Gunning Daily News

Five Homeowners Insurance Tips for First Time Buyers

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

A first time homeowner can find buying a new home exciting and overwhelming. When shopping for quotes, there are five areas that are especially important. Here are tips to get the best coverage at the most affordable price.

1. Know the difference between the replacement cost and the market value. Depending on how much was originally paid for the property, the cost of rebuilding can be higher or lower than the market value. Rebuilding a home is usually cheaper than buying an existing structure unless the original property bought was a foreclosure in which case rebuilding might be more expensive. The key is to accurately determine the cost of rebuilding when finalizing the details on a homeowners insurance policy.

2. Take a home inventory and determine the proper amount of personal property protection. Generally, policies cover 50-75 percent of the replacement value of the house. However, this may not be enough to cover certain valuables such as jewelry, fine art, collections, electronics and other expensive items. A separate rider may be needed and this should be discussed with an agent.

3. Have enough liability protection. This protects a homeowner if they are sued for an injury that takes place on their property. Many policies will even cover a policyholder if an incident happened away from the house. Depending on their assets, some may want to consider an additional umbrella policy if they are worried about ever being sued for an amount in excess of what their coverage offers.

4. Know what is not covered. Carefully study the exclusions section of the homeowners insurance policy. This is important to be aware of so additional coverage can be purchased. For instance, if one lives in an area prone to flooding, they may need to buy additional flood protection.

5. Consider additionally living expenses if ever forced from the dwelling. If a house becomes unlivable due to a flood, earthquake, fire or other disasters, a family will need to pay for living accommodations, may need additional money for food and transportation, and other expenses. This coverage is "additional living expenses" (ALE) and is a benefit that is usually worth about 20 percent of the home's replacement value. Be aware of the benefits, limitations and exclusion.

When shopping for home insurance quotes, be sure to find a company that is financially stable and has a high customer satisfaction rating. Two resources to check these qualities are A.M. Best for financial strength ratings and J.D. Power and Associates for their annual customer service rankings.

Source: HomeownersInsurance.net

Rules for a Safe and Cool Summer

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

Summer officially starts this week, and with it comes the summertime hazards that accompany hot, dry weather and certain outdoor activities.

Summer safety rules:

• "Look Up and Live!" – Use caution and keep fireworks, balloons, kites and toys (such as high powered water guns or remote control aircraft) away from overhead electric lines. Contact with lines can lead to serious injury, fires and outages.
• Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line.
• Never go near a power line that has fallen to the ground, is dangling in the air or appears to be damaged. Always assumed downed electric lines are energized and dangerous. Stay away, keep others away and immediately call 911 to alert the police and fire departments.
• Observe local laws. Contact your local police or fire department to make sure fireworks are allowed in your area. If so, keep a bucket of water or a water hose close by.
• Pay attention to overhead power lines when using long, aluminum poles to clean your pool. Watch where the other end of the pole is located in relation to power lines.
• Avoid playing around overhead power lines and power poles.
• Never climb trees growing near or touching overhead power lines.
• "Call Before You Dig" – Before starting outdoor projects that require any type of excavation, large or small, call 811 to ensure you know where gas and electrical lines are buried underground. Even small digging projects around the house for planting or fence posts require a call to 811.

Hot weather safety tips:

• When temperatures are unusually high, you can visit PG&E-supported Cooling Centers to escape the heat, free of charge. For information on Cooling Centers, or to find out if there is one in your neighborhood, contact your local city or county.
• If your neighborhood does not have a Cooling Center, plan trips to public places with air conditioning such as libraries, movie theaters or shopping malls.
• Avoid strenuous activities in hot, direct sunlight.
• Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol or caffeine when the weather is hot.
• Pay attention to your body. Muscle cramps, dizziness and nausea may be signs of a heat-related illness.

Source: Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Word of the Day

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

Lease-purchase option. Opportunity to purchase a piece of property by renting for a specified period, with the provision that the lessee may choose to buy after or during the leasing period at a predetermined sale price.

Question of the Day

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

Q: Do Builders Provide Financing?
A: Many builders offer financing incentives to help move more buyers into a project. In fact, major building companies often have their own mortgage brokerage subsidiaries, while many other builders routinely refer buyers to "preferred" local lenders. If it is a buyer's market in your area, you can be sure developers will offer incentives such as low-down-payment financing or interest rate subsidies.

Mud Tubes, Swarms, Piles—Oh My! Top Termite Warning Signs

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

(ARA)—Termites live to eat. Their hunger causes $5 billion worth of damage each year in the U.S., damage most homeowner's insurance doesn't cover. In fact, a colony can devour a foot of 2-by-4 wood in only six months. And since termites are masters at going undetected, they can destroy entire support beams before you discover their presence. That's why it's so important to know what to look for.

