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

My Blog

Take a Turn on a Zero-Turn Mower

September 13, 2016 1:30 am


When is being referred to as a “zero” a good thing? If you were among thousands of attendees at the 2015 Green Industry and Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), you know it’s when it's zero-turn!

GIE+EXPO, the largest trade show for garden, lawn and outdoor power equipment, is held annually in Louisville, Ky—and the belles of last year's ball were zero-turn mowers.

Altoz, manufacturer of high-performance zero-turn radius (ZTR) mowers, unveiled the XR series of products at the event. Steve Noe, a blogger at OutdoorPowerEquipment.com, notes Altoz equipment is now available with Briggs & Stratton, Honda, Kawasaki and Kohler engines.

Manufacturer Wright introduced a 72-inch model to its growing line of Stander ZK mowers at the event, as well. The machine’s left/right hydro systems, mowing speed and push-button deck lift all contribute to improved efficiency and productivity, Noe says.

The Poulan Pro p54zx was another top contender at the event, with ToolsAroundTheHouse.com ranking it the sole five-star performer on its list of best zero-turn mowers on the market. The machine features an electric clutch, a high-back seat and a hydro-gear EZT transmission, among other features.

Whichever zero-turn mower you opt for, safety is paramount—like other large mowers, they pose rollover and tip-over dangers, especially on uneven surfaces. Because only the rear wheels are powered (the front wheels are for pivoting), zero-turn mowers are much more difficult to stop, especially when riding down a steep slope. Ride safe!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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New Homes: Manufactured, Modular or Site-Built?

September 13, 2016 1:30 am


(BPT)—Building or purchasing a new home has several advantages: for one, control over design and location, as well as the ability to own sooner (and often for less money) in markets with short supply.

New homes can be built or purchased in one of three types of construction: manufactured, modular and site-built. Each has its pros and cons.

“A newly constructed home may be any of the following three types: manufactured, modular or traditional site-built,” says Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton Home Building Group. “Whichever type selected will be built to strict state and federal code and can vary by style, custom features available, energy-efficiency, speed of construction and affordability.”

Manufactured

Manufactured homes are built in a controlled factory environment using many of the same building materials used in site-built homes. The entire house is assembled in the factory in sections, and then transported by truck to the home site for final installation.

Manufactured homes are subject to internal inspections and must meet building standards defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to receive final certification. Because the house is built indoors, the construction schedule is not subject to weather delays, so a manufactured home can be completed and set up on-site in a matter of weeks, rather than months.

Manufactured homebuilders purchase construction materials and appliances in volume, which helps keep the cost of manufactured homes lower than what you would pay for a site-built home. (In 2015, the average cost of a manufactured home was just $47.55 per square foot, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction [SOC] data.)

Modular

Modular homebuilding combines elements of site-built and manufactured home construction. In modular home construction, the home may be either 100-percent factory-built or a mix of both factory-built and on-site built. Modular homes can ship to the home site fully complete or with work left to be done—this allows for full customization.

Modular homes are often shipped in sections that are assembled at the site by use of a crane. The home is typically placed onto a permanent foundation, and can be multiple stories high. Modular homes can also have basements, garages and unique roof profiles that make them indistinguishable from traditional site-built homes.

All the building codes that apply to site-built homes also govern modular homes. Because much of the construction takes place inside a factory setting with materials in stock, modular homes can also be completed faster than site-built homes. They also benefit from similar bulk cost-savings as manufactured homes.

Site-Built

As the name implies, site-built construction assembles the house on the site where it will permanently stand when finished. All the materials that go into the house—from wood for the frame to pipes for the plumbing and shingles for the roof—are transported to the site for assembly of the house, which could take several months. Transporting and buying exact measurements of building materials that will be used (versus buying bulk) contributes to the final cost of the house.

During construction, materials may be stored onsite and exposed to weather until construction crews are ready to use them. Similarly, the interior of the home is exposed until the roof, walls and windows are all in place.  They are subject to various state and local building codes to ensure safety before the home is ready to be sold.

