RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
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Mary's Blog

5 Tips to Preserve the Water Quality in Your Home

August 16, 2016 12:49 am


Managing the water quality in your home is important, especially when it comes to mitigating water waste. Poor water quality, use and disposal can not only adversely impact your household, but also your community.

“One thing to keep in mind: just because it disappears, doesn’t mean it goes away,” explains Ted Puzio, owner of Southern Trust Home Services, a Virginia-based HVAC, plumbing and electrical service provider.

Puzio says improper disposal is one of the leading causes of compromised water quality. Sewer treatment plants do not eliminate 100 percent of the chemicals commonly disposed of by drain—detergents, lotions, pharmaceuticals and soaps, for instance. These toxins inevitably end up in the water supply.

To prevent contamination, consider using eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaners and personal care items instead of chemical-containing products, as well as properly disposing of hazardous chemicals at a dedicated site in your community.

Pet waste is another culprit of poor water quality, says Puzio. Be sure to remove pet waste as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from entering the water supply.

Overwatering your lawn can also be detrimental to water quality, Puzio says. Overwatering displaces chemical fertilizers down to the groundwater level, which is where most drinking water is derived from. Not sure if your lawn needs watering? Walk on it—if footprints remain, it’s time to water it.

Don’t neglect natural occurrences, either, Puzio adds. Storm runoff is a major contributor to water pollution. A rain barrel will not only lessen runoff and preserve the quality of your water, but will also reduce the amount of water your household consumes.

Source: Southern Trust Home Services
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Many Working Hours Does It Take to Afford a Mortgage?

August 16, 2016 12:49 am


A mortgage is more affordable than rent in many markets—sometimes, in more ways than one.

A recent study from GOBankingRates.com tallies the cost of a mortgage not in dollars, but in working hours—the amount of time spent working needed to afford a mortgage.

“It’s one thing to know the amount of money you’re paying each month to cover your mortgage, but thinking of it in terms of working hours gives that expense a whole new meaning,” says Kristen Bonner, research lead on the study.

According to the study, the states with the least amount of working hours needed to afford a mortgage are:

1. Ohio (30.76 hours per month)
2. Michigan (32.44 hours)
3. Indiana (32.72 hours)
4. Iowa (33.81 hours)
5. Missouri (34.13 hours)
6. Kansas (34.16 hours)
7. Nebraska (36.04 hours)
8. Wisconsin (37.20 hours)
9. Pennsylvania (37.41 hours)
10. Minnesota (38.26 hours)

Notably, the study found that a low home price or low mortgage rate does not equate to fewer working hours needed to afford a mortgage.

Is paying a mortgage in your state more financially sensible than paying rent? Visit GOBankingRates.com/mortgage-rates/many-hours-americans-work-pay-mortgage-state/ or contact your local real estate professional for more insight.

Source: GOBankingRates.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The 10 Priciest Vacation Areas

August 13, 2016 12:46 am


Travel costs are high come peak season, but in some vacation areas, they exceed those of even the most expensive international destinations.

According to a recent CheapHotels.org survey, the priciest accommodations, at the basic cost level, are in:

• Saratoga Springs, N.Y. ($332 per night)
• Nantucket, Mass. ($329 per night)
• Montauk, N.Y. ($326 per night)
• Santa Monica, Calif. ($271 per night)
• Portland, Maine ($267 per night)

The Northeast markedly contains the majority of the most costly vacation accommodations, with visitors to Saratoga Springs spending an average $332 per night for the least expensive double room.

Cape May, N.J. ($246), Newport, R.I. ($234), Provincetown, Mass. ($232), Calistoga, Calif. ($227) and Beverly Hills, Calif. ($221) round out the top 10 vacation areas with the priciest accommodations, according to the survey.

Source: CheapHotels.org
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Veteran Homelessness Down by Half

August 13, 2016 12:46 am


Over the past five years, the amount of homeless veterans has dropped by close to 50 percent, marking significant progress in the Obama Administration’s initiative to end veteran homelessness. Less than 40,000 veterans are homeless, as of the beginning of this year.

