Shrewsbury Volkswagen partners with CHOP for holiday toy and gift drive

Shrewsbury Volkswagen, the region’s largest Volkswagen dealer, is continuing its longstanding partnership with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) by hosting a toy and gift drive to benefit the hospital.

Now through Dec. 20, area residents and businesses are invited to drop off new, unwrapped toys and gifts at Shrewsbury Volkswagen in Tinton Falls. The items will be wrapped and distributed to children at the hospital throughout the holiday season. The toy and gift drive benefits children of all ages — from infant to 17 years of age — and includes toys, games, crafts, books, clothes and all other age-appropriate donations.

While this is the first year that Shrewsbury VW is hosting the gift drive, the dealership has been a long-time supporter of CHOP. Since 2014, Shrewsbury VW has made a donation to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for every vehicle that the dealership sells. This tradition of giving will continue in 2016, and the dealership is excited to add a new level of sharing with this year’s toy and gift drive.

Shrewsbury VW’s association with CHOP is a very personal endeavor for the dealership. In 2013, General Sales Manager Gino Dellomo’s then 2-year-old daughter, Luciana, spent nearly a year at CHOP with an illness. While Luciana has recovered, the care and support that the family received left an indelible impression on both the Dellomo family and the dealership.

“The doctors, nurses and support staff at CHOP helped save my daughter’s life. I knew I wanted to do something to help other people facing the same fears, tears and sleepless nights that my family went through,” Dellomo said. “So we started making a donation to CHOP for every single vehicle the dealership sells, and this year, we’ve added the toy and gift drive to our efforts. We really want to put some big smiles on little kids’ faces.”

Individuals and businesses interested in donating unwrapped toys or gifts can do so by visiting Shrewsbury Volkswagen between now and Dec. 20. The dealership is located at 702 Shrewsbury Ave. in Tinton Falls. For more information, contact Shrewsbury VW at 732-201-5957, or visit the website at www.shrewsburyvw.com.

BUSINESS BRIEFS

Jamesburg Family Eyecare is a new, privately owned optometry practice that is located at 333 Forsgate Drive, Jamesburg.

The business offers comprehensive eye exams, contact lens fittings and designer eyewear. Most insurances are accepted.

There is also free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks for all guests.

The optometry center is female-run, and has the American dream angle as Dr. Magdalena Spiewak moved from Poland in 1993, learned English within the first 12 months of arriving in the U.S. at 10 years old. She then went on to excel at academics, including a full scholarship to St. John’s University in Queens.

Spiewak is bilingual, and welcomes Polish speaking residents

In addition, the eye care center is launching a year-long eyeglasses drive to collect 2,016 used eyeglasses in 2016 to donate to the local Lion’s Club. Residents can stop by the office, even without an appointment, to donate their old glasses.

Jamesburg Family Eyecare is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

For more information, email Jamesburgeye@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/Jamesburgeye or Twitter.com/Jamesburgeye. For a list of grand opening promotions, visit jamesburgeye.com/current-promotions.

Gold Medal Service, an award-winning heating, cooling, plumbing, waterproofing and electrical home service company, is adding a second office to accommodate its rapidly growing business.

The new office, which is near the company’s current location on Cotters Lane in East Brunswick, is a 10,000-square-foot building that will enable Gold Medal to separate its service and installation offerings.

Earlier this year, the company was awarded Contractor Magazine’s national Contractor of the Month Award, which recognized its superior ethics code and dedication to going above and beyond the typical call of duty.

For more information, visit goldmedalservice.com.

Buying resolutions require determination

By Marilyn Kennedy Melia
CTW Features

 Renters want to buy, but new buying challenges are keeping the transition to homeownership a lengthy process Renters want to buy, but new buying challenges are keeping the transition to homeownership a lengthy process It’s the time of year when people start saying, “We’re going to buy a home next year.” But, one study suggests that the majority of renters planning to buy within a year won’t: The Federal Reserve followed a group of renters who in 2013 said they’d be buying, but in a follow-up a year later, two-thirds remained renters.

