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

Harness the Beauty of Fall and Winter to Get Your Home Sold

October 17, 2014 12:47 pm

Conventional wisdom says that spring and summer are the best seasons for selling a home since people typically want to be moved and settled into their new space so that they can enjoy the summer months. However, for anyone looking to sell their home, it’s important to remember that sales don’t come to a standstill during the colder seasons. In fact, there are plenty of people looking to buy in the fall, including first-time buyers, people relocating for a job and even empty nesters.

This offers a unique opportunity for sellers to help their homes stand out. For the fall, this means raking leaves, with a focus on keeping them off driveways and walkways. And don’t neglect your lawn just because it’s fall. Grass grows in the fall, so take the time to keep your lawn well-manicured.

It’s also important to use the weather to your advantage. If it’s a nice day, open the windows to let the fresh air in, so long as the air doesn’t make your house too cold. Also, open curtains and blinds to let in the sunshine and the picturesque fall foliage.

In addition, make sure your heating system is in excellent working condition. If it’s cold outside, you want the inside of your home to be warm in order to create a cozy, welcoming feeling. Keeping the heat on and being able to say the system works well can be a huge selling point.

If you’re listing your home this fall, don’t be afraid to get in the holiday spirit. But don’t overdo it. The addition of a few subtle Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations can have guests envisioning themselves spending the holidays in your home. Consider decorating with subtle fall pumpkins of various colors and sizes.

You may also want to add a special touch by baking. The smell of a warm pie during the fall, or even cookies throughout the holiday season, go a long way toward creating a nice, homey touch. Just make sure your kitchen is perfectly cleaned and organized; don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re baking or cleaning while people visit.

If you’re thinking of selling during the winter, be sure the photos of your house used in listings were taken in the spring or summer. The last thing you want is for online real estate sites to showcase your house covered in snow and ice.

And last but not least, maintaining your home is key. During the fall season, make sure there are no leaves or wet shoes in the hallway or foyer. As winter approaches, be cognizant of keeping the entrance dry and free of snow boots.

A house can sell at any time, during any season, so stay positive and use the beauty of fall and winter to your advantage.

For more information about selling your home this fall or winter, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Tips to Keep in Mind as You Prepare for a Home Inspection

October 17, 2014 12:47 pm

Preparing your home for its market debut can seem overwhelming, but making repairs or taking care of anything cosmetic that needs to be fixed is an important piece of the puzzle. And for those looking to sell, taking the time to prepare for an inspection is just as important—if not more so.

Whether your inspection is right around the corner—or a few months down the road—consider the following tips so that you and your home are prepared well before inspection day arrives.

1. Remove clutter. Don’t make your inspector’s job any harder by neglecting to move items that may make it difficult to get to the basement, bathroom and even the far corners of the house. Not only will the inspector need to look at every room, he or she will also have to examine the walls, ceilings and floors, in addition to looking closely at the outside of the home. Make sure walkways are clear of any and all clutter so that your inspector can easily see everything he or she needs to see.

2. Remember the attic. Your home inspector will also want to take a peek at the attic, so be sure there’s a walkable path for easy access. It’s also important to make sure the opening isn’t blocked by anything. And be sure to clean up any dust or cobwebs ahead of time.

3. Turn utilities on. You don’t want to hold up the inspector, so make sure all the major components of the house are up and running. This includes the water, power and gas. If the house utilizes fuel oil, make sure there’s enough oil to fill the furnace so that there are no delays.

4. Clear space to the fuse box. Electrical panels are an important part of any home inspection, and since they are often located in areas with limited access such as storage rooms or closets, visibility is often an issue. Therefore, it’s crucial that these spaces are easy to get to. It’s also a good idea to replace light bulbs in these areas so that there’s enough light to see clearly.

5. Keep pets at bay. The last thing you want is an inspection to get off on the wrong foot because your pet jumped on the inspector upon his arrival, or started barking incessantly. Not everyone loves animals the way you might, and an aggressive pet can be problematic. When inspection day arrives, be sure to keep your pet confined to one room. Or, better yet, take your furry friend out for a walk or set up a playdate in advance.

