Gunning Daily News

Setting the Right Price - Scientifically Proven to Sell Your Home

November 9, 2012 2:42 pm

I am always looking for the best advice for folks who are trying to sell their homes, and to get an honest deal. This brought me to some research published by Ken H. Johnson, Ph.D. of Florida International University. Dr. Johnson is editor of the Journal of Housing Research and guest blogger at Keeping Current Matters (

Dr. Johnson recently wrote about the important research of professor John R. Knight, who studied the impact of changing a property’s listing price to produce a sale. Knight also examined the types of property that are most likely to experience a price change.  

Findings from Knight’s research indicate that on average, properties undergoing listing price changes take longer to sell, and suffer a price discount greater than similar properties. Furthermore, bigger price changes are found to experience even longer marketing times and greater price discounts.  

Finally, as for which properties are most likely to experience a price change, Knight finds that the greater the initial markup, the higher the likelihood that any given property will experience a listing price change.

With that in mind, Dr. Johnson says sellers—as well as brokers/agents—should be aware of the critical necessity of getting the price correct from the start. Sellers wanting to over list will ultimately take longer to sell and will sell their property for less, on average, according to Knight.  

Brokers/agents’ desire to take a listing and get the price right later will ultimately lead to their working harder, according to Knight, and they are not doing their sellers any favors. Thus, an initial and detailed analysis of the proper price is much more critical than many originally thought.

Dr. Johnson found in his own research that the direction (up or down) of the listing price change does not matter. A listing price increase or decrease both lead to similar results found in Knight’s work – longer marketing times and lower prices.  

Therefore, get the price right from the beginning. In our next segment, we’ll focus on how to determine that right price from the get-go.

Q: Should I buy a vacation home as an investment?

November 9, 2012 2:42 pm

A: Like any investment, it can be risky.  Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.   

Other things to consider:

Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance and utilities?

  • What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?

  • If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?

  • What if you are unable to rent your second home?  Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?

Word of the Day

November 9, 2012 2:42 pm

Binder.  Short purchase contract used in some areas to secure a real estate transaction until a more formal contract can be signed at a later date; usually accompanied by an earnest money deposit.

7 Credit Myths that Can Hurt You

November 9, 2012 2:42 pm

These days, it seems easy for credit scores to be damaged and difficult to improve your scores even when you’ve done nothing wrong.  Because scores can be so important to your buying power and even job fitness, and because every little factor counts in determining your scores, Forbes Magazine finance writer Erik Carter offers seven credit myths that could be hurting your scores and costing you money:

I’ve done nothing wrong–Some 70 percent of credit reports contain errors. So even if you think you’ve done everything right, you could be paying higher interest rates because a reporting error has not been corrected.

Checking my scores will hurt me – Checking your own scores once each year will not impact your credit rating.

Okay, I’ve checked – Remember, there are three credit reporting companies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You need to check all three to be sure there are no errors.

The source doesn’t matter – Yes, it does. Some inquiry sites only give you access to one report. Others, like, ironically are not free. They charge a fee to see your  report and then charge you a monthly fee unless you cancel. Go to, which allows free access to each of your credit reports once every 12 months.

I’ve paid it off, so I’ll close it – Closing an account when you’ve paid it off can actually hurt your credit score. If it’s a card you’ve had for a while, closing it can reduce your credit history, which is about 15 percent of your score. Also, if you have any debt, closing a card can increase your debt utilization or the ratio of debt to credit available. Instead, you can always cut up the card and not use it.

Bankruptcy is the end of the world – It’s painful and can take seven to 10 years to be removed from your credit report, but many credit scores are practically recovered in far less time. If you can’t pay your debts, think of bankruptcy as a second chance that’s better than allowing the debt to continue hurting your score.

Maintaining a balance will increase my credit score – Opening and using a credit card can increase your score, especially if you’re starting to build or rebuild your credit. But keeping a balance will only increase your interest payments. Remember that having a lot of debt can hurt your score.

Investing In Long-Term Energy Savings

November 8, 2012 5:30 pm

In this segment, we’re going to talk about long-term energy savings and consider a few effective but higher cost efficiency initiatives. While these investments are somewhat larger than that of simply caulking a window, the potential savings are larger as well.

These investments include:

-Making sure you have good insulation in exterior walls, ceilings with cold spaces above, and floors with cold spaces below.
-Installing and closing storm windows.
-Consider new windows designed to decrease radiant heat loss without lowering visibility.
-Considering having a solar water heating component installed. This small, easily installed system is virtually maintenance free and warms the water your family uses on a daily basis, using free heat from the sun.

