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

My Blog

Ready, Set, Glow: 10 Tips for Bright, Beautiful Holiday Displays

December 14, 2015 1:58 am

To say holiday displays have gone extreme is an understatement. (“The Great Christmas Light Fight,” anyone?) But holiday lights don’t have to be over-the-top to have an impact—in fact, just a few professional-grade tricks are all it takes to create a sparkling, festive display.

1. Use LED lights. They burn at a lower temperature and use nearly 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights, making them a safer and more efficient option.

2. Choose a theme. Whether you prefer traditional or a more colorful, contemporary approach, keep your theme consistent to create an attractive and cohesive look.

3. Be unique. Be true to yourself in your design. Find something that speaks to your style and make that the focus of your display.

4. Use a timer. Timers are great investments that save energy and hassle. Set your timer to come on about 30 minutes before sunset and to go off between 11 p.m. and midnight.

5. Select a shade. LED lights come in two shades of white: traditional warm white and cool white. Both create a dazzling holiday look.

6. Don't over-do it. You can create a car-stopping display (without becoming the Griswolds) by adding eye-catching elements like character figures or animation lighting.

7. Use daytime décor. Since lights don't read well during the day, add daytime décor, such as greenery of character figures, to keep your home looking festive all day long.

8. Never use outdated products. Test all your lighting products before installation to confirm that all are in good working order. Replace any questionable or worn bulb or light strand.

9. Highlight the features. Outline a distinct roof line or windows with lights, drape an archway with a lit garland, or light the pathway to your home's door.

10. Don't forget the backyard. Decorate a small area in your backyard to create a holiday focus through your windows.

Source: Christmas Décor, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Ways to Cut Kitchen Clutter

December 14, 2015 1:58 am

(BPT) - The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but it's also home to a lot of clutter. Resolve to bring order to your kitchen once and for all with these tips, courtesy of the experts at Moen.

1. You don't need a large pantry or countless cupboards and drawers to find the perfect spot for all your stuff. If you have blank space on the walls, consider adding a few open shelves. They provide plenty of storage while keeping everyday dishes and staples, like the coffee canister or cookie jar, within easy reach.

2. The biggest pain point for homeowners is a lack of counter space. Instead of adding to the chaos, designate a specific "drop zone" for items that find their way into the kitchen each day, like mail, paperwork or electronics.

3. Extend the "everything in its place" mentality to another kitchen staple: the dishtowel. Instead of leaving it in a damp heap on the counter, install a towel bar, towel ring or hook to the side of a cabinet or island to create a spot for it to hang. Not only will it free up space, but like in the bathroom or powder room, you'll always know where to look for it when you need it.

4. If you have a pantry, go beyond simple shelves to make this area work better—and smarter—for you. Pullout baskets and shallow drawers will ensure your pantry offers a proper place for everything. Curved cradles can turn an ordinary shelf into a beverage storage center, allowing you to store wine, water or soda bottles on their sides. And instead of wasting the space on the back of the door, install a slim, vertical storage system to provide a spot for plastic wrap, aluminum foil and other awkward-sized kitchen must-haves.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips to Achieve Short Sale Success

December 12, 2015 10:51 am

If you’re in the market for a new home, chances are you’ll come across the term ‘short sale’ at some point in your search. In its simplest terms, a short sale is when a home is sold for less than what is owed and the bank forgives the excess debt.

While short sales were a very popular means of selling a home within the past few years, they’re in much less supply today as the housing market continues to recover.  In fact, banks are more reluctant to grant a short sale unless there is some form of financial hardship that’s causing an inability to afford the mortgage payment. 

Another reason for the drop in short sales is that lenders are finding that as home prices rise, more often than not, they can get a better outcome through foreclosure auctions or REO sales, which are often quicker than short sales.

While the number of short sales has fallen significantly over the last few years as rising home values have forced far fewer distressed homeowners to sell, short sales remain plentiful in some areas of the country, and you can still find some serious bargains.

