BUSINESS BRIEFS

Effective Jan. 1, 2016, the Edisonbased public accounting firm, The Mironov Group, will combine its practice with WithumSmith+Brown, PC (Withum), a regional certified public accounting and consulting firm with 12 offices, 550 staff members and annual revenue of $115 million, ranking in the top 30 firms in the country. Jim Boland, CPA, CVA, who has served as Mironov’s managing partner since 2010, will be joined by his firm’s 10 partners and 40 additional staff in the transition to the Withum team. “We have been seeking the right strategic partner to expand our breadth of industry sector expertise, and we found the perfect match with The Mironov Group,” says Bill Hagaman, CPA, CGMA, the acquiring firm’s managing partner and CEO. “Additionally, our new colleagues pride themselves on providing clients with outstanding service, and staff with a great work environment, so this is a great cultural match, as well.” The Mironov Group provides specialized accounting, audit, tax and consulting services to the automotive, healthcare, real estate and professional services industries. “We are thrilled about the addition of their deep expertise in the automotive space rounding out our current practice areas of consumer products and manufacturing, distribution and logistics nicely,” continues Hagaman. “It’s an exciting and interesting industry we are looking forward to servicing at a broader level.” “We

are thrilled about joining forces with WithumSmith+ Brown,” says Boland. “The firm’s depth and breadth of resources will be invaluable to us in serving existing clients and industries. Both firms share a commitment to personalized client service, the highest level of integrity, and nurturing uniquely innovative cultures, creating a natural fit between the two organizations.” Mironov’s Edison office will remain at its current location through the end of the 2016 tax season, but will then relocate in May 2016 to the existing Withum office at 1 Spring Street, New Brunswick. Their Blue Bell, Pa, office will remain at its current location. For more information, visit www.withum.com.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital recently unveiled its new, expanded Cardiac Rehabilitation Center on Ethel Road in Edison. The center offers expert, advanced care and medically supervised programs for patients who are recovering from a heart attack, stent or angioplasty procedures as well those diagnosed with chronic heart failure. The center also offers cardiac rehabilitation services for individuals who have had coronary bypass surgery, heart valve repair or replacement surgery, stable angina and heart transplant. Convenient parking is available. To schedule an appointment or for hours of operation, please call 732-590- 0688. To learn more about RWJUH, visit www.rwjuh.edu.

Small saying goodbye to Board of Ed to serve on Township Council

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

WOODBRIDGE — After nine years serving on the Board of Education, Brian Small is moving on.

Small was elected to the Township Council during the November election and will be sworn in on Jan. 1.

He is leaving his post on the Board of Education on Dec. 31. His term on the Board of Education ends in November 2016.

Small, at a board meeting on Dec. 17, said it was an honor and privilege to serve the residents of Woodbridge Township as a board member under a number of superintendents.

“I would especially like to thank Superintendent [Robert] Zega … thanks to your leadership our district is back to solid ground,” he said, adding that the success of the superintendent relies greatly on the central administration team.

Small thanked board members past and present.

“We faced a lot of tough issues and had to make some tough decisions for the good of the whole district, not just special interest groups,” he said.

Small said he is looking forward to working with the Township Council and Mayor John E. McCormac.

“The mayor and council are large advocates of the board and I look forward to strengthening the relationship,” he said.

Board President John Golden said Small asked him to run for a board seat with him five years ago.

“I was very honored to be your running mate … you taught me a lot,” he said. “You are going to be sorely missed. Our loss is definitely the township’s gain.”

Board member Eileen Zullo thanked Small for thinking of her when a seat on the board became vacant.

“Because of your support, I find myself in this seat,” she said.

Board member Ezio Tamburello said they are all better board members because of Small and said he was a tireless advocate for the Woodbridge Township School District.

Board member Brian Molnar echoed the sentiments of other board members and said Small was instrumental in implementing a security plan for the district.

Board member Jonathan Triebwasser thanked Small for his honesty and integrity and Board member Frank DellaPietro III said there was no doubt Small would make an excellent councilman.

Zega thanked Small for his support and wished Small the best of luck.

Brian Geoffroy, president of the Woodbridge Township Education Association, thanked Small for his dedication and service over the past nine years.

“We faced many difficult situations,” he said. “The nature of our positions, it is easy to become adversarial … thanks to the leadership of Small, we had mutual respect [for one another] and the district was much better off for that.”