The reduction comes as a result of the Opening Doors program, which involved the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and other agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

The HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program has been instrumental in the success of the initiative, as well as the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness charge, which has helped eradicate veteran homelessness in two states and nearly 30 communities to date.

“We have an absolute duty to ensure those who’ve worn our nation’s uniform have a place to call home,” HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a statement. “While we’ve made remarkable progress toward ending veteran homelessness, we still have work to do to make certain we answer the call of our veterans, just as they answered the call of our nation.”

HUD urges veterans who are experiencing homelessness (or are at risk of becoming homeless) to call 1-877-4AID-VET, or their local VA Medical Center.

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Circle Low

August 13, 2016 12:46 am


Mortgage rates continue to circle historic lows, extending opportunity for homebuyers and refinancers, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), which found the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaging 3.45 percent.

“A surprisingly strong July jobs report showed 255,000 jobs added and 0.3 percent wage growth from last month, exceeding many experts’ expectations,” said Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, in a statement. “In response, the 10-Year Treasury yield rose to its highest level since June and the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased 2 basis points to 3.45 percent.”

According to the survey, the 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage averages 2.76 percent, and the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averages 2.74 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Housekeeping: 8 Time-Saving Tips

August 11, 2016 12:46 am


Nobody wants to spend more time than necessary on chores—or spend more on cleaning supplies. Good Housekeeping recently rounded up eight tips to save both:

1. Make One All-Purpose Cleaner – Combine four tablespoons of baking soda with four cups of warm water in a spray bottle. Use the spray and a rag to make any household surface shine.

2. Spruce Up Wood Furniture – Scratched wood furniture? Mask the damage by rubbing it with a walnut (shell removed).

3. Brush Away Stains – Use toothpaste to remove marker stains from wood—a handy solution when kids draw at the dining room table! (Bonus: To clean off wall doodles, sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub.)

4. Unclog a Drain for Cheap – Don’t spend on costly drain cleaners. Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by half a cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain with a wet cloth, and let the agents work for 30 minutes.

5. Sanitize the Cutting Board – Rub the cut side of a lemon over a cutting board to remove odors and stains. For extra cleaning power, sprinkle it first with salt or baking soda.

6. De-Grime Patio Furniture – Wipe down patio furniture with a squirt of dishwashing liquid in bucket of warm water. Hose it down afterwards.

7. Vinegar Those Windows – It’s cheap and effective. Add two tablespoons of vinegar to a gallon of water. Pour some in a spray bottle. Squirt and wipe it away with clean microfiber cloth.

8. Lift Shirt Stains – Never spend on spot cleaners or stain removers again. Rub dish detergent into the stain and rinse the shirt before tossing it into the washer.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Do You Know the 3 Keys to Home Staging?

August 11, 2016 12:46 am


Staging your home while it’s on the market is one of the most effective ways to sell it for top dollar.

Start by addressing natural light, say the experts at Stagetecture.com. Ample natural light makes the home appear larger and inviting. Avoid minimizing natural light with heavy window treatments—instead, hang sheers, and open them during showings.

Next, look to the outside of the home. Does the property have appeal? Hang mirrors across from the windows to accentuate scene-stealing views.

Inside the home, assess the color palette. Are the walls dark and closed-in? Consider repainting them with lighter colors to brighten the interior, Stagetecture.com’s experts recommend.

Above all, remember these three key tips:

Don't leave clutter in plain sight.
Make it easy for buyers to visualize their lives in your home. Tackle the noticeable areas, like counters and tables. Are there other areas, such as an entry closet doubling as general storage, that should be tended to, too? If there is an overabundance of personal items in your home, consider paring down.

Avoid staging with items that date the home.
Stage with contemporary styling. Remove old or worn furniture, pack away collectibles from earlier eras and hide décor that convey a sense of the home's age.

