Gunning Daily News
May 18, 2012 4:38 pm
A: It depends. So-called “bad” areas – often described as those that are residentially unstable or poor – have offered an affordable means of homeownership for many – particularly young, first-time buyers and low- to moderate-income families interested in a home they can call their own. Whether it is right for you to buy a fixer-upper will depend on your personal threshold for risk and your level of tolerance. That said, however, many run-down neighborhoods, particularly those close to downtown, are benefiting from a residential resurgence as an influx of newcomers jump-start what were once staid, unsafe or depressed areas.
May 18, 2012 4:38 pm
(ARA)—Buying your first home will likely be one of the most exciting and scary times of your life. Beyond the basic considerations - location, number of bathrooms, ranch style vs. multilevel - there are a number of important financial factors to determine before deciding which house is right for you.
1. Determine how a home purchase will affect your current lifestyle. In addition to the overall expense of the home, it is important to consider how long you plan to stay in the home, as well as your overall debt, both on credit cards and other loans. According to Investopedia.com, affordability should be the No. 1 thing you look for in a home, but you also need to be stable enough to know you are going to want to live in the home you pick for at least 10 years. If not, you could get stuck in a home you can't afford in a city you're ready to leave.
Not surprisingly, location not only affects affordability, but also potential resale value. Amy Hoak of MarketWatch states, "Homes located within walking distance of amenities such as schools, parks and shopping aren't only more convenient for their owners, often they're also worth more than homes in neighborhoods where driving is the rule." Consider your lifestyle when you choose a location. Spending more to live within strolling distance of your favorite shops and restaurants is only valuable if you'll take advantage of that proximity. BankRate.com offers a handy tool to help predict your monthly mortgage payments in different communities.
2. Consider your options for purchasing a home. Building a new home gives you greater control over style and finishes, though your move-in date will depend on the construction schedule. Newer existing homes will likely require fewer updates than an older home, but may be priced at a premium. If you are shopping for a starter home, consider your plans for the future. A smaller house may require less home maintenance and upkeep, but if you are looking for a larger long term investment and a place to grow and raise a family, opting for more space from the get-go may make the most sense.
3. Whatever the condition or age of the home you purchase, there's always the chance you'll want to make some changes, such as renovating a bathroom or upgrading your kitchen, or remodeling parts of the home to accommodate an expanding family. Try to anticipate and factor these costs into your total budget before purchasing a home. When it's time for these changes, will you be ready financially?
According to Consumer Reports, kitchen and bathrooms are at the top of homeowner's wish lists in terms of rooms that need work. Luckily, updating the kitchen or bathroom to reflect your personal style doesn't have to be an expensive task. Replacing your plumbing fixtures and finishes can dramatically transform the space.
May 18, 2012 4:38 pm
Is your yard full of birds? Encourage nesting with a great bird house. The below tips outline the best things to look for when purchasing a bird house.
1. No perch in front
Tree cavities in the wild have no perches, so birds that use nest boxes don’t need them. Perches can be a disadvantage in that they may attract House Sparrows, an invasive species that often takes over nests from native cavity-nesting birds.
2. Proper entry-hole size
The most common cavity-nesting birds can use an entrance hole between 1 ¼” and 1 ½” in diameter. This size also keeps out European Starlings, another invasive species that take over nest boxes from native species. Having the entry hole reinforced with a guard helps prevent squirrels and raccoons from reaching down into the box.
3. Floor dimensions
The inside dimensions of the box are important and should be at least 4 inches by 4 inches so there is room for the young of more common species to develop. Other birds such as woodpeckers or ducks have more specific needs.
4. Box height
The distance from the bottom of the entrance hole to the floor of the box should be at least 5 inches. This keeps the developing young well down in the box and away from predators that might approach the entry hole.
5. Be Able to Open
The box should open easily, either on the side, front, or top by turning a latch or removing a screw. This helps in two ways—to monitor the progress and health of the young and to clean out the box after the young have fledged and at the end of the season.
There must be holes or slits at the top of the box sides or along the top of the front of the box to let hot air out when the sun beats down on the box in summer.
7. Drainage Holes
The bottom of the box needs to have holes or cut off corners to allow any water to drain out of the box.
8. A Way to Attach the Box
Check to see if there is some way that you can attach the box to a pole, such as predrilled holes and screws or a mounting paddle on the back. Some boxes can be bottom-mounted and some can be rear-mounted on appropriate poles with the correct adapters.