Over the years, Small served as board president and served as chairman to many committees. This year, he chaired the Personnel & Grievance Committee, the Ad Hoc Committee, Athletics & Extracurricular Committee, Building & Grounds Committee, and Security & School Safety Committee.

Buying a condo not the same as buying a home

Stringent lending policies and the escalating costs of home ownership have led many prospective home buyers to consider condominiums instead of single-family homes. Condos are typically less expensive than single-family homes, which makes lenders and borrowers alike feel more comfortable. Lenders feel better because the loans aren’t as large, while borrowers are more comfortable because such loans allow them to improve their standing with lenders, potentially setting the table for a low-interest home loan down the road.

But the differences between buying a condo and buying a single-family home go beyond the bottom line. The following are a few things prospective buyers should know about condos before they view any properties.

 Condos come with fees. Unlike single family homes, condos come with homeowners association fees. These fees cover the cost of maintenance and repairs to the property. This includes landscaping and garbage collection, as well as general repairs throughout the condominium complex. Fees vary significantly from community to community, and the best deal is not always the one with the lowest homeowners association fees. Low fees tend to provide less bang for the buck, generally covering only the most basic services. Higher fees often mean the community offers more amenities, such as a private pool and gym for residents. Some people prefer such amenities, while others would rather find better deals on their own. But prospective condo buyers must include fees in their monthly budgets when determining how much they can afford to spend.

 Condos come with rules. Owners of single-family homes can create their own rules for their households, while condo owners must agree to follow rules established by the homeowners association or the property management firm responsible for maintaining the community and enforcing the rules. Rules may not allow pets or only allow pets of a certain size. Other rules may restrict how owners can decorate their condos during the holiday season or how they can furnish the exterior of their properties, limiting patio furniture to a set number of chairs or tables. Some condo owners are glad such rules are in place, while others might find such stipulations intrusive. Each community has different rules, and prospective buyers should familiarize themselves with a community’s rules before buying any properties within that community.

 Condos often have management firms. Property management firms can be great to deal with, but they can be troublesome as well. A good property management firm produces satisfied community members who speak glowingly of their communities, while a poorly run management firm can frustrate homeowners who feel they are not getting what they’re paying for. Some property management firms fail to collect homeowners association fees for months at a time, only to send letters demanding back dues down the road. Others simply don’t live up to expectations, failing to make repairs in a timely manner while letting the property fall into disrepair. If possible, speak to current community residents about how the property is managed. If residents are not available, potential buyers should attempt to attend a homeowners association meeting, which can shed light on what it’s like to live within a given community and how accessible the management firm is to community members and how well it tends to those members’ needs.

 Condos are not as private as singlefamily homes. Much like apartment dwellers, condo owners often share walls with neighbors. That means condo owners will have to sacrifice some privacy. Prospective buyers who consider privacy a top priority may want to continue living in an apartment until they can afford to buy a single-family home. Though condo owners rarely have someone living above or below them, sharing walls with neighbors is still not as private as owning a singlefamily home.

Condominiums are great options for people who want to own their homes but don’t have enough money or credit history to buy a single-family home. But buyers must educate themselves about condominium life before signing on the dotted line.

TAKING AGENTS’ WORDS

One might think that tech-savvy buyers solely rely on the Internet for their home-buying needs. After all, the keyboard offers an easy way of locating and viewing homes for sale. As it turns out, however, there is no substitute for the real thing. According to a recent report, even though more consumers conduct their home searches online, they are also increasingly relying on the expertise and knowledge of real estate agents. While the report indicates that four in ten buyers looked for properties online as a first step in the home-buying process (up from 36% in 2010), 88% of buyers in 2014 purchased their homes with assistance from a real estate agent (up from 83% in 2010). Why not benefit from the knowledge and experience of a seasoned real estate agent? Helping you to achieve your real estate goals in my #1 priority. Contact me today to arrange an initial meeting at my office, conveniently located at 1199 Amboy Ave., Edison. I am here for you. HINT: The report mentioned above ranks “finding the right property” as the most difficult step in the homebuying process.

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.

Automakers accelerating on auto-braking

Your next car could apply the brakes on its own to help avoid a collision

By Jim Gorzelany CTW Features

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.

