Sales of Newly-Built Homes Up Around 10 Percent

Newly built home sales are increasing Photo credit: Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Newly built, single-family house sales reached a new high in January, with strongest sales results since July 2008.

In December 2013, 427,000 such units were sold. The seasonally adjusted statistics for January 2014 show 468,000. The reasoning for the increase is that it is partially due to the misses sales from December.

The January increase is seen as a great sign, since the sales went up despite the harsh winter conditions that froze much of U.S. economy. Home buyers were not obstructed by this, apparently.

The construction industry is still careful, though. There is a low supply of new homes and not that many easily available building lots, which makes the businesses wary of excessive optimism. The new homes inventory stayed at 184,000 units in January.

Read the source article at Mortgage News

Auto Sales Flat in February for Third Straight Month: Is Weather to Blame?

Cars stuck in the snow Photo credit: ChrisGoldNY / Foter / CC BY-NC

 

Vehicle inventories are growing – but auto sales are certainly not increasing. The trend can be seen since December 2013, when sales remain flat, then fell in January and will most probably be flat in February.

Both GM and Ford report that their sales fell in December last year, and are expected to fall in February as well.

The main reason for the negative results seem to be the harsh winter weather. Another factor for auto sales numbers are the stock market fluctuations.

Still, there is no reason for pessimism. The auto sales for 2014 are expected to increase, but not at the same rate as in 2012 and 2013. Naturally, with the crisis earlier in the 2000s, the first years after it are the strongest in growth. Upward movement in sales is still expected after the cold winter turns into milder weather.

Read the source article at Stock Market

Bonding Insurance Explained

People who use phrases like “bonding insurance” or “insurance bonds” are often referring to fidelity bonds whether they know it or not. If you’re interested in bonding but are unsure about what options are available to you and what the benefits of each are, this guide will help steer you in the right direction.

 

bond-insurance-explained

What is Fidelity Bond Insurance?

Fidelity bonds are a form of insurance that protect against employee dishonesty such as theft, and usually aren’t required.  There are a few different types of fidelity bonds that have their own benefits that are important to understand.

Business service fidelity bonds protect customers from employee dishonesty by those hired to perform services on their property. Cleaning services, pest control companies or moving services often get this type of fidelity bond because it protects the life blood of their business, which are the customers. For example, if an employee steals from a customer and is convicted in a court of law, the business service fidelity bond policy will cover the losses.

An employee dishonesty fidelity bond protects an employer from dishonest acts of their own employees. This bond is very similar to a business service bond, but the protection is meant for the employer, not the customer.

ERISA fidelity bonds are actually required by law (thanks to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) to protect participants and beneficiaries of employee benefit plans from fraudulent acts by those who manage the employee benefit plans (known as the fiduciaries). Read our article to find out more on what it means to be bonded with fidelity bonds.

 


What Are Surety Bonds?

It’s also possible that someone who uses a term like “bond insurance” is looking for information on surety bonds, which are very different from fidelity bonds. Surety bonds are required by the government or other third parties and provide guarantees. What the surety bond guarantees depends on the specific type; there are hundreds of surety bond types with guarantees that range from ensuring a mortgage broker won’t commit fraud, to guaranteeing a contractor will properly complete a construction job for a municipality. Check out our guide to learn more about how surety bonds work. If you’re still unsure whether you need a surety bond or fidelity bond insurance, please take a look at our bond insurance infographic guide.

Now that you understand the difference between fidelity bond insurance and surety bonds, you should be able to make educated decisions on how to protect and run a business with the correct bonds in place. As always, if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Getting Your California Contractor’s License

California Grunge Flag
Do you know how to get your California contractor’s license?
Nicolas Raymond / Flickr / CC BY

Did you know that there are more than 300,000 licensed contractors in California? Would you like to be one of them? If yes, we can help you figure out what you need to get easily licensed in the Golden State.

If you want to conduct contract business for more than $500, you need to get licensed by the California Contractors State License Board. The Board protects consumers and regulates contractors’ activities in the state. It processes all licensing applications, license renewals, additional classifications, and changes of license records.

You can get a California contractor’s license in more than 40 contractor classifications. The top 10 include general building, electrical works, general engineering, plumbing, painting and decoration, air heating, ventilation and air conditioning, landscaping, flooring, concrete works and tile (ceramic and mosaic) works.

 

Preparations for concrete placement at the Folsom auxiliary spillway
You can obtain a California contractor’s license in more than 40 classification areas
USAcehq / Flickr / CC BY

 

Additionally, the contractor classifications are split into three main categories: general engineering contractor, general building contractor and specialty contractor, which has multiple specialty fields.

 

Getting Licensed

In order to obtain your contractor license in California, you will have to fulfill the particular requirements set by the Contractor State License Board for your classification. This will entail submitting a completed application form along with a $300 non-refundable application fee.

