Gunning Daily News

How Healthy Is Your Indoor Air?

April 29, 2011 6:55 am

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011-The Healthy House Institute (HHI) and the Home Ventilating Institute (HVI) have announced the release of the 2011 QuickGuide to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)-a concise mini-guide with checklists to help consumers identify simple steps to make their indoor air healthier.

QuickGuide to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Though invisible, air is the most basic, life-sustaining feature of your home. Preventive measures, ventilation, and daily habits play a role in protecting your home's precious supply.

Threats to the Breathing Space

Dirt and Dust: Outdoor soil can contain fertilizer, pesticides and more. Tracked in, it becomes part of the indoor dust, which already holds dander, dust mites, plastics, and sometimes lead or asbestos from indoor sources. As dust becomes airborne, these substances may enter the body and cause symptoms ranging from asthma and allergy flare-ups to even nervous system damage and cancer.

Mold: Airborne mold spores and mold fragments can trigger asthma and allergy episodes.

VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are found in cleaning liquids, paints, solvents and many more household supplies. They volatize or "off gas" into the air. Not all are harmful, but at high levels, many can cause a range of symptoms from short-term irritation to more ominous organ damage and cancer. The impact of lower levels and of mixtures of VOCs is under discussion or unknown, but reducing exposure is generally a good policy.

Formaldehyde: This VOC is used in a wide variety of household products. Manufacturers have scaled back-but in many cases not eliminated-its use. It is a known carcinogen and can trigger asthma attacks and irritate the eyes and respiratory system. Off gassing can continue for years, decreasing over time.

Asbestos: Found in some insulation, fireproofing materials, acoustic tile and "popcorn" ceilings, these tiny particles can cause lung-tissue damage and cancer. Asbestos containing materials are harmless as long as they stay intact, but disintegration frees the fibers to enter the airspace and the lungs.

Lead: Damaging to the nervous system, lead can enter the air as dust. Blood lead levels have dropped dramatically since the 1980s, indicating that unleaded gasoline and strategies regarding lead paint and lead pipes are working. Continued vigilance in the home is recommended, especially if your home is older.

Moisture: Water leaks and high relative humidity encourage mold growth, dust mite proliferation and increased formaldehyde emissions from building materials, furnishings and other household items. These irritants can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.

Carbon Monoxide: Fuel-burning appliances and idling cars in attached garages can release carbon monoxide into the home, causing approximately 500 preventable deaths each year and thousands more to become ill.

Radon: Radioactive gas can cause lung cancer-no smoking necessary. The EPA estimates radon causes 21,000 preventable deaths each year. Radon testing is quite inexpensive and almost effort-free.

Three Action Principles

Eliminate

Often, the most reliable method of protecting yourself from unhealthy exposures in the home is simply to make sure harmful materials and contaminants are not present. Building or furnishing carefully with less hazardous materials, as well as proper cleaning, eliminates many health threats.

Separate or Isolate

When removal is not advisable or not possible, reduce exposure by creating a sealed barrier. For example, tight wall construction keeps potentially hazardous insulation particles out of the living space.

Ventilate

Reduce remaining air contaminants by regularly letting stale air out and fresh air in. Balancing in and out airflows in this process provides fresh air for your family and prevents a vacuum from forming and drawing air from a dangerous source like the furnace exhaust.

Action Plan

Regular Habits

Use a central vacuum that exhausts outside, or a well-filtered (e.g., sealed HEPA) portable vacuum

Dust with tools that don't flip dust into the air

Declutter to remove dust harbors

Sweep entry walks and keep large mats at doors

Remove shoes when coming in from outside

Keep relative humidity at 30 percent to 50 percent

Reduce spray and aerosol cleaner use

Use low-VOC cleaning solutions and products

Run exhaust fans while cooking and showering. Open a window slightly if necessary to keep air pressure balanced

Air out bedding daily to release body moistures before making bed; launder weekly in hot water

Continuously use ventilation systems to provide healthful air in the home

Annual Protections

Replace batteries in carbon monoxide alarm(s)

Clean and/or inspect furnace ducts and A/C unit

Sweep chimney

Inspect roof and repair as needed

Winterize outdoor faucets

As Needed

Test for radon at least once and as house settles

Fix window leaks-caulking, weather stripping, etc.

