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Mary Mastroeni

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Foreclosures Provide Buyers Ample Opportunity in Today’s Competitive Market

May 13, 2016 2:31 pm

If you’re looking for a great deal and don’t mind the possibility of getting your own hands dirty in the process, you may want to consider purchasing a foreclosure.
 
A foreclosure occurs when a borrower defaults on their mortgage for an extended period of time. The lender then has the right and option to either foreclose the home or assume the rights of occupancy for the property, resulting in lenders being more open to letting the properties go cheaply. However, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these homes need a lot of work, so the money you save on the sale price will most likely go into updating or repairing the space.
 
If this is something that interests you, let your agent know you’re interested in seeing recently foreclosed homes.
 
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering a foreclosure as your future home. 
 
Before It Happens. Many lenders publish a list of homes approaching foreclosure so prospective buyers and their agents can approach the owner before it actually happens. By going this route, you could save anywhere from 25 - 30 percent of market value. Since a foreclosure will ruin someone’s credit report, many sellers are open to a quick sale.
 
REO Sales. A real estate-owned sale occurs when the lender decides to sell a foreclosed property directly. While the savings aren’t as great, buyers are able to finance the purchase, a process that generally occurs in the same way a traditional home purchase would.
 
Expect the Worst. Lenders don’t want to add to their collection of homes, and they aren’t going to make significant investments in sprucing up the space, so be prepared to make a lot of upgrades and fixes once the home is yours. You may find that many things, including electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, need to be brought up to code to make the home livable.  
 
If you’re thinking of purchasing a foreclosure, be sure to keep an open mind. And do your homework to avoid jumping into a situation that may not be best for you.
 
To learn more about the opportunities foreclosures provide, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Ways to Make Your Older Home More Energy Efficient

May 13, 2016 2:31 pm

While older homes are full of charm, characteristics and nuances that won’t be found in a newly constructed home, the odds are good that unless there have been some major upgrades over the years, its energy efficiency rating will be nowhere near that of a new home.
 
Still, older homes appeal to many buyers, and it’s easier to incorporate eco-friendly elements into an older home than it is to add charm to a newly built home.
 
If you’re attempting to sell an older home, and want to attract the eco-minded buyer, there are numerous things you can do to make the house more energy efficient.
 
To start, hire someone to come in and conduct an energy audit, or check with your utility company to see if they’re offered for free. During the audit, a professional will analyze the home and recommend a set of measures to improve energy performance, alerting you to areas of the home that are most vulnerable to energy inefficiency.
 
One of the easiest things you can do to increase an older home’s energy efficiency is better insulate the space. Purchasing insulation won’t break the bank, and a novice handyman can most likely handle the job. If you’re interested in going this route, there are plenty of DIY videos on YouTube to help guide you through the process. Be sure to pay attention to attics, crawl spaces, basements, heating and cooling ducts and the area around water pipes, as these spaces are typically lacking when it comes to insulation.
 
It’s also a good idea to cover your water heater with an insulated water heater blanket so the heater retains more heat and consumes less energy to heat the water.
 
Windows are another important area that can’t be overlooked when it comes to making an older home more energy efficient. If installing energy-efficient windows is out of your budget, another alternative is to use interior window Low-E (low-emissivity) films. Energy films block 97 percent of UV rays and 70 percent of thermal infrared light. Not only will this keep heat from getting in during the summer months, it will do wonders when it comes to retaining warmth during the colder months.
 
Ceiling fans are another great alternative for older homes. During the summer months, fans should circulate in a counter-clockwise direction to push cool air down. During the colder winter months, fans should rotate in a clockwise direction to produce a gentle updraft, forcing warm air near the ceiling down into the occupied space.
 
As far as upgrading appliances, adding energy-efficient refrigerators, dishwashers or washers and dryers will ultimately make the home more attractive to prospective buyers, however, it’s up to you and your agent to decide if the money spent updating appliances will lead to a faster sale.
 
