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

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Here’s How You Can Afford Your Rent

September 20, 2017 6:44 am

If you’re like many Americans - in particular, millennials who are just starting out on their own - chances are high that your housing costs exceed what you can actually afford. According to federal guidelines, if you’re paying more than 30 percent of your pre-tax dollars on rent, you fall into the ranks of the cost-burdened. Here are some tips from RentHop to make rent more affordable and restore some balance to your wallet...and life.

Try a different neighborhood. This may sound obvious, but moving to a new, more affordable location is often overlooked as an option. While you may be dead set on living in a certain neighborhood, do the math. If living elsewhere means saving hundreds of dollars a month, it might well be worth it. Find out what more affordable neighborhoods are still within reasonable commuting distances to your job or if flex work schedules may be an option.

Try a different apartment. In other words, downgrade. While you may love the high-end amenities and the extra closet space, are they really within your budget? Consider scaling down a bedroom or forgoing an on-site workout facility. Figure out what you can live without and you’ll be rewarded by a much-needed cushion in your bank account.

Get a roommate. If you don’t want to give up the extra space, the great location or the amenities, it may be time to find a roommate. The savings are obvious - reduce your costs by half or two thirds depending on how many roommates you take on. Just be sure to figure out in advance how you’ll handle non-fixed expenses like groceries.

Looks into rental assistance programs. If you’re really having trouble making ends meet and having a roof over your head is in jeopardy, look into rental assistance programs that may be available in your state. These programs have a mission to help low-income tenants and families keep their current housing through providing financial support. Such rental assistance programs can be given through the government, charity programs, local resources, non-profits, etc. Do your research on short- and long-term assistance programs where you’re living. If you qualify as a low – to moderate-income family, you could be eligible.

Talk to your landlord. Before you make any big changes, talk to your landlord. He or she may be willing to accept a late payment or two, or partial payments until you can get back on your feet or find a roommate. This is particularly true if you’re renting from a local individual as opposed to a large property management firm.

Renegotiate your lease. If your lease is up for renewal soon, use this opportunity to renegotiate with your landlord to at least maintain the same price you had been paying. If you’re in a spot where you know there isn’t a lot of interest, it will work in your favor.

Sublet. If you have an opportunity to move to a more affordable place before your lease is up, see if subletting your apartment is an option. Before you do, however, make sure it’s not forbidden in your lease agreement and that there are no other laws against subletting. Discuss it with your landlord to be safe.

So if you’re feeling squeezed by your monthly rent, don’t despair. Sit down with a calculator and consider the options above. There is always a solution.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Save Your Car From Prowlers

September 20, 2017 6:44 am

The thought of having your car broken into is chilling - yet many of us park our cars in unattended lots and on sketchy streets at regular intervals, often in our own neighborhoods.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds only about 1 in 5 respondents (19 percent) say they're extremely or very concerned about car prowls in their neighborhood. Instead, about half (48 percent) admit they're not very or not at all concerned about the threat of a car break-in. Among those surveyed, a majority of drivers say they regularly take basic precautions to prevent break-ins by locking doors and removing valuables. Just under half (45 percent) say they use an electronic alarm system to protect their car and belongings, as well.  

Beyond those simple steps, PEMCO recommends following these tips to keep valuable possessions safe from car prowlers:
- Never leave your car running unattended, even if you're just going away for a few seconds. If you do need to leave the vehicle, turn the car off, remove the keys and lock the doors so thieves don't have an easy target.

- If you park on the street, find a well-lighted area. Good lighting is even more critical if you're parking overnight, as thieves intent on ransacking cars often strike between 3 and 5 a.m.

- Don't leave anything in view, no matter what you think it may be worth. Even a few coats left innocently piled on the seat might look like they're hiding something worth stealing.

- If you have to leave items in the car, stash them in the trunk, and do it before you park so a prowler doesn't see you. If you don't have a trunk, put belongings out of sight on the floor or under the seat.
Source: www.pemco.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renovating Your Bathroom? Think Safety First

September 20, 2017 6:44 am

A renovation can be a fun period where your wildest home-design ideas can be put into action. However, when planning out a brand new bathroom, it's important to keep safety in mind, especially if you have seniors or children living in your spaces. Moen notes that children younger than five account for more than half of all slips and falls in the bathroom.

Here are six tips from Moen to help make your bath safe and stylish:

Install grab bars. These bars can make or break a fall in the bathroom. The best places to install them are: 1) near the toilet, 2) along the showerhead wall and 3) on the back wall of the tub/shower.

Choose a dark grab bar. Darker finishes against a lighter wall allows those with impaired vision to easily find grab bars.

Love levers. Faucets with lever handles make turning the fixture on and off easier for everyone.