Once a bank receives a short sale request from a homeowner, the bank performs a BPO (Broker Price Opinion), which is simply an opinion of what the house is worth from a local real estate broker. The bank uses this BPO when determining the short sale amount. 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be bargaining. In fact, the whole idea of going for a short sale is to find a home for less than market value. However, when making an offer, be sure you don’t lowball too much. 
If you’re interested in pursuing a short sale, your agent should check recent home sales in the area to get a better idea of the properties that are selling and work with you to come up with an appropriate price that’ll be more likely to be approved by the bank. 

When you make an offer on a short sale, federally regulated lenders must respond within 30 days and deliver a final decision within 60 days. However, that deadline has loopholes, as the lender can ask the seller for more paperwork and then delay the decision while waiting for that paperwork to arrive.

One important thing to keep in mind is that with a short sale, there is no leniency with the closing escrow date and a buyer must close on time. Because of this, it’s important to take care of all loan paperwork immediately after opening escrow. 
Also, be warned that when buying a home that’s listed as a short sale, chances are that there might be some issues that need to be addressed as the previous owners most likely didn’t spend the money or take the time to fix things that other sellers most often do. 

To learn more about short sales, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Questions You Can't Afford to Overlook When Choosing an Agent

December 12, 2015 10:51 am

The 2015 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers revealed that 89 percent of sellers sold their home with an agent last year. It also notes that only 8 percent were FSBO sales, which is down from 9 percent the last three years, and the lowest share ever recorded since the survey’s 1981 inception.

Obviously, having an agent is key to selling your home. Homes represented by an agent sell faster, transact for more money and are less stressful than if you were going at it alone. But where do you find the best one for you?

According to NAR’s survey, a combined 66 percent of responding sellers found their real estate agent through a referral by a friend, neighbor or relative, or used their agent from a previous transaction. Furthermore, the responses reveal client referrals and repeat business remain the predominant source of business for real estate agents, with most sellers (84 percent) indicating they would definitely (67 percent) or probably (17 percent) recommend their agent for future services.

But choosing an agent to represent you throughout the process is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. 
Here are five questions you should ask before choosing an agent.

1. What sort of marketing plan will you use?
Today, more than ever, the success of a home sale relies on a great marketing campaign, which includes a solid social media strategy. You want to be sure your agent is getting your home seen by as many prospective buyers as possible. What is their online presence? Will they be creating videos? Is there anything unique they’ll be doing to get the word out about your property? By asking these questions ahead of time, you’ll know exactly what the agent is going to do to get your home sold. 
2. How are you compensated? Don’t be afraid to talk about money from the get-go. Before signing anything with an agent, you should understand the percentage he or she will command once the home is sold. The percentage will vary depending on location and market trends, and there may even be some room for negotiation. In a hot market, commissions might dip lower because homes are easier to sell. Conversely, in a weak market, an agent might be less likely to budge on their fee. Along with commission, it’s also important to discuss an agent’s cancellation policy.

3. Do you work alone or with a team? Nowadays, many agents work as part of a team, so you’ll want to know going into the process whether the person you hire will be the one doing the work, or if the support team will be showing the house and handling the marketing of your home. You may like a particular agent because they posses a level of trust that you think will help, but if they farm the work off to people you haven’t met—and may not have a similar feeling about—the process may not meet your expectations. On the other hand, having more people working for you is never a bad thing, as long as everyone sticks to the game plan. 
4. How often will we communicate? Do you want your agent to call you every day with updates, or only check in when they have something to report? Some sellers like hearing from their agent on the phone on a consistent basis, while others would prefer a quick text to update them on the progress. Let your agent know what you want and see how well they communicate along your terms. Real estate professionals should have the tools to stay in touch according to your wants and needs. Just be sure to express them clearly in the beginning. 

5. How many listings do you currently have? You may find an agent who has everything you’re looking for, but learn that they have a dozen other properties in your neighborhood that they represent. If this is the case, how certain are you that they’ll be putting your home above the others? It’s not to say that a good agent can’t handle multiple listings, but take the time to decide if this is something that’s important to you. In the end, you need to feel comfortable knowing that your house is at the top of their list. 

For more tips on choosing an agent, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding the Flood Insurance Act: What You Need to Know

December 12, 2015 10:51 am

When it comes to selling a home, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration, one being location. And for those looking to sell a home in an area that’s considered at-risk for flooding, the process can be somewhat challenging. 