Site-building is a time-tested, traditional way of building homes, and is the most common method of construction. Construction times vary, but can range from less than three months to a year, according to data from the SOC. The average price per square foot of a single-family site-built home was just over $100 in 2015.

The type of construction you choose will depend on your budget, needs and preferences. Advances in manufactured and modular homebuilding mean it's now possible to build one of these homes with the same high-end features you would find in a quality site-built home.

Source: Clayton Home Building Group
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Estate Planning in a Globalized World

September 12, 2016 1:27 am


Estate planning is complex, now more so for families faced with navigating the process on a multinational stage. Issues beyond U.S. borders may be especially impactful, says John O. McManus, an attorney and founding principal of New York- and New Jersey-based McManus & Associates (www.McManusLegal.com).

“We live in an increasingly globalized world—today, many people travel regularly for work and pleasure, and have loved ones and investments abroad,” McManus says. “Whether you are a U.S. citizen with assets abroad, a U.S. resident living overseas with ties back home, or have loved ones overseas from whom you could receive gifts or inheritances, it is important to keep up-to-date on multinational estate and tax planning issues.”

According to McManus, one of the primary issues is Brexit. European Union (EU) membership permits free movement to live and work throughout the EU, so those moving into and out of Britain should prepare for potential residency and passport complications.

Another consideration is assets, McManus says. Those with assets abroad are subject to U.S. estate and income tax on those assets. This applies to U.S. citizens and resident aliens—a non-resident alien is taxed only on U.S. source income, including capital gains from the sale of a U.S. real property. Non-resident aliens planning to immigrate to the U.S. should consider purchasing U.S. real estate through a foreign corporation and making unlimited non-U.S. gifts to U.S. persons (directly, or in a foreign) trust prior to immigrating, so as to avoid estate and gift taxes, McManus advises.

There is “financial fine print” that can present challenges, as well. U.S. citizens working overseas have FBAR reporting obligations if the value of their foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year, McManus explains. For unmarried citizens living abroad, Specified Foreign Financial Assets (Form 8938) must be filed with their U.S. income tax return for foreign financial assets worth more than $200,000 on the last day of the taxable year, or $300,000 at any time during the year; for unmarried citizens living in the U.S., they must be filed with their income tax return if worth more than $50,000 on the last day of the taxable year, or $75,000 at any time during the year.

Likewise, U.S. citizens receiving $100,000 or more in bequests/gifts from a foreign individual are required to file Form 3520 by April 15 of the year following the gift, lest a 25 percent penalty.

One other consideration is portability, McManus adds. Portability permits a surviving spouse to use the Deceased Spouse’s Unused federal estate tax Exemption (DSUE) of their most recent deceased spouse, in order to increase the estate tax exemption amount. Portability is generally only available to U.S. citizens and residents—non-U.S. citizens or residents should establish a Qualified Domestic Trust (QDoT) to have the DSUE amount of the decedent included in the surviving spouse’s applicable exclusion amount, McManus advises.

In addition, having more than one will can be beneficial—the advantage, McManus explains, is that they can be tailored to different jurisdictions; the disadvantage, however, is the expense needed to prepare them, as well as the additional complexity in the overall estate plan. Multiple wills may be prudent if there is substantial real property or investments in privately-owned companies abroad, McManus says.

Source: McManus & Associates
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Sink, Prompting Refis

September 12, 2016 1:27 am


Mortgage rates on average have moved lower, with the 30-year fixed-rate recently sinking to 3.44 percent, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) reports.

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell two basis points to 3.44 percent [last] week,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti says. “As mortgage rates continue to range between 3.41 and 3.48 percent, many are taking advantage of the historically low rates by refinancing. Since the Brexit vote, the refinance share of mortgage activity has remained above 60 percent.”

