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

Turned Down for a Mortgage? Read This before Reapplying

November 23, 2015 2:43 pm

Turned down for a mortgage? You’re not alone. Many borrowers are finding it difficult to navigate lending requirements and reapply for a loan to buy a home, despite significant improvement in the housing market.

If your mortgage application was rejected, take heart. Mike Sullivan, director of education for Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit and housing counseling agency, says prospective homebuyers can successfully reapply if they consider the following factors:

Cash Flow – One of the primary roadblocks to obtaining a mortgage is cash flow. At a minimum, borrowers need a 3-percent down payment and about $1,500 for closing costs. They must also take moving and ongoing maintenance costs into account, including utility deposits, appliances, a lawn mower, curtains and other miscellaneous expenses. As a general rule, prospective homebuyers should have at least $10,000 saved before shopping for a home.

Credit – Many young people today haven’t used credit, aside from student loans, so lenders have difficulty assessing their ability to pay back the home loan. Borrowers who fall into this bucket need to focus on building a positive credit history with three trade lines, such as a credit card, auto loan and signature loan, for at least two years before attempting to reapply.

Lifestyle – Many consumers assume if they can qualify for a loan, they can afford a house. With lenders approving 31 percent of gross salary for a house payment and 43 percent for all debt service, it’s easy to buy a house one can’t afford. It’s important to remember the mortgage is only part of the financial picture. Ongoing costs such as commuting, utilities, HOA fees, landscaping and general home maintenance need to be seriously considered, as well. It’s wise to limit house payments to 28 percent of gross income, and all debt service to no more than 34 percent.

“Many individuals and families are ready to pursue their dreams of homeownership after overcoming financial struggles, but they don’t always have a clear picture of what it takes, or how a mortgage could impact their long-term financial picture,” says Sullivan. “The more knowledge they obtain before entering the lending process, the better.”

Source: Take Charge America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Household Spending Changes in Retirement

November 20, 2015 2:40 pm

On average, households spend less once they retire—but not all households, and not in the same ways, report analysts at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). In fact, according to a recent EBRI study, nearly half of retired households actually spent more than they did just before retirement. That spending, however, declines over time—by the sixth year of retirement, just a third spend more than they did pre-retirement.

“We also found that households that spent more in the first two years of retirement were not exclusively high-income households,” says Sudipto Banerjee, research associate at EBRI and author of the report. “Rather, they were distributed across all income levels.”

Furthermore, the median household had a home mortgage payment before retirement, but none after, indicating paying off a mortgage could be a factor in the timing of retirement, according to the study.

Other findings include:

• In the first two years of retirement, median household spending dropped by 5.5 percent from pre-retirement spending levels, and by 12.5 percent by the fourth year of retirement. The spending reduction slowed down after the fourth year. 

• In the first two years of retirement, two in five households (39.3 percent) spent less than 80 percent of their pre-retirement spending. By the sixth year of retirement, a majority (53.1 percent) of households did so. 

• In the first two years of retirement, 28.0 percent of households spent more than 120 percent of their pre-retirement spending. By the sixth year of retirement, 23.4 percent of households still did so.

Source: EBRI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Hold Steady

November 20, 2015 2:40 pm

Average fixed mortgage rates remain largely unchanged as analyst expectations turned from world events to the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) October minutes, Freddie Mac recently reported. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.97 percent with an average 0.6 point; the 15-year FRM averaged 3.18 percent with an average 0.5 point.

"Treasury yields stabilized about 5 basis points below last week's level as the market shrugged off economic data and world events and turned its attention to the minutes of the October FOMC meeting,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti. “In response, the 30-year mortgage rate ticked down a basis point to 3.97 percent. The FOMC minutes were couched in careful Fed-speak, and early market reaction was mixed, with most analysts reading their own expectations into the minutes."

