School is Back in Session. Cobb Drivers Beware!

Drivers are warned to stop for school buses loading passengers as Cobb County schools start back on Monday.

As the new school year is set to begin, Cobb Police Department staff are conducting Operation Stop Arm and warning all drivers to respect school buses. Georgia has a School Bus Stop Law. All traffic in both directions must stop when school buses stop for passengers, except when there is a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation. In that case, only traffic following the bus must stop. On average, each school bus is illegally passed once every day and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 20 children under the age of 19 die every year as pedestrians getting on and off buses.

When an officer catches drivers violating this law, the penalties are a possible court appearance, an up to $1,000 fine, six points on driving record and a license suspension for convicted drivers under 21 years old. When a stop arm camera catches drivers, the penalties are a $300 fine for the first offense, $750 fine for the second offense and $1,000 fine for the third offense, within a five year period. For more information, visit operationstoparm.info.

 

5 Tips for Starting a Garden Plot

Do you love the taste of homegrown vegetables and herbs? Join the crowd.

Doug Jimerson, Better Homes and Gardens garden director, said growing fruits, veggies and herbs is something Americans are doing in record numbers this season. “Vegetable and herb gardening is easier than you think. If you plant at the right time, shape up your soil, weed, feed and water your plants responsibly, you’ll be successful,” said Joan Casanova, a spokeswoman for Bonnie Plants.

“It’s cheaper to grow your own produce than buy it,” Jimerson said in a news release, noting that one $3 tomato plant will yield pounds of produce all season long. Additionally, the produce you grow tastes better than what you buy at the grocery store, he said. And there are added benefits. “Gardening is rapidly gaining popularity as a great way to get some exercise, relieve stress and spend healthful family bonding time,” he said.

Casanova said to keep it simple if you’re just starting. “Planting a vegetable plot and keeping it productive isn’t that hard if you start small, keep the basics in mind and plant reliable varieties,” she said.

FIVE TIPS
1. Sunshine is sustenance. Vegetables need at least six hours of full sun per day. Check the last frost date in your region and wait until threat of frost is past before you begin planting.

2. No yard necessary. Gardening doesn’t require a lot of room. Many popular vegetables and herbs grow just fine in containers, making them a great option for those with limited space. For smaller yards, raised beds are an easy option. If your garden is going right into the ground, just turn the earth with a shovel, toss out roots and rocks, mix in a soil amendment for healthy soil, and plant.

3. Water relief. Water regularly, but avoid doing so during the heat of the day when evaporation will diminish the effectiveness of irrigation. Water to wet the soil about 8 inches deep, but don’t overwater.

4. Feed your food. All edible plants draw nutrients from the ground and can quickly exhaust the soil without the help of a fertilizer.

5. Pick your plants. Start with transplants — seedlings are easier to get growing than seeds. Some favorites to plant are tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, eggplant and mint.

For more gardening tips, visit www.bonnieplants.com.

 

Source URL: http://timesfreepress.com/news/2012/apr/07/5-tips-for-starting-a-garden-plot/

RealtyTrac: Foreclosure filings fall 3% in July, down 10% from a year ago

The nation’s declining foreclosure activity levels are attributed to a 21% year-over-year drop in bank repossessions and REOs, according to the Irvine, Calif.-based research firm. Still, RealtyTrac says 27 states saw starts increase year-over-year.

Foreclosure filings on U.S. properties declined 3% from June to July, with 191,925 properties facing a notice last month, RealtyTrac said Thursday.

Filings also declined 10% from year-ago levels. The falling foreclosure activity levels are attributed to a 21% year-over-year drop in bank repossessions and REOs, according to the Irvine, Calif.-based research firm.

Still, RealtyTrac says 27 states saw starts increase year-over-year. Starts went up the most in the judicial foreclosure states of Connecticut (201% increase); New Jersey (164% increase); Pennsylvania (139%); Indiana (83%); and Massachusetts (65%).

