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Monthly Archives: March 2013

New State Car Title Tax Law

There are a few changes coming your way March 1st when the state’s new title tax law rolls out.

If you own a car in Georgia right now, you pay an annual excise tax on your vehicle tags that comes due once a year on your birthday.

They call it the “birthday tax.”

Come March 1st, that will start to change.

The new tag law allows car owners who bought or are buying a vehicle between Jan 1st 2012 and March 1st 2013 a choice to opt in to the one-time title tax.

“It’s only if you’re purchasing a vehicle you’re going to be paying this fee,” says Houston County Tax Commissioner Mark Kushinka.

People who bought a car after March 1st will now pay a one-time tax.

But this doesn’t mean the birthday tax is disappearing altogether.

“If you have a vehicle that you’ve had for years and are paying a birthday tax, you will continue paying that birthday tax until you get rid of that vehicle,” he says.

In 2013, car owners who choose the one-time tax will pay 6.5 percent of the vehicle’s market value.

For example, that would be $650 on a $10,000 vehicle.

You might be saving money depending on the car you have and when you buy it.

 

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Four Tips to Save on Your Cable

Tip #1: Shop Around and Switch Providers

Before you get into shopping mode, you should first consider your budget and the services/channels you want.  From there, check out Consumer Reports, the product testing organization with print and online publications, to assess the different services that providers offer.

Once you’ve done your research, you could then make a more informed decision about which cable provider has the best overall deal. You should also check with friends to see what they think of their current provider.

At this point, if another provider appears to be a better match for you based on factors such as price, performance, and customer satisfaction, it might be time for you to make a switch. You’ll also want to keep in mind that certain providers don’t offer coverage in select areas, so make sure to look into that too.

Tip #2: Bundle Cable with other Digital Services

Digital “bundles” often combine a variety of telecommunications services – including TV, Internet, and local and long-distance telephone service.

The benefits of bundling services include:

  • Convenience of dealing with a single provider
  • Receiving a  discounted price for using additional services
  • Receiving a single bill instead of separate bills for individual services

However, bundling isn’t an automatic solution to saving money on your cable TV bill.  You have to do the math and really figure it out.  Don’t go into bundling blindly.

Tip #3: Inquire about Discounts and Promotions

Cable TV services typically require some sort of contract that makes you commit to a subscription rate for a year.  But once this honeymoon period ends you should contact your service provider to inquire about possible discounts and promotions.

Discounts and promotions often come to an end, so you’ll want to consider the following factors when inquiring about discounts:

  • Make yourself aware when any promotion ends, how much the price will increase, and whether the promotion locks you into a contract.
  • Make sure you understand the ‘fine print’ of your service plan, as early cancellation fees could be expensive – even if you are paying a discounted rate.
  • Never ignore those change-of-terms notices you receive

Remember, not all discounts are created equal. Really take some time to shop around and compare offers from different cable providers.

Tip #4: Cut back on Premium Channels

If you decide that the premium channels are just playing the same thing over and over again, maybe it’s not worth the $10 or $15 a month you pay for them.

If you’re worried that you might miss out on something by not having a particular premium offering, you might want to track your viewing habits for a period of time to see how many hours you are really spending with a particular channel. If the number is high, you’ll at least know your money is being well spent. If the number is low, it may be time to ax certain channels from your subscription list.

 

HOA

Avoid a HOA Nightmare

Here are three things potential condo buyers should do with those documents:

1. Read the past year’s meeting minutes

Above all, read the minutes of the HOA monthly or quarterly board meetings. You can learn a lot about the HOA’s inner workings, such as the politics and how enforceable its rules are. You’ll get a sense of how the HOA works, who’s on the board and how flexible or difficult they are to deal with.

The most obvious red flag is any discussion in the minutes of an upcoming assessment or any major project (painting, roof repair, boiler replacement). These conversations generally happen months or years before the work (and assessment) is enacted. Other potential red flags would be documented conflict between homeowners and board members.

2. Review the house rules and regulations

Nearly every HOA has its house rules and regulations. In a suburban subdivision, typical rules would include restrictions on how your home looks from the street (no pink houses on Elm Street). In a condo building, restrictions often cover noise, such as no loud music or noise between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., or that 85 percent of your hardwood floors must be covered by area rugs in living, dining and bedroom areas.

While there are generally accepted common rules, from time to time more excessive ones stand out that may not sit well with a potential buyer. Some examples include no RVs in the driveway or the required removal of Christmas lights by Jan. 15. A buyer’s response to such rules is subjective. But it’s better to know the type of HOA you’re buying into before you sign the final paperwork.

 3. Review the financials

Be on the lookout for HOAs that can barely cover their monthly expenses. Since the housing crisis began, many HOAs have been forced to foreclose on homeowners who are behind on their HOA dues. If you have a third of homeowners not paying, that affects everyone, as the money needs to be made up somewhere.

Another red flag is the lack of a reserve fund. If the HOA only has $5,000 in reserves, and there’s mention in the meeting minutes of a major sidewalk replacement, you should assume that funding for the project will come from a one-time “special assessment” levied on the homeowners. Don’t want to be stuck with a $10,000 mandatory assessment six months after you move in? You may want to reconsider this property.

 Advice to sellers

If you live in an HOA community that has some issues, be sure to disclose them upfront. It’s not much different from disclosing the leaky window or recent crime in the home. You don’t want to create a giant red flag for potential buyers, of course. But if they find out about something major after the fact, it could come back to haunt you. Work with your real estate agent and strategize about some of the best ways to make the HOA documents or disclosure information available to buyers during escrow.

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