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

My Blog

Living Comfortably in These Cities Will Cost You

July 12, 2016 1:25 am


Hankering to wing off to Worcester, or relocate to Rochester? Wherever you’re considering moving, it’s important to know whether your income can sustain a “comfortable” life there.

Finder.com recently crunched the numbers to determine just that in close to 80 cities around the country.

Among the key findings of Finder.com’s analysis—and shocking no one—is San Francisco, Calif. at No. 1, requiring the highest salary of all the cities analyzed, and Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose in the top 10. In these cities, the salary required to obtain a mortgage for the average home is higher than the salary required for mortgage payments, average debt and average expenditures.

The salary needed to live comfortably in San Francisco, according to the analysis, is $180,600—the average home in the Golden Gate City costs $1,119,500. In Los Angeles, the salary needed to live comfortably is $90,244; in San Jose, $129,864.

The city with the lowest salary requirement is Jackson, Miss., where residents can live comfortably for $43,265.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports the average salary was $52,250 in 2013. In the Finder.com analysis, this figure is sufficient income to live in 36 of the 78 cities analyzed.

For its analysis, Finder.com defined living “comfortably” as:

• Having the ability to purchase an average home (with a 20 percent down payment);
• Having the ability to cover average per-person expenditures; and
• Having the ability to pay off annual non-mortgage related household debt.

Using those controls, Finder.com analyzed factors such as the state’s median home price, average interest rate for a 30-year, 20-percent-down mortgage, and average non-housing expenditure.

To learn income requirements for a comfortable life in your desired city, visit Finder.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's Behind the Gates? Higher-Priced Homes

July 12, 2016 1:25 am


Homeowners behind gates can expect an average $30,000 more for their home come sale—a premium, however, that can be offset by costly community amenities, according to research from the American Real Estate Society (ARES). The premium is due to actual and perceived benefits, such as privacy and safety, on the part of the buyer.

“This [research] provides clear evidence that homes in gated communities sell at a premium relative to comparable homes in non-gated communities,” said ARES Publication Director Ken Johnson in a release. Johnson is a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business.

The premium may be less in gated communities where amenities like a clubhouse, pool or tennis court drive up maintenance costs for residents, ARES researchers found. Examining a sample of gated communities, researchers discovered a $19,500 decrease in sale price in communities with these types of amenities.

“Additional maintenance costs associated with these amenities often outweigh their benefits, and it appears that while a gate has value, additional neighborhood amenities do not always provide additional value,” explained Mark A. Sunderman, one of the ARES researchers.

“From the perspective of both the buyer and the seller, this information should help each to better price property,” Sunderman continued. “A good understanding of what adds value and what does not should help create increased marketability of gated homes.”

“The long-held belief that gates add value is supported by the data, as long as the impact of the amenities is properly factored in,” Johnson added. "This should set buyers' minds to rest as to whether or not they are actually receiving a boost in value when they purchase inside a gated community.” 

Source: Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Vacationers: Protect Your Dream Trip with Travel Insurance

July 11, 2016 1:25 am


Vacation…it’s all we ever wanted!

Nearly $90 billion will be spent on vacations this summer, with the average trip—defined as a one-week leisure excursion at least 100 miles from home—costing travelers $1,798.

Time off is worth every penny—according to the Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, many individuals not only believe a vacation is important, but also feel confident that they can afford one. Most vacationers, the Index found, are allocating their budgets for one memorable getaway, rather than spreading the spend over several trips.

The Index revealed a “Vacation Deficit,” as well—the percentage of individuals who believe a vacation is important but do not feel confident they’ll be able to take one. The Deficit is slightly up this year compared to last.

Those spending more on one dream vacation this summer should consider budgeting for travel insurance, says Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA.

“With vacation spending up, travel insurance should be near the top of the trip planning checklist,” Durazo said in a statement. “The right travel insurance policy will protect a consumer's pre-paid travel expenses when they have to cancel their trip due to certain unexpected situations, such as a covered illness or injury, and will provide reimbursements for things like medical emergencies, delayed travel and lost or delayed baggage.”

Source: Allianz Global Assistance USA
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Not to Buy at Home Improvement Stores

July 11, 2016 1:25 am


Many shoppers assume large home improvement stores have the best prices—and they often do, on some products. But not on everything, says Brent Shelton of FatWallet.com.

According to Shelton, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s will net you savings on big-ticket items like kitchen appliances, lawn and garden equipment, and home repair or remodeling products. A one-stop shopping trip to these stores, however, can do the opposite, Shelton says.

