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

Home on the Market? Tips for a Landscape That Sells

May 17, 2016 12:37 am

Beautifully-appointed outdoor spaces are not just a perk for today’s homebuyers—they’re expected. Landscaping, in particular, can make all the difference in selling price, according to the Appraisal Institute.

Citing two studies, the Institute shares these findings:

• Manicured landscaping can raise a home’s value by as much as 11 percent. (Michigan State University)

• Eighty-five percent of Americans believe landscaping affects the decision to buy a home. (National Association of Landscape Professionals)

While the quality of the lawn is an important consideration, the Institute recommends sellers also give due to flower beds and porches, with an eye for what’s most popular in the neighborhood.

Consider incorporating landscaping that spares the new owner money or time, such as trees or native plantings—features that could potentially increase perceived value, the Institute says. Trees indirectly reduce energy consumption, and native plantings do not require the same scope of care as other species.

Lighting is also important, the Institute advises, because it can enhance a home’s appearance (thereby, perceived value), as well as heighten the safety of the home.

“Just as job seekers shouldn’t show up improperly attired for a job interview, sellers need to ensure their property is as attractive from the outside as possible,” says Appraisal Institute President Scott Robinson. “First impressions matter.”

Source: The Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates This Year Dive to Lowest Point Yet

May 17, 2016 12:37 am

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) has plummeted to its lowest point yet this year, according to Freddie Mac’s most recent report, reaching a three-year low overall at an average of 3.57 percent, with an average 0.5 point.

“Disappointing April employment data once again kept a lid on Treasury yields, which have struggled to stay above 1.8 percent since late March,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti explains. “As a result, the 30-year mortgage rate fell four basis points to 3.57 percent, a new low for 2016 and the lowest mark in three years. Prospective homebuyers will continue to take advantage of a falling rate environment that has seen mortgage rates drop in 14 of the previous 19 weeks.”

The 15-year FRM has also moved down, to an average 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) has lowered, as well, to an average 2.78 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Senior Safety: 3 Tips to Avoid "Grandparent" Scams

May 17, 2016 12:37 am

Swindlers hoping to make off with someone else’s money often target unwitting seniors in “grandparent” scams. These schemes, according to the American Bankers Association (ABA), victimize thousands of seniors—and their loved ones—each year.

The scenario, the ABA says, starts with the senior receiving a phone call from a purported family member in what appear to be dire circumstances. The pseudo-family member requests that money be sent immediately, often through wire transfer, to rectify the situation.

To avoid falling prey to these tricks, the ABA advises:

Refusing to provide personal information – In general, it is wise not to relay any personal information over the phone. If you suspect a scam, take care not to offer up any indentifying or financial information.

Proceeding with caution – Scammers use sophisticated means, including social media, to obtain personal information about a target’s family or friends. Take precautionary measures, including confirming the call with another family member and/or requesting to call the scammer back, before agreeing to any action.

Asking several questions – The more questions you ask, the less likely a trickster will see the scheme through. Don’t hesitate to ask questions—doing so can even derail the con completely.

Listening to your gut – Let your instincts guide you. If something feels amiss, say no and hang up the phone immediately. Avoid rushing into a decision at all costs.

“Fraudsters have no problem preying on your goodwill to get inside your wallet,” says Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “They’re using social media and Internet searches to fabricate convincing stories, so be careful, trust your gut and do your best to confirm who you’re dealing with before sending any money.”

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Valuable Is a New Front Door?

May 17, 2016 12:37 am

Some home improvement projects are bankable for the seller—some, unfortunately, are a bust.

A new front door, according to ContractorQuotes.us, is one of the projects that can yield a high return on investment. A steel door, specifically, costs an average of $1,230 to install, but may increase the home’s value by $1,252—a 101.8 percent return.

A fiberglass door, too, may boost a home’s value, by over $2,000 ($2,107, to be exact), while costing an average of $2,926—a 72 percent recoup for the seller.

If you’re planning to replace your front door, keep in mind that some doors require maintenance. Be sure to clarify these requirements before purchasing, ContractorQuotes.us advises.

Remember, also, that the least expensive product is not necessarily worth the savings. The front door is likely the first feature buyers will notice when visiting the home.

It may be tempting to select a style you like personally, but, ContractorQuotes.us suggests choosing a style that is reflective of the exterior of the home. Will it complement the style of the rest of the house?

High-tech security features are also worth considering. A recent report by CEPro.com includes front door technology among its top trends for the home, with the doors themselves holding much promise for integrated home technology.

We'll circle back on this trendy front door tech in a future report.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Cleaning: How Often Is Enough?

May 17, 2016 12:37 am

Spring cleaning, for many, is as habitual—and as universally a pain!—as facing those annual income tax returns. We do it, grudgingly, and are rewarded by the clean, uncluttered space we come home to.

What about cleaning the rest of the year? How often is enough?

Turns out, our homes harbor more bacteria than many a public trash can, the Miami Herald reports.

