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

My Blog

Scam Alert: There's No Such Thing as a Free Energy Audit

February 17, 2016 1:49 am

Are you looking for ways to reduce your energy expenses? Concerned as you may be, don’t accept a free energy audit. Audits billed as “free” are often perpetrated by scammers hoping to make off with thousands of dollars from unsuspecting homeowners.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), most of these cons start with a knock on the door from someone offering free home energy audits. The person then suggests touring the home in order to pinpoint areas that are contributing to high utility bills.

Don’t be fooled—this first interaction is actually a set-up for another scam. Following the tour, the fraudster may ask for payment upfront, claiming it is needed to finance a government grant that will earn the homeowner a rebate, or pressure the homeowner into paying for slip-shod construction work or highly marked-up energy-efficient products.

To avoid becoming a victim of an energy audit scam, remember to:

Never allow any one into your home who claims to be from the utility company or the government, unless you requested the visit.

Ask the person for identification. Inspect their identification card thoroughly, and compare it to the identity labeled on their uniform and given in their story.

Listen for red flag words, such as “prepaid debit card” or “wire transfer.” These are tell-tale signs of a scam.

Keep your cool. If you suspect a scam, remain calm. If the fraudster is pressuring you for information or payment, call your utility company (use the number on your bill) to verify.

Use common sense. Some scammers may seek payment to repair or replace your electrical meter. The meter on your home is the property of the utility company, and it is never your responsibility to maintain, repair or replace it.

Source: BBB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Get a Handle on Debt

February 16, 2016 1:49 am

Be it a mortgage, student loan or unpaid credit card, the majority of households hold some form of debt. Not all debt is detrimental, but for the sake of your financial future, it pays to have a handle on it.

Better manage your debt with these tips, courtesy of American Consumer Credit Counseling, a national non-profit organization.

1. Determine exactly what you owe.
Do not live in denial and allow your debt to pile up. Write down every debt you have, as well as the amount you owe. With this information, create a plan on how to best go about paying off each debt.

2. Get organized.
Pull all those bills out of the drawer and get your finances in order. Organization will help motivate you to manage—and ideally, erase—debt.

3. Set up a calendar.
Create a calendar devoted to payments. Mark when each bill is due on your calendar and cross it off once it has been paid.

4. Look for ways to cut costs.
Carefully examine your bills to see if there are ways you can reduce them.

5. Reduce your spending.
Shrink your monthly spending to help you get out of debt at a faster rate. Review your credit card statements to see where your money has been going each month. Create a budget with a budgeting worksheet and stick to it each month. 

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Can Homeownership Status Affect Auto Insurance Rates?

February 16, 2016 1:49 am

Recently released research has shed light on a startling statistic: auto insurance costs for renters may be up to 50 percent higher than those for homeowners.

According to an analysis by the non-profit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), auto insurance premiums average 7 percent higher—about $112 per year—for a 30-year-old safe driver who rents a home instead of owning it. The CFA argues that weighing homeownership status when determining auto insurance rates disadvantages low- and moderate-income drivers—Federal Reserve Board data show the median income of renters is $27,800 and $63,400 for homeowners.

To conduct the analysis, the CFA solicited premiums for a basic policy from eight of the nation’s largest insurers, across 10 cities, for a 30-year-old, female motorist with a perfect driving record operating a 2005 Honda Civic. The CFA altered homeownership status during the test, discovering that premiums assigned to renters were significantly higher—even by double-digit percentages in some areas, like Baltimore, Md., Louisville, Ky., Newark N.J., and Tampa, Fla.

Notably, Geico was the only insurer tested that did not consider homeownership status in any city analyzed.

Consumer protection laws in California prohibit auto insurance companies from considering homeownership status or other socio-economic factors when setting premiums.  The CFA confirmed compliance through a separate analysis focused in Oakland, Calif.

Source: Consumer Federation of America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Gone Green? You May Be Eligible for Tax Credits

February 16, 2016 1:49 am

Did you make your home more energy-efficient last year? You may be eligible for tax credits when you file your return, according to home energy evaluator Homeselfe.

"If you upgraded your home in 2015 by adding insulation—one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make—you already know you are saving on your utility bills every month, plus you may be eligible for a tax credit on that investment," says Ameeta Jain, co-founder of Homeselfe. "Not taking advantage of that is throwing away your hard-earned cash.”

Jain explains that there are two types of major tax credits available to homeowners: the Residential Energy Efficient Property Tax Credit, which benefits those who have incorporated renewable energy features into their home, and the Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit, which benefits those who have installed materials that meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s energy efficiency standards.

Homeowners who have invested in energy-efficient upgrades, such as fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines, solar panels and solar-powered water heaters, may be eligible for the first credit. Homeowners who have invested in energy-efficient improvements like insulated roofing, windows and doors may be eligible for the latter.

Tax credits up to $500 are also available for some improvements, such as installing advanced, main air-circulating fans, a biomass stove, an energy-efficient HVAC system or water heater, insulation, or metal or asphalt roofing.