Better buys are available at stores like Costco, Target, Walmart—or online—in these five categories:

Batteries – The proof is in the savings. FatWallet.com data show Costco was selling a 40-battery, 2-pack of AA Duracells for $14.99 (less than 38 cents per battery), while Home Depot’s offering was limited to a 10-pack selling at $7.98 (nearly 80 cents per battery), and Lowe’s a 24-pack for $12.47 (nearly 52 cents per battery).

Cleaning Supplies – It’s tempting to pick up cleaning supplies along with paint and nails at a home improvement store, but products like Clorox wipes or floor cleaner are almost always cheaper at the regular big-box stores. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, for instance, was $10 at Home Depot and Lowe’s, compared to $8.50 at Walmart. Big-box stores also often carry generic alternatives that cost even less, Shelton adds.

Home Décor – If you’re looking for rugs, picture frames, wall art or other décor items, make the trip to stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Ross. Case in point: Shelton found the same framed piece of art for $31 at Home Depot, $22 at Home Goods.

Small Appliances – Unless they’re on sale at a home improvement store, small appliances like food processors or microwaves are a better buy at any of the warehouse stores or online, where the selection is often bigger. Shelton recommends Amazon.com for these purchases.

Grilling Accessories – Online retailers are your best bet for grilling accessories. A Chef Buddy 20-Piece Stainless Steel Grill Toolset, for example, came in at $35.22 at Home Depot and $24.95 on Amazon.com, according to FatWallet.com data.

For more savvy shopper secrets for homeowners, visit FatWallet.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buying a Home for the First Time? What You Should Know About Warranties

July 11, 2016 1:25 am


Home service contracts, or home warranties, are an important consideration in the home-buying process, especially for new homeowners.

“Homes are a major financial investment, and repairs and replacements on appliances and major systems can cost anywhere from $700 to more than $3,500,” explains Tim Meenan, CEO and executive director of the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC). “While new homeowners face numerous expenses, a home service contract can guard against these unexpected pricey repairs and replacements.”

Generally, a home service contract covers repair or replacement costs of major systems or appliances that fail within the contract period—often one year. This may include coverage of the home’s electrical system, HVAC unit and plumbing system. Typically, the contract can be renewed annually. Most contracts come with a nominal service fee, paid at the time of the incident.

Aside from monetary coverage, the home service contract provider will refer the buyer to a vetted contractor who can perform repair or replacement work—a boon to buyers new to an area.

Most homeowners with home service contracts call upon the contract provider two times or more each year.

The SCIC strongly recommends first-time homebuyers negotiate a home service contract before committing to a home. If you’re new to home-buying, discuss your options with your real estate professional—he or she can offer counsel for your circumstances.

The peace of mind, Meenan says, is worth it.

Source: Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Preparing Your Pool for Home Showings: Look beyond the Water

July 9, 2016 11:36 am

Having a beautiful pool can be a great selling point on a hot day when buyers are looking at your home, but having blue water is just the tip of the iceberg when preparing the pool area for a home showing.
 
While blue water is a must, caring for a pool while your home is on the market extends far beyond the color of the water. All pool owners know that you need to vacuum a pool and add chemicals, but it’s important that the right mixture is used, and that the pool is cleaned regularly. Whether your pool is in the ground or above the ground, balancing your water chemistry remains the same. Make sure you remove leaves and debris each day as well.
 
In addition to keeping the water clean and vacuumed, it’s a good idea to think about the landscaping surrounding the pool.
 
Many people prefer to go with some combination of mulch or stone to serve as a transition between the pool and the lawn. A quick trip to your local gardening store will get you all you need for this project. These materials can also provide drainage from water runoff so that your lawn or deck don’t become saturated with water. These areas can also be dressed up with statues, lawn ornaments and tolerant plants.
 
Adding wood or composite decking around a pool and utilizing non-slip protective coating on the surface is also a good idea. Incorporating non-stick mats near the pool will provide a little extra footing when people enter and exit the water.
 
Most states require a fence to surround the pool, and if yours is falling apart or looking worn-down, be sure to get it fixed. Prospective buyers will be paying close attention to all areas surrounding the pool, and a bad fence can stop a sale in its tracks.
 
Keep the pool colorful with the addition of some bright neon rafts or solar lights that float in the pool as decorative pieces. Don’t go overboard with pool toys and tubes, however, as a cluttered swimming pool can be just as off-putting as a cluttered living room.
 
