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

My Blog

Before You Set Your Alarm, Make Sure That Black Friday Deal Is Really Worth It

November 17, 2017 2:57 pm

For better or worse, the American Thanksgiving tradition now includes a midnight run to the nearest department store or electronics retailer in the hopes of nabbing the ultimate Black Friday deal. But before you join the masses in this shopping madness, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises doing the following to make sure the deal you worked so hard for doesn’t turn into a disaster.
  1. Is the discount really a discount? Make sure that the price wasn’t inflated before the store offered a percentage off. For example, if there's 20 percent off the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), that’s not much of a deal. The MSRP is a much higher price than what the store would normally sell the product for.
  2. Read the fine print. Some Black Friday sale items may only be available in limited quantities or during specific time periods. In other words, you may need to line up before the store opens to even have a chance of scoring a specific deal.
  3. Be aware of the return policy. Before you purchase, make sure you’re able to return the sale item if it turns out not to be what you wanted or if you find it cheaper somewhere else.
  4. Be safe online. Lots of Black Friday deals are offered online, as well. Be sure to pay with a credit card as opposed to your debit card—your credit card is protected in case of fraudulent activity, whereas your bank account is at risk when using your debit card—and look for the padlock icon in the browser to make sure you’re on a secure site. 
Finally, the BBB reminds us that there are many holiday shopping deals to be had beyond Black Friday. Consider Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, as well as local craft and gift fairs. Of course, the best way to avoid overspending this holiday season is to create a budget, make a list and stick to it. Remember, the most thoughtful gifts usually don’t come with high price tags...or any price tag at all.
 
If you'd like more homeowner information, please contact me.

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5 Ways Your Smart Speaker Can Help out Around the House

November 17, 2017 2:57 pm

From Google Home to Amazon Echo, smart speakers are hitting the market in droves. But while they seem like the next “must have,” what do they really do? And do you really need one?
 
First things first, according to WhatIs.com, a smart speaker is a wireless and smart audio playback device that uses several types of connectivity for additional functions. The original purpose was to wirelessly deliver audio content from your media library, i.e., songs from your Spotify playlist. Many have evolved, however, to now feature voice-activated digital assistants and to also be able to operate home automation programs. The term “smart speaker” now specifically refers to those speakers with voice control.
 
But how can a smart speaker improve your life at home? Here are just a few of the tasks you will be able to use it for (which will vary according to model and artificial intelligence (AI) used):
  1. DJ your next party. Place a few smart speakers in several rooms of your house, including your yard or patio, and have the same playlist piped throughout the entire expanse of your party.
  2. Control your audio-visual needs. Smart speakers may be able to end the madness of multiple remote controls, let alone the confusion regarding how to operate said remotes.
  3. Make you more energy efficient. A key component of your smart home automation, you can enlist your smart speaker in adjusting your lights and your heating and cooling system. When used wisely, this can help lower your energy bill.
  4. Organize your day. You can use a smart speaker in much the same way you use Siri—to remind you of items on your to-do list, appointments on your calendar, and give you directions to wherever you’re headed.
  5. Buy and sell real estate. An increasing number of apps will become available through smart speakers that will help you search for and buy homes in your area, contact real estate agents or visit open houses. 
As with all technology, the applications and possibilities of smart speakers will only continue to evolve, so it might be worth taking one for a test drive.
 
Hope you found these tips helpful. If you need any real estate information, please contact me.

