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

My Blog

A Holiday Lesson in Light Safety

December 15, 2016 12:39 am

Nothing is more festive than a home ablaze with holiday lights. However,  it's important to remember that your favorite holiday décor could pose serious hazards, like fire or electrical injury. To avoid this, make sure you take the proper precautions.

- Use good quality light sets. A good quality light set should be sturdy with a minimum of 22 gauge (awg) wiring, no loose connectors, and have fuses at the plug to protect against overheating.

- Test your lights and check cords for damage. It's always a good idea to plug in your lights before you hang them to look for bad bulbs and frayed cords.

- Use lights, extension cords and surge protectors that are specifically rated for outdoor use when hanging lights outdoors. You'll know they are outdoor-approved by clearly marked labels and tags.

- Limit the length of your light strings. Many holiday light manufacturers advise connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights together. LED light sets can be longer, but it's important to avoid running extension cords, wires or strings of lights across driveways, sidewalks, stairs, or anywhere they could present a tripping hazard.

- Take proper safety precautions when using a ladder to string lights. Safe ladder usage means setting the ladder on stable ground and about one foot away from the wall for every four feet the ladder reaches up.

- Use a timer to ensure that your lights and other decorations are only lit between sundown and bedtime. This will help illuminated décor from overheating.

Source: www.mistersparky.com

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Financial Well-Being May Be Best Gift This Season

December 14, 2016 12:36 am

While gifting loved ones with holiday cash or gift cards has been a long-standing option, retailers are offering new ways this season give your favorite people some financial well-being instead of the latest toys, fads or fashions.

Among them, according to Sarah Skidmore Sell at the Associated Press, is Stockpile, a company whose gift cards can be redeemed for stock, which is rolling out its products to more than 14,000 stores this holiday season.

Sold at popular retail chains like Target, Kroger, and Safeway, the gift cards may be purchased for a dollar amount of stock rather than the price for a share – and purchases can be in any amount.

Gift of College, which gives people another way to contribute to college savings plans or pay down student loans, began selling its gift cards at Toys R Us and Babies R Us nationally this month.

All 529 college savings plans grow tax-free, and withdrawals for educational expenses are also untaxed. The giver may get also a tax break, as 34 states and the District of Columbia offer either a state income tax deduction or tax credits for such contributions.

Since the average debt at graduation with a bachelor’s degree was more than $35,000 last year, Gift of College gift cards are becoming so popular that some employers are offering them as holiday bonus gifts for their workers, Sell said.

Financial gifts, whether in the form of cash or gift cards, may have tax implications, so it may be advisable to check with a financial advisor if your gift will be substantial. But in most cases, gifts of cash or any of these new gift card options offer a unique opportunity to send love and best wishes in a way that may help recipients develop an interest in thrift and/or in future investing.

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Protecting Your Home against Wicked Weather

December 14, 2016 12:36 am

While the east coast recently suffered through Hurricane Matthew, severe weather can strike anywhere, anytime. The Massachusetts-based Hanover Insurance Group recently shared these tips to help homeowners protect both their families and their properties during a storm.

Know what's in your home. A home inventory is often overlooked. An industry poll indicated homeowners' insurance claims are processed nearly twice as fast if home inventories are completed in advance.

Gather supplies. It is always a good idea to create an emergency supplies kit. Consider including items such as flashlights, batteries, medicines, a first aid kit, cash, a battery-powered radio, and a week's worth of water and nonperishable food for the household.

Prepare your house. Make any necessary repairs to loose boards, shingles, downspouts or other items that can pose problems in high winds and torrential rain. Move any unsecured items indoors, including grills, toys, planters and lawn furniture. Trim or remove any decaying and damaged tree branches.

Have a plan. Learn the local evacuation routes and make note of where local shelters are located. Have key telephone numbers on hand, such as family, friends, fire and police departments, and your insurance agent.

Stay informed. Sign up for alerts if possible. Many towns offer weather alerts to help inform residents of ways to stay safe.

