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

10 Energy-Saving Tips for Your Home

October 26, 2015 3:55 am

Did you know the average American family spends at least $2,000 a year on home utility bills? You can cut down your own expenses significantly by adopting energy-saving methods and implementing a few eco-friendly products. The experts at Power Home Remodeling Group, one of the nation’s largest exterior home remodelers, recommend starting with:

1. Smart Appliances – For new installs or replacements, look for energy-efficient appliances and building products with ENERGY STAR labels. These products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

2. High-Tech Thermostats – Consider investing in a high-tech programmable thermostat, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, that learns from homeowner activity, programs itself automatically and helps save energy when no one is home.

3. Filter Swaps – A dirty air filter can make your heating and cooling systems work harder and use more energy. Be sure to regularly change the filter on your air conditioning and heating unit.

4. Intelligent Power Strips – Purchase an intelligent power strip geared toward saving more energy, like the Modlet. This device plugs into your wall outlet and connects to your computer or smartphone, allowing you to monitor how much energy your electronics and appliances are using when they're plugged in.

5. Recycled Water – Aside from inspecting your sprinkler system for leaks, consider collecting rainwater to water your landscape. Enhance your curb appeal in the process and purchase a rain collection system that can be camouflaged as a decorative piece on your lawn, such as a barrel, charcoal rocks or a flowerpot.

6. Low-E Windows – Replace single-glazed windows with low thermal emissivity windows to reduce heat transfer and keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Windows and doors should also be regularly checked to make sure they're properly sealed to avoid heat from escaping.

7. Light-Colored Roofs – Choose a light-colored roof or add a ridge vent to decrease heat transferred to the attic. At the very least, consider adding insulation to the attic to lower temperatures.

8. Dual-Flush Toilets – According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, toilets consume up to 30 percent of a home's average water use. Replace your toilets with dual-flush alternatives to save water and money.

9. LED Light Bulbs – Replace CFL lights with LED lights, as they use less energy and last five times longer. You might also consider custom-made hardware that allows you to adjust your lights from your phone. Carnes Audio is one of many vendors that install these types of controlled systems.

10. Fans – Add ceiling or portable fans to your home to help circulate air and cut down on air conditioner use.

Source: Power Home Remodeling Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Ways to Green Your Next Home Improvement Project

October 26, 2015 3:55 am

(BPT) – Got home improvement on your to-do list? Consider going green for your next project – it’s easier than you think!

Rent instead of buy. Some projects may call for equipment you don't have. Rather than buy new, consider renting the tools you need. According to the American Rental Association (, renting is a green alternative to buying because it helps cut down the consumption of energy and materials and pollution associated with producing, delivering and selling new tools. Renting is also less expensive than purchasing, especially when using a specialized item you may not use again, and can help you avoid the hassle of storing tools between projects.

Seek salvaged materials. Before you visit your local home improvement store or lumber yard, ask yourself if you can complete your project with reclaimed materials.

Building a patio? Recycled bricks or pavers will do the job just as well as new, cost less and impart unique character you often can’t get from new materials. Installing hardwood flooring? Wood flooring reclaimed from an old warehouse or barn not only reduces the amount of construction materials in landfills, but also gives your floor an authentically rustic touch.

Reuse from your own home. Often times, you have items in your own home that can be purposed for a home improvement project.  Look for opportunities to reuse items you already have on hand. You'll reduce waste, save money on waste removal fees and spare the expense of buying new building materials.

The front walk might need to be redone with level pavers, but the old ones could be reused for a backyard fire pit. Lumber from that fence you took down could be turned into decorative seating on your deck. A pedestal sink left over from a bathroom remodel could make an ornamental birdbath for the garden.

Keep recycling in mind. Sometimes construction leftovers just can't be reused, but that doesn't necessarily mean they can't be recycled. As you're working on your project, look for opportunities to recycle what you can't use. And if you do have to buy new materials, choose ones that could potentially be recycled some day in the future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Using Your Credit Card Responsibly?

October 23, 2015 3:52 am

There are several myths surrounding the use of credit cards – in fact, the majority of credit card users surveyed recently by CompareCards wrongly believe they use their cards responsibly.

"Even though more than half of respondents don't fully pay off their credit cards on a monthly basis, they believe they are using them responsibly," says Chris Mettler, founder of CompareCards. "This is concerning, as it reveals that many consumers may not be aware of just how much their spending habits impact their credit and long-term debt."

The results of the survey indicate credit card users vary in how often they fully pay their monthly credit card bill – just 35 percent always pay in full. The survey also found nearly a third of respondents have four or more credit card cards, and an equal amount use their credit cards very often for purchases.

Additionally, over 20 percent of respondents have $5,000 or more in total debt.

