Firm advice: Consider both agent and brokerage

If you’re thinking of buying or selling, chances are you’ll select your real estate agent based upon a name referred from a friend, neighbor or relative.

Referrals are the No. 1 way both first-time and repeat buyers and sellers settle on an agent, according to surveys from the National Association of Realtors.

But when a specific agent is recommended, should the name of the realty firm he’s affiliated with also matter?

Probably, say many agents.

The agent who worked out well for a trusted friend or relative may likely be associated with a new firm now. In a 2015 survey of its members, the NAR found that 30 percent were with their present firm for one year or less, compared to 18 percent in 2014.

Some newly affiliated are brand new to the profession, but doubtless many have switched firms, acknowledges Maggie Kasperski, a spokeswoman for the NAR.

“One thing sellers should ask about is whether the brokerage has a strong web presence so that their home is easy to find,” advises Angie Lotz, of RE/MAX All Pro in Bloomingdale, Ill., noting that many buyers shop the Internet vigorously.

Firms will differ in their offerings of search technology, too. For instance, buyers glued to their smartphone should put a priority on whether an app is available giving “real-time information,” says Cindy Soderstrom of RE/MAX Signature Homes in Hinsdale, Ill. Also, the commission charged a seller can be influenced by a brokerage’s policy, adds Erika Villegas, broker-associate with ERA Mi Casa in Chicago.

Judge independent and national Realty firms equally, advises Marina Krakovsky, author of “The Middleman Economy” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), noting that what’s important is the firm’s local reputation.

— Marilyn Kennedy Melia
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Automakers accelerating on auto-braking

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

 Your next car could apply the brakes on its own to help avoid a collision Your next car could apply the brakes on its own to help avoid a collision Perhaps as the first step toward driverless cars, expect advanced safety systems that can help drivers avoid, or at least lessen the effects of a crash to become widespread in the not-too-distant future.

Ten automakers recently committed to making the potentially life saving systems standard in all their vehicles sold in the U.S., presumably over the next few model years. They include Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes- Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. Together, these companies were responsible for 57 percent of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales in 2014.

Other automakers could follow suit, and has been the case with important safety features like antilock brakes and electronic stability control, there’s a possibility frontal crash protection could one day be mandated for use in all cars by the federal government.

Until recently limited to the luxury car segment, frontal crashavoidance systems are fast becoming prevalent among more affordable cars and crossovers, though they’re usually offered only on costlier versions within a given car line, and are often bundled with other features in expensive options packages.

A forward collision warning/prevention system uses radar, cameras or lasers to monitor the distance between a vehicle and the traffic or other obstructions in its path. The same hardware is also used in a vehicle’s adaptive cruise control system that maintains both a set speed and distance from the traffic ahead. Basic systems will engage visual and audible alerts if it determines the car is closing in at a potentially hazardous rate of speed and pre-charge the brakes to maximize their stopping power. A full-blown collision avoidance system will go a step further and automatically apply the brakes at full force if the driver isn’t reacting quickly enough.

Most such systems operate at higher speeds with the intent of saving lives, though a few models, specifically those from Volvo and Mazda, are also selling separate auto-braking systems that operate at slower speeds to avoid fender benders in stop-and-go traffic. A few Infiniti models further offer lowspeed systems that will automatically apply the brakes while backing up to avoid hitting pedestrians and other vehicles.

According to a report conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va., autobraking technology can reduce insurance injury claims by as much as 35 percent. “The evidence is mounting that AEB is making a difference,” says IIHS’ president Adrian Lund. “Most crashes involve driver error. This technology can compensate for the mistakes every driver makes because the systems are always on alert, monitoring the road ahead and never getting tired or distracted.”