Don't fill rooms with furniture.
It is tempting to fill each room with furniture when staging it, but too many pieces can make the space feel crowded. Work toward creating a sense of purpose for the room while maintaining an open-concept look.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Zero-Energy Houses: Here to Stay?

August 11, 2016 12:46 am


Zero-energy houses are a new type of green home built to return zero-dollar energy bills. The houses are becoming universally viable, due to advancements in energy-efficient technology and the declining cost of construction.

Owners of zero-energy homes pay nothing for energy consumption (other than a monthly grid fee), and cut their carbon footprint to near-zero. The typical zero-energy house is made of thick exterior walls, and is outfitted with an efficient HVAC system and solar panels. The home is connected to the grid, so that excess energy generated by the home throughout the day can be distributed back into the grid and power the home at night.

According to the Net-Zero Energy Coalition (NZEC), over 6,000 houses in the U.S. and Canada are “zero-energy ready”—able to self-supply at least 90 percent of their annual energy demand. Just 9 percent of the houses in the NZEC inventory are “zero-energy,” or able to supply 100 percent of their annual energy demand. “Net producers,” which are homes that supply 110 percent or more of their annual energy demand, comprise only 4 percent of the houses in the NZEC inventory.

Ahead of the curve is California, which is on track to build zero-energy housing in just five years. Lawmakers in the Golden State have made zero-energy technology accessible and affordable to residents. Other states have expressed interest in adopting similar policies.

These developments are fueling the zero-energy movement, says Ed Gorman, founder of Modus Development, responsible for the building Arizona’s first zero-energy residential community.

“The design and green features are what draw people in, and they stay because of the energy and cost savings,” Gorman says. “We’ll see more and more builders moving into this space.”

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Start Saving Without Feeling the Pinch

August 11, 2016 12:46 am


Saving money is challenging when your sole focus is on paying the bills—but financial planners concede there are at least five ways to get savings underway, no matter your circumstances:

Start a Budget Based on Fact, Not Fantasy – The first step toward a workable budget (and savings plan) is knowing where your money goes. For 30 days, track every single daily expense, from paying the gas bill to picking up the dry cleaning to the ice cream cones you bought for the kids. Once you’ve added it all up, compare the total to your income.

Find and Trim the Fat – What can you live without? Cull any services you really don’t need—the all-inclusive cable plan, a rarely-used gym membership, a morning latte every day on the way to work.

Save Your Change – Get into the habit of emptying your pocket or purse each night into a piggy bank. You’ll never miss it, and you'll be amazed at how quickly the change adds up.

Boost Your Income – There are many ways to make extra pocket money these days, from getting a part-time job, to selling items on eBay, to participating in a paid online survey. You may even be able to channel your talents—photography, ad writing, Pie-baking, Babysitting—into a lucrative sideline.

Start with an Emergency Fund – Place your initial savings into an emergency fund. Determine a safe balance to work toward—once you've met that balance, move your savings into an interest-bearing account.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Going to Pot! What's in Your Kitchen?

August 11, 2016 12:46 am


I've been mulling over the idea to replace some of my kitchenware for some time. So, I checked in with Katie, the nationally-known "Wellness Mama," (WellnessMama.com), to find out how to best go about obtaining new pots and pans.

The Wellness Mama herself is a fan of X-trema Cookware, because they're the most inert cookware she's found—they don’t leach anything into food.

They are also easy to clean, Katie says, with a non-scratch cooking surface that heats evenly and holds flavor. They are dishwasher-, oven-, microwave- and stove-safe, too.

Cast iron is another of Katie's favorites, ideal for cooking meats and for deep-frying (so long as you don’t scrub it with soap and a Brillo pad!). Cast iron can be used in the oven or on the stove top, and even on a camp fire.

Some fast facts about cast iron:

It's tough. There’s a reason why there are old cast iron pans at yard sales and antique shops.

It holds heat. Once cast iron is hot, it stays hot.

It holds flavor. Every time you cook in your cast iron pan, you season it.

It imparts iron. During the cooking process, a small amount of iron is absorbed into the foods.

What's cookware's in your kitchen?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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