Friday, July 16, 2010

America’s Most Expensive Place to Park: Manhattan

Parking in Manhattan is still more expensive than it is anywhere else in the country. But if you’re just driving in for a day, you’re currently getting a better deal than you did last year.

Midtown monthly parking rates fell 2% to a median of $538, while downtown rates rose 6% to $529, according to a survey of parking rates released Thursday by real-estate brokerage Colliers International.

That means Midtown and downtown Manhattan have the highest monthly rates in the U.S. Boston — where salaries are higher — places third, at $425 a month.

Some small comfort for drivers: at least New York City isn’t the world’s most expensive place to park. According to the Colliers survery, eight other central business districts around the world are more expensive than NYC. The most pricey place to park a vehicle is the City of London, where monthly stowage costs $933.

For daily parkers, however, things are looking up. It’s now cheaper to park in downtown Manhattan for a day, at $31, than it is in Boston or Honolulu. Daily rates downtown fell 18% from last year, while daily rates in Midtown — still the most expensive U.S. market — fell 9% to $40.

The decline in daily rates could be due in part to cost-conscious consumers who have cut back on driving to the city, opting instead to take the train to see a Broadway show, for instance.

“Daily parking is more sensitive to the general economy,” said Colliers Chief Economist Ross Moore.

But there’s also a longer-term trend of people who come to Manhattan using more public transit. The Department of City Planning found that the number of people driving into Manhattan dropped by 57,000 from 2000 to 2007 — even as the number of jobs on the island increased by 212,000.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

World’s Most Expensive Porsche

According to New York’s Luxury Institute, who surveyed 500 households with incomes over $200,000 in 2006, Porsche is the most prestigious brand of automobiles. While some may argue in favor of Bugatti or Rolls-Royce, that is still high praise indeed.

The most expensive Porsche currently avaialable is the Porsche Carrera GT at $440,000. With a top speed of 205+ mph and the capability to accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds, it’s certainly fast enough to justify its price.

World's Most Expensive Porsche - Porsche 918 Spyder

Their new concept car, the Porsche 918 Spyder, may just be the German company’s next most expensive car. The 918 Spyder is a two-seater convertible with a 500 hp V8 engine. It has a top speed of 199 mph and can accelerates from 0 to 60 in under 3.2 seconds. Its electric drive-systems allow it to run 15 miles on electric power and it consumes fuel at a rate of 78 miles per gallon.

This fantastic new Porsche is likely to have an MSRP of $630,000.
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The world's most expensive bikes

"It's not about the bike," according to the title of Lance Armstrong's autobiography. Except, perhaps, when the bike costs half a million dollars.

A few months after last year's Tour de France, the Trek Madone road bike Armstrong had ridden down the Champs d'Elysee in the final stage of the 21-day race was auctioned in a Sotheby's cancer benefit.

Besides having been graced by the legs of the world's only seven-time Tour winner, the carbon fibre cycle was designed by artist Damien Hirst and adorned with hundreds of real, shimmering butterfly wings clear-coated to the frame.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the work a "horrific barbarity." But a few wealthy bike lovers didn't seem to mind: The "Butterfly" Madone sold to an anonymous bidder for $US500,000 ($572,470) crowning it as perhaps the most expensive bicycle in history.The Tour de France has long been more than just a chance to admire one of the planet's most impressive duets of man and machine: It's also an opportunity to ogle those finely tuned and uncannily efficient machines themselves. After all, the world's top cycling teams use the Tour and other major races to pioneer subtle variations on frame styles, components and even jersey fabrics that shave seconds off riders' times - tricks that often make their way into the world of amateur cycling and production bikes.

"It's like F1 racing for cyclists," says Devin Walton, a member of the marketing team at bike component manufacturer Shimano. "Teams prototype technology at outrageous costs, and eventually it trickles down to consumers."

This year's Tour, for instance, is the first in which several entire teams are riding with Shimano's Di2 electronic shifting system, a battery-powered transmission that allows cyclists to shift from any position and automatically adjusts derailleurs to prevent rubbing. That system, which was only introduced in the 2007 Tour and is used by teams such as HTC Columbia and Garmin Transitions, is now available to the public and sells for around $US5000 a set.

For some teams, bikes in the Tour are already available to consumers at high, if not astronomical, price tags. Trek, which provides bikes to Team RadioShack and its star rider Armstrong, sells every model of bike on the mass market that Team RadioShack races. The Speed Concept time trial bike that Trek developed for Team RadioShack, for instance, can be had for $US17,000 or less depending on the paint job and components.