Just how often do we need to clean—and what?

Refrigerators have much more bacteria in them than most realize. Experts say salad drawers alone contain 750 times what’s considered a “safe” level of bacteria. Make cleaning it a priority!

The microwave may kill bacteria, but heating days-old leftovers can be risky if the walls aren’t splash-free. Once each week, mix half a cup of vinegar with half a cup of water in a heat-safe dish. Microwave on high until the window steams up, then wipe down the interior with a clean cloth or sponge.

Toilets get the bad rap, but a recent study found more infection-causing bacteria in bathtubs. Clean it—along with the toilet—once every week.

Researchers have also found that washing your towel after only three uses removes millions of dead skin cells. Stick to this guideline to ensure cleanliness.

Your bed linens, on the other hand, don’t get as dirty as you think. If you shower in the morning or sleep in the buff, however, make it a point to wash them every one to two weeks.

Mattress and pillow protectors do shield the bed and pillows from dust and grime, but they should still be washed (or even replaced) periodically—every three months is the general rule of thumb.

Don’t neglect your home’s air quality, either. Research shows it can be up to 10 times worse than that of the air outdoors. Have carpets professionally steam-cleaned at least once year, or more often if you own a pet.

Overall, remember: just because you don’t see dirt doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Consistent upkeep throughout the year will keep your home tidy and bacteria at bay.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Bucket List Destinations That Won't Break the Bank

May 14, 2016 12:34 am

Bucket list destinations around the world have become much more affordable, thanks to low airfares and a strong dollar. Jet off to one of these exotic, now-inexpensive locales, recently named to Cheapflights.com’s “International Destinations That Won’t Break the Bank."

1. Goa, India
Known for its signature fish curry, Goa boasts plenty for explorer types, with scores of beaches, churches, forts and temples in architecturally diverse styles.

2. Kandy, Sri Lanka
The country’s ancient capital, Kandy’s accommodations are relatively inexpensive, and in proximity to sightseer hot spots, including museums, monasteries, temples and Kandy Lake.

3. Lima, Peru
Bargains abound in Peru, and Lima is no exception. From hiking Machu Picchu and sunning at the beach to dining at world-renowned restaurants, there’s something for everyone in Peru’s capital.

4. Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is ideal for travelers seeking experiences similar to Beijing or Hong Kong—without the premium price tag. While there, take time to ascend Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest structures—it’s worth it!

5. Wellington, New Zealand
Get the most bang for your buck in Wellington, thanks to current exchange rates. The city features a variety of lodging options, including budget hotels, campgrounds, hostels and motels, and a number of free attractions.

Ready to go? For more destinations from this list, visit Cheapflights.com.

Source: Cheapflights.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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"Moving? I'd Rather Do Taxes!"

May 14, 2016 12:34 am

That’s the sentiment from approximately one in five respondents to a recent poll, who’d take filing their taxes by hand over moving. Some would even prefer to give up their favorite food for a month!

Still, the trouble of moving isn’t deterring us from doing it—in fact, according to the poll, over one-third of respondents have moved more than once in the last decade. What makes moving less challenging, the poll found, are professional services:

• Approximately two in five respondents have driven a moving truck in the past, and based on that experience, more than half of them would hire someone else to do the driving in the future.

• Thirty-two percent of respondents have hired a mover to pack and/or load their possessions, and 11 percent of (lucky!) respondents report their employer hired a moving company.

What’s more, many respondents would be willing to compromise if it meant a less taxing move: 53 percent would hire a driver, but pack their items themselves, regardless of cost.

Overall, the results of the poll demonstrate moving doesn’t have to be a hassle—especially if you seek help from a professional.

Source: Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Redoing the Bathroom? 4 In-the-Now Trends

May 14, 2016 12:34 am

(Family Features)—Bathrooms may take up the least square footage in the home, but they have the most potential when remodeling—and for these rooms, function and design matter.

To achieve both in your next remodel, consider incorporating these in-the-now trends:

Floating Vanity – Tap into the minimalist movement with a floating vanity, which not only plays up the modern vibe, but also makes cramped bathrooms feel spacious.

Painted Cabinetry – Bold is the new black. For statement-making cabinets, go all out with colorful wood, or temper the trend with a glazed, rich stain—either will give your bathroom a “now” feel.

Simplified Storage – From pull-outs, tilt-ups and roll-outs to hidden outlets, simplified storage is in. Install base pullouts or toe-kick drawers, or a U-shaped sliding shelf that wraps around the sink’s plumbing, to stow your bathroom essentials out of sight.

Sleek Doors – Traditional cabinet doors add bulk. New, streamlined doors, with hidden hinges (called “full overlay”), half-hidden frames (“traditional overlay”) or inset, complement today’s popular contemporary-transitional design.

Whichever trend resonates, consult with a professional bathroom remodeler before undertaking the project—bathrooms are high selling points come resale, and you don’t want to take any chances.

Source: Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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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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