Potential buyers may also wonder about the pool’s energy requirements—especially if it’s heated—so keep information handy about average energy and gas costs for the summer months in relation to the other months of the year.
 
When your house does sell, it’s always a nice gesture to leave instructions for operating the pool so that the new owner understands all the particulars of any valves and switches that must be turned on and off.
 
For more tips to keep your pool in tip-top shape, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tree Care Crucial as Prospective Buyers Embrace Wooded Lots

July 9, 2016 11:36 am

A recent study by the National Association of REALTORS® found that many prospective homebuyers consider the amount of trees on a property as a major selling point. In fact, 18 percent of repeat buyers and 25 percent of new buyers said that being on a wooded lot—or one with numerous trees—was important to them.
 
That’s why it’s critical for sellers to make sure the trees on their property are in good shape, a task that can typically be handled without calling in the pros.
 
The first thing you’ll want to take care of is pruning. While the Arbor Day Foundation notes that healthy growth comes after pruning while dormant—suggesting that pruning is best done during the winter months—tackling the job during the summer can also be beneficial. Be sure to check the foundation’s website (www.arborday.org) to learn the best times to prune certain types of trees so that you don’t damage them or make them more vulnerable to fungus. 
 
Summer pruning is done to direct the growth of a tree, slowing the branches you don’t want or dwarfing the development of a tree or branch. The reason for the slowing effect is that you reduce the total leaf surface, thereby reducing the amount of food manufactured and sent to the roots. Another reason to prune in the summer is for corrective purposes. Defective limbs can be seen more easily, as can limbs that hang down too far under the weight of the leaves.
 
When removing branches, use sharp tools to minimize damage to the bark. Young trees are best pruned with one-hand pruning shears with curved blades, while a pole pruner is recommended for trees with high branches.
 
The Arbor Day Foundation advises homeowners to follow the one-third and a quarter rules of pruning, meaning no more than a quarter of a tree’s crown is removed in a single season, and main side branches are at least one-third smaller than the diameter of the trunk. You should also never prune up from the bottom more than one-third of the tree’s total height.
 
When simply shortening a small branch, make the cut at a lateral bud or another lateral branch. Favor a bud that will produce a branch that will grow in a desired direction (usually outward).
 
Once your trees are cared for, remember to take new photos of your yard and add them to your online marketing materials, giving buyers another reason to come and see your home.
 
For more information about caring for the trees on your property, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips to Get Rid of Stubborn Carpet Glue

July 9, 2016 11:36 am

Moving into a new home is a great opportunity for homeowners to tackle a variety of projects to get the house looking like their own—with changes and renovations beginning almost immediately after taking ownership of a property. And more often than not, floors are job No. 1.
 
For many, there’s nothing better than ripping up a carpet and discovering beautiful wood flooring underneath. The problem is, removing carpets can be a painful process, one that leaves marks on the floor due to the glue that kept them in place over the years.
 
These problematic remnants are typically harder to remove than the actual carpet itself, but with a little elbow grease and some basic DIY instructions, homeowners will be enjoying their new hardwood floors before they know it.
 
The first step toward tackling stubborn carpet glue is to determine what type of glue you’re dealing with. Not all carpet glues are the same, requiring different solutions and steps depending on the type you’re working with. Therefore, before you can remove any adhesive from the floor, you must determine what type of glue you’re dealing with. Tar-based adhesives are dark brown or tan, while yellow-looking adhesives typically signify that a carpet was glued down with a more general adhesive.
 
Once you’ve determined which type of glue you’re dealing with, go to your local hardware store and buy the appropriate removal material. General adhesives are best removed with some basic adhesive remover, while tar-based glues need mineral spirits to get the job done. Both require a good deal of that elbow grease we spoke about earlier.
 
The process of removing the glue is simple. Start by scraping off any spots you can, but don’t dig in too deep, as you don’t want to damage the floor. Next, add the adhesive remover, spreading it out evenly. Read the instructions carefully to ensure you keep it on for the correct amount of time. Also, since many of these adhesive removers can be toxic, be sure to wear gloves and keep the windows open to allow proper ventilation.
 
Use a plastic putty knife to scrape the glue away as this won’t scratch or scuff the floor like a metal tool will. If the glue isn’t completely wiped away, follow the instructions again and add more remover to the spot. This time, use an old towel to wipe away the remaining glue.
 
