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

My Blog

5 Refinancing Tips You Can't Afford to Ignore

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

It’s no secret that the past couple years have been an opportune time to refinance a mortgage as mortgage rates were hitting historic lows. In fact, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.49 percent near the end of July, down from 4.2 percent at the same time last year, and 3.9 percent from January.
 
Not only can refinancing a mortgage save you money, it can also help you pay off your home quicker, and will even unlock more equity in your home.
 
If you’re looking to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates, keep the following items in mind, as they may jeopardize the process.
 
1. Waiting too long. While rates have been low for some time now, with some experts predicting they’ll go even lower, the upcoming election may lead to unpredictability. With low rates like the ones we’re seeing today, time is of the essence, so be sure to refinance sooner rather than later.
 
2. Not being prepared. When your lender calls or emails asking for information, don’t put it off. Have your documentation and financial information ready so that you can sign it in a timely manner. The last thing you want to do is plan to refinance your home when you’re going to be out of town on vacation, as this will most likely keep you from being able to get everything in place before you’re out of pocket.
 
3. Not shopping around. Even if you’re happy with your current lender, it doesn’t mean that you need to stay with them. Shop around and make sure you’re getting the best deal out there. Even a little difference in rates can save a lot of money over the course of a mortgage. If you find a better deal, let your lender know. They may even be willing to match.
 
4. Adding to your loan term. When faced with refinancing, some people decide to add to the number of years of their loan term, lowering their monthly payments, but increasing the total amount of interest over time. Conversely, lowering the terms by five or 10 years can save you a lot, so if you want to change the years, make it lower.
 
5. Forgetting closing costs. When you refinance a home loan, it’s important to remember that you’ll most likely have to pay closing costs, including a loan application fee, appraisal fees, title fees and attorney’s fees. Be sure you have this money on hand.
 
By making smart decisions, your refinancing can be a smooth experience.
 
To learn more about refinancing, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Annual Chimney Inspections Critical to Home Upkeep

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

According to the National Fire Protection Association, dirty chimneys are a leading cause of structure fires, which is why annual chimney inspections are recommended.
 
If you’re planning on putting your home on the market this fall, a chimney cleaning is one task you can’t afford to ignore.
 
Those who have recently purchased a home should also take the importance of a yearly chimney cleaning into consideration, and add it to their yearly budget.
 
Chimneys can get dirty quickly, as creosote—a highly flammable substance—can build up inside your flue lining. There’s also the possibility of animals getting into the chimney and building a nest, something that occurs more frequently than most homeowners would think.
 
The easiest and most inexpensive way to get the chimney clean is to hire a reputable chimney sweep. They will do a thorough job removing the soot and inspecting the entire chimney to make sure there is no damage. A sweep will also look for leaks and cracks, check out the flashing system and rain cap and look for any foundation problems. All of these items are important when it comes to ensuring that your chimney lasts.
 
You can also have the chimney capped by having a screen placed on top to keep those pesky animals and debris away. While this is a fairly expensive option, it will make the annual sweep a little easier.
 
While it’s best to leave the cleaning of the chimney to a professional, something you can do on your own is look at the chimney on the outside and inspect the mortar around the bricks to see if there are any cracks. If there are, these will need to be fixed by a professional, or else the chimney will become a dangerous fire hazard.
 
If you use your fireplace often, it’s a good idea to close it down once the winter season is over and the warm weather returns. This can be done by removing all the burnt wood and debris and washing any soot that is visible. Use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes from around the opening. A professional chimney sweep can also reduce the amount of dirt and odor that will sometimes enter the home after the fireplace has been retired for the season.
 
Even if you don’t use your fireplace, you should still make sure your chimney is cleaned, as problems come from more than just fires, creating situations that could potentially affect the house—and possibly the sale of your home.

To learn more about chimney cleaning, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Tips to Keep in Mind as You Search for a Starter Home

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone, one marked with a fear of the unknown and a level of excitement at what’s to come. And for many first-time buyers, a starter home is a great investment.
 
