Entries Tagged as 'Local'

Ten Tips to Refinancing in North Carolina

low rates

I have to say that refinancing in North Carolina isn’t fun, nor is it a ball of awesome. I mean, in all honesty, we had to do all of the research ourselves because frankly no one wanted to tell you about the fees and hidden costs that you’ll probably pay if you don’t be careful. Here’s a few things to keep in mind of to take out of the closing costs of a refinance.

  1. Mortgage Insurance. You only need this if you’re getting a second mortgage and if you don’t have home owner’s insurance. This stuff stings because you have to remember to cancel it even if you’re done with the second mortgage. If you don’t need this, get rid of it.
  2. In North Carolina, there is a origination fee. This is usually 1% of whatever your loan is although there could be a little extra called an “underwriting” fee. This is normal, but it’s also pure profit for creating the loan for you. In other states, this actually goes away these days, especially on jumbo loans, but in this state, it does not (at least not to my knowledge).
  3. Put everything in writing. If they’re going to waive something, that should go into the good faith estimate. Also, from experience, attorneys fees range somewhere around $500USD mark.
  4. Title insurance is a re-issue of your previous title. Don’t buy a new one since that’s a waste of money. Titles are the same everywhere nationally and it usually costs you something like $2 per $1000 on loan. This is for the lender so if they’re trying to get you for a lot more, get your own title from any title insurance company. You could try Chicago Title Insurance Company, whom is one of the major three vendors nationally.
  5. Don’t get suckered into a prepayment penalty loan. These loans will basically mean that you have to pay the entire interest amount off regardless of how early you pay off your debt. You don’t want a penalty for prepayment which basically means that the moment you pay off your principal, you’re home free for interest payments.
  6. Did you know that you can get waivers for appraisal fees and such? This all depends on how much you’re shopping out your loan and how large it is. The more money that’s at stake, the more there are negotiations on closing costs. Everything is up for grabs since the banks want to do the loan, especially if you have a spectacular FICO score.
  7. Don’t roll your closing costs into the loan. That’s plain silly. It might seem like you’re not paying a dime, but in reality, you’re not only borrowing the money of the closing cost, but you’re also paying interest on it. More payment to seem hassle free? I don’t think so.
  8. Home owner’s insurance. You shouldn’t have to pay this if you already have a home owner’s policy. I don’t know for sure on this, but I’m pretty sure it can be thrown out of the closing costs.
  9. Regardless of whether or not your house is in a flood plain, you have to pay for the flood certification. Runs somewhere around $15-25 depending on the home.
  10. If you don’t know how much your house is worth before you start down this path for refinance, check a real estate site like ZIllow. While this isn’t an exact science and there’s not guarantee that the appraiser will value your house close to this price, it’s a number to work with and it seems that banks also use sites like these for their beginning estimations. This will give you an idea on whether or not it’s even worth pursuing the refinance in the first place. On top of this… sometimes it’s not worth getting into a refinance situation if you’ve already paid off a significant chunk of your principal since regardless of the rate, you’re basically getting into another loan from the beginning. The money spent and time has to be accounted for in a refinance.

In the real estate industry, many of these fees are termed as “junk fees”. They’re basically fees that are tagged onto loans to make it seem legitimate but are actual pure profit for the loan generation. Think of it like the certain types of regulatory fees that you sometimes see on utilities or cell phone bills where it’s not tied to any actual law but is made to sound official so that they can collect a little bit more money.

What’s interesting here is that a lot of people lower their rates without understanding what sort of savings you’ll need to save. If the closing fees are $3600, and you’re saving $100/month in mortgage payments by lowering the rate, then this means that each year, you’ll be saving $1200. This means that just to break even on getting the lower rate, you’ll have to hold onto that home for another three years. Is that in your plan? Perhaps. But you need to figure all of this out and believe me when I say that most real estate people that are involved in your loan will probably not go out of their way to tell you about those types of things. In their best interest of course.

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Amazon Tax Not Doing Anything for North Carolina

North Carolina State Capitol.
Image via Wikipedia

Apparently, the online tax for North Carolina hasn’t been bringing in the money that it was supposed to and the thinktank, Tax Foundation, has published a report that says that not only does it hurt the state in the short term, but it also hurts the state in the long term too.

Noooo kidddding.

Amusingly, this is basically the “I told you so” parts where the legislation made decisions on things they knew nothing about and spent budget money that they didn’t have. Again. Nothing new here, folks. Politicians that don’t understand technology and business? Like we’ve never heard that one before.

