Gunning Daily News
April 27, 2012 2:10 pm
(ARA) - Sprucing up your home for spring doesn't have to mean spending huge amounts of time and money. In fact, there are many projects that you can complete in a weekend that will improve the look and feel of your home. With a little guidance and the right tools, you can easily get your home in top shape by Monday morning.
Commonly recognized as one of the easiest and most cost-effective interior updates, painting is a weekend project that can completely transform the aesthetic of your home. When purchasing paint, a quality product will ensure your end results are beautiful. Low-quality, inexpensive paint will likely require a number of coats to get the coverage needed - resulting in more time and money spent. To avoid increased time and cost, use a premium line of paint like Pratt & Lambert's Accolade, which guarantees excellent hide and outstanding durability. Popular among interior designers, Accolade is available in more than 1,000 colors to complement any style. When choosing paint for your next weekend project, remember that a quality product will achieve the best end result and save you time and money in the long run.
Tired of the same old lamps sitting on your end tables but don't have the funds to revamp your lighting decor? A new lamp shade will completely change the look of any piece. You can also easily transform pieces by renewing the lamp bases; a quick walk down the spray paint aisle will show limitless possibilities of colors and finishes. You can even renew plastic pieces with Krylon Fusion for Plastic, the first paint of its kind. Create a cohesive look by bringing that new finish to your hanging fixtures as well.
Adding trendy, fun accessories will give any room a new and more put-together look. Think vases and bowls, wall art and rugs. When adding accessories, look for colors that complement what is already in the room. Plants and flowers can also add energy and color, some with the added bonus of a pleasant aroma.
One easy way to update furniture on a budget is by recovering it or using slip covers. Premade covers are available in a wide variety of fabrics and designs, or you can create a custom cover for your sofa or armchair. More ambitious crafters may actually reupholster furniture to create a completely new-looking seating option. After repadding and covering cushions, sand and stain or paint wood pieces for a completely modern feel.
Carpet has seen better days? Replace it. Hardwood is scuffed and dull? Refinish it. You can also achieve the look of natural wood or stone flooring with luxury vinyl tile. This affordable option is no longer your grandmother's vinyl, now available in a variety of natural finishes that are both durable and modern. If replacing isn't in your budget, simply give your flooring a good cleaning and use accent rugs to cover blemished areas.
Check off a project on your home improvement to-do list this weekend, and enjoy the results through spring and beyond.
April 27, 2012 2:10 pm
At some point, most everyone will need to borrow money, whether it's for school, a car, a home, a business, or to meet daily expenses during a personal financial downturn. Of course, how that money is borrowed and how it is paid back can make a big difference in the total cost and a person's overall financial standing.
"Knowing how, when, and how much to borrow can be difficult to determine," says Ken Hall, Senior Vice President, M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group. "But a little research and planning can go a long way to ensuring responsible borrowing and personal financial health."
Hall offers some advice on responsible borrowing and how to make sense of the options available.
• Know your credit score. This number is vital, and will often determine whether you can borrow money, how large a loan you can secure, and what interest rate you'll pay. Creditors will look at this score to gauge your ability to pay back a loan. It's made available via three main agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Credit reports from these agencies should be checked regularly to ensure accuracy.
• Manage your credit score. There are many factors that play into a credit score, including your credit history, outstanding debts and your total number of credit accounts and loans. Paying off debt, making payments on time, and not opening new credit accounts will all help bring your credit score up.
• Understand your responsibility before co-signing anyone else's credit or loan. If a friend or family member makes that request, be sure you know what you're signing and have the ability to make payments in the event the primary signator is not able to.
• Prioritize your debt, whether you're paying it off or taking out a loan. If you're faced with multiple sources of debt, make a list and determine which should be paid off first. If possible, make more than the minimum monthly payments to keep interest costs down. When taking on more debt, avoid new credit cards where possible and focus debt where it can help you over the long run – in a home or a college education.
