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

How to Save for Your Child's College Tuition

August 23, 2017 12:48 am

Whether your child is five or fifteen, saving for their future is important. It's never too early to start squirreling away money for tuition. To help, MassMutual offers the following five tips for families planning and saving for college:

Start early. Start saving what you can at birth. Little monthly or annual savings really add up over 18 years.  

Make it automatic. Consider automating checking account or payroll deductions to interest-earning savings accounts specifically designed for higher education, such as a 529 savings plan.

Encourage monetary gifts (including 529 plan gift cards) from family members and friends for college savings plans for gift-giving events. Prior to your child's birthday and holidays, remind loved ones that the best gift they can give is the gift of a strong future.

Know how much you need to save. Determine how much you need to save using free online tools such as MassMutual's college savings calculator.

Protect your loved ones for unexpected events. In addition to saving for school, life and disability income insurance are solid considerations for parents with children.

Source: MassMutual

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Save Money Through Energy Efficiency

August 23, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--As much as half of the average homeowner's monthly utility expenses go toward cooling and heating, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). For many households, that makes energy the largest home-related expense each month, next to a mortgage payment.

Fortunately, numerous technological advances are making it easier than ever to manage home energy use. In fact, the DOE estimates you can save as much as 10 percent a year on energy costs by simply adjusting the temperature up or down when you're away during the day. Installing a programmable thermostat that never forgets to adjust on a busy morning and kicks back on before you arrive home can help you earn these savings and reduce energy consumption.

Home Automation
Newer smart, programmable thermostats can be controlled remotely by internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Some models can also monitor your energy usage and system efficiency, providing data to help you make further adjustments to how you operate your HVAC system.

Lighting is another major energy challenge. However, smart light bulbs let you adjust your home's ambiance (and energy usage) with just a couple of quick taps. Paired with motion sensors that detect movement (or a lack thereof) and adjust lighting accordingly, smart bulbs can help reduce the waste of energy caused by lighting unused rooms.

Similarly, smartphone applications that connect to other appliances, utilities and home features offer the best of personalized comfort and convenience while providing tools to help minimize your home's energy consumption.

Zoned Climate Control
If you're like most homeowners, there are parts of your house that simply don't get much use or only get used during certain times of the day. Maintaining the temperature in those uninhabited areas can be costly and wasteful. As an alternative, an option such as zoned climate control allows you to stay comfortable in the rooms you use without spending a fortune on energy bills.

While a zoned system is generally considered a premium home feature, it isn't unattainable and actually offers long-term savings, due to its energy-efficient operation. The home is divided into zones, designated by floors, rooms or areas - however the homeowner chooses - which eliminates the "all on" feature of traditional air conditioners.

A system like Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating's Zoned Comfort Solutions offers a true zoning-system with convenient controls and automation, along with whisper-quiet operation. Both ducted and non-ducted units are available depending on the space and occupant needs. Additionally, some models have advanced filtration features to help eliminate allergens, contributing to improved air quality.

For a new build, installing a zoned system from the outset is relatively simple. However, zoned systems are also a possible solution for replacing your home's HVAC system or rectifying a problem with a single uncomfortable room. Pairing the system with sensors or remote app controls can bring operating costs even lower through computerized automation.

Renewable Energy
Another option to offset some of your home's energy and utility costs is generating your own renewable energy through solar or wind power systems. Installation depends on many variables, such as how much energy you use, local codes and standards, and whether the house and surrounding terrain are situated to allow you to capture adequate natural power. For a home under construction, your builder should be able to offer guidance; for an existing home, contacting a local renewable energy organization or state office is a smart first step.

Cost Control
A state-of-the-art zoned climate control system can be configured to your specific needs, but all the customization options can make it tricky to predict how much your installation might cost. Taking into account these variables can give you a better sense of how much you'll be spending.

 New equipment. Each system includes an outdoor unit, indoor unit(s), controls and parts including the refrigerant line-set, wiring and electrical accessories. Conditioning one room or zone comes at a significantly different price than cooling and heating a home with eight or more zones. Generally, new equipment comes in between $3,000-$15,000, depending on the number of zones and size of the home.

Labor. This is what you will pay a licensed HVAC contractor to install the system (and remove your old one, if necessary). Contractors' labor prices vary widely, but expect to spend an amount roughly equal to your equipment cost, depending on your geographic location and the complexity of the installation.

Additional costs. Depending on your existing system, you may incur costs for items such as electrical work to install a new 240V outlet ($200-$1,000, or more if your electrical panel requires a new circuit); an equipment pad, stand or brackets for the outdoor unit ($50-$300); ductwork (prices vary greatly depending on the home); and controller options (approximately $200-$300 each).