But if consumers want the experience - usually reserved for the world's top professional riders - of having a bike designed and optimised for their individual body, it's better to call Kevin Saunders of KGS Bikes. Former engineer Saunders insists that customers fly to his headquarters in San Antonio for an elaborate three-hour fitting session that tests them in various riding positions. He then commissions the building of a single frame, typically from Massachusetts based Parlee Cycles. At the highest end, including custom paint jobs for every component of the bicycle, Saunders has sold bikes for as much as $US32,000. "We don't aim to get close," says Saunders. "We aim to get perfect."

KGS's bikes will be just a few of the ultra-high-end machines on display at next June's "Best Bikes" cycling and lifestyle show in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Also in the line-up: A gold-painted, python leather and Swarovski-crystal adorned women's bike from Italian bicycle maker Montante, selling for close to $US43,000, a folding bike built by Mercedes, and a carbon Beru Factor 001 bicycle priced at around $US30,000.

British-based Beru builds components for F1 racing, and outfitted its Factor 001 bicycle with a touchscreen LCD display that serves up information from dozens of sensors monitoring the bike's components, its environment and even the rider's body. A cyclist can see, for instance, when he or she is putting more torque onto one crank than another and adjust his or her stroke to compensate.

Those tricks go far beyond professional racing restrictions, but could give riders new ways to tweak their training in real time. "We wanted to show people what could be done when there are no rulebooks," says Beru Managing Director John Bailey.

One ultra-pricey bike that won't be showing in Monaco: French manufacturer Aurumania's Crystal Edition Gold Bike. That track bike features a gold plated frame, wheels and spokes, along with 600 Swarovski crystals. At $US101,000, it may be the most expensive publicly available bicycle in the world. And if anyone doubted its purpose as a status symbol: Aurumania also sells a gold-plated rack for the bike for more than $US6,000.

The global recession may have put a dent into the market for the conspicuous consumption of cycling white elephants like these, says KGS's Saunders. He says his company since 2008 has focused on selling bikes at the $US20,000 level with every practical advantage - not the $US30,000 bikes equipped with pricey aesthetics. "People don't want to spend $US10,000 on a paint job anymore," says Saunders.

But Paul Earle, the organiser of the Best Bikes show in Monte Carlo, argues that even in tough times, bicycles become a cheaper outlet for luxury than pricier alternatives like cars and motorcycles. "Bikes are relatively democratic in a way," he says. "Maybe you see a Ferrari go by, and you can't afford it. But you can still go spend $US10,000 on a bike." Besides, Earle says that the last year's economic recovery has put wealthy people back in the mood to spend big money on a healthy, green hobby. "Everything is cyclical," he adds. Even - or, perhaps, especially - cycling.
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Most expensive street names in the UK

What’s in a name?

When you go looking to buy a property, there are many things you want to take account of. Are there enough bedrooms? What are the transport links like? Are there the right local amenities, schools, parks to meet your requirements?

However, most of us don’t take much notice of the actual street name. That might be a mistake, as new research has shown.
Hills and Lanes

A study by property website Zoopla has found that the highest valued properties in the UK are found on streets with ‘Hill’ in the name, where the average price is a whopping £341,466 – well over 50% more expensive than the average price of a property in the UK, which stands at £218,705 according to Zoopla’s Zed Index.

Being based at the top of the hill was desirable back in the medieval days for tactical reasons, and clearly even in the 21st Century it holds a certain allure! However, you can also expect your home to be worth in excess of £300,000 if you live on a ‘Lane’. According to Zoopla’s research, homes on Lanes are worth an average of an impressive £328,378.

Other names making up the top five include Mews (£294,869), Park (£283,069) and Green (£269,861).However, if you fancy nabbing a bargain, buying a property on a ‘Street’ might be a good idea – the average property found on roads with that name cost just £155,515, less than half what you would be forking out to buy on a Hill!

Another budget street name to look out for is ‘Terrace’, which boasts an average value of £156,387, while ‘Crescent’ (£176,942), ‘Court’ (£178,488) and ‘View’ (£184,546) also present some cracking opportunities to snap up a brilliant deal on a property.
Oh how common...

So why is there such a big difference in price between the various street names? One theory is that streets with more exclusive and rare names will be worth more, while the common street names don’t really add to their locale’s attractiveness.

However, the results from Zoopla don’t completely support this. For example, while Mews and Hill are two of the least common location names within the top 20 that Zoopla has compiled, with 4,825 and 6,838 streets respectively, Lane – with an average value of a monster £328,378 remember – is the fifth most common, with 45,058 separate streets carrying the word as part of their name.

