RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
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

Big Spenders: Impulse Purchases Top $100

January 26, 2016 2:58 pm

Ever made an impulse buy? You’re not alone. According to a recent report, nearly 85 percent of Americans have made impulse purchases, with over half  spending $100 or more on unplanned buys. Some have even spent upwards of $1,000!

Impulse purchases generally benefit the person doing the spending. Nearly half of Americans cited in the report have made an impulse purchase for themselves, over 20 percent have made an impulse purchase for a child, and approximately 15 percent have made an impulse purchase for a spouse or significant other.

Seniors are best at exercising restraint. In fact, one in five seniors in the report say they have never made an impulse purchase—more than any other age group.

Interestingly, most impulse purchases occur in-store, not online. Just 6 percent of Americans included in the report made a spontaneous buy via smartphone or tablet.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Safe Snow Removal

January 26, 2016 2:58 pm

’Tis the season for snow in many parts of the country—and if you’re a homeowner, you know cleanup can be a challenge. Whether your area is expecting two inches or two feet of accumulation, keep in mind these snow removal safety tips, courtesy of the experts at Troy-Bilt®:

1. Don't skimp on safety. Snow and ice often create dangerous outdoor conditions, so take as many safety precautions as possible. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately before heading out into the cold, and always reference the owner’s manual of any snow removal equipment you may be using.

2. Be prepared. Watch the forecast and what's happening outside. If snow starts to fall quickly and sticks to the ground, try to keep up with snow removal as best you can.

3. Know your surroundings. Outline designated clearing areas with stakes and colored flags prior to snowfall. The stakes serve as directional guides during cleanup to help you stay on task and from damaging parts of your property.

4. Shovel smart. If you're using a shovel to clear snow, be mindful of how much strain you place on your back and legs. Improper motion can leave you with pulled muscles or other physical aches after cleanup.

5. Move snow wisely. Be aware of where snow is being thrown from your shovel or equipment, as it can throw small debris and cause injury. Avoid throwing snow into the street or in the direction of bystanders at all times.

Source: Troy-Bilt®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renovating? Tips to Prevent Lead Exposure

January 26, 2016 2:58 pm

Common renovation activities, like sanding, cutting and demolition, can stir up hazardous lead dust, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This dust can be harmful to both adults and children.

The federal Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule requires that contractors, property managers and others working for compensation in homes and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 be trained and use lead-safe work practices. They also must provide a copy of the brochure, “Renovate Right; Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools,” to owners and occupants before starting renovation work.

Homeowners completing their own renovations should take steps to protect themselves and their families from exposure to lead dust. These steps include:

- Containing the work area so that dust does not escape from the area; covering floors and furniture that cannot be moved with heavy duty plastic and tape; sealing off doors and heating and cooling system vents
- Keeping children, pregnant women, and pets out of the work area at all times
- Minimizing dust during the project by using techniques that generate less dust, such as wet sanding or scraping, or using sanders or grinders that have HEPA vacuum attachments, which capture the dust that is generated
- Cleaning up thoroughly by using a HEPA vacuum and wet wiping to clean up dust and debris on surfaces; mopping floors with plenty of rinse water before removing plastic containment from doors, windows, and vents

Keep in mind that certain emergency provisions of the RRP Rule may apply. Work covered under the rule’s provision for flood-damaged housing does not require advance notice or trained renovators to remove materials, including debris, from damaged homes. Also, emergency renovation activities are exempt from the rule’s warning sign, containment, waste-handling, training, and certification requirements—but only to the extent necessary to respond to the emergency. Cleaning, cleaning verification and record-keeping requirements still apply to emergency renovations. Other non-emergency renovation activities remain subject to the rule’s requirements, including the posting of signs and containment.

In addition, volunteers who do not receive compensation for work are not required to be trained and certified, under the rule. However, volunteers are strongly advised to educate themselves about lead-safe work practices to avoid causing health or safety hazards for themselves or others.

Source: EPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Safety at Home: Heat Sources Heighten Fire Risk

January 25, 2016 2:58 pm

December, January and February are prime time for home heating equipment fires—in fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than half of home heating equipment fires annually are reported in that timeframe. These fires can be caused by heating apparatus like stationary and portable space heaters, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

Proper installation can help reduce the risk of fire. When installing wood-burning stoves or gas heaters, for instance, follow the manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional perform the installation.

