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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5 Snorkeling Hot Spots to Add to Your Bucket List

November 25, 2016 2:09 am

If you love snorkeling, you’ve probably discovered some favorite spots in the Caribbean islands. But contributors to Travel and Leisure Magazine recommend five dream spots for ocean aficionados that can’t be beat for snorkeling and other ocean sports:

Komodo Islands, Indonesia – While the giant lizards here get most of the attention, Komodo’s Pink Beach will put you in a colorful undersea garden with rays, schools of groupers, and hawksbill turtles. Alternatively, visit the sea surrounding Komodo National Park, which offers unmatched underwater exploration with over 1,000 species of fish, 260 types of coral, and 14 types of endangered whales, dolphins, and giant turtles – not to mention rays, sharks, and a flourishing coral reef.

Buck Island, St. Croix, Virgin Islands – In this paradise for beginning snorkelers, you can make your way through the Elkhorn coral barrier reefs in brilliant blue waters and see colorful parrot fish, three species of sea turtles, terns, and endangered brown pelicans.

Palau – Only one of the marine lakes that dot Palau is open to snorkeling, but it’s worth the trip. Jellyfish Lake on the uninhabited island of Eil Malk lives up to its name, filled with millions of golden jellyfish that have thrived in the isolated lake for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. For a truly other-worldly experience, you can snorkel among these amorphous floating creatures, which have a non-poisonous sting that can hardly be felt by humans.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia – It’s impossible to talk about the world’s best snorkeling spots without mentioning the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. Made up of 2,900 individual reefs that stretch over 1,400 miles off the Australian shoreline, the area boasts eye-popping coral, brilliant marine life, barracuda, manta rays, and the bones of ships that have crashed on the reef over the years. For an easy place to start, head to the Whitsunday Islands right off the shore of Queensland.

Hawaii’s Big Island – The underwater state park at Kealakekua Bay offers spectacular coral and colorful fish. Hit the water near the Captain Cook Monument to see dolphins, turtles and a variety of undersea creatures. For more underwater adventure, head to the crystal waters of Honaunau Bay to explore coral gardens, dolphins and tropical fish.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Your Home Safe Without Compromising Style

November 25, 2016 2:09 am

(Family Features)--Home accidents cause nearly 13 million injuries a year. Some simple updates to your home can help you avoid these accidents, as well as give your rooms a facelift.

“People often think that home improvement projects mean a complete overhaul of a room,” says Matt Muenster, a licensed contractor, designer and HGTV and DIY Network TV host, “but there are dozens of smaller updates that people can DIY that can have a big impact on the room. It’s the subtle details that make a difference in how you use and enjoy the space.”

To get your home makeover underway, try these tips from Muenster, who has teamed up with 3M, to keep your home both safe and stylish:

The Less Clutter, the Better: Sometimes the bulky knife block can be an eyesore or take up too much space on small countertops. If you are looking for new and interesting ways to store sharp knives, try installing magnet strips on the backsplash in the kitchen. This will not only keep your counter clutter free, but give your kitchen some flair.

So Fresh and So Clean: Enjoy fresh, filtered water at home without having a bulky filter attached to the faucet or the hassle of constantly refilling a pitcher. The new 3M Maximum Under Sink Water Filtration System stays out of sight while allowing high water flow from your existing faucet. The system, which is available at Lowe’s stores or Lowes.com, is easy to install using just a screwdriver, wrench and drill, and the quick-change filter lasts up to six months. Best of all, it reduces contaminants that may be in your water, including 99.3 percent of lead, as well as microbial cysts, chlorine taste and odor, sand, sediment, rust and soil.  

Step It Up: Have kids at home? Put a stepstool that slides into the toe kick beneath the sink so that your kids are able to roll it out like a drawer and step up to wash their hands. This is also great for parents who have young chefs in the house who like to help out in the kitchen.

A Soft Landing: If you find yourself having “butterfingers” more often than not, try putting down flooring that is made from a soft material like cork in the working areas of the kitchen. This way, you can help prevent breakage next time something slips through your fingers.

Get a Grip: If you are planning a bathroom remodel or simply want to make a change, choose tile with textured surfaces. This will make them less slippery under wet, bare feet. Smaller tile with more grout also helps prevent slippery surfaces.