A starter home is perfect for those who want the independence of living in their own home, but don’t quite have the money to buy their dream house. Starter homes are also great for establishing credit, getting a feel for homeownership and trying out a neighborhood or city to see if it’s a good fit. Plus, you probably don’t need too much space at the moment, so starter homes offer a great place to settle in with a young family.
 
As families grow and careers take off, real estate professionals note that homeowners typically stay starter homes anywhere between five to seven years.
 
If you’re ready to get your feet wet and purchase a home, here are some tips to keep in mind as you search for the perfect starter home. 
 
1. Be Practical. There’s a reason they refer to your first home as a starter home, so make sure you don’t spend more than you can afford. And, remember that many starter homes need some work, so you’re more than likely going to need money to cover any renovations you’d like to tackle. Before you begin looking at homes, put together a sound budget so that you know exactly what you can afford. Also, keep in mind that things change over time, including jobs and children, so be sure to factor in future expenses as best possible.
 
2. Understand Problems. Many starter homes need work, and unless you’re a fan of tackling projects on your own, you might not be equipped to handle all the work that may come with the home. If you’re not interested in putting in a lot work, look for a smaller house that doesn’t need as much TLC.
 
3. Consider Location. If you happen to stumble upon a good deal, make sure the location will work for you and your family before making an offer. While a lower price tag can be enticing, be sure to consider the amount of time it will take to get to your job, and how far the property is from your family and friends. The last thing you want to do is get trapped in a home you’ll grow to resent.
 
Remember, with every mortgage payment you make, you’re building equity, and that’ll help when it comes to future home purchases. Keep in mind that some people fall so in love with their starter home that they decide to make it their forever home.
 
For more tips on purchasing your first home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Understanding Your Credit Score and It's Effect on Purchasing a Home

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

If a home purchase is in your future, one thing you absolutely have to think about is your credit score. No matter what your timing looks like, it’s a good idea to think about it sooner rather than later, because having a good credit score can be the difference between obtaining the mortgage you need to buy your dream home—or settling for less because you didn’t qualify for the money you need.
 
Unfortunately, many prospective buyers don’t think about their credit score until they’re already in buying mode. And more often than not, at this point, it may be too late to do anything to fix your credit score. Therefore, it’s important to remember that if you have a bad credit score, it’s not something that can be fixed overnight or by simply making a phone call.
 
If you’re not sure where you even stand on the credit score spectrum, the first thing you’ll want to do is obtain a copy of your credit report. Your report will list all the details that were used to calculate your score, including past payment information concerning loans, credit cards and other bills.
 
According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly five percent of consumers have a major error on their credit reports, and approximately 25 percent of all reports have some sort of error that can negatively affect a score.
 
Once you receive your credit report, look it over and make sure there are no errors or discrepancies. For instance, if there’s an entry for an outstanding bill on a credit card or a late payment on a car loan that’s incorrect, you’ll want to take action quickly, as these items will lower your credit score. Be sure to dispute any errors you find with the Credit Bureau. 
 
If there are no mistakes within your report, and your score isn’t where you want it to be, there are a number of things that can be done to gradually increase your number. To start, make a list of the money you owe and start paying off any debts you may have incurred over the years. Eliminating debt is the best way to see your score rise. Also, be sure to pay everything on time path forward. Late payments are seen as a huge negative when it comes to your credit report and overall score.
 
You’ll also want to refrain from opening any new accounts or taking out other loans, as this will simply add to the problem. Be sure to stay away from closing accounts that you have a strong history with as well. By closing accounts, you run the risk of eliminating a good payment record.
 
And last but not least, beware that debts that get sent to a collection agency typically stay on your report for years. While most people think paying these items off will cause them to vanish from their credit report, it’s simply not true.
 
If you feel that all hope is lost, there are agencies out there that you can pay to help you improve your report and remove negative items. Before you go this route, think about the expense you’ll be incurring, and whether it’s worth it in the long run.
 
