Gunning Daily News
July 12, 2011 5:29 pm
If your plans include buying a new car this fall, it’s wise to be armed with some key information that may save you lots of money in the long run.
That’s the advice of CNN money writer Peter Valdes-Dapena. “Relying on the salesperson instead of doing your own homework can set you up for car-buying rip-offs,” he says. “Once you’ve decided on the car you want, you need to be ready when financial negotiations get under way.”
Valdes-Dapena suggests being prepared in these five areas:
• Financing options – Having pre-arranged financing puts you in the best possible bargaining position. Know your credit score and get a solid financing commitment from a credit union or bank before you head for the dealership. If you do depend on dealer financing, knowing your credit score can help you negotiate the best possible interest rate.
• Cost of the loan – It’s easy to get lower monthly payments by stretching out the term of the car loan. But you’ll end up paying more in interest if you do that—and you may find yourself owing more than the car is worth when it’s time to trade cars again. The best option is a three-to-four year loan.
• Buy or lease – Leasing is becoming a growing alternative because it can save you money in the short term. But once the lease is up, you’ll have to start all over again—and you will have gained no equity in the vehicle. If you can manage it, pass on the leasing terms and buy the car.
• Warranty options – Most cars today come with warranties on the engine and transmission for 5 to 10 years, and three years on most everything else. There is rarely a need for an ‘extended warranty,’ so don’t give in to the sales pitch.
• Trade-in value – Get a good sense of your car’s value before you head to the dealership. Websites like Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB.com) can help. If you are not satisfied with what the dealer offers, think about selling the car on your own before you make your new car deal.
July 11, 2011 5:29 pm
Q: How are individual tax bills figured?
A: Unlike the income tax and the sales tax you pay, the property tax is not based on how much money you earn or how much you spend. It is based solely on how much the property you own is worth.
The real property tax is an ad valorem tax, or a tax based on the value of property.
Ideally, the owners of property of equal value pay the same amount of property taxes, and the owners of more valuable property pay more in taxes than the owners of less valuable property. The tax is calculated using a variety of formulas and is based on a property’s assessed value – its full market value or a percentage thereof – and the tax rate of the taxing jurisdiction, minus any property tax exemptions, such as those offered for the elderly or veterans.
July 11, 2011 4:59 pm
If you view conflict as something that shouldn't happen, something that harms relationships, it becomes negative. And then you avoid it and hope it will go away. But if you see conflict as a fact of life, an opportunity to strengthen relationships, you have a way of resolving conflict by turning it into something creative.
Try these "10 Ways to Resolve Conflict."
1. Agree on a mutually acceptable time and place to discuss the conflict.
2. State the problem as you see it and list your concerns.
• Make "I" statements.
• Withhold judgments, accusations, and absolute statements ("always" or "never").
3. Let the other person have his/her say.
• Do not interrupt or contradict.
• Do not allow name-calling, put-downs, threats, obscenities, yelling, or intimidating behavior.
4. Listen and ask questions.
• Ask fact-based questions (who? what? where? when? how?) to make sure you understand the situation.
• Ask exploratory questions (what if? what are you saying? is this the only solution to our problem? what if we did such and such? are there other alternatives to this situation?).
• Avoid accusatory "why" questions (why are you like that?).
• Use your own words to restate what you think the other person means and wants.
• Acknowledge the person's feelings and perceptions.
5. Stick to one conflict at a time — to the issue at hand.
• Do not change the subject or allow it to be changed.
"I understand your concern, but I'd like to finish what we're talking about before we discuss it."
6. Seek common ground.
• What do you agree on?
• What are your shared concerns?
7. Brainstorm solutions to the conflict that allow everyone to win.
8. Request behavior changes only.
• Don't ask others to change their attitudes.
• Don't ask them to "feel" differently about something.
• Don't ask them to "be" different.
• If you want them to "stop doing" something, suggest an alternative action.
9. Agree to the best way to resolve the conflict and to a timetable for implementing it.
• Who will do what by when?
10. If the discussion breaks down, reschedule another time to meet. Consider bringing in a third party.
©Chris Witt, all rights reserved. www.wittcom.com
July 11, 2011 4:59 pm
Newly built homes, often in recently developed communities, are regaining popularity and are more affordable than in years past. New homebuilders are using desirable, open floor plans and are helping buyers get into new homes despite the nationwide credit crunch.
As with any major transaction, it’s critical that the buyer enter the home purchase fully informed and educated. Follow these important tips in a new home transaction to ensure that the outcome is a success.
1. Choose a REALTOR® Who Has New Home Sales Experience
Hire a buyer’s agent to represent you. Most of the time, your agent will be paid by the seller, but sometimes the responsibility for the agent’s fee is open for discussion. Even if you have to directly pay your agent, you can probably add that fee to the sales price, which would be worthwhile since a strong REALTOR® negotiating on your behalf can save you thousands more than the commission.
The builder’s sales agents are paid to represent the builder, regardless of what they may tell you. Many will use high pressure tactics to persuade you to sign the contract. Due to the high volume nature of brand-new home sales, lots of builder’s agents are paid less than a traditional commission; some earn a salary plus incentives, so turnover is important to their livelihood.
Your own agent will represent you, act as your fiduciary and disclose the positives as well as the negatives about the transaction. Builder’s agents don’t discuss drawbacks.
If your contract contains a contingency to sell your existing home before buying, again, hire your own seller’s agent to list your home. Be aware that buying before selling is not always in your best interest as hard bargaining goes out the window once you’ve emotionally already left your home.
2. Carefully Evaluate the Seller’s Lender before Committing
Builders often prefer their own lender because the builder will be kept fully informed of your personal progress; it’s one-stop shopping for a builder. However, a builder’s lender might not offer you the best deal. This is particularly true if the builder actually owns the lending company.
Builders will offer huge incentives to get you into your new home; sometimes up to 15% of the value of the home. However, they will often put one big stipulation on those incentives—that you use their lender. There are many problems that may crop up when you pigeon-hole yourself to one lender—higher rates and higher closing costs are the two biggest.
Ask to see a copy of your credit report and FICO cores. You can also order your own free credit report before shopping for a new home.
Insist that your lender guarantee its Good Faith Estimate. If the lender balks or makes excuses, go elsewhere. Reputable lenders will honor that request, even though it’s not required by law.
3. Check Out the Builder’s Reputation
If a buyer has a bad experience with a builder, word spreads rapidly throughout a community. However, accurately and fairly assessing a builder’s history is the appropriate path—check public records for lawsuits or complaints and evaluate their resolutions.
Talk to the neighbors and scrutinize the construction quality of surrounding homes. Is the builder consistently building same-sized or larger than existing properties, or are homes shrinking in size, which could reduce neighborhood value?
Learn if the builder limits investor purchases—this ensures that the neighborhood doesn’t turn into a “rental” neighborhood, which may appear less well-maintained and reduce property value.
4. Hire a Home Inspector
Many people who buy new construction homes don’t bother to get a home inspection. Most new homes come with a one year “bumper-to-bumper” warranty that includes everything, and many home buyers feel that they can find out if there are any construction flaws during those 12 months. The problem is that many problems won’t surface until well after the 12-month warranty has expired.
If the inspector calls for further inspection by another professional contractor, find out if the inspector is telling you that there could be a serious issue or if the inspector isn’t licensed to address that issue.
An inspection provides education about the property, and offers the validation of a trained, independent third party assessment of the structure and systems.
5. Obtain Legal Advice before Buying a Brand-New Home
Before you sign a purchase contract, talk to a real estate lawyer. Standard purchase agreements are designed to keep everybody out of court, but they don’t necessarily contain language that protects the buyer.
Ask questions about removal of contingencies and your cancellation rights. Make sure you understand your liability and commitments.
Find out if the materials used by the builder contain chemicals that are hazardous to your health. If your contract contains a warning about health issues, it’s probably because it’s a valid concern and other buyers have gone to court over it.
Dan Steward is president of Pillar To Post.
For more information, please visit wwwpillartopost.com.
July 11, 2011 4:59 pm
Any professional landscape designer will agree that a well designed landscape can only be achieved by first solving common landscaping problems.
LandscapingNetwork.com, an online resource for landscaping design ideas, has just released new information on the eight most common problems that may be present on landscaping projects, as well as expert tips on how to solve them.
While not every landscaping project will encounter the same problems, it's important that these challenges be identified and dealt with in the design plans before any construction begins. The eight most common yard and landscape problems involve:
1. Hillsides and slopes
2. Small yards
3. Large yards
4. Narrow yards and side yards
5. Windy spaces
6. Noisy spaces
7. Privacy problems
8. Shady yards
Each problem poses its own unique set of challenges. Luckily, consumers and designers now have access to these creative and practical methods for solving them.