In order for a vehicle to earn IIHS’s highest Top Safety Pick+ designation, it must offer an automatic braking system in one or more of its versions. Vehicles earning a “superior” rating are able to successfully avoid a crash or substantially reduce a vehicle’s speed in tests conducted at 12 and 25 mph. To garner an “advanced” rating a vehicle must include an autobraking function and be able to avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in either of the two tests. Forward collision warning systems that meet performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and autobrake systems that provide only minimal speed reduction in IIHS tests earn a “basic” rating.

As of this writing, the IIHS has given a record number of models a “superior” rating for forward crash avoidance when properly equipped, including the 2016 Acura ILX, MDX, RDX and RLX; 2016 BMW X3; 2015 Chrysler 300 and its twin, the 2015 Dodge Charger; 2016 Honda Accord Coupe and Sedan, 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, CLA and E-Class; and the 2016 Mazda 6 and CX-5. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf, Golf SportWagen, Jetta and 2015 Volkswagen Touareg are deemed “advanced” for front crash prevention.

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Unequal DUI laws

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: My nephew has been picked up for driving impaired at least four times. Very little in the way of punishment ever happens. And still he drives. In my part of the country, he would have lost his license years ago, and probably would have done time. He lives in Pennsylvania. Is that known as a state that does nothing about DUI?

A: You are correct in supposing that law enforcement/ courts can treat such individuals very differently from state to state. Pennsylvania is among the 10 most lenient states (ranking number 49 out of the 50 states and District of Columbia) when it comes to how strictly DUIs are approached, according to WalletHub, which did a recent analysis of DUI enforcement rules across the country. The group examined 15 metrics, including minimum jail sentences to ignition interlock devices (which are regarded by many as a highly effective deterrent to keeping drivers who have driven drunk or stoned in the past from repeating that behavior).

Any number of approaches could be used, of course, to assess how harsh or lenient the laws relating to DUI are written … and, especially, applied. This methodology may or may not lock in on all that contributes to whether a state is a crackdown state or a soft one.

MADD, using different methodology, also put together a list of the 14 most lenient states. Pennsylvania was on that group’s list, too.

All this seems to confirm your suspicions.

Readers comment: Several terrific readers got in touch with me after a recent column in which I answered a question about gas caps not consistently being on the same side of cars, and that can lead to confusion at the pumps when one is driving a rental car or the vehicle of a spouse or someone else. “I agree with all you wrote,” one reader commented, “that it would be easier if you could count on them being on one side or the other. You should have pointed out, though, as I remember you did several months ago, that in most vehicles there is a symbol on the gas gauge that indicates which side the gas cap is on.” Indeed I should have. I always appreciate the reminders!

© 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.

A dim view of the road ahead

Today’s automotive car headlamps don’t do an adequate job of illuminating poorly lit nighttime rural roads, which accounts for 40 percent of all miles driven in the United States.

That’s according to research conducted by AAA in Orlando, Fla. The organization found that halogen headlamps, currently included in more than 80 percent of new vehicles, may fail to safely light the way on otherwise unlit roadways at speeds as sedate as 40 mph. Specifically, they don’t allow a driver enough opportunity to detect an object, pedestrian or animal down the road, react and come to a complete stop in time to avoid a collision.

Not as widely available and usually offered at an extra cost, the AAA found LED and high-intensity headlamps to illuminate dark roadways 25 percent better than halogen lights, though they still fall short at speeds over 45 mph. Choosing the high beam setting on these types of headlamps offered significant improvement, however, stretching visibility to as much as 500 feet on otherwise dark roads.

— Jim Gorzelany

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Keyport dealership among the first Ford dealers in the nation to sell new F-150

A Monmouth County dealership is among the first Ford dealers in the country to sell a 2016 F-150 truck.

Joe Jarock Jr., an auto body shop employee and street rod enthusiast, purchased a new 2016 F-150 XLT from Tom’s Ford in Keyport. An employee of Al’s Auto Body in South Amboy for nearly four decades, Jarock has driven Fords his whole life. As someone who says he simply “likes driving trucks,” Jarock is a big fan of the new F-150, which replaced his 1999 F-250. Jarock and his wife use the new truck as a daily driver, enjoying the vehicle’s innovative features, particularly the remote start option.

