Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

March 26, 2012 4:42 pm

Commingle funds. Mixing of clients’ funds, or escrow, with an agent’s personal funds in an account; considered to be grounds for the suspension or revocation of the broker’s real estate license.

Question of the Day

March 26, 2012 4:42 pm

Q: Do I have to be concerned with building codes and permits?
A: Depending on how your contract is written with the home improvement professional, either you or the contractor will be responsible for securing government approval to perform most remodeling jobs.
Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design and construction. Codes vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next, but specialized codes generally exist for plumbing, electricity, and fire. Each usually involves separate inspections and inspectors. 

In addition, permits are generally required when any structural work is planned or the basic living space of a home is altered. They generally cover new construction, repairs, alterations, demolition, and additions to a structure. 

Some jurisdictions require permits to be posted in a visible spot on the premises while the work is being done. Besides structural changes, permits also may be needed to cover the installation of foundations for tanks and equipment, as well as the construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems, or standpipe systems.

Get Outside: Tips for Spring Family Fun

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

As the weather warms, ample opportunities arise to get your kids outside and explore, play, and adventure. According to a recent survey from L.L.Bean and the National Park Foundation, 60 percent of parents say their children spend less than an hour a day outdoors.

"Getting your children outside does not have to mean going for a long hike or needing expensive equipment, it can often be as simple as pitching a tent in your own backyard," says Rob Hutchison, Outdoor Discovery School Instructor at L.L.Bean. "By engaging your kids in the outdoors and making activities both educational and fun, they are more apt to develop a love of the outdoors and a desire to stay active."

Families can enjoy the outdoors —together— in more ways than before.

• The Sunny Day Rule – Now that the weather allows, encourage the "sunny day rule." When the sun is shining, unplug. This will get kids (and parents) away from the television, computer and video games and into the backyard.
• Clouding & Stargazing – These activities can be done from your own backyard with no equipment required. Pique your children's interest in weather, the atmosphere and space by creating a game identifying the various types of clouds and going out into the night to gaze at the stars and constellations overhead.
• Birding – Turn your backyard into a bird-friendly habitat. Birding is a family-friendly activity for those living in the city, suburbs or country. Back yards are a great place to create a safe place for birds to feed and nest. In addition to getting your family outdoors and identifying the various birding species, the maintenance aspect of this activity, including cleaning out feeders and nesting boxes, provides a good lesson in responsibility for children.
• Biking – Fun, not fitness, should set the pace for family cycling. Teach good road habits and hand signals in an empty parking lot. Play follow-the-leader on the painted lines to practice accurate steering, control and balance. And, always remember to wear a helmet.
• Family Camping – It's important to involve children early in your plans for family camping, allowing them the opportunity to engage in exploring different possible destinations and the trip prep process. Practice setting up a campsite in your backyard and teach the importance of "Leave No Trace" principles.
• Discover the National Parks – The U.S. National Park Service National Park Week is April 21-29. During this week, more than 350 national parks offer free admission, all week long. L.L.Bean's ParkFinder is a great tool that allows you to search thousands of national and state parks across the U.S. to find the one that's the right for your family's next outdoor adventure.
• Don't Be Afraid to Try Something New - Getting your kids—and yourself!—outside their comfort zones provides a great opportunity for personal growth. Check online or in your local paper for fun outdoor activities or clubs in your area. Pick a new one every week or month to keep your Spring and Summer fresh and fun. 


Small Business Social Media Tips

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

If your business isn’t already implanting social media into your marketing plan, you are falling behind. With today’s consumers becoming more and more tech savvy, connecting via social media platforms is essential for business success. Here are a few simple tips: 

Know Your Audience. It is important to understand your audience and potential customer base before venturing into social media. Who is your audience? What age group? What social media platform are they most active in? What are they looking for, and what can you provide them? 

Know Your Goals. Knowing what you want—whether it’s increased sales, brand awareness, engagement or feedback—can help you better shape your social media strategy. 

Know Your Competitors. What is the competition doing with social media? And more importantly, what are they NOT doing. Know the trends in your market so that you can beat out competition and stay ahead. 

Stay Consistent. You want to be considered a valued, regular source of online content. If you start Tweeting, make sure you do it frequently so that consumers stay connected. Have a blog? Post regularly so your readers know they can depend on you for fresh, up-to-date content.

Word of the Day

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

Cloud on title. Defect in the title that impairs the owner’s ability to market the property. This might be a lien, claim, judgment, or encumbrance.

Question of the Day

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

Q: Are property taxes deductible?

A: Yes. Like the mortgage interest paid on a home loan, property taxes are fully deductible from your income. You may deduct them every year on your primary residence, second home and other investment properties.

However, escrow money held for property taxes cannot be deducted until the money is actually used to pay the property taxes.

Wishing You Well: Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

As more homes and neighborhoods ripple outward from America's more urban or suburban centers, more and more homeowners are finding themselves having to get their water supply from a well versus municipal water sources.

Joe Finnerty's Lehigh Valley Real Estate blog covered the subject very well this month— no pun intended. Check it out here. 

According to Finnerty's post, there are three main concerns with a well:

1) Is the water safe to drink and use (also referred to as potable)?
2) Does the well have adequate capacity?
3) What is the depth of the well? (The deeper the well, the better the water, usually.)

If purchasing a home for the first time with a well, a buyer should consider having a test done to detect Coliform— especially if the well is near a septic system.

According to Finnerty, homeowners can also test for lead, pesticides, and other chemicals. If a problem is found with the well water, an ultra-violet light (to kill bacteria) or water conditioner may be needed.

If a well does not have an adequate water supply, and it is deep (300-500 feet), Finnerty says hydrofracking may fix the problem.

If the well is shallow or hydrofracking doesn't work, a new well may be needed— typically, in the $3,500 to $5,000 range— and an estimate should be obtained for a new well and location. Usually, a permit is needed to install a new well, according to the Pennsylvania-based site— check your local building codes or office to be sure.

The Canadian city of Guelph publishes an informative downloadable guide for water sources that can help orient any new first time well owner, or a prospective buyer who is looking at a home that draws well water.

Reference that information here.

Wallet Woes: Sell Your Home on a Budget

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

Between maintenance, cleaning and replacing those out-dating appliances, selling your home can be expensive. The following are a few wallet friendly things you can do to spruce up your home for sale.

• Declutter—remove personal items, pack up bookcases and store non essential pieces of furniture.
• Can’t afford to replace the carpets? Get them steam cleaned.
• Keep the lawn mowed.
• Replace dated light fixtures.
• The color yellow is said to be inviting. Plant yellow flowers, such as marigolds or daffodils, along the front walk or by the front door.
• Wash the exterior windows.
• Polish all hardwood or ceramic floors.
• Paint front door and replace old hardware.
• Power spray the house so it’s gleaming.
• Buy new cabinet handles, sink and bath faucets and doorknobs.
• Paint or replace the mailbox.
• Re-grout kitchen tiles.
• Re-paint rooms and trim.
• Replace any water stained shower doors or refinish a stained tub.

Have a Safe Spring: Top Tips for Preventing a Robbery

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

Robbery is one of the greatest fears for homeowners across the country, and when it occurs, can be financially and emotionally devastating for homeowners and their families. Yet most break-ins tend to be opportunistic, rather than pre-planned, meaning that implementing the simplest measures can help to deter criminals away from your home.

Common Sense
Keeping a spare key in a plant pot may seem like a handy back-up plan, but professional burglars know all of your hiding places. Make sure you store your keys away from the front or back door and keep any spare car keys in a concealed place. It's also important to remove temptation; keep valuables out of sight of the windows and make sure they are all closed and locked securely when you leave the house.

High quality locks on all of your doors and windows are extremely important and are usually a requirement for your home insurance.

Security Lights
Dark doorways and shadowy gardens make great hiding places for an opportunistic burglar. Cheap security lights are readily available from hardware shops and are easy to fit yourself. More expensive sensor lights will draw attention to any thieves watching your home, but are usually mains operated and need to be installed by a qualified electrician.

Cameras and Alarms
Video cameras will provide you with useful evidence after a theft, but they can also help prevent the crime in the first place. If you do have an alarm or cameras make sure you clearly display signs to let criminals know that they are being watched. No alarm? You can always invest in a dummy alarm box to deter opportunistic thieves.

Put yourself in the place of a potential burglar; what type of property would be easiest to target? An unoccupied one of course. Before going away for an extended period, cancel all deliveries to stop post and milk piling up in the doorway. Install plug timers to switch on lights and radios at random periods to create the illusion that someone is at home.


Planning a Trip? Be Wary of Vacation Scam Artists

March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

Spring often the time to plan your summer getaway. In an interview with Jay Kalin of Rent, Kalin cautions consumers—both travelers and property owners—to be on the lookout for scams that are linked to summer vacation rentals and vacations.

"Internet sites, or other online classified ads, are a popular place for consumers searching for last minute rentals or homeowners trying to earn more rental income during the summer vacation season," Kalin says. "Unfortunately, they are also popular with scam artists looking to lure unsuspecting consumers into their traps.

Technology, while a powerful and helpful resource, also makes it easy for thieves to copy photos and descriptions from legitimate vacation rental websites and create false Internet ads," Kalin says. "It is important for consumers to conduct thorough research before making any payments or committing to any plans."

Scammers will structure their ads in a way that forces consumers to respond quickly and often ask that rental payments be wire-transferred in order to guarantee reservations.

Here are a few of Kalin’s tips on screening your vacation home:

Before sending payment:
1. Vacationers can ask for a electric bill account number or copy from the owner and call the electric company to verify it by name and address.
2. Ask for their insurance and agent name, policy number and phone number. Check the number and address out and call the Insurance agent to verify owner and address.
3. Ask for a copy of the homeowner’s driver’s license.
4. Ask the homeowner for his property number at the assessment office for that area, and call for address verification and name.

Consumers should also be suspicious of vacation home listings that request detailed personal data, such as social security numbers or bank account information, which may be claimed is necessary to verify your credit worthiness as a renter. In reality, these listings are a type of "phishing" scheme, used by identity thieves to steal personal information.