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

My Blog

Middle-Class Households Best at Saving

March 31, 2015 12:30 am

More than one-third (35 percent) of middle-class households with an annual income between $50,000 and $74,999 are saving more than 10 percent of their incomes, a rate that outpaces even the highest-income households, according to a recent report by Bankrate.com. However, just half of Americans are saving no more than five percent of their incomes. Roughly one in five (18 percent) are saving nothing at all.

“This proves the old adage that what counts isn’t how much you make, but how much you have left over,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

Overall, fewer than one in four Americans (24 percent) are saving more than 10 percent of their incomes. That figure includes 14 percent (one in seven) who are saving more than 15 percent.

Those in the western U.S. are out-saving their counterparts elsewhere; 31 percent of westerners are saving more than 10 percent of their incomes, compared with just 20 percent of southerners. However, just 19 percent of westerners aren’t saving anything.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Maximize Garage Space

March 31, 2015 12:30 am

(Family Features) The U.S. Department of Energy cites 25 percent of homeowners with two-car garages have too much clutter to store vehicles, and 32 percent only have room for one vehicle.

"It's ironic that many of us would rather store our boxes of unwanted stuff in our garage, leaving our valuable cars outside to deal with the elements," says Lorie Marrero, professional organizer and author of The Clutter Diet. "Let's rethink our storage priorities and turn our garage into a space that's more organized and functional."

Maximizing garage space doesn’t have to be a chore. Marrero recommends three simple steps to make the most of storage space in your garage.

1. Clear the Floor
"Wire shelving is the perfect choice for 'DIYers' in need of a garage makeover," says Marrero. "It is flexible and can be customized to fit in all types of spaces, suits any climate and is easy to keep clean."

Since floor space is at a premium, get things off the floor and onto the wall. One option is heavy duty wire shelving, which can withstand the weight of some of your heaviest things and adapt to changing storage needs. This shelving will allow air to ventilate and is not affected by the humidity or sudden fluctuations in temperature.

Limit the dirt tracked inside the house with an area rug or repurposed carpet. For many, the garage serves as the main entry point into the home, so be prudent and keep the entryway as clean as possible.

2. Store Hazardous Materials
Things like poisonous pesticides and anti-freeze or dangerous tools like hedge trimmers and power tools should be hidden safely out of reach from children and pets. Find a home for these items with heavy-duty cabinets.

3. Organize Smaller Items
Can't find your wrench or screw driver? Use a peg board to keep your favorite hand tools neatly stored and easily accessible. Hooks are another great way to keep track of your belongings. Use them freely for stowing hoses, extension cords, bicycles and step ladders.

Source: ClosetMaid

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Parents: Are You Over-Sharenting?

March 30, 2015 12:27 am

Some of social media’s greatest stars aren’t even old enough to tweet. More than half of mothers and a third of fathers discuss child health and parenting on social media, adding to the growing segment of parents online dubbed “sharents,” according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.



“By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the Mott Poll. But how far is too far when it comes to crossing the boundaries between public and private life?

“On one hand, social media offers today’s parents an outlet they find incredibly useful. On the other hand, some are concerned that over-sharing may pose safety and privacy risks for their children,” says Clark.

When sharing parenting advice on social media, common topics included getting kids to sleep (28 percent), nutrition and eating tips (26 percent), discipline (19 percent), daycare/preschool (17 percent) and behavior problems (13 percent), according to the Mott poll that surveyed a national sample of parents of children aged 0-4. Nearly 70 percent of parents said they use social media to get advice from other more experienced parents and 62 percent said it helped them worry less.

However, parents also recognized potential pitfalls of sharing information about their children, with nearly two-thirds concerned someone would learn private information about their child or share photos of their child. More than half also worried that when older, their child may be embarrassed by what was shared.

Three-quarters of parents polled pointed to “over-sharenting” by another parent, including parents who shared embarrassing stories.

Source: MottChildren.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Taking the Guesswork Out of Backsplash Design

March 30, 2015 12:27 am

(BPT) - The kitchen is the heart of the home and a top-selling feature with homebuyers. Whether you've just completed a remodel or you're looking for ways to upgrade your existing kitchen, a tile backsplash will instantly transform the space, says Kirsty Froelich, design director of The Tile Shop.



To design a show-stopping backsplash, Froelich recommends determining your style profile by looking at Houzz, Pinterest and home magazines to learn which styles you’re drawn to. Attend your local Parade of Homes, or visit a showroom environment to view multiple styled vignettes.

When considering tile or stone, think about whether you want the backsplash to be a focal point. If you're looking to make a statement, clean and tumbled white marble is on-trend, slate is comforting and earthy, and metallics are eye-catching and contemporary. For an even greater personal touch, consider designs with color, patchwork, patterns or pop art. For those who prefer a subdued look, subway tiles in neutral tones are timeless.



