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 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Dos and Don'ts for Job Interview Follow-Ups

December 7, 2017 7:27 am

If you're hunting for a new job, you likely know that sending a "thank you" note post-interview can be a huge deciding factor as to whether or not you land the gig.

Research from Accountemps provides the following dos and don'ts for giving thanks:

Do add value. Instead of writing a generic note, customize the message by mentioning a skill that wasn't brought up during the interview or expounding on a topic that was discussed.

Don't delay. Send a thank-you note within 24 hours. Some employers make hiring decisions shortly after the round of interviews is complete, and you don't want to risk sending your note after that window has closed.

Do proofread. Sending a thank-you message can backfire if you go about it the wrong way. Typos and grammatical mistakes may come across as a lack of attention to detail. Take the time to review, revise and refine your thank-you note.

Don't be pushy. If you don't hear from the employer within a week of the interview, it's appropriate to follow-up with a phone call or another email. But do so in moderation. Persistence is laudable, but pestering can get you removed from the short list.

Source: Accountemps

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Steps for a Home Remodel

December 6, 2017 7:27 am

(Family Features)--As a homeowner, there is nearly always a laundry list of projects with time and budget constraints when it comes to a home remodel.

This step-by-step guide from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) can help ensure you get the maximum return on your investment and make the most of your remodel.

Step 1: Identify Reasons for Remodeling
Deciding whether to undertake simple aesthetic changes or a full remodel can be difficult. One of the best ways to decide is to figure out why you are remodeling in the first place, whether it's to make your new house feel more like home or to update a 1950s-era kitchen.

Step 2: Set Your Budget
Every home is unique in structure, age, quality and craftsmanship, which all impact the price of a remodel. Since no one can see through walls before demolition, the quote you receive will likely not be 100 percent accurate. However, a qualified remodeling company will be open and honest about the issues and challenges it might face during the process. Account for these adjustments by planning for any "surprises" with a 10 percent cushion, just in case.

Step 3: Hire the Right Team
To help ensure you find the right company for the job, you should do your research. Referrals from friends and family are one way to find a remodeler. National associations like NARI provide unbiased information and resources that can help you find qualified, certified remodelers in your area. With more than 6,000 members, the organization represents professional remodelers who adhere to a strict code of ethics. Many hold certifications in remodeling, kitchen and bath design and lead carpentry. Find more information and resources at NARI.org.   

Step 4: Understand the Plan  
Communication is key in a successful remodeling project. Keep the lines of communication open between you, the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Let them know your family's schedule and whether you have pets confined somewhere. Make sure to specify the best way to reach you, such as phone, in-person or email, and how often you wish to communicate with your remodeling contractor about your project.

Step 5: Complete the Project
While the dust is settling and the remodel is almost finished, take a moment to walk through your project and note any adjustments that need to be made while the contractor is still on site. Contractors often provide guarantees of workmanship, so find out what they cover and for how long, then include this information in your work agreement. You should also take another look at the contract and confirm you have signed permits, receipts, change orders, lien waivers, warranties and manufacturer’s guides at your disposal.

Remodeling a space can be a major project, but with the right help, resources and information, you can make your dream home come to fruition.

Source: National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Time to Take the Keys from Grandpa?

December 6, 2017 7:27 am

If someone in your family is reaching their golden years, it can be frustrating—or scary—when their driving habits begin to slip. But how do you know when their driving is unsafe, and how can you monitor them without making them feel like they're losing their independence?

Consider the following tips from the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

- Ride along with your family member and observe his or her ability to control the vehicle, stay within the lane, drive at posted speeds, maintain a safe distance from other cars, obey traffic signals, make appropriate decisions when turning or at intersections, and park the car.

- Look for any confusion, poor judgement or indications that he or she is not focused, including getting lost, braking/accelerating for no apparent reason or forgetting where the car is parked.

- Consult with a physician who can help to identify any medical issues and support the decision to continue driving or not.

- If driving remains an option, consider having the individual enroll in a course to brush up on road rules and defensive driving techniques, or consult with a driving rehabilitation specialist who can perform complete evaluations both on and off the road to help maintain safe driving practices.

- If it's no longer safe to drive, be prepared for a frank but often emotional discussion. "Anger and sadness are often associated with the loss of driving, so let the individual express his or her thoughts, acknowledge their feelings, and respond with compassion," suggests Kelly A. Kearns, Psy.D., Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

- Explore transportation options. From community transport and senior resources to Uber, Lyft and other car services, there are many alternatives available.

- Create an "advanced directive for driving," which designates a trusted individual to assist if the older driver is no longer able to drive safely.

