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

Vacation Bound? Five Prevention Tips to Protect Your Home

July 10, 2012 5:30 pm

Summer vacations may be fun, but they can be costly if you fail to prepare your home and property adequately. Burglars see vacations as an opportunity to target empty homes, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). 

There are more than 2.15 million burglaries each year, over 65 percent of which are residential break-ins. The FBI notes that the summer months of July and August have the highest rates of burglaries, usually about a 10 percent increase over other times of the year. 

"Once in your home, a burglar can easily steal computer equipment, televisions, CD and DVD players, as well as jewelry and other valuable items," says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson, I.I.I. "In fact, the average dollar loss per burglary is over $1,700."

However, criminals tend to be opportunists, notes Salvatore. If you make your home more difficult to break into, the crook will likely target another home. Research shows that if it takes more than four or five minutes to break into a home, the burglar will go elsewhere.

In addition to having the right insurance coverage, the I.I.I. offers these five preventive measures to keep your home safe:

  • Make it time-consuming to break into your home. Dead-bolt window and door locks can slow a burglar down. You may also obtain a discount of 2 to 5 percent on your insurance policy for installing these devices.
  • Make it noisy to break into your home. Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective systems ring at an outside service, which alerts the police, fire department and other emergency services. A sophisticated alarm system could result in insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent.
  • Make sure you have strong doors. Outside doors and frames should be made of metal or solid hardwood and be at least 1 3/4-inches thick. Each door must fit its frame securely. Even the best lock will not deter a burglar if it is installed in a weak door. Garage doors also need strong locks. If you have a tool shed, keep it locked since burglars can use the tools to break into your home.
  • Turn off your computer and disconnect it from the Internet. If you save personal information on your computer, make sure it is difficult to access. You don't want a hacker at work while you are on vacation.
  • Keep valuables under lock and key and well hidden. Do not leave personal documents in your home office or desk--burglars know to look for them there. Put critical documents in a lock box or safe somewhere else in the house. Keep copies of important documents at another location--a relative's home, for example. Expensive jewelry should also be hidden somewhere other than the bedroom or left in a safety deposit box at the bank.

As you prepare to leave on vacation follow these additional steps:

  • Keep your home well lit. Mount exterior lights out of reach of would-be burglars in your yard or on your house. Put indoor lights on a timer so that they go on and off at appropriate times, making it look as if the house is inhabited.
  • Make the house look inhabited. Leave blinds or curtains open in their usual position. Put indoor lights on a timer. If you are going to be away for an extended period, arrange to have your lawn mowed in the summer and your driveway shoveled in the winter.
  • Arrange to have mail picked up or held by the post office. Stop newspaper deliveries and ask a neighbor to pick-up "throw-away" circulars.
  • Ask a neighbor for help. Ask a neighbor you trust to keep an eye on your home while you are gone. You may also want to tell your local police you will be away.
  • Only tell people you know and trust that you are going away. Be careful not to discuss your vacation plans at the supermarket or hairdresser or other public places where you don't know who may be listening.

Standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for theft of personal possessions and damage to the home caused by the break-in. With replacement cost coverage, which is only about 10 percent more than actual cash value coverage, damaged property is replaced without deducting for depreciation.

Source:  www.iii.org


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Word of the Day

July 10, 2012 5:30 pm

Master Deed. Document that converts a parcel of land into a condominium subdivision.

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Q: Are There Specific Questions I Should Ask a Contractor?

July 10, 2012 5:30 pm

A: According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, sometimes it’s not the responses you get that are important, but what you don’t get. So you should trust your instincts and pay attention to the information that is obviously missing. Nevertheless, here are some questions NARI suggest you ask before signing that remodeling contract:

• How long have you been in business?
• What is your approach to a project such as this?
• Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
• Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
• Does your company carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance?
• How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
• May I have a list of references from those projects?
• Are you a member of a national trade association?
• Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education?

It also wouldn’t hurt to inquire about how trash removal and clean up will be handled and the times workers will begin and end work – this is not only for your convenience but also for your neighbors, who have to endure the noise and fewer parking spaces that may result from your project.