The 15-year fixed-rate (FRM), conversely, averages 2.76 percent with an average 0.5 point, according to the survey. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate averages 2.81 percent with an average 0.4 point. The 30-year FRM has an average 0.6 point.

Source: Freddie Mac
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Improvements for Fall: A Checklist

September 12, 2016 1:27 am


Fall is one of the best times of year to knock out some home improvement projects, especially ones you may have been putting off. Vicki Payne, host of the television program “For Your Home with Vicki Payne,” says fall is also ideal for maintenance before colder temperatures set in.

“With cooler fall weather comes the realization that your home will soon experience [colder] weather,” Payne says. “To get your house ready, start by giving your exterior a thorough review. Everything should be checked, cleaned up and made ready to handle Mother Nature when she comes blowing in within the next few months.”

Payne’s checklist:

Assess the roof. Look for loose or missing shingles, as well as algae, deterioration, mold or splitting. If the roof is in poor shape, consider upgrading to a synthetic roof—the composite product resists elements like fire, high winds and impact. (Hot Product: DaVinci Roofscapes)

Check the doors. The weather stripping should be intact—this helps keep drafty cold air out.

Check the siding and trim. Make sure there are no insect infestations or rotting boards (if wood). Should these items need replacement, consider a low-maintenance alternative like fiber cement siding or PVC trim. (Hot Products: James Hardie, Ply Gem)

Clean the gutters. Remove leaves and debris to avoid back-ups or clogs come winter. Ensure, too, that gutters are securely attached to the home and sloped for proper drainage.

Evaluate the deck. If the deck looks worse for wear, consider replacing it with Western Red Cedar or composite decking—both stand up to the elements. (Hot Product: TAMKO)

Inspect the garage door(s). Make sure it is operating properly and has strong air filtration seals. A replacement may be in order if the door is not functioning or aesthetically outdated. (Hot Product: Haas Door)

Seal the windows. At the very least, ensure the windows have strong weather stripping. Consider installing energy-efficient panes (with the ENERGY STAR® label) to keep heating costs down.

Secure railings. Loose or unstable railings can be dangerous. Check all balusters and handrails for signs of damage. If it is time for a replacement, consider adding cable rails or glass balustrades for a contemporary finish. (Hot Product: Fortress Railing)

Spend time on landscaping. Rake leaves as they fall—remove them and any other underbrush from the property before frost or snow arrive. Re-mulch in areas that need it, and trim back bushes and trees.

“Homeownership means continually maintaining the exterior elements of a house,” says Payne. “With its cooler weather, autumn is the ideal time to evaluate, upgrade and improve those key exterior elements to ensure your home is ready for the winter months ahead.”

Source: For Your Home with Vicki Payne
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Understanding Assets and Their Role in Obtaining a Mortgage in Today's Market

September 9, 2016 11:45 am

When dealing with the prospect of buying a home, assets can be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Not only do assets come into play when determining whether you can afford a loan, they also play a large role in determining whether you’ll be able to get the mortgage you need.
 
Mortgage lenders dissect the entire credit history of a potential client, and assets play a big role in the process since they’re a reflection of a borrower’s fiscal strength. Taking this one step further, a borrower’s ability to save and properly budget could be a significant indicator to their future paying habits. Simply put, when mortgage lenders examine your worth, they look at the amount of money needed for the down payment and closing costs, prepaids such as insurance and taxes, escrow and money that would be available in reserve in case of an emergency.
 
Common assets considered in a mortgage loan application include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, 401k and retirement accounts, life insurance, cars, boats, antiques, jewelry and other real estate. When an asset is referred to as being “liquid,” it has cash value, or can easily be converted to cash. Liquidity is important in cases of financial emergency.
 
The source of where your assets came from is also important. Anyone who has attempted to get a loan recently knows that restrictions have tightened, and when borrowers are paying off credit cards to get their ratios in line, lenders are asking where that money came from.  
 