And last but not least, if your foundation has cracks or your windows have holes, these should be fixed by a contractor, as repairing these items will help save money on heating and air conditioning bills. If you want to handle the job yourself, seal any areas where you feel air infiltrating your home.
 
To learn more about incorporating energy-efficient features into your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hardwood Floors Top Wish Lists When Searching for Dream Home

May 13, 2016 2:31 pm

From open floor plans to updated appliances in the kitchen and everything in between, prospective buyers are all over the board when it comes to what they’re looking for in a home. But hardwood floors are one feature that many prospective buyers have at the top of their wish list when searching for their dream home, something that sellers should take note of as they prepare their home for sale.
 
In fact, according to a survey by the National Wood Flooring Association, 82 percent of real estate professionals said that homes with hardwood floors sold faster—and often for more money.
 
Not only are hardwood floors ecologically friendly, many leading health associations agree that they’re the perfect choice for those looking for a healthy home because they don’t collect dust and other allergens. In addition, a recent EPA study found that pesticides used in gardens and homes accumulate on floors and other surfaces in the home, but wood floors greatly reduce the accumulation of such toxins. Hardwood floors don’t trap or harbor dust mites or molds either.
 
Homes with open floor plans stand to benefit from hardwood flooring because it creates the feeling of continuity homeowners are looking for, which will go a long way toward attracting house hunters.
 
Despite the existence of modern architectural trends in flooring, hardwood has come a long way over the years. With more colors, styles and species available than ever before, hardwood flooring can still compete with floor tiles and other artificial materials. 
 
Available in a variety of colors and grains; light, medium or dark shades; and a variety of sizes, styles, finishes and species, the options are endless. While maple, mahogany and oak are the most popular choices today, some homeowners are going the extra mile by investing in exotic species such as Brazilian Cherry and Purpleheart. It’s also important to remember that more traditional hardwood flooring is less expensive, and solid wood flooring can be refinished several times to increase its lifespan.
 
To maintain your hardwood floors, regularly sweep them with a soft-bristle broom or dust mop to remove surface dirt and debris. If your floor contains beveled edges, use a vacuum with a soft bristle brush attachment to remove dirt and debris from between the floorboards.
 
In the end, remember that when someone enters your home, they usually look down before they look up, so that first step is vital for making a great first impression.
 
To learn more about hardwood floors, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Unkempt Gutters Can Be a Costly Mistake When Selling Your Home This Spring

May 13, 2016 2:31 pm

Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to get your home in tip-top shape before putting it on the market. In addition to cleaning your home’s interior and sprucing up the landscaping, you’ll want to pay attention to the gutters as well.
 
Depending on where you live, if you’ve experienced a brutal fall and winter—or your property has an abundance of trees—the gutters could use some extra attention.
 
While maintaining your gutters can be messy and time-consuming, the last thing you want is for a potential buyer to cross your house off the list because of unsightly gutters. In fact, leftover leaves may be enough to get prospective buyers thinking about whether or not the property has been properly maintained.
 
Besides, gutters are an important part of the home as they transfer rainwater and runoff from the roof away from the house. If they get clogged, numerous problems can occur. From leaks inside the home to foundations becoming more vulnerable due to an excess amount of water, clogged gutters can also cause driveways and pathways around the home to sag and crack.
 
As the temperatures continue to warm up, it’s also important to remember that unkempt gutters can serve as a nesting home for insects and birds. 
 
If you don’t have the time or inclination to clean the gutters yourself, it’s worth spending a little money to hire a gutter cleaning service. If you decide to tackle the job yourself, make sure your ladder is sturdy and you have someone to help. Once everything is removed, take a hose and rinse the gutters out to make sure everything is running smoothly.
 
While it might not seem like a big deal to you, cleaning your gutters in the spring is a project that should be on every sellers to-do list, so be sure to take action before it’s too late.
 
