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

Mover Magnet: The Top Inbound States of 2015

January 7, 2016 2:55 pm

Migration patterns inform inbound and outbound trends across the country, revealing which states see an influx of new residents and which states see departures. In 2015, one state stood above the rest when it comes to inbound migration, according to a recent report by Allied Van Lines: Texas.

The Lone Star State is no stranger to inbound moves—in fact, Texas has topped Allied’s list for 11 consecutive years. In 2015, the state saw a net relocation gain of 2,558 families.

"Texas continues to be a strong attractive state," says Lesli Bertoli, general manager and vice president of Allied Van Lines.  "Corporate moves continue to influence these results, with corporate relocations strongly favoring moves to Texas in 2015."

Second to Texas in terms of inbound moves was Florida, which saw a net relocation gain of 1,611 families in 2015. Following Florida was Arizona, Oregon and South Carolina, in that order.

Outbound moves, on the other hand, were most prevalent in Virginia, with 1,343 moves out of state in 2015. Second for outbound moves was Illinois, followed by Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, in that order.

The Allied report also tracked the most mobile states, or states that see both significant inbound and outbound rates. The most mobile state in 2015 was California, with more than 12,000 moves in all. Behind California in 2015 was Ohio and Louisiana.

Source: Allied Van Lines

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Do-It-Now Steps for Healthy Finances in 2016

January 6, 2016 2:55 pm

(BPT)—The New Year is an ideal time to evaluate your financial situation. To start the year off strong, take these simple, do-it-now steps:

1. Reassess Your Budget – If you don't have a budget, make one. A budget is an essential tool for planning how you will spend, save, invest and enjoy your money. It should be a guideline to how your money will work for you, and not written in stone. Life changes, and outside influences mean you need to periodically examine and update your budget. Start by jotting down your financial goals for the year, then review your budget to see if it's going to help you achieve those goals, or if you need to make adjustments.

2. Pay Off Holiday Bills ASAP – Every month you carry a balance on a credit card, interest rates increase the actual out-of-pocket cost of those holiday gifts you purchased. If possible, pay balances in full right away during the month of January. If that's not possible, create a payment plan for yourself with the goal of paying off the total balance in as high an increment as you can afford, so you minimize the time you're carrying a balance.

3. Maximize "Found" Money – Did you know more than a third of gift card recipients in the last year have not used their cards? If you have a gift cards you don’t plan on using, bring them to a Coinstar Exchange kiosk at your local grocery store and exchange them for instant cash. Put the extra money toward paying off holiday bills or boosting your emergency fund.

4. Review All Your Credit Accounts – Even the most careful shopper can fall prey to crooks, who are particularly active and crafty during the holidays. Look over your credit card statements to ensure you authorized all the charges that appear on them. For an extra layer of safety, check your credit report; it can help you detect signs of identity theft or other fraud.

5. Increase Your Savings – By now, you've reviewed your budget and cashed in your unused gift cards, so you've got some extra money in your pocket. Instead of spending it, use that money to increase your savings. It's especially important to have an emergency fund equivalent to a few months of living expenses. Those savings can help protect your financial health against unforeseen circumstances like a big auto expense or home repair bill, or even a job loss.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Best Mini-Remodel for Winter

January 6, 2016 2:55 pm

Home improvements often kick into high gear during summer. But did you know winter can be a good time to make upgrades, too?

"January is actually the best time to buy carpeting and flooring," says Brendan Phillips, president of SMART Carpet and Flooring. "The busy remodeling times are typically during tax refund season and again in the warm summer months, which makes the winter a slower season for most flooring manufacturers. That means better pricing during January, which is traditionally a slower season for remodeling in general."

According to Phillips, the bedroom is a good choice for a winter mini-remodeling project. A brand new carpet, wood, vinyl plank or vinyl tile floor will not only freshen the look of the space, but improve air quality at a time when homes typically have less fresh air flow.

Not sure which type of flooring is right for your home? Phillips recommends carpeting for bedrooms, because they dampen sound and lend warmth.

Source: SMART Carpet and Flooring

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

January 6, 2016 2:55 pm

Americans are living longer now than ever before. While a testament to advancements in healthcare, this increased longevity also brings with it the potential to outlive savings.

To reduce their chances of a savings shortfall, many older individuals are now exploring reverse mortgage loans, according to Take Charge America, a national non-profit housing and credit counseling agency. A reverse mortgage, also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), enables homeowners aged 62 and older to convert part of their home equity into tax-free cash.

