Gunning Daily News

Residential Remodeling Continues to Grow

March 22, 2011 8:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011-Yet one more piece of data seems to suggest that homeowners are becoming more optimistic about the future. The Residential BuildFax Remodeling Index, a residential building and permitting database tracking 4,000+ cities and counties throughout the country, rose 18% year-over-year in 2010. After fourteen straight months of increase, it reached a peak of 103.8 in December 2010, the highest December number in the history of the index, which started in 2004.

The increase comes at a time when more and more homeowners are underwater, making the financing of remodeling projects more difficult. "We believe that many of these homeowners are drawing on their savings or other forms of consumer credit, such as credit cards to pay for the remodeling," said Bruce Hahn, president of the American Homeowners Foundation. "Anecdotal evidence that most homeowners are opting for less ambitious projects than in the past supports this view," he added. Another factor may be barriers to other alternatives. "In many markets it is very difficult to sell your home. Even if you can sell your home, financing its replacement may be a challenge because mortgage lenders have substantially tightened borrower requirements. If moving up isn't an option, improving your current home may be the next best alternative."

The West and South both saw better-than-average remodeling activity in December, with the South posting a four-year high and the West posting an index high. The Midwest suffered its usual significant November-to-December decline and the Northeast continues to lag all other regions while still showing signs of recovery. The BuildFax Remodeling Index for the Northeast was down 4.1 points (5%) month-over-month but up 1.3 points (2%) year-over-year; the South was down 0.6 points (less than 1%) month-over-month but up 9.1 points (12%) year-over-year; the Midwest was down 11.8 points (11%) month-over-month and down 0.1 points (less than 1%) year-over-year; and the West was up 2.9 points (3%) month-over-month and up 11.3 points (12%) year-over-year.

If a homeowner is lucky enough to have substantial equity in their home and good credit, financing a remodeling project through a new mortgage may make a lot of sense. Mortgage rates are at historic low levels and in many cases a homeowner who can do cash out refinancing will find themselves with new monthly mortgage payments that are lower than they have on their current mortgage. There's also hope for homeowners with limited equity in their home. Some lenders may be willing to base the allowed mortgage amount on the increased value of the home when the work is complete.

Homeowners need to be careful when selecting remodeling contractors. In good times and bad, complaints about remodeling contractors are near the top of both the Better Business Bureau's and the American Homeowners Foundation's complaint list. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk. You should check the contractor's credentials carefully. Are they licensed and insured for workers compensation, property and personal liability? If in doubt, ask to see their insurance certificate. Do they belong to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council, and/or any of the more specific trade associations in the remodeling sector? That's a sign of commitment to the trade and to professionalism. Most also offer certification and/or management training and keep their members up-to-date on the latest products and techniques. Ask for recent references on similar jobs (employee and subcontractor turnover is often fairly high, so recent jobs are a reliable indicator of their current capability). Check their record with the Better Business Bureau while you're at it.

For all but the most minor jobs, it is especially important to utilize a comprehensive written contract. This will greatly reduce the likelihood of disputes with your remodeler. Most disputes arise over issues that were not decided in advance. Make sure it covers the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, etc., with general provisions defining the responsibility of the contractor and the subcontractors, defects and correction, change order procedures, warranties, right to termination, and alternative dispute settlement mechanisms (since more than half of the costs of lawsuits represent legal fees, homeowners and contractors will almost always be better off with mediation, conciliation, and/or binding arbitration clauses should a disagreement arise).

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

Data Shows Investing in Green Features Can Pay Dividends When Selling Your Home

March 22, 2011 8:13 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011-I recently came across some interesting information regarding green homes from Jim Simcoe, a sustainability consultant, coach and speaker promoting green business practices. We often report on how to achieve greener homes, but Simcoe is coming up with data to answer the nagging question: can investing in green practices and outfitting really pay off?

Put simply, Simcoe says yes.

He says buyers will pay more for green properties provided the added value is more than the increased price. For example, if you can show a buyer that spending $10k more for a 'green' home will actually save them $250 per month in their total (mortgage + utilities) monthly bills, then they'll spend the extra $10k with you.

"We see this all the time," Simcoe says, "the key is figuring out the breakeven point between the increase in sales price-$10k in this example-and the total monthly expense." To best identify that matrix, Simcoe has developed a formula that calculates this number for consumers, which he provides among his services.

