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Monday, November 4, 2013

Have Americans stopped buying cars?

The problem with the auto industry is layered upon the lack of consumer confidence. People are simply not buying cars. –Jennifer M. Granholm
Vehicles can be driven for over a decade if well maintained
200K miles on a car is average per Time magazine
By Damien S. Wilhelmi

It’s big news, for the first time in over 50 years there are actually more eligible drivers in America than there are vehicles. In a study done by The American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials, entitled, Commuting in America 2013, they’ve outlined quite a few changes that are occurring in regards to Americans outlook and attitudes toward automobiles. And lo and behold, their attitudes are bleak. What follows here is a synopsis of that report, highlighting what I found to be the most important information.  

Number of driver license holders remains strong

Nearly 90% of the American population ages 16 and up actually have driver’s licenses. This level also increases to nearly 100% through early adulthood and only begins to peter out when people reach the age of 65. This has remained the same for quite some time, and no real noticeable change has been found.

Vehicle accessibility

The growth of available vehicles has increased at about the same rate from 1960-2010. However, the number of drivers able to drive has in the last 10 years increased at a much greater rate. What they also found was that the number of cars per household has changed dramatically over the last 50 years.

Over the last 50 years, the number of households with 0 vehicles has actually decreased by nearly 1,000. Households with a single vehicle has increased by 8,500, Households with 2 vehicles have increased by a staggering 33,000 , and Households with 3+ vehicles has jumped by an astounding 20,000. 

What this says is that the biggest change has occurred with Households with 2, or 3+ vehicles. There are many explanations to this, though in part it is no doubt due to children coming of age and being able to drive. Few people have more than a single vehicle for themselves. So when a household only has 1 vehicle, there are probably fewer drivers in the household as a whole. In essence, this is highlighting the aging of Americans next generation of drivers.

Commuting is becoming increasingly difficult around dense populations

As you would imagine with an increasing populace, the density of that populace makes transportation overall more difficult. For regions with a population density of less than 2,000 people per square mile, only 5% of households have 0 vehicles, 25% have at least 1 vehicles, while 70% have 2 or more. For population densities of 2,000-4,000 people per square mile, 7% have 0 vehicles, 35% have at least 1 vehicle, 68% have 2 or more vehicles. For population densities of 4,000-10,000 people per square mile, 10% have 0 vehicles, 35% have at least 1 vehicle, while 55% have 2 or more. Finally, for population densities of 10,000 or people, 30% have 0 vehicles, 40% has at least 1 vehicle, while 30% have 2 or more.

So what all of this tells us is that for those that live in more rural areas, nearly every household has a a new or used car, which makes sense as public transportation is probably less common or efficient. This gradually changes as more people are put into smaller spaces, until you finally reach a city with 10,000 people per square mile, where 30% of the population doesn’t have a vehicle. This too makes sense as owning a vehicle in a city is difficult and public transportation is more available.

So have Americans stopped buying cars?

What this report highlighted to me was that vehicles are still being purchased at a similar rate as they were in the past. But as American population density increases across the country, fewer and fewer people find it necessary to own an automobile. As a population grows, public transportation is provided and made more accessible, and owning a vehicle can become more of a pain than not owning one. So in the end, fewer Americans are purchasing vehicles because fewer Americans find a need for them. But automotive sales, in general, have not really been affected that negatively.

What this should highlight for automotive manufacturers is that an ever increasing number of people are relying on public transportation because owning a large burdensome vehicle is not all the alluring to these consumers. What should be provided are alternative forms of transportation, smaller vehicles, or even different modes of transport than have been offered before. Whether that be scooters, Segway’s, or mechanized bicycles, it is clear there is a demand, but what is being supplied, at least to a growing portion of the populace in densely populated areas, is not wanted.  

About the author: The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @CustParadigm. When I’m not reviewing automotive reports in my free time, because that is oh so enthralling, I can usually be found grease monkeying it up at a local transmission service provider in my hometown of Denver Colorado.  

Image license: Chris1961, RGBStock royalty free

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hot real estate investing is in Houston, TX

Houston's real estate market is fueled by the Texan economy
Population growth and employment boost Houston's real estate
By Don Stevens

Investing in the Houston real estate market is an excellent plan. It is an effective way for homeowners to find property that fits their needs while also expecting the value to increase over their lifetime there.

