Gunning Daily News

Q: Are buyers protected against housing discrimination?

April 20, 2011 8:43 am

A: By law, real estate agents may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. They also cannot follow spoken or implied directives from the home seller to discriminate. If you suspect you have been discriminated against, a complaint may be filed with the local Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office nearest you. You may call HUD's toll-free number, 1-800-669-9777, or visit its website at www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm.

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.


Innovative Ways to Promote Community Service and Volunteerism among Your Children

April 20, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011-In recent years, volunteerism has become vital to the health of our nation's communities as nonprofit organizations struggle with limited budgets and resources. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more than a third of nonprofit organizations reported a significant increase in the number of volunteers they use throughout the year.

By teaching our children the importance of volunteerism and instilling values that promote community service, teachers, parents and caring adults have the power to inspire the next generation of America's leaders to be active members of society and give to those in need.

Here are a few innovative ways to promote community service and volunteerism among your children.

Service Learning

Service learning offers a unique opportunity for our nation's youth - from kindergarteners to college students - to get involved with their communities in a tangible way by integrating service projects with classroom learning. Service learning engages students in the educational process, using what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems.

Through service learning, students build character and become active participants as they work with others in their school and community. For example, students can visit with and entertain seniors at a local senior housing community or prepare disaster relief kits for families in need as part of a lesson on natural disasters. Or to learn about construction and the plant life cycle, students can make wood planter boxes and plant seeds - placing them around the grounds to beautify the school.

Family Values

In addition to promoting volunteerism within the classroom, there are many ways that parents and caring adults can encourage public service at home. For example, parents can plan a neighborhood clean up to make bettering the community fun for the entire family. Activities like these provide parents with the chance to show their children the importance of volunteering and the impact it can have. And studies show that children who volunteer are much more likely to continue as adults and carry on the tradition with their own children.

Community Service

Local companies can also reinforce and model the importance of public service among children. For example, team members at Target have volunteered millions of hours to community projects which effect children-from reading to young people to helping make over school libraries across the country. They also provide specialized business knowledge to community and nonprofit partners through a variety of unique skills-based volunteer opportunities in areas including marketing, forensics and design and construction.

For more information, visit www.familyfeatures.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.


10 Tips for a Stress-Free Move

April 20, 2011 8:43 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Contributing Editor

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011-Whether you are moving across country or just 10 blocks away, there is a certain amount of built-in uncertainty that cannot be avoided as you are getting ready to pack your belongings in preparation for moving day. But planning ahead and working from a checklist can do wonders to help your peace of mind as you get closer to the day of your big move.

From the experts at Mayflower Moving and Storage, here are ten tips for making your next move as smooth and stress-free as possible:

Pack heavy, pack light Pack heavy items such as books and dishes in small, compact cartons and pack light items such as pillows and towels in large cartons.

Get the bed ready Pack the bed linens you will need for your first night in your new home in one or two drawers of a dresser. This will make it easy to find when you need them.

Prep the fridge After you've emptied and cleaned the refrigerator, put a handful of baking soda or charcoal in a sock and place it inside the fridge to keep it smelling fresh.

Keep the phone book It may come in handy if you need to make calls to your old region from your new one.

Tag cartons clearly Mark each with its destination, such as kitchen, den or master bedroom.

Protect your memories - If it's irreplaceable, take it with you in the car. Otherwise, pack framed photos or art by placing sheets or blankets between them for protection.

Pack and clearly mark a 'necessities' box This should contain things like toilet paper, soap, a flashlight, a screwdriver, your personal address book and a few utensils and paper goods that you can identify easily in your new home.

Unscrew the bulbs Removing the bulbs from lamps will help reduce the incidence of broken glass.

Be nice to plants If moving plants in your car, don't let the leaves rest against the window or they will scorch.

Keep numbers handy Keep the number of your moving company and the cell phone number of the van driver in your purse or pocket and be sure they have yours.

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.


Eco-Friendly Roofs Save Homeowners Money

April 20, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011-Searching for ideas to make your home greener, with a smaller eco-impact? Now may be the best time to look up, as the roof over your head can make a big difference to the environment. While most people never think about their roof until there is a problem, planning ahead is key for making eco-friendly home choices.

The experts at the Metal Roofing Alliance provide the following information regarding eco-friendly roofing materials.

Did you know that asphalt shingles are petroleum-based, with a huge environmental impact? Asphalt shingles increase dependency on fossil fuels, must be replaced every 15-20 years, and there's no good way to dispose of them.

