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

Buying vs. Renting a Home Solar System

March 3, 2015 12:18 am

Looking for ways to cut costs as a homeowner? Go solar!

According to Consumer Reports, installing a solar system at home can reduce your utility bills by 50 percent or more. And solar systems are here to stay – the U.S. Department of Energy expects 900,000 homes will have a solar component by 2020.

Before you hire a solar specialist, consider how much direct sunlight your home gets on any given day, in any season. Homeowners with more exposure to sunlight will have greater opportunities for savings. It’s also important to evaluate the exterior of your home – an older roof will not be an ideal platform for solar paneling.

If you’ve determined that your home is well-equipped for a solar system, your next step is to decide whether you’d like to finance your own system or lease one from a reputable company. Installation can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, but you’ll immediately profit once the system is paid for. The government also provides tax credits and rebates which may lower costs overall.

Leasing a system may be a better option if you anticipate rate hikes in the future. A contract generally lasts for 20 years, so talk to your utility provider about foreseeable increases. It’s also a good idea to research past increases to gauge how volatile any changes may be over the next few years. Contracts typically include an escalation schedule that indicates expected payments over the life of the lease, so compare those with information from your utility provider to make the best decision.

Whether you plan to buy or lease your home’s solar system, be sure to shop around for estimates. A professional contractor will suggest the optimal size needed for your home and outline projected savings.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Healthy Job Growth to Boost Housing Recovery

March 2, 2015 12:12 am

The economy is poised for a pickup in growth in 2015 amid a strengthening employment sector, rising income growth, and declining commodity prices, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group. The labor market has started the year on an upbeat note and is expected to lift consumer confidence, in turn helping to boost consumer spending, manufacturing activity and the pace of the housing recovery. Economic growth may face some headwinds as a strong U.S. dollar weighs on the trade deficit. However, the economy is expected to climb to 2.9 percent for the full year, up from 2.5 percent growth in 2014.

"We expect housing to shift up a gear in 2015 following the uneven and ultimately disappointing activity last year," says Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. "Our forecast calls for a number of factors, including strong hiring and income growth, stabilized housing affordability, and modestly easing lending standards, to translate into improving housing demand throughout the year. We continue to anticipate that the Fed will begin to hike short-term interest rates later this year, although weak global economic growth and geopolitical headwinds will likely limit the rise in long-term interest rates.”

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips to Avoid Tax Identity Fraud

March 2, 2015 12:12 am

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, 1.6 million Americans fell victim to tax identity theft in the first half of 2013 alone. The Government Accountability Office estimates that identity thieves stole $5.2 billion in 2013 as a result of this fraud. With Tax Day quickly approaching, the National Consumers League (NCL) urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for fraud.

“While most Americans dread Tax Day, fraudsters increasingly are cashing in with lucrative tax identity fraud scams,” says John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud. “What makes this scam particularly pernicious is the ease with which fraudsters can steal personal information, file a false tax claim, and then turn the fraudulent refund into untraceable cash before the consumer realizes they have been a victim of a scam.”

Consumers receive W-2 forms from their employer by the end of January, but often wait to file their taxes closer to Tax Day on April 15. Since the IRS aims to process refunds quickly, fraudulent claims often go undetected.

The NCL recommends the following to avoid becoming a victim of tax identity fraud.
  • File your taxes as early as possible during tax season. Scammers depend on the fact that many taxpayers wait until late in tax-filing season to file. Filing early reduces the risk that a tax ID thief will be able to use your personal information to file fraudulently ahead of you.
  • Check your annual Social Security Administration earnings statement carefully. If there are earnings listed that you don’t recognize, someone else could be using your identity to obtain employment.
  • Review your credit report for any suspicious activity.
  • Never give out personal information, such as your SSN, date of birth, or bank account information in response to unsolicited emails, postal mail, over the phone or via text message, social media or other platform.
Source: NCL

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Steps to a Burglar-Proofed Home

March 2, 2015 12:12 am

Is your home safe from break-ins? Don’t rely on a guard dog to deter criminals – consider these tips from’s James White. Protecting likely the largest investment you’ll make in life will be well worth it.

1. Invest in a complete home security system.

Authorities may arrive long after the criminal has gotten away, but in the moment, a blaring alarm may scare away burglars before they can wreak havoc. Thieves may also move on to other homes if they spot a sign in your yard indicating your home is outfitted with a security system. Consider installing cameras with an automatic upload feature – if the burglar disables the camera, evidence of that will be available instantly online.

2. Don’t tip them off.
In effect, social media has opened the door to burglars. Many spend hours scouring the Web for individuals in their area who post about being away from their home for long stretches of time. Don’t make it easy for them.

3. Fortify all entry points.

Entry points are a thief’s target, so strengthen your doors and windows to prevent them from gaining access. Opt for laminated windows, which are much more difficult to break (and much noisier!) than standard ones, and install a deadbolt connected to a strike plate attached to the stud – not the jamb.

