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Unemployment Rates; America's Housing Market; Home Weatherproofing; Clutter; Grocery Savings; Community Supported Agriculture

Aired July 4, 2009 - 09:30   ET


GERRI WILLIS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Gerri Willis and this is a special Fourth of July of YOUR BOTTOM LINE, the show that saves you money.

From yard sales to eBay to good old classified ads, how to clear out the clutter and build up your cash reserves. Saving on entertaining, how to find the best food, wine and beer at best prices. And more than a few ideas for a little weekend project. How to prepare and protect your home from all sorts of extreme weather from floods to draughts. YOUR BOTTOM LINE starts right now.

We begin with the state of your job and the news is not good. The unemployment rate in this country now stands at 9.5 percent, that's the worst rate in 26 years, 467,000 jobs were lost in June. Earlier, I spoke with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis who said quite frankly they're not happy with these numbers.


HILDA SOLIS, LABOR SECY: But I do think that there are some small glimmers of hope that we are seeing some stabilization and I would just tell the public that we remain optimistic and we keep their focus fully in front of us and the plan here is to continue to move forward with our recovery program.

We want to keep positive and we want to be behind those working-class people out there that know that America will come through this recession.


WILLIS: All right, turning now from your job to your house. A mixed bag of news this week, home prices took another dive, falling 18 percent from last year, but only dropping .6 percent from March to April. Those numbers with the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Index which looks at home prices across the country. So, are these numbers a sign of a rebounding housing market and if you're looking to buy, when should you lock in the best possible mortgage rate? Greg McBride a senior financial analyst with and Donna Rosato is a senior writer with "Money" magazine.

Welcome to you both, great to have you here.

DONNA ROSATO, MONEY MAGAZINE: You too. WILLIS: All right, I want to start with Greg, this has got to be the best time in 20 years to buy a new house. I mean if you have a good -- a credit score, if you have the money to put down, isn't this a fantastic time to really go out there and start looking?

GREG MCBRIDE, BANKRATE.COM: Yeah. You hit the nail on the head, Gerri. This is a tremendous time for home buyers. Affordability is in your corner like we haven't seen in a long, long time not only because home prices have come down so much, but also because mortgage rates remain very low. They've stabilized after that big run up we saw late may, early June. So, the prospective homebuyer, if they have the good credit that you mentioned and perhaps most importantly, money for a down payment, yes, this is a tremendous opportunity.

WILLIS: And Greg, you say the best credit score there, 740 will get you the best deal. Donna, I you want to you. You want talk about sellers here, this is a tough time for sellers, obviously. You know, I was looking at some of the numbers market by market, Phoenix prices are down 50 percent. What do you do if you're in the market now to sell?

ROSATO: Right. This is really a buyer's market so if you're a seller you're in a tough spot. But there's a bunch of things you can do. If you want to sell your home, you have to price it aggressively. And how do you determine the price? Well, look at what's actually sold, comparable homes that have sold in your neighborhood, what has sold, and then price your home 10 percent to 15 percent below that. You're not going to be able to compete with short sales or foreclosures, but you're going to be able to attract people who want a home that you can close a deal on more quickly.

WILLIS: You know, 50 percent of buyers out there are first time buyers, they tend to be younger. How do you appeal to those people? What are the tricks you want to know if you're trying to sell?

ROSATO: That's right. The average age of the first time buyer is 30 years old, so where are the 30-year-olds today, the young folks, they're online, so you want to make sure that you have a really strong on-line presence when you're displaying your home and want to reach them too, so use social media like FaceBook, Twitter. You can do simple things like use a wide angle lens when you're taking pictures your rooms.

WILLIS: Why is that?

ROSATO: It's going to make the rooms look bigger when you're posting them online.

WILLIS: That sounds like cheating.

ROSATO: It's not cheating, but it's going to make things look nicer.

WILLIS: All right, well that's a great idea.

Greg, I want to talk to you, some tweaks and some changes in the president's refinance program this week. Now, this is critical for people out there when trying to sell. The president changed qualifying loan limit to 125 percent of the loan's value, or the home's value , that is. This is an improvement. Is it enough of an improvement to really help people out there who've seen the value of their home dive?

MCBRIDE: It is an improvement and will help people, particularly in the hardest hit markets like Florida, California, Arizona, Nevada, however I would have liked to have seen it go further than that, I think 150 percent loan to value would have been something that would help prevent more foreclosures in those hardest hit markets because it would facilitate more people being able to refinance out of, perhaps, adjustable rate loans and being able to lock in these low fixed rates.

WILLIS: Greg, I just want to mention to our viewers here, if you're having trouble making your payments, having a hard time with a loan, the Web site for the government's program is, it's a great Web site, easy-peesy to understand. You definitely want to use that.

All right. Donna, Greg, thank you so much for helping us out today. We appreciate it.

ROSATO: Thanks.

In many parts of the country, summer means severe weather. We'll teach you how to protect your home from the extremes. Plus, how you can turn your clutter into cash this weekend.


WILLIS: Summer is in full swing and it's bringing something extreme weather with it. How do you protect your home when there's too much rain or not nearly enough? Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and host of "Today's Homeowner."

Danny, great to see you.


WILLIS: All right. So this is a nightmare up here in New York, I've got to tell you, 23 of 30 days in June, we had rain. It's been crazy. I'm growing gills up here. And I'm really worried, I'm worried about my house, Danny. I'm worried I'm going to get rain inside the house, it's happened to me before. Let's talk about areas of vulnerability starting with the roof. How do I make sure that my roof isn't leaking?

LIPFORD: Well, certainly you need to maintain it on a regular basis and I know that's not real easy on some roofs, but making sure all of the straw and leaves are off the roof and also taking a close look at the roof whether you get on the roof or a good idea, use a pair of binoculars.

WILLIS: Oh, great idea.

LIPFORD: Walk around the house and really zoom in on anything that looks out of place.

WILLIS: All right. So, what about inspecting that chimney with the binoculars? What am I looking for?

LIPFORD: Yeah, well a chimney is really important. Any type of crack, any type of flashing that may have come loose a little bit, just anything that you see that just doesn't look like it used to look, then that needs to be addressed. And on many cases, all it takes is just a tube of roofing cement and a caulking gun, just to seal up any of those cracks that you may see.

WILLIS: All right. Obviously you want to look in your attic, for sure, for any kinds of signs of water damage, but what about the basement, that's a nightmare for so many people.

LIPFORD: Well, it is and I'll tell you, so many times when you have a lot of rain like you guys have had there, water will find its way in that basement, no matter what. But, usually the problem is the downspouts that you have that work in conjunction with your gutters are not moving the water away from the foundation enough, so having an extension to allow to that water to move away from the foundation a little bit better is a really good idea. And also a lot of people build these wonderful flower beds around their house, but they end up causing the water to dam or pool against the foundation and that's not good in any situation.

WILLIS: Danny you're going to make me move my flowerbeds. OK, all right, you also say watch out for eroded areas of the lawn, but let's do the flipside of this, if you don't have water, there's a drought on, let's say, what do you need to be doing to your lawn? My instinct is just to water, water, water that lawn.

LIPFORD: Well, it's sufficient watering is what you have to do, because if you have sprinklers that throw that water up in the air you're going to lose a lot of that water from evaporation, and instead, the much better and more effective way is drip irrigation or using a soaker hose that you can bury in and around the plants and it's that way it's putting the water where it needs to go, right on the roots. You don't lose so much from evaporation, also mulching your flowerbeds thoroughly, very important to retain that moisture where it needs to be.

WILLIS: What about native plants, I always hear that you want to grow native plants when you live in these desert climates because that's what's really meant to grow there in the first place.

LIPFORD: Right. Right, choosing the plants that are native to your area, they're going to grow better than any other plant and checking with your local extension service or a horticulturalist in your area will allow you to select the plants that will flourish the most, particularly in those dry arid areas. You got to pick the right plant.

WILLIS: Got to pick the right plants. Danny Lipford, thank you so much. It's so great to see you again.

LIPFORD: It's always fun. I hope to see you in New York real soon, Gerri.

WILLIS: Oh, come on up. All right, see you soon. Bye.


WILLIS: Now that your house is safe from the elements let's turn to what's inside of it, junk, and lots of it. So, how can you turn some of those unwanted items into cold hard cash? Mandy Walker is a senior project editor at "Consumer Reports."

Mandy, great to see you.


WILLIS: All right, let's get down to it. This is a great weekend for a tag sale. And you say, you really want to sell small things.

WALKER: That's right.

WILLIS: Clothing, you want to sell small items. Why is that and tell me the best way to go about doing the tag sale?

WALKER: Yeah, you want to sell items that are portable, you want to sell clothing as you said, small electronics, small appliances. Otherwise if you're selling big pieces of furniture, count on somebody showing up to your yard with a big enough vehicle to haul away grandma's chiffero, you know, that's probably not going to fit in the back seat of most Honda Civics.

So, you want small items and the process is basically a little bit of a workout. You've got to haul everything out if it's a weekend yard sale, haul it back in what doesn't sell to sell the next day to haul it back out. You've got to price everything, put up some signs so people know about it, put an ad in the paper, and you may need a permit depending on where you live.

WILLIS: Hey Mandy, it seems to me that the smart thing to do would be to go to eBay or one of the other online sites and sell everything, right. Millions of customers would see what you have to sell. Why isn't that the easiest thing to do?

WALKER: That -- you can sell some things online at eBay or at Amazon. Again, you want things that are portable because you're going to have to pack it up and ship it and you don't want to throw out your back. So, small items here can go as well and you'll get a much larger audience. You'll earn a little bit less, in our yard sales you pocket pretty much everything that you sell at a yard sale because eBay and Amazon take a commission if items do sell.

WILLIS: So, I've got to write those descriptions, I have to take the photographs. There's some real leg work involved.

WALKER: Right, post it online. Post it online, except that eBay does have some stores where you can drop -- drop off stores, around the country, so if you don't want to do all of that, you can drop it off there, but you'll get even less. Instead of them taking about a 10 percent commission, they'll take about a 30 percent to 40 percent commission, but they'll do all the work.

WILLIS: You know, we have to talk about free ways of doing things, which I am a huge fan of. But, you know Craigslist would be a free way to do some things. What about classified ads? When should I be willing to pay to actually sell some of my junk?

WALKER: Well, you can take out classified ads free on places like Craigslist, Kijiji that puts things in local areas, in fact, local kind of boxes online, and that won't cost you anything, so that's a great idea for grandma's chiffero, but big items that people can actually come to your house and pick up and it's free on those sites. Try that first, write the description, post it, see if you get a nibble. If you don't, you can go the old school route and put an ad in your local paper or some major city paper will cost you a little more, but still, not too much $75 to $150 probably, in a big city.

WILLIS: All right, so you know, the reality here is that you're really getting cents on the dollar typically and might just be better off donating what you have to a charity. But look, here's the deal, you've got to put a value on that when you do put it on your tax form. How do you go about deciding, you know, how much grandma's chippero is worth?

WALKER: Right, right, that's the difficult part. The IRS has gotten a lot more strict about this in recent years, so you have to be very careful. If you can't sell something, you can Goodwill or Salvation Army is a great resource, but you do have to be careful about valuing it. They have resources on their Web sites that will help you out and also so do tax software, they have different processes that you can go through that will help you estimate what things are worth.

WILLIS: Mandy. Mandy, thank you so much for your help today. We appreciate it.

WALKER: OK. My pleasure.

WILLIS: The Fourth of July weekend means barbecues, picnics and of course, lots of food, how to stretch your dollar at the grocery store. Plus finding the perfect wine to go with your holiday menu at the right price.


WILLIS: We've all been there, you make a list, head to the grocery store and later come out wondering how you spent so much money and only have a few bags to show for it. Our next guest is here to tell you ways to save on the grocery bill and get the most for your money. Holley Grainger is a registered dietitian and food editor at

Holly, I am glad you're here because there are lots of tricks to the trade here that we want to sort of tell people about.


WILLIS: And I want to start with the idea of unit pricing, because this is something that we all seem to pay attention to. You look at the price per ounce and you make your calls on the basis of that. You try to get the best deal possible and you say that's not always the key to getting a great deal.

GRAINGER: There are some exceptions. You're right, that is a great way to cost compare like items, but for things like meat and poultry, the exception, you want to look at the cost per serving because when you're looking at the unit price per ounce or per pound, you might be looking at some of those inedible portions like chicken bones or things you don't want to worry about.

WILLIS: Chicken neck, the gizzards, you're not eating that stuff, right.

GRAINGER: You don't want that. So, look at the cost per serving, that's the best way to save money.

WILLIS: All right, so let's talk a little bit about some other ways to save. You know, we talked about going to the warehouse club, which I love to go to, and I tend to just like load up on things and I buy something 10 for $10, multiple items for one price. You say that can be a problem.

