Gunning Daily News

What Can Your Lawn Do for You?

April 26, 2011 12:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 26, 2011-Homeowners all over the country take great pride in their lawns. But a lush, green lawn can do more than boost egos. A healthy lawn can reduce allergens and dust, increase the value of a home, and reduce erosion and runoff.

Reducing allergies to ragweed pollen

Of all Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants, 75 percent are allergic to ragweed pollen. While a single ragweed plant may only live for one season, it produces up to one billion pollen grains during that time. A well-maintained lawn can help limit the amount of ragweed pollen in the air, as it is typically free of many pollen-producing plants and other problem plants, such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. More than one half of the U.S. population is allergic to these noxious weeds.

Landscaped lawns boost your real estate value

Nothing beats a first impression. When prospective buyers are searching for a new home, well-landscaped lawns and nearby parks are important factors. A study conducted by Virginia Tech University estimated that attractive landscaping can increase the value of a home anywhere from 5 to 11 percent, depending on location. It was also reported that landscape investments are recovered fully, and sometimes doubled by the increased home values.

"Potential buyers can be immediately swayed by an unsightly yard, leaving them to wonder if the lack of care and attention to the lawn has been carried to the inside of the house," says Gray Mattern, Realtor in St. Petersburg, Fla. "If the buyer doesn't get past the negative first impression, he or she may decide to bypass the home completely without looking at the interior. In this buyer's market, it's important to appeal to a wide range of prospective buyers."

A healthy lawn reduces dust and soil erosion

Healthy grass holds soil in place and prevents runoff from being washed into lakes, rivers and streams. The University of Minnesota released results of a research study showing a lawn that is not fertilized actually has more runoff than a lawn that is properly fertilized, due to the increased health of the grass.

"Proper lawn care practices will be rewarded by an aesthetically pleasing property and will result in a variety of environmental benefits," explains Dr. Cathie Lavis, horticulture professor, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan. "A key factor to success is selecting the right grass variety for both your region and particular site conditions."

How to maintain a healthy lawn

"Lawn maintenance includes timely mowing and watering. Additionally, grass quality is generally measured in terms of color, density and uniformity," says Lavis. "Scheduled fertilization and an awareness of pests and their control will contribute to lawn quality."

Two elements of good lawn health are proper pesticide use when necessary and proper fertilizer use to ensure the grass has the nutrients it needs to thrive. A properly fertilized, healthy lawn helps prevent weeds, while pesticides control weed populations already present or before they emerge. Proper pesticide use also keeps grubs and insects at bay.

The key differences between lawn and garden pesticides and fertilizers are:

A pesticide is the generic term for insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Pesticides are meant to kill or control weeds, harmful insects and fungal and other diseases. The benefit of pesticides is their ability to prevent and stop pest problems-weed, insect, or disease-before they become out of control and threaten the health of your lawn.

Fertilizers provide the proper nutrients to your grass, plants and trees, enabling them to thrive. A fertilization program should include fertilizers that are formulated to meet the needs of your lawn.

Lawn and Garden Tips for Homeowners

When selecting and using pesticides and fertilizers, the product directions must be followed to make sure the product works properly and is used in a safe and environmentally sound way. Product labels specify the amount of product that should be applied, how much is needed for your treatment conditions, and how to safely apply and store products.

Ask yourself the following questions before choosing the right lawn and garden products to meet your needs:

What insect, weed or other pest are you trying to control? What is the problem with your lawn? The label will tell you which product best fits the needs of your lawn and where it can be used.

How big is your lawn? What treatment are you applying? Select the product that meets the needs of your lawn, and buy only what you need.

Do you need a spreader to apply the product? If you have a small, localized problem consider a ready-to-use spot treatment. Follow product label directions for spreader and spot applications. More is not better; read the label and apply only the recommended amount.

To get more information on the benefits of a healthy lawn, visit www.debugthemyths.com.

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.


Americans Prefer Smart-Growth Communities, According to NAR Study

April 25, 2011 8:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011-Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56% of respondents preferring smart-growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. That's according to a recent study, the Community Preference Survey, by the National Association of REALTORS .

"REALTORS care about improving communities through smart-growth initiatives," said NAR President Ron Phipps. "Our members don't just sell homes, they sell neighborhoods. REALTORS understand that different home buyers are looking for all kinds of neighborhood settings and that many home buyers want walkable, transit-accessible communities."

Walkable communities are defined as those where shops, restaurants and local businesses are within walking distance from homes.

According to the survey, when considering a home purchase, 77% of respondents said they would look for neighborhoods with abundant sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly features, and 50% would like to see improvements to existing public transportation rather than initiatives to build new roads and developments.

The survey also revealed that while space is important to home buyers, many are willing to sacrifice square footage for less driving. Eighty percent of those surveyed would prefer to live in a single-family, detached home as long as it didn't require a longer commute, but nearly three out of five of those surveyed-59%-would choose a smaller home if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less.

The survey also found that community characteristics are very important to most people. When considering a home purchase, 88% of respondents placed more value on the quality of the neighborhood than the size of the home, and 77% of those surveyed want communities with high-quality schools.

The survey of 2,071 adult Americans was conducted by Belden, Russonello and Stewart from February 15-24, 2011.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

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 25, 2011 8:01 am

Special assessment. A special tax imposed on specific parcels of real estate that will benefit from a proposed public improvement, such as a street or sewer.

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: If faced with foreclosure, what are my options?

April 25, 2011 8:01 am

A: Talk with your lender immediately. The lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan or the temporary reduction or suspension of your payment, particularly if your income has dropped substantially or expenses have shot up beyond your control. You also may be able to refinance the debt or extend the term of your mortgage loan. In almost every case, you will likely be able to work out some kind of deal that will avert foreclosure.

If you have mortgage insurance, the insurer may also be interested in helping you. The company can temporarily pay the mortgage until you get back on your feet and are able to repay their "loan."

If your money problems are long term, the lender may suggest that you sell the property, which will allow you to avoid foreclosure and protect your credit record.

As a last resort, you could consider a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. This is where you voluntarily "give back" your property to the lender. While this will not save your house, it is not as damaging to your credit rating as a foreclosure. Exhaust all other viable options before making a decision.

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 Save a Million Dollars - 5 Tips That Can Help Make It Happen

April 25, 2011 8:01 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011-It's possible to make a million dollars instantly if you win the lottery, inherit a fortune or marry into it. For most of us, however, the only way to save $1 million is to save and invest whatever money we have.

There is a way to do it easily within your working life though. If you begin when you are 18, and sock away $150 every month-and if your funds are invested at a feasible rate of 10% interest-you will have your $1 million in something like 42 years.

If you can't earn 10% interest, you will have to sock away a little more each month. If you don't have 42 years to wait, you will have to invest a little more each month and get the highest rate of interest possible. But it can be done by the time you are ready to retire.

Even if you can't manage to save $150 per month, there are ways to maximize whatever money you do save. From the financial gurus at Money magazine, here are five tips to help you on the road to wealth:

Spend less than what you earn. Make it your goal never to build up credit card and to save something of what you earn each month. It sounds simple, but it may call for a little self-denial.

Diversify your income sources. Don't be wholly dependent on your salary. Consider consulting on the side, getting a second, part-time job, or running a home-based business.

Establish and maintain a secondary income that frees up your time to earn more. For example, as your nest egg grows, buy and rent out property or start a business that can be outsourced or sold.

Set savings goals and track your progress monthly. Challenge yourself to save money you might otherwise consider spending.

Continue to earn, save and invest. How dedicated you are to saving and how wisely you invest can indeed combine to make you a millionaire by the time you are 50 or 60.

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 Homes Strengthen Economy Year-Round

April 25, 2011 8:01 am

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011-While the housing industry celebrates "New Homes Month" in April, home builders want Americans to know just how much of a positive, direct impact residential construction has on the U.S. economy throughout the entire year.

"Home building is a key driver of the American economy," said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. "By generating economic activity, including new income and jobs, purchases of goods and services, and revenue for local governments, housing-which has historically accounted for around 17 percent of the GDP-can put America back to work."

Economists at the National Association of Home Builders estimate that the one-year local impacts of building 100 single-family homes in a typical metro area include $21.1 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and other local government revenue, and 324 local jobs.

The employment effects extend beyond the home-building industry. About half of the jobs are in construction, with the other 50% creating employment opportunities in industries ranging from production and sales of home furnishings to service providers such as real estate attorneys and landscapers.

Those 100 new homes also provide the community with additional, annually-recurring impacts of $3.1 million in local income, $743,000 in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and 53 local jobs.

The income earned from construction activity is spent and recycled in the local economy, and the new homes that are built become occupied by residents who pay taxes and buy locally produced goods and services. Those tax revenues help pay for a wide range of government services, including local school teachers, police departments and road repairs.

In order to accommodate population growth and necessary replacement of older homes, however, a long-run trend of approximately 1.7 million new homes a year is needed. Yet as of February 2011, the annual projection for housing starts stood at less than 500,000.

"The gap between actual home starts and what is required to fulfill America's future housing needs represents more than 3 million jobs," said Nielsen. "Restoring the health of the housing industry is a crucial first step in stabilizing our country's path to economic recovery."

During New Homes Month, home builders also bring attention to the advantages of newly built homes, including safety, amenities, energy efficiency and floor plans to fit a wide variety of modern lifestyles. Combined with today's near record-low interest rates and competitive prices, the current market offers new home buyers unprecedented opportunities.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

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.


