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

My Blog

How to Get the Most from Your Cookware

October 26, 2016 1:18 am

(Family Features)--For leading chefs and casual home cooks alike, a little skill and talent goes a long way toward creating each mouthwatering culinary masterpiece. But as many chefs will tell you, the end result is only as good as the tools you use in the kitchen. Pots and pans that have been treated with care are essential for quality cooking.

Not only are scratched and dinged pots and pans unsightly, these blemishes can actually adversely affect your food preparation. Learn how to keep your cookware in top performing condition with these three tips.

1. Cook with care. Keeping your pans in good condition starts with how you use them on the stove. While most high-quality pots and pans can withstand a range of temperatures, the threshold may vary for mid-range versions. If you're not sure, consult the manufacturer's instructions for specific guidance, but it's always a good idea to begin heating a pan at a medium heat for better cooking control and to avoid burning. Also give special care to the utensils you use for handling food within the pans. Opt for wooden or silicone kitchen tools rather than scratch-inducing metal and always avoid using knives.

2. Clean with care. Proper cleaning for your pots and pans depends upon the material. For example, cast iron and stainless steel should never be soaked, while soaking is perfectly acceptable, even preferable, for ceramic or other coated surfaces. Avoid harsh scrubbing on coated vessels and forgo soap with cast iron, which is porous enough to absorb it. You should always check if your cookware is dishwasher safe before loading it in for a wash, as sometimes detergents can ruin pots' finishes. Even if pots are dishwasher safe, best results will often be seen by handwashing first.

3. Store with care. Stacking pots and pans haphazardly in a drawer or cabinet is a surefire path to scratches and other damage. Look for storage solutions that let you neatly organize your vessels and their matching lids. A couple of handy options include Revere Copper Confidence Core Stainless Steel Cookware and Revere Clean Pan Hard Anodized Aluminum Non-Stick Cookware. Both of these recently released lines include an exclusive patent-pending Nest&Protect feature. By updating the functionality of the traditional hanging rings, these interlocking handles elevate your pots and pans above one another to protect the interior and exterior finishes, while storing conveniently and efficiently without scratching.

Source: RevereWare.com .

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Smart Thermostats Lower Bills, Improve Efficiency

October 26, 2016 1:18 am

More and more homeowners are slashing their bills and making their life a little easier by using smart thermostats. Ease of installation and usage are key contributors to overall satisfaction with these remotely controlled thermostats, a rapidly growing market, according to the inaugural J.D. Power 2016 Smart Thermostat Satisfaction Report.

The primary benefit of smart thermostats is convenience—63 percent of customers indicate they adjust their thermostat remotely—followed by 53 percent indicating automated temperatures when not home, and saving money on monthly heating/air conditioning costs, with 51 percent citing this as a benefit.


While nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of customers installed the unit themselves vs. 36 percent who used a contractor/professional installer, the levels of overall satisfaction vary slightly between installation methods (873 among do-it-yourselfers vs. 883 among those using a contractor, on a 1,000-point scale). More than half (51 percent) of those who installed the smart thermostat themselves say it was easier than expected, while only 4 percent say it was more difficult than expected.

“Smart thermostat customers are taking a hands-on approach to researching, buying and installing a product that allows them to have, in effect, a hands-off experience,” says Jeff Conklin, vice president of utilities & infrastructure practice at J.D. Power. “The resulting satisfaction levels are promising, but manufacturers would be wise to focus on their customers’ ease of connectivity and the benefits of smart thermostats.”

Connectivity issues, while minimal, affect overall satisfaction. Among the 15 percent of customers having difficulty connecting their system to the internet and the 9 percent of those having difficulty connecting from their mobile app, overall satisfaction is 843. Among customers who indicate not experiencing any connectivity problems, overall satisfaction is 899.

The report also finds a high level of customer engagement before making a purchase. Nearly half (45 percent) of customers looked at consumer review websites, and 46 percent indicate those positive reviews were a reason they selected their smart thermostat.

