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

How Safe Is Your Aging in Place Space?

April 3, 2015 12:45 am

I am seeing more and more people finding themselves in the challenging position of having to evaluate whether or not it is appropriate for parents or other older loved ones to age in place, or to possibly move in with their adult children.

No matter which option you choose, the folks at Home Instead Senior Care want to share their practical and extensive checklist to help determine if your senior’s home is safe from hazards that could jeopardize their well-being and independence.

In this report, we'll take a look at how the site suggests you make a foyer and front yard safer for aging loved ones. Among the questions you need to ask are - Do steps have proper handrails? Are they too steep, cracked or uneven? Is there adequate lighting at night? And can your senior hear the doorbell?

Address these concerns by using the following tips from the Home Instead Senior Care checklist:

1. Stabilize unsteady railings. If they are missing, install at least one and preferably two.

2. Proper handrails are a must where stairs are steep. Have damaged or broken steps and sidewalk repaired. Consider planning out an alternate route to and from the home for your senior. Contact your local city or county government about repairing a sidewalk or the end of a driveway.

3. Make sure your senior has someone to shovel his or her walk after winter storms, or maintain their yard. Work out an arrangement with a neighbor or snow removal/yard service. Use snow melt when necessary.

4. Add an outdoor light if one is not available. Motion-activated lights may provide an older adult much comfort and security.

5. Install barriers and fences in the yard to help ensure a senior doesn't wander. Place larger flower pots near small openings to help re-direct. Create inviting areas including benches where an older adult can sit and enjoy nature.

6. Consider adding a device that enables a ringing doorbell to trigger a flashing light - including existing house lamps and special strobes for rooms where lamps aren't generally used - the device lets your loved one know if someone is at the door

Source: MakingHomeSaferforSeniors.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Financial Spring Cleaning Can Lead to a Richer Long-Term Outlook

April 2, 2015 12:45 am

One lesson the average American should have learned from the recent financial crisis and gradual recovery is that putting more money into savings is, in general, good, says veteran financial expert Jeff Gorton.

“When things are fine, most of us are prone to commit less of our money to savings; when the economy is down, however, we realize that having money is far more important than spending it on things we don’t need,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group, (www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

The personal savings rate in July 2005 hit an all-time low at just 2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in May 2009, near the beginning of the recession, the average American’s savings rate hit a high of 8 percent.

“That rate dwindled as the economy recovered, which is unfortunate because you can do more with accumulated money, including benefit from investments yielding compound interest, which means that interest also earns interest in an investment,” says Gorton, who suggests practical ways to trim spending in the short term in order to get your financial house in order and accumulate more money in the long term.

Car buying says plenty about how a consumer views their money. For most Americans, the question is whether to buy new or used. The moment you drive a brand new car off the lot after the purchase, the car’s value drastically drops. Many of the benefits you may enjoy in buying a new car can be had with a certified pre-owned car: low miles, good-as-new functionality and, usually, that new-car smell. And, a given model will have a history, so you can avoid cars that have been recalled. Buying a certified pre-owned car will save you several thousands of dollars versus buying new.

Summer vacation is an important lifestyle enhancer for many couples, but consider replacing the $400-per-night hotel with a condo rented through a private owner, especially if your vacation will last for an extended period. A condo rental should cost you in the ballpark of $200 per night, which totals $2,800 savings for two weeks.

Your home is probably your most significant asset if you’re like most Americans. But with that grand house on the hill comes plenty of costs, many of which you may not need. As with a luxury car, rethinking the amount of luxury for a home can save you big on taxes, insurance and maintenance. The cost of maintaining a large home can be put toward lifestyle activities, such as travel and hobbies.

“Of course, these are all simply suggestions; money plays a major role in how we achieve happiness, and I’ve found through years of working with clients, a few tweaks here and there frequently yields greater satisfaction with their money,” Gorton says. “You don’t have to be on autopilot with your expenses.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Window Safety Tips

April 2, 2015 12:45 am

More than 3,300 injuries occur each year as a direct result of window hazards at home, according to a recent Safe Kids Worldwide Report. If you’re a homeowner, it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting you and your loved ones, especially if you have children.

