Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Buying Your First Home? Simple Tips to Keep the Process Running Smoothly

February 12, 2016 2:04 pm

As the real estate market continues to improve, we’re seeing a steady increase in the amount of first-time buyers jumping off the sidelines and into homeownership. In fact, the December 2015 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey revealed that the number of first-time homebuyers increased to 32 percent of residential sales at the end of 2015.
 
While buying your first home can be nerve-racking, paying attention to the following items will go a long way toward putting your mind at ease as you make your way through the process.   
 
Get your finances in check. Just because you have money in the bank doesn’t mean you will qualify for a mortgage. Meet with a financial advisor and get a handle on what you can truly afford. If you want to do the numbers yourself, make sure to create a comprehensive list of every possible expense—loans, student debt, monthly expenses, etc.—and don’t rely on your lender to figure out a total for you. Lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio and not necessarily your day-to-day spending habits.
 
Choose an agent. Buying a new home will likely be one of the biggest decisions of your life, therefore, it’s important to take your time when choosing an agent. Not only do you want someone who is willing to communicate on your terms, you want to be sure your agent knows the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Whether it’s the most experienced agent—or an eager up-and-comer—do your homework before choosing an agent to guide you through the process.  
 
Get pre-qualified. Once you know how much home you can afford, be sure the bank agrees by getting pre-qualified for a loan. While the pre-qualification process is not a guarantee that the lender will offer you funding, it does take into consideration your credit score and income level in order to determine how much the lender might be willing to offer through a mortgage program. The next step is to get a prequalification letter so that when you find your dream home, you can offer proof that you can get the financing to buy it.
 
Shop for lenders. Mortgage rates are still low, but that doesn’t mean you should jump at the first one that comes along. Compare and contrast at least three to five lenders to find the one that best serves your interests. It’s also important to disclose that you’re a first-time buyer, as it could potentially make a difference in the types of programs a lender offers you.
 
Seek out first-time homebuyer programs. There are a slew of programs specifically designed to assist first-time homebuyers with benefits such as down-payment assistance and no closing costs. Others offer first-time buyers competitive interest rates that are designed to make borrowing easier. Be sure to understand the various resources that are out there to help you.
 
To learn more about buying your first home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

7 Tools Every New Homeowner Needs in Their Toolbox

February 12, 2016 2:04 pm

If you recently purchased a home and have a big move looming in the not-so-distant future, preparation is key to ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible—and that includes making sure you have the right tools for the job. Here are some common tools you should have at the ready when moving to a new home.
 
1. Cordless Drill. From hanging shelves to photos—and assembling furniture—a cordless drill will help you get any job done quickly and easily. Going cordless is also a great option when it comes to working around the nooks and crannies of your new home.
 
2. Tape Measure. Whether it’s making sure the TV is centered on the wall or ordering a rug to fit a specific space, a tape measure will undoubtedly come in handy as you unpack your belongings. Invest a few extra dollars and purchase a retractable tape measure that won’t break or tear easily.
 
3. Level. Hanging art or photos is often more challenging than most people think, and the last thing you want is a bunch of frames hanging crookedly throughout your home. Purchasing a level is a surefire way to ensure everything gets hung with precision.
 
4. Extension Cords. Typically an afterthought, extension cords can come in handy during parties, around the holidays and in rooms where electrical outlets may not be conveniently located.
 
5. Pliers and Wrenches. Good for tightening shelves and cabinets and many small plumbing jobs you may need to tackle in the bathroom, pliers and wrenches are a must-have for any homeowner’s toolbox.
 
6. Socket Set. No home is complete without a set of ratcheting wrenches with metric and standard sockets in different drives.
 
7. Screwdrivers. Be sure to stock up on screwdrivers of different sizes (both flat- and Phillips-head), as this is the tool you’ll reach for most often. Whether it’s for hanging items up, replacing smoke detector batteries—and many other ordinary fix-it-up jobs—you’ll want to be prepared.
 
While this list is just the tip of the iceberg, these tools will come in handy for years to come.
 
Contact our office today to learn more about preparing for a move.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

In this Edition: Leap Day

February 12, 2016 2:04 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the seven tools that will come in handy as you prepare to move into a new home. Other topics covered this month include simple tips for first-time homebuyers and five books everyone should read before purchasing a home. 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.


Tags:

The Top Source of Workplace Stress? Unpredictability

February 11, 2016 2:58 pm

It pays to prepare for the unexpected. “Unpredictability” was named the top source of work-related stress by 26 percent of respondents in a recently released CareerCast poll, with the most taxing occupations including enlisted military, firefighters, police officers, public relations executives and event coordinators.