And, for property investors, including those who plan to flip properties and rental property owners, Houston, Texas has incredible opportunities available. In short, real estate in Houston is booming. 

Why Houston is the place to be right now

There are many reasons why purchasing real estate in  Downtown Houston, is ideal right now. Below are some of those reasons. With so much promise, it may be a bad decision to even consider not investing in the area.

House prices on the rise

For property owners, it is likely that home prices will continue to rise over the next few years. According to the University of Houston's Institute for Regional Forecasting, home prices will actually increase by as much as five percent in 2013 alone. What does that mean for the buyer? It means two big things:
  1. Buying a home now is wise. Waiting will likely bring higher prices with it, which could impact your overall ability to get the home you desire.
  2. Buying now also ensures your home's value will rise in the short term. For those who want short term investments that will turn a profit, this could be the route to take.
For both of these reasons, especially in the downtown Houston area, it's wise to move now rather than wait.

The city is growing - rapidly

Real estate investing in Houston is an excellent opportunity for today's buyer simply because Houston is the place to be. Just take a look downtown and you'll see the promise present. You'll see the cranes building new apartment complexes and the development of larger structures for new business. You'll also notice that a lot of office space is going in. All of this will need employees to fill positions. For the investor, this means people are moving into the city and owning property there could help you to see a profit as a direct result.

The New York Times reports that employment is up by 3.7 percent in Houston compared to just 0.7 percent in New York City since 2008. That's an impressive number of jobs coming into one of the largest economies in the country already. The same report indicates that 3.9 million square feet of office space is under construction right now. The energy sector is bringing with it good jobs. As a result, housing here is also booming and the long-term outlook looks promising.

Other reasons to invest in Houston right now

Check out a few more reasons why real estate in Houston is the place to be as an investor or home buyer.
  • Mortgage rates are low and expected to remain that way. They may increase slightly, with expectations that the Houston area will see rates at abotu 4 percent on average for 2013 and 4.6 percent in 2014, according to the National Association of Realtors.
  • Inventory isn't holding up to demand. While property is still available, it is not as readily available as it was just a few years ago. This will help to push housing values higher overall.
  • Home sales are incredible, with mid-October year-to-year data indicating an improvement of 23.5 percent in the number of homes sold.
Today's real estate investor in Houston has plenty of reason to buy. Waiting too long could mean that the buyer will see higher prices and higher mortgage rates. That could be why so many people are buying now.

About the author: Don Stevens Google loves local food and unique experiences in great places across the U.S. and Canada. He helps people discover new trends, restaurants, and offers tips in different cities. Traveling to different areas can help when purchasing a home. He recommends Mason Real Estate Company for finding properties in the downtown Houston area. They are helpful and always provide quality service to find the home of your dreams.

* Image licenses: 1. Spacecaptain; GFDL;  2.  Author owned and licensed

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How to avoid timeshare fraud

Timeshare costs rise higher with maintenance fees
Not all timeshare dealers are authentic resellers
By Karissa Scott

Due to a strong buyer’s market, fake advertising platforms have been very effective at scamming timeshare owners who are suffering from buyer’s remorse. The scams themselves are relatively easily distinguishable from a real advertising platform, but because so many timeshare owners didn’t grow up with the internet, a huge amount of people are still fooled by them every year.

It has gotten so bad that various state governments have issued consumer alerts and warnings.

How a timeshare scam works

A timeshare scam is fairly simple. Scammers create a website that looks pretty much the same as any other timeshare advertising platform, either to impersonate an existing company or just a straight up fake company. The timeshare seller shows up, pays a fee online, and expects to be listed and marketed by the company in return. The scammers in turn make no effort to market or list the timeshare, pocket the money, and live like kings.

Since Google actually does a fairly good job of filtering out known scam websites, scammers often rely on real world advertising and spam to reach potential victims.

They set up a bank account in Mexico and ask for payment up front. Then, once the money is wired, nothing can be done except to post a warning online that most people will not bother to look for before getting burned.

Spotting a scam directly

You can spot a timeshare scam on the website directly by looking specifically for what is not there. Any legitimate platform that requires up-front payments will offer you a written money back guarantee. Any website that asks you for money without a written guarantee of either results or your money back is a scam.