Buyer's Market Spurs Confidence in Young Professionals and Affluent Homeowners

April 25, 2011 8:01 am

By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011-As the cold temperatures become a distant memory, and the spring selling season gains momentum, consumers have come to agree on one thing-now's a good time to get off the fence and into the real estate market. This is the overall theme in the latest American Express Spending and Saving Tracker survey, a monthly survey that tracks the spending and saving habits of consumers in order to get an indication of what's happening in the market. "This month's Spending and Saving Tracker provided an up-to-date look at various consumer trends and gave us the opportunity to assess how consumers are feeling about the current market in addition to gauging homeowner confidence," says Leah Gerstner, vice president of public affairs at American Express.

"This month's survey points to the fact that consumers overwhelmingly feel that we are in the midst of a buyer's market," she adds. The data also points to the fact that a seller's market is at least a year away, which is certainly positive news. While homeowners aren't necessarily willing to settle for less than the asking price when selling their home, two of the biggest areas of interest in the latest survey deal with homeowners including home improvement projects on their to-do list, as well as the willingness to include concessions to get their home sold.

Home Improvements

"In looking at the results of our latest Spending and Saving Tracker survey, our thinking was that if consumers overwhelmingly view today's market as a buyer's market-which they do-they are likely to have plans to put more money into their home," adds Gerstner. In fact, the survey found that about 64% of homeowners currently have home improvement projects on their to-do list for 2011. While the plans are in place, the amount that homeowners are budgeting to spend has gone down quite a bit from last year.

"Homeowners are looking for better ways to stretch their dollars, and many are looking toward energy-efficient home improvements that will pay off in the long run." The survey shows that among homeowners who are looking to go green, the most common items homeowners would spend their money on include energy-efficient windows and doors, insulation, roofing, heating and cooling systems as well as alternative energy systems.

Concessions

Another finding that stood out in the latest survey had to do with whether or not sellers were willing to make concessions to get their homes sold, especially in today's market. While 44% of sellers were willing to give away appliances during a sale-the biggest concession among young professionals and affluent homeowners-another 28% said they would take care of requested repairs in order to get their home sold. "While a large majority of sellers are willing to make concessions to get their home off the market, the willingness to make concessions is down among young professionals when compared with the 2010 survey," says Gerstner. "This is an important finding as it shows that young professionals are more confident in their ability to sell their homes today."

"Homeowner confidence in today's market has increased compared to last year," says Gerstner. "In fact, the survey shows that the confidence level is pretty evenly split-42% of homeowners are confident they will get their asking price in today's market, while 47% of homeowners aren't that confident." Even though home values continue to be on the low side, young professionals and affluent homeowners are seemingly more confident in today's market.

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 23, 2011 9:43 am

Settlement. The day on which title is conveyed.

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: Should I buy a vacation home?

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.

Some of the tax benefits of a second home mirror those for a primary residence. Before taking the leap, however, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.

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.


Top Outdoor Living Trends for Spring

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 23, 2011-Based on the buying habits of their customers nationwide, Family Leisure and FamilyLeisure.com have announced the trends they have spotted for spring 2011.

"Over the last five years there's been a huge jump in customers' desire to nest at home as the economy continues to recover," said Kevin Prefontaine, President of Family Leisure Indianapolis. "We are seeing a continuation of consumers spending their time and dollars enhancing their at home experience with fresh, new, exciting additions."

The top 5 trends in outdoor living for spring 2011, as identified by Family Leisure and FamilyLeisure.com customers, are:

1. Fireplaces. Whether you are trying to create a simple BBQ area or an entire backyard paradise, outdoor fireplaces are "hot" right now. There are a variety of options to consider when building an outdoor fireplace, from size, color and materials.

2. Pergolas. Pergolas extend outdoor living space through a horizontal trellis work supported by columns or posts, either attached to a structure (such as your home) or standalone. "We are seeing an increase in standalone pergolas, which offer customers a separate conversation area aside from a patio or sunroom," Prefontaine said. Pergolas are also a more affordable option for some consumers.

3. Outdoor kitchens/grill islands. Grill islands and outdoor kitchens can be made from the highest quality materials and are increasingly being made to customers' specifications. The stone, stucco and tile are available in a variety of shapes and colors to match any outdoor d cor. Consumers are looking for the best cooking results and an inviting, easy-to-clean kitchen with add-ons like pizza ovens and warming drawers. "We're also seeing customers add lighting and outdoor stereo systems to create the perfect ambiance for outdoor entertaining," Prefontaine said.

4. Fire pits. "The beauty of a custom outdoor fire pit is that they can be used nearly year round and can be as simple or as elaborate as the customer wants, depending upon their budget," Prefontaine said. Fire pits can be made from a variety of materials to match or accent a customer's existing d cor. Fire pits can be customized any way you can imagine, even featuring your family name or favorite sports team's logo.

5. Patio furniture. The last few years have seen a huge increase in the availability and options of quality patio furniture. "Instead of buying disposable pieces, we are seeing more and more customers invest in quality patio furniture-sturdy, well-made items that will last a lifetime," Prefontaine said. "You can feel the difference in the weight and you can tell the difference when you sit on a piece of quality furniture as opposed to a cheaply made item that might last a year or two."

For more information, visit www.familyleisure.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.