Gunning Daily News
December 18, 2012 6:32 pm
A: Many people do, mainly because determining value can often be tricky. This is especially true in a changing market when local prices either take off dramatically or plunge precipitously, like during the Texas oil bust of the 1980s.
While it is up to a professional assessor to evaluate property value for tax purposes, property owners are usually allowed to contest their assessment until a certain date after they are made public.
Once you contest, you will have to prove why you think your property is worth less – few homeowners contest hoping to pay more taxes! The two most popular ways for determining value are an appraisal and a comparative market analysis. With an appraisal, a professional estimates the property's market value based on recent sales of comparable properties. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value performed by a real estate agent based on similar sales and property attributes. Most agents will offer free analyses to win your business.
Contact your local tax assessor's office for procedures on appealing your property tax assessment.
December 17, 2012 6:18 pm
(Family Features) When a home fire occurs, you have to act fast. If your family doesn’t have an escape plan, this could lead to chaos and panic. Make sure to come up with a plan, and be sure it includes a working smoke alarm—more than 20 percent of American homes are without them. This means roughly 23 million homes are at risk because of non-working smoke alarms and an additional 5 million homes are at risk by not having smoke alarms. Read the following tips to make a plan for keeping your family and home safe.
Make a Plan
On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds to escape a fire. Installing smoke alarms on every level of the home and developing a plan of escape can give your family precious minutes to get out and get to safety.
Draw a floor plan of your home and sketch exit routes out of every room.
Make sure you have a fire escape ladder long enough to reach the ground from upstairs rooms.
Assign an outside meeting place, so you can quickly locate each other.
Room by Room
The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most families are asleep.
- Do not trap electrical cords against walls. Heat can build up, posing a fire hazard.
- Use only lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Make sure cords are not worn or coming apart. Do not leave electric blankets switched on all night unless they are marked “suitable for all night use.”
- Keep bedding, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. By law, mattresses made since then are required to be safer.
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
- Do not overload electrical outlets.
- Check electrical cords for fraying or signs of damage and don’t run them under carpets.
- Candles are responsible for almost 10,000 fires a year. Use new flameless wax candles which provide the realistic flicker of a scented wax candle without the hazard of open flame.
- Keep battery-operated flashlights and lanterns in easily accessible places in case of power failure.
Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States.
- Never use extension cords to plug in cooking appliances; they can overload the circuit.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Keep flammable items away from the cooktop.
- Keep the cooktop, burners and oven clean.
- Have a fire extinguisher installed in or near your kitchen.
- Store all combustible materials in clearly marked containers away from regular sources of heat, such as water heaters, space heaters, boilers and furnaces.
- Keep flammable products in a dedicated storage container with a closed door.
- Get rid of stacked boxes, recycling and trash.
December 17, 2012 6:18 pm
(BPT) - There are two kinds of travelers out there: those who plan and those who wing it. But what they have in common is a love of travel and exploring new destinations. Whether you take two-day weekend trips or 10-day vacations, here are some must-see destinations that travel-inspiration site Away.com selected for 2013.
Two-day vacation: Birmingham, Ala.
If you're into history and like the idea of a southern road trip, then check out Birmingham. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of pivotal events that led to the civil rights movement that ultimately ended segregation in the 1950s and 60s. Birmingham plans to celebrate all year with special exhibitions, symphonies concerts, plays and commemorative historic tours. To make it a true road trip, tack on the journey from Selma to Montgomery, which is a National Historic Trail.
Four-day vacation: Finger Lakes, N.Y.
If visiting wine country is on your bucket list, you might think a trip to California is your only domestic option. But if you want to skip the massive crowds of Napa or happen to live closer to the East Coast, the Finger Lakes region in New York State is the place to go. The area is the largest wine producer east of California, yielding more than 40,000 tons of grapes a year. Not only is wine a highlight, there are two newly created self-guided trails that highlight cheese and sweets. The two trails feature around 15 artisan cheese makers and sweet creators. Once you're full, check out the 87-mile Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway and the Corning Museum of Glass, home to the largest glass collection in the world.
Three- to seven-day vacation: Mississippi River steamboat cruise
In 2012 the American Queen Steamboat Company started running the largest steamboat ever built up the Mississippi River. You'll feel like you've stepped back in time as you rediscover the history and beauty of America's heartland. Shore excursions at destinations such as New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis and Minneapolis are included, depending on which cruise you take, and the dining, headed by famed American chef Regina Charboneau, focuses on regional favorites.
Seven-day vacation: England
Now that the London Summer Olympics have passed, 2013 is the perfect year to visit England. The permanent venues like the aquatics center and stadium, along with the Olympic park, are being converted for public use and will open as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by midsummer. Olympic Village, the former athlete basecamp, was converted into an apartment and condo complex, which is now called East Village. But don't spend all your time looking at Olympic venues. London, and England as a whole, is famous for so much more, such as literature, history, architecture, and even fish and chips.