For more information about cleaning your gutters, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Terminology 101

May 13, 2016 2:31 pm

Navigating the home-buying process can be a challenge, for first-timers and seasoned buyers alike. In addition to looking for the perfect home, prospective buyers need to be knowledgeable about the ins and outs associated with choosing a mortgage, beginning with having a general understanding of the terminology involved in mortgage papers.
 
While many borrowers simply seek rates and terms that appear reasonable, it’s important that they understand the type of lender they’re dealing with. 
 
Following are some of the most common terms you’ll come across when going through the process of choosing a lender. 
 
Mortgage Lenders. Lenders are the ones who make the loan and provide the money you’ll use to buy your home. When meeting with lenders, you’ll have to provide a lot of financial background information. The lender will then set the mortgage interest rates and other loan terms accordingly.
 
Mortgage Brokers. Brokers work with multiple lenders to find the loan that’ll offer you the best rate and terms, so when you take out the loan, you’re really borrowing from a lender, not a broker. This is often one of the most confusing parts of the mortgage process for prospective buyers.
 
Mortgage Bankers. Most mortgage lenders are mortgage bankers, which means they don’t lend their own money, but borrow funds at short-term rates from warehouse lenders. Larger mortgage bankers will originate their own loans, which they’ll then sell directly to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or investors.
 
Portfolio Mortgage Lenders. These lenders originate and fund their own loans, offering more flexibility in loan products because they don’t need to adhere to the guidelines of secondary market buyers. Once these loans are serviced and paid for on time for at least a year, they’re considered “seasoned” and can be sold on the secondary market more easily. 
 
Hard Money Lenders. If you’re having trouble getting a mortgage and working with a portfolio mortgage lender, a hard money lender may be your last resort. These lenders are private individuals with money to lend, though interest rates are often much higher.
 
Wholesale Lenders. Wholesale lenders cater to mortgage brokers for loan origination but offer loans to brokers at a lower cost than their retail branches offer them to the general public. The result for the borrower? The loan costs about the same as if it were obtained directly from a retail branch of the wholesale lender.
 
Correspondent Mortgage Lenders. These lenders have agreements in place with one or more wholesale lenders to act as their retail representative so they lend directly to buyers and use wholesaler guidelines to approve and close loans with their own money. They also agree to buy back any loans they close that deviate from wholesaler guidelines. 
 
Direct Mortgage Lenders. A direct mortgage lender is simply a bank or lender that works directly with a homeowner, with no need for a middleman or broker.
 
To learn more about mortgage terms you need to be familiar with, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Foreclosures

May 13, 2016 2:31 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the importance of understanding common terms you’ll most likely come across as you make your way through the process of choosing a lender. Other topics covered this month include simple tips for increasing your home’s energy efficiency and how unkempt gutters can cause prospective buyers to walk away. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Money Management 101: 3 Age-Appropriate Stepping Stones

May 13, 2016 12:34 am

When it comes to money management, the best lessons are taught early.

“Although it can be awkward at times, talking to your kids about money at a young age is extremely important,” explains Steve Trumble, president and CEO of the non-profit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC). “The most vital lessons for children to learn [are] the value of the dollar and the importance of budgeting and saving. By learning these concepts early on, there is a better chance they will have successful financial lives.

Parents interested in teaching their children about personal finance can follow these stepping stones, recently outlined by ACCC:

For Children in Kindergarten – Grade 2 – Communicate the most basic principle: money must be earned. Set up a savings account for the child(ren), and allow them to deposit earnings they’ve accumulated from completing household chores.

For Children in Grade 3 – Grade 6 – Help the child(ren) develop responsible spending habits. Try this exercise: have them make a list of five things they need and five things they want, ranking both lists in order of importance. Show them the estimated cost for each need and want, emphasizing the savings needed to purchase them.

For Children in Grade 7 – Grade 12 – Introduce credit carefully—make it clear that it is not “free” money. To demonstrate, allow the child(ren) to borrow money from you, complete with a limit, repayment terms, and a standard interest rate.

