RE/MAX 440
Ann M. Ciesielka
aciesielka@aol.com
Ann M. Ciesielka
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
PH: 215-362-2260 x1720
O: 215-362-2260
C: 215-280-2649
F: 267-354-6811 
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Report: Saving Money…and It Feels So Good

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

More of us are padding our coffers—and boy, do we feel good about it!

A recent report by Bankrate.com shows that Americans’ feelings of financial security have reached a high, thanks to rising net worth, job security and “comfortable” debt levels. Nearly 30 percent of Americans included in the report have a higher net worth now than they did a year ago.

Millennials are saving more money than any other age group: over 5 percent of their incomes, according to the report. Some are even saving more than 10 percent.

Still, all age groups are setting aside more than they did last year, with 1 in 6 working Americans saving 15 percent of their incomes, and just 21 percent saving 5 percent or less of their incomes.

“The good news is that many working Americans, millennials in particular, are saving, and saving more than last year,” says Greg McBridge, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. “The bad news is that 21 percent of employed Americans claim not to be saving any of their paycheck—nothing for retirement, nothing for emergencies, and nothing for other financial goals.”

In the report, higher savings rates predictably skewed toward higher incomes—but nearly 30 percent of lower-income savers (earning between $30,000 and $50,000 each year) are socking away more than 10 percent of their incomes, besting the 24 percent of $50,000-$75,000 households doing the same.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Headed to an Open House? Mind These Tips!

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

In a previous segment, “Sellers: Remember These Tips for a Safe Showing,” we provided sellers guidance for the real estate listing process. In this segment, we're offering critical advice from a few sources to buyers touring potential new homes.

Frugalwoods.com, a blog by a Boston couple who’ve visited over 270 open houses (and counting!) recommends this tip:

• Take a listing sheet containing photos of the house, specs and the asking price—and read through it. Ask the listing agent any clarifying questions and take notes.

StyleAtHome.com suggests these tips:

• Overlook elaborate staging. During open houses, interiors (and exteriors) could be dressed to the nines. Try to inspect the home as it really is.

• Examine the parking situation, and be on the look-out for broken appliances.

The experts for the Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate (CAARE) organization advise the following:

• Work with a buyer’s agent, if possible. He or she will have your best interests in mind when visiting an open house.

Most importantly, avoid visiting an open house without your real estate agent—doing so could be detrimental to your home search. Keep in mind the listing agent will likely focus on visitors who show up with an agent in tow!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renovating? The Type of Project Matters

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Homeowners undertaking a renovation may either reap rewards come resale, or regrettably find themselves in the red. The latter, says Scott Robinson, president of the Appraisal Institute, is more likely—somewhat.

“Home improvement projects are not necessarily investments in which a homeowner should expect a dollar-for-dollar return,” explains Robinson, who oversees the nation’s largest association of real estate appraisers. “Rather, these projects can increase the likelihood of a sale, or that a property will be comparable to other properties in a neighborhood.”

Robinson advises renovators to consider if the improvement is in keeping within what’s standard in the community.

“Projects that take a home significantly beyond community norms are often not worth the cost when the owner sells the home,” Robinson says. “If the improvements don’t match what’s standard in a community, they’ll be considered excessive.”

Robinson notes renovators may find it best to hold off on large-scale projects if they’re unsure of how long they’ll be in their home. Generally, the longer a homeowner stays in a home, the greater the opportunity for a return on investment.

A real estate appraiser can conduct a feasibility study, which offers an unbiased analysis of what the home would be worth before and after a project. During the study, the appraiser will analyze the property, weigh the cost of rehabilitation, and provide an estimate of the property’s value before and after the improvement.

Currently, the projects with the highest expected return on investment (ROI) are attic insulation, manufactured stone veneer and a garage door replacement, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. Other projects with potential payoffs are an entry door replacement and a minor kitchen remodel.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Help Your Child Be a Better Student

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Children who do well in school are better equipped to succeed as adults, no matter what life path they choose. What can you, as a parent, do to help your child become a better student?

The education editors at WAHM.com, a parenting website for work-at-home mothers, suggest five easy—but effective—ways to help you help your child improve:

1. Be a Role Model for Learning – Do you read in your spare time? Watch documentaries on TV? Like to visit museums? Children are observant and tend to follow your lead. Behaving as the life-long learner you are sets a good example for your child.

2. Be Serious About Homework – Establish a homework routine that works for your family, setting aside regular hours after school or after dinner—and stick to them. Homework should be done in a quiet spot, away from distractions, if possible. Encourage independence, but be available whenever possible to answer questions, check work when it’s done, or discuss a special project or assignment.

3. Practice Healthy Habits – As basic as it sounds, practicing healthy lifestyle habits does prepare kids to do their best work. Be sure your child gets enough sleep every night, chooses a variety of healthy foods, and eats a good breakfast every morning.

