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Going Green Facts V. Fiction; New Tech Stuff; Road Trip Savings

Aired June 26, 2010 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans. Coming up this half hour, acing the interview. We'll help you land your next gig with all the right answers from the star of "The Apprentice."

Sky high temps across the country means sky high energy bills. We'll show you how to slash yours.

Price wars on everything from smart phones to e-readers, which is right for you? Plus, plan your road trip for less. The show that saves you money starts right now.

If you're like most people your home is likely your biggest investment. And the news this week on housing wasn't so rosy. At the top of the list, new home sales plummeted more than 30 percent. Ilyce Glink, the author of "Buy, Close, Move In" joins us from Chicago, in Washington is Mike Aubrey, a realtor in the Maryland area and the co- host of HGTV's "Real Estate Intervention."

A tough week all in all here. Also because another important survey from Robert Shiler and his group, you know, a well respected real estate watcher also showed 56 percent of experts think that home prices could continue to go down. Ilyce, it wasn't a good week for your biggest investment, was it

ILYCE GLINK, AUTHOR, "BUY, CLOSE, MOVE IN": No, it really wasn't. And it hasn't been a good week. We also saw the government introduce a brand new housing index. And Shaun Donovan who heads up HUD, boy, he really sold it to us and told us how much better off the housing market is than anybody thought it would be a year ago. And I'm looking at him thinking, you just go sell that, Shawn because it's really a tough sale right now.

ROMANS: Ilyce, you're not the first person to tell me that. As a matter of fact, there are some people in the industry who were tweeting about it. When things are a lot better than we thought they could have been 18 months ago. Are you kidding me? The economy is getting better. But housing feels like a double dip. Mike, does it feel like a double dip to you?

MIKE AUBREY, CO-HOST, HGTV'S "REAL ESTATE INTERVENTION": You know what, I think that I've been forecasting a "W" shaped recovery for some time. I think we saw things get better early in the spring basically because of synthetic factors in the marketplace. I mean, not that I'm complaining about the tax credit, because, trust me, I sold a lot of houses this spring.

But now that the tax credit is gone and I think that we're going to see mortgage rates go up over the next 12 to 18 months, I think it's going to take people out of the market. I mean, this isn't rocket science. I expected it to go down again.

ROMANS: Well, that's a good point. Because look, we all knew that the tax credit was temporary. We all knew that it was stimulus money that was meant to sell hopes. It did. It sold a lot of houses, quite frankly. But now we have to see, Ilyce, what kind of legs the housing market has on its own.

GLINK: I don't think the housing market has any legs on its own right now. I think what we've seen is two years of government's life support for the housing industry. And all that's gone now. I mean, maybe they'll extend it out to September 30th that you can actually close on your house or 200,000 more people are going to lose out on the tax credits.

But I think you're going to see an extraordinarily slow summer and a really slow fall. And then maybe by next spring we're going to start to see something happen. But I'm much more worried about unemployment. We saw unemployment numbers this week.

You know, again, they're not very good. And we're just about to see the states start to lay off teachers and other kinds of good middle class jobs. Those people may not be able to afford their mortgages either.

ROMANS: A lot of people say it's all about the job. You can talk about affordability getting better across the country and it is. Affordability is getting better. You can talk about low interest rates. Interest rates, mortgage rates are so low right now to buy a home. But if you don't have a job, or you're worried about your job, you're not the market to do this.

Tell me, what does this mean for home prices. I mean, across the country we've seen them coming down, the median price of an existing home since 2006 has been down like $60,000. That's real money. Depending on where you live, are we going to see prices go down more?

AUBREY: I mean, unfortunately I think we are. This is just economics 101. It's supply and demand. Even as robust as the real estate market was this spring, and we saw a movement especially in a lot of the metropolitan market, I think that we still have not gotten rid of the great inventory that sits out there. especially with the looming foreclosure crisis as much as banks want - the thing they want to do most in the world is give people money to buy houses.

The thing that they want to do least in the world, own houses. We're going to see a continued flood of really cheap home come into the marketplace. And this is going to apply downward pressure on price (INAUDIBLE). No doubt about it.