Unique situations. Some homes, such as older homes, high-performance homes and homes in extreme cold-weather regions, often require auxiliary heat or specialized designs or equipment, all of which can impact the cost of the system. However, with Mitsubishi Electric's Zoned Comfort Solutions, 100 percent heating down to a 5 F outdoor temperature can be attained.

Rebates. Some states offer rebates for the installation of more energy-efficient appliances, including HVAC systems. These rebates can help offset some of the upfront costs associated with installing zoned systems. Consider speaking with a professional or researching available rebates in your region before purchasing a new system.

Source: Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating

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5 Quick Curb Appeal Projects

August 22, 2017 12:48 am

Need to add some curb appeal to your home to get it ready for market? Or are you just in the mood for a quick refresh? Here are five easy DIY projects to help dress up your home using lightweight, decorative millwork accessories or architectural elements. The composition and durability of the products make them a long-lasting, low-maintenance way to dress up your home for years to come.

Entry Door - Make a front entry door 'pop' by surrounding it on both sides with a set of decorative pilasters and topping it off with a pediment. Select from simple peaked pediments or more ornate acorn or rams-head pediments.

Brackets - Install lightweight decorative brackets to a porch or under an eave for a fast way to personalize a home.

Windows - Add a simple header directly over the exterior of a window frame to add more visual appeal to the window. Select from straight or arched headers for the style that best matches your home.

Column Wraps - If your home has worn or boring porch posts, hide them with PVC column wraps. These decorative pieces fit right over a post for an instant makeover.

Shutters - If your shutters are suffering from peeling paint or worn finishes, consider replacing them with UV-resistant polyurethane shutters. Made to resist moisture and insects, such shutters can be quickly installed and will maintain their curb appeal for years to come.
 
If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

Source: Nu-Wood

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A Back-to-School Guide for Parents

August 22, 2017 12:48 am

Back-to-school season can be a crazy, hectic time, especially if you have more than one child at more than one school. Regardless of how many kids you have or how old they are, every parent can use a little help during the new school season. USAGov offers the following tips to help:

Schedule time with teachers. Keep an open dialog with school staff to help your children thrive.

Get those shots. Some schools require immunization records for entry. Find out if your child needs any vaccines before school starts.

Ease into the school routine. A good night's sleep is key to a successful school day. Preschoolers need 11-12 hours of sleep a night, school-age children need at least 10 hours, while teens need 9-10 hours.

Pack a healthy and safe lunch. Choose a balanced meal for your children's lunchbox and make sure you keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Low-income families may qualify for free or reduced price school meals.

Shop smart. Some states have sales tax holidays in August. Make a list, know what you need, and shop the sales. Knowing where the bargains are will help you save.

Talk to your kids about online safety. Identity theft, cyberbullying, or inappropriate behavior can happen online. Teach your children about online safety as they use social media to connect with old and new friends at school.

Plan and practice how to get to school. If your kids' school or school system provides bus transportation, find the nearest stop to your home and the pickup and drop-off times. Teach your kids to be safe whether by car, bus, bicycle, or walking.

Teach time management. Leisure time, sports, and "screen time" can interfere with homework. Keep your family's schedule on time with these tips.

Make sure kids are insured. Your child could qualify for free or low-cost insurance through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Listen to your kids. Anxiety and nerves can take over, so provide a safe environment at home and in the classroom. Talk to kids about bullying and what to do if they encounter it.

Get tax credits on tuition. Check out the IRS website for tips to see what kind of tax credits you can get based on the price of education.

Learn money management. No student wants to interrupt his or her education because of financial troubles. Visit USA.gov to get age-appropriate checklists to help students manage finances while in elementary school, high school, or college.

Source: USAGov

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How to Tell if a Job Candidate is Lying on Resume

August 22, 2017 12:48 am

The hiring process is a complicated, tricky endeavour. A new OfficeTeam study shows that as job markets steepen, more and more candidates are lying on their resumes. If you're currently searching for a new team member, keep the following OfficeTeam tips to avoid falling trap to false resume readings.

OfficeTeam identifies five signs a job seeker may be lying on a resume — and offers tips for confirming details:

Skills have vague descriptions. Using ambiguous phrases like "familiar with" or "involved in" could mean the candidate is trying to cover up a lack of direct experience. To assess a worker's abilities, conduct skills testing or hire the person on a temporary basis before making a full-time offer.

There are questionable or missing dates. Having large gaps between positions or listing stints by year without months can be red flags. Inquire about the applicant's employment history during initial discussions and ask references to validate timelines.  

You get negative cues during the interview. A lack of eye contact or constant fidgeting may suggest dishonesty, but don't eliminate a promising candidate by making a judgment based solely on body language. Consider the individual's responses to your questions and feedback from other staff members who met him or her.    