“The economy has been tumultuous in recent years, and seniors have been particularly affected,” says Mike Sullivan, chief education officer for Take Charge America. “For some, a reverse mortgage may prove a good solution for generating extra cash and living more comfortably in their golden years."

Is a reverse mortgage right for you? Sullivan suggests considering the following:

Loan Fees – Borrowers are tasked with paying upfront mortgage insurance, origination fees and closing costs. It’s critical for seniors to read the fine print and understand the fees they’re paying.

Taxes and Insurance – With a reverse mortgage, seniors borrow money against the equity of their homes and are not required to make loan payments. However, they still must pay property taxes and homeowners insurance, or they risk foreclosure.

Home Maintenance – Seniors are responsible for home maintenance, but cannot take out a home equity loan or second mortgage to cover repairs.

Home Equity – The borrower’s home equity is reduced by the amount of the reverse mortgage. The estate will receive whatever equity hasn’t been borrowed.

Loan Repayment Terms – The loan is due when the borrower sells the home, lives away from the home for 12 consecutive months, fails to pay property taxes or insurance, or passes away. The principal, interest and closing costs are repaid from the proceeds of the sale of the house. If the heirs elect not to sell, the money is paid from the estate.
 
To obtain a reverse mortgage, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires seniors to undergo reverse mortgage counseling from an approved third-party organization, Sullivan says. Certified HECM counselors guide seniors through the process, the loan terms, financial and tax implications, and alternatives.

Source: Take Charge America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Snowed In? Clear Snow from Your Property the Safe Way

January 5, 2016 2:55 pm

(Family Features)—Snow in the forecast? No matter how much snow is expected to accumulate, homeowners can make certain they’re prepared with an arsenal of tools that can be called upon when clearing snow from driveways, sidewalks and pathways around the home.

To clear snow from large, flat areas, such as the driveway, a snow blower is the best tool. To eliminate the need to restock gas supplies during a storm, consider using hybrid snow blower. When using the hybrid model, clear the areas furthest from your home first using the battery, and then switch to corded electric power as you move closer to your home. Clear a path as it snows, if possible, to avoid a larger job later on. Once snow has been removed, cover icy patches with salt or sand.

When it comes to clearing sidewalks and pathways, put down ice melt a few hours ahead of lighter snowfall—this can melt snow up to 2 inches down and keep ice from forming. If a blizzard threatens your area, remove smaller amounts of snow from sidewalks and pathways several times, instead of waiting until the snow stops falling. This not only cuts strenuous activity, but also allows the sun to warm up the surface.

Remember that while removing snow, it’s important to dress warmly, paying attention to parts of the body that are vulnerable to frostbite, like fingers and toes. Dress in layers so that you can remove articles of clothing as your body heats up.

Bear in mind also that some municipalities require homeowners to keep sidewalks clear, so be sure to make contingency plans if you yourself will be unable to remove snow in a timely manner.

Source: Snow Joe

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Hire a Mover

January 5, 2016 2:55 pm

Moving from one home to another is an arduous task; hiring a mover for the job may be even more challenging. But before you decide to forgo the services of a professional, consider the following:

• Do-it-yourself costs can add up quickly: truck rental, equipment rentals, boxes, tape, packing materials and fuel, to name a few. A professional mover will supply the means necessary to relocate you to your new home, without the added burden of the preceding expenses.

• Issues are few and far between with a professional mover. Those moving can avoid damage from a lack of packing skills, personal injury and truck or van accidents by hiring a qualified professional.

• Your possessions will be handled with the utmost care. Moving professionals packing and handling items use the latest technology and advancements in packing materials to transport your belongings safely.

If you’re still not convinced a professional mover is right for you, do some comparison shopping. Get at least three free written estimates, and ask questions if you don’t understand any provisions of the contract. Conducting this research may help ease the process of hiring—and the transition overall.

If you decide to hire a professional mover, look for the ProMover seal when sussing out candidates. This certification, backed by the American Moving & Storage Association, means the mover is fully licensed and insured, and meets high standards for safety and professionalism.

“Millions of Americans have a safe, successful move each year with a certified ProMover," says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association. “Hiring a professional mover is a smart decision that saves you time and effort while providing the best protection for your household goods. Just look for the easily recognizable ProMover seal, which stands for honest and ethical business practices.”

Source: American Moving & Storage Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Housing Market Progresses toward Stability

January 5, 2016 2:55 pm

The housing market continues to move toward stability, most recently with the addition of two more states, Kansas and New York, to the outer range of stable housing activity, according to the Freddie Mac Multi-Indicator Market Index® (MiMi®). The most recent MiMi value indicates the overall national market is in the outer stable range, as well.

