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

My Blog

How to Prepare for a Pre-Listing Home Inspection

January 19, 2016 2:55 am

If an inspector is coming to look at your home before you list it, you may have a few questions. What will the home inspector be looking at? How can you prepare for the inspection?

For insight and answers, we turned to the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), who've outlined many steps you can take before your pre-listing inspection—and most can be done at little or no cost to you. These include:
  • Removing grade or mulch from contact with siding; six or more inches of clearance is preferred.
  • Diverting all water away from the house, i.e. downspouts, sump pump, condensation drains, etc.; grade should slope away from the structure.
  • Painting all weathered exterior wood and caulk around trim, chimney, windows and doors.
  • Sealing asphalt driveways, if cracking, and pointing up masonry chimney caps.
  • Cleaning or replacing the HVAC filter.
  • Testing all smoke detectors to ensure they are in safe working condition.
  • Having the chimney, fireplace or wood stove cleaned and providing the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record.
  • Ensuring that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition, including repairing or replacing any cracked window panes.
  • Ensuring that all plumbing fixtures (toilet, tub, shower, and sinks) are in proper working condition; checking for and fixing any leaks; caulking around fixtures if necessary.
  • Installing GFCI receptacles near all water sources.
  • Checking to ensure that the crawlspace is dry, installing a proper vapor barrier if necessary, and removing any visible moisture from a crawlspace.
  • Checking that bath vents are properly vented and in working condition.
  • Removing paints, solvents, gas, etc., from crawlspace, basement, attic, porch, etc.
  • Having clear access to attic, crawlspace, heating system, garage and other areas that will need to be inspected.
  • Turning on all utilities, including water, electric, water heater, furnace, air conditioning and breaks in the main panel.

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Vacationing This Year? Your Generation May Inform Your Travel Log

January 18, 2016 12:55 am

Recent AARP research shows nearly all Americans are planning to take a leisure trip this year—but that’s where the commonalities end.

“[The AARP] survey shows that there is a clear generation gap among baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials when it comes to taking a vacation, from planning to trip experiences to sharing memories,” says Stephanie Miles, vice president of Products and Platforms for AARP. “While everyone wants to travel, they have differing tastes and ways of making their trips their own.”

How exactly do these generations differ? Boomer respondents to the AARP survey plan to take the “trip-of-a-lifetime,” whereas Gen Xer respondents are planning multi-generational trips motivated by family. Millennial respondents, on the other hand, are seeking romantic getaways, particularly to international destinations.

Millennial respondents also plan to pack lighter than preceding generations, according to the survey, opting to bring casual wear like jeans and flip flops. Gen Xer respondents would be remiss without their camera to document their trip, and boomer respondents plan to tote along “a good book” and a list of emergency contact information.

Generational divides exist when it comes to travel costs, too. Boomer respondents to the survey say increased airfare would affect their vacation plans, even though they tend not to have a budget. Both Gen Xer and millennial respondents are more likely to make budgets for their trips.

A generation gap is also apparent when booking accommodations. Up-and-coming hospitality trends, like Airbnb and VRBO, are more popular with millennial respondents than any other generation.

Source: AARP

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Poll: Sunny Outlook Fosters Better Financial Habits

January 18, 2016 12:55 am

Many of us take stock of our financial situations come the New Year, setting goals in hopes of practicing better money management habits. But how exactly do we determine what those resolutions should be?

As it turns out, perceptions about the economy can have an impact on those pledges, according to a recent Harris Poll®. In poll findings, those hopeful for an improved economy were more likely to make savings plans for the year ahead, and those anticipating a worsening economy were more likely to try to cut back on spending.

Poll respondents with a positive perception of the economy were likely to make goals such as paying down debt, saving more for retirement and undertaking home improvements to increase home value.

Poll respondents with a positive perception of the economy were also likely to get rid of one or more credit cards.

Source: The Harris Poll®

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6 Tips for Buyers and Sellers to Best the Market

January 18, 2016 12:55 am

This year’s housing market is expected to favor sellers—and for buyers, those circumstances will likely result in multiple-bid situations. Whichever camp you fall into, it’s important to understand how to navigate this type of market in order to achieve the best possible outcome in the transaction.

“The 2016 housing market is forecasted to be mainly a seller's market, filled with increasing home prices, relatively low inventory and fierce competition between buyers," says realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. "Buyers looking to close this year need to keep an open mind and be prepared to move quickly when they find a home that meets their needs. For sellers, it's about understanding the ins and outs of their local market so they can optimize the price of their home and close quickly."

For homebuyers, Smoke recommends:

Being the early bird – Over 85 percent of buyers who plan to purchase in the next year intend to buy in the spring or summer of 2016, according to a recent realtor.com® survey. With roughly 50 percent more listings inventory relative to the number of potential home sales expected in January and February, buyers who start their search early face less competition with nearly the same number of homes.

Comparison shopping for mortgages – Mortgage rates are expected to reach 4.65 percent and prices are predicted to rise 3 percent year-over-year in 2016. Buyers planning to finance their purchase should put as much effort into getting the right mortgage as they do finding the right home. A lower interest rate can make the difference in qualifying for a home and save thousands over the life of the loan.

Considering a new home – In 2016, the number of new homes on the market is expected to grow more rapidly, resulting in a 16 percent increase in new home sales year-over-year. Buyers should consider the new home options in their market; they are likely to have less competition and to enjoy a broad selection of homes. While new homes are typically higher in price, they are usually larger and offer performance advantages and warranties that could reduce operating and maintenance costs.

For home sellers, Smoke advises:

Listing during peak season – Unlike buyers, demand benefits sellers. Prime home buying season begins in April and reaches its peak in June, according to a realtor.com® analysis of home sales. Sellers who list their home during the prime spring and summer months benefit from a larger population of buyers and potential bidding wars, which often result in higher prices and faster closings.

Pricing a home to the market – In 2016, prices are expected to increase nationally 3 percent year-over-year. Local prices changes are anticipated to be more dramatic. Sellers who work with a local REALTOR® to optimize the price of their home based on its unique features and surrounding neighborhood are often able to receive the highest price for their market and sell more quickly.

Offering incentives – Last year, 37 percent of all sellers offered incentives to attract buyers. Sellers who are open to negotiating beyond price are more likely to find scenarios that result in wins for both sides resulting in a potentially faster sale and more seller profit.

Source: realtor.com®

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Reliable Movers Key to Moving Day Success

January 15, 2016 11:03 am

Finding a moving company can be a challenging proposition, especially if you wait until the last minute. Therefore, it’s important to do your research early on so that you have a reliable company at the ready when moving day arrives.
 
If moving day is looming, and you still haven’t chosen a moving company, start by getting recommendations from your agent or friends who have recently moved. Chances are, if they’ve had a good experience with a mover, they’re probably reliable.
 
It’s also a good idea to get at least three estimates before making a final decision. Moving can be expensive, and you’ll be amazed at the price fluctuations between various companies. When it comes to price, keep in mind that moving companies also charge differently (by weight or space) and that the total price can go up, so be sure to compare your top choices based on what the highest price may be.
 
You’ll also want to determine whether insurance is included, the cost of gas, how much storage may be (if you need a little time before you move into your new place) and how long it will take to get from your current location to your new space, as all of these factors can weigh on your final decision.
 
Before choosing one company over another, have each company send an estimator out to your home. Once there, show the estimator everything you plan to bring. And don’t forget to include any items that may be stored in the attic, the basement, the garage or even outside. If the movers show up for moving day and there’s more to transport than they expected, it could cost you extra money.
 
In addition, be sure to tell your mover about any conditions at your new home that might complicate the move, such as stairs, narrow streets or a large distance from curb to door.
 
To check out if your moving company is reliable, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (safersys.org) and enter the company’s USDOT number to read the latest information reported. Be sure to check that the name, phone number and address that you were given match those on record.
 
You can also check the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org or read Yelp reviews to see what others say.
 
For those moving to another state, ask if the moving company will give you a written binding estimate or a binding not-to-exceed estimate. Both types of estimates put a guaranteed cap on what you will pay for your move, which will give you some needed peace of mind.
 
Remember, every moving company is required by law to provide you with a “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” booklet, so if they don’t have that to offer, chances are you’ll want to look into another company.
 
To learn more about hiring a reputable mover, contact our office today.

