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

Owning in Retirement: 3 Options for Senior Homeowners

May 26, 2016 12:43 am

(BPT)—Research estimates more than 50 percent of households lack enough retirement funds to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living—even if they work until 65.

The good news? If you’re a homeowner, you have options:

Reverse Mortgage – A reverse mortgage is a loan that homeowners aged 62 or older can use to convert part of the equity in their home into a usable asset, without giving up title or ownership of the house.

“The reverse mortgage option should be viewed as a method for responsible retirees to create liquidity from an otherwise illiquid asset,” says Wade Pfau, professor at The American College.

Reverse mortgages require no monthly payment and do not have to be paid off until the last borrower permanently leaves the home. You have the option of taking the loan proceeds as a lump sum, a fixed monthly or tenured payment, or as a line of credit.

Reverse mortgages also feature a non-recourse provision that protects you from ever owing the lender more than the value of your home, even if the house is "underwater" when you are ready to sell.

You are still responsible for paying your property taxes, homeowner's insurance and upkeep expenses, or risk the loan being called due and payable.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – A HELOC establishes a line of credit based on a percentage of the value of your home. You can access this credit during a predetermined amount of time called a "draw period," usually 10 years. During the draw period, you can borrow up to the designated amount while making monthly interest payments, and, if you choose to pay back on the principal, you can draw out again, much like a credit card.

After the draw period, you are responsible for repaying the principal and interest either immediately or over a set period of time, depending on the terms of the loan. You should be aware that if your home value depreciates, or if your financial circumstances change, the lender has the right to freeze your credit or even cancel your loan.

Cash-Out Refinancing – Cash-out refinancing allows you to refinance an existing home loan—hopefully at a lower interest rate—and also refinance the home for a dollar value higher than the remaining principal. This loan allows you to keep the money above the principal as liquid cash that can be used to pay down other expenses or fund your retirement.

Like your original forward mortgage, if you miss a monthly payment due to unanticipated expenses from a health care emergency or other life disruption, your loan could be called due and payable, and the lender could move to foreclose on your property.

While all three plans have their benefits, new consumer safeguards for reverse mortgages are fueling their popularity among seniors who want the benefit of no monthly payment, a loan that can't be canceled or reset, and the option of a line of credit that increases over time.

Source: ReverseMortgage.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Wanderlust: 10 of the Most Beautiful Places in the World

May 26, 2016 12:43 am

Got the travel bug? Hop on a plane overseas to (or just daydream about!) these beautiful places, recently rounded up by Harper’s Bazaar:

Amalfi Coast – Hugging the coast through a succession of idyllic small towns like Positano, this eye-opening seaside escape in Italy offers postcard views at every turn.

Bora Bora – With its turquoise lagoons, coral reefs and overwater bungalows, this French Polynesian island is heaven on Earth.

Fiordland National Park – In early winter, fields of purple bloom across this park on the South Island of New Zealand, home to the breathtaking Milford Sound.

The Forbidden City – One of the most beautifully-preserved examples of ancient Chinese architecture, The Forbidden City in Beijing has served as the imperial palace for five centuries.

Japan (in Cherry Blossom Season) – Cherry blossoms steal the scene during blooming season, making it an ideal time to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.

Krabi – A popular beach destination on the west coast of southern Thailand, Krabi is dotted with limestone cliffs and hundreds of islands just offshore in the Andaman Sea.

Marrakesh – Located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Marrakesh has changed little since the Middle Ages. Wander through maze-like alleyways and discover the city's souks, palaces and gardens.

Oia, Santorini – The hillside town at the far tip of Santorini in Greece boasts brilliant sunsets, accommodations built into the cliffs, and magnificent views of the Aegean sea.

Tamil Nadu – This southern India state is home to most of the country's major Hindu temples, including the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple and the Meenakshi Temple Complex.

Torres del Paine National Park – Truly off the grid, this park in the Patagonia region of Chile features jaw-dropping mountain views from every angle.

Which of these locales makes your list?

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Barbecuing This Weekend? 5 Food Safety Tips

May 26, 2016 12:43 am

‘Tis the season for eating out—doors, that is!

If you’re hosting a backyard soirée this summer, make food safety a priority when planning the meal. Seasonal temperatures can accelerate the growth of foodborne bacteria, compromising the safety of you and your guests, cautions the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“From picnics to cookouts, eating outside is a fun and tasty way to enjoy the warmer weather,” says Torey Armul, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy. “Be sure to follow proper food safety practices every step of the way to keep unwanted bacteria from crashing your party.”

These practices include:

• Washing Your Hands – Wash your hands before and after handling any foods. “Bring along hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol in case water is not available,” Armul says. “Remember to regularly clean your cooler, picnic basket and tote bags, because these items can be a breeding ground for bacteria.”

• Separating Raw from Ready-to-Eat – If you plan to cook food on-site, separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from other ready-to-eat foods. “Use one cooler for raw meats and another one for ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and desserts,” says Armul. “Bring two sets of plates and utensils: one for handling raw meats and one for serving cooked foods.”

