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 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

The Great Debate: Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools

June 10, 2015 3:34 am

(Family Features) For many families, some of the most anticipated summertime activities happen around the pool. Both chlorine and saltwater pools are common in homes today, but there are distinct differences between the two. In a saltwater pool, chlorine is produced by a salt chlorine generator, rather than adding chlorine to the pool directly. A saltwater pool is still being sanitized by chlorine.

Before you dive into the fun, remember that saltwater pools require the same maintenance functions and still must be checked and balanced regularly, just like a traditional chlorine pool. Here’s how to do it.

Test the Water Daily

Whether your pool uses traditional chlorine or is equipped with a salt chlorine generator, make testing it a top priority, especially when your pool is used frequently.

Make sure to read and follow the product label instructions closely when dealing with pool chemicals. Proper dosing of pool chemicals is important for swimmer comfort.

Always test the water and make sure the free chlorine level never falls below 1 parts per million (ppm). Chlorine is the main sanitizer of your pool (and drinking water), and the more people in your pool, the more chlorine you may need.

Keep Water Balanced


If your eyes are irritated and the pool water is cloudy or looks green, the balance is probably off. Here's how to test it:

- Use strips that show chlorine, alkalinity, pH and cyanuric acid levels.
- Follow instructions on the package for how to submerge the strip.
- Compare color readings on the strip to the range on the product bottle.

Ideal water balance ranges for chlorine are 1-4 ppm; alkalinity, 80-120 ppm; pH, 7.2-7.6; cyanuric acid, 20-50 ppm.

Source:
SaltorChlorine.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Sweat It: A/C Maintenance Tips

June 10, 2015 3:34 am

As the temperature rises outside, it is becoming more challenging for homeowners to keep energy costs low while keeping cool inside. According to the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association (also known as NADCA), there is a way to decrease energy usage and still beat the heat.

“Air conveyance systems are the largest sources of energy within a home, so it’s important to clean the units whenever needed, in order to avoid increased costs and energy usage,” says NADCA President Bill Benito. “When the units are not in use, they collect a lot of dirt and dust; when they are turned on during the summer months, all of that dust and dirt gets blown back into the home.”

NADCA recommends hiring a certified contractor to inspect air-handling units and test for efficiency. Proper duct cleaning and sealing of the air handling unit will help maximize system efficiency and performance during the hottest months of the year, when the air conditioners run the most often.

“Dirty or contaminated filters and poorly maintained air handling systems can reduce air flow and efficiency. Dirty coils can cause a unit to work harder to pump out cool air, which will ultimately lead to increased energy costs,” adds Benito.

A complete and proper cleaning, according to industry standards, will remove built up particulate and contaminants, resulting in improved indoor air quality. The standard defines complete cleaning to include the inside of air ducts from where air enters the return duct, through the air handler (blower, coil and heat exchange), to the exit, where the air is released to condition the home.

Source: NADCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Housing's Looking Up, Americans Say

June 10, 2015 3:34 am

With more Americans preferring to buy instead of rent and others believing now is a good time to sell, housing is right on track with forecasted improvements this year, a Fannie Mae survey recently reported.

Based on the survey, a growing number of Americans say now is a good time to buy a house, climbing back up to 66 percent. The amount of Americans who believe it is a good time to sell also increased, surpassing a survey record.

“Things are looking up for housing,” says Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Those saying it is a good time to sell a house hit a survey high of 49 percent. Also, the percentage of consumers telling us their household income is significantly higher than 12 months ago grew six percentage points to 28 percent over the past two months.”

Additionally, more than half of Americans expect rents to rise, further boosting optimism for buying a home.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You a Habitual or Aspiring Saver?

June 9, 2015 3:34 am

As a large portion of the population nears retirement, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) recently examined the relationship between saving patterns and long-term outcomes. Chief among the findings was the ratio of habitual, occasional, past and aspiring savers, with habitually-saving Americans surpassing global statistics at 52 percent.

These habitual savers, put simply, are consistently setting aside funds for retirement. One-fifth of Americans identified as occasional savers, contributing to a retirement fund from time to time; 12 percent are past savers, who are currently not saving, but have in the past; and 11 percent are aspiring savers, who are not saving enough for retirement, but intend to do so. Just 5 percent are not saving, and have no plans to do so in the future.

The TCRS research also found the average annual income for habitual savers to be $73,000 – significantly higher than that of the rest of the world. Predictably, habitual savers reported having higher incomes than aspiring savers.

Beyond receiving a pay raise, which most aspiring savers say would be helpful, the findings illustrate ways employers and policymakers can play important roles in promoting habitual saving.

Source: TCRS

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Landscape Investments Drive Home Value

June 9, 2015 3:34 am

Maintaining the landscape on your property creates scenery not only visually appealing – it can enhance value, too, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“If landscaping is properly maintained, the impact on home values can be positive,” says Appraisal Institute President M. Lance Coyle, MAI, SRA. “However, it’s important for homeowners not to exceed neighborhood norms when upgrading.”