“U.S. foreclosure activity continued its uneven descent in July as the overall numbers declined on an annual basis for the 22nd straight month, but properties starting the foreclosure process increased on an annual basis for the third straight month,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

“Recent foreclosure activity patterns vary significantly from state to state, often hinging on the level of dysfunction that exists in each state’s foreclosure process. In states like Florida, Illinois and New Jersey, where processing and procedural issues slowed foreclosure activity to a crawl last year, foreclosure numbers continue to rebound off those artificially low levels.”

In nonjudicial foreclosure states such as Texas, Arizona and Virginia, the average foreclosure time is well below the national average of 378 days and foreclosure activity continues to fall.

Blomquist suggests recent legislation and court decisions could lengthen the foreclosure process in some of the states.

“Case in point is a new Oregon law that took effect in July and gives homeowners in default — or at risk of default — the right to request mediation to avoid foreclosure,” Blomquist said.

“Oregon foreclosure activity dropped 42% from June to July, hitting a five-year low, but we would expect the Oregon numbers to trend back higher sometime in the next several months based on the pattern we’ve seen in other states with similar legislation.”

 

Source URL (retrieved on Aug 9 2012 – 9:10am): http://www.housingwire.com/news/foreclosure-filings-fall-3-july

School is Back in Session!

The Greater Metro Atlanta area is home to thousands of elementary, middle and high schools. Most of these will open for the 2012 -2013 school year during the first two weeks of August. Cobb County students start back on Monday, August 13th.

As the summer break draws to a close, so do the days of cruising down many streets unimpeded by school buses during the daily commute. Add at least a 20 minute buffer to your 7 – 9 am commute to arrive on time and keep yourself and others safe.

Safe Kids USA offers the following Top Back to School Safety Tips:

Reminders for Drivers:

  • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and or curbs
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully
  • Watch for children on and near the road in the morning and after school hours
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Put down your phone and don’t talk or text while driving

Reminders for Kids:

  • Kids should cross the street with an adult until they are at least 10 years old
  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks
  • Never run out into the streets or cross in between parked cars
  • Make sure kids always walk in front of the bus where the driver can see them

Cooler Weather Is Just Around The Corner! If You Know Someone Who Can Benefit From This Information Or Our Real Estate Expertise, We Would Love To Help Them.

New Report Shows Confidence In Housing Market

If you are feeling more confident these days about the housing market, you are not alone. Our latest Prudential Real Estate Outlook Survey revealed that a growing number of Americans (72%) are confident that the real estate market and property values will improve within the next two years. Additionally, 96% of surveyed Americans at least “somewhat agreed” that now is a great time to buy a home.

Many Americans have a higher level of confidence in the housing market. Interest rates and home prices are low. Normalcy is returning to the U.S. real estate market and more people are buying homes for traditional reasons – to raise a family, feel secure and build a future. New and prospective homeowners (69%) concur that real estate is also a good investment.

Prudential Georgia Realty President & CEO Dan Forsman agrees: “The American Dream is clearly on the mend. Americans are feeling better about home ownership and the ongoing recovery taking place in residential real estate. Many are increasingly optimistic about their personal circumstances and home affordability is at an all-time high. Consumers see the opportunity and are taking advantage.”

For more information about the survey, please click Prudential 2012 Consumer Attitudes Survey Q2 Findings. Prudential Real Estate performs these surveys every quarter to better understand how consumers are feeling about the real estate market. Stay tuned for additional surveys that will be released later this year!

If you or someone you know is considering their options for real estate, we would be happy to help them make the most informed decision.

August Gardening Tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you believe August is here already? School is starting, cooler weather is (hopefully) just around the corner… but what about the garden? Don’t worry. We’ve got some great Georgia Gardening tips and advice from Walter Reeves, the most respected garden guru in the Southeast. They’re even broken down into weekly activities.

FIRST WEEK:
Water figs deeply now as they begin to ripen. Harvest every morning, before the birds can do their damage.