Check for and repair plumbing leaks

Monthly to quarterly, replace central A/C and ventilator filters with MERV 10 or 11, or the highest-efficiency filtration your units can handle (see manuals)

New Construction & Special Projects

Install hard floors or remove old (dust-filled) carpet and replace with low-pile, low-VOC carpeting

Use low- or no-formaldehyde alternatives over traditional particleboard and plywood building materials and furnishings. Substitutes include solid wood or outdoor grade plywood

Apply moisture barriers during flooring foundation and wall construction.

Install a whole-house, continuous ventilation system

Build in radiant rather than forced air heat

For good drainage, create or renew a 5 to 6 percent grade of soil sloping away from the house

Professional Assistance Recommended

Deep clean carpet and upholstery

Clean chimney

Home inspection

HVAC inspection

Mold abatement

Asbestos remediation

Radon mitigation

Lead abatement

For more information visit http://www.healthyhouseinstitute.com.

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.


Get Serious about Identity Protection

April 29, 2011 6:55 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011-Whether through a smartphone, or with a click of a computer mouse, your RIS Consumer Confidant knows more Americans are bringing their banking, and their bank, home with them than ever before. They are shopping, ordering prescriptions, medical products, furniture and even cars, all through the Internet.

This is why David Nelson, an FDIC fraud specialist, warns the time to get serious about your own identity protection is NOW-and he offers these basic tips to protect yourself:

If you bank online, frequently check your deposit accounts and lines of credit to spot and report errors or fraudulent transactions, just as you should with traditional banking.

Never give your Social Security number, credit or debit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs) or any other confidential information in response to an unsolicited e-mail, text message or phone call, no matter who the source supposedly is.

Don't open attachments or click on links in unsolicited e-mails from anyone you don't know or aren't sure about. And watch out for sudden pop-up windows asking for personal information or warning of a virus.

Be on guard against scams hiding behind online coupon offers. Beware of any coupon site that asks for personal, financial or payment information, which can be misused by criminals.

Be careful if you download banking software onto a cell phone. Many cell phones called "smart phones" allow consumers to add computer-like features ranging from video games to "mobile" banking. The latest emerging threat comes from criminals selling malicious software for mobile banking, some even falsely displaying bank logos. These applications may contain spyware, and downloading them could be giving a hacker access to your bank account or payment card information.

Nelson's last word: "Only download mobile banking applications from a safe site, such as your wireless provider, phone manufacturer or your bank." When in doubt, he added, "contact your bank before downloading any banking applications to your cell phone."

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 to Avoid Common Home-Purchase Contract Mistakes

April 29, 2011 6:55 am

By Tracey C. Velt

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011-If you're buying a home, it's important to mean what you say and say what you mean when filling out the contract.

That's the advice of lawyer Jeff Marks, a partner with Ryan and Marks Attorneys LLP in Jacksonville, Fla. A real estate dispute in the Sunshine State illustrates his point.

Christine and Nigel Gibney contracted to buy a house from Helen and Randy Pillifant for $620,000. The purchase contract provided that the sale was "contingent upon this property appraising for no less than $620,000," according to court documents.

Two appraisals were done. One arranged by the Gibneys (the buyers) came in at $560,000. The Pillifants secured an appraisal that valued their house at $635,000. The buyers refused to close and terminated the contract.

The sellers sued for breach of contract, arguing that any appraisal of $620,000 or more obligated the Gibneys to buy the house. The Gibneys argued that any appraisal for less than $620,000 allowed them to terminate the contract.

Who's right? Florida's Second District Court of Appeal favored the would-be buyers, ruling in April 2010: "In our view, 'appraising for no less than $620,000' means that no appraisal may be less than $620,000," the court ruled. "The appraisal contingency allowed the Gibneys to terminate the contract if any appraisal valued the property at less than $620,000."

Too often, homebuyers and sellers think a contract allows for one thing, when the language says something else.

"Contingencies should be written in full sentences," Marks says. "In this case, it should have read, 'This agreement is contingent, at buyers' option, on the property appraising for at least $620,000 as determined by the appraiser for the buyers' lender,'" he says. "There's no confusion in that language."

Here are four ways to avoid making common contract mistakes.

Give Yourself Time to Get a Loan

Many contracts are contingent upon the buyer getting financing by a certain date. In today's tough lending climate, buyers are wise to allow themselves plenty of time to get mortgage approval for a loan. If the date passes and no financing has been secured, the sellers may terminate the contract and keep the earnest money deposit.