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Winter Selling Season Offers a Breath of Fresh Air for Those Looking to Make a Move

January 15, 2016 11:03 am

While the temperatures have been unseasonably warm this winter, it’s important to remember that when it comes to the weather, you can never know for sure what’s around the corner. And as the Farmer’s Almanac tells it, we’re due for some heavy snowfalls in the near future. Taking heed of the following tips when trying to sell your home in the snow can be the difference between a hot sale or a deep freeze.
 
While some real estate professionals in snow-heavy climates may encourage their clients to wait until the temperature warms up before putting their house on the market, for some, listing a home during the winter is necessary. Plus, with less inventory coming to market, your home may have a better chance of making it onto a house hunter’s must-see list.
 
If your home is currently on the market—or you plan on listing it at some point this winter—the most important thing you’ll need to do when it snows is shovel the driveway in addition to a path to the house. While you’re at it, take the time to clear an area outside the home so that prospective buyers can take a peek at the yard. You might even consider adding a snowman or snow angel to help visitors envision the memories they can make in the space once it’s theirs.  
 
When it comes to the outside of the home, it’s also important to remove large chunks of snow from bushes and clean up any debris and branches that may have fallen as a result of powerful winds and heavy snowfall, especially if you’re holding an open house on a ‘snow day.’ House hunters and their real estate agents aren’t going to want to walk up to a house if they need to slush through the snow to see it. Remember, there are no second chances when it comes to first impressions.
 
Be sure to remove snow and icicles from windows as well so that potential buyers can get a clear look outside and see the natural light come into the home. Sometimes snow can leave watery streaks on windows or glass doors that may hurt the look of a room, so grab some window cleaner and let your windows and doors shine.
 
Once the outside of your home is properly prepared, lay a large mat inside the front door so that visitors can clean their shoes off before they have a chance to track snow throughout the space. While it’s okay for real estate professionals to suggest that people take off their shoes, you shouldn’t require it. Just be sure to mop up after each showing.
 
And last but not least, during the open house, have some hot chocolate and a plate of freshly baked cookies waiting for visitors. You may even want to keep the fireplace burning to create a truly cozy environment. Just be sure your agent is there to not only keep the fire lit, but to put it out at the end of the showing.
 
There’s nothing quite as beautiful as a fresh coat of snow, undisturbed by footprints, and there’s no reason why snow should keep you from selling your home.
 
For more information about selling your home this winter, contact our office today.

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2015 Tax Extenders Set to Have a Positive Impact on the Real Estate Industry

January 15, 2016 11:03 am

Each December, close to 50 tax extenders—aptly-named extensions of tax breaks—come into play in Congress. Included in those that were passed in 2015 are several that stand to have a positive impact on those looking to enter the housing market this year. Not only did Congress and the Senate pass the $622 billion bill, but President Barack Obama is expected to put his signature on the extenders as well.
 
One of the extenders concerns tax relief for mortgage debt forgiveness, protecting underwater homeowners from incurring a large tax bill on phantom income in connection with a workout or short sale.
 
Tom Salomone, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, notes that since 2007, this specific tax relief has strengthened individual communities and the broader economy as more distressed homeowners were offered the flexibility to responsibly address an underwater mortgage.
 
“These tax extenders offer critical support for consumers, homeowners, commercial property investors and small businesses alike,” Salomone says. “A strong economy requires certainty, and this proposal gives a healthy dose of it to millions of American taxpayers.”
 
The tax extenders deal offers an additional two years of protection covering tax years 2015 and 2016.
 
Also included in the bill is the permanent extension of a 15-year cost recovery period for the depreciation of qualified leasehold improvements. This is important as it ensures that a commonsense cost-recovery period remains in place permanently for improvements made to nonresidential commercial property.
 
Another real estate-related provision is the renewal of certain incentives to promote energy efficient commercial and multifamily buildings, including the extension of an expired tax credit that ranges between $1,000 - $2,000 for energy-efficient new homes for an additional two years.
 
The bill also includes changes to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, which is expected to ease restrictions on investment in commercial real estate.
 
One part of the bill that might not seem as though it’s aimed at those in the real estate industry, but will have a positive effect on the industry at large, is legislation that permanently extends rules allowing small- and mid-sized businesses to expense business equipment, rather than depreciate the equipment over several years. Salomone says this is important to REALTORS® who purchase new computers, copiers, cameras and even vehicles in the course of doing business.
 
“We’re grateful for the leadership shown on this important piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our work in support of homeownership,” Salomone says.
 
