Ann M. Ciesielka
1110 North Broad Street
Phone: 215-362-2260 x1720
Lansdale, PA 19446
Cell: 215-280-2649
Fax: 267-354-6811
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
RE/MAX 440

Ann M. Ciesielka
Ann M. Ciesielka


My Blog

Home, Hearth and More: 5 Trends to Watch

April 18, 2016 1:49 am

We’ve found that one of the best ways to tap into the most current trends for the home is to check into trade shows, where massive numbers of industry professionals show off the latest and greatest.

Earlier this year, more than 7,500 manufacturers and retailers flocked to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s (HPBA) HPBExpo 2016 to showcase innovations in home heating and indoor-outdoor living.

The expo’s top trends included:

Improved Biomass-Burning Products – New mandates for wood-burning and pellet products will affect how manufacturers design products to meet more stringent emission standards. HPBA anticipates this trend toward reduced emissions and increased efficiency to accelerate through this year and beyond.

Integrated Smart Technology – As the world embraces smartphone apps, more hearth and barbecue products are becoming smart-enabled. From fireplace temperature controls to grills and propane tank monitoring systems, app-friendly products will abound this year, giving homeowners control at the push of a button.

Linear Fireplaces – Linear fireplaces continue to interest homeowners with their sleek, modern design. Available in sizes up to 12-feet wide, with high heat-tolerant glass and no-trim options, as well as electric models with multicolored, realistic flames, linear fireplaces are being sought by homeowners seeking a sophisticated, contemporary style.

Specialized Accessories – Specialized accessories are set to surge this year, as homeowners look for new ways to barbecue. According to recent HPBA research, pizza stones, fish/broiling baskets, cedar planks, rotisseries and grill woks are among the top accessories.

Upgraded Outdoor Kitchens – Today, 10 percent of grill owners have an outdoor kitchen, featuring primarily premium grills, furniture, lighting and outdoor fireplaces and/or fire pits. Of these outdoor kitchen owners, 35 percent are likely to upgrade in the next three years. Amenities such as storage spaces, refrigerators, dishwashers, built-in sinks, bottle rails, cocktail bars, seating options and food preparation areas, as well as entertainment features like televisions and surround sound, are among the products HPBA expects to gain prominence.

In future segments, we'll explore each of these trends, including taking a look at all the latest products, services and inspirations coming out of HPBExpo 2016. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home on the Market? Craftsman-Style Features Are High Selling Points

April 18, 2016 1:49 am

Why do some seemingly similar homes sell at different price points? Keywords in the home’s listing description, for one.

According to a Zillow Digs® analysis, homes with listing descriptions that include the words “barn door,” “shaker cabinets,” or “subway tiles” sold faster (and for significantly more!) than anticipated.

Of the 60 keywordsubway tile s assessed, descriptions that included “barn doors” saw the highest sale premium: 13 percent above what was expected. Other common craftsman-style keywords, like “farmhouse sink,” were also found in top-performing listing descriptions.

“When it comes to real estate listing descriptions, words matter,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Your listing description is an opportunity to highlight specific details and finishes that might not be visible in photos. Craftsman-style homes and amenities resonate incredibly well with today's buyers, so if you've got them, flaunt them!”

Understanding what’s popular among buyers can also help those considering a remodel. Drawing an example from the analysis, descriptions mentioning “hardwood floors” sold for 2 percent more than expected; descriptions touting “new carpets” had no effect on the sale price. While everyone’s preferences differ, a home with hardwood floors may be more likely to attract buyers in the future.

The full Zillow Digs analysis:

1. “Barn Doors” – Sold for 13.4 percent higher and 57 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Phoenix, Ariz.

2. “Shaker Cabinets” – Sold for 9.6 percent higher and 45 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Los Angeles, Calif.

3. “Farmhouse Sink” – Sold for 7.9 percent higher and 58 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Los Angeles, Calif.

4. “Subway Tile” – Sold for 6.9 percent higher and 63 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Philadelphia, Pa.

5. “Quartz” – Sold for 6.0 percent higher and 50 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Los Angeles, Calif.

6. “Craftsman” – Sold for 5.4 percent higher and 14 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Seattle, Wash.