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6 Reasons Why You Should List Your Home During the Holidays

November 17, 2017 2:57 pm

Traditional real estate wisdom may be telling you to hold off selling your home until after the holidays, but there are plenty of good reasons to list your home right now. Consider the following:
  • People who are looking for a home during the holiday season are most likely pretty serious about making a move. In fact, they may be in a bit of hurry. Putting your home on the market now might result in a faster sale at a higher price point.
  • Between family gatherings and holiday parties, you’ve probably got your home in bright and shiny, tip-top shape for entertaining. What better time to show off your home to prospective buyers, too?
  • In most areas of the country, yard maintenance decreases during the wintry holiday months. While you may have to blow a few leaves and clear away some snow from walkways, you won’t have to worry about keeping the lawn mowed, the garden beds weeded and the flowers blooming as you would if listing your home in the spring and summer.
  • The end of the year is usually a slower time for real estate professionals, so you will get lots of attention from your agent if you decide to list your home during the holiday season.
  • You will also have less competition in terms of other homes on the market, allowing your home to stand out more to prospective buyers.
  • You can stage your home to make an emotional connection to the holidays. Work with your real estate agent to tastefully decorate so that prospective buyers envision themselves hosting loving family celebrations in your home during the holidays. Stay away from overtly religious decorations and stick with decorations like small white lights, natural evergreens and a few shimmering metallics. An evergreen- or cranberry-scented candle will also emphasize that home-for-the-holidays feel. 
If you need more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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In this Edition: Listing During the Holidays May Lead to a Faster Sale at a Higher Price Point

November 17, 2017 2:57 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines six reasons why you shouldn’t wait until after the holidays to list your home. Other topics covered this month include simple ways your smart speaker can improve your life at home and how you can up your recycling IQ to ensure you're not doing more harm than good. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

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Let Your Photos Take Center Stage

November 17, 2017 1:42 am

One of the many great things about today’s smartphone cameras is that they allow you to take high-quality photos anywhere, anytime. The wide range of filters and settings turns amateurs into fashion photographers, travel reporters and SoHo artists.

The bad thing about this newfound accessibility to photography, however, is that most of those photos never make it off your phone. Once you take them and share a few on social media, they often get lost in the ether of the Cloud or some drive on your PC. Here are some creative ways to bring your favorite photos out from their digital recesses and into the world for you and others to enjoy on a regular basis:

Set up slideshows as screensavers on your laptop and desktop computers. You can even use this feature on your smart TV and let the slide show play when friends and family are gathered for the next holiday.

Make an annual photo book. Gather the best of your photos for a given year and flow them into an annual photo book. People will be more apt to pick up a hard copy of the year’s highlights as opposed to scrolling through your phone.

Make separate albums for special trips you’ve taken. After all, your vacation to Fiji deserves more than a few shots on Facebook or a fleeting image on Snapchat.

Get artsy with your favorite shots. Have them printed on canvases or framed as posters to showcase in key areas of your home.

Put endearing shots of friends, family and pets on everything from pillows and throws to mugs and calendars. That way you’ll be reminded of who matters most every time you use these functional items.

Consider going old school and making photos a social occasion. Invite a few friends over for a slide show of your European vacation or of your newest grandchild, and serve drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Invite them to connect their device to view their latest life event too.  

These ideas will help make your photos what they’re intended to be: precious memories of the people and places that matter to you.

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Property Claims Satisfaction Surges, Even As Catastrophes Escalate

November 17, 2017 1:42 am

Although recent property insurance claim calls have escalated with fires, flooding and storm damages being reported all over the country, overall customer satisfaction among homeowners filing property insurance claims has reached a new all-time high.

The latest J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study notes this surge in insurance customer satisfaction corresponds with a 10-year high in catastrophic events, which are typically associated with lower satisfaction scores.

The study measures satisfaction with the property claims experience among insurance customers who have filed a claim for damages by examining five factors (listed in order of importance): settlement; first notice of loss; estimation process; service interaction; and repair process. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale with the overall Customer Satisfaction Index reaching a new all-time high for the study.

The largest single driver of the improvement is the settlement factor, which encompasses the fairness of the settlement amount, followed by estimation process and service interaction.

Following are some of the key findings of that 2017 J.D. Power property claims study:

- The West posts the largest improvement nationwide, amid a period where the toll from wildfires has yet to be fully reconciled. A handful of states with more volatile weather claims — most notably Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts —  post flat to declining scores.