But you know, I think, Ilyce makes a great point. If people don't have money, it doesn't matter how good mortgage rates are. ROMANS: Right.

AUBREY: It doesn't matter how far housing prices have plummeted. They can't buy.

ROMANS: All right. Mike Aubrey, realtor, host of HGTV's "Real Estate Intervention" and Ilyce Glink, a real estate author of "Buy, Close, Move In." Thank you, both of you for your expert advice on your biggest asset.

Still ahead, helping you land a job. All the details from a woman who has worked at the top. But up next, can't miss tips on saving you money right now, how to immediately lower that sky high energy bill.


ROMANS: It's officially summer, you probably cranked the AC and as a result, you're starting to see your utility bill rise, right? But the AC is not your only power eating nemesis. There are other things costing you more energy and more money than you may think.

Here to debunk some common energy myths is Jennifer Bogo, senior science editor with "Popular Mechanics." Welcome to the program.


ROMANS: I love doing these because there are so many ways you can save a couple of bucks around the house or in the car.

BOGO: Exactly.

ROMANS: If you know what you should be doing and one of it - my niece, when she was eight years old was scolding me for not unplugging the flat screen TV. Here's the first question. Appliances use power even when they're turned off. Is that true or false?

BOGO: That is true. And I think the thing that most people find surprising about that is the amount of power they actually use when they're off. Your electronics, for example, 75 percent of the power they use can be consumed when they're turned off and you don't think they're on.

ROMANS: So they're plugged into the wall, and they're just still sucking energy, and you're paying that.

BOGO: Exactly. And some of the worst offenders are actually the things that are peripheral to your home theater system or the things that are attached to your computer. One way to actually tell how much electricity your appliances are using is something like this, which is - this is called a kilowatt. It's a watt meter.

ROMANS: As in kilowatt, k-i-l--o-watt.

BOGO: Yes. You plug that into your outlet. You plug your appliance or electronic into that device. And I did this morning. Because I was curious how much electricity my DVD player was using. And when it was on, it was drawing eight watts. And when it was turned completely off it was drawing three watts.

ROMANS: Interesting. So you can see exactly what are the energy hogs that you are plugging into your wall. OK. Dripping faucets. They're not going to cost your power bill? True or false.

BOGO: Dripping faucets will cause you on your power bill. A lot of people think it's just a water efficiency issue. You do waste 3,000 gallons of water a year if your faucet is dripping. But it will also cost you a dollar a month. Basically, your water heater is working overtime.

ROMANS: Right.

BOGO: And that's something that can usually be fixed by spending a couple of cents on a washer at a hardware store.

ROMANS: A washer at the hardware store. Not bad.

All right. Solar panels will pay off as a long-term investment.

BOGO: That's true. A lot of people might not actually think that at first glance. I think the initial investment of solar panels can be very intimidating. But you're destined to end up making money over the life span, the average (INAUDIBLE) more than 50 percent of the power that it produces ends up being free.

ROMANS: Some of those investments I love because the earlier you make them and decide to make them, the more you're going to recoup over the long term of living in the home.

BOGO: Exactly.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about driving because we're going to be taking road trips, we're going to be going away perhaps for the fourth of July. Driving with the AC off and the windows open does save fuel?

BOGO: It doesn't. Especially if you're on that road trip on a highway. Your car's AC requires something like two to eight horsepower to run. So if you're driving through the city, you might actually save some energy. But if you're in the highway, the open windows just creates drag in the car. That actually decreases your efficiency.

ROMANS: All right. And cars can get just as good mileage with regular fuel.

BOGO: That's actually true. A lot of people think you put premium gasoline in your car and it's going to run more efficiently. Unless the manufacturer specifies that you use premium gasoline because it has the high performance engine, it doesn't make your car any more efficient and it doesn't improve its performance.

ROMANS: Jennifer Bogo, I think you just saved everybody a little bit of money today. BOGO: I hope so.

ROMANS: Senior science editor at "Popular Mechanics," thanks, Jennifer. Have a great weekend.