• Using a Thermometer – Have a food thermometer on hand when cooking—all food must be cooked to a safe internal temperature, and a food thermometer is the only way to ensure it has reached this temperature. Download the Is My Food Safe? mobile app, found at eatrightstore.org, for a complete list of cooking temperatures.

• Keeping Perishables Cold – Keep perishables in a cooler packed with frozen water bottles and juice boxes. Stow the cooler in the shade and with the lid closed. “Pack a thermometer in the cooler to ensure it remains at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below,” Armul adds.

• Tossing After Two Hours – At the end of your gathering, throw out all perishable food that has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours (or only one hour, if the outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit). The clock starts as soon as your food is served.

These tips come courtesy of the Home Food Safety program, a ConAgra Foods’ campaign in partnership with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To learn more food safety practices, visit HomeFoodSafety.org.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Market Watch: 10 Up-and-Coming Tech Hubs

May 26, 2016 12:43 am

The tech field is booming—and so are tech cities.

Cities best suited for technology professionals boast high average earnings and steady employment in the sector. These factors, plus home prices, were recently analyzed in Homes.com’s New Tech City Index, ranking the top emerging tech cities in the country.

The 10 best, according to the Index, are:

1. Denver, Colo.
2. Framingham, Mass.
3. Oakland, Calif.
4. Atlanta, Ga.
5. Boston, Mass.
6. Austin, Texas
7. Santa Ana, Calif.
8. Baltimore, Md.
9. Durham, N.C.
10. Boulder, Colo.

Denver’s house prices have shot up over 40 percent in the last five years, cementing its place at No. 1, while Framingham, though less populated, is home to some of the nation’s most well-known—and well-paying—tech companies. Oakland’s proximity to tech centers like San Francisco and San Jose make it ideal for tech professionals, as well.

“Many areas exist outside of the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest where tech folks can find both their dream job and the home of their dreams,” says Grant Simmons, VP at Homes.com. “Cities like Denver not only offer tech-focused career opportunities, but also more bang for their housing buck, great schools and lifestyle options that suit both small-town and big-city appetites.”

Source: Homes.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Giving Junior an Allowance? Tips to Consider

May 25, 2016 12:43 am

They work hard for their money!

Most children receive an allowance from their parents—and to earn it, they’re spending an average of six hours each week doing chores, according to a recently released survey by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The going rate? $4.43 an hour, on average.

“Providing children with a regular allowance gives parents a perfect opportunity to have a discussion about the basics of saving, spending and budgeting,” says Gregory Anton, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Parents should talk to their children about financial responsibility and the value of money on a regular basis—this should not be a one-time conversation. Instilling basic financial literacy in children when they are young will better prepare them for the financial decisions they make as young adults and serve them throughout their lives.

“One of the ways that parents can use allowance as a teaching tool is to encourage their children to save 10 percent on a weekly basis and match the savings if they do,” Anton adds. “This simple, effective tool will better prepare them to contribute to a 401(k) account and take advantage of any matching offered by their employer.”

Anton and the AICPA also advise opening an interest-bearing savings account for your child (or if he or she is older, an IRA), and allowing your child to independently set long-term savings goals.

Source: AICPA

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6 Sought-After Bath Updates

May 25, 2016 12:43 am

Next to a newly-updated kitchen, a renovated bathroom is a top priority for today’s homebuyers—and homeowners.

Get in on these seven sought-after features:

Beadboard or Deep Tile – A deep tile or beadboard backsplash, sometimes known as “bathroom wainscot,” lends a sense of elegance to any style bath. These practical backsplashes are easy-to-clean, too!

Double Sinks – If you’ve ever had to jockey for position, you know how useful double sinks can be—especially in the master bath.

Extras – Go for gadgetry like built-in audio systems or shower seating, or heated floors and towel bars. Kohler’s DTV shower, which relays water pressure and temperature controls on an LCD screen, is a favorite.

Oversized – When it comes to bathing, bigger seems to be better. Large walk-in showers, oversized bathtubs and rain shower heads are some of the most popular features.

No-Fuss Toilet –Classic toilet models are much more often preferred to today’s high-tech alternatives—but steer clear of European models!

White – A white (or neutral) color palette reads “clean,” which is essential in bathrooms. White or neutral walls, tile and cabinetry are also an ideal backdrop for other, personalized items, like accents and linens.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Curb Appeal: Tips to Polish Up Paint

May 25, 2016 12:43 am

In life and in real estate, first impressions matter. Before placing your home on the market, it’s worth taking a look at the paint on the outside, which may have been impacted by elements from the past winter.

“If you’ve been huddled inside for the past few months, you may not be aware of the price your exterior paint has paid keeping winter weather at bay,” says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert with the paint Quality Institute. “Freeze-thaw cycles, rain, sleet and snow can cause paint to fail quickly, especially if you didn't use top-quality paint to begin with.”

