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

Tree Troubles: Whose Yard Is It, Anyway?

April 16, 2012 7:48 pm

When a tree is planted between property lines, disputes may arise, and an otherwise neighborly relationship may be strained. Or perhaps a tree fell, and now no one knows who should cover the cost. From dangerous tree removal to the just plain annoying tree debris landing in the yard, there are ways to work out tree problems and maintain good neighborly relations. 

Most shared tree problems fall into three main categories:

1. Hazardous Tree Removal: The neighbor's tree is dead, split or leaning. The homeowner next door wants the tree removed before it falls in the yard and perhaps hits the house or other property.

2. Property Damage: The neighbor’s tree has fallen and damaged property. Payment for tree removal service and damage repair is required.

3. Poor Maintenance: The tree is growing over the next door neighbor's roof. Debris keeps falling in the yard, pool or patio. The tree needs professional maintenance to resolve the problem. 

“Don't touch a neighbor's tree,” advises Lou Giroud, ISA Certified Arborist and President, Giroud Tree and Lawn. “By law provided there is no trespassing, a homeowner has the right to take care of the portion of the tree on their property. However, to avoid conflict and potential legal issues, get the neighbor’s permission before taking any action.” 

Here's how to proceed. “Start with an evaluation by an ISA Certified Arborist,” suggests Mr. Giroud. "Ask the Arborist to assess the situation and provide a recommendation in writing. Share the professional evaluation with your neighbor, especially if the tree is deemed a hazard and removal by a tree removal service is required. 

The next step is to reach out to the neighbor. “In working with thousands of tree issues between neighbors,” explains Mr. Giroud, “I’ve found that the best results are gained through friendly communication.” 

1. If the neighbor is approachable, call or visit. Schedule a time to talk about the tree problem. Calmly present the issue and share the recommendation from the tree service company. If the neighbor can’t pay for the work, offer to pay for it or share in the cost.

2. If the neighbor is never home, write a friendly letter explaining the concern and attach the Arborist’s recommendation. 

3. If the neighbor doesn’t respond, send a certified letter. As a last resort, hire an attorney specializing in tree law. 

Disputes with a neighbor can cause a lot of stress. An ISA Certified Arborist can evaluate the situation and help make the job of negotiating with a neighbor a little easier.

Source: Giroud Tree and Lawn, http://www.giroudtree.com.

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When Retirement Meets Divorce: Dissecting the QDRO

April 16, 2012 7:48 pm

What is a QDRO? To those of us unversed in the common acronyms of divorce law, this means Qualified Domestic Relations Order. However, notes Find Law writer Andrew Chow, if you have a retirement account, and you're facing a divorce, you may quickly become quite familiar with this acronym.
Chow breaks down the basics of a QDRO, below:

A QDRO is a court order that allows an alternate payee— a spouse, an ex-spouse, a child, or some other dependent— to collect money from a retirement account. This may be needed for spousal or child support, for example. In some states, a retirement account may also be considered community property that must be divided upon divorce. 

Because QDROs can be complicated, it's probably wise to consult an attorney experienced in dealing with them. But here is some basic information about QDROs: 

What Qualifies as a QDRO?
In general, a QDRO is a court-issued judgment, order, or decree that formally approves a property-settlement agreement that involves a retirement plan. A QDRO must contain the following information:
• The name and last known mailing address of the participant, and each alternate payee;
• The name of each plan to which the order applies;
• The amount or percentage, or method for calculating the amount or percentage, to be paid to the alternate payee;
• The number of payments, or time period, covered by the QDRO. 

How Does a QDRO Work?
A QDRO generally describes how retirement assets will be divided between the retirement plan's participant and his alternate payees. A QDRO is required for any retirement plan covered by ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. 

The plan's administrator must approve the QDRO, provided it meets certain requirements. QDRO transfers from a retirement account do not incur an early-withdrawal penalty. 

How Do QDROs Get Drafted?
Plan administrators may provide QDRO forms that participants can fill out on their own. But because there are a number of legal requirements for what a QDRO must contain, it's probably best to speak with an attorney about drafting a QDRO that meets your specific needs. 

Source: FindLaw.com

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Word of the Day

April 16, 2012 7:48 pm

Deed. Written document that when executed and delivered conveys title to real property.

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Question of the Day

April 16, 2012 7:48 pm

Q: What should elderly homeowners consider when deciding to remodel? 

A: According to the AARP, older homeowners prefer to age in place, meaning they want to live in their homes safely, independently and comfortably, despite age or ability level. To do so, many require a few modifications in the home to enhance maneuverability, including the installation of a private elevator and the addition of a bathroom and bedroom to the main level. A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) may prove helpful. CAPS professionals are remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants who are trained in the unique needs of the elderly, Aging-in-place home modifications, common remodeling projects, and solutions to common barriers. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), together with the NAHB Research Center, NAHB Seniors Housing Council, and AARP, developed the CAPS program to address the growing number of consumers who will soon require modifications to their homes.

