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

5 New Year's Resolutions Every Seller Should Add to Their List

December 11, 2014 5:39 pm

As we close in on 2015, you most likely have a running list of resolutions racing around your mind at any given time. However, if you plan on selling your home in the new year, here are a few things you may want to add to your list.

1. Be Kind to Your Agent. If your house isn’t selling, and your agent suggests dropping the price, hiring a stager or something else they believe will help sell the home, don’t yell or threaten to leave them and find another agent. Your agent is there to offer advice and tips to ultimately get your home sold quickly, at a price you want. Therefore, remember that they’re not your enemy. Work with them and keep the lines of communication open and clear.

2. Have Reasonable Expectations. Gone are the days when you put a house up for sale and a bidding war would ensue. If you want the best chance of selling your home, understand what’s going on in your market, and take into account that you might have to wait a while for your home to sell. Also, don’t shoot for the moon with your pricing, especially if you’re looking to get out quickly.

3. Don’t Get Discouraged. It’s always stressful when a home doesn’t sell, but don’t give up just because no one is biting. Eventually, the right buyer will come along and you’ll be able to move on to whatever new living opportunity awaits.

4. De-Clutter Every Room. It’s the most common advice you’ll get from anyone associated with real estate: if you want to sell your house, remove the clutter and store anything that’s not essential in another location. That means packing away seasonal clothes, removing kitchen tools and small appliances you never use and packing up toys or collectables.

5. Paint. It never hurts to spruce up rooms with a coat of paint. While most people are quick to paint the living room and bedrooms, it’s also a good idea to remember the smaller rooms—even the closets. When it comes to painting, keep in mind that a little paint can go a long way.

For more tips on selling your home in 2015, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Let Pests Come Between You and Your Home Sale

December 11, 2014 5:39 pm

Whether you’re in the process of selling your home or not, pests can be a real nuisance. But when a home sale is on the line, the last thing you want to do is give buyers any reason to scurry.

You might think that discovering ants, roaches or mice in your home is the worst thing in the world, but generally, they don’t do much damage. And there’s usually a somewhat simple solution for disposing of these pests. (Termites, of course, are another issue).

For those who may be having problems with these more prolific pests, the most practical solution is to call an exterminator as soon as possible.

And remember, when it comes to pests, keep in mind that as the seller, you’re required to disclose “all known facts that materially affect the value of the property,” which means you can’t just let these problems slide and hope the inspector doesn’t pick up on them.

Taking the mice example from above, there are humane ways to solve the problem—either with traps or by hiring a special company. But if you want to be sure you’re getting rid of the mice forever, you may want to bring in a specialist who can determine where they’re coming from and fix the problem, removing their access to the house.

Carpenter ants are another nuisance and a good exterminator will know how to treat and eliminate this type of infestation. Remember, carpenter ants can only survive on wet, rotting wood, so these ants are a telltale sign that your home has a water problem that’s causing rot. By solving the water problem, the ants will not survive.

If you’re having problems with larger varmint, be it raccoons, birds or squirrels entering the home, it’s important to do a perimeter search of the home, listening for rattling in the chimney, gutters and/or attic. Several wildlife organizations are available to help with their removal, but you also might need to invest some money in hiring someone who can come in and plug up any holes and entrances and spray a deterrent.

And last but not least, if termites are the problem, it’s crucial that you have them exterminated as soon as they’re discovered since they can cause major damage to the wood within your home. If you’re looking for total peace of mind, you may want to schedule a termite inspection before you sell your home so that no surprises pop up along the way.

Unfortunately, bugs and rodents are a part of life and there’s no end-all solution that will ensure that a home is pest free. The best you can do before putting your home on the market is to eliminate all you can and deal with any in-your-face issues. Nature will have to take care of the rest.

For more information about ridding your home of pests, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Your Home in Tip Top Shape with These 12 Simple Tips

December 11, 2014 5:39 pm

If your house is on the market this holiday season, you may notice a slowdown in foot traffic among prospective buyers as holiday parties—and other activities—clutter their calendar.