Over the past decade, storms like Hurricane Sandy have wreaked havoc on many parts of the country, causing insurance rates to go even higher, which is ultimately having a negative effect on home sales. According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, from October 2013 to January 2014, over 40,000 home sales were either delayed or canceled because of increases and confusion over flood insurance rates.

This led to some swift action by President Barack Obama, who, following the release of these figures, said that homes in flood-prone areas would no longer be subject to sharp increases in flood insurance premiums when they’re sold, or when a new flood map places them in a higher-risk area.

On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 into law, which repeals and modifies certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was enacted in 2012, and makes additional program changes to other aspects of the program not covered by the Act. 

“The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, S. 1926 is the time-out REALTORS® first advocated when dramatic flood insurance premium increases went into effect on October 1, 2013,” said Steve Brown, president of NAR in a statement at the time of the passage of the bill. “This legislation will help homeowners nationwide who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of extreme flood insurance rates that are the unintended consequence of the Biggert-Waters reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.”

The new law caps flood insurance premium increases and allows below-market insurance rates to be passed on to people buying homes in flood zones with taxpayer-subsidized policies.

Still, it’s not good news for everyone. Those who live in older homes and enjoy subsidized flood insurance rates could still see annual increases in their premiums of up to 18 percent. Furthermore, homes in high-risk areas (labeled with codes starting with A or V on flood maps) will need to pay a new premium surcharge of either $25 or $250 per year to help offset the cost of the new bill. The surcharge applies to all properties that have national flood insurance, even those paying the full-risk rate.

Brown believes this is the first step in what he hopes is a retooling of the way Congress looks at the flood law, and expects it to help with home sales going forward.

FEMA classifies flood risk as something unique to each structure and looks at factors such as the elevation of the property relative to predicted flood levels, the construction style of the building, and the flood risk zone. It also publishes flood hazard maps that show predicted flood levels and flood risk zones based on historical climate information and the best available science. Some common examples of Special Flood Hazard Areas include coastal floodplains, floodplains along major rivers, and areas subject to flooding from ponding in low lying areas.

For more information about the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, contact our office today. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Catering to the First-time Homebuyer Demographic

December 12, 2015 10:51 am

According to figures from the 2015 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the percentage of first-time buyers declined to 32 percent this year, following the previous year’s disappointing 33 percent. In fact, these are the lowest shares since 1987 when only 30 percent of first-time buyers actually made a purchase.

“There are several reasons why there should be more first-time buyers reaching the market, including persistently low mortgage rates, healthy job prospects for those college-educated, and the fact that renting is becoming more unaffordable in many areas,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “The housing recovery's missing link continues to be the absence of first-time buyers.”

Historically, the long-term average shows that nearly 40 percent of primary purchases are from first-time homebuyers, so why have the figures been so low in recent years? 
“Unfortunately, there are just as many high hurdles slowing first-time buyers down,” Yun says. “Increasing rents and home prices are impeding their ability to save for a down payment, there’s scarce inventory for new and existing-homes in their price range, and it’s still too difficult for some to get a mortgage.”

According to the NAR study, first-time buyers reported that debt delayed saving for a down payment for a median of three years, and among the 25 percent who said saving was the most difficult task, a majority (58 percent) said student loans delayed saving.
“With a median amount of student loan debt for all buyers at $25,000, it’s likely some younger households with even higher levels of debt can’t save for an adequate down payment, or have decided to delay buying until their debt is at more comfortable levels,” says Yun.   

While there are fewer first-time buyers in the market for a home today, there are certain things you can do to help your home stand out—especially if you’re catering to this demographic. 

The first thing you’ll want to do is discuss your online strategy with your agent. This is critical as first-time buyers—many of whom are millennials—are searching online for homes more than any other buying class. Therefore, you want to make sure your home is listed on all social media platforms (including Pinterest and YouTube). And be sure to include plenty of interesting photos, videos and blog posts about the area that will entice this demographic. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that those buying a home for the first time will most likely have a lot of questions as they make their way through the process. Make things simple for them by compiling a fact sheet with your agent that will answer all of their questions. Be sure to include information regarding average expenses for utilities, a list of nearby stores and restaurants as well as your thoughts about the schools in the area.

