Gunning Daily News

Question of the Day

November 8, 2011 4:58 pm

Q: What does a buyer’s agent do?

A: A buyer’s agent represents the buyer exclusively. This means he works to protect your interests in the transaction and helps to negotiate the best purchase price and terms. More information about buyers’ agents is available by contacting the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents at (609) 799-4382, or log on to www.naeba.org.

Patience is Key when Looking for and Purchasing Rental Property

November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

As today’s economy continues to struggle, homeowners across the country are looking for ways to make ends meet, and many are taking on the role of landlord. While jumping into the rental scene may seem enticing, it is important to make sure you are prepared for the task before you get started.

According to the experts at AllBusiness.com, the following tips will help homeowners looking to buy rental property find success, no matter what the market.

Do your homework and find a reputable agent or broker. Taking the time to find a reputable real estate agent or broker before you begin searching for a rental property is crucial. The agent or broker that you ultimately choose to work with should know the neighborhood(s) where you are interested in buying, in addition to helping you choose properties that fit your needs.

Make sure your finances are organized. Going through your finances and making sure everything is in order is a crucial part of the purchasing process that shouldn’t be overlooked. If there is any chance that you will be taking out a mortgage in order to finance your rental property, it is important to do your research early to make sure there are no discrepancies on your credit report. If you find that your credit report is inaccurate, report it immediately so you can get the problem resolved quickly.

Set a maximum amount you can afford to pay. Before you even begin looking at properties, you should carefully examine your finances and your current situation to establish the maximum amount of money you can afford to spend. By not coming up with a number beforehand, it is easy to get carried away and spend more money than you should have.

Schedule a home inspection. Before you buy a rental property, be sure to call in a professional home inspector who will come and evaluate the home. Home inspectors will be able to tell you if the home is safe to live in, and if there are any problems that need to be addressed. This is a great way to avoid expensive repairs down the road.

Take a close look at the neighborhood. Once you have found the property that will best suit your needs, be sure to take the time and get to know the neighborhood. It is usually a good idea to visit the neighborhood during the day and at night so you can get an accurate feel for what the area is like.

Stay up-to-date. If you are looking to purchase a rental property in an area in which you aren’t familiar, you should do your homework and get to know the local real estate market. The agent or broker you are working with will be able to provide you with current information about the area as well.

Ask around. These days, people are turning any situation into a networking opportunity, so be sure to take advantage of those around you when looking for a rental property. It doesn’t hurt to ask friends, family, business owners and individuals who live in the area whether there is anything available or if they know of anyone who may be leaving the area at some point. Initiating this dialogue will keep you top of mind when something does come along.

Don’t settle. Just like you wouldn’t settle if you were in the process of buying your primary residence, it is important to treat the rental property search the same way. It may take a while to find the perfect rental location, so be patient with the process.

Ask for comparables. Your agent or broker can provide you with information regarding comparable properties in the area. It is important to take notice of the rental income, sales price, square footage and other relevant information to be sure you are getting a good deal.

Off Season: Closing Up Your Summer Home for the Winter

November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

After a lovely summer in your cabin or cottage comes the ugly job of closing up for the winter. Use this checklist to make sure opening up in the spring doesn't hold any bad surprises.

Inside tips:
• Shut the water off and drain the plumbing system.
• Turn off the power at the main switch.
• Remove all food. This includes canned goods, which might freeze and burst, and plastic containers. Plastic doesn't stop bears or rodents.
• Defrost the refrigerator-freezer and unplug it. Leave doors open or put an open box of baking soda inside.
• Place some proven anti-mildew products around the cabin.
• Close and lock all windows. Close all drapes or blinds, or hang blankets over windows. Remove and store screens if possible. 