Let There Be Light: Whether it’s a trip to the kitchen for a midnight snack or to the bathroom in the middle of the night, toe kick LED lighting that is connected to a motion sensor can be a great nightlight that doesn’t always have to be left on.

A kitchen or bathroom remodel can be big or small, but with some planning and the right tools, the projects can be accomplished using your own hands. By tackling these projects yourself, not only will you have the assurance that your home is safer without sacrificing style, but your new space will also feel extra special.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Americans Overspend During Holidays

November 25, 2016 2:09 am

We all know what it's like to spend more than we meant to. The SunTrust Banks, Inc. annual Holiday Financial Confidence survey reveals that 43 percent of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season. Pressure to overspend is up four percent since the survey was first conducted in 2014 by Harris Poll, but down slightly from a high of 46 percent last year.

In the 2016 SunTrust Holiday Financial Confidence survey, two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) admitted they typically experience stress during this time of year.

To create a more memorable holiday season, SunTrust offers the following tips:

Align spending with your values. The most meaningful gift you can give isn't a present you buy, but your presence in the moment. Take the financial pressure off by giving gifts that promote personal connection, like offering to help an elderly grandparent with grocery shopping for a month.

Embrace creative and unique gifts. If you're an artist, gift a sketch. If your friend collects vinyl, scour secondhand stores for unique records. Reject the notion that a special gift has to break your bank account.   

Trim costs, not your social life. Togetherness around food is a hallmark of the holidays and a great way to connect with loved ones, but it can be expensive if you're the host. To avoid the high cost of a lavish party, host a wine and cheese gathering or try an old-fashioned potluck.

Choose the virtual shopping cart. Start your holiday shopping early and price compare online first. This can help relieve the pressure of last-minute purchases that often end up costing more.

Take preemptive steps to avoid a holiday hangover. If reconciling your checking account balance isn't a habit, the holidays are a good time to start. Tracking purchases every few days can help you keep spending under control and avoid financial regret in January.Source:  SunTrust

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Top Tips to Become a Proactive Homeowner

November 24, 2016 2:09 am

We've all heard homeownership sometimes referred to as “a money pit.” Sure, homes are expensive, but there is no substitute for the sense of pride and comfort you achieve from living in a space that is truly your own.

That said, it's true that from the day you move in to the day you sell your home, there will always be something that will need to be repaired or even  remodeled as you—and your family—grows, shifts and changes. But to be a proactive homeowner, you will want to keep an eye out for the small issues that could cost big bucks down the line—like a crack in the foundation or a drafty window.

Below are a few top tips for forward-thinking. This information will protect your real estate investment far into the future:

Take Inventory
Get in the habit of taking an inventory at least once every year of every nook and cranny of your home to check for potential problems. Examine the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring—basically everything. Try to fix trouble spots as soon as you uncover them. This proactive approach will help you avoid larger expenses later on, so leave no stone unturned when taking inventory.

Budget Accordingly
Some say you should expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows and routine system repairs and maintenance. An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.

Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property’s condition and its real estate market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.

Play it Safe
Don't assume that a problem will stay the same if left unattended. If your gutters are clogged, play it safe and unclog them to avoid leaks. Adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousand dollars.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Beat Stress This Holiday Season

November 24, 2016 2:09 am

While the holidays offer a great opportunity to see family and friends, it can also be one of the busiest, most stressful time of the year. When you throw cold weather into the mix, many of us end up sick, stressed and sniffling. Below are some tips for beating stress and making this holiday season the happiest yet.  

Make your freezer your friend
To avoid stressing out over cooking for your visiting family or all the friends your college kid is bringing home, spend the weeks leading up to the holidays making health, hearty soups and casseroles, and then pop them in the freezer. Come holiday time, you can relax and enjoy your house guests knowing that most of the cooking is just waiting for a little defrost.

Sweat it out
We all know a good sweat session raises endorphins and lowers your levels of stress. Just because the season is busy and chilly doesn't mean you need to nix your workouts. Schedule time to exercise – make it a family event by going skiing or hiking, or simply grab a pal and walk those three miles to the coffee shop.  

Say no
Saying “no” is a muscle many of us have trouble exercising. When your inbox is overflowing with invites, allow yourself to pick and choose where you want to spend your time. You can't do it all, so feel free to gracefully opt out of events that are stacked too close to one another or require a lot of travel.  air, so leave yourself some extra breathing room in your travel time, to avoid the stress of feeling like you’re always late.