7. “Exposed Brick” – Sold for 4.9 percent higher and 36 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in New York, N.Y.

8. “Pendant Light” – Sold for 4.6 percent higher and 48 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Phoenix, Ariz.

9. “Frameless Shower” – Sold for 4.6 percent higher and 38 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Dallas, Texas

10. “Heated Floors” – Sold for 4.3 percent higher and 28 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Seattle, Wash.

11. “Stainless Steel” – Sold for 4.2 percent higher and 42 day sooner than expected; most commonly found in Chicago, Ill.

12. “Granite” - Sold for 4.1 percent higher and 38 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Dallas, Texas

13. “Backsplash” - Sold for 4.1 percent higher and 46 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Philadelphia, Pa.

14. “Tankless Water Heater” - Sold for 4.0 percent higher and 43 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Los Angeles, Calif.

15. “Outdoor Kitchen” – Sold for 3.7 percent higher and 19 days sooner than expected; most commonly found in Tampa, Fla.

Source: Zillow Digs®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Internet and You: The Perils of Unwanted Software

April 15, 2016 1:34 am

Unwanted software—downloaded unknowingly—affects tens of millions of computers at any given moment. Some users can have as much as four unwanted software installs with one action!

“When you download free software, it might come with an unexpected addition: hidden programs that can cause problems on your computer, ranging from the merely annoying to truly dangerous,” says John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications, and fraud for the National Consumers League (NCL) (

Unwanted software imposes a range of costs on users affected by it: it can slow computers to a crawl, prompt users to spend money on expensive computer support services, and raise the risk of identity fraud, jeopardizing credit and employment opportunities for users.

“While unwanted software can appear to simply be an annoyance that detracts from the experience of using a browser, these dangerous downloads pose a significant security risk to consumers’ personal information,” says Breyault. “Some software will disable security protections and settings in order to take control of a consumer’s computer, leaving that computer vulnerable to hackers and data thieves.”

To avoid the consequences of unwanted software, Breyault and the NCL advise users to:

• Obtain software directly from the source. When you’re looking for a new program, look on the publisher’s website first. Software download repositories may bundle in unwanted software with legitimate downloads.

• Avoid clicking on pop-ups or banner ads that warn you of slow performance on your computer. This is often a ruse to lead you to websites that host unwanted software.

• Make sure everything is up-to-date. To best protect yourself, repeatedly update your browser and operating systems; older systems are more susceptible to being infected by malware. Be sure to check for computer and browser updates in computer settings. Ads claiming that your computer software is out-of-date will likely lead to more unwanted software.

• Routinely scan your computer. Use antivirus software to regularly scan your computer for programs that you don’t recognize.

• Pay attention when installing new software. When downloading programs and extensions, pay attention to the fine print. Be on the look-out for pre-checked boxes that offer to install toolbars or other software in addition to the software you wanted.

• Heed your browser’s warnings. Most major Web browsers now have functionality built-in that will warn you when you are about to enter an unsafe website. Chances are that if your browser is telling you not to visit a certain website or download a particular program, you’re better off steering clear.

For more guidance, visit

Source: NCL

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Kitchen Splurges Worth the Price

April 15, 2016 1:34 am

A kitchen remodel can be expensive, and homeowners are justifiably careful about staying within budget. However, there are certain areas in every kitchen where a splurge may be worth the price in terms of efficiency, looks, and durability.

HGTV suggests six areas where a few lavish touches are worth the extra expense:

1. Commercial-Grade Range Hood - Investing in a commercial-style range hood means never having to deal with cooking odors—and keeping a busy kitchen cooler.

2. High-Quality Hardware – Look for quality cabinet knobs, hinges and pulls in brushed nickel, bronze or stainless steel. They add class to any kitchen and will last longer than those made of plastic or wood. For the ultimate in opulence, spring for hand-blown glass.

3. Soft-Close Doors and Drawers – You can’t slam these quiet drawers or doors, which makes for a more serene kitchen. They are also great for young families because they close slowly, so little hands and fingers won't get caught or pinched in them. 

4. Solid Surface Countertop – Laminate is cheap, but it doesn’t stand up and looks tired long before its time. Splurge on granite or sealed concrete, which will look beautiful and last for many years. (Bonus: It’s a great selling feature!)

