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

Room-by-Room Renovations

January 30, 2018 1:12 am

(Family Features)--If your favorite room is outdated and dingy, a renovation may be all you need to make the old feel new and to fall in love with your home all over again.

Upgrading your home can be a big job, and unless it's part of a pre move-in plan, few homeowners find it practical (or even possible, from a budget standpoint) to execute a large-scale project. However, tackling the updates one room at a time and focusing on small changes that bring big returns can put those overdue enhancements well within reach.

Kitchen
It's the heart of the home, and it's where many homeowners sink big money to make upgrades. Kitchen renovations don't have to require a second mortgage though. Re-facing rather than replacing cabinetry can bring about a whole new look for a whole lot less money. This is a good option when the existing cabinets are still in good working condition and you're just looking for an aesthetic change. Other small-scale options, include swapping out the countertop and sink, changing the lighting fixtures and updating tired floors with contemporary wood or tile.

Bathroom
When plumbing is involved, project costs can skyrocket, but there are some relatively simple ways you can give your bathroom a facelift on a modest budget. For starters, swap out all the fixtures from lighting to faucets. A new vanity is another instant upgrade, whether you opt for an updated version of the original or select a whole new style for a completely fresh look.

Also consider upgrades that can increase natural light and fresh air without compromising privacy, such as the addition of skylights to your ceiling, or "fifth wall," which can completely change the lighting dynamic of the room. In addition to balanced, natural light, skylights can open to help refresh your space and keep it odor- and moisture-free.

For extra style and light control, consider complementing the room's decor with skylights featuring colored blinds, which are available in more than 100 colors and styles, and also offer remote control operation for convenience in raising and lowering the blinds and opening skylights to let in fresh air.  

Living Room
A common space where the family gathers is likely to sustain the greatest wear and tear, and because you spend so much time there, it's also a room where you're likely to find a list of things that irk you. Creating a new color scheme is a simple fix that transforms the space, but changing the palette of the walls is just the beginning. Also consider taking your redesign to the ceiling with vibrant colors, creative wallpapers or even exposed beams. Round out the room by swapping out lamp shades, adding vibrant throw pillows, replacing old curtains or blinds, or tying the color scheme together with a new area rug.

Bedroom
In your private sanctuary, all the typical options for updates apply for sure. However, this is a space where the furnishings can be an especially impactful way to influence the ambiance, especially if a construction project in the room where you sleep is impractical. Changing out the style of the bed frame and complementary pieces creates a whole new vibe for the room. Then bring in a new collection of textiles for the bedding and drapery to help round out the pseudo-renovation.

Laundry Room
If you're looking for modest ways to update your home, be sure to consider spaces like the laundry room. Although you likely use this space less frequently than common spaces like the living room or kitchen, plenty of essential activity happens in the laundry area. Practical features like added storage space, cheerful color on the walls and easy-to-clean flooring can all make this room's tedious tasks more enjoyable.

Which Skylight is Right?
Skylights can serve multiple functions, both aesthetic and practical. Understanding the different types of skylights can help you choose the right fit for your home.

Fresh Air
Solar-powered skylights rely on the sun's energy to open and bring both air and natural light into your home. Some models, such as those offered by Velux, feature a rain sensor that automatically closes the skylight at the first sign of precipitation. They're also easy to operate with a touch-screen remote control.

Electric skylights are wired into your home electrical system and open and close via a radio frequency, touch-screen remote control.

Manual skylights open with a hand lever; a control rod is generally available for out-of-reach installations.

Fixed
An economical choice for visually expanding areas such as hallways, stairwells and other closed-in, dark spaces, these static skylights are intended to fill a room with natural light.

Energy Performance
Adding a solar blind to a skylight results in more savings via potential tax credits as well as reduced energy usage. The blind functions to block heat penetration when closed, but during cooler weather it can stay open to allow warm, sunny rays to supplement the home's climate control system.

Source: Velux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 5 Cities for Aspiring Millennial Homeowners

January 30, 2018 1:12 am

Are you a millennial dreaming of owning your own home? You're far from alone. Becoming a homeowner is high on the list for many millennials, and a new study from GoBankingRates broke down the best spots to buy.
To determine the best cities for millennial home buyers, GOBankingRates analyzed the top 50 metro areas in the U.S. based on the following factors:

- Unemployment rate, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
- The percentage of millennials who own homes, sourced from Adobo
- The average millennial home value, sourced from Adobo
- Mortgage affordability, sourced from Zillow

The outcome? Turns out, more than 40 percent of millennials in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Detroit are homeowners. Despite relatively high home prices and mortgages in Nashville, the city ranks No. 3 on the list due to its thriving job market. Pittsburgh has the most affordable mortgages of any city included in this study. The city also boasts a high percentage of millennial homeowners, with 37.5 percent owning their living spaces.