Outside tips:
• Till your garden and add fertilizer or compost.
• Mow your lawn. Apply natural fall fertilizer or lime. Trim branches that touch the cottage. Keep woodpiles off the ground and at least 30 feet from the cottage.
• Put gas stabilizer in your gas cans and vehicle gas tanks. Start engines and motors to run the stabilizer through the system. Drain water from outboard motors. Store expensive property in a controlled storage area, if possible.
• In your shed, pick up tools and remove debris.
• Inspect the cabin roof. Replace missing or broken shingles. Check any wire mesh screens and the caulking around the chimney flashing. (Don't use foam caulking; it won't stop rodents).
• Check the dryer vent—the most common rodent entry point. Make sure it's fully caulked (but not with foam) and has a wire mesh screen.
• Ask neighbors to watch your place. Make sure they have your phone number and e-mail address.

Survey Finds That Most Renters Perceive Homeownership as a Preference

November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

A recent survey on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR) and Habitat for Humanity International conducted by the NAHB Research Center found that individuals who are renting perceive homeownership as a preference. In fact, 68 percent of individuals currently paying rent for their residences said they would prefer to own their own houses. Although previous releases issued about this study have discussed the feeling among consumers about the cost of owning a home, this information demonstrates that regardless of concerns, the general perception among those surveyed is that they prefer to own a home. The complete study reported opinions from consumers and builders on various topics related to home building.

There are many noteworthy challenges that come with renting and this was shown in the survey by Whirlpool and Habitat as well. The majority of renters also displayed a perception of being concerned with their costs—60 percent said they were concerned about the cost to rent, while 52 percent said they were concerned about the cost of electric and gas bills.

"We're encouraged that this study demonstrates the desire of consumers to become home owners," says Tom Halford, general manager, contract sales and marketing, Whirlpool Corporation. "Whirlpool Corporation is proud to work with Habitat for Humanity International to help build homes that can have a positive impact on families and communities."

According to the survey, another factor when it comes to home ownership is the perceived safety. Of all renter respondents, 44 percent said they had not taken any action to increase the safety of their households in the past 6-12 months. Other respondents said they undertook minor safety precaution projects such as installing a lock on a door (32%) and putting in a smoke alarm (31%).

Besides owning their own houses, other desired changes that renters indicated they would like included having a backyard (39%), the ability to decorate (38%), upgrading appliances (36%) and increasing home eco-efficiency (31%).

For more information, visit www.whirlpoolcorp.com/habitat or www.Habitat.org.

3 Ways to Turn Family Recipes into an Affordable Holiday Gift

November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

When Ted Miller lost his job a few years ago, he was broke and dreading Christmas. “I only had a few bucks, and I wanted to stretch that money out. So I thought, why not take all of my mom’s recipes and make cookbooks for her and the rest of the family?”

Some typing and $30 later, and he had five family cookbooks to place under the Christmas tree. “I was surprised how personal it was, and how much it meant to my mom to see all her recipes handed down. She literally had tears in her eyes. Mom still says it’s one of her favorite presents ever.”

With tightening budgets and the rising cost of travel, many families are planning for a toned-down holiday season. However, families are finding that just because they may have to forego the giant family dinners, they do not have to give up on the traditional family cuisine. Many gift-givers see this as an excellent opportunity to share their cooking heritage without breaking the bank.

There are typically three different ways to turn family recipes into great gifts: recipe binders, recipe boxes, and printed cookbooks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, according to Erin Miller, wife of Ted and owner of CookbookPeople.com.

“I love keeping family recipes,” says Erin. “When I saw what Ted made, I just knew I had to make a business out of this.”

Recipe Binders: These are by far the most popular way to organize recipes. Many such binders are flimsy white binders bought for under $4 at any office supply store. “They don’t have to be ugly, cheap-looking and overcrowded, though,” says Erin. “You can buy a beautiful binder that will show your pride in your recipes for under $20.” They can have ornate designs, be made out of leather, and be filled with page protectors and dividers to better organize and store fragile recipes.

Recipe binders come in two categories: half-page and full-page. Half page binders fit half of an 8.5”x11” normal sheet of paper (5.25”x8.5”). Their compact size, lower cost and lighter weight make them the more popular format. Full page binders fit a full size sheet of paper, hold twice as many recipes, and are perhaps more impressive as a gift. Either may be customized with tab divider labels to better personalize the layout. Page protectors ensure recipes are not damaged by spills, and make them easier to reorganize as the recipe binder grows. Most can hold both recipe cards and printed out cookbooks.