CA Contractors State License Board
CSLB.CA.GOV

The skill prerequisite can be fulfilled with either specialized education or four years of working experience in the field. You might need to pass an exam in your specific skill area, but you should check if you can get a waiver for this based on your professional experience. If you do need to pass a specialty exam, you can start contractor state license courses in advance to help you refresh your knowledge.

Make sure to include details about your work experience in the application, because this can also clarify your exam eligibility. Also, be aware that there’s one final requirement –  to submit a full set of fingerprints for a mandatory criminal background check.

 

Getting Your Contractor’s License Bond

One of the contractor licensing requirements in California is to obtain a surety bond. The bond amount is $12,500 and the contractor needs to pay a percentage of it as a bond price.

Don’t forget – there’s a difference between a contractor bond and a contractor’s license bond! The first category includes bonds such as performance bonds, payment bonds and bid bonds. They are required for work on specific projects. Contractor’s license bonds, on the other hand, are general bonds required for licensing as a general contractor or specialty contractor.

Construction of the UC Davis California Native Plant GATEway Garden
Contractors need to get bonded in order to get their California contractor’s license GoodLifeGarden / Flickr / CC BY-SA

 

The bond is a guarantee that you, as the contractor, will abide by the State’s rules and regulations in your work. It acts as a safety net for customers. The contractor’s license bond should be issued by a surety bond company authorized by the California Department of Insurance. If you want to learn more, take a look at the California contractor’s license bond page.

If you’re looking for ways to save on your contractor’s license bond, keep in mind you have to choose your surety bond agency carefully. While some agencies require excellent history in many financial and business criteria, here at JW Surety Bonds we will only check your personal credit score. That’s our simple basis for approving bonds and determining bond price.

Obtaining your California contractor’s license bond is a conveniently straightforward process. You can apply through our website and get a quick online quote and approval.

 

Ready to Get Licensed?

Once you’ve gathered all the licensing information for your contracting specialty field, you just need to follow through the easy steps of getting bonded and licensed. Don’t forget, it’s much easier to go through bureaucratic processes when you know all of the requirements and have your documents fully prepared. So start today by looking up the forms you need using the links above!

We hope you enjoy your contract work in the Golden State!

Top 5 Freight Broker and Trucking Blogs

The past several months have been unpredictable and even stressful for many freight brokers due to the industry changes brought on by MAP-21. For a change of pace, we compiled a top 5 list of the blogs and resources to keep updated with freight and trucking industry news, equipment reviews and thoughts from real drivers on the road. We present you the “Top 5 Freight Broker and Trucking Blogs”.

 

top-5-freight-broker-blogs

#5: American Trucking Association

The American Trucking Association blog (ATA) is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Their website offers economic and safety updates affecting the trucking industry, and a variety of newsletters. The ATA also holds conferences around the country regarding education, policy discussion and more throughout the year.

#4: Dial-A-Truck

Dubbed the “original load board” DAT (Dial-A-Truck) and the DAT blog provides freight broker, carrier, driver and shipper news as well as supply and demand trends, forecasting and capacity planning. DAT also offers a weekly newsletter that provides freight and rate trends.

#3: Transport Topics

While this isn’t technically a blog, Transport Topics labels itself “the newspaper of trucking and freight transportation”. You can find their broad range of trucking and freight related articles on their website, as well as the print version of their magazine.

#2: Truckinginfo

Truckinginfo offers a selection of blogs with topics ranging from trucking industry updates to truck road tests. The All That’s Trucking blog provides industry news for drivers and fleet operators; and even maintenance advice. The Trailer Talk blog performs roads tests on a variety of trucks, but specializes in light and medium-duty, vocational and hybrids. The On the Road blog  provides expert advice and technical knowledge on equipment and applies real world experience to test drives.

#1: Overdrive Online

Overdrive Online also has a collection of three separate blogs on their website that covers a wide range of freight and trucking topics. The Overdrive Extra blog focuses on a large variety of trucking topics such as new gear releases, financial tips and on the road advice. The Channel 19 blog provides a wide range of owner-operator news and driver opinions. Lastly, the George and Wendy Show blog includes observations from Wendy Parker, who is new to the world of trucking and rides along her owner-operator husband George to report on their journeys.

If you have any freight and trucking resources that you find helpful, please feel free to leave a comment below to share.

How Do Bonds Work?

How do bonds work? This is a vague question that can be referring to many unrelated bond types. However, if you’re looking for a guide on how surety bonds such as license and permit, contract and court bonds work, or are looking for an explanation of how fidelity bond insurance works, you have come to the right place.

What Are Surety Bonds, and How Do They Work?

Surety bonds are guarantees and provide protection for the public. They are usually required by the government, but can also be required by private third parties. There are many types of surety bonds that provide a wide range of guarantees, such as ensuring a construction job will be completed properly, or guaranteeing an auto dealer will abide by the law while selling motor vehicles. If you would like more information on what it means to be bonded, please read our article about being bonded with surety bonds.

how-do-bonds-work

How Do License and Permit Bonds Work?

