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 
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Mary's Blog

6 Tips for Homeowners to Weather a Wet Winter

December 11, 2015 2:52 pm

Warmer winters aren’t always better. With this season on track to be warmer (and wetter) than average, homeowners should prepare now for the potential of extreme precipitation, says Peter Duncanson, director of Disaster Restoration System Development at ServiceMaster Restore.

“When it comes to winter weather, it pays to be prepared for the worst,” says Duncanson. “Although many areas across the country experienced mild temperatures this fall, preparing now is vital, as excessive precipitation combined with freezing or near-freezing temperatures can cause significant damage overnight.” 

Duncanson advises:

• Reviewing your insurance policy closely and paying attention to specifics on what is and is not covered under the agreement

• Clearing rain gutters, repairing roof leaks and cutting away tree branches that could fall on the home

• Keeping gutters and downspouts free of debris and making sure water is flowing several feet away from the foundation

• Checking for cracks or small holes in the foundation where water can seep in—even a few inches of water from melted snow or excessive rain can cause interior water damage to carpet, drywall, wood floors and even your home’s structure

• Covering exposed outdoor water faucets to prevent freezing

• Leaving cabinet doors under sinks open to help circulate air and prevent frozen pipes during extreme temperatures

Source: ServiceMaster

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Selling or Not, Remodeling Boosts Homeowner Happiness

December 11, 2015 2:52 pm

Homeowners preparing to sell often make home improvements both big and small to garner top dollar from buyers—but those same projects can also be beneficial to homeowners remaining in their homes, according to the National Association of REALTORS® recent Remodeling Impact Report. In fact, the report states nearly 65 percent of homeowners experienced increased enjoyment in their homes after completing a remodeling project.

And when it comes to resale, kitchen and bathroom renovations, hardwood flooring refinishes, insulation upgrades, new wood flooring and converted basements rank high among REALTORS® cited in the report, as well as new roofing, new vinyl siding and new vinyl windows.

For homeowners staying put, projects that bring the most happiness include fiber-cement siding, new fiberglass or steel-front doors, new roofing and new garage doors.

"Remodeling projects can greatly improve both the value of and satisfaction with one's home, which are great things no matter the reason for a project," says Judy Mozen, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. "This report highlights the best projects to consider in either situation and showcases just how much of a difference a good and professional remodel can make in real numbers.”

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips to Achieve Short Sale Success

December 11, 2015 12:40 pm

If you’re in the market for a new home, chances are you’ll come across the term ‘short sale’ at some point in your search. In its simplest terms, a short sale is when a home is sold for less than what is owed and the bank forgives the excess debt.

While short sales were a very popular means of selling a home within the past few years, they’re in much less supply today as the housing market continues to recover.  In fact, banks are more reluctant to grant a short sale unless there is some form of financial hardship that’s causing an inability to afford the mortgage payment. 

Another reason for the drop in short sales is that lenders are finding that as home prices rise, more often than not, they can get a better outcome through foreclosure auctions or REO sales, which are often quicker than short sales.

While the number of short sales has fallen significantly over the last few years as rising home values have forced far fewer distressed homeowners to sell, short sales remain plentiful in some areas of the country, and you can still find some serious bargains.

Once a bank receives a short sale request from a homeowner, the bank performs a BPO (Broker Price Opinion), which is simply an opinion of what the house is worth from a local real estate broker. The bank uses this BPO when determining the short sale amount. 

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be bargaining. In fact, the whole idea of going for a short sale is to find a home for less than market value. However, when making an offer, be sure you don’t lowball too much. 
If you’re interested in pursuing a short sale, your agent should check recent home sales in the area to get a better idea of the properties that are selling and work with you to come up with an appropriate price that’ll be more likely to be approved by the bank. 

When you make an offer on a short sale, federally regulated lenders must respond within 30 days and deliver a final decision within 60 days. However, that deadline has loopholes, as the lender can ask the seller for more paperwork and then delay the decision while waiting for that paperwork to arrive.

