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

Your Property: Signs of a Hazardous Tree

December 15, 2015 2:52 pm

Hazardous trees pose a danger to people and property. When storms or high winds hit, limbs, and often whole trees, fall to the ground.

"Many fatal accidents and millions of dollars in property damage can be averted if homeowners heed the warning signs of a hazardous tree," says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). "By not paying attention to your trees, you are potentially placing your property, even your life, in jeopardy."

Fortunately, one can often read the clues that indicate a tree is prone to failure. For instance, if a tree has large branches attached with tight, V-shaped forks, you should consider having those branches removed or lightened. Other warning signs of structural instability include cracks in the trunk or major limbs, hollow and decayed areas, or the presence of extensive dead wood. Mushrooms growing from the base of the tree or under its canopy may also be a sign of root decay. Remember to be thorough in your evaluation; the absence of fungus growth does not necessarily mean the tree is healthy.

"It also pays to be highly suspicious of any tree that has had construction activities, such as trenching, addition or removal of soil, digging or heavy equipment movement, anywhere under the spread of its branches," says Andersen.

These activities can cause root death, which, in turn, could lead to the structural instability of the tree. The sign most people recognize is a hollow in a tree. Filling of hollow trees, a process called "cavity filling," was practiced by arborists for many years, but recent research shows it is not needed to support or improve the health of hollow trees.

In fact, cavity filling with cement can actually damage a tree. According to Andersen, "the column of cement created in the tree by a cavity fill doesn't move, just like a column on a building, but the tree is always moving. It sways with the wind constantly. The rubbing created by the swaying tree and the solid column of cement can further damage the tree."

Wood decay fungi that created the hollow in the first place may take advantage of new injuries created by the rubbing and invade the remaining healthy tissue of the tree. If cavity filling is desired for aesthetic reasons, there are new synthetic foams that can be sprayed into the cavity by professional arborists. These materials will bend with the swaying tree, reducing injury.

However, there is really no reason to fill a cavity other than for aesthetic reasons; it doesn't improve the tree's health and doesn't offer extra support. If structural support of a tree is required, a professional arborist will recommend cabling, bracing, propping, tree guying or removing the tree.

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tis the Season to Prepare Your Home for Cold Weather

December 15, 2015 2:52 pm

Approximately one-fifth of homeowners insurance claims are brought on by damage caused by water or cold temperatures—much of which comes as a result of snowy conditions, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Although standard homeowners and renters policies cover winter-related damage, such as that caused by burst pipes, ice dams and wind, as well as damage caused by either the weight of ice or snow, there are a few steps homeowners can take to protect their homes before winter kicks in. These include:

Cleaning out the gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris so melting snow and ice can flow freely, which prevents damming, a condition in which water seeps into the house, potentially damaging ceilings and walls.

Installing gutter guards. This prevents debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.

Trimming trees and removing dead branches. Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.

Adding extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt and then re-freeze on the roof, resulting in an ice dam that can cause significant roof damage. Well-insulated basements, crawl spaces and unfinished rooms, such as garages, protect pipes from freezing.

Providing a reliable back-up power source. In the event of an electrical outage, continuous power will help prevent frozen pipes. Consider purchasing a portable generator to ensure your household’s safety.
Keep in mind that coverage for flooding, including flooding caused by melting snow, is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from some private insurance companies.
Remember also that melting snow can overburden sewer systems, causing raw sewage to back up into the drains in your home. Backed up sewers can cause thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture and electrical systems. Sewer back-up coverage can be purchased either as a separate product or as an endorsement to your homeowners or renters policy.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A 10-Step Winter Preparedness Checklist for Drivers

December 14, 2015 2:52 pm

From just-above-freezing temps to record snowfall, there’s no shortage of wild weather when it comes to winter. Before the season sets in, it’s important to assess your vehicle and prepare it for the months ahead, say the experts at the Car Care Council. This includes:
• Checking the battery and charging system for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries;
• Checking the antifreeze. As a general rule of thumb, clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system every two years;
• Checking that heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid;
• Checking the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly;
• Checking the oil and filter and be diligent about changing them at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate. Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time;
• Checking engine performance before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling;
• Checking the brakes. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item;
• Checking the exhaust system for carbon online casino monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed;
• Checking to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed. During winter, drivers should keep their vehicle’s gas tank at least half-full to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing;
• Checking the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk and stocking an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, blanket, extra clothes, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.