On the same subject, the latest Eco Pulse report generated by the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Shelton Group found nearly two-thirds of consumers would be willing to pay a 10% or higher premium for a home with a number of green features. Nine percent were willing to pay 30% more.

The green features chosen most often in the Shelton Group survey were:

-Renewable electric power generation systems such as solar, geothermal or wind (25%)

-Higher-efficiency appliances like those certified by Energy Star (25 %)

-Water-conserving features like low-flow showerheads or rainwater collection systems (21 %)

If you haven't gotten on the green bandwagon yet, maybe this is your year now that there is reliable data that investing in green features can pay dividends when it's time to sell your home.

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.

4 Simple Rules for Perfect Exterior Painting

March 22, 2011 8:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011-If you want professional-looking results when painting exterior wood, approach the project as if you were a professional painting contractor. That means following four simple rules that come second nature to experienced painters, says Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute.

Here are four rules to achieve a perfect exterior paint job:

1. Take time to prepare the surface properly. According to Zimmer, this is where a lot of inexperienced painters go wrong. "It's important to fight the urge to start painting as soon as possible. Even the best paints can fail if they're applied to a poorly prepared surface," she says.

Before beginning to paint, clean the surface thoroughly. This can be done with rented power-washing equipment or by scrubbing with a long-handled brush using plain soap and water.

Afterward, remove any remaining loose, flaking, or peeling paint by scraping or wire-brushing. Next, sand down rough edges on the old paint, as well as areas where the paint is glossy.

Finally, brush off the dust and particles left from the sanding and scraping. Then sand and prime any areas where the wood is bare.

2. Buy top quality paint. "To get the best-looking and longest-lasting paint job, it's important to use the highest grade of paint," advises Zimmer. "On wood and many other exterior surfaces, top quality 100% acrylic latex paint is the best choice."

Because these paints contain more solids than run-of-the-mill paints, they form a thicker, more durable paint film. What's more, they hide better, so they'll often conceal the old paint color in fewer coats, saving a lot of extra work...and saving money, too.

"Top quality 100% acrylic latex paints also have better adhesion, so they get a better grip on a properly prepared surface," says Zimmer. "And they remain flexible, so they can expand and contract with changing temperatures. These attributes help top quality paints resist peeling and flaking, which adds to the life expectancy of the paint job."

Top quality 100% acrylic latex paints typically last 10 years or more, compared to three or four years for lower quality coatings, according to Zimmer. So, they are a much better value in terms of cost per year of service-no small consideration in these trying economic times.

3. Use quality brushes and equipment. For the best results when applying top quality paint, use quality brushes and accessories, says Zimmer. "Better quality equipment makes the work easier and helps apply the paint in a thicker, more uniform coat for a better-looking paint job."

She advises homeowners to choose brushes that are well-balanced and springy, with multiple lengths of split bristles packed tightly in a - to 1-inch thickness on a standard 4-inch brush.

When working with latex paints, it's important to use brushes with synthetic bristles-ideally, polyester. According to Zimmer, polyester bristles will hold their shape and maintain the proper stiffness regardless of the amount of water they encounter.

4. Paint in the right weather conditions. After you have your quality paint and tools in hand, choose the right type of day to apply the paint. Doing so will enable the paint to form a tough, durable, protective film.

Zimmer says it's best to do exterior painting in mild weather, ideally when temperatures are above 50 degrees F., and when the wind isn't strong.

On very hot days, try to avoid painting in direct sunshine, since surfaces sitting in direct sun can be 10-20 degrees hotter than the air temperature. One way to cope with this and still keep the job moving is to paint on the shady side of the house.

The four rules for perfect painting involve a lot of common sense and take a little self-discipline. But, if you follow them, you'll be rewarded with a beautiful, professional-looking paint job that will last for years.

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.

Word of the Day

March 21, 2011 8:43 am

Promissory note. A written promise to repay a debt on demand or at a stated time in the future.

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: How does a lease option work?

March 21, 2011 8:43 am

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property. The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work. Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you and the tenant sign on the dotted line.

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.

Make Sure Vehicle Lights Shine Bright for Safe Spring Driving

March 21, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-Spring is here and its arrival means warmer weather, more hours of daylight and spring break travel. Making sure your headlights are in proper working order should be a top priority before hitting the road this spring, says the Car Care Council.