Source: www.jdpower.com/about-us/press-release-info

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Steps to Maintain Natural Stone

October 25, 2016 1:18 am

(Family Features)--Natural stone adds elegance and style to any home. With a nearly endless array of colors, textures and designs, it's easy to create a one-of-a-kind look for your kitchen or bath. However, without proper care, that carefully selected natural stone may quickly start to show wear and tear.

Not only does natural stone lend a beautifully sophisticated aesthetic, it's generally regarded as a practical choice because it's more durable than many other materials. Its resistance to scratches also makes it a more sanitary choice.

However, granite, marble, travertine and other natural-stone and quartz surfaces do require proper care and attention to maintain that luxurious finish. Keep your natural stone in top condition with these tips from the experts at Granite Gold.

Clean often. Even if your surface appears clean, the safest bet is to clean it after every meal preparation. The most miniscule particle could have a detrimental effect on your natural stone. Avoid common cleaners and abrasives. They can break down the protective seal and you could be faced with costly repair or replacement. Also, give special attention to the scrubbing pad you use; many are too abrasive for expensive stone counters and leave unsightly scratches. Leave the sponges and pads you use for pots and pans in the sink and instead rely on scrubbing pads designed specifically for natural stone or look for "non-scratch" on the packaging.

Seal frequently. You cannot over-seal natural stone surfaces. Frequently sealing granite countertops and all other natural stone surfaces maintains maximum surface protection, penetrating stone surfaces to provide superior, long-lasting resistance to staining, etching and soil buildup. The protective seal is a critical component of natural stone because it prevents harmful substances such as acidic coffee, juice or wine from staining and etching the surface.

If you're not sure whether it's time to reseal, it's easy to test. Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface and let it sit for 30 minutes. Be sure to do this in several locations, since the integrity of the seal could vary from one area to another. If the water beads, then the stone remains sealed. However, if the stone is penetrated – signified by a dark mark or ring created by the water – it is time to reseal. Be sure to check closely for etching and stains, as you'll want to fix these issues before the sealant is applied.

Polish regularly. Polishing stone provides two great benefits. First, polishing after cleaning will bring out the stone's natural beauty. Second, it will reinforce the protective seal and provide ongoing protection against water spots and fingerprints.

Source: GraniteGold.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Raising Caring Kids

October 25, 2016 1:18 am

Most parents start by encouraging children to share—and that’s a good start, agrees Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd. Weissbourd’s recent study, however, found that 80 percent of children believe their parents care more about their grades than whether they care about others.

If we want children to grow up caring and respectful, says Weissbourd, we need to raise them that way. He and his staff provide five strategies for raising kinder, more ethical children:

1. Make Kindness a Priority – Children need to balance their needs with the needs of others. Parents should encourage them to honor their commitments, try to work out disagreements, and address others respectively even when they are angry or tired.

2. Provide Opportunities to Practice – Pitching in around the house, helping a friend with homework, or sharing a favorite toy with a sibling are good ways to make caring second nature. You don’t need to reward them for doing routine chores, but do express pride and thanks when you see them doing something kind.

3. Expand Their Circle of Concern – Most children care about their own circle of family and friends. Encourage them to develop concern for people in the wider world. Encourage them to care for those who are needy or vulnerable. Use a TV or newspaper story to talk about the hardships faced by others.

4. Be a Role Model – Children learn by watching the actions of adults. Model caring by doing some community service. Involve your kids in donating gently used toys and clothing. Talk about an ethical dilemma, such as what would they do if they saw a classmate bullied or crying.

5. Help Them Learn to Manage Anger – The ability to care for others can be overwhelmed by anger, shame or envy. Children should learn that feelings are okay, but they must cope with them in productive ways. When your child is upset, ask him or her to stop, take a deep breath, exhale, and count to five. If you practice when they are calm, they will eventually learn how to better control their emotions.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Customer Service Crucial to Keeping Clients Happy

October 25, 2016 1:18 am

Nothing spooks your customers faster than poor customer service, according to the inaugural J.D. Power 2016 Home Security Satisfaction Report. While the recent study shows that 31 percent of customers have considered switching providers, those who indicate they will change providers in the next 12 months are doing so predominantly because of poor customer service.

