RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
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 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Q: What is a bridge loan?

August 8, 2012 7:02 pm

A: It is a short-term bank loan of the equity in the home you are selling. You may take out a bridge loan, or interim financing, to help with a knotty situation: closing on the home you are buying before you close on the property you are selling. This loan basically enables you to have a place to live after the closing on the old home.

The key to a bridge loan is having a qualified buyer and a signed contract. Usually, the lender issuing the mortgage loan on the new home will write the interim financing as a personal note due at settlement on the property being sold.

If, however, there is no buyer for the property you have up for sale, most lenders will place a lien on the property, thereby making that bridge loan a kind of second mortgage.

Things to consider: interest rates are high, points are high, and there are costs and fees involved on bridge loans. It may be cheaper to borrow from your 401(K). Actually, any secured loan is acceptable to lenders for the down payment. So if you have stocks or bonds or an insurance policy, you can borrow against them as well.


Are Your Ducts and Dryer Fire (and Mold) Safe?

August 7, 2012 7:00 pm

When it comes to being successful in the service industry, millions of entrepreneurs and business people have learned to “find a niche and strike it rich.” I believe this is the aim of the folks I recently discovered at Sir Dry (

The company and its franchisees have a singular goal, to help protect you and your family from dryer fires and other hazards that may lurk between your clothes dryer and its vent cap discharge.
Besides claiming to offer a successful system for ridding dryers and dryer vents and hoses of mold, they also have the tools to clean – really clean – your dryer system to eliminate the threat of lint and other discharge from causing a fire.

Sir Dry technicians recommend that dryer vents be inspected and cleaned every 6 months for optimum protection. Their average inspection takes between one and two hours - additional time if work needs to be done.

Sir Dry uses specialized equipment that rotates within the vent and an internal video camera that ensures a vent is thoroughly clean and safe. They even bring specialized equipment to float the dryer to ensure that the floor will not be damaged during cleaning.

The technician provides a before and after photo of your dryer vent so you can be assured it is clean and safe. Sir Dry also says that anti-cling products used in the dryer can contribute to flammable accelerants in the vent, which cannot be effectively removed with an ordinary vacuum.

Technicians will also be happy to check your dryer and bathroom vents for mold. Both areas are perfect breeding grounds for mold spores, but no match for an anti microbial product Sir Dry offers to combat mold growth.

Sir Dry also installs dual sensor smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; sets up a schedule to change batteries in various detectors, advises homeowners on fire extinguishers, and replaces them yearly with professionally maintained extinguishers as part of an ongoing personalized safety program they will be happy to discuss during a visit.


Helpful Hints for Traveling Abroad

August 7, 2012 7:00 pm

Traveling to another country is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Whether you’re heading off on a solo adventure, packing up the family, or going on your honeymoon, it’s important to be prepared so you don’t have to face a scary situation in a foreign country.

The Huffington Post has released an article discussing guidelines travelers can take to make the most of their trip abroad. International travel company Sara International Travel detailed in a press statement that travelers need to become educated on the political and social customs of the country they intend to visit. Sara International Travel provides travel packages for Muslims making their pilgrimage to Mecca.

"For your own safety, it is important to educate yourself on the laws of the country," commented Imam Zameer Sattaur, founder of Sara International Travel. "Spitting in public is a punishable crime in some countries while it may be a common practice in your own." Vacationers are expected to be aware of and follow the laws of the country they are visiting. Tourists breaking the law can be held accountable for their actions if it goes against the locale's customs or regulations.

Study traditions and customs. Individuals heading to Hajj or Umrah may be unaware of Saudi Arabia's traditions and customs. Research what clothing is acceptable and what customary practices entail. Travelers should familiarize themselves with phrases that help them navigate the area and find emergency assistance.

Know where the U.S embassy is. It is recommended that travelers locate the U.S. embassy in the country they are visiting and make several copies of their passport. In the event that their original passport is lost or stolen, travelers should keep a copy in their suitcase at all times. In addition, travelers are advised to leave a copy of their official documents and the address and contact information of where they are staying with someone at home.