6. Make plans. While you may be inclined to tag along on the home inspection, the truth is, homeowners only get in the way of the process. And the inspector really doesn’t want you there. Instead, do something fun with your friends, go see a movie or take care of things that need to get done before moving day arrives.

Planning ahead will not only result in a smoother home inspection, but a happy outcome as well.

For more information about properly preparing for a home inspection, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Pets and Home Sales

October 17, 2014 12:47 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 six crucial tips you can’t afford to ignore when preparing for a home inspection. Other topics covered this month include simple tips for choosing a stager and how to use the fall and winter seasons to your advantage when it comes to getting your home sold. 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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7 Cardinal Rules to Retirement Planning

October 17, 2014 1:50 am

An onslaught of retiring baby boomers; the uncertain duration of Social Security funding; difficulty with workplace retirement accounts like 401(k)s—even if these factors were stronger than they are now, you’d still have a heavy burden in managing your finances during retirement, says financial planner Carl Edwards.

“Financial planning for retirement has always been a daunting prospect; the current landscape simply makes your preparation that much more crucial in using your assets well,” says Edwards, a highly credentialed consultant and owner of C.E. Wealth Group, (http://www.cewealth.com).

“Many advisors and clients rely too much on single product lines. This misuse often gives products and the financial industry in general a bad name. Advisors who are restricted in the types of financial products they can offer or understand may not provide the best advice. Independent and credentialed planners, on the other hand, don’t have their hands tied in what they can offer clients and may provide better advice.”

Edwards reviews seven essential points that everyone should know regarding retirement planning.

• Avoid trying to time the market. Markets often move in cycles and some investors believe that they can boost their investment returns by buying at the bottom and selling at the top. The problem is that investors are terrible at correctly predicting market movements and multiple studies have shown that market timers usually end up with significantly smaller retirement savings than buy-and-hold investors. While it can be stressful to see your portfolio plummet during a market correction, it’s important to stay calm and focus on your long-term strategy.

• Use risk-appropriate financial vehicles. Retiring can be a risky business. The days of relying on employer-provided pension plans are largely over and retirees now have to deal with risks including investment, inflation, healthcare, longevity and others. Though the total elimination of risk isn’t possible, we can manage many of them through competent retirement planning and a clear understanding of factors like your goals, time horizon and financial circumstances.

• Invest in the most tax-efficient manner. Taxes can take a big bite out of investment returns, which is why we stress tax-efficient planning with our clients. While taxes are just one piece of the overall financial puzzle, it’s important to structure your investments so that you are able to keep what you earn.

• Complete a cash flow analysis.
Retirement will involve major changes to your finances. Sources and timing of income will change and financial priorities may shift as you start generating income from retirement savings. A cash flow analysis will identify spending patterns and help ensure that you have enough income to support your retirement lifestyle.

• Guarantee your required income. For many retirees, having income that is not subject to market fluctuations is an important part of their retirement plan. Many will have at least some level of guaranteed income from Social Security or defined benefit pension plans. However, if you are worried that your expenses exceed your guaranteed income, a financial advisor can help you explore options for additional streams of income for life. Guarantees are subject to the paying ability of the income provider.

• Utilize longevity planning.
Today’s retirees are living longer than ever and many worry about outliving their assets. Longevity planning is about preparing for a happy, comfortable and independent retirement and can help ensure that your wealth lasts as long as you need it to.

• Consider the effects of inflation.
Inflation is one of the biggest issues facing retirees because they are disproportionately affected by rising prices. Escalating food, fuel and medical costs can devastate a retirement portfolio unless these costs have been factored into your planning. Positioning your retirement portfolio to fight inflation is critical to ensuring adequate income in retirement.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Six Ways to Save on Halloween

October 17, 2014 1:50 am

Did you know that Americans will spend a projected $75 per person in their household for Halloween this year? While that number might seem steep, particularly if you have kids who plan to dress up, there are plenty of ways to save money on costumes, candy, decor, and more. Follow these tips from authority credit expert Creditnet.com to avoid getting spooked by your credit card bill this Halloween.

1. Use Rewards Credit Cards

Many credit cards offer rewards or points for spending on everyday purchases. You can earn significant amounts of cash back, points, or miles just by buying candy and pumpkins from the grocery store, costumes online, or even DIY costume supplies from your local market. Halloween is a great time to maximize these credit card rewards and earn extra money on your Halloween expenses.

