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: There seem to be no shortage of contractors; how do you identify one who is less than reputable?

August 9, 2012 7:04 pm

Q: There seem to be no shortage of contractors; how do you identify one who is less than reputable?

A: They often give themselves away. The telltale signs:
• Pressure is used to get you to sign a contract;
• Verifying the contractor’s name, address, phone number and credentials is impossible;
• Cash payments are only accepted, not checks made out to a company;
• Payment for the entire job is demanded up-front, whereas most remodelers typically require a down payment of 25-50% of the contract price for small jobs and 10-33% for large jobs.
• The contractor suggests that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam – a sure way to lose your home;
• The contractor offers information that is out-of-date or no longer valid;
• No references are available;
• An inability by the contractor to communicate the project well;
• Exceptionally long guarantees are offered;
• The contractor fails to listens and talks over you; and
• The contractor fails to notify you of your right to cancel the contract within three days; this “right of recision” is required by law and allows you to change your mind without penalty if the contract was provided at a place other than the contractor’s place of business or an appropriate trade premise.


5 Things Your College Student Does Not Need

August 8, 2012 7:02 pm

If you are among the thousands of families who are sending a child off to an out-of-area college this year, you are probably shopping for study lamps, mini-microwaves and fridges, and a variety of extra-long dorm linens.

But before you break the bank with a lot of extra expenses, including a wide array of wish-list electronics, the frugal editors at Kiplinger Magazine suggest five things your student probably does NOT need to take to campus:
• A high-end computer - An inexpensive laptop or desktop should suffice. Netbooks are cheap, but their small keyboards and slow processing speed may not make the grade for a student's first year in college. One powerful, portable and affordable option is the Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i3 laptop. It has a 15.6-inch screen, weighs 5.9 pounds, has 4 gigs of memory and a 500GB hard drive. Its cost? About $530.
• A printer – It’s handy in your room, but most students can use a flash drive or send their stuff to print in a dorm or campus computer lab – avoiding costs for the printer, paper and ink. Many college or dorm fees include a technology fee anyway, so it makes sense to make use of what you are paying for.
• A pricey Smartphone plan - Contracts with data plans can run as high as $200 a month. But there are cheaper, no-contract alternatives, like Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk Plan, which uses Sprint's Nationwide Network. Plans start at $35 a month, for unlimited Web, data, messaging and e-mail and 300 Anytime minutes.
• A credit card – The average student who has a credit card carries about $700 in debt, according to a recent Sallie Mae study. Using a debit card is a great way to help your student stay in the black and avoid interest expenses. You may not want to consider a credit card until/unless he or she has a track record of fiscal responsibility.
• A big meal plan – Don’t load up your student’s meal plan account with more money than is needed. Start low and see how much your student is eating. Many kids opt to fend for themselves at the local grocery or pizza joint. You can generally replenish the meal plan account at will – and you can always supplement it with gift cards to local grocery chains or restaurants.


For Your High School Junior: 11 Ways to Jump Start the College Admissions Process

August 8, 2012 7:02 pm

While many view senior year as the ideal time to tackle college admissions, it’s never too early to have your student getting ready for the next step in their education. Plus, students who begin the application process early will avoid the stress of last minute submissions.

Whatever college your student plans to attend, a clear strategy will guide them. Here are twelve tips to share with your student from the college advisors at International College Counselors.

1. Meet with a guidance counselor. Discuss your career goals and the classes you should take. Many colleges require a high school career that shows a progression of courses. Make sure high school coursework is laying the foundation colleges are looking for.

2. Choose classes wisely. The choices made in their junior curriculum are the most important. The difficulty of the courses taken matter. Instead of going for the easy “A,” choose classes that will challenge. Colleges like to see students who have shown that they challenge themselves.

3. Keep grades up. Class rank and grades are key factors in college admissions.

4. Explore personal interests. Take classes in a variety of subjects that are interesting. Join some clubs. Take part in different activities outside of your school. Take classes of interest at a community college. Now is your child’s chance to find out what they like to do. Identifying interests will help them choose a college major.

