What’s that car button for? Local dealership adds IT desk for customers

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 2:53 PM

When someone bought a new car in the 1990s, they could take the keys and go. Now as cars become more like computers, Lexus of Dayton says car owners need ongoing help from IT staff so they can understand the advanced software that comes with their new vehicle.

A recent $3.5 million remodel of the Washington Twp. dealership includes an IT work station for car owners to get help from full-time staff who help car owners understand everything from working the navigation system to connecting their phone’s blue tooth to customizing a luxury car’s advance climate control settings.

Dealerships across the state are facing the same changes as car buyers increasingly need ongoing tech support to understand all the software that comes with their new vehicle.

“Twenty years ago, when a consumer went into a dealership, the delivery process was ‘here are the keys, gas on the right, break on the left, have fun.’ Today there’s so much technology in these vehicles … you just can’t cover it all at once,” said Zach Doran, president of the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association.

The dealership’s evolution to needing full-time IT staff reflects how today’s car buyers sometimes need ongoing tech help with their vehicles in the same way they might need help with their laptops or phones.

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“This past week we’ve had guests who picked up a car and they’ve been back five times,” said Colin Frake, technology specialist with Lexus of Dayton.

Doran said some dealerships even host classes for car owners to stop by and learn all the safety and convenience technology in their cars.

For Lexus of Dayton, this region is different than some other Lexus markets. People in the Dayton region who have grown their wealth to the point where they are buying a luxury car are often older than people in other markets and typically less technology adept, officials with the dealership said.

Some high tech features that are popular in other markets — like the ability to have the Lexus access mobile apps like Pandora — are features that Frake said most customers he works with have little interest in.

General Manager Jeff Pizza said since the brand began, its gone from heated seats, to heated and cooled seats, to software that’s a “climate concierge” that once the software is programmed you theoretically never have to think about it again as it reacts to your body temperature and ambient temperature in the vehicle and constantly maintains a comfortable level for you and the seat.

“Now its gone to the next level where in our 2018 LS 500, it will now involve a Shiatsu massage and 28 way adjustable seats, and all of this is controlled by software,” Pizza said.

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Frake said when he’s hiring someone for an IT position he asks them to describe how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he sees how they think and explain a topic what might seem like a simple topic. It takes a specific skill set to walk a customer through an IT problem on their car if they aren’t tech savvy enough to describe the problem technology.

Some might need a tutorial of their cellphone first and then get a walk through how the car’s technology can interact with their phone. Frake said he’s talked with customers who bought cars who don’t have email addresses or just have flip phones that aren’t compatible with all the luxury car’s advanced technology.

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“You’ll have people who obviously aren’t unintelligent, but aren’t generationally familiar with how to describe what their issue is,” said Frake.

As the software has gotten more advance, the paper car manuals have grown to 600 to 800 pages for most of their cars with one manual more than 1,000 pages, though most car buyers don’t want the actual manual and some cars like the LC 500 have animated in-car video tutorials that can play on the dashboard so car owners can access those tutorials when they need it.

“Every time they release a new car I have to go through a process of learning and figuring out what the majority of guests are going to gravitate toward and also pick up other stuff for the one or two who will want to know ‘Oh what does all this do,’” said Frake.

House hunters, here are 5 secrets to getting the best home loan

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 5:01 PM

Getting a home mortgage loan is one of the most important financial commitments most people will ever make, since the terms of your loan can affect your finances in a big way for years to come.

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Start shopping for a loan before you actually begin looking at homes, since this lets you know where you stand and gives you greater negotiating power with sellers.

The following are five important things you should know before and during the home loan shopping process:

Know your credit score

Your credit score has a great effect on how easily you'll be able to get a home loan as well as on the interest rate you'll pay, according to Realtor.com. Your score takes into account your credit history, current debt and other factors. Lenders use it to determine your credit-worthiness.

Check your credit report before you start the process of applying for a home loan. This way, you can correct any errors – which do occur sometimes. If your score is particularly low, you may want to delay applying for a loan until you can improve it.

Research, and research some more.

Your Realtor may recommend a mortgage lender, and it doesn't hurt to use this as a starting point. However, if you fail to shop around, it could cost you a substantial amount of money over the years.

Consumer Reports recommends casting a wide net when you're shopping for a home loan. Try large national banks, regional banks, credit unions, online banks and mortgage brokers, but be sure to compare them within a few days of each other since rates can fluctuate.

Make sure you’re making an accurate comparison on loan quotes.

When you're getting quotes from several lenders, you'll need to make sure you're making an apples-to-apples comparison, according to CBS News. The loan terms should be the same, and so should the loan type (variable or fixed-rate, for example).

"Points" are also an important consideration. These upfront fees reduce the interest rate on your loan, and you should get each potential lender to give you a rate with and without points so you can make an accurate comparison.

Ever heard of PMI? You might need to get to know it.

If you're not making a down payment of at least 20 percent, your lender will usually require PMI, or private mortgage insurance. Although you're the one paying for the insurance, it doesn't protect your interests. Instead, it protects your lender in case you default on your loan.

Forbes recommends saving up for a 20 percent down payment if you can, since PMI adds to your monthly costs. 

Prepare yourself for closing costs.

Be aware of the closing costs you'll pay as part of your loan, Investopedia recommends. You'll be stuck with some of them, but others can sometimes be negotiated. These include application fees, underwriting fees, mortgage rate lock fees and loan processing fees.

As a starting point, Bankrate lists the average closing costs by state, so you can have an indication of how reasonable your potential lender's fees are.

New Planet Fitness opening to feature pizza

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 3:15 PM

Ryan Patrick curls as his son Macaden Patrick, 15, watches at the new Planet Fitness in Middletown’s Towne Mall Galleria in January 2016. The nearly 27,000 square foot facility has over 110 pieces of cardio equipment, each with a 15-inch tv, tanning beds, hydromassagers, free weights, weight machines and more. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Ryan Patrick curls as his son Macaden Patrick, 15, watches at the new Planet Fitness in Middletown’s Towne Mall Galleria in January 2016. The nearly 27,000 square foot facility has over 110 pieces of cardio equipment, each with a 15-inch tv, tanning beds, hydromassagers, free weights, weight machines and more. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Planet Fitness, a chain of fitness centers, is announcing a new location at 606 Taywood Road in Englewood.

Planet Fitness will have a ribbon-cutting celebration at the new location from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 1.

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“Free pizza will be available and Danni Allen from the ‘Biggest Loser’ will also be at the event to share her fitness journey, tips and lead group workouts,” the company said in an announcement.

The facility has 23,817 total square feet and offers cardio machines and strength equipment, 30-Minute Express Circuit, locker rooms with day lockers and showers, flat screen televisions, massage beds and chairs, tanning beds and more. The facility is open 24-7.

5 key things you should know about car insurance

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 2:46 PM

The following are five things you probably don't know about auto insurance It may cover more than you realize Your car's contents were stolen or damaged? Too bad Other drivers in your house need to be listed on the policy Your rates could go up because of an accident that wasn't your fault You may be missing out on some discounts

Car insurance isn't something you probably think about often, but it's an important tool in protecting your assets.

It pays to learn about your policy before you need it so you can take advantage of its benefits and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Whether you're shopping for a new policy or are wondering about the specifics of your current coverage, you may be surprised by what you find.

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The following are five things you probably don't know about auto insurance:

It may cover more than you realize.

If your car is damaged when a rodent chews through some wires, your expenses will most likely be covered, according to the Motley Fool. Your auto insurer may also pay for damage suffered when your car hits a pothole, and, although you probably won't need it, damage from a riot or meteor. And if you're involved in legal action as the result of a vehicle accident, your car insurance may also provide help with some legal costs.

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Your car's contents were stolen or damaged? Too bad.

