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 Keep Children Happy with Kid-Friendly Spaces

September 16, 2014 1:48 am

(BPT) - Would a great study space ease your child's transition from summer to school? Perhaps an awesome lounge area could convince your teens - and all their friends - that your house is the best hangout spot ever. Whatever your objectives, a few design and decorating tricks can help you create a kid-friendly space in your home.

Good design basics that make grown-up spaces appealing also work in children's spaces. When designing a kid-friendly room, however, it's important to keep in mind not only the purpose of the room (study, fun, sleep, etc.), but the age of the occupant, his or her interests, as well as incorporating fun into the design. Here are some tips to get you started:

Consider creating a theme.
Kids of all ages love themes. To decide which one might be right for your project, consider things your child has shown an enduring interest in. For example, she may be into princesses right now and hate the theme next year. On the other hand, if she's always loved the color pink and has a passion for animals, those elements could be worked into a theme that she'll appreciate for years to come.

Choose flooring that fulfills multiple needs. Carpeting absorbs sound (for when kids play loud video games or music) and is comfortable for youngsters who like to sit or lie on the floor while they do homework, read, watch television or socialize. Stain-resistant formulas and durable fibers ensure modern carpeting can stand up to the rigors of use in a child's room. And, according to the Carpet & Rug Institute, properly cleaned carpet can maintain indoor air quality, making it a viable choice for families impacted by asthma and allergies.

A child's space needs layers of lighting, just as adult spaces do. As you're choosing lighting, keep in mind how your child will use the room. If he will be doing homework, task lighting and desk lights will illuminate study areas. Will the room be a movie room or a "hangout" for older teens? Recessed and dimmable lighting may be appropriate. Don't forget to include natural light in your illumination plans. Avoid heavy drapery and opt for bright colors and lightweight materials for window treatments so windows admit ample light. If you have a larger budget, consider adding a skylight to provide light while preserving privacy.

Organization is key in a child's room, and ample storage facilitates good organization. Depending on the size of the room and how it will be used, shelving, portable cubes, book cases and other furnishings can provide plenty of storage space. For desks, look for desktop organizers that will keep important papers and supplies tidy and close at hand. By helping kids stay organized now, you'll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of good organizational skills.

Remember the fun factor. Whatever the purpose of a child's room, fun should be a universal theme. You can infuse fun in a room in many ways, from creating a video game center for lounge rooms to choosing colorful, texturally appealing carpeting for a bedroom. A touch of whimsy, such as a swing hung from the ceiling or a wall mural of your child's favorite cartoon character, can produce smiles every time kids see them.

With some creativity and the right decorating materials, it's possible to create a space that will make children comfortable, happy and ready to tackle the new school year.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Continue to Show Little Movement

September 16, 2014 1:48 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moved only slightly upward compared to the previous week following the increase in bond yields.

“Mortgage rates were up slightly this week, following the increase in 10-year Treasury yields, despite last week’s disappointing employment report,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac. “The U.S. economy added only 142,000 jobs in August, after a 212,000 gain in July and a 267,000 increase in June.”

The survey concluded:
  • 30-year fixed mortgage rate (FRM) average 4.12 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending September 11, 2014, up from last week when it averaged 4.10 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.57 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.26 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.24 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.59 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) average 2.99 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it average 2.97 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.22 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury indexed ARM averaged 2.45 percent this week with an average of 0.4 points, up from last week when it averaged 2.40 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.67 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Financial Lessons to Learn at a Young Age

September 16, 2014 1:48 am

If you want to secure a good financial future, it is important to develop good habits as early as possible. Even in childhood, people can begin to become financially responsible by doing small jobs to earn money and putting all or most of the money they receive in a savings account. By the time they reach their 20s, the lessons are a bit more complex, especially for those who did not have a solid financial foundation to begin with. Young adulthood is the perfect time to learn these important financial lessons. Creditnet.com, a leading online authority for finances, has announced these top five lessons consumers should learn at a young age:

Building Up Savings
It is never too early to start saving. In fact, due to compound interest, it is best to start as early as possible. A hundred dollars deposited in a savings account at the age of 20 will be worth far more in the long run than a hundred dollars deposited at the age of 30. For example, putting $10,000 in the bank when you're 20 will get you over $210,000 by the time you're 60. If you put the same amount in when you're 30, you'll only get about $160,000 at the age of 60. It may be difficult to think about the distant future at such a young age, but when it comes to retirement, many people wish that they had starting saving when they were much younger.

Saving at Regular Intervals
While it would be nice to put a large chunk of cash away in savings, most people don't have that kind of money lying around. Instead, the thing to do is to contribute to savings regularly. Commit to putting a set amount aside every month; at least a hundred dollars a month is an ideal amount. In many cases, you can have this money automatically withdrawn from your paychecks into your savings account so that it will accumulate almost without your noticing.