Go handheld. A handheld shower brings the water to you, which helps keep you safer and makes it easier to bathe children.

Shelf life. Keeping items (like shampoo) within reach on a shelf in your shower helps you avoid slips and falls.

Take a seat. Studies show that women are 72 percent more likely to be injured in the bath or shower than men. Add peace of mind with a shower seat to prevent slips during activities such as shaving legs.

Light it right. Consider three or four globe lights for a well-illuminated, safe bath.

Source: Moen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Safety Warnings for Fidget Spinners

September 18, 2017 1:02 am

Any household where kids live or even visit today probably has a couple (or dozens) of fidget spinners lying around. However, I was recently contacted by the Consumer Product Safety Council about these clever new toys that are all the rage among our children.

On August 10 CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle announced her agency was investigating some reported incidents that prompted a warning to parents and caregivers to keep fidget spinners and similarly branded toys from small children because the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Buerkle said there have also been reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.

She said it is key to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner or has correct connections for the device - charging cables are NOT interchangeable, Buerkle warns.

Also, if a fidget spinner is marketed and is primarily intended for children "12 years of age and younger," its manufacturer and/or retailer must certify it meets standards, including limits for phthalates, lead content, and lead in paint including the U.S Toy Standard ASTM F963-16 - and be labeled as such. So remember:

- Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.

- Plastic and metal spinners have small pieces (including batteries) that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.

- Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths or play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

And if you have battery-operated fidget spinners:

- Have working smoke alarms in your house to protect you if there is a fire.

- Be present when products with batteries are charging.

- Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping.

- Always use the cable that came with the fidget spinner.

- If the fidget spinner did not come with a cable, use one with the correct connections for charging.

- Unplug your fidget spinner immediately once it is fully charged.

Buerkle urges consumers to visit the CPSC Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center for additional safety tips, and urges consumers to report fidget spinner safety incidents to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pro Gutter Cleaning Tips

September 18, 2017 1:02 am

Have you been putting off cleaning those gutters? Clearing out your gutters at least once a year is essential for avoiding overflow and backups. However, there are a variety of gutter cleaning tips that can bring sanity into this tedious task. Some of the basics are listed below, by gutter pro Robert Lenney, owner of Gutterglove, Inc.

Ladder Safety: Always let someone know you will be using a ladder to work on your roof or gutters. Use a safe and sturdy ladder, preferably with a small shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris. Make sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard. I recommend a four-legged step ladder for a single story home, and an extension ladder for a two-story home.

Garden Hose: Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle. This type of spray nozzle allows you to adjust the water pressure with the use of just one hand.

Gutter Scoop: Scooping out the leafy debris seems to be the best overall method for cleaning out the gutter. An excellent tool for this job is the bright orange plastic "Gutter Getter" scoop, which can be purchased at most hardware stores.

Wear Gloves: Gloves can help protect hands against dirty, rotting leaf debris that often contains bird, pigeon and squirrel droppings that are ridden with bacteria. Gloves can also prevent painful cuts from the torn metal shards of an old, ragged gutter.

Protective Eye Wear:  Eye protection is a must because one never knows what might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters. People have experienced rats, birds, frogs, wasps and bees leaving at high speeds once they start removing a clog, and the last thing they want to have happen is an eye injury.

Rake Off Roof: Rake all debris off the roof first. Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again.

Rubber Shoes: If walking on the roof is necessary to perform gutter cleaning, it is good to use rubber soled shoes. Rubber soles tend to adhere best and prevent slipping and falls.

Downspouts Unclogged: Make sure the downspouts (leader pipe) are clear. After all the gutters are cleaned out, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure. If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present.

Power Line Hazard: When cleaning gutters around a power line cable that drops from the power pole to the roof of a home, conduct a visual inspection of the electrical cable where it connects to the roof. This is to ensure that the protective wire insulation hasn't rubbed off through years of wear-and-tear by weather and nearby trees. If the cable appears to have damage, do not attempt to repair it. Call a licensed professional electrical contractor to fix it.

Gutter Guards: Using a quality gutter guard can eliminate the need for cleaning out gutters. Consider carefully the manufacturer's claims before purchasing a gutter protection system that keeps out leaves and pine needles, because many promises are made that can't be delivered. Lenney is the President and CEO of Gutterglove which is a manufacturer of top rated DIY and pro-install stainless steel micromesh gutter guards throughout North America.

Source: Gutterglove, Inc.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Ways to Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

September 15, 2017 1:17 am

(Family Features)--When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, some recommendations are fairly simple, such as exercising regularly and eating right. Many people, however, don't know how much exercise they should get or which foods are the best choices. They also may not realize there are other ways to take care of your body and mind to promote better overall health.

