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

A Guide to Post-Disaster Home Repair

August 11, 2015 3:51 am

As important as it is to make home repairs as soon as possible following a natural disaster, it also is important to take some time to plan the project, consult with local officials and choose a contractor wisely. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), homeowners in disaster-prone areas should do the following.

Before you start, contact the local permitting office. Follow all local and state requirements. Check with your local building official to make sure your work is safe and meets all local and state requirements.

Consider using building materials that are more resistant to flood, wind, corrosion and decay. If siding or roof sheathing needs replacement, consider installing hurricane/seismic connectors at the rafter-to-wall or truss-to-wall connections. Adding wall-to-foundation ties may also be possible.

Windows, doors and skylights should be checked for leaks. If they need replacement, consider impact-resistant units.
Check your attic for adequate insulation. Straps should be added from rafters to wall top plates, and gable end-wall framing should be braced. Inspect soffits to determine if structural upgrades are necessary.

If you live in a flood-prone area, elevate and appliances.

Lastly, look for a contractor with an established physical address. Get bids from more than one person. Make sure they are in writing and specify exactly what will be done. Beware of a low-ball price. Ask for references and contact them. Make sure the contractor has the proper licenses and insurance coverage required in your state. Never pay the full price in advance.

Source: FEMA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Look Up: 10 Ways to Paint a Ceiling

August 11, 2015 3:51 am

When was the last time you looked up and pondered the color of your ceiling? Switching up a ceiling color is a quick redesign that can revitalize the appearance of an entire room, says Sara McClean, Dunn-Edwards Paints color expert. Pick up a gallon of paint and give it a try – it's a fun and easy DIY project!

Some options to consider:

• Paint the ceiling the same color as the walls for a rich, inviting atmosphere.

• Use lighter or darker shades of the wall color to create a soothing space with extra depth.

• Incorporate a darker ceiling color than the wall color creates a cozier environment - great for powder rooms, bathrooms or bedrooms.

• For tall ceilings, extend the ceiling color a few feet down the walls to make the room feel more intimate.

• For a coffered ceiling, paint color between the coffers for extra drama and sophistication.

• Paint the ceiling a completely different color to add flair. Use accent colors from area rugs, art and other decor pieces to tie it in.

• A white ceiling with white walls creates an airy, open area. Try warm, neutral palettes like soft white or ivory rather than stark white.

• Thinking about going bold on the wall color? Then paint the ceiling white so the effect isn't overwhelming.

• Painting the ceiling a light, soft blue gives the illusion of sky.

• Add a metallic or pearlescent finish to the ceiling to create a regal, marble-like facade.

Source: Dunn-Edwards Paints

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Drivers: Tips for a DIY Brake Check

August 10, 2015 3:51 am

When it comes to vehicle safety, the brake system is at the top of the list. Brakes are a normal wear item for any car, and eventually, they’re going to need to be replaced.

“A properly operating brake system helps ensure safe vehicle operation and control under a variety of driving conditions,” says Car Care Council Executive Director Rich White. “Motorists can put a stop to any potential brake system problems by recognizing the signs and symptoms.”

For routine maintenance, check your vehicle’s brake system at least once a year. A thorough inspection should include brake lining wear, brake fluid level, rotor thickness, condition of hoses and brake lines, brake and dash warning lights, as well as taking the car for a test drive to detect other potential brake system problems.

If your car is pulling to the left or right, or if you hear odd noises when you apply the brakes, you should inspect your brakes. Other warning signs include an illuminated brake warning light, brake grabbing, low pedal feel, vibration, hard pedal feel and squealing.

Several factors that affect brake wear include driving habits, operating conditions, vehicle type and the quality of the brake lining material. Never put off routine brake inspections or any needed repair, such as letting the brakes get to the “metal-to-metal” point, which can be potentially dangerous and lead to a more costly repair bill.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Top Baby Boomer-Approved Remodels

August 10, 2015 3:51 am

A recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found a growing number of 55-plus Americans plan to remodel their homes. “Many are focusing on accessibility and opening up the home,” says Sergei Kaminskiy, owner of Kaminskiy Design and Remodeling.

