Gunning Daily News
October 20, 2011 4:56 pm
Q: Where can I get a mortgage?
A: You can get a home loan from several different sources—a credit union, commercial bank, mortgage company, finance company, government agency, thrift (which includes savings banks and savings & loan associations), mortgage broker, and even the seller.
Note, however, that many lenders have tightened their credit standards in light of increasing foreclosures and higher delinquency rates. Begin your search by calling at least half a dozen lenders to inquire about the types of financing available, current rates on each loan type, loan origination fees and number of points, other loan features and their credit requirements for borrowers.
Once you actually apply for a mortgage, the lender will pull a recent copy of your credit report. That inquiry and any and all others are recorded and become a part of your credit file. Normally, several inquiries during a short period are viewed negatively, as a sign you are trying to open several new accounts. Such a move lowers your credit scores; and lower credit scores mean you will be offered a higher mortgage interest rate.
However, there is a caveat. Credit scoring software generally detect that you are shopping for a single mortgage, if you shop within a short, 30-day window. So multiple inquires pulled roughly within this time frame will only count as one inquiry and should not affect your FICO, or credit, score.
Checking your own score also will not lower your credit score.
October 19, 2011 5:08 pm
Fall is a surprisingly active time in the garden. Winter is coming, and attending to a few strategic garden tasks can prepare the garden to weather the winter weather and ensure a colorful spring. Here are some pertinent seasonal gardening tips from www.preen.com.
• For most of the country, October through November is flower bulb planting season. Spring favorites such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths need to be planted in fall to bloom in spring. Ideally, plant about six weeks before the ground freezes hard in your area.
• Fall is an excellent time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. However, if a particular plant is only borderline hardy in your area, best wait for spring.
• If you have tender summer bulbs, it’s decision time. You can either treat them as annuals and toss them or leave them to die back. Or you can dig them and store them for the winter for replanting in spring.
• Harvest pumpkins and winter squash before frost, when their rinds are hard and fully colored. Store in a cool location until ready to use.
• Harvest mature, green tomatoes before frost and ripen indoors in the dark.
• Asparagus top growth should not be removed until foliage yellows. Let foliage stand over winter to collect snow for insulation and moisture.
• Strawberry plants need protection from winter extremes. Apply winter protection when plants are dormant but before temperatures drop below 20 degrees.
• Protect shrubs near roadways from the spray of salt, water and ice with burlap, plastic tarp or other material.
• Erect barriers around woody plants and trees if foraging rabbits, rodents or deer are a problem. Metal mesh (1/4-inch) hardware cloth is good for this. Pull mulch away from trunks to discourage rodents from making winter homes there.
• Spray evergreens, including newly planted ones, with an antidesiccant when temperature is above 40 degrees F. These products protect plants from drying out rom winter cold and wind exposure.
• Mound soil around rose grafts for winter protection.
• When frost begins to turn perennial foliage brown it’s time to trim them back. Leave mums, sedum, and ornamental grasses alone. These look pretty in winter. Also leave coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and other plants with seeds as food for birds.
For more information on gardening and landscaping visit http://www.preen.com.
October 19, 2011 5:08 pm
As seasons change and winter weather looms ahead, homeowners throughout the nation are bracing themselves for frigid conditions. With bitter cold temperatures and above-average snowfall predicted for some areas of the country this year, many people are concerned about keeping their homes warm and comfortable without spending a fortune on heating bills. There are several simple steps you can take to keep energy bills low throughout the season, starting with an annual assessment to ensure that your heating system is operating properly and efficiently before the harsh winter weather hits.
Start the Season with Energy Savings
For a smart start to combating winter weather, homeowners should have their heating systems inspected annually by a Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) professional. When selecting a local contractor, it's essential to shop around because not all HVACR technicians offer the same level of expertise.
Keep Heating Bills Low as Temperatures Drop
Once you've confirmed that your heating system is running at peak performance for optimal efficiency, there are several easy ways you can keep energy bills to a minimum:
• Clean your heating filters. Check them every couple of weeks and change them at least twice in the season, or as directed by the manufacturer.