9. Proper materials
Be sure that the materials the box is made of are ¾” wood or a similar material that will insulate the birds from cold and heat. Duncraft has been making beautiful, durable houses with recycled plastic. The only exception to wood or plastic is housing for Purple Martins—often these are made of metal.
10. Roof Overhang
The roof should overhang the entrance hole by 1 to 2 inches. This both shades the entrance hole and keeps the rain out.
May 18, 2012 4:38 pm
This year’s tornado season got off to an early start across the South, and the National Weather Service is predicting another savage storm season after recording one of the deadliest tornado seasons ever last year.
The next few months are typically the most active for twisters, so take the following safety suggestions into mind.
"Deadly tornadoes can occur anywhere with limited warning, so it’s important to be prepared,” says Michael Gillerlane, a senior assistant vice president for Amica Insurance. “Make sure you have an emergency supply kit in your home with food, water and a radio with extra batteries.”
It’s also important to locate an emergency shelter in your community and develop an emergency communication plan with your family in case someone is separated, Gillerlane said. Also, remember to keep your cell phone charged and with you, in case of an emergency.
Most important, be aware of weather conditions that spawn tornadoes, especially powerful thunderstorms, Gillerlane said. Pay attention to news alerts:
• A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible, so make sure to keep checking for news and updates.
• A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated on radar, so it’s important to seek shelter immediately.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says warning signs of a tornado include:
• Dark, often greenish sky
• Large hail
• Low-lying clouds, particularly if rotating
• A loud roar, similar to that of a freight train
If a tornado is headed your way, stay inside and take cover, Gillerlane said. Basements are the safest place to stay. Turn off all utilities, especially natural gas or propane to avoid fire. If you don’t have time to go to an emergency shelter, stay inside your home, keep away from doors and windows and head to the basement if possible.
"If a tornado does strike your community, monitor local news and weather before you head outside,” Gillerlane says. “Stay clear of downed wires and evacuate the area immediately if you smell gas. Also, be careful entering any buildings that have been damaged.”
Source: Amica Insurance
May 18, 2012 4:38 pm
Fixtures. Any personal property that has been permanently attached to real property and therefore included in the transfer of real estate. For example, the kitchen sink is a fixture.
May 18, 2012 4:38 pm
A: One of the best ways is to get your hands on a comparable market analyses. See what price similar properties have sold for in the past and find out the listing price of others currently on the market.
It is important to examine the fixer-upper carefully and figure out how much it will cost to fix any defects or repairs. If you are unable to get in, talk with nearby neighbors about the home’s condition.
You can also do your own cost comparison by researching comparable properties recorded at the local county recorder's and assessor's offices, or at Internet sites specializing in property records. If the property is in foreclosure, you should get as much information as possible from the lender.
May 17, 2012 5:00 pm
Enough of the country was impacted by tree and shrub compromising weather last winter that I thought it would be smart to pitch some tips to folks making long-term planting plans to restore trees and other shrubbery around their property that might eventually grow tall enough to interfere with power and cable lines.
One regional utility company we found is working to remind homeowners to "plan before they plant." For Connecticut Light & Power, whose customers suffered through back-to-back, week-long power outages last fall, trees are the number one cause of those outages.
That means planting—or replanting—the right tree in the right place can help reduce the risk of a future tree-related outage—even years and years down the road. The utility's Vegetation Management specialists are on a campaign to make sure customers are thinking about how newly planted trees may someday affect the reliability of their electric service.
When planting trees near roadside power lines, CL&P recommends low-growing trees such as crabapple and dogwood.
Medium-sized trees, which grow to heights of 25 to 45 feet, can be planted between 15 and 30 feet from the power lines. Examples include arborvitae and flowering cherry trees.
Large-growing trees, reaching heights of more than 45 feet should be planted at least 30 feet from the power lines. Oak, maple and pine trees are some examples.
If you live in warmer climates and you're looking to install or replace damaged flora with fast growing trees, we didn't forget you. In fact, you may want to refer to the City of Santa Maria, CA, which publishes a nice guide for homeowners replacing or planting trees that includes these recommendations:
Albizia julibrissin also called a Silktree or Mimosa has rapid growth up to 30 feet with equal width. This evergreen has fragrant flowers that appear in the summer, and are favorites of bees and hummingbirds.