4. Conceal and secure all valuables.

Burglars can easily access drawers or cabinets, so consider purchasing a safe to store jewelry, cash and other valuables. Avoid leaving cash on the counter or in otherwise plain view.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Heating Your Home Safely

February 27, 2015 2:09 am

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S. Unattended equipment is the number one source of these fires, says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy. Carli urges homeowners to monitor all heating equipment carefully, particularly space heaters. Whether portable or stationary, space heaters account for a third of home heating fires each year.

To greatly reduce the risk for heating fires at home, the NFPA suggests homeowners follow these guidelines.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. This includes furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and portable space heaters.
  • If there are children in your home, create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around space heaters and open fires.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • For fuel-burning space heaters, always use the right kind of fuel, as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
  • Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
Improperly used or malfunctioning heating equipment can also result in carbon monoxide, a poisonous, potentially fatal gas, in the home. Homeowners can avoid this by following these tips from the NFPA.
  • Keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away as possible from your home.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside of your home.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after the storm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • Test your carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they’re working properly.
  • If you begin to feel sick or dizzy while your generator is running, you may be breathing in carbon monoxide. Get to fresh air quickly. 
  • Turn portable generators off and let them cool down before refueling; don’t refuel it while it’s running.
  • Make sure fuel, including gasoline and other flammable liquids, is stored in properly labeled safety containers. Place them outside all living areas and away from any fuel-burning appliances such as a gas hot water heater.
  • Always use extreme caution when operating electrical equipment in a damp or wet environment.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Do not try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.
Source: NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Online Shoppers: Are You Reading the Fine Print?

February 27, 2015 2:09 am

Today’s online shoppers aren’t bothering to read the fine print when they shop, often jeopardizing their legal rights if something goes wrong, according to a recent survey from More than half of online shoppers (54 percent) say the either quickly skim or ignore any user agreements, terms of service or other legal language they are agreeing to.

The survey found that just 22 percent of online shoppers read and understood every word thoroughly; 24 percent read most agreements and attempted to understand them.

“Most people don’t realize that they are often giving away some of their legal rights when they click ‘Agree,’” says Stephanie Rahlfs, attorney-editor at “Many websites require that customers scroll through and review legal language and click a button stating that they agree with the terms before completing their purchase. But that’s largely meaningless if the person doesn’t actually read the agreement.”

Many e-commerce websites have terms and conditions that limit a customer’s ability to sue in the event of a dispute. Customers are instead required to use arbitration. Some attempts to sue websites – either through individual or class-action lawsuits – have been dismissed by the courts because the customers agreed to the website’s conditions.

Despite a $100 billion dollar surge in online shopping since 2011, the numbers from the survey remain largely unchanged from that year.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Designer Tips for Layering Decor at Home

February 27, 2015 2:09 am

(BPT) – A growing trend among interior designers is layering unique patterns and textures for heightened visual interest. Get inspired to layer elements in your home with these ideas.

Fancy Frames – An empty wall holds endless potential. If the room is small, expand your space with a mirror collage featuring a variety of shapes and varnishes. Is your heart set on colorful patterned wallpaper? Showcase your favorite print in a large frame for a beautiful living room backdrop to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Art fans should collect a variety of frames in different 
finishes and styles to create a living room gallery.

Pillow Patterns – While it's fun to mix and match pillows, certain textures complement each other better than others. For example, linens and wool tend to look better with woven fabrics, while shiny and matte fabrics are best kept separate. Mixing contrasting textures such as silk and corduroy calls for a strong sense of design confidence, but it can be done.

Rugs on Rugs – Start with a flat, neutral rug as your foundation and add a smaller, accent rug on top. Investing in a large rug with a subdued color is wise, but have fun with the accent rug. Whether cowhide or a geometric print, choose a similar color scheme and play with the positioning by placing the top rug at a purposeful angle.

Old, Renewed – When thinking about your space, it's important to remember that design inspiration can be found anywhere. Look for antique candle holders or paperweights. Check out antique shops or thrift stores for hidden treasures. When traveling, visit flea markets and local art fairs. Transform an old object like a rustic slab of wood into a glossy countertop for your kitchen island. No matter where you travel, keep an eye out for timeworn treasures for your home.

Layering textures and patterns, combining modern with rustic - blending home design can result in a truly transformative space that captures your individual style.

Source: Brizio

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prepare for Storms with an Emergency Communications Plan

February 26, 2015 2:09 am

Having access to technology is always a concern for those faced with a storm or power outage, but an emergency communications plan can help. To assuage any fears about losing important information if your device is lost or damage in a storm, the experts at Verizon Wireless first recommend stocking up on cloud storage to save your contacts on a secure server.