The basic reason why younger adults aren’t buying homes at the same rate as earlier generations is financial, says Nela Richardson, chief economist at real estate brokerage Redfin. “A good credit score is now so important to qualify for a mortgage,” she notes. “And if you don’t have much money for a down payment, you’ll need a very good score.”

Indeed, a survey of active home shoppers aged 25 to 34 by the National Association of Realtors found the most common “trigger” pushing them into buying was an increase in income.

A boost in income can make it easier to save for a down payment, but it still can take months of on-time bill paying to repair credit, notes Richardson.

Sometimes, it’s an effort to uncover financing options that help renters buy, says Doug Leever, mortgage sales manager for Tropical Federal Credit. Since 2012, the Florida credit union has quadrupled the number of purchase mortgages it’s made, largely due to counseling borrowers on lowdown payment mortgage plans and how best to pay down debt.

According to the Federal Reserve, some 81 percent of current renters said they’d prefer to buy if they could afford it.

But renters shouldn’t always fixate on buying, notes Christopher Herbert, managing director at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Resolve to buy only if future plans align with that goal. Says Herbert: “Moving costs, including sales commission, are high, and so a rule of thumb is you should be very likely to stay put for at least five to seven years.”

© CTW Features

REAL ESTATE BRIEFS

Gloria Zastko, Realtors met its goals and marketshare for November. Leading the team for sales was Mark J. Schmidt, broker associate, and Jayakrishnan (Jay) Maniyil, Realtor-associate. Schmidt let the firm in listings taken in November. He can be reached by calling 732-297-0600, ext 37, or 908-705-5110, email mark@zastko.com, or visit www.zastko.com/mark. Maniyil led the firm in sales for November. He can be reached by calling 732-297-0600, ext. 52, or 732-501-8643, email jay@zastko.com, or visit www.zastko.com/jay.

Richard Salvatore has joined CW Solutions, a national real estate services firm in East Brunswick, as a right-of-way and land research associate. “We are focused on becoming a leader in the industry, and we need the best possible talent to drive our growth,” said Stacie Curtis, the firm’s president and founder. “Richard brings extensive experience and commitment to solve any right-of-way challenges that our clients may encounter. His skills will enhance our team of qualified and knowledgeable professionals, each of whom is dedicated to saving clients time and money.” Salvatore of North Arlington, comes to CW Solutions with 20 years of experience in the right-of-way and title examination industries. To ensure the success of projects, he will be working with transmission and power companies to secure real estate approvals and right-of-way acquisitions. He holds a New Jersey Title Insurance Producers license and a paralegal/ legal assistant certificate. Curtis and business partner Robert Weible founded CW Solutions in 2002. The firm has grown from a local New Jersey land acquisition company to a nationwide corporation offering a range of services that includes right-of-way, site acquisition, title research, zoning, permitting, regulatory compliance, project management, GIS mapping and landman services. The company’s title professionals provide clients with the research documents required, ranging from ownership reports to full title searches.

New changes coming to FHA policies

By Alex Burnham
CTW Features

 Condo policies to become more lenient, increasing potential buying option for more borrowers Condo policies to become more lenient, increasing potential buying option for more borrowers The Federal Housing Administration last month announced that it would make changes to its condominium policies, easing the way for many potential buyers to get into a new home.

The changes, long advocated by the National Association of Realtors, include changes to the FHA’s lengthy, complex recertification process; burdensome owneroccupancy requirements; and limits on the types of property insurance that are considered acceptable coverage under FHA’s rules.

Among NAR’s recommended changes:

 Eliminate the owner-occupancy ratio. Currently, a building requires a 50-percent owner-occupancy for a buyer to qualify for FHA financing, leaving many potential homebuyers to look at properties in locations or communities that don’t meet their needs.

 Increase the concentration of building units insured by the FHA to 100 percent. Currently, only 50 percent of a building can be occupied by FHA-insured loans, which often is the only financing available to likely condo purchasers like first-time homebuyers. Removing the limit could make available more potential units to credit-worthy borrowers.