Below are the 5 hottest home owning spots for millennials.

1. Minneapolis
- Percentage of millennial homeowners: 42.4 percent
- Average millennial home value: $222,528
- Unemployment rate: 2.3 percent

2. St. Louis
- Percentage of millennial homeowners: 40.2 percent
- Average millennial home value: $167,791
- Unemployment rate: 2.7 percent

3. Nashville
- Percentage of millennial homeowners: 37 percent
- Average millennial home value: $213,090
- Unemployment rate: 2.3 percent

4. Indianapolis
- Percentage of millennial homeowners: 37.4 percent
- Average millennial home value: $161,856
- Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent

5. Kansas City, Mo.
- Percentage of millennial homeowners: 37.1 percent
- Average millennial home value: $170,254
- Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent

Source: GOBankingRates

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Buying: 5 Steps for Beginners

January 29, 2018 1:09 am

Venturing out to search for your first home is one of the most exciting times of your life! Unfortunately, it is also one of the most daunting. Between a lexicon of new terms and an onslaught of online information, the process of shopping for a home is understandably overwhelming for first-timers. First, take a deep breath. Then follow these steps and you’ll be on the path to finding your first home in no time:

1. Start searching for a real estate professional. You’ll need a well-informed, trusted guide throughout this process so start looking for a real estate agent to work with. Ask friends and family members for recommendations then do your research online to evaluate any individuals and conduct in-person interviews as well. Be sure to speak with at least three agents before choosing someone to work with.

2. Figure out what you can afford. Before you start looking at neighborhoods and homes, determine what you can comfortably afford... the key word being “comfortable.” There are many unexpected expenses that arise when you’re a homeowner, so don’t stretch yourself too thin. Determine how much you can afford for a downpayment, then use an online mortgage calculator to see what your monthly payments might be for various-priced homes. Once you’ve arrived at your budget, stick with it.

3. Pick your neighborhoods. Choose your location before you start looking at homes, as where you live will ultimately be more important - both in terms of your day-to-day happiness and your investment - than the home itself. You may have to compromise a bit on location depending on the home you can afford. Your real estate agent can help advise you here.

4. Choose your musts. When thinking about the home you’d like to buy, take an honest look at needs vs. wants. Sure, there are a lot of things we’d love to have in our dream home, but figure out what are the nice-to-haves vs. the must-haves.

5. Search online. Once you’ve got your price range, your neighborhoods, and your must-haves down, start your search online to narrow down your options. Your real estate agent may also know of some homes that fit the bill right off the bat. This will mean fewer homes to visit in person and hopefully, lead to a quicker selection.

Above all, be open minded, flexible and patient in the home-search process. Your opinions and priorities may change as you learn more, and despite the best planning, curve balls happen. The journey will be well worth it, however, once you’re happily settled as a new homeowner.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kitchen Renovation: Floor Function

January 29, 2018 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Whether designing a brand new kitchen or renovating your existing one, there are many elements to consider, and the floor should not be the last. Giving special attention to the material composition of your kitchen, particularly when it comes to the aspects that take the heaviest use - the floors, sink and countertops - can help ensure your renovation stands the test of time.

Though often taken for granted, the floor is generally the kitchen feature that sustains the heaviest use over time. Whether your tastes tend toward tile, wood or another option altogether, there are still numerous variables to explore.

Tile is an excellent choice for the kitchen because it stands up well to the heavy traffic and spills common in that space. However, tile can also be slippery and can be uncomfortable if you spend long amounts of time on your feet in the kitchen. Ceramic tile is the easiest to install but not as resistant to damage as porcelain or stone tile.

The latter options require more skilled installation, and stone especially tends to be more expensive. You'll also need to pay attention to factors like water resistance and texture, both of which affect safety and how easily the floors can be cleaned.

When it comes to wood, one of the first decisions is whether you prefer engineered or solid hardwood.

Engineered versions tend to offer greater durability and flexibility in installation while the texture and appearance of solid hardwood are its strongest appeals. Other variables include the wood type, which further affects the look and strength. Oak is most common, but other traditional selections include options like maple or cherry and specialty woods like teak or bamboo. Plank width influences overall aesthetic, with slimmer boards lending a more modern look. Color is also a consideration, as you'll need to determine whether you want to match, complement or contrast your cabinetry.

