Gunning Daily News

Q: How Much Can I Expect to Spend on Maintenance?

November 16, 2012 5:40 pm

A: One percent of the purchase price of your home every year to cover everything from painting to repairing gutters to caulking windows and maintaining routine system repairs and maintenance. An older home may require more maintenance, although much will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years. Take the upkeep seriously, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value could suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, too, that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get progressively worse. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousand dollars.

Planning a Hassle-Free Party

November 16, 2012 4:40 pm

(BPT)—Planning a large celebration can be challenging. From setting a date that works for everyone to creating a fun party atmosphere, there is a lot of work that goes into planning the perfect event. Regardless of who the party is for, there are some ways to ensure your big party comes off without a hitch.

Renting makes sense

Few of us host large gatherings on a regular basis, so it's not surprising if you don't have enough seating on hand for a large group, or a supply of chafing dishes to keep everything warm on your buffet. Since you may only use these items once or twice a year, it doesn't make sense to buy them - plus, where would you store them for the rest of the year?

Fortunately, it's possible to rent just about everything you could possibly need to stage a large-scale celebration. Rental stores in your area carry party necessities from chairs and tables to place settings and stemware to festive decor. Just remember to reserve your items early, especially if your party is during a busy time of year like the holidays.

Where not to skimp
Saving money is vital when you're planning a big event. It's smart to look for the best deals you can find on rental items, and to find creative ways to save money. But every host knows there is one aspect of the party that can't be skimped on - and that varies from event to event, and crowd to crowd.

If you know your party will be heavily attended by foodies, you may want to spend a bit more on gourmet fare and cut costs in other areas. If your guests are the kick-up-their-heels type of crowd, it may make sense to invest more in live music or a DJ. Hosting a bevy of social butterflies? They may appreciate more upscale seating that affords them plenty of comfy places to sit and chat.

Knowing what you can rent to save money and where you have to spend is an essential part of staging a smashing soiree and saving money at the same time.

Special ways to spice things up
Every party should have at least one element that gives guests a delightful surprise. Maybe it's a make-your-own dessert station for the company holiday party, or a chocolate fountain for your large family gathering.

Whether it's adding elegant lighting and centerpieces for your New Year's Eve party, or a large screen television and games for your football party, adding a special touch can really set the tone for the event. It's easy to find these types of rental party items that make for a special surprise for your guests.

Source: www.rentalhq.com.

There’s No Better Time to Sell Your Home Than the Holidays

November 16, 2012 4:40 pm

If your property has languished on the market since summer or fall, REALTOR® Rae Catanese has this uplifting news.

Catanese recently blogged that anyone shopping for a home during the holidays is most likely a serious buyer, and she wouldn’t sway people from listing their home for sale during the holiday season for several reasons.

She says typically there is less inventory on the market which will bring you more showings. The more showings you have the better chance of receiving an offer.

Bottom line, according to Catanese, is that you have less competition and may be able to get a higher price for your home than you would if people had more to choose from.

Also, your home and your neighbor’s home probably have more curb appeal decorated. Catanese believes the holiday season “gets people in the mood” to buy.

Since many people think about how their lives will change in the upcoming New Year, Catanese thinks buyers may be more likely to envision themselves starting a new life in a new home, and the decision to purchase could be less stressful.

In general, Catanese says people are more generous, happy, and friendly, which could make the negotiating process go a bit more smoothly in your favor.

Also, be flexible and prepared to show your home at a moment’s notice. People have less time during the holidays so you may wind up getting requests to show your home with very little time to prepare.

Buyers may also accommodate an early closing with a rent back or extended occupancy allowing the seller to stay in the property until after the holidays are over.

When marketing your house during the holiday season, you may have fewer actual showings, but the buyers may be more qualified and motivated. Sellers will have less competition, possibly resulting in a quicker sale and higher sales price.

How-To: Avoid Overspending During Thanksgiving

November 15, 2012 5:48 pm

While Thanksgiving may be intended as a day to give thanks for everything life has to offer, many Americans view it as a day to overcook, overeat, and overspend. Below are a few tips you can use to practice moderate spending and eating, so that you don’t break your budget—or your belt--in order to enjoy the celebration.

Here are five tips to follow so your Thanksgiving is fun, but not expensive:
1. Don't go in cold turkey – plan a realistic budget well in advance, one that considers what you can really afford to spend on the holiday (in cash), not what you'd "like" to spend.
2. Think like a Pilgrim – the fairytale version of early Thanksgivings included a focus on saying thank you, and not trying to impress those in attendance, so be modest and frugal.
3. Remember the trimmings – not the stuffing, the decorations! Don't buy them, make them! Look online and you'll find easy-to-make, inexpensive ways to decorate your home and table.
4. Ask everyone to give thanks – ask family and friends to bring a prepared dish, dessert or the wine, and build those items into your budgeting and planning.
5. Involve the natives – invite your children, or some who may be attending, to prepare decorations, easy-to-make snacks, or lead after-dinner games rather than spend on entertainment.