“We are seeing many remove a room or two and opening the size of the main living areas with a kitchen remodel and a master bedroom remodel,” Kaminskiy says. “We have had a number of clients remove a formal dining room or child's bedroom on the main floor and convert it to another master bedroom with fully accessible bathroom.”

Aside from creating open-floor plans and increasing accessibility, baby boomers are also seeking to boost energy-efficiency and update appliances, add greater curb appeal and raise the home’s value.

Source: Kaminskiy Design and Remodeling

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Insurance Mistakes Homeowners Make

August 10, 2015 3:51 am

Though saving money is important, shaving off key protections in order to reduce homeowners insurance premiums can be costly in the event of a disaster, especially a hurricane. “The best way to avoid living the cliché of being ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ is to know what less-than-full coverage will cost you,” says Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). “Talk with an insurance professional before the winds kick up to understand the difference between smart shopping and possible costly mistakes.”

Those potentially costly mistakes include:

1. Going “bare.”
Homeowners without a mortgage are not required to have home insurance—but going without insurance protection means the risk of losing what you’ve invested in what is likely one of your most important assets. For most people, setting aside a pool of money large enough to rebuild a home or replace all their possessions is too much of a financial challenge, leaving them with insufficient funds in the event of a total loss
2. Eliminating windstorm and contents coverage.
While a residential property insurance policy typically includes this protection, homeowners may choose to send a handwritten and signed letter to their insurer asking that such coverage be excluded and acknowledging they will pay for any losses. Excluding windstorm and/or contents coverage can save you hundreds of dollars a year on insurance. “But the downside is you will need to pay thousands of dollars—or even hundreds of thousands of dollars—out of your own pocket if a hurricane strikes,” says McChristian.

3. Declining Building Ordinance or Law coverage.

Homes age and building codes improve. That often means that there can be a big difference in the structural strength of a newly built home and one that is 10 or more years old. If a home is damaged or destroyed, rebuilding to current building codes will raise the cost of reconstruction. Building Ordinance or Law coverage pays for this additional expense.

4. Choosing a high hurricane deductible.

High deductibles lower the cost of insurance, but they also mean higher out-of-pocket costs after a storm. For example, a homeowner with a house insured for $200,000 with a 10 percent hurricane deductible would have to contribute $20,000 toward rebuilding costs. Lowering the hurricane deductible to 2 percent would cut that amount to $4,000.

5. Insuring for less than the rebuilding cost.

Most insurance companies will allow a homeowner to insure for less than what it costs to rebuild–though never below 80 percent of the home’s replacement cost. Homeowners who choose this option would be responsible for paying both their deductible and the additional cost to cover the gap in their rebuilding coverage. In hurricane-prone areas, it is worth considering a homeowners policy that provides broader coverage, called extended replacement cost coverage. After a major natural disaster, construction professionals may be in short supply and building materials in great demand. This combination increases the cost to rebuild. Extended replacement cost policies will pay an additional 20 percent or more above the policy limits to account for such increases.

6. Forgoing flood insurance.
A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover flood damage. Because it can rain hard —and for extended periods—even during a regular storm, every homeowner should consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or from a private insurance company. Excess flood insurance is also available from private insurance companies if more coverage is needed than the amount available from the NFIP.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Why You Can't Afford to Overlook the Attic When Preparing Your Home for Sale

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

Recent data shows that attics are not generally top of mind among prospective buyers. In fact, many real estate professionals go on to say that the attic isn’t even looked at during a showing unless they themselves point it out as a feature.

Still, if you’re in the process of selling your home, you need to get your attic in tip-top shape. This means cleaning out the clutter, making sure the light works and checking to see that floorboards are safe for walking. Also, if a footstool or small ladder are required to enter the attic, have one available when prospective buyers come to view your home.

When it comes to seeing the attic during a showing, potential buyers are interested in seeing the space for two reasons—to see how much storage space is available and to look for signs of leaks. The more clutter you remove from the space, the bigger the attic will look, a huge benefit in any buyer’s eye.

It’s also a good idea to check out the attic before potential buyers come to visit because the attic is often the place where problems tend to occur. Not only can water trickle into the space via a leak in the roof, small animals and birds sometimes find their way inside through the attic and older houses can have problems with mold within the space. While most of these problems are easy to fix, you need to know about them first.