2. Consider Homemade Costumes


If you are at all crafty, get creative when preparing costumes for your family. In most cases, DIY Halloween costumes can be had for a fraction of the cost of their store-bought counterparts, and are often way more fun to put together. If you have kids who are old enough, get them in on the act of making their own costumes. Look to websites and online forums for inspiration to make easy costumes with plenty of personality.

3. Think Second-Hand

Kids' consignment stores are a great resource for Halloween costumes, especially since they are typically only worn once. You can find tons of adorable costumes in like-new condition, especially for younger children. Online yard sale sites are also a great place to look. And check with friends with older kids -- they may have hand-me-downs in the basement or garage. Shopping thrift stores for the components to a costume is also a smart way to save money.

4. Scour Your Own Basement

Do you have kid costumes from previous years that you can repurpose? Even small items like fairy wings or superhero masks can mean big savings if you don't need to buy these pieces again. You can also sell or trade old costumes to earn money to spend on new duds for this year's holiday. Consider organizing a swap with neighbors to get new-to-you costumes for free.

5. Think Outside the Candy Box

Non-candy treats to hand out to trick-or-treaters, such as pencils, erasers, rubber spiders, and other trinkets, are often much less expensive than candy. Another upside is that you can often return the items that don't get handed out. If you do decide to hand out candy, look for printable coupons. The day or two before the holiday is often the best time to buy.

6. Plan Ahead

If you are a newlywed, have a new home, or are otherwise low on Halloween decor, think ahead for next year by buying holiday items at deep discounts on November 1. By stocking your basement ahead of time, you'll have everything you need for next year at a fraction of the cost.

Source: Creditnet.co

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Bring Your Halloween Home Décor Back from the Dead

October 17, 2014 1:50 am

(BPT) - Halloween has its fair share of iconic symbols: ghosts, witches, mummies and pumpkins, just to name a few. But if your home decor is becoming just as iconic, it may be time to change it up and take your decorating in a new direction.

There are many directions you can go with a decoration theme. Certainly, the colors of black and orange can be integrated into the decor with the use of pumpkins or candles; these items still scream Halloween and can be displayed elegantly.

"For a more sophisticated look, combine dark red arrangements of roses, cover them in black hat veiling so you see the roses through the veil and tie them together with black satin ribbon," Gary LaVasser, academic director in set and exhibit design at The Art Institute of California, suggests. "If you want to go a little further, place the arrangement on an inexpensive black placemat and drip dark red nail polish from a few rose petals onto the placemat. It will look like the roses are bleeding."

LaVasser also has these tips for alternative but sophisticated Halloween decor:
  • Use vintage Halloween toys from the 1930s, 40s or 50s as part of the design. If they are worn they'll have more character. Combine them with garlands of silk fall leaves available at most craft stores, tree branches or wheat and place on mantels or dining tables.
  • Paint objects black that are normally not this color. For example, jack-o-lanterns are orange so spray them black for a twist on a familiar item. Also, consider painting real flowers black. To make objects more interesting, select different black textures such as matte, glitter, satin, gloss or metallic paints.
  • The colors of fall are rich earth tones and these colors are also tied to Halloween. Add a little "punch" by using a deep purple color - it can be an interesting contrast to oranges and gold tones. Also consider using metallic gold, copper and pewter colors. You can paint leaves or pumpkins with these shades as well. 
  • Look for inspiration among different cultures and learn how they celebrate certain holidays or Halloween. A Latino tradition is Day of the Dead, which is observed on November 1st and 2nd. It celebrates family and friends who have passed and the decor includes folk art, candles, colorful flowers and bright ribbons.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 10 Things That Make Your House Spooky - and How to Fix Them

October 16, 2014 1:50 am

The Plan Collection (TPC) notes that having a haunted-looking house might be just the look you want once a year, but what about once Halloween's over? The company shares their list of the top 10 elements of a house plan design that can make any home the scariest in the neighborhood along with advice on how to fix them.

