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

7 Cold Weather Safety Tips for Pets

March 14, 2016 3:04 pm

Cold weather can be hard on everyone—including your pets. When it’s chilly outside, it’s important to consider their safety. Remember: if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them!

“Our pets are members of our family, and the fact that they can’t tell us what they are feeling can make them the most vulnerable members when cold weather hits,” says Deborah C. Mandell, member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and veterinarian at Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “There are some simple steps any pet owner can take to make sure pets stay safe.”

These steps, Mandell says, include bringing your pets indoors and ensuring they have access to food and drinking water. If your pet cannot come indoors, protect them in a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough for them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in their body heat. Raise the floor of the shelter a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Bear in mind, adds Mandell, that salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate a pet’s paws. Wipe their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them. Be sure, also, to wipe up antifreeze spills immediately and store it out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

Source: American Red Cross

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Homeowners: Make This the Year for Eliminating Fertilizers

March 14, 2016 3:04 pm

We often discuss holistic ways to improve your health, household and environment. With warm weather approaching, it's time to consider eliminating chemical fertilizers.

According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), most commercial fertilizers boost plant growth rapidly. But too commonly, these high potency fertilizers are overused, ending up as phosphorus and nitrate in groundwater and small streams.

In New England and along Long Island Sound, we've seen the poisoning of aquatic life and severe oxygen deficiencies result from these chemicals reaching local and regional water sources.

So, what you can do? The NWF says:

• You can reduce fertilizer potency and application rates and still improve plant health. "Natural" fertilizers, such as composts and pasteurized manures, are preferable, as they release a much greater variety of nutrients more slowly.

• If commercial fertilizers are used, choose a slow-releasing fertilizer.

• Make and use compost in the landscape and save landfill space.

• Plant cover crops, like buckwheat and clovers. These plants add or "pump up" nutrients to the root zone and physically improve the soil.

• Try composted sludge, which is derived from sewage or industrial processes.

• Grow native plants. Many native plants will grow very well with only an annual application of leaf mulch or with an annual cultural practice, such as mowing or burning.

What if your basement, garage or shed is stocked with fertilizers or other gardening chemicals?

The Integrated Pest management experts at the University of California, Davis have a few tips on disposing of pesticides and fertilizers:

• If you can’t use up your pesticides, fertilizers and weed killers, consider giving them away.

• Sewage treatment plants aren’t designed to remove all toxic chemicals from wastewater. Pouring garden chemicals into a storm drain, down the sink or in the toilet is never an option—and it is against the law!

• The only allowable way to dispose of pesticides is to use them up according to label directions or to take them to a household hazardous waste site.

To find Household Hazardous Waste Disposal sites nearest you, visit www.earth911.com, enter your zip code and what you need to recycle, and the interactive map will get you there.

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Spring Cleaning: A Room by Room Checklist

March 14, 2016 3:04 pm

For many homeowners, spring cleaning is a much-needed, yet overwhelming task. In fact, some even avoid it altogether!

The truth is, spring cleaning is best approached by breaking down the task room by room, says Merry Maids home cleaning expert Debra Johnson.

“The most common cleaning challenge homeowners face is figuring out where to start," says Johnson. “Having a set cleaning plan and breaking it up room by room makes tasks more manageable, and may even help you clean areas you often ignore.”

Johnson’s plan includes:
 
Kitchen

• Deodorize the garbage disposal with a half cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar mixed with hot water.
• Degrease the microwave by heating up half a lemon in hot water for 10 minutes, then wiping grime away.
• Empty the refrigerator and wash shelves with warm, soapy water.
• Use dishwashing liquid and warm water to clean cabinet fronts, and degrease appliances with an all-purpose cleaner.

Bathroom

• Steam-clean the floor to restore the true color of the tiles.
• Use a non-abrasive cleaning detergent to scrub the inside of the tub, toilet and sink.
• Wipe inside of cabinets, clean the mirror and toss old cosmetics and expired medicines.

Bedroom

• Dust behind headboards.
• Sort closets and create a "keep" and "donate" pile for your clothes.
• Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and vacuum slowly.
• Wash bedspreads, mattress covers and duvets. Flip your mattress before making the bed with clean linens.

Living Room

• Launder or dry clean curtains, then dust windows, window sills, coffee tables and shelves.
• Remove all accessories from tables and shelves, thoroughly dusting with a microfiber cloth as you go.
• Wash or dry-clean pillows and steam-clean any remaining upholstery and carpeting.

Tackle each room separately using this checklist, says Johnson. Your spring cleaning chores will be finished in no time!

Source: Merry Maids

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Spring Clean Your Home into Tip-Top Shape

March 11, 2016 5:49 pm

With the official start of spring right around the corner, the real estate market is set to heat up as homeowners who are looking to sell put their homes on the market, and house hunters come out in droves to find a place they can call home.
 
Before scheduling any showings, however, the start of the spring season is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and get your home in tip-top shape. In fact, there are a number of easy jobs you can do on your own that will go a long way toward helping your home stand out from the competition.
 
To start, clean the windows and open up the blinds and drapes to let the sun shine through. There’s nothing that says spring as much as a bright living room on a weekend morning. Plus, buyers are attracted to rooms with natural light.
 