"Life is filled with stressors—from worrying you're going to lose your job because the company lost a big account to having a sick child at home," says Kyle Kensing, online content editor for CareerCast. "Much of the pressure we feel occurs in the eight or so hours we spend at work and we asked our readers to sound off on their stress factors."

Other common factors influencing work-related stress levels include:

• Workplace Environment (21 percent)
• Deadlines (20 percent)
• Safety of Others (16 percent)

The least stressful aspect of the workplace is business travel, named a stressor by just 1 percent of poll respondents. Few people felt the following stressors contributed to work-related stress levels, as well:

• Potential for Promotion (3 percent)
• Personal Well-Being in Danger (5 percent)
• Length of Work Day/Week (7 percent)

If you find yourself one of the majority stressed over unpredictability at work, you may find reprieve as a hair stylist, medical records technician, jeweler or librarian—professions named least stressful, according to poll results.

Source: CareerCast

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

5 Steps to Ensure Water Quality at Home

February 11, 2016 2:58 pm

The lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., has brought to light possible occurrences in other areas of the country. Unsafe lead levels in tap water can be harmful, particularly to pregnant women and children. If faced with contaminated tap water, steps to reduce exposure should be taken as soon as possible. Per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

• Clean out faucet aerators by unscrewing the aerator at the tip of the faucet and removing any debris. Aerators are located at the tip of household faucets and have a screen to collect particles and sediment.

• Flush hot water tanks to remove sediments that may have been deposited into the tank.

• Clean whole-house water filtration systems by flushing the system and changing the cartridge.

• Have your water tested to be sure lead levels are below 150 parts per billion.

• Pregnant women and children under six should drink bottled water until they get results showing their water is below 150 parts per billion. After that point, they should only drink water that has been through an NSF-certified, lead removal filter.

Source: EPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Coast to Coast: The Top Growth States and Cities

February 11, 2016 2:58 pm

More Americans are calling the coasts home. Two states—one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast—ranked among the highest for new residents in the last year, based on incoming one-way U-Haul truck rentals. U-Haul migration trends don’t correlate directly to population or economic growth, but the data are a strong gauge of how well states are attracting and retaining residents.

The coastal states topping the list are North Carolina and California, with Florida, Ohio and Virginia also experiencing a flood of new residents in the past year.

Clear growth cities have also emerged in the U-Haul statistics. The top 10 are:

1. Concord, Calif.
2. Roseville-Sacramento, Calif.
3. Austin, Texas
4. Madison, Wis.
5. Chicago, Ill.
6. College Station, Texas
7. Henderson, Nev.
8. Manhattan, N.Y.
9. Manteca, Calif.
10. Missoula, Mont.

Source: U-Haul

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

The Most Romantic Cities in America…for Foodies

February 10, 2016 2:58 pm

Love it or hate it, the appetite for a romantic dining spot will be insatiable this Valentine’s Day—and some cities heed the call better than others.

"For generations, people have celebrated love by sharing a meal at enchanting, elegant restaurants," says Caroline Potter, chief dining officer of OpenTable, which recently rounded up a list of the most romantic cities in America for dining.

"The cities on this list, from the charming coastal community that is Virginia Beach to the top dining destination of Chicago, are those in which deliciously romantic dinners are de rigueur for couples in all stages of courtship,” says Potter. 

The list was tabulated by factoring in the percentage of restaurants rated “Romantic” on OpenTable, the percentage of tables seated for two, and the percentage of people who dined out for Valentine’s Day last year in each city. The full list:

1. Virginia Beach, Va.
2. Newport, R.I.
3. Milwaukee, Wis.
4. Atlantic City, N.J.
5.  Santa Fe, N.M.
6. Birmingham, Ala.
7. Oklahoma City, Okla.
8. Omaha, Neb.
9. St. Louis, Mo.
10. Colorado Springs, Colo.
11. Baltimore, Md.
12. San Antonio, Texas
13. Annapolis, Md.
14. Madison, Wis.
15. Fort Worth, Texas
16. Greenville, S.C.
17. Memphis, Tenn.
18. Louisville, Ky.
19. Savannah, Ga.
20. Austin, Texas
21. Tulsa, Okla.
22. Greensboro, N.C.
23. Chicago, Ill.
24. Lexington, Ky.
25. Columbus, Ohio

Source: OpenTable

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Americans Expect Stable Home Prices, Higher Earnings

February 10, 2016 2:58 pm

With the first month of 2016 on record, Americans are exhibiting confidence, albeit tepid, about the economy in the year ahead. According to a recently released survey by the New York Federal Reserve, the expectation for changes in home prices remained stable, while expectations surrounding earnings and spending growth have increased slightly.

