Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

August 22, 2011 4:05 pm

Equity. Value an owner has in a piece of property less the debt against it. For example, if the market value of a house is $150,000 and the owner has paid off $10,000 of a $75,000 mortgage, the owner has $85,000 equity.

Question of the Day

August 22, 2011 4:05 pm

Q: What is a loan-to-value ratio?
A: The loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, is the loan amount expressed as a percent of either the purchase price or the appraised value of the property. It is an important factor considered by lenders before approving a mortgage. 

Few lenders will lend the full value of a property unless they have guarantees such as those offered by the Veterans Administration (VA). Otherwise, the risks are just too high because if the borrower defaults in the early years of the loan, the lender is stuck with a bad loan. 

This is why lenders prefer a down payment of 20 percent, with an 80 percent LTV. 

Buying private mortgage insurance, which insures the lender against default, can reduce the LTV to 90 or 95 percent, making it possible to have a down payment of 10 or 5 percent.

Last-Minute Summer Home Maintenance Tips

August 19, 2011 4:05 pm

The summer's not over yet. And while there's still time for some fun in the sun, this is also a good time to think about some last-minute maintenance that is sure to help you increase the longevity of your home and reduce energy costs.

Here are some tips from Andy Rathke, a former commercial and residential real estate and construction executive who now runs a HandyPro handyman franchise in Charlotte, NC.

Roof and Attic Ventilation and Insulation:
Make sure attic, soffit and roof vents are running, open and clear of debris to allow proper ventilation. Properly ventilated and insulated attics reduce heating and cooling costs.

Gutters and Downspouts:
Loose, leaking or clogged gutters can cause water damage on soffits or basement leaks. Before this happens inspect, clean and if necessary repair or replace.

Caulking and Grout:
Inspect caulking and grout around tubs, showers, sinks, windows and door. Replace if deteriorating to protect material behind the walls, avoid water damage and mold growth.

Air Conditioning System Inspection and Filter Change:
Have your air conditioning system checked by a licensed HVAC mechanic semi-annually to ensure top efficiency. Replace filters monthly to improve air quality and reduce energy costs.

Dryer Vents
If your dryer is taking more than one cycle to dry a load, there's likely lint accumulation in the dryer vent. Annual maintenance prevents dryer fires, keeps dryers running efficiently and saves money on energy bills.

"Consumers who follow these guidelines," says Rathke, "will increase the longevity of their homes and save money in the long run."


How to Land on Your Feet after an International Move

August 19, 2011 4:05 pm

We arrived on Guam (from a relocation move) with emergency cash, documents and an advanced shipment of necessary belongings. Unfortunately, an 8.2 earthquake destroyed our hotel and damaged the unloading docks, leaving us—at least temporarily—with just a rental car and the clothes on our back. Clearly, it was time to re-evaluate our settling-in strategy.

Even under normal circumstances, unfurling in a new location requires more than just a simple unpacking strategy. Here are our top tips.

Networking: Check out international organizations that offer networking opportunities to global travelers. For example, Hash House Harriers, an international running club formed in the late 1930s, has chapters all over the world, including Guam, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Meetup.com allows individuals of any interest category to connect throughout the United States. In Kuwait, there are both Canadian and American citizens groups, as well as a French language association.

Nora Dunn (www.theprofessionalhobo.com) is a member of Rotary International, a global service organization that not only provides her with immediate opportunities for service, but an instant network of local contacts that are happy to help a newbie. And don't forget university alumni associations, trade groups and other professional organizations, with chapters in the U.S. and abroad.

Infrastructure: During international moves, an ironing board, French press and chairs rank high on our must-have list. Other seasoned travelers, with special needs or diets, ease the pain of relocation by traveling with back-up supplies of medicine, medical equipment and cooking supplies.

During an extended stay in Scotland, Greenland and Iceland, one traveler filled individual Ziploc bags with coffee, spices and other nonperishable food items. The storage bags were stuffed into paper towel tubes and then stashed in her luggage. This strategy created a portable supply of kitchen ingredients.