Curb appeal is an important factor when selling a home, Coyle adds, noting that it is one of the best ways for property owners to make a positive first impression. A home with landscaping that is dated or not appropriately maintained can be a turn-off to prospective buyers and can have a negative impact on the home’s potential resale value.

Coyle says homeowners should ask themselves the following questions when it comes to their home’s landscaping:

• Is the landscaping nice enough to make the prospective buyer walk through the front door? Keep the design modern and on-par with comparable properties in the neighborhood.

• Could the landscaping help future owners save money? Landscaping that needs minimal, if any, water to maintain could be attractive depending on the geographic area.

• Does the landscaping help with the property’s energy efficiency? For example, it’s a good idea to plant trees in a location where they provide shade in locations with year-round hot climates.

If you’re installing a new landscape or planning to revamp an existing one, the EPA’s Energy Star program advises selecting plants that are appropriate for their climate and using a suitable landscape and irrigation design. Homeowners should also consider landscaping techniques using low-water and drought-resistant grass, plants, shrubs and trees.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Tech Evolves with Apple HomeKit and More

June 8, 2015 3:35 am

(Family Features) There’s no doubt technology brings convenience and peace of mind to homeowners. At the touch of a button, families can benefit from thoughtful, digital shortcuts throughout their homes.

One of the newest additions to home technology is Apple HomeKit, slated for release sometime this year. Apple’s latest rollout will make controlling smart devices seamless using iPhone and Siri. Some of the first HomeKit-enabled products include Chamberlain MyQ garage door openers, Honeywell thermostats, the iDevices Switch and Schlage door locks.

While you’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of HomeKit, take a look at these other advancements already available for your home.

• It is now possible to control lighting throughout the interior and exterior of your home using your smartphone. With the proper bulbs, in-home Wi-Fi network and an app on your phone or tablet, you can control lights from anywhere and even schedule lights to turn off and on at intervals to give the appearance that someone is home. You'll never have to enter a dark house again when you use lights with geofencing technology, which recognizes when you pull in the driveway and turns lights on automatically.

• Similarly, you can automate and control your home's temperature from your smartphone or device. Although many thermostats allow you to drop temperatures while you're away at work for the day, options such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Honeywell Lyric take climate management to a whole new level, learning your schedule and adjusting temperatures automatically.

• Motorized drapes not only add a stylish enhancement to your windows, they help keep dawn at bay and your privacy intact through smartphone control. A variety of options allow you to customize settings based on needs, such as blocking daylight, obscuring valuables from outside view, managing the impact of UV rays on your possessions or regulating solar heat.

• With landscaping a chore for many, and water conservation a growing concern, a robotic hose attachment may be the answer, delivering precise amounts of water to each plant. For a large yard, or to use your existing irrigation system, a smart sprinkler system may be a better answer to keep your yard looking lush. Most models can be customized by valve or zone, and many use weather data or moisture sensors to ensure the right amount of water is delivered each time.

• When dinner plans call for a steak on the grill, keep your meal deliciously on target with a smartphone app, such as iGrill or Grill It, which guides you to the perfect temperature based on variables such as the cut and thickness.

With such advancements right at your fingertips, it's becoming easier than ever for families to manage household tasks and functions quickly and easily. Evolving technology means more sophisticated alternatives are yet to come. It's clear that when it comes to home management technology, the future is only a click away.

Source:
Chamberlain.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Patio Hacks to Try This Summer

June 8, 2015 3:35 am

When you’re not soaking up the sun on the beach or taking in a game at the ball park, your backyard is likely playing host to summertime activities. To crank up the good times at home, add these unconventional upgrades served up on your patio for endless fun all summer long.

1. Chandelier and Sconces – Today’s outdoor lighting designs have evolved beyond tiki torches and paper lanterns. String up tiny twinklers, repurpose a chandelier or install sconces to add some sparkle to your summer.

2. Suspended Sofa – Outdoor spaces have become an extension of the interior of the home, and your patio should be no exception. Suspend a sofa for lounging, create a coffee nook for weekend mornings or a cozy bench to tackle your summer reading list.

3. Pizza Oven
– It’s no secret outdoor kitchens are in high demand. Add your very own to your backyard by installing a pizza oven. For the non-handy homeowner, pre-manufactured pizza ovens are available, but do-it-yourselfers can construct one in a weekend.

4. Foldable Bar – A bar is a must if you regularly host guests. If your patio doesn’t permit a full bar set, DIY a foldable bar. The best part? It can be stored at a moment’s notice – not that you’d want to!

5. Movie Screen – An outdoor movie at home is a fun way to spend warm summer nights without breaking the bank. String clothesline between deck posts or trees and use a white sheet and a projector to create your very own theater.

6. Dance Floor – If your patio is spacious, up the entertainment factor with a portable dance floor. If your patio is natural wood, reserve a corner for when Saturday Night Fever rolls around.

7. Container Garden – Your patio is the perfect place for a container garden. Inject life onto a stone slab by growing your own vegetables (tomatoes are easy) or summer blooms.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Homeowners and Renters Can Apply for Disaster Assistance

June 8, 2015 3:35 am

With storms battering many parts of the country, homeowners and renters in disaster-designated counties who sustained damage to their homes, vehicles or personal property as a result of severe storms should know that they may qualify for disaster assistance. According to FEMA, applicants can:

• Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov
• Apply by smartphone or web-enabled device at m.fema.gov
• Apply by phone at toll-free 800-621-3362800-621-3362 FREE or 1-800-462-75851-800-462-7585 FREE

Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs and uninsured and underinsured personal property losses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

You should apply for assistance even if you have insurance because you may find you have unmet needs after you receive your settlement. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so right away. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But insurance does not cover many expenses, so disaster programs may be able to help. You should not wait for your insurance settlement to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the SBA.

After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a copy of “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions. This useful publication explains how FEMA’s disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how best to make all these programs work for you.

If your home or its contents are damaged and you are uninsured or underinsured, a FEMA inspector may contact you within about 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet with you at your damaged home. All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government.

If you’re a homeowner, you may borrow up to $200,000 from SBA to repair or replace your primary residence. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A Positive First Impression Opens the Door to a Successful Transaction

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

Creating a positive first impression is the name of the game in today’s competitive market, but you don’t have to break the bank in order to give your home a leg up on the competition. In fact, creating a welcoming environment is often more than enough to help your home stand out, and it all begins with the front door.

If your home has a unique front door that draws attention because it’s painted an untraditional color, prospective buyers will have an easy way to differentiate your home from all the others they’ve seen.

Even if your front door doesn’t pop due to its color, you’ll want to do whatever you can to ensure it’s as attractive as it can be when prospective buyers drop by.

This means making sure it’s clean, that no cracks are apparent and that the paint hasn’t worn too thin. You want the front door to be the first welcome sign of your home, so having it look its best is important.

If you do decide to give the front door a facelift, it’s important to put some thought into your color choice beforehand. While many real estate professionals advise that you stick to the color scheme of the neighborhood, choosing a bold color can go a long way toward attracting younger buyers.

Odds are you’re not going to have to replace the entire door, but it’s a good idea to make sure your front door is not only sturdy, but in good working condition as well. For instance, if your key constantly gets stuck, now’s a good time to invest in a new lock. You’ll also want to make sure the lock goes in place easily. If you’re simply looking to add some pizzazz, a new doorknob is an inexpensive way to get the job done. An antique doorknocker can also add some decorative appeal. And don’t forget the numbers that sit on or above your door. If they’re fading or not clear, get some new ones.

And last but not least, make sure the door itself (whether it’s a storm door or a screen door)—and any windows surrounding the door—are clean.

When buyers walk through the front door, you want them to imagine doing so for the next 20 years, so do what you can to make those first steps memorable.

Contact our office today for more tips on making a good first impression.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Separating Fact from Fiction - What You Need to Know About the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

This past May, at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asked the National Association of REALTORS® for help in debunking common misconceptions regarding the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program.

First established 70 years ago as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, the VA loan guaranty is a military benefit available for any individual who has served in active duty in any branch of the U.S. military for a minimum of 90 days. Since its inception, it has helped more than 21 million veterans.

At the meeting, John Bell, the Department of Veterans Affairs assistant director of loan policy and valuation, thanked REALTORS® for their role in helping make sense of the home-buying process.

“I have been so impressed with being able to work with the National Association of REALTORS® and its members on improving our outreach to the community,” said Bell. “You are the front line of defense when it comes to helping veterans understand this program. Without REALTORS®, veterans will not come.”

One common misconception regarding the loan concerns eligibility. While many believe the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program is just for servicemen and servicewomen, non-active duty personnel, such as those in the Army Reserves or National Guard, may also apply for a VA-backed mortgage—provided they have completed six years of service. Additionally, spouses of deceased or missing military members are also eligible if they’ve never remarried.

Another common misconception is the notion that VA-backed loans cost more than traditional loans over the long run, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, one major advantage of a VA loan is that it doesn’t require a down payment. Another factor that ultimately keeps the cost down is the fact that VA loans don’t come with private mortgage insurance.

A VA loan will, however, require a borrower to pay a one-time funding fee on their purchase, which can be paid up front or financed into the total cost of the loan. The funding fee for regular military members is 2.15 percent of the loan, while reservists pay a fee of 2.40 percent. Bell recommends that REALTORS® remind lenders to request an appraisal early on in the process to make sure a VA-certified appraiser is able to value the property in advance of the closing date.

“People worry that they’re challenging to close or difficult to underwrite, and that the appraisal process drags on too long, yet the facts show that appraisal and closing times are on par with the rest of the industry,” Bell said.

To qualify, borrowers must show enough monthly income after paying personal debts and housing costs to meet “residual income” levels set by the department. A VA loan must be for a primary residence and the limits on the amount someone can get are based on median home prices in the area.

For more information about the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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