With a range of high-end features, the new F-150 is making waves in the automotive world for its high-strength aluminum alloy body, which shaves 700 pounds off the total weight of truck and makes the truck more fuel efficient. The EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined are 5 percent to 29 percent better than previous F-150 models, due in part to the aluminum body.

Serving customers from Sayreville, Matawan, South Amboy, Red Bank, Middletown and beyond, Tom’s Ford has been in business since 1962. With a large inventory of both new and pre-owned vehicles, Tom’s Ford also provides top-quality regular automotive maintenance and commercial and diesel repairs.

Tom’s Ford is located at 200 Route 35 in Keyport. For more information, call 732-264-1600.

Coldwell Banker hosts regional CBRB Evolution business, technology event

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage welcomed approximately 1,500 affiliated real estate agents from New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. to the recent CBRB Evolution business and technology event, which encompassed the entire 16-screen AMC movie theater at Clifton Commons in Clifton. The excitement attendees felt about the educational event made an impact on social media, trending on Twitter with the hashtag #CBEVOLVE.

CBRB Evolution brought together real estate agents from across the region and gave them an opportunity to network with each other on a larger scale. Approximately 60 Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage sales associates and other real estate experts presented topics designed to help agents raise their business to the next level, enhance their skills, and provide expanded services to clients in today’s online and technology-driven marketplace.

Over the course of 40 sessions held throughout the day in individual theaters, agents learned about subjects such as how to enhance listings with photos and video, strengthen personal marketing, capitalize on networking and leads, build an effective social media presence, serve the luxury housing market through Coldwell Banker Previews International, and use the array of technological resources offered through Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

“Real estate is constantly changing and we are dedicated to offering affiliated agents every available resource to stay ahead in the industry. At CBRB Evolution, experts directly shared new strategies that have helped them succeed in the current marketplace, as well as best practices that have served real estate agents and their clients well in every market. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage is always on the move, always evolving,” said Hal Maxwell, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y.

Visit www.ColdwellBankerHomes.com for more information.

Top flooring choices to keep homes looking merry and bright

BACK TO BUSINESS

News of Greater Media Newspapers’ advertisers

Decorating for the holidays? Don’t forget the floor, says SMART Carpet and Flooring, the tri-state area’s original shop-at-home flooring leader. And to help homeowners choose flooring that performs well and looks great in high-traffic areas this holiday season, SMART Carpet and Flooring has released its short list of flooring choices that are always nice and never naughty.

First up: An endlessly forgiving resilient, or vinyl, tile flooring. Virtually impervious to wear and tear from pets, spills, dropped objects, stains, or just about anything else a houseful of friends and family can throw at it, resilient tile flooring looks vastly different — and much more beautiful — than the vinyl flooring of years past.

For an example of an attractive resilient flooring choice, SMART Carpet and Flooring points to a product like Congoleum’s DuraCeramic. Designed as a luxury alternative to ceramic tile, DuraCeramic has the appearance of a custom tile floor with the ease of vinyl. It even contains Scotchgard Protector for added peace of mind.

Homeowners who prefer the look of stone but want the warmth and durability of vinyl might prefer Armstrong Alterna or Alterna Reserve Luxury Vinyl. Nearly indistinguishable from real stone, Armstrong Alterna and Alterna Reserve feature stain-resistant surfaces and absorb sound to keep the focus on the conversation, not the clatter of the floor — even during lively holiday parties.

Next on the list: A luxury vinyl plank flooring. Luxury vinyl plank flooring looks like real hardwood but offers the same stain resistance, warmth and noise dampening as its resilient tile flooring cousin.

Finally, for homeowners who love the look and feel of carpet, SMART Carpet and Flooring recommends a highly stain-resistant carpet that’s up to the task of hosting holiday dinners, extended family, and anything else the holiday season can throw at it. Homeowners in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York will find a variety of carpet options that fit the bill in every SMART Carpet and Flooring mobile showroom.