 Ease the certification requirements. The Department of Housing and Urban Development certification language often requires attorney advice, and many condo boards find the process much too complicated.

 Increase flexibility on past-due homeowner’s association fees. Currently, no more than 15 percent of units can be more than 60 days past due on HOA fees. The NAR wants to increase this time period to 90 days.

Speaking at the Realtors Conference and Expo on Nov. 12, Ed Golding, the FHA’s principal deputy assistant secretary, said changes related to insurance and recertification would take place immediately as part of a Mortgagee Letter that was released the following day. Policy changes related to owner occupancy, commercial space percentage, FHA concentration and spot approvals would be addressed in a future formal rulemaking, he added.

“Condos are often the most affordable option for homebuyers, especially firsttime buyers, and making sure FHA financing is an option is important to supporting homeownership,” Chris Polychron, NAR president, said in a statement.

© CTW Features

Where motorists spend the most time in traffic

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

 With more cars and trucks on the road, commuters are paying the price with increased travel times. Here’s where to find (or avoid) the worst gridlock while driving. With more cars and trucks on the road, commuters are paying the price with increased travel times. Here’s where to find (or avoid) the worst gridlock while driving. It should come as no surprise to commuters that traffic on our nation’s highways is worse than its ever been, due largely to the increase in cars and trucks on the road spurred by a healthy economy. Unfortunately, what’s good for the nation’s financial fortunes can be bad for both car- and truck-drivers alike, and it’s shocking to see the actual impact — both personal and financial — of the country’s growing gridlock.

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard compiled by traffic information and driver services provider INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, motorists wasted a collective 7 billion extra hours last year sitting in traffic — that’s 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. What’s more, all those vehicles burned more than 3 billion gallons of fuel crawling their way to and from the office.

For many motorists, that amounts to a week’s vacation time and income down drain each year, and that’s not counting the potential productivity wasted just sitting in a car. Add up the numbers and the total value of time and fuel wasted amounts to an annual $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.

Findings from the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard are based on traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data provided by the Federal Highway Administration.

By comparison, INRIX reports that back in 1982, when there were fewer vehicles sharing the road, the average traffic delay per consumer was just 18 hours per year with 0.5 billion gallons of fuel burned at a total cost of $42 billion. Though extreme gridlock affected only one out of every in nine commutes in 1982, it caused delays in an average of 25 percent of automotive excursions during 2014.

What’s more, the study found that traffic is getting so onerous in big cities that drivers find they have to allow more than twice as much travel time as they would otherwise require just to account for the unforeseen effects of bad weather, collisions, and construction zones. Drivers traversing America’s most congested roads typically waste 84 hours — that’s 3.5 days a year — sitting in traffic, which is twice the national average.

And the report’s findings indicate that the nation’s clogged arteries are spreading beyond the most populated areas. Though the average travel delay per vehicle is more than double what it was in 1982, it’s gotten four times worse in cities having populations with fewer than 500,000 people. And INRIX predicts commuters will be spending more time behind the wheel in the years ahead. Assuming the nation’s economic fortunes remain strong, by 2020, the annual rush-hour delay per U.S. motorist will swell to 47 hours, with a shared nationwide delay of 8.3 billion hours at a cost of $192 billion.

According to INRIX data, Washington, D.C. is the nation’s most traffic clogged city, where commuters suffered an average of 82 hours of delay last year, with Los Angeles coming in a close second at 80 hours, followed by San Francisco at 78 hours, New York City at 74 hours, San Jose, Calif. at 67 hours, Boston at 64 hours, Seattle at 63 hours and Chicago and Houston tied at 61 hours.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for the nation to simply build its way out of its traffic woes. “Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle — state and local agencies can’t do it alone,” says Tim Lomax, a report co-author and Regents Fellow at TTI. “Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to longterm land use planning.”

© CTW Features

Stop and start

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: I read or heard there’s a mid-size American car (the U.S. part is important to us) — not a hybrid — that has an automatic cut-off/cut-on function for when you’re at stoplights. I haven’t been able to learn what car that is. Can you help?