Source: Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Protect Your Financial Info

December 6, 2017 7:27 am

Having someone hack your bank account or financial info can be devastating, emotionally and financially, and it can even ruin your credit for years to come. To help, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities offers the following steps to protect yourself from financial fraud:

- Use ATMs and gas pumps in well-lit, secure locations.
- Examine the card reader slot and surrounding areas to see if anything looks out of place, mismatched, or loose.
- Consider using a credit card not linked to your bank account to avoid compromising your PIN or cash flow, and to gain other consumer protections.
- Check your bank and credit card statements frequently to watch for fraudulent activity and report any unfamiliar activity immediately.
- Look for signs of an encrypted website when providing sensitive personal information such as credit card, banking information, or Social Security Numbers online; key identifiers include a website address for the website's login page that begins with "https" and a padlock icon in your browser status bar.
- Do not open links or attachments in unsolicited emails from any person or vendor you do not know.
- Give yourself a gift by ordering a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Maximizing Price Club Shopping

December 4, 2017 7:27 am

We all love the big sizes and low prices of our local warehouse store - yet we all hate the sticker shock that often occurs at the cash register when the clerk tells us the grand total. Are we really saving money when all is said and done?

Here are some tips for maximizing warehouse shopping and avoiding spending more than you bargained for:

Don’t browse. Go with a list of specific items that you actually need and stick to it. Part of the reason we overspend at warehouse stores is because we’re lured in by products that look interesting or that we can “probably use.”

Go more often. This sounds counterintuitive to spending less, but making more frequent runs to the warehouse store to get just a few items that we actually need will save us more money in the long run.

Only buy what you truly use a lot of. Don’t make the mistake of buying items you like just a little. You will have a lot of whatever it is you buy, so make sure it is something you will use or eat often. Otherwise, that mass quantity will just go to waste.

Don’t buy what you can’t store. You will save money on meat at wholesale clubs provided you have room to divide, freeze and store it. Otherwise, you will lose money on meat that goes bad before you can use it all.

Try the store brand. The generic warehouse brand is always cheaper and often just as good - if not better - than the brand names of your favorite products. Give it a try and save even more.

Shop brick and mortar. Be sure to shop at the store itself as opposed to its website. Online prices can be higher to cover shipping costs and other fees not associated with the physical location.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Interview a Real Estate Agent

December 4, 2017 7:27 am

If you’re putting your home on the market, you will soon be sitting down with a few local real estate agents to hear their listing presentations (interview at least three before deciding who to work with).

While the word “presentation” denotes a one-way communication, this should really be a two-way process in order to choose the right agent to work with. Here are a few key questions to ask, which will help you gain insight into an agent’s strategies, professionalism and enthusiasm.

1. What did the last home you sold in this area go for? Not only will this give you a good idea of the going rate in your neighborhood, it will shed some light on how familiar the agent is with your neighborhood and its home values.

2. How will you market my home? A standard part of any good listing presentation will highlight the various ways in which the agent will promote your home online through their own website as well as various real estate portals. Be sure to ask the agent how they follow up with leads that come in through these portals - what is their system for responding quickly and what type of information do they provide?

3. Will you host an open house and if so, how will it generate leads? Not all agents are big proponents of open houses, so ask the agent if they intend to host one for your home and, if so, what will they do to make it creative and worthwhile? Ask them how they will collect attendees’ information and how they will follow up afterwards.

4. What can I do to help my home sell for a higher price? A good agent will be able to tell you what renovations will be worth spending money on in order to sell your home for a higher price and which ones won’t. He or she will also be able to tell you what simple things you can do to improve your sales price, like painting or staging.

5. What factors will detract from my home’s value? If your home is not going to list at the price you had hoped for, ask the prospective agent why. If there’s some pet damage or a swimming pool that’s going to detract from the selling price, a good agent should let you know that up front.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Holiday Travel Tips for the Business Jetsetter

December 4, 2017 7:27 am

Are you hitting the road for work this holiday season? Nothing can be more stressful than delayed flights when your job is on the line, or getting stuck in holiday traffic en route to that important conference.

Based on the travel issues they're constantly monitoring and addressing, Upside Navigators have compiled the following list of 10 tips for DIY business travelers who don't have navigators watching out for them:

- Look at the 15-day or longer weather reports and consider rescheduling a trip if storms are projected.

- Take a smartphone screenshot of your confirmation emails and add them to your business travel calendar invites, or just keep them handy in your photo storage for easy access. Or, write your travel itinerary (flight numbers, hotel, contact numbers) on the back of a business card and keep it in your wallet or purse.

- Prepare a back-up plan. If the booked flight is cancelled, it pays to have some idea beforehand of what other flights and possibly ground transportation options are out there.