Per the survey, home price change expectations in the next year hovered at 3.0 percent. Looking one year ahead, expected earnings growth rebounded to 2.1 percent, primarily driven by younger, lower-income and lower-educated workers. The expectation for household spending growth rose to 3.0 percent.

The survey also presents findings regarding credit availability, perceptions and expectations for which have trickled downward. The perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months decreased to 11.8 percent.

Expectations for household income growth also dipped, this time to 2.2 percent, chiefly determined by older, less-educated respondents to the survey.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Homeowners: Make Way for the Super Kitchen

February 10, 2016 2:58 pm

More activities than ever take place in the kitchen—so much so that a new movement has emerged. “Super kitchens,” coined by Houzz.com and revealed in its recently released Kitchen Trends Survey, blur the lines between the heart of the home and other living spaces.

“The modern ‘super kitchen’ supports family, friends and work and does it in style,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. “Our findings show that homeowners expect kitchen renovations to go far beyond improving flow, storage or aesthetics. The ‘super kitchen’ has literally become a living room, family room and office, with finishes, layouts and decor that challenge us to define where the kitchen ends and the rest of the home begins.”

According to the survey, homeowners have adapted their kitchens to serve a multitude of needs, including:

• Dining Space (69 percent)
• Entertainment Space (49 percent)
• Space for Socializing (43 percent)
• Homework Space (25 percent)
• Space for Television Viewing (19 percent)
• Reading Space (14 percent)

To meet these needs, homeowners have adjusted the layout of their kitchens—46 percent have made the space completely open to other interior rooms, and one in five were opened to the outdoors. Thirty-five percent of homeowners renovated their kitchens into a U-shaped layout; 28 percent remodeled their kitchens into an L-shaped layout.

Homeowners have also added features traditionally reserved for living and dining rooms to their super kitchens, including:

• Dining Tables (25 percent)
• Chandeliers (23 percent)
• Televisions (14 percent)
• Desks and Workspaces (7 percent)

Why the shift to super? Aside from necessity, many homeowners report simply being unable to stand their outdated kitchen—a motivation that surpassed budget concerns. Approximately half of homeowners (52 percent) spent $25,000 or less on kitchen renovations; nearly identical percentages (31 and 30 percent, respectively) spent $25,000 to $50,000 or $50,000 or more on kitchen renovations.

Source: Houzz

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Uneasy about Retirement? Write Out Your Goals

February 9, 2016 2:58 pm

Writing down information not only helps you retain it, but it also helps to set the wheels in motion—and when it comes to retirement, action can make all the difference. According to recently released research from the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute, pre-retirees with formal, written retirement plans feel more confident about their future than those without, and are twice as likely to feel prepared for retirement.

"While three-quarters of pre-retirees and retirees have some kind of financial retirement plan, our study found only 16 percent have a formal written retirement plan,” says Matthew Drinkwater, PhD., assistant vice president, LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute.  “Our research demonstrated that taking the time to create a formal written retirement plan—which involves a comprehensive discussion about goals, asset management and risk mitigation—often leads to better outcomes in retirement.”

The research, documented in a study called “The Benefits of Retirement Planning,” reveals a stark contrast between those who write out their retirement goals and those who do not, with significant implications for retirement outcomes. For example:

• Eighty percent of those with a formal written plan have estimated how many years their assets will last into retirement, nearly double of those who don’t have a formal written plan (42 percent).

• More than three-quarters of pre-retirees and retirees who have a formal written plan (78 percent) have developed a specific plan for generating income from savings; only 38 percent of those without a formal written plan have done the same.

• Pre-retirees with formal written plans are twice as likely to convert a portion of their assets into guaranteed income (22 percent vs. 11 percent). Retirees with formal written plans are three times as likely to convert a portion of their assets into guaranteed income (25 percent vs. 8 percent).

“Strikingly, most of pre-retirees and retirees we interviewed said they would not have been as financially successful without a formal written retirement plan, acknowledging their own lack of awareness and skill,” says Drinkwater. “Even the wealthier consumers said they found value in a formal plan—if only to review and vet their own ideas.”

Source: LIMRA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags: