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

Debt Regret: 3 Questions Students Should Ask

July 5, 2016 12:57 am


Student loan debt has ballooned to over $1.3 trillion, with more students than ever securing loans to finance a college education. The cost and results of that education—soaring tuition, burdensome debt and scant employment opportunities—have left some wondering, “Was it worth it?”

Post-secondary education is a necessary step on the path to higher earnings, but many with debt do not believe college was worth the cost, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports—45 percent, to be exact. Of that percentage, 78 percent earn less than $50,000 a year, and 69 percent experience difficulty paying loans.

These findings present a cautionary tale for students entering college. Consumer Reports advises them and their parents to develop a financing plan that takes into account the following questions:

1. What do I want to get out of college?
2. How much will college cost?
3. How can I reduce costs?


It is crucial to enter college with a clear picture of your goals after graduation, according to Consumer Reports—taking “exploratory” classes or changing majors can cost thousands in unnecessary tuition.

The cost of college will be determined by several factors, including your academic transcript, your family’s financial circumstances, and the school you attend. To make the most economical decision, consider the bottom-line, “net price” of your education, Consumer Reports suggests.

Traverse all possible avenues to cut costs, too, Consumer Reports recommends. Is community college an option? Are scholarships available? Can studying abroad save you money? Factoring these measures into your plan can save you thousands in future debt and interest.

For more guidance related to student loans, visit ConsumerReports.org/StudentDebt.
 
Source: Consumer Reports
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is It Time to Evaluate Your Trees? Pt. 1

July 5, 2016 12:57 am


Having the trees on your property inspected regularly can help identify distress or decay before it becomes critical—and costly.

The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) (TreeCareTips.org) recommends hiring a trained arborist to conduct a formal risk assessment. Several risk assessment methods exist, but three are the most widely accepted in North America:

• International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Tree Hazard Evaluation Method
• ISA Tree Risk Assessment Best Management Practice (BMP) Method  
• United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Community TreeRisk Evaluation Method

These methods are employed most often by tree care professionals, municipal forestry programs and government agencies. Before hiring an arborist, discuss which method will be used to evaluate your trees.

After the assessment, the arborist may give you a written or oral report with recommendations to mitigate any risks your trees may pose. Generally, there are three ways to reduce risk: removing the tree, treating the tree or treating the site. More than one option may be used depending on the situation, according to the TCIA.

An assessment is a wise step to take even if your trees appear safe, the TCIA adds. It is best to have a professional verify the safety of the trees on your property, especially if they hang over your house or other structures on your property.

In Pt. 2, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each assessment method.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Budget? Remodeling Spend on the Rise

July 5, 2016 12:57 am


Homeowners are sinking more money into renovations, driving up the average remodeling spend—and many are doing so without a set budget.

That’s according to results of the recently released Houzz & Home survey by Houzz.com, which revealed that approximately one-third of homeowners either exceed their remodeling budget (by thousands!) or do not have a budget at all. Those who exceed their budget often do so due to costlier materials or design changes.

Homeowners are set on re-doing the kitchen and bathrooms first, budget or no budget, according to the survey. Many of these renovations are undertaken by recent homebuyers who want to improve their new home, by those who “finally” have the financial means to do so, or by soon-to-be home sellers.

The survey revealed recent homebuyers tend to invest more, on average, in remodeling projects—$66,600 versus $59,800 by other homeowners. Home sellers, on the other hand, spend less—$36,300, on average.

Whatever the spend, most homeowners pay for the project with personal funds or savings, according to the survey. Some, still, use credit cards or home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

Homeowners are shelling out these funds to professionals, such as remodelers, general contractors or a design-build company, the survey found. Some homeowners are hiring architects or interior designers, as well.

Upgrading your home to sell? Talk to a real estate professional. He or she can offer guidance as to which projects recoup the most money at resale.

Source: Houzz.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Can You Guess the Most Popular Fourth of July Eats?

July 4, 2016 12:51 am

As we celebrate Independence Day, there’s one food item that will be on the majority of tables across America: hamburgers. According to a recent Instantly survey, hamburgers were named the top menu item for the Fourth of July, surpassing hotdogs by nearly 40 percent. The most popular side dishes will be potato salad, corn on the cob and baked beans, respectively.

