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

Your Fall Lawn Care To-Do List

September 2, 2014 1:09 am

Taking time in the fall to prepare your lawn for the colder months ahead will pay dividends come spring and allow you to enjoy lusher, greener grass when temperatures rise again.

Providing nutrients to your lawn before cold weather strikes is good for strengthening roots and increasing the nutrients stored for an earlier spring green. While the top growth of grass stops, grass plants are storing nutrients and energy for the following season.

To determine the best ratio of fertilizer for the soil in your yard, you should utilize a soil test. Otherwise, look for fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphate-potassium (NPK) ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2.

When applying the fertilizer, make sure that you follow the application instructions and rate information on the package and use a calibrated spreader to apply the correct amount. It is also a good rule to apply the fertilizer about 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes so the plant can start to take up some of the nutrients.

Instead of pacing the yard with a push spreader, consider a tow-behind spreader attached to your riding lawn mower or garden tractor. An attachment can quickly distribute fertilizer evenly across your yard.

Aerating, the process of removing plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn, is ideal in cooler months. It encourages deep rooting, improves water and nutrient penetration, and promotes growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. There are a variety of techniques you can use to penetrate the soil, such as spiked shoes or spray-on liquids, but to most effectively aerate soil, attach a dethatcher, or a plug aerator behind a riding mower or tractor to remove plugs of soil from 2-3 inches deep.

If you prefer not to rake or bag grass or leaves, mulching with a mower is an ideal alternative. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry to avoid damp and wet leaves clumping or building up under mower decks.

Remember that grass needs sunlight in the fall to help store food for winter, so don't wait until your lawn is completely matted down with leaves to mulch. A thin layer of mulched leaves is ideal and helps add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.

Creating a compost pile allows you to turn organic material into rich soil. The fall season is a good time to create a compost pile with decaying yard matter, such as vegetables, grass clippings and leaves, which can provide nutrient-rich soil for spring planting. For best results, alternate layers of "brown," or high carbon materials, with grass clippings.

Using a rear bagger with your lawn mower or tractor will help make collecting grass clippings a breeze, and adding to your compost pile is as simple as backing up to the spot and unloading. Another optional mower attachment, the lawn sweeper, brushes leaves into a hamper, much like a broom and dustpan.

Taking these steps will prepare your lawn for the winter and help it come back strong, healthy and beautiful in the spring.

Source: John Deere

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renting a Car over Labor Day Weekend?

August 29, 2014 12:57 am

For those renting a car over Labor Day weekend, it can be confusing, frustrating and downright daunting. Unfortunately, many renters do not even think about car rental insurance until they get to the counter, which can result in either wasting money by purchasing unnecessary coverage or having dangerous gaps in coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Before renting a car, I.I.I. suggests that you make two phone calls—one to your insurance professional and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.

1. Insurance Company
Find out how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car, provided you are using the car for recreation and not for business. If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

2. Credit Card Company
Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card.

Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. You may not have personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Some credit card companies have changed their policies, too, so you may not have as much coverage as you thought.

At the Rental Car Counter
Since insurance is state regulated, the cost and coverage will vary from state to state. Consumers, however, can generally choose from the following coverages:

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)
Also referred to as a collision damage waiver outside the U.S., an LDW is not technically an insurance product. LDWs do, however, relieve or "waive" renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. In most cases, waivers also provide coverage for "loss of use," in the event the rental car company charges the renter for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed. It may also cover towing and administrative fees.

Liability Insurance
By law, rental companies must provide the state-required amount of liability insurance. Generally, these amounts are low and do not provide much protection. If you have adequate amounts of liability protection on your own car, you may consider forgoing additional liability protection. If you want the supplemental insurance, it will cost between $7 and $14 a day.

Personal Accident Insurance
Personal Accident Insurance offers coverage to you and your passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you may not need this additional insurance. It usually costs about $1 to $5 a day.

Personal Effects Coverage
Personal Effects Coverage provides insurance protection for the theft of items in your car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes off-premises theft coverage, you are generally covered for theft of your belongings away from home, minus the deductible. If you purchase this coverage through the rental car company, it generally costs between $1 and $4 a day.

