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

What Are the Benefits of a Homeowners Association?

July 26, 2016 1:24 am


Homeowners in large-scale associations enjoy a number of association-managed services, many of which are beyond those offered by municipalities. The level at which these services are provided is just one of the benefits drawing homeowners to association living, according to a recently released survey by the Foundation for Community Association Research (FCAR).

FCAR’s Large-Scale Association Survey, which evaluated associations with 1,000 or more lots (including residential, age-restricted and private club communities), found that large-scale associations offer high-caliber services, from roadway maintenance and stormwater management to recreation and security. In effect, large-scale associations act as governmental entities—an advantage for homeowners who would otherwise not receive services at the municipal level.

Large-scale associations also manage the environmental costs of development, as municipal organizations do, according to the survey’s findings. Most associations impose land use restrictions that protect conservation areas, waterways and wetlands.

Civic involvement is prevalent in large-scale associations, as well, the survey found—residents may be invited to attend community-related forums, for instance, or cast an opinion at a polling location within the association.

Community associations, which include condominiums, cooperatives and planned communities, became commonplace by the late 1960s, and, according to a Community Associations Institute statement on the survey, “now represent the greatest extension of housing ownership since the New Deal housing reforms and GI Bill after World War II.”

Source: Community Associations Institute (CAI)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Paying Too Much for Flood Insurance?

July 25, 2016 1:24 am


Property owners of both residential and commercial units purchased more than $3.5 billion in flood policies last year through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The reason? More lenders may be requiring flood insurance—and yours could ask for it, too.

Insuring your home against flood risk is important, but it is also important to understand its cost. One way to ensure cost-control is with an error-free elevation certificate, says Michael Allison, president of AmeriFlood Solutions, Inc.

The elevation certificate is a document that indicates the elevation of the property, which determines insurance premium rates. The certificate must be free of errors and omissions—either could potentially cost thousands in needless expense, Allison says.

“A signed and sealed elevation certificated does not ensure accuracy,” Allison said in a statement. “More than 50 percent of the elevation certificates reviewed by our staff have errors. Further, outdated elevation certificates may not reflect building improvements or uncover documentation errors or omissions that can cause insurance agents, brokers and carriers to rate flood policies inaccurately. That can add up to a considerable difference in the amount paid for coverage or measures implemented to mitigate flood damage.”

Allison recommends reviewing the elevation certificate with an insurance broker or agent or flood risk expert—they can help you determine if you are paying too much (or too little) for flood insurance.

Source: AmeriFlood Solutions, Inc.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Case for Siding with Brick

July 25, 2016 1:24 am


There are many benefits to building and owning a home with a brick exterior—many of which outweigh the cost.

“The initial cost of a brick home is quite competitive, especially since most homes require less exterior cladding than people think,” said Ray Leonhard, president and CEO of the Brick Industry Association (BIA), in a statement. “An average 2,700-square-foot, two-story house only needs 2,265 square feet of cladding material when accounting for windows, doors, etc.”

According to “The Installed Cost of Residential Siding,” a report by the BIA comparing brick to other types of siding, brick wall cladding can cost up to 15 percent less than stone veneer, up to 8 percent more than vinyl siding, up to 6 percent more than fiber cement siding or wood shingles, and up to 3 percent more than stucco or wood siding.

In approximately 65 percent of the major housing areas assessed in the report, brick costs less than stone and wood siding—an important distinction for new-home builders in hot markets like Austin, Texas, Charlotte, N.C., and Denver, Colo.

Some brick manufacturers offer 100-year warranties—a testament to the durability of the material, Leonhard said. Brick is relatively low-maintenance, with no painting required, and boasts insulation properties that not only reduce energy consumption, but also reduce noise.

Brick homes are also better outfitted to guard against fire and wind, which can be a boon in disaster situations, Leonhard added.

To learn more about brick homes, visit GoBrick.com.

Source: Brick Industry Association (BIA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Makes a Homeowner Happy?

July 25, 2016 1:24 am


What makes a homeowner happy? A safe community? A short commute? What about walkability?

The answer is all of the above, according to HomeAdvisor.com’s recently released Homeowner Happiness Index, an industry indicator ranking the happiest cities in the nation.

“A homeowner’s quality of life is more likely to be dependent on their community and access to important attractions and services than it is on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in their home,” said Dr. Karen Ruskin, HomeAdvisor’s happiness expert, in a statement.