A: The 2014 Chevy Malibu got a lot of attention for being the first mainstream midsize sold in the U.S. with what’s termed “stop-start technology” as a standard feature. Fact is, this feature is increasingly available, sometimes standard and sometimes for extra cash.

Here’s how it works: The engine shuts off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop (as when you’re stopped at a stoplight or in a traffic jam). The car turns back on in a fraction of a second once the pressure on the brake pedal is released.

It’s regarded as a fuel-saver (though, of course, that depends on the kind of driving you do — how many stoplights you regularly hit; how much stop-and-go traffic you encounter). Chevrolet reported that its first-year Malibu provided a 14 percent gain in city fuel economy. Most manufacturers say the savings is 5 percent to 10 percent or so.

It’s available from many carmakers, including some models of Chevrolets, Chryslers, Fords, Hondas and BMWs. It’s safe to say it will be offered on an even greater proportion of the 2016 crop of vehicles that’ll be at dealerships soon. Ford, for one, said last year its stop-start technology would be on about half of its models by 2017.

Some who have purchased vehicles with the feature have loved it; others have said it has taken much getting used to (especially when parking). Worse, some hapless buyers have reported that they wound up with this feature without realizing it (poor sales people?) and believed the car was acting up or breaking down within minutes of driving away from the lot.

So, note to all soon-to-be buyers: ask whether this is on the car you’re buying, on the chance that your salesperson might not think to mention it. (The function can be switched off — at least in the vehicles that have offered so far — but you’ve got to be aware of its existence to know it’s possible to make it disappear.)

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com.

REAL ESTATE BRIEFS

Susan Giacchi, broker/owner of RE/MAX Dreams of Sayreville, announces the addition of Marie (Jaworski) Miller, formerly of RE/MAX In Action. As a fulltime experienced Realtor, she has a team of trusted professionals with whom she has worked with specializing in real estate law, mortgages, inspections and construction. She also formerly worked for years with a building and management company. Miller’s specialties are residential sale and rentals. She can be reached at 732-207-0880 or emailed at RealtorMarieMiller@gmail.com.

Jack Waters, regional vice president of Weichert, Realtors, announced that sales associates Chhaya “Barkha” Kishnani and Donna Warters of the East Brunswick office were recognized for their exceptional success during the month of October. Kishnani led the region, which is comprised of offices throughout Middlesex County, for new home dollar volume. Warters was the top sales associate in the region for resale revenue units and resale dollar volume. They can be reached in Weichert’s East Brunswick office at 431 Route 18 south, or call 732- 254-1700 for more information.

Jack Waters, regional vice president of Weichert, Realtors, announced that the Old Bridge office was recognized for outstanding performance in October. The office led the region, which is comprised of locations throughout Middlesex County, in resale listings, resales, resale revenue units and resale dollar volume. Additionally, sales associate Julianne Siciliano of the Old Bridge office was recognized for her exceptional industry success. Siciliano led the region in resale listings during the month of October. Siciliano can be reached at Weichert’s Old Bridge office at 1394 Route 9 south, or call 732-525-1550 for more information.

Tech is where the homebuying is

 More Realtors utilizing technology and social media to serve clients More Realtors utilizing technology and social media to serve clients Despite the Internet’s prevalence in the home search, consumers increasingly are relying on agents to help with continue to use Realtors in order to find housing, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors.

The report, titled “Real Estate in a Digital Age,” found that potential buyers consider finding the right property the most difficult part of the buying process. Four in 10 buyers now first research homes online, up from 36 percent in 2010. However, more buyers are purchasing with help from an agent, 88 percent in 2014, up from 83 percent in 2010.

Nearly all millennials (94 percent) and the bulk of baby boomers (83 percent) utilized websites when conducting their home search. In online listings, millennials are more attracted to photos and property information, while virtual tours and direct contact with an agent were important characteristics for boomers.