Start on the path to healthier living with these tips from the wellness experts at Walgreens.

Exercise regularly
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week, and that's because an active lifestyle can help you achieve far more than muscle mass or weight loss. Regular exercise can also contribute to mental well-being, and even something as simple as a walking break or two at work can provide health benefits.

Eat well
The keys to a healthy diet are eating the right amount of calories for your activity level and eating a wide range of foods to ensure that you're receiving all the nutrients your body needs. 

Get enough sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being, and can help improve your mental health, physical health and quality of life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults and 9-11 hours for school-aged children. If you find sleep elusive, try implementing a bedtime routine to send signals to your body that it's time to sleep, avoid screen time immediately before lights out and eliminate caffeine after lunch.

Manage stress
Between juggling a career, family and other commitments, it's easy to find things to stress over. Practices such as meditation and yoga can help to better manage stress. Setting aside time for a favorite hobby can also help relieve stress and focus on an activity you enjoy. Aside from mental and emotional impacts, stress can also impact your physical health, so it's important to identify coping mechanisms that reduce overall stress.

Be social
Making time to socialize with friends and family is an important part of living a long and healthy life. Even if your schedule is packed, try to block out time at least once a week to spend with family and friends.
Break bad habits

Whatever their nature, work to break bad habits by first acknowledging the problem then working to replace the negativity with alternatives that make a more positive impact on your life.  Even a negative attitude can bring you down.

Source: walgreens.com/nice.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for Deck Design

September 15, 2017 1:17 am

(Family Features)--Timing can be everything, especially when it comes to planning an outdoor living space. By getting a jump-start on planning, you can afford yourself time to complete the process with maximum creativity and minimal stress.

Try these expert tips and tricks of the trade to help make your dream deck a reality.

Lay a Solid Foundation
Don't skimp on the substructure. Often overlooked, the substructure can have tremendous impact on performance and appearance. For maximum strength and stability, opt for steel framing over wood in order to achieve a consistently flat decking surface. Wooden substructures can split, warp and shift over time, leading to an uneven surface in the deck boards. Dimensionally stable steel offers durability benefits over wood, plus greater design flexibility, sustainability, safety and fire resistance.

Get the Right Tools
In addition to magazines, TV shows and social platforms offer outdoor living ideas and inspiration. There are also a number of online tools designed to help guide you through the planning process, such as the Trex Deck Starter, which can help anyone at the outset of their deck building adventures. It provides a user-friendly way to experiment with various deck configurations and design combinations. In three simple steps, the tool can help you choose the right materials for your project and design a customized outdoor living space before ever raising a hammer.

Choose the Right Materials
When selecting materials, invest in decking that can hold up against the harshest weather and messiest cookouts. High-performance, low-maintenance composite decking offers superior durability and long-lasting looks. It can also outperform both wood and PVC alternatives over time. With a wood deck, the cost of regular sanding, staining and painting compound considerably over time. Over the life of a composite deck, the reduced maintenance costs of simple soap and water cleanings can add up to a greater return on investment - not to mention the value of all the time spent enjoying your deck rather than maintaining it.

Add Safety and Style with Railings
Railings can be one of the most visible parts of any deck so it should be considered at the same time as the deck boards. A good rule of thumb is to use the "three C's," which are: coordinate, contrast, customize. For example, crisp white posts and black aluminum balusters coordinate beautifully with gray deck boards, delivering an elegant look and feel. For a beachy vibe, opt for a contrasting look with all-white railings. Or go completely custom with sleek, black aluminum railings to create a space that's both modern and inviting.

Incorporate Personal Touches with Accessories
Have fun exploring the many design elements that are available for customizing your deck. Things like built-in seating, planters and storage, as well as add-ons such as a pergola or outdoor furniture, which can add comfort, character and convenience to your outdoor living space. Further personalize your space with a variety of deck and landscape lighting fixtures. Set up path lights to brighten walkways and use spotlights to showcase trees and architectural features.

Source: Trex.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-to Prep Your Home for Earthquakes

September 15, 2017 1:17 am

Earthquakes are rarely predictable. However, if you live in a state like California or Hawaii where quaking and shaking is common, there are several things you can do to your house to prepare for such emergencies. Consider the following tips from Brian Vardiman, owner of Best Service.

Secure the water heater – Unsecured water heaters often fall over, rupturing water and gas lines causing fires and flooding. Secure your water heater with two straps that wrap around the top and bottom of the water tank. Ensure the straps are made of heavy-metal gauge strapping. Many water heaters are currently secured with plumbers' tape; the thin metal in this strap is too brittle to be effective. If the homeowner is not sure if the water heater is secured with the proper straps and technique, call a professional to inspect it before the protection is needed.