For more tips to attract first-time buyers, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bring Out the Joy Wherever You Can to Attract Prospective Buyers This Holiday Season

December 12, 2015 10:51 am

Decking the halls can be a terrifying proposition for those looking to sell during the holiday season. However, when it comes to attracting prospective buyers at this time of year, creating a festive atmosphere can do wonders to help your home stand out from the competition.  

Great decorations can set the tone for the holidays by showcasing your home in a different way, highlighting areas that may not typically stand out. And simply creating a festive atmosphere will not only put prospective buyers at ease, it’ll get them into the holiday spirit as well.

One easy way to start things off on a festive note is to hang a wreath on the front door. If you’re looking to up the ante, think outside the box and go for something more original than the standard evergreen wreath. Use your imagination and incorporate seasonal items such as pinecones, citrus fruits and even flowers into the mix. Tie everything together with a thick velvet ribbon, and you’ll have created a great holiday decoration. 

If you’d like to take things one step further, drape lush greenery around the house—especially in doorways—to create an inviting atmosphere and woodsy aroma for those coming to view your home. 

While the holiday season is full of get-togethers with family and friends, you don’t want to overlook the rooms within your home when creating a festive atmosphere. Get people thinking about hosting their own holiday parties by adorning the dining room table with top-shelf linens and tableware, and add a festive centerpiece to complete the look. 

If you really want to make potential buyers happy, bake some holiday cookies and leave them on the table to be taken on the way out. 

Take the time to make your home festive and colorful this holiday season, and bring out the joy wherever you can.

To learn more about creating a festive atmosphere to attract prospective buyers this season, contact our office today. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Flood Insurance

December 12, 2015 10:51 am

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines how sellers can attract prospective buyers by creating a festive atmosphere this holiday season. Other topics covered this month include simple tips to help your home stand out among first-time buyers and five questions you must ask before choosing an agent. 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.


Helping Hands: Volunteers Number in the Millions

December 11, 2015 1:55 am

Ever house-sat for your neighbor? You may be one of the 138 million Americans who volunteered informally on behalf of a neighbor in the last year, whether by house-sitting, babysitting or shopping, according to a recent report by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC).

Many are performing neighborly acts of kindness beyond the block, as well. According to the report, 62.8 million Americans volunteered through an organization in the last year, totaling 7.96 billion hours worth an estimated $184 billion.

Who volunteers most? Gen Xers lead the pack at a rate of nearly 30 percent, followed by millennials at just over 20 percent. The Silent Generation leads when it comes to volunteer hours—over 100 hours on average, followed by baby boomers at 81 hours.

“We are calling on Americans to volunteer in their communities, and to invite their friends and families to join them,” says Wendy Spencer, CEO of the CNCS. “Volunteers enrich our communities and keep our nation strong. Service also connects us with our neighbors and provides a chance to use our skills for the common good.  There are so many ways we can make a difference for those in need, during the holiday season and throughout the entire year.”

Source: CNCS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Tips for Homeowners to Weather a Wet Winter

December 11, 2015 1:55 am

Warmer winters aren’t always better. With this season on track to be warmer (and wetter) than average, homeowners should prepare now for the potential of extreme precipitation, says Peter Duncanson, director of Disaster Restoration System Development at ServiceMaster Restore.

“When it comes to winter weather, it pays to be prepared for the worst,” says Duncanson. “Although many areas across the country experienced mild temperatures this fall, preparing now is vital, as excessive precipitation combined with freezing or near-freezing temperatures can cause significant damage overnight.” 

Duncanson advises:

• Reviewing your insurance policy closely and paying attention to specifics on what is and is not covered under the agreement

• Clearing rain gutters, repairing roof leaks and cutting away tree branches that could fall on the home

• Keeping gutters and downspouts free of debris and making sure water is flowing several feet away from the foundation

• Checking for cracks or small holes in the foundation where water can seep in—even a few inches of water from melted snow or excessive rain can cause interior water damage to carpet, drywall, wood floors and even your home’s structure

• Covering exposed outdoor water faucets to prevent freezing

• Leaving cabinet doors under sinks open to help circulate air and prevent frozen pipes during extreme temperatures

Source: ServiceMaster

Published with permission from RISMedia.