All right. You almost definitely recognize our next guest from a very popular TV show. And she's here to land you your next gig. That's next.


ROMANS: All right. The unemployment rate is 9.7 percent. The average unemployed American is out of work for 241 days. So when you get that job interview, make sure you got all the right answers.

Carolyn Kepcher is the founder of You might recognize Carolyn from "The Apprentice" when she worked for the Trump organization as an executive vice president. So you know, that's pretty good pedigree to know to get a job with Donald Trump, you know, he's a pretty tough customer. You finally get that interview after 241 days out of work, average for the long-term unemployed. What is the most important thing to do first in the interview?

CAROLYN KEPCHER, FOUNDER, WORK HER WAY: Well, you have to realize that employers are going to ask basically the same questions across the board. You've given you the resume. They know your qualifications are. So now they want to learn something about you.

So based on your answers - this is what somebody should be thinking all the time. What am I walking away with? What am I leaving with them? At the end of the day, are they going to realize by my answers that I am a self-starter? I'm organized, I'm a motivator, I'm a team leader. Or am I lazy? I don't fit in. I'm not confident. So it's the way you project your answers and the type of answers that you're giving that's really going to leave that impression.

ROMANS: So don't be surprise. There's a common template for what they're going to ask you. And one thing that they might ask you is why should we hire you, how do you answer that question?

KEPCHER: Well, basically, you can go through your resume. But don't. They have the resume. They know your qualifications. So what you want to do is you basically want to kind of turn it around and say well, this is the value that I can bring to you. Let's face it, my job as a possible employee is to make your life easier, right? That's why you want to hire me. So my job is to tell you how I'm going to make your life easier. What I can bring to the table, what value can i bring to your company?

ROMANS: A lot of people have been cut, either, you know, 10 percent cut across the board or maybe that was an excuse. I mean, the economy got bad and they didn't get along with their boss and they got cut. What do you do when the person says across the table from you says, "why did you leave your last job?"

KEPCHER: Well, number one rule of thumb - never bad mouth your company, your bad boss, for two reasons. One because it may bite you some day. But two, if you're going to tell me you worked for a bad boss, how do I know if something goes awry that you're not going to say the same thing about me?

So basically what you want to do again is to turn that right around and say this is what I'm going to do for you. This is what I can bring to the company.

ROMANS: What about the salary requirements? I mean, should you be aiming high? I know that a lot of people now are now offering 20 percent less than your last salary. You might have to take a pay cut. How do you begin that delicate dance?

KEPCHER: Well, I know as an employer when I was interviewing, I wanted that number. I want to say. OK. That's fine. What are you looking for? As an employee, try to avoid answering that in a sense.

ROMANS: Let them come up with a number.

KEPCHER: Let them give the number because if you throw out a number - one if you're not prepared especially but if you throw out a number and it's too low, you just shot yourself in the foot. If you aim too high, interview is over.

ROMANS: What about the call for the salary package? When you get that call. We have decided to hire you. We'd love you to work for the organization. Let's talk about your needs and wants and what this package is going to look like. How much negotiating ability do you have in this economy?

KEPCHER: When you find out what that number is, and you know, in this economy it's very, very hard to actually go through negotiations right now. Find out what the whole package is. Maybe they're offering things to you that you never had before. Maybe they're offering a little bit more of work-life balance. Very, very important. Flex time. Where you can work. How many hours you actually have to work in the office. How many hours you have to work at home. Or can you work at home? What are the hours? Maybe incentives like a little more vacation time. Look at the entire package before you make a decision.

ROMANS: All right. Very great advice. Carolyn, thank you so much. "Work her way." Thanks so much, Carolyn.

KEPCHER: Thanks so much.

ROMANS: OK. Once you land that job, you'll have a little money to run out and buy the latest, greatest gadgets. You hope. Major price cut this week on smart phones and e-readers. We'll help you figure out which one is right for you with the right price.


ROMANS: No one really knew if the e-reader would catch on. You know, it's that little digital device you can read a book from a little computer screen. But now we're seeing price wars. Before we get to that, we have to talk about the big tech news of the week. It's what everyone is talking about.