For example, hillsides can be remedied with two creative solutions. One can choose to build an elevated deck into the hillside itself, or create a terraced garden with retaining walls.
For small yard landscaping, the site offers a host of solutions covering small yard design. Tips cover ways to maximize small yard spaces using three resourceful techniques, tips on choosing appropriate plant species, how to incorporate a small outdoor kitchen or swimming pool, and a gallery of small yard landscaping pictures for reference.
For more on landscaping designs ideas, landscaping photos and more, visit www.LandscapingNetwork.com.
July 11, 2011 4:59 pm
Summer is here, and that means millions of folks will be heading out to their decks or patios hosting everything from simple family meals to full-blown soirees. So the next couple of segments will look at two of the hottest trends, so you can make your patio one of the coolest places to party or just hang out and relax!
One of the fastest growing accessories for the deck or patio is a wireless speaker system. But one of the biggest drawbacks to integrating a good sounding wireless system is that age-old bugaboo, static. A recent post at gamepowerfulmediapc.com warns that static is usually crated from signal intervention if other wireless devices are located nearby.
Signal interference may occur due to the presence of devices that work on Bluetooth, radio frequency principles or infrared rays.
The common signal frequency that microwave or other home appliances use is 2.4 GHz. So, you can change the frequency of these appliances to observe that each device along with your speaker is working without any problem created due to static.
One of the best frequencies you can get your wireless speakers to work on is the 900mhz range as it has a long range and can go though objects like walls very easily. A growing number of outdoor wireless speakers offer green, sustainable technology too!
These particular wireless units boast a self-contained power source in the form of batteries with solar panels that collect solar energy which is transferred to the battery inside the unit. While a wide variety of these speakers offer conventional battery power, the likelihood of running out of juice is significantly higher, so the cost of replacement batteries will quickly exceed the difference you would have originally paid for a solar powered system.
In our next column, we’ll take a look at another popular and environmentally-friendly addition to the deck and patio—recycled furniture!
July 11, 2011 4:59 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.
July 11, 2011 4:59 pm
With the steady decline in gas prices throughout the month of June, American consumers are showing signs that they want to shift their focus back to trucks and SUVs. AutoTrader.com's June Trend Engine report—which provides analysis of site traffic as it relates to consumer shopping behavior—shows that trucks and SUVs have gained consumer interest since May and that interest in compact cars is starting to subside.
Though gas prices are still far from where they were at the beginning of the year, consumers have begun to feel some relief at the pump, which is likely a contributing factor to the rising interest in larger vehicles and the declining interest in more fuel-efficient models, according to AutoTrader.com analysts.
Consumers shopping on the site started considering more fuel-efficient models when gas prices hit the $3.50 mark, and now that prices are heading back toward that threshold, they appear ready to get back to their favorites.
Consumer Interest in New, Used and CPO Trucks Resumed in June
Consumer interest in big trucks is already on the upswing, especially in the new vehicle segment, with the Dodge Ram 1500, Ford F-250 and the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 all moving up on the list of most-searched vehicles in June. The largest of the full-size trucks showed the most significant gains, as the new Ford F-250 moved up five spots month-over-month to No. 13, and the new Chevrolet Silverado 2500 moved up six spots month-over-month to No. 18. Demand for both of these vehicles also showed in the increase in asking price, as the F-250's price increased 8.2% and the Silverado 2500's price increased 10.6% year-over-year.
Trucks also made a big comeback on the list of most-searched used vehicles, with the used Ford F-150 reclaiming the No. 1 spot, the used Chevrolet Silverado 1500 moving up one spot to No. 3, the used Ford F-250 moving up two spots to No. 6, the used Dodge Ram 2500 moving up one spot to No. 17, the used Toyota Tundra moving up two spots to No. 19. The biggest mover on the list of most-searched used vehicles in the truck segment, however, was the used Chevrolet Silverado 2500, which leapt four spots to land at No. 13. Average asking prices for the majority of used trucks dropped slightly (less than 5%) year-over-year. One notable exception was the Toyota Tacoma, which gained 8.6% in average asking price year-over-year.
On the certified pre-owned (CPO) front, the CPO Ford F-150 moved up two spots month-over-month to land at No. 10 with an increase in average asking price of 6.1%, and the CPO Toyota Tundra moved up one spot to No. 4 with an average asking price increase of 5.5%.