To stay connected, Verizon also suggests that users prepare ahead of time by:
  • Maintaining a list of emergency numbers – police and fire agencies, power and insurance companies, family, friends and co-workers, etc. – and programming them into your wireless devices before an emergency arises.
  • Keeping phone and tablet batteries fully charged well before warnings are issued.
  • Distributing wireless phone numbers to family members and friends.
During a storm or power outage, Verizon advises:
  • Keeping phones, tablets, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location. Simple zip-lock storage bags will shield devices. Alternatively, consider purchasing a waterproof phone, case or other protective accessory.
  • Having additional charged batteries and car charger adapters available for back-up power. Numerous chargers, including solar-powered devices, make it easy to stay powered up.
  • Sending brief text messages rather than voice calls.
  • Limiting non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations.
Source: Verizon Wireless

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Budgeting for Winter Home Maintenance

February 26, 2015 2:09 am

Extreme cold and record-setting snow can take a harsh financial toll on homeowners. Many residents are burdened with extra costs associated with everything from snow and ice removal, shovels, salt and sand to home repairs due to ice dams and leaking roofs.

To combat those financial challenges, American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) urges homeowners to create an emergency winter weather budget to manage expected and unforeseen expenses related to your home and snow and ice removal. Just as important, do your research and find potential contractors and services in advance. Go online and research local companies that conduct snow and ice removal. Get quotes ahead of time before crisis strikes and demand explodes.

In addition, seek advice from professionals on prevention measures such as gutter cleaning, heating cables and roof salt bags. Basic necessities such as shovels, salt, roof rakes and plows can be cheaper in the summer, so consider getting a head start and purchasing them in the offseason. Online searches for used snow removal equipment such as snow plows can also yield major savings.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Design for Productivity in Home Offices

February 26, 2015 2:09 am

(BPT) - It's a common piece of advice from effective home-based workers: start each day as if you were going to work in an office outside your home. (Translation: take a shower and don't work in your pajamas.) The philosophy behind this tidbit is easy to understand.

The same axiom can apply to your home office. Is it tucked in a dark corner of the spare bedroom? Is your desk beside a bed covered in old toys? Is your filing cabinet stuffed in the closet under clothes? If your home office doesn't feel professional and uplifting, how productive and happy can you be spending eight or more hours a day there?

Decorating your home office isn't an art, but following some basic principles of office design can help create an organized, effective and productivity-enhancing space.

Choose a wall color that facilitates focus.

Even if your home office will be in the guest room that you just painted last year, it may be a good idea to repaint. Not only does a fresh coat of paint make a room feel energized and new, repainting gives you the opportunity to put a color on the wall that's office-appropriate.

In an interview by Chris Bailey of the blog "A Life of Productivity," color psychologist and author Angela Wright suggests that your home office color scheme needs to match the type of work you do because different colors create different effects. For example, Wright says, blue might be stimulating if you do a lot of mental work in your home office. Additionally, yellow could encourage creativity, and green might be soothing if your work is particularly stressful and balance is important.

Luxuriate in light.

"You are stuck in your office - albeit at home - all day, working and slaving away, staring at the same wall and some bland office furniture you got at a garage sale," writes Herman Chan in Home Business Magazine. "Spending all those hours in the same spot, it would behoove you to splurge on one luxury piece." Chan suggests an inspiring piece of furniture, but you can also create a luxe effect - with only a modest "splurge" - by decorating with lighting elements such as a skylight.

Add a solar-powered fresh air skylight and an energy-efficient solar-powered blind to your home office and the products, as well as the installation, can be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit as a green home improvement.

If your home office happens to be located in a renovated attic space, roof windows, which are very much like skylights but are in-reach, can offer natural light and fresh air plus access to the roof for debris removal, maintenance or for emergency access.

Organize with attractive storage.

If your idea of home office storage includes the cardboard boxes you used to transport files from the last job you had outside your home, it's time to revisit your organizational plan. A cluttered, disorganized home office can cause you to misplace important documents and can make you feel overwhelmed.

As more people have begun working from home, office furniture manufacturers have branched out from the sterile-looking metal storage units ubiquitous in workplaces across the country. Today, it's easy to find attractive storage options that fit with virtually any home office decor.

If you just can't find a file cabinet that speaks to your soul, why not try some alternative storage options? Move that beautiful sideboard you inherited from grandma - that just never fit anywhere else in your house - into your home office and use it for filing. Not in love with any of the desk options available at your local office store? Hit an antique shop and find an antique desk or even a dining table that you adore. Remember to keep furnishings and storage solutions size-appropriate for the room so your home office doesn't feel crowded.

Working from home offers many advantages, including the opportunity to decorate your home office the way you want. By following some basic steps and incorporating your own personality, you can create a home office where you'll be productive and happy throughout the work day.

Published with permission from RISMedia.