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Spring Cleaning: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

April 13, 2012 4:18 pm

Spring isn't just about flowers and rain showers, but it's also about decluttering our homes and embracing the good ole' tradition of spring cleaning.

Unfortunately, due to the labor intensive duties that go into many of our spring cleaning rituals, we run a high risk for injuries, especially if the proper safety precautions aren't taken.

"We all want a perfectly clean house with the snap of a finger, so we tend to rush through a numerous amount of burdensome tasks in a short period of time, and that's where we put ourselves at risk for injuries," says orthopedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Lana Kang, MD. "Whether it's a fall caused after making a wrong step on a ladder or straining a back muscle, it's best to pace yourself, complete one task at a time, and take regular breaks."

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, more than 35,500 people injured themselves using a stepladder.

Before creating your spring to-do list, make these spring cleaning safety tips a priority.

• Use proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending to avoid back injuries:

• Separate your feet, shoulder-width apart and keep your back upright and bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles. 

• Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; don't try to lift heavy objects by yourself. 

• Use a sturdy step stool instead of a counter or furniture—such as a chair or the couch—when dusting high hard to reach areas. 

• Ladders used for chores—such as washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters and trimming trees—should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.

• Use care with extension cords: be sure they are properly grounded. To avoid tripping or falling, do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways. 

• When working on a ladder, leaning too far to one side and reaching too far overhead can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder. Never climb a ladder without someone nearby who is able to spot you. 

• Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released. Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary – carefully look for others behind you when you do. 

• Wear protective gear such as proper eyewear, footwear and thick, well-fitted gloves that serve as a layer of protection to minimize cuts, scratches, and chafing, or injury from dangerous chemicals. 

• Read product labels for proper use of chemicals used for cleaning. Store all chemicals in places indicated on the package. This should be out-of-reach of both children and pets. Never place chemicals into unmarked containers or containers labeled for a different substance. 

• Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. 

• Be sure to stretch your arms, back, shoulders, knees and hips before starting your cleaning. 

• Keep a cell phone within reach in case of accident or injury. 

Source: AAOS

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Spring Selling Season: Keep Your Inside Air Fresh

April 13, 2012 4:18 pm

Spring is in full bloom—and so is the spring housing market! The last thing you need when prepping for an open house is odor or airborne pollen and dust, making your clean house seem dirty.

ABC The Chew correspondent and home expert, Evette Rios, knows how to keep a home fresh and clean for showing. She offers some of her top tips, below.

1. When to Go with the (Air) Flow
Rios points out that many don’t realize is that the EPA states that indoor air can be 5 to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. So if the day is nice and the pollen count is low, homeowners should consider opening their windows and doors to let fresh air circulate. On days when pollen is high, consider an air purifier. “Try the Honeywell AirGenius 5, which helps diminish odors and even helps reduce VOCs, airborne allergens, and airborne germs, which is key for families that spend a lot of time indoors,” says Rios, who also suggests using an air purifier when sleeping to keep lungs clear all night long.

2. What Your Fragrance Says about You
When you walk into a home, one of the first things that hits you is the smell, which can be a deal breaker if it’s an open house. Even if your home doesn’t have a strong odor (think kitty litter or last night’s dinner), a musty, dusty smell can still resonate. “Dust has a way of finding its way into the home and can start collecting as soon as you wipe your furniture, floors or countertops clean. Help reduce airborne dust particles with an air purifier,” says Rios, who also suggests using a fan to circulate stagnant indoor air while helping to eliminate odors.

3. Improving the “Ahh” Factor in Your Home
“If you live in an apartment building, air ducts between apartments can be carrying unfiltered air from your neighbor straight to you,” says Rios. “From cooking smells to viruses to pet dander – you name it – just imagine what could be passing through to your dwelling. Use an air purifier to help capture microscopic airborne allergens and help reduce odors in the air.”

Source: Honeywell

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Word of the Day

April 13, 2012 4:18 pm

Credit report. A past history of debt repayment used by creditors as an indicator of future readiness to responsibly repay debt.

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Question of the Day

April 13, 2012 4:18 pm

Q: What are the pros and cons of owning a townhouse?
A: On the plus side, exterior maintenance and repairs are minimal; there are no neighbors above or below the home like in an apartment; and because the homes are attached, they may offer a greater sense of security. 

As for the disadvantages, if there is a homeowner’s association, buyers will have to pay a homeowner’s fee. There is also less privacy than with a detached single-family home. And there are limits on how you can make exterior changes to the home.

