Gunning Daily News

Feds Promote Homeowner Grants for Underserved Populations

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

I am celebrating the latest news about several programs designed to make homeownership a priority for some groups that had long-standing or traditional barriers to owning or accessing homes of their own.

On February 13, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced eight organizations will receive a total of $7.3 million in grants to improve housing conditions in Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.

Funds from both programs are intended to primarily benefit low-income families living on Indian reservations or Alaskan and Hawaiian communities. The funding is used for a range of affordable housing activities, including: new construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, infrastructure, and various support services.

Housing can be either rental or homeownership. NHHBG funds can also be used for certain types of community facilities if the facilities serve eligible residents of affordable housing.

One day earlier, HUD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced nearly $98 million in funding for 13 state housing agencies for rental assistance to extremely low-income persons with disabilities.

Many of the intended recipients are transitioning out of institutional settings or are at high risk of homelessness.

Those agencies being funded are working closely with their own Medicaid and Health and Human Service counterparts to identify, refer, and conduct outreach to persons with disabilities who require long-term supports to live independently.

The initiative is beginning in 10 critically important communities, according to HUD and HHS: Atlanta, Chicago, Fresno County, Los Angeles County, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Maricopa County, Seattle, and Tampa.

Moving or Improving? Tips for a Flawless Painting Project

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

(BPT) - Did you know spring is the best time to sell your home? And now that the housing market is bouncing back, there's never been a better time to do it. But even if you're planning to stay put for the long haul, chances are there are some much-needed touch-ups you could be doing to keep your home in tip-top shape. And you don't have to break your back, or the bank, to do it. In fact, adding a new coat of paint is a quick, affordable, and possibly the most impactful, way to get your project done.

Prep, prime and primp
Misusing color can be a surefire way to turn people off from your home. For a more inviting look that nearly everyone can enjoy, opt for neutral paint colors. A subtle beige, slight grey or even white can do the trick.
First, move furniture out of the room and place drop cloths to protect the floor. Remove any picture frames, outlet covers and wall decor. Then, gently scrub the walls with a mild detergent and water mixture using a soft sponge to remove any dirt, grime or lint. Don't forget to prime your walls before applying color to ensure the best end-results.

Paint like a pro
For an ultra-smooth finish, try Purdy's line of Ultra Finish roller covers. These premium microfiber roller covers, available in 9-inch lengths and varying nap thickness, provide an even release of paint and deliver a consistent application from start to finish. Plus, they work great with any kind of paint and finish, including satin, semi-gloss and gloss, taking the guesswork out of the DIY equation.

When applying paint, start at the top and work your way down. For superior results, you'll want to fill the well of your roller tray with paint, dip the roller in half-way and then roll it back onto the tray's angled platform to easily remove excess paint. This will reduce dripping and improve overall paint cover. The best approach for applying paint? Use your roller cover to make an overlapping "W" pattern in a 2-foot by 2-foot area; then fill in and repeat.

For smaller interior paint projects or tight spaces, Purdy also has a variety of innovative mini roller choices that are versatile, lightweight and can quickly and easily deliver a perfect finish with smooth rolling action. These combined features make them the ideal applicator for a variety of projects like painting doors and cabinets, to freshening up tables, chairs and even bedroom furniture.

Keeping your color conviction
If you're still feeling deprived of color after your painting project is complete, never fret. There are several ways to add a pop of color throughout your home without slathering the walls with offensive paint colors. Try incorporating fun accent pieces in your favorite colors - think lamps, frames, pillows and rugs. You can even include larger focal pieces like royal blue armchairs or a patterned couch to make a bolder statement. By keeping the overall aesthetics of your home neutral and inviting, and enhancing them with a few sight-provoking embellishments, house guests will be asking you for home decorating tips. And if your end goal is to get your home sold, consider these minor improvements a step in the right direction.

Too Much Stuff: Helping Kids Cut the Clutter

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

A certain amount of clutter is part of childhood. It’s an artifact of the speed of children’s development and the range of their thoughts and ideas. Trying to keep children too neat squelches creativity and limits intellectual growth. So an obsession with neatness, if that’s your issue, is your issue. Concentrate on keeping things in hand, not with apple-pie-order.

At the same time, great disorder overwhelms a child’s sensibilities. Some children are more susceptible to this than others, and need more clarity in their stuff. Even for more typically mess-tolerant kids, understanding order is the first step towards self-discipline. Montessori knew this. She knew that an orderly environment is essential for intellectual and creative growth.

So what can you do to reduce kids’ clutter without becoming a neat-freak?

Reduce
what’s immediately available. With your child, if possible, sort through things and box up stuff that’s not needed right now. Store these boxes in a closet or basement but do NOT fall into the trap of moving toys to rented storage space. No toys are worth their own apartment! The idea here is to make neatness easier by reducing the number of things needing space.