Let’s begin with how license and permit bonds work. They guarantee the terms of a business license will be followed, and are required by local, state or federal governments to get a license or permit for many occupations. To demonstrate how license and permits bonds work, we will use the common real world example of an auto dealer bond.

An auto dealer who wants to get their license to sell motor vehicles will likely have to get an auto dealer bond since these bonds are required in most states. The auto dealer bond guarantees the dealer will follow the terms of their license, along with any other applicable laws and regulations of the state. If the auto dealer breaks the rules, such as knowingly selling a defective vehicle to a customer, a claim can be filed on the auto dealer’s bond by the customer. The claim will be investigated by the surety company, and if found to be legitimate, the customer will be reimbursed by that company. However, the surety will go back to the auto dealer to recoup the claim they paid out.

There are also miscellaneous bonds, which are sometimes thought of as license and permit bonds, but they aren’t related to getting a license or permit at all. Like all surety bonds, miscellaneous bonds provide a variety of guarantees. For example, some states require health clubs to get a health club bond, which guarantees that if the gym is to close, any prepaid membership fees will be refunded. If the health club doesn’t refund prepaid membership fees, the same surety bond claim process will take place as described above. The customer will file a claim, the surety company will pay the claim (if it’s a legitimate claim) and then the surety company will go back to the health club for reimbursement.

As you can see, surety bonds protect the public, not the bond holder. To learn more about license, permit and miscellaneous bonds, please visit our license and permit bond center.

 


How Do Contract Bonds Work?

Contract bonds guarantee the terms of a contract will be followed, and are most often used to guarantee public construction jobs will be completed correctly. In order for a contractor to be considered to work on public projects, the contractor is required to get bid and performance bonds. When a contractor decides they want to work a on a public job, such as building a city bridge, they must first bid on the job using a bid bond. The bid bond guarantees the bid submitted by the contractor is accurate and complete.  If the contractor is the lowest bidder and awarded the project, the next step is to get a performance and payment bond.

Performance bonds guarantee work will be done according to the contract. Payments bonds are often joined together with performance bonds, and they guarantee that any laborers, suppliers and subcontractor will be paid. If the contractor performs faulty work, walks off the job or doesn’t pay subcontractors, a claim can be filed on the performance and payment bond. The surety company will investigate the claim, and if valid, will hire a new contractor to complete the project. The contractor who caused the claim isn’t off the hook because the surety company will go back to him for reimbursement.

Once again, surety bonds protect the public, not the person who is bonded. For more information on contract bonds, take a look at our contract bond center.    

 

How Do Court Bonds Work?

Court bonds guarantee that an individual or organization will fulfill their duties as ordered by the court. These duties vary depending on the specific type of court bond. For example, guardianship bonds guarantee a legal guardian of a minor or disabled person will manage their finances according to court orders. If the court orders aren’t followed and finances are mismanaged, a potential heir can file a claim directly with the surety company, or the court can be notified and handle the claim. In either case, if the claim is found to be valid, the surety company would pay any losses, and then go to the guardian for reimbursement. To learn more about court bonds, please visit our court bond hub.

How Do Public Official Bonds Work?

Our last surety bond category is public official bonds. They are often lumped together with license, permit and miscellaneous bonds, but are actually their own category. Public official bonds guarantee elected public officials such as treasurers, judges, mayors and sheriffs to name a few, will perform their responsibilities honestly and according to local or state laws.

If laws are broken and the public official causes financial loss, the local or state government can file a claim on the public official bond. Like with the other surety bond types, the surety company will investigate the claim and if legitimate, will repay the county any losses experienced. The surety company will then go back to the public official who caused the claim for reimbursement. For more information on public official bonds, please visit our public official bond general information page.

What Is Fidelity Bond Insurance, and How Does It Work?

Fidelity bonds are very different from surety bonds. They are a form of insurance that protect against employee dishonesty such as theft, and usually aren’t required by anyone. For example, if an employee of a cleaning business steals a customer’s personal property and there is a business services fidelity bond in place, a claim can be filed on the bond, but only if the employee who allegedly stole from the customer is convicted by a court of law.

The same goes for employee dishonesty fidelity bonds, which protect the employer from dishonest acts by their own workers. Once convicted, the claim can be paid out by the surety company who wrote the bond to reimburse the losses. For more information, read our in-depth article about what it means to be bonded with fidelity bonds. For information on all fidelity bond types, visit our fidelity bond center.

 


There are drastic differences between surety and fidelity bonds and how they work. A surety bond is a guarantee that protects the public, while fidelity bonds are not a guarantee, but an insurance policy that protects consumers against employee dishonesty. If you have any other questions about the world of bonds, please leave a comment below; we’d be happy to hear from you.