GRAINGER: It can be a problem, especially if you buy items like that are perishable because you'll end up throwing away much of what you don't need. So, watch out. Even if the price is right, don't overbuy. And unless it's something that you can share with someone else, then you want to be careful because a lot of times that 10 for $10 might mean one for $1, so it's the same thing. You can still get the good price, but watch out. Another thing is a lot of times those items that are marked on sale, aren't always the lowest option, so just make sure to cost compare.

WILLIS: Yeah, you definitely have to look at those definitely have to look at those prices. Let's talk a little bit too, about, you know, how you make those comparisons. Shopping leisurely, you said, can cost you money. Now, you've got this idea that you plan it all out, what you're buy by the routes in the store.

GRAINGER: That's right. At we like to tell you, make a list and base it on your grocery store, so pair like items together. Pair all your vegetables together, pair your meats together. But one thing to note, is for every minute that you spend in the grocery store after 30 minutes, per minute you spend 50 cents to a dollar more on your final grocery bill.

WILLIS: What? That's amazing.

GRAINGER: We like to say, get in, buy what you need and get out.

WILLIS: So, once -- I want to get this in, because I think it's important. You say one-stop shopping, beware if you're going to one store to get cleaning items as well as food. You're probably spending too much.

GRAINGER: The household items at the grocery story are often marked up 20 to 50 percent more, so go to the grocery store to buy your groceries, watch out for those other items.

WILLIS: Great ideas. Appreciate your help, today. Thank you, Holley.

GRAINGER: Great to be here. Thank you.

WILLIS: Great advice. Well, there's another way to save money and get fresh local produce and it's not at your supermarket. It's called Community Supported Agriculture. I visited a local farmer to find out how it works.


WILLIS (voice-over): Zachary and Jason Lubenski (ph) love their veggies. But, why are they picking up their vegetables from Ed McDougal's garage? The Lubenski's are part of a growing number of consumers joining CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture programs. Their vegetables come from here, Golden Earthworm Organic Farm.

MAGGIE WOOD, COLDEN EARTHWORM ORGANIC FARM: CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it's a very unusual relationship between farmers and consumers. It's a very direct relationships, so we grow the food and we give it to you and you eat the food.

WILLIS: Here's how it works. Each spring CSA members pay for the share of the farm's produce for the year. Their money helps the farmer pay for seed, fertilizer and other needs for the growing season.

(on camera): Look!

(voice-over): Then, throughout the summer, consumers pick up their shares each week from designated delivery locations.

WOOD: It creates stabilities for the farmer, because we get money at the beginning of the season when we need it, so you pay in advance and then you reap the bounty every single week.

WILLIS: CSA programs have grown dramatically in the U.S. The movement started in the mid-1980s and the USDA estimates that today more than 12,000 farms throughout the country market products this way.

(on camera): That's good. I'm having a little salad.

(voice-over): Ed McDougal's garage has been a delivery point for Golden Earthworm CSA for six years. He says 100 people pick up their veggies here every week.

ED MCDOUGAL, CSA MEMBER: A lot of people bring their children. And I just think it's kind of nice for kids, early on, to learn early on something about healthy eating.

WILLIS: CSA members say they like knowing exactly where their food is grown and getting to know the farmer who produces it and they love the fresh quality. DOROTHY AKHAND, CSA MEMBER: I wanted fresh vegetables, locally, and you can't get any fresher than this because they were picked either this morning or yesterday.

WILLIS (on camera): Do they taste better?

AKHAND: Yes, definitely taste better.


WILLIS: Now, that you're getting the best deals on grocery for your holiday weekend, what about stocking the bar? Gary Vaynerchuk is here to help you pair wines with your menu and your budget.

All right Gary, what you got?

GARY VAYNERCHUK, WINELIBRARYTV.COM: All right, we're going look at Portugal, white wines that rock and more importantly understanding that price has no impact on quality, under $15 for the summer.

WILLIS: Love that, all right, stay with us.


WILLIS: Back now with Gary Vaynerchuk, host of, with the best wines and beers for your holiday weekend, and all of them, get this, for under 20 bucks, some under six.

All right Gary, let's talk about white wine, because I love it and, to me, in the summertime, it's primetime for white wine.

