RE/MAX 440
Carol L Hirst
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
 Phone: 610-405-3069
Office Phone: 215-643-3200
Fax: 267-354-6238 
CLHirst@comcast.net
Carol L Hirst

My Blog

There Are No Zero-Risk Zones for Flooding

May 11, 2015 12:36 am

Did you know standard homeowners insurance does not cover flood risk? A separate flood policy can protect you from footing the bill for flood-related repairs. This policy is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or through a few private insurance companies, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Recent flood insurance reforms are phasing in for areas at high risk for flooding, and flood maps are being updated to move some people into higher- or lower-risk zones. However, there are no zero-risk zones. Through the NFIP, the average cost of a policy for a homeowner, which includes coverage for both contents and the structure itself, is $700. Private excess flood insurance is also available if more coverage is needed than the maximum amount available from the NFIP.

Renters should also consider a flood policy. Most renters living in low- to moderate-risk flood zones are eligible for preferred rates, with contents-only coverage ranging from $44 to $266 a year, depending on the flood zone and amount of coverage.

Have a conversation with your insurance professional to make sure your coverage is up to date. Keep in mind that flood insurance policies through the NFIP have a 30-day waiting period before they go into effect, so do not wait for a severe weather warning to start looking into flood protection. Visit FloodSmart.gov for more information.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Brace Yourselves - Summer Mold is Coming

May 11, 2015 12:36 am

Mold in the home can lead to serious problems, including respiratory irritation and warm weather illnesses, says the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). Mold spreads due to air and moisture, and if an HVAC system produces condensation or is exposed to the elements, it can become an immediate breeding ground for mold.

To nip these problems in the bud, or rather, the spore, NADCA suggests an annual HVAC inspection. During an inspection, the condition of the property is categorized on the NADCA scale as Condition1, Condition 2, or Condition 3. Condition 1 represents normal ecology within the home; Condition 2 is assigned to homes which has been contaminated with settled spores or contains traces of actual mold growth; Condition 3 denotes a home with an active or dormant presence of spores and mold growth.

After the mold has been removed, be sure to keep the humidity in your house as low as possible. This can be achieved by using air conditioners and dehumidifiers in the more humid months, as well as making sure that there is plenty of ventilation in your home. Vents or fans over stoves and other moisture-bearing appliances are also a must.

Source: NADCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Signs of a Rental Scam

May 11, 2015 12:36 am

With a variety of websites to choose from and skyrocketing online search rates, it’s easy to miss the signs of a rental scam. If a deal seems too good to be true, take a moment to assess the situation before taking action. Here’s what to look for, according to the experts at RentalRoost.com

Can you see the property before making an agreement?
Insist on a face-to-face meeting with the landlord and a tour of the property. If the person on the other end says they’re “out of town” or otherwise unable to accommodate your request, it’s likely a scam.

Does rent compare to fair market rents in the area?
A major red flag to watch for is a rental priced out of the range of comparables in the neighborhood. A scammer will likely post unreasonably high rents to gain the most money – don’t fall for it.

Does the leasing agent have favorable reviews?

When searching for rentals, use reputable websites only. If you’ve found a rental that seems promising, conduct your own background check with a quick Google search. Look for complaints and anything that seems suspicious.

Is the landlord using a middleman?

Be mindful of any opportunities the landlord takes to delegate tasks. If he or she offers to pass along the keys through someone else, for example, you’re likely being duped.

Is the landlord requesting money up front?
Most scammers rely on wire transfers to secure your funds. No matter how appealing the deal seems, never wire money or otherwise pay without assessing the above factors.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Report: Mortgages Drive Overall Debt

May 8, 2015 12:30 am

A sign of an improving economy, overall debt levels declined in metro areas across the country – and the decline was driven by lower first and second mortgage debts, according to Equifax’s recent National Consumer Credit Trends Report. Overall debt totaled $9.9 trillion, down from $10.1 trillion.

"The latest numbers show that while the mortgage market continues to heal, the overall appetite for debt is growing across the board as consumers continue to open their wallets," says Assad Lazarus of Equifax.

Overall debt tumbled from $10.1 trillion to $9.9 trillion, the Report found. Of the nation's largest 25 markets, just six experienced increases. Many of those markets continue to work through a huge backlog of foreclosures that came during the Great Recession, says Lazarus.