Recipe Boxes: Dating back to at least the 1930s, the recipe box is the most traditional recipe storage medium. Its small footprint makes it great for tiny kitchens, and it can be especially ideal for those who maintain a small selection of recipes. A box packed with 30 or 40 hand-written recipes can make a truly touching gift.

Recipe boxes have their practical limitations, though. Newspaper clippings and printouts don’t easily fit. The cards are not well protected from wear. They can become easily disorganized. Hand-written cards are by nature more difficult to duplicate. But for those who love the age-old tradition of swapping hand-written recipe cards with a good friend, a fine recipe box can make a delightful gift.

Printing a Cookbook: In an era where anyone can become a publisher, writing and printing one’s own family cookbook is certainly a great option. Recipe sharing sites like Tastebook offer full-color printing of up to 100 recipes for $35 per book. The printing quality can be fantastic. However, there are drawbacks. Printing more than a few books can quickly become expensive. Once the book is printed, it stops being an evolving recipe collection that is added to and revised as tastes expand. Also, check end user license agreements—many state that the recipe site retains ownership of all recipes entered into it. Grandmother’s secret chocolate silk cake could wind up in a place that the customer never intended.

Another alternative for printing a cookbook is Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, published by The Cookbook People. Because it installs on the user’s own computer, there are no privacy issues. Printing can be done on the home printer for free, or it can be handed off to the local copy shop. Another option is to print at home and have the copy shop spiral bind the book for a dollar or two. The Cookbook People also offer printing services at competitive prices.

For more information, visit www.CookbookPeople.com.

Word of the Day

November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

PITI. Acronym for “principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.” Frequently used to describe a loan payment that combines all four items.

Question of the Day

November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

Q: Is there anything I should not tell my agent?
A: Most definitely! Never reveal the top dollar you are willing to pay for a home. It will severely undercut your chance to negotiate the home price with the seller. While an agent may spend a lot of time showing you homes and sharing information, the reality is that she works for the seller, who ultimately pays each and every agent involved in helping to complete the home sale. The seller pays the agents in the form of a commission, a percentage of the proceeds from the home sale. The exception is hiring your own real estate professional, now commonly known as a buyer’s agent or a buyer’s broker.

8 Highway Safety Tips for Thanksgiving Travel

November 4, 2011 5:32 pm

Thanksgiving week is here again and with it comes millions of Americans taking road trips, large and small. Drivers must be prepared for everything from snow and ice to sleep-deprived travelers.

To help make sure you are prepared, America's Road Team Captains, elite professional truck drivers, offers the following advice on how to navigate through highway traffic and arrive at your destination safely:

Prepare your vehicle for long distance travel: Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road before you leave your home.

Plan ahead: Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.

Do not cut in front of large trucks: Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.

Check your emergency kit: Contents should include: battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.

Be aware of changes in weather: Weather conditions across the U.S. will be changing - especially during early mornings and evenings with the cold. Watch for ice, snow and other weather-related obstacles.

Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.

Leave early and avoid risks: Leave early so you won't be anxious about arriving late and to accommodate delays. Road conditions may change due to inclement weather or traffic congestion.

Be aware of truck blind spots: When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots. If you can't see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can't see you.

Slow down: With the extra highway congestion due to holiday travel, speeding becomes even more dangerous. Allow plenty of space cushion and reduce your speed.

Buckle up: Safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and are a simple way to increase your safety on the road.

Simplifying Home Design with Technology

November 4, 2011 5:32 pm

With 425,000 items in Apple's App Store, it seems like there's an app for everything now. Looking for a pig-latin translator? Need to find the closest restroom? Well, you know the saying. 

As the number of apps continues to increase, developers are taking the technology beyond fun and games. Today, users can find apps that help organize, simplify and enrich areas of their daily lives. One of these areas is home design. 

"Home design and renovation can feel like a daunting task at the beginning of any project. Whether creating floor plans or choosing colors and fabrics, there is a lot to think about," said Sarah Reep, director of designer relations and education at KraftMaid Cabinetry. "Luckily we're living in a digital age, and there are apps and online resources to help homeowners with everything from budgeting to hanging a picture frame."
 