5. Stainless Steel Appliances – These are worth the added expense because they are stylish, sophisticated and efficient. The newest models offer greater versatility than more traditional models.

6. Warming Drawer – Look for an oven that comes with a warming drawer, or have one custom-built into your kitchen. They are ideal for entertaining, keeping food at just the right temperature for late guests.

Lastly—and most importantly—invest in a professional. An experienced kitchen designer can help ensure you get the kitchen of your dreams without the guesswork or stress.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Security Tips for Apartment, Condo Residents

April 15, 2016 1:34 am

Apartment and condominium communities have some safety advantages over single-family homes, but they’re susceptible to security breaches like any other residence. Owners and/or renters should keep these safety tips top of mind, recommends Steve Kolobaric, spokesperson for security solution provider Weiser Lock.

1. Be on Alert – Be mindful of others, even when you’re inside the building or unit. Pay special attention when walking in stairwells, meet your neighbors, and know the general layout of the complex.

2. Lock, Lock, Lock – It seems like a common-sense action, but many (with a false sense of security) neglect to lock their doors. The majority of burglars gain entry into a home through an unlocked door. Don’t hide a key outside of your home, either—thieves know where to look!

3. Update Locksets – Did you change your front door lockset when you moved in? Not only could the past owner still have copies of the key, but so could his or her friends or your neighbors. Changing your lockset takes about 20 minutes—a small investment of time for peace of mind.

4. Note Concerns – Notify the property manager about any burned-out lights in the common areas, such as the lobby, parking garage or hallways. If anything seems out of the ordinary, such as open or broken windows or malfunctioning doors or locks, alert the manager immediately.

5. Deny Entry – If the front entrance to your apartment or condo requires a key pass, don’t hold the door for the person behind you. It may feel impolite, but the person may not be a resident or tenant—and if it is a neighbor, they will appreciate your preventative measure.

Source: Weiser Lock

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways to Keep Debt at Bay with Your Tax Refund

April 14, 2016 1:34 am

Many financial institutions observe reduced loan balances and lower credit card late fees in the second quarter of each year, coinciding with tax season and suggesting that many use their tax refunds to pay down debt.

“Paying down debt can undoubtedly be one of the best ways to put a tax refund to good use,” says Nick Bryan, executive vice president of OpenSky, a provider of resources and tools that help consumers build credit. “This not only saves on interest payments, but also can improve credit, since the ratio of debt-to-credit impacts credit scores.

“However, if someone has a no- or low-interest rate, paying off credit card or long-term debt may not be urgent,” Bryan says. “It makes sense to do the numbers—you aren't losing money to let zero interest debt stay where it is for a while.”

Bryan notes there are ways to turn refund money into a safeguard against possible future debt, rather than pay down existing debt. It may make sense to put a refund toward a "life happens" savings account for emergencies, such as car repairs or medical bills. Making necessary home repairs and upgrades is also a wise use of refund dollars—homeownership is an investment, and protecting that investment will pay off when the house sells for top dollar.

Tax refunds may also be used to help build (or rebuild) credit, Bryan adds. Using a portion of the refund as a security deposit to get a secured credit card can have a positive impact on credit history.

Taxpayers have until April 18 this year to file their 2015 returns, as well as pay any tax due.

Source: OpenSky

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Sellers: Remember These Tips for a Safe Showing

April 14, 2016 1:34 am

Selling your home can be exciting, but unfortunately, it can also heighten the risk of crime when showing the home.

A recent blog from® outlined the following points to remember—all of which will be practiced by your real estate agent.

• Schedule an appointment for showings.
• Keep records of every guest's identity.
• Watch for unexpected guests.
• Do not show your house without your real estate agent, or if you are otherwise alone.

Most importantly, the blog advised: trust your instincts. Instinct is generally the best self-protection tool. If a visitor makes you feel uncomfortable, be alert. Warning signs include:

• He or she spends too much time in one room, checking windows, doors or even security devices;

• A couple separates during the showing (Professional burglars usually have one person talking to the agent or seller as a distraction, while the other wanders around, planning an act);

• He or she asks questions in an effort to make you reveal habits or schedules, such as what time everybody goes to work and/or school, what you do on the weekend, etc.