Source: ACCC

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BBQ Month: 5 Fun Facts

May 13, 2016 12:34 am

For many homeowners, May marks the beginning of grilling season—and this year, the barbecue’s hotter than ever! Get fired up for a summer of backyard eats with these fun facts, recently released by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA).

Seventy-five percent of adults own a grill or smoker. Sixty-two percent of those with a grill own a gas grill. Ten percent of grill owners have a backyard kitchen.

• The most popular days to barbecue are Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, but 63 percent of grill owners do it all year round!

Seventy-one percent of grill owners use their grills to improve flavor; 54 percent do it for personal enjoyment; 42 percent do it while entertaining family and friends.

• The most popular new accessories grill owners plan to purchase are broiling baskets, cooking planks and pizza stones. Fifty percent of grill owners have basic grilling accessories, like mitts and tongs.

• Barbecuing isn’t strictly for dinnertime meals—11 percent of grill owners have even cooked breakfast on a grill!

Source: HPBA

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Remodeling on a Budget? 5 Tips

May 13, 2016 12:34 am

Remodeling a home is a major undertaking, one few homeowners take lightly because of the time and expense it involves. While the end result can add value to the property, homeowners are rightly concerned with getting the job done as cost-effectively as possible.

Consumer Reports offers five tips to help keep costs down and spirits up:

1. Choose a Licensed and Bonded Contractor – Not only are you more likely to get the professionalism you expect, but licensed and bonded contractors are also more likely to hold down costs and share any cost overruns that may occur.

2. Haggle – Don’t be shy about asking for a break in price. Some contractors will offer a discount for seniors or the disabled if asked, or will be amenable to competitive bargaining in order to win your business.

3. Stick to the Plan – Ask questions, listen to ideas and be sure of what you want in your remodel before you sign a contract. Every change you make once the work is in progress will likely result in added charges.

4. Prepare for Unknown Damage – Unknown structural damage discovered once the remodel has begun, such as faulty wiring or mold, can result in delays and added cost. Be prepared to allocate additional funds as needed.

5. Don’t Over-Improve – Don’t over-improve for the neighborhood. Understand that one-of-a-kind features, like having the only swimming pool on your block or the only home with commercial kitchen appliances or upscale decorative touches, does not necessarily mean you will recover your investment if and when you decide to sell.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Chef: 10 Kitchen Tips for Beginners

May 12, 2016 12:34 am

No doubt chefs with years of training have learned a few tricks along the way. The food editors at Family Circle Magazine recently interviewed a panel of these culinary experts, coming out with 10 all-star tips for novice chefs:

1.  Bump Up the Veggies – Making pasta? Toss a few veggies into the boiling water during the last five minutes of cooking.

2. Clean Cutting Boards with Ease – Get the odors out by liberally sprinkling the board with salt, then scrubbing it with half of a lemon.

3. Cook Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs – Add a bit of oil to the water while boiling, and the shells will slip right off when you peel them.

4. Cut It Right for Stir-Frying – Put meat into the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing into thin, even strips.

5. Improvise Buttermilk – Need buttermilk for just one recipe? Put a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup, then add a cup of milk and stir.

6. Measure Ingredients Before You Cook – Chefs call it, “Mise en Place.” Save time by chopping and measuring all of your ingredients and spices beforehand.

7. Melt Chocolate in the Microwave – No need for a double boiler. Place squares or chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 30 to 45 seconds. The chocolate will continue melting on its own, so stir it after a few seconds to see if more microwave time is needed.

8. Mince Garlic in Two Steps – Cut thin, vertical slices almost to the stem end, then slice crosswise two or three times to mince.

9. Rescue Dishes with the Right Additives – A heavy hand with any seasoning can ruin a dish. If it’s too spicy, add sugar or butter. If it’s too sweet, add lemon juice. If it just doesn’t taste up to par, try adding a bit of salt.

10. Water Will Not Put Out an Oil Fire – If the pan flares, smother the flame with salt or baking soda, or simply turn off the heat and clamp a lid on the pan.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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