Just to reinforce that this theory doesn’t really hold weight, the least common of the top 20 street names, ‘Square’, with just 3,859 streets, boasts an average value of £220,485, barely above the national average.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The most expensive iPhone 4 in the world

Sure, there might be some kind of problem with the signal bar — perhaps it is software, as Apple claim, perhaps not — one day we’ll know. Meanwhile the adoring iPhone loving or loathing public might as well get their gossip going on this O.T.T. rich person’s creation, the $20,000 diamond-encrusted iPhone 4 from designer, Stuart Hughes.

Hughes likes to bling out his Apple devices — you’ll usually find at least one diamond and gold and dragon’s claw-encrusted Apple product emerge shortly after each Apple product introduction. (OK, I made up that bit about dragon’s claws).The iPhone 4 costs $20,000 and has 6.5 carats of VVS quality, F-color diamonds on the metal band between the screens.

The logo on the back is made of platinum and diamonds. Only 50 of these will be made, driving one to observe that there must be someone out there crazy enough to buy these things… We reckon this particular iPhone will probably need to be kept in a case, however — you won’t want the diamonds wearing a hole in your pre-release Versace suit, right?
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World's most expensive violin expected to fetch £12m

The Vieuxtemps Guarneri, which was made in 1741, has been put up for sale in Chicago through one of the world's leading traders in rare violins, Bein & Fushi. The violin was named after 19th century musician Henri Vieuxtemps and has been played by some of the greatest virtuosi in the world, the Guardian reports. Dubbed the Mona Lisa of violins.

It is owned by a retired British financier and music philanthropist, Ian Stoutzker, who bought it from Sir Isaac Wolfson, founder of Wolfson College, Oxford. Geoffrey Fushi said the instrument was one of the most unusual made by Guarneri thanks to its size and sound.

"I believe it is a living entity, a living being," Mr Fushi said. "Musicians say the same thing that the instrument dictates to them how they play the music." Peter Quint, a Chicago-based soloist who has performed on the Vieuxtemps several times, said it was unique. "This instrument has the most unbelievable power, not just in loudness but in sound quality. It has a huge palate of colours that allow you to express a wider range of emotions."
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Pakistan becomes most expensive country in S Asia

A shocking disclosure was made in the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) last week that Pakistan had become the most expensive country in the South Asian region after the highest rise in the prices of essential food items and the “highest inflationary pressure” compared to its neighbours like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others.

The fresh evaluation of prices of food items done by the government revealed that India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other neighbouring countries were less expensive than Pakistan. But the official papers placed before the ECC were mysteriously silent on an important aspect of inflation, as Afghanistan is also much cheaper than Pakistan.

Apart from others, two most essential food items — fresh milk and sugar — have registered a huge rise in their prices and have gone much higher than the neighbouring countries. The price indicators revealed that overall Pakistan was facing the worst pressure of inflation as compared to its neighbours.

The sources said that in the ECC meeting presided over by Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh, some of the ministers expressed their shock over the sudden rise in the prices of sugar and other essential items. The sources said that the quality of data on the basis of which sugar consumption and import policies were being framed also came under fire in the meeting when some ministers lashed out at the authorities responsible for the sudden rise in the prices of sugar.

However, as usual, Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who was being held responsible for the sugar crisis in the country for failing to import the commodity on time, was once again missing from the meeting. He had earlier skipped his cabinet meeting on Wednesday, which too had discussed the sugar crisis. The sources said that Makhdoom Amin Fahim was presently on a foreign trip when the country was heading towards a major sugar crisis — thanks to his ministry’s poor decision at the time of award of sugar import contracts to some bogus firms, which failed to meet their import contracts, leading to a serious price hike within a month.

Earlier, it was also disclosed that in the last financial year 2009-2010 just ended, the direct foreign investment had registered a drastic fall by 39 percent as against the corresponding year of $3.3 billion, the figure had come down to $2.2 billion.

The sources said during the briefing on the economic indicators to the ECC members, the ministers were warned that for the last few months, inflation was on the rise.

The official documents revealed that the prices of fresh milk went up by 17.1 percent and sugar alone registered a rise of 12 percent in the month of May 2010 when compared with May 2009 and these two items consumed the purchasing power of common man. The prices of wheat flour, tea and vegetable ghee also went up during the last one month.

The major price gauge i.e. Consumer Price Index (CPI), Sensitive Price Index (SPI), and the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) for the month of May 2010 showed estimated rise of 13 percent, 17.3 percent and 21.2 percent respectively.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

The most and least expensive cities for expatriates

The world’s most expensive city for expatriates is Luanda, Angola (pictured above). The Angolan capital beat out Tokyo for the top spot, with N’Djamena, Chad, Moscow, Russia, and Geneva, Switzerland, rounding out the top 5.