"Many motorists think to check their vehicle's lights in fall or winter when the days are shorter, but checking lighting before the spring and summer driving season is just as important," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Better weather and longer days mean more driving and longer trips, often after dark. Lights play a major role in safe driving, as the chance of an accident increases if you can't see or be seen."

Lights are normal wear items that require periodic inspection and replacement. The lighting system provides nighttime visibility, signals and alerts other drivers, and supplies light for viewing instruments and the vehicle's interior. From the driver's seat you may not notice a light that isn't working, so be sure to inspect your car's lights at every oil change. At the same time, inspect and replace wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during spring showers.

In addition to replacing dimming, rapidly blinking and non-functioning lights, the following tips can help keep you safe:

-Keep headlights, tail lights and signal lights clean. External dirt and debris can dim operational lights from being seen by others.

-Make sure your headlights are properly aimed. Miss-aimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.

-Don't overdrive your headlights; you should be able to stop inside the illuminated area, otherwise you are creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle.

-If there is any doubt as to whether or not your headlights should be on, turn them on. Lights not only help you see better in early twilight, they also make it easier for other drivers to see you.

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.

5 Ways to Turn Window Treatments Into Art

March 21, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-"Window treatments are much more than objects that meet an end goal of energy conservation and sun glare reduction. Window treatments should be considered part of the overall design of a room, especially with rooms where bay windows or floor to ceiling windows are already the focal point of the room," says Chris Stanley of Blinds Chalet.

Blinds Chalet offers the following tips for turning your window treatments into art.

1. Layer energy efficient, cellular shades with custom drapery. Use decorative curtain holders to sweep the drapes back from the window while maximizing energy efficiency and sun glare reduction.

2. Use a color that contrasts with the rest of the interior design. Consider adding a bright bold color through fashionable window treatments like roman shades. Be sure to use a matching valance for a complete, finished look to the window treatment.

3. For an exotic look, pair bamboo or woven wood curtains with decorative window tapes. The window tapes frame the window, protect the window treatments and can utilize either bright bold colors or patterns, creating a frame for the window, or neutral colors can be used for a more subtle effect.

4. Install shutters. This adds a quaint feel to any room. Pair shutters with a nautical color scheme and let the window treatments stand as the focal point of the room.

5. Paint the window trim as if it were a frame for a piece of art. Use complimentary or contrasting colors. Window treatments need to be more than functional. They help create the feel of a room and are often where the gaze is trained for long periods of time. Human eyes naturally gravitate toward light; therefore windows are most commonly the first item observed in a room. With the above tips, it's easy to turn window treatments into pieces of art.

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.

5 Steps to Creating the Ultimate Man Cave

March 21, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-Every guy dreams of having his own man cave-that rugged realm of testosterone where workday annoyances can be shaken off, and fellow dudes can congregate to watch a game, work out, or just kick back and enjoy a beer. While decorating a man cave is all about no-rules freestyling, there are a few basic first steps to building the ultimate guys' hangout.

According to Product Specialist Christina Hansen, "Decorating a man cave is all about freestyling-no rules." But regardless of your theme, there are a few basic first steps to building the ultimate guys' hangout.

Step 1: Scout Out the Perfect Location

Don't have the megabucks for a residential lair like Bruce Wayne's or Tony Stark's? Not to worry. Have an unused basement, guest room or garage where no one else in the family wants to hang out? That's all you need. It may look rough now, but with a little creativity and some DIY skills, pretty much any space can be transformed over a weekend or two.

Step 2: Temperature and Volume Control

Once you've got dibs on a location, check out the insulation factor, for both temperature and sound. If you're setting up shop in or above a home garage, you may need to insulate to keep things comfortable temp-wise. Remember that audio systems and power tools make noise, so if you want to engage in manly pursuits without complaints from everyone else in the house, install acoustical drywall or sound-deadening room treatments.

Step 3: Power Up

You're going to need power, and lots of it. Make sure your home theater equipment, gaming consoles and power tools have a convenient source of energy by choosing the right surge protector or power strip for the space.

Step 4: Where's the TV Going to Go?

The one man cave non-negotiable is a flat panel, high-def TV. So that leaves only one question: where are you going to put it? Suspending your HDTV on a ceiling mount not only makes you feel like you're hanging out at a sports bar, but gives you extra space for kick-back furniture and wall d cor.