Source: Equifax

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Remodeling Budgets Increase as Housing Moves Forward

May 8, 2015 12:30 am

Whether to enhance home design or invest in resale value, more homeowners plan to take on remodeling projects this year, according to data from the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) recently released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Motivated by encouraging interest rates and increasing home equity, the LIRA projects annual spending for home improvements will inch upward 2.9 percent by the end of the year.

“Housing turnover quickly sparks significant improvement spending as new owners customize their recent purchases to fit their needs,” says Chris Herbert of the Joint Center.

The LIRA estimates national homeowner spending on improvements and provides a short-term outlook of homeowner remodeling activity.

Source: LIRA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Let Reduced Rainfall Ruin Your Landscape

May 8, 2015 12:30 am

The water crisis facing California is serious and carries imminent environmental, financial and human impacts, but below-normal rainfall is not uncommon in several areas of the country. Before giving up on your lawn–or worse, ripping it out–consider carrying out the following steps, says the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

Evaluate what you have.
Look at the landscape you have now. Some elements in your landscape may already be drought-friendly, but you may need to change others. Calculate how much water you are using now and how frequently you are watering.

Think about how you intend to use your lawn or landscape moving forward. Do you enjoy backyard barbecues with friends and family? Is your yard a restful oasis from stress? A place for children and pets to romp and run? Consider how you want to use your yard or landscape going forward to ensure that your re-designed landscape meets your needs.

Educate yourself about how lawns and turf grass respond during a drought. Most people over-water their lawns and assume that if grass is not green, it may be dying. Grass actually goes into a dormant state during a drought. It may look brown, but it’s not dead. If the crowns and root system are intact and have adequate moisture, grass can sustain itself.

Consider the environmental and human impacts. Lawns and landscapes offer benefits that mitigate drought impacts. Grass cools the air around a home or building, reduces pollution, limits heat islands, suppresses dust, controls soil erosion and sequesters carbon.

Grass also assists in decomposing pollutants, dissipates heat, lowers allergy-related problems, reduces home cooling costs and acts as a fire barrier. Importantly, grass serves as a natural filter to potable water supplies, reducing stormwater runoff and capturing and filtering precipitation.

Seek the advice of lawn and landscape professionals. With a variety of different rules and restrictions at the state and local level, it is important to make sure you are making changes that are in line with the regulations. A Landscape Industry Certified professional implements best practices, applies up-to-date information, and has a thorough understanding of land stewardship. Many landscape companies have water management specialists, as well as professionals educated in sustainable landscape practices.

Install drought-friendly landscaping and change your watering practices. There are many drought-friendly landscaping options available, such as drought tolerant low-water native plants. Planting with hydro zones and installing drip irrigation can minimize water usage. There are many ways to make a landscape drought-friendly, enjoyable and useful.

Source: NALP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Finding Relief from Spring Allergies

May 7, 2015 12:30 am

For the 50 million Americans with seasonal allergies, symptoms can arise from a variety of sources, including tree, grass or ragweed, says Anju Peters, a Northwestern Medicine allergist. Pollen kicks the immune system into overdrive, causing the body to release histamine and other substances that result in unpleasant symptoms for allergy sufferers.

If you’re in the throes of spring allergy season, knowing your allergy triggers, recognizing symptoms and consulting with an allergist can help, says Peters. He suggests:
  • Protecting Your Home – Make sure windows and doors are shut completely when pollen counts peak. Dust and vacuum frequently.
  • Being Mindful of Your Clothing – Remove clothing that has been worn outside when you get home. Try to wash all your clothes and bedding frequently.
  • Visiting Your Doctor – Talking with your doctor can help determine what type of pollen triggers your allergies. During the visit, the doctor may perform an allergy skin test or check your blood for potential allergens.
  • Making a Calendar – Once you are able to specifically identify the culprit, create a calendar of your most severe allergy weeks.
  • Using Sprays Sparingly - While over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can help, don’t overuse them. This can lead to ineffectiveness and rebound congestion.
Source: Northwestern Medicine

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Ways to Childproof Windows

May 7, 2015 12:30 am

Open windows can be dangerous any time of year, especially when children are unsupervised. To protect children from window hazards, the Window Safety Task Force recommends the following tips.

1. When young children are around, keep windows closed and locked.

2. When opening a window for ventilation, use those located out of a child’s reach. For example, the upper sash of a double hung window.

