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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9 Ways to Go Green in Your Garage

May 28, 2015 1:00 am

Though automobiles have become more environmentally-friendly, their traditional home – the garage – remains a warehouse of pollutants, according to the experts at EGOPowerPlus.com. Whether your garage is attached or detached, you can green your garage in as little as nine steps. Here’s how to get started.

1. If your garage lacks finished walls, lose the half-finished look by insulating and finishing them out. Use biodegradable, low or no-VOC caulks and non-shrinking, flexible adhesives to close gaps. Add a well-insulated garage door with R-values between 13 and 17.5 percent.

2. Clean walls and the floor with eco-friendly cleaners, such as those that are vinegar-based, to remove grime.

3. Set the alarm. Be sure your garage has both fire and CO detectors installed. If battery-powered, check regularly to ensure they are working.

4. If your garage is not included in your home HVAC system, explore solar-powered heating and cooling. At the very least, install an exhaust fan to circulate air more efficiently and get rid of dangerous fumes.

5. Replace traditional bulbs with energy-efficient LED lighting or CFLs. Install task lighting to reduce costs and still see what you're doing.

6. Install skylights if possible. Natural light reduces energy and brightens the feel of the garage.

7. Add a rain barrel just outside the garage, direct rain runoff and use the water for lawn and garden, car washing and other common uses (except drinking).

8. Half-full cans of paint or cans of oil are toxic. Check with your city to find approved disposal sites. For paints and chemicals you need to hold on to, store in a secure cabinet if possible (except for gasoline). If nothing else, place plastic wrap over the open top, pound the lid on with a hammer, and then store the can upside down to secure fumes.

9. Battery-assisted car engines are becoming more common, but if your car is gas-powered, you can manage pollutants with regular inspections and repairs. Leaking fluids such as oil, gas, brake fluid and anti-freeze flow into sewers and eventually into public water sources.

Source: EGOPowerPlus.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Solicited on Social Media? It May Be Card Cracking

May 27, 2015 12:54 am

Card cracking is a form of fraud in which consumers respond to an online solicitation for “easy money” and provide a debit card for withdrawal of fake check deposits. Criminals use platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to solicit consumers, often targeting people between the ages of 19- and 25-years-old, as well as college students, newly enlisted military and single parents.

Consumers who respond to these solicitations (now accomplices), provide a debit card, PIN and online credentials to give the criminal direct access to their account. The fraudster deposits worthless checks using mobile deposit and immediately withdraws the funds at an ATM. The consumer then calls to report a stolen debit card or compromised credentials, and the bank reimburses him or her for funds lost and the criminal provides the consumer with a cut of the money withdrawn using worthless checks.

To avoid becoming involved in this type of scam, the experts at the American Bankers Association advise following these tips.

• Do not respond to online solicitations for “easy money.” Card cracking advertisements will suggest that this is a quick, safe way to earn extra cash. Keep in mind that easy money is rarely legal money.

• Never share your account and PIN number. Keep this information private at all times. By sharing it with others, you expose yourself to potential fraud.

• Do not file false fraud claims with your bank. By filing a false claim, you are a co-conspirator to fraud. Banks’ detection techniques for card cracking are constantly improving and suspicious claims will be investigated.

• Report suspicious posts linked with scams. If you notice postings that appear to be linked with a possible scam, report them to the social media site. There is usually a drop down menu near the post to allow for easy reporting.

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Landscaping Can Make or Break a Sale

May 27, 2015 12:54 am

When it comes to selling your home, appearances matter. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), 84 percent of respondents report the quality of a home’s landscaping would affect their decision to buy it. Moreover, 90 percent of respondents prefer to live in a home surrounded by trees, grass and other plant life.

These findings represent a continued love affair with outdoor spaces and manicured communities, despite an increasingly tech-focused, indoor lifestyle. Three-quarters of respondents feel it is important to spend time enjoying their homes’ outdoor spaces.

Seventy-one percent of respondents believe it is important that their neighbors have well-maintained yards, as well.