Stay safe from window-related incidents with these tips from leading door and window manufacturer Pella:

• Move furniture that children can climb on, like beds and sofas, away from windows.

• Talk with older children about window safety. Make sure they know to never lean against a window or screen.

• Never rely on window screens to protect loved ones from falls. Make sure to keep children and pets away from window screens.

• To let fresh air into the home, open windows in high places that children cannot reach, like those above a kitchen sink.

• Invest in cordless blinds and shades or between-the-glass options to eliminate hanging cords that can be a safety hazard for children.

• Make sure to keep windows closed and locked when children or pets are around, and keep an eye on children if they are playing near windows.

Source: Pella Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Home Upgrades for $5,000 or Less

April 2, 2015 12:45 am

(BPT) - It's a sobering truth in real estate: sellers often have to spend money to make money. Even if your home is relatively new, you still face costs associated with getting it ready to show, such as repainting interior rooms or hiring professional cleaners and stagers. If your home could use some TLC and updating, spending as little as $5,000 on key upgrades could improve its appeal for buyers - and ensure a speedier sale at a better price.

Here are five upgrades you can make for under than $5,000 to help put your home at the top of every buyer's must-see list.

1. Upgrade Your Entryway
Replacing an old, dated or worn entry door can be a cost-effective way to ensure buyers get a good first impression when they walk in your house. Whether you choose a fiberglass, wooden or steel model, installing a new entry door can cost a few thousand dollars, yet the return on investment at the time of resale can be significant. A fiberglass entry door returns about 72 percent of its investment, while a steel door recoups more than 100 percent of its value, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report.

Enhance your new door with attractive plantings, fresh paint and clean windows around the entryway to create a memorable, attractive entry for just a few thousand dollars.

2. Increase Natural Light
More buyers are becoming aware of the mood- and productivity-enhancing benefits of natural light, and homes with big, bright windows have always been in demand. Adding windows to a room can be a costly, time-consuming affair. Not so with a skylight. For well under $5,000 and in just a day or two, a professional can install an Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, no-leak fresh air skylight, Professional installation costs nationally range from around $900 to $2,325, with an average of $1,400, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

The most popular rooms in the home for fresh air skylights are baths, where they provide privacy in addition to natural light, and kitchens, where they vent cooking odors and humidity naturally while brightening a much-used workspace.

3. Beautify a Master Bathroom
Bathrooms and kitchens sell homes. Making a few cosmetic upgrades to even a small master bath can help increase a home's appeal and value. For less than $5,000 you can easily repaint, upgrade faucets, replace old cabinet hardware and add decorative touches like designer towels.

In addition, take a look at the floor or countertops - two cost-effective upgrades that can wow buyers. Since counters don't make up that much square footage in most bathrooms, replacing them with granite can cost just a couple thousand dollars. Tile flooring is also a relatively inexpensive way to improve a bathroom's look and usability.

4. Heat Things Up in the Kitchen
Kitchen remodels can offer high ROI for sellers, but a full remodel may be outside your budget. If you've already done the obvious - like repainting and de-cluttering - it's time to look for a few more cost-effective improvements that will appeal to buyers.

Shabby, outdated appliances can hinder a speedy sale, so consider replacing them with new ones. You don't necessarily need to install top-of-the-line, high-priced appliances to make a good impression, either. Newer, Energy Star-qualified appliances represent savings for buyers down the road.

5. Lavish Landscaping
No single aspect of your home has a greater impact on a buyer's first impression than the landscaping. A great front yard sets the tone for the rest of the home, appealing to buyers on a number of levels, including beauty, practicality and savings.

With $5,000, you can accomplish a lot in terms of landscaping. You can sod a small front yard, add decorative planting beds to a lush lawn, or even install shade trees that will both beautify the yard and enhance the home's energy efficiency in summer.