Square footage is indeed less of a factor in determining a homeowner’s happiness, the Index shows. Natural light, on the other hand, is an important consideration—naturally-lit homes tend to appear more spacious.

The Index also reveals a happiness trend among empty-nesters and married couples without children, who reported feeling satisfied more so than other homeowners.

“Empty-nester homeowners feel most connected with their neighborhoods and are most satisfied with the condition of their homes,” Ruskin said. “They have likely settled in a community they enjoy and in which they plan to stay—and they generally have the most economic stability and time available to make their houses happy homes.”

Homeowners in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, St. Louis and Seattle are among the happiest, according to the Index.
 
“Our research shows that homeowners are happiest in urban cities with good weather, an active culture, arts scene and higher income levels,” said Ruskin.

Homeowners outside of these areas don’t have to capture happiness in a bottle to feel a higher sense of satisfaction. Simple improvements, such as outfitting the home for entertaining, can make a world of difference.

To find out where your city ranks on HomeAdvisor’s Happiness Index, visit HomeAdvisor.com/survey.

Source: HomeAdvisor.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Do Back Taxes and iTunes Have in Common?

July 22, 2016 1:24 am


Nothing!

According to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, fraudsters have begun to solicit bogus back taxes through iTunes gift cards, selling card codes for profit. The scammer typically initiates the scheme by posing as a representative from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the phone, informing the victim that he or she has fallen behind on taxes, and threatening the victim with arrest should they not be paid immediately. The scammer then instructs the victim to purchase an iTunes gift card in the amount of the so-claimed back taxes, and reveal the card code, under the guise that this action will spare arrest. Once the victim shares the card code with the scammer, the scammer sells the code on the black market.

To avoid becoming a victim of the iTunes back taxes scam, remember:

• Funds on iTunes gift cards can only be applied to purchases in the Apple app/iTunes store; do not “pay” anyone, aside from Apple, with an iTunes gift card.

• iTunes gift cards cannot be used to pay taxes—the IRS only accepts cash, check or credit card as forms of payment.

If you believe you have been a victim of this scam (or any other type of fraud), report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at FTC.gov. 

Source: AARP Fraud Watch Network
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Eggshell? Semi-Gloss? A Guide to Paint Finishes

July 22, 2016 1:24 am


Selecting paint colors for your home can be challenging—and the task isn’t complete when you finally choose a color!

Deciding the appropriate paint finish is also a consideration. Below, a primer (no pun intended) on the five most common paint finishes:

Eggshell – If you can envision the very subtle sheen of the shell of an egg, you have an idea of how eggshell paint will appear when applied to a wall. With only a slight hint of shine, eggshell paint is ideal for most walls, and stands up to cleaning.

Flat – Flat (or matte) paint does not reflect light, making it another wise option for most walls. Flat paint camouflages bumps, small cracks or imperfections, and is washable.

Glossy – High-gloss paint has a near-reflective quality, mimicking the look of enamel or plastic. It is best applied (for dramatic effect) on cabinets, furniture or trim in contemporary or formal settings. Glossy paint magnifies surface imperfections, so sanding is essential before applying.

Satin – Satin paint has a smooth, velvety appearance, and is most often applied to doors, ceilings, windows or trim. It is particularly suitable for kitchens, bathrooms, and in areas that see a lot of traffic.

Semi-Gloss - Semi-gloss paint is commonly applied to cabinets, doors and trim because it is easy to clean. Be diligent when preparing the surface for semi-gloss paint—the finish will accentuate a poorly-prepared area.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Unpacking Summer's Hottest Housing Trends – Pt. 3

July 22, 2016 1:24 am


Household arrangements are adapting to the post-recession economy, with micro apartments, co-living and tiny homes defining trends this summer, according to ApartmentList.com. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we explored the first two of those trends; now, we’ll conclude with the last: tiny homes.

Touted for their cost-effectiveness, efficiency and environmental-friendliness, tiny houses have gained popularity over the last few years, appealing to those who value experiences and people over space.

Per ApartmentList.com, buying (or building) a tiny house comes at a lesser cost than that of a full-sized home. Many tiny homebuyers and owners place their houses on wheels to comply with zoning regulations and ensure maximum mobility.

Parking spaces for a tiny house are scarce, but an RV park or tiny house eco-village are available in some areas.

The tiny house movement is not without controversy. Reports recently surfaced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plans to outlaw tiny houses, but a report by Snopes.com squashed them as rumors. (The HUD proposal only pertains to the classification of structures—even tiny houses—marketed as year-round residences, ensuring compliance with building codes and safety standards.)