Here's a list of some popular home design apps:
KraftMyStyle: With this app from KraftMaid Cabinetry, you can capture images and create photo collages of items that inspire you, like colors, unique spaces, fabrics and art. Style Boards can be shared with family, friends and in the online gallery. When you're working with a designer, this app is a great way to share ideas and inspiration for your home's design. Available for free for Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. iHandy Level: Say goodbye to crooked frames. This app turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a level. Available for free for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.
ColorSmart: If you're planning on refreshing your home's walls, this app from Behr paint is a must-have. The app makes it easy to try out different styles and paint colors in your rooms without picking up a roller. Once you've found your favorite colors, share them on Facebook and Twitter. Available for free for Android, iPhone and iPad.
Remodelista: This design sourcebook brings you the latest content from Remodelista, such as DIY projects, 10 Easy Pieces product roundups, and Steal This Look. Photo galleries organized by room bring daily design inspiration. The app costs $2.99 and is available for Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
Paint 'N' Wash: With this app, you can paint works of art -- with your fingers -- then wash it away with the Delta faucet. Great for getting those creative juices flowing. Available for free for BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad. 

For more design advice, tools and tips, visit www.KraftMaidByDesign.com.

Keeping Your Athlete Healthy and Strong

November 4, 2011 5:32 pm

More than seven million boys and girls across the country will participate in organized sports this year, and unfortunately, injuries are a part of every season. The mistake athletes, parents and coaches often make is overlooking proper nutrition as a sports injury prevention measure. A balanced diet to fuel your athlete is just as important as the right protective gear. 

"What an athlete eats or drinks before, during and after a game directly impacts a player's performance," says Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC Board Certified Sports Nutritionist with the University of Miami. Shamrock Farms' Rockin' Refuel™ has teamed up with Dorfman to get the word out about proper sports nutrition to parents, coaches and athletes of all ages. 

Dorfman, also the author of "Performance Nutrition for Football," (Momentum Media 2010) explains that "Most energy is focused on pre-game meals. I urge parents and athletes to pay as much attention to the post-game routine, where muscle recovery and protein are key." According to Dorfman, 80 percent of a player's performance comes from nutrition. 

With this in mind, Dorfman suggests using the following tips for optimal nutrition and injury prevention during the season:
The Truth about Carbs: A pregame meal packed with only carbohydrates can actually leave athletes feeling tired and sluggish on the field. Make sure to also include items low in fiber and fat, like grilled chicken or a fresh fruit yogurt smoothie before game time.
Three R's to Recovery—Replenish, Repair, Rebuild: It's important to refuel within 30 minutes to one hour of working out. Encourage athletes to reach for foods or beverages that are high in protein to help rebuild muscles, such as Rockin' Refuel, which is 100 percent real milk fortified with 20 grams of protein. It also contains a 2:1 carb to protein ratio, ideal for maximum muscle recovery.
Keep it Simple at Game Time: Look for simple mini meals that will fuel your athlete for the entire game, including foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates, like whole grain pasta or brown rice. Grilled chicken, turkey and canned tuna or salmon are good sources of protein, which is needed to help build a stronger body.
Whole Foods offer Wholesome Nutrition: Whole foods are always better than supplements, so make sure you read the ingredients on anything your athlete is consuming. Watch out for hidden ingredients in powders, shakes and drinks. For example, encourage your child to eat fruits and vegetables in order to get essential vitamins and minerals instead of taking a multi-vitamin supplement.
Teach Your Teen Healthy Habits: Teenage athletes, more than any other age group, are prone to pick the most convenient—instead of the healthiest—foods and beverages. Keeping your fridge and cupboards stocked with healthy grab-and-go food options like fresh fruit, low fat string cheese, yogurt, dry roasted almonds, ready-to-eat whole grain cereal, baked chips and single-serve bottles of Rockin' Refuel will help ensure teens will grab healthier foods. 

Go to www.RockinRefuel.com for more information.