1. Eerie Architectural Style. Remember the rather "unique" look of the home in The Addams Family? Norman Bates' house on the hill in Psycho? Certain architectural styles - such as Victorian and the Second Empire style with its mansard roofs - have a long history in spooky literature and horror films. Ironically, we often associate these same styles with some of the most cheerful and charming places in the country - just think Disney's Main Street USA.

2. Lifeless Color Scheme. Dark paint colors, when used as the primary exterior color, can make almost any home look dreary, uninviting. Lighter paint colors that complement the design of your house are often the better choice for the exterior of your home. Reserve your use of darker color to areas that emphasize special features such as the trim or windows.

3. Ghostly Lighting. No one wants to knock on the door of a house without exterior lighting, but lighting features that cause heavy shadows along walk-ways or at entry points - creating that fear that something or someone might be lurking just ahead -- can be even worse. Redirecting the light features or using lower wattage bulbs is often an easy way to chase the ghosts away. If investing in new lighting, consider lamps that emphasize the beauty of your home's exterior features.

4. Zombie Landscaping. Those trees and bushes might have looked perfectly sized to the house for perhaps the first five years after planted, but don't forget... they're alive. Alive! Neglected trees and shrubs keep growing and need constant tending. Without attention, they end up surrounding your house with an "undead" feel. In addition to detracting from the house design, older, large branches are also a risk to your home in storms. Take those pruners and cut off some heads or at least give everything a good trim.

5. Suspended Maintenance. Most everyone puts at least some repairs off, but rigorous home maintenance is essential. Spring and fall are the best time of year to start checking fix-it projects off your list. Fix that step before you have to fix the entire stairs! If the exterior is starting to look dull consider power washing it. Touch up paint before a small problem becomes a big one.

6. Scary Windows. Small windows or windows covered with heavy drapery create a more somber feel. For small windows, use brighter window treatments to lighten the mood. Take advantage of any larger windows to bring outdoor light into the home.

7. Creepy Front Door. Ever have second thoughts before knocking on a front door while trick-or-treating? Well, the size and color of the entry door play a big role in making first impressions. If the front door feels uninviting, think about using a bolder, friendlier color such as a bright red, or chase away the shadows by strategically using lighting.

8. Bone Chilling Floor Plan. Small rooms and narrow hallways make for a cramped, uninviting floor plan. Consider an open concept floor plan if buying or building a house. If renovating, be sure to consult a professional before removing walls in your current home, as they may be "load bearing" walls, and will have to be replaced with other supports or structures.

9. Mysterious Staircases. Narrow staircases with walls on both sides can be dark and creepy. Lowering a wall to open the staircase up to the room or hallway below can go a long way to dispelling some of the dark, scary mystery and making your stairs more inviting.

10. Horrifying Home Décor. Dark, oversized furniture and heavy rugs can have a tendency to make a home feel less inviting. Stacks of stuff and excess clutter around the house? Not going to help the situation. Ask yourself if you really need all that stuff and if not, get rid of some of it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Pumpkin Carving with Power Tools

October 16, 2014 1:50 am

Want to use items you may already have to save time and effort on your Halloween pumpkins? Mr. Handyman has perfected pumpkin carving using power tools. Power tools are sturdier than pre-packaged carving kits, and help you achieve better results. Mr. Handyman shares five tips to make your pumpkins front-porch worthy this year:

• Cut off the Top: To remove the top of your pumpkin, use a jigsaw blade at a 45 degree angle around the top to remove the lid. Watch how quick and easy it is to open the pumpkin.

• Gut the Pumpkin: Purchase a pumpkin gutter tool for around $10 and save 20 minutes compared to scraping the insides with a spoon. Simply insert the pumpkin gutter into your drill, tighten, and quickly clean the insides without damaging the seeds.

• Drill Perfectly Circular Eyes: Use a ruler and mark two evenly spaced places for the eyes. Then, insert coring bits into the drill and to easily cut perfect holes for the eyes.

• Chip Away Pumpkin "Skin": One of the biggest trends in pumpkin carving is chipping away the "skin" or outermost layer of the pumpkin. To get this look, download one of our pumpkin carving templates, outline your design on the pumpkin using a pen or thumb tacks. Next, place the tip of a woodworking chisel underneath the skin and push away from the outside edge of your design.