The soil in outdoor clay pots dries out quickly. Poke holes in it with a pencil to make sure water saturates the soil when you tend your plants.

If you’ve been troubled by “worms” in your pecans in years past, you have pecan weevils. Now is the time to start control.

The best way to control snakes is to remove their habitat. Move log piles, leaf piles and rock piles to the edge of your yard, away from the house.

Prune tropical hibiscus plants you plan to bring indoors. Reduce them to a size that will fit in front of your sunniest window in December.

Remove faded crape myrtle blooms and dry seed clusters now. With a little water and fertilizer, you may get more blooms in September.

SECOND WEEK:
Collect seeds from hosta, iris and blackberry lily to save for planting next spring.

To prevent ants from coming indoors, spread insecticide granules in a band 24 inches wide around the foundation of your house. Use ant bait traps near entrance doors.

Bermuda or zoysia grass encroaching in your fescue lawn? Spray it with glyphosate (Roundup) now and again in September before you plant fescue this fall.

If you had tremendous numbers of Japanese beetles, you might get some control next year by poisoning the grubs. Now is the best time to do it; remember to water heavily after the insecticide application.

Fertilize roses with 1 tablespoon of 10-10-10 per foot of height now to stimulate some new growth. As the weather cools, you’ll get roses for the fall.

THIRD WEEK:
Look on the ground around your blackberry and raspberry plants. The canes snaking across the ground should be tied back on their wire arbor.

How long has it been since your lawnmower blade was sharpened? It should be done once each summer to avoid shredding the grass instead of cutting it cleanly.

Cut back faded annual flowers by half, then water and lightly fertilize with liquid 20-20-20 or equivalent. A second season of blooms will begin to appear in two weeks.

Water big trees. Apply at least 15 gallons per inch of trunk thickness each week.

Plant fall blooming bulbs like colchicum, fall crocus and sternbergia.

FOURTH WEEK:
Watch for the red or yellow, spider-like flowers of spider lily, also called surprise lily – because the foliage is nowhere to be seen when it blooms.

Make a slug trap from a small board raised an inch off the ground by small stones. Check it at noon and scrape the slimy crawlers into a bucket of soapy water

Wrap cheesecloth around sunflower heads to keep the birds away. The head is ready to harvest when the back has turned from green to brown.

Pull English ivy out of your trees. The leaves act like a sail in a thunderstorm – you don’t want that tree to navigate onto your roof!

It’s easy to see the big webs of fall webworm in your trees. If you can reach it with a stick, wrap and destroy the webbing to expose worms to the elements.

For more information, visit http://www.walterreeves.com/seasonal-gardening-calendar/august/.

Pending Home Sales Slipped 1.4% in June

Pending home sales slipped 1.4% from May to June, but they are still 9.5% above year ago levels, the National Association of Realtors said in its latest Pending Home Sales Index.

The pending home sales index hit 99.3 in June, down from a revised 100.7 index score in May.

NAR’s pending home sales data reflects home sale contracts, not closings.

“Buyer interest remains strong but fewer home listings mean fewer contract signing opportunities,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “We’ve been seeing a steady decline in the level of housing inventory, which is most pronounced in the lower price ranges popular with first-time buyers and investors.”

Yun said inventory remains a concern and there’s a lack of balance between buyer traffic and seller interest. NAR’s seller index hit 41 in June, while the buyer traffic index stood at 60. An index score of 50 generally signifies neutral market conditions.

“Any bank-owned properties that have been held back in markets with inventory shortages should be released expeditiously to help meet market demand,” Yun said.  “Housing starts will likely need to double over the next two years to satisfy the pent-up demand for both rentals and ownership.”

The pending home sales index in the Northeast fell the most as it declined 7.6% from May to June. Still, it is 12.2% higher than year ago levels.

The Midwest index slipped 0.4% to an index score of 94.4 in June, while remaining 17.3% above year ago sales levels. Pending home sales in the South also fell 2%, hitting an index score of 106.2, which is still 8.8% above year ago sales levels. Pending sales in the West also grew 2.6% from May to June, hitting an index score of 111.5.