Source: NALP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Disaster-Proof Your Home

May 27, 2015 12:54 am

The power of natural disasters can be overwhelming, but there are steps you can take to increase your home’s chance of survival. To reduce risk to your home, FEMA suggests these upgrades:

1. Reinforce Your Residence. Consider retrofitting options, or steps to improve your home’s protection from natural disasters, including high wind events. One of the most common types of wind damage to a structure is called “uplift,” which occurs when a roof lifts and collapses back down on the house. Fortunately, you can minimize the chances of this happening by installing straps connecting the structural members of your roof to the wall studs or columns.

Other risk reduction ideas include:

- Using shingles rated for 90+ mph wind, with a minimum of four nails per shingle;
- Ensuring windows and doors are properly shimmed and nailed into the framed opening, tying the window and door frames into the adjacent studs;
- Installing a garage door designed for higher wind speeds.

FEMA recommends consulting with a certified home inspector to determine if these are viable options for your home.

2. Fortify Your Home’s Floors. Homeowners can secure their structure to the foundation by using anchors or metal straps. Your builder should ensure there are properly installed anchor bolt connections between the plate and the foundation at least every four feet to ensure maximum fastening to the foundation.

Consult with your local building code official as well as a certified home inspector to determine the best options for you.

3. Trim and Tighten.
High velocity winds from thunderstorms and tornadoes can turn patio furniture, grills and tree branches into destructive missiles. In addition, if the area immediately surrounding your house contains trees, outbuildings, trash cans, yard debris or other materials that can be moved by the wind, your house will more likely be damaged during a storm.

All storage sheds and other outbuildings should be securely anchored, either to a permanent foundation or with straps and ground anchors. The straps and ground anchors used for manufactured homes can be used as anchoring systems for outbuildings, such as garden sheds, which are not placed on a permanent foundation. Outdoor furniture and barbecue grills can be secured by bolting them to decks or patios or by attaching them to ground anchors with cables or chains. Trees should also be trimmed so they’re at a safe distance away from your home.

4. Elevation is a Smart Renovation.
Flooding is a real risk, and elevating your home and its critical utilities can significantly reduce the risk of water damage. Elevating your home may even reduce your flood insurance premiums. Contact your local floodplain manager to learn the flood risk and elevation requirements for your residence.

5. Assure You’re Fully Insured. Take the time to review your insurance coverage. Are you adequately insured for the risks your community faces? Are you covered for wind, flood and sewer backup? Has your policy been updated to reflect the value of your home? Many homeowners find out too late that their insurance coverage has not increased with the value of their home. Contact your insurance agent to get these questions answered and ensure your home is financially protected.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You "Credit Invisible"?

May 26, 2015 2:54 am

A limited or nonexistent credit history can bar those seeking to own a home or obtain other loans. According to a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report, one in every 10 adults does not have any credit history with a national reporting agency. These 26 million Americans, dubbed “credit invisible” by the CFPB, face greater hurdles gaining access to credit.

What’s more, 19 million Americans have un-scored credit records due to a short credit history or reports with stale information. Black or Hispanic individuals or those living in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to be credit invisibles or un-scored Americans, the report found.

The three nationwide credit bureaus generate credit reports that track credit history, resulting in a three-digit score that can impact overall quality of life – most decisions to grant credit and set interest rates for loans are based on information contained in credit reports.

Credit histories reflect how debt has been repaid, and may contain information about mortgages, bank loans, student loans, car loans and credit card bills. Credit histories may also contain details about terms of credit, how much is owed to creditors, payment histories and court judgments or liens.

Source: CFPB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Tips for a Scam-Free Move

May 26, 2015 2:54 am

Spring is the most popular time of year for home buying, selling and moving. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle of the season can leave buyers and sellers susceptible to scams. If you’re preparing to move, here are 10 ways to avoid unscrupulous practices by scammers from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which handles complaints regarding unethical moving companies.

1. Beware of a low estimate.
A disreputable mover will give you a lowball estimate and add on more charges the day of the move. To keep this from happening, make sure you're as detailed and upfront about every box and piece of furniture. If you have time, ask the moving company to come to your house for an estimate. Do not do it over the phone.