Source: www.InCharge.org


Six Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips

November 15, 2012 5:48 pm

Many people have ceased to cook our stuffing inside our birds, like grandma used to do it. But what are some other food safety tips you can follow? The National Restaurant Association (NRA) estimates that more than 30 million Americans enlist the help of restaurants for their Thanksgiving feast by dining out or using takeout, but cooking at home remains popular during this holiday. Preparing that meal safely will ensure an enjoyable holiday with family and friends, so the experts at the NRA offer food safety tips for holiday meals.

"While we celebrate National Food Safety Month each September, food safety is a priority year-round," said Greg Beachey, senior academic relations and program manager with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. "Food and cooking are a big part of holiday celebrations, so putting food safety practices in focus this time of year will help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Whether cooking at home or in a professional foodservice kitchen, basic principles like cleaning and sanitizing, and cooking to proper temperatures should be part of everyone's food safety knowledge base."

The food safety tips recommended by the NRA for preparing a Thanksgiving meal are:

Thaw your turkey in the fridge
. While you can thaw a frozen turkey under running water or in the microwave, the best way is in the refrigerator overnight (or longer). Be sure to follow the instructions on the package.

Store raw turkey away from ready-to-eat food. Make sure your raw turkey is covered and stored in a leak-proof container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. You want to keep it away from foods that are ready to eat, such as desserts and salads, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

Clean and sanitize your sink and counters. After rinsing your raw turkey thoroughly, properly clean and sanitize the sink and surrounding area before starting to prepare any other food.

Cook your turkey to safe internal temperature.
Use a properly calibrated meat thermometer to check that your turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Insert the thermometer to the dimple on the stem in the thickest part of the breast and thigh for accurate readings.

Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
Prep salads, cranberries and other colds items first and store them in the fridge until ready to serve. Then prep your hot dishes closer to serving time so they stay hot. Keep all food items outside the "temperature danger zone" (41 to 135 degrees) as much as possible.

Safely reheat leftovers. Whether from a meal prepared at home or picked up from a restaurant, leftovers are part of the holiday tradition. Store each dish separately in clean, sealable, leak-proof containers and reheat to 165 degrees when you're ready to enjoy round two of your Thanksgiving meal.

Sources: www.FoodSafetyMonth.com, www.restaurant.org

Tax Tips for Charitable Contributions

November 15, 2012 5:48 pm

With the holidays approaching in the wake of superstorm Sandy, many of us are feeling extra giving this year. This is terrific, but we can also get some love in return for our good deeds come tax time.

An estimated 117 million U.S. households gave to charities during 2011, according to Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy by the Giving USA Foundation and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. On average, almost one quarter of charitable donations occur during the holiday season (also known as year-end giving).

"While taxes may not be top of mind when it comes to charitable giving, the ability to receive a deduction on taxable income for their generosity is a unique privilege to American taxpayers," said Mark Steber, chief tax officer, Jackson Hewitt. "However, not all charitable contributions are equal under the tax code. To be tax deductible, charitable donations must be made to a qualified organization, and for the purpose of taxes, there is a big difference between giving money, goods and time."

Steber offers four helpful tips about claiming charitable contributions on an income tax return:

What the IRS considers a charitable contribution –
A charitable contribution is tax deductible if the donation or gift is made to a qualified organization. Taxpayers can visit www.irs.gov to view a list of qualified organizations. To be deductible, the donation must be voluntary and made without receiving anything of equal value in return. Charitable contributions can include money or property given to a qualified organization as well as certain out-of-pocket expenses accrued when serving as a volunteer.

Tax deductible contributions do not include the cost of raffle, bingo or lottery tickets, the value of donated time or services or the value of donated blood, even if given to a qualified organization.

What documents are required to deduct a charitable contribution – Taxpayers are required to keep records and receipts for all charitable contributions regardless of the amount or value. A bank record or a receipt from the organization is required for all cash contributions, and a separate, written acknowledgement from the qualified organization is also required to claim the deduction for any single cash or property contribution of $250 or more.

When charitable contributions can be deducted –
Charitable contributions can generally only be deducted for the income year in which they are made. Contributions sent by mail are considered made on the date they are postmarked. Some contributions that are not able to be deducted in the current tax year (because of adjusted gross income limits) may be carried over to future years.

How to deduct noncash charitable contributions – Clothing, toys, furniture or other household items donated to a qualified organization allow taxpayers to deduct the fair market value of the donated items. To qualify for the deduction, all items must be donated in good condition. The IRS does not provide a guide to determine fair market value; instead, taxpayers must survey thrift and consignment stores for similar items to provide an indication of fair market value. IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, provides general IRS guidelines on noncash donations.