One important thing to keep in mind is that with a short sale, there is no leniency with the closing escrow date and a buyer must close on time. Because of this, it’s important to take care of all loan paperwork immediately after opening escrow. 
Also, be warned that when buying a home that’s listed as a short sale, chances are that there might be some issues that need to be addressed as the previous owners most likely didn’t spend the money or take the time to fix things that other sellers most often do. 

To learn more about short sales, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Questions You Can't Afford to Overlook When Choosing an Agent

December 11, 2015 12:40 pm

The 2015 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers revealed that 89 percent of sellers sold their home with an agent last year. It also notes that only 8 percent were FSBO sales, which is down from 9 percent the last three years, and the lowest share ever recorded since the survey’s 1981 inception.

Obviously, having an agent is key to selling your home. Homes represented by an agent sell faster, transact for more money and are less stressful than if you were going at it alone. But where do you find the best one for you?

According to NAR’s survey, a combined 66 percent of responding sellers found their real estate agent through a referral by a friend, neighbor or relative, or used their agent from a previous transaction. Furthermore, the responses reveal client referrals and repeat business remain the predominant source of business for real estate agents, with most sellers (84 percent) indicating they would definitely (67 percent) or probably (17 percent) recommend their agent for future services.

But choosing an agent to represent you throughout the process is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. 
Here are five questions you should ask before choosing an agent.

1. What sort of marketing plan will you use?
Today, more than ever, the success of a home sale relies on a great marketing campaign, which includes a solid social media strategy. You want to be sure your agent is getting your home seen by as many prospective buyers as possible. What is their online presence? Will they be creating videos? Is there anything unique they’ll be doing to get the word out about your property? By asking these questions ahead of time, you’ll know exactly what the agent is going to do to get your home sold. 
2. How are you compensated? Don’t be afraid to talk about money from the get-go. Before signing anything with an agent, you should understand the percentage he or she will command once the home is sold. The percentage will vary depending on location and market trends, and there may even be some room for negotiation. In a hot market, commissions might dip lower because homes are easier to sell. Conversely, in a weak market, an agent might be less likely to budge on their fee. Along with commission, it’s also important to discuss an agent’s cancellation policy.

3. Do you work alone or with a team? Nowadays, many agents work as part of a team, so you’ll want to know going into the process whether the person you hire will be the one doing the work, or if the support team will be showing the house and handling the marketing of your home. You may like a particular agent because they posses a level of trust that you think will help, but if they farm the work off to people you haven’t met—and may not have a similar feeling about—the process may not meet your expectations. On the other hand, having more people working for you is never a bad thing, as long as everyone sticks to the game plan. 
4. How often will we communicate? Do you want your agent to call you every day with updates, or only check in when they have something to report? Some sellers like hearing from their agent on the phone on a consistent basis, while others would prefer a quick text to update them on the progress. Let your agent know what you want and see how well they communicate along your terms. Real estate professionals should have the tools to stay in touch according to your wants and needs. Just be sure to express them clearly in the beginning. 

5. How many listings do you currently have? You may find an agent who has everything you’re looking for, but learn that they have a dozen other properties in your neighborhood that they represent. If this is the case, how certain are you that they’ll be putting your home above the others? It’s not to say that a good agent can’t handle multiple listings, but take the time to decide if this is something that’s important to you. In the end, you need to feel comfortable knowing that your house is at the top of their list. 

For more tips on choosing an agent, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding the Flood Insurance Act: What You Need to Know

December 11, 2015 12:40 pm

When it comes to selling a home, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration, one being location. And for those looking to sell a home in an area that’s considered at-risk for flooding, the process can be somewhat challenging. 

Over the past decade, storms like Hurricane Sandy have wreaked havoc on many parts of the country, causing insurance rates to go even higher, which is ultimately having a negative effect on home sales. According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, from October 2013 to January 2014, over 40,000 home sales were either delayed or canceled because of increases and confusion over flood insurance rates.