“It’s such a basic principle—provide good customer service—but it requires a commitment throughout an organization,” says Greg Truex, senior director at J.D. Power. “Spending time and money on designing, building and selling a product is great, but if the execution of the customer experience is lacking, it can all be for naught.”

The customer service experience is significant because 40 percent of all customers contact their provider at some point with a question, problem or request. Satisfaction is significantly higher among customers who say the response was helpful (869 on a 1,000-point scale) than among those who didn’t find the response helpful (655). Satisfaction also is higher among customers who don’t contact their provider (867) than among those who do (850).

Following are additional findings of the report:

- Satisfaction is 62 points higher among customers who do not consider switching providers than among those who do consider switching (880 vs. 818, respectively).

- The three leading reasons customers select a system are brand reputation (54%), price (46%) and positive reviews/online rating (45%).

- Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) customers indicate they’re able to control their system outside of their home, while only 59% indicate they control it from their mobile device.

- Following are loyalty findings related to delighted customers:

- More than 9 in 10 (92%) delighted home security customers (overall satisfaction scores above 900) say they “definitely will” recommend the brand to others, compared with the report average of 72%.

- Nearly 9 in 10 (85%) delighted customers say they “definitely will” remain a customer of the brand, compared with the report average of 68%.

- Delighted customers make an average of 6.6 recommendations to family and friends, compared with the report average of 4.9.

Source: www.jdpower.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Americans Remain Concerned About Credit Card Debt

October 24, 2016 1:15 am

Americans are growing more concerned about their credit card balances, according to a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) poll, which revealed that 69 percent of the respondents are most unsure or worried about paying down credit card debt.

“Credit cards are a useful and effective financial tool for those who keep their balances under control,” says Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Balances sometimes grow beyond the point where they can easily be repaid, which is a sign that it’s time to reach out to a financial professional for guidance.”

Those polled are also worried about insufficient savings for emergencies and retirement, student loan debt and lack of affordable housing.

So what's the best way to work down your payment? Bump your monthly contributions. Paying only the minimum monthly payment is like treading water. It would take someone almost 26 years to pay off $7,800 at 15 percent interest. During that time, the amount of interest paid in addition to the principle balance would be $9,229. Paying extra each month will slash the interest you're shelling out.

If you are struggling to afford extra payments, consider consolidating balances if you have multiple accounts – but make sure to choose an account with a lower interest rate.

Source: www.NFCC.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Millennials See a Drop in Mortgage Rates

October 24, 2016 1:15 am

As the Fed considers bumping interest rates, the average rates on home loans offered to millennials dropped to 3.763 percent in August, according to the latest Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker™. While this is a nice dip, the average loan amount to millennial borrowers actually increased to $181,326, compared to July’s average of $180,413.

The Tracker also noted that, after increasing the past few months, the average FICO score for millennial borrowers remained stable at 725 in August. The percentage of millennial conventional loans in August continued to climb, resulting in 63 percent of total closed loans, up from 62 percent in July. Meanwhile, FHA loans continued to represent 35 percent of all closed loans in August, down from both June and May’s 37 percent share. The average debt-to-income ratio (DTI) rose to 24/36. Loan-to-value (LTV) increased to 88 in August.

“In August, millennial borrowers enjoyed the lowest average interest rates we have seen all year,” said Joe Tyrrell, executive vice president of corporate strategy at Ellie Mae. “And we are seeing average loan amounts creep up for conventional and FHA loans as millennials take advantage of these low rates.”

Women were listed as the primary borrower on 32 percent of closed loans. Consistent with July data, among women who were listed as the primary borrower, 39 percent were married and 61 percent were single. Comparatively, among male primary borrowers, 59 percent were listed as married and 41 percent were single, a significant difference from women. The average age for borrowers remained consistent in 29.0 for female primary borrowers and 29.3 for male primary borrowers.

In August, female primary borrowers had an average FICO score of 725 and male primary borrowers had a slightly higher average score of 727. FHA loans represented 40 percent of total loans to female primary borrowers, compared to just 33 percent of male primary borrowers.

Owensboro, Ky. remained the top Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) for millennial borrowers, with 60 percent of its mortgage loans closed in August going to members of this generation. Dickinson, N.D. Dakota, Terre Haute, Ind., and Hutchinson, Minn. each had 47 percent of mortgage loans closed by millennial borrowers. When sorted by population, top MSAs included St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (34 percent) followed by Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md. (32 percent).

Source: http://elliemae.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Superheroes Reign This Halloween

October 24, 2016 1:15 am

This Halloween, expect to see a bevvy of pint-sized superheroes littering your 'hood. The beloved princess costume has been de-crowned after an 11-year reign, according to NRF’s 2016 Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. But perhaps the spookiest finding of all from this survey is that spending on Halloween costumes is expected to reach $3.1 billion.

Findings show that over three million children will dress as their favorite action or superhero, 2.9 million will dress as their favorite princess and 2.5 million plan to dress as a cat, dog, bunny or other animal. 

Top Kid's Costumes
  1. Action/Superhero
  2. Princess
  3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Lion, Monkey, etc.)
  4. Batman Character
  5. Star Wars Character
  6. Tie: Witch AND DC Superhero (excl. Batman)
  7. Frozen Character (Anna, Elsa, Olaf)
  8. Marvel Superhero (excl. Spiderman)
  9. Zombie
  10. Spiderman
So what will millennials rock on All Hallow's Eve? Nine percent will reach for a Batman costume, followed by 6.1 percent opting for witch hats and brooms and five percent planning to dress as an animal. 

Adults, 18 -34-Years-Old
1. Batman Character (Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, etc.)
2. Witch
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spiderman, etc.) AND DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman, excl. Batman)
5. Vampire
6. Video Game Character
7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc.)
8. Pirate
9. Star Wars Character
10. Zombie

For the mid-range adults, more will turn to witches, pirates and political figures for their costume inspiration.

Adults 35+

1. Witch
2. Pirate
3. Political (Trump, Clinton, etc.)
4. Vampire
5. Batman Character (Batman, Catwoman, etc.)
6. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
7. Tie: DC Superhero (Superman, Wonder Woman, excl. Batman) and Star Wars Character
8. Tie: Ghost and Zombie
9. Scary Costume/Mask
10. Marvel Superhero (Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, etc.) 

And what would a holiday be without dressed up pets? Sixteen percent of consumers plan to dress their pets in costume this year and 86.7 percent of those consumers already have a plan for their pet’s costumes. Pumpkin, hot dog and bumble bee are at the top of the list again this year.

Furry friends

1. Pumpkin
2. Hot Dog
3. Bumble Bee
4. Tie: Lion and Star Wars Character
5. Devil
6. Batman Character
7. Witch
8. Superman
9. Action/Superhero
10. Cat

Sources: www.ProsperDiscovery.com, www.nrf.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buying a Home? How Technology Can Help

October 22, 2016 11:51 am

Technology touches every part of our lives, and buying a home is no exception. With an abundance of websites and apps at the homebuyer’s disposal, how do you know what’s worth your time and what isn’t? And what about a real estate agent? Where do they fit in? Here’s a game plan for using technology to your advantage when searching for your home-to-be.
 
Get prequalified. Before you even begin your home search, find out how much house you can really afford by using an online mortgage calculator. Then start the process to get prequalified for your mortgage. Certain lenders even offer a streamlined online process for prequalification.

Start online. Well over 90 percent of homebuyers start their search online, and this is a good thing. Try a home search portal like realtor.com® or Homes.com, or do a Google search on the cities/neighborhoods/zip codes where you’d like to buy. This will also lead you to the sites of real estate professionals who serve the areas you’re interested in. Then start perusing what’s available.

Look for listings with lots of photos, and better yet, virtual tours and videos. Some videos are even done with drone technology to give you an awesome aerial perspective on properties for sale.

Use social media sites like Instagram and Twitter and check out homes and neighborhoods using hashtag searches that include the towns you’re interested in. This will yield some interesting information not only on available real estate, but on the communities themselves.

Do some drive-by’s. Your online research will help narrow down your choices. Now it’s time to get in the car and drive by the properties you’re interested in. While you’ll most likely notice a yard sign with the listing agent’s information outside the homes you’re interested in, you might even notice a text-for-more-info code. Be sure to take advantage of this technology if it’s offered, as it can connect you with an agent right away who can then show you the home and help you negotiate an offer.
 
Technology will help make for a fluid relationship with your agent. Let your agent know your preferred method of communication—email, text or phone call—to ensure responsiveness. You’ll also find that digital documents and secure electronic-signature technology will streamline the closing process even further.
 
Despite the array of technology that will help you along the way to buying your home, remember that none of it replaces the guidance and local expertise of your real estate agent. Ask them how they use technology and what other apps they may have available to help you find and seal the deal on your home.
 
Contact our office today to learn more about how technology can help in the home search process.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Bed Bugs: Fact vs. Fiction

October 22, 2016 11:51 am

No one wants to entertain the thought of bugs in their home, but since 2000, bed bug infestations have risen 81 percent, according to the National Pest Management Association. The resurgence has consumers on high alert, anxious to know how they can prevent and protect themselves from bed bugs. London Luxury LLC helps us understand the facts versus fiction when it comes to these pesky creatures.
 
The Facts:
-Bed bugs can be found on bedside alarm clocks. Bed bugs have been known to fester in alarm clocks and other appliances, as well as within dark crevices like coffee makers.
-Bed bugs like to hitch rides. These pests can very easily be transferred in suitcases and on clothing, putting travelers at extra-high risk.
-Some people are not affected by bed bug bites. Some people do not have a physical reaction to bed bug bites and may be unaware that bed bugs are in their home until they actually see them. It’s important to remember that everyone is at risk, as bed bugs don’t discriminate based on socio-economic class.
-Bed bugs can live many months without feeding. Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows with bed bug-proof protectors, which effectively trap bugs and cut them off from their food source indefinitely.
-Insect foggers provide very little control of bed bugs. Most insect foggers contain a flammable propellant, some of which have been associated with accidental fires. The best way to control a bed bug problem is to contact a pest professional who will help with vacuuming, steaming and laundering belongings, in addition to sealing areas/gaps where bed bugs can hide.
 
The Fiction:
-Bed bugs spread deadly diseases.
Bed bugs do not transmit disease. Bed bug bites, however, can cause an allergic reaction similar to a mosquito bite in some people.
-Chemicals/pesticides will kill all bed bug stages. It’s difficult to kill all bed bugs with only a pesticide application. Successful treatment depends on an integrated pest-management approach.
-Only poor people or dirty people get bed bugs. Wrong—anyone can get bed bugs. And they’re typically found in a bed mattress, box spring, bed frame or even around the bed. They're also found in electric outlets, switches and behind pictures. Bed bugs can be found in hotels, motels, dormitories, apartments, condos, private homes and even public places, such as retail stores, movie theaters, businesses and offices.
-Bed bugs are too small to see with the naked eye. An adult bed bug is actually about the size of an apple seed.
-Bed bugs come out only at night. It's true that bed bugs are more active at night and in the early morning, however, they sense the heat and carbon dioxide given off by humans, and therefore, may come out at any time of day.
-If you have bed bugs, you need to throw away infested clothing and furniture. Clothing can be laundered to get rid of bed bugs. In most cases, furniture can be treated and should only be discarded if there are no acceptable treatments to rid specific items of bed bugs.
-It's too cold where I live for bed bugs. Bed bugs can still thrive even in the coldest climates. 
-Sleeping in a metal bed will protect you from bed bugs. Having a metal bed will not protect you from bed bugs. In some scenarios, a metal bed may actually make it harder to detect a bed bug infestation because the hollow tubing of a metal bed provides a great place for bed bugs to hide.
-You can't get bed bugs from your neighbor. Bed bug migration from one home or apartment to another is more common than most people think. In apartments or shared housing such as condos, the risk of migration is even higher. Bed bugs can travel through tiny cracks in the wall, through connected vents or spaces, in the seams of floor boards or along the edges of carpet.
-Bed bug bites all look the same. Bites can be small and red or bigger like welts. Some people don't even react to a bed bug bite. It’s almost impossible to diagnose a bed bug problem solely on the presence of bites on a human host.
 
To learn more about bed bugs, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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