Kerry Ziegler
Phone:  215-679-6877Office:  215-679-9797
Email:  kzhomes@comcast.netFax:  267-354-6922
Kerry Ziegler
Kerry Ziegler

My Blog

How to Stay of Sound Mind and Body This Holiday Season

December 15, 2017 2:57 pm

Who doesn’t love the holidays? The decorating, the shopping, the parties, the hosting…
 
Trouble is, all that merry-making can take a toll on your physical and emotional state, leaving you in a less-than-celebratory mood. Here are a few essential musts to stay healthy and stress-free during the holidays so that you can truly enjoy and relish the time with family and friends.
  • Learn to say no. This seems very Scrooge-like, but the reality is, you simply can’t make every holiday event and accept every invitation without running yourself ragged. So, choose to forgo certain gatherings for a quiet night on the couch instead, and don’t feel guilty about it. Remember, everyone is in the same boat. Instead of adding more to the calendar during the busy holiday season, suggest getting together during the quiet days of January when everyone’s schedule frees up.
  • Make sleep sacrosanct. No matter how late you stay up, there will never be enough hours in the day, so do yourself a favor and go to bed. Getting enough sleep will help keep your immune system strong, your energy level high and your mood pleasant. Shoot for at least 6 - 7 hours a night.
  • Supercharge your food. Given our busy holiday schedules, it’s no wonder that our nutrition suffers. The unfortunate side effects, however—zapped energy, illness, unwanted pounds—can all lead to an unhappy and unhealthy holiday. Luckily, there are many easy ways to sneak essential nutrients into your meals. Load up a protein shake with fruit and throw in chia seeds and some leafy greens, like spinach or kale (use chocolate protein powder and you won’t even taste them!). Spread some avocado or hummus on your toast or sneak some into your sandwich at lunch. Indulge at parties, but start with the veggie platter for a nutrient foundation. Load the cookie jar and your desk drawer with protein bars, and, easiest of all, take vitamins and supplements.
  • Make a top 5 list. Holiday stress of some sort seems almost unavoidable, and takes its toll on both our mental and physical health. Get a handle on your massive to-do list by making a top 5 list while you sip your morning coffee. Choose the five most important things that need to get done that day, then focus on just those things. This will ensure that you’ve accomplished the most pressing matters on any given day. If you get some additional tasks done after that, great, but if not, you can go to bed knowing the essential items for the day got done. 
For more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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Don’t Get Gypped by Gift Cards

December 15, 2017 2:57 pm

Always a popular choice for those that are hard to shop for, gift cards can be bought for both a person’s favorite retailer, as well as a fun experience, such as a massage, concert or wine tasting.
 
But gift cards are also susceptible to fraud. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers these tips to ensure the gift card exchange is a good one for both the giver and the recipient:
  • Purchase the gift card in view of an employee. Gift cards are often merchandised on racks away from the register where criminals can transfer the value of the card and then return it to the rack.
  • Make sure they get used. One downfall of gift cards is that they often go unused. According to the BBB, approximately 10 percent of gift cards are never redeemed because they get misplaced, forgotten or lost. Some smaller specialty businesses may also go out of business, providing yet another reason to use gift cards as soon as possible.
  • Treat gift cards like cash. Contact the issuer of the card immediately should it get lost or stolen, as some will reissue the card for a fee, while others will not. It’s always a good idea to include the original receipt with the gift card when you purchase it.
  • Be wary of individuals selling gift cards. Sometimes people will sell gift cards through classified ad sites. If you buy a gift card this way, you risk buying one that is stolen, counterfeit or empty of its value, with no recourse to get your money back.
  • Be aware of fees. Gift cards issued by banks involve fees for inactivity if they’re not used within 12 months. Certain states, however, have laws which prevent expiration dates, so be aware of your local legislation. 
If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

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Debunking the Top 4 Renting-Is-Better-Than-Owning Myths

December 15, 2017 2:57 pm

If you’ve never bought a home before, some people may try to tell you that renting is a smarter choice than buying. However, for the vast majority of people, that’s simply not true. Here are some of the top myths about the advantage of renting over owning.
 