Liriodendron tulipifera or Tulip, is another fast-growing, deciduous tree that can quickly grow to 60 to 100 feet with a spread of 30 to 50 feet. Leaves turn bright yellow before shedding in the fall, and greenish yellow flowers shaped like tulips bloom in the late spring.
May 17, 2012 5:00 pm
Watering the grass is a critical part of maintaining a healthy lawn. Watering too little can cause the grass to turn brown and thin out, creating room for weeds. Watering too much can lead to turf disease and shallow root systems, which means your grass is weaker and less able to stand up to drought, lawn-feeding pests and other problems.
Here are some tips to help you water your lawn the right way.
How to Tell When Your Lawn Needs Water
Turfgrass plants are 70 to 75 percent water, so giving them enough water is vital. Symptoms of inadequate water are easily seen:
• Grass slowly loses its bright green color and starts to fade to yellow.
• You may notice wilting, which causes grass blades to roll or fold.
• If you walk across your lawn and your footprints remain in the grass, or lawn mower tracks remain visible, your lawn needs water.
• If grass loses its green color altogether and turns yellow and then tan, that signals drought dormancy. That means grass has stopped growing. Once your lawn has turned brown and lost all color during drought dormancy, it could take several weeks of steady watering to spur regrowth.
The most accurate way to determine whether your lawn needs water is to use a knife to cut a wedge of soil (through the turf) about four inches deep and feel the soil. Ideally, it should be moist, not powder dry nor soggy and wet.
"Signs of typical wear and tear on yards this time of year are amplified when lawns are stressed," says Ben Hamza, Ph.D., director of technical operations at TruGreen. "Brown spots on lawns may not always be from lack of water or nutrients, but instead from lawn-feeding insects that can mimic drought damage on select grass types. Homeowners need to have a clear understanding of the source of the yard problem to effectively resolve."
How to Water Your Lawn
• Established lawns should be watered deeply, but infrequently. Deep watering once a week encourages deeper root growth, while frequent, shallow watering produces a limited root system.
• When watering, make sure you moisten the top three to four inches of soil, which covers the root zone.
• Although watering frequency depends on the type of grass, your soil, and the weather, most grasses require about one inch of water each week for healthy growth. Let Mother Nature do as much of the watering for you as possible.
• The best time to water is in the morning and in non-windy conditions. This conserves water and allows grass to dry before evening. Grass that remains wet for long periods of time is more susceptible to disease development. Watering in the afternoon is the worst for water conservation. Up to half the water can evaporate in the air or on the ground during the hot part of the day.
• If you're using a movable sprinkler, let it run in one spot just until the water begins to run off the surface, then move to a different area of the lawn.
• Monitor your underground irrigation or sprinkler system to be sure that you moisten the lawn's entire root zone without over-watering any sections.
• To help ensure uniformity, place a one-inch deep, empty food can in the middle of lawn area to measure depth of water collected after each watering cycle.
• Make sure you are familiar with and follow any local watering restrictions.
May 17, 2012 5:00 pm
According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch™ Survey, 71 percent of American grill owners fire up their backyard grill on Memorial Day, a 10 percent jump from last year.
"We continue to see a rise in the number of people grilling for nearly all major holidays, including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July (90 percent), Father's Day (53 percent) and even birthdays (76 percent)," says Brooke Jones, Director of Marketing for Weber-Stephen Products LLC, the world's leading manufacturer of outdoor gas and charcoal grills and grilling accessories.
Weber commissioned Toluna to field the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch Survey. A total of 1,000 grill owners throughout the United States completed the online survey. All respondents were 21 years of age or older and currently own a charcoal, gas or electric outdoor grill or smoker. The sample was divided between 50 percent males and 50 percent females and was balanced demographically to represent households across the U.S.
Other Top Trends from the Survey include:
A Surge in Electric Grilling Popularity
• Sixty-two percent of American grill owners who have never grilled on an outdoor electric grill are interested in trying, a six percent increase over the past three years. In addition, the survey showed:
• Grill owners who have used an outdoor electric grill (24 percent) list the top three reasons they enjoy electric grilling as: easy to use (61 percent), does not require fuel (52 percent), and heats up quickly (51 percent).
Southerners and the Art of Smoking
• By region, grill owners in the South rule when it comes to smoking foods, with 41 percent reporting they know how to use an outdoor smoker. Northeasterners are the least likely to know how to use an outdoor smoker at 29 percent. The West and Midwest are tied at 36 percent. Additional smoke cooking statistics include:
• Forty-four percent of grillers who do not know how to use a smoker are interested in learning how to use a smoker.