Remove what’s no longer wanted. Be ruthless. Don’t keep things toys or clothes your children have outgrown for your future grandchildren or just because you spent a lot of money on it. Move it out – maybe first to boxed storage but then to Goodwill or to friends. Stuff that is broken and unwanted needs to go to the trash. Don’t save it “for parts.”

Replace the old with the new.
If something new comes in, something old goes out, to boxed storage or out of the house completely. Some parents keep a 100 Toys list on the computer – the 100 toys that are in the playroom and a child’s bedroom. When something new is added to the list, something else is deleted. This rule requires a lot of self-discipline but it helps when your child is begging for some item to ask him to consider what he’ll get rid of to make room for the new toy.

Restrain new purchases. Not every nifty thing that catches your child’s eye deserves a place in your home. Resist the impulse to buy souvenirs when you travel or “bribe-toys” to shut your child up on a shopping trip. Avoid the necessity to “collect them all.” Recognize this for what it is – a marketing ploy.

Stuff is just stuff and the lifespan of most toys is pretty short. When you do buy toys and things, buy quality items with real play value.

The secret to an uncluttered life is a shift in perspective. No matter how cute and beloved something once was, your family doesn’t owe it anything, least of all a permanent place in your lives. Permanent places are reserved for the people in your family, and maybe for your pets. Inanimate objects must earn their shelf space or give it up.

Help your children to a proper perspective on “things” and guide them in knowing when to let things go.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Word of the Day

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

Homeowner’s insurance policy. Packaged insurance policy for homeowners and tenants that cover property damage and public liability, such as fire, theft, and personal liability.

Q: Can I Use an Agent to Purchase a Newly Built Home?

February 21, 2013 5:26 pm

A: Yes. In fact, some builders pay agents to find prospective buyers. But you also can use a buyer’s agent to help negotiate the price and upgrades on a new home. An agent can be particularly valuable directing you to newly built developments that match your needs, as well as helping you select reputable builders who are financially sound and respond promptly to buyers’ concerns.

Builders normally require an agent to be present on your first visit to the site. This is a sensible procedure that allows the agent to be paid a commission should you decide to buy. Otherwise, if you find a development on your own, make a first visit without the agent, and later make a purchase, the builder may refuse to pay the commission – even if, at some point, the agent became involved in the process.

Alabama Report Has Good Info for Any Storm-Prone Home

February 20, 2013 3:40 pm

I have been watching closely as states and homeowners continue to grapple with the after effects of serious storms that have pummeled the country in recent years. So it was a welcoming sign earlier in February when Alabama Governor Robert Bentley released his state's Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission Report.

While it is exclusive to planning for Alabama, home and property owners from Southern California to Downeast, Maine may be able to draw ideas from this report, to help inform or initiate programs in their own coastal regions.

Following the release of the report, Brandon Moseley reports in the Alabama Political Reporter that following Hurricane Katrina obtaining homeowner's coverage in various counties and coastal communities became extremely challenging and more costly than in the rest of Alabama.

Gov. Bentley said in receiving the report that, "Our goal is to help make homeowners insurance more available and more affordable, and we will move forward with the recommendations that best help us accomplish this.”

The report call for stakeholders in the construction, sale, appraisal, and financing of homes and buildings to develop and implement stronger codes and a uniform review process. The report recommends the state adopt uniform building codes that adequately address design for high winds, and uniform enforcement, are the keys to building homes that will withstand the damages caused by high winds.

This is seen as one of the major keys to normalizing homeowner insurance premiums.
For existing homes, the focus shifts to educating consumers and other stakeholders about potential insurance cost savings and return on investment that can come from fortifying and retrofitting their homes and particularly benefits gained from opening protection of windows and watertight roof systems.

Among the other recommendations in Alabama's Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission Report are:

Encourage accurate mitigation inspections by requiring that they be conducted by trained, certified building and inspection pros
Require that window protection and roof systems meet building code when re-roofing, along with licensing of roofing contractors and window protection contractors.
Develop an action-specific mitigation program that is focused on a “most bang for the buck” approach providing information for consumers and homeowners in obtaining funding for eligible mitigation items and a recommended priority list of specific methods to reduce storm damages


Read the entire report here.

Travel: Cruising 101

February 20, 2013 3:40 pm

(BPT) - If you're thinking of taking a cruise, there are a lot of options to consider, from the cruise line and style to the destinations, vacation length and types of on-board amenities. Cruising is a fun (and economical) way to see several places in a relatively short amount of time without having to unpack and repack every day. While some "hard-core" travelers may scoff at cruises, don't knock it till you've tried it.

