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

Selling a Home with Children in Tow Doesn't Have to Be Impossible

September 11, 2015 11:04 am

Selling a home can be an overwhelming process, but when there are children in the mix, it can seem downright impossible to keep the space sparkling clean while maintaining a place that your kids feel comfortable in.

If you have children, you’re well aware that their toys need to be in certain spots, as well as the fact that they’re always leaving books and play things around—making it nearly impossible to keep up the staged look that real estate professionals swear by.

But if your home is on the market, the most important thing you can do is maintain a level of cleanliness around the house, while reducing the messes that your kids make.

A child’s bedroom is probably the worst place for messes, so devoting attention to this area when getting the house ready for a showing is crucial. Since most kids only play with a few favorite toys each week, take the time to pack away any extra toys that are sitting around collecting dust. To most little ones, out of sight means out of mind, and as long as their favorite toys are within reach, they should be fine.

Anything that isn’t being packed away should be placed neatly on shelves or in baskets so that there’s no clutter in the room. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to make a game out of putting things away so that your children get in the habit of cleaning up after themselves.

When it comes to the closet, remove any clothing that no longer fits and either donate these items or give them away to friends. In addition, pack away any seasonal clothes that are still lying around and color coordinate the clothes hanging in the closet to provide a tidy—but fun—appearance.

For those with babies and newborns, the nursery should also be kept tidy, with all extra diapers, wipes, lotions, baby bottles and clothes hidden away in a dresser. Make sure to empty the diaper pail daily, and, if possible, dispose of dirty diapers immediately in order to reduce the possibility of lingering odor.

You may also want to remove any furniture from the nursery that doesn’t serve a purpose. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the essentials: a crib, dresser, rocking chair or armchair for feeding, changing table and small accessories.

If you have more than one child and each has their own room, consider having them share a room for a couple of months until the home sells. This will allow you to set up the unused bedroom as a guest room or home office, adding extra value to your home.

For more tips about selling your home with children in the mix, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tile in the Bedroom Provides a Unique, Competitive Advantage in Today's Market

September 11, 2015 11:04 am

In today’s crowded real estate market, it’s more important than ever to do any and everything you can to help your home stand out from the competition.

One trend that’s caught on recently is the addition of ceramic tile in the bedroom. While ceramic tile has long been the leading choice for bathroom renovations, it’s now finding its way into other areas of the home because it’s durable, easy to clean and available in a variety of formats, colors and designs. But the benefits don’t stop there.

Using tile in the bedroom can be a great option for homeowners who are looking to create a unique space. Not only is tile more durable, lasting up to four times longer than carpet or wood, it will never need refinishing, restaining or sanding. Tile also holds its luster longer than vinyl, and doesn’t require the special chemical treatments that natural stone products do.

And there are numerous ways to incorporate tile into the bedroom, making it easy to achieve the look you desire. For example, by adding natural stone tile flooring, you can give a room a more expensive feel and a spa-like look, which will go a long way toward catching the eye of a potential buyer.

Tile can also be used to create a seamless transition between the sleeping and bathing areas within your master suite, creating cohesion between the two. And last but not least, incorporating ceramic tile into your bed’s headboard will create a powerful design statement and solidify the bed’s stance as the centerpiece of the room.

When it comes to choosing the type of tile you’d like to incorporate into your space, there are many options to consider. Not only can you find ceramic tile that mimics the look of other popular, more costly or less durable materials like wood, glass or metal, you can mix and match colors to create the custom look you desire.

To learn more about incorporating tile in your bedroom, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Importance of Mobile in the Home-Buying and -Selling Process

September 11, 2015 11:04 am

Whether you’re going through the process of buying or selling a home, there are a number of things you should be discussing with your real estate agent. One item that’s becoming more and more vital with each passing day is an agent’s use of mobile throughout the process.

After all, the number of mobile-connected devices now far exceeds the number of people living on Earth, a statistic from Cisco’s “Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update,” which marketers use to forecast the impact of visual networking applications on global networks.

As the industry continues to become increasingly mobile, it’s crucial that you talk with your agent about how they’re using mobile to help with your real estate transaction. While today’s buyers and sellers are constantly on-the-go, turning to their mobile devices for all their real estate needs, a mobile strategy is a key piece of the puzzle.

While the average person is within arm’s reach of their mobile phone the vast majority of the time, it’s important that you—and your agent—understand the importance of a sound mobile strategy. Even if you don’t have a firm grasp on technology, and aren’t necessarily targeting millennials, mobile offers numerous benefits for buyers and sellers alike.

With mobile, your agent can promote your property with a QR code on the front door, or through geo-track scanned codes from newspaper listings. Plus, by using QR codes, prospective buyers can be directed to a dedicated page with all the information they need to learn more about the home. Not only will this provide an in-depth view of your home, anyone interested in scheduling a showing can contact your agent through voice or text straight from their phone while they’re still looking at the property—a huge benefit in today’s fast-paced market.