It’s also important to change the batteries in any and all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace any light bulbs that have blown out. These are things that prospective buyers will most likely check when touring the home.
 
When it comes to the kitchen, clean out the fridge, freezer and cabinets and throw out any items that are expired. Add some baking soda to the fridge to keep odors at bay and clean the oven so that when people look closely, these areas are as clean as possible. And make a splash in both the living and dining room with some new accent rugs or a fun piece of furniture.
 
Now that the weather is warming up, it’s critical that you pay attention to the areas outside your home, especially the yard. Planting some foliage or shrubbery will give the outside of your home a clean, fresh look. Incorporate bursts of color with annual flowers, perennials, trees and shrubs.
 
If you have a deck, rent a power washer and remove any dirt, debris or moss that may have seeped in during the fall and winter months. Be sure to give the sides of your home—and your driveway—a good wash down as well.   
 
While you’re outside, clean the gutters and inspect downspouts to make sure they haven’t been damaged. Before the spring rains come, you want to be sure that the gutters are free of leaves, tree limbs and other debris that might cause problems later on.
 
By taking the time to do these things, your home will be in the best condition possible for a quick and easy sale.
 
For more tips on preparing your home for sale, contact our office today.

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Home Inspections Pave the Way to Smoother Real Estate Transactions

March 11, 2016 5:49 pm

When it comes to selling your home, the last thing you want to do is hold up a sale because of a simple problem that could have been identified by investing in a home inspection. While it may not be the No. 1 item on your to-do list as you prepare to list your home, a home inspection is an integral piece of the puzzle. Bringing to light any problems or issues that need to be addressed, a home inspection can save you a lot of time, money and headaches.  
 
Here are some of the most common problems a home inspector can unearth.
 
Bedroom Windows. All rooms listed as bedrooms must have an operating window with 30 square inches of clearance for fire escape. Bedrooms must also have heat. If a home is listed with three bedrooms, and one does not meet both these requirements, it cannot legally be called a bedroom.
 
Furnaces and Compressors. Rust in the heat exchange is a common problem that shows up during home inspections. Another common problem involves missing insulation where required by code at the time the house was built, or an improvement or replacement was installed.
 
Electrical Issues. Common electrical code violations include electrical junctions not enclosed in a junction box, a lack of GFCI outlets in bathrooms and kitchens, or reverse-polarity on outlets. These are inexpensive things to repair, but by not doing so, it can hold up a sale.
 
Lifesaving Equipment. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are required by law in most states, and not having them will be considered a code violation.
 
Plumbing. A number of plumbing issues are very common, with violations ranging from dripping faucets to loose toilets and improper drainage.
 
Structural Problems. While these can be more expensive to fix, if they aren’t taken care of properly, they can prolong a sale. Violations in this area include rotten wood trim around windows and doors, rotten or delaminating siding and missing flashing on roofs or above windows and doors.
 
Extra Rooms. If you had your basement fixed up at some point while living in the home, or even added a sunroom, be sure you have the proper permits in place. This will need to be taken care of before any sale can go through.
 
Don’t put your home sale in jeopardy because of code violations that can be easily fixed. Hire an inspector, make the necessary changes and enjoy the comfort it brings when the closing comes to fruition.
 
For more information about home inspections and code violations, contact our office today.

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Green Features Top the List among Environmentally Conscious Buyers

March 11, 2016 5:49 pm

In the age of global warming and high energy costs, more and more homebuyers are looking for houses that are equipped with green features that not only reduce the space’s overall energy consumption, but also cut back on the amount of water used throughout the space.
 
This is one of the main reasons why the National Association of REALTORS® created a Green Designation for REALTORS® in 2008, providing agents with the tools and experience to understand and seek out properties with green features.
 
If you’re selling your house, it’s important that your agent makes note of every green feature found within the home, including energy-efficient appliances, air purifiers and anything else you’ve incorporated into the space. This is critical as many house hunters will automatically disregard a house if some mention of green isn’t included in the listing.
 
No matter what type of green features you’ve incorporated into your home over the years, there are plenty of smaller things you can do around the house to make it more appealing to those who come for showings. Start by replacing light bulbs with more energy-friendly CFLs, which use just 25 percent the electricity as normal bulbs.
 
In addition, installing ceiling fans in bedrooms and other areas will help circulate warm air in the winter and cool down the home in the summer, keeping heating and cooling costs lower throughout the year.
 
When it comes to the bathroom, you may want to consider adding a low-flow toilet, high-efficiency, motion sensor faucets or low-flow showerheads to truly attract those looking for green homes.
 
Larger projects such as adding a tankless water heater, replacing the furnace and installing energy-efficient windows can also go a long way toward helping your home sell quickly.
 
If your home has a lot of green features, create a takeaway pamphlet of all the advantages it has to offer. Just make sure it’s on recycled paper.
 
And last but not least, go the eco-friendly route and have a pitcher of filtered tap water at the ready for prospective buyers who come to view your home. Add some organic fruits and vegetables to the mix and use real plates and glassware to truly drive the point home.
 