Eco-friendly products, including metal roofs, are rapidly replacing petroleum-based shingles. A recent McGraw-Hill Construction and Analytics survey showed metal roofing now comprises 11% of the residential re-roofing market, more than doubling in just ten years.

Highly reflective 'cool' colored metal roofs look just like traditional roofs, provide year-round relief from high energy costs, and are sustainable products.

Installing a metal roof reduces a home's energy needs. Tests conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) prove that a cool metal roof can save a homeowner up to 25% in cooling costs compared to a dark-gray asphalt shingle.

ORNL's field tests have also shown the combination of venting and increased reflectance can reduce heat penetrating the roof deck by about 45% for stone-coated metal roofs compared to an asphalt shingle roof in certain climates. Ongoing research with standing-seam cool-colored metal roofs is showing similar results.

Metal roofing provides a market for recycled materials. An old car, dishwasher or refrigerator can be recycled to re-roof a home. All steel roofs contain a minimum of 25% recycled content-many have a much higher percentage. At the end of its useful life, metal roofing is 100% recyclable.

Photovoltaic Systems and Solar Panels can be integrated into metal roof systems, making them an even better choice. Metal roofs can also allow consumers to harvest rainwater for reuse.

For more information, visit www.metalroofing.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.


5 Steps to Erase the Signs of Harsh Winter Weather on Exterior Wood

April 20, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011-Long after the snow melts, the signs of harsh winter weather remain, leaving wooden decks, doors, shutters and sheds looking shabby. Repairing, replacing and refinishing wood can feel overwhelming, but the experts at Olympic Exterior Stains offer tips on how to tackle the task one step at a time.

1. Take stock of your home's exterior wood and evaluate what needs to be replaced vs. what can be saved. Harsh weather can cause old or unprotected wood to warp, crack or grow mold and mildew. Look for any rotten or unsafe pieces and replace them before beginning the next step. Prepare the rest of your wood for cleaning. Remove all furniture and cover surrounding plants and bushes. While it's important to cover surrounding vegetation with a sheet or cloth before cleaning, some deck cleaners are biodegradable and won't harm your spring blooms.

2. Test for success. Two easy tests can help determine if cleaning exterior wood is enough, or if re-staining is necessary to protect and beautify wood.

-Water Absorption Test: Pour a small cup of water on a few horizontal surfaces. If water is absorbed in less than 10 minutes, or if the surface color darkens, then it is time to stain or seal your deck.

-Tape Peel Test: For older, weathered wood, take a putty knife or sharp blade and cut a small "X" in two or three random spots on the woods surface. Cover the cuts with duct tape, press down firmly and then quickly pull it off. If flakes of old wood stain are stuck on the tape, then you must first sand the surface or apply a stain stripper to reveal a fresh layer of wood before staining.

3. Clean and prepare. Snow and winter weather deposit a layer of dirt that must be removed before stain can be applied. Cleaning allows for better stain penetration, maximum adhesion and uniformity of color. Many homeowners turn to power washers to clean wood, but this can drive dirt deeper into the wood grain and potentially damage and splinter wood. It's best to use a cleaning product suited for the type of wood you have.

4. Protect with stain. After cleaning each surface, pick the protective waterproof sealant or stain product and color that's best for your project: clear, toner, semi-transparent or solid color stain. Once you've chosen a color, test it on a small hidden area to determine how quickly your specific wood will absorb and retain a stain color. Different wood types vary in color, texture and absorbency and stain absorbency varies due to temperature and humidity, too. These factors affect the final color.

5. Finishing touches. Once it's all done and your deck, shutters and front door look like new, consider decorating with potted flowers or an attractive bench to complement your refreshed exterior wood.

For more information, visit www.olympic.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.


8 Money Mistakes That Can Really Hurt

April 19, 2011 8:13 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-These days, the road to financial ruin is paved with all kinds of attractive options, from payday loans to reverse mortgages to borrowing from your 401k. As you navigate through the current economy, keeping one eye firmly fixed on the future, there are some options that should be avoided if possible.

From the financial gurus at USA Today, here are eight mistakes you should avoid to keep you finances on solid footing:

Raiding your 401k It's tempting, because we think of it as a pension fund we can control. But it's a poor decision at any time, and especially bad if you are toying with bankruptcy because 401k funds are almost always protected in a bankruptcy-and if you do go bankrupt, you want to preserve your retirement.

