Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

March 28, 2013 10:56 pm

Loan-to-value ratio.  Relationship of a mortgage loan to the appraised value of a piece of property.  Usually expressed to the buyer in terms of how much the lender will lend, i.e. – 75 percent financing.



Q: What Guidelines Are Useful for Finding an Architect?

March 28, 2013 10:56 pm

A:  Start by finding out who designed the projects that you like in your community. Get referrals from people you know, or the local American Institute of Architects (AIA).  Interview three to five firms to get a range of possibilities for your project.  But only select firms that specialize in residential designs, preferably remodeling, and review their portfolios and talk with past clients.  Insist on meeting the key people who will work on your project and ask questions until you’re comfortable and confident about your decision.  Ultimately, select a firm based on its design ability, technical competence, professional service, and cost.  Then, enter into detailed negotiations about service and compensation.  The AIA offers standard-form owner-architect agreements that can help you begin this process.    

Tips to Simplify Your New Home Purchase

March 28, 2013 9:26 pm

Buying a home is a huge step. Learning to maintain and improve it is a long series of baby steps, sometimes painful and sometimes rewarding.

To help get new homeowners off on the right foot, the editors at The Family Handyman –some of the sharpest DIY Veterans around—offer their best tips for choosing, maintaining and improving a home.

These hints include:

1. Scout the neighborhood: Ask questions. When you are checking out your future home, try going on separate occasions and different times of the day. Ask neighbors about the area, schools, etc. This will give you a real indication of what the people and place is really like. You’ll feel more confident with your decision to move in once you have done all the proper research.

2. Check crime stats: Before buying, get a report of police calls in the neighborhood. A bargain price may be due to the crime rate in the area.

3. Verify everything: Get the house history and insist on full written disclosure from the seller about remodeling, repairs, old damage, leaks, mold, etc. Check with the city or county, and get—in writing—the property's permit history, zoning, prior uses, homeowners' association restrictions and anything else you can find out. Forget “location, location, location” and think “verify, verify, verify!”

4. Get a licensed home inspection: This is extremely important. Don't let your real estate agent choose the inspector. Hire someone who works for you without any conflict of interest. Inspect the inspector before you hire. Ask to see a sample home inspection report. Comprehensive reports run 20 to 50 pages and include color photos showing defects or concerns. Also ask about the length of the inspection. A thorough inspection takes a minimum of three to four hours. You should walk through with the inspector, you’ll learn a lot about your house. You may pay more for a certified inspector, but in the long run, it’s worth it. For a list of certified inspectors by the American Society of Home Inspectors, visit ashi.org.

5. Get a home warranty: Piece of mind is important. A home warranty can save you from faulty appliances and you can get the brand new items you need.

6. Make a homeowner’s journal: Buy a ring binder and keep insurance papers, repair receipts and all other paperwork pertaining to the house in it. Storing all your house information in one handy place makes life easier for the homeowner and can be a sales “plus” when selling the house later.

 

7. Get to know your house before making big changes: Live in your home for 12 to 18 months before undertaking any major renovations such as additions or knocking down walls. What you initially think you want may change after you've lived there for a while.

8. Tackle one project at a time: It’s important to take it easy, one project at a time. If you tear right into the porch, kitchen remodel, and outdoor fence replacement at the same time – you’ll have the whole house and yard torn up at the same time. It might come together, but having everything going on at once will just add a lot of stress.

9. Check the furnace filter: Look for clues when it comes to the furnace. This can give you some insight into whether the previous owner took care of regular maintenance.

10. Don’t be afraid to DIY: Ninety percent of a DIY project is having the guts to try. Worst case—you mess up and then bring in the professional. Best case—you save money, learn something new and feel a great sense of accomplishment. 

11. Finish projects . . . now: Don't learn to live with incomplete projects. If you do, the last couple of pieces of trim can linger for years!

12. Budget for trouble: The worst will happen sooner or later. As long as you’re prepared, it will just be an expense rather than a financial shock.

13. Ask neighbors about pros they trust: If you're looking for plumbers, electricians or other pros, ask your neighbors. You tend to get decent advice if you get it from people who live near you.

14. Offer to buy the tools too: You can always use more tools. If you buy from a couple that's downsizing, you might get a great deal if you purchase their garden tools, tractors, snow blowers and tools in general.