If you frequently travel with expensive items such as jewelry, cameras, musical equipment or sports equipment, it may be more cost effective to purchase a personal articles floater under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. With such a floater, your valuable items are protected at home as well as while traveling anywhere in the world and the coverage is broader.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bathroom Upgrades You Can Do in a Weekend

August 29, 2014 12:57 am

Replacing the tile or refinishing the tub can be major bathroom projects, even for accomplished do-it-yourselfers. But when it comes to adding style and pizzazz, it can take just a few good ideas and a weekend or less to turn your frumpy bathroom into a beauty.

From news and lifestyle journal Epoch Times, here are eight good ideas to help get the re-do started:

Frame the mirror – Framing is an old reliable interior decorating trick, and one that works beautifully here. Use a framing kit or re-purpose a few feet of crown molding to update and glamorize your bathroom mirror.

Replace the vanity – Choose a traditional model from the home store or think about using an antique or other stylish dresser as a vanity. Selecting new drawer pulls and changing the sink hardware can also make a huge difference.

Add chic lighting – Have an overhead light fixture? Replace it with a sparkly chandelier or another unique fixture to make a stylish statement.

Add some shelving – New shelving over the toilet or elsewhere will add a finished look as well as a handy place to store extra towels and supplies.

Fence in the tub – Refresh the look of an inset tub by fencing it in by adding a decorative wood panel to the front of it.

Jazz up the color – Choose a bold color or a soothing pastel – even a geometric pattern. A new coat of paint and some matching towels can make an eye-popping difference to the bath.

Add a glass shower door – A sleek glass shower door, or a slider in the tub, will give your bathroom a designer feel and create the illusion of more space.

Hang some artwork – Adding a few pieces of attractive wall art is an easy way to make your bathroom look as complete and decorated as the rest of your home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Four Ways to Reduce College Costs in High School

August 29, 2014 12:57 am

(Family Features)—College is a significant investment and how to pay for it can be a major source of concern for parents and students. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of debt you take on when preparing for higher education.

Outstanding student loan debt has now reached $1.2 trillion, according to recent estimates from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yet there are ways to help reduce the amount a family or student has to borrow to fund a college education, if families start early.

1. Earn college credit in high school. Many high schools offer students the opportunity to earn dual high school and college credit, before college, through advanced placement (AP) courses. You can learn more about AP programs online.

2. Consider a community college. Average annual community college tuition and fees are less than half those at public four-year colleges and universities and one-tenth those at private four-year colleges and universities, according to a 2008 report from the National Center of Education Statistics.

3. Learn about college savings financial options. There are many different financial products to help save for college. Under certain circumstances, some colleges and universities lock in tuition for all four years. Even certain life insurance policies offer cash savings options to help pay for expenses such as college tuition, weddings, or starting up a business. Look for permanent or whole life policies with cash value accumulation options.

4. Research scholarships early. Scholarships are available for traditional and non-traditional students, but don't wait until senior year to research. Some require organizational membership, volunteer hours, or criteria that may take time for the student to be eligible.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Most Homeowners Use Cash to Finance Home Improvement Projects

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

Data released this summer from HomeAdvisor shows most homeowners surveyed (almost 58 percent) paid for their last home project with cash. Additionally, 45 percent of the requests nationally were for addition and remodeling projects, such as bathroom and deck renovations.

National trends show that 47 percent of homeowners surveyed said they were more likely to put money into their home now to increase value than they were 12 months ago. Additionally, 78 percent of homeowners are completing home improvement projects to increase their quality of life. Of the cities that data was collected from, Dallas, Texas had the highest percentage of addition and remodeling requests. Results also show an increase in home improvement requests in Dallas, Denver and Boston, with Boston receiving the largest increase of 6.35 percent.

“While maintenance and repair projects lead the requests in numbers, large home improvement projects, such as remodeling a bathroom and building a deck demonstrate homeowner confidence,” said HomeAdvisor CEO Chris Terrill. “Homeowners are investing in their homes to increase value and quality.”

More than half of the projects requested nationally (55 percent) focused on maintenance and repair projects. Top tasks include repairing, installing or replacing electrical switches, and repairing or replacing faucets, fixtures and pipes. Of the cities data was collected from, Sacramento had the highest percentage of repair and maintenance projects requested (54.4 percent).

For interior design trends, the most common style was a transitional style and the most popular room to design was the kitchen. The most common types of countertop and flooring materials were granite and hardwood.