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Last-Minute Tips for Summer Celebrations

July 9, 2012 5:28 pm

(ARA) - The weather's warming up, and people everywhere are gearing up for the summer season. For many, with it comes the opportunity to enjoy outdoor parties and share great meals with friends and family.

Preparing your home for summer entertaining doesn't need to be a lot of work; in fact, with a few quick tips, it can be downright easy. To make your summer soirees a breeze, read on and get ready to greet your guests.

Start prepping for summer fun with these simple tips:

Light it Right. The sun keeps the sky lit up fairly late throughout the summer, but it's important to provide lighting once dark sets in. Make sure that entry lights are working and your driveway is well lit. Try adding small, solar-powered lights along the footpaths. For additional lighting, colored lanterns or Tiki torches add decorative flair to decks and patios, perfect for setting the mood.

Clean Inside, Too. Even though summer festivities may be on the patio, it's important to keep your home's interior guest-ready too. Encourage everyone in the family to keep clutter confined, and take a few minutes each week to tidy up. Lightly scented candles, potpourri and even an open window can make a world of difference in keeping things fresh and summery. Most importantly, make sure any bathrooms guests might use are tidy and stocked with hand soap and paper products.

Accessorize! Both indoors and out, touches of cheerful summer decor are easy to achieve with accessories. Colorful glass hurricane lamps and boldly printed outdoor furniture cushions feel fun and summery, while the simple addition of bright pillows, light cotton throws and linen drapes bring a beachy feel to your home's interior. Keep them in place throughout the season and you'll have the perfect backdrop for hosting a summer party.

Freshen the Menu. Summer's bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables makes picking a menu easy. Choose your in-season favorites at the local farmers market - from tomatoes to corn on the cob - which makes a simple and delicious evening meal. Sweet nectarines and blueberries are always a guaranteed hit, so make sure they're easily for family and guests to grab on the go. And, whether it's the festive party cocktail, more of that delicious spread, or even a touch more dessert, an excellent hostess always offers seconds.

Keep your house ready to welcome guests at all times and you'll be making the most of the season. Not sure what to serve? Fun, tropical drinks - that can be modified for the kids to enjoy, too - are always popular. When the temperature heats up, light bites - like summer salads - are refreshing.

Source: www.lg.com.

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Word of the Day

July 9, 2012 5:28 pm

Marketable title.  Good and clear title that is free from reasonable doubt as to who the owner is.


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Why Is Location So Important When Buying a Home?

July 9, 2012 5:28 pm

A: Location remains the single most important factor when choosing a home. It can make or break the value and desirability of a home.

Because everyone’s preferences vary, your lifestyle will determine the best place for you to live. Some people prefer the suburbs while others thrive on downtown living. If you favor city living, find out what part of the city suits you best – a fast-paced neighborhood or one slightly more subdued. Talk with the neighbors and keenly observe such things as traffic patterns, lifestyles, and even sounds and smells.

When choosing a town, take property taxes, schools, accessibility to work, services, recreation, and the character of the community into consideration.

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Energy Vampires? Here’s How to Slay Them

July 6, 2012 5:22 pm

I am always writing about the little things you can do to save a lot of energy in the long run. And yet it seems with all the advancements in technology and hardware, we should be conserving a lot more power.

Suspicions were vindicated recently when information from a poll, paid for by a grant to the AP-NORC Center from the Joyce Foundation, shows that just 4 in 10 questioned think their own actions can significantly affect the country's energy problems.

While 15 percent of those polled say individual actions make "a very large difference," only 7 percent say individual action makes no difference at all. And, despite our almost monthly reminders, only 1 in 3 reports knowing a lot or a great deal about the government's Energy Star product labels.

And not even 20 percent know a lot or a great deal about rebates for energy-saving products, home renovation tax credits or home energy audits.

About 6 in 10 people cite lack of knowledge about energy-saving products as a major reason they don't do more to conserve.