- Utilize secondary airports. Many cities have their major international airports as well as smaller airports located a few miles away. Airfares may be a bit higher at the smaller airports, but if it means less congestion, the extra dollars may be worth it.

- Have at least one travel app loaded onto your smartphone. Instead of standing in line at the ticketing counter, or waiting on the phone, many itinerary changes can be made in seconds with a travel app. Upside's travel app includes a one-touch option where travelers can use on their smartphones to immediately connect to a navigator.

- To start your trip, arrange a ride to the airport.  Don't rely on being able to find parking once you get there.

- Book ground transportation from the destination airport in advance. Waiting lines for airport ground transportation can be especially long and time-consuming over the holidays.  Better to have a car waiting.

- Pack light. If at all possible, travel with carry-on only. And pay attention to carry-on size limits posted by carriers, as well as space limitations often found on regional connecting jets.

- Make sure hotel reservations guarantee late arrival. That way, if there's a delay, your room will still be waiting.

- Confirm all flight times – and arrive early. Confirm flights the night before and again the morning of a flight, just in case there are any cancellations or last-minute delays. Also, arrive early, since security lines are likely to be long. It also might pay to consider enrolling in an expedited security clearance program, like TSA Pre Check.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Holiday Shopping? How-To Find the Best Deals

December 1, 2017 7:27 am

'Tis the season for holiday shopping, and there are plenty of ways to get the best possible price on the items you want after Black Friday.

Kiplinger’s Magazine editors suggest favorite websites for finding and price-comparing merchandise, all with free mobile apps you can use when you’re out and about.

For scoring deals:

- Dealnews.com has a team of deal hunters who scan prices on thousands of items at more than 2,000 reputable online retailers multiple times each day. You can even get shopping advice from the site’s guides and sign up for mail alerts for the products you want to purchase.

- Ben’sBargains.com also tracks about 2,000 retailers and publishes about 200 good deals daily including price history. You can choose your store and/or product and sign up for alerts, and check the site’s ‘Top Offers’ gallery.

- Bradsdeals.com is easy to navigate to find best sale prices, coupons, rebates and store rewards at nearly 4,000 retailers. You can sign up to get email deal alerts on your chosen items as frequently as you like.

- Offers.com features deals from about 6,000 companies and stores, updated daily and organized into categories like clothing, electronics, toys and travel. You can search by store and brand, and find local deals in more than 75 cities.

- Slickdeals.net and Gottadeal.com both feature deals on their home pages, and also forums you can scan to find hundreds of deals posted daily.

For comparing prices:

- Both Pricegrabber.com and GoogleShopping can help you find the lowest price on a given product. When you search an item, you get a list of the retailers offering price, shipping cost, ratings and seller information.

- FreePriceAlerts.com gives you instant price comparisons with browser add-ons. If you register, you can set target prices on the items you want and get alerts when/if the price falls to that amount.

For finding cyber-coupons:

- RetailMeNot.com provides about 5,000 coupon code offers for over 50,000 retailers and brands. If you let it track your location, it will provide best offers at nearby stores and restaurants.

- CouponSherpa.com provides a wide selection of printable coupons and online promo codes.- Rather-be-shopping.com provides coupon codes for just 800 retailers, but will try to hunt down a coupon for a store you can’t find on their site and get it to you within 24 hours.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Money That Can Be Better Spent on a Down Payment

December 1, 2017 7:27 am

One of the biggest obstacles for first-time homebuyers is saving for a down payment - it’s a nut that seems insurmountable to many. The first mistake new homebuyers make is believing that they must have 20 percent to put down on a home, when (depending on your credit and the loan terms) you can usually put down much less.

The second mistake is believing you’ll never be able to save enough money. Here are 10 things you can stop spending money on right now. Collect what you would have spent on these items at the end of the week and put it into a savings account for your home-to-be. It will add up faster than you think!

Books. Get your library card renewed or (gasp!) get one for the first time, and start reading books for free.

Coffee. Treat yourself to a nice travel mug then fill up at home and skip the pricey coffee shop on the way to work.

Gas. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but when you can, opt to walk or ride your bike instead of hopping in the car. Carpooling is another great option.

Lunch. Not only is brown bagging it cheaper, it’s usually much healthier as well. Just be sure not to eat at your desk. Hit up the break room or a local park (bring your library book!).

Designer clothes. If you’re a style hound, don’t despair. Instead of shopping in pricey stores, check out your local outlet mall, online tag sales or high-end thrift shops. You’ll be surprised at what you can find.