Source: HomeAdvisor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Know Which Professional Is Right For Your Kitchen Remodel

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

Kitchen renovations rank highly for those seeking to add value to their home. Kitchen remodels often reap the most reward when listing the home on the market, but they can be a challenge for homeowners financially. Before you upgrade, consider the scope of the project. Then, hire the right professional for the job to avoid overspending.

Remodeling contractor – Most renovations require the assistance of a certified contractor who has at least five years of experience. A certified contractor is equipped to tackle any project from demolition, electrical and plumbing to ventilation and installation. They are also responsible for outsourcing tasks to other professionals if needed.

Interior designer – Contractors typically work with designers to select the right aesthetics and finishes for a particular room. An interior designer might be worth hiring if you want your kitchen to flow seamlessly with other rooms in the home, or if you want to achieve a custom look with uncommon materials.

Kitchen designer – Not to be confused with an interior designer, a kitchen designer is important to have on hand when reconfiguring an existing space. Consider hiring one if you are planning to redesign a cabinet layout or move non load-bearing walls.

Architect – Your local zoning board may require an architect to authorize renovations, so be sure to check regulations before beginning a project. Architects are also helpful when rearranging load-bearing walls, tampering with mechanical systems or making any other major structural changes.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Three Steps to a Bountiful Vegetable Garden

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

(BPT) - Anyone can have a successful home garden no matter where they live by following a few steps from professional gardeners. Consider these three important steps for starting your vegetable garden right so you can enjoy fresh produce faster.

Step 1: Research appropriate plantings.
A good place to start is by researching proper plants for your region’s early season. If you have questions, consult your local nursery or call your local extension office for specialized advice.

In general, good plantings include brassicas, a family of plants that includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbages. Additional cool-season crops to consider include radishes, beets, peas, potatoes and carrots. These plants will thrive early in the season and produce yields quickly.

Want produce quicker? Consider purchasing starter plants, also called plant starts, rather than relying on packets of seeds. These are the small plants that have already germinated and have a basic root system. These are easy to transfer to your own garden and, with proper tending, will grow quickly and produce fruit faster.

Step 2: Prepare garden spaces for accelerated growth.
If you’ve never gardened before, your soil is likely compact and will require some tilling to loosen the dirt and encourage plant growth. You can do this with a garden rake; for large gardens, some people prefer to rent a power tiller.

People who live in smaller homes, a townhouse or condo might prefer to use raised garden beds. Stylish and functional, raised garden planters eliminate the need to bend over to tend garden, a benefit that has made them vastly popular. Raised garden beds can be used virtually anywhere outdoors, including on a deck or patio, and they can be moved, too, if necessary.

Whether you create a garden plot in your yard or add a few raised-garden planters to your patio, make sure the dirt is nutrient-rich and ready for your plants. Typically it’s wise to mix black dirt in with your soil to ensure that plants grow strong. If you’ve had trouble growing in the past, consider getting your soil tested to verify pH levels.

Step 3: Tend daily and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

For best results, tend your garden on a daily basis. Check for soil moisture and water as necessary. Make sure to pluck weeds and watch for pest infestations. If done daily, it should only take a few minutes to verify the health of your garden.

Keep in mind that as plants grow, you need to make sure they don’t overcrowd each other. This can limit growth and yield production. If your garden starts to look overgrown, you may need to pluck out a few plants to open up space and encourage proper growth and healthy root systems.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Should You Retain and Rent Your Home after Relocating?

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

As I chat with real estate pros and industry experts across the country, a new issue is cropping up that warrants some focus. Today more than in recent history, we are learning that many folks are considering renting out a current home after shopping for and moving into a newly acquired property.

Marcie Geffner at recently produced a report warning consumers who want to buy a new home while renting out the old house, that they could face a glitch. Say someone owns two houses - one they occupy, and one they don't.

To cut monthly interest expense, that owner might want to refinance the house they're renting. But Geffner says it might not be easy, and offers a few tips.

She says often, equity is the biggest hurdle in the effort to refinance a house being rented out.

Enter Stephen LaDue, a senior loan officer at Prime Lending in Brookfield, Wisconsin who notes that lenders typically require a cushion of 25 percent or more to refinance a loan secured by a non owner-occupied house. The reason: an owner who has a substantial stake in the property is less likely to default on the mortgage.