Additionally, the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.98 percent with an average 0.5 point, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.64 percent with an average 0.3 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renters Have Spoken: Apartment Dwellers Favor Walkability, Concierge-Style Service

November 20, 2015 2:40 pm

Just shy of 40 million Americans call an apartment home—and according to recently released research, many are seeking amenities rivaling that of a five-star hotel. Amenities found in the research, compiled by the National Multifamily Housing Council/Kingsley Associates 2015 Apartment Resident Preferences Survey, include walkable neighborhoods, package pick-up services and online rental payment options.
 
“There have been 1.6 million new renter households created in the past five years,” says Rick Haughey, vice president of Industry Technology Initiatives with the National Multifamily Housing Council. “Many of these new residents are making a lifestyle choice to rent instead of buy and are thus looking for personalized services and amenities. The apartment industry is stepping up to provide those experiences.”
 
While many factors are considered during an apartment search, some of the most important concern location convenience and community amenities, the research found. Apartment renters have strong opinions about walking versus driving to their regular destinations:

• Walking wins over driving for getting to the grocery store (by 7 percentage points);
• Walking wins over driving for getting to a restaurant or bar (by 6 percentage points for both); and
• Walking wins over driving for getting to public transit (by 19 percentage points).

Conversely, driving is preferred over walking when:

• Traveling to work (by 24 percentage points);
• Traveling to school (by 7 percentage points); and
• Traveling to a college or university (by 6 percentage points).

Package pick-up services are also favored by apartment renters, according to the research. Currently, 88 percent of management offices accept packages for residents, and 72 percent of residents want a package storage or holding area. Eighty-seven percent of respondents say they are not willing to pay for a package locker, but if there were a charge, they would expect to pay around $20 per month.
 
In addition, 78 percent of apartment renters would like to the option to pay rent online, and 63 percent were interested in paying rent with a credit card.
 
Source: NMHC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Social Security Sweet Spot: Deciding When to Claim Benefits

November 19, 2015 2:40 pm

Many of us plan to claim Social Security benefits upon reaching full retirement age—but according to a recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), knowing exactly when to claim benefits is unclear. In response to those findings, the CFPB has released “Planning for Retirement,” an interactive tool designed to help individuals before making a claim.

“Millions of Americans are likely to face financial insecurity in their retirement years,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Deciding when to start claiming Social Security benefits is one of the most important financial choices a consumer will make. The CFPB’s ‘Planning for Retirement’ tool can help consumers clearly see their options.”

According to the report, many Americans collect Social Security benefits early, despite living longer. On average, Americans reaching age 65 today will live to age 85, meaning they’ll likely need sufficient income and savings to cover 20 years or more in retirement. Additionally, approximately two-thirds of the nearly 40 million Americans aged 65 and older who receive Social Security benefits depend on it for 50 percent or more of their retirement income. For a growing number of beneficiaries aged 80 and older, Social Security benefits account for 70 percent or more of their income.

Americans are eligible to claim Social Security retirement benefits without any reduction at their “full retirement age,” according to the Social Security Administration. For people born after 1942, full retirement age ranges from 66 to 67, depending on the year the person was born. Individuals can also claim their benefits several years before, agreeing to take less money each month, or they can claim several years after and get bigger monthly checks.

Generally, the amount an individual receives from Social Security is a one-time choice. This means if an individual claims the reduced or increased benefit, they receive that amount for the rest of their life, with annual cost-of-living adjustments.

The tool can be found at www.consumerfinance.gov/retirement/before-you-claim/.

Source: CFPB.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Steps to a Safer Home for the Holidays

November 19, 2015 2:40 pm

Gearing up for guests this holiday season? If so, now’s the time to ensure your home is safely outfitted for company. According to the remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), homeowners who expect visitors, especially elderly individuals, should assess their homes for hazards, and, if necessary, increase accessibility to accommodate their needs.

“Welcoming loved ones to your home is a cherished holiday tradition,” says NAHB Remodelers Chair Robert Criner, a remodeler from Newport News, Va. “By making some simple home modifications, you can ensure that family and friends will enjoy a comfortable visit and be able to maneuver around your house without trouble this year.”