To that end, more agents and firms are relying on technology to meet their clients’ needs. Realtors’ show a strong preference toward communicating with their clients via email (93 percent) and text message (85 percent), according to the report.

Social media use also is popular with Realtors for connecting with clients. Facebook (80 percent) and LinkedIn (71 percent) were cited as the most popular sites. The main drivers for social media use among Realtors are visibility/exposure/marketing (81 percent), building relationships and networking (66 percent), advertising (59 percent) and promoting listings (51 percent).

“Realtors constantly strive to find ways to make the home buying and selling process easier for and more accessible to their clients,” Chris Polychron, NAR president, said in a statement. “And since technology helps Realtors do that, it will continue to be a priority.”

America’s ‘hottest’ cars

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

 And by ‘hot’ we mean stolen. Here’s where motorists face the highest car-theft rates and how to best protect your ride no matter where you reside. And by ‘hot’ we mean stolen. Here’s where motorists face the highest car-theft rates and how to best protect your ride no matter where you reside. It seems the Golden State is indeed golden — for auto thieves. Seven out of the 10 U.S. cities suffering the most stolen cars are situated in California, according to the latest “Hot Spots” report issues by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in Des Plaines, Ill.

San Francisco leads all metro areas in the nation in per-capita car thefts, with more than 29,000 vehicles purloined during 2014. The only non-California cities on the NICB’s top-10 list were Odessa, Texas, and the Spokane and Seattle, Wash. regions (see the accompanying box for the full list).

On the plus side, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says car thefts are steadily on the decline, with a 5.7 percent reduction in motor vehicle thefts reported during 2013 and 2014; they’re down by a whopping 42.8 percent since 2003. The National Highway Safety Administration attributes the decrease to a variety of factors including the increased use of standard antitheft devices (especially coded keys, engine immobilizers and vehicle locating systems), parts marking, increased and improved prosecution efforts by law enforcement organizations and heightened public awareness.

As before, older cars are most often valued for the sum of their parts; they’re usually driven away and quickly disassembled at so-called chop shops and sold off piecemeal to shady auto supply stores and mechanics. Meanwhile, newer and flashier stolen cars are more typically sold overseas or offered domestically with altered titles, or are simply taken for what amounts to a joyride.

The latest trend in auto theft involves models being quickly and efficiently dismantled on the spot for top-dollar components, with flashy alloy wheels being increasingly targeted by crooks. “Because it’s harder to steal an entire vehicle these days, thieves are stealing the parts,” says Terri Miller, executive director of the organization Help Eliminate Auto Thefts in Livonia, Mich. “Tires and rims are not marked (for identification) and they are very, very marketable.”

No matter where you live or what you drive, it’s important to take every precaution to protect what is one of a family’s largest expenditures. Aside from the surprisingly often ignored common sense tips like closing the windows and locking the doors, parking in a well-lit area and never leaving the keys in the ignition while the vehicle is unattended, the NICB advises motorists make their vehicles as theftproof as possible.

This includes using an antitheft device, which will often also warrant a discount on your car insurance. Having a simple ignition “kill switch” installed in a hidden location makes it more difficult for a crook to start a car or truck and drive it away.

It’s also a good idea to have your car or truck’s vehicle identification number etched on the windshield and major components to make them more difficult for chop shops to sell as replacement parts.

And especially if you’re driving a costly luxury sedan or sports car, go the extra mile and use a subscription based telematics system like General Motors’ OnStar or similar technology offered by other automakers. Such systems use GPS technology and can help police departments locate cars and trucks if they are stolen. Some cars can even notify their owners if they’re broken into or moved via a connected smartphone app.

© CTW Features

Hot spots’ for stolen cars

1. San Francisco- Oakland-Hayward, Calif.

2. Bakersfield, Calif.

3. Stockton-Lodi, Calif.

4. Odessa, Texas

5. Modesto, Calif.

6. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash.

7. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.

8. Seattle-Tacoma- Bellevue, Wash.

9. Fresno, Calif.

10. San Jose-Sunnyvale- Santa Clara, Calif.

Note: Ranking is relative to population size. Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau.