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

Future is Bright for Solar-Powered Homes

April 21, 2015 3:21 am

The future looks bright for American households.

According to a recent survey commissioned by solar service provider Sungevity, 81 percent of parents plan to live in a solar-powered home. The majority of those surveyed would also like solar to be the world’s primary energy source when their children grow up.

Savings topped the list of reasons why parents would power their homes with solar energy. Solar energy can substantially cut, or even eliminate, monthly utility bills. When it comes to environmentally friendly activities at home, however, nearly half believe it would be more difficult for their family to go an “energy diet” than a food diet.

In an interesting twist, more than a third of survey respondents would like to see the Las Vegas strip, known for its excessive use of electricity, powered by the sun.

Source: Sungevity

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Every Homebuyer Should Know about Termites

April 21, 2015 3:21 am

(BPT) - It's a cruel coincidence that spring homebuying season corresponds with another far less pleasant one - termite swarming season. When eager homebuyers emerge from winter hibernation to look for their dream homes, termites emerge, too, say the experts at the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

If you'll be buying or selling a home this spring, the NPMA offers some valuable termite information:
  • The average homebuyer and homeowner might have difficulty spotting the evidence of a termite infestation. Termites chew through wood, flooring and other materials behind-the-scenes, so it can take years before the signs of an infestation are visible to the untrained eye. An inspection by a licensed pest professional is the best way to detect an infestation of wood-destroying organisms (WDOs) - especially if you live in a termite-prone area of the country.
  • A WDO inspection is different from a simple structural inspection. Buyers should be sure to have their prospective home inspected by a licensed pest professional. The inspection will last about an hour, and the specialist will probe the home from top to bottom to look for telltale signs of termite damage. After the inspection is over, the specialist will report to the buyers what he or she has found, and an estimate of how much it might cost to remediate any termite damage he or she has discovered.
  • Different states have varying laws about termite inspections. Some may require one before a home can be sold, while others do not. Check with your REALTOR® about the laws in your state, and keep in mind that many lenders will require a pest inspection be done in addition to a structural inspection - especially if the home you are buying is in a termite-prone area.
  • Termite detection, remediation and control are not do-it-yourself tasks. If an inspector finds signs of a termite infestation and damage, you'll need professionals to remedy the problem. Buyers who discover problems before the sale is final will be better able to negotiate with the seller to take care of the problem. In some states, the law may not allow the sale to be finalized until the damage is addressed, and lenders may refuse to finalize a mortgage for a home with unresolved termite issues.
  • If the termite inspection shows your new home is pest-free, congratulations! After the sale is finalized, be sure to take steps to protect your home from termites going forward, including having the home inspected for termites at least once every three years, and every year if you live in an area prone to termite infestations.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day with Kids

April 20, 2015 3:21 am

Each April, Earth Day acknowledges the need for continued care of our planet. To get children involved this Earth Day, host fun activities that not only celebrate the occasion, but also help increase their environmental awareness, say the experts at Smart Playrooms.

Here are 7 fun ways to celebrate with children this year:

1. Plant a Tree
Tree planting is one of the most traditional ways of celebrating Earth Day. By fostering trees, children can help reduce gas emissions from greenhouses and enable long-lasting biodiversity in their communities. This commonly practiced activity is appropriate for school-aged children, as it is incredibly impactful but fairly simple to execute.

2. Host a Garage Sale or Clothing Swap
For many people, the things they don’t want or no longer need take up a lot of space and resources. Repurposing these items for those who can use them is an earth-friendly way of reinforcing recycling and generosity. Garage sales are fairly easy to coordinate and can be done at home or even in a school setting. Children can take the time to de-clutter their spaces and find a home for their old toys and clothes.

3. Organize Your Playroom or Classroom
Getting organized around the house and in the classroom is a huge task, but is full of long-lasting benefits. Redesigning a space children play in can transform it into a room for inspiration. By using toys and furniture that already exist, convert cluttered spaces into an organized environment that far exceeds Earth Day.

4. Community Clean-Up
Assembling a group of children together to pick up trash and waste in your neighborhood is a fun way to reduce pollution. This hands-on and collective effort beautifies local neighborhoods and bonds everyone in the process. Before going into the field, be sure to review your neighborhood’s restrictions and safety guidelines to protect both children and adult volunteers. Make sure you’ve carefully delegated tasks and your clean-up route to use your time efficiently.

5. Wear Earth-Toned Colors
Having your children wear earth-toned colors like brown and green is one of the simplest ways to create awareness. Coordinate with other leaders in your community to spread the word a few days in advance.