Rather than becoming discouraged, take the time to make sure your home is prepared for the uptick in activity as the new year approaches.

To be sure your house is in tip top shape when interest picks up in January, here are a dozen things you can do:

1. Wash any carpets or rugs. Sure, it’s easy enough to drag out the vacuum and make the room look good, but go that extra step and give the carpets a good cleaning.
2. Replace any plumbing fixtures that are outdated, or those that may leak a little. Putting in new washers and tightening screws can go a long way toward preventing a water catastrophe.
3. Clean the closets. Prospective buyers love opening closets to see how much space there is. Be prepared by taking the time to organize and remove anything that you don’t wear anymore. The less items hanging in your closet, the bigger the space will appear.
4. Buy a new mat for the front door. You’ll most likely have people trampling through your home, accompanied by the snow and slush that define the season. Not only will a mat by the front door go a long way toward protecting your floors, it’ll also provide a great first impression.
5. Upgrade your mailbox. Most people don’t think of this, but a new mailbox is a great way to grab a buyer’s attention before they ever step foot in the house.
6. Empty the refrigerator and give it a good cleaning. Keep things organized and have brightly colored fruit dead center, giving the fridge a homey look. While you’re at it, be sure to remove any magnets from the outside of the fridge.
7. Change out light bulbs throughout the house and replace them with brighter bulbs that enhance the light in any given room.
8. Replace the linens on beds with bright colors. You don’t want people walking into the various bedrooms within your home only to see bland colors. Brightly colored bed linens are a great way to help bedrooms stand out.
9. Clean the fireplace. While you’ll want to call a professional to clean the inside of the chimney, you can still get rid of any burnt wood or ashes that have collected in the bottom. Make sure you clean off the grate at the same time so that it looks brand new.
10. Clean the yard. Even if you live in a colder climate, make sure your yard looks clean and tidy. That means getting rid of extra leaves and removing excess snow so that prospective buyers can clearly see the lay of the land.
11. Organize the garage and basement. These are the two main areas that will most likely interest male buyers, and you don’t want to turn them off with piles of junk.
12. Relax. Selling a home is stressful, but make sure you take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Contact our office today for more tips that will help your home stand out above the competition.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Energy Efficient Mortgages

December 11, 2014 5:39 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines 12 simple things you can do to make sure your home is in tip top shape as buyer activity increases in the new year. Other topics covered this month include five resolutions every seller should add to their list and the importance of controlling pests so that they don’t come between you and a sale. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's Under There? The Pros and Cons of Crawlspaces

December 11, 2014 2:54 am

In our last report, I got the down-low on the pros and cons of building on, or purchasing a home constructed on a concrete slab. So in this segment, we'll go back to Andrew M. Dennis at Donan Solutions, a third-generation engineering firm that began in 1947 in Madisonville, KY, for his take on crawlspaces.

Dennis says the long-term performance of a crawlspace is greatly affected by the critical aspects of the presence of proper lot grading, adequate site surface water drainage, and a proper landscaping plan. And he adds that concrete slabs and crawlspace foundations present about the same number of advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage of building or buying a home with a crawlspace, is the heating and air conditioning ductwork and plumbing can be installed in it and be easily maintained.  Any required repairs to these systems will be less expensive due to better accessibility.  

A crawlspace elevates a house, Dennis notes, making it less susceptible to termite damage. And crawlspaces can be constructed on sloped lots using tiered concrete footings; however, the lot’s grading plan must provide adequate drainage to prevent damage from adverse surface water drainage.

Excess moisture in a crawlspace is a common occurrence and can have severe consequences if not addressed in a timely manner, Dennis points out. Stormwater and gutter overflow slopes toward the house and into the crawlspace and are sources of moisture that must be prevented or can damage the wood floor system above.