10-Day vacation: Alaska Marine Highway System
Alaska stretches out over 656,000 square miles of space, so exploring the state is a once-in-a-lifetime memorable trip. And 2013 is the year to do it, as Alaska's Marine Highway celebrates its founding 50 years ago. Today, 11 ferries travel over 3,500 miles on the "marine highway" between Washington State and Alaska's Aleutian islands. Visitors who take this route will come away with a deep understanding of Alaska's diverse and scenic coastline and communities.
December 17, 2012 6:18 pm
The holidays are upon us, and with Christmas merely a few days away, many are struggling to prep their homes for guests. Here are some tips on preparing your home for the coming festivities. From making sure your tree stays fresh to getting that extra sparkle from your silverware, take a look at these seasonal tips and make sure you stay sane this Christmas.
The secret to a long lasting Christmas tree
The secret to keeping your Christmas tree looking fresh for weeks is simply good, basic care. When you buy your tree, make sure the seller makes a fresh cut straight across the base of the trunk, removing about an inch from the bottom to aid water absorption. As soon as you get home, place the tree in a stand or sturdy bucket that holds at least two liters of water. Check the water level daily to make sure the end of the trunk is covered and position the tree away from direct sunlight, fireplaces, wood stoves and other heat sources.
How to defrost your freezer
Tons of holiday leftovers require ample room in the freezer. To make sure food stays fresh, defrost your freezer and give it a good clean. First, empty all of the food from the freezer and wrap it in newspaper (alternatively place in the coldest part of your home). Next unplug the freezer, lay towels around the bottom to mop-up any spills and place bowls of very hot water in the bottom of the freezer. Using gloves, pull away chunks of ice and pour warm water onto any stubborn blocks of ice. Once your freezer's defrosted, give it a good clean to remove any stains and odors. If your freezer regularly builds up a layer of ice, it may not be working properly.
Keep your fridge smelling fresh
Fridges often gather strong odors over time. To avoid this, start by completely emptying your fridge, then give it a wipe to remove any spilled residue. Thoroughly clean the entire interior with a cloth and a baking soda and water solution (2 cups of water / 2 tablespoons baking soda). Then cut an onion in half and place in the fridge - this will absorb any bad odors.
Clean your silverware
With Christmas around the corner, the family silver will take pride of place at the festive table. To ensure your cutlery looks as good as new, line a plastic basin with aluminum foil (shiny side up). Place the silver inside so that it's touching the foil and sprinkle in a quarter of a cup of baking soda and 1 gallon of boiling water. Leave to soak for 10 - 15 minutes. Wearing gloves, take the cutlery out of the water and polish with a soft cloth. For items that are still dirty, repeat the process. This will remove all stains and ensure clean sparkling knives and forks to compliment your Christmas roast.
December 17, 2012 6:18 pm
Convey. To transfer property from one person to another.
December 17, 2012 6:18 pm
A: If you must construct new space, ask yourself the following questions:
Can I finance the home improvement with my own cash or will I need a loan?
How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.
Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?
What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.
Should I make the improvement myself or hire a contractor?
December 14, 2012 4:42 pm
(Family Features)—When it comes to getting the house clean and tidy, closets often get left off the to-do list. From hall closets and linen closets to bedroom closets, “out of sight, out of mind” thinking quickly leads to clutter – and then frustration when you can’t find what you need when you need it.
But a little planning and a few simple tips can help you get your closets in user-friendly shape in no time.
Put your closets on your calendar. Take stock of your schedule and commit some time to tackle your closets. Set realistic expectations – you don’t have to conquer all your closets at once. It may make sense for your family to forego TV one evening a week and focus on one closet at a time, for example.
Start by sorting.
- If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in the past year – or you can’t remember the last time you wore something – then you don’t need it. Other items to purge from your closet: children’s clothes and shoes that are either too small or too worn out to pass down to a sibling or a friend.
- Sort your remaining clothes by season and then into piles to keep or pass down. If you have limited closet space, keep only the current season’s wardrobe in your closet. Carefully pack and store the rest for later.
- Linen closets stay more organized when you stack similar sized items together. Sort sheets by size, and group washcloths, hand towels and bath towels together.
- For closets that hold everything from the vacuum cleaner to art supplies and anything in between, work one shelf at a time. Sort items by categories and dedicate one shelf or area of the closet to each group.
– but don’t throw it away. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. There are easy ways to donate your unwanted items to benefit those in need. One example is DonateStuff.com, where you can request pre-paid UPS shipping bags that make it simple and free to send in unwanted clothes, shoes, accessories and household linens. Your donation benefits one of three national nonprofits of your choosing: AMVETS, Easter Seals, or The Purple Heart. It’s tax deductible, and it reduces waste. Americans throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing each year – DonateStuff.com helps keep over 470,000 pounds of clothing out of landfills every week. .
