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 to Reduce Your Natural Gas Use This Winter

December 22, 2017 1:21 am

If you're looking to shave some dollars off your winter heating bill, take a look at how often you're cranking the gas. Unsure of where to start? Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) offers the following tips to help save on energy costs all season long:


- Set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you are home and 55 degrees when you are not home. Lowering your thermostat three to five degrees can save up to 10 percent on heating costs.

- Install proper caulking and weather-stripping; this can save roughly 10 to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs.

- Wash clothes in cold water to save up to 10 percent on water heating costs.

- Clean or replace your furnace filters according to manufacturer recommendations.

- Have your air ducts tested for leaks. Leaky ducts can cost between 10 to 30 percent in heating and cooling costs.

- Turn down the temperature on your water heater.

- Take shorter showers to reduce your natural gas use.

- Fix leaky faucets and pipes. Hot water leaks cause increased demand on the water heater, which increases natural gas use. One drop of water per second can waste 500 gallons of hot water per year.

- Limit use of non-essential natural gas appliances, such as spas and fireplaces.

Source: Southern California Gas Co.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Cost of Living to Soar in These Cities

December 22, 2017 1:21 am

Are you concerned about your cost of living heightening in the new year? According to GoBankingRates, some cities will see monumental spikes in their financial livability. See the top 10, below.

Top 10 Cities Where the Cost of Living is Expected to Soar

1. Portland
- Projected change in home value*: 2.81%
- Projected change in rent*: 5.34%
- Average Consumer Price Index (CPI) change 2014-2017: 2.49%

2. Seattle
- Projected change in home value: 4.86%
- Projected change in rent: 5.73%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.07%

3. Denver
- Projected change in home value: 3.52%
- Projected change in rent: 4.37%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.36%

4. Atlanta
- Projected change in home value: 3.34%
- Projected change in rent: 5.08%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.51%

5. San Diego
- Projected change in home value: 2.86%
- Projected change in rent: 3.91%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.01%

6. San Francisco
- Projected change in home value: 1.40%
- Projected change in rent: 0.92%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 2.95%

7. Dallas-Fort Worth
- Projected change in home value: 5.58%
- Projected change in rent: 2.82%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 0.87%

8. Phoenix
- Projected change in home value: 3.21%
- Projected change in rent: 3.87%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.34%

9. Tampa, Fla.
- Projected change in home value: 2.92%
- Projected change in rent: 2.27%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.22%

10. Miami
- Projected change in home value: 1.39%
- Projected change in rent: 2.38%
- Average CPI change 2014-2017: 1.76%

*Projected change in home value and rent price based on year-over-year change for all years 2014 to 2017.

Source: GoBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Purple Passion: Ultra Violet Named 2018 Color of the Year

December 20, 2017 2:09 am

Purple lovers rejoice! Pantone has picked 18-3838 Ultra Violet as its 2018 color of the year.

According to an article by Joanne Friedrick at Home Furnishings News (HFN), the blue-based purple is described as “provocative, thoughtful and mystical” as well as “evocative of the night sky and the mysteries of the universe.”

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute in a statement for HFN. “It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to Ultra Violet.”

According to HFN, Pantone points to purple’s correlation to counterculture, unconventionality and artistic genius, evidenced in the likes of music greats Prince, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, who donned shades of deep purple to express their individuality.

And historically, there has been a mystical or spiritual quality attached to moody purples, often associated with mindfulness and meditation practices.

When it comes to home decor, reports HFN, Pantone suggests using Ultra Violet to transform a room with self-expression or, conversely, tone down a room, with its subdued hue. Described as “a color that can take you in so many directions,” Ultra Violet can be elegant or bold.

Try Ultra Violet as an accent color in a main room, such as your living room or dining room, or to cover all four walls in a bedroom or bathroom. It can also add interest and ambience when used on a room’s fifth wall - the ceiling. Or try it on accent furniture pieces for a mystical pop of color in any room.

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Resolutions Every Homeowner Should Consider in 2018

December 20, 2017 2:09 am

The time for New Year's resolutions is at hand. And while some are striving to eat healthier and get more exercise in 2018, there are a few resolutions everyone can make to help keep their home more safe, secure, and more efficient.