Credit card habits affect a person’s credit score, which can determine whether he or she qualifies for a loan to purchase a home, among other decisions.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


HVAC Testing Necessary for Off-Season Homebuyers

October 23, 2015 3:52 am

Did you know colder climates can make it harder to determine the functionality of a home’s systems? If you’re purchasing a home at a time when temperatures are falling, it’s important to enlist the services of a seasoned home inspector, says the National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA), especially when assessing the HVAC system.

When temperatures fall below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a home inspection report can only verify that a unit will turn on, not if it actually cools. In winter, the coldest spot in a refrigeration circuit is in the compressor crankcase, located outside the home. Because refrigerant naturally migrates to the coldest spot in the unit, if the system is tested, the refrigerant may travel into the compressor, causing damage.

Ensure your home inspector pays special attention to the testing of the HVAC unit, and request the seller provide a home service contract as part of the transaction to help insulate yourself from costly repairs or replacements for undetected problems. In addition to HVAC systems, home service contracts generally provide service, repair or replacement for items such as dishwashers, ovens, disposers, and electrical and plumbing systems, but do not cover pre-existing conditions. Paying particular attention to the contract’s terms and conditions can help avoid confusion when a service call is needed.

To offer reassurance that the system is operating properly, real estate agents representing the buyer will generally ask the seller to sign a form stating the date of the last time the air conditioning system was fully functioning. If a home has been on the market for an extended period of time, however, this statement may not provide accurate information on the current condition of the unit.

“If a house has been sitting empty and an undetected leak has slowly depleted the refrigerant, the new owner will have no idea until they turn the air conditioning on in the summer,” says Jeff Powell, NHSCA chairman. “At that point, a service call to get the refrigerant level back up and the unit running will likely cost upwards of $250 to $300. They also need to understand that low levels would indicate a leak in the line that will continue to deplete refrigerant until it is located and fixed. That translates into more repair dollars for the homeowner.”

In the past, some homeowners have opted for a temporary fix by simply having refrigerant added to their systems to keep them operational. However, a dramatic increase in the cost of refrigerant can make this approach as costly as a repair.

Source: NHSCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates Trend Downward

October 23, 2015 3:52 am

According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), average fixed mortgage rates have followed Treasury yields lower, further benefitting the housing market. The survey finds the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaging 3.79 percent and the 15-year FRM averaging 2.98 percent.

"Following Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo's remarks last week Treasury yields dipped,” explains Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti. “In response, 30-year mortgage rates fell three basis points this week to 3.79 percent. The housing market continues to benefit from low mortgage rates, with housing starts for September beating expectations and the NAHB's Housing Market index registering a ten year-high in October."

The PMMS also shows the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averages 2.89 percent, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averages 2.62 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Dish on Food Trends in 2016

October 22, 2015 3:52 am

As culinary options continue to expand in availability, more consumers are embracing nontraditional foods when browsing restaurant menus or shopping grocery aisles. In the year ahead, specific food trends will grow even more in popularity, according to Sterling-Rice Group (SRG)’s 2016 Cutting-Edge Culinary Trends report. What trends will you try?

Mail-Order Meals – Established meal kit providers will give way to smaller start-ups that tap niche cuisines and dietary trends.

Switchels – Sweetened with honey, maple or molasses, this Colonial refresher boasts dual health benefits from its apple cider vinegar and ginger components.

Labneh – Salted and thick, this Middle Eastern-style yogurt-cheese plays well with olive oil, spices, seeds, vegetables and fruit.

Bottled Soups – With more fiber and less sugar than pressed juices, swig-able soups pack nutrients and flavor in a convenient bottled package.

Porridge – A classic, hearty dish, porridge can be prepared with a wide selection of grains, including rye, spelt, black rice or quinoa.

Source: Sterling-Rice Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Generator Use in Winter

October 22, 2015 3:52 am

With winter projected to bring unseasonably cold temperatures across much of the United States, homeowners should prepare now for possible power outages by inspecting and tuning up portable generators.

"Don't wait until it is zero degrees and the power goes out," says Dan Roche, director of marketing for Briggs & Stratton's Portable Power and Cleaning Systems division. "Because portable generators are not typically used unless the electricity goes off, it is important that users inspect, tune up and are prepared to safely use their generator before a power outage occurs."

To ensure your portable generator is operating efficiently, Briggs & Stratton recommends:

1. Thinking about fuel. If you have your generator in storage and do not plan to use it within 30 days, stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer. Add the stabilizer according to package directions and run your generator for a few minutes to circulate the solution through the carburetor. This is also a good time to rotate your fuel supply. Pour the gas from your stored fuel into the car and fill up the gas cans with fresh fuel, again adding fuel stabilizer for storage.

2. Changing generator oil. Make sure your portable generator has enough oil to keep it running smoothly. Many generators shut down automatically to protect the engine if the level gets too low. To keep yours protected and ready for a winter storm or home emergency, check the oil level whenever you add fuel by referencing the dipstick and filling to the full marker. Keep a few quarts of oil on hand in case of emergencies. Refer to your engine manual for exact specifications.