Myth No. 1: You can’t afford a down payment. Many would-be homebuyers opt for renting believing that they won’t be able to afford to save the 20 percent down payment. In reality, you usually don’t have to put 20 percent down. In fact, you can usually put down 10 percent, or sometimes 5 percent or less.
 
Myth No. 2: Renting is cheaper. Even if your monthly mortgage payment ends up being a little higher than what you might have paid in rent, that money is going toward your own long-term financial investment. When you pay rent, you’re making your landlord richer, not yourself.
 
Myth No. 3: You won’t recoup your money. Unlike stocks, real estate is, in fact, the safest long-term investment you can make. Yes, the market will go through its cycles, but if you’re in it for the long-run, you will earn back your investment (and then some).
 
Myth No. 4: Renting is less of a hassle. Sure, you have less vested in your rental property, but the blood, sweat and tears you put into turning a house into your home is a richly rewarding experience. Not only are you creating the home you’ve always wanted, without the restrictions of a landlord, you’re also building upon your investment.
 
If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

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5 Ways to Brighten Your Home This Winter

December 15, 2017 2:57 pm

With fewer hours of daylight and an array of stormy weather to contend with, our homes can often feel dark and dreary during the winter months. With just a few magical touches, however, you can lighten things up instantly. Try these ideas from diynetwork.com:
  1. Remove the screens from your windows. Depending on where you live, you might not even open your windows in the winter. Removing the layer of mesh created by a screen will let unfiltered light right in, brightening up your home.  
  2. Invest in light-colored slipcovers. Cover your furniture in shades of ivory, white or even a sunny yellow. This will not only make your whole room feel lighter, but will also help brighten your mood. Try lighter-colored bedspreads and tablecloths, too.
  3. Uncover your hardwood. Remove area rugs from your hardwood floors so that natural light can reflect off the warm tones of the wood and onto your walls.
  4. Swap out your lightbulbs. Take a close look at your home’s lighting. The difference between a warm white, a cool white, and daylight bulb can greatly change the feel of a room. Try different bulbs in different rooms to create bright enough light at the right temperature.
  5. Lighten up your window treatments. Ditch the heavy, dark drapes for light-colored and sheer curtains. Placing them at the far edges of the window will go a long way toward letting in plenty of light. 
If you need more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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Home Price Predictions Get an Unexpected Bump: Is 2018 the Time to Sell?

December 15, 2017 2:57 pm

Housing experts recently upped their predictions for the real estate market in 2018, predicting home prices to rise 4.1 percent as opposed to the originally anticipated 3 percent.

The 2017 Q4 Zillow® Home Price Expectations Survey, sponsored by Zillow and conducted by Pulsenomics LLC, asked more than 100 housing experts, market strategists, and economists about their expectations for the U.S. housing market in 2018 and beyond.

The revised pricing prediction is based largely on the ongoing inventory shortage. According to the quarterly survey, the number of homes for sale in the United States has fallen on an annual basis for the past 33 straight months. Although building activity picked up slightly toward the end of 2017, the biggest surprise was the slow pace of single-family home building, according to the panelists. Only 16.7 percent expect it to change in 2018, a sign that limited inventory will still be a driving force in the housing market this year.

Given the predicted rise in values for the coming year, 2018 may be the right time to put your home on the market. Consider the following variables to help you make that decision:
  • Talk to your local real estate professional to determine your home’s current value and the amount of equity you have accrued.
  • Figure out what home improvements may be warranted to significantly increase the listing price of your home.
  • Find out what your agent’s game plan will be for marketing your home: Which listing portals will he or she use? Are staging services offered? Will there be an open house?
  • Determine what your next move will be. Are you looking to move up? You may be confronted with the same rising prices depending on your next living situation, so be sure you have the financial means for your next move. 
It’s also important to keep in mind that while home prices are expected to rise in 2018, so are mortgage rates. Experts believe they may reach 4.5 percent from the current rate of about 3.9 percent. This is still well below the 6 percent rates seen during the run up to the housing bubble, however, the increase may get would-be homebuyers off the fence and into action before rates go even higher.
 