Once all the glue is gone and the floor has dried, vacuum the area so no glue particles remain. Buy some floor cleaner and polish up the wood floor so it looks brand new, and enjoy.
 
For more tips on removing carpet glue, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Websites House Hunters Should Visit before Getting Too Involved in the Process

July 9, 2016 11:36 am

Thanks to the internet, there’s an endless supply of information available for those in the market for a new home, but sometimes, determining which sites are most beneficial can be overwhelming.
 
Here are seven websites that all homebuyers should keep an eye on as they make their way through the process.
 
Realtor.org. The official site of the National Association of REALTORS®, realtor.org provides MLS listings that are updated multiple times an hour. In addition to allowing prospective buyers to check a home’s value, realtor.org also offers research reports and housing statistics for different areas around the country. It also has a section full of tips for improving the house-hunting process from experts in the industry.
 
Homes.com. This site provides millions of homes for sale and rent throughout the U.S., with spot-on local information to make the buying process easier. It also offers a first-time homebuyer’s guide, an ask the experts section and plenty of blogs providing helpful information on topics such as insurance, mortgages and moving.
 
Zillow.com. Dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, Zillow connects homebuyers with the best local professionals who can help. Offering a living database of more than 110 million U.S. homes, consisting of homes for sale, homes for rent and homes not currently on the market, zillow.com also offers its signature Zestimate home value to help prospective buyers better understand home pricing.
 
Trulia.com. This popular site provides comprehensive school and neighborhood information on homes for sale in neighborhoods all across the country. Trulia provides insight about the house, the neighborhood and the real estate process while connecting people with the right agents.
 
Quizzle.com. A website that offers a free credit score and a free Equifax credit report every six months, quizzle.com provides prospective buyers with a clear analysis of where they stand. If you’re interested in purchasing a home, it’s important to visit this site early in the process so that you can rectify any problems before it’s time to apply for a mortgage. 
 
Hud.com. This informative site, powered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has several valuable resources for those in the market to buy a home, including information about fair housing, predatory lending, RESPA and your rights as a borrower.
 
Crimereports.com. While it’s not something house hunters immediately think of, this site is an important one for those concerned about the safety of their neighborhood. Simply enter an address and it will list any recent incident reports, as well as notify you of any sex offenders living in the area.

For more information about online resources to help you through the process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Screened-in Porches a Hot Commodity during Summer Selling Season

July 9, 2016 11:36 am

For those looking to purchase a home, screened-in porches are quickly becoming a feature that can’t be overlooked. Not only do they provide protection against insects, they also offer shade from the sun and shelter from the rain, while letting inhabitants feel as though they’re savoring the natural world outside. Even more appealing is the fact that screened-in porches decrease ground temperatures, saving homeowners from spending an arm and a leg on cooling costs during the hot summer months.
 
Screened-in porches also go a long way toward reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches adjacent interior rooms. Additional levels of comfort can easily be incorporated into the space by adding recessed lighting, pendant lights and ceiling fans.
 
For those getting ready to put their home on the market, adding screens to an existing porch can go a long way toward attracting a larger pool of prospective buyers. In addition to helping your home stand out from the competition, taking the time to add screens to an existing structure will more than likely pay off when the home is sold.
 
If your property doesn’t currently have a screened-in porch—or you recently bought a spot that lacks this alluring amenity—you may want to consider incorporating one into the space if you have the room. However you decide to proceed, keep in mind that adding a porch won’t do anything to increase the total square footage of the home. 
 
While there are numerous options to be considered when deciding which materials you’ll use to build a porch from the ground up—or add to an existing structure—experts suggest designing the porch in three phases: flooring, exterior materials and interior trim. Everything from pressure-treated Yellow Southern Pine to vinyl and up-cycled composites can be considered.
 
Before you get started, it’s important to carefully consider the positioning of the door so that it best suits your specific needs. For instance, you can build your screened-in porch with a door that leads directly into the house, or you can position the door to allow for easy entry from a pool or outside dining area. In most instances, aluminum doors are recommended because wood doors tend to warp over time.
 
You’ll also want to consider how you’d like the ceiling to look. Flat ceilings will provide an interior room feel, while vaulted or cathedral ceilings will allow for better ventilation.
 
If you’re not up to the task of building a screened-in porch with your own two hands, hiring a professional contractor will take the work out of the process. Not only will a contractor be up-to-date in regard to zoning laws, they can also deal with any issues that might pop up along the way.
 
To learn more about screened-in porches, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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