Eat mindfully
From company parties to dinners with the in-laws, food is in abundance during the holidays, and we're not talking light bites. To avoid stress eating, stand last in line at the buffet, pile your plate with veggies and take smaller serving of richer items, and remind yourself to eat slow. Strike up a conversation at the dinner table to pull the focus from the food and avoid mindless eating.  

Make time for you
Do you savor your morning coffee or Tuesday afternoon yoga class? Don't forgo these moments just because your schedule is demanding. Making more time to create space for yourself will lower your levels of stress and help you feel calm and grounded.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Do Energy Savers Decorate for the Holidays?

November 24, 2016 2:09 am

It's that time of year for bright, glowing, blinking and shimmering holiday decorations start going up. But most homeowners would rather not see those cheery decorations doubling or tripling their energy bills. In light of this, we turned to a host of holiday helpers for some practical tips on energy efficient home holiday decorations.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy says think reflective so you can maximize the power of whatever lighting you choose. Reflective ornaments and tinsel are just as bright at night, so getting creative with your lighting display can multiply your resources for shine.

Their advice at energy.gov even suggests mirroring your neighbors' frighteningly costly display with a string of silver bells on your railing. Don't forget the ribbons, wreaths, garland, and reflective menorahs, for electricity- free age-old traditions that still 'reflect' your holiday cheer.

If you are looking for lighting, energy.gov says this year offers a variety of savings opportunities. You can find local rebates and coupons on ENERGY STAR® qualified Decorative Light Strings at many hardware and department stores.  These lights have a three-year warranty, come in a variety of colors, and have indoor and outdoor models.

The folks at directenergy.com say that replacing incandescent holiday lights with energy-efficient LED lights can help. ENERGY STAR® qualified LED lights use 70 percent less energy while providing a brighter light.  They also remain cool to the touch and are not made of glass or filament, making them safer for children. In addition, these bulbs also last 10 times longer, ensuring homeowners will have an energy-efficient solution for many years to come.

Shifting to other energy saving opportunities, improvementscatalog.com says if you plan on doing some holiday cooking or baking, consider using the microwave or toaster oven for smaller tasks such as melting chocolate for dipping, and keep the oven reserved for larger items, such as cooking a turkey. While cooking on the stove, keep the lids on your pots so your food will cook in less time.

The site also suggests if you are having family or friends over for a party, you can really take advantage of the body heat that will generate in your home. Have a warm and sparkling holiday season!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Living Large - Why It's Time To Buy That Big House

November 23, 2016 2:09 am

A few years ago, I wondered if the trend in subdivision building of larger than average sized homes - 5,000 square feet or more - had seen its day. Apparently not.

According to a recent National Association of Home Builders report, and citing the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction, new homes with 5,000 square feet or more of living space increased both as a share of all new construction and in absolute number in 2015.

And that same year, the share of new homes this size reached a post-recession peak of 3.9 percent of new homes started. The total number of 5,000+ square-foot homes started that year was 28,000 units.
NAHB analyst Ashok Chaluvadi observed that in 2012, the number of new homes started with 5,000+ square feet rose to 15,000 units, yet their share remained at only 2.8 percent.

In 2015, while the number of 5,000+ square feet homes started (28,000) was the highest since 2008, their share of the new market (3.9%) was the highest since 2004.

When analyzed by the different characteristics, Chaluvadi says that 79 percent of 5,000+ square feet home started have a finished basement, 68 percent have a 3 or more car garage, and at least 60 percent have a patio or porch.

More than half of these homes have 5 bedrooms or more, and 70 percent have 4 bathrooms or more.
But before you run out and start shopping for a large home, consider the advice of K.C. Hernandez at budgeting.thenest.com, who advises that before you make a large financial commitment on a bigger house, consider several financial and life factors to determine the right time to buy.

Hernandez says buying a bigger house makes the most sense when your income is stable and you expect it to remain the same or increase for the foreseeable future.

He also says that upgrading to a larger home is a good idea when market conditions favor buyers, who have more opportunity to negotiate better prices with sellers. Just keep in mind that if you plan to sell your current home before moving into a bigger one, you will likely face the same challenges finding buyers at the right price.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Millennial Homebuyers Want in a Garage

November 23, 2016 2:09 am

Millennials are the largest generation shaking the housing market, according to research by the National Association of REALTORS. Despite this great news, when compared with the generations that came before them, millennials remain delayed in purchasing their first home. One aspect of homes millennials are particularly interested in is technology. From smart appliances to easy access garages, millennials love the latest gadgets.