Check your insurance protection. An independent insurance agent can help ensure comprehensive coverages are in place. Some good questions to consider include:
  • Are current rebuilding costs covered?
  • Should separate flood insurance be considered?
  • Are there any gaps in coverage?
​Source: The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc.

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Holiday Tips for Alzheimer's Families

December 14, 2016 12:36 am

While the holidays are often a joyous time for celebrating with friends and families, for families living with Alzheimer's, celebrations can be a bit of a challenge. Read on for tips on helping your family have the best holiday season possible.

Talk to friends and family before they arrive
Explain that your loved one with dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him or herself.  Everyone can help by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. Help visitors understand that in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer's, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. 

Adjust expectations
The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. Make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine.

Involve the person with dementia
Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. As the person's abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table.

When the person lives in a care facility
Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities. Bring a favorite holiday food to share, sing holiday songs and ask if other residents can join in or read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud.

Source: www.alz.org/nyc

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Make Your Home Just a Little Smarter

December 12, 2016 2:30 am

According to a 2016 HomeAdvisor research report, Americans spent on average $564 - $2,260 to install a home automation system, with prices ranging as high as $15,000 to install a hard-wired system. While outfitting your home with a full suite of smart home technology can be pricey and intimidating, there are some smaller ways you can start to incorporate this all-the-rage trend into your abode.

Smart home automation deals with syncing household devices and systems with schedules or responsive sensors, says HomeAdvisor, which means that smart home technology is dependent upon  smartphone apps and wireless internet routers. The goal is to save on costs, and add convenience and security throughout your home.

A good place to start is with your thermostat. A variety of smart thermostats are available, allowing you to automate and control your home’s temperature from your smartphone. Some, like Nest, learn your habits throughout the day and set the temperature accordingly.

You might also want to consider a smart television. An evolution of the Roku and Apple TV external devices, smart televisions have integrated everything you could ever want right into your set - Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Go, Pandora, network TV, gaming and much more.

Another great feature to consider is smart shades or blinds. These programmable, remote-controlled window coverings allow you to schedule open-and-close times in conjunction with the room’s exposure, putting you in control of energy saving and setting the mood.

Speaking of setting the mood, a whole host of smart light dimmers give you the option to control the lights in your home from your smartphone. This is an especially useful security feature while you’re away from your home for extended periods of time.

Another great security option is smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors—this technology alerts you to not only what the problem is but within which part of your home it’s happening.

While the smart home technology options are endless and fascinating, keep in mind that they are internet dependent, so if your home goes offline, so will your devices.

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Personal Finance 101: What is a Fiduciary?

December 12, 2016 2:30 am

Those looking into hiring a finance advisor may have heard the term “fiduciary” thrown around. But what is a fiduciary, and do you need one?

"Consumers are hearing the term 'fiduciary' more often, but increased awareness doesn't necessarily equal increased understanding," explains  National Association of Personal Financial Advisors CEO Geoffrey Brown.

What is a fiduciary? A fiduciary is a professional entrusted to manage assets or wealth while putting the client's best interests first at all times. Financial advisors who follow a fiduciary standard must disclose any conflict, or potential conflict, to their clients prior to and throughout the advisory engagement. Fiduciaries will also adopt a code of ethics and will fully disclose how they are compensated.

Non-fiduciary financial professionals can recommend investments with higher fees, riskier features and lower returns because they earn more money for the advisor, even if those investments are not the best choice for their clients.

Who is a fiduciary? Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) are held to a fiduciary standard of care. By law, they must act solely in the best interest of their clients. To ensure your advisor or a potential advisor is following a fiduciary standard, request to see the advisor's ADV (a form filed with the SEC) or ask if they will sign a Fiduciary Oath.

How can you find a fiduciary? Accountability is important in financial planning. While there are many people in the financial industry who profess to have the client's best interests at heart, they still may have conflicts that impact their recommendations. It's important for consumers to ask the right questions of any potential advisors.  

Source: http://www.napfa.org

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How to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

December 12, 2016 2:30 am

Winter means toasty fires, steaming cups of hot cocoa and—for many—frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can lead to major damage, so it's important to keep them protected when cold air hits.  

Gary Eisenhauer, a manager at The Sunny Plumber in Las Vegas, recommends a few tips for protecting your pipes as the weather turns cold.  

- When an overnight freeze is expected, slowly run one or two faucets to keep water moving through the lines.

- Outdoor hoses and their connection to water sources are particularly vulnerable to freezing weather. Eisenhauer advises consumers to unscrew hoses from the outdoor facet to allow for drainage and keep outside hose bibs open to allow water to drain.

- All outside pipes and hose spigots should be insulated, this is easy to do with the purchase of an installation kit from your local hardware store.

- Pipes running against exterior walls, like those in kitchens, are often subject to freezing and typically have little to no insulation. Keep cabinets under kitchen and bathrooms sinks open to allow for warm air flow to prevent freezing.

- Pipes in unheated areas like basements, attics and near garages are also susceptible to damage from cold. Take special care to insulate these areas.

- Heat tape is a great product to insulate water pipe. These "pipe sleeves" could be as simple as newspaper wrapped around pipes to keep them warm and insulated.

- During cold spells, Eisenhauer recommends keeping your thermostat set at the same temperature during the night and day – this helps regulate temperatures and prevent unwanted expansion.Source: thesunnyplumber.com.

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And the Paint Forecast Is...Gray

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

Despite the fickle nature of interior design trends, when it comes to paint, gray is topping the charts for the second year in a row.

"Gray, in all its variations, has emerged as the overwhelming choice of designers for spaces ranging from home interiors to elegant office settings, and everything in between," says Debbie Zimmer, color expert for the Paint Quality Institute.

What’s making gray the most popular color once again? Versatility, says Zimmer. "Gray is beautiful in its own right, but it is so perfectly neutral that it can work alongside other soft tints, or serve as a perfect foil for vibrant accent colors."

According to Zimmer, the color we refer to as gray is actually a wide range of complex grayish colors that often contain hints of red, green, blue, yellow, or some other hue.

Yellowish-grays paired with beiges or off-whites create neutral color schemes that are not only classic, but also calming. Similar results can be achieved with blue-grays. Meanwhile, red- or green-leaning grays often appear ultra-sophisticated.

Grays are practical, too. Since they work with so many colors, it's easy to change the overall appearance of a room by simply repainting an accent wall in a different shade, or adding a pop of color with pillows, rugs, wall décor or ceramics.

If you've decided to use gray as the dominant color in a room, get a variety of samples and paint swatches on your walls. See how different shades look in the various stages of natural and artificial light throughout the day, as well as how they complement your floors and furnishings. Zimmer also suggests asking the salesperson to show you the color formula. Pigment colors blended into the "gray" paint point to the colors you should choose for trim paint, accent walls, and even furnishings.

So, if you jumped on board last year with the gray trend, rest assured that your home design is still on point. And if you want to join in now, it's still not too late to “go gray"!    

Source: Paint Quality Institute
 
For more tips on incorporating gray into your home décor, contact our office today.

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Fan the Flames Safely: Fireplace Dos and Don'ts

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

An inviting fire has long been the focal point of gatherings with family and friends, whether it’s inside around the fireplace or outside by the fire pit.
 
With that comes a host of safety requirements. Make sure you adhere to these dos and don’ts to ensure you’re lighting up responsibly.
 
Do…
  • Have your fireplace professionally cleaned (swept). How often? At least once a year, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). However, this will vary depending upon how often you light a fire. CSIA recommends that open masonry fireplaces be swept once they accumulate a 1/8-in of sooty build-up—enough fuel to cause a chimney fire. How about your fire pit? According to HGTV, if residue build-up becomes an issue, masonry fire pits may be cleaned using a solution of one part muriatic acid to nine parts water to scrub the interior. Once clean, rinse with water and allow it to dry for 48 - 72 hours before using.
  • Dispose of ashes properly. Place ashes in a metal container away from your home or other structures. Shovel ashes out of your fire pit regularly.
  • Make sure your smoke detector is functional. According to CSIA, detectors should be tested once a month to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Keep your fire manageable. Whether inside or out, too large of a fire can lead to excessive smoke and wayward embers that could ignite rugs and furniture inside, or trees and dried brush outside.
  • Have a container of water and/or working hose nearby when lighting an outdoor fire.
  • Have the right tools on hand, including an ash scoop, a long poker, and tongs for repositioning logs. 
Don’t…
  • Store ashes inside the house or within five feet of your home or other structures outside.
  • Burn the wrong kind of materials, such as trash, pressure-treated or green wood, which could release harmful toxins. Stick to dry, split wood and use leaves and sticks for kindling.
  • Forget to check the forecast before lighting an outdoor fire. Avoid windy conditions that can blow embers. Extremely windy conditions can also create problems for your indoor fireplace, forcing air down the chimney and smoke into your home.
  • Improperly position the logs in your fireplace. Logs should be placed toward the back of your fireplace and not be leaning toward the screen. This could cause smoke to filter into your home as opposed to up the chimney.
  • Wait to call the fire department if you suspect a chimney fire. If you notice embers falling down the chimney into your fire and/or hear a loud, rushing sound, you could have a chimney fire. Call 911 immediately, and follow your emergency fire plan. 
For more fire safety tips, contact our office today.

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How Social Media Can Help You Buy a Home

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

Home sales are ticking upward with the National Association of REALTORS®’ Pending Home Sales Index now 1.8 percent higher than this time last year. As home prices and interest rates continue to rise, now is the time to seriously consider taking the plunge into buying a home.  
 
But many would-be homeowners are intimidated by the process of buying a home and remain on the sidelines, to their own disadvantage. How can you streamline this often overwhelming process? With the help of social media.
 
Utilized these days for way more than sharing personal updates and photos, social media can actually play a key role in making big decisions, like buying a home. Use social media in the following ways before and during your home search:
 
1. Connect with agents on Facebook. Just about every real estate agent worth his or her salt has a Facebook business page. Search for agents in the towns you’re considering and send a friend request or private message. Start following their feed and you’ll get a good idea of their overall real estate savvy, in addition to a sneak peek at their new listings. You’ll also get a feel for who they are as people, which is important, because good chemistry with your agent leads to a better outcome in terms of finding your dream home.
 
2. Check out LinkedIn profiles. Once you’ve narrowed down the field of potential agents you might want to work with, look them up on LinkedIn. Here, you’ll be able to learn about the company they currently work for, as well as their career history. You’ll see what networks they’re a part of (networking is key to helping you find the right home), what awards or achievements they’ve received, what skills they excel in, and recommendations from others.
 
3. Use Twitter for housing and interest rate updates. Twitter is a great way to get quick news updates on what matters most to you right now: interest rates, home values, market trends, and more. Follow a few credible financial and real estate news organizations and become an educated home shopper.
 
4. Put hashtags to work. Use hashtag searches on Instagram, including the names of neighborhoods and towns you’re interested in. This will give you a view of the communities you’re considering, the restaurants, the culture, the overall lifestyle, and more. If you want to see some actual listings in the towns you’re interested in, add the term ‘real estate’ into your search.  
 
5. Tour homes and towns on YouTube. Nothing gives you a better view of a town or listing than a video. Lots of agents post listing videos, so be sure to check them out.
 
6. Get organized with Pinterest. Pinterest can serve as your digital scrapbook of the neighborhoods, homes, interior designs and home features you’re interested in. Your Pinterest page can evolve further once you’ve purchased your home, serving as a gateway to décor and home improvement ideas.

When it comes to buying a home, social media will not only help you get informed, but it will also go a long way toward helping you make the right connections. So start friending, following and posting and find the home that’s right for you faster.
 
Contact our office today for more tips on using social media to help you buy a home.

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