When it comes to snack items, the overwhelming majority of Americans will reach for Frito-Lay brand chips, including KC Masterpiece, Kettle Chips and Doritos.

These classic food items uphold a longstanding tradition for many Americans, with 34 percent selecting these items based on historical preference. Nearly three-quarters of Americans who are dieting or watching what they eat consider the Fourth of July a “cheat” day.

Source: Instantly

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Smoking Allowed? Sure, It Makes for Great Barbecues!

July 4, 2016 12:51 am

There's plenty of summer left, and plenty of opportunities to entertain. That means preparing spectacular feasts for your family and guests.

If you're looking to broaden your culinary toolkit, maybe it's time to graduate from a grill to a smoker. The National Barbecue Association (nbbqa.org) offers these tips if you're looking into doing some home cooking with a new smoker.

Howard Singer, pitmaster of Smokin' Howie's BBQ Team, says the price for smokers can range from under $100 to thousands of dollars.

Singer says think about which features are most important to you and establish a budget. If you are truly a beginner, you can buy a simple, vertical smoker for under $50.

An experienced home barbecuer can get a more advanced, but still inexpensive, unit that produces great results for around $300. If you are looking for something more sophisticated with a heavy reliance on automation, then be prepared to spend $600 or more.

Singer says paying more does not guarantee the quality of your food. Your total process is more influential than the price of your smoker.

What is the difference between a horizontal/off-set and vertical smoker?

Singer says vertical smokers are smaller, more portable and can operate by wood, electric or gas. They can range in price from under $50 to around $400 and are simple to use, with fuel on the bottom and meat on racks above.

On the other hand, horizontal/off-set smokers have the firebox on the side and the meat goes into a separate chamber next to the firebox. Singer says horizontal smokers are much heavier and not as portable, however.

Ultimately, Singer says if you have very limited outdoor space to place your equipment, a vertical smoker is the way to go.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renting a Vacation Home? Know Your Options

July 4, 2016 12:51 am

Peer-to-peer vacation rental listings are on the rise, but some renters find more favor with rental management companies, according to a recent industry study.

While there are benefits to both peer-to-peer and managed rentals, tales of rentals-gone-bad seem to spike when the home is booked directly with the host homeowner—renters cited in the study said they felt safer staying in a managed rental than staying in a peer-to-peer listing.

Unlike direct-from-homeowner rentals, vacation rental managers oversee the process from start to finish, and have established standards for quality, service and security for their properties. Peer-to-peer rentals leave the standards up to each individual homeowner.

“The reality is most homeowners don't have the time to adequately meet guest expectations when it comes to safety, cleanliness and assistance, and as a result they find the tasks daunting,” says Gail Mandel, CEO of Wyndham Vacation Rentals, which conducted the study.

“Guests should know they do not have to go it alone,” Mandel adds. “But if they do, they should keep in mind important tips, like renting from a reputable source, watching for signs of fraud and only using secure payment methods.”

Source: Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Outside the Cereal Box: BBQ for Breakfast

July 1, 2016 12:48 am


Trend alert!

Barbecuing for breakfast is taking hold in backyards—and in fact, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), the trend is only going to grow in popularity.

Why the urge to BBQ breakfast? The HPBA lists a few reasons:

Anything—anything—can be barbecued.

From bagels or oatmeal to cereal or eggs, any breakfast item can be prepared on the grill. (Cereal? It’s true! Warm up dry cereal with butter on a grill-safe griddle, and add it to cold milk or yogurt.)

Barbecuing adds a smoky bite.

Barbecuing imparts smoky flavor on beloved breakfast classics. Charcoal, gas and wood pellet barbecues will add a fresh-off-the-grill taste to bacon and sausage, and apple- or cherry-flavored chips can take pancakes to the next level.

Brunch just got better.

Cook brunch items low and slow on the grill early in the morning—they’ll be ready by mid-day, and you’ll be able to enjoy them that much sooner!

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the one that is most often overlooked in this hectic world,” says Jack Goldman, president and CEO of the HPBA. “Weekends are the perfect time to slow things down, fire up the grill, and enjoy some much needed family time around an open flame. Those who try it will immediately discover that barbecuing your breakfast can be just as enjoyable—and delicious—as your evening meals.”