With that stock, she prepared meals while staying in rented homes in Europe. Donna Frose, an international teacher whose career has taken her to the U.A.E., Singapore, Kuwait and Ecuador, has a different set of priorities. Arriving with one set of bed linens and a pillow, she immediately searches out a couch, membership in the local Canadian Women's League chapter and the nearest diet cola supply.

Routine: New digs mean new routines for everything from banking, grocery shopping and medical care. While living in Paris, we used an informal alumni association to help us find the best deals in entertainment, groceries and clothing. For example, an old college friend provided information about great parties and events, including a poetry reading at an elegant bookstore in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank of Paris.




Filing a Damage Claim in the Wake of Severe Storms

August 19, 2011 4:05 pm

The end of summer and onset of fall brings the tall end of hurricane season, and also tornadoes throughout the country. For this, Allstate is providing these simple steps for customers and families to help during the recovery.

Make sure your home is structurally safe. Be extremely careful inside your home. Debris may be hazardous and the potential for collapse may exist. You may want to retrieve personal items, but if you're told by authorities to stay out, stay out. It's for your own safety.

Have necessary temporary repairs made to prevent further damage, keeping receipts for work performed.

If your home is uninhabitable, find out what living expenses your homeowners or renters insurance policy may cover.

Be patient and assist claims adjusters assigned to your case. Small losses may be settled quickly; extensive claims will take longer.

Notify creditors if bills have been lost or you're unable to pay.

Consider calling your utility company and ask them to stop billing if your home has been destroyed.

Report your claim to insurance company promptly.

Prepare to file an insurance claim by gathering all relevant policy numbers.

Inventory your home for damaged or lost items before your adjuster arrives. This will help speed up your claim process.

Work with a qualified tax expert to find out about tax breaks for which you may be eligible because of your losses.

Pests and Mosquitoes Are All the ‘Buzz

August 19, 2011 4:05 pm

As Americans gear up for the final days of summer with last-minute vacations and Labor Day barbeques, one tradition remains as constant as back-to-school sales—pest activity. In a recent Omnibus survey conducted by Atlanta-based pest control leader Orkin, flies (45 percent), flying and stinging insects (40 percent) and mosquitoes (39 percent) were most frequently seen in and around homes within the past month. In addition, 30 of 31 Orkin region offices across the U.S. confirmed that ants are among the top summer pests affecting homeowners. 

"It's no surprise that flies, flying and stinging pests, mosquitoes and ants are most active this summer, given current weather conditions," says Greg Baumann, technical director for Rollins Inc., parent company of Orkin. "The sweltering temperatures coupled with seasonal rain showers in much of the country create ideal conditions for these insects in search of food, water and shelter, making them more prevalent."
Almost half (43 percent) of the respondents dislike pests because they could "bite, sting or attack [them]," while 41 percent dislike pests because they are a nuisance. 

Baumann notes these responses can be attributed to flying and stinging insects like bees and wasps, which can be difficult for consumers to control on their own and can pose serious health risks to people who are allergic to their stings. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than 500,000 people are sent to the emergency room every year from insect stings. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mosquitoes are most likely to bite between dusk and dawn – primetime for backyard activities. Mosquito bites can cause itchy, red welts, but the pest is infamous for transmitting West Nile virus, among other diseases. 

Although most ants can't bite or sting, the exception being fire ants, these filthy pests can contaminate food and surfaces with germs that could cause pneumonia, food poisoning and meningitis. Additionally, flies can carry more than 100 pathogens and transmit bacteria like E. coli and salmonella every time they land. 

Orkin suggests the following tips to keep these summer pests away:
• Store food and drinks in tightly sealed containers.
• Monitor regularly for nests around the home.
• Remove standing water from gutters, plant pots and other sources where pests can breed.
• Hire a licensed pest control professional.

For more information visit http://orkin.com.

Word of the Day

August 19, 2011 4:05 pm

Encumbrance. Any impediment to a clear title. It can be a claim, lien, zoning restriction, or other legal right or interest in land that diminishes its value. The report of the title search usually shows all encumbrances.