5. Make a calendar. Start by marking off important test dates and deadlines. Then write in action items and goals related to the college application process including essay deadlines you set for yourself, scholarship deadlines and campus visits.

6. Stay organized. Set up special folders for college-related materials and plan how you’ll keep them straight. Designate a place for reference material and one for correspondence. Start a notebook just for the admissions process. Write down all user names and college application passwords as well as thoughts about schools. Keep a log of correspondence, phone calls, meetings with college representatives and visits to each school.

7. Plan your testing. Take the SAT and ACT early in the year so that you are done before April and can save May and June for subject tests and AP tests. Taking the tests early will also give you time to improve your score, if need be. Call the college advisors at International College Counselors for the name of an ACT and/or SAT tutor.

8. Get to know teachers. Work really hard to impress a chosen few of your teachers. You want them to know you – and like you – well enough to write a personal and exceptional letters of recommendation for you.

9. Get Involved. Perform community service and/or get a part-time job. Extracurricular activities show that you’re well rounded and know how to manage your time efficiently.

10. Position yourself for leadership. Run for office in one of your clubs. If you have a volunteer job, explore options for taking charge of a project. Colleges like to see that you've moved up in an organization. It shows commitment.

11. Research, research, research. Gather college information and use it to narrow down your choices of colleges and universities. Seek out college entrance requirements, scholarships and financial aid options. Go on “virtual” campus tours. Visit the websites of schools that interest you. Attend college fairs and college nights. Talk with students from your colleges of interest. Obtain course catalogs. Plan to visit campuses. Learn about financial aid options.

“Students who begin the application process early will avoid the stress of last minute submissions. From financial aid to scholarships to the Common Application, everything has a deadline,” says expert college advisor Mandee Heller Adler, CEO and founder of International College Counselors.

Source: International College Counselors


Creating a Bathroom that Maximizes Safety without Sacrificing Style

August 8, 2012 7:02 pm

(ARA) - For today's generation of aging adults, individuality and independence are values they've lived out for decades. As the years go by, lifestyle changes become a necessity, due to limited mobility and health concerns, but it doesn't necessarily mean giving up personality.

Aging in place, in the comfort of your home, is a priority for countless people. That often means making adjustments to your home, but some alterations can contribute to making your space feel more institutional and less "you." A balance between style and safety is the key - and finding it is easier than you might think.

One of the most hazardous rooms in the home is the bathroom. Its slippery surfaces and tendency to be crowded with products and objects makes it a hazard for slipping, tripping and other mishaps. As you consider making alterations to your home that enhance security and safety, it's the logical place to start.

* Clear away clutter. Bottles and jars and grooming tools frequently crowd counters, closets and the corners of tubs and showers. Make use of hangers, shelves and wall-mounted baskets to keep things neatly tucked away, providing a cleaner environment that's also better looking and less likely to cause trips or spills.

* Bathe in safety. With limited mobility, moving in and out of the tub can be difficult, if not downright dangerous. One renovation solution to that problem is installing a walk-in tub.

* Choose rugs carefully. Bath mats and rugs are both functional and decorative. They can add a splash of color while also effectively collecting water that might otherwise pool on the floor and lead to slipping. However, rugs that don't stay in place can present a problem of their own and lead you to trip. Opt for mats and rugs that have non-skid backing, but which still look harmonious with the rest of your bathroom decor.

* Bring things up to the right height. Your bathroom routine can be an active one, which can present problems if your health limits your ability to move or bend easily. Having a commode and a sink at a higher level that prevents you from overexertion during your daily routine will add to the comfort and safety of your bathroom.



Word of the Day

August 8, 2012 7:02 pm

Property tax. Assessment levied by city and county governments on real and personal property to generate the bulk of their operating revenues to pay for such public services as schools, libraries, and roads.


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.