The warning signs of termites

Most termite species like to stay underground and within walls, where it's dark and damp. Here are some signs to look for:

Mud tubes - The easiest sign to detect. These pencil-width paths lead from a nest directly into your home and make it easy for termites to avoid sunlight. Check the surrounding land, any crawl spaces and your basement.

Swarms - Reproductive termites grow wings and fly during spring and fall. Check for this type of termite and the wings they shed.

Piles - Drywood termites leave sawdust-like piles around windowsills and cracks in woodwork or beams. You might also see what looks like collections of dirt at the base of walls and in corners.

Weakened wood - Long, thin cracks and sagging can be signs that wood has been hollowed out by termites. (Holes in wood are not commonly caused by termites, and may be a sign of beetles or carpenter ants.)

What a termite control professional can do for you

Termite professionals have years of experience and expertise when it comes to using the right treatment method for your unique situation. Different techniques are required based on the location of termite activity, the type of foundation you have and even the number of porches and patios. And just because the obvious signs of an infestation aren't there, such as mud tunnels or splitting wood, it doesn't mean that termites aren't. There are a number of professional termite control products on the market today, including DuPont Altriset. It works by paralyzing the mouths of termites within hours of exposure, stopping further damage immediately.

Your risk and how to reduce it

Risk level varies, largely depending on where you live. However, there are common measures that will make your home less appetizing to termites.

Termites like moisture - Eliminate water in gutters and puddles or any other areas where water might gather on or near your home. Repair any plumbing or drainage problems. Laying down plastic barriers in crawl spaces, basements and attics will help keep them dry.

Don't provide termites with extra food - Remove lumber or freestanding wood from the base of your home. Don't plant trees too close and clip away any vegetation, such as shrubs, that might be touching the foundation or walls.

Damp spots and cracks are an open invitation - Check outdoor faucets and gutters for leaks and ventilate humid crawl spaces. Repair cracks and holes in the foundation with caulk, closing off termite entry.

Don't take any chances - Have your home inspected each year by a professional. It doesn't take long and can mean early detection - saving you time and money.

Plant-Based Perspective: Super Snacking

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

According to a recent study on snacking trends, conducted by Symphony IRI Group, more than half of consumers said that when it comes to snacking, they opt for taste over health! This is scary news, as it can lead to overconsumption of processed foods high in salt and fat, and devoid of nutritional value. That’s no way to fuel your body.

However, there are signs of positivity peaking through here—the study also notes that 60 percent of consumers also say that they are trying to eat foods that help maintain or improve their health.
When snacking, I try and go for foods that have either a healthy fat/protein combo, or fruits and veggies high in nutrients, low in calories and full of water—important with the recent scorching temperatures!

One of my favorite go-to snacks are veggies dipped in hummus—which is chock full of protein and heart-healthy fats from tahini and olive oil. I also love unsalted nuts mixed with dried fruit, an apple with peanut butter or low maintenance fruit (read, no peeling! Just washing) like grapes or strawberries—which are just coming into season, folks!

Snacks high in protein and healthy fat are good for your heart, but your brain, too! Protect that noggin’, people! It’s the only one you’ve got!

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia's Associate Editor, animal and plant lover and certified holistic health counselor.

Legal Matters: Purchasing a Timeshare

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

Numerous factors should be taken into account prior to purchasing a timeshare. A review of the background of the seller, developer, and management company, along with a review of the current maintenance budget, will assist the prospective seller in making an informed decision. Local real estate agents, Better Business Bureaus, and consumer protection offices also are good sources of information. While many reputable builders do exist, purchasing an undeveloped property carries additional risks. One means of protection is to hold money in an escrow account in case the developer defaults. The commitment from the seller that the facilities will be finished as promised should be written into the purchase contract with a date certain.

Practical Factors

Timeshares provide the convenience of prearranged vacation facilities, but keep in mind that future circumstances may alter future planning ability. Timeshare plans typically do not include recession provisions for poor health or job loss. Vacationing tastes and favored activities may also change over time. These factors should be considered in evaluating a purchase.

Investment Potential
Timeshare resales usually are difficult and often sold at a loss to the seller. Therefore, timeshares are typically not considered an investment as a second or vacation home might be. There are many investment options in the property area, but investment should not be a major factor when purchasing a timeshare. Renting is also difficult and many time-share owners pay advance fees to rental agencies, which may not be able to find any renters for a given time frame.