VAYNERCHUK: Yep. So, you know, white wine goes well with so many different things. I see you're going to pour a little bit Muskaday, which goes great with shell fish. So, a lot of BBQ going on, clams on the BBQ with something like this. Now, what's really important is smelling the wines, the sniffy -sniff. So, I want you to give a sniffy-sniff, here. I know, you like that, right? The sniffy-sniff

WILLIS: The sniffy-sniff. OK.

VAYNERCHUK: Are you picking up the lemon juice, a little bit of an apple play, Muskaday is just a great veriety, a lot of people aren't talking about it and that's why you can get it under $15.

WILLIS: That's fantastic. All right, I know a lot of people out there are red wine only drinkers.


WILLIS: And so...

VAYNERCHUK: Mistake, by the way.

WILLIS: Right. OK. But this is great with grilled meats. I think you're doing a red. And what do we have here?

VAYNERCHUK: This is from Leilo from Douro, this is a Portuguese wine, and this wine is six bones, I mean $6.

WILLIS: Six dollars?

VAYNERCHUK: Six dollars. And Portugal is widely establishing itself as the premiere value play in the world. I'm just blown away by the quality of this wine.

WILLIS: Hmm. OK, now tell me what I would have this with?

VAYNERCHUK: Burgers. Cheesesteak.

WILLIS: Burgers, I like that. Yeah?

VAYNERCHUK: Hot dogs. The whole gamut.

WILLIS: Hot dogs? Wine with hot dogs. We've got another red, here. Now, this looks, judging by the label, which is really the way I tend to judge wines.


WILLIS: It looks very expensive.

VAYNERCHUK: Yeah, you know, it's a Cotes du Rhone it's only about $13 or so. What I like about this, sniffy-sniff, you're going to get sour cherry here, you're going to get a little bark. You also get a little bit of like a skid mark from like a BMX bike. You know, gets a little earthy, there, which is fine. There's nothing wrong with that. It's actually delicious.


WILLIS: All right.

VAYNERCHUK: And this would go really well with a steak, with a lot of pepper, anything spicy, it would really work.

WILLIS: Heavier.

VAYNERCHUK: Absolutely.

WILLIS: You know, everybody wants to have beer in the summertime.

VAYNERCHUK: Yes, they do.

WILLIS: And a lot of people would have it with the hot dogs, with the hamburgers. You've got two special beers, here. And this one's my favorite because it smells so good.

VAYNERCHUK: I mean, both of these are great. You know, the Stupid Ale, which is very hoppy in the rogue summer.

WILLIS: Called "Stupid?"

VAYNERCHUK: Yeah. This is pretty subtle (ph). What I like about this is this, too many people think beer is not serious. And as a wine person, I think it's time for people in the wine industry to talk about the quality of craft beer, because the complexities and subtle flavors are really important, and they compare with a lot more things than people realize, and so, these are two exceptional values and they're both USA.

WILLIS: So, these are not expensive, either?

VAYNERCHUK: No, they're $5, $6 bombers, you know, not too bad at all.

WILLIS: All right, so let's talk about, OK, I'm going to give you menu plays, and you tell me what I buy to go with it. OK, I'm grilling fish.

VAYNERCHUK: You know, for me, Sunfair from Lower Valley. Love it. That's the play.

WILLIS: OK, let's say I've gone stet steaks on the grill, you know, it's pretty heavy, there's a lot going on, slaw, maybe potatoes, what do you do?

VAYNERCHUK: You know, I would like to go with something from Nevero (ph) Douro from Spain. Really nice red wines, very silky, very big. Pair extremely well with steak.

WILLIS: Seafood, and here I'm talking about shellfish. Very light.

VAYNERCHUK: Shell fish, the Muskaday for sure or you can go with rose from Provence (ph), you know, a lot of people see the pink stuff and they think it's girly-girly but it's very serious and dry and goes great with shellfish.

WILLIS: All right, and so pick up the beers with your hot dogs, your hamburgers?

VAYNERCHUK: You know beer you should drink constantly, all the time, anyway, with anything

WILLIS: No, no, no, we're not going to do that. But we are on a budget here, and so many of these you can really get for less than six bucks.

VAYNERCHUK: No question and when you can get to a wine like this that's this quality that you can have with pizza on Wednesday night for $6, that's crazy.

WILLIS: Gary thank you, great stuff. All right, thank you for spending part of your Fourth of July weekend with us. Don't go anywhere. Your latest headlines are up next. Have a great weekend.