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

How to Protect Yourself from Door-to-Door Scams

June 13, 2017 12:36 am

While some door-to-door salespeople may be reputable, hard-working professionals, others are less ethical and looking to swindle you out of your signature on a contract. According to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), such scammers are usually armed with a clipboard and some sort of identification. Before opening the door, insist they pass their identification information to you so that you can verify their legitimacy.

The BBB advises keeping an eye out for the following front-door frauds:

- Pavers will claim they have material left over from another job in the neighborhood and offer a "today only" cut-rate discount. According to the BBB, the “discount” is usually just a ploy to get you to seal the deal and the result is substandard labor and materials. You may also be asked to make a deposit. Once you do, workers may start the work and subsequently disappear with your money.

- Deceptive sales tactics are another common door-to-door tactic, the most common being trying to sign-up consumers with electricity wholesalers or alarm monitoring services. These scammers may try to convince you to switch by saying that the company that monitors your alarm system is out of business, when in fact, it is not.

- Beware of door-to-door contractors who may be unlicensed, uninsured and unqualified to do the work they offer. Roofing contractors may make false claims that major repairs are necessary or that the roof needs replacement.

- The BBB receives numerous complaints about door-to-door alarm salespeople who sell burglar alarms but fail to disclose terms of the monitoring contract, perform shoddy work and give inadequate instructions on how to use the system.

Here are some tips from the BBB to protect yourself from the above scams and others:

Avoid making an immediate decision to buy something or sign a contract for a service. Check out the company’s credentials before committing.  

Do your research. Check with the BBB to find out if the company the salesperson is representing actually exists, and is qualified, insured and licensed to do business in your state. A legitimate company or professional will gladly provide such proof, and give you as much time as you need to do your research and make a sound buying decision.

If you need work done, services or goods, select an accredited business yourself at bbb.org. This will allow you to see what other consumers' experience was like with the company or individual.

Remember that safety is paramount. Some door-knockers are simply trying to determine whether anyone is home, with the intent to break and enter. Don't allow anyone inside your home.  

Don’t hesitate to call the police when warranted. Tell police if there is anything suspicious about the seller, such as their inability to provide proper identification, refusal to leave your property when asked or other unusual behavior.

Having the above knowledge will keep you and your family safe for the summer.

Source: Connecticut Better Business Bureau

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips to Avoid Binge-Watching Guilt

June 10, 2017 12:36 am

(Family Features)--Dozens of streaming video providers are making it easier than ever to watch the TV programming you want when you want it, and exclusive programming released an entire season at a time is transforming the way Americans watch TV. The flip side of this convenience is a surge in binge-watching, which can have some negative side effects, including binge eating. When your favorite show is available back-to-back, it's easy to let substantial blocks of time get away as you watch "just one more" episode to follow the twists and turns of the plot. In fact, according to a recent survey by Dole, the average binge-watching session clocks in around 5 hours. The same survey found that more than two-thirds of people prefer healthy snacks to fuel their marathon viewing.

Treating yourself to an occasional binge session may give your brain a well-earned break, and it's easy to do many forms of exercise in front of the screen. The trick to keeping your binge-watching session in check and getting rid of the guilt is to exercise good habits when you head to the kitchen.

- Opt for snacks that include valuable vitamins and minerals.

- Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy ingredients so you can create quick and easy snacks in between episodes or during a commercial break.

- Look for quick solutions that help trim prep time and skip the cutting, peeling and mess.

- Avoid waste or spoilage with convenient, re-sealable lids that let you use what you need for a single serving and save the rest for later.

- Get creative to satisfy cravings. Instead of reaching for cookies or cake, dip fruit in melted chocolate and pop it in the freezer. Let it sit while you watch a few episodes of your favorite show and then enjoy.

Source: DOLE

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Top Tips for Moving Out of State

June 10, 2017 12:36 am

Many moves don’t just involve driving to a new spot across town. If you have to haul yourself and your belongings across state, you’re likely facing a massive move. Below are a handful of moving tips from North Dallas Moving and Storage to help you navigate your out-of-state move.