"You should also be realistic about your closing date," says Patti Lawton, a broker with Welcome Home Realty in Brunswick, Maine. "Don't try to close too quickly. There are a lot of things that need to be done properly and you must give lenders, title companies and others time."

Be Specific about Which Items Stay with the House

You've heard the story of the buyer who walked into a new home only to discover that the refrigerator and chandeliers were missing. Check the contract. As a seller, be sure you specifically state on the contract what will stay with the home. As a buyer, pay attention. Don't assume that the Sub-Zero refrigerator is yours once you close.

Know the Effective Date

Surprise! The contract doesn't always go into effect on the day you sign it. "In every contract, there are things that must be done within X number of days from the effective date: inspections, loan applications and approval, title searches," Marks says. "If you don't know the date that the contract went into effect, you may not have a valid contract."

Get Everyone to Sign

"Sometimes the home is owned by both spouses, other owners or an entity such as corporation," Marks says. "Make sure all of the parties sign the contract. If a party to the transaction fails to sign, they're not bound to perform the contract."

You've heard it before: Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you're going to make. "Take it seriously and make sure everything that's important to you is in writing," Lawton says.

For more information visit www.bankrate.com.

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

April 27, 2011 7:59 am

Subdivision. A tract of land divided by the owner into smaller lots for home sites or other use.

Copyright 2008 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Q: How much can I afford?

April 27, 2011 7:59 am

A: The general rule of thumb is that you can buy a home that costs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. A good real estate agent or lender can determine how much you can afford and estimate the maximum monthly payment based on the loan amount, taxes, insurance and other expenses. To find out now how your income, debts, and expenses can affect what you can afford, use the Century 21 calculator to figure out how much you may be able to borrow to purchase a home.

Copyright 2008 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


When School's Out for Summer Choosing the Right Sitter

April 27, 2011 7:59 am

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2011-The end of the school year is a cause for celebration for millions of children around the nation. However, for their parents, it poses a serious question: Who is going to watch my children for the next three months? Sittercity.com offers the following tips to find the perfect summer sitter:

Start Early: Start searching for a sitter at least one month before school lets out. This will allow adequate time to identify and screen new candidates, check references and review background checks. Remember that most of the parents in your children's school will also be looking for summer sitters, so starting early gives you a leg up on the competition.

Parents start looking for summer sitters as early as January.

The majority of parents post a summer sitter job the first week of May.

Keep the Kids Learning: Summer vacation can be fun, but you can also use this time to continue to teach your children.

Write Down the Details: Write down all the events your children are signed up for this summer: camp, summer school, arts and crafts classes, play dates, etc., so your sitter has all the details. If your kids would like to have friends over or want to go to a friend's house, make sure to write down who they can visit, their contact information, address and details, so your sitter has them at hand.

For more information visit www.sittercity.com.

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.


New Site Helps Consumers Understand Financial Credentials and Find Qualified Advisors

April 27, 2011 7:59 am

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2011-Long confused by the "alphabet soup" of designations after the names of financial advisors, consumers now have a reliable resource to help them determine which credentials are rigorous and offered by leading institutions, versus "one day seminars" that often mislead the public.

The American College recently launched DesignationCheck.com-a website providing consumers with extended descriptions of the most common designations, tips on how to select a financial advisor, and search tools to help them find advisors with credentials well regarded by regulators.

DesignationCheck.com includes full descriptions of many designations offered by several universities and institutions. The site also offers insight on educational and experience requirements, codes of ethics, examinations, continuing education requirements, enforcement, accreditation, and information about the conferring organization. Non-profit organizations that would like to have their credential listed may submit their request through the "Feedback" section on DesignationCheck.com.

Larry Barton, Ph.D., President and CEO of The American College states: "At any time, but especially now in an erratic economy, there is an inherent lack of trust in insurance and financial planners. While no credential such as a CPA or CLU guarantees superb advice, we know for a fact that those with these designations are more likely to ensure sound and unbiased planning and that they have completed a course of study that took years and numerous exams to complete.

"Unfortunately, there are over 300 financial designations available, and some can be completed in just one day of study. We must encourage Congress to stop this insanity of unlicensed and unchecked, for-profit companies issuing certificates with initials that confuse consumers."