If you haven’t stepped foot in your attic for quite some time, bring in an inspector prior to putting your home on the market so you can rest assured that there are no problems that will interfere with the sale.

Attics that have been converted into an office or extra bedroom can be an attractive selling point today. If your attic has been converted into some other type of space, be sure to add color (maybe a throw rug or curtains if there’s a window) and help the space stand out by incorporating interesting furniture.

While people don’t generally buy a home just because of the attic, if the space looks sharp, it may be just what your home needs to beat out the competition.

For more tips to help your attic stand out, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Rural Housing Loans Provide Buyers Affordable Homeownership Opportunity

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

If you’re planning on moving to a rural area, the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan program can make the buying process a lot easier. Also referred to as Section 502 loans, rural housing loans are insured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, providing affordable homeownership opportunities goes a long way toward promoting prosperity, which, in turn, creates thriving communities and improves the quality of life in rural areas.

In order to qualify for the program, a property must be located in an eligible rural area. Today, many small towns meet the USDA requirements, as do suburbs and exurbs of most major U.S. cities.

While not every lender offers rural housing loans, USDA loans allow for 100 percent financing, in addition to some very friendly terms. Rural housing loans also allow buyers to roll their closing costs into the loan.

To be eligible to apply for a USDA loan, applicants must have very low, low or moderate income. According to the USDA, very low income is defined as below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI); low income is between 50 and 80 percent of the AMI and moderate income is below 115 percent of the AMI. Applicants must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere, yet have an acceptable credit history. They must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

In addition, families must be without adequate housing but able to afford housing payments, including principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI). Qualifying repayment ratios are 29 percent for PITI to 41 percent for total debt.

Direct and guaranteed loans may be used to buy, build, or improve the applicant's permanent residence. Newly manufactured homes may be financed when they’re on a permanent site or purchased from an approved dealer or contractor, in addition to meeting certain other requirements. Under very limited circumstances may homes be refinanced with direct loans.

It’s also important to note that rural housing loans can only be used for homes that are 1,800 square feet or less. In addition, homes can’t have market value in excess of the applicable area loan limit, they can’t have an inground pool and they must not be designed for income-producing activities.

Last but not least, mortgage rates are often as low as comparable 30-year fixed mortgage rates. And because mortgage insurance rates are lower, with a small down payment, USDA loans can often be a better deal.

To learn more about USDA loans, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Crunched for Time? What You Need to Know to Get Your Home Sold Quickly

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

Whether it’s a new job, a marriage/divorce or even family obligations, many people find themselves up against the clock as they make their way through the home-selling process.

While pricing your home competitively is one of the quickest ways to get your home sold, you want to be careful when it comes to putting a price on your home. In the end, it’s important to make sure you choose a price that you won’t regret later on down the road.

A good rule of thumb for those wanting to sell fast is to look at the comps and price the home around 10 percent lower. This will bring a lot of attention to the property and is ultimately the quickest way to an offer.

The last thing you want to do is appear desperate, so try to stay away from pricing the home low and then dropping the price even further a few weeks later if the house is still on the market. Not only will savvy buyers pick up on what you’re doing, they’ll also end up offering even less. Plus, the more times a price is cut, the staler the listing appears. This can cause prospective buyers to think there’s a bigger reason as to why the home isn’t selling, keeping them from coming to view the home altogether.

Getting your home in tip top shape and removing the clutter are two other elements you can’t afford to ignore. Since you’re leaving quickly anyway, there’s no reason not to pack up as much stuff as you can in order to make the house as spacious as possible. Be sure to keep any boxes that are already packed out of the way as well.

No matter what sort of timeline you’re up against, make sure you listen to your agent when they offer advice regarding a quick renovation you may want to consider or something else you should be doing to help your home stand out. There’s a reason that you chose your agent to represent you, so take their thoughts and ideas into consideration and let them do their job.

If a bid comes in and it’s lower than you’d like, take a step back and consider how much wiggle room you have when it comes to timing before turning it down. If you’re really pressed for time, it might be worth accepting less than you were asking.

Selling your home quickly doesn’t have to be a negative experience. If you find yourself crunched for time, make smart choices, listen to your agent and follow the advice above.

