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 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Bathroom Remodeling Tips for Aging in Place

August 18, 2017 1:36 pm

Even though baby boomers are aging, they’re still setting trends. Case in point, the aging-in-place movement. Opting for remaining in the homes they’ve lived in for decades as opposed to heading to warm-weather retirement communities, a growing contingent of older homeowners are staying put.

Aging in place, however, means adapting your home to make living easier and safer as we get older. And the bathroom is a smart place to start. New Jersey-based Gold Medal Service, a heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical service company, recommends the following bathroom remodeling tips that will accommodate limited mobility or physical impairments. 

Remodel the bathroom on the main floor. If you have a house with multiple levels, focus on the first-floor bathroom, which is hopefully adjacent to a first-floor bedroom. This will allow aging homeowners to avoid stairs altogether.  

Provide extra space in the bathroom. Make sure there's enough room in the bathroom to move a wheelchair around, should one be needed down the road. Have doorways set to at least 32 inches wide, and ensure that there's enough space to position a wheelchair next to the toilet, bath or shower, to enable a safe and easy transfer.

Stick with non-slip floors. Non-slip tiles are a must to prevent slipping and tripping on the bathroom floor. Loose rugs can be hazardous, so stick with non-slip materials.

Make tubs and showers more accessible. Older bathtubs can easily be replaced with a walk-in bathtub. Consider having a seating area in the shower so an individual doesn't have to remain standing the entire time while showering. And be sure tub and shower surfaces are non-slip.

Add grab bars. Using towel rails as grab bars is a major safety risk as they will not support a person. Instead, install grab bars following manufacturer's instructions carefully. Place them next to the bath, shower and toilet.

Mind the lighting. Make sure you have ample lighting in the bathroom with a minimal amount of glare.

Have an elevated toilet seat. Standing up from a low-set toilet can be difficult as we get older.

Consider extra accessories. Properly locating things like soap dishes, shaving stands and shower caddies will make using the bathroom more convenient and safer.

Use low-maintenance materials. When you remodel your bathroom, consider using modern materials that are easy to clean, mildew-resistant, and have a lifetime guarantee.

If you’d like more information about homeownership, please contact me.

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Home's 'Hot Spots'

August 18, 2017 1:36 pm

We all know there’s no place like home, but did you know that certain rooms in your home are responsible for the majority of your home’s…well, homeyness? A recent study examined the connection we have to certain rooms in our home and how the design of these hubs—or hot spots—have a direct correlation to our emotions.

A "hot spot" is a room or space associated with positive emotions and memories. The most beloved rooms are designed to accommodate a balance of functionality, relaxation, and socialization. When designed right—by overlapping key room dynamics—a hot spot can increase your overall satisfaction with your home. The Hot Spots Research Study, commissioned by fireplace and grill manufacturer Napoleon, uncovered findings that can help homeowners create a more comfortable and welcoming home.

In the study, rooms qualified as a hot spot when at least 50 percent of respondents checked at least two of the following emotional categories to describe that room: welcoming/social, cozy/warm, relaxed/peaceful, or fun/enjoyable. The more the emotional categories overlapped—the hotter the hot spot.

The top hot spots turned out to be the living room, bedroom and kitchen, with the living room ranking at more than 60 percent in all four categories. Focusing on design in these three rooms will enhance their appeal even more for both you and your family, and potential buyers when you list your home for sale. Enhancing design in these areas can be as simple as rearranging the furniture, incorporating different patterns and textures, adding seating that’s more conducive to socializing, and playing with lighting to add more warmth.

The study also found that hot spots other than the top three can be created by adding amenities associated with positive emotions. For example, think about adding gathering spots, access to the outdoors with a balcony or French doors, smart home features or fireplaces to other rooms in your house to dial up their emotional appeal.

If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

Source: Napoleon Fireplaces

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Bracing for the Back-to-School Transition