6. Build a Birdhouse
Nature crafts are a kid-favorite. Installing birdfeeders encourages the local bird population. To create the birdhouse, used recycled materials from home like guitar strings or juice cartoons to drive home the importance of reuse. This is a project that will allow your children to express themselves creatively while benefiting our ecosystem.

7. Write a Letter
If you are a teacher, consider taking a day to have your class write a letter to your local government on ways to improve your environment. You’d be surprised what great ideas children come up with. In even better instances, your class’ idea may even come into fruition! Teaching children that they have power to make change to our environment is priceless.

Source: Smart Playrooms

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Top 10 Landscaping Trends

April 20, 2015 3:21 am

Sustainability and low-maintenance: those are the buzzwords swirling around this year’s home landscape trends, according to the most recent Landscape Architecture Trend Survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Respondents expected the greatest demand for ecologically sensitive projects intended to preserve the environment, conserve water and reduce landscape maintenance.

Based on the survey and ordered by consumer expectation, the top 10 residential landscape projects are:

1. Native Plants

2. Native/Adapted Drought-Tolerant Plants

3. Food/Vegetable Gardens

4. Fire Pits/Fireplaces

5. Low-Maintenance Landscapes

6. Permeable Paving

7. Drip/Water-Efficient Irrigation

8. Rain Gardens

9. Lighting

10. Rainwater/Graywater Harvesting

The majority of respondents reported the most popular outdoor recreation amenities will include spa features—hot tubs, Jacuzzis, whirlpools and indoor/outdoor saunas—and swimming pools. Another anticipated amenity is a sport court, such as for tennis or bocce.

Among the results, the top three most popular outdoor design elements include fire pits or fireplaces, grills and lighting. Pergolas, decks and fencing are expected to be the most popular outdoor structures. In terms of sustainable features, respondents named compost bins, geothermal heated pools and solar-powered lights.

Source: ASLA

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Your 4-Step Moving Plan

April 20, 2015 3:21 am

(BPT) – No matter the distance, moving is a big deal. Prepare now to move your belongings with this four-step plan from the experts at Penske Truck Rental.

1. Less is More
– The less you have to move, the easier your move will be on your body and your wallet. It will also be easier to fit everything into your new house. While packing, create three piles: the first is your "must-go" pile; the second is your "must-sell" pile, which includes anything you haven't used in the last year, anything you have multiples of and anything you just don't want; the third is the "must-throw" pile, which contains anything that can't be sold at a garage sale or donated. Start creating these piles now to make moving day much easier.

2. Stock Up on Supplies – Big boxes might seem like a great idea because they hold so much, but what happens when you try to lift one or carry it down a flight of steps? Stock up on boxes of multiple sizes, and keep in mind that smaller is much easier to carry. Purchase foam and bubble wrap to protect your fragile items, a good supply of packing tape and bold markers for labeling boxes. You'll also want to have moving blankets and hand trucks to make it easier to transport your items.

3. Pack Smart – Load the heaviest items in your car or on the truck first. When you've got a sturdy base of the heaviest items, you can start stacking on top. This is when it's handy to list a box's contents on its side. If you have friends and family helping, they'll know not to set books on top of your china, for example.

4. Stay Safe and Secure – Trucks are taller and wider and require more stopping distance than the vehicle you are used to driving. Take extra precaution, especially when the truck is loaded. Watch out for low-hanging tree branches and building overhangs, and use extra caution when cornering. To protect your belongings, park in well-lit areas and padlock the rear door. To make sure you've got everything you need on moving day, keep a travel bag with paperwork, credit cards, identification, a change of clothes, drinks and snacks close at hand.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Looking to Lower Your Mortgage? Keep These Simple Tips in Mind

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

With interest rates at historic lows over the past few years, homeowners across the board jumped on the refinancing bandwagon in order to get better rates and lower payments. But refinancing isn’t the only way to lower your mortgage. And if you’re a new buyer just looking into obtaining a mortgage, there are ways to get a lower mortgage rate from the start.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re looking to decrease your mortgage—or for anyone who’s knee-deep in the process of searching for the best mortgage to fit their needs.

Switch Commitment. You may have thought a 15-year mortgage was the best option when you first bought your home, but perhaps circumstances have changed and it no longer makes sense. In that case, transfer your mortgage to a 30-year mortgage and you will be greatly decreasing the amount of your mortgage payment each month. While you may be paying more in the long run, odds are you’ll be selling your home before the 30-year period is up anyway, so it makes sense if you need the money now.

