Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

October 26, 2012 5:50 pm

Appreciation. Increase in property value or worth due to economic or related factors; the opposite of depreciation.

Q: Does the Government offer Assistance with Home Improvements?

October 26, 2012 5:50 pm

A: Yes. Two very popular programs offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) include the Title 1 Home Improvement Loan and the Section 203(k) Program. In the first program, HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family house to cover alterations, repairs, and site improvements.

The latter program, which also insures mortgage loans, is HUD’s primary program for the rehabilitation and repair of single-family homes. Loans are also available from the Department of Veteran Affairs to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than that on conventional loans. The Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loan program, funded by the Agriculture Department, offers low-rate loans to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs.

Funds are also available to improve or modernize a home or to remove health and safety hazards. The federal government isn’t alone in its efforts to provide assistance. Local and state governments offer special home improvement programs. Contact your governor or mayor’s office for more details.

4 Tips for Easy Kitchen Remodeling

October 26, 2012 4:20 pm

Move aside, bathrooms! Step back, master bedrooms. For the first time since 2008, kitchens have become the No. 1 remodeling project for homeowners, according to the "Fall 2012 U.S. Remodeling Sentiment Report" from RemodelorMove.com. A renovated kitchen not only enhances your living experience, but it adds value to your house, and is one of the top amenities buyers search for when house hunting.

However, before you call your contractor, be sure to do the following:

Consider if remodeling is right for you. You should consider a multitude of variables, such as: Can we comfortably pay for this remodel? Is my family emotionally ready to deal with the disruption? Would it be easier or less expensive to move instead?

Get a cost estimate. You can get remodel estimates online, or call a contractor. It's important to get an estimate early in the planning phase to give you plenty of time to arrange your finances, compare prices on everything from appliances to countertops to cabinetry, and make sure your kitchen remodel is as budget friendly as possible.

Make organization a top priority. You'll be dealing with a thousand tiny details, ranging from paint colors to cabinets to floor plans. Letting any one of these details fall through the cracks could mean extra expense and delays. Use the

Bring in the experts for answers. You may find that talking with a real estate agent, interior designer, architect, mortgage banker, or remodeling contractor can help you understand the true costs and benefits of remodeling.
Source: www.remodelormove.com.

Timing Is Everything: Plan Now for Home Winterization

October 26, 2012 4:20 pm

Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers, is urging urged homeowners to consider winterizing their properties to potentially lower energy costs, increase comfort in cold months and possibly improve resale value.

“This is the perfect time for consumers to consider making seasonal updates to their homes,” says Appraisal Institute President Sara W. Stephens, MAI. “Not only do these types of home improvements enhance living environments in winter months and possibly lower energy costs, but most can provide an above average return on investment in resale value.”

The Appraisal Institute encourages homeowners to focus on three main updates for the winter: windows, exterior and furnace.

Adding energy-efficient vinyl windows to the home can have an average payback of more than 69 percent, according to the Remodeling 2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report, published by Hanley Wood. Vinyl replacement windows offer a higher return on investment than wood replacement windows and also have a higher projected return on investment than many other home improvement projects, including a kitchen or bath remodel, addition of a master suite or new bathroom, or a roof replacement. Replacement windows also can be especially valuable to homes built before 1978, due to the importance of reducing lead-based paint in older homes, according to the Hanley Wood research.

That same study found exterior replacement projects retained the most value in home improvements. For example, updating and replacing fiber-cement siding returned 78 percent of homeowners’ original investment.

A furnace doesn’t just provide heat and comfort during cold months, but proactively tuning or replacing a home’s furnace can alleviate issues when considering resale. According to Consumer Reports, the average lifespan of a furnace is 15 to 18 years. Homeowners should keep this timeframe in mind when debating servicing versus replacement.

The Appraisal Institute also encourages homeowners to contact an appraiser on the front end of their winterization projects. “Beyond the typical valuation services, an appraiser can be a valuable resource when consulting on home improvements,” Stephens said. “A qualified, competent appraiser can make recommendations about which updates will provide the most impact on resale value, as well as what is the norm for the local area.”

Homeowners can also make updates now to see an immediate saving in their energy bills.

1. Clean the gutters – Remove leaves and debris so rain and melting snow can drain, preventing backed up water or ice that can clog drains and allow water to seep into the house.