Decorative concrete stamping of walkways and driveways is another cost-effective way to improve a home's curb appeal.
Whether it's a buyer's market or a seller's market, no one wants to see their home linger long before selling. A few simple upgrades can help ensure your home gets plenty of attention this selling season.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Sidestep Awkward Money Situations

April 1, 2015 12:45 am

When it comes to finances, most of us have likely encountered at least one awkward money situation. In fact, according to a recent CouponCabin.com survey, nearly half of U.S. adults have avoided a person or situation because they knew it would create an “awkward money moment.”

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) recommends these tips for navigating through the most common sticky financial situations.

1. Questioning the Cost of a Purchase
When someone asks, “How much did that cost?” and you’re not comfortable saying, use humor or something vague like, “A lot more than I wish it had been.” Remember, often times these individuals are not being nosey, but may want to conduct their own research. For instance, a friend may be seeking to buy a home in the neighborhood and would like to know what you recently paid for your home.

If you do decide to divulge the information, do so in a more educational manner by sharing how you were able to make the large purchase – years that you saved, amount of down payment, mortgage options, etc.

2. Splitting the Bill
When going out to eat with a group, plan ahead and bring cash so that you can escape the awkward conversation about splitting the bill. Pay your way efficiently and avoid paying more than your share. If there is a large disparity between the amount that each person spent, then you can suggest that everyone pays what they owe rather than an even split.

Apps such as Splitwise or Foodivide can help to determine the exact amounts to split after a meal. If you prefer to transfer money directly to a friend or family member at the table, try using apps such as Venmo or PayPal which allow you to automatically transfer funds using the person’s email or phone number.

3. Declining Invitations to Vacations or Social Events
Everyone has been invited to lavish dinners or activities that might be well out of budget. Rather than immediately declining, present alternative options that are both fun and affordable. For instance, rather than attending a concert that may cost upwards of $200 for the ticket alone, opt for a night out to hear some local music or stay in and cook dinner and listen to the album.

No matter what, be honest. When asked to join an event, vacation or expensive outing, say you’re actively trying to save money and that you are unable to attend. It’s worse to commit and then not end up having the money to participate.

4. Lending to Family and Friends
Be honest about your own financial situation and open about your decision of either lending or not lending. At times you may have to fib a little as to not hurt the recipient’s feelings, but hopefully they will respect your honesty and your decision.

Set the expectations up front. How much are you willing to loan? If this truly is a loan or has been presented as such, be clear of that. With a loan there are expectations that must be met, such as the time the loan has to be paid back and if there will be interest on the loan amount. If necessary, write up the terms of the agreement and have both parties sign.

Always discuss with a partner or spouse before agreeing to the loan. Remember your spouse or significant other may not feel as strongly about lending money, which could lead to stress in the relationship. If this becomes an issue, be honest with the person and tell them that you are unable to give them the loan.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Accessibility Expectations Hit Record High

April 1, 2015 12:45 am

More than half (54 percent) of respondents in a recent Fannie Mae National Housing Survey™ believe it would be easy to get a home mortgage, a record-high trend bearing out amid continued strengthening in employment and overall housing sentiment.

“We continue to see strength in attitudes about the current home buying and selling environment and consistently high shares of consumers saying they expect to buy a home on their next move,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.

According to the survey, the share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months increased to 48 percent. Those who say it is a good time to buy a house remained at 67 percent. Those who say it is a good time to sell decreased by 4 percentage points to 40 percent.

The share of respondents who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months fell to 46 percent. The share of respondents who believe the economy is headed in the right direction increased three percentage points to an all-time survey high of 47 percent.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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HVAC Cleaning Boosts Energy Savings

April 1, 2015 12:45 am

In the average household, HVAC systems consume approximately 56 percent of energy in the home. Homeowners can save 11 percent or more on energy bills with proper HVAC maintenance, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).

When HVAC systems begin to wear, they operate less efficiently. Additionally, contaminated heating and cooling systems can be problematic for occupants, contributing to poor indoor air quality, system failure, and increased energy use.