Checking your credit score is something you should think about doing annually regardless of whether you’re planning to move or not. By keeping up to date with your report, your credit score will be solid when you’re ready to buy your next home.
 
To learn more about understanding your credit score, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Chimney Inspection

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the importance of understanding your credit score and how it can affect the home-buying process. Other topics covered this month include simple tips to keep in mind as you search for the perfect starter home and the best way to use paint to help your home stand out from the competition. 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.


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More Urban Homeowners Are Buzzing over Beekeeping

August 5, 2016 12:16 am


Do you know that of the 100 crop species providing 90 percent of the world's food, over 70 are pollinated by bees?

Without a ready force of beekeepers to protect and sustain hives, the world's environmental balance threatens to teeter. The good news is, communities are permitting more property owners—particularly in dense urban settings—to establish and keep bee hives.

John Caldeira, an expert in urban beekeeping from Dallas, Texas, recently blogged (OutdoorPlace.org) about the growing corps of urban and suburban beekeepers establishing hives in backyards and on rooftops. According to Caldeira, urban beekeepers have the added challenge of ensuring their bees do not become a nuisance to neighbors.

Caldeira says relatively few communities in the U.S. outlaw beekeeping, but most do have nuisance laws that are intended to outlaw activities most people would find objectionable. Other communities have laws that put practical constraints on beekeeping, such as a limit on the numbers of hives on one property. Prospective beekeepers should always learn local legal restrictions before keeping bees, Caldeira says. 

Third-generation beekeeper Zan Asha published a feature in Grit urging aspiring beekeepers to research their new hobby—in the article, Asha says it's not uncommon for keepers to obtain bees without any idea how to care for them. Asha advises aspiring beekeepers to consult the massive selection of books, attend beekeeping classes or search YouTube for videos to learn about bee behavior, honey harvesting, and more.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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9 Smart Tips to Keep Your Home Spotless

August 5, 2016 12:16 am


Nobody likes to spend hours cleaning house—and sometimes, there are few hours to spare. How is it some seem to have a knack for keeping their homes looking spotless in no time at all?

Country Living magazine recently polled home bloggers to come up with nine tricks:

Take Your Shoes Off – Shoes carry dirt and germs. Mandate the family remove them when coming in the door—and put up a sign in the entryway asking visitors to do the same.

Make the Bed – Even if the bedrooms are not picture-perfect, a neat bed pulls together the room.

Squeegee the Shower Every Time – Squeegeeing only takes about 20 seconds, and it keeps the glass clean and shining.

Clean the Bathroom Sink – Quickly swipe the sink with a wipe to keep it sparkling. Keep the wipes handy under the sink.

Wipe Down Kitchen Counters – Use a homemade solution of one part vinegar with three parts water to keep counters clean.

Clean Up as You Go – Wash the pots and put away ingredients as you finish while you cook—the goal is to have nothing to do after dinner but put plates in the dishwasher.

Do a Five-Minute Cleanup Before Bed – Five minutes before bedtime, put everything back in its place—pick up the dog's toys, hang up jackets and put away the mail, for instance.

Put Your Clothes Away – Every master bedroom has one chair that starts off empty on Monday and ends up covered with clothes by Friday. Before you go to bed, put them away.

Open a Door or Window – Letting in fresh air helps keep your home feeling fresh.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Do You Live in One of America's Most 'Handi-Able' Communities?

August 5, 2016 12:16 am


People with disabilities have distinct considerations to make when searching for housing in a new city, including accessibility of facilities and quality of healthcare.

WalletHub.com recently analyzed 150 of the most populated cities in the country to determine the most "handi-able" locations, or those best suited for people with disabilities. Key indicators were measured in the analysis, such as number of physicians per capita and rate of employed people with disabilities.