Working with your agent to highlight your home’s eco-friendly features may be just what it takes to make the difference in completing the sale.
 
To learn more about going green, contact our office today.

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Simple Tips to Incorporate Color into Your Home This Spring

March 11, 2016 5:49 pm

In 2016, for the first time ever, Pantone’s Color of the Year is the blending of two shades: Rose Quartz and Serenity. The explanation for the coupling is that, combined, they “demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.”
 
While you might not think that the use of a specific color can help when it comes to getting your home sold, there’s a wide belief in color psychology—the study of the impact of color on human behavior and emotion—that points to the fact that color has a tremendous influence on the choices we make.
 
If you’re in the process of putting your home on the market, selecting the right paint color can make a big difference. In fact, experts insist that certain colors can ultimately kill a sale, while other colors can have the opposite effect. And using Pantone’s Color of the Year throughout your home can provide a soothing effect among a wide range of prospective buyers.
 
For those that may not have the time to undertake a painting project, you can achieve the same soothing effect by incorporating the color through the use of throw pillows in the living room or a garbage can in the kitchen. To tie everything together, look for artwork that makes use of the colors and hang them in various rooms throughout the house.
 
When it comes to the bedrooms, look for comforters or pillows that mix the two colors. You may even want to consider bringing in a small piece of furniture such as a chair or a bench. Rugs and towels are an easy way to incorporate pops of color into the bathroom.
 
Once you’ve incorporated flashes of Rose Quartz and Serenity into your home, have your agent beef up his or her listing descriptions by adding the phrase “Color of the Year.” With the majority of home searches beginning on the Internet today, this is one more way to help your home stand out from the competition. Plus, adding photos that showcase these colors is a great way to show just how modern your home is.
 
Colors affect people in numerous ways, and by using the principles of color psychology, and the expertise of the people at Pantone, you can help your home stand out from the competition, sell more quickly, and at a better price.
 
To learn more about incorporating color into your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Appraisals Continue to Play an Important Role in Assessing a Home's Value

March 11, 2016 5:49 pm

If you’re involved in a real estate transaction, whether you're the buyer or the seller, understanding the importance of an appraisal—and what it says about the home—is critical.
 
In its simplest terms, the appraisal is a professional assessment of a home’s value, performed by a licensed appraiser, who considers things such as the property’s features, current market conditions, and supporting data on sales of similar properties. From there, an appraiser will use a formula to calculate the true value of the home.
 
Appraisals are conducted by independent contractors who have no affiliation with the buyer or seller. Appraisers work for a fee, rather than a commission, so there’s no bias on his or her part when determining the value of a property. Not only does the appraisal allow sellers to establish a fair market value of the property involved in the transaction, the appraisal process also goes a long way toward helping a lender determine how much they can safely lend to buyers.
 
While all appraisals are different, ranging in length from a few pages to more than 100, they all include details about the house, a description of the neighborhood and side-by-side comparisons of similar properties. The appraisal will also contain an evaluation of the area’s real estate market, notations of major problems with the property that will affect its value and an estimate of the expected time it will take to sell the property.
 
Many of today’s appraisals are placing a greater emphasis on green features, with appraisers estimating higher prices when energy-efficiency methods are installed, a trend that’s not likely to go away anytime soon. This is something that you or your REALTOR® should point out if you’re accompanying the appraiser on the viewing.
 
In the end, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to agree with the outcome of an appraisal and base your buying or selling decision strictly on the results that come about through the process, but the appraisal is an important barometer to keep in mind as you work with your agent to determine the best price point at which to list your home.
 
To learn more about the appraisal process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Home Inspections

March 11, 2016 5:49 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the importance of appraisals in today’s competitive real estate market. Other topics covered this month include simple tips to incorporate color into your home and how to spring clean your home into tip-top shape. 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.


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3 Money-Smart Tips for Millennials

March 11, 2016 3:04 pm

From witnessing the plight of their parents to navigating a barren employment landscape, most millennials experienced the effects of the economic downturn in one form or another. As a result, they’re cognizant of the importance of monetary well-being, yet unsure how to best manage their finances.

In reality, there are many routes to take on the path to a secure financial future. The specialists at Northwestern Mutual recommend starting with the following money-wise tasks:

1. Set goals. Currently, just over half of millennials have set financial goals. If you haven’t yet defined your goals, take time to create money milestones that align with your future plans. Ask yourself where you want to be at this time next year. If you’ve already set goals, now is a good time to review your plan, assess how you're doing and make updates if needed.

2. Review your 401(k). Approximately three-quarters of millennials expect to work past age 65 because Social Security won't take care of their needs. This finding stresses the importance of a strong 401(k). Are you contributing to your employer's plan? Can you afford to contribute more? Spending even a few minutes analyzing your retirement savings can pay off big down the road.

3. Meet with a financial professional. About one in three millennials say a lack of planning is their greatest obstacle to achieving financial security. The best way to make sure you're making the most of your money is to create a plan with a financial professional.

Says Emily Holbrook, young personal market director for Northwestern Mutual: "Regardless of where millennials are on their financial journeys, completing even one small task today can have a big impact on their financial futures.”

Source: Northwestern Mutual

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