Source: www.familyhandyman.com



4 Steps to your Best Travel Insurance Purchase

March 28, 2013 9:26 pm

These days, travelers are offered travel insurance at nearly every turn in their travel planning process – from their travel agents, online booking sites, at the airport – anything to make an extra fee off the traveler.

It’s important to understand, however, that there is a best way to buy travel insurance. Below is what you need to know:

1. Get prepared

You know the minute you book your first flight or reserve your cruise, you’re going to be offered travel insurance. Stop right there! The travel insurance offered on booking engines and by cruise lines may not be the right coverage for you. In fact, if you’ve purchased their coverage before, did you even read it to see if you’d have the coverage you need? If your mother or your child is hospitalized, for example, and you want to be by their side, do you have coverage for that trip cancellation?

Many travelers make the mistake of taking the first insurance offered to them thinking it’s one less thing to cross of their list and they can get it done quickly.

Unfortunately, our comment forum is full of travelers who feel they got scammed when that impulse buy let them down and they lost even more money on their trips. The truth is that they took a shortcut and bought a policy they didn’t understand and that didn’t suit their needs.

Figure out what kind of coverage you need before you start booking your trip. Use the information here to select the coverage you need.

2. Buy your travel insurance early

Travelers enjoy some big benefits when they buy their travel insurance soon after their first trip booking. Why? Because some coverage in travel insurance plans requires booking within a certain number of days of that first trip booking.

One of the biggest ‘got-chas’ that travelers complain about when their claims are denied is due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Travel insurance companies need to exclude illnesses and injuries that happened before their coverage starts to keep their costs down. If you’re diagnosed with a condition or have a change in an existing condition but didn’t buy your coverage soon after your first trip payment, you won’t be covered if you have to cancel your trip. You can, however, buy pre-existing medical condition coverage as long as you buy your plan early in your trip planning process.

3. Compare quotes and coverage

When you look for airfare or hotels, you probably use a comparison engine like Expedia.com or Hotels.com to compare features and quotes and get the right flight or hotel room. It’s the same with travel insurance and it’s the smart thing to do.

Once you know what coverage you need, you can enter your trip dates and a few other details (age, country of origin, etc.) into our travel insurance comparison tool and get quotes from all the major travel insurance providers at once.

Need a specific coverage for your trip? Select that coverage to filter the list of available plans, then review each plan’s details to better understand the coverage. Once you find the right policy, click to buy it and you’ll get your plan documents delivered to your email in minutes.

See our instruction for getting quotes and comparing plans for more detail.

4. Use the free-look period

Unique to travel insurance policies, a traveler has the right to review the plan document and make changes or cancel their travel insurance coverage if it’s not right for them. You’ll even receive a refund of your premium (minus a small processing fee in some cases).

The free-look period is the 10-15 day period after you make your travel insurance purchase in which to review the plan details – that means sitting down with a cup of something and carefully reading the policy.

Don’t worry – these policies are not the huge documents you have to understand to get to know your homeowner’s insurance better (you read those, didn’t you?). Compared to those larger, more complicated insurance documents, travel insurance plans are relatively easy to read and pretty short.

Look carefully at these items:


  1. Read the exclusions - so you know what isn’t covered and you won’t be surprised that para-sailing isn’t a covered activity, for example. Call the 24/7 assistance line and ask questions if you don’t understand. These are the reasons your travel insurance claim can be denied, so it’s important to understand them.

  2. Check the coverage limits – the coverage limits are the maximum amounts that will be paid out for a claim and they may be too high or even too low:

    • If your cruise is costing you over $7,000 does the trip cancellation amount cover that and airfare and other costs?

    • If the plan limits are much higher than what you’ll need, call and modify the plan and the difference in the premium will be returned to you.

  3. Look for optional coverage for special circumstances – many plans provide extra coverage for special situations like ‘cancel for any reason’ or ‘cancel for work reasons’ and pre-existing medical conditions, extra sports equipment coverage, and hazardous sports for example.

  4. Double-check your trip details – be sure that the trip details you entered to purchase the plan are accurate, including trip dates, ages of each of the insured parties, and more. Many claims get denied simply because the original trip details were incorrect.

Source: http://www.travelinsurancereview.net

Cool Kitchen Gadgets for Spinning, Grilling, Baking & Pressuring

March 28, 2013 11:12 am

On occasion, I like to check out the latest, greatest gadgets and appliances to help make your life more interesting, fun and easy. So we're going continue our look at a few cool new electric kitchen accessories that are getting a lot of attention.