Interestingly enough, although to no avail, I had spoken about this issue time and again during the time when the “Amazon Tax” during the time period when it was passed and how our legislation thought how wonder it would be to gain some figure in the sky millions in some sort of pot of gold wish.

I mean, seriously. They still continued to budget and spend for this year as if there is this money coming in although there is nary a word from the North Carolina Department of Revenue on whether or not there actually is significant tax revenues coming in due to this tax. I suspect that there is little to nothing, considering they had targeted Amazon, and Amazon cut their ties with North Carolina affiliates and hurt the state in the process. Amusingly, the bad guy that Amazon was made out to be wasn’t so bad and in the end the politicians seemed to have stuck their own foots in their mouth if this study from Tax Foundation has anything to say about it.

From my perspective? Well, one of my businesses just didn’t carry as much revenue this year. Instead of having to pay taxes on the income, it seemed that it was more of a write off this last year. Oh well. Tough cookies for the North Carolina bare coffers.

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Getting Googley Eyes for Google

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m really disappointed. So far, I’ve been tracking the entire deal for all sorts of cities on and off for the past week on “Google’s Infrastructure for Communities” venture. Amusingly, I had actually applied for the city of Winston-Salem long before Greensboro even knew about this venture. And with all of the cities, including Greensboro, no one has once bothered to mention that this product is specifically last mile driven. It’s to the homes of consumers. That’s right, it’s basically the same as Wilson’s Greenlight project.

FTTH – (fiber to the home).

It’s documented right there in the RFI, but everyone is trying this gimmick and that gimmick to try to get Google to come. Why not analyze what their business model has been and will continue to be? Why not actually look and see whether or not they have actually purchased dark fiber around your area? That’s information that is vital and crucial to your cause. Those that have dark fiber that has been purchased close to your locale will probably stand a better chance of becoming the venture’s pet project.

What journalists need to focus on, is not whether or not businesses or research institutions have access to high speed Internet. That’s just entirely irrelevant. So what if Google puts in FTTH. That would not effect a school, nor a law firm, or even a medical facility. What people need to find out is what sort of applications could be coming across a high speed connection to your home. Would you discontinue your cable service? Would you go with fiber based HDTV? What if Google was your provider and controlled the line and access points? Why would this be good for what they do?

I think there are many people that are not asking the right questions. Google doesn’t ever do anything for free (yes, Google does mine your Gmail. It’s in your terms of service). And it’s not like the Dell fiasco with the manufacturing plant since any job creation would be very much infrastructure related. Would your city become an instant techburg? Of course. But at what price, and do you have what it takes to do this?

Personally? I think they’re after the television content. Youtube is perhaps only the first step in the long line of things, but having been a shareholder and analyzed their corporation for a number of years, I can say that I can see many ways that they could monetize the information gathered by using similar techniques as their current search but applied in the high-definition medium.

Google is a great company and I would love for them to become a major corporate player in the Triad. But so far, what I’ve seen has been more of the whole … who can throw the biggest party and have the best food for when Google comes. Sorry, Topeka. Just. Not. Impressed. And that just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes right down to it.

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Rock the Block 2009

rocktheblock2009

Don’t have anything to do after 6:00PM this Friday? Go check out Rock the Block. There will be live music, food, and vendors up and down 4th Street in Downtown Winston-Salem. I went last year and I have to say that it’s was definitely an enjoyable evening although I might not brave the crowds this year if it rains. We’ll see.

How North Carolina Will Go Broke By Stupid Tax Laws

Raleigh NC Tax Day Tea Party Protest
Image by Ivy Dawned via Flickr

I really don’t understand North Carolina state. At all.

The entire legislation is made up of some people that have no idea about technology or how it works. The fact that the final tax bill going to the floor has the “Amazon tax” tells me that not a single one of the incumbents that have pushed this or voted this in is either in the twenty first century, nor know a thing about business law. Mainly, the idea that affiliates are the physical presence for a major online retailer is so ludicrous that it’s laughable by anyone that has done consulting work. I’ll give you an example in the consultation analogy:

According to North Carolina state legislation, if I am an out-of-state corporation, but I have sub-contractors that I have agreements to do work with me, then I am to be taxed as if I operated my business in North Carolina.

Sound good to you? Well, that’s the same agreement that affiliates have with any sort of online retailer that pays them to sell advertisement. I also will be curious as far as when others such as the newspapers (News & Record, Business Journal), magazines, online radio stations, and so on feel this bite since I have heard nary a word from them even though they will technically be hurt by this. I’m surprised that actually no one has even thrown a red flag out there. Oh well, time to bite the bullet with stupid taxing that won’t bring in any money.