Generally, the deduction for property contributed is equal to the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution. However, different rules may apply if the value of the property has increased or for vehicle donations.

"There are many rules and regulations surrounding tax deductions for charitable contributions," continued Steber. "A conversation with a trusted tax preparer, who is knowledgeable of the current tax codes, is the best way to maximize the deduction amount for charitable contributions made during the year."

Source: www.JacksonHewitt.com

Word of the Day

November 15, 2012 5:48 pm

Broker. Licensed individual who acts independently in conducting a real estate brokerage business; also a person who buys and sells for another for a commission.

Q: How Do I Get Help for Remodeling Following a Natural Disaster?

November 15, 2012 5:48 pm

A: The Small Business Administration (SBA) not only assists businesses after a natural disaster, civil disturbance, fires and other catastrophes, it also provides disaster loans to individuals – including homeowners and renters. The loans, which cover uninsured or underinsured losses – are issued after the President or SBA Administrator signs a disaster declaration. Homeowners can then apply for loans up to $200,000 to assist with the repair or replacement of their primary residences and receive loans up to $40,000 for personal property losses. The low-interest loans have terms up to 30 years. To begin the process, applicants must register first with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain a FEMA Registration ID number.

What Is the ‘Right Price’ Formula for Real Estate?

November 14, 2012 5:56 pm

In our last segment, I examined scientific proof that setting the right price right out of the gate is the best way to sell your home fast. But getting that right price can be a challenge, without one important document - a thorough market analysis.

Recently, broker Bryant Tutas in central Florida was quoted as saying any property will sell if the price is right.

But is the right price “Market Value” based on the last 6 months of sales? Is it based on homes that have sold in the last 30 days? Or is it the “Appraised Value”?

Tutas says the “Right Price” is the price that will sell your listing in 60 to 90 days. In his market the right price is 5 to 10 percent below recent comparable sales.

He says when REALTORS® are searching the MLS they may have 70-100 homes that meet their buyer’s parameters. So in order to sell, his client’s property needs to be in the top 5 (preferably No. 1) of properties on the list (by price) and it needs to have a competitive or better co-broke.

If a seller in his region can achieve this positioning Tutas says there should be no problem getting the listing sold in a short period of time.

Tutas says seller’s need to know that when pricing a house they must look at the whole picture that includes active, pending, withdrawn, expired and recently sold listings. And he’s met with many sellers recently whose listings have expired and they have never even seen a “Market Analysis.”

A 2011 report at Investopedia.com offering tips to sell your home faster, advises performing a good market analysis to help sell a property quickly.

It’s not always imperative to be the lowest priced home on the block, particularly when aesthetic and other significant improvements have been made. However, it is important that the listing price is not out of line with other comparable homes in the market.

Try to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and then determine what a fair price might be. Investopedia even suggests you have friends, neighbors and real estate professionals tour the home and weigh in as well.

Be Festive but Frugal When Sprucing Up Your Home for the Holidays

November 14, 2012 5:56 pm

The holiday season is upon us - and with that, comes a growing yearning to “fix up the house for the holidays.” But if time is short and the budget is tight, getting it done with the least amount of stress may be less difficult than you think.

Veteran planners at organizedhome.com suggest a six-step program for sprucing up your nest without stressing or spending too much:

Take a tour – Grab a notebook and take a tour of the public areas of your home. Begin outside and jot down everything you think needs to be done: wash the windows, clean the front door, replace the porch bench. Now step inside and note what you’d like to do in the living room, dining room, and kitchen…replace the sofa, clean the carpets, whatever strikes you as needing attention.

Set the budget – Resolve to spend no more than what you can reasonably afford. If that means not replacing furniture this year, cross those items off your list. Cleaning the sofa or painting the bench will have to suffice for now.

Be time conscious –
Cross off any chore on your list that takes more time than you have to spare. If that means not sewing new curtains or not painting the living room, so be it. Save the most ambitious plans for later.

Organize chores –
In many cases, what will be left on your list are cleaning and maintenance chores and a few “buy mes’. Break these down by order of ease and/priority, as A, B or C. ‘A’ items might include quickies like replacing missing light bulbs and dusting the knickknacks in the china cabinet. ‘B’ items should include cleaning the carpets, washing the windows, buying new guest room linens. ‘C’ items take a little more time and a few more bucks – like refinishing floors or painting the dining room.

Be ruthless – Cross off any items you think may be too costly or time consuming to achieve by holiday time. Decide which chores can be relegated to a family member and which need to be done professionally. Get the family’s buy-in to help and call to schedule service where necessary.

Post your list – Post the designated chores on the fridge. Crossing off items and watching your house take shape will help you forget those things you couldn’t afford.