  • Checking in with yourresidentgourmet.net - we learned about the versatile Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker. According to Cuisinart, this is not your mother’s pressure cooker. This foolproof accessory will accomplish the task up to 70 percent faster than stovetop cooking; it has reprogrammed settings for high- or low-pressure cooking, browning, simmering and sautéing; and a removable pan that cleans up with ease.



  • The metalcrafters at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania's All-Clad (www.all-clad.com) offer an Electric Grill featuring two cooking surfaces are controlled separately so you can simultaneously grill foods like steaks and seafood that require different heat levels, from warm to searing. It includes a detachable stainless-steel splatter guard and drips and spills are channeled into a removable dishwasher-safe drawer for a quick and easy clean up.



  • Consumer Reports rated the Magimix Vision Toaster (Williams-Sonoma @ $250) a pricier eye-catching toaster featuring unique see-through sides that allow you to watch your toast turn an even shade of brown. Its single-slot design accommodates wide pieces of bread, and other special features include bagel, defrost, and warm/reheat settings. It comes in red and stainless steel.



  • Selfgrowth.com likes the Nostalgia Electrics JFD-100 Cake Pop & Donut Hole Bakery. That site claims it's the best tool for making delicious donuts and pastries, including jelly donuts, puff pancakes, buns, choc-lava cakes - even caramel brownies.



  • Finally, how about the Marinade Express, (marinadeexpress.com) a tabletop vacuum tumbler that provides a natural way to improve food preparation. Combined with MX Marinades, food prepped in the appliance comes out much more tender, juicy, flavorful, fresher tasting and healthy, according to its biggest fans.

A Strong Financial Education Makes Good 'Cents'

March 28, 2013 11:12 am

(BPT)—Millennials, also known as Generation Y or those born between 1978 and 1994, are money movers. They're wielding more purchasing power, spending $200 billion annually, and are expected to outspend the baby boomer generation by 2017, according to Kelton Research. At the same time, they face an increasingly complex global economy that puts heavy responsibility on individuals to plan for and manage their own finances from pre-college years through retirement.

This overwhelming reality presents both an opportunity and an obligation to enhance the financial literacy of young people so they're better prepared for the world they will encounter upon graduation. However, Millennials aren't the only demographic that would benefit from more resources to improve financial knowledge. No matter your age or income, having financial literacy will always be essential to making smart money decisions. One family-friendly resource available is TheMint.org - a website that provides educational tools and resources about budgeting, saving, tracking and investing money.

Financial literacy by the numbers

Young Americans are in a tough spot, financially. Today's 20-somethings hold an average individual debt of about $45,000 between student loans, credit cards, car payments, mortgages and other sources, according to PNC Bank, a staggering burden for an unprepared young person to carry, exacerbated by an elevated unemployment level among this group.

Consequently, this group is significantly more likely to feel that financial planning is complicated and overwhelming, according to a recent study by Northwestern Mutual. The study found that young people rank "not falling below your current standard of living" as an important financial goal, but only 54 percent believe that they are on track to achieve this goal.

And it's not just young people who feel they could be more financially prepared. The majority of Americans feel their financial planning needs improvement. In fact, Americans rated "improving personal finances" as their second highest annual priority, according to Northwestern Mutual's study. They are also worried they're unprepared to financially support themselves into their 70s, 80s and 90s.

Education is empowering

This month, get thinking about how you can improve your financial literacy and become better prepared for your future. You can use resources such as TheMint.org to re-teach yourself and your children how to manage money wisely. Understanding the fundamentals of personal finance is the first step to planning for the rest of your financial future. So why not learn more? It just makes "cents."

For more information, and a variety of educational resources and interactive tools, visit www.themint.org.



10 Awesome Foods to Eat Today

March 28, 2013 11:12 am

These days, there are more diet tips and food charts floating around the Internet than most of us could read in a lifetime. But most nutritionists agree that a diet low in fat and high in protein and fiber can help us fend off illness, improve general fitness, and stay in optimal health.


Based on USDA dietary guidelines, registered dietitian Carol Flynn suggests the ten best foods to choose every day:



  1. Egg whites – One of the most concentrated and easily absorbed foods on the planet, egg whites contain selenium and riboflavin, which may have anti-cancer benefits. Whip them into an omelet with veggies or scramble with one whole egg.