© CTW Features

Coldwell Banker reports ranks most expensive, most affordable markets in New Jersey

Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC has released its 2015 Home Listing Report (HLR), which ranks the affordability of 188 real estate markets in New Jersey. The Coldwell Banker HLR named Chatham Township the most expensive market in New Jersey, with an average listing price of $882,260, while Willingboro ranked as the most affordable market in the state, with an average listing price of $134,853. The annual report is the most extensive home price comparison tool currently available in the United States, ranking the average listing price of four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in more than 2,700

markets. While other affordability reports provide average or median prices for all homes in a given area, the Coldwell Banker HLR analyzes more than 81,000 four-bedroom, two-bathroom home listings to better address how much a home in one market would cost if the same home were located somewhere else in the country. “The Coldwell Banker Home Listing Report illustrates the wide variety of housing options available in New Jersey. Whether you want to live on the outskirts of Manhattan, in the scenic Appalachian and Highlands regions, or along the beautiful New Jersey shoreline, this state offers

just about any lifestyle you desire. The HLR is an excellent resource for potential home buyers who want to compare home prices in New Jersey and across the United States,” said Hal Maxwell, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y. The Top 10 Most Expensive Real Estate Markets in N.J. by Average Listing Price 1. Chatham Township, $882,260 2. Madison Borough, $847,494 3. Bernards Township, $816,920 4. Westfield Town/Westfield, $788,976

5. New Providence Borough, $727,242 6. Glen Rock, $725,162 7. Holmdel, $712,088 8. Princeton Junction/West Windsor, $711,442 9. Englewood/Englewood Cliffs, $705,375 10. Ridgewood, $682,495

The Top 10 Most Affordable Real Estate Markets in N.J. 1. Willingboro, $134,853 2. East Orange, $150,107 3. Newark, $159,448 4. Bridgeton, $162,310 5. Roselle, $182,229

6. Atco, $182,369 7. Woodbury/Woodbury Heights, $185,120 8. Paterson, $190,622 9. Clayton, $200,100 10. Millville, $200,865 According to the HLR, half of the top 100 most expensive markets in the United States are in California; Newport Beach topped the list with an average listing price of $2,291,764 for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home. In contrast, Cleveland ranked as the most affordable market in the Unites States for the third consecutive year, with an average listing price of $74,502 for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home. There is a difference of $2.2

million between the nation’s most affordable and most expensive average listing price, according to the HLR. Full data for the United States, including affordability rankings of local markets in New Jersey, is available on the Coldwell Banker Home Listing Report website at hlr.coldwellbanker.com. About the 2015 U.S. Home Listing Report (Methodology): The Coldwell Banker U.S. Home Listing Report analyzes the average listing price of four-bedroom, two-bathroom real estate properties on coldwellbanker.com between December 2014 and June 2015 for 81,417 listings in 2,722 markets. The Coldwell Banker franchised affiliates, as

well as other franchise brands associated with Realogy Holdings Corp, contribute to listings on coldwellbanker.com. Markets without at least 10 four-bedroom, twobathroom listings on coldwellbanker.com between December 2014 and June 2015 were excluded from the ranking. About Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y.: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey and Rockland County, N.Y., a leading residential real estate brokerage company, operates approximately 50 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/t ri-states for more information.

NEW CHANGES FOR CLOSINGS

In the wake of the real estate bubble that saw consumers subjected to a number of unethical practices, changes have been instituted to the closing process that are designed to provide home buyers with more protections. Now, the loan disclosure documents combine the information required in the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Under the new rule change, known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) regulation, consumers must be given the new combined Loan Estimate (LE) with all the charges, fees, and line items three days before the closing. Instead of getting the HUD-1 form (which will disappear) at the closing, consumers now have three days to review the closing disclosure before signing.

I hope you found this real estate topic to be both interesting and informative. Reviewing the paperwork involved in a real estate transaction can seem overwhelming to many. I am here to walk you through the transaction, step by step. I have a successful history of assisting buyers and sellers in your community. Contact me today. The office is conveniently located at 1199 Amboy Ave., Edison. Learn how I earned a superior reputation.

HINT: The new rule changes mentioned above provide home buyers with time to consult with their lawyers, agents, and financial advisers about the terms of their mortgage.

REAL ESTATE BRIEFS

Jack Waters, regional vice president of Weichert, Realtors, announced that the Old Bridge office was recognized for outstanding performance in November. The office led the region, which is comprised of locations throughout Middlesex County, in new home dollar volume, resale listings, resale revenue units and resale dollar volume. Additionally, sales associates John Horvath and Ranbir Singh of the Old Bridge office were recognized for their exceptional industry success. As top producers in November, Horvath led the region in resale revenue units and resale dollar volume, while Singh was recognized for new home dollar volume. They can be reached at Weichert’s Old Bridge office at 1394 Route 9 south, or call 732- 525-1550 for more information.