- Weather-related claims elsewhere achieve the highest overall improvement in claims satisfaction, with high wind- and hail-related claims leading the way. However, water-related claims, which tend to take longer to resolve, are linked to lower overall satisfaction scores.

- High wind and hail claims are the most frequent weather-related claims in this year’s study, and both are correlated with relatively high satisfaction scores, regardless of total cycle time. Water-related claims, by contrast, are associated with the lowest satisfaction scores. On the whole, water-related claims score 39 points lower than hail-related claims.

- Slow resolution time is the primary driver of lower scores for water-related claims, with the time it took to a settle claim receiving a rating that is 0.40 points lower (on a 10-point scale) than other claims types for water-related claims.

Source: www.jdpower.com

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5 Ways to Ease Holiday Travel

November 17, 2017 1:42 am

The hustle and bustle of travel during the holiday can be a major headache. To help ease your journey, MultiVu offers the following tips for smooth driving and flying this happy holiday season.

Do your homework. Before you commit to a travel plan, comparison shop. Use a travel review site such as Booking.com to cross reference lodging, car rentals, wellness retreats and more to make sure you're getting exactly what you expect before you pull out that credit card.

Protect yourself. From hurricanes to earthquakes, there's a lot that's not in our control. But something that is? Protecting our travel investment with travel insurance coverage. Travel insurance can reimburse your non-refundable expenses if you must cancel a trip due to sickness or injury and most importantly, it'll cover you for medical emergencies that may happen while you're traveling.

Lighten the load. During the holidays, consider sending unwrapped gifts in advance to your destination to lighten your load and wrapping them upon arrival. Pack a capsule wardrobe so that you can mix and match your outfits, and find out if laundry services are available at your destination so you can do a light load while on the road. Wear your heaviest clothing item, like a knitted sweater or peacoat, to lighten the weight of luggage or leave more room for packing. Think about things you don't need, and consider going more natural to save weight: hair dryer, hair spray, your entire skincare lineup (maybe just take the moisturizer and sunscreen in travel-sized containers and a mini makeup kit),

On the go games. Traveling with a brood? The best kid games on the go are the ones without small pieces and that don't make a lot of noise: cards, coloring, reading books are great. Car games that require rider participation are also a wonderful way to keep kids entertained and don't require any packing.

Source: MultiVu

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Ward Off Identity Theft This Holiday Season

November 15, 2017 1:42 am

Identity theft is a scary thought year-round, but during the holidays, the last thing you want to deal with is the headache and hassle of a stolen identity. Consider the following safety precautions from IdentityForce.

Be Charitable without Giving Access to Bank Accounts. Conduct research before donating to a non-profit. Be wary of a charity that uses a name closely resembling a well-known organization. If donating online, avoid crowdfunding or only donate to those people you know personally as it is extremely difficult to verify where your donation is going.

Volunteer Your Time, Not Your Identity. Many food banks or soup kitchens require a driver's license or a background check before volunteering. If sensitive personal information is required, ask about their privacy and data security practices. Also, do not sign open-ended consent forms. If this is mandatory, confirm that the forms are encrypted.

Don't Let an Online Shopping Scam Fool You. Avoid buying from merchants operating websites that are not secure. Hackers may set up websites designed to look like those of a legitimate seller. Before purchasing from them, research the organization and check with the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, look for the HTTPS and lock symbol in your browser address bar.    

Proceed with Caution When Applying for a Seasonal Job. On a job application, include only your name, address, telephone number, email address and relevant job history. Do not include the SSN, date of birth, or driver's license number. If an employer requests that information before granting an interview, ask to withhold the information until an in-person interview is possible.

Don't Overshare on Social. Hackers will try to sell stolen identities on the Dark Web, and often the gateway to gain access to personal information can be via social networks. When posting online, do not provide specifics. Social media identity theft relies on seemingly inconsequential details that can be linked together. The more dates, names and facts shared, the easier it is for thieves to impersonate your accounts. Also, remind friends and family not to share their personal information.

Source: IdentityForce

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How-To Stay Safe on the Road This Winter

November 15, 2017 1:42 am

Between wintry weather and the holiday party season, the road can be a dangerous place. To keep you and your family safe all season long, consider the following tips, from Allstate.

Do a systems check. Make sure your headlights and brake lights are in working condition, along with tires, heater, defroster, brakes and windshield wipers, and that you have enough windshield washer fluid.

Play it safe. Don't drive through standing water on roads or in parking lots — it can stall your engine. Take an alternate route.

Take it easy. Give yourself extra time to get where you're going. Increasing following distance, traveling at slower speeds and accounting for the extra stopping time will help avoid collisions.

Stay alert. Give the road your undivided attention. That's especially important with slick streets and potentially dangerous conditions.

Don't panic. If your vehicle begins to slide or skid, don't slam on the brakes. Look down the road in the direction you want to go and gently steer your vehicle that way. Release the accelerator until traction returns.

Have an emergency kit. Include the tools you will need to protect yourself should a problem arise. Gloves, boots, blankets, flares, water, jumper cables, a flashlight and something for traction, such as sand or cat litter, are all helpful items to have in the car.

Party smart. Especially during the busy holiday travel season, including one of the most deadly days on the road — New Year's Day— Allstate strongly urges drivers to plan ahead and always find a sober ride home before partaking in holiday festivities.Source: Allstate

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Practical Ways to Promote STEM Learning

November 15, 2017 1:42 am

(Family Features)--Demand for workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers continues to explode. Data from the U.S. Department of Education predicts that growth opportunities in these fields will increase 14 percent by 2020. One way to nurture kids' long-term potential is to make learning STEM subjects fun, hands-on and interactive.

Whether you're looking for fresh ideas to shake things up in the classroom or planning activities to share with the family at home, consider these creative approaches to increasing child or student interest in STEM topics.

Take a field trip: When learning occurs outside the confines of a classroom, it can create unexpected sparks of interest. Build classroom field trips or family outings around destinations that offer unique ways to highlight STEM subjects. For example, setting up a tour of a local baseball stadium may be a chance to get up close and personal with the game and the field, but it's also a way to discuss the math behind baseball. Similarly, a visit to an indoor skydiving facility is more than just exposure to an extreme sport; it's an opportunity to learn about terminal velocity and gravity. Additional options include an outdoor nature lesson, manufacturing facility, planetarium or local farm.

Introduce robotics: Between self-driving cars, drones that can aid in rescue efforts and robots that assist as a "butler" for day-to-day tasks, the future of robotics is here now. Researchers at Brandeis University found that students involved in robotics are two times more likely to take more challenging math and science courses and two times more likely to pursue STEM careers.

One option to increase interest in robotics is the TI-Innovator Rover, a robotic car that introduces middle school and high school students to the basics of coding and programming. Students without any coding or robotics experience can learn to write basic programs on their TI graphing calculators that make Rover do things like draw, dance or even crash.

Career show and tell: Seek out speakers or mentors who have real-world STEM careers, ranging from more traditional STEM fields like scientists or engineers to more unexpected jobs that use STEM principles every day, such as a fashion designer or an ice cream flavor scientist. Encourage kids to get hands-on with these careers by having guests both show and tell how they use math and science every day. For example, students can measure and cut materials to make a circle skirt, an unexpected lesson in geometry. Or they can scoop up a physics lesson on states of matter as milk transforms into ice cream.

Cook up some fun: When it comes to bucking tradition, the kitchen may not be the first place you think of to drive home the benefits of STEM learning. However, the kitchen is a perfect place to explore the chemistry of combining ingredients and hone math skills such as dividing fractions when splitting a recipe.

Solve real-world problems: Give students an opportunity to think through a real problem and come up with a solution. For example, challenge them to solve how they would create low-cost options for filtering water in countries without clean water. Through trial and error, students can learn that failure is OK and sometimes leads to a better solution.

Source: Texas Instruments

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