A complete and proper cleaning will remove built-up particulate and contaminants, improving indoor air quality and maximizing system efficiency. Industry standards include a complete cleaning to include replacing the filter and cleaning the ductwork from where the air enters the return duct, through the air handler (blower, coil, and head exchange) and to the exit, where the air is released to condition the home.

Source: NADCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Invest Gas Savings into Your Vehicle

March 31, 2015 12:30 am

If your wallet feels a little heavier these days, it’s probably because you’ve been spending a lot less at the pump. Did you know that if you spend some of those gas savings on auto care you can save even more in the long run?

“Gas prices are lower than they have been for nearly six years and that means big savings for motorists,” says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Add to that a proactive auto care plan and you will not only save more now, but as gas prices start to rise again, you’ll save later.”

The Car Care Council encourages motorists to put those gas savings to good use with these tips:

Motor Oil: Improve gas mileage by 1-2 percent by using the grade of motor oil recommended by the manufacturer.

Air Filters: Replacing clogged air filters on older vehicles can improve fuel economy and will improve performance and acceleration on all vehicles.

Gas Cap: Damaged, loose or missing gas caps allow gas to vaporize into the air.

Fix It: Addressing a serious maintenance problem, like a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent, according to FuelEconomy.gov.

In addition to vehicle maintenance, modifying driving habits, such as observing the speed limit and avoiding quick stops and starts, can also increase fuel efficiency. Consolidating trips, avoiding excessive idling and removing unnecessary items from the trunk are also easy ways to lower fuel consumption.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Middle-Class Households Best at Saving

March 31, 2015 12:30 am

More than one-third (35 percent) of middle-class households with an annual income between $50,000 and $74,999 are saving more than 10 percent of their incomes, a rate that outpaces even the highest-income households, according to a recent report by Bankrate.com. However, just half of Americans are saving no more than five percent of their incomes. Roughly one in five (18 percent) are saving nothing at all.

“This proves the old adage that what counts isn’t how much you make, but how much you have left over,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

Overall, fewer than one in four Americans (24 percent) are saving more than 10 percent of their incomes. That figure includes 14 percent (one in seven) who are saving more than 15 percent.

Those in the western U.S. are out-saving their counterparts elsewhere; 31 percent of westerners are saving more than 10 percent of their incomes, compared with just 20 percent of southerners. However, just 19 percent of westerners aren’t saving anything.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Maximize Garage Space

March 31, 2015 12:30 am

(Family Features) The U.S. Department of Energy cites 25 percent of homeowners with two-car garages have too much clutter to store vehicles, and 32 percent only have room for one vehicle.

"It's ironic that many of us would rather store our boxes of unwanted stuff in our garage, leaving our valuable cars outside to deal with the elements," says Lorie Marrero, professional organizer and author of The Clutter Diet. "Let's rethink our storage priorities and turn our garage into a space that's more organized and functional."

Maximizing garage space doesn’t have to be a chore. Marrero recommends three simple steps to make the most of storage space in your garage.

1. Clear the Floor
"Wire shelving is the perfect choice for 'DIYers' in need of a garage makeover," says Marrero. "It is flexible and can be customized to fit in all types of spaces, suits any climate and is easy to keep clean."

Since floor space is at a premium, get things off the floor and onto the wall. One option is heavy duty wire shelving, which can withstand the weight of some of your heaviest things and adapt to changing storage needs. This shelving will allow air to ventilate and is not affected by the humidity or sudden fluctuations in temperature.

Limit the dirt tracked inside the house with an area rug or repurposed carpet. For many, the garage serves as the main entry point into the home, so be prudent and keep the entryway as clean as possible.

2. Store Hazardous Materials
Things like poisonous pesticides and anti-freeze or dangerous tools like hedge trimmers and power tools should be hidden safely out of reach from children and pets. Find a home for these items with heavy-duty cabinets.

3. Organize Smaller Items
Can't find your wrench or screw driver? Use a peg board to keep your favorite hand tools neatly stored and easily accessible. Hooks are another great way to keep track of your belongings. Use them freely for stowing hoses, extension cords, bicycles and step ladders.

Source: ClosetMaid

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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