The iPhone 4 and whether it's the best smart phone for your money. Joining us to play with all these little tech toys is tech expert Katie Linendoll. Thanks for joining us.


ROMANS: Let's first talk about the iPhone because gosh, every one is talking about this week. This is the next best thing to sliced bread or something. If I'm impressed.

LINENDOLL: It really is, too. And talk about 600,000 people have already preordered this. According to Steve Jobs, this has been the biggest leak since the original iPhone in '07 and probably rightfully so. The first thing that you're going to notice on the iPhone is that display, brilliant in terms of quality. It's actually using a retina display, which to some people, wow, what does that mean to me? Four times the amount of pixels that we saw in previous models.

Also better battery life, up to 40 percent better battery life. Capability to tether. And my favorite one is not only can you shoot high def movies on here, you can also edit those movies right on the phone and then share it with friends, which is remarkable.

ROMANS: Shoot and edit a movie right on the phone. But it isn't 4-G.


ROMANS: Four means it's the fourth generation of the iPhone.

LINENDOLL: Right. A lot of people hear iPhone 4-G and I want you to understand that 4G just means fourth generation, it's not on a 4-G network. Christine, I got to tell you another awesome feature which is really revolutionary in terms of mobile, we're demanding so much more out of our phones.

Now there's dual cameras on here. There's a five-mega pixel camera that has a flash for low light situations but there's also a camera on the front side so now you have the capability to video conference. So imagine being able to pick up your phone and have a communication and actually see that person anywhere across the world which is awesome.

ROMANS: So instead of just wandering around the street talking to ourselves we'll be wandering across the street talking to ourselves and seeing other people talk to themselves.


ROMANS: There is a 4G phone on the market.


ROMANS: Tell me about this one. This is the Sprint.

LINENDOLL: Yes, it's not just the iPhone that's lighting up the boards. And again, we're demanding so much from our phones now, becoming our most powerful device. You're going to be hearing a lot about two different models. One is the Droid X, which is going to be a competitor to the iPhone 4 but also the HTC Evo, which is the one that we're showcasing here. And that is the only 4G phone on Sprint's 4G network.

And what you need to know about that, not only are there over 70,000 apps but also an eight mega pixel camera and for me, the coolest thing about this is you can make actually make this a wi-fi hot spot for up to eight of your friends. So imagine being able to use your phone as a wi-fi hot spot. It's like having your own coffee shop which is remarkable.

ROMANS: That's cool. OK. Now, I want to switch from phones to the e-readers because the other big readers of the week was this dramatic price reduction for these e-readers.


ROMANS: And I've heard some people say that the sweet spot for e- readers is maybe a $150. You would have a lot of people buying these things but now you've got a big price decline. For example, you're looking at the Nook and the Kindle both dramatically cutting those prices.


ROMANS: Do you think more people are going to buy them because of that?

LINENDOLL: Bottom line is there is more competition in the marketplace. I mean, you hit it. We are seeing from consumer research that the sweet spot, yes, is in the $100 to $150 range. So you remember over the holidays e-readers were really booming and actually it was amazing on Christmas day, Amazon for the first time ever saw more sales in e-books than they did on paper books, which was pretty remarkable but we have to hit that price point.

Coming out with a $400, $259 e-reader for something that's a want and not a need is just not there yet. Competition.

ROMANS: Because you also have this iPad.


ROMANS: And you can get an application for the iPad to read a book.


ROMANS: So maybe are they competing with this new fancy little tablet that they think maybe could be something that's going to replace their entire existence?

LINENDOLL: Exactly. And that's exactly it. This is a perfect example of the competition in the marketplace. Not only are there over 20 different e-readers on the market but the i-Pad for example, listen, am I going to buy a $499 multimedia device that I have access to my web browser and music and video and apps and then also have an e-reader on here?

It's like, am I going to get that, as an entire multimedia unit or am I just going to get a proprietary e-reader?

ROMANS: Right.