Barton adds "advisors with advanced education such as ChFC s, and CFP certificants are the kinds of professionals consumers should seek out. He continues by stating that "this robust website includes a wide variety of industry credentials and will help consumers connect directly with knowledgeable and qualified financial advisors."

DesignationCheck.com also contains links to other resources, including those available from FINRA and the AICPA. The 10 Considerations for Choosing an Advisor feature covers the questions consumers should be asking when they select an advisor, and the search feature helps consumers find a credentialed financial professional near them.

The advisor search tool focuses on the "big three" financial planning marks: CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter ), CFP Certification (through a link to CFP Board's site), and ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant ). Another link on the site helps consumers locate a CPA with the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential.

"While FINRA and a few other sites provide lists of popular designations, there is no other site that provides as much detailed information for consumers about what each credential represents," says Barton. "We believe it is critical for families to have this tool available free of charge so they are able to choose their advisors carefully and with full information about their qualifications."

For more information, visit www.TheAmericanCollege.edu.

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.


Keep Your Home Cool as the Weather Turns Warm

April 27, 2011 7:59 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2011-When it comes to air conditioning, your RIS Consumer Confidant strives to be one cool source of information. And with the hot, muggy weather of summer just a scant month or two away, it's time to take a look at a couple of the hottest new A/C concepts on the market -the split and multi-split.

A split type unit is sometimes ideal for a room with outside walls, as indoor and outdoor units are both required for each room. But with a multi-split type air conditioner, a single outdoor unit can be connected to multiple indoor units. This solves the problems of limited installation space as well as exterior clutter.

Even with zones in almost every room, it is unusual for all indoor units to be operated simultaneously, so a multi-split type air conditioner is the right choice for almost any home. The outdoor unit's capacity is shared between operating indoor units as needed, so a smaller-scale system can handle the whole home.

But are these ductless systems as efficient as the traditional systems? LEED Certified architect Maia Kumari Gilman recently blogged that it's "all a matter of degree."

Kumari says ductless air conditioners are often recommended in building retrofit situations, where it doesn't make sense to rip out walls or to add soffits to accommodate new duct runs.

Kumari likes that they are also easily set up to offer cooling to different zones instead of a single zone, thereby allowing the occupants to have control over their temperature environment. So if an occupant wants to cool only one room, then the system offers that possibility without cooling the whole space. And without duct runs, there is also a reduced chance of air leakage, which also saves energy. So, Kumari declares that ductless air conditioners are indeed "green."

An even greener alternative, she suggests, is to forego the air conditioner in lieu of an old fashioned ceiling fan that works to make the human body feel cooler rather than actually changing the temperature of the surrounding air.

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.


Is This the Right Time to Buy a Home? 5 Reasons Why the Answer is a No-Brainer

April 27, 2011 7:59 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2011-Much has been made in the media lately about sinking home prices and the higher than normal rate of foreclosures. Understandably, this has produced some hesitancy about whether this is the right time to buy. However, most real estate industry watchers agree that there may never have been a better time to take the plunge and purchase a home.

Rock-bottom interest rates, motivated sellers, and a great supply of houses to choose from are only a few of the reasons why now is an optimum time for new homeowners. In any economy there are at least five reasons why buying a home makes more sense than renting-especially over a long period of time. A few of those reasons are financial; the others have to do with an improved way of life for growing families.

This spring, Realtors nationwide are asking consumers to consider these facts before deciding whether or not to buy now:

Equity builds over time: Home prices will always fluctuate somewhat. However, if you stay in your home for a length of time, you will build equity-building wealth by paying off your mortgage and owning your property outright.

There will be tax savings: For most, the interest on a home mortgage, and real estate property taxes, are tax deductible. The money you pay in rent is not.

You will have more control: The decision to paint your home, remodel the kitchen, plant a garden or put in a swing set will be yours alone. If you rent, the landlord must agree to any changes made to the property.

Cost will remain stable: A landlord can raise your rent. However, if you have a fixed rate mortgage, your payments are set for as long as you own your home.

Pride of ownership counts: The sense of pride and permanency in owning a home will help you and your family establish roots in the community you live in. That is an advantage few renters can experience.

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

April 26, 2011 12:31 am

Steering. The illegal practice of directing potential home buyers to or away from certain neighborhoods in order to maintain or change the character of an area, or create a speculative situation.

Copyright 2010 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.