2. Add insulation – Most homes need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in the attic, regardless of climate conditions. If ceiling joists are visible, the insulation needs to be beefed up because these are typically 10 to 11 inches.

3. Check the ducts – Ensure ducts are not exposed and are well-connected. Otherwise, homes with central heating can lose up to 60 percent of heated air before it reaches the vents, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Homeowners should also check for gaps and pinches in pipes and repair them to make sure heated air flows easily into the home.

4. Keep drafts out of windows –
If replacing windows isn’t in the cards this winter, insulating them with plastic and double-sided tape is extremely effective and much less expensive.

5. Tune the furnace
– Clean and tune a furnace annually to increase efficiency and the life of the furnace. Check the furnace now to make sure it does not produce a smell, which will require attention before continuous running in the winter.

Source: www.appraisalinstitute.org.

Parenting in the Digital Age: 5 Tips to Keep Your Family Savvy but Safe

October 26, 2012 4:20 pm

Like it or not, we are in the digital age and our children are growing up in a different world than anyone who has come before them. This is what we want, right? I think so, most days. It is no longer an option for parents to just not get involved in the digital world. You may not want to have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, but your children do want these things and are exposed to them everyday. If you turn your back and pretend it isn’t there, you are putting your child in danger. The question is: How do I get educated and set some rules about the digital age in my family? If you haven’t made this part of your value set as a family…. start.

Let’s start with the basics:

  • Children should not be on any device (iTouch, iPad, laptop, computer, you name it) behind closed doors. Keep all devices out in the open so that you can monitor where your children are on the computer, what they are doing and who they are with digitally. It is so easy to trust and want to send the message of trust, but you need to be there when curiosity strikes.
  • ​Find out the rules for each app and site and game your children want to use. Some, like Facebook, have an age requirement. Learn the facts about each of these sites. If these sites have an age requirement, there is a reason. Make this the same rule in your home.
  • ​Once your child becomes of age for these sites, you should be friends, followers, whatever the lingo with your child. I believe in the ‘It Takes a Village’ concept with the digital world. I am a follower of many of my students on instagram and twitter. I check in on them and I talk very casually with either the students or their parents if I see something concerning on the sites involving the children. I always keep it in the safety context. I want my child and the children I teach to feel like they can share things with me and talk to me about what is going on in their lives either face to face or digitally.
  • ​Have an open dialogue with your child early and often about digital citizenship. Find out why your child wants to be on these sites, what they plan on doing, set your limits and let them know you will checking in on them.
  • Get educated. Here are some resources for you about what digital citizenship is, some statistics are about the digital world we live in and how you and your child can have a healthy relationship with the digital world.
  • ​Schools have something called Acceptable Use policies. This is a good place to start. Find out about your child’s school acceptable use policy, read it and share it with your child if they of an appropriate age.
  • ​www.digitalcitizenship.net-​ This site has great resources for parents and teachers about all the different aspects of digital citizenship. It even has parent and child contracts about digital use.
​While, some of this information may be overwhelming and a bit scary, it is important and necessary. This world is happening in almost every home. Embracing the digital world in your home will help keep your family educated, safe and tech savvy.

Source: Swparents.com

Word of the Day

October 26, 2012 4:20 pm

Annual percentage rate (APR). Combines the interest rate with other loan costs, such as points and loan fees, into a single figure that shows the true annual cost of borrowing.

Q: My Budget Won’t Allow for Expensive Add-Ons; Is There Another Way to Find and Make Space?

October 26, 2012 4:20 pm

A: That space may be as close as the next room, particularly if there is unused or under utilized areas in your home. A garage, attic, side porch, large closet, or basement can all be converted to fit the use you have in mind. Or, maybe, a small area can be carved from a larger area like a kitchen or living room to create, say, a powder room. This concept of “stealing” space from a neighboring room is called space reconfiguration and it is much cheaper than a major remodeling job.

10 Hot Trends in Kitchen Countertops

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

While granite and marble remain the most popular choices for kitchen countertops, young homemakers are opting for a surprising number of chic, new countertop choices.

“These trendy alternatives offer a clean, sleek, sometimes industrial look that suggests heavy duty cooking is going on here,” say designers at architectural firm Freshome.

The hottest countertop materials available today include:

Poured concrete – Stain resistant when sealed, they are relatively inexpensive and can be tinted to any color. Appearance improves with age, but while the concrete is heat-resistant, the sealer is not. It requires trivets under hot pots and cutting boards for chopping.