“The strong annual change of 6.31 percent is the best improvement we've seen in the MiMi on a year-over-year basis since July 2014,” explains Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “While strong home purchase applications and rising home values in some markets are contributing to this improvement, it’s largely more of a reflection of mortgage delinquencies continuing to decline at a steady pace, especially in those hardest hit markets, and a better employment picture overall.”

According to the Index, 32 of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have MiMi values in stable range; 53 of the top 100 metro areas have MiMi values in a stable range; and 43 of the 50 states and 89 of the 100 metros have shown an improving trend over the last three months.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Deals to Score in January

January 4, 2016 2:55 pm

Looking to save money in the New Year? Shop in January.

"January is great time to find savings on items that people will need to start the year off on a good note," says Brent Shelton, online shopping expert for FatWallet.com. "Many items from new bed and bath textiles to health and wellness products see heavy discounting to help people save money out of the gate."

The biggest savings to be had, according to FatWallet.com, are in the following categories:

Fitness: Resolutions for better fitness collide with the best time of year to save money on fitness equipment, workout gear and fitness wear and sports apparel. January shoppers can find savings of 25-50 percent off these items at stores like Sears, Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods. It's also a good month to stock up on health supplements, vitamins and dietary foods, as sales on these items are abundant the entire month.

Tax Software: The majority of tax software retailers, including H&R Block and TurboTax, offer some of their best discounts of the year for early filers, including up to 50 percent off on desktop and online tax software deals for both personal and small business tax.

TVs: Following a long month of holiday TV bargains, the second half of January offers the best selection of top-end HDTV deals leading up to the Super Bowl. Shoppers can expect average savings to exceed $200 on 40-inch and larger 4k TVs and last year's 50- to 60-inch 1080p TV models.

White Sales: Unlike holiday deals on lower quality linens, traditional January White Sales bring big discounts up to 50 percent off quality sheets, towels, window treatments and other textile items for the home from big-box stores that offer additional savings with cash back.

Winter Apparel and Gear: Warm weather has slowed retail sales for cold weather apparel, so January shoppers will see an extra boost in discounting of winter coats, boots, hats, gloves and under garments. Winter sporting good deals will offer shoppers up to 60 percent off from top stores with top name-brands like Under Armour, North Face and Timberland throughout January.

Source: FatWallet

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tornado Watch: Homeowners Insurance Questions to Consider

January 4, 2016 2:55 pm

Tornadoes can occur anytime, anywhere—and with that level of uncertainty, it pays to be prepared. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), homeowners and renters should immediately contact their insurance professional to report tornado damage, and to find out the terms under which it is covered.

“After a homeowner offers an initial description of the damage to their insurer, an important first question to ask is the amount of the deductible,” says Lynne McChristian, the I.I.I.’s Catastrophe Response Director. “The deductible is the amount of the loss a property owner agrees to pay before insurance kicks in; this amount is typically subtracted from the claims payment. You will also want to ask how long it will take to process your claim and whether you’ll need to obtain estimates for repairs.”

Keep in mind standard homeowners policies cover damage caused by tornadoes, including wind damage to the structure itself and its contents. Homeowners policies also provide for additional living expenses to pay the costs of living away from home if a house is uninhabitable due to damage from an insured disaster.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Taylor Swift Crowned Most Desirable Celebrity Neighbor

January 4, 2016 2:55 pm

In our wildest dreams! Americans crowned Taylor Swift the most desirable celebrity neighbor of 2016 in Zillow’s recently released Celebrity Neighbor Survey. The reigning princess of pop edged out America’s newest sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence, to take the top spot.

Americans also casted their votes for the worst celebrity neighbor of 2015, this time naming Donald Trump the celebrity they’d least like to share a fence with.

"2015 was a landmark year for Taylor Swift, from her highly successful 1989 World Tour, to being named the youngest female ever on Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women list—it's no surprise America picked the down-to-earth singer-songwriter as 2016's most desirable neighbor," says Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer for Zillow. "Donald Trump, on the other hand, is frequently in the limelight for his polarizing comments and non-apologetic attitude, which some may see as unattractive qualities in a neighbor."

Comedian Amy Schumer came in a close third as the most desirable neighbor in 2016, followed by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux and Hillary Clinton. More than a third of respondents to the survey would not choose any of the preceding candidates as neighbors.

Following Trump as the worst neighbors of 2015 are Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Hillary Clinton, Miley Cyrus and Tom Brady.

Source: Zillow’s Porchlight

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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