Here’s why it’s a stupid idea and totally the wrong way to go about taxing Internet purchases. If you want to chase Internet purchasing taxation, you’ll have to do some sort of an agreement through a payment service. Going after affiliates just allows the retailer to continue with their business and cut their ties to the affiliates (aka small business that do pay local taxes). What you miss out on is all of the taxation that the small businesses were putting into your coffers, and on top of it, you’re not making anything from the online retailer(s). This is expected to $150 million in the next two years?

Who the hell are they joking? With the way it’s written and the ties cut from affiliates, the State will be in the hole more than $150 million. Mainly with all the retailers refusing to pay and cutting their ties, and indirectly jeopardizing any real tax money that would have come into play. I can tell you that one of my businesses will be hurt by this and unfortunately for the state, unless something changes this company will probably be in the red instead of black this year and thus won’t be giving up anything to state coffers. Sucks to be you, eh?

If you want to tax internet retail, you have to move from smaller battles to the bigger picture. But if you can’t understand how to walk, I’m not exactly sure when you’ll achieve dreams of running a marathon.

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Why We Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Someone Else’s Beach House

Beach House
Image by kcolwell via Flickr

So apparently insurance providers have been bailing on North Carolina because insuring coastal homes gets expensive and so businesses and homes participate in a state plan called the Beach Plan. Apparently though, if the plan’s money runs out then insurance companies are forced to pay a percentage of the losses due to how much business they do in the state. Which in turn raises your insurance premiums regardless of if you have a beach house or not.

And guess what? We didn’t even know about this insanely stupid plan. The fact that it even was created sounded like it was by those with actual beach homes rather than the living with the rest of the state inland. In any case, this was only brought to our attention because our homeowner’s insurer basically sent us a polite letter to support HB-1305, and to go look at Fix the Beach Plan.

What’s scary is the fact that while there is a push to get the fixes on this Beach Plan, there are insurers that are leaving this state regardless of the outcome. In fact, when I asked my trusty pal from the News & Record about it, he sent me to an article he wrote earlier on the very subject. And there it was, where a couple of insurers had already pulled out of the running.

There has been a lot of back and forth about who’s paying for whom as far as Beach Plan insured versus private insurers. But from my perspective, I don’t think we should be paying any more if we live in the middle of the state if the coast does get hit by a natural disaster. Amusingly many people claim that those inland are buying into the insurance rhetoric and such. But here’s some food for thought. If insurance companies were apparently taking a share of the pie when there wasn’t any disasters, then why would some of them back out completely and not do business in the state at all? Wouldn’t that mean that they wouldn’t get a cut then?

Of course, in the end, it really comes down to the fact that I don’t want to be paying for someone else’s beach house. Ever.

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North Carolina Still Working On Unconstitutional Digital Tax

associates-logo-small._V265885005_ North Carolina is still pushing that digital tax.

But fortunately, there is another win for Amazon, and another state that doesn’t have legislators that have never fought for small businesses or know how Internet businesses work. Apparently the governor of the State of Hawaii has vetoed HB 1405 and the time has passed for the overturning to occur. So Amazon is re-inviting those affiliates back from that state.

Will North Carolina also break free from those luddites that know no bounds to how much they hurt small business? Perhaps. My guess is that we’re actually not reaching through the thick skulls of the state legislation but I could be entirely wrong. So far, I must say that as an independent voter and business owner, I haven’t been impressed with either the state legislation or our governor in several decisions that are NOT in the best interest in the constituents. Perhaps they will surprise me yet and overturn this one. Call me crazy but I actually like to pay income taxes if they didn’t take a portion of the income from my business.

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Chasing Vertical Markets

vertical_markets Interestingly enough, I keep reading about biotechnology in the Business Journal and I’m failing to understand it. It seems that with every popular business trend, the business community in the Triad seems to follow and jive with it without actually wondering about the problems that occur currently and the time for a new industry to take hold.

Everyone understands that money is the number one factor in any sort of industry. To gain traction, you must invest major funds to get anywhere. But if someone else invests more than you, then they probably have an advantage. This is the same with biotechnology. In competing with national business centers with major urban populations, it’s difficult to understand how we’ll ever be on the forefront of biotech. Let me put it this way. Even smaller towns in South Carolina have biotech industrial parks. Don’t ask me why, since I don’t know what the deal is with that one.