References offer conflicting details. Ask initial contacts about additional people you can speak to about the prospective hire. Also check if there are connections in your network who can provide insight about the candidate.  
Online information doesn't match. Don't always take what you find on the internet at face value. There may be multiple professionals with the same name or legal issues with how the information can be used. Verify facts during the interview and reference check processes.

Source: OfficeTeam

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How-to Brighten a Dark Room

August 21, 2017 12:48 am

Do you have a room in your house that always seems dark no matter what? Perhaps it's due to low ceilings or minimal windows. Maybe the walls are painted a darker color than you would like. Whatever the reason, don't worry. Below are a few simple ways you can brighten the space.

Remove or minimize window coverings. A dark room will only seem darker with heavy window hangings. Choose something light and gauzy, or remove window coverings all together to welcome the sunlight.

Paint it white. From the ceilings to the floors, painting surfaces a white or off-white color will brighten your space, and make it appear larger.

Add mirrors. We all know the old mirror trick can make a space seem larger, but did you know it can brighten it, too? Mirrors reflect light, so the more mirrors, the more light you will have reflected. Try a mirrored wall or a mirror-topped coffee table.

Remove (some) furniture. The less crowded a room, the more space for light to bounce around. Nix any unnecessary furniture, knick knacks or clutter.

Trim the trees. Okay so you've cleared the curtains, added a large mirror and painted your dark wood floors white. Does the room still seem dark? Head outside and look for any trees or shrubs that may be encroaching on your sunlight.

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The Hottest Consumer Products This Summer

August 21, 2017 12:48 am

While I typically look at new consumer products and gadgets in January and February, it appears a number of hot new consumer products are hitting the market during the dog days of August.

For example, Denver-based RavenWindow has launched its Gen3 line of affordable smart windows. The company claims to produce the only solar-intuitive smart solution for optimizing natural light, blocking Ultraviolet (UV) rays and mitigating glare — three key factors for occupant health, well being, and comfort. 

These thermally activated window transition from clear to tinted during peak heat hours, and then back to a clear state as outside temperatures cool, within minutes, with no need for programming, wiring or additional installation.

LG Electronics USA just launched a new fleet of Hom-Bot Turbo+robot vacuums with wifi enabled features, home security settings, and Google Assistant compatibility. The Hom-Bot absorbs vibrations and reduces noise, delivering what the company claims is the quietest robot vacuum on the market on non-carpeted floors.

Using the LG SmartThinQ app on any Android or iOS smartphone, owners can activate one of up to seven Hom-Bot cleaning modes, or live-stream what's going on in the house using its front facing camera. The Hom-Bot HomeGuard motion detection system can even be programmed to snap and transmit five photos to your mobile device if it senses any movement.  

Whirlpool unveiled several new products to the builder industry at this summer's PCBC conference, including its Sunset Bronze Kitchen Suite. By color blocking painted stainless steel, the Sunset Bronze line presents a perfect blend of mixed warm metallic tones, with a surface texture that is both fingerprint-resistant, and available in black matte as well.

And forget about your mom's garbage disposal! Whirlpool's new Zera Food Recycler gives consumers an easy and convenient way to reduce the amount of waste they're sending to the landfill by converting food waste into ready-to-use, homemade fertilizer.

Finally, RIVA Audio announced its award-winning RIVA WAND (Wireless Audio Network Design) Series is now available for purchase. The customizable and easy-to-use multi-room "+" wireless audio system combines the freedom to deliver high-fidelity audio to every room or outdoor location with the flexibility to play from any networked or local source.

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How to Preserve Your Water Quality

August 21, 2017 12:48 am

Did you know August is National Water Quality Month?  With that in mind, New York-based Petri Plumbing offers residents these tips to help preserve water quality:

Flush the tap – The DEP is responsible for providing high-quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. Many of the older plumbing pipes or fixtures leading to the home can absorb lead and pass it through the tap water. One way to minimize the potential lead exposure is to flush the tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using the water for drinking or cooking.

Be aware of what goes down the drain and how it affects the water supply. Medications, detergents, creams, lotions and soaps all end up in the water supply. Consider switching to environmentally-friendly and non-toxic household cleaners and personal care items.

Discard trash and pet waste appropriately – Trash and pet waste, if not disposed of properly, can cause bacteria to run into storm drains and water supplies. The best practice is to tie pet waste in a recycled-plastic pet-waste bag and place it in the trash.