• Create Mini Pumpkin Bats: Spray cardboard and mini pumpkins with black spray paint. Cut the cardboard into wing shapes, take a chisel to cut slips on the sides of the mini pumpkins, and insert the wings. Drill holes in the pumpkins and insert small bolts for eyes. You can insert an eye screw on the top so you can hang a dozen of these around your front door using fishing line.

Source: Mr. Handyman

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Least Expensive Fall and Thanksgiving Travel Destinations

October 15, 2014 1:50 am

Against the backdrop of rising airfares, new research from Fly.com reveals travelers can still save money this Thanksgiving and fall. But, to do so, travelers will need to fly westward.

Fly.com’s data study, which compared the average cost of flights to popular fall vacation spots in 2013 against 2014 prices, found that – with the exception of Dallas – the only destinations experiencing cheaper fares this fall are located in the western United States.

Surprisingly Hawaii, which is often associated with expensive airfares, offers the best deals for the Thanksgiving and post-Thanksgiving travel periods. In contrast, Florida’s continued popularity over the fall has played a role in rising fares. For instance, flights to Tampa between December 1-21 cost 25 percent more in 2014 compared with last year.

The Fly.com study also revealed that flights to popular fall destinations cost an average $105 more during the Thanksgiving travel period, but drop $123 post-Thanksgiving.

“To borrow the words of American author Horace Greeley, it is time to ‘go west,’” said Warren Chang, vice president and general manager, Fly.com. “For anyone still looking to use up their vacation days without breaking the bank, the West Coast and Mountain states offer something for every taste. There are also some amazing hotel deals out there for Hawaii and Los Angeles that can save travelers even more money.”

Source: Fly.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween

October 15, 2014 1:50 am

(Family Features) Including pets in your family's Halloween festivities can be a fun addition to your celebration. However, with all the excitement comes the chance for pets to get into danger or trouble. You can head off potential problems and enjoy an evening of fun with some safety tips and smart planning.

Keeping your pet away from candy and other Halloween treats is especially important because so many favorites include chocolate, which is potentially toxic for dogs. It's also an ideal time to practice obedience commands with your four-legged friends, as crowds of unfamiliar people, costumes and lots of open doors can create temptations too hard to resist.

To include your furry family members while still keeping them safe during the fun, follow these guidelines.

Trick-or-treating together
  • Before hitting the streets, make sure your dog is socialized around kids, adults and other animals.
  • Bring water and treats to reward your dog for good behavior and reduce the desire to go for kids' candy.
  • Increase nighttime visibility with LED leashes, collars or harnesses.
Pawsitively good party manners
  • Before guests arrive, practice "leave it" or a similar command. This is useful to help pets avoid candy or food they might encounter on the ground. Trainers can help you get it down right.
  • Establish a rule that guests don't feed the dog candy or human food. A new interactive toy or long-lasting rawhide may keep your pup busy and out of temptation's way. Many ingredients commonly found in Halloween candy can be harmful to your pet. For example, xylitol, found in gum and candy can cause dangerously low blood sugar or liver disease in dogs. Chocolate can create a range of symptoms, from vomiting to abnormal heart rhythm to death. Even snacks that are healthy for humans, such as raisins, can cause a toxic reaction.
  • Prevent your dog from running out an open door by working on a "stay" command. Ask your dog to sit, and praise him when he obeys. While your dog is sitting, say "stay" and place your hand flat with your palm facing the dog. Wait 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat. You can increase the time he stays by a couple of seconds every three repetitions, working up to 30 seconds.
  • If you aren't confident about your dog's abilities, keep him on a leash while the doorbell is ringing.
Costume comfort and safety
  • A costume should never constrain or bother your pet. If your pet isn't comfortable, try a strap-on costume that attaches loosely with snaps or around the pet.
  • Once a costume fits properly, make sure your pet won't trip on anything like a cape or ribbon. Check for little parts within chewing distance and keep identification tags on collars.
  • Throughout the evening, watch your pet and make adjustments as needed. You may need to cut or remove portions of the costume to increase a pet's comfort. The most important part of the evening is your pet's safety.
Source: PetSmart

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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