Steps to take include the following:

1. Secure rugs and carpets. Secure area rugs with non-slip pads or double-sided carpet tape so that they are snug to the floor. Temporarily remove throw rugs, including bathroom mats, to prevent guests from tripping on the edges.

2. Test stair railings. Check that stair railings inside and out are tightly fastened. Make repairs where needed.

3. Turn up the lights. Put night lights in bathrooms, the guest bedroom, hallways and in the kitchen. Make sure there is a lamp or light switch within reach of the guest bed so that your visitor can keep a light on until safely tucked in. Well-lit outdoor walkways and entrances are also important when coming or going at night.

4. Clear outdoor walkways. Rake leaves, salt for ice and shovel snow from sidewalks and driveways to prevent falls.

5. Add non-slip treads or a mat to the shower. Be sure the shower your guest will use has a non-slip floor. To enhance traction, apply non-slip strips or a suction-attached non-slip mat.

6. Offer the best seat. Choose the best seat for your guest’s comfort—not too high, not too low. A firm cushion can prevent them from sinking too low in to the seat, and arms can help a person easily get up and down.

7. De-clutter. Move objects or even furniture that a person usually has to maneuver around. Secure cords to the wall or baseboards with hooks to prevent tripping. Clear stair steps of any objects, such as shoes, books, and other personal items, that tend to collect on the lower treads.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Green Homes Favored Across the Board

November 19, 2015 2:40 pm

During the housing downturn, green homes provided support to the ailing residential market. Now, green homes promise to be an important element of the recovering market, according to a recently released study by Dodge Data & Analytics in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and with the support of Ply Gem Industries. In fact, a high percentage of home builders and remodelers report individuals of all ages are interested in green homes and features—and particularly those over age 55.

"Builders and remodelers have long recognized that green is the future of home building," says Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo., and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "Since we first began partnering on this study with Dodge Data & Analytics in 2006, we've seen that commitment grow. The study's recent findings reinforce this continued growth, with new homeowner feedback showing a desire and expectation that new homes be high-performing, particularly when it comes to energy conservation.”

Per the study, 54 percent of home builders and nearly 40 percent of remodelers are currently constructing or remodeling at least 16 percent of their homes green. By 2020, 81 percent of home builders and 74 percent of remodelers anticipate constructing or remodeling at the same level of green.

Key factors driving the growth of green are the association of green homes with healthier living and the increasing use of renewable energy. According to the study, nearly half of home builders and remodelers (48 percent) expect to be using solar photovoltaic and ground source heat pump technologies.

Net zero homes are also emerging as an important trend, with nearly a quarter (21 percent) of home builders having built a net zero home in the last two years.

Source: Dodge Data & Analytics

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Get Your Home in Tip-Top Shape Even When Time Is Not On Your Side

November 19, 2015 12:19 pm

Ask anyone who has ever gone through the process of selling a home, and they’ll tell you that time is the No. 1 thing you need on your side. From removing clutter to making rooms look good, renovating or fixing anything that’s broken to finding a real estate professional you feel comfortable working with, there’s a lot of time involved in the process. But if a new job, a death in the family or a marriage proposal are necessitating a quick sale, there are certain things you can do to get your home ready.
 
If time is of the essence, the first thing you’ll want to do is get your house in showing condition. Throw out the clutter, pack your stuff away and hire a professional cleaning service to come in and get the house sparkling. You may also want to have someone come and take care of the lawn as well.
 
It’s also a good idea to take care of any updates that can be accomplished over the course of a few days. This means replacing broken light bulbs, patching up nail holes, making spackle repairs in the bathroom, fixing any drips and taking care of any little things that a potential buyer might use as an excuse to not be interested in your home.
 
Another great way to get your home in tip-top shape without wasting a lot of time is to hold a painting party with some of your friends and neighbors in order to freshen up some of the main rooms in the house. This is a great way to have fun, spend one last weekend together and get your house looking good.
 