The Cost of Living Survey from Mercer used data from 214 cities across five continents, measuring the comparative costs of over 200 items in each location - such as housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

New York topped is the U.S. city most expensive for expats. It ranked 27th. Los Angeles was the next highest-ranking U.S. city at 55.

New York is used as the base city for the index and all cities are compared against New York. Currency movements are measured against the US dollar. The cost of housing - often the biggest expense for expats - plays an important part in determining where cities are ranked.

For the first time, the ranking of the world’s top 10 most expensive cities includes three African urban centres: Luanda (1) in Angola, Ndjamena (3) in Chad and Libreville (7) in Gabon. The top ten also includes three Asian cities; Tokyo (2), Osaka (6) and Hong Kong (jointly ranked 8). Moscow (4), Geneva (5) and Zurich (joint 8) are the most expensive European cities, followed by Copenhagen (10).
The world’s cheapest city for expats? Karachi, Pakistan, where rent levels are low compared to other cities worldwide. The least expensive U.S. city in the survey is Winston-Salem, N.C., which is a community of about 230,000 people whose average income is $35,500. It’s the 17th-lowest ranked city on the survey.

The cheapest cities for expats:

1. Karachi, Pakistan
2. Managua, Nicaragua
3. Islamabad, Pakistan
4. La Paz, Bolivia
5. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
6. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
7. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
8. Kolkata, India
9. Tegucigalpa, Honduras
10. Windhoek, Namibia
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Thursday, July 1, 2010

The World's Most Expensive Cities For Expats

Visitors to New York may gasp that locals frequently pay $20 for a single cocktail.

But the Big Apple turns out to be cheaper than 26 other world cities. If you really want to feel sticker shock, try relocating to Luanda, Angola.

The oil-rich capital city is the most expensive in the world for expatriates, a study released Tuesday shows.

World centers like the second-most expensive city Tokyo, No. 5 Geneva, Switzerland, and No. 8 Hong Kong are often associated with high costs, so it might seem surprising that an African city out-priced them. But Nathalie Constantin-Métral, senior researcher at Mercer, a global research firm that advises companies.

On the costs of moving employees and released the report, says it's a misconception to think of Africa as cheap for newcomers.To entice talented staff to [African] cities, multinationals need to provide the same standard of living and benefits that these employees and their families would experience at home," said Constantin-Métral in a statement. "In some African cities, the cost of this can be extraordinarily high--particularly the cost of good, secure accommodation."

By The Numbers: The World's Most Expensive Cities For Expats African cities costly for foreign employees
Luanda isn't the only high-priced place in Africa. Two other cities on the continent made the top 10: Ndjamena, Chad at No. 3, and Libreville, Gabon at No. 7. All three African cities are rich in natural resources, enticing oil and mining companies to do business there, but since they are also among the poorest places on earth, multinational companies often must build infrastructure from scratch, resulting in a high cost to expatriates.

To find the world's most expensive cities for expatriates, Mercer studied 214 urban centers where international firms do business, comparing the costs of over 200 items. Their calculations also included typical housing costs, one of the chief considerations for expatriates abroad. Their cost comparisons were made in March 2010, using exchange rates from that period. Prices were then converted to the U.S. dollar for comparison. Costs drop in American cities thanks to a battered buck
Shifts in currency values shook up the rankings this year. The U.S. dollar weakened between early 2009 and early 2010, making American cities cheaper for foreigners. New York City was the world's eighth-most expensive last year, but only ranked 27th on this year's list. Similarly, Los Angeles, Calif., fell from 23rd to 55th place, and Washington, D.C., fell 45 places to No. 111. The Brazilian real strengthened against the dollar, making Sao Paolo the most expensive city in the Americas, at No. 21.

European cities took four spots at the top of the list, the most expensive being Moscow, Russia (No. 4), followed by Swiss cities Geneva (No. 5) and Zurich, (tied for No. 8). Copenhagen, Denmark, made the No. 10 spot.

In Asia the most expensive cities are in Japan: Tokyo scores second for costs and Osaka has the No. 6 spot. Hong Kong ties Zurich for the No. 8 spot."In Japan a lot of goods are brought in from other countries," says Rebecca Powers, a consultant at Mercer. "We look at what they will cost to the consumer after taxes."

In the Asian and European cities in the top 10, the price expatriates pay to live there is far closer to what it is for natives than it is in the most expensive African cities.We're looking at this bifurcation of economies in Luanda," says Powers, who adds that the city typically scores low on quality of life measures. "Sometimes there can be an assumption that when a place is expensive, it's also pleasant. This flies in the face of that."
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