My notes as I explore various business and financial topics

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NASA Credit Union offers $0 down mortgage loans in the D.C. area

NASA Federal Credit Union is offering first time home buyers in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. area  a $0 down loan for loans up to $650,000 in a program called High Loan to Value Mortgage. This program also offers refinance of a primary residence. Loans up to $850,000 are also available with just 5% down. No mortgage insurance is required under these programs. Offers are available for non credit union members, but only borrowers with outstanding credit scores will qualify.  Check their website for additional programs.

source: Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Google Business Photo

One day I took my son to a toy train store so he could pick out his favorite trains. We had discovered the store from a web search and was surprised to learn that it was only couple of blocks away from Grandma's.  I had passed by it a hundred times, but had never noticed it before because it was nestled among warehouses and other industrial shops -- not a place I would expect to find a train store. We walked in and were astonished and the rows of toy trains of all sizes and all the train accessories that lined the shelves.

This scenario perfectly illustrates what Google Business Photo hoping to accomplish. You may never know what hidden gems are behind the endless store fronts that you see.   Google is sending out photographers out to  restaurants, hotels, retail shops and other highly searched business to take photographs of their interiors.  These photos will be featured on the business's place page, offering customers a virtual tour of the business.  Owners can also upload their own photos.

Google Business Photo is currently targeting Orange County, Phoenix, the Bay Area, San Antonio, and St. Petersburg, as well as other locations worldwide.  Check their website for a complete list.
Interested business can apply to Google Business Photo.

Check out their video demonstration.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zuca, the amazing luggage - with a seat!

Zuca Bag Calypso- Brown Frame
To be honest, the Zuca brand luggage threw me off a bit when I first saw it.  The aluminum frame clashed with the body of the luggage, looking as if it was added in as an after thought.  And the much touted built-in seating didn't look at all comfortable.  Besides, when are you ever going to need to sit while toting  luggage around?  Perhaps once while waiting to check in?  Then once more waiting in the security line?  Granted, I don't travel much, but I do remember plenty of vacant seats at the airport concourses that I've been in.

Still, the luggage's uniqueness continued to pique my interest.  I love the inserts, which means that you only need to pack all of your clothes once.  Upon arriving at your destination, simply take out the inserts and place them in the draw, no unpacking required.  Customers love the Zuca's toughness, strong enough to sit on; it's giant wheels moving it smoothly and silently along; and it's compact size (19" x 13" x 10"),  which allows it to fit neatly into overhead compartment and easily roll down narrow aircraft aisles.

The Zuca's compact size means that it's not the best bag for over-packers.  Owner's reviews include claims that there's plenty of room for suits, shoes and outfits for the trip, while other's aren't satisfied with its capacity, claiming that the inserts are useless and takes valuable space.  Indeed, while watching the video below, I find it hard to imagine fitting all the clothes shown into the Zuca.

Also, starting at $285, the price is a bit steep.  You can get this 5-piece Samsonite luggage set for almost half the price.  Still, for frequent traveler, the Zuca luggage, with it's built-in seat and organization system, could be a perfect fit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Find the Best Prices (including tax and shipping) with Google Product Search

ViewSonic VFM1024W-11 10-Inch Digital Media Frame -Features Music, Video and Photos with High Resolution 1024x600 (Cherry wood)

Use Google Product Search to find the best prices, including tax and shipping.  For example, I searched for the Viewsonic 10 inch digital photo frame.  The results show that Office Depot has the best final price of $64.95 for a brand new unit.  I also like and Amazon.  They used to be very competitive, but these days, many items ordered from their site are shipped by a third party vendor and shipping fees could really spike the price.  This is where Google Product Search comes in handy.