Choose your cruise line
This is probably the single most important task when planning a cruise. Choose the wrong cruise line, or even more specifically, the wrong ship, and it can mean the difference between a blissful, relaxing trip or one filled with 18-year-olds getting rowdy on rum punch. To figure out which ship and line suits your preference, do some research online and ask friends who have taken cruises. Find out the median age onboard; if a ship caters to an older demographic, there's typically not much to do after 10 p.m. Ask about the quality of food. The food on most vessels is in line with what you get at 4- and 5-star restaurants on land, so beware that elastic waistbands might be needed by the end of your trip. Also gather opinions on cruise schedules. Some cruise lines allow for flexibility in your itinerary, others have two dinner seatings and if you're not on time, you don't eat. Ask about the activities are onboard. Is there a variety? Are the shows good? Finally, inquire about the decor; newer or updated ships will feel more like a Ritz-Carlton than a Motel 6.

As far as cruise styles, "mainstream" cruise lines can carry a small city on the water. Other cruise lines, such as Viking River Cruises or Oceania Cruises, provide luxury and a slower pace. There are also specialized cruise ships, like the American Queen Steamboat that runs multi-day cruises up and down the Mississippi River.

Choose your destinations

After finding the right cruise line, figure out how many days you want to spend on the cruise (remember that depending on where you live, it can take a day to travel to the departure port and a day to travel home). The number of days will then dictate what destination options you have. Some itineraries will feature just one port for visiting, while others will dock at anywhere from three to 10. If you're traveling from the United States, the travel experts at Away.com recommend touring the Caribbean, Hawaii or Alaska. There are also plenty of cruise lines that tour the Mediterranean, the rivers of Europe, and even Russia and Asia. Cruising allows you to get an overview of destinations, rather than an in-depth look into the local scene. Because you're traveling by a large ship (unless you do a river cruise), you will explore only coastal towns, and typically the ship will be in port only for about a half a day. As you peruse the destinations available, you can normally see a sample itinerary, too.

Book your cruise
Once you've selected the cruise line, the number of days and the destinations you want to visit, then you're ready to book your cruise. With all your meals, snacks and beverages (alcohol and specialty restaurants onboard might cost more), your room, and onboard entertainment covered, there's not much left to plan. You can choose to research things to do in ports, or you can take advantage of the shore excursions that cruises offer.

Pack for your cruise

No matter your destinations, it pays to look up the typical weather and pack accordingly. A cruise in July might sound warm, but if you're heading to Alaska you can skip the bathing suit and pack an extra sweatshirt. Everyone packs differently, but it's in your best interest to pack minimally, as the rooms are not as big as a typical hotel room. Bathing suits and shorts are usually fine for the daytime, but evenings typically require more of a resort-casual wardrobe. And most ships have one or two formal nights, so pull out the old bridesmaid or prom dresses. Most importantly, if you're traveling outside of the United States, make sure your passport is up to date and packed along with your ticket so you'll be good to sail away.

Financial Tip of the Week: Saving for a Vacation

February 20, 2013 3:40 pm

With spring break right around the corner, many are beginning to think about their next vacation—and their bank account.

It turns out planning a vacation is good for both your spirit and your finances. Taking a vacation is something everyone should do because it helps you relax and get away from day-to-day chores. The key is planning in advance so you know all of your expenses are covered without creating new debt or other financial obligations.

BMO Harris Bank suggests four steps to make taking a vacation possible in 2013:
Create a vacation budget. The first step is deciding how much you want to spend on your vacation. Is it a weekend getaway or a weeklong excursion? You need to know how much travel, lodging, a rental car, dining and entertainment will cost. You can then divide it up between the months until your vacation to give you a ballpark figure for how much you need to save.
Open a separate vacation savings account. This allows you to watch your money grow and also keep you less tempted to spend it on other expenses. To make saving even easier, you can use an auto savings program to transfer a predetermined amount of money at set times during the month from your checking to savings account.
Save a portion of your tax refund. Also consider saving any work bonuses, gift money and even the loose change you have in your wallet or pockets at the end of the day. Many people are surprised that even small amounts can quickly add up.
Try a one week spending fast. Once a month, try spending as little as possible over the course of one week. For example, don't spend money on coffee, lunch, going to the movies or happy hour with your coworkers. Instead, take that money and put it in your vacation savings account.

Source:
BMO Harris Bank

Word of the Day

February 20, 2013 3:40 pm

Historic structures. Buildings of historical or architectural significance, perhaps landmarks, that are designated by federal, state, or local historical commissions.

Q: What Does a Buyer’s Agent Do?

February 20, 2013 3:40 pm

A: A buyer’s agent represents the buyer exclusively. This means he works to protect your interests in the transaction and helps to negotiate the best purchase price and terms. More information about buyers’ agents is available by contacting the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents at (609) 799-4382, or log on to www.naeba.org.