If you're like many people, you might have several expensive items – your phone, laptop and navigation system – that you often leave in your car. Unfortunately, if you're in an accident and these items are damaged, you're probably on your own when it comes to replacing them, U.S. News & World Report warns. The same is true if your car is stolen while the items are inside.

Other drivers in your house need to be listed on the policy.

In most cases, a car insurance policy provides coverage for you and other people who don't live with you but may occasionally drive your car, according to Business Insider. But if you have other drivers in your home, they will need to be listed on your policy as well. Otherwise, they probably won't be covered if they drive your car and are in an accident.

Your rates could go up because of an accident that wasn't your fault.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) found that many companies will raise your rates if you open a claim, even if you're not at fault. The practice is illegal in at least two states (California and Oklahoma), but drivers who live elsewhere are not protected. Companies vary in how much they'll raise your rates, and the CFA found that moderate-income drivers often face higher increases than higher-income drivers do.

You may be missing out on some discounts.

You might be getting a discount for being a good driver or because you're in a certain age group, but you may be missing out on some less-obvious discounts. According to Fox Business, some insurance companies offer discounts if you belong to certain professional groups, are a graduate of a certain college or belonged to one of its affiliated fraternities or sororities. 

Investment breathes new life into unique Dayton artists’ space

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 1:40 PM

Krysten Smith, Front Street Buildings manager, and Chris Meyer, of Energy Optimizers USA, agree: There’s no place quite like Front Street. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Thomas Gnau/Staff
Krysten Smith, Front Street Buildings manager, and Chris Meyer, of Energy Optimizers USA, agree: There’s no place quite like Front Street. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF(Thomas Gnau/Staff)

A complex of historic Dayton industrial buildings is proving to be a haven for local artists, even as it gets a new lease on life.

The Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority Board of Trustees last month approved a $300,000 loan to the company overseeing the Front Street buildings, a commercial complex that bills itself as “the largest community of artists and artisans in the Dayton area.”

“It’s just a very eclectic community,” said Krysten Smith, who helps manage the trio of buildings straddling East Second and Front streets. “There’s a whole variety of different types of art that we do here — from painters to sculptors, jewelers to woodworkers, screening printers, photographers.”

The Port Authority’s loan will cover just over half of the expected $510,077 cost of replacing a 45-year-old heating boiler for the complex at 1001 E. Second St. Citywide Development, the city of Dayton’s private development arm, is expected to cover the rest, Brad Evers, port authority counsel, said recently.

Chris Meyer, account manager for Tipp City’s Energy Optimizers USA, approached the Port Authority for the financial help.

The old steam boiler required full-time oversight by an engineer when it was operated, mostly in and around business hours between November and April. Continuing that oversight, and continuing to fix the boiler, was too expensive an option.

“They had a room with an open window in the brick, so they (the monitoring engineer) could look in,” Meyer said.

The area is known for open-air art studios and outdoor markets. Stroll through the red brick structures, and it’s easy to see how unique it is. Tall windows give painters’ studios plenty of light. Eighteen-foot-high ceilings hover overhead. A cargo elevator doesn’t quite look like it will move — until it does.

“You go over there, and you see this space has an interesting feel to it,” Port Authority Executive Director Jerry Brunswick said.

Meyer said the investment is being structured as a PACE project, where the cost of new energy equipment is repaid for up to 20 years via an assessment added to a property’s tax bill.

The new heating units are on order and are expected to be delivered before Christmas, Meyer said. They will be installed after winter.

Built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, much of the complex once was a paper mill, the former home of International Envelope. The building is owned by Front Street Building LLC, a company formed by Zimmel and Katherine Miller in 2001. Zimmel Miller, who worked in construction and real estate, died in 2006 at 87.

The buildings are full, and there’s a waiting list of would-be tenants.

“It’s 100 percent full, which is an amazing thing in Dayton,” Meyer said. “Not only that, she has a waiting list.”

Plenty of prospective tenants are “amazed” at the what they see on Front Street, Smith said.

“That’s really what we’re trying to do — just get that word out there, to get everybody to see what the hidden gem in the Gem City is,” she said.