Avoiding Bad Debt and Securing Good Debt
Generally speaking, you should not buy anything that you can't pay for. It is all too easy to get into the habit of buying things on credit when you don't have the money to back it up. Unless you know for a fact that you can pay it off before it's due, you should not buy something with your credit card. Instead, you should learn to be frugal, avoiding unnecessary expenses like dinners out, magazine subscriptions and new clothes. However, it can be a good idea to acquire debt for the sake of a large purchase, such as a house. The key is to remember all of the expenses involved with a house beyond just the mortgage and not buy something out of your price range.

Getting Insurance Early
When you're young, it may seem silly to pay out a significant amount of money every month for something that you don't see benefiting you. However, it becomes harder and harder to get good insurance the older you get. You want to have a reliable policy in place so that when you need it, the insurance is available to you. If you don't pay for insurance early, you may end up having to pay much more later on.

Being Financially Aware
Finally, it's important to treat your finances like a priority. You don't have to make a lot of money to be in fairly solid financial shape. As long as you plan ahead and make wise decisions regarding the funds you bring in and the ways that you spend it, you will have at least some tools to help you get ahead in a fiscally challenging world.

Money causes a lot of stress in people's lives, but that stress can be diminished if you get an early start on being financially responsible. Save as much as you can as often as you can, don't go into debt unless you absolutely have to, and buy insurance even if it doesn't seem necessary to stay ahead of the game.

Source: Creditnet

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Tips for Hassle-Free Holiday Shopping

September 15, 2014 1:48 am

Looking to take the stress out of your holiday shopping this season?

Planning ahead and taking steps to protect yourself and your purchases can relieve a lot of shopping-induced stress, according to Jeff Unterreiner, a senior vice president with Assurant Solutions. Unterreiner offers these tips to help ensure your shopping this holiday season is hassle-free:

Budget planning

The easiest way to overspend is to approach your shopping without a budget. Determine ahead of time what you can afford to spend overall, and make sure the gifts on your list fit within your means. A smart strategy: leave yourself a little padding to accommodate potential budget-busting treasures you discover along the way.

Shop early
Start your shopping well ahead of the holidays to spare yourself the headache of unending lines and sold out shelves. Doing so can also help you save money, because it will give you more time to look for sales and promotions. When it comes to larger purchases, be sure you know the return policy and keep an eye on sales even after you buy. If the item is offered for a lower price within a certain timeframe, you may be able to get the difference refunded.

Reward programs
Take advantage of the many reward cards and incentive programs that let you earn cash back, goods and discounts. The holiday season is a great time to sign up, as many retailers offer bonus programs and extra perks for shoppers. In some cases, those rewards can be used immediately to trim your shopping budget or find something nice for yourself as a reward for being a savvy shopper.

Protect purchases
Many of the most-wanted gifts this season, like electronics and jewelry, are also the easiest to break or lose. Ensure your gifts keep giving long into the future by protecting your purchases with extended service plans. These plans offer a range of protection from things like mechanical breakdown, accidental damage, loss and theft, as well as services such as tech support. This protection can last long after the manufacturer's warranty expires.

Beat fraud

The frenzy of the holiday season can make you vulnerable to theft. Be sure you're using a debit or credit card that offers protection in the event of unauthorized purchases. If you don't already, now is also an ideal time to pay closer attention to your transaction log so you can quickly address any unfamiliar charges.

Source: Assurant Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Coupon Nation: Nearly All Americans Save with Coupons

September 15, 2014 1:48 am

RetailMeNot, a leading digital offers destination that helps consumers save money, recently reported that nearly all Americans (96 percent) are coupon users.

According to the report, the number of Americans who rely mostly on mobile coupons has been steadily increasing over the past few years. This consumer behavior coincides with retailers and brands moving their marketing promotions to mobile and digital formats.

Based on the level of coupon click activity in relation to each city's population, these are the top 10 metro areas that use coupons:
1. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro
2. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro
3. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro
4. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT Metro
5. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA Metro
6. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metro
7. Pittsburgh, PA Metro
8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro
9. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro
10. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY Metro
In the top 10 active couponing metros, clothing and food categories ranked consistently at the top for click activity, followed by electronics and home and garden.

The report also shows that interest in different types of deals varies:
  • Coupon users living in the Northeast are more likely than those living in other regions to be most interested in receiving a specific percentage off a purchase.
  • Those living in the South are more likely than those living elsewhere to be most interested in "buy one, get one free" deals.
  • More than 2 in 5 (43 percent) coupon users consider discounts up to 25 percent to be a good deal.
  • Respondents are most interested in deals that offer a specific dollar amount off of their purchase (30 percent).
Source: RetailMeNot

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Steps to Reclaim Your Space after Life Changes

September 15, 2014 1:48 am

Life events like purchasing a new home or a child moving out can leave homeowners facing a bare and empty room -- and a decorating challenge.