3. Inspecting replaceable parts regularly. In addition to the engine oil, check out the carburetor, air filter, fuel filter and spark plug regularly according to the portable generator owner manual. Maintain your generator according to the maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety.

4. Getting a transfer switch. A manual transfer switch is the best way to use a portable generator for emergency use, as it connects directly to a home's electrical system to power furnaces, refrigerators, pumps and more. When engaged, a manual transfer switch isolates the generator power from the incoming utility lines, which is important to not endanger utility line workers and ensure the generator is not overloaded. A dedicated cable connects the generator to the transfer switch through an inlet box. This method protects the integrity of a home's electrical wiring, safeguards the generator and eliminates running multiple extension cords from the generator into the house.

5. Knowing how, where and with what. Keep a flashlight handy so you will be able to find your way to your generator and learn to start, adjust and shut off your generator to make sure you are familiar with how you will operate it when there is a power outage. Running your generator occasionally will not only help you learn to use it, but will also keep the engine well-lubricated.

Briggs & Stratton also encourages homeowners to think about where you will place the generator when you do need to use it. Do not run a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, basements, sheds or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide (CO) can quickly build up in these spaces and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off. Place the unit outside and far from doors, windows, vents and other openings that could allow CO to come indoors or be drawn into potentially occupied spaces. Direct the engine exhaust away from potentially occupied spaces.

Source: Briggs & Stratton Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Modern Family: Connected Homes Pose Risks

October 22, 2015 3:52 am

Securing personal information has become all the more challenging in the era of the digital data breach, as households become increasingly connected with Internet-enabled devices. And according to a recent ESET® survey, many Americans have a false sense of online security despite data breach notifications indicating otherwise, leaving their homes’ “digital doors” susceptible to cyber threats.

“From the digital workplace to the connected living space and across age groups and demographics, today’s households are more connected than ever and the number of connected devices is growing at considerable pace,” says ESET Senior Security Researcher Stephen Cobb. “Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed had between one and five connected devices at home connected to the Internet, with 30 percent owning six or more. Even more telling, 30 percent of those surveyed today have two to three more devices at home compared to last year. With so many potentially vulnerable digital entry points, this survey underlines the importance of cyber security as a core commitment in our digital lives.”

Remarkably, more than 40 percent of Americans fail to properly secure their wireless router – the gateway to most digital devices – by not resetting the factory-set default passwords.

Parents, however, have been taken steps to educate their children about cyber security. Seventy-five percent of parents have had a “CyberEd” talk with their children, and 90 percent have made at least one rule about using the Internet and connected devices. Still, nearly 60 percent of parents don’t require permission before downloading a new app or game or joining a social network. Seventy percent don’t limit the kind of personal information their children share on social networks, and 60 percent allow password-sharing with friends.

“There is no question that with the explosion of connected devices in the home, a fresh set of rules must be initiated in every household so that the always-on, always-connected family can enjoy the Internet safely and with a great level of confidence,” says Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). “What this study reveals is that Americans are managing their lives and clearly reaping the benefits of the Internet, but it is not risk-free. With a shift in the paradigm, families can make practicing good cyber security a way of life and our interconnected families and communities will ultimately be safer and more secure.“


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Holiday Shoppers Plan to Gift Themselves with Savings

October 21, 2015 3:52 am

The adage “a penny saved is a penny earned” may ring more true than ever this upcoming holiday season. According to a recent report, holiday shopping could take a backseat to saving as more Americans take steps to limit their spending. Their reasoning? Static income and a desire to save, says Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride.

“Stagnant income has kept a lid on spending, but also held back progress to saving – even though consumers increasingly recognize how important it is,” says McBride.

Per the report, Americans aged 50 to 64 are restricting their spending the most, but millennials are more than twice as likely as any other age group to limit their spending based on a need to save more. Those aged 65 and older are the freest spenders.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


More Homeowners Go Smart for Security

October 21, 2015 3:52 am

Of all the benefits that smart home technology has to offer, security is the most sought after. According to Iris by Lowe’s annual Smart Home Survey, more than three in five Americans cite security as the top reason for owning a smart home product, and over half of Americans plan to purchase security cameras in the next year. Close to half of Americans also report that smart home products would help cut costs and save money on energy bills, and make their home more convenient overall.

In addition, results from the survey reveal that when it comes to purchasing considerations, cost of equipment, monthly fees, ease of use and energy-efficient are the most important deciding factors. Interestingly, parents with children under the age of 18 in the home are nearly three times as likely to purchase smart home products in the next year as those without.

When breaking down the results cross-country, Southerners are more likely than those in the Midwest to purchase smart home products for security benefits. Smart home product owners in the Northeast wish they could adjust their thermostats or start their coffee pots from their beds, likely due to the region’s colder climate.

The number one place Americans are most likely to buy a smart home product is at a home improvement store, either in-store or online.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.