For those interested in the latest and greatest in garages, read on for a handful of tips.

Access: Millennials use their phones for more than just communicating. They use them to buy coffee, book exercise classes and directly pay friends and family. Access to the garage should be no different, and with the availability of garage door apps,  homeowners can control entry to the home through their smartphones.

Security and Safety: More than 70 percent of homeowners use the garage as the main access point to the home, making safety and security a top priority when selecting the right home. Through LiftMaster's partnership with Nest Cam, homeowners can have an added security element. With Nest Cam, users can also access a video feed of what's happening in the garage the moment the garage door is activated, allowing for enhanced security and peace-of-mind. Garage safety is also vital – when viewing a potential home or during home inspection, millennials should ensure the garage functions securely and safely.  

Home Control: A connected garage is an easy way to make any home a "smart home." When looking to purchase a home, millennials should examine the capabilities of the garage door opener. Is it Wi-Fi® capable? Is it compatible with technology that controls the lights or thermostat? If not, consider asking the seller to replace the garage door opener with one that is,

Source:  LiftMaster.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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UV Rays Inside: Tips for Protecting Your Eyes At Home

November 23, 2016 2:09 am

When it comes to protecting our eyes against harsh, damaging UV rays, most of us think about popping on sunglasses for long days at the beach. However, it's possible to incur UV damage right at home, especially if you have an abundance of wide, bright windows.  According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home.  

Untreated windows protect the eyes from only about 25 percent of damaging UV rays. As the AAO states, continued exposure to UV light raises the risks of many issues for the eyes, from cataracts to cancer.
To battle this, the International Window Film Association (IWFA) suggests consumers have professionally installed window film applied to all of the windows in their homes to protect their family's eyes from the damage caused by UV rays.

Having window film professionally installed on a home's windows can block up to 99 percent of UV rays from entering the home, protecting eyes from damage over time, while at the same time reducing glare and eliminating the need to squint when enjoying the view outside.


While extremely thin and virtually invisible to the eye, window film provides powerful protection without altering the look of a home.  Though it can be tinted in several shades, homeowners can also opt for clear film, which does not alter the view in any way. 

Source: www.iwfa.com.

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City Living Without Sprawl - Downsized Communities Offer Options

November 22, 2016 2:06 am

So you like the idea of popping down the block to a nice jazz club, or grabbing a quick bus or train to a minor league ballpark? I recently discovered why small cities are a big destination for home buyers thanks to WalletHub's in-depth look at 2016’s Best Small Cities in America.

With small cities growing 10 percent faster than the nation as a whole since 2000, WalletHub analysts compared 1,268 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 using a data set of 30 key metrics ranges from “housing costs” to “school-system quality” to “number of restaurants per capita.”

So what did the Wallethub researchers determine? Here are a few high points:
- The Villages, Fla., has the highest homeownership rate, 96.50 percent, which is 148 times higher than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the lowest, 0.65 percent.

- Westfield, N.J., and Holly Springs, N.C., have the lowest percentage of residents below poverty level, 2.20 percent each, which is 24.3 times lower than in Statesboro, Ga., the city with the highest, 53.40 percent.

- Leawood, Kan., has the highest percentage of residents with at least a high school diploma, 99.2 percent, which is 2.6 times higher than in Maywood, Calif., the city with the lowest, 38.2 percent.

- Fort Hood, Texas, has the shortest average commute time, 10.4 minutes, which is 4.1 times shorter than in Waldorf, Md., the city with the longest, 42.9 minutes.

- East Lansing, Mich., has the lowest mean weekly work hours, 27.8, which is 1.8 times lower than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the highest, 50.

-Duluth, Ga., has the most coffee shops per 100,000 residents, 194.10, which is 142 times more than in Pharr, Texas, the city with the fewest, 1.37.

-Castle Rock and Parker, Colo., have the lowest percentage of adults reporting fair or poor health, 7.2 percent each, which is 5.3 times lower than in Eagle Pass, Texas, the city with the highest, 38.3 percent.

Source: Wallethub  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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