Dennis says a sheet of plastic with seams overlapped and taped works well as a vapor barrier to prevent the upward transmission of ground moisture. Adequate ventilation of the crawlspace must also be planned for and implemented in order to prevent the harmful effects that condensation can cause to the wood floor system above.

Dennis says the design and construction of either a concrete slab or conventional crawlspace foundation should be tailored to the geography and climatic conditions that it is expected to perform under.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Warm up Your Home in Style This Winter

December 11, 2014 2:54 am

With winter temperatures set to fall to frosty levels, many families will be spending time at home this season. Despite the weather, homeowners can create a warm atmosphere by tapping into the unexpected beauty found during the winter months.

“Though it is often overlooked, winter is the perfect season to draw inspiration from with a palette of rich, on-trend colors, adding a sense of warmth within in the home,” says Julie Richard, Ace Hardware design expert.

Ace’s design experts recommend pairing winter color trends with smart design for cozy indoor get-togethers:
  • Casual elegance is trending this winter. Create an accent feature in the kitchen by painting a set of mismatched breakfast room chairs in the same color for a unified, unrefined look that is both pulled together and relaxed.
  • For a timeless, layered look, mix and match different elements in the same color. Go for a glamorous neutral palette with a classic fur throw, a thick and luxurious white flokati or shag rug, knit wool throw pillows and classic tweed upholstery fabrics. This touchable palette is classic and chic in tones of gray, taupe and ivory and is the perfect warm up to the cold weather.
  • Try this chic, unexpected update to the outside of your home to catch every neighbor's eye this season: window frames, mullions and muttons painted in very dark colors.
  • Bring in tile accents. Rather than a glass accent tile, look for a hand-painted, glazed and natural tile to achieve a classic look. Concrete tiles with color and pattern are a great update for a modern treatment.
  • Comfort and coziness are a must as the weather cools down. Utilize natural materials throughout your home, such as wood and antiqued leather. Add cut white birch logs to your fireplace for a warm update and try an upholstery piece covered in an antique-style woven rug to add rustic flair.
Source: Ace Hardware

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survey: Financing Hard to Come by for Remodels

December 11, 2014 2:54 am

How difficult is it for homeowners to get financing for a remodeling project?

Recent research from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) concludes that the majority of professional contractors place obtaining financing in a ‘neutral’ to ‘difficult’ range. NARI’s Remodeling Business Pulse, which monitors the health of the remodeling industry, indicates that just 30 percent of contractors believe it is either ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ for clientele to secure funds.

An overly cautious financing company creates the biggest barrier for homeowners, according to 38 percent of professional contractors surveyed. High-cost projects relative to the home’s value were also a factor, with 27 percent of professional contractors reporting that cost vs. value concerns also resulted in obstacles for homeowners.

Poor credit history followed, but only for a few – just 11 percent of professional contractors believe it to be an impediment to a remodel.

The research also reveals:
  • If cash or checks were not used, banks or credit unions were the dominant source of financing (72 percent). Credit card usage for renovations accounted for only 20 percent of responses.
  • Very few professional contractors arranged financing for their client (6 percent).
  • Ninety-six percent of professional contractors accepted checks as a form of payment; one-quarter accepted credit cards, home equity loans, bank home improvement loans or cash.
Source: NARI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Ideas to Wrap up Holiday Decorating

December 10, 2014 2:54 am

With the holidays (and a house full of guests) fast approaching, lighten your load and wow visitors this year with these last-minute finishing touches to your décor.

Few things make a home feel more like the holidays than a spectacular display of lights. Provide a warm welcome to friends and family by using 100 lights for every foot and a half of tree or shrub you want to cover.

Line the staircase with potted poinsettias, which start as low as $6 each and come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Deck out the foyer by grouping scented candles or votives on a side table for some instant cheer as guests arrive.

Fill glass vases or jars with ornaments or pinecones, and string holiday cards or ornaments around a mirror or tuck cards into a frame for a classic twist on a festive favorite.