New, Used and CPO SUVs Gained Consumer Interest
Trucks weren't the only segment on the rise in June: SUVs across the most-searched lists for new, used and CPO vehicles also garnered notable interest from consumers. On the new list, both SUVs moved up in rank month-over-month, with the new Jeep Wrangler moving up two spots to No. 4 and the new Ford Explorer moving up one spot to No. 11. Both of these vehicles also showed a year-over-year increase in asking price, with the new Ford Explorer showing the biggest increase of 10.6%. The list of most-searched used cars showed a similar story for SUVs, with the used Jeep Wrangler moving up two spots to No. 5, the used Chevrolet Tahoe moving up four spots to No. 10 and the used Jeep Grand Cherokee moving up one spot to No. 18. With the exception of the used Tahoe, the other two SUVs showed an increase in average asking price year-over-year.
There were six SUVs on the list of most-searched CPO vehicles. Of these, four held their position on the list month-over-month, one moved down one spot and the rest moved up. The CPO Jeep Wrangler showed the biggest month-over-month jump, moving up five spots to No. 20; the CPO Chevrolet Tahoe moved up two spots to No. 9. As the only luxury SUV on the list, the Acura MDX show a slight decrease in average asking price year-over-year, but the rest of the SUVs all posted increases in this arena. The Toyota Highlander had the biggest average asking price increase of 11%, with the Toyota 4 Runner coming in second for price increases, with a 9% year-over-year jump.
Interest in Used and CPO Cars Declines; Prices on the Rise for these Vehicles
With the precipitous rise in gas prices earlier in the year, consumers held out as long as possible before turning their eyes toward the small car segments.
However, the steady decline in gas prices through June gave used car shoppers just enough confidence to begin diverting their attention from these cars.
Compact cars, as well as small luxury cars, on the list of most-searched used cars all declined in their position on the list month-over-month; however, the year-over-year average asking prices for those vehicles rose. The used BMW 3-Series dropped one spot month-over-month, landing at No. 2; the used Honda Civic dropped three spots to No. 8; the used Audi A4 dropped three spots to No. 16; and the Volkswagen Jetta dropped four spots to No. 20. The luxury used smaller cars on the list showed year-over-year increases in their average asking prices, with the BMW 3-Series increasing 4.6% and the Audi A4 increasing 1.2%, the non-luxury compacts posted the biggest increases in average asking price: the Honda Civic's price rose 10.9% year-over-year, and the Volkswagen Jetta's price rose 10.3% year-over-year.
Interest in smaller CPO cars also showed slight declines; of the four smaller cars on the list, two remained steady month-over-month while two dropped in their position on the list. The CPO BMW 3-Series and the CPO Honda Civic did not move on the list, but the CPO Audi A4 dropped one spot month-over-month to land at No. 5, and the Volkswagen Jetta dropped three spots to land at No. 12. Similar to the trend seen on the list of most-searched used cars, average asking price increases for the more affordable smaller CPO cars outpaced those in the luxury segment. The asking price for the Honda Civic rose 10% and the asking price for the Volkswagen Jetta rose 7.9% year-over-year.
The increases in average asking prices for used and CPO cars are consistent with the industry-wide trend of these cars commanding higher prices in the face of limited availability of quality pre-owned vehicles.
For more information, please visit www.AutoTrader.com.
July 11, 2011 4:59 pm
If you’re growing weary of the never-ending battle against weeds, there may be one unique way to exact revenge. Scientists with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) suggest that if you take some prudent safety measures, you can serve up some of your worst enemies at your next dinner party.
“Weeds can be a real pest in your lawn or favorite flower garden,” says Emilie Regnier, Ph.D., a weed ecologist at Ohio State University and a member of WSSA. “But many of them are edible. That means you can turn them into a tasty side dish or use them as a key ingredient in a nutritious gourmet salad. Remember, though, that like most other vegetables, weeds are most tasty when young and succulent. So time your ‘harvest’ accordingly.”
According to weed scientists, examples of common edible weeds include:
• Borage (Borago officinalis). This annual weed is a prolific seeder that can quickly take over a garden. It features blue, star-shaped flowers that bloom in midsummer and bristly leaves and stems. Both the flowers and leaves have a crisp, cucumber-like flavor that make them a favored ingredient in salads or soups.
• Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). A native of the Mediterranean (not Canada as its name implies), Canada thistle is considered a noxious weed in communities across much of the U.S. and Canada. It is a perennial that spreads via seed and underground rhizomes. Young Canada thistle stalks can be peeled and eaten raw, and the nutritious young leaves are edible as well. Try them as a sandwich garnish or boiled as a side dish.
• Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Though this perennial weed may not be welcome in your lawn or garden, its tuberous roots and green leaves are a coveted salad ingredient and can be cooked like spinach. Some adventuresome cooks like to batter and fry bright-yellow dandelion blossoms. Pluck only young blooms, though, to avoid a bitter flavor.
• Dewberry or Bramble (Rubus flagellaris). This member of the blackberry family typically grows upright on a thorny stem, with five-petal blooms and clusters of edible black fruit. When left uncontrolled, dewberry can grow into dense thickets that will overrun fields and pastureland. But dewberry berries are quite tasty and can be eaten fresh or used in jams, jellies and pies.
• Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album). This broadleaf weed is among the most common summer annuals – found in fields and pastures, orchards and gardens and even along roadsides. Both the leaves of the plant and its clusters of tiny green flowers have a spinach-like flavor. Young shoots with leaves are recommended if you choose to eat this weed raw.
• Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). A prolific annual weed, purslane can grow almost anywhere and produces seeds that can remain viable in soil for decades. The branching rubbery stems and fleshy oval leaves grow close to the ground. Though the entire plant is edible, most aficionados prefer the leaves and tender stem tips from fresh young plants—using them like spinach in salads or to dress up a sandwich. Purslane also can be boiled, steamed or stir-fried, but it becomes slimy if overcooked.
• Wild mustards (species in the Brassicaceae family). Most farmers will tell you they aren’t a fan of weeds that belong to the wild mustard family. They spread rapidly, crowd out crops and can become a fire hazard when their greenery dies back during the heat of the summer. But admirers love their spicy leaves —whether cooked or raw.
Edible Weed Safety Tips
Before you take even a nibble of any weed, though, make certain you follow these two mandatory safety tips:
1. Know what you’re gathering. Many highly toxic or even deadly weeds can masquerade as a harmless cousin. One example: Poison hemlock looks a lot like parsley, and people have died by adding it to a salad by mistake. Consult detailed field guides and/or contact your county extension agent to avoid placing yourself and your family in danger.
2. Avoid weeds that might have been sprayed with pesticides. The pesticides farmers use on fruits and vegetables undergo an extensive battery of tests to determine safe application rates and the minimum interval between treatment and harvest. Each pesticide is approved for very specific uses, though, and edible weeds aren’t among them.
“Your safety is paramount, so make certain you’ve accurately identified each weed to determine if it is edible before it makes its way to your table,” says Lee Van Wychen, Ph.D., science policy director of the Weed Science Society of America. “In many cases there is no margin for error.”
For more information, visit http://www.wssa.net.
July 11, 2011 4:59 pm
In our last column, I examined wireless outdoor speakers—one of the hottest home deck and patio accessories this summer. In this segment, well check out another one of the newest and greenest trends: sturdy and inviting patio furniture made from recycled materials.
The folks at sustainablog.org tout the newest lines of environmentally-friendly patio furniture, which are made from recycled or earth friendly materials. Remember, recycled eco outdoor patio furniture saves energy and resources because it uses less virgin materials.
Of course, recycling also saves ‘waste’ products from ending up as landfill and polluting the environment, so it is a good idea for more than one reason. And consumers should always opt for recycled plastic patio furniture with high post-consumer recycled content.
The benefits of recycled plastic furniture are endless.
First, it is extremely light weight compared to wood or metal patio furniture. This allows you to move your outdoor furniture from location to location with ease and comfort.
This is great for those who like to rearrange their patio furniture a lot. The fact that it is durable and long-lasting is one of the reasons that recycled plastic patio tables are so popular today.
Why spend tons of money on something that will only last you a few years? Plastic patio furniture can be used and abused for years and years.
The folks at parknpool.com of Lexington, VA, agree that high density recycled outdoor furniture is built tough—it can withstand the constant wind, rain, sun, and salt air of any outdoor location, even a beachfront resort.
It’s great for poolside as well, because it is virtually unaffected by chlorinated (and salt) water. Plus, stainless steel hardware means no worries about rust. And careless guests won't raise your hackles—this deck furniture is scratch and gouge resistant.
Some people would say the best benefit of purchasing plastic furniture is that you won't have to stain or refinish it. And the only maintenance required for this product is a simple spray of the hose when it gets a little dirty.