2. Steer clear of cash-only dealings.
That's not a red flag – that's a "Run away!” Remember: You can't stop cash. You can stop a credit card.

3. Look into specialty movers.
Anybody can move a piano or a snowmobile. But if you have museum-quality art, call in the guys with the white gloves.

4. Deal quickly with "untrustworthy" movers.
If your movers show up and you have a bad feeling about them, call your moving company before anything’s on the truck to suss out scammers.

5. Pack smart.
Keep in mind that the contents of boxes you pack on your own are not covered for damage or loss, so make sure you pack them as well as you can. For valuables like jewelry or small electronics, you should move them yourself.

6. Protect your stuff.
If you don't like the way the movers are handling your things, be direct. If they're throwing items around or seem to be otherwise careless, stop the job. No reputable mover wants a problem, so alert your estimator that he or she will have a claim for damages if practices don't improve.

7. Keep an eye on the clock.
But don’t worry too much about it if it seems like they are "wasting time." Many people have an unrealistic expectation of the time it takes to move a household, so it may take less or more time than originally believed.

8. Schedule your move wisely — if you can.
Late May through August is jammed with people looking to move, so it's not an ideal time. The best season is around Christmas.

Source: BBB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeownership Remains High Priority

May 26, 2015 2:54 am

Homeownership remains a major goal for Americans, with almost three-quarters considering a home a good investment, according to a recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) report. A nearly identical percentage anticipates becoming homeowners in the next five years.

The report found about half of Millennials and Gen Xers expect their next home to be larger, while approximately three-quarters of Baby Boomers and War Babies (members of the Silent Generation) expect their next home to be smaller or of equal size to their current home. Single-family detached homes are the preferred future housing choice for all generations, but the report reflects growing expectations for duplexes or townhouses, particularly among Millennials.

The report also indicated preferred community attributes, including:

• Environment (Including air and water quality) – 87 percent
• Access to Fresh, Healthy Food – 73 percent
• Green Space (Including parks) – 50+ percent
• Reduced Car Usage – 52 percent
• Pedestrian-Friendly Neighborhoods (Including sidewalks and crosswalks) – 50 percent
• Public Transportation – 32 percent
• Walkability – 20 percent

However, the report found that Americans face significant community barriers to these preferences. Many minorities and Millennials report living in areas that lack easy access to safe places for outdoor physical activity, active transportation systems such as bike lanes, healthy food options and safe walking conditions.

The disparity between what these groups want and what is available has presumably contributed to somewhat greater discontent with their quality of life than is expressed by Americans as a whole, the report concludes.

Source: ULI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Sunglass Safety Tips

May 25, 2015 12:54 am

Is your favorite pair of sunglasses providing optimal protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays? Overexposure to these rays can cause eye and vision problems, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). Before spending time outdoors this summer, be sure your sunglasses are adequately protecting your eyes with these tips.

• Sunglasses should block out 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. While some contact lenses also offer UV protection, these should be worn with sunglasses to maximize protection.

• Your sunglasses should screen out 75-90 percent of visible light.

• The frame of your sunglasses needs to fit close to your eyes and contour to the shape of your face. This prevents exposure to UV rays from all sides, even from behind.

• Pick lenses that are perfectly matched in color and are free of distortion and imperfection.

• Lenses should also have a uniform tint, not darker in one area from another. A gray tint, w is particularly helpful when driving as it offers the best color recognition.

• To really be sure your sunglasses will properly protect your eyes from UV radiation, your best resource is your optometrist, who will also help ensure your eyes are healthy through yearly, comprehensive eye exams.

Source: AOA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Easy DIY Projects to Add ROI to Your Pad

May 25, 2015 12:54 am

I am regularly talking about organizing and de-cluttering, so it was with great delight being clued in to the financial benefits awaiting potential home sellers for taking the time to organize and de-clutter.