A legitimate sales platform also does not reward itself for failure. So any platform that asks for monthly payments to keep your listing up is unlikely to be a good choice.

A legitimate resale platform has guarantees. Look for a written money-backguarantee that your timeshare will sell. Make sure that the contract only requires one listing fee that has built in contingencies that prevent the middle man from profiting independently of you.

If a company, salesman, or website tells you they have a buyer lined up for your timeshare before you list it, you are dealing with a scam. Selling timeshares in the current real estate climate takes effort, and companies are not putting forward marketing money for a product they don’t know they have.

Identifying a scam through research

If you are looking to sell your timeshare, go to Google and search for a highly ranked resale platform. Then Google that company or URL and see what people are saying about it. Any companies will have a few complaints leveled against them, but scammers are often very easily identifiable with even minimal research as there is usually are usually many victims who have put up warnings in various forums.

Furthermore, the Better Business Bureau keeps a record of complaints and rates businesses. Don’t use a website or a company that is not listed, or has a bad rating.

About the author: Karissa is a marketer for Bay Tree Solutions, a timeshare reselling platform. She enjoys writing, cooking, and cuddling with her cats in her free time. 

Image license: Steve F., CC BY SA-2.0 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Homemade products for eco-cleaning

By Jessica Conars

Now you may be asking yourselves: “Why should I care if I am using non eco-friendly detergents or not”? Well, the fact of the matter is that the more eco-friendly products we use now, the less likely it would be for the Earth to collapse on itself due to pollution and the green house effect. I personally like having cold winters and hot summers, and unless we do something about this overly excessive use of dangerous and in most cases untested detergents, we can be certain that no good will come out of it in the long run. 

Of course not all detergents are bad; in fact there are still some which are imperative for the cleaning process, and we simply cannot do without. For anything else however, I have prepared a small guidebook of alternatives (quite small indeed). I leave their effectiveness to your unbiased judgment, although I can assure all of our readers that I have personally tested each and ever one of them to see exactly how effective they are in real life situations. So far everything looks good.

White vinegar

You can't get any more “eco-friendly” than using the age old cleaning detergent - White Vinegar. It is a superb chemical that is used both as an exfoliating agent and as a deodorizer. The basic recipe consists of a solution prepared by mixing 50% white vinegar with 50% water. The solution is best applied either via a spray bottle, or by direct application using a, let's say moistened rag, sponge or anything bearing easy absorption properties. With this solution we can remove tough grime from smooth surfaces; as well as dirty water build up; various spots and stains (read on); grease, coffee etc. Contrary to popular belief, white vinegar is completely odorless and leaves nothing behind but clean and shining surfaces. White Vinegar is also a great fungicide, meaning that it can eradicate moulds, or at least retard their growth and prevent harmful exposure.

Baking soda

Being on the exact opposite spectrum of acidity, baking soda incorporates almost all the properties of white vinegar, with a few added bounces. For example, did you know that you can treat your old carpets with baking soda and get that 'fresher'/'neater' outlook, like they were just treated with some expensive machinery? Indeed, all you have to do is to generously spread baking soda on your carpets, wait for about 5 to 10 minutes (the longer the better obviously) then vacuum and if everything went according to plan, your carpets should look at least 10 years younger, so to speak. For removing pesky grime off, let's say bathroom tiles, mix some water in with the baking soda – enough to make a thick paste (relatively low viscosity is needed) and then apply directly on top of the troubled area. The abrasive properties of the soda will aid the manual work, delivering fascinating results e very single time.

Lemon juice

Save money and the environment with homemade eco-cleaning products
Lemon juice reduces grease and smells good
Lemon juice is perfect for cleaning stoves, pots, pans and everything that has congealed grease and that is tough to remove by scrubbing alone. You can either go with a full strength solution, i.e. 100% lemon juice, or dilute some in water, 50/50 solution – either way works fine, depending on the particular spot in question. Lemon juice is by far my favorite deodorizing agent, for it leaves behind a sweet-tangy citrus smell that you simple cannot get with store bought detergents.

About the author: Jessica Conars is one of the founders of http://www.cleantoperfection.co.uk/deep-cleaning-mayfair/. She loves to share useful tips on eco cleaning with her readers.

* Image license/photo credit: smartphotostock.com