November 28, 2011

Ethics, living by the code

By Marcie Geffner - California Real Estate magazine

Realtors, meet Bob Hunt.

Bob would like to sit down with you and have a little chat about the National Association of Realtors' Code of Ethics. But since he can't corral all of California's Realtors, he's had to settle for writing a book, "Real Estate the Ethical Way," in which he uses everyday examples and anecdotes to explain the Code.

"I used to say, 'I don't care if they read the book, I just want them to buy it,'" Hunt says. "Now, I don't care if they buy it, I'd just like them to read it, which is part of the reason why it's on Kindle at less than the price of a frappachino--and more filling than a scone, too."

Read on: "Ethics, living by the code" Turn to page 26.

Pain the lot: how to pare high parking costs

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

Parking costs are on the rise across the U.S. from beaches in Rhode Island to airports in Hawaii. At the same time, high unemployment rates and economic stagnation have forced more people to adopt frugal living habits. Together, these trends mean saving money on vehicle parking fees is, for many, in vogue and a necessity.

Whether they use parking meters or parking lots, hospitals, colleges, sports stadiums, shopping malls, office buildings and even public transit stops are jacking up their rates, sometimes by substantial percentages, judging from online news reports. In particular, municipal parking lots are prone to rate increases as city governments grapple with reduced revenues and political difficulties in raising taxes.

Hikes in parking fees are sometimes sold to the public as a benefit, the argument being that pricier parking encourages turnover and opens up spaces for people who want to park. That may be true, but it's a bitter pill for drivers facing those fatter parking rates.

Read on: "Pain in the lot: how to pare high parking costs"

Beat low rates on savings accounts

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

"Economic conditions ... are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013."

That sentence, pulled from an Aug. 9 Federal Reserve statement, should send a chill through the heart of any serious saver. Because with those words, the Fed essentially said savers shouldn't expect higher rates on their deposits for at least two years.

Ouch.

The Fed doesn't directly set the rates banks and other depository institutions pay consumers on certificates of deposit, or CDs, checking accounts, savings accounts and the like. But the Fed has plenty of influence over the level and direction of consumer rates. When Fed rates stay low, banks normally follow its lead.

That bleak outlook begs an obvious question: What, if anything, can savers do to improve their position in light of the Fed's decree?

Here are three sound strategies.

Read on: "Beat low rates on savings accounts"

4 Ways to get your spouse to say yes to a refinance

By Marcie Geffner - HSH.com

You want to refinance your mortgage, but your spouse thinks that's a bad idea. Or maybe your spouse says yea, and you're the one who says nay. How can you reach an agreement on this important financial decision?

Start by defining your goals, suggests Ken Turkington, president of First Commerce Financial, a mortgage company in Wixom, Mich.

"Frequently, spouses have different opinions," Turkington says. "Often one spouse may be more interested in payment relief, and the other spouse may be more interested in reducing the balance or shortening the term."

Either way, it's important to talk about the options.

Read on: "4 ways to get your spouse to say yes to a refinance"