• Check and maintain your insulation. Improperly insulated walls, floors, attics, basements and crawlspaces drain away heat and can lead to moisture imbalance. Adding weather stripping and caulk around windows and doors can also go a long way toward improving your home's insulation.
• Turn down your thermostat. Keeping your thermostat five degrees cooler can lower your heating bills without affecting your home's comfort.
• Install a programmable thermostat and adjust the settings to reduce the temperature when you're not at home, such as during the work day.
• Clean the furnace area. Don't keep chemicals or cleaning products near your heater, and don't store anything next to it that could impede ventilation.
• Keep vents and returns free of obstructions. Don't lay carpet over vents, place furniture over or in front of them, or obstruct the flow of air.
• Install a humidifier. Humidity in summer makes you feel hotter, and the same is true in winter since dry air feels cooler than moist air. A simple humidifier may make the home feel five degrees warmer than a home with dry air.
As homeowners continue to adopt green, eco-friendly heating systems, it's important to realize that even the highest efficiency equipment can waste money and energy if it's not properly maintained.
For more information, visit www.HVACRAdvice.com.
October 19, 2011 5:08 pm
One of the most exciting design and decorating experiences a couple can have is preparing a room for a newborn. Dunn-Edwards, one of the Southwest's leading manufacturers of premium paint, has compiled a wealth of ideas and inspiration for designing and painting a nursery—for both DIYs and those hiring a professional painting contractor.
The first step is to decide if the nursery will have a theme or simply a mix of colors and details you like, points out Sara McLean, color expert at Dunn-Edwards. "Some current trends in nurseries include modern baby chic, vintage nostalgia, Bohemian, school themes such as science and tech, and fun twists on nature including beach and woodland themes," she says. "Or even opting for a traditional theme, like nautical, carousel or cowboy, you can add your own sense of playfulness, creativity or whimsy."
The color palette is the next step, thinking beyond just pink or blue. McLean says that the tradition of using blue in a boy's nursery has evolved into combinations of blue—particularly turquoise—with other colors such as red, green and orange. Pink for girls has evolved into fuchsia tones with elements of aquamarine, lilac, white and orange. In fact, aqua and orange have become popular choices for both boys and girls. "There is a new boldness in the way colors are combined in the nursery—pink and purple with green or blue and yellow with green, for example," she says. Striped ceilings can help stimulate the room and a touch or slight accent of black is trendy right now, to add a little sophistication.
Today's baby rooms include bold and brightly colored carpets, wall decals, maps, figurines and "monster dolls" that are so ugly, they're cute; owls and other woodland critters; and elephants. "Be sure to keep an open mind and eye out for items and styles that can make your nursery unique," she adds.
When decorating a nursery, it's important to use non-toxic products—from the paint to the rugs, to the furniture. Opt for biodegradable timber and certified formaldehyde-free furniture, and take special care with any antique baby furniture to sure its finish and/or underlining paints and varnishes are safe before use.
For more tips and ideas for decorating a baby's room, visit http://www.dunnedwards.com
October 19, 2011 5:08 pm
U.S. News worked with Onboard Informatics, a premier data services company for top tier organizations in real estate, media, and technology, to create a list of great places to retire in 10 key categories.
"Everybody's got their own idea of the best place to live," says Brian Kelly, editor of U.S. News, "so we've created tools to make the search fun and useful. There are some great and unexpected choices."
Many of the categories focus on how to achieve the retirement lifestyle you want on a fixed income, such as the best place for water views on a budget (Traverse City, Michigan), an affordable mountain town for retirees (Boone, North Carolina), and the best place to find affordable housing (Port Charlotte, Florida). We also recognize Pittsburgh as a place that provides a great mix of affordability and amenities for retirees.
This list also includes a place with pleasant weather year-round (Flagstaff, Arizona), a locale with unique recreation and cultural opportunities to explore (Santa Fe, New Mexico), and a college town that is also friendly to retirees (Ithaca, New York). Retirement is a period of life in which many people reinvent themselves, so we've included a great place to launch a second career (Lincoln, Nebraska) or form a new relationship in a city with plenty of single people age 55 and older (Pittsfield, Massachusetts).
The U.S. News Best Places to Retire search tool provides extensive information for consumers considering relocating in retirement. The interactive search tool can help users find locations that best fit their individual lifestyles. Visitors can examine and sort through economic and quality-of-life data, such as housing prices, proximity to hospitals, and even the average temperature, to find a locale that best meets their needs.
The cities honored as The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012 are:
Pleasant year-round weather: Flagstaff, Ariz.
Affordable mountain town: Boone, N.C.
Water views on a budget: Traverse City, Mich.
Greenest place to retire: Walnut Creek, Calif.
A college town for retirees: Ithaca, N.Y.
Place to launch a second career: Lincoln, Neb.
Best mix of affordability and amenities: Pittsburgh
Best place for affordable housing: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Best place for single retirees: Pittsfield, Mass.
Best place for recreation and culture: Santa Fe
For more information, visit http://usnews.com/retire.
October 19, 2011 5:08 pm
Marketable title. Good and clear title that is free from reasonable doubt as to who the owner is.
October 19, 2011 5:08 pm
Q: How do I qualify for a home loan?
A: Your real estate agent has information on lender loan requirements and will be able to calculate a rough monthly figure you can afford based on the maximum monthly payment for the loan, taxes, insurance, and any type of maintenance fees. This pre-purchase evaluation by the agent can save you a lot of time spent looking at properties you cannot afford.
Lenders also routinely calculate what you can afford and can pre-qualify you for a loan even before you begin your home search. This way, you know exactly how much you can afford to buy.
Lenders generally stipulate that you spend no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment or 36 percent on total debts.
Ultimately, the price you can afford to pay for a home will also depend on other factors besides your gross income and outstanding debts. They include the amount of cash you have available for the down payment, your credit history, current interest rates, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender, and the type of mortgage you select.
October 18, 2011 5:32 pm
So you are trying to market your home. I don’t have to be the one to tell you that when it comes to hooking prospective buyers through web, mobile or print, you need to start with great pictures that pop.
I recently looked up Todd Arena at arenacreative.com, who posts a few quick tips you might be able to use to improve the quality of your photos in your online listings no matter what camera you have. (Feel free to share these tips with your REALTOR®, too!)
Among Arena’s recommendations:
• Don’t shoot the exterior mid-day when the sun is highest in the sky. Early morning or later in the afternoon is much more visually pleasing. Save mid-day for shooting the interior, so that the light is more even.
• Keep the sun to your back. It’s a rule that is meant to be broken, but when it comes to shooting houses it’s a pretty good one to stick by. The sun rises in the East, and sets in the West, so figure out which direction the front of the home is facing before you plan your shoot.
• Take a look up at the sky. Is it overcast? Unless you’re a whiz at digital special effects, you might want to wait until the weather gives you a nice blue sky, even if it is partly cloudy. Although, Arena says a bright overcast day is excellent if you’re taking features of the building where the sky isn’t showing. It will give you shadows that are less harsh, and a nice diffused style of light.
• Try to remove distracting elements beforehand. Are there kids toys laying all over the front yard?
• Keep your images season appropriate. Do you have pictures with snow in the yard when it’s June?
• And step back! Capture images of the home from across the street, or even further if you think it would help a potential buyer envision its situation or property size. Arena thinks this tip helps your property stand out from the crowd in the sea of listings.
October 18, 2011 5:32 pm
RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)®, recently announced that a survey conducted by the trade association shows that nearly 70 percent of homeowners state that zero is the acceptable number of pests allowed inside their home before they take action to get rid of them. The fall season offers the most advantageous time of the year to protect homes, lawns and communities against unwelcomed pests and disease, such as being able to identify cool-air leaks where holes or cracks might invite critters to come inside.
Utilizing indoor and outdoor integrated pest management approaches allows homeowners to have more control in preventing infestation, structural damage, and disease from negatively affecting their homes. To help homeowners pest-proof their homes this fall, RISE is offering an easy-to-implement checklist with a memorable acronym.
INvestigate. Become a pest detective and investigate your home and yard for clues that pests may be present. You never know where they may be lurking.
Study. Take a deeper look into your home and study the situation, learn more about the pests causing problems and the damage they can bring with them.
Prepare. In this step, plan how to most effectively solve your problem. Proper planning includes understanding the safe and correct way to execute any pest control approach.
Eliminate. Put your plan into action. This step includes eliminating the pests’ entry way into your home and eliminating problems that already exist.
Clean. Once you’ve eliminated welcoming entries for pests, maintaining a clean home and lawn is essential for discouraging pests from calling your home theirs.
Treat. Proactive and preventative treatment is key when talking about pests. Treating for problems at the first sign or before they appear will keep your home pest-free.
“We’ve seen how the extreme summer heat had pests looking for water in many unexpected places, and though the weather is beginning to cool, it’s no time for homeowners to be idle in protecting their homes,” says Gail Getty, research entomologist at the University of California at Berkeley and industry liaison. “The winter cold will send pests indoors looking for food and warmth. It’s important for homeowners to consider the significant damage that can result from an untreated pest infestation, and this week lends the perfect time for them to stop and do their home-work.”
With much of the U.S. population spending more time indoors during the fall and winter seasons, the chances increase for diseases to be spread if pests are left mismanaged. Uncontrolled pest populations, especially rats, cockroaches, bed bugs, spiders, and dust mites, can negatively affect the health of a family.
Cockroaches, the most frustrating pest among homeowners who participated in the recent RISE study, transmit Salmonella while also contributing to the development of allergies and asthma, particularly in children.
Outdoor spaces are not exempt to proactive pest management and routine maintenance to keep harmful plants and pests away. Before winter weather hits, help your lawn store up for the winter by fertilizing and adding grass seed before heavy rainfall saturates the ground or frost creates a barrier.
“Find a convenient time to attend to the outside of your home when you get home from work or while you’re letting the dog outside. It’s important to conduct routine grooming to deter harmful plants like poison ivy, oak, or sumac away from where your family lives and plays,” says Getty. “Keeping your lawn healthy during the winter can also help reduce cost when summer comes back around.”
For more information, visit http://www.pestfacts.org and http://www.debugthemyths.com.
October 18, 2011 5:32 pm
There are two reasons why nutritionists say chicken soup is effective for fighting winter colds. The first is that an amino acid released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, often prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory problems—and the broth itself contains many common nutrients. The second reason is that the steam rising as you sip from a mug or bowl of hot soup can help clear nasal and bronchial passages and help you to relax and feel better.
But there are many foods, herbs and spices deemed helpful for warding off or relieving the symptoms of cold or flu.
“Think of foods as an insurance policy against winter’s cold viruses,” says Karen Gibson, RD, a dietitian at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.
“Cold viruses are contagious, and some foods offer assistance in preventing colds by helping you develop and maintain a healthy immune system.”
Gibson and other nutritionists suggest these top 10 foods and spices for helping you and your family prevent and fight colds and flu:
• Dark colored fruits and veggies – Benefit from the vitamins and antioxidants in such colorful choices as tomatoes, spinach, squash, eggplants and blueberries.
• Fresh-cooked or canned chicken soup – Fresh-cooked may taste better, but both contain cold-fighting benefits.
• Oatmeal (and other whole grain cereals) – delivers selenium, zinc and beta glucan, known to support your immune system.
• Yogurt – active cultures, known as probiotics or healthy bacteria, may actually help fend off colds.
• Cinnamon or ginger – sprinkled on cereal, toast or yogurt, these tasty and popular spices can help reduce fever, relieve upset tummies, and kill germs.
• Garlic – Thought to guard against infection, garlic also contains an agent that acts like a decongestant.
• Cayenne pepper or hot chilis – They contain capsaicin, which acts as a decongestant, expectorant and pain reliever.
• Green or black hot tea – Like chicken soup, the steam alone may help reduce congestion and other cold symptoms. They also contain beneficial antioxidants.
• Pure orange or grapefruit juice – Drinking lots of it adds an increase of the protective vitamin C. Add lemon to your tea.
• Margarine – contains lysine, an amino acid that helps to prevent and combat cold sores.