Your agent will most likely have some ideas as well, so be sure to listen to their advice. This probably isn’t the first home they’ve been asked to move quickly, so be sure to take their ideas into consideration.
 
If you’re planning a quick move, try not to have visible signs in the home that lead prospective buyers to believe you need to vacate quickly. And make sure your neighbors know not to say anything about your situation if someone asks. The last thing you want is a lowball offer because a house hunter overheard that you needed to get out quickly.
 
In the end, it’s important to keep an open mind, especially if you need to move quickly. If an offer comes in under your asking price and your agent thinks it’s probably the best that’s going to come, you may have to accept. Make sure to talk about all the options, including the possibility of renting your home for a period of time if that makes the most sense.
 
Contact our office today for more tips to prepare for a quick move. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips to Help Lower Your Homeowners Insurance

November 19, 2015 12:19 pm

When it comes to homeowners insurance, very few truly understand what’s covered, and even less compare their policy with others on a yearly basis in hopes of getting a better deal. In fact, when it comes to insurance, homeowners typically know that they have it and that it was most likely purchased when they originally bought the home.
 
In a day and age when saving money is in vogue, homeowners shouldn’t be afraid to check with their insurance carrier every year to see what can be done to lower their costs without affecting their policy. 
 
While homeowners insurance typically differs from state to state, avoid making costly assumptions by understanding exactly what’s included in your policy.
 
Typically, a homeowners insurance policy will cover the actual dwelling and some of the other structures on the property, like a fence, garage and driveway. Personal property is usually covered, regularly covering the contents inside the home, although there will be a higher cost for high-value items like jewelry or antique paintings.
 
When looking to lower your premiums, one of the best things to do is bundle your insurance commitments so that one company handles any type of insurance you may have.
 
Also, in much the same way that better drivers get better rates, people who are better at protecting their home will get lower homeowners insurance rates. Adding smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and alarm systems can do wonders when it comes to making your bill decrease.
 
Agreeing to take on more of the financial burden with a larger deductible is another way to save money each month.
 
Finally, understanding a home’s true worth can save you money on insurance. Most people take out insurance for the price they paid for the home, but even if your home was to burn down to nothing, you would still have the land, and that’s part of the value. A good insurance agent can help you decide exactly how much you would need in the most extreme circumstances.
 
For more tips and tricks to help lower your homeowners insurance, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Updated Fixtures Offer a Simple Way to Breathe New Life into Your Space

November 19, 2015 12:19 pm

If your home is currently on the market—or you’re getting ready to list it—you want it to be in the best shape possible to attract the most people and get the best price. Setting your home apart from the competition often means making some changes or adding some value to the space. One easy way to do this is by replacing the fixtures throughout the home.
 
To get started, go around the house and make a list of all the fixtures that have been incorporated into the space, including lighting, faucets and doorknobs. It’s also a good idea to make note of any problems or irregularities you may find, and determine what, if anything, needs to be replaced.
 
Once you’ve made note of which fixtures need to be updated, it’s as simple as going to your local home improvement store, buying updated models and doing some easy DIY projects. If you’re unsure about how to replace fixtures, YouTube is a great place to start.
 
If you’re looking to change the nuance of a room and really brighten up a dark area, replacing lights should be at the top of your list. Whether it’s adding a chandelier, dimmers or even switching up light plates, new lighting can make a big difference.
 
If you’re thinking of making fixture changes within the bathroom, make sure everything matches. For instance, if you’re upgrading the faucets in the sink, you should complete the room with new faucets for the bathtub and shower as well. Adding a rain shower is also very in vogue these days.
 
As for doorknobs, changing these out is a simple way to add a bit of shine or style to a room. Keep the look consistent by using the same knobs throughout each room—or even the entire home.
 
When updating fixtures, there’s no need to spend a fortune. In fact, there are plenty of low-cost options that will not only look great, but will go a long way toward attracting buyers.
 
For more information about replacing fixtures within your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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