Simple safety practices can also help mitigate risk. Use your oven to cook food only; never use it to heat your home. When leaving the room (or going to bed), turn portable heaters off. Place a sturdy screen in front of the fireplace to prevent sparks from flying into the room, and burn only dry, seasoned wood. Allow ashes to cool before disposing them in a metal container, and ensure they are kept a safe distance from the home. Hire a qualified professional to clean and inspect heating equipment and chimneys every year.

These months also come with an increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Fuel-burning equipment, including vehicles and generators running in an attached garage, can produce dangerous levels of CO and should be vented to the outside to keep from building up in the home.
Installing and maintaining CO alarms can lessen the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Test smoke alarms and CO alarms monthly. If you smell gas in your gas heater or other appliance, do not light it. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company for assistance.

If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.

Source: NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Concerned about Rising Interest Rates?

January 25, 2016 2:58 pm

Interest rates rose for the first time since the recession just one month ago. Since then, many have expressed concern about future increases, unsure of how their personal financial situations will be affected should interest rates rise again this year.

The good news is mortgage rates have yet to follow suit, making this an ideal time to take advantage of low-interest home financing options.

“The impact of rising interest rates will take some time to show a cumulative effect,” cautions Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride. “Now is the time for consumers to insulate themselves from rising rates, such as refinancing from an adjustable-rate to fixed-rate mortgage.” recently polled Americans to gauge their level of concern about rising interest rates. The majority of respondents, or 56 percent, don’t see reason for alarm, with some, about 15 percent, feeling interest rates have been artificially low. More than 40 percent are concerned about another rate hike, and just over 15 percent wonder what consequences a hike will have on the economy.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


15 Kitchen Design Trends We'll See in 2016

January 25, 2016 2:58 pm

A smartly-designed kitchen—one that caters to both the current and long-term—will serve the needs of your household for years to come. But what does “smartly-designed” mean?

“Designing a kitchen is 50 percent science; it's about making the space efficient and functional right down to the placement of the sinks and the height of the appliances,” says Matthew Quinn of Atlanta-based Design Galleria Kitchen and Bath Studio. “The other half is about making the space something that fits with the emotional needs of the homeowners and the aesthetic they are hoping to achieve.”

Quinn, along with other award-winning designers, recently forecasted trends in kitchen design at the Sub-Zero and Wolf “Design Pros Call It” event. The forecast included:

• Concealed Sinks
• Convection Steam Ovens
• Child-Friendly Sinks, Refrigerators
• Induction Cooktops
• Islands
• New Neutrals (Black, Blue, Gray)
• Off-Kitchen Dining Areas
• Open Floor Plan
• Outdoor Kitchen
• Panel Overlays for Appliances
• Recycling Center
• Quartz
• Stainless Steel
• Salvaged Wood Accents
• Vertical Gardens

The forecast also settles the “timeless” versus “classic” design debate.

“Truly timeless kitchen design is quite difficult, is very limiting and depends heavily on its surrounding architecture,” Quinn says. “White cabinets, white marble and wood floors most commonly stand the test of time. Like the Barcelona chair, classic kitchen design is incorporating great design elements of that moment that reflect that era. A metal range hood, a pro-style faucet and some decorative hardware are examples.”

Source: Sub-Zero and Wolf

Published with permission from RISMedia.


To Do This Weekend: Partake in America's Favorite Dessert

January 22, 2016 2:58 pm

Did you know January 23 is National Pie Day? Pie is the preferred dessert for special occasions throughout the year, over and above major holidays, according to the American Pie Council® (APC). Whether shared between spouses, friends, parents and children, or grandparents and grandchildren, pie embodies “the simple life”—and that’s just what the holiday is all about.

On National Pie Day, take a moment to appreciate the simplicities in life. Bake a family-favorite, try a new recipe or purchase a pie from your local baker. And make sure to celebrate the day with loved ones.

After all…pie is meant to be shared!

Source: APC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Ideal Home for Millennials

January 22, 2016 2:58 pm

Every generation has had their own set of preferences when defining the “ideal” home, and the next generation of homeowners—millennials—are no exception. But what would a millennial’s ideal home look like?