Instead, there are plenty of industries leaving the Triad. I got word from a friend recently that in about six months, there will be a headquarter change for a company that has been in the Triad for a long time. No one knows how many jobs are effected, but I can tell you that it’s not going to be pretty when the news comes out. What’s interesting is that there are actual technology (database, programming, etc.) jobs on the line here and I have yet to see any sort of replacement area for these individuals. What next? Where are the technology jobs?

As people are displaced towards larger business centers and our community leadership is blinded by the fact that there are jobs on the line where there are skilled and educated needed, I cannot help but wonder why there hasn’t been any money thrown at technology businesses. When push comes to shove, everyone struggles in a market where you fight to be number one in an industry. But just as a business must segment their target market, a community needs to segment what they target in industry to help revitalize the job arena.

Thus, I propose vertical markets. Why not pick several niche areas and formulate vertical markets within these niche areas? There might be a horizontal market such as biotechnology, but what about being the best at grid software for biotech firms? Or the manufacturing of artificial skin? Perhaps we could even be a leader in small business applications such as online accounting? Either way, I find that the entire push for industry seems rather lost in the noise and we haven’t yet found our pulse to keep the business community going.

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Dear Winston Salem Drivers Downtown…

Pedestrian crossing sign on Queens Boulevard i...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m not sure where you people learn to drive, but sometimes I hope that your license gets revoked before you hurt someone.

When the light is green, you have to YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS.

When it is red you have to YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS.

Even when it is yellow, you still have to YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS.

This rule doesn’t change if you’re turning right either and am in a hurry. Pedestrians have right-of-way at a cross walk. All the time. Don’t believe me?

NCDOT rules state:

In North Carolina pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and driveways but must yield to motorists when crossing at any place other than a marked crosswalk.

Go figure. A human body can’t take on half ton of fiberglass? How did anyone ever figure that out. So, quit driving like absolute frackin’ idiots because even as an accident, if someone gets hurt or killed, your life as you know it will either end up in a very big legal proceeding or worse, prison. And who would want that?

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Winston-Salem’s Wrong Assumptions About Their New Stadium

New Ballpark #12
Image by Mr. Jincks via Flickr

Interestingly enough, I have recently just became a resident of Winston-Salem. And for the last however many years I’ve been here, I’ve been a resident of Greensboro. Well, it seems that to justify the new baseball stadium for the Winston-Salem Dash, they’ve used the Grasshopper Stadium as an anchor point even though there are some significant flaws in the argument.

Here are my thoughts on it based off of some of the things that were said on The Business Report off WFDD:

  • Grasshopper Stadium has done well for Greensboro. I agree here, but you have to also realize that UNC-Greensboro, Greensboro College, A&T and I might be missing some others, all converge on downtown Greensboro. The fact is that you have several major schools with students looking for things to do, and within walking distance. I will go as far as to say that some of the students at these respective schools only go to the games on Thirsty Thursdays because of… well, you don’t need me to explain it but it’s not because of baseball.

    I’ll also go as far as to say that the look-and-feel of the two downtowns are extremely different. Greensboro has Center City Park, which is another privately owned venture and other sorts of things that have the entertainment seekers running around at night. I’ve never gotten the same feel for Winston-Salem’s downtown which is very much more business oriented and has that sort of look and feel. Greensboro has always felt like an infant San Francisco, while Winston-Salem was an infant Chicago. Two very distinct paths which cannot be thrown into the same basket because the population size is somewhat similar.

  • The money is similar for the same seating. Yet, a big difference is how it’s funded. Grasshopper Stadium was all private money. About fifteen million was from the Bryan Foundation and the rest was raised through private means. Winston-Salem’s funding is between the tax payers and Billy Prim’s financing. When you have skin in the game, it makes it a different scenario.
  • Greensboro backed the stadium. Somehow, I’d like to say that if Greensboro’s taxes were up for grabs for Grasshopper Stadium, we would have a different story here. Everyone is always happy to partake in the festivities that someone else’s coin pays for. But when your coin is paying for someone else’s fun? It’s not always a loving situation. Greensboro’s City Council knew that and stepped away from it right at the beginning. I’m not at liberty to speak of the actions by Winston-Salem’s Council since I don’t know the local politics here. Needless to say? Obviously there are a lot of grumblings.

I will say that a huge mistake by a lot of people is not only looking at the situation, but comparing stadiums of larger sizes to this one. With a AAA team, Grasshopper Stadium is actually the closest comparison in cost, physical location and size. But the one big part that’s missing are the points above. It’s like trying to compare people from LA to NYC. Two distinctly different cities, with different cultures, and trying to figure out why the Dodgers don’t play like the Yankees. Something is just a little bit off there.

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