The Energy Communications Council (ECC) also suggests you talk with your local heating oil dealer about Bioheat, a cleaner burning, renewable product that can be blended seamlessly with the heating oil you already use. It lowers emissions and cuts down on the amount of traditional heating oil used.

According to Cape & Islands Self Reliance (, a Massachusetts nonprofit promoting environmentally sustainable energy programs, Bioheat is petroleum based heating oil that is blended with some percentage of biodiesel (typically 2-20 percent). Biodiesel is a diesel fuel and heating oil alternative that is made from vegetable oil instead of petroleum oil.

Bioheat works in any regular heating fuel application, such as home heating oil equipment, commercial boilers and diesel generators, without any modifications. To maximize the benefits of using bioheat, our product is made from 20 percent biodiesel (80 percent regular heating oil).

And in states where ultra-low sulfur heating oil is sold, biofuels can be blended, creating a fuel suitable for burning in the world’s most efficient heating equipment.

6 Additional Tips for Making Sure You Are Better Off Four Years from Now

November 8, 2012 5:30 pm

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Though the recession and the hardships that followed mean many Americans can’t answer that question with a simple “yes” or “no,” personal finance guru Eric Tyson suggests it might be more to your benefit to ask yourself a slightly different question: What can you do now to ensure you are better off in four years, no matter who gets elected?

“Does it matter who gets elected president?” asks Tyson, author of “Personal Finance For Dummies®, 7th Edition.” “Absolutely. But regardless of who is elected and no matter what your current economic situation may be, what’s most important for you and your family is knowing how to make sound financial decisions for now and the future.”

To improve your financial outlook during the next four years, read on for a few of Tyson’s tried and true personal finance tips, continued from the previous nine tips published last week.

Avoid brand names.
Be suspicious of companies that spend gobs on image-oriented advertising. Branding is often used to charge premium prices. Meanwhile, blind taste tests have demonstrated that consumers can’t readily discern quality differences between high- and low-cost brands with many products.

“Question the importance of the name and image of the products,” says Tyson. “Companies spend a lot of money creating and cultivating an image, which has no impact on how their products taste or perform. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re grocery shopping. Most of the time the ingredients are the same in store-brand products as in the brand-name products (and may even be made by the same company). You don’t need to shell out money to pay for the name.”

Look for ways to save around the house.
Look for ways to save on energy costs. Adding insulation and weather-stripping, installing water-saving devices, and reducing use of electrical appliances can pay for themselves in short order. Many utility companies will even do a free energy review or audit of your home and suggest money-saving ideas. If it’s time to replace an appliance, investigate energy efficiency before you buy appliances or even a new home.

“Get the whole family in on the effort to make your home more energy efficient,” suggests Tyson. “Have a contest to see who can remember to turn off the lights or other electronics most often or who can reduce how much water they use daily.”

Keep an eye on car costs. By doing basic maintenance such as oil changes, you can add years to the life of your car and get better gas mileage. What’s more, if you’re accustomed to buying a new car every few years, it’s time to change that mindset.

Don’t go on vacations you can’t afford.
Going to the beach for a week or to Disney World is not an entitlement. These kinds of vacations are very expensive. If you can’t afford them, you can’t afford them. The truth is, says Tyson, there are plenty of activities you can do near home that are just as fun as going away somewhere—at a fraction of the cost.

You can take a week off and explore your own city: There may be zoos, museums, gemstone mines, historic sites, and so forth that you haven’t visited in years (or ever). You can go hiking or camping in a local wilderness spot. Or visit relatives you rarely see who have an unfamiliar lifestyle—if you’re a “city mouse” family, spend a few days on the farm with Great Aunt Bertha.

Get creative about family activities. When you focus on spending lots of quality time with friends and family, you won’t feel the need to fill the void in your life with costly distractions.

“Instead of thinking about life in terms of what things cost, start thinking about it in terms of time,” says Tyson. “Often, all those unnecessary things we buy for ourselves and our kids are simply distractions from the people we love. They send the message that it’s necessary to spend a lot of money in order to have a good time. It’s not, of course. The best things in life—friends, family, quiet evenings at home just being together—really are free. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that.”

Raise frugal kids. Make no mistake, kids are expensive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it will cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child born in 2010 (and that’s not counting college). But whatever you do, don’t add to that price tag by spoiling kids, says Tyson.

“They don’t need the latest technology, expensive summer camps, pricey clothing, lavish parties, and so forth,” he insists. “When you keep these things to a minimum, not only will you save money but you’ll raise non-materialistic kids with good values and well-developed financial management skills of their own.”