In the living room, single out one focal point to decorate. For fireplaces, frame your hearth with pre-lit, artificial or live Christmas trees, or hang a wreath above the mantle. If you choose live trees, water them daily and make sure the trunk is always submerged in water.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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HELOCs Go Beyond Home Improvements

December 10, 2014 2:54 am

While half of homeowners who have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) acquired the loan for home renovations, an increasing number of homeowners rely on the loan for other needs, according to a recent Consumer Borrowing Index survey from TD Bank. Research from over 1,350 U.S. homeowners with a HELOC provides insight into those needs, along with usage and perceptions of the loan.

"We're seeing an increasing interest in HELOCs this year, suggesting a rebound in consumer confidence related to rising home values," said Michael Kinane, Head of Mortgage and Consumer Lending Products, TD Bank. "Using this type of financing to add value to your property is a strategic move when it comes to today's real estate market. HELOCs currently offer consumers the convenience and flexibility to borrow what they need at a better interest rate than most other lines of credit."

A HELOC is secured by a consumer's home and typically requires 80 percent equity. According to the Index, 53 percent of homeowners report the value of their home has increased within the past few years, meaning consumers have more equity in their homes to borrow. The survey also revealed that 30 percent of homeowners are applying for a HELOC of $100,000 or more, though the average loan secured is only $87,000. Those who shopped around tended to get a higher value loan. Additionally, individuals who went with their primary financial institution but did consider other lenders secured an average HELOC of $92,000, or $5,000 more than those who only considered their primary financial institution.

According to the Index, the top motivators behind acquiring a HELOC are:
  • Debt consolidation (29 percent)
  • Major home purchases (24 percent)
  • Emergency funds (19 percent)
  • Education costs (20 percent)
The Index also found that consumers are often using HELOC funds for expenses beyond those originally intended. For instance:
  • While 24 percent of HELOC borrowers used the loan for emergencies, a smaller 19 percent actually anticipated using it that way.
  • Twenty-seven percent purchased a new vehicle, while only 21 percent reported they intended to use the loan for this reason.
  • Although 18 percent of borrowers used their HELOC for medical and healthcare expenses, a slightly smaller 14 percent had actually anticipated using the loan for this reason.
Despite the popularity of HELOCs, there is still uncertainty and misunderstanding among many homeowners regarding the terms and conditions of their loan. The Index found:
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers are paying some form of HELOC fee, such as an annual fee (30 percent), origination fee (30 percent) or prepayment fee (15 percent). However, one in five homeowners are unsure if they are paying fees.
  • Half of those surveyed do not know if they have any fixed-rate opportunities during their draw period, which on average is between five and 10 years.
  • The majority of millennials (59 percent) surveyed think that a HELOC interest rate is higher than interest rates for a student loan; 43 percent believe HELOC rates are higher than credit card interest rates.
Source: TD Bank

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Tips for Optimal Lighting at Home

December 10, 2014 2:54 am

With each passing year, everyone requires more light to see properly. In a Catch-22 scenario, the amount of light required to sustain visual performance increases with age, and, over time, human eyes become more sensitive to glare – with more light often leading to increased glare, how can homeowners ensure they’re getting adequate lighting at home?

The American Lighting Association (ALA) encourages homeowners to consider user age as a factor when designing a lighting concept at home. A few simple lighting adjustments that will benefit aging eyes include:
  • Turning on one or two table lamps while watching television to reduce the contrast between the bright screen and surrounding darkness
  • Using a torchiere for uplighting along with downward illumination for versatility
  • Installing a fixture with a separate, pivoting task light attached, or one with a glass bowl at the top to shine light downward
  • Exposing yourself to bright light, such as daylight, early in the morning and sleep in a dark room at night
“As people get older, it isn’t just the amount of light – it is also when it is applied that is key to regulating things such as circadian rhythm and REM sleep cycles,” says Terry McGowan, Director of Engineering for the ALA.

Source: ALA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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