Article URL: http://housingwire.com/content/pending-home-sales-slipped-14-june.

The best time to buy a home might be now

From a financial perspective, the window for pouncing on a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a home might be narrowing.

The state’s median selling price is down from $175,000 at the market’s 2007 peak to $109,900 in May, says the Georgia Association of Realtors. But recent prices are trending up.

The average sales price increased each of the first five months this year, from $126,381 to $152,740. Similarly, January-May median prices were up, from $87,000 to $109,900, every month but one — when prices were flat.

Good financial planning takes a long-term view. That’s why Ted Jenkin, co-CEO of Oxygen Financial in Alpharetta, and Wes Moss, chief investment strategist at Capital Investment Advisors in Sandy Springs, say today’s housing market very well could be the financial spark you’re seeking. Some factors to consider:

1. Interest rates: “With 30-year interest rates hovering under 4 percent and 15-year rates under 3 percent, these are tremendous times to be able to purchase a home at a decreased value with a fixed, low-interest rate payment,” Jenkin said.

2. Low prices: “Housing prices in the Atlanta area are, on average, at about the same level they were in mid-1997,” Moss said. “The major drop in the housing index a couple of months ago could have been a sign of people finally giving up and taking a much lower asking price for their homes.”

3. Return on investment: Buying now could reap better returns than the financial markets. “If you have significant amounts of money stashed in bonds and money market funds, you’re probably sick and tired of our historically low interest rates,” Moss said. “But on the flip side, if you’re also in the market to buy a home, you can put these low rates to work for you by making your move now.”

4. Getting a loan: Your prospects might be improved. “As the pendulum swings back and forth, banks are now becoming more willing to lend money than they were two years ago,” Jenkin said.

Think long-term

1. Look ahead: If your home has lost lots of value, it could be wise to sell . Focus on getting a deal as a buyer.

“With the inventory that exists around the city of Atlanta and across the country,” Jenkin said, “it could be the right time to find a higher-valued home that was beaten down in value and offers more upside potential over the next 10 to 20 years.”

2. Combine goals: “If your long-term goal is to live in a retirement state, potentially getting a vacation home in a place like Florida, Tennessee or Texas, where there are no state income taxes, could be a good long-term play,” Jenkin said.

 

Article URL: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-bargain-hunter/2012/07/17/the-best-time-to-buy-a-home-might-be-no/?cxntfid=blogs_atlanta_bargain_hunter

Smyrna’s Birthday Celebration

Celebrate the 140th birthday of Smyrna with family and friends. High-energy music, festival foods, birthday festivities, a GIANT birthday cake by McEntyre’s Bakery and a kids entertainment area and fireworks at the end add to the excitement…be there!

It’s a free event on August 4th from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM at the Village Green, located at200 Village Green Circle, Smyrna, Georgia 30080.

Banks & Shane will be on stage helping celebrate the biggest hometown party again this year. Smokey’s Farmland Band will also be on stage, blending musical influences ranging from bluegrass to gypsy jazz to Cajun with their progressive sound they call “Goodtime Eclectic Bluegrass.”

Oh, and join merchants in the Market Village for an extra bunch of fun with more activities taking place such as games, inflatables with family-friendly fun but also a beer garden for adults.  Watch for announcements from the City of Smyrna and/or Market Village Merchants on Facebook and Twitter as the event draws near.

Want to get public safety announcements during the main event and traffic messages during and after the event?  Go to www.Nixle.com and sign up to receive messages.

The City of Smyrna concerts are Litter Free events. Keep Smyrna Beautiful will have recycling bins next to the garbage bins throughout the concert area for all concerts. You can recycle your glass, plastics, and aluminum cans. Thanks for helping us keep Smyrna clean, green and beautiful!

For information call 770-434-6600 or for sponsor/ food vendor information email twallace@ci.smyrna.ga.us.