• Smoker owners are the most prolific grillers, spending an average of 7.5 hours per week grilling during their grilling season.
• Currently, 71 percent of all Americans (21 and older) own an outdoor grill and or smoker.
• Almost three-quarters of American grill owners (74 percent) are using their grill at least once a week during their grilling season, an increase from 69 percent last year.
• The three foods grilled most often are hamburgers (73 percent), chicken (41 percent) and steak (40 percent).
• Grillers consider dessert the most challenging food to grill (35 percent), followed by fish (30 percent) and pizza (28 percent).
May 17, 2012 5:00 pm
Since January 2011, nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, joining the fastest growing age group in the nation. According to a recent American Automobile Association (AAA) survey of that booming population, nearly half of seniors worry about losing their freedom and mobility when the time comes for them to transition from driver to passenger.
From understanding how vision changes can affect one's ability to drive at night, to researching the effects certain medications can have on one's driving ability, it's important to get the facts about driving for seniors. Use these tips from AAA to help ensure you and your family members are driving safely:
Evaluate your driving
While most seniors are experienced drivers, it's important to take time to consider one's driving "health" and habits. For instance, how frequently do you wear a seatbelt? Do you use your signal and check for nearby traffic before changing lanes? Does traffic cause you to feel anxious? When was the last time you had an eye exam? You can take a Driver 65 Plus self-assessment at www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com to get a clear picture of just how good your driving skills really are, and you'll also get suggestions for improving your driving.
Be aware of how aging affects driving habits
From hearing and vision loss, to mental fitness and reaction time, seniors may not notice the gradual differences that can impact their driving ability. For instance, by age 60, your eyes need three times the amount of light to see properly as they do for people 20 years old, which means it's more difficult to see at night. Likewise, one-third of Americans suffer from hearing loss by age 65. This can pose a problem, as senior drivers may be unable to hear high-pitched noises such as emergency response vehicles while on the road.
Reaction times can be slower for seniors as well. But preventative measures can go a long way.
-- When following other vehicles, seniors should increase the distance between their car and the car in front of them, to allow more time to react to sudden braking.
-- Eliminating distractions in the vehicle and avoiding heavy traffic can also help seniors identify emergency sirens, and avoiding driving at night is another safer option for seniors.
Find the right fit
With the wide array of vehicles offering all sorts of convenience features, seniors may not realize that their car may not be optimally adjusted to fit them. For example, sitting too close to the steering wheel can interfere with steering and cause fatigue, as well as injury, should the airbag deploy during a collision.
-- Make sure you have at least 10 to 12 inches between your chest and the steering wheel.
-- When seated properly, you should be able to see the ground in front of your car within 12 to 15 feet and 1 1/2 car widths left and right.
-- Visit www.car-fit.org to assess the safety of your vehicle, find the proper seat and mirror adjustments and more.
Take a refresher course
No matter how many years a driver has been on the road, a refresher course can help reinforce the basics such as identifying road signs, as well as provide information on updated driving rules and new vehicle technologies.
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist
Ensure that the medications you take -- both prescription and over-the-counter -- will not impair your ability to drive safely. In addition, make sure all your medications go through one pharmacy, so the pharmacists on staff can better assess any potential drug interactions.
Top 5 driving tips for seniors
1. Prepare for a drive by adjusting your mirrors and seat to ensure you can see properly. Always wear a seatbelt.
2. Eliminate distractions, such as the car radio, which can interfere with your ability to hear emergency response vehicle sirens and other important sounds.
3. Avoid driving in bad weather, heavy traffic or at night.
4. Making left-hand turns can be difficult for people with limited vision. Avoid left-hand turns at intersections with signals by making three right hand turns around the block when possible.
5. Manage slower reaction times by increasing the amount of space between your vehicle and the car in front of you, allowing for more time to react to sudden braking.
Tips for family members
If you're concerned about the safety of a senior family member, look to resources such as their doctor or your local DMV, that can help identify their capacity to drive, and find transportation resources to help them manage daily needs:
-- If your family member has received two traffic citations, warnings or been involved in two collisions or "near misses" within a two year period, it may be time to look for other forms of transportation.
-- Make sure your family member speaks with their doctor and pharmacist about prescription and over-the-counter medications that may impair their ability to drive safely.
-- Talk with family members, friends and neighbors about organizing a car pool to help seniors who need rides find transportation. Look to local public and supplemental transportation options as well.