 Choose a licensed mover. Depending on the requirements of your state, most moving companies require an active certificate of motor carrier registration, while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate movers. Make sure your moving company is licensed by these agencies.

Confirm BBB rating. Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to verify the mover's track record of customer satisfaction and complaint resolution.

Obtain a written quote. Reputable moving companies will provide you with a written proposal and quote detailing the services to be provided, pricing and payment details.

Determine liability coverage and insurance. Verify the mover's liability coverage for damage or loss, and decide whether you wish to purchase additional transit insurance.

Take advantage of free moving resources. Experienced movers understand the concerns and challenges customers face when preparing for relocation, and many offer helpful information. For example, NDMS provides detailed moving tips, including moving guides, questions to qualify a moving company, pre-packing checklists, items to keep in possession during a move, and more.

Review customer feedback. It's always wise to find out what other customers have to say about the moving company. Look for testimonials on the mover's website, check public consumer review sites and see if the mover has earned any awards that reflect client satisfaction.Source: North Dallas Moving and Storage

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How Stocked is Your Home Hurricane Kit?

June 10, 2017 12:36 am

Weathering hurricane season is no fair-weather fun. From dragging the lawn furniture inside to stocking up on non-perishables, it’s important to be ready for high winds and power outages. According to Mercury Insurance, stocking a hurricane kit is another key safety solution for hurricane season.  

The company suggests you keep the following items handy:

- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person), non-perishable food items and pet food, if applicable;
- A battery-powered or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries);
- A flashlight;
- A first aid kit;
- A whistle to signal for help;
- A can opener;
- Blankets;
- Pliers or a wrench to turn off utilities;
- $200 in cash in small bills, as power may be out, making ATMs, debit and credit cards unusable; andPrescriptions for you and your pets.

Source:  Mercury Insurance

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Closing Cost Primer: Know Your Terms

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

Buying a home is undoubtedly one of the most expensive ventures of your lifetime. But it’s important to understand that much more goes into budgeting for a new home than the price of the house itself—like closing costs.

Closing costs are fees charged by the lender at the closing of your real estate transaction, and usually amount to thousands of dollars. Your real estate agent can explain and estimate what all of your particular closing costs will be, as they vary by state, but here is a handy list of terms and definitions from Bankrate.com to help bring you up to speed. Real estate lingo can be confusing, so becoming familiar with these terms in advance will help demystify the closing process.

Origination, broker, lender or originator: A fee charged to create a home loan. It's often a set percentage of the mortgage amount.

Discount points: A fee in the form of mortgage interest paid upfront. In exchange for this fee, the lender reduces the interest rate. One point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.

Appraisal: A fee that is passed on to a company that renders an opinion about the real value of the home, independent of its listing or negotiated price. That value is then compared against what the borrower has agreed to pay.

Credit report: A fee charged to order a history of your financial life. It includes details about your behavior as a bill payer, the amount of debt you owe, your available credit and any inquiries that companies make to obtain this information, such as your mortgage lender. A good credit report means better loan terms.

Tax service: A fee to cover the cost of hiring a company to verify the amount of real estate taxes due and making sure they're paid.

Flood certification: A fee that covers the assessment of whether a property is in a flood zone. If it is, the new homeowner must buy a flood insurance policy.

Title services: Charges for administrative costs (such as title search) associated with the delivery of title insurance, as well as the services provided by a title or escrow agent.

Title insurance: A policy that guarantees that an owner has the title to a property and can legally transfer it to someone else. Should a problem arise, the title insurer pays any legal damages. A policy may protect the mortgage lender, the homebuyer, or both.

Attorney, closing or settlement: The amount paid to an attorney for witnessing the mortgage loan transaction.
Document preparation: A fee a lender charges to a borrower for producing the documents signed at the closing table.

Inspections (pest, etc.): A fee paid to a certified person who searches the dwelling for termites and other destructive creatures.

Postal/courier: This fee covers what it costs a lender to send paperwork to the other entities involved in the mortgage transaction.

Survey: A fee charged to hire a licensed surveyor to get an accurate measurement of the property and its boundaries.

Wire transfer fee: The amount charged to transfer funds needed to close on a home loan.

Contact me today for more valuable real estate information.

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What Tax Reform Could Mean for Homeowners

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

There is so much information swirling out of Washington, D.C., these days, it’s hard for the average person to keep up, let alone determine how they will be affected by various changes to legislation. When it comes to tax reform, however, it’s important to get a handle on how proposed changes will impact your wallet—especially for homeowners.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), tax reform proposals may actually mean a tax increase for many middle-income homeowners. According to the study, “Impact of Tax Reform Options on Owner-Occupied Housing,” homeowners with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would see their taxes rise by an average of $815. The study also estimates that combined tax savings from claiming the mortgage interest deduction and real estate property tax deductions would drop 82 percent between the 2018 and 2027 period.

The study, which was commissioned by NAR and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), estimates that this tax increase would result from the interaction of several provisions in the reforms under consideration. For many homeowners that currently benefit from the mortgage interest deduction, the elimination of other itemized deductions and personal exemptions would cause their taxes to rise, even if they elected to take the increased standard deduction. For others, the elimination of the state and local tax deduction alone would result in higher federal income taxes.

In addition to increasing taxes on many middle-income homeowners, the report finds that such a proposal could cause home values to fall by an average of more than 10 percent in the near term. In areas with higher property taxes or state income taxes, the drop could be even greater. Although the study doesn’t directly analyze the “Better Way for Tax Reform” plan or the recent White House outline, it examines a proposal with many similar elements.

Those elements include lowering and consolidating marginal tax rates to only three rates, setting a top income tax rate of 33 percent, doubling the standard deduction, eliminating all itemized deductions (other than charitable contributions and mortgage interest) and personal exemptions, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, and capping the tax rate on pass-through business income at 25 percent.

PwC estimated that roughly 35 million households will claim the mortgage interest deduction in 2018, three quarters of which have incomes between $50,000 and $200,000. According to NAR, roughly 70 percent of those eligible for the mortgage interest deduction claim it in a given tax year.

Once tax reform is finalized and passed into law, be sure to consult with your accountant before filing your taxes to ensure you’re taking the proper deductions.

For even more valuable real estate information, contact me today.

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Patio Panic: From Frustrating to Fab in 1 Hour

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

Whether it’s an intimate al fresco dinner date or a backyard bash, there’s nothing quite like outdoor entertaining. But if your patio is in sore shape, you might be tempted to relegate guests to the inside. Don’t be intimidated by your patio’s disarray and miss the opportunity to take the party outside. With these quick tips, your outdoor space can be entertainment-worthy in less than an hour.
  1. Task the trimmers. Give the branches, grasses and shrubs surrounding your patio a nice, neat haircut before guests arrive. Not only will this make the area look manicured and orderly, it will make your patio feel more spacious.
  2. Fire up the leaf blower. Who said these wonderful tools are just for leaves? A quick trip around your patio with the leaf blower will remove the trimmings you just cut, along with other dirt and debris, in seconds.
  3. Freshen up the furniture. After you’ve gotten dust and leaves off the furniture with the leaf blower, use a big sponge or mop to wash down your tables and chairs with a quick solution of liquid dish detergent and water, then hose it all down. Flip cushions to the reverse side.
  4. Work some magic. Nothing turns your outdoor space from ordinary to spectacular faster than a little outdoor lighting. Think tiki torches, large candles in hurricane lamps, string lights and solar lanterns.
  5. Finagle some florals. You don’t have to find time to run to the florist. Quickly clip an assortment of flowers, grasses, pine boughs and even bare branches from around your yard to make stunning and natural arrangements. Gather them in mason jars, tin cans (labels peeled off, please) or painted buckets for a homey look, or raise the bar by bringing some of your indoor crystal vases outside.
  6. Rearrange the furniture. Help the flow of the party by strategically placing chairs and tables in spots where you want people to gather. Set up the bar in its own area and place nibbles on a variety of resting spots so everyone doesn’t clutter around one food area. This will not only add visual appeal, but help steer the flow, encourage conversation and show off your patio’s best features. 
For more real estate tips, contact me today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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For Millennial Parents, Finances Weigh Heavily