4. Show Your Support – Don’t necessarily insist on A’s, but do insist on the child’s best efforts. Notice and applaud improvements and express your admiration for good work. Sending caring notes in your child’s lunch box or backpack, or otherwise rewarding achievements in a small way, can help provide positive reinforcement.

5. Volunteer at School – You can show your child you value education by volunteering at school. If work hours keep you from volunteering during classroom hours, be sure to attend evening or weekend school events and volunteer to help as needed. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Converting the Attic? 3 Pointers

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Attics are a long-standing feature in American homes, their use evolving as homeowner demands shift. Serving initially as storage space, many attics have become “bonus” rooms, housing everything from home offices to master suites.

Considering converting your attic into a new, useable space? Keep these pointers in mind:

• Many attics have no source of natural lighting. If you want to take full advantage of the space, consider installing roof windows or skylights. New makes with energy-efficient features may be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

• More families are housing multiple generations under the same roof. As such, an additional bedroom or bathroom in the attic may be a wise investment come resale. A master suite addition recoups approximately 65 percent of its cost, and a bathroom addition returns about 55 percent, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. 

• Consider converting the attic into a space you wouldn’t ordinarily find in the average home, such as a craft corner, a home gym, a game room or a movie theater. Relegating these spaces to the attic frees up square footage on the main levels of the home. 

Have you converted the attic in your home? What do you use the space for now?

Source: Brandpoint

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Booming Markets: 10 Towns Striking It Rich

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Many markets are emerging as gold mines for growth, thanks to new homes, new residents and promising employment opportunities.

“The strength of the residential real estate market is closely correlated to growth in jobs and households," explains Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®, which recently ranked the “boom towns” striking it rich. “The good news for these markets is that these growth factors have already started to translate into new construction. At the same time, it may be a year or so before some markets on our list start to see an increase in inventory. If anything, this is a road map for where builders should be thinking about where to break ground next.”

The top 10 markets, according to realtor.com®, are:

1. Gilbert, Ariz. (ZIP Code 85297)

• Largest Neighborhood: Power Ranch

2. Los Angeles, Calif. (ZIP Code 90012)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Cultural, Elysian Park, Historic, Mission Junction

3. Dallas, Texas (ZIP Code 75201)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Arts District, Downtown, Farmers Market, Uptown

4. Miami, Fla. (ZIP Code 33132)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Downtown, Midtown, Seaport

5. Las Vegas, Nev. (ZIP Code 89179)

• Largest Neighborhood: Mountain’s Edge

6. Seattle, Wash. (ZIP Code 98121)

• Largest Neighborhood: Belltown

7. Rolesville, N.C. (ZIP Code 27571)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Carlton Point, Cedar Lakes, Rolesville

8. Brooklyn, N.Y. (ZIP Code 11249)

• Largest Neighborhood: Williamsburg

9. Chicago, Ill. (ZIP Code 60603)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Downtown Chicago, The Loop

10. Atlanta, Ga. (ZIP Code 30363)

• Largest Neighborhood: Atlantic Station

Source: realtor.com®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Insider Secrets You Should Know about Air Travel

April 19, 2016 1:52 am

Most passengers agree that air travel today is neither as comfortable, nor accommodating, nor as competitively priced as it has been in the past. The lifestyle editors at Country Living magazine recently interviewed a group of present and former flight attendants to unearth a few insider tips that may ease a glitch or two on your next flight.

Airplane Seats Have a Secret Menu – Most travelers think the downside of sitting in an aisle seat is that its armrest cannot be raised—but it can be, via a small button tucked into a divot on the underside of the armrest.

Being Nice Will Get You Everywhere – Passengers who are rude or aggressive will likely get nowhere. Ask politely, and most flight attendants will try to change your seat, get you another beverage, or even try to get you the results of that big game you missed on the ground.

Dogs Are Not into Flying – If Fido is traveling with you, chances are he is terrified before he even gets onboard. Bag room agents do their best to soothe scared animals, so it helps if you write his name on his carrier. (Interestingly, most cats don’t seem to mind the experience at all.)

Flight Attendants Have Inside Info – They have a list of who is who and what seat they are in, as well as what level of frequent flyer they happen to be, or if they are employees or family-or-friend ticket holders.

You May Be Able to Get a Better Price – Insiders say the best time to book a flight is on Tuesday afternoon—and the best times for flying on the cheap are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays.

You Can Help Cut Down on Lost Luggage – Mistakes are made, and luggage does get misplaced by handlers—but travelers can help reduce mistakes by not checking a bag more than five hours before your flight, or within 15 minutes of takeoff.

What air travel insider tips are you privy to?