If you need more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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In this Edition: Is 2018 the Time to Sell?

December 15, 2017 2:57 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines home price predictions for 2018 and beyond. Other topics covered this month include simple ways to brighten your home this winter and how to stay healthy and stress-free this holiday season. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don’t Let Holiday FOMO Drive You Into Debt

December 15, 2017 1:57 am

Most of us start out holiday shopping with the best of intentions. We make a list, set a budget, scope out sales and get off to a successful start.

As we get closer to the big day, however, we start making rash purchases, often driven by our kids’ FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - over not getting some of the gifts they want. This is when we hit the credit cards and the debt starts to climb.

According to Jeff Dixson (www.nwfts.net), a financial educator and author of “Winning The Retirement Game,” chronic overspending of money we don’t really have can torpedo a family budget, not to mention a retirement plan. He offers these four tips to help keep holiday shopping in line so we can stave off debt:

1. Look at the big picture. Credit card use means putting off paying for something you didn’t have the money for in the first place. So forecast what that mounting credit card bill will add to your regular monthly expenses, and let that act as a deterrent.

2. Use one card. If you must use a credit card, Dixson says, put the rest of your cards aside and use the one with the lowest interest rate. This also makes it easier to track your spending.

3. Make a real budget. While it may be too late to salvage this year’s holiday budget, put the following into effect for next year: Figure out what you can afford to spend (for example, $600 = $50 per month) and set this aside each month in order to have that money available when holiday shopping season rolls around. The trick is sticking to that amount while you’re out shopping.

4. Make it a teaching moment. The holidays are a great time to teach your kids about money, a lesson that could last a lifetime. Most families have budgets, and part of being responsible means not over-spending. “The greater good of the family is served rather than immediate gratification,” Dixson says. “They’ll learn something meaningful about money, appreciation and responsibility that will stay with them when they have families of their own.”

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5 Ways to Protect Your Home This Winter

December 15, 2017 1:57 am

Brrr! It's cold in here. When winter weather starts frosting, you're not the only one reaching for a sweater. Your home, too, needs to be protected from the chill.

Joe Todaro, director of operations of Gold Medal Service, offers these tips for homeowners so they can prepare their home for a cold winter:

Protect your outdoor unit – Your outdoor air conditioning unit needs a little help staying healthy throughout the winter. You may want to consider a cover for your unit not unlike the cover you use for a grill or a car. Covers can keep snow, ice and heavy rain from potentially damaging the unit. There are covers available on the market, or you can use a spare tarp you may have laying around in the garage. Be sure to clean any debris away from the unit before sealing it up.

Patch leaks around doors and windows – Check windows and exterior doors for any gaps or openings that would let cold air in or warm air to escape. Leakage like that may not only cause you to have cold spots in your home, but make your heating system run longer than necessary – costing you money on your energy bills. For a DIY approach, especially with older homes, there are several types of gap sealers, as well as insulation kits that can be used to shrink wrap windows and reduce heat loss. Naturally, having your heater tuned up by a professional for peak performance is a proven way of saving on energy bills as well. A well-sealed home is a warmer, more comfortable home when the temperatures get at or below freezing – and your family will appreciate the difference.

Reduce heat loss through the fireplace – If the home has a fireplace, it's a good idea to keep the damper closed when it is not in use to prevent heat loss. Close any doors leading into the room when a fire is burning.  If you have a gas fireplace, be sure that it burns cleanly, evenly, and safely.

Use sunlight to your advantage – You can naturally heat your home by opening curtains and window coverings on south-facing windows during the day. Closing curtains at night will protect your home from losing heat through those same window openings.

Prep the plumbing – As winter approaches, you'll want to make sure you don't have any water freeze-ups – those can potentially become a big headache. To eliminate that risk, drain any water from outdoor faucets, and arrange to have any in-ground sprinkler systems blown out. Drain and roll up garden hoses and store them inside, in a garage, shed, or basement, to shield them from the severest temperatures. If any pipes in the home have been prone to freezing in past winters, consider using heat tape to keep them warmer during extremely cold weather. If you do experience a burst pipe, make sure everyone in the family knows how to turn off the water at the source.