• Set your kids up for success by educating them on borrowing. Give them small loans and charge interest as they're paid back. Explain how credit cards work, and how much interest is paid when the bill comes. As kids get older and closer to college, talk to them about student debt and their prospects for paying those loans back after graduation.
April 27, 2012 2:10 pm
Have you ever had a pest invasion in your home? Then you may not be surprised to learn that 84 percent of America's homeowners experienced a pest problem in the past 12 months, according to a national survey by HomeTeam Pest Defense. The top pest issues for homeowners in the last year were ants (49 percent), spiders (43 percent), flies (37 percent), mosquitoes (34 percent), mice (30 percent) and wasps (29 percent).
"Pests have appeared earlier than usual this year due to warm winter, early spring and recent heavy rains," saysRuss Horton, national technical director for HomeTeam Pest Defense. "We have already seen termite swarms in Texas, Georgia and Florida, odorous house ants in the Mid-Atlantic, and scorpions in Arizona."
Additionally, HomeTeam's national survey found that 80 percent of homeowners are concerned about pests in their home. The top pests homeowners worry about are termites, cockroaches, rats, bed bugs and mice. Termites are the greatest pest concern, worrying one in four, and 13 percent actually experienced termites in the last 12 months. Nearly one quarter (22 percent) of homeowners have experienced structural damage to their home from a pest problem.
Eighty percent of homeowners are also concerned about being exposed to bed bugs when traveling, and most (81 percent) are not confident they know how to prevent bringing bed bugs into their home.
While many homeowners (54 percent) treated pest problems on their own, two-thirds of the do-it-yourselfers were unable to resolve their problem completely. Half of homeowners (51 percent) say using a pest control service is a necessity, and working with a company that guarantees its work was very important to almost everyone (95 percent). Treatments that will not harm children and pets were a high priority for 80 percent.
"There are easy ways to help lower your risk of infestation now and throughout the spring and summer," adds Horton.
HomeTeam offers the following quick tips to prepare your home and prevent pest infestations:
• Seal cracks and small openings around doors, windows, garage doors and utility entry points.
• Get rid of standing water around the home.
• Cut back tree branches and bushes, keeping them away from the side of the house and roof.
• Install or repair screens on windows and doors.
• Fix dripping taps and leaking pipes to remove the water and humidity that some pests need to survive.
• Empty garbage cans and recycle bins regularly.
• Store food in sealed containers on countertops, cupboards or in the refrigerator.
Additional data is available from the HomeTeam Pest Defense survey related to national pest trends and the pest control habits of homeowners, as well as highlights from the four major regions of the country and several local markets. The survey also revealed interesting findings in:
• Parenting/Children: Forty-five percent of parents with children age 6-17 are not confident their child knows which pests are harmful and should be avoided.
• Pets: Fleas and ticks remain the top pest issues for pets. More than half (53 percent) of pet owners have ever experienced an issue with fleas.
• Real Estate: Half of people (51 percent) say they don't think about pests when house hunting, but several pests including termites, bed bugs, rodents and cockroaches are deal breakers if seen in a potential home.
Source: www.rollins.com, www.pestdefense.com.
April 27, 2012 2:10 pm
(ARA) - If you want your home to reflect your personal style, why not start in the kitchen? The kitchen, commonly the most popular room in the house for everyday life and entertaining, doesn't have to be cookie cutter with coordinating color schemes.
Current trends give homeowners leeway to add personal flair to the kitchen with bursts of color, unique designs and unexpected patterns.
Walls painted in neutral hues, and appliances and fixtures in monochromatic finishes, create a nice "blank canvas" that you can dress up with bold accessories or patterned fabrics.
If you want to kick up your kitchen decor another notch, explore your color options. Colorful kitchen products and appliances abound. Mixers, blenders, teapots and even faucets are available in a variety of colors, such as blue, red, pink or yellow and can add an unexpected pop to your space.
"Color blocking is something that is trending in both fashion and interior design," says Judd Lord, Delta Faucet Company director of industrial design. "People want to express themselves through home decor just like they do with their own style."