August 18, 2017 1:36 pm

As the lazy days of summer wind down, and the familiar harbingers of back to school dot the landscape, the transition can be jarring to your home life. Here are some ideas for easing the family back into school mode.
  1. Conquer the summer work. While it may take a herculean effort, getting your kids to complete (or in some cases, start!) their summer work will stave off tremendous stress, both for you and them, come the last week of summer.
  2. Fill out the forms now. Ditto for all those school and doctor’s forms. Take an hour, gather everything your child will need to return to school, and complete it all now. Place everything in a file folder and tuck it away to be easily handed over on the first day of school.
  3. Make a packing list. If you’re sending a child off to college, sit down with him or her and create a detailed list of what they will need, including clothing, dorm décor, medicines, and groceries. This list will save you from the stress of a last-minute scramble, or worse yet, having to mail boxes of stuff after the fact.
  4. Discuss and plan for schedules. One of the toughest summer-to-school transitions involves having to set alarms and get back on schedule. The best way to avoid the stress is to plan the schedule in advance. Find out when buses arrive and where, when the kids will need to report for sports or band practice, which days you and your partner or neighbors will cover drop off and pick-up, etc. This way, everyone knows where they’re expected to be, and who will cover which responsibilities.
  5. Plan an end-of-summer getaway. Whether you can spare a week, a weekend, or even just a day, take one last chance to gather the family together and do something fun that commemorates summer. 
Putting these strategies into action will help close your summer on a good note, and set your fall up for success.
 
Hope you found these tips helpful. If you need any real estate information, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Questions You Should Ask Your Real Estate Agent About the Market

August 18, 2017 1:36 pm

When shopping for a home, we’re understandably preoccupied with the physical features of our future abode. How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Is there a first-floor master suite? Enough space in the yard for a pool?
 
While those details are of course paramount, there is some other critical information you should know about any home you’re considering buying: local market statistics. The house you buy is not only the place where you will raise your family and live the lifestyle you’ve always wanted; it’s most likely one of the biggest—if not the biggest—investments you will make in your lifetime.
 
Make sure you’re making a wise investment by asking your real estate agent the following questions:
  1. What’s the average time on market, and how has it changed in recent years? Knowing how quickly homes in your market sell is a great indicator of how much you will be able to profit off the sale of your home in years to come. Also be sure to ask how the days on market is expected to trend in the coming year.
  2. What’s the average sales price in your market? This is important to know in order to gauge whether you’re getting a sweet deal or potentially overpaying and hurting your chances to at least recoup your money when you sell. Find out if the average sales price has gone up or down in the last year or so and in which direction it will head over the coming year.
  3. What’s the current inventory of homes for sale in your market? Inventory is an easy way to determine whether you’re in a buyer’s or seller’s market. Both have their advantages. If inventory is high and you’re in a buyer’s market, you can negotiate a better deal. If inventory is low and you’re in a seller’s market, expect to pay above listing price. However, if market stats show that you will be in a seller’s market for years to come, you can make a nice profit should you choose to sell.
  4. What’s the rate of building and construction in your market? New homes, apartment buildings and businesses are all excellent indicators that you’re buying in a thriving and expanding market, which bodes well for your investment. Conversely, if businesses are closing or moving out of town, and if new-home construction is stagnant, your market may be experiencing a decline. 
Bear in mind, while market stats are extremely important, if you’ve found a great home in an area you love, and plan on staying put for many years, it’s most likely a wise choice. Real estate is still the safest and smartest long-term investment.
 
If you need more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Questions to Ask Before Requesting that Credit Line Increase

August 18, 2017 12:48 am

When you see that tempting “request a credit-line increase” message on your credit card statement, it can be very tempting to take advantage of the offer. Before you apply for an increase, however, creditcards.com recommends asking yourself these five questions:

Why do I need a credit-line increase? Do you need an increase to help you finance a large purchase, like a trip or a new fridge, that you’ll be paying off the following month? Or are you spending more than you make and running out of credit? If it’s the latter, an increase is not a smart move and will only land you further in debt.

What’s my credit score? Before applying for an increase, make sure you know your current credit score. Even though you’re an existing credit card holder, asking for an increase is like applying for a new loan so check your credit report to see if there are any existing issues. Add up all your credit card lines and compare that to your total usage to determine your credit utilization score. If you’re using more than 30 percent of your total credit, that will negatively affect your score. If you have a history of late payments or have made only the minimum payments in the last six months or so, don’t ask for a line increase.

Can I afford a “hard pull?” When you apply for a credit-line increase, it oftens triggers a hard pull on your credit report - inquiries that are noted on your credit report for two years, and are factored into your credit score for a year, according to FICO. Before you apply for a line increase, contact the credit card company to see if they will do a hard pull, to avoid shaving even a few points off your credit score.

Will an increase help or hurt my credit score? A credit-line increase can help your credit score as it will automatically shrink your credit utilization ratio. However, if you quickly convert the increased line to new debt, then your credit score will suffer.

How much more credit do you really want? Do some soul searching and reality checking to figure out how much credit you can actually afford. Larger limits can tempt you into overspending and damage your long-term financial health.

I hope you found these credit tips helpful. Feel free to contact me if you’d like information about your local real estate market.