Step 5: Don't Forget the Snacks

Fact: sometimes you just won't feel like leaving your manly domain in search of sustenance. Even the smallest space has enough room for a cabinet stocked with your junk foods of choice, but you can always go all-out with a wet bar/microwave/mini-fridge combo. Want eats on wheels? Load everything into a rolling tool chest or tool cart, and take it where you need it.

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.

The Impact of Paint Color in Your Living Space

March 21, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-The words 'paint' and 'personality' aren't often used together, but they certainly could be. "Studies show that paint and room color can have an effect on the body and mind," states Debbie Zimmer, color and decorating expert with the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute. "By understanding the impact of color, consumers can better incorporate the hues that help create the desired living space mood and setting that best suits their family and personal lifestyle."

When repainting a room, here are some simple guidelines you should keep in mind:

-Red packs a wallop, physiologically speaking, increasing blood pressure, heartbeat and energy in most people. It instills feelings of intimacy and passion. Red also increases the appetite, which explains why it is used so often in restaurants, and why it can be a good choice for a formal dining room.

-Orange, like red, tends to warm a room, but in a more friendly and welcoming way. As a result, paints in various shades and tints of orange work well in living rooms and family rooms.

-Yellow is also warm and welcoming, but it is more attention-getting than either red or orange. For this reason, it is a good paint color to use in poorly lit foyers or dark hallways.

-Green is another relaxing color that is much more versatile than blue. Light greens are ideal for bedrooms and living rooms and midtones are good for kitchens and dining rooms. Also, because green is calming, it is often used in hospitals, workplaces and schools.

-Blue, which is part of the cool color palette, makes us feel calm and tranquil, so it is ideal for use in bedrooms. But since blue works as an appetite suppressant (perhaps because there are few blue foods) it is not the best option for a dining room-unless you're on a diet.

-Violet is a tricky color, psychologically speaking. Many adults dislike purples, but are fond of the rose family, which can work in many rooms, including dining rooms, bedrooms and libraries. Young children, on the other hand, respond favorably to violet, so this color can be used successfully in children's bedrooms and play areas.

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.

5 Tips to Ensure You Get the Mortgage That's Right for You

March 19, 2011 9:13 am

RISMEDIA, March 19, 2011-Shopping for a mortgage can be time-consuming and difficult for home buyers, especially in today's market where many buyers don't know where to begin. The Federal Reserve Board has put together the following tips so that you can make sense of the mortgage market and be sure you are getting the mortgage that is right for you.

1. Know what you can afford. Review your monthly spending plan to estimate what you can afford to pay for a home, including the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and monthly maintenance and utilities. A worksheet for developing your monthly spending plan can be helpful so that you can plan ahead and save for emergencies as well as be sure you will be able to afford your monthly payments for several years. Be sure to check your credit report to make sure that the information in it is accurate.

2. Shop around-compare loans from lenders and brokers. Shopping takes time and energy, but not shopping around can cost you thousands of dollars. You can get a mortgage loan from mortgage lenders or mortgage brokers. Brokers arrange mortgage loans with a lender rather than lend money directly; in other words, brokers sell you a loan from a lender. Neither lenders nor brokers have to find the best loan for you-to find the best loan, you have to do the shopping

3. Understand loan prices and fees. Many consumers accept the first loan they are offered and don't realize that they may be able to get a better loan. On any given day, lenders and brokers may offer different interest rates and fees to different consumers for the same loan, even when those consumers have the same loan qualifications. Keep in mind that lenders and brokers also consider the profit they receive if you agree to the terms of a loan with higher fees, higher points, or a higher interest rate. Shopping around is your best way to avoid more expensive loans.

4. Know the risks and benefits of loan options. Mortgages have many features-some have fixed interest rates and some have adjustable rates; some have payment adjustments; on some you pay only the interest on the loan for a while and then you pay down the principal (the loan amount); some charge you a penalty for paying the loan off early; and some have a large payment due at the end of the loan (a balloon payment). Consider all mortgage features, the APR (annual percentage rate), and the settlement costs. Ask your lender to calculate how much your monthly payments could be a year from now, and 5 or 10 years from now.

5. Get advice from trusted sources. A mortgage loan is one of the most complex, most expensive financial commitments you will ever assume-it's okay to ask for help. Talk with a trusted housing counselor or a real estate attorney that you hire to review your documents before you sign them.

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.