Zimmer suggests starting by inspecting for flaking or peeling paint on the exterior siding and trim. If the compromised paint is confined to a small area, a touch-up may be all that’s needed.

Begin any touch-up project by scraping off loose paint, then sanding the edges smooth, Zimmer explains. Next, prime any areas where bare wood is visible, and then apply a coat of leftover paint.

If the paint damage is beyond touch-up repair, Zimmer advises re-painting the home sooner rather than later.

“Assuming that you're a do-it-yourself painter, you'll find it much more comfortable to do your surface preparation and painting now, when the weather is mild,” Zimmer says. “Your paint may even last longer if you act quickly.  Exterior paints tend to 'cure' better in moderate temperatures, which enables them to form an especially durable paint film.”

It’s doubly important to act fast if you plan to hire a painter, Zimmer adds. Professionals tend to book up this time of year.

No matter which route you choose, don’t skimp on the product—it will make all the difference.

“A top-quality 100-percent acrylic latex paint will provide the best-looking and longest-lasting results, no matter where it is used,” Zimmer says.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Your Property: Avoiding Tree Care Cons

May 23, 2016 12:43 am

Healthy, mature trees can be a benefit to your home and property. Aside from their beauty, trees offer shade, helping to naturally regulate your home’s indoor temperature, and may even absorb harmful gasses.

Caring for the trees on your property, according to the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), is best left to a professional. Because many home-related scams involve tree care companies, the Association recommends vetting out potential hires.

Knowledge is key. An arborist is defined by the Association as “a professional who cares for trees and other woody plants by pruning, fertilizing, monitoring for insects and diseases, and consulting on tree-related issues, and occasionally planting, transplanting and removing trees.”

“With hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars at stake—not to mention the integrity and appearance of your property and your personal safety—make sure that you take your time in deciding which company you should hire,” cautions Peter Gerstenberger, senior advisor for Safety, Standards & Compliance for the TCIA.

Gerstenberger advises first seeking out up-to-date proof of insurance from potential hires. If the company does not have insurance, you may be held responsible for any future claims.

“Disreputable companies are renowned for ripping gutters off, breaking fences and bird baths, and even dropping trees on houses. Then they typically fold up and leave, never to be seen again,” Gertsenberger says.

Always, always get estimates in writing, as well as a second (or third) opinion and quote. Do not feel pressured by bogus “bargains” or pay-upfront schemes.

During the screening process, request local references. Don’t hesitate to assess workmanship, and verify any professional affiliations the company claims to have. This may include the TCIA, Gertsenberger adds.

Bear in mind reputable tree care companies generally follow ANSI Standards. Confirm this information with potential hires before signing a contract. When you settle on a company, be sure the contract includes dates, cost and detailed descriptions of the work to be performed.

If you believe you’ve been victimized in a tree care scam, report the incident to your state’s Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the FBI, says Gertsenberger.

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Can Thrifty Security Measures Effectively Burglar-Proof Your Home?

May 23, 2016 12:43 am

The answer is yes!

Homeowners incur several expenses each month. By taking a few low- or no-cost precautions, security doesn’t have to be one of them:

• When preparing to travel, don’t be too obvious with luggage. Load the car inside the garage, if possible, or load up quickly, at the very least. If you have a second car, leave it parked in the driveway.

• Don't announce your absence on social media.

• Keep window coverings in their normal, semi-open positions—just be sure nothing valuable is visible through the windows.

• Hide your valuables in a small, fireproof safe securely attached to the floor, the wall or another structure that can’t be carried out of the house.

• Put lights, and even television sets, on timers, and place your mail and newspapers on hold, or ask the neighbors to pick them up.

• Consider replacing any short screws that typically come with lock hardware with longer ones that will extend past the door jambs into the frame of the house.

• Don't leave ladders or tools outside—criminals could "borrow" them to gain access to the home.

• Let your neighbors know you'll be gone, and for how long, or hire a house sitter. If your neighbor will be watching the home, ask him or her to walk around your property each day.

Beyond these measures, some law enforcement officials also recommend purchasing inexpensive security decals or signage, or even a fake security camera, to ward off burglars. Even a “Beware of Dog” sign can be a deterrent!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Linger Near Year Low

May 23, 2016 12:43 am

Mortgage rates remain around year-to-date lows, giving homebuyers and refinancers time to act ahead of a potential interest rate hike next month.

According to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) is up slightly, averaging 3.58 percent with an average 0.6 point. The 15-year FRM is holding steady at an average 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point.

“The 10-year Treasury yield saw minimal movement over the past week, despite encouraging news from April's consumer spending and CPI data,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist of Freddie Mac. “Accordingly, the 30-year mortgage rate moved up just 1 basis point from its 2016 low to 3.58 percent. Although there was minimal change in rates this week, the hawkish tone of Wednesday's Fed minutes release had an immediate impact on Treasury yields, and could possibly shake up next week's survey results.”

The survey also revealed a somewhat-higher 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), averaging 2.80 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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