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

Not all millennials are the free-spirited, independent go-getters we imagine them to be. Some of them are parents with real-world concerns, such as finances. In fact, according to a study from Microban in conjunction with Turner Research Network, 64 percent of millennials surveyed cited finances and money as their No. 1 worry, and 92 percent of the millennial parents surveyed agreed that being financially secure was a significant concern.

The online survey of more than 1,000 U.S. millennial parents revealed that the group is not only concerned about being able to provide what their family wants and needs, but job stability as well. Fifty-six percent said financial security, including having more money, a better job or a job that pays better, and a new house or place to live, were things they wish they could change.

Like many in today’s frenetic culture, 75 percent of millennial parents are also concerned about not having enough time to do the things they’d like to do, such as spending more time with their family, friends, spouse or partner, hobbies, exercise or home improvement projects. When millennial parents do manage to secure some free time, chores take a back seat—74 percent report being worried about keeping a clean house.

Is financial freedom out of reach for millennial parents? Not at all. Here are some ways to create a more comfortable future:
  • Commit to paying down debt, starting with your highest interest-rate credit cards. Strive to make more than the minimum payment each month.
  • Pay yourself first by putting a set amount into your savings from every paycheck.
  • Set a household budget and stick to it. Tracking your expenses each month will reveal where you can cut back and save.
  • Start a retirement account. It’s never too early to do so, even if you can only contribute a small amount to start.
  • Consider a side gig. While you don’t want to spend even more time working, put your passion to good use with freelance or contract work. Then devote all of those earnings to your savings. 
Interested in real estate tips? Contact me today for more information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Before You Kick Back, Make Sure Your Home Is Summer-Ready

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

Summer allows us to slow down, stop and smell the roses and take a break from the rapid pace we usually run during the rest of the year. But before you hit the hammock and fire up the grill, take a look around your home. There are a few important maintenance checks that need to be made first.
According to Travelers Insurance, it’s important to take care of any damage that might have been caused during the winter months as soon as possible, before they become more daunting and more costly projects. Conduct an inspection both inside and outside your home and look for the following:
  • Doors and windows. Make sure locks are functioning properly and check your window screens for any holes. Go outside and check window and door frames for any evidence of damage.
  • Electrical outlets and cords. Look for any fire hazards such as frayed wires or ill-fitting plugs.
  • The plumbing. Look for leaks or problems with the float valve in your toilet and check all of its pipe connections. This is also a good time to check washing machine hoses, replacing any that show signs of wear and tear.
  • The furnace. Clean or replace your furnace filter, your dryer vent and the space under your dryer, all of which can present fire hazards.
  • Outdoor wooden structures. The wet weather of winter and spring can take a toll on steps, decks and playground equipment, so look carefully for rot, deterioration and protruding nails.
  • The roof. While there may not be any visible damage to your roof, it’s a good idea to have a professional inspector check for any potential leaks.
  • The perimeter. Take a stroll around your entire home and look closely for any other signs of damage, especially to gutters, shingles, trees and the foundation. 
Now that you know your home is safe and sound, head over to that lounge chair and start soaking in the summer.

Contact me today for more real estate tips and information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Get Your Home in Shape for Summer

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines simple ways to ensure your home is ready for the upcoming summer season. Other topics covered this month include quick tips to transform your patio and important real estate lingo you should know before you get to the closing table. 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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