“Homeowners typically host more family and friends during the holidays than at any other time of year,” said SMART Carpet and Flooring President Brendan Phillips. “It’s important to be ready for extra wear and tear. SMART Carpet and Flooring’s mobile showrooms stand ready to bring the perfect flooring choices to homeowners in time for the holiday entertaining season.”

To make it even easier for homeowners to spruce up their homes this month, SMART Carpet and Flooring is holding its annual December sales event. From now until Dec. 15, SMART Carpet and Flooring is offering up to 50 percent off typical store prices, plus an offer to take an additional 10 percent off every carpet they sell.

Flooring even makes a thoughtful gift. SMART Carpet and Flooring gift cards give loved ones the gift of choosing from more than 4,000 carpet, vinyl, wood, laminate, and tile flooring choices right in the comfort of their own homes, with the guidance of a flooring expert.

About SMART Carpet and Flooring

SMART Carpet and Flooring eliminates the hassle of buying new carpet and flooring by doing everything at the client’s home, where color and quality selection matter most. Because the company is a mill-direct buying service and not a store, SMART Carpet and Flooring customers can save up to 50 percent off typical store prices. SMART Carpet and Flooring includes everything from measuring and layout to quality padding, installation and financing.

Patrick Ewing selling New Jersey home for more than $6.9 million

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. announces that Michele Kolsky-Assatly, an award-winning affiliated sales associate, has been selected to market and sell a private manor owned by retired Hall of Fame basketball player and NBA coach Patrick Ewing. The luxurious property is situated on 1.8 acres in Cresskill.

Located in exclusive Tamcrest Estates, the magnificent all-brick manor home is being offered at $6,998,000. Among the features are a residence offering seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms, outdoor recreation areas including a basketball court, swimming pool with spa and luxury amenities.

Classic and contemporary best describe the manor, which combines traditional design with contemporary architectural details. The home features an open floor plan with hardwood flooring throughout, a grand foyer, and two-story great room with double-sided fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Other amenities include a library, sitting room and private deck overlooking professionally landscaped grounds.

The spacious kitchen features custom marble countertops, high-end stainless steel appliances, a dining area, sunroom and butler pantry.

The second floor, which can be reached by elevator, offers a private sitting area and balcony overlooking the great room. The master bedroom suite features a gas fireplace, ample closets and private deck. The luxury master bath offers a steam shower, soaking tub, and his and hers vanities. In addition, there are four sizable bedrooms all with their own private bath. Numerous entertainment facilities include a sizable bar and movie theatre.

“I am honored to represent this spectacular, custom home,” said Kolsky-Assatly, who is affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Fort Lee. “This is truly a premier residence that offers the discerning buyer immense privacy only minutes away from New York City.”

With more than $1 billion in sales during her storied career, Kolsky-Assatly is one of the leading Coldwell Banker residential real estate brokers internationally. She has been ranked as the No. 1 real estate agent in New Jersey, achieving the honor for 18 years, and has been the No. 1 agent in Bergen County for 21 years. She has earned every meritorious award offered by Coldwell Banker including the prestigious International President’s Premier, the highest honor presented to the top one percent of the company’s more than 82,000 sales professionals worldwide.

She has established one of the most effective teams in the real estate industry, which includes her son Michael Kolsky. Their commitment to their clients is renowned and their expertise is highly sought after. Together, they serve all of Bergen County specializing in luxury hi-rises, town homes, land and estates, and representing custom builders, developers, celebrities and designers.

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y., a leading residential real estate brokerage company, operates 55 offices with more than 3,100 affiliated sales associates serving all communities from Rockland County, N.Y. to Monmouth County. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. is part of NRT LLC, the nation’s largest residential real estate brokerage company. Visit https://www.ColdwellBankerHomes.com/tri-states for more information.

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.