Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

January 12, 2012 6:00 pm

Tenants in common. Style of ownership in which two or more persons purchase a property jointly, but with no right of survivorship and separate undivided interests. They are free to will their share to anyone they choose, a principal difference between this form of ownership and joint tenancy.

Question of the Day

January 12, 2012 6:00 pm

Q: When should I tackle the job myself or call in the pros?

A: A lot will depend on your time, level of expertise or willingness to handle the job, amount of help from friends or relatives, and how much you want, or need, to save by doing the job yourself. You could save up to 20 percent of the project cost through your own hard work.

There are several do-it-yourself books that offer guidance, and some home improvement stores, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, offer classes that can be helpful getting you on the right track.

Be aware, however, that you may end up spending more time, and up to double your estimated budget, if problems arise. Also, you may have difficulty selling your home if the workmanship looks shoddy.

Unless you are very experienced, home improvement experts suggest that you stick to painting, minor landscaping, building interior shelving, and other minor improvements.

Remember, too, that you may need to deal with local agencies to get permits, inspections, variances, and certificates of occupancy.

2011 Finds High Consumer Debt

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Despite lower unemployment rates and strengthening economic indicators, debt continues to be a pressing consumer issue, according to a recent Bills.com "Debt Report."

The report finds that overall debt is highest amongst West Coast consumers, with an average of $19,900. Credit card debt remains the most frequent type of consumer debt, and student loans rose by 4.5 percent to become the second most frequent type of debt.

"Consumers continue to be squeezed financially, but they are being practical and focused when it comes to deleveraging, which has become the buzzword and financial strategy of 2011," says Brad Stroh, CEO and co-founder of Bills.com.

"Those consumers forced into late payments are choosing low dollar bills with delayed penalties, while those in more severe debt are searching for the best debt relief strategy for their unique situation."
Credit Card Debt Highlights
• Nationally, average credit card debt is $5,500;
• Users hold an average of 2.5 credit card accounts;
• West Coast consumers hold highest credit card debt at $7,100;
• Banks are the top five credit card issuers amongst users.

For more information, visit www.bills.com

Sanity-Saving Tips for Single Parents

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

At your wit's end trying to manage life as a single parent? The following tips, provided by author Laynee Gilbert, single mom and licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, can help you stay sane and enjoy a sound relationship with your child.

1. Identify "buttons and hooks" that can cause you to react negatively vs. respond thoughtfully.

2. When it comes to saying "yes" or "no," ask yourself, "What is my best possible response right now, considering the needs of my child, our relationship and myself?"

3. Balance the need to control with the need to let go. Per Gilbert, "Letting go of some control is not a slippery slope to letting go of all control."

4. Adopt a "good enough" standard, and learn to forgive imperfection.

5. Ask for help, and take personal time without guilt. Self-care relieves stress and lessens resentment.

Laynee Gilbert, M.A., M.F.T., is the author of five books, including, "So What: A Single Mom's Guide to Staying Sane in the 21st Century

Word of the Day

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Tax shelter. A realty investment that produces income-tax deductions for its owner.


Addressing the Chinese Drywall Debacle

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

The year of 2011 saw some resolution to the Chinese drywall debacle, which affected thousands of property owners and builders. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (cpsc.gov/info/drywall) received about 4,000 reports from those who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components in their homes were related to problem drywall.

State and local authorities have also received similar reports. Consumers largely report that their homes were built in 2006 to 2007, when an unprecedented increase in new construction occurred in part due to the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

For anyone affected, on September 15, 2011 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released updated remediation guidance for homeowners with problem drywall. The guidance calls for the replacement of all: problem drywall; smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms; electrical distribution components, including receptacles, switches and circuit breakers, but not necessarily wiring; and fusible-type fire sprinkler heads.

The updated remediation guidance is based on studies completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on potential long term corrosion effects of problem drywall on select gas components, fire sprinkler heads and smoke alarms

For additional findings from the Interagency Drywall Task Force’s investigation, visit: DrywallResponse.gov

Love to Garden? Winter Prep Makes a Difference

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Many passionate gardeners look forward to spring the way sports fans look ahead to their team’s upcoming season. It can’t come soon enough. If you’re a garden fanatic, there is no need to wait until the sun is shining to work on next years beds. These tips are things you can do during winter to prep next seasons flora.

Weed control: If the ground is clear, keep an eye out for weeds, which are already rooting. Spend a few hours pulling weeds and layering mulch over your clean soil.

Lay it out: When your garden is bare, you can really get a good view of the design. Decide if you’re happy with your spacing and layout. Plan to add or remove any shrubs or trees. Put in a fence or repair a trellis. Find a birdbath or birdhouse on sale in the off-season.

Test your soil. Most seasoned gardeners know a soil test can do wonders for your plants. Winter is prime soil testing season because it gives you time to make any necessary adjustments based on your results.

Enrich your soil. Spent the winter creating compost—with leaves or foodscraps—to enrich your soil. Come spring, your beds will be brimming with nutrients.

Garage Door Upgrade Amps Home Renovation Value

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Homeowners seeking a renovation project that will add long-term value and attract buyers should consider a facelift for their garage, a national study on remodeling costs and value has found.

At a time when buyers are evaluating homes based on curb appeal and online photos, the 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report released last month by Remodeling magazine confirms that replacement of a basic garage door with a mid-range or upscale model is one of the smartest and best value buys prior to a home sale.

Statistics show that more than 90 percent of home buyers turn to the Internet first in their home searches, often basing their decisions to learn more about a property from the photos they see of a home's exterior. With large portions of a home's facade often comprised of a street-facing garage door, it's no surprise that garage door replacement is, for the second year in a row, rated among the best home renovation projects for returning value at resale.

At 71.9 percent on average, mid-range garage door replacement is a top-five improvement for return on investment (ROI), the Cost vs. Value Report found, ahead of both bathroom and major kitchen remodels. Meanwhile, an upscale garage door replacement delivers a 71.1 percent ROI, making it the second highest-rated upscale improvement.

"Many homes incorporate a design that places a garage front and center to a home's view from the curb," says Joe Dachowicz, vice president of marketing at Overhead Door Corporation. "Because of this, garage door replacement is, and always has been, a great investment because it's a relatively low-cost improvement that makes a dramatic impact on a home's curb appeal."

Along with enhanced curb appeal, garage door replacement can also deliver a boost to energy efficiency, Dachowicz says.

"This year's Cost vs. Value Report revealed that homeowners continue to look for projects that improve curb appeal and reduce maintenance and operational costs," Dachowicz says. "By upgrading an old garage door with an insulated one, homeowners can achieve both goals with one project."

The 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value survey determined that garage door replacement was a top-five value-returning project after evaluating a typical $1,500 cost to replace a basic garage door with a mid-range garage model. The survey determined the value of that replacement at home sale to be nearly $1,100. This equates to a 71.9 percent ROI and is the fourth-highest rated project a homeowner can undertake, according to the study. Meanwhile, the roughly $3,000 cost to replace a mid-range model with an upscale one had an estimated value at sale of about $2,130, equating to a 71.1 percent return.

Source: www.overheaddoor.com

How to Legally Lay Off an Employee

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

It's one of the toughest decisions for any employer, small or large: Should you lay off your employees, and how should you do it so you don't get sued?

The decision about layoffs is entirely up to you. But as for how to implement layoffs, here a few legal considerations.

You've been WARNed. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, is a federal law that requires 60 days' written notice before a plant closing or a "mass layoff." The federal WARN Act applies to employers with more than 100 workers, but state versions of the WARN Act may apply to smaller employers, according to HRHero.com.

Don't discriminate. Federal and state laws place some employees in a "protected" class. For example, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits an employer from treating older workers differently than others. So make sure your planned layoff doesn't discriminate.

Don't retaliate. Layoffs can't be in retaliation for a worker's complaint. That could be grounds for a workplace retaliation lawsuit.

Employees on leave. For employees on family or medical leave at the time of an announced layoff, an employer must show their leave is unrelated to the layoff, and that the worker would've lost his or her job regardless.

Members of the military.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires employers to reinstate servicemembers to the jobs they would have held had they not been called to duty. An employer can't layoff a servicemember unless the employer can prove circumstances have drastically changed.

Continuing health insurance. Under federal law, most employers with group health plans must allow a laid-off employee to continue to pay for the same health coverage for a specified period of time.
Severance agreements. These offer an employee an incentive, such as additional compensation or benefits, in exchange for agreeing not to sue an employer. But remember, an employer can't force employees to sign a severance agreement. An employee must also get time to consider the agreement—either 21 or 45 days, depending on the worker's age, according to the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.

Source: www.bills.com

Word of the Day

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Tenancy by the entirety. A form of joint ownership reserved for married persons; right of survivorship exists and neither spouse has a disposable interest during the lifetime of the other.