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

Make a Note: 8 Home Maintenance Chores to Stay on Top Of

March 16, 2016 3:04 pm

Regularly scheduled maintenance checks can help prevent equipment breakdowns while keeping all of your mechanical, plumbing, HVAC and other critical home systems running smoothly and efficiently.

Homeowners should schedule the following checks once every six months, according to Homestructions.com:

Check Washer and Dryer – Check hoses for leaks, replace the hoses if needed and clean the lint from the ducts of your dryer.

Clean A/C Coils – Dirt and dust will settle on the condenser coils of your A/C, and this prevents your unit from cooling down the air. Be sure to clean the dust that is sitting on the coils and grills of your unit to extend the life of your A/C.

Seal Tile Grout – The only way to prevent the moisture from accumulating under tile is to seal the grout. Prevent mold and mildew growth by sealing once every six months and you can prevent moisture from sitting in areas that will not dry out.

Homestructions.com also recommends adding the following chores to your maintenance calendar each month:

Change A/C and Heater Air Filters – If you have a forced air system, by changing the filter, you can improve the air quality in your home and also reduce the stress you put on your A/C and heating system.

Check Water Softener Salt Levels – If the amount in the salt drum is low, add salt to prevent hard water.

Clear Dishwasher Clogs – If you use your dishwasher on a regular basis, make time to clean out the drain bin on a monthly basis. All of those food particles that are caked onto your dishes will wash down into the drain bin and clog the drain if it is not cleaned.

Maintain the Garbage Disposal – If you do not flush the disposal with hot water and baking soda, the grime will accumulate and lead to a serious problem.

And lastly, be sure your fire extinguisher is charged—this is more of a safety reminder than a maintenance issue.

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Does Credit Matter for Retirees?

March 15, 2016 3:04 pm

The answer, says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of credit reporting agency TransUnion, is a resounding yes.

“Despite the misperception that credit loses importance later in life, the fact remains that your credit score is a vital financial tool at every age,” says Chaplin. “Baby boomers need to prepare their credit score for retirement so they have the tools to fund financial obligations later in life.”

Nearly half of baby boomers incorrectly believe their credit score matters less after age 70, and many have a mixed understanding of the relationship between credit scores and financial obligations, according to a recent survey by the agency.

Seventy percent of boomers cited in the survey agree that a healthy credit score is required for refinancing a mortgage, but less (61 percent) recognized the importance of a healthy credit score when co-signing on loans, and even less (32 percent) said they believed a strong credit score may be necessary to enter a nursing home or long-term care facility.

“As Americans age, good credit can not only help them finance medical expenses and long-term care, but also help them support children, grandchildren and other family members as they take on middle-life expenses, like buying a house or paying for school,” Chaplin explains.

There are several actions pre-retirees can take to establish and maintain good credit throughout retirement, says Chaplin. One of the most important is to stay credit-active by using credit cards regularly and paying them off in full each month.

“Most retirees are past the point of making major purchases such as a new house or car,” Chaplin says, “but that doesn’t mean you should stop using your credit cards.”

Bear in mind unused cards may be closed due to inactivity, Chaplin adds. A credit card closure will impact your available credit ratio and have a negative impact on your score.

Source: TransUnion®

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Leak Detectives: 3 Tips to Save Water at Home

March 15, 2016 3:04 pm

 Did you know more than one trillion gallons of water are wasted each year by easy-to-fix household leaks?

“Not only do leaks waste precious water, they could be adding 10 percent to your utility bill,” says Shawn M. Garvin, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “By taking just minutes to detect leaks at home, the average family could save more than 10,000 gallons of water every year.”

To locate leaks in your home, simply, check, twist and replace:

Check for silent toilet leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank at the back of the toilet. Wait 10 minutes. If the color appears in the bowl, you have a leak.

Twist faucet, shower and pipe connections tightly to avoid leaks, or screw on a WaterSense labeled faucet aerator.

Replace broken or leaky fixtures with WaterSense-labeled models, which are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well (or better) than standard models.

To learn more about conserving water in your home, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak.

Source: EPA

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Is It Better to Own Near Target or Walmart?

March 15, 2016 3:04 pm

Research has shown that homes situated near a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods see significant increases in value. Can big-box retailers have a similar effect?

According to an analysis by housing data leader RealtyTrac®, homes near a Target store see higher home value and appreciation than those near Walmart—but homeowners near Target pay higher property taxes.

Of homeowners who sold last year, those near a Target saw an average 27 percent increase in price since they purchased their home (an average price gain of $65,569); those near a Walmart saw an average 16 percent appreciation (an average price gain of $24,900). Homeowners who own near a Target pay an average of $7,001 in property taxes, which is 123 percent more than the $3,146 average paid by homeowners who own near a Walmart.

Homes near a Target also have a higher value: $307,286, on average. This is 72 percent higher than the $178,249 average value for homes near a Walmart.

Comparatively, the average price appreciation nationwide is 22 percent (an average price gain of $40,626), the average property tax nationwide is $4,283, and the average home value nationwide is $215,921.

Source: RealtyTrac®

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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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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