Lower Your PMI. Earlier this year, the Federal Housing Administration announced that all FHA loans would have lower rates, resulting in more than two million FHA homeowners saving roughly $900 a year by refinancing. In addition, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report that showed that the lower PMI will result in 250,000 home purchases for first-time homebuyers.

Say Goodbye to Your PMI. Rather than lowering your PMI, why not get rid of it altogether? This is something that most people don’t realize can be done, but now that housing prices are increasing, if you’ve been in your home for at least two years and its value has gone up, check with your lender to see if this is a possibility.

Buy Down Your Rate. When first getting a mortgage, you have the option to lower your rate with more of a down payment. Typically, a buyer can purchase one discount point for one percent of the cost of the mortgage. Not only will this add up to lower mortgage payments each month, it’ll also add up to some serious change by the end of the loan.

Ask Your Lender to Work With You. Contact your lender and let them know that you’re shopping for a lower homeowners insurance premium and inquire if there’s anything they can do. It might seem crazy, but lenders may lower your rate without you even having to refinance—especially if you’re a good customer who has never missed a payment. This might just be a temporary solution, with the rate being reevaluated, but it’s a great idea for those who need to lower their payment quickly.

For more tips on lowering your mortgage rate, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Understanding Countertops and Their Role in Attracting Prospective Buyers

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

As the heart of the home, the kitchen is typically a major selling point when prospective buyers view homes and decide to move forward with an offer. In addition to updated appliances and open floor plans, countertops are a crucial element that can’t be ignored. With a variety of materials, colors and textures to choose from, choosing the perfect countertop can be a daunting task.

If you’re ready to replace the counters in your kitchen, but not sure where to begin, here’s a rundown of the various options you have to choose from.

Granite.
One of the most popular—though expensive—options for kitchen countertop material, granite is available in numerous colors and shades of green, black, white, red, blue and brown. Granite countertops should be treated with an impregnating sealer to ensure that there are no small cracks that will harbor bacteria.

Plastic Laminate. A durable, hardwearing countertop surface with matte and fine matte finishes, plastic laminate is available in a variety of colors and patterns.

Quartz. Offering much of the same look that stone yields, quartz requires much less maintenance. Quartz comes in numerous vibrant colors and patterns that echo granite and marble.

Soapstone. A natural stone option available in greenish black or gray-green, soapstone is the least expensive natural stone for countertops. Not only is soapstone porous, it needs to be sealed with mineral oil to reduce stains.

Slate. A dense stone that comes in subtle colors such as green, gray, red, purple and black, slate is a softer stone that can scratch easily, however, scratches can be removed by buffing with steel wool. Slate also comes with a soft matte sheen.

Kitchen countertops are also available in synthetic solid surfaces, which are made of acrylic, polyester or a combination of both. They are resistant to stains and scratches and can be renewed and repaired.

If you’re looking to make a splash with your kitchen prior to a sale, redoing your countertops is a great way to grab a potential house hunter’s attention.

Contact our office today for more information about replacing countertops.

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Spring into the Home-Buying Season with These Home Improvement Projects

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

No matter where you live, the spring season is associated with cleaning and change. From saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new, the season also offers the perfect opportunity for sellers to take care of projects they’ve been putting off all winter. Whether it’s painting, replacing bathroom fixtures, sanding kitchen cabinets, staining the deck or re-grouting the bathroom, now’s the time to get the ball rolling on various home improvement projects that will pay big dividends when prospective buyers come to view your home.

While most of the home improvement projects you’re ready to tackle require detailed planning and preparation, you’ve more than likely been gearing up for these projects throughout the winter season. Even if you’re just getting around to planning your project, a visit to your local hardware store or a YouTube video of a DIY project can go a long way toward helping you get your project get off the ground.

Now that spring has sprung, you can also change various accessories within the home to create a totally different look. Bringing spring colors into the home is easy, especially with accessories like throw pillows, area rugs, artwork, towels and bedspreads. Designers recommend bringing in certain colors (think pears, eggs and seashells) to play off the spring theme. You can also incorporate leaf patterns in fabrics, wicker, real leather and rust metal to add a level of contrast.

Turning to the yard, one doesn’t need a green thumb to help their lawn look top-notch. In fact, adding flowers around the outside of the home is an easy way to create a beautiful color scheme. Flowers can either be put directly into the ground or arranged in planter’s boxes that can then be situated on a porch, in a sunroom or on a windowsill.

Flowers that are most manageable include marigolds, pansies, snapdragons and alyssum. Marigolds can be found in bright yellow and vivid orange, while pansies typically range from dark purple to pale violet. Snapdragons are taller and range from pink to blood red, while alyssum—used to fill out the space between plants—has tiny white or purple flowers on a bed of green.

You can also add shrubs to your lawn, planting a mixture of interesting bushes with architectural form and texture, which will add year-round ornamental value.

With the brutal winter behind us, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about spring cleaning and getting your home and yard in shape for the warmer weather headed our way.

For more information on getting your home ready for spring, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Simple Tips to Secure the Necessary Down Payment Funds

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

Purchasing a home is an expensive proposition, and for many buyers, securing funds for a down payment is a challenge in and of itself. But before you cross the idea of ever being able to afford a house off the list, the following ideas will go a long way toward helping you come up with the money you need to get into your dream home.

1. Family Matters. Don’t be too shy or stubborn to ask your parents or other family members for help. Often, your relatives will be more than happy to help you get the home of your dreams. After all, they probably received help from family members themselves when they went to buy their first home. If you do get help from a family member, the lender will ask you to sign a form called a gift letter, attesting to the relationship. The lender may also require mom and dad to explain where they got the money and prove that they are financially able to make such a gift.

2. Dig Into Your IRA. Assuming you’ve started a retirement account with your job, this may be an easy way to get the money you need quickly. Whether it’s a 401(k), a Roth or traditional IRA, first-time homebuyers are allowed to borrow up to $10,000 for a down payment on a house without incurring a penalty. For those who are self-employed, you can also borrow up to $50,000 from your retirement fund and pay yourself back over five years at a low interest rate.

3. Add It to Your Registry. If you’re getting married, doesn’t it make more sense to ask for some help in getting a house rather than a toaster or coffee maker? Numerous mortgage companies allow those getting hitched to set up a down payment registry and many guests think it’s a great way to celebrate the joining of two people they love.

4. Take Advantage of Grants. Down payment assistance and community redevelopment programs offer affordable housing opportunities to first-time homebuyers, low-income and moderate-income individuals and families who wish to achieve homeownership.

5. Propose a Lease/Purchase Agreement. Homeowners who need to sell their home quickly may be amenable to cutting a deal with buyers on a lease/purchase agreement where the buyer rents the home they want to purchase with a percentage of the rent applied toward the down payment. If you go this route, make sure you get a contract outlining all the details so both parties are safe.

If you find that none of the above options work for your individual circumstances, there’s always the old-fashioned idea of setting up a rainy day fund by putting aside 10 percent of your paycheck each week and making your lunch instead of going out. Forget that vacation and walk or ride your bike instead of using the car. It may seem like a lot, but the sacrifice will be well worth it when you’re inside your very own home.

Contact our office today for more tips on finding the funds for your down payment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Preparation Key to Interior Painting Success

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

One of the easiest ways to give a room a quick makeover before putting your home on the market is by adding a fresh coat of paint. While picking the right color is typically an exciting part of the process, it’s crucial that you prepare well ahead of time by formulating a plan of action for your interior painting project.

If you’re tackling the paint job yourself, one trip to the local paint store or hardware supply store should be enough to find everything you’ll need for the job. In addition to the paint itself, you’ll need rollers, brushes (of various sizes), a trim edger, paint sticks, protective cloth and a paint pan. Additional items that may come in handy along the way include a tape measure, screwdriver, sandpaper, sponges, household cleaner and drop cloths.

To properly prepare the room, set aside some time to clean it first. This includes removing any small items or furniture that can easily be cleared from the space. For larger items that are too much trouble to move, bring them to the center of the room and cover them with plastic cloths to keep them from getting covered with paint. Next, use blue masking tape to protect light fixtures, switch panels, hinges and knobs, and a drop cloth to protect the floor. It’s also a good idea to keep a window open for ventilation.

Any surfaces that aren’t being painted will have to be masked off with tape as well. This includes the trim on doors and windows, bookshelves and baseboards. The corners between walls and ceilings may also need to be masked off.

As for the walls that are being painted, examine the drywall to see if there are any holes, as these must be repaired before painting. Once drywall repairs are made, the area must be sanded and primed before the paint is applied. If the plaster has any cracks, they’ll need to be fixed with a paste that can be made from Plaster of Paris and water. Be sure to remove any nails from the wall as well.

If the walls have never been painted before—or they were previously painted a dark color/stain—priming is an essential part of the process that can’t be ignored. The primer will help conceal the old color and any unsightly stains that may otherwise show through the new paint.

Once all this is done, it’s time to paint. Bring in some friends and family members and make it fun. Blast some good music, order some pizza for lunch and make it a painting party no one will ever forget.

For more painting preparation tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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