So what can you do to push the efficiency of those already energy-saving appliances further?

Eliminate sources of "standby power." While standby power sometimes provides useful functions such as remote control, clock displays, and timers, the average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode).

To slay these energy vampires in your house:
• Enable the ENERGY STAR power management settings on your computer and monitor, so they go into power save mode when not in use.
• Use a power strip as a central "turn off" point when you are done using equipment, which completely disconnects the power supply. You can use one for your computer and all peripheral equipment, and another for your home electronics (TV, VCR, DVD, stereo, gaming).
• Keep in mind though that if you've set a timer to wake up a product, such as programming a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) to record a program, then the product must remain plugged in (and able to draw standby power) to function as intended.
• Unplug your chargers: cell phone chargers, camera chargers, battery chargers or power adapters, etc. These are drawing some amount of energy even when not in use (and even when not connected to an end-use product).
• Look for ENERGY STAR when shopping. All ENERGY STAR qualified products are among the lowest power consuming in their category in standby mode.

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What’s On Your Cone? American Ice Cream Facts

July 6, 2012 5:22 pm

Summer is in full gear and temperatures are on the rise. What better way to cool off than with ice cream? In honor of July Ice Cream Month, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), representing California's more than 1600 dairy families, surveyed consumers to find out just where they find themselves enjoying some good-old fashion ice cream, frozen yogurt and gelato.

The survey showed that over two-thirds of consumers nationwide say they find themselves eating ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato most frequently in front of the TV or on the couch (64 percent).

Women are more likely than men to eat ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato in bed.

Young adults, ages 18-34, say they find themselves eating ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato on the couch more frequently than others (20 percent).

Maybe it's the drip factor but parents are more likely than non-parents to eat ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato outside (19 percent versus 11 percent, respectively).

"Consumers definitely enjoy a good scoop of ice cream on a regular basis. So much so that former California governor, President Ronald Reagan, recognized America's love for ice cream and declared July National Ice Cream Month back in 1984," says Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications for the CMAB.

Whether on the couch or outdoors, the results are conclusive that most consumers enjoy a good scoop of ice cream every now and again, so here are a few tricks and tips of the ice cream trade:
• To prevent an ice cream cone from becoming soggy while you eat, drop a mini marshmallow in the bottom of the cone before scooping.
• To soften ice cream, transfer it to the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes before serving. A faster option is to use a microwave but be careful of ice cream soup! Place the ice cream in its cardboard container into a microwave set to High: microwave one pint for 10-15 seconds; one quart for 15-25 seconds; and a half-gallon for 30-40 seconds. (Don't use microwave if ice cream is in a plastic container.)
• After serving ice cream, return carton to the freezer immediately to help prevent the formation of ice crystals that can occur when ice cream is partially thawed and then re-frozen. This will keep the texture smooth for your next bowl (if it lasts that long).

Source: RealCaliforniaMilk.com

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Word of the Day

July 6, 2012 5:22 pm

Market price. Actual selling price of a property.

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Q: What are some of the guidelines for purchasing HUD foreclosures?

July 6, 2012 5:22 pm

A: If you have the cash or can qualify for a mortgage, you can buy a HUD home. Down payments vary depending on whether the property is eligible for FHA insurance. If so, the down payment can be lower than the 5 to 20 percent required on conventional loans.

HUD requires that all accepted offers be accompanied by an earnest money deposit equal to 5 percent of the bid price, not to exceed $2,000, but not less than $500.

Foreclosure properties are sold "as is," meaning limited repairs have been made but no structural or mechanical warranties are implied. If a HUD home needs to be fixed - and not all of them do - it can still be a bargain. HUD adjusts the asking price to reflect the fact that the buyer will have to invest money to make improvements. The agency also might offer special incentives such as an allowance to upgrade the property or a bonus for closing the sale early. And buyers can request that HUD pay all or a portion of the financing and closing costs. Contact your real estate agent for more details.

To learn more about HUD foreclosures, visit their web site at www.hud.gov.

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