Source: creditcards.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Keep Your Water Clean

August 18, 2017 12:48 am

We think about keeping our homes clean and our clothes clean, but how often do you stop to consider the cleanliness of your water?

"Lakes, rivers, and streams are significant resources that the U.S. relies on heavily as principal sources of water," says Tommy Webber, owner of T. Webber Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. "We may use these water sources recreationally, but we take them for granted. Neglect, pollution, and overuse has put the water quality in danger.  

With that in mind, Webber offers residents these tips for cleaning up water.

Use a rain barrel – During the summer months, garden and lawn watering make up about 40 percent of a household's total water consumption. If your state allows it. Webber recommends using rain barrels to collect runoff from rooftops and use that to water lawns and gardens.

Wash the car on the lawn – Several of the soaps and detergents that are used to wash cars contain phosphorus and other nutrients that may be good for the grass, but may not be so good for our water sources. By washing the car on the lawn, the runoff goes into the ground as opposed to storm drains where the harmful chemicals will negatively impact lakes and rivers.

Properly dispose of pollutants – Used motor oil, antifreeze, paint, roof tar, rechargeable batteries, unused fertilizer, unused medication and other similar contaminants can be recycled at the Wheelabrator solid waste plant. This will prevent these dangerous substances from entering the water supply.

Pick up pet waste – One ounce of dog waste contains 23 million microorganisms of disease-causing fecal coliform bacteria. Either flush your pet's droppings or put it in the garbage.

Put trash where it belongs -- Recycle, reuse or put it in the garbage. Plastic does not decompose and can harm many animals and fish as well as pollute the water.

Have the water tested by a professional – Some residents rely on private wells for their water source. Unlike public water systems which are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), private wells are not. Households that use private wells need to take special precautions to ensure the water that enters their home is safe for their families. Homeowners that are concerned about the safety of their water should contact a professional to test the water. Once the water is tested, and any contaminants are identified, the expert can recommend a water treatment system to improve the water quality and provide peace of mind.

Source:T. Webber Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Safely Photograph an Eclipse

August 18, 2017 12:48 am

With August 21 on the horizon, residents across the country are gearing up to witness the first total eclipse since 1979. However, according to The American Academy of Ophthalmology, there is one thing that sets this month's total eclipse apart from others: Smartphones. Millions of ordinary people are expected to use smartphones and digital cameras to photograph this eclipse. Eye care professionals are concerned that first-timers might train their cameras on this phenomenon, unaware of the damage they can do to their eyes.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Optometry teamed up to offer the follow tips on how to safely photograph an eclipse:

Buy a solar filter or modify your eclipse glasses to function as a solar filter for your smartphone. Cut your glasses in half and tape one eyepiece over your smartphone camera lens.

Take the filter off during totality. Totality is when the moon entirely blocks the sun's bright face. The path of totality for the Aug. 21 eclipse stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Unless you're in the path of totality, keep your solar eclipse glasses on throughout the eclipse.

Use a tripod to keep your camera stable.

Use a remote trigger. With a remote, you can adjust settings and shoot the photo while keeping your camera stable.

Practice. Take photos just after sunset during twilight to get an idea of what the light levels will be like during totality.

Shoot photos of the moon to learn how to manually adjust the focus on your camera. Tap the screen and hold your finger on the image of the moon to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure.

A telephoto lens system is a must-have for eclipse photography with a smartphone. There are zoom lenses for smartphones designed solely to provide magnification without resorting to digital zoom.

Try the pinhole effect. This eclipse effect is easily captured with point-and-shoot cameras. Use a straw hat or a kitchen sieve and allow the sun's shadow to fall on a piece of white cardboard placed several feet away. The small holes act like pinhole cameras and each one projects its own image of the eclipsed sun.

Make sure you purchase solar eclipse filters and glasses from reputable manufacturers. There have been reports that some companies are selling counterfeit products labeled as if they conform to international safety standards.

Source:  www.aaopt.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Learning the ABCs of FICO

August 17, 2017 12:48 am

Most people don’t think too much about their FICO scores until they want to get a loan. But no matter the type of loan you want – mortgage, new car, or whatever – the higher your  FICO score, the more likely you’ll be approved.

Understanding the five factors that make up your scores can be the first step toward improving them. Financial experts at the Motley Fool break down where your scores come from and suggest a few ways to improve them:

Know where your FICO score comes from:

Payment history. Thirty-five percent of your score is determined by whether you pay your bills on time every month.

Credit utilization ratio. Thirty percent reflects your credit utilization ratio – the percentage of available credit you're using. Using less than 30 percent of your available credit can help your credit score.