Visit the doctor. Some countries are prone to disease or bugs that could affect non-natives. Travelers should schedule doctor visits far enough in advance to receive any necessary vaccinations. Tourists would also be wise to learn the country's cuisine. "Becoming well versed in what the local cuisine consists of will keep travelers aware of what they are eating and what they need to avoid as discussing food allergies with a language barrier could prove difficult," stated Sattaur.

Keep an eye on belongings. Foreign travelers should keep a close watch on their belongings at all times. Keeping wits centered and focused will pay off in the long run, so avoid imbibing in too much alcohol when exploring a foreign place.



Five Tips for Summer Picnic Food

August 7, 2012 7:00 pm

Picnics are a great way to enjoy the last of those lazy summer afternoons in the sunshine and can be a cost effective family day out. Emma Bridgewater, the handmade kitchen and dinnerware company, has created top five tips for the perfect picnic for summer 2012.

1) Keep food simple

Think about how practical certain dishes are when you prepare for a picnic. Dishes that work brilliantly around a dining table may not be so sensible served balanced on a picnic rug. Finger food eliminates the need for cutlery and will usually mean less mess at the end of the meal!

2) Choose foods which travel well

Hopefully you'll be taking advantage of a really beautiful day, in which case your picnic will be just one part of the day's fun. With this in mind, choosing food which travels well means dishes remain intact and that your sandwiches aren't disappointingly soggy by lunchtime! The most delicious sandwiches are often the simplest . Use lettuce or baby leaf spinach to surround mayonnaise-based sandwich fillings to keep the bread dry.

3) Create a finger-food salad

Chop up chunks of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks to make a finger-food salad. Serve in bowls with hummus for dipping for a delicious raw vegetable treat. This way you can still serve healthy food without the need for knives and forks.

4) Keep the desert simple
Bring a sponge cake and a bowl of fresh strawberries, blueberries or grapes for a refreshing end to your picnic. Avoid sticky foods and cover cakes and sugary deserts to keep insects at bay. Keeping desserts simple is also likely to reduce the amount of cleaning up required at the end of the picnic!

5) Serve fresh and fruity drinks
Homemade lemonade or fruit juices can be kept cool with an ice pack in your picnic hamper. Serving drinks in sturdy tumblers with a wide base mean they won't get spilled when you spread out on a picnic rug on uneven ground. Wine glasses and champagne flutes may look elegant at a picnic, but can leave guests struggling to hold a delicate glass, cutlery and plate of food.



Parents Can Help Prepare Students for a Safe School Year

August 7, 2012 7:00 pm

Placing a child on the school bus for the first time can be a big step for parents, but today's school buses are extremely safe and reliable ways for students to travel. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are approximately 13 times safer than passenger cars and 10 times safer than walking to school. And in 2011, First Student, the largest provider of student transportation in North America, celebrated its safest year ever. These days, school bus safety goes way beyond flashing lights and stop signs.

Parents can help ease their children's transition to the school bus by following a few simple tips:
• Meet your child's bus driver. It's important for your child to know his bus driver's name and bus number.
• Set up a consistent routine with your child. Kids, like adults, thrive on consistency. Begin preparing for school at least a week in advance by waking up and eating breakfast earlier. Once school begins, establish a schedule and routine, which includes having plenty of time to walk to the bus stop.
• Make sure your child's belongings are clearly marked. Put your child's name and bus number inside her backpack where it's easy to access.
• Talk to your child about bullying before the school year begins. First Student drivers are extensively trained on how to recognize and prevent bullying, so your child should know that the driver is a trusted adult who can help if bullying occurs at school or on the bus.
• Talk to your child after school every day. If you sit down and ask your child every day about his school day, your child will feel more comfortable telling you if there is an issue.