If you want to stay on top of current trends, then try experimenting with the 2012 Pantone color of the year - Tangerine Tango. Radiating warmth and energy, the bright hue can energize a room. Incorporate the color on a small scale with table linens or go bold and paint one of the walls to add dimension.
You can also spice things up by creating a more eclectic look. One way to do this is by mixing and matching cabinetry hardware designs. There are many different styles, sizes, colors and materials, making it easy create your own custom space. Or switch up your kitchen table and chairs, using different styles instead of a matching set. Try an antique table with chairs that are structured and modern or upholstered with a variety of bold patterns. Add in a bench on one side to make it even more unexpected.
For more of a subtle, eclectic look, combine a variety of dinnerware pieces that hang together with one consistent thread, such as bold color or an unexpected pattern. The best part is you don't have to stress if you break a plate, can't find the exact piece to match the collection, or have more guests than matching dinner sets.
Customize your kitchen space by adding a hint of color or playing around with mixing and matching wherever you feel comfortable. You're going to spend a lot of time in your kitchen, so have fun with it and make it your own.
April 27, 2012 2:10 pm
Earnest money deposit. Money that accompanies an offer to purchase as evidence of good faith. It is almost always a personal check, certified check, or money order rather than cash.
April 27, 2012 2:10 pm
Q: My budget won’t allow for expensive add-ons; is there another way to find and make space?
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.
April 26, 2012 5:56 pm
I have promoted a number of programs and tips on saving energy, cutting costs and saving the planet. But this month, the Alliance to Save Energy (ase.org/efficiencynews) is trying to help homeowners understand which energy-efficient home improvements are eligible for federal tax credits, and which forms you’ll need to claim them.
According to the ASE, you can get up to $500 back on your 2011 income tax return if you installed energy-efficient products in your home last year. Just use the “non-business energy property credit,” which gives back 10 percent of the cost of building envelope improvements.
Just check the criteria because there are dollar limits for specific equipment.
The ASE states that while you can claim the full $500 credit from improvements you made in 2011, the credit is actually cumulative, including any credits claimed since 2006.
So what counts toward the non-business Energy Property Credit?
The ASE says if you meet certain criteria like owning your home, and if you used eligible products to make that home more energy efficient, you may be eligible for the non-business energy property tax credit.
Eligible products include certain energy-efficient:
• Roofs made of metal or asphalt
• Exterior doors
• Exterior windows, including skylights and storm windows
• HVAC and water heating systems, including central A/C, water heaters, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers
Most of these energy-efficient products reduce the heat loss or gain of your home, or heat/cool your home without using as much energy. To ensure that your product is eligible, check the manufacturer’s certification statement, which can sometimes be found in the packaging and is likely on the manufacturers’ website.
In our next segment, we'll review the forms required to claim your energy property credit
April 26, 2012 5:56 pm
Selling a home can be a daunting undertaking, and while you may be helpless to control the state of the market or the number of prospective buyers in your price range, here are a few ways to be proactive against some of sellers' most common pitfalls:
Problem: Competition. Are there too many homes for sale in your price range? If there are too many options open to buyers in your market, you may not see as many showings as you'd like.
What You Can Do: Unfortunately, the state of the market in your neighborhood or town is pretty much beyond your control. You'll need to think about how you can make your home a more attractive sale, either by lowering your price or providing attractive terms of sale.
Problem: Your asking price is too high. It's stating the obvious, but if your asking price is too high, you'll price yourself right out of a lot of potential showings. Further, even if you do manage to land a buyer at your price, his or her financing is more likely to fall through during the sale if the house will not appraise.
What You Can Do: Working with a trusted real estate agent to come up with a fair asking price is vitally important. Make sure you are educated about the market you're selling in, and price your home accordingly. Ask yourself whether you'd rather net a little less than you had hoped – or not be able to sell at all.
Problem: Your home lacks curb appeal. The condition of your home inside and out is critically important to making a sale. If your home doesn't show well, a potential buyer is going to head elsewhere. Most buyers are looking for a house they can move into without a ton of small repairs and cleanup.