“When it comes to your finances, steady wins the race, no matter who is president,” says Tyson. “Ultimately, you determine your financial situation based on the decisions you make for yourself. Always keep that in mind as you plan your weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets.”


Easy Tips to Improve the Life of Your Pet

November 8, 2012 5:30 pm

Pets bring companionship, affection and fun to the families who love them, which is why many pet owners strive to give their four-legged friends the best lives possible to help ensure they are happy and healthy. There are many ways to create a better way for your pet, including supporting local programs that enhance the lives of pets, ensuring you're feeding your cat or dog the proper nutrition, and having fun together.

Get Involved
Help make life better for all pets -- and the people who love them -- by taking action in your local community. Here are some ways you can help out:

Volunteer with your pet. Consider becoming a pet therapy or visiting animal volunteer. Rehabilitation hospitals, nursing homes, schools and day cares often bring in animals to interact with others -- benefitting both humans and the animals involved. Check with local organizations, or learn more from Pet Partners at

Hold a fundraiser. Nonprofit animal welfare organizations are almost always in need of help. Contact a local shelter or rescue in your community to inquire about what supplies they need most. Organize an event to help raise money by charging admission at a fun get-together for local dog owners, or by auctioning off items from shops in your community.

Share your ideas. Get involved with the Canyon Creek Ranch Better Way Project, a national program that is looking to help create a better way for pets and people who love them. You can share your idea(s) for helping pets in your community -- such as renovating animal shelters, supporting a local pet non-profit, or improving area parks -- and Canyon Creek Ranch will use the ideas as inspiration for projects they will bring to life through funding, volunteers and other support. Learn more about the Canyon Creek Ranch Better Way Project and submit your ideas at

Focus on Nutrition
Make sure you are feeding your dog or cat pet food that meets their nutritional needs. Check labels to ensure they are getting the proper nutrients for their life stage and the right amount of food. High-quality ingredients can provide nutritional benefits in pets of all ages.

Have Some Fun
Just like people, pets need physical and mental exercise. Here are some easy ways to help enrich your pet's life by having fun:

Make a kitty obstacle course, either indoors or outside. Use boxes and sturdy containers to make a multi-level course for your cat. Rub the scent of some treats along the course and then hide the treat for your cat to find. It lets them use their powerful sense of smell, engages their minds and gives them a little exercise, too.

Try new outdoor activities. For dogs, set up an agility course, take them swimming (or let them splash in a backyard kiddie pool), or play treasure hunt by hiding a treat and having them find it.

Social time. Letting dogs play off their leash in a fenced area with other dogs gives them physical exercise and lets them use their canine social skills. Cats also need companionship, including at least fifteen minutes of playtime a day and lots of snuggling.

Word of the Day

November 8, 2012 5:30 pm

Assumption of mortgage. Taking title to property that has an existing mortgage, and being personally liable for its payment as a condition of the sale.

Q: Should I buy a vacation home?

November 8, 2012 5:30 pm

A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.

Some of the tax benefits mirror those for a primary residence. Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible, which helps to offset the cost of the home payment. And if you treat your second home as a rental property, you can fully depreciate it as well. But you are only allowed to occupy it for two weeks a year, or 10 percent of the total rented time, whichever is less.

Before taking the leap, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.

5 Tips to Rodent-Proof Your Home

November 7, 2012 3:24 pm

While many equate the summer with being the buggy season, fall is when most insect and rodent pests seek shelter for the winter months.

As the cool temperatures start to settle in for the next few months, homeowners should begin to pest-proof their homes, garages and sheds now.

"With temperatures recently dropping into the 40s, rodents and other pests tend to move inside structures this time of year to find a warm place to overwinter and breed," says Jim Warneke, Orkin's Southeast division technical services director. "Plus, several of our coastal communities got hit with heavy rain and wind from Hurricane Sandy, and severe weather can cause rodents to become displaced and look for dry places."

A pregnant female mouse can produce an average of eight pups in a litter, and a rat, seven pups on average, and there are typically four to five litters per year. Their gestation period is about a month, so before you know it, one mouse can turn into a major problem for homeowners.

Mice can fit through an opening the size of a dime, so it is important to fix any cracks in and under siding, doors and windows. In addition to warmth, rodents enter homes looking for food and water. They prefer cereals and grains, but will eat just about anything.

As you prepare your home for winter, Orkin recommends the five following tips:

  • Make sure all holes, gaps and cracks larger than 1/4 of an inch are sealed.
  • Replace door sweeps and make sure doors and windows close tightly.
  • Clean out gutters and install gutter guards to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating.
  • Store firewood as far from the home as possible.
  • Trim branches, plants and bushes that hang over the home.