Perhaps you took the money from a 401k or your employer gave you a loan against your future salary. While these funds may have helped pay off some debt, they will hurt you in the long run because your finances will be less in the future. Borrowing from relatives doesn’t work either because if you use money or other assets that aren’t included on your income or tax returns, it can’t be used to help you qualify for your loan.
 
In other words, if the money came from a family member, employer or a different account, it could harm the potential of getting a mortgage. Large deposits will raise an underwriter’s eyebrows, leading them to wonder if a borrower took out a loan that has yet to appear on a credit report.
 
Before applying for a mortgage, make sure you take the time to get your assets in order and hold onto any and all documentation should questions arise. If you don’t think your assets are enough for your dream home, you might consider opting for a smaller home or waiting a little longer until everything comes together.
 
To learn more about assets, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Check Your Emotions at the Door to Keep the Selling Process Running Smoothly

September 9, 2016 11:45 am

Selling your home can be an emotional time, and often, sellers let those emotions get the best of them. When it comes time to sell your home, however, it’s important to do everything you can to keep your emotions at bay.
 
Not only can emotions cloud your reasoning, they can misguide you during a very expensive and important business transaction. Sellers sometimes overvalue their homes, adding sentimental value on top of property value. They refuse offers that, while reasonable, don’t add up to the value of their memories.
 
Some sellers might even turn down a potential offer because they find out the new owner wants to add a fence, displace the garden or even knock down the family’s beloved treehouse. But for those going through the home-selling process, it’s important that you don’t let a low offer upset you. And never turn your back on a deal out of spite for what you think the new owner may do to your home. Remember, you’re leaving the home, and what the new owners do with it should be about making memories of their own.
 
If you’re having a hard time checking your emotions at the door at any point throughout the process, be sure to turn to your real estate professional for guidance. Not only are real estate professionals there to lean on when emotions come into play, they are also instrumental when it comes to establishing a fair, unbiased asking price. Better yet, the agent you choose will be by your side until you sign the dotted line, separating you from your emotions in the process.
 
While it’s normal to get emotional as you put your home up for sale, don’t fret over lost memories. Instead, take pictures of your home and put some time aside to create a scrapbook. And last but not least, have fun imagining all the new memories you’ll make when you settle into your new place.
 
For more tips to keep your emotions at bay when selling your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Proper Staging Key to Attracting Prospective Buyers

September 9, 2016 11:45 am

In today’s competitive real estate market, staging has become a critical piece of the puzzle for sellers who are looking to position their home in the best possible light in order to attract prospective buyers.
 
Not only will a professional stager make sure your home is staged correctly to appeal to the widest range of potential buyers, hiring a stager can also help when it comes to moving your home off the market in a timely manner.
 
While some sellers prefer to take care of staging on their own, this can ultimately work against them since more often than not, they don’t have a true pulse on what those in the housing market are looking for. Not only could this undermine the success of the staging, it could potentially hamper the sale of the home as well.
 
When it comes to staging, the first rule of thumb is to not get too personal. Home staging is meant to create a neutral canvas that will appeal to the majority of buyers. In other words, it’s not the time to bring in your unique style and create a look that appeals to just you. It’s all about de-personalizing the space, creating more of a model home look that will appeal to the masses.
 
Keep in mind that you want potential buyers to picture themselves moving into the home without being influenced by your personal taste. If the color palette or decorating style is too far out, prospective buyers will be put off by the personality of the home, making it difficult for them to visualize themselves and their own belongings in the space.
 
This means taking the time to put away all photos, children’s artwork, trophies and other knickknacks that are meaningful to you and your family. In the end, remember that you want prospective buyers to look at your house, not your personal belongings.
 
One mistake that’s often made when staging a home comes in the form of not taking advantage of the natural light within the space. Blocking off light with heavy curtains or furniture can do more harm than good when it comes to selling your home, especially if the home offers attractive views. 
 
Another common mistake can be as simple as incorporating furniture that’s too big for the space. When it comes to furnishing rooms, make sure the pieces you choose balance with the scale of the entire room—as well as the other furniture in the vicinity. Keep in mind that when selling a home, furniture is used to define the purpose of the room, so in most cases, less is more. 
 