Walking out on a mortgage If you owe more than your house is worth, you need to assess whether your money crunch is short-term or long-term. If it's short-term, talk with your lender about temporary options to keep you out of default. If it's long-term, go to makingmortgagesaffordable.gov for information on loan modification options, or work with your lender to get short sale approval.

Ignoring your card balance If you are having difficulty paying off credit card debt, work with the lender to arrange a modified payment plan.

Debt wipe-out scams Debt erasure scams are plentiful. If you need help, seek it through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Co-signing a loan Whether it's for a relative, a friend, or a romantic interest, co-signing is a bad idea. If the primary payer flakes out for any reason, you are on the hook for loan repayment.

Payday loans These are marketed as short-term loans to help you through until payday. But consumers often get trapped in repeat borrowing at large and ballooning interest rates.

Reverse mortgages These may be an option for some senior homeowners, but the high fees and costs can be deadly. A home equity line might be a better option. Check with a reputable financial advisor before committing to a reverse mortgage.

Trying to stiff Uncle Sam Your signature on your tax return affirms that everything in it is accurate. A small misstep can likely be amended if questioned. A big misstep could cost you penalties-or even get you charged with fraud.

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.


Remodeling Tips to Incorporate "Green" Design into Your Home

April 19, 2011 8:13 am

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, Case Design/Remodeling, Inc., a leading D.C. Metro area home improvement company, offers homeowners six tips for incorporating "green" design into their next remodeling project. The list was compiled by Matt Dirksen, a Green Advantage Certified (GAC) project designer at Case with more than 15 years of experience in the home remodeling industry.

Below are Case's top six green home design and remodeling tips for Earth Day 2011.

Preparation Before beginning a project, perform an "existing analysis" of the home. This includes anything from gathering information on water, gas and electricity usage, to conducting an energy "audit" to pin-point daily habits such as leaving lights on when a room is not in use.

Lighting Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED or compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting. If possible, take advantage of both natural lighting and shading to reduce energy consumption from heating and cooling a home.

Materials Opt for paints and finishes with low or zero-volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are harmful to the environment and one's health. Choose designs that incorporate recycled materials, such as countertops made from recycled glass, or flooring made from repurposed wood.

Appliances Swap in ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances that use less energy, such as refrigerators and dishwashers.

Plumbing Consider low-flow shower heads/faucets and dual-flush toilets to conserve water.

Insulation and Ventilation An energy-efficient home requires both proper insulation and ventilation. Seal windows, doors and pipes, but also ensure sufficient ventilation to allow water vapor to pass through and prevent molding.

"Many of today's homeowners are opting to make their house more 'green,' especially when planning for a remodeling project," Dirksen said. "At Case, we strive to provide homeowners with the latest resources, materials and expertise from certified professionals to assist with incorporating green elements into their design decisions."

For more information, visit www.casedesign.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 19, 2011 7:13 am

Secondary mortgage market. Market for the purchase and sale of existing mortgages, designed to provide greater liquidity for mortgages; plays an important role in getting money from those who want to lend to those who want to borrow.

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.


Q: Can I deduct improvements made to my home?

April 19, 2011 7:13 am

A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Remember your gain is defined as your home's selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.

The IRS defines improvements as those items that "add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses" such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.

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.


6 Steps to Spring Clean Your Wardrobe

April 19, 2011 7:13 am

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-With the arrival of spring comes spring cleaning, and homeowners across the country are taking advantage of the longer days and warmer temperatures by getting started on spring cleaning chores. Closet Innovations, a San Francisco custom closets company, offers six easy steps for cleaning a closet and wardrobe to allow for more free time and less stress during the spring months.

"A messy, unorganized wardrobe can produce undue stress in anyone's life if left unaddressed," said Chris Hall of Closet Innovations. "If you have a lot of things, I recommend updating your inefficient storage spaces."

Closet Innovations offers the following steps to make your closet and wardrobe space much more accessible and organized this spring:

1. Empty out the entire closet.

2. Sort items and accessories by what is desirable and undesirable.

3. Use cleaning products such as wood oils, glass cleaner and cloth to clean and sanitize the area.

4. Inventory clothes and accessories.

5. Get rid of old hangers.

6. Place items in closet according to desirability.

"Now is the perfect time for a fresh start. A new season commands a new outlook and a new wardrobe demands a new closet system," said Chris.

For more information, visit www.closetinnovations.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.