What You Can Do: You've been meaning to fix that leaky faucet or repaint the fence in the front yard, so now is the time to do it! Of course, this should have been done when you decided to sell, but it's never too late… De-clutter your rooms and store all personal effects. Consider investing in some new curtains, bath towels and throw rugs. To make sure that you nail that crucial curb appeal, spruce up your yard with new plantings, trim hedges and weed flowerbeds, and keep the lawn short and neat. Those minor repairs that you have been living with will add up in the eyes of a prospective buyer.
Problem: Location. Everyone's heard that old maxim that real estate is all about "location, location, location!" But what do you do if you're trying to sell a home on a busy street, or too close to a major highway?
What You Can Do: There are actually a few things you can do to increase your chances of a sale. If your home is on a busier street, highlight any benefits on the flip side—maybe your backyard is fenced in, your taxes are low or you can walk to a school nearby. Make sure you pay extra attention to those highlights. If you are in an area where your home is very close to a major highway, consider some type of privacy hedge or fencing. If you have older windows consider replacing them - the benefit will be two fold, you will have new windows as a selling feature and those new windows will provide a little more sound buffering inside the home. Last, consider selling at a time when the foliage is in full bloom to help naturally block sound or visual effects from nearby highways.
Kristin has been serving her community as a REALTOR® for the last eight years. She is a member of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, MAR, NAR, MLS-PIN, Women's Council of REALTORS®, and a recipient of The President's Circle Award.
April 26, 2012 5:56 pm
The summer is approaching fast bringing with it warm weather, humidity, and lots of sunshine. A deck or a patio is ideal for spending time outside and enjoying summer outdoor activities. Frontier Deck Builders, Inc. is accommodating its customers by offering several deck shading options such as pergolas, gazebos and covered pavilions.
“Now is a great time to think about outdoor improvements to get prepared for summer cookouts with friends and family,” says Andy Merz, the owner of Frontier Deck Builders, Inc.
According to dermatologists, sun exposure is necessary for Vitamin D production, but it should be balanced and regulated, as UV rays can cause skin cancer. Doctors recommend using sunscreens, avoiding the peak midday sun (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.), and limiting sunbathing to 10 to 15 minutes per session.
“It’s not always possible to stay out of the sun when your deck or patio has no shading,” comments Merz. He noted that a custom-built pergola is a popular shading choice among his customers. Pergolas, or framed open-roof structures, can be built to match the style of the deck, thus seamlessly blending into the landscape. The roof can then be fully or partially covered by vines, fabric, or any other material.
Strategically placing a gazebo or an open-wall pavilion on one’s deck or patio can also provide desired shading. “For homeowners who are concerned about maintaining a consistent look throughout their property, pergolas, gazebos, and pavilions are a better choice over canopy awnings,” points out Merz.
He explained that awnings are limiting both in design and functionality, as they attach to the side of the house, leaving little room to the choice of location and materials. Merz adds that canopies might not always fit in with one’s overall landscape, because certain features cannot be customized.
Another effective and creative way to protect any outdoor space from excessive sunlight is by using shade sails. These large sheets of thick fabric, tensioned across several anchors, can shade decks, patios, yards, and even pools. Natural or artificial support points are required for installation.
“Some of our customers either don’t have enough space or simply choose not to install any bulky shading constructions. In this case, we suggest using temporary portable solutions to block the dangerous rays,” mentions Merz.
Such solutions include table umbrellas, portable tents, canopies, large plants, or trees. Trees can be strategically planted around the yard to provide necessary shade. Many plants, as well as young palm trees and some evergreens, can also be grown in planters and positioned on the deck where shade is desired.
“Having replaced quite a few decks, I can tell you that lots of sun can harm not just people, but their outdoor structures as well,” points out Merz. Bright sun fades and dries wood, making it more likely to retain water and rot. And just like people use sunscreen, wooden decks can be protected by applying a finish with UV inhibitors.
April 26, 2012 5:56 pm
Downpayment. Initial cash investment made as evidence of good faith when purchasing real estate. It is usually a percentage of the sale price