Green up your storage.
When it’s time to put things back into place, instead of buying new containers to hold things, look around the house for boxes and containers you already heave. Baskets, crates and even empty shoeboxes can be reused to keep your closets more organized.
You don’t have to wait until the next neighborhood yard sale before you sift through your closets again. As with most household chores, a little maintaince goes a long way to keep your closets looking neat and clean. You could even keep a bag in each of your kids’ closets and encourage them to set aside gently used and outgrown items on a regular basis.
You’ll be amazed at how much happier clean closets can make the whole house feel – especially when you turn the stuff you don’t need into a good deed.
December 14, 2012 4:42 pm
(BPT) - You research what museums and restaurants you want to visit, plan everything you're going to pack, and count down the days until you leave. Anticipating a vacation is exciting - unless you suddenly get sick. Falling ill before or during your trip can derail the fun quickly, and that's why it's so important to add a few steps to your pre-vacation checklist that can help you stay healthy.
Whether you're traveling to a neighboring state or across the globe, feeling your best is an important part of having a great trip. The experts at On Call International, an emergency medical, security and travel assistance organization, offer these tips for maintaining health before and during your travel adventures:
1. Consider your vaccination options
Although typically associated with international travel, vaccines are important for staying healthy before and during any type of travel. When was the last time you asked your doctor if you were up to date on your vaccinations? Before your next trip, schedule a physical and ask about vaccines, such as options for the flu, and any other travel-related health concerns. If you're traveling to a more exotic or remote location, you may want to see a travel medicine specialist who can advise you on which vaccinations and precautions Americans should take when going to that specific destination.
2. Always wash your hands
While it may sound simple, one of the best ways to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Especially during the flu season, washing your hands thoroughly is important to staying healthy. If you're traveling and you don't have access to clean water and soap, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best thing.
3. Carry sanitizing wipes
A handy travel tool to have in your bag is a pack of sanitizing wipes. While it's not necessary to sanitize every surface you encounter, using them for commonly touched areas can help keep you healthy by killing viruses and germs. For example, carry a travel-size pack of wipes to clean your airplane tray before eating, door knobs at your hotel, or the keyboard at the local Internet cafe. If you -don't have wipes, a dab of hand sanitizer on a tissue is a simple substitute.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Staying healthy is an ongoing effort, which means well before you take your trip, make sure you are eating right, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and getting adequate amounts of sleep each night. You'll also want to exercise regularly, and consider increasing your physical activity if you'll be particularly active on your trip to help prepare your body for long walks or hikes. These extra efforts will help keep your immune system strong so you don't get sick before you leave, and you'll be less vulnerable to fall ill or get injured while traveling.
5. Have a plan B
Of course anything can happen, even if you take the proper health steps, which is why a membership to a medical, security and travel assistance company like On Call International is a good backup plan. If you do get sick while on vacation, you'll get assistance locating a qualified physician, hospital or pharmacy. If you lose your prescription, there's replacement assistance too. In the event of a serious illness or injury, you'll receive emergency medical evacuation, which includes the planning and cost of transporting you home to your preferred doctor.
December 14, 2012 4:42 pm
As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to review your last-minute tax and spending strategies and plan ahead for next year. A panel of financial planners suggests seven end-of-year tasks that probably belong on your checklist:
Donate used goods or money – This is the time to clean out your closets and make donations for which you may claim a tax deduction. The same is true for cash donations to charity.
Use expiring medical coverage – If you have a flexible spending account, get your eyes or teeth checked now or see your other medical providers to use up any coverage that may expire at the end of the year.
Adjust your withholding - If you got a big refund last year, and have similar income and expenses this year, consider reducing your withholding. This will put more money in your pocket each month for savings or unexpected expenses.
Look at your debt – Are there credit card balances you can move or consolidate to reduce or eliminate finance charges for at least some period of time? Can you adjust spending to commit additional funds toward repayment of debt? Have your built up enough equity in your home to eliminate PMI?
Check your 401K or investment portfolio – Consult with your financial advisor to determine whether you should increase contributions, rebalance assets, or sell underperforming stocks.
Review your insurance – Check the person or people you’ve named for your retirement accounts and insurance policies. Did you have a death, birth, or divorce this year that could change the beneficiaries?
Curb your holiday spending – Before you head to the mall, determine to stick to a predetermined gift-giving budget. It’s as good a time as any to adjust your financial mindset to consider saving or paying off debt before laying out cash or adding to your credit card balances.
December 14, 2012 4:42 pm
Conventional loan. Real estate loan that is not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA.