Gunning Daily News

Working in the Garden This Spring? Watch Out for Buried Gas Lines

May 5, 2011 9:49 am

RISMEDIA, May 5, 2011-Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is reminding customers to call 8-1-1 from anywhere in the country avoid damaging buried natural gas lines when doing projects in their yard, such as installing a new wall or fence, planting or re-working landscaping, putting in a swimming pool, or other yard renovations.

"During the warmer months, many homeowners begin projects that require digging on their property," said J. Bret Lane, vice president of field services for SoCalGas. "Since gas lines that serve their homes are located underground and out of sight, sometimes just inches below the surface, we urge homeowners to make a quick phone call to 8-1-1 Underground Service Alert to have utility-owned lines marked for free. This will help them avoid possible injury, unnecessary and costly damage, or service interruption."

According to SoCalGas, there were more than 2,200 customer and contractor preventable accidents caused by "dig-ins" last year. In more than half of those cases, no call was made to 8-1-1 to have lines located and marked.

Customers should call Underground Service Alert by simply dialing 8-1-1 at least two business days before digging in their yard. As a free service, Underground Service Alert will contact area utilities. Each utility will then locate and mark the underground facilities they own.

Customer-owned piping is the line that runs beyond the gas meter to a building or area where gas-fueled equipment or appliances are located. To have these customer-owned lines located and marked, SoCalGas advises customers to call pipe and leak locating service companies or plumbing contractors who provide these maintenance services.

"Once all lines are marked, customers should carefully use only hand-digging tools within two feet on each side of marked gas lines," Lane says.

No damage is too small to report. Even a slight gouge, scrape or dent to a pipeline or the pipe's coating may cause a dangerous break or leak in the future.

If a customer causes or discovers what seems to be only minor damage to a pipeline, or any component attached to the pipeline, they should still notify utilities immediately. For more safety information, visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Owning Cheaper Than Renting in Some Major Cities

May 5, 2011 9:49 am

RISMEDIA, May 5, 2011-It has become cheaper to rent a home than buy it in more areas, according to real estate research firm Trulia. Trulia's second quarter 2011 Rent vs. Buy Index-which compares the cost of buying and renting a two-bedroom apartment, condominium or townhouse in the 50 largest U.S. cities-revealed that it is cheaper to rent than buy in forty of them. It still remains more expensive to buy a home than rent it in New York, Fort Worth and Kansas City.

Rents have been steadily increasing in most major areas. As employment continues to recover the demand for rental housing is likely to become greater for a number of reasons. "Boomerang kids," children who were forced to move back in with their parents, will be looking for their own place as they find jobs. Most don't have much in savings, and since lenders are requiring larger down payments these days, buying is not an option for many of them. Some unrelated families and individuals have also been sharing housing to save money. As their fortunes improve through re-employment they will want their own place as well.

Home prices continue to decline according to recent data. The National Association of Realtors April annual home price forecast projected a 1.8 percent decline in the median price of U.S. existing homes in 2011. The expected change in values varies from one region to another. Not surprisingly, the areas that have suffered drops already and which can expect further drops in the future are the ones where home ownership costs have dropped below rent.

Mortgage interest rates, which continue at much lower levels than normal, are also a significant factor in today's low ownership costs. The federal government has been keeping long term interest rates low for some time, but this will not last forever. When they start back up the pendulum will swing back in the other direction. Even a seemingly minor increase in mortgage rates-one or two percent-will push the cost of owning back ahead of renting in many places.

Low consumer confidence in the economic outlook has also kept many home buyers on the sidelines. As the economy improves, many of them will get off the fence and start looking around. This will also start driving selling prices higher.

The conclusion to be drawn is that the current situation is only temporary. In the vast majority of U.S. communities it has been more expensive to buy than rent. Both psychological factors and economic factors will assure that we return to those circumstances. Most people want a home they can call their own. Because it is a highly leveraged investment in most cases, the return on the amount invested (i.e. the original down payment) is quite impressive even given the modest overall annual historical levels of home appreciation (about 3 percent).

All of this means that today is a good time to buy for those that can afford it. For most home sellers there is a better chance for home appreciation rather than further declines once we get through this year.