After the showing, be sure to lock your doors and windows—a recent article noted one case in which a rogue visitor unlocked a window at an open house and returned later to burglarize the property. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Energy Efficiency on Your Wish List? Buy New

April 14, 2016 1:34 am

Newly constructed homes marry contemporary innovation with the practical preferences of homebuyers—and those inclinations are greener than ever, reports the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“Today’s new homes include features that will help homeowners reduce energy consumption and enhance the conveniences of modern living,” says Ed Brady, chairman of the NAHB and a builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill. “Our builders are telling us that energy efficiency continues to be a top demand from consumers.”

In fact, a recently conducted NAHB survey revealed four out of the top 10 most coveted features are energy-efficient:

• ENERGY STAR® Appliances
• ENERGY STAR® Windows
• Low-E Windows
• Programmable Thermostats

Some homebuyers even desire an ENERGY STAR® rating for the entire house—though most are willing to pay more for a home simply in exchange for lower utility costs. According to the survey, the average additional cost to buyers is $10,372, and the average savings are $1,000 a year.

Non-green features are resonating with buyers, as well. Survey results show builders anticipate demand for granite countertops, a kitchen island, a great room, a walk-in closet and a laundry room, and will be including these features in their builds this year.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ultra-Processed Foods Worth Tossing

April 13, 2016 2:22 am

A recently released study published in the medical journal BMJ Open reports a whopping 60 percent of calories in the diets of most Americans comes from “ultra-processed” foods. Ultra-processed foods contain additives like hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and emulsifiers that account for 90 percent of the added fat and sugar we consume, increasing health risks.

Put simply, if the ingredients of any food include a lot of long words you can barely pronounce, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Among the worst offenders:

Candy Bars – Most brands you know and love contain high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. There are better options out there, such as 70 percent dark chocolate—a good source of magnesium and antioxidants.

Chips – If you must have them, your best bet is a basic kettle chip with three simple ingredients: potatoes, olive or sunflower oil and salt. Other good-for-you options include organic blue corn chips and popcorn, which are low in calories, high in fiber and packed with antioxidants. 

Diet Soda – Besides the fact that diet soda has zero nutritional value, it contains artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, which have been linked to headaches and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. If you can’t get used to plain water, try sparkling.

Packaged Cakes – Those plastic-wrapped cakes that seem to last forever in your pantry are packed with sugar and way too many preservatives, which is why they last so long. Bake your own cupcakes from any recipe, substituting pureed fruit, like bananas, for half the sugar.

White Bread – You may already know you should avoid white bread in favor of fiber-rich whole grain breads, but even some grain varieties can contain additives, so check the labels and choose one with no artificial additives or preservatives. Pro tip: check the frozen section at your grocery store—breads that are frozen generally contain no preservatives.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Lawn Care 101: Ready the Mower

April 13, 2016 2:22 am

Spring is here! Eager to get out there and mow the lawn? Hold off until you’ve serviced your mower, say the experts at Briggs & Stratton—operating it prematurely can affect its performance over the course of the season.

Your lawn mower tune-up should consist of the following steps.

Change the oil. Changing the oil prevents engine damage and keeps your mower running efficiently. Engine oil needs to be changed annually for two reasons: oil is vulnerable to dirt and debris, which can cause wear on the internal components of the engine; and regular use of the engine causes the oil to break down. After removing old oil, add fresh oil as specified in the operator's manual, and recycle the old oil accordingly.

Replace the air filter. The mower’s air filter collects dust and debris through regular use, and it must be replaced every three months, or after 25 hours of use. To determine which air filter your mower needs, reference the operator's manual.

Replace the spark plug. An old spark plug can be problematic when starting your mower. It’s important to change the spark plug at the start of every mowing season, or after 100 hours of use.

Fill with gasoline, fuel treatment and stabilizer. Gasoline can go stale after as little as 30 days. Stale fuel contributes to gummed-up internal components, which cause hard-starting. What’s more, ethanol-blended fuels (like E10) attract moisture, which leads to rust and corrosion over time. This can affect the carburetor, fuel line and overall performance of the engine. To prevent these issues, remember to treat your fuel when you fill your gas can.

Source: Briggs & Stratton Corporation®

Published with permission from RISMedia.