Source: Car Care Council 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Ready, Set, Glow: 10 Tips for Bright, Beautiful Holiday Displays

December 14, 2015 2:52 pm

To say holiday displays have gone extreme is an understatement. (“The Great Christmas Light Fight,” anyone?) But holiday lights don’t have to be over-the-top to have an impact—in fact, just a few professional-grade tricks are all it takes to create a sparkling, festive display.

1. Use LED lights. They burn at a lower temperature and use nearly 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights, making them a safer and more efficient option.

2. Choose a theme. Whether you prefer traditional or a more colorful, contemporary approach, keep your theme consistent to create an attractive and cohesive look.

3. Be unique. Be true to yourself in your design. Find something that speaks to your style and make that the focus of your display.

4. Use a timer. Timers are great investments that save energy and hassle. Set your timer to come on about 30 minutes before sunset and to go off between 11 p.m. and midnight.

5. Select a shade. LED lights come in two shades of white: traditional warm white and cool white. Both create a dazzling holiday look.

6. Don't over-do it. You can create a car-stopping display (without becoming the Griswolds) by adding eye-catching elements like character figures or animation lighting.

7. Use daytime décor. Since lights don't read well during the day, add daytime décor, such as greenery of character figures, to keep your home looking festive all day long.

8. Never use outdated products. Test all your lighting products before installation to confirm that all are in good working order. Replace any questionable or worn bulb or light strand.

9. Highlight the features. Outline a distinct roof line or windows with lights, drape an archway with a lit garland, or light the pathway to your home's door.

10. Don't forget the backyard. Decorate a small area in your backyard to create a holiday focus through your windows.

Source: Christmas Décor, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Ways to Cut Kitchen Clutter

December 14, 2015 2:52 pm

(BPT) - The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but it's also home to a lot of clutter. Resolve to bring order to your kitchen once and for all with these tips, courtesy of the experts at Moen.

1. You don't need a large pantry or countless cupboards and drawers to find the perfect spot for all your stuff. If you have blank space on the walls, consider adding a few open shelves. They provide plenty of storage while keeping everyday dishes and staples, like the coffee canister or cookie jar, within easy reach.

2. The biggest pain point for homeowners is a lack of counter space. Instead of adding to the chaos, designate a specific "drop zone" for items that find their way into the kitchen each day, like mail, paperwork or electronics.

3. Extend the "everything in its place" mentality to another kitchen staple: the dishtowel. Instead of leaving it in a damp heap on the counter, install a towel bar, towel ring or hook to the side of a cabinet or island to create a spot for it to hang. Not only will it free up space, but like in the bathroom or powder room, you'll always know where to look for it when you need it.

4. If you have a pantry, go beyond simple shelves to make this area work better—and smarter—for you. Pullout baskets and shallow drawers will ensure your pantry offers a proper place for everything. Curved cradles can turn an ordinary shelf into a beverage storage center, allowing you to store wine, water or soda bottles on their sides. And instead of wasting the space on the back of the door, install a slim, vertical storage system to provide a spot for plastic wrap, aluminum foil and other awkward-sized kitchen must-haves.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Helping Hands: Volunteers Number in the Millions

December 11, 2015 2:52 pm

Ever house-sat for your neighbor? You may be one of the 138 million Americans who volunteered informally on behalf of a neighbor in the last year, whether by house-sitting, babysitting or shopping, according to a recent report by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC).

Many are performing neighborly acts of kindness beyond the block, as well. According to the report, 62.8 million Americans volunteered through an organization in the last year, totaling 7.96 billion hours worth an estimated $184 billion.

Who volunteers most? Gen Xers lead the pack at a rate of nearly 30 percent, followed by millennials at just over 20 percent. The Silent Generation leads when it comes to volunteer hours—over 100 hours on average, followed by baby boomers at 81 hours.

“We are calling on Americans to volunteer in their communities, and to invite their friends and families to join them,” says Wendy Spencer, CEO of the CNCS. “Volunteers enrich our communities and keep our nation strong. Service also connects us with our neighbors and provides a chance to use our skills for the common good.  There are so many ways we can make a difference for those in need, during the holiday season and throughout the entire year.”

Source: CNCS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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.