Courtesy of the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance,

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Help the Ecosystem; Make Room for Pollinators

May 5, 2011 9:49 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, May 5, 2011-Your RIS Consumer Confidant learned an important lesson recently from the folks at the US Forest service about pollinators. Without these important little insect cogs in our ecosystem, our world would be very different, because very few of the plants that grow for food or beauty would ever become pollinated.

So the Forest Service is calling on property owners to consider creating a destination for pollinators in your yard this year. To create a pollinator-friendly landscape around your home or workplace, use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall.

Help pollinators find and use these plants by placing in clumps, rather than in single locations. Include plants native to your region. Natives are adapted to your local climate, soil and native pollinators. Do not forget that night-blooming flowers will support moths and bats.

If you want colorful butterflies, grow plants for their caterpillars. They will eat them, so place them where unsightly leaf damage can be tolerated. Accept that some host plants are less than ornamental if not outright weeds. A butterfly guide will help you determine the plants you need to include. Plant a butterfly garden!

By leaving dead trees, or at least an occasional dead limb, you provide essential nesting sites for native bees. Make sure these are not a safety hazard for people walking below. You can also build a bee condo by drilling holes of varying diameter about 3 to 5 inches deep in a piece of scrap lumber mounted to a post or under eaves.

Butterflies are attracted to unsavory things, such as moist animal droppings, urine and rotting fruits. Try putting out slices of overripe bananas, oranges and other fruits; or a sponge in a dish of lightly salted water to see which butterflies come to investigate. Sea salt provides a broader range of micronutrients than regular table salt.

And most importantly-eliminate pesticides whenever possible. If you must use a pesticide, use the least-toxic material possible. Read labels carefully before purchasing, as many pesticides are especially dangerous for bees. Use the product properly. Spray at night when bees and other pollinators are not active.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Question of the Day

May 4, 2011 7:49 am

Q: Can a home be sold for less than its mortgage?

A: Sometimes. But it is a complicated process and a lot will depend on the lender.

This process is called a "short sale," which occurs when a lender agrees to write off the portion of a mortgage that's higher than the value of a home. But, usually, a buyer must be willing to purchase the property first.

A short sale may be more complicated if the loan has been sold in the secondary market. Then the lender will need permission from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the two major secondary-market players.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

May 4 is the 10th Annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

May 4, 2011 7:49 am

RISMEDIA, May 4, 2011-Hundreds of thousands of teens nationwide are expected to participate in the 10th annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on May 4, 2011. The purpose of the National Day is to focus the attention of teens on the importance of avoiding too-early pregnancy and parenthood through an interactive online quiz and game.

On the National Day, teens nationwide are asked to go to participate in several online activities that challenge them to think carefully about what they might do "in the moment." The message of the National Day is straightforward: Sex has consequences.

This year, the popular National Day Quiz will be animated for the first time. Young people will also be able to play a new, online game-Invasion of the Myth Monsters- that challenges them to help prevent the spread of myths and untruths about sex, contraception, and pregnancy.

More than a half-million teens participated in National Day activities in 2010 and nearly 4.2 million individuals have taken the National Day Quiz since 2002.

The extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy and childbearing over the past two decades have proven that progress can be made on challenging social issues. Since the early 1990s, the teen pregnancy and birth rates have declined by about one-third. The teen birth rate in the United States declined 6 percent in 2009 and is now at a record low, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. Rates declined among older and younger teens and among all racial and ethnic groups. For example, the birth rate among Hispanic teens declined 10 percent in 2009 and is now at a record low.

"While we celebrate the extraordinary progress the nation has made in preventing too early pregnancy and parenthood, we must not mistake these impressive gains with victory," cautions Sarah Brown, Chief Executive Officer of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, organizer of the National Day. "It is still the case that three in ten teen girls in this country become pregnant before age 20 and that the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate among comparable countries.

"When it comes to convincing young people that adolescence should be a time for education and growing-up, not pregnancy and parenthood, there is much yet to be done. We hope that-in some modest way-the National Day will help teens think carefully about sex, relationships, contraception, the possibility of pregnancy, and the lifelong challenges of being a parent."

Each year those who take the National Day Quiz are asked to participate in a follow-up evaluation. Among the findings from a group of teens who participated in the 2010 National Day Quiz:

  • 60 percent said the Quiz made the risks of sex and teen pregnancy see more real to them;
  • 55 percent said the Quiz made them think about things they hadn't thought about before; and
  • 61 percent said they'd talk to their friends about the Quiz.

Support for the National Day: The National Day has widespread support from a diverse group of more than 200 media outlets, teen websites, health sector leaders, education leaders, businesses, youth-serving groups, groups representing elected officials, fatherhood and male involvement groups, faith-based groups, and other prominent national organizations. Visit for a full list of National Day partners and to learn how you can support the National Day.

About the National Campaign: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan initiative supported almost entirely by private donations. Our mission is to promote values, behavior and policies that reduce both teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy among young adults. By increasing the proportion of children born into welcoming, intact families who are prepared to take on the demanding task of raising the next generation, our efforts will improve the well-being of children and strengthen the nation.

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

How Can I Avoid a Foreclosure?

May 4, 2011 7:49 am

RISMEDIA, May 4, 2011-Foreclosure filings spiked upward another 7 percent in March of this year; one expert believes there are alternatives that consumers can use to avoid becoming part of next month's statistic.

During March, the amount of foreclosure filings totaled 239,745, according to statistics released from RealtyTrac. This is up from February, when filings totaled 225,101. Granted, the rate of increase is slower than it was this time last year, but financial expert Deborah McNaughton, author of The Essential Credit Repair Handbook from Career Press, said that the decrease wasn't attributable to better market conditions.

"The slowdown is because there are so many foreclosures to file, it's taking lenders longer to process foreclosure proceedings," McNaughton says. "The allegations of fraud in some of these foreclosure proceedings started last September, and as a result, there was a temporary suspension of foreclosures while the fraud was investigated. There are people out there who are still in trouble, but there are ways they can avoid a foreclosure, if they're willing to do the work."

McNaughton's alternatives include:

  • Short Sale: Of course you have considered a short sale. That should be your first choice, but the downside is that there are so many players in the mix. First, you have to list the property with a real estate company. If you get a buyer, you have to submit a hardship letter and your financials to the lender along with the offer to purchase your property at a price that is lower than your balance. It may take the lender weeks-or even months-to decide if they are willing to accept the offer. By that time you may have lost your buyer. If you have not been making your mortgage payments, the lender may foreclose on your property. Unless you can overcome these issues, this alternative may not be the one for you.
  • Short Refinance: If your payments are not behind, contact a lender to see if you are eligible for a short refinance. An appraisal on the property will be ordered. If the appraisal is less than the balance you owe, the lender will tell you how much of a loan they will make. When you get a commitment letter and appraisal from the lender, submit it to your current lender requesting a reduction of your current balance. If they agree to a reduced payoff, continue with the new lender and complete your new loan with a lower loan amount and hopefully better terms.
  • Lease Purchase Option: Put your home or property on the market as a lease with an option to purchase. A lease purchase allows a buyer to purchase your property for an agreed sales price and date to complete. Ernest money is applied towards a down payment, and you would collect monthly payments. Make sure you get enough down payment money to catch up any past due payments, and continue to make the mortgage payments until the sale is complete.
  • Rental: Renting your house out may also be an option for you. If you get a renter that can cover your payments, you can rent another place for less money. When things get better and your finances loosen up you can always move back into your home.

"A lot more people are facing foreclosure than the statistics currently reflect," McNaughton notes. "As a result, everyone should be aware of the alternatives. Foreclosure can sometimes be a worst-case scenario for some, but that can be avoided simply by choosing to accept something that isn't a best-case scenario, but it's better than losing your place to live with no alternatives at all."

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Small Money Saving Tips That Add Up

May 4, 2011 7:49 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, May 4, 2011-Let's face it: A dollar only goes so far, especially these days with the price of gasoline at outrageous highs. Saving, for many, has been put on the back burner in favor of wringing the most from every dollar we have.