Decor&You, one of America's leading, full-service, interior decorating franchises, understands how overwhelming this process can feel. To begin the transformation, the company’s design experts encourage homeowners to visualize their empty space as a blank canvas where they have the opportunity to create a masterpiece.

"Finding yourself in a position to completely design a room is a rare occasion and can be exciting," stated Karen Powell, founder and CEO of Decor&You. "While the idea of decorating a room from scratch appears daunting, maintain a positive attitude and harness the situation as an opportunity to reclaim your space and make it your own. With the right approach, you can make the task of decorating into an enjoyable experience."

Powell offers these simple guidelines to create a space you love:
  • Assess the room: The first step in design is to get acquainted with the room. Gather measurements, make notes of large windows, doors and built-in shelves, and familiarize yourself with the geometry and space provided. By learning the shape of the room, you'll have insight into what furniture and décor pieces will best complement the room's silhouette.
  • Find something you love: The next step is to determine the overall theme. While it's typical to be overwhelmed by an infinite selection of colors, selecting a theme helps the rest of the room’s décor fall easily into place. One of the most effective strategies to ensure organized and cohesive décor is to start with something that you love. Whether it is a large sofa, a tiny, eccentric statement piece, a color, pattern or piece of art, this focal theme will dictate the remainder of the decorating process.
  • Make it happen: Reflect back on your theme and what you love; then, start with the basics. How can you create a background to support the color(s) in your theme? Where and how can you incorporate these via paint, wall coverings, pillows, bedding, a throw, an area rug, etc.? What is needed for the function of the room?
  • Elaborate: After you have decided on a wall color and furniture pieces, the final detail is to place everything thoughtfully. Ponder the purpose of the room and picture yourself living in the space. Consider what it's lacking in order to reach its full, functional potential. This is the time to emphasize "you". Visualize different embellishments. Try turning a hobby, such as a painting easel or book collection, into a display, or create a gallery by placing photos in matching frames.
Source: Decor&You

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Trim Moving Costs by Planning Ahead

September 12, 2014 5:39 pm

Whether you plan to pack up and move your belongings on your own or hire a moving company to do all the heavy lifting, one thing’s for certain: moving isn’t cheap.

A good moving company will cost thousands of dollars, and that number is likely to increase if you hire them to pack everything as well. Or, if you don’t have a new home yet and need to store everything in the meantime, the cost for the moving company to store everything can get pricey.

Therefore, it’s important to compare moving companies ahead of time in order to find the best rate. Be sure to look for hidden fees (distance, gas and size requirements) and factor in tips and tolls.

Since many moving companies base the price on weight, taking small, heavy items and packing them away in your car can help you save on the final cost. You may also want to consider holding a garage sale prior to the move in order to get rid of items you don’t want or need. This will keep you from moving things that are going to end up being thrown out or stored in the garage at your new destination.

Boxes are also a lot more money than many people realize. Small- and medium-sized boxes can run a few dollars a piece and larger, garment-sized boxes are nearly double that. While boxes can be found everywhere, take the time to go to your local grocery store or bookstore and ask if they have any to spare. Almost all do and will tell you the best times to come pick them up.

Another great idea is to go to freecycle.com or Craigslist and do a search for moving supplies. Many people who have recently moved will give away their boxes, peanuts and even bubble wrap for free—all you have to do is go pick up the supplies. Not only does this save them from having to tear down the boxes and dispose of them, it’ll also get you closer to your move.

You’ll also need to buy tape, bubble wrap and other protective coverings and packaging material. Buying in bulk will not only save you money, but will also ensure that you don’t run out.

If you don’t have too much stuff and you’re not going too far, you can save a great deal of money by renting your own U-Haul and gathering a group of friends to help you move. While it may cost you a little extra in pizza and beer, the money saved will be well worth it.

For more information about the costs associated with moving, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Water-logged Basements Pose Unique Challenges When It Comes Time to Sell

September 12, 2014 5:39 pm

A slew of weather-related catastrophes, including hurricanes, torrential rain and floods, have hit the U.S. in recent years, and as a result, homeowners across the board have had to deal with flooded basements.

But even heavy rain or snow can cause problems in certain homes, as foundations just can’t hold up against the water. For a house with a water problem like this, going up for sale can be a challenge, especially if heavy rains leave you with a few inches of water in the basement the day before an open house. Not only will there be no time to clean it up before a showing, it’ll also turn most prospective buyers off.