Butcher block - Elegant yet casual and environmentally friendly, butcher block requires monthly sealing and oiling to prevent drying or cracking. Its soft surfaces require cutting boards, but cleanup demands only mild dish detergent and a light cloth or sponge.

Reclaimed wood – Salvaged from older homes, reclaimed wood is attractive, sturdier than newer wood, and saves trees. It requires the same maintenance as butcher block.

Cork – Dense, sturdy and lightweight, cork is a sustainable option with sound-cutting properties. It is resistant to water and heat and has antibacterial properties.

Stainless steel – Elegant, sleek and classy looking, these counters are water, heat and germ resistant. Susceptible to dings and scratches, they show every fingerprint, but maintenance requires only washing and polishing.

Soapstone - A natural stone quarried like granite, soapstone is a softer surface that is sturdy but not impervious to dents and scratches, which may be sanded or oiled away. The color is naturally gray and darkens with age, offering a smooth, matte feel.

Recycled glass – Like reclaimed wood, this is a ‘greener’ choice, available in many beautiful colors and patterns. With a life expectancy of 50 years, it is easy to clean and care for. This option is a bit cheaper than granite.

Pewter – Offers a less clinical look than stainless steel, but is softer and susceptible to nicks and dents, although a hammered, antique look can mask damage. This muted, dark silvery color looks good in any kitchen.

Slate – A natural, fine-grained rock, slate is softer than granite but harder than marble. Resists bacteria and cleans with soap and water, but is not entirely heat-proof.

Quartz – An extremely scratch-resistant mineral, easy to care for and clean. Needs no sealing and has a long lifetime and more unique look than granite.

On the Road: 5 Family Travel Tips

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

While most people equate vacation with summer, many families are busy preparing for their winter holidays. Here are a few tips for making things go a little more smoothly.

Plan for down-time. Even though you may want to pack your itinerary to the brim with activities, be sure to allow for down-time daily, to avoid exhausted and cranky gets—and parents!

Be a good guest. Are you staying with friends or family? Then plan some acitvities where just you and your immediate family are together. This gives your hosts a breather, and allows your family more bonding opportunity. Also, consider exchanging some info with your hosts ahead of time, like the rules of their house, and your kids’ sleep habits, to make transitioning easier for everyone.

Include a date night! Quality time with the kids is awesome, but remember to get some one-on-one time with your honey, if you can manage.

Talk before you go. To anticipate future travel bumps, talk with your kids about what they can expect on the trip—good, and bad. Talk about the length of the flight, or lines at the amusement park, table manners at restaurants, etc.

Ease back into it. After you have returned from your trip, your kids are likely to be exhausted. Leave room for at least one of adjustment before sending them back to school to avoid cranky behavior and frustration.

Family trips are the stuff that memories are made of, and this list will help to make sure the memories are great. Bon Voyage!

Source: Swparents

Fire Prevention Focus: Changing Seasons Changing Risks

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

Every October, Fire Prevention Month, I try to present some practical information to help protect individuals from, and in the event of fire. So in this third of a series of segments in October, we’ll take a look at the change in home fire risks as we move into late fall and winter.

The Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc. recently issued a Fire Prevention Month release reminding homeowners that in winter, heating overtakes cooking as the main cause of house fires. And primary danger is space heaters, especially electric ones according to PIACT President Timothy G. Russell.


To help prevent fires from supplemental heating devices, the PIACT offers these tips:

Never leave a space heater on when you are not in the room.

Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn.

Do not go to sleep with it on - use it to warm the bedroom, but shut it off before you climb into bed.

If you do have a fireplace, have the chimney professionally cleaned at least once a year.

Make sure fireplaces are kept clean and covered to keep the sparks from jumping out.

Perhaps the most important Fire Protection Month advice is: make a plan to “get out, and stay out” advises PIACT.

“Practice fire drills at home,” suggests Russell. “The place for a safe family meeting spot to go should be decided on now and practiced so everyone will know what to do in the event of an actual fire in the home.”

These drills involving your own home are necessary in making a lasting impression that make the difference in the event of a real emergency. Fires are frightening and can cause panic.

By rehearsing different scenarios, your family is less likely to waste precious time trying to figure out what to do. Test your plan, and occasionally have a drill in the middle of the night.