  2. Oats and oatmeal – High in fiber, oats are slow-digesting complex carbs that help keep energy up and blood sugar stable. Avoid high-sugar flavored oatmeal, but doopt for granola containing oatmeal.

  3. Beans – Canned, dried or re-fried, all beans are good for you. Add to pasta, soups or salads for a boost of great tasting protein, fiber and antioxidants.

  4. Quinoa – Not technically a grain, but rather a seed, it’s high in fiber and complex carbs and has all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It’s a good stand-in for brown rice or in pilaf, salads, or warm breakfast cereal.

  5. Fish – fresh, canned or frozen, fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show reduce coronary heart disease. It also helps improve circulation and reduce blood pressure.

  6. Almonds and other nuts – A handful a day, preferably unsalted, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, certain cancers and possibly Alzheimer’s. Nuts are also rich in healthy fats and antioxidants.

  7. Cruciferous vegetables – These include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and radishes, which are high in vitamin C and numerous nutrients that may have anti-cancer properties.

  8. Apples – one a day may really help keep the doctor away. Low in sugar and high in soluble fiber, apples may help reduce the risk of colon, prostate and lung cancers.

  9. Berries – All varieties are high in fiber and antioxidants, and low in sugar. Eat them out of hand or add to salads or smoothies.

  10. Salad greens – Green, leafy varieties, including spinach, are great sources of vitamins and minerals.



Word of the Day

March 28, 2013 11:12 am

Release of mortgage.  Certificate from the lender stating that the loan has been repaid.

Q: Are There Specific Questions I Should Ask a Contractor?

March 28, 2013 11:12 am

A: According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, sometimes it’s not the responses you get that are important, but what you don’t get.  So you should trust your instincts and pay attention to the information that is obviously missing.  Nevertheless, here are some questions NARI suggest you ask before signing that remodeling contract:


  • How long have you been in business?

  • What is your approach to a project such as this?

  • Who will be working on the project?  Are they employees or subcontractors?

  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?

  • Does your company carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance?

  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?

  • May I have a list of references from those projects?

  • Are you a member of a national trade association?

  • Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education?

It also wouldn’t hurt to inquire about how trash removal and clean up will be handled and the times workers will begin and end work – this is not only for your convenience but also for your neighbors, who have to endure the noise and fewer parking spaces that may result from your project.

Is Your Community Doing Curbside Food Waste Collection Yet?

March 27, 2013 5:24 pm

I just ran across a feature by Debra Atlas, an environmental journalist, professional blogger, and radio personality who posts for the Sierra Club. (sierraclubgreenhome.com/debra-atlas)

She pointed out that almost half of the nearly 250 million tons of garbage that winds up in our community landfills every year can be composted. An average single-family household throws away about 45 pounds of food scraps and food-soiled paper every month - around 25 percent of total trashed materials.

That's why Atlas and the Sierra Club are helping promote a viable alternative - curbside food waste collection. Today, more than 160 communities in 16 states have implemented curbside food waste collection programs - a trend increasing by about 50 percent annually over the past three years according to the Sierra Club post.

Organic waste like kitchen scraps and yard trimmings can be recycled into valuable compost used to enrich soil in landscaping and road construction projects. And this expanded recycling practice helps reduce the amount the methane by-product of landfill food waste in the air we breathe.

A report issued by the EPA noted that composting all the food scraps in California, for example, could cut emissions by 5.8 million metric tons each year. So what counts as “food waste?"

Food scraps such as fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and bones, bread, pasta and baked goods, eggshells, dairy products, and coffee grounds

Food-soiled paper goods such as paper towels and napkins, paper plates and cups, and pizza boxes

Milk and juice cartons

Egg cartons

Boxes from frozen and refrigerated foods

Waxed paper and paper containers

Coffee filters and tea bags

And other compostable items such as full vacuum cleaner bags, dryer lint, tissues, cotton balls, floral trimmings, and house plants

Spokane, Washington offers a service where homeowners can subscribe to put their yard and food waste carts out the same day they haul their garbage and curbside recycling bin to the curb. The material is composted for public use and the monthly cost is just $14.

Learn more by visiting the Solid Waste Association of North America (swana.org) or searching for local food waste solutions at municipal and county websites near you.