To learn more about the recently passed tax extenders, contact our office today.

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Take the Stress Out of the Buying and Selling Process with These Simple Tips

January 15, 2016 11:03 am

Regardless of what side of the real estate transaction you’re on, buying or selling a home can be a stressful experience, and if you’re not careful, the anxieties associated with the process can become overwhelming. While getting out of the house for a massage or yoga class can be helpful, here are some additional ways to take the stress out of the process.  
 
First, understand your goals in buying or selling a home. Make a list of what you hope to accomplish—the price, neighborhood, timetable, etc. Once you know exactly what you want, you’ll have an easier time explaining your wants and needs to your agent, alleviating some of the stress that goes hand-in-hand with the buying or selling process.
 
Another simple way to alleviate stress is to prepare your finances ahead of time. If buying a home, know what you can afford and get a pre-approval letter from your bank so you don’t have to worry about whether you can truly afford the home you want. If selling a home, know what it will cost to make repairs or renovations and get estimates for the move itself. When both parties know how much money they really need, it makes things easier for everyone involved.
 
Next, take the time to read some books, blogs or online real estate advice that can provide a glimpse into what to expect when buying or selling a home. Understanding the process and being aware of issues that can come up will keep surprises from causing undo stress. If you understand the problems that can come with obtaining a mortgage or realize that not every offer will be a good one, you can keep your emotions at bay.
 
While you most likely already have an agent working with you, other professionals can help alleviate stress as well. Having a good real estate lawyer will let you sign any contracts without fear that you’re making a mistake. Hiring a good inspector will allow you to rest easy knowing that any problems with the house will be found. And working with a home stager will go a long way toward positioning your home in the best light possible.
 
In the end, remember that not everything can be controlled, and the real estate game can get confusing at times. If something unexpected comes up, take a deep breath, relax and try to do something to take your mind off of the deal for a while. 
 
Contact our office today for more tips to help take the stress out of the buying or selling process.

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5 Tips for a Smooth Home Purchase

January 15, 2016 11:03 am

If you’re planning on purchasing a home this year, here are a few tips to keep things moving smoothly throughout the process.
 
1. Communicate with Your Agent. Work with a real estate agent that you are comfortable with and be sure to express everything you want and need in your new home. By communicating your desires from the beginning, your agent won’t waste time showing you homes that don’t fit your criteria. If you know you want a gourmet kitchen or walk-in closet in the master bedroom, make that clear. Or if you absolutely have to be near public transportation, tell your agent to avoid turning the process into a guessing game. When it comes to finding the perfect home, clear communication is key. And if you run into any problems along the way, be sure to speak with your agent to iron out any issues.
 
2. Be Reasonable with Expectations. If you’re searching for a three-bedroom home located in a certain neighborhood that has a pool, finished basement and sunroom and your agent shows you a property and your biggest qualm is the color, don’t simply write the home off. When searching for the home of your dreams, you may have to give something up or make some changes once you move in. Finding a home that’s 100 percent what you want can be a daunting undertaking.
 
3. Don’t be Discouraged. Don’t expect to find your dream home overnight. Buyers often get frustrated because nothing pops up in the first week or two, but remember, you’re not buying a new toaster. You want to find the home that you and your family can live in and love for years and years to come.  
 
4. Play the Money Game. If you offer $375,000 on a home that’s listed at $400,000 and the seller refuses to budge, be prepared to negotiate. When buying a home, you need to have some wiggle room. Before making an offer, discuss your strategy with your agent as he or she will be able to tell you whether your offer is fair or unreasonable. It’s also important to check out comps in the neighborhood so that you can make a reasonable offer from the get-go.
 
5. Get Your Mortgage Pre-Approved. This could be the smartest thing you do all year. By having a mortgage approved before you even begin looking at houses, you’ll be ready to make an offer as soon as you find the home of your dreams. Getting pre-approved will also give you the upper hand over other buyers who may be interested in the same house.
 
For more tips for a smooth home-buying process, contact our office today.

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In this Edition: Tax Extenders

January 15, 2016 11:03 am

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines five tips that are instrumental in keeping the home-buying process running smoothly. Other topics covered this month include simple ways to take the stress out of the home-buying or -selling process and the importance of choosing a reputable moving company to transport your belongings to your new space. 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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