Source: Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summer Reset: Colors and Ideas to Refresh Your Home

July 1, 2016 12:48 am


Summer’s here, and with it comes the desire to embrace the season through the décor in our homes.

“This time of year offers an opportunity to create your perfect summer oasis by bringing sunny shades from the outdoors into your home,” says Nathan Fischer, design expert with Ace Hardware. “Use the time and creativity summer offers to experiment with fun, colorful hues and tackle new projects to give your home a much-needed refresh.”

Fischer, along with fellow Ace design experts Katie Reynolds and Julie Richard, list these summer colors to try:

• Red is having a moment! Pair deep reds with frosty neutrals—the combination will make a big impact in any room. Mix in red as an accent table or planter.

Beachy blues never seem to go out of style. Use them in bathrooms, bedrooms or on woodwork for a year-round dose of summer.

• Bright shades of creamy orange and punchy purple will bring your home to life. Use cheery-colored accessories in frequently-used spaces, such as the family room or office.

To take these on-trend colors to the next level, incorporate these five elements, says Fischer, Reynolds and Richard:

• Layered Design
• Organizational Storage
• Room-to-Room Cohesion
• Statement Pieces
• Warm-and-Cool Juxtaposition

How will you embrace summer in your home?

Source: Ace Hardware
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is It Time? When to Replace Common Household Items

July 1, 2016 12:48 am


(Family Features)—A lot of household items have a shelf life—even ones you wouldn’t expect. Do you need to replace any of these in your home?

Mattress – Studies show mattresses more than eight years old can exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms, as well as contribute to body aches and pains. Replace your mattress every eight years to ensure you’re getting a healthy night’s sleep.

Microwave – Microwaves last 10 to 12 years on average, but this lifespan varies based on use. Replace your microwave if the heating time starts to take longer than usual.

Pillows – Your pillow collects debris—just like your mattress—that can affect your sleep. Aim to replace pillows every two years.

Refrigerator – Is your fridge walking instead of running? If it is more than 15 years old, or no longer cools to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it may be time to replace it.

Smoke Detector – Hear a chirping sound from your smoke detector? That may be a sign that it’s time to replace the unit (not just the batteries).

Toaster – Toasters become temperamental as they age. Six to 8 years is the recommended maximum amount of time you should wait before replacing your toaster.

Vacuum – Is your vacuum losing suction power? Replacing the belt or filter will only extend its lifespan for so long. If your vacuum is older than eight years, it is time to replace it.

Washer/Dryer – Is it time to close the last spin cycle? Washers and dryers both have a lifespan of about 10 years old—any older and it may be time to buy new machines.

Source: Mattress Firm
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Only 3 Rules You Need to Build Savings

June 30, 2016 2:45 am

When it comes to putting money aside for a rainy day, discipline is the first word that springs to the lips of most financial advisors—and it does, indeed, take discipline.

Many people, however, need more specific guidance on what kind of discipline is needed to bulk up their savings. Financial editor Eric McWhinnie told the Wall Street Cheat Sheet there are three basic ways to make a disciplined approach work best:

1. Automatically Pay Yourself First – When too many people are lined up waiting for a piece of your paycheck, you’ll save money if you put yourself at the head of the line. Don’t plan to spend what’s left over at the end of the month. Instead, set up an automatic deposit plan to pull money (10 percent is recommended) from every paycheck and deposit it directly into savings. Adjust your spending to make the balance last until your next paycheck.

2. Track Your Spending – For at least one month, keep notes on every dollar you spend. It’s the best way to get a clear understanding about where your money is going day by day and how and where you can cut back. (Subscriptions? Lattes? Services or insurance deductibles?) Do quarterly check-ups to review how your savings account is growing and how you are doing at reducing your discretionary spending.

3. Take Advantage of 401(k) Plans – When available, 401(k)s are the most efficient way to save money because, for many participants, the employer is contributing matching funds. In effect, it is free money, so take maximum advantage of the benefit by contributing as much as possible.

Following these three rules has proven to grow savings—and it can work for you, too.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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