This led to some swift action by President Barack Obama, who, following the release of these figures, said that homes in flood-prone areas would no longer be subject to sharp increases in flood insurance premiums when they’re sold, or when a new flood map places them in a higher-risk area.

On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 into law, which repeals and modifies certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was enacted in 2012, and makes additional program changes to other aspects of the program not covered by the Act. 

“The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, S. 1926 is the time-out REALTORS® first advocated when dramatic flood insurance premium increases went into effect on October 1, 2013,” said Steve Brown, president of NAR in a statement at the time of the passage of the bill. “This legislation will help homeowners nationwide who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of extreme flood insurance rates that are the unintended consequence of the Biggert-Waters reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.”

The new law caps flood insurance premium increases and allows below-market insurance rates to be passed on to people buying homes in flood zones with taxpayer-subsidized policies.

Still, it’s not good news for everyone. Those who live in older homes and enjoy subsidized flood insurance rates could still see annual increases in their premiums of up to 18 percent. Furthermore, homes in high-risk areas (labeled with codes starting with A or V on flood maps) will need to pay a new premium surcharge of either $25 or $250 per year to help offset the cost of the new bill. The surcharge applies to all properties that have national flood insurance, even those paying the full-risk rate.

Brown believes this is the first step in what he hopes is a retooling of the way Congress looks at the flood law, and expects it to help with home sales going forward.

FEMA classifies flood risk as something unique to each structure and looks at factors such as the elevation of the property relative to predicted flood levels, the construction style of the building, and the flood risk zone. It also publishes flood hazard maps that show predicted flood levels and flood risk zones based on historical climate information and the best available science. Some common examples of Special Flood Hazard Areas include coastal floodplains, floodplains along major rivers, and areas subject to flooding from ponding in low lying areas.

For more information about the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, contact our office today. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Catering to the First-time Homebuyer Demographic

December 11, 2015 12:40 pm

According to figures from the 2015 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the percentage of first-time buyers declined to 32 percent this year, following the previous year’s disappointing 33 percent. In fact, these are the lowest shares since 1987 when only 30 percent of first-time buyers actually made a purchase.

“There are several reasons why there should be more first-time buyers reaching the market, including persistently low mortgage rates, healthy job prospects for those college-educated, and the fact that renting is becoming more unaffordable in many areas,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “The housing recovery's missing link continues to be the absence of first-time buyers.”

Historically, the long-term average shows that nearly 40 percent of primary purchases are from first-time homebuyers, so why have the figures been so low in recent years? 
“Unfortunately, there are just as many high hurdles slowing first-time buyers down,” Yun says. “Increasing rents and home prices are impeding their ability to save for a down payment, there’s scarce inventory for new and existing-homes in their price range, and it’s still too difficult for some to get a mortgage.”

According to the NAR study, first-time buyers reported that debt delayed saving for a down payment for a median of three years, and among the 25 percent who said saving was the most difficult task, a majority (58 percent) said student loans delayed saving.
“With a median amount of student loan debt for all buyers at $25,000, it’s likely some younger households with even higher levels of debt can’t save for an adequate down payment, or have decided to delay buying until their debt is at more comfortable levels,” says Yun.   

While there are fewer first-time buyers in the market for a home today, there are certain things you can do to help your home stand out—especially if you’re catering to this demographic. 

The first thing you’ll want to do is discuss your online strategy with your agent. This is critical as first-time buyers—many of whom are millennials—are searching online for homes more than any other buying class. Therefore, you want to make sure your home is listed on all social media platforms (including Pinterest and YouTube). And be sure to include plenty of interesting photos, videos and blog posts about the area that will entice this demographic. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that those buying a home for the first time will most likely have a lot of questions as they make their way through the process. Make things simple for them by compiling a fact sheet with your agent that will answer all of their questions. Be sure to include information regarding average expenses for utilities, a list of nearby stores and restaurants as well as your thoughts about the schools in the area.