According to the analysis, the 10 best cities for people with disabilities are:

1. Overland Park, Kan.
2. Scottsdale, Ariz.
3. Peoria, Ariz.
4. Tampa, Fla.
5. St. Petersburg, Fla.
6. Huntington Beach, Calif.
7. Oklahoma City, Okla.
8. Gilbert, Ariz.
9. Honolulu, Hawaii
10. Santa Clarita, Calif.

Stats emerging from the analysis include:

​• The percentage of the population with disabilities living below poverty level in Cleveland is five times as high as in Overland Park, Kan.

• The employment rate of people with disabilities in Amarillo, Texas is twice as high as in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

• The cost of a doctor visit in Milwaukee is three times as high as in Jacksonville, Fla.

• The annual cost of in-home services in San Francisco is twice as high as in Brownsville, Texas.

• The percentage of persons with disabilities living in Cleveland is four times as high as in Irvine, Calif.

• The percentage of the population with walkable park access in San Francisco is four times as high as in Charlotte, N.C.

For more statistics from this analysis and others, visit WalletHub.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Study: Credit Card Spend Rises Before Mortgage Closing

August 4, 2016 2:16 am


Altering credit habits in the time leading up to the closing of a mortgage can affect the outcome of the loan. Despite this, many mortgage borrowers—movers and refinancers—charge more to their credit cards before a loan closes, found a study by TransUnion, one of the three credit reporting bureaus.

“A long-held assumption among lenders is that new mortgage applicants spend less on their credit cards prior to their mortgage closing event—either to ensure their credit picture does not change or simply because they anticipate spending more once they move into their new home,” said Charlie Wise, co-author of the study and vice president of TransUnion’s Innovative Solutions Group, in a statement. “Our research indicates that millions of consumers actually increase their card spending in the months before the new mortgage origination. Whether it’s to purchase furnishings or make updates to their existing property, many consumers who move increase their spending before moving into their new residence.”

Results of the study show borrowers charge two to three times more to their credit cards in the months prior to the mortgage closing.

“Card spending increases are even greater for mortgage borrowers who refinance,” Wise continued. “These consumers may be anticipating lower mortgage payments, and take advantage of the greater available cash flow by increasing card spending in the months before their refinancing.”

The study analyzed the behaviors of more than 16 million prime or better-risk borrowers over two years.

Source: TransUnion
 

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Summer Boredom Setting In? 5 Ideas for Stay-at-Home Kids

August 4, 2016 2:16 am


Nothing strikes dread into a mother’s heart like kids home for the summer wailing, “We have nothing to do!”

Busy moms can keep little ones occupied with some shrewd pre-planning. WorkAtHomeMoms.com, an online resource for mothers on a schedule, suggests stockpiling a grab bag full of books, coloring books, puzzles and other inexpensive toys to draw from when boredom sets in.

The website also offers five ideas for keeping stay-at-home kids in the 6-12 age range involved:

Create a Comic – Provide materials for a comic book: paper, markers, colored pencils and a stapler. Ask each child to dream up an original comic book character—a bratty kid, a superhero, or a favorite animal—and star him or her in a homemade comic book.

Have Some Retro Fun – Teach your children a few of the old-fashioned games you played when you were a kid: jacks, hopscotch, marbles, jump rope or lawn croquet. You can even plan an Olympics-type competition, moving from one to the next.

Let ‘Em Make Lunch – Divide lunchtime chores according to age. Children can make simple sandwiches and no-bake cookies and pack them into a picnic basket, along with plates, napkins and plastic forks. At lunchtime, the whole family can picnic in the backyard or at a local park.

Plan a Game Day Marathon – Start with age-appropriate puzzles, followed by a series of card games like Crazy Eights, Go Fish, and Old Maid. Finish with a favorite board game or two. Keep track of the time, and the child or team who finishes first gets to choose what’s for dinner.

Put on a Show – Discuss ideas in advance—perhaps a fairy tale—then let the children do it all: write the script, put together the costumes and stage set, and rehearse and act out the parts. Parents become the audience (friends and neighbors optional!), with dessert for all after the show.

For more ideas for summer and beyond, visit WorkAtHomeMoms.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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