If something a little less traditional is more your speed, an option like foot-friendly cork or a modern take on vinyl may be more to your liking.

Source: Kohler

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Having a Party? Prep the Plumbing

January 29, 2018 1:09 am

If you're getting ready to host a house full of people, you're likely focusing on a zillion details, from food to home staging, music and more. But have you thought about your pipes? The professionals at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® recommend party hosts and guests follow these precautions to avoid common plumbing mishaps and help ensure fans can stay focused on the game:

Be mindful of what food goes down the garbage disposal. Fats, bones and vegetable peels can clog drains and damage the disposal. Rice and pasta can swell and clog the drain, as well. As a good rule of thumb, always toss scraps in the trashcan when it's possible.

Always use water when running the disposal. The garbage disposal works best when small particles are mixed with water. Use hot water down the disposal to keep grease moving down the drain, and run water for at least 30 seconds after everything has cleared.

Know what to do if the garbage disposal becomes clogged. If your disposal becomes clogged, turn it off, and shut off the water. Don't reach into a disposal, and never, ever use harsh chemicals to treat a clog. Instead, try a plunger.

Educate guests on what can and cannot go down the toilet. Commonly flushed items that may clog your pipes include napkins, paper towels, facial tissues and feminine products. Keep a trashcan near the toilet and remind guests to please only flush toilet paper down the commode.

Inform guests of any existing plumbing issues. For example, if the toilet handle needs a little jiggle in order to flush, spread the word and post a sign in the bathroom as a constant reminder.

Source: Benjamin Franklin Plumbing®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Stage Your Home On a Budget

January 25, 2018 1:06 am

Getting your home into prime showing shape is essential to helping it sell in the shortest amount of time for the best possible price. But while a professional home stager can work wonders, it just might not be in your budget. Don’t despair - here are some great ways to inexpensively stage your home all on your own:

Get rid of the excess. The first thing every home stager will do is get rid of the clutter. And that is something anyone can do on your own without spending a dime. Get some boxes and storage bins and start removing whatever you can, including: framed photos; anything hanging on the fridge or anywhere else; knick knacks; most books (save a few nice ones for staging); trophies and awards; kitchen gadgets; personal effects, such as glasses, keys, jewelry, etc. The golden rule? You can’t remove too much.

Rearrange the furniture. Go from room to room and make sure the furniture is arranged in a way that makes the room look as open and spacious as possible. If this means removing chairs or tables to open the flow, go for it.

Brighten things up. Replace heavy drapery with sheer panels, raise blinds and shades, and place higher wattage bulbs in lighting fixtures, adding a lamp or two where necessary. Maximizing natural and artificial light are essential to making your home look as bright and appealing as possible.

Paint where necessary. A small investment of paint in key areas will be worth it. Change any dark or oddly painted rooms to a light, neutral color, and prioritize any walls and rooms where the paint is dirty or showing signs of aging. Paint can also be a good option for updating kitchen cabinets that are otherwise too expensive to replace.

Add new accessories. A trip to your nearest discount store can send you home with a bundle of new accent pillows, throws, bathroom and kitchen accessories and a nice vase or two for the dining room and coffee tables. These decorative accessories will add a fresh feel and pops of color where necessary throughout your home. Just remember: less is more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Slippery Slope: Ski and Snowboard Safety 101

January 25, 2018 1:06 am

Are you a ski or snowboard fan?  As the popularity of these winter sports continue to rise, according to a review article published in the January 1, 2018, issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the number of skier and snowboarder injuries also continues to rise.

"Skiing and snowboarding are associated with a large number of injuries, with specific patterns and anatomic areas affected," says Brett D. Owens, MD, lead review article author, an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine as well as complex shoulder and knee surgeries and who is a professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

"Snow sport athletes can best prepare for their sport with a general preseason conditioning program as well as familiarity and maintenance of equipment," says Dr. Owens. To stay safe on the slopes this year, read the following tips:

- Be prepared for the season with well-conditioned muscles and a body that is adequately hydrated.
- Be knowledgeable about how to use your equipment appropriately, and ensure everything is in optimal working condition.
- Check that the ski bindings can release from your boots when appropriate, and that boots fit appropriately.
- Check that the edges of your skis and/or snowboard are flat and sharp for maximum performance to minimize injuries.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Avoid alcohol or drug use.
- Be sure you have the ability to slow down and stop on busy days when many other athletes are also on the mountain.
- Use extreme caution when weather conditions are not optimal.
- Always follow signs and ski patrol instructions. Never ski or snowboard "out-of-bounds."