Enter the Responsive Home project, a collaboration between BUILDER magazine and Pardee Homes, to answer that question. The recently completed project called upon design professionals to develop concept homes that appeal to millennial tastes. The result is the “Contemporary Farmhouse” and the “Contemporary Transitional,” both of which offer adaptable floor plan options, smart home technology and indoor-outdoor flow.

The concept homes also include features like:

• Bedroom Suites (Complete with full bath, kitchenette and outside entrance)

• Casitas (Complete with covered private patio, small kitchen, full bath and adjoining fitness room)

• Electric Car Chargers

• “Flex” Spaces (Convertible area to accommodate long- or short-term rentals, or growing families)

• Retractable Doors

• Roof Sensors (Detect rain and communicate to a garden irrigation system to conserve water) 

“Designed based on the exclusive insights of our target buyer, millennials, this project is the intersection of insights and collaboration among researchers, designers, builders, architects and more,” says Klif Andrews, spokesperson for Pardee Homes. “Through this process, we’ve defined the concept of a ‘responsive’ home.”

Source: Hanley Wood

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowners: Beware of Post-Disaster Housing Scams

January 22, 2016 2:58 pm

Scams are often the furthest thought from the mind of a homeowner in the wake of disaster—and fraudsters time and again use this vulnerability to their advantage, preying on those impacted. Common post-disaster fraud practices, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), include:

- Bogus Pleas for Post-Disaster Donations
- Fake Offers of State or Federal Aid
- Fraudulent Building Contractors
- Phony Housing Inspectors

To avoid hiring a fraudulent building contractor for repairs, look for licensed local contractors backed by reliable references. Demand that contractors carry general liability insurance and workers’ compensation, and don’t pay more than half the costs of repairs upfront.

To avoid hiring a phony housing inspector, who may claim to represent FEMA, verify that the inspector has your nine-digit registration number (given to all disaster relief applicants). Keep in mind FEMA inspectors never require banking or other personal information, and that they do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They also do not determine eligibility for assistance.

Source: FEMA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Nearing Retirement? How to Navigate Pension Payouts

January 21, 2016 2:58 pm

Those fortunate enough to have pension plans have payout options come retirement. It’s important to understand those options in order to make informed decisions—and choosing the right option for you can help ensure financial security in retirement.

“Retirees are increasingly being faced with the difficult one-time choice to either take their pension payments in a lump sum or as a lifetime income stream,” says Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). “Clear information about the trade-offs they face can help consumers make the right financial decision for their retirement security.”

Many employees in the private sector are covered by defined benefit pension plans in which retirement benefits are typically based on years of service and earnings, and paid out in the form of lifetime monthly payments. Increasingly, employers are giving consumers eligible for retirement benefits the option of a one-time payment for all or a portion of their pension, commonly known as a lump-sum payout.

The monthly payment option offers steady lifetime income, which substantially reduces the risk of running out of money later in life. This is especially important if you or your spouse is in good health, or if either of you have a family history of longevity. A lump-sum payout, however, might make sense if you or your spouse is terminally ill or in critically poor health, or if you already have sufficient income to cover basic living expenses.

If you choose a lump-sum pension payout instead of monthly payments, the responsibility for managing the money shifts from your employer to you. In the monthly payment option, you don’t need to worry about a lack of investment skills, or how your financial management skills may change as you age. In contrast, a lump-sum payout can give you the flexibility of choosing to pay off large debts, where to invest or save the money, and when and how much to withdraw.

Keep in mind that pensions are typically insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). In the event your company declares bankruptcy or otherwise cannot make its pension payments, the PBGC guarantees those payments up to a certain amount. Pension payments are also protected against certain creditor claims or debt collectors. With a lump-sum payout, you lose these protections.

If you elect the lump-sum option, it’s important to check for calculation errors. Many factors determine a lump-sum payment amount, including age, years of work, earnings history, taxes withheld, and the terms of the plan. You can detect errors by taking a look at your most recent pension statement, or by contacting a pension counselor for assistance or to resolve errors.

The lump-sum option also means you’ll have to pay taxes on the payout. This money is generally treated as ordinary income for that year. For this reason, an employer is required to withhold 20 percent on the amount.

In addition, you may have to pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty tax if you have not reached age 59½. You can defer income taxes on your lump sum by rolling over the funds into a qualified retirement account.


Published with permission from RISMedia.