A second mortgage on the rental house will make refinancing difficult because that lender probably won't agree to remain in the lesser position if the first loan is refinanced.

Ray Martin who blogs for Moneywatch advises, when deciding whether to rent out your home, consider the pros and cons:

Rental pros:
  • Keep property to sell later at a better price
  • Rental income covers mortgage, taxes, insurance, and other costs
  • Tax breaks offset rent or other income
Rental cons:
  • You are the landlord
  • Tenants may damage your property
  • You could be taxed on gains if you later sell
Don't assume rental income can be counted toward the guidelines to refinance a house being rented out. Gary Parkes, vice president of mortgage lending for Guaranteed Rate in Atlanta, says lenders tend to be suspicious of rent unless the landlord is a professional property investor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tailgate with a Healthy Menu This Fall

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

(Family Features) Soon, parking lots of colleges, high schools and professional stadiums across the nation will be filled with fans gearing up for another sporting season - and the tailgating celebrations that go hand-in-hand.

Die-hard tailgaters have come to revel in the culinary pride of putting together the best and most creative barbecue and tailgate grub. While traditional menus feature staples such as hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans and cold salads, tailgate "chefs" are now only limited by their imaginations.

However, traditional tailgating fare hasn't been high on the nutrition scale, and this pre-game celebrating is a classic example of food-centric entertainment in which people unintentionally become less conscious of the calories they consume.

The rules of thumb on better-for-you tailgate side dishes are that baked is always better than deep-fried, and homemade recipes allow you to control the ingredients. Pick tailgate foods that not only fill up hungry sports fans, but also add nutrition to the fun.
  • Choose lean grilling options such as skinless chicken breast or hamburgers made with 95 percent lean ground beef. Skip calorie-rich condiments and boost the flavor of your burger with toppings like mushrooms, grilled onions, fresh pineapple, jalapenos, avocados and roasted red peppers.
  • Shrimp or chicken skewers are a great protein alternative to traditional hamburgers and hotdogs, especially when prepared with chunks of onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, and sweet peppers.
  • Ditch pre-packaged marinades for fresh, homemade options. Combine herbs such as basil, rosemary or dill with citrus fruits, spices, onion and garlic with a little olive oil.
  • Grill corn on the cob. Corn on the cob can be cooked on the grill wrapped in its own husks or in aluminum foil. Add flavor with herbs and spices before roasting.
  • Use whole wheat pasta for macaroni salad, and add plenty of veggies and a meat or bean as a protein source to boost the nutritional value. Replace heavy pre-packaged creamy dressings, which often contain hidden sugar and sodium, with homemade vinaigrettes to control the ingredients.
  • Black beans and corn add nutrients and a Southwest flair to guacamole and salsa, and they're great for dipping tortilla chips and bite-sized vegetables.
  • Add water to the cooler to keep tailgaters hydrated.
Source: NuVal

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Credit Is Important to Your Home Insurance and Your Life

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

Having good credit can help you in a surprising number of ways. A good credit history can result in getting that dream job, lower interest rates on car loans and mortgages, and better rates on your insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

With a solid credit rating in hot markets across the country, renters will have an easier time finding an apartment and homebuyers may be the first to view properties, giving them an inside edge. It can also lower insurance costs.

While insurance represents only about 5-7 percent of a typical housing payment, when you’re buying a home, you want to save wherever you can. Many insurance companies give discounts on homeowners policies for those with good credit.

Credit Scores vs. Insurance Scores

Insurance scores and credit scores differ. Credit scores predict credit delinquency while insurance scores predict insurance losses. Both are calculated from information in a credit report, such as outstanding debt, bankruptcies, length of credit history, collections, new applications for credit, number of credit accounts in use, and timeliness of debt repayment. Insurers or scoring agencies then calculate the insurance or credit score by assigning differing weights to the favorable or unfavorable information in the credit report. Information such as income, ethnic group, age, gender, disability, religion, address, marital status and nationality are not considered when calculating an insurance score.

Credit and insurance scores measure how well individuals manage their money—not how much money they make. And actuarial studies show that how a person manages his or her financial affairs is a good predictor of insurance claims. Statistically, people with a low insurance score are more likely to file a claim.

The good news is, most people have good credit and most people will pay less for insurance than they would if insurance scores weren’t considered.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.