It’s important to know your budget, says Froelich. Convey your visions and cost parameters to any contractors or interior designers you plan to work with. Bring a sample of your cabinetry and countertop or a picture of your kitchen to the designer or showroom you're working with. It will help them maximize your budget while achieving your vision.

If you prefer a material that is low maintenance, Froelich suggests ceramic tile. If you are drawn to the beauty of natural stone, keep in mind that it will need annual maintenance, including resealing the surface to ensure the product's integrity and beauty last.

When finalizing your design, consider adding unique characteristics based on location. Above the sink or cooktop are good places to do something more decorative, says Froelich. To make a statement, you may decide to add a niche with a cutout that has tile on the interior that matches the exterior tile or create a picture frame design using a completely different style of tile and stone.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Tips for the Final Walk-Through

March 30, 2015 12:27 am

The final walk-through is an important part of the home buying process. This step gives a buyer the opportunity to assess the home top-to-bottom before closing. Although a home inspector can accompany a buyer during the final walk-through, it’s essential for the buyer to evaluate the home as an inspector would.



To successfully complete the final walk-through, keep in mind these tips.



1. Have your contract, inspection report and any seller disclosures handy when walking through the home. These documents will help you determine if any new issues developed after the inspection, and which repairs, if any, were included in the agreement.



2.
Inspect both the exterior and interior of the home, paying special attention to any issues the seller agreed to resolve before closing. This is crucial, especially if the seller has already vacated. Spend some time assessing the landscape and grounds, as well as confirming that all doors and windows not only open and close properly, but are also secure.



3. Inside the home, test the HVAC system and all appliances included in the contract. Turn on and off all lights, both inside and outside, and check the temperature and water pressure for all faucets. Remember to flush toilets to ensure there are no drips or leaks.



4. Before completing the final walk-through, be sure to ask for working keys to every door, alarm codes, garage openers and any appliance or system manuals. It’s also a good idea to ask for copies of receipts for any repairs the sellers paid for.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall



Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Few U.S. Workers Contribute to IRAs

March 27, 2015 12:27 am

A recent LIMRA study found that just 17 percent of American workers contribute to a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) – and only 28 percent contribute to any kind of IRA, including traditional, Roth or SEP/SIMPLE accounts. When asked to provide a reason for that decision, the majority of respondents felt they could not afford to contribute to an IRA. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they are saving in another retirement savings vehicle, such as a defined contribution (DC) plan, and one in seven workers said they were unsure how to invest their assets or haven’t gotten around to it. A third of workers believe they don’t understand enough about IRAs to contribute to one.

“For workers who don’t have access to an employer-sponsored DC plan, an IRA provides an excellent way for workers to save for retirement,” says Cecilia Shiner, assistant research director for LIMRA.

The study also found that more than a third of Generation X workers are contributing to an IRA (34 percent), compared to only a quarter of Millennials and Boomers. Forty percent of workers would be more likely to contribute to an IRA if a payroll deduction option were available through their employer; nearly half of Millennials said payroll deduction would spur them to contribute. Workers who own an IRA are more likely to feel confident that they will be able to live the retirement lifestyle they desire (55 percent), compared to just 24 percent of those who don’t own an IRA.

A traditional IRA allows workers to direct pretax income, up to specific annual limits, toward investments that can grow tax-deferred (i.e., no investment gain is taxed until the money is withdrawn).

Source: LIMRA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Return to Year Low

March 27, 2015 12:27 am

Mortgage rates returned to the lowest point of 2015 this week, a level seen three previous times from mid-January to early February, according to a Bankrate.com survey. Mortgage rates fell for a second consecutive week, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate retreating to 3.80 percent.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.04 percent while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage plummeted to a new record low of 3.92 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages also lowered, with the 5-year ARM sinking to 3.14 percent and the 7-year ARM sliding to 3.31 percent.

The catalyst was the Federal Reserve's downgrading of economic and inflation expectations for this year, which pushed back the expected timing of an initial interest rate hike. Both bond yields and mortgage rates moved lower as expectations on the timing of interest rate hikes are tempered. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

One year ago, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.51 percent. At that time, a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,014.56. With the average rate now at 3.80 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $931.91, a savings of $82 per month for anyone refinancing now.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Ways First-Time Homebuyers Can Prepare for a Mortgage

March 27, 2015 12:27 am

(BPT) - When it comes to buying your first home, a lack of knowledge and experience can lead to costly mistakes. One in four first-time homebuyers say they are completely unfamiliar with the mortgage financing process, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Even among those with an understanding of the overall process, the report found that many first-time homebuyers still had significant knowledge gaps in important areas such as available mortgage rates, closing costs, down-payment requirements and income required to qualify for a loan.