The folks at familyhandyman.com have a ton of ideas for homeowner resolutions, but among the most valuable is the suggestion to call for an energy audit. This entails inviting a specialist in to perform a series of tests that tell you the efficiency of your heating and cooling system and the overall efficiency of your home.

On the basis of the test results, auditors will likely recommend low-cost improvements to save energy, and larger upgrades that will pay you back within five to seven years. Audits take two to three hours and cost $250 to $400, but many utility companies or local and state energy offices could offer a substantial rebate.

More than a few real estate blogs urge homeowners to resolve to find a way to make extra payments on your mortgage. While paying even as little as $25 - $100 more per month may seem like it could have little impact, sources say it makes a huge difference on the total you end up paying over the course of the loan. It can also shorten the amount of time you're making payments and can have you owning your house free and clear sooner than you expected.

If you want to save more and waste less in 2018, the Natural Resources Defense Council - an organization that pushes for more intelligent management of natural resources - suggests making a resolution to stop wasting food. In 2017, Americans on average tossed out roughly 40 percent of their food.

That one behavior modification could save you roughly $1,300 per household per year - quite a chunk of change. The council suggests planning out grocery shopping, meals and other elements of consumption to bring your household into the zero-food-waste category in 2018.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Holiday Safety for your Pets

December 20, 2017 2:09 am

Holidays should be enjoyable for the whole family - your four-legged members included. But with potentially dangerous decorations, a flurry of guests and tables teeming with temptations, your furry friends may need a little added care this season. Below are a few holiday tips from Petland to make the holidays more enjoyable for families and their pets, especially those living in geographical locations where cold weather is an added concern:

No rich foods. Refrain from feeding your pet holiday table scraps. Your pet's digestive system is not receptive to rich people foods. Also make sure to keep grapes, raisins and currants (in fruitcakes) out of your pet's reach, as these are toxic to dogs and cats.

Holiday decorations out of reach of paws. When not crated, your pets should be observed often over the holidays, making sure they are not endangering themselves by chewing on Christmas paraphernalia, gifts and ribbons. Also beware of snow globes and bubble lights as the liquids inside can be toxic. Keep potpourri out of reach as well, as the smells can also be enticing to your four-legged friends.

Oh, Christmas Tree. Make sure your tree is secure, in a corner is best, especially if you have felines in your family! Keep the area around the tree clean and free from pine needles. The needles are sharp and can puncture your pet's intestinal tract if ingested. Be careful with glass bulbs, lights, tinsel and wires – these can also be harmful. Also, try to avoid popcorn or cranberry strands on the tree as they may prove tempting for your pet!

Dangerous holiday foliage. Keep pets from coming in contact with holiday plants – mistletoe, holly, and poinsettia. These traditional holiday plants can cause illness. Ingestion of these plants can be toxic to some animals. On contact with these plants, some pets may develop an irritating rash.

Rap on the car hood. A warm automobile is a hotel for outdoor cats during the winter months. Every year thousands of cats who take comfort in sleeping under the hood are injured or killed when a driver returns to his car and starts the engine. A rap on the car hood before starting the engine will awaken a sleeping cat, giving it time to escape before you rev up and go.

Keep antifreeze out of reach. This is the time of year when antifreeze is used, so be sure to store it safely out of reach. Antifreeze can smell good to pets, but it is highly toxic.

Give water not ice. Pets who live outdoors during the winter must have fresh water to drink at all times. Water, however, can freeze in a matter of hours when temperatures go below freezing. Pet owners who can not replenish their pet's dish with fresh water several times a day may need to use an electrically heated water dish.

Provide proper shelter. Having a permanent fur coat does not make your pets safe from winter's harsh blows. Cats and dogs that live outdoors must have a shelter equipped with clean, dry bedding. The shelter should be just big enough for the pet to get in and turn around. Having a larger cat or dog house is not beneficial, as the animal cannot use its natural body heat to warm the shelter area. Even pet birds housed inside need to have their cages located in places free of feather-chilling drafts.

