RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
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

Selling Your Home? Understanding Pricing Strategy

August 30, 2016 12:51 am

There’s no substitute for the pricing skills of a real estate professional, but home sellers often disagree as to the price their agent advises. Recent findings from the Journal of Housing Research, a publication by the American Real Estate Society (ARES), may impart some understanding.

According to the research, the most effective sale price is one that is just below a round number—$199,000, say, as opposed to $200,000. The difference, though negligible to the seller, is generally positively perceived by the buyer.

“We tested the age-old debate concerning the best technique to price a home when listing it for sale,” says Michael J. Seiler of The College of William and Mary, who conducted the research. “We find that using a price just below a round number works best, particularly in connection to the left-most digit in the price—so, $199,000 works better than $200,000.”

“On average, buyers are more attracted to a house priced at $199,000 than to a house priced at $200,000, and it appears that ‘just below’ pricing works out favorably for sellers in terms of their bottom line,” adds Eli Beracha of Florida International University, who also conducted the research. “Based on our research, the ‘just below’ pricing strategy yields a selling price that is, on average, roughly 2.5 to 3 percent higher—$5,000 to $6,000 on a $200,000 house—compared with a rounded pricing listing strategy.

“Our study suggests that by using the ‘just below’ pricing strategy, sellers can price their home slightly higher without driving away potential buyers,” Beracha notes. “As a result, they end up selling their house for more.”

In light of these findings, it’s important to remember that real estate professionals set prices after careful consideration of market data and trends—their recommendation, ultimately, is what will sell the home fastest and for the best price.

Need assistance pricing your home? Contact a real estate professional today!

Source: Florida Atlantic University


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Away from Home: Packing and Protecting Your College Student

August 30, 2016 12:51 am

Millions of students are in the throes of college move-in, preparing to venture to their homes away home for another school year.

For freshmen, knowing what to bring—and what to leave behind—can be a challenge. New students should familiarize themselves with their school’s policies on acceptable belongings before packing. Students can then use a checklist (such as the one from, below) to inventory what's packed upon arrival on campus.

A checklist can also be used if obtaining a College Property Insurance Policy—though students may never need to make a claim if they take secure measures, such as installing dorm locks or using a laptop safe.

One retailer,, offers security products for students:

Fire Gone – A dorm-sized fire extinguisher that delivers a strong, targeted stream of eco-friendly foam ($14.95)

Chipolo's Tracking Tag – A bluetooth system that connects matching tags with a smartphone to track down lost items within a 200 foot-range

TabletSafe – A three-dial padlock safe for tablets, wallets, cash, passports, and other valuables ($59.99)

To print the DormSmart checklist, visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Preventing Water Damage at Home

August 30, 2016 12:51 am

Any homeowner who’s experienced flooding knows how damaging water can be. Millions of dollars are spent on water-related repairs and restorations each year, says Eric Corbett, owner of Larry & Sons, Inc., a Maryland-based air conditioning, heating and plumbing company.

“Water damage can be caused by any size leak,” Corbett says. “Even if it starts out relatively small, it has the potential to create a major problem inside your home. This leads to costly repairs if proper precautions are ignored."

Water leaks account for up to 14 percent of water usage in the average household, Corbett notes. Waterproofing potential leak sources is one way to not only reduce that percentage, but also lessen damage should a leak occur.

One of the most common leak sources is a running toilet, Corbett says. To determine whether a leak is present, drop a few drips of food dye into the toilet tank—evidence of a leak will be obvious after about 20 minutes. Replace the valve inside the tank to prevent further leaking.

Many leaks occur in basements, Corbett adds. A damp basement should be remedied by a professional as soon as possible to mitigate appliance damage and mildew and mold growth.

Weathered pipes can also cause leaks, especially if they are rusted. Signs of a pipe leak include visual indicators of accumulation, such as wet drywall, and dripping sounds, Corbett says.

Leaks can happen outside of the home, as well. Vibrant green vegetation or moss growth around a sprinkler head could be a sign of a broken head or damaged valve—a leak that must be addressed by a professional, says Corbett.

“These are common water hazards that every homeowner faces at one time or another,” Corbett concludes. “It's a lot simpler than many people think to waterproof their homes and avoid those issues.”