Jack Waters, regional vice president of Weichert, Realtors, announced that the Edison office was recognized for outstanding performance in November. The office led the region, which is comprised of locations throughout Middlesex County, for resales. In addition, sales associate Francis “Frank” Connor of the Edison office was recognized for his exceptional industry success. Connor led the region for resales in the month of November. He can be reached in Weichert’s Edison office at 123 Lincoln Highway, or call 732-494- 6800 for more information.

Jack Waters, regional vice president of Weichert, Realtors, announced that sales associate Donna Warters of the East Brunswick office was recognized for her exceptional success during the month of November. Warters led the region, which is comprised of offices throughout Middlesex County, for resale listings. She can be reached in Weichert’s East Brunswick office at 431 Route 18 south, or call 732- 254-1700 for more information.

Most and least driver-friendly states

By Jim Gorzelany CTW Features

Some states treat its motorists better than others in terms of ownership costs, commute times and other factors

T hough much of America is more or less homogenous, some states are inherently more hospitable to motorists than others. Ownership costs, including gas prices, insurance premiums and repair costs vary from one part of the country to another, and some states manage to register higher or lower fatal crash and car theft rates, put motorists through longer or shorter average commuting times.

According to a just-released report issued by Bankrate.com in New York City, idyllic Idaho is the country’s most amenable state for drivers, boasting cheap gas and insurance costs, short commute times and low theft rates. On the other hand, the worst state in which to own an automobile is otherwise lovely Louisiana, where motorists pay the highest insurance premiums in the country and are statistically more likely than the norm to be involved in fatal crashes.

A lot of this, it seems, has to do with how densely or sparsely populated an area is, especially with regard to insurance costs, traffic fatalities, car thefts and so on that are most associated with large urban areas.

“Population density has a big effect on these rankings,” says Chris Kahn, Bankrate.com’s research and statistics analyst. “The best states for drivers have lots of open spaces, whereas the worst states tend to have people and cars — a bad combination for drivers’ wallets.”

Here’s Bankrate.com’s list of the 10 best states for drivers and reasons why they’re so motorist friendly:

1. Idaho: Low gas and insurance expenses, below-average thefts and short commute times.

2. Vermont: Lowest car theft rates in nation, low insurance and repair costs, low fatality rate, short commute times.

3. Wyoming: Lowest repair costs and shortest commute times in nation, lower than average theft rates.

4. Wisconsin: Low repair and insurance costs, low theft and fatal crash rates and short commute times.

5. Minnesota: Low repair, fuel and insurance costs, low theft rates and short commute times.

6. Maine: Low repair and insurance costs, low theft and fatal crash rates.

7. Iowa: Low repair costs and short commute times.

8. Nebraska: Low repair costs and commute times.

9. South Dakota: Low car-theft rates and insurance premiums, short commute.

10. New Hampshire: Low car thefts and fatal crashes, lower than average fuel, insurance and repair costs.

And the 10 worst states for drivers cited in Bankrate.com’s report are:

1. Louisiana: The nation’s highest car insurance costs and an above-average fatal crash rate.

2. California: Highest car-theft rate in the nation, plus high repair costs and long commute times.

3. Texas: High repair, fuel and insurance costs, high theft rates and the highest traffic fatality rate in the nation.

4. Maryland: The longest commutes in the nation, with high insurance rates, fuel and repair costs and high theft rates.

5. New Jersey: High repair costs and insurance rates and long commute times.

6. Delaware: High repair costs and insurance rates and long commute times.

7. Georgia: Long commute times, high theft rates and expensive repair costs.

8. New York: High fuel, insurance and repair costs and long commute times.

9. Hawaii: High fuel costs, car theft rates and insurance premiums.

10. Washington: High car theft rates, and fuel/repair costs.

Repair costs were attributed to CarMD.com, gas spending was calculated with statistics from the Bureau of Transportation and the Oil Price Information Service and insurance costs were compiled from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Theft statistics came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and fatal crash rates were from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Commute times were determined from the U.S. Census. Bankrate.com analyzed the statistics and built a standardized ranking that gave each category equal weight.

© CTW Features