Not that you should hide the fact that there are water problems. You don’t want to be responsible for someone putting in an expensive remodel, only to have it ruined by water. But explaining to a potential buyer that there are water issues and having them actually see the water on the ground are two different things.

In most states, a seller is not allowed to conceal a major or material physical defect in the property. And most states require sellers to take a proactive role by making written disclosures on the condition of the property, including the basement and any water issues.

Plus, any good inspector should be able to tell a prospective buyer about any water damage the basement may have seen. Buyers can check for themselves during a showing as well. Seepage from foundation walls generally winds up on the floor and will leave stains on both the walls and the concrete floor. In finished areas where there is drywall or paneling, be sure to check the baseboards for signs of water.

The smartest thing for a seller to do is fix the problem. There are a number of reputable companies out there whose model is based on renovating basements and fixing all water issues. Repairing a leaky basement will pay back for itself several times over in the value of the home. In fact, studies show that a home’s value can drop by 10-20 percent because of a wet basement.

Something as simple as adding a sump pump and interior drainage system with a transferable warranty will do a great deal to help negotiations when meeting with prospective buyers.

Or, if you don’t want to go through any trouble with fixing the problem, be prepared to lower your price considerably so that the buyer has the funds to waterproof the basement once they move in.

For more information about taking care of water in the basement, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Theater Rooms Continue to Rise in Popularity

September 12, 2014 5:39 pm

People might be watching more TV on their tablets and cellphones these days, but that doesn’t mean the demise of the home television is occurring anytime soon. In fact, one of the largest increases in requests that real estate agents have gotten in recent years concerns the desire for a home to be equipped with a home theater room—or at least the space available to put one in.

For many Gen X and Gen Y homebuyers, especially men, a home theater is just as important as a large kitchen or walk-in closets.

Today’s home theaters utilize the latest in big screen projection, state-of-the-art surround sound and usually have lush, movie-style seating and couches—sometimes on multiple levels. A plethora of home theater companies have popped up and can work with buyers to retrofit an existing space such as a basement, or transform a different room in the house into the theater of their dreams.

Large, curved TVs are all the rage right now, and home theater technology is cheaper than it’s ever been. Real estate experts agree that home theaters add value to a home because technology has allowed families to bring the movie watching experience closer to home.

In fact, according to the Home Builders Association, in most new homes built with a $250,000+ price point, home theater or media rooms are almost standard now. Beyond a place where the family comes together to be entertained, studies show that next to the kitchen, the family room is the most occupied room of the house.

If selling a home with a home theater, there are several ways to make it more appealing prior to a showing. Begin by cleaning all surfaces, and be sure wiring is as discrete as possible. You’ll also want to store electronics that may look sloppy due to wires or size. While an abundance of seating is a crucial component in any home theater, if you’re in the process of showing your home, you may want to reduce the number of seating options in order to provide a more spacious look.

Odds are you’ll be taking your TV with you when you move, but be willing to make a deal should the new buyer ask you to leave the room in tact. It could add extra money to the deal so that you can upgrade to even newer and better equipment in your new home.

To learn more about home theater rooms, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What You Need to Know About the VA Loan Program, and How It Can Benefit You

September 12, 2014 5:39 pm

Our military personnel do a great deal for our country, and one of the ways the government thanks them for their service is with the VA loan program, which allows both past and current military personnel a better option for financing.

Originally established in 1944 as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, a VA loan is available for any individual who has served in active duty in any branch of the U.S. military for a minimum of 90 days, and it has helped millions of people and their families purchase a home.

In addition to servicemen and servicewoman, non-active duty personnel, such as individuals in the Army Reserves or National Guard, may apply for a VA-backed mortgage, provided they have completed six years of service. The spouses of deceased or missing military members are also eligible if they have not remarried.

The major advantage of a VA loan is that it doesn’t require a down payment. It also doesn’t have private mortgage insurance. It does require the borrower to pay a one-time funding fee on their purchase, which can be paid up front or financed into the total cost of the loan. The funding fee for regular military members is 2.15 percent of the loan. Reservists pay a fee of 2.40 percent.

According to recent figures by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, more people took advantage of the program in 2013 than ever before, with close to 630,000 VA loans given out. This was mostly due to historically low interest rates.

Still, many veterans, especially those discharged years ago, often don’t realize that such a benefit exists. That’s why the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has increased its efforts to let veterans know about the VA loan program, and all the benefits it offers.

To qualify, borrowers must show enough monthly income after paying personal debts and housing costs to meet “residual income” levels set by the department. A VA loan must be for a primary residence and the limits on the amount someone can get are based on area median home prices. The 2014 limits range from $417,500 to $1,094,625.

One other important note: borrowers who received a dishonorable discharge from any military branch are not eligible.

To learn more about the VA loan program, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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