Source: Larry & Sons, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Cost of Housing: 25 Metros and the Salaries Needed to Live in Them

August 30, 2016 12:51 am

Homeownership comes with costs—in some markets more than others. How much will you need to earn to purchase a home in your area? recently calculated the salaries needed to afford housing payments on a median-priced home in 25 metropolitan areas, including mortgage principal and interest, taxes and insurance. HSH assumed a 20 percent down payment and weighed the standard 28 percent “front-end” debt ratio with the most recent median home prices reported by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The salary minimums, according to HSH’s calculations, are:

1. Cincinnati, Ohio – $37,179
2. St. Louis, Mo. – $38,131
3. Detroit, Mich. – $38,542
4. Atlanta, Ga. – $40,092
5. Phoenix, Ariz. – $44,716
6. Tampa, Fla. – $44,875
7. San Antonio – $48,753
8. Orlando, Fla. – $49,382
9. Minneapolis, Minn. – $51,794
10. Houston, Texas – $52,275
11. Philadelphia, Pa. – $53,422
12. Dallas, Texas – $54,764
13. Baltimore, Md. – $56,837
14. Chicago, Ill. – $62,456
15. Miami, Fla. – $65,120
16. Sacramento, Calif. – $65,363
17. Portland, Ore. – $70,613
18. Denver, Colo. – $72,847
19. Washington, D.C. – $81,940
20. Seattle, Ore. – $82,671
21. New York, N.Y. – $86,215
22. Boston, Mass. – $87,557
23. Los Angeles, Calif. – $92,092
24. San Diego, Calif. – $109,441
25. San Francisco, Calif. – $161,948

Don’t see your area listed? Consult a local real estate professional for the most accurate affordability estimates for your area, or visit


Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Reason You May Be Overpaying for Car Insurance

August 27, 2016 12:49 am

Every insurance provider collects information from policyholders. Car insurance companies, for instance, require insureds to provide their annual mileages—a factor that may be causing you to overpay, according to recent report from

“Most consumers aren’t aware of the relationship between mileage and auto premiums,” said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for insuranceQuotes, in a release about the report, which reveals policyholders who drive 15,000 miles per year pay nearly 9 percent more for insurance than policyholders who drive 5,000 miles over the same period.

Premium increases due to mileage vary by state, according to the report. The highest increases between 5,000 and 15,000 miles are seen in:

• California (26.2 percent)
• Alaska (10.5 percent)
• Washington, D.C. (10.2 percent)
• Alabama (9.8 percent)
• Massachusetts (9.8 percent)

The lowest increases between 5,000 and 15,000 miles are seen in:

• North Carolina (0 percent)
• Utah (1.0 percent)
• Rhode Island (1.3 percent)
• Texas (2.8 percent)
• Connecticut (2.8 percent)

“If your daily commute decreases, be sure to notify your insurer quickly so you don’t overpay for coverage,” Adams added. “Drivers in the most expensive mileage states have the most to gain from reducing mileage—but if you can’t, be proactive and seek potential discounts at least once a year.”


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is It Time for a New A/C?

August 27, 2016 12:49 am

Summer’s nearing its end—did your air conditioning system deliver?

If not, it may be time to replace the unit. According to Howard Schwartz of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), the average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is between 15 and 20 years. One sure sign it’s time to pull the plug? If repair bills have been adding up, Schwartz says.

New air conditioning systems reduce carbon emissions, require 30 to 50 percent less energy to operate, and run quieter than older units. Schwartz and the BBB advise the following tips when shopping for a replacement system:

Don't go for the lowest price. A low price doesn’t always equal the best value. A higher efficiency system might cost an extra $800 up-front, but could save you $300 per year in energy costs. Seek out manufacturer rebates, if available.

Consider a maintenance contract. A maintenance contract can come in handy when a system needs repairs, especially at inconvenient times, like during a heat wave.

Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can help you save even more money by controlling the temperature even when you aren’t home.

To find a qualified HVAC contractor near you, visit and consult your region’s Accredited Business Directory, Schwartz concludes.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Natural Disaster Risk and Its Impact on Housing

August 27, 2016 12:49 am

No area is safe from a natural disaster—but some lesser-prone areas are safe from a market downswing, according to a recently released report by ATTOM Data Solutions.

An area’s propensity for natural disaster can impact its home prices and sales, reported the ATTOM Natural Hazard Housing Index, which ranks over 3,000 counties according to level of risk for earthquakes, floods, hail, hurricane storm surge, tornadoes and wildfires. The counties with the lowest level of natural hazard risk, based on the Index, are concentrated in Wisconsin:

1. Milwaukee County, Wis.
2. Kewaunee County, Wis.
3. Racine County, Wis.
4. Knox County, Maine
5. Kenosha County, Wis.

The counties with the highest level of natural hazard risk, based on the Index, are:

1. Oklahoma County, Okla.
2. Monroe County, Fla.
3. Cleveland County, Okla.
4. Nevada County, Calif.
5. Lake County, Calif.