Have the water tested by a professional – If a resident is concerned about the quality of water entering their home through old pipes and possibly picking up contaminants in the delivery process, contact a professional to test the water. Once the water is tested, and any contaminants are identified, the expert can recommend a water filtration system that will work best for the home. The primary water filtration system uses charcoal to remove sediment and debris that build up in your pipes. A whole-home water purification system to remove lead, chemicals, heavy metals, chlorine and other contaminants is an option many homeowners select to give them peace of mind when it comes to the safety of their water.

Source: www.petriplumbing.com

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Storm on the Way? Make Sure Your Power Tools Are Ready to Roll

August 18, 2017 1:36 pm

From chainsaws to generators, outdoor power equipment can be critical to restoring order and safety in the aftermath of a storm. That’s why it’s critical to prepare your equipment now. Here are some steps to take from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).
  • Make a list of what may need cleaning up. Survey your property. Consider the damage a storm might cause and make a list of what tools might be needed for repairs. You might need a chainsaw, pruner, generator, or utility-type vehicle.
  • Take stock of your outdoor power equipment. Make sure equipment is in good working order. If needed, take your equipment to an authorized service center for maintenance or repair.
  • Find your safety gear. Avoid the scramble for sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing and work gloves, which should be stored in an accessible area with your equipment.
  • Review the owner's manuals for your equipment. Read product manuals to ensure you know how to operate your equipment safely.
  • Have the right fuel on hand. Fuel stations may be closed after a storm, so it's important to have the proper fuel for your equipment. Store your fuel in an approved container. Use the type of fuel recommended by your equipment manufacturer. It's illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment.
  • Remain calm and use common sense. Clear-headed thinking and smart decision-making can help you make smart choices. This is no time to rush. Take time to think through a strategy for clean-up efforts.
  • Use safety precautions. Be aware of fundamental dangers that can occur. For instance, chainsaw kickback. Always stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you're angled away from the blade. Hold the chainsaw with both hands. Never over-reach or cut anything above your shoulder height. Always have a planned retreat path if something falls.
  • Keep firm footing when using pole saws and pole pruners. Keep a firm footing on the ground. Observe the safety zone, which means keeping bystanders and power lines (those above you and any that might have fallen down) at least 50 feet away from your work area.
  • Ensure portable electric generators have plenty of ventilation. Generators should never be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home or garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rainy or wet conditions. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.
  • Be aware of others. Keep bystanders, children and animals out of your work area. Do not allow other people near outdoor power equipment, such as chainsaws, pole saws or pole pruners when starting the equipment or using it.
  • Pay attention to your health. Storm cleanup can be taxing on the body and the spirit. Do not operate power equipment when you're tired or overly fatigued. Drink plenty of water and take regular breaks. 
If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

Source: Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)

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Bathroom Remodeling Tips for Aging in Place

August 18, 2017 1:36 pm

Even though baby boomers are aging, they’re still setting trends. Case in point, the aging-in-place movement. Opting for remaining in the homes they’ve lived in for decades as opposed to heading to warm-weather retirement communities, a growing contingent of older homeowners are staying put.

Aging in place, however, means adapting your home to make living easier and safer as we get older. And the bathroom is a smart place to start. New Jersey-based Gold Medal Service, a heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical service company, recommends the following bathroom remodeling tips that will accommodate limited mobility or physical impairments. 

Remodel the bathroom on the main floor. If you have a house with multiple levels, focus on the first-floor bathroom, which is hopefully adjacent to a first-floor bedroom. This will allow aging homeowners to avoid stairs altogether.  

Provide extra space in the bathroom. Make sure there's enough room in the bathroom to move a wheelchair around, should one be needed down the road. Have doorways set to at least 32 inches wide, and ensure that there's enough space to position a wheelchair next to the toilet, bath or shower, to enable a safe and easy transfer.

Stick with non-slip floors. Non-slip tiles are a must to prevent slipping and tripping on the bathroom floor. Loose rugs can be hazardous, so stick with non-slip materials.

Make tubs and showers more accessible. Older bathtubs can easily be replaced with a walk-in bathtub. Consider having a seating area in the shower so an individual doesn't have to remain standing the entire time while showering. And be sure tub and shower surfaces are non-slip.

Add grab bars. Using towel rails as grab bars is a major safety risk as they will not support a person. Instead, install grab bars following manufacturer's instructions carefully. Place them next to the bath, shower and toilet.

Mind the lighting. Make sure you have ample lighting in the bathroom with a minimal amount of glare.

Have an elevated toilet seat. Standing up from a low-set toilet can be difficult as we get older.

Consider extra accessories. Properly locating things like soap dishes, shaving stands and shower caddies will make using the bathroom more convenient and safer.

Use low-maintenance materials. When you remodel your bathroom, consider using modern materials that are easy to clean, mildew-resistant, and have a lifetime guarantee.

If you’d like more information about homeownership, please contact me.

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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