Add flexible piping – The rigid pipes used to transfer natural gas, air and water into the home are susceptible to damage during an earthquake. Flexible piping is made from materials that will absorb the vibrations created during an earthquake before they can crack or break.

Install vibration isolators – The majority of the damage an HVAC unit sustains during an earthquake comes as a result of the shifting that occurs with seismic activity. Providing a buffer that can absorb the vibrations before they cause the unit to shift is a great way to prevent damage during an earthquake. An expert can retrofit a home's HVAC system with vibration isolators. These spring-type devices can be installed on the bottom of the unit to absorb movement before it affects the HVAC system's positioning.

Source: Best Service, www.callbest.net  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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15 Tips for Staying Safe When Returning Home After Irma

September 15, 2017 1:17 am

If you live in an area impacted by hurricane Irma, you or someone you know may be displaced from their home. Here are a few important Red Cross safety steps to follow when returning home after the flood:

- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater. If you have children, leave them with a relative or friend while you conduct your first inspection of your home after the disaster. The site may be unsafe for children, and seeing the damage firsthand may upset them even more and cause long-term effects, including nightmares.

- If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water. Report them immediately to the power company.

- Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, missing support beams or other damage.

- Damage on the outside can indicate a serious problem inside. Ask a building inspector or contractor to check the structure before you enter.

- Do not cut or walk past colored tape that was placed over doors or windows to mark damaged areas unless you have been told that it is safe to do so. If a building inspector has placed a color-coded sign on the home, do not enter it until you get more information, advice and instructions from your local authorities.

- Take pictures of home damage, both of the buildings and its contents, for insurance purposes. Make temporary repairs such as covering holes, bracing walls, and removing debris. Save all receipts.

- If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame, including candles, to inspect for damage or serve as alternate lighting.

- Sniff for gas. If you detect natural or propane gas, or hear a hissing noise, leave the property immediately and get far away from it. Call the fire department after you reach safety.

- If you have a propane tank system, turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system out before you use it again.
- Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots, and be cautious when cleaning up.
- Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected. This includes mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys.

- Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud. When in doubt, throw it out. This includes canned goods, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and containers with food or liquid that has been sealed shut.

- If any gas or electrical appliances were flooded, don't use them until they have been checked for safety.

- Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped out completely in a short period of time, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.

- Is your ceiling sagging? That means it got wet – which makes it heavy and dangerous. It will have to be replaced, so you can try to knock it down. Be careful: wear eye protection and a hard hat, use a long stick, and stand away from the damaged area. Poke holes in the ceiling starting from the outside of the bulge to let any water drain out slowly. Striking the center of the damaged area may cause the whole ceiling to collapse.

- Is the floor sagging? It could collapse under your weight, so don't walk there! Small sections that are sagging can be bridged by thick plywood panels or thick, strong boards that extend at least 8–12 inches on each side of the sagging area.

Source: redcross.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Prioritizing Your Fall Maintenance Projects

September 13, 2017 2:08 am

No matter what part of the country your home is in, the coming of fall signals an opportunity to do whatever necessary or voluntary projects need to be done ahead of winter weather, the coming holiday season, and the New Year.

At soundbuilthomes.com, Elizabeth Kraus wonders if you have been putting off re-staining or sealing your deck? Her advice: take advantage of the remaining warm, dry weather to clean and seal or stain your deck before wet weather arrives to do damage.

The same, Kraus says, goes for your home’s window and door trim, gutters and other areas which may have had surfaces exposed, paint or stain eroded, and see to any loose exterior trim pieces, window or door seals, gutters, shingles, siding or roofing.

Kraus says late summer and early fall present the perfect time to have ducts and chimney flues cleaned and vacuumed, before you shut yourself and your family behind closed doors and windows with all of the dust which may have accumulated during the past year. And don't forget to dust off the blades of those ceiling fans, too!

The Virginia Farm Bureau (Vafb.com) says simply walking around the outside of your house is the best way to detect any areas in need of attention.

Got any obvious openings under your porches, or into your crawlspace, or basement? The bureau suggests sealing any places where wild animals might take winter refuge.

The bureau also says this time of year is an ideal opportunity to address this punch list:

- Trim back tree branches and brush that might damage your house during a storm, and remove dead trees near your house that pose a risk to your house during high wind storms

- Check that all outdoor stairs are in good shape and have sturdy railings

- Check your plumbing, testing pressure valves on hot water heaters and move any flammable materials away from furnace, hot water heater, and other heat sources

- Check water hoses on washer, ice maker, and dishwasher for leaks

- Clean lint from the clothes dryer exhaust duct and surrounding area to prevent fires

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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