But savings don't have to be huge to add up in a meaningful way, says Trent Hamm, founder of the financial website Hamm offers 10 little money-saving tips that can add up to big dollars over time:

  • Switch bank accounts: Instead of paying maintenance fees and earning next to zero interest, switch to a bank like ING Direct, where you will earn interest on both savings and checking accounts.
  • Master the 30-day rule: Wait 30 days when tempted to make a significant purchase. You may find the urge to own it fades.
  • Make your own gifts: You can make food mixes, cookies, soaps and many other gifts that cost less and mean more, especially when presented to the recipient with a heartfelt note.
  • Invite friends in: Almost any activity at home costs less than going out. Have dinner. Play games. Watch a rented movie-and keep your hand out of your pocket.
  • Make a list: Don't go to the grocery store without a list. It will help you buy only what you need and discourage impulse buys.
  • Try generic brands: the only difference between a name brand and a market brand may be only the marketing, and the savings can add up.
  • Clean out closets: Clear out what you don't need and have a yard sale, give it to a consignment shop, or donate it to charity for the tax deduction.
  • Clean your car's air filter: It only takes a few minutes, and a clean air filter can save up to 7 percent on gas mileage.
  • Swap babysitting: If you live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, swapping babysitting chores with a neighbor or two will save everyone money.
  • Start a garden: It's an inexpensive hobby if you have a yard and it will provide exercise while saving you money on produce.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Word of the Day

May 3, 2011 8:19 am

Tax rate. The rate at which real property is taxed in a tax district or county. For example, in a certain county, real property may be taxed at a rate of 55 mills (or 0.055) per dollar of assessed valuation.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

8 Things Not to Buy Used

May 3, 2011 8:19 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011-Everyone loves a bargain, and there are times when buying a previously owned item is smart in more ways than one. Buying a used car, for example, can save you money on car insurance while sparing you the cost of initial depreciation.

But not all used items are good buys, according to the financial gurus at US News and World Report. Here are ten things to avoid buying used because they could take a toll on your family's health as well as your finances:

  • Cribs and car seats: While some may be fine, you may not know whether the item has been recalled for safety issues. If you do buy a used crib, buy a new mattress for it to guard against potential health issues.
  • Mattresses and bedding: you don't want to be sleeping with someone else's mold, mites and bacteria.
  • Tires: If they were ever in a significant accident-and there's no way to know that-they may be unstable or unreliable.
  • Laptops, DVD players and digital cameras: Small electrics like these may have been dropped or banged around. Unless you know their history, or they've been refurbished, repairs down the road may cost more than the item is worth.
  • Shoes: It may be hard to resist a bargain on brand-name used shoes, but inspect carefully before you buy. Shoes molded to a previous owner's feet could cause health problems as well as discomfort.
  • Pet supplies: Old stains and odors continue to ferment even if the items are in storage. If cleanliness is an issue, say no.
  • Vacuum cleaners: These much-used, heavy duty appliances may cost more to repair than if you had bought them new.
  • Wet suits: They lose the ability to keep you warm over time. Also, if the suit was used by a devoted scuba diver, the constant change in water pressure can leave it more prone to tear.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Communities to 'Celebrate the Essential' during Drinking Water Week 2011

May 3, 2011 8:19 am

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011-The American Water Works Association (AWWA), the authoritative resource on safe water, recently kicked off Drinking Water Week 2011-an annual celebration of our most precious natural resource.

Throughout the week, AWWA and its partners will celebrate water by recognizing the essential role it plays in our daily lives, with special attention to the future of water, water infrastructure and the economy, careers in the water profession, and source water protection.

"Drinking Water Week is an opportunity to focus on the importance of water, which is too easily overlooked," says AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance. "A safe, reliable water supply is essential to the success of any community. In addition to keeping us hydrated, water also supports the economy, prevents fires, and provides us with the high quality of life we enjoy."

To commemorate the occasion, water utilities, environmental advocates and others will celebrate drinking water through school events, public presentations and community festivals. They will also provide their communities with important tips for protecting our water supplies and conserving resources.

About Drinking Water Week

For more than 35 years, the American Water Works Association and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week- a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives.

AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of water in North America and beyond. AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world. AWWA advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the entire water community. Through our collective strength we become better stewards of water for the greatest good of the people and the environment.

For more information visit

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.