LINENDOLL: So it's interesting too. In the first 65 days that the i- Pad was released five million e-books sold. So if that doesn't speak volumes and 22 percent of the market share, I don't know what does. It could be an e-reader killer.

ROMANS: All right. Very interesting. Katie Linendoll, thank you so much.


ROMANS: All the new tech gadgets of the week. Big news on tech. I mean, we're talking about the economy and the consumer but we do know that people dig deep when they want to buy something that's a cool gadget to make their lives more efficient.

All right. Your top stories just moments away on the CNN NEWSROOM but first we've got big road trip savings. We're going to lay out your lean and mean summer travel guides, that's next.


ROMANS: All right. Fourth of July weekend just around the corner. For so many folks that means the great American road trip. Here to help you with some tips to stretch your travel dollars, Amanda Walker, senior projects editor with "Consumer Reports." Welcome to the program.


ROMANS: First thing you do, you say you go online. Map out the trip for free. Know where you're going and how long it's going to take to get there. How do you do that?

WALKER: That's right.

There are several sites to help you plan your itinerary so maybe you'll find some great things for the kids to do or sights you want to see that are free. You can go to - AAA has one called Triptik, T-I-K. Yahoo has one called Trip Planner. Rand McNally, the good old Atlas people have one called Trip maker. And they can really help you out.

ROMANS: So when the kids are saying, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" You can refer to your little digital map and say, we will be there in 27.3 minutes.

WALKER: That's right.

ROMANS: Let's talk about preparing the car before you leave. You don't want any ugly surprises. So you say you need to -


ROMANS: - you need to give it a little once over.

WALKER: That's right. It's really a good idea to take it into your mechanic or your dealership. Have them look it over and check all the fluids. If you don't want to be driving down Mount Washington and find out there's problem with the brakes. So get that all checked out ahead of time. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and that you've got an emergency kit just in case there is a problem.

ROMANS: Let's talk about lodging deals. Because you should be looking around there for some discounts and deals on where to stay.

WALKER: Absolutely. First thing you want to do is make sure you take advantage of any memberships that you belong to that will provide a discount like AAA or AARP. Also, don't be afraid to use those great websites like Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline to get a great deal.

The other thing you can do if you want to call the hotel directly just to make sure you can't get a better rate, sometimes if you call the hotel directly instead of that national 800 number you'll get an even better deal, we found. If you're very brave, you can show up at the last minute. If it's late in the day and they've got a room available you'll probably get the best rate going.

ROMANS: And you know I say that everything is negotiable right now. The consumer has been so kind of sketchy that they do want your business so things are definitely negotiable.

WALKER: Always ask for a better deal.

ROMANS: Yes. We want to be sure everyone knows do not do this while you are driving but there are apps you can use, applications you can use while you're on the trip to find the best gas station, all kinds of other things.

WALKER: Right. If you've got a smart phone you may have to pay for some of these apps but some of them are free. And you can find other attractions. You can find restaurants that are in your price range. Cheap gas so they can be a great thing to use to find better deals.

ROMANS: You know, that's a great project for the co-pilot or the 12- year-old in the back seat.

WALKER: There you go. Right.

ROMANS: Other rules of the road, avoid the ATM fees.

WALKER: Oh, yes.

ROMANS: You don't want to get caught short on cash and paying $3 every time you need to get another 50 or 60 bucks.

WALKER: Right. No one wants to pay ATM fees. What you can do before you leave is ask your bank if they have a map of the ATMs in the city you'll be going to. That way you can make sure you're still using their ATMs. If there aren't any of their ATMs available in the places you'll be, look at the back of your card. See what network you're in, like Cirrs or Star.

If it doesn't say ask your bank what network are we in? So you can go to those ATMs in the area you'll be in. The bank you're using will probably charge you a fee but then your bank will waive an out of network fee.

ROMANS: Excellent advice. Mandy Walker, senior projects editor, "Consumer Reports." Thanks, Mandy.


ROMANS: And thanks for joining us this morning for the show that saves you money. I'll be back this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Eastern for your money with my good friend, Ali Velshi.

But right now, it's time for a check of your top stories. CNN Saturday continues right now.