3. Avoid placing furniture near windows to prevent young children from climbing.

4. Don’t allow children to jump on beds or other furniture to help reduce potential falls.

5. Don’t rely on insect screens to prevent a window fall. Insect screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep children in the home.

6. Supervise children to keep child’s play away from windows, balconies or patio doors. Keep play in the center of a room, if possible.

7. Install safety-compliant devices designed to limit how far a window will open or window guards (with quick-release mechanisms in case of fire) to help prevent a fall.

8. Teach your child how to safely use a window to escape during an emergency, such as a fire.

Source: National Safety Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Moving? How to Avoid Scams, Theft and More

May 7, 2015 12:30 am

The Census Bureau estimates there are three million moves from state to state each year, with 800,000 of those moves handled by professional movers. But those who rely on a professional are at a greater risk for scams and imposters pretending to be a moving company.

“Hiring a professional mover is a smart decision that saves time and effort while providing the best protection for your household goods,” says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). But how do you know you’re getting a fair, honest deal from your chosen moving company?

1. Do your research.
Get at least three written, in-home estimates so you can make an informed decision. Show the mover everything that needs to be moved, from the attic to the basement and including any sheds, garages and storage areas. Avoid any unusually high or low estimates. If someone says they can give you an estimate over the phone or by email, it’s possible they’re trying to scam you.

2. Know your rights. Reputable interstate movers must, by law, provide you with federal publications that explain the moving process, as well as your rights and responsibilities during and after the process. Interstate movers also must provide the cost of full-value protection insurance for your possessions in their estimates. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be a warning sign. And if a company says it won’t return your items to you without more money than you agreed to pay, contact the Better Business Bureau or local law enforcement for help.

3. Get all agreements in writing. Read everything carefully and make sure you have it all in writing, along with copies of everything you sign, especially the most important document—the bill of lading, which is the receipt for your goods and the contract for their transportation. Never sign any blank forms.

4. Take your valuables with you. Cash, coins, jewelry, photographs and important papers should be taken with you or shipped separately. Use a shipping service with tracking numbers, such as FedEx or UPS.

5. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company can’t or won’t answer your questions, you might want to look for another mover.

Source: AMSA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Life Insurance Right for You?

May 6, 2015 12:27 am

Choosing the right type and amount of life insurance is vital to a sound financial plan, but is it right for you? According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are two major types of life insurance: term and whole life. Term covers the policyholder for a specified period, usually from one to 30 years. Whole life, sometimes called permanent life insurance, covers the policyholder for as long as they live – even if it’s to 100.

To assess your insurance needs, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) suggests asking yourself the following five questions.

1. Does anyone depend on me for financial support?

Whether it’s a spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, or even aging parents, you’ll want to make sure they’re left financially secure. Purchase enough life insurance to replace your income while also financing the expenses your beneficiaries will incur to replace services you provide within the household (e.g., landscaping, tax preparation). Stay-at-home parents, and those caring full-time for an adult family member, should also consider purchasing life insurance to allow for hiring professionals to undertake these tasks.

Your family may have other sources of income, such as Social Security survivor benefits, but this is rarely enough, particularly if you have children under 18 and want to fund their education.

2. Are my retirement and other savings alone enough to support my dependents?

Unless your savings and retirement benefits are substantial, the income they generate is unlikely to be enough to pay for the housing, education and other day-to-day needs of your financial dependents. Remember, they will also have to take on the cost of replacing your employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance premium payments and retirement contributions.

3. Will estate and inheritance taxes significantly reduce the amount my dependents receive?

Even if you are leaving a considerable inheritance, don’t assume that will be enough. Consult with your financial advisor or an insurance professional on how your tax situation impacts the type and amount of life insurance you should purchase.

4. What is my plan for covering final expenses?


Whether or not you have dependents, you’ll want to be able to cover the expenses incurred by funeral related costs, outstanding taxes and debts, and the administrative fees associated with “winding up” an estate. These expenses can total upwards of $15,000, and can be defrayed by having the right life insurance policy in place.

5. Will I be able to leave a donation to my favorite charity?

A beneficiary does not necessarily have to be a loved one; it can be a much-loved cause. If you have a favorite charity, foundation, museum, etc, you can use a life insurance vehicle to leave the organization a more sizable donation than you might have otherwise.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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