According to a Consumer Reports survey—that basic cleaning and de-cluttering, simple kitchen and bathroom upgrades, painting the right spaces, and sprucing up your curb appeal are all low-cost investments that can land you hundreds of dollars in return.

That survey puts increased sales potential as high as 3 to 5 percent—so over the next few months, we'll spend some time drilling into this huge ROI / DIY news, and how to make the most of small projects that can pay big when you go to sell your property.

Michelle Slatalla at Gardenista.com has a bunch of great ideas for curb appeal projects, including pruning trees so their silhouettes frame the house instead of blocking it. Slatalla says the best time to prune most trees is when they're dormant; it's easier to see the structure and shape of a tree when it doesn't have leaves.

When pruning, Slatalla says remove diseased or damaged branches first. Then prune for shape: remove low-hanging branches that obstruct views or hang over walkways or block access to driveways. Finally, thin the crown to allow light and air circulation.

How about replacing house numbers? If there an ugly font above your door, chances are it's more noticeable — and annoying — when you're not distracted by other colors and textures in the garden, Slatalla suggests.

We'll check out a few more of Slatalla's ideas in a future segment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Properly Store the American Flag

May 25, 2015 12:54 am

Aging flags often become heirlooms and keepsakes that need to be stored carefully, says Richard R. Gideon, a flag historian. “There is a pretty large body of flag collectors out there,” he says.

The fabric used to make flags often becomes fragile over time. The key to successful storage is finding a place where your flag won’t be exposed to dirt or damaging ultraviolet light.

If you don’t have storage room in your home, a self-storage unit can be an ideal place to keep a special flag. Here are four tips on how to properly store the American flag.

1. Keep Dust and Dirt Off Your Flag.
If your flag is dirty, avoid dry-cleaning it. Before you put a flag into storage, Gideon recommends cleaning it with a low-pressure vacuum and covering it with acid-free paper, which can be found at art supply stores. If your flag needs additional cleaning, Gideon suggests asking a local museum to refer you to an expert in textile conservation.

2. Keep Your Flag in a Dark Place.
Never store a flag where it can be exposed to sunlight, says Philip Kauppinen, owner of Grand New Flag. Like a color photograph left in the sun, your flag gradually will begin to fade.

“If it is very old, it is going to be delicate,” he says. “You don’t want to store it in direct sunlight, because that will make it fade and brittle.”

For long-term storage, experts do not recommend folding an American flag.

3. Store Your Flag Flat.
There’s a military tradition of folding American flags in the shape of a triangle, with the stars on the outside, but that’s not part of the Flag Code adopted by Congress, according to Gideon. “That is a military tradition,” he says.

On its website, Heritage Preservation, a public policy group, points out that prolonged storage in a folded condition leads to permanent creases in flags.

If you’re using a self-storage unit that is too crowded to accommodate a flat table, carefully roll the flag around a mailing tube that’s been wrapped in acid-free paper.

4. Avoid Swings in Temperature and Humidity.
This means keeping flags out of attics, where summer temperatures can soar, or basements, where mold may occur, unless those rooms are temperature-controlled.

If you decide to put your flag in a self-storage unit, choose one with air conditioning and humidity control.

Choose a temperature range that would be comfortable for living conditions. Regardless of their materials, flags do best at 55 percent to 75 percent relative humidity, Gideon says.

5. Respect the Flag.
Handing a flag requires proper etiquette.Tom Piazze, first vice president of the Military Officers Association of America, says you should always show respect for an American flag, even when it is in storage. The flag is a symbol of America’s courage, strength and compassion, he says, and it also has come to symbolize democracy.

“The U.S. flag is an emblem of our nation, our country,” Piazze says. “It represents our beliefs, our way of life around the world.”

Here are some guidelines for handling a U.S. flag:

- The flag should never be used as a drapery or as a decoration.

- The flag should not bear any drawing, mark, insignia, word, number or figure.

- The flag should not touch the ground.

- Never throw away a U.S. flag. The flag should be destroyed by burning it in a dignified manner. Contact your local American Legion, VFW or Boy Scout chapter for information about flag retirement ceremonies.

Source: Sparefoot.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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