Dry those paws. The snow and salt that accumulates in your pet's paws from daily winter romps can result in irritation, cracking and pain. Paws need to be checked daily and routinely cleaned and dried. A balm can be helpful in keeping your pet's paws soft. Your pet's coat should be dried off, too, as dampness and chilling can lead to illness.

Quell anxiety. If your pet gets anxious around extra people in the house, consider a stress-relieving oil warmer or drops to help calm your pooch. A Thundershirt or compression jacket may also be beneficial. Make sure your pet always has a quiet place to rest during noisy holiday activities.

Source: Petland

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Should I Dip Into Equity and Renovate?

December 19, 2017 2:06 am

Many homeowners will be taking advantage of winter savings on supplies and the off-season availability of contractors to use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to finance home renovations.

According to recent research from TD Bank, more than three quarters (80 percent) of responding homeowners with existing HELOCs who said they were planning home renovations for winter also said they would consider dipping into their home equity for funding.

With an average HELOC size of more than $84,000, half (51 percent) of those surveyed stated they plan to spend at least $50,000 on renovations as winter approaches.

Using a HELOC to make renovations during the winter is smart and cost effective, says Mike Kinane, head of Consumer Lending for TD Bank, as homeowners can often take advantage of reduced materials prices during annual sales and choose from a larger pool of contractors who usually have more accessibility during the off-season.

The most popular uses for HELOC funds, according to survey respondents were: home renovations (32 percent); emergency funds (14 percent); and education expenses (12 percent).

Realtor.com offers these six tips when considering a HELOC:

Shop around. Comparison shop to get the best rate.

Ask about the margin. If you’re offered a rate that’s lower than the competition, it’s probably just an introductory rate, so ask about the lender’s margin. For example, if the introductory rate is 3.5 percent and your lender’s margin is 2 percent, your final interest rate will be 5.5 percent.

Consider a conversion clause. Some HELOCs allow you to convert a variable interest rate to a fixed rate, usually during the draw period (5-10 years).

Watch out for balloon payments. Balloon payments mean that you must pay the balance in full when the draw period is up. Do not choose this option unless you have the financial means to handle it.

Create a family plan. Decide what the money will be used for and who will handle the funds. Keep in mind, you can lose your home if the HELOC is not handled properly.Create a payback plan. Come up with a reasonable plan for how the loan will be paid back.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homecook Help: 5 Ways to Add Spice Without Making Meals Spicy

December 19, 2017 2:06 am

Are you looking to add spice to your home cooking, but not heat? Here are five interesting flavors to try, while sparing your mouth from fire.

Cumin. With a mild, earthy flavor, cumin goes great in curries without adding any heat, and has been known to aid digestion and improve your immune system.

Coriander. Did you know coriander seeds come from the cilantro plant? This spice has a nutty, mild flavor and is great for creating rubs, adding to homemade pickles or putting in a curry.

Smoked paprika. While paprika is derived from the pepper plant, it doesn't pack the heat that its cousin cayenne does, and this smokey version can add depth to chilis and stews without firing up your mouth.

Turmeric. This bright root has a bold flavor, but no spicy zing, and is wonderful for treating inflammation - you can add it to smoothies, soups, stirfrys and more.

Sumac. Popular in middle-eastern cuisine, this spice has a bold lemony flavor. Use it to flavor rice, sprinkle on top of cooked vegetables or add to salad dressings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowner Heating Safety 101

December 19, 2017 2:06 am

Nothing is cozier than coming home to a warm home in the winter. But have you given any thought to heating safety? Michigan-based Consumers Energy offers the following reminders for keeping your home heating methods safe and secure.

- Safely removing snow and ice around meters, intake valves and chimneys can also help prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Often called the "silent killer," carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless toxic gas that can be produced when appliances are not operating or venting properly.

- Keep chimneys and vent pipes free of obstructions like leaves and nests.

- Installing a UL-listed audible carbon monoxide alarm is the only way to be warned if this dangerous gas is produced. Most carbon monoxide problems occur in the winter when doors and windows are closed and furnaces are operating.

- Never use a generator inside of your home, basement, garage or near a window.

- Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

- Do not store paper and other flammable materials near your furnace or appliances.

- When using space heaters, keep the heater away from curtains, drapes, bedspreads and other flammable materials. Always unplug the heater before you leave the home or go to bed.

Source: www.ConsumersEnergy.com.

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Don’t Let Holiday FOMO Drive You Into Debt

December 15, 2017 1:57 am

Most of us start out holiday shopping with the best of intentions. We make a list, set a budget, scope out sales and get off to a successful start.

As we get closer to the big day, however, we start making rash purchases, often driven by our kids’ FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - over not getting some of the gifts they want. This is when we hit the credit cards and the debt starts to climb.

According to Jeff Dixson (www.nwfts.net), a financial educator and author of “Winning The Retirement Game,” chronic overspending of money we don’t really have can torpedo a family budget, not to mention a retirement plan. He offers these four tips to help keep holiday shopping in line so we can stave off debt:

1. Look at the big picture. Credit card use means putting off paying for something you didn’t have the money for in the first place. So forecast what that mounting credit card bill will add to your regular monthly expenses, and let that act as a deterrent.

2. Use one card. If you must use a credit card, Dixson says, put the rest of your cards aside and use the one with the lowest interest rate. This also makes it easier to track your spending.

3. Make a real budget. While it may be too late to salvage this year’s holiday budget, put the following into effect for next year: Figure out what you can afford to spend (for example, $600 = $50 per month) and set this aside each month in order to have that money available when holiday shopping season rolls around. The trick is sticking to that amount while you’re out shopping.

4. Make it a teaching moment. The holidays are a great time to teach your kids about money, a lesson that could last a lifetime. Most families have budgets, and part of being responsible means not over-spending. “The greater good of the family is served rather than immediate gratification,” Dixson says. “They’ll learn something meaningful about money, appreciation and responsibility that will stay with them when they have families of their own.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Protect Your Home This Winter

December 15, 2017 1:57 am

Brrr! It's cold in here. When winter weather starts frosting, you're not the only one reaching for a sweater. Your home, too, needs to be protected from the chill.

Joe Todaro, director of operations of Gold Medal Service, offers these tips for homeowners so they can prepare their home for a cold winter:

Protect your outdoor unit – Your outdoor air conditioning unit needs a little help staying healthy throughout the winter. You may want to consider a cover for your unit not unlike the cover you use for a grill or a car. Covers can keep snow, ice and heavy rain from potentially damaging the unit. There are covers available on the market, or you can use a spare tarp you may have laying around in the garage. Be sure to clean any debris away from the unit before sealing it up.

Patch leaks around doors and windows – Check windows and exterior doors for any gaps or openings that would let cold air in or warm air to escape. Leakage like that may not only cause you to have cold spots in your home, but make your heating system run longer than necessary – costing you money on your energy bills. For a DIY approach, especially with older homes, there are several types of gap sealers, as well as insulation kits that can be used to shrink wrap windows and reduce heat loss. Naturally, having your heater tuned up by a professional for peak performance is a proven way of saving on energy bills as well. A well-sealed home is a warmer, more comfortable home when the temperatures get at or below freezing – and your family will appreciate the difference.

Reduce heat loss through the fireplace – If the home has a fireplace, it's a good idea to keep the damper closed when it is not in use to prevent heat loss. Close any doors leading into the room when a fire is burning.  If you have a gas fireplace, be sure that it burns cleanly, evenly, and safely.

Use sunlight to your advantage – You can naturally heat your home by opening curtains and window coverings on south-facing windows during the day. Closing curtains at night will protect your home from losing heat through those same window openings.

Prep the plumbing – As winter approaches, you'll want to make sure you don't have any water freeze-ups – those can potentially become a big headache. To eliminate that risk, drain any water from outdoor faucets, and arrange to have any in-ground sprinkler systems blown out. Drain and roll up garden hoses and store them inside, in a garage, shed, or basement, to shield them from the severest temperatures. If any pipes in the home have been prone to freezing in past winters, consider using heat tape to keep them warmer during extremely cold weather. If you do experience a burst pipe, make sure everyone in the family knows how to turn off the water at the source.

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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