Need to sell your home quickly? Contact our office today for more tips.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips for Upping the Ante and Improving Your Home's Curb Appeal

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

In today’s competitive market, first impressions are more important than ever, making it critical that sellers don’t overlook curb appeal when preparing to list their home on the market.

If you’re looking to up the ante and help your home truly stand out, the following tips will go a long way toward grabbing a house hunter’s eye from the get-go.

1. Power wash the exterior. The beauty of power washing is that it can change the look of a house and make it appear fresh and clean without having to paint or do any other work. If you’re going to go this route, make sure you don’t neglect the driveway, deck and sidewalks outside the home in addition to the house itself. A simple power washing can make quite the difference and really impress prospective buyers who come to view your home.

2. Think green. Replace any overgrown bushes with more leafy plants and colorful annuals, which are easier to maintain. Plant some geraniums around the side of the yard as well. It’s also a good idea to surround any trees with dark bark mulch to provide the yard with a rich feel. And last but not least, pull any and all weeds and mow the lawn regularly.

3. Paint the front door. The front door is often one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to curb appeal, but adding a fresh coat of paint to the front door can do wonders for giving your home a facelift. One of the first things a potential buyer sees, a nice looking front door can set the stage for a positive home showing experience. In addition to a fresh coat of paint, be sure to replace the house numbers if necessary. And if the doorbell has seen better days, replace it as well.

4. Define the driveway. Edging your driveway is a great way to up the ante and increase the overall appearance of the space outside your home. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, link the home’s architecture to the driveway with brick pavers, stone or concrete. Adding a strip of beach pebbles or marble chips will help soften the transition from hard surface to nearby plant beds.

5. Replace your mailbox. Unless it flies off in a storm, most homeowners don’t think about replacing their mailbox, which means there’s a good chance that it’s old, dingy and weathered. Not only are there many designs and colors to choose from, replacing the mailbox is a simple way to provide your property with an updated look.

Remember, first impressions go a long way in today’s market and upping your property’s curb appeal could be the thing that gets someone to make a bid.

To learn more about increasing your home’s curb appeal, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Things to Avoid When Selling Your Home in Today's Competitive Market

August 7, 2015 1:07 pm

While it’s widely known that being present during a home showing can do more harm than good when it comes to getting your home sold quickly and for top dollar, many sellers are often unaware that there may be other ways they’re hurting their chances of unloading their home.

Here are five things sellers should avoid if they want to attract prospective buyers, rather than scare them away.

1. Letting your pet roam free. You may have the most gentle pet in the world, but that doesn’t mean prospective buyers want your pet jumping on them or following them around when they come to view your home. Some people simply don’t like animals and just seeing a dog, cat or rabbit may drive them away before they’ve had the chance to give your home a proper once over. If you have a showing scheduled, do yourself a favor and take your pet to a friend’s house and be sure to remove any of its toys and food before visitors arrive.

2. Hanging wallpaper. You might want to jazz up a room with a cool design or color by incorporating wallpaper, but industry analysis shows that an increasing amount of people see wallpaper as a turnoff. If you already have wallpaper in your home, you may want to consider taking it down and replacing it with paint.

3. Transforming your garage. In today’s day and age, it’s important to let your garage function as an actual garage. While turning your garage into an office or yoga studio may have been great for you, many prospective buyers are looking for a garage where they can park their car(s) and maybe even set up a workspace with their tools and lawn equipment. In addition, the garage is typically seen as a great space to store extraneous items, and if your home doesn’t offer the luxury of additional storage space, it could be seen as a negative.

4. Bold paint colors. While your friends may love your deep gold accent wall in the dining room or your aqua blue bedroom, color is one of those things that everyone has an opinion about. And having something too bright or too different may turn a prospective buyer off. Paint the home in neutral colors—especially the bedroom and living room—and let the rooms speak for themselves.

5. Personal items and wall-to-wall pictures. When prospective buyers come to see your home, you want them to be able to imagine themselves living in the space, and more often than not, an overabundance of personal items will keep them from being able to do this. If your home is on the market, pack these items away and try to make the home as depersonalized as possible.

Contact our office today to learn more about preparing your home to appeal to the masses.

Published with permission from RISMedia.