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Empowering Teens through Smart Spending

December 15, 2017 1:57 am

(Family Features)--Helping teens learn to handle money can be a tricky proposition. Mistakes can quite literally be costly, but there's really no substitute for hands-on practice when it comes to managing finances.

Children are the ultimate investment, so teach your teen to be a smart spender with these savvy tips:

Start with saving. As a first step, open a savings account for your teen and involve them in the process. Use this opportunity to teach good habits, such as putting away a percentage of every paycheck, creating an emergency fund and setting savings goals for big purchases. Visit the bank together and explore the account options. Many banks offer incentives for high-balance accounts, and while your teen likely won't qualify, it's a valuable lesson to see the incentives available to big savers.

Move on to basic checking. Although most banks still refer to their most accessible accounts as "checking" accounts, chances are that your teen is more likely to shop with a debit card or cash rather than checks. Still, knowing how to write a proper check is an important life skill - as are conducting debit transactions and understanding any fees associated with using the account.

Create safe zones. Even after teaching them the fundamentals, letting teens make their own purchasing decisions can be a frightening prospect. Fortunately, if you know where to look, there are options available that offer teens a customizable level of autonomy while still under the oversight of a parent. For example, Amazon introduced a way for teens ages 13-17 to shop using their own, independent login linked to a parent's account. In addition to product recommendations, order histories and lists tailored specifically to the teen's shopping history and interests, teens can exercise smart shopping decisions with access to customer reviews and comparison shopping tools.

Parents have the option to review and approve every purchase, or set spending limits that offer teens the freedom to place orders up to a certain dollar amount on their own. In either case, parents receive notifications for every order and shipment. Find more details at Amazon.com/forteens.

Set a budget. Part of smart spending is learning to shop within your means. Whether your teen's income is from a part-time job, allowance or a combination of the two, building a budget that defines expenses and expectations is essential. Like any budget, it should include all income sources and all expenses he or she is responsible for, including auto maintenance, gasoline, insurance and beyond. Reinforce the importance of saving by including a regular savings allocation. Putting all of these numbers to paper lets your teen see clearly where the money is going and how much is left over for extracurricular spending.

Put safety nets in place. No matter how much planning is done in advance, surprise expenses will inevitably pop up. Teens can prepare for these expenses while also guarding against mistakes and the temptation to over-spend by taking advantage of special services available through banking institutions, such as setting a per-transaction or daily spending limit and investing in overdraft coverage.

Ultimately, money management skills come with time and practice. Creating a safe environment for your teen to practice these life lessons sooner rather than later can pay dividends down the road.


Source: Amazon

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Turn Any Room into a Guest Room

December 14, 2017 1:57 am

Whether you have out-of-town visitors on the way or an unexpected guest who needs to crash for the night, don’t panic if you don’t have an official guest room - you can quickly outfit just about any area into cozy sleeping quarters with a few simple steps:

No bed? No problem! A comfortable sofa will do the trick when you make it as bed-friendly as possible. Remove the back cushions for more space, then make it up with a set of twin sheets, pillows and a comforter, and its sweet dreams in no time!

Choose an area with privacy. If you don’t have a guest room, consider your home office or finished basement. Or, section off an area of your living room or family room with a decorative screen. Anything that makes your guest feel a bit removed from the rest of the house.

Accessorize. Feeling at home in someone else’s home is often about the small touches. So make sure your guest has a few hangers and drawers or shelves to place their clothes, a small table with a lamp that can serve as a nightstand for their book, glasses, keys and other small personal items, access to an outlet for charging their devices, and a small chair where they can relax when not sleeping.

Add necessities. Nothing will make your guests feel more pampered than stocking their space with bed-and-breakfast-like accoutrements. Add a stack of fluffy towels, a set of spare slippers, bottled water and glasses, and a basket packed with shampoo, soap, sunscreen, toothpaste and a spare toothbrush.

Remember, feeling at home is not about how much space a guest has, but how welcome they feel within that space.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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