For more tips to attract first-time buyers, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bring Out the Joy Wherever You Can to Attract Prospective Buyers This Holiday Season

December 11, 2015 12:40 pm

Decking the halls can be a terrifying proposition for those looking to sell during the holiday season. However, when it comes to attracting prospective buyers at this time of year, creating a festive atmosphere can do wonders to help your home stand out from the competition.  

Great decorations can set the tone for the holidays by showcasing your home in a different way, highlighting areas that may not typically stand out. And simply creating a festive atmosphere will not only put prospective buyers at ease, it’ll get them into the holiday spirit as well.

One easy way to start things off on a festive note is to hang a wreath on the front door. If you’re looking to up the ante, think outside the box and go for something more original than the standard evergreen wreath. Use your imagination and incorporate seasonal items such as pinecones, citrus fruits and even flowers into the mix. Tie everything together with a thick velvet ribbon, and you’ll have created a great holiday decoration. 

If you’d like to take things one step further, drape lush greenery around the house—especially in doorways—to create an inviting atmosphere and woodsy aroma for those coming to view your home. 

While the holiday season is full of get-togethers with family and friends, you don’t want to overlook the rooms within your home when creating a festive atmosphere. Get people thinking about hosting their own holiday parties by adorning the dining room table with top-shelf linens and tableware, and add a festive centerpiece to complete the look. 

If you really want to make potential buyers happy, bake some holiday cookies and leave them on the table to be taken on the way out. 

Take the time to make your home festive and colorful this holiday season, and bring out the joy wherever you can.

To learn more about creating a festive atmosphere to attract prospective buyers this season, contact our office today. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Flood Insurance

December 11, 2015 12:40 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines how sellers can attract prospective buyers by creating a festive atmosphere this holiday season. Other topics covered this month include simple tips to help your home stand out among first-time buyers and five questions you must ask before choosing an agent. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Travel Trends to Watch in 2016

December 10, 2015 2:52 pm

From in-flight tablet holders to “space bins,” travelers will see many an innovation in the coming year, according to a recent report by Trends to watch include:

• Extreme long-haul flights, thanks to declining oil prices. Emirates will launch a 17-hour, 35-minute fight from Dubai to Panama City starting in February, and Singapore Airlines has plans for a 19-hour flight from Singapore to New York beginning in 2018.

• Airplane design changes, such as charging pads, tablet holders and extra wide seats. There has been a flurry of patents set to re-engineer passenger seating and cabin configurations, as well.

• Tracking technology for unaccompanied minors so parents can see where their children are at any given moment. Child-free zones will also come into play.

• “Space bins” that offer more space than the traditional overhead compartment. Alaska Airlines is leading the pack, putting “space bins” into service by 2017.

• Supersonic flying, with the goal of traveling from New York to London in just 90 minutes. Initiatives by Airbus, Lockheed Martin and up-and-comer Skreemr are all underway.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Picture of Household Debt in America

December 10, 2015 2:52 pm

Household debt—including mortgages, credit cards, student and auto loans—has reached $11.9 trillion, a sign of progress for the economy, according to a recent report by NerdWallet ( Though many connote debt with a negative financial situation, certain kinds can be beneficial to building credit, including mortgages and auto loans.

“It's alarming that household debt is on the rise, but it's also important to recognize that not all debt is created equal," says Sean McQuay, credit card associate at NerdWallet. “Under the right circumstances, mortgage, student and auto loan debt can be helpful in building a bright financial future. That said, it's critical for Americans to understand their debt and recognize that certain types of debt are unnecessarily costly.”

Mortgage debt owed by the average household totals $165,892, according to the report. Credit card debt owed by the average household totals $15,355; student loan debt owed by the average household totals $47,712; auto loan debt owed by the average household totals $26,530.

The report also finds the average household is paying $6,658 in interest, which equals approximately 9 percent of the average household income ($75,591).

Source: NerdWallet

Published with permission from RISMedia.