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Tips for Living Comfortably When You're on the Road

April 13, 2012 4:18 pm

Traveling can leave you craving the comforts of home, especially when you're on the road for more than a day or two. Making life comfortable while you are away starts with choosing the right hotel and finding ways to keep your real-life routines rolling, so being miles from where you live still feels close to how you live. 

Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, co-founding editor of Apartment Therapy, founding editor of Apartment Therapy's culinary arts site TheKitchn.com, and author of "Good Food to Share," is a frequent traveler, and for the first time, she's taking her lifestyle expertise on the road. For this food expert, being comfortable and maintaining her routine starts with selecting a hotel with all of the amenities she needs, such as a fully-equipped, in-suite kitchen and separate living and sleeping spaces. 

Sara Kate offers the following tips for making life on the road feel more like home: 

Do Like the Locals Do
Find a local farmers market or local gourmet grocery store. Buy yourself flowers there -- a pot of your favorite violets on the counter or by the window will add color and life to your hotel room. Or, even just having a freshly-baked baguette or some fresh yogurt to snack on in your room can make you feel more cozy and at home. It's also a great place to go for a walk and explore the neighborhood. 

Get Exercise
Ironically, travel can be sedentary, so make sure to move your body. Look for hotels with 24-hour gyms or spacious suites, which provide the perfect setup to work out with your favorite DVD or get in your morning Pilates or yoga routine. Keeping your workout consistent, even while on the road, will help keep you energized throughout the day. 

Sip and Enjoy
Bring your favorite tea bags or coffee grounds -- whether you crave espresso or chai, one sip of your favorite coffee or tea will evoke memories of home and start your day off on the right foot. Find a hotel with an in-room coffee/tea maker so you can enjoy your morning drink while getting ready for your day. 

Source: www.hyatthouse.com.

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Protect Your Pets from Pests

April 13, 2012 4:18 pm

For pet owners, warm weather brings the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors with their furry loved ones. But it also brings the risk of flea and tick infestation. 

Veterinarians across the country are expecting an abundance of fleas and ticks this year, due in part to warmer winter temperatures in some areas of the nation. 

"Fleas and ticks are more than simple nuisances for your pets," says Laura Petree, DVM, Manager of Technical Services for Central Garden and Pet Company. "They can cause your pet discomfort, and in the case of ticks, put your pets and your family at risk for a variety of diseases." 

Dr. Petree says that flea eggs can account for 50 percent of a domestic flea infestation. One adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. If your pet has 10 fleas, your problem suddenly multiplies to 15,000 fleas in a month. "In order to effectively protect your dog or cat from fleas and ticks, you need to address any initial infestation problem, then keep the problem from coming back," she said. 

Preventing problems
Prevention is the best course of action. Making your yard unfriendly to pests is a good place to start.

Don't give fleas and ticks a welcoming environment.
Mow regularly, keep shrubs trimmed, and rake up leaves. Keep the garbage covered so it won't attract rodents -- that means fleas and ticks won't have any help getting close to your house.

You can spray your yard to kill adult fleas and ticks.
Outdoor sprays can be used on lawns, flowers, trees and shrubs. They kill and repel fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, ants, crickets and other insects. Spray wherever your pet frequents the most. Allow it to dry before letting pets or people onto the treated area. 

Preventive maintenance should be a regular part of your pet care routine. Whenever you groom your dog or cat, check for fleas and ticks. Signs of fleas include redness and scratching, as well as what's known as flea dirt -- black flea droppings left on your pet's coat. Ticks are most commonly found around the neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and body, and in between the toes. Cats may also have them around the neck and face. 

Topical treatments contain an insect growth regulator (IGR) that kills flea eggs and prevents re-infestation. They kill and repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes for up to 30 days. 

Shampoos and mists can also be used to complement your pet's regular flea and tick control maintenance.

Shampoos clean your pet by eliminating adult fleas, ticks and flea dirt. The active ingredients must come in contact with the pests for a certain period of time in order to be effective. Results are immediate. However, because shampoos have no long-lasting effects, it's a good idea to follow the shampoo with a dip or maintenance product.

Mists are used to kill fleas, ticks and mosquitoes on dogs and cats instantly. Flea eggs and larvae will be prevented for one to two months. 

Controlling an infestation
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your pet brings home some unwanted pests.

Here's what you can do:

Quickly kill biting adult fleas and offer several days of flea protection by using short-term control products for severe infestation problems. Sprays, dips, shampoos and other products can be used to help combat an infestation problem until it is under control. 

Vacuuming plays an important role in getting a flea infestation under control. Vacuum before the first home treatment, then daily for the next few weeks. This will help remove newly emerged fleas, flea dirt, eggs and some larvae from the carpets.

Treating your home with carpet powders, carpet sprays, room foggers or home sprays will help control fleas. Every area your pet frequents should be treated -- including the garage, basement, kennel and yard. 

Source: www.adamsfleacontrol.com.

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