Finally, staging a home is not meant as a way to simply cover up for poor maintenance or structural problems. It’s important to ensure your house is in good condition and use staging to make your house truly shine.
 
To learn more about staging, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips to Pare Down Your Belongings before Moving Day Arrives

September 9, 2016 11:45 am

If you recently sold your house and you’re preparing to pack and move to a new space, now’s the time to take stock of everything you have and decide if it’s truly necessary to bring to your new home.
 
Even if you’re moving up to a larger space, you shouldn’t go into the process thinking that you need to fill every nook and cranny. While deciding to get rid of possessions may be overwhelming, taking the time to do it before you move will be worth it in the long-run. 
 
Once you’ve decided that it’s time to go through your stuff and get rid of anything you no longer need, the best and easiest way to accomplish this goal is to hold a garage sale. Not only will this allow you to start getting things out of your house while you’re packing, it’ll also help generate a little money in the process. You can then use this money to buy new stuff for your home—or to help offset the cost of the movers you hired to help with the transition.
 
Anything that doesn’t sell can be donated to Goodwill or given to friends, family or neighbors who may be in need. You can also ask your local theater company whether they’d be interested in any furniture or clothing, as these items are often needed for sets.
 
If you have large pieces of furniture, old patio chairs, a grill that’s outdated or even a pool table that no one uses, consider asking the new buyer whether they want these items included as part of the sale. Not only could these pieces come in handy for new homeowners, it will save you from having to pack and move them to your new home. If the items are no longer needed, post them on craigslist or Freecycle for individuals who are willing to come pick them up.
 
For more tips on clearing out the clutter, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Single Buyers Entering the Housing Market in Full Force

September 9, 2016 11:45 am

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2016 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, 15 percent of homebuyers were single women and nine percent were single men. This equates to almost a quarter of all homes being purchased by single people—the largest percentage ever.
 
If you’ve never entertained the idea of marketing your home to a single buyer because it has too many rooms or is located in a neighborhood full of families, you may want to think twice. In fact, selling to a single buyer may be easier than you think because comps in your area are thinking the same thing. By making a few adjustments to the home and/or listing, the single buyer is a segment that sellers can easily appeal to.
 
While the days when unmarried people—especially women—were thought to be giving up on the prospect of marriage if they bought a home on their own are gone, savvy singles understand that real estate is an investment, and more likely than not, they can probably get a price that won’t stop them from enjoying their single lifestyle.
 
Even with millennials flocking to apartments in live/work/play areas, this type of lifestyle isn’t for everyone, causing many to decide that it’s time to leave these apartments behind and find a home of their own.
 
Plus, many single buyers are concentrating on their careers and still envision getting married and having kids at some point in the future. Others may be divorced and looking to start fresh.
 
In her book “Buying a Home When you’re Single,” Donna Albrecht walks readers through all the steps associated with searching for a home, getting pre-qualified, finding an agent and going through the escrow process. 
 
“Before anyone buys a home—single or not—they need to consider what they want their future to look like,” says Albrecht. “If kids are a big hope, buying a studio condo could be a mistake. Going the other route and buying a five-bedroom place may not be the best idea either.”

When you’re single, buying a smaller home with two bedrooms or less has a number of advantages. The lower purchase price will likely net you a mortgage payment that’s lower than rent, and you’ll also save on utilities, maintenance and cleaning costs. In addition, you’ll have fewer rooms to furnish and decorate.
 
And last but not least, a smaller home will be easier to sell when you’re ready to move. Single buyers know that their circumstances may change, so they should be prepared. Making sure the home can be easily sold or rented out is often of utmost importance to this group.
           
With the growing number of single people taking advantage of today’s low mortgage rates and the current housing market, making sure your space appeals to single buyers can make all the difference.
 
To learn more about what you can do to help your home stand out to single buyers, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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