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-to Save Energy in the Middle of Winter

January 25, 2018 1:06 am

Winter may seem like the wrong time to save money on home heating and cooling. However, with a few tweaks, you could see major changes on your bill, even in the coldest, bleakest months. The Petri Plumbing & Heating team has three tips to help you save money and the environment, even in the dead of winter.

Install a programmable thermostat and use it. Programmable thermostats have been around for quite some time, and with "smart" thermostats becoming the norm, energy saving has never been easier. Upgrading your thermostat to a newer model ensures accurate temperature readings, allows remote operation, and helps ensure your climate control system is being used efficiently.

Use ceiling fans to circulate warm air downwards. It seems counter-intuitive to have a fan running in the winter, but since heat rises, it can help circulate warm air throughout your home. By turning your ceiling fan on a low speed, warm air doesn't just sit at the ceiling. Many ceiling fans have a small switch on them that allows you to change the direction the blades turn in. Blades that spin in a clockwise direction pull air down. With more air circulation, you can bump your thermostat down a degree or two to save some energy.

Make sure your furnace and filters are clean and unblocked. One of the biggest energy hogs during the winter is a blocked or clogged filter. Dirty furnaces aren't just inefficient, as they can also pose a fire hazard. Clean furnace filters trap dirt and allergens, and help your furnace run more efficiently. With windows shut for months on end in the winter, filters tend to get dirty quicker. Petri recommends changing your furnace filter monthly during the winter. However, if your home has a boiler system, you're off the hook for changing your filters.

"If you take advantage of these tips, you can easily transform your home into a comfortable, energy efficient space this winter," says Michael Petri, owner of Petri Plumbing & Heating. "It may be wise to even consider installing a new boiler, as modern ones can run at 98.5 percent efficiency compared to 80 percent or less for older models. And if you're interested in taking your energy efficiency even further in 2018, we can provide in-home assessments of where you can improve your efficiency, which is not only  better for our environment, but also saves you money in the long run."

Source: Petri Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Quick Ways to Jazz up Your Home's Curb Appeal

January 24, 2018 1:00 am

Curb appeal, a phrase often used by real estate professionals, describes the pleasing first impression viewers have at their first glimpse of a home. It could mean, ‘neat and clean.’ It could mean, ‘welcoming’ or ‘stately.’ It could be all of these and more.

In essence, a home with great curb appeal says ‘a caring homeowner lives here’ – and what homeowner wouldn’t want to be identified as such?

The best part, say the home design experts at Better Homes & Gardens.com, is that jazzing up your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are just a few of the ideas they suggest for upping any home’s appeal:

Dress up the front door – Give it a burst of color; say a coat of red or marine blue paint to contrast a grey or white exterior. Polish up the door’s hardware, especially around the knob.

Create an instant garden – Container gardens can add a warm and welcoming feel when attractively grouped on or around the porch or front steps. Affordable, ready-made containers of plants and flowers available at most home centers can make this an easy, pleasing upgrade.

Do a mailbox makeover – Your curbside mailbox should complement your home. Dress it up by painting the box and/or the  post to match your home’s exterior – and surround it at the base with a neat patch of plants or flowers.

Install a window box – Take a page from the French or British with a colorful window box or two to set off your home’s front windows. Choose boxes made from iron or copper for a traditional look, or painted wood for a cottage feel. Mix and match the flowers and/or plants to suit your color scheme and lighting conditions.

Add an artsy element – Give your front yard a little spunk and eye appeal by installing a fountain or birdbath, an interesting sculpture, and/or some attractive wind chimes. The sounds and movement can be as pleasing to the ear as to the eye.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Steps for Smart Financial Planning

January 24, 2018 1:00 am

Are you hoping to create a smart financial plan this year, but unsure where to start? Being realistic and accurate can ensure those budgets have long-term success, according to Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®.

To help, Schlesinger offered a list of financial goals to help people start creating a financial plan.

- Pay down consumer (credit card balances or auto loans) and student debt

- Establish an emergency reserve fund of six to 12 months of living expenses

- Maximize retirement savings (the 2018 limit for 401(k)s, 403(b)s and 457 plans is $18,500 or $24,500 if you are over age 50; the limit for Traditional or Roth IRAs is $5,500 or $6,500 for those over age 50. If you are self-employed, the limits are higher.)

- Fund a 529-education fund (now expanded via the tax plan, to include private or parochial school for up to $10,000 a year in tuition and other expenses)

- Establish a general investment account to fund anything from a second home to an accelerated path to retirement

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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