Real estate experts agree that everyone in the business of buying and selling homes should take the time to review their client and prospect experiences (emails, marketing materials, listings, etc.) on a smartphone and/or tablet to give their client the best chance of success.

For more information about the benefits of a sound mobile strategy, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Make Your Kitchen Pop with Updated Countertops

September 11, 2015 11:04 am

From painting to replacing the cabinetry and installing stainless steel appliances, sellers have numerous options when it comes to updating their kitchen before placing their home on the market. But real estate professionals across the board agree that if a kitchen upgrade is on the horizon, you can’t afford to overlook the countertops.

Typically occupying a large surface area in any given kitchen, countertops are an important part of the room’s overall look—whether they’re used to anchor the room or cause it to pop. And changing up the countertops is one cosmetic change that can go a long way toward creating an entirely different look and feel within the space.

For those considering a counter update, there are many new trends to take advantage of if you truly want your kitchen to appeal to the masses. One such trend is the gravitation away from granite toward calm surfaces such as quartz.

Not only is quartz composed of crushed stone and a bonding agent, the material mimics many of the qualities that people like in granite. These qualities include being impervious to water and staining, as well as being heat resistant. One key difference between granite and quartz is the fact that the movement of quartz is predictable. In addition, it can be made to look like certain forms of marble, or it can be completely uniform in its look.

If quartz isn’t your style, there are plenty of other options to choose from, including wood, steel and stone. Some people even enjoy the sophisticated look that marble incorporates into a space.

You can also take some inspiration from HGTV’s list of top kitchen materials, including granite—for being timeless, durable and easy to clean—and stainless steel. Not only are stainless steel countertops nonporous, they don’t have to be sealed and they resist bacterial growth.

Wood is another big trend that’s gaining steam in the kitchen, especially in finishes that represent its natural form, rather than high-gloss or smooth finishes. Some people also like the idea of using concrete, although this type of material is prone to cracking and chipping, even with the modern-day use of fiberglass.

With plenty of options to choose from, it’s important to stay away from materials that prospective buyers aren’t gravitating toward anymore. These include Corian, laminates and tile.

If you’re looking to make a splash in your kitchen, changing the countertops is a great way to alter the style of your kitchen from traditional to transitional. Not only will this increase the value of your kitchen, it’ll also increase the value of your home.

Contact our office today for more information about updating your kitchen countertops.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Earnest Money Deposits

September 11, 2015 11:04 am

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the importance of updating kitchen countertops when listing your home for sale. Other topics covered this month include the benefits of having a sound mobile strategy when buying or selling a home and simple ways to incorporate tile into the bedroom. 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.


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Credit Scoring Lost on Majority of Americans

September 11, 2015 3:52 am

According to a recent report by Bankrate.com, approximately four in five Americans (77 percent) do not know that accounts with high outstanding balances can hurt their credit scores, even if they pay bills on time. Nearly the same percentage is unaware that closing an account lowers their credit scores.

“There’s a lot of confusion around credit scores,” says Jeanine Skowronski, Bankrate.com’s credit card analyst. “Three simple rules to follow are pay your bills on time, keep your balances low and build a diverse portfolio of long-term credit accounts.”

The most expensive misconception, Bankrate.com found, is the notion that Americans must carry a credit card balance in order to improve their credit score. Not so—the average credit card interest rate is 15 percent, so someone carrying a balance under the (false) impression that it will help his or her credit score could be throwing away hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year.

Additionally, 37 percent of Americans did not know that making a payment more than 30 days late can result in a negative account on their credit report, even if the bill is later paid in full.

Zeroing in on millennials, more than half do not know that having a short credit history can potentially delay major life milestones, such as buying a home.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fixed Mortgage Rates Unchanged

September 11, 2015 3:52 am

As a result of mixed economic signals, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) remains largely unchanged at 3.90 percent, according to Freddie Mac’s recent Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). The 15-year FRM stands at 3.10 percent.

“Following a shortened week, mortgage rates were virtually unchanged, inching up 1 basis point to 3.90 percent,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti. “The employment report released last Friday provided mixed signals, adding one more note of uncertainty prior to the Fed’s September meeting.”

According to the survey, the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.91 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.63 percent this week with an average 0.3 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A Pre- and Post-Hurricane Checklist for Homeowners

September 11, 2015 3:52 am

With hurricane season underway, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross encourage homeowners to follow this pre- and post-storm checklist to weather any hurricane-related emergencies.

In advance of hurricane season:

• Build an emergency kit
• Make a family communications plan
• Know your surroundings and whether your property is flood-prone
• Identify levees and dams in your area
• Figure out at least two evacuation routes

To secure your property:

• Cover the windows in your home (and keep in mind that tape will not prevent a window from breaking)
• Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten roof to frame structure
• Trim trees and shrubs around your home to make them more wind resistant
• Clean rain gutters
• Reinforce garage doors (if any)
• Bring in outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, and anything not tied down
• Secure your boat (if you have one)

Before a hurricane hits:


• Charge your phone and other portable electronic devices
• Fill bathtub(s) and other large containers with water
• Buy a 3-5 day supply of drinking water
• Buy non-perishable food
• Have battery-powered flashlights on-hand

During a hurricane:


• Listen to the radio or television for current information
• Turn off utilities, if instructed to do so; if not, set refrigerator thermostat to coldest setting and keep refrigerator door closed
• Turn off propane tanks
• Avoid using phone, unless an emergency (and be sure you’ve fully charged all electronic devices in the event of a power outage)

After a hurricane:


• Listen to the radio or television for current information
• Drive only if necessary
• Avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges
• Stay off streets, but if you must go out, be aware of fallen objects and downed electrical wires
• Notify power company of any loose, dangling, or downed electrical wires
• Inspect the outside of your home for damage and loose power lines and gas leaks

Source: U.S. Federal Contractor Registration

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Steering Clear of File Sharing Fraud

September 10, 2015 3:52 am

Users of file sharing websites, take note. The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) urges caution when accepting files through email, even if the message appears to be from someone you know.

“Criminal hackers are exploiting consumer trust in popular file sharing services,” says Bill Fanelli, CBBB chief security officer. “The emails look authentic, and they appear to be from someone the user knows. But the link goes to a fraudulent site that tricks the user into entering their login credentials, then installs malware on their computers, and sends phishing emails to everyone on their contact list.”

According to Fanelli, the basic attack is simple: you receive an email from someone you know with a link to a file that says it is from a file sharing site such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. If you click the link, there are two typical scenarios.
In one version of the attack, a file containing malware is downloaded. Malware typically succeeds by exploiting a weakness in a software program or the operating system.

A more advanced version sends the user to a page that resembles a popular cloud-based file sharing service, and requests the account name and password for the user. Once those are entered, they can be used to log in to the user’s real account at that service. In addition, because most people use the same password for multiple accounts, hackers may now be able to access bank, credit card, and other financial accounts.

In both scenarios, one of the actions taken by the hacker is to access the user’s contact list and send similar emails to everyone on it, which is how the scam is spread.

To prevent file sharing malware attacks, the CBBB encourages users to heed the following advice.

1. Do not click on links from unsolicited emails. Be cautious with all links, as phishing emails can mimic people and companies you know.

2. Keep systems up-to-date with the most recent versions of all software that you use regularly.

3. If you believe an email is authentic, pay attention to the linked site. Make sure the URL is expected (for instance, dropbox.com, not dropbox.scam4u.com).

4. Look for two-factor authentication (a second way to identify you besides your password) and activate it whenever you are given the option. Many legitimate sites now use a second step to help reduce fraud.

Source: BBB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homemakers Can Save for Retirement, Too

September 10, 2015 3:52 am

A recent report by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) and the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement (ACLR) explored the unique circumstances surrounding homemakers’ retirement, offering proactive steps to improve overall outlook.

“Homemakers contribute greatly to their families and society, as parents, caregivers and role models to their children,” says Catherine Collinson, president of the TCRS and executive director of the ACLR. “Because their work is unpaid and comes without employer or retirement benefits, homemakers face even greater retirement risks than workers due to their reliance on others for income.”

According to the report, most homemakers in the U.S. are women (81 percent), married, cohabitating or in a civil partnership (90 percent), aged 18 to 44 (56 percent), and are a parent of one or more financially dependent children (55 percent).
When presented with a series of word associations about retirement, workers and retirees were more likely than homemakers to cite positive words such as “leisure,” “freedom” and “enjoyment.”

The report highlights the following key recommendations for homemakers.

• Become personally involved in your family finances, from daily budgeting to long-term planning. Working with your spouse or partner, calculate retirement savings needs and develop a financial plan for achieving those needs. As part of that plan, be sure to have a backup plan for unforeseen circumstances such as separation, divorce, or loss of a partner. Consider seeking the expertise of a professional financial advisor.

“It is a myth that only workers retire,” says Collinson. “Homemakers also need to plan and prepare for financial security in old age. For everyone, and especially homemakers, a separation, divorce or loss of a spouse or partner can be devastating both emotionally and financially.”

• Consider working on a part-time basis to reduce future retirement risks. Part-time work brings income and greater access to government and employer retirement benefits. Staying in the workforce can also help keep job skills current and make it easier to find higher paying and/or full-time work, if needed.

“Clearly, it is difficult for homemakers to save, given the unpaid nature of their work. However, homemakers are not off the hook for their future retirement. Getting into the habit of saving, even if it’s just a little bit, along with careful planning, may help homemakers improve their long-term prospects,” says Collinson.

Source: TCRS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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