Source: Homeselfe

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Things Successful People Do Monday Mornings

February 15, 2016 1:49 am

Monday mornings—for most people, the beginning of a new work week—can be critical because they set the stage for the day and the week ahead.

“Most people are keenly aware of the typical Monday office dynamic,” suggests workplace expert Lynn Taylor, author of, ‘Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.’ “This is a time to apply your best management skills to ensure the week ahead unfolds as smoothly as possible."

Among the top 10 things Taylor found successful people do zealously on Monday mornings:

Wake Up Early – Most successful people get a good night’s sleep on Sunday and wake up early on Monday morning.

Exercise – Working out gets your circulation going and helps you stay alert and ready to start the work day.

Eat a Good Breakfast – Eating a healthy morning meal gives you the energy to work without staring at the clock waiting for lunch hour.

Plan to Arrive Early – Getting an early start can help you avoid a bad Monday commute and give you some wiggle room for the unexpected at work.

Clear the Desk and Desktop – Hopefully, you did this on Friday afternoon. In any case, organize and prioritize your files. Put aside unimportant paperwork and keep critical files easily accessible.

Carve Out Time for the Unexpected – Try to build in an hour or two on Monday to handle unexpected tasks or requests.

Greet the Team and the Boss – Doing so every morning helps keep morale up, but it’s especially important on Monday when almost everyone can use a lift.

Update To-Do Lists and Goals – Get yourself current on tasks and priorities. Set your goals for the week, knowing that tasks not accomplished can probably be put off until next week.

Visualize the Week’s Successes – Taking a moment to do this can fill you with energy and a desire to get the week started.

Tackle the Tough Challenges First - The least desirable but critical projects are easy to put off, but your energy is stronger in the morning, so that's the ideal time to confront the most difficult tasks.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Household Items to Toss, Now

February 15, 2016 1:49 am

The snows may not be fully melted, but the first signs of spring are closing in—and with them comes the impulse to clean and de-clutter in the annual rite we call spring cleaning.

But while some items get tossed without a second thought, consumer blogger Jacob Hurwith urges us to dig deeper, suggesting 10 things we really need to get rid of:

Old Shoes– It may be comforting to see those 27 pairs of shoes in your closet, but deep down you know that at least half of them will never be worn again. They have no purpose or sentimental value. Pitch them.

Unmatched and Outgrown Clothing – If there are odd gloves or socks cluttering the drawers, give up hope that mates will appear. Pitch them, and give your kids’ outgrown clothes to charity or to a family with younger kids.

Wire Coat Hangers– If you’ve amassed a collection from the dry cleaners, take them back to the store. It will make room in your closets for plastic or wooden hangers that really do keep clothes looking presentable.

Old Tupperware – Plastic Tupperware can break down after years of use in microwave or dishwasher, releasing chemicals into your food. Replace them with glass containers or inexpensive disposable plastic to be thrown away after a couple of runs through the dishwasher.

Old Pillows – Pillows older than two years have probably lost their oomph and purpose. Test yours by folding them in half. If they pretty much stay folded, it’s time to replace them with new ones – and well-used mattresses should be replaced after seven or eight years.

Dated Technology – We all have those old cords lying in the back of the closet, a dated printer we hope works again or a computer that barely runs. It’s time to get rid of them. Tip: Try bringing old tech to an electronics store in town. You may get a credit.

Old Makeup – Makeup, like food, can expire or lose potency. Cream products typically expire within six months to a year after purchase, dermatologists tell us, and mascara often only lasts three months before becoming a bacteria threat.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Get Chilled by Winter Repair, Maintenance Scams

February 15, 2016 1:49 am

Into every property-owner's life some harsh weather may fall. So when winter weather crosses the line, don't compound the annoyance by getting scammed or burned by unscrupulous responders disguised as timely do-gooders.

Connecticut's Consumer Protection Commissioner recently released a raft of great tips and advice applicable to home and property owners anywhere a weather-related incident may occur.

Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris says, "A serious storm or natural disaster could require quick home repairs that you weren’t expecting, but it’s important to act, and not react. Hiring unqualified, unregistered, unverified workers could put you and your home in a deeper mess."

Commissioner Harris says snow removal is not considered home improvement work - even removal of snow from roofs. But it’s best to have someone who is qualified in roof work to remove snow from roofs; someone unfamiliar with certain types of roofs could cause damage and void the warranty. If your roof is damaged and needs repair, hire a registered home improvement contractor; roof repair may even be covered under local, county or state protections.

When hiring anyone to clear snow and ice from your driveways and walkways, Commissioner Harris says be sure to negotiate the price upfront and know the scope of the work. And anytime there is damage to your property, notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible.

Don’t hire home repair contractors who go door-to-door, who call, or who post notices on bulletin boards or telephone poles or online, such as Craigslist, before checking them out thoroughly.