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowner Guides: Metal Roofs Eligible for Tax Break

April 19, 2016 1:52 am

Metal roofing has many advantages when it comes to energy efficiency—including a recently-added $500 credit for homeowners. Those who are planning to install a metal roof atop their primary residence in 2016, or installed one in 2015, can capitalize on the tax break.

“Consumers are making informed environmental choices for everything from the car they drive to the clothes they wear. The roof you choose should also be evaluated for its sustainability. This new tax credit makes the decision even easier,” says Dick Bus, president of the Metal Roofing Alliance. “A metal roof is a long-term solution that increases the value of your home while reducing its environmental impact and lowering energy bills.”

Metal roofs feature highly reflective coatings that provide year-round relief from high energy costs, absorbing less heat than other types of roofing. They are available in a variety of materials and styles, including tiles, shakes, shingles, and standing-seam panels.

Certain limitations apply to the metal roof tax credit. If you’re planning to install a metal roof on your home, ask your contractor to provide a copy of the Manufacturer Certification Statement for the product. This is a signed statement from the manufacturer certifying that the metal roof qualifies for the tax credit. You'll need it when you file your taxes, along with IRS Form 5695.

As always, be sure to consult with a qualified tax professional for the most up-to-date qualifying information.

Source: Metal Roofing Alliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Planning an Outdoor Makeover? 15 Popular Upgrades

April 19, 2016 1:52 am

Signs of spring (and summer!) are cropping up everywhere, and for homeowners, that means readying outdoor spaces for the season. Some, according to a Houzz.com report, are planning to renovate, as well.

“Nearly half of outdoor renovators spend six or more hours a week in their yards, motivating them to invest in major features that transform the outdoors into additional living spaces,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz.

Are you planning to renovate your outdoor space this year? Consider some common upgrades, suggests Sitchinava.

“Hardy plants, LED or solar lighting, and hardscapes in place of lawns are some of the popular low-maintenance choices. Some homeowners are also installing motion-sensitive lighting and precipitation-sensitive irrigation to minimize routine upkeep,” Sitchinava says.

According to the Houzz report, other oft-chosen updates include:

• Additional Space for Children/Pets
• Edible Plants
• Exploratory Paths
• Fencing
• Hammocks
• Play/Climbing Structure
• Rainwater Harvesting System
• Toxin-Free Plants
• Trampoline

Timing will factor significantly into your project decision. The Houzz report shows the deterioration of outdoor elements is the top trigger for an upgrade, so if you have an outdoor feature in need of some TLC, now may be the time to invest in repairs or a replacement.

As far as cost is concerned, many outdoor projects are on the (relatively) low-end of the scale. Most homeowners, according the Houzz report, spend less than $5,000 on a project. To maximize the budget, many turn to the services of a landscape architect, contractor or designer.

Source: Houzz

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Banking Tips for Millennials

April 18, 2016 1:49 am

Nearly half of millennials feel “chronically stressed” about money—with good reason. But a strong financial footing, says Rob Nichols, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association (ABA), is not as difficult to come by as some may perceive.

“Millennials are digital natives who understand the importance of staying connected socially, but staying connected to their bank can help their finances as they encounter life’s many milestones,” Nichols explains. “From enhanced mobile resources to free budgeting tools, banks offer a variety of products and services to complement millennials’ unique lifestyles and ease their worries as they prepare to make some of life’s biggest financial decisions.”

Your bank, says Nichols, can be a valuable partner in your financial journey. To make the most of that partnership—and see benefits as a result—Nichols suggests the following tips:

1. Cyber-shop for a bank that fits your style. There are lots of options out there with different advantages. Be selective and get the best prices, services, convenient locations and lowest fees for credit cards, bank accounts and loans.

2. Use your bank’s tools to save without thinking about it. Consider automatic payroll deductions or automatic transfer from checking to savings. Arrange to have a specific amount transferred to your savings account every pay period.

3. Download your bank's mobile app. Manage your finances from the palm of your hand. With the click of a button, you can easily make a deposit or access a record of all your recent transactions. Be sure to download the latest updates when they are available.

4. Sign up for email or text alerts. Get up-to-date info, on the go, the way you want it. Ask for an automatic alert when your balance falls below a certain level, or to confirm when certain types of transactions occur, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.

5. Use the personal finance tools your bank may offer. Banks offer an array of budgeting tools and resources to help you keep your finances in check. Access these via your bank’s mobile app and website.

6. Expect the unexpected. The last thing you want to be is stressed when life’s unexpected expenditures come knocking at your door. Set up a secondary checking or savings account for emergencies, or link an existing account to your main account as an added layer of protection.

7. Get a head start. Banks play a major role in helping customers prepare for life events, such as buying a house and planning for retirement. Ask your banker how you can establish credit or start a retirement account.

8. Stay connected with social media. Interact with your bank via social media to get the latest news on products and services, ask bank-related questions, join in on conversations and find links to exclusive bank content. 

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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