home feel like an entirely new space. So when the seasonal urge to renovate sets in, don't resist - reinvigorate your home with these ideas. Find more decorating trends and inspiration at Lowes.com.

Budgeting: Simple Steps to Help You Save

February 18, 2013 4:14 pm

Financial advisors will be the first to tell you: if you want to buy a house, get out of debt, save for retirement, or achieve any other financial goal, you have to make a budget.

There are many online tools to help you with budgeting, including mobile apps. But you don't have to have access to technology to create one. All you need is a pencil and some paper. These tips will help you get started.

Track Your Spending
For your budget to be effective, it´s important to know exactly where you're spending your money each month.

  • Write down all fixed monthly expenses or use your favorite online tools or mobile apps to track where the money goes.
  • Make sure to include your cash expenses since they can easily go unreported, especially if you're using computer software.
  • Add seasonal or annual expenses such as car registration, tax preparation fees, vacations, or expenses related to the holiday season.

Track at least two months to get a sense of your average expenses and avoid high or low months.

Track Your Income
The second part is identifying your monthly income. It is important to be accurate since you will be making financial decisions based on what you make. To make an accurate assessment:

  • Write down all net income from each job or income source for one month. This may include regular salary, temporary jobs, unemployment compensation, and public assistance. If the amount varies, average it out to the last 12 months.
  • Include income that occurs less frequently like annual bonuses, dividends and interests, tax refunds, etc.

Make a Budget
Once you've identified your expenses and income, it's time to make a budget. Consumer.gov has lots of information on creating a budget, but you can also follow these quick tips:

  • Create a document with two columns: one with your monthly income and another with your monthly expenses.
  • In the expenses section, separate them by fixed and flexible. That way you can prioritize your monthly expenditures.
  • If monthly expenses exceed income, then you have to look for ways to reduce expenses or make more money. It's usually more feasible to reduce flexible expenses such as mobile phones bills, water and electricity.

Stay Flexible but Focused

It is ideal to have a monthly budget where income is greater than expenses, and where the budget includes a monthly savings amount. These tips can help you balance your family budget. Because things can change month to month, experts recommend that you remain as flexible as possible and adjust when needed.

SOURCE:
http://www.usa.gov/gobiernousa/


Word of the Day

February 18, 2013 4:14 pm

Grantor. Person named in a deed who conveys ownership of real estate; the seller.

Q: What can I expect from a good real estate agent?

February 18, 2013 4:14 pm

A: Competence, efficiency, and ethics. According to the All America’s Real Estate Book by Carolyn Janik and Ruth Rejnis, good agents take the time to qualify buyers and show properties in their price range. They plan showing routes carefully and have pre-inspected most properties. They have a thorough knowledge of financing options, are up on the latest housing trends, and share with prospective buyers data on the local housing market and home sales.

Good agents also adhere to a strict code of ethics. They avoid high-pressure sales tactics, refrain from showing properties that do not fit your needs or goals, and alert you to problems about the condition of the property. And they show respect for other agents and real estate firms by not “bad mouthing” them.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Remodeling

February 14, 2013 6:28 pm

Whether it’s adding a sunroom, refurbishing a bath, or modernizing your kitchen, remodeling projects can be fun and exciting and add comfort and value to your home. But, noted contractors at a home remodeling expo in California, costly planning or construction mistakes can cost you time, money, and satisfaction.

The experts advise avoiding these top five remodeling mistakes:
• Not getting a permit – A room added without a permit may not be counted as part of your total square footage when you sell. It may cost you a few bucks in the short run, but check with your city about zoning restrictions and necessary permits before you begin any project.
• Being too trendy – Home design trends go in and out of fashion. Today’s popular vessel sinks for example – the ones that sit on top of the bathroom counter like a salad bowl – could be out of favor down the line. Unless you love them unconditionally, err on the side of the more traditional when choosing colors, patterns and designs.
• Lowballing – Inexpensive is good. Cheap is not, and there’s a difference. Choose quality materials from roofing shingles to kitchen cabinets because you may be in for a major disappointment when shoddy materials don’t perform as expected.
• Inaccurate measurements – If you’re doing it yourself, measure everything three times before the fabric, lumber, or granite is cut or the new refrigerator is selected. Best choice? Have a licensed contractor do the work or consult with experienced installers.
• Counting on too big a payback – While it’s true that great kitchens can sell houses, be careful of over-investing. Do the work that’s needed, but understand that your beautiful new kitchen will represent no more than 15 percent of your home’s actual resale value. New windows? They will look great and reduce draftiness, but don’t expect them to “pay for themselves” in energy costs in just the first few years after installation.

Do It All Remote, Sweet Sounding Surround System Perfect for Man Cave

February 14, 2013 6:28 pm

I occasionally head down to the world of man caves to get a beat on some of the coolest new accessories and gadgets making these very personal spaces just a tad bit more comfortable.

The Mancaveday.com blog really responded to a couple of items from this year's Consumer Electronics Show including the Logitech Harmony Touch remote. This little wonder delivers fluid, one-touch interaction with a vibrant, color touch screen that allows you to quickly swipe and scroll to your favorite entertainment options, TV channels, movies, games, music - all with one touch.

According to Logitech, with 50 easy-to-customize channel icons, you and your family can access all your favorite channels with a simple tap. Just select and save your favorite channel icons from a list on myharmony.com on to your remote or create unique favorite icons using your own personalized images.

The Harmony Touch remote's low profile, sculpted buttons offer a sleek look and are easy to press. Plus, they are backlit so you can comfortably and easily navigate your favorite entertainment, even in the dark.

Another man cave recommendation is the Definite Technology Solo Cinema XTR Sound Bar. This surround sound system provides cutting edge industrial design, operational simplicity and outstanding sound.

This ultra-slim amplified sound bar, powerful wireless subwoofer, and ergonomic remote offer an immersive 5.1 channel sound experience with contemporary aesthetic beauty…minus the clutter of component systems.

At only 2-3/8" deep, the SoloCinema XTR is the perfect complement to today’s ultra-slim TVs. It can be either wall or shelf mounted with the supplied brackets and hardware.

One type of shelf hardware allows you to raise the SoloCinema bar over the TV’s protruding stand. The other set tilts the speaker upwards when placed on a shelf below the TV.

SoloCinema’s subwoofer connects to the bar wirelessly. Select the location that best fits your lifestyle and décor, plug it into a wall AC outlet and you’re ready to rock.

The slim subwoofer is easy to tuck out of sight behind or under furniture (you can place it on its back pointing up) but the folks at Definite Technology say its clean modern styling make it an object d’art when it is located out in plain sight.

May you continue to enjoy much 'hibernating' in your man cave with these two cool new components!

Q: Is There Such a Thing as "Over Improving" Your Home?

February 14, 2013 6:28 pm

A: Yes. The last thing you want to do when undertaking a home improvement is go overboard. This means fixing up the home to the point where it becomes worth far more than nearby neighborhood properties.

Down the road, when you may want to sell, potential homebuyers will be reluctant to pay, say, $200,000 for your home when others are priced at $150,000. If they want to pay that kind of money, they will likely make a purchase in a neighborhood where most of the homes sell in that price range.

Carefully measure the cost of any improvements you want to make against the overall values in your neighborhood. Otherwise, you may not recover your costs or increase your property value significantly.

Word of the Day

February 14, 2013 6:28 pm

Counteroffer. An offer made in response to an earlier, unacceptable one; it terminates the original offer.