Home sales in counties with the lowest level of natural hazard risk have risen over 4 percent this year, whereas sales in counties with the highest level of natural risk have risen just shy of 2 percent; concurrently, home prices in counties with the lowest level of natural risk have increased approximately 3 percent, while home prices in counties with the highest level of natural risk have increased over 6 percent.

In the lowest-risk counties, the median sales price of a single-family home or condo sold this year was $156,245—in the highest-risk counties, that number jumps to $255,160.

Areas prone to earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and wildfires have seen less home sales activity overall in the last five years—areas prone to hail and tornadoes, on the other hand, have seen the opposite.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Family Time: 8 Ideas for Memorable Traditions

August 26, 2016 12:49 am

As adults, many of our happiest memories revolve around the activities we did with our families—beachside barbecues, Fourth of July picnics, a special cake for birthdays. As parents, our goal is to create the same lasting memories that will stay with our children for their lifetime.

From Real Simple and Parents magazines come nine ideas to break out of your family’s routine and make for great memories:

Family Game Night – Each week, allow one child to decide which game will be played by the family. Have everyone share a snack of that child’s choosing, too.

Happy Half-Birthday – Celebrate half-birthdays with burgers or hot dogs sliced in half, half-filled beverages and a half-vanilla, half-chocolate cake. Sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ but stop singing halfway through the song.

Mommy/Daddy Dates – Every child craves special time with a parent. Once a month, Mom or Dad takes one child out for a special experience or treat.

Topsy-Turvy Day – The children wake up to find their toothbrushes in the fridge, their shoes in the hall, or whatever else you choose to misplace—and come to breakfast to find dinner, or dessert!

Santa’s Toy Swap – Along with cookies and milk, have each child leave a few gently used toys that Santa’s elves can give to other children.

‘Special You’ Plate – Comb the thrift store for one special plate—something colorful and whimsical. Each time a child does something special—an award at school, a good deed—he or she gets the special plate at dinner.

Service Project Day – Once a month, have the whole family pitch in at your local food pantry or soup kitchen, or volunteer for another community service activity.

‘Yes’ Day – Every time you say no to your children, have them put the request in writing and drop it in a jar. Each month, let each child pick one activity from the jar that you must agree to go along with.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Average Credit Scores of First-Time Homebuyers

August 26, 2016 12:49 am

Your credit score is one of the most important considerations in the home-buying process, determining not only the approval of a mortgage, but also the rate attached to it.

As a first-time homebuyer, you may be wondering what the ideal score is. A recent update from the Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker™ may shed some light on the answer.

According to the Tracker, the average FICO score of a millennial borrower who closed on a home loan this summer was 723; the average FICO score of a millennial borrower who closed on a conventional loan, however, was 748. The average FICO score of a millennial borrower who closed on an FHA loan this summer was lower, at 691. The majority of millennials in Ellie Mae’s Tracker obtained a conventional loan.

“Economic uncertainty may be contributing to a general tightening of credit, which could explain why we are seeing a slight uptick in the average FICO scores for closed loans to millennials,” said Joe Tyrrell, executive vice president of Corporate Strategy at Ellie Mae, in a statement. “We also continue to see FHA loans play a significant role in helping millennials make their homeownership dreams a reality. These types of loans make up 37 percent of all closed loans to this generation, compared to just 23 percent of closed loans across all generations of homebuyers.”

FHA loans averaged 45 days to close this summer, according to the Tracker; conventional loans averaged one day less, at 44.

Source: Ellie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Favorable Lending Standards, Low Rates to Lift Housing Through 2016

August 26, 2016 12:49 am

A recently released forecast expects the economy to regain ground through the remainder of the year, boding well for the housing market in the months to come.

According to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group’s recent 2016 Economic and Housing Outlook, the economy is on track to grow 1.8 percent this year, boosted by an improving employment landscape and higher levels of consumer spending—both of which will give lift to housing.

“Housing market fundamentals remain a mixed bag,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, explained in a statement about the Outlook. “During the second quarter of 2016, both new- and existing-home sales rose to expansion highs, while single-family starts pulled back, remaining historically low for an expansion.

“Tight housing inventory from a lack of new construction continues to create affordability challenges, particularly at the lower end of the market,” Duncan continued. “Robust rental demand during the second quarter of the year has created the lowest rental vacancy rate in decades. In addition, the homeownership rate dropped to below 63 percent in the second quarter, but we are seeing some tentative signs of older millennials moving toward homeownership.

“We expect homebuyers will benefit from improving job and wage growth, more favorable lending standards, and continued low mortgage rates through the rest of the year, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate projected to average 3.4 percent during the fourth quarter.”

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.