Question of the Day

August 19, 2011 4:05 pm

Q: Does the federal government offer home improvement programs?

A: Yes. Among the most popular:
• Title 1 Home Improvement Loan. HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family home and lenders make loans for basic livability improvements – such as additions and new roofs – to eligible borrowers.
• Section 203(k) Program. HUD helps finance the major rehabilitation and repair of one- to four-family residential properties, excluding condos. Owner-occupants may use a combination loan to purchase a fixer-upper "as is" and rehabilitate it, or refinance a property plus include in the loan the cost of making the improvements. They also may use the loan solely to finance the rehabilitation.
• VA loans. Veterans can get loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than that on conventional loans. 

Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loans. Funded by the Agriculture Department, these low-rate loans are available to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs. Funds are available to improve or modernize a home or to remove health and safety hazards.

Protect Your Plants from Heat

August 19, 2011 3:35 pm

Many regions in the country are still suffering from one of the hottest summers in recent history, and that means your lawns and gardens are suffering, too.

Experts from Lebanon Seaboard Corporation—a manufacturer of lawn, garden, and professional turf products under the Preen label, say it is obvious when plants have had too much cold—they freeze; they brown; they turn to mush.

Too much heat, however, can be nearly as destructive, but the damage is less obvious. Or the trouble gets blamed on drought, instead.

Wilting, for instance, isn’t always a sign that a plant isn’t getting enough water. It could be flat-out hot temperatures, according to the folks at Preen.

All kinds of heat trouble begins when daytime temperatures go above 86 degrees. Among the threats:

â—Flower buds may wither.
â—Chlorophyll production begins to shut down, robbing leaves of their healthy green color.
â—Pollen becomes non-viable, preventing popular plants such as tomatoes from setting new fruit until the weather cools.
â—Subtle chemical changes occur in plant leaves, making them more vulnerable to bug attack.
â—Soil temperatures may rise to the point where root activity slows and plant growth is stunted.
â—Most noticeable, moisture loss from plant leaves increases, making plants more susceptible to dry soil.

Some plants take the heat much better than others, but anyone can learn which plants are appropriate for their region by consulting the American Horticultural Society’s Heat Zone Map at ahs.org/pdfs/05_heat_map.pdf.

The 12 zones of the map indicate the average number of days each year that a given region experiences "heat days"—temperatures over 86 degrees—the point at which plants begin suffering physiological damage from heat. The zones range from Zone 1 (less than one heat day) to Zone 12 (more than 210 heat days).

Thousands of garden plants have now been coded for heat tolerance, with more to come in the near future. You will see the heat zone designations joining hardiness zone designations in garden centers, references books, and catalogs.

On each plant, there will be four numbers. For example, a tulip may be 3-8, 8-1.

If you live in USDA Zone 7 and AHS Zone 7, you will know that you can leave tulips outdoors in your garden year-round. An ageratum may be 10-11, 12-1. It can withstand summer heat throughout the United States, but will over winter only in our warmest zones.

Tips for Fall Decorating

August 19, 2011 3:35 pm

With August winding down, it’s nearly time to focus on Fall. Get rid of any end-of-summer blues by planning a fun Fall project, like redecorating your living space. While you may want to wait for September to de-summer your space, here are a handful of fun fall decorating tips:

1. Take down summer. The first step is to go through your house and remove your summery decorations—beachy blue hues, those light white drapes or bright colored plates and pillows.

2. Incorporate orange. Orange is fun and versatile, with hues ranging from vibrant to deep. Grab an orange pillow or throw for your couch, place a few pretty orange bowls along your dining-room table and fill with fruit, or run an orange rug down your entry hall.

3. Fireplace fun. While the weather is still warm and a fire is the last thing on your mind, that doesn’t mean you need to neglect your fireplace. Place a few fun candles of varying heights inside your fireplace for a cozy effect, and decorate your mantel with fall colors and foliage.