You should NEVER pay in advance for any work, especially in an emergency situation. Depending on the length of the job, you may need to pay some upfront, some half-way through the job, and the final payment once the job is complete to your satisfaction. Payment should be made by credit card or check, rather than cash.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Take Advantage of Leap Day with These Simple Tips

February 13, 2016 11:12 am

If you’re in the process of selling your home, take advantage of the extra day this month to tackle some of the chores you’ve been putting off—or remove yourself from the process by taking some time to relax and unwind. 
Spending extra time around the house will provide the opportunity to do another purge of all the things you no longer need. To truly be effective, dig deep through closets and cabinets to try to make them as clean and empty as possible. With spring right around the corner, now may be a good time to start putting away some of your bulky winter things.
In addition to getting rid of things you no longer need, spend some time cleaning your home. If you’re not going to hire a professional cleaner, take the time to clean and dust every area of your house—including the windows, closets and shelves—so that your entire home sparkles when prospective buyers come to view it. While cleaning, replace burnt out lightbulbs so that your home truly shines.
You may also want to spend some time reading books and searching the Web for advice on selling a home. Who knows, you may even stumble across a tip you haven’t tried yet that will help your home stand out from the competition even more.
And last but not least, if it’s not too cold outside, do some things around the yard to make sure it’s in good shape. Winter can take a toll on shrubs and bushes, so clean up any twigs or debris that may have found their way into your yard.
For more tips on taking advantage of Leap Day, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Moving Day Madness: How to Keep Your Pet Healthy and Happy throughout the Process

February 13, 2016 11:12 am

When it comes to moving, there’s no shortage of things to think about as you go through the process, but one thing that many people don’t think much about is the impact a move can have on a pet.
Cats and dogs get used to a routine and like familiar surroundings. When they’re yanked from a home and placed in a new environment, it could lead to behavioral changes, loss of appetite or overall sadness.
According to the American Humane Association, prior to moving day, pet parents should make sure pets are fitted with collars and ID tags with your name and current cellphone number. Microchipping is also recommended, serving as a backup if your pet loses its collar.
Before the move, be sure to check with the City Clerk’s office in your new town to find out about local ordinances. Not only are leash laws and licensing common, but so are limits on the number of pets per household.
For pet owners with more exotic pets, make sure you know the pet laws and regulations of the state to which you're moving. For example, if you own a monkey or reptile, you might need a special permit. Zoning laws may prohibit certain animals, as well.
When traveling, if your pet is prone to car sickness, make sure you visit your veterinarian a few weeks prior to your move to get any prescribed medications and feeding recommendations. The last thing you want is a sick pet adding to the stress of moving day.
For long-distance moves, be sure to identify pet-friendly hotels along your route and reserve rooms ahead of time.
Once you arrive at your new house, create a pet-friendly space filled with your pet’s favorite blanket and toys. It’s also important that you spend some time with your pet—whether it’s a cat, dog, bird, rabbit or even guinea pig—to help them get comfortable. Make sure they know where their food is, and for cats, where the litter box is located.
Moving with pets doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Most pet owners treat their pets like members of the family, so don’t forget about their needs when a move is made. A happy and healthy pet can make any move go smoother.
For more tips to make your move easier on your pet, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Books You Need to Read Before Buying a Home

February 13, 2016 11:12 am

Before jumping into the housing market and looking for a home, many prospective buyers seek advice from friends and family to better prepare themselves for what lies ahead. For those looking for additional perspective, books written for those going through the home-buying process can serve as a valuable tool.
Here are five great books that everyone looking to purchase a home should read.
Whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced buyer, “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” by Ilyce Glink has you covered. Not only does it touch on all the questions that may be running through your head, it provides great insight into the things you worry about most.
As one of the best-selling books on the market for homebuyers, the “Home Buying Kit For Dummies” by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown offers time-tested advice and updated strategies for buying a home in today’s market. Guiding buyers toward finding the perfect property, making savvy financial decisions and understanding taxes and other concerns, the book also comes with a CD full of information, materials and resources.
Chock-full of interesting facts, real-life stories and insights, plus common pitfalls to avoid, “Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” provides everything one needs to know in order to find the right type of home, the right mortgage and the right agent.
Buying a home can be a confusing process, and making mistakes can be costly. That’s why “The 106 Common Mistakes Homebuyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)” by Gary W. Eldred is the perfect book when it comes to avoiding these mistakes. This eye-opening guide arms buyers with the information they need to become an educated consumer, ensuring that the property you buy is both a comfortable place to live and a great investment for the future. Eldred surveyed hundreds of homebuyers, real estate agents, homebuilders and mortgage lenders to find the biggest mistakes people make and provides solutions so you don’t fall into the same traps.
As one of America’s top real estate agents, Robert Irwin has seen it all. In writing “Tips and Traps When Buying a Home,” Irwin set out to help those going through the home-buying process avoid common mistakes made by others. The current fourth edition is helpful whether you’re a first-time or experienced homebuyer, providing practical, step-by-step information on a broad range of proven home-buying strategies.
Contact our office today for additional resources that will help you through the buying or selling process.

Published with permission from RISMedia.