Restaurants. If going out to dinner is one of your favorite social activities, don’t give up the act of dining with friends, just do it at home instead. Host a backyard cookout or an intimate dinner party with candles and fine china. Or, save money and time and make it a potluck affair.

Bottled water. Get yourself a filtered pitcher and a portable container and stop the bottled water insanity. Your wallet and the environment will thank you.

Expensive gifts. Believe it or not, it really is the thought that counts. Instead of wasting money on gifts that may or may not be used by the recipient, go the homemade route. Try baked goods, a photo collage, a collection of flowers from your garden tied in a pretty ribbon, or a home-cooked meal.

All those cable channels. Take a good look at your cable bill and decide whether or not you really need all those channels you’re paying for.

Your gym membership. If you’re not using your gym membership regularly, let it go. Stay healthy with online workouts you can do at home and venture into the great outdoors for walking, hiking and running or your favorite sports.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Holiday Hospitality Tips to Ease Seasonal Stress

December 1, 2017 7:27 am

Is everyone headed to your home for the holidays? While this can be fun, it can also be a headache, especially for the host.

Consider the following tips from hospitality pro Katie Davin, an associate professor in the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University.

Skip the couch. Are you sure everybody wants to stay at your house? Uncle Ralph might be too cheap to pay for a hotel, but cousins Sue and Jeff might think that they would hurt your feelings by suggesting it. Some relatives might prefer to have their own space. Research local hotels for good rates. If you are not in a city or a tourist destination, your nearby hotels may not sell out during the major holidays and therefore, offer great rates that could include breakfast and WiFi. Try an online travel agency (OTA) such as Travelocity to see what's out there. For any last minute lodging needs, guide those guests to the Hotel Tonight app.

Wheels. Encourage independence – if most of your guests are flying in, try to encourage at least one of them to rent a car so they are not completely dependent on you and your vehicle. Then they can get out and enjoy the town, shop, or help you with errands. Check your favorite website for car rentals, or try a site that searches for deals for you, such as Kayak.

Fun. Sometimes when we have lived somewhere for a long time, we forget all the fun things there are to do in our town. Find out what is happening nearby – there could be holiday markets, light shows, ice-skating, hiking trails, or other local flavored activities, and your guests might love to get out of the house and do something festive. Check your city's or region's tourism website or Convention & Visitors Bureau to see what's going on. Type your city name and "tourism" or "CVB" into your favorite search engine.

Food. If you anticipate having guests for all three meals, keep breakfast and lunch simple, especially on the days surrounding the holiday. For breakfast, most of your guests will be quite satisfied with good coffee, fruit, yogurt, and toast or pastries from the local bakery. They can help themselves and nobody feels as if they must be at the table at a certain time. If you want to provide something hot, prepare a simple egg dish you can chill the night before and place in the oven when you wake up.

For lunch, have cold cuts, breads, and condiments available. Better yet, send them out to lunch. Tell them you have some "work" to catch up on, and while they're gone, you can chill and enjoy the quiet.

The help-yourself format for breakfast and lunch can lead to crowds of people in your kitchen. Limit the perishable food availability to an hour when you have the biggest crowd. Then return it to the fridge, so the stragglers can help themselves at their convenience. Also, place the cold drinks in coolers outside – back deck, garage, balcony, whatever keeps people from opening and closing your fridge all day. Just watch the temperature if you are in a really cold climate during a cold snap to prevent the bottles and cans from freezing.

Make dinner the star, when the whole gang gets together. When people offer to help (and they will), let them. Have some easy jobs ready to delegate. Almost anyone can peel potatoes, set the table, wash some pots, or stir the sauce. If you have a family member with skills, delegate the hard jobs. If nobody offers to help, ask. Sometimes they want to assist, but don't want to interfere or hover. Alleviate their angst, and minimize your own. Ask.

Breaking the News. After you have compiled your information, you need to communicate it to your guests. If possible, call everyone individually and explain the lodging options, so there's less chance of hurt feelings. For a bigger crowd, put it all together in an email but be diplomatic and hospitable. You don't want your email going viral because it is so bossy and inhospitable. Begin your letter with a sincere message about how excited you are to be hosting the family and/or friends for the holiday. Then get right to it and explain your rationale, in a casual and positive way, such as, "We have a few spare beds if you would like to stay with us, but for those of you who would like to have your own space, several hotels and inns right in town have special rates…."

Happy Holidays. One of the best ways to make your guests feel welcome is for you to enjoy yourself. Guests can feel like a burden if they see that you are stressed-out and trying to do it all yourself. Accept their help, encourage them to venture out of the house, and don't expect perfection from you or them. You will all have a better time and fond memories.

Source: Johnson and Wales University

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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