Total Costs
Total costs include mortgage payments and expenses, as well as travel costs, annual maintenance fees and taxes, closing costs, broker commissions, and finance charges. Annual timeshare maintenance fees can be high depending on the amenities of the resort. The larger and more upscale the resort, the higher the fees. These fees cover all of the costs of operation but are typically several hundred dollars a year. These fees can and do rise over time. All of these expenses should be incorporated when determining the overall cost of purchasing a timeshare.

Document Review
Purchase documents for any type of real estate transaction are binding legal contracts and should be reviewed by an attorney. The contract may provide for -- and some states require -- a set "cooling-off" period during which the timeshare purchaser may cancel the contract and obtain a refund. The contract may include a non-disturbance clause and/or a non-performance clause. A non-disturbance provision ensures continued use of the unit in the event of default and subsequent third party claims against the developer or management firm. A non-performance protection clause allows the purchaser to retain ownership rights, even if a third party is required to buy out the contract. All promises made by the salesperson should be written into the contract. If not, such provisions will almost certainly be unenforceable in a court of law.

Foreign Properties

Timeshares and vacation club memberships in foreign countries are subject to the law of the jurisdiction in which the timeshare is located. A contract outside the United States for a timeshare located in another country will not be protected under U. S. (federal) or state contract property laws.

Source: Findlaw.com

Summer’s Hottest Window Trends

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

(ARA) - Windows do a lot more than just let the light in and keep the weather out. They're both key elements in your home's overall design and in the unique look of each individual room. If you're redecorating for warm weather, updating your window treatments is a great, cost-effective way to completely change the look of a space.

"People often switch their window treatments when the seasons change, but may only think of replacing heavy winter drapes with some frothy sheers," says Lauren Foster, a home design consultant with Blinds.com. "Today's versatile window shades offer ample opportunities to create a truly unique, seasonally appropriate look quickly and easily."

When warm weather arrives, it's time to open windows and let the sun shine in. Leaving windows curtain-free, and decorating with window shades instead, allows you to welcome the season into the room and show off the window's intrinsic beauty. Foster points to the window shade treatment trends that will be hot this spring and summer:

Prints and patterns - Long gone are the days when window shades were drab solid white or cream. Today, you can find a plethora of colors, patterns and even textures. Websites like Blinds.com stock a huge inventory of options, from Roman shades in passionate purple and energy-efficient cellular shades in celery green, to roller shades in sprightly floral patterns. Brands like Laura Ashley, Bali and Graber literally offer dozens of color, pattern and style combinations, making it possible to find a window shade to complement virtually any design theme.

Bringing the outdoors in - Wood blinds have been a design staple for decades, and with good reason: they're durable, beautiful and practical. This year, wood blinds play to the trend of bringing the outdoors in. Woven roller shades that feature bamboo, sisal, grass, jute and straw are versatile enough to create both rustic and sophisticated effects in any room.

Exterior shades - Sometimes, the inside of windows isn't the only spot where you could use some shade. Exterior shades will be "in" this season, as homeowners seek to maximize the appeal and design impact of their outdoor living spaces. Exterior shades not only provide much-needed protection from the sun for patios and porches, they can help underscore an outdoor space's status as an important element of your home's overall design.

Cordless - Cordless shades have been available for a while, but their popularity is growing among homeowners and interior designers for a number of reasons. Cord-free blinds and shades create a clean, uncluttered look, allowing the beauty of the shade to shine without visual distraction. The cord-free adjustment mechanism holds blinds and shades securely in position, eliminating the need to constantly adjust them, and making it easier to raise them evenly. Finally, eliminating cords improves safety for children and pets, making cordless shades and blinds a must for children's bedrooms and play areas.

"The arrival of warm weather is a great time to redecorate, and few updates make it easier to freshen a room than changing shades and blinds," Foster says.

Word of the Day

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

Lessee. Someone who rents under a lease; the tenant.

Q: Should I Hire a Home Inspector for a New Home?

June 22, 2012 5:04 pm

A: You would think not since it is new and the developer has to adhere to local construction guidelines. However, err on the side of caution – always hire an inspector, whether the home is old or new.

You can ask the builder to provide copies of any inspection reports on the property, architectural plans, surveys and pertinent construction documents for your inspector to review.
The inspector should either be a professional home inspector, an engineer, an architect or a contractor. When hiring a professional inspector, look for one who belongs to a home inspection trade organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

This group has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Membership in ASHI is not automatic. Proven field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems and appliances are required.

As for rates, they vary greatly. Many inspectors charge about $400, but costs increase based on the scope of the inspection.