According to the American Tiny House Association, tiny houses built on foundations should be constructed according to local codes. Mobile tiny house builders, on the other hand, should consult the Association’s guidelines at AmericanTinyHouseAssociation.org.

For more summer housing trends, visit ApartmentList.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Shoppers: 5 Ways to Find the Best Deal

July 21, 2016 1:24 am


The best part about scoring a deal is feeling like you did! From ad-watching and coupon-saving to dedicated comparison shopping, there are many ways to get a deal when shopping. According to the Huffington Post, these five ways are best:

1. Black Friday Sales – Officially opening the holiday buying season, Black Friday sales in-store and online offer some of the year’s best prices on everything from electronics to household goods. Both online and brick-and-mortar retailers often publish prices in advance, and quantities are sometimes limited, so the early bird nearly always gets the buy.

2. Craigslist – The online classified service, now available globally, boasts bargain prices on new and used goods right in your neighborhood. (Keep in mind, however, that face-to-face interactions with strangers can be risky—if you are purchasing an item off Craigslist, insist on meeting the seller in a public place to conduct the exchange.)

3. eBay – The leader in online auctions, eBay remains the source for deals on everything, from appliances to xylophones. Once you open an account, you can bid on auctions, purchase an item immediately with the “Buy It Now” price, or use eBay’s “Best Offer” tool to negotiate a deal.

4. Honey – Honey is an app that does the coupon-clipping for you. Once installed, the app searches for and applies coupon or discount codes to your shopping cart when you’re ready to check out. It works with well over 100 stores, including Home Depot.

5. Retail Price-Matching – Retailers are losing out to online sales, so if you find a deal you like online, try matching the price in-store. Each retailer has rules about price-matching, but if you print out the online offer and bring it with you (or open it on your smartphone in the store), you may find you can snag the better price.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Real Estate Preferable to Cash and Stocks

July 21, 2016 1:24 am


Real estate is again the most popular investment option among Americans who do not need money for 10 or more years, ahead of cash, precious metals, stocks and bonds, Bankrate.com recently reported.

Preferred investment options, ranked by Americans in the Bankrate.com report, are:

• Real Estate (25 percent)
• Cash (23 percent)
• Precious Metals/Stocks (16 percent)
• Bonds (5 percent)

“The preference for real estate is well-suited for investment horizons of more than a decade, but the apathy many investors feel towards the stock market is detrimental to achieving their long-term financial goals,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com’s chief financial analyst, in a statement. “Yes, the market is volatile, but the market has rewarded long-term investors that show patience and discipline.”

Cash, second in terms of preference in Bankrate.com’s report, are not a sustainable long-term investment, McBride added.

“While cash investments are entirely appropriate for short-term needs, such as an emergency fund, they are completely inappropriate for long-term investment horizons. Returns on cash investments often trail the rate of inflation, with savers losing buying power as a result,” said McBride.

In the report, households with an annual income of $50,000 or less tended to side with cash investments. Older age groups, including millennials aged 26 to 35, tended to favor real estate.

Source: Bankrate.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Protecting Against Zika: How Homeowners Can Do Their Part

July 21, 2016 1:24 am


Zika has hit home. The good news? There are simple steps homeowners can take to lessen the spread of the virus, says Karen Reardon, vice president of Public Affairs with RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)®.

“Putting up mosquito barriers, reinforcing your home and property, removing standing water where mosquitoes breed and knocking down existing mosquito populations with EPA-approved solutions create a four-sided barrier of protection,” Reardon said in a statement.

Preventing the spread of Zika at home, according to RISE, includes replacing any damaged or sagging door or window screens, keeping doors and other entry points closed, and eliminating standing water on the property. Water often collects in birdbaths, buckets, flower pots, fountains, gutters and wading pools.

Personal mosquito barriers include wearing light-colored, long-legged and long-sleeved clothing, or repellant-treated apparel.

Homeowners should also ensure the members of their household use EPA-approved repellants. Products endorsed by the EPA, RISE states, have been deemed effective and safe. EPA-approved labels will indicate if the product is specifically for Aedes mosquito protection, which is the category through which Zika is transmitted.

Some homeowners are also going above and beyond these steps, according to a recent RISE survey: 53 percent of homeowners surveyed are planning to apply pesticides to their yards, and 47 percent are considering adding mosquito control to their lawn care routine.

Zika causes symptoms such as mild fever and rash, and may be tied to birth defects.

Source: RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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