Length of credit history. Fifteen percent reflects the length of your credit history. Paying bills consistently over time can definitely work in your favor.

New accounts. Ten percent of your score is based on the number of accounts you open. Opening too many new accounts simultaneously suggests you're highly reliant on borrowing to keep up with your expenses.

Credit mix. Ten percent reflects the types of accounts you have. Credit bureaus make a distinction between your credit card accounts versus student loans, car loans, and mortgages.

Three ways to improve your FICO:
Pay off a chunk of your balance. If you carry a balance, pay off as much as you can, even if it means you must work a second job or sell off stuff you no longer need or use.  

Ask for a raise in credit limit. If you’ve paid your bills consistently, this may not be difficult to get – and since your credit utilization ratio carries significant weight, that should help to improve your overall score.

Correct reporting errors. It's estimated that 20 percent of credit reports contain errors. If you spot one on yours – such as an error in the amount you owe or a paid-off account not shown – getting it corrected will almost certainly boost your score. Review your FICO score for free once each year and make sure it's accurate.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Energy Costs Unveiled

August 17, 2017 12:48 am

In a previous segment, I started unpacking the latest Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) study of energy consumption across the country, which paints a fascinating picture of who is paying what for their energy, and why it costs so much - or in some regions - so little.

The study cites the Energy Information Administration (EIA) pegging Midwesterners among those paying more for their electricity than the average American households in other parts of the country.

It also impacts the amount of money Americans pay for produce everywhere, since adequate energy delivery infrastructure is vital to keep crops, farmers, and the Midwest economy moving.

The CEA says maintaining an adequate power supply is crucial to six of the nation’s top 18 agricultural producing states in the region, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, which are among the top 10.

The CEA study illustrates a number of compelling implications about energy delivery in the Midwest:

- The bottom 20 percent of earners spend almost 10 percent of their income solely on electricity, more than seven times the portion of income that the top fifth pays.

- Of those low-income earners that spend 10 percent of their income on power bills, 50 percent of them are African-American families.

- Citizens at or near the poverty level are disproportionately impacted, and the U.S. Census Bureau data estimates that more than 7.8 million people in the Midwest live at or below the poverty line.

- Of the 43.3 million people on food stamps nationwide, more than 6.8 million reside in the Midwest. (In Illinois, 15 percent of residents depend on food stamps.)

The report finds the electricity grid is not serving these communities, resulting in a “reliability gap” of 44.8 percent is something that the poor, young people, seniors and hard-working families in the Midwest can’t afford.

Adding to the stress, based on information from the EIA, the Midwest region would be one of the most impacted by a predicted 46 percent energy shortfall by 2030.  

The CEA report says the current lack of a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is holding back the federal approval of an estimated $50 billion in major energy delivery projects, including those that would secure energy and economic security for Midwest families and businesses.

So it's important for Midwest residents of that region to stay informed about energy grid developments close to home. For those in other regions, stay tuned as we continue unpacking CEA's energy data for your part of the country.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Make Air Travel More Tolerable

August 17, 2017 12:48 am

From endless security lines to cramped cabins, flying these days can feel far from glamorous. Here are some tips for making airline travel less stressful and maybe even a little enjoyable.

Build in more time. With stepped-up security requirements and packed flights, airports are getting more crowded and lines are getting longer and moving more slowly. Like it or not, this means you have to leave for the airport earlier to guarantee smooth travels. Tack on at least an additional half an hour - an hour is even better. Should you find yourself with time to spare at the airport, treat yourself to a relaxing meal, a shoe shine or mini massage.

Reserve correctly. When booking your flight, make sure the name on your ticket reads exactly as your license or passport. Middle initials - or lack thereof - matter, as do full names, i.e., Joe vs. Joseph. Any discrepancies can set you back at security and possibly cause you to miss your flight.

Check in online. Don’t skip the chance to check in online the night before and print your boarding pass at home or send it to your mobile phone. This will allow you to eliminate at least one line and go straight to bag drop or security if you only have a carry-on bag.

Carry on responsibly. Make sure your carry-on luggage can actually fit in the overhead compartment. Don’t hold up departure as you try to cram in a too-large bag. If in doubt, just check it. And make packing light your golden rule.

Know the security drill. Ditch your liquids, wear slip-on shoes, and empty your pockets well before getting in the security line. If you’re traveling with a laptop, remember to remove it and place it in a separate bin. If you have metal in your body, alert the TSA agent and have the necessary medical documentation.

If you happen to be looking for real estate information, feel free to contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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