Word of the Day

August 7, 2012 7:00 pm

Property tax deductions. The Internal Revenue Service allows homeowners to claim as itemized personal deductions money paid for state and local realty taxes, as well as interest on debt secured by their homes. It also allows for the deduction of loan prepayment penalties, and the deduction of points on new loans.


Q: Can the Seller Also Include Contingencies in a Contract?

August 7, 2012 7:00 pm

A: Yes. For example, if you decide to sell your existing home first before buying another one, you can make the sale of your home contingent on finding a replacement home. Some sellers opt for this contingency to avoid a double move, such as moving to a hotel or rental until a new home is found and made available.
However, there is one problem with this type of contingency: it can inconvenience the buyer, particularly if his own home is in escrow. He may not be willing to wait for you to move.

This strategy has a better chance of working when the market is relatively strong, your home is a rare find, the price and terms of the transaction are very favorable for the buyer, or the buyer is in no hurry to move.


Considering a Composite Deck, or Already Have One?

August 6, 2012 6:58 pm

On several occasions over the years, I have featured reports promoting the advantages of composite versus wood materials for porches, decks and balconies.

But a recent blog from a New England home inspector offers a few words to the wise – whether you already have composite features, or are considering adding or replacing existing deck or other structures with composite materials,

Jason Horn is one of the lead inspectors at Stonehollow Inc. ( He was recently inspecting a decade-old home, specifically two decks constructed of a composite, maintenance-free materials.

He discovered several issues including boards cracking and splitting along the edges caused by incorrect spacing during installation. He also found deterioration of the wood joists under the composite decking because while wood decking absorbs moisture and releases it, composite does not.

So, moisture trapped under the decking and on top of the joists can keep joists from drying properly - becoming more susceptible to rot and decay. Some other issues to consider according to Horn, are:

Cost: Traditional wood decking goes about $15/ sq. ft., while composite decking material is $30-$36/ sq. ft. And labor cost tends to be higher due to additional steps that are required during composite installation.

Scratching: Composite decking combines wood and plastic, but the material is not indestructible. The surface of the boards can be scratched rather easily, and composite decking can’t be resurfaced.

Stains: One of the most common complaints about composite decking is mold. Horn says composite decking requires special cleaning chemicals to kill the mold and remove some of the finish. But this leaves decking more porous and susceptible to future mold growth.

Color fade: Horn knows wood decking can fade too, but you can re-stain wood. He also says there are products claiming to restore stained composite decking, but did not speak to their effectiveness.


Need a New Roof? Weigh the Options

August 6, 2012 6:58 pm

Homeowners needing to re-roof want low-cost, attractive options that will last the best part of a lifetime.

“That won’t happen,” says roofer Joe Anastasio. “There are several reasonably priced and attractive options in the roofing industry today. But despite claims by some product manufacturers, many roofs will need to be replaced again – or repaired – within 10 to 15 years.”

However, he adds, by choosing the right roof, having it installed properly, and doing a little regular maintenance, most homeowners can look forward to a worry-free twenty years or more.

Anastasio recommends these roofing materials:

• Composition shingles – Versatile and easy to install, composition shingles offer a clean look at the most affordable price. Higher quality options made of asphalt or fiberglass are easy to install, may be laid over an existing roof, and offer Class A fire protection. They may be walked upon without damage. On the negative side, shingles may be blown off in high winds, and they do not have the dimensional look of tile or wood shake.

• Wood shake
– Wood shake roofs offer lots of natural character because of variances in the cut and thickness of the wood, generally cedar. They are energy-efficient, insulating the attic and allowing the house to ‘breathe.’ But they are more expensive and will not last as long as fiberglass or tile because they are subject to damage by mold, rot, and insects. Today’s pressure-treated shakes are impregnated with fire-retardant that meet national fire standards, but they require regular maintenance.

• Clay tile – A good choice for houses of Southwestern or Mediterranean design, clay tile roofs are attractive, won’t rot or burn, and comes in many colors and styles. They will last a long time, but they can be very heavy and may require extra roof support to hold the weight. Proper installation is important, and maintenance is minimal, but tiles are fragile and could break if walked upon.

• Slate
– An expensive choice selected for upscale homes, slate roofs provide a natural look in a variety of patterns. They offer a very long lifespan, good fire protection, and low maintenance, and are not vulnerable to rot or insects. Like tile, slate can be very heavy, sometimes requiring expensive extra support. It is also breakable enough that walking on it is difficult for a non-professional, complicating such tasks as maintenance and gutter cleaning.


How to Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

August 6, 2012 6:58 pm

(ARA) - Backyards have always been places where families can get away without actually going away. Outdoor areas connect people with their favorite natural treasures while providing a place to relax. Whether it's adding an outdoor kitchen and replacing your old picnic table with a truly impressive dining set, or outfitting your patio with a desk space so you can bring your work outside, you can expand your living area by focusing on what's outside the home.

Realizing the value of spending time outside in a comfortable and attractive setting - and that money spent on an outdoor space can go even further as opposed to a new addition to your home - many homeowners are choosing to focus on improving their outdoor spaces.

According to a recent survey by HGTV and Casual Living magazine, 87 percent of the roughly 5,000 Americans interviewed said an outdoor room in their homes was "important or very important," and more than half had one. Derek Stearns, a craftsman with Derek & Dean, Inc. and co-host of DIY Network's "Indoors Out," believes this interest is as much sentimental as it is value-driven.

"An outdoor space is really all about relationships - it's about creating memories with your family and nature," Stearns says.

Stearns and Kerry Burt, a Dallas-based landscape architect and winner of HGTV's Landscapers' Challenge, offer a little inspiration to create your perfect outdoor retreat:

*Plan with a purpose
Before you determine the layout, consider how you will use the space to create memories. Do you like to cook and entertain friends? Are you seeking a private escape to spend more time with family? Or do you desire a backyard office space? Stearns recommends focusing on your wish list without budget constraints.

"Stress comes from thinking you have to edit your plans, so start with the top item on your wish list," Stearns says. "You can edit later within the budget."

Use this focus to establish a focal point - an organic garden or gorgeous view - and create a plan to design around it. To maintain the flow from indoors out, use natural materials for deck or patio space that complement the outdoors. Try durable woods, like Western Red Cedar, that instantly brings an exceptional aroma and beauty to outdoor living spaces.

*Add backyard flavor
Heat up your backyard retreat by adding a kitchen to create tasty family dinners outside, a popular request for Burt. Depending on the size of your space, a kitchen may include a variety of appliances and offer seating options ranging from vintage tables to sofas.

"With the economy people want to spend money on something they can use over and over, a purchase aside from a vacation," says Burt.

*Create privacy and shade
To create the most comfortable space on hot summer days, Burt recommends pergolas and arbors to provide shade. The structures will also create privacy for quiet conversations and can easily offer pops of color when decorated with bright flowers. As more homeowners are looking for low-maintenance products, build with natural materials that are easy to use and can stand the test of time. Materials like Western red cedar contain natural preservatives that resist moisture, decay and insect damage, and can save you money over time. You can instantly warm up the space with these materials by adding a stain for rich tones.

*Bring indoors out
Add the finishing touches to your outdoor retreat by truly bringing the indoors outside. Stearns recommends bringing indoor rugs outside and adding a clock in the kitchen to give the space a more intimate feel. For a simple touch, buy three different size pots in the same style and plant a mix of flowers in each.

"What's really hot right now is outdoor lighting - not just wrapping lights around trees - but hanging a chandelier over a dining table," suggests Stearns.

Social media sites like the Real Cedar Facebook page can be a great place to find ideas - and offer a chance to win prizes to stretch your resources. Finally, remember time spent in your outdoor space can leave a lasting impression.

"Having a well-maintained outdoor living space and garden shows confidence to potential buyers," explains Burt. "It shows the homeowners care."