First-time homebuyers can become mortgage-ready with these tips.

1. Adjust your budget. A mortgage payment can increase your monthly housing expenses, so prepare by calculating what that amount will be and begin saving that same amount every month so you can get used to the budget change in advance.

2. Plan for a down payment. Nearly all home loans will require you to put some money down as a down payment. Some home loans may require as much as 20 percent of the purchase cost as a down payment, although some Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans may require less. Decide on the amount you think you'll need and create a savings plan to help you reach that goal.

3. Consider the location and type of home you want to buy. Many factors influence the cost of a home, including its location, size, style and more. A larger home in a high-income area will generally cost more, and property taxes will be higher on a bigger, newer, well-located home. Many first-time homebuyers find manufactured or mobile homes are a good option. Knowing the estimated cost of the type of home you want to purchase can help you better manage your budget.

4. Stay on top of your credit. Lenders will consider your credit score and report history when determining your mortgage eligibility and the interest rate they may offer you. Make sure to review your credit report in advance. You can download a free credit report once a year from all three major bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you're planning to apply for a mortgage, it's a good idea to review your report more frequently and to consider paying to obtain your credit score from at least one major bureau. If your report contains errors, work with the credit bureaus to have them corrected before you apply for a mortgage.

5. Keep current on monthly bills. While it's important to save toward a down payment, don't let monthly bills slide. Paying your bills on time every month can help increase your credit score, and a good payment history is something lenders look for when reviewing your credit report. Use online tools like email reminders and automatic payment options to help ensure you never miss or make a late payment.

6. Work on your debt. If you have delinquent balances, bring them up to date as quickly as possible. If you carry a lot of revolving credit card debt, you may want to work to reduce it by paying more than the monthly minimum payment. While it helps to have a report that shows no late payments, the most important thing is to not have any delinquent balances before you apply for a mortgage.

7. Plan for escrow. In addition to the amount you will need each month toward repaying your mortgage, you'll need escrow - an amount added to and collected with each monthly mortgage payment that is applied toward annual homeowners' insurance premiums and/or taxes. Estimating taxes and total insurance costs can help you better understand how much your escrow will be each month, and you'll be able to budget more accurately as you prepare for homeownership. Don't forget that this amount may adjust every 12 months if your insurance premium or taxes change for the next year.

8. Take advantage of educational resources. Check out resources like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Protect Your Identity from Tax Fraudsters

March 26, 2015 2:24 am

As identity theft claims continue to rise, consumers must take extra precautions to prevent tax fraud when preparing and filing their tax returns, warn the experts at CreditSesame.com. Consider the following tips when filing taxes this year:

1. File Early
The best defense is to file early. The sooner you file your taxes, the less chance a thief has to file ahead of you and claim a refund. Victims of tax-related identity theft say they now have to wait a year or more to get their refund.

2. Monitor Your Mail
Watch your mailbox closely – identity thieves will be watching it, too. As the IRS increases its vigilance for detecting identity theft and bogus returns, thieves need as much information as possible about you to fool the IRS. The easiest way to get that information is from your mail.

3. Choose a Tax Preparer Carefully

Choose your tax preparer carefully. You risk handing over your most personal financial information to an individual or company whose commitment to security and privacy might not be what you expect.

4. Write Out ‘Internal Revenue Service’ on Checks

If you have to send a check to the IRS, make sure you spell out the words ‘Internal Revenue Service’. A common scam is to steal mail looking for checks made out to the IRS, change the ‘I’ to an ‘M’ or ‘T’, and simply deposit the check in an account opened in that name. It may be months before you discover the check has been stolen, and only after the IRS pursues you for non-payment.

5. Check Your Credit Report
If an identity thief has enough personal information to file a fraudulent tax return in your name, they also have enough information to open new accounts and take out loans in your name. Check your credit reports regularly.

Source: CreditSesame.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Organized Households Can Alleviate Stress

March 26, 2015 2:24 am

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and Decluttr.com, 36 percent of homeowners think at least half of their home is disorganized. Not only could they feel more organized in their homes, but they could also save time and a great deal of stress, says Stephen Sumner, group marketing director of Decluttr.com.

"We want Americans to realize that organization isn't just about making sure your home looks clean," says Sumner. "It is also about peace of mind and actually ends up saving people a significant amount of time in their day when they know where things are in their home."

The NAPO/Decluttr.com survey also found that 37 percent of those who hired a personal organized felt less stressed at home. More than a third of respondents listed family living spaces as the most disorganized area of their home. Eighty-five percent of respondents believed they’d save up to an hour a day if they were more organized.

Source: Decluttr

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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