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

Cool New Concepts for Gardening

April 23, 2012 7:56 pm

(ARA) - One of the driving forces in gardening is many American's pursuit of healthier eating and greener living. This means that the new face of gardening has begun to change considerably in recent years. Today's gardeners are younger and more urban than traditional gardeners, therefore, making unique impressions on the green world.

So, what's cool about gardening?

From growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features, bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important. Plants that serve a dual purpose— like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen—are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries —and may even increase the productivity of a green space.

How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Maximize space:
Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden, like the Miracle-Gro Culinary Herb Kit, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own "living wall" using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.

Redefine terms:
Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard ... right? Not necessarily. The great thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.

Stay true to yourself:
If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a "salsa garden" with tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental "trees" and grandma's cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Experiment:
Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.

Tags:

Car Troubles? How the New Car Lemon Law Can Help You

April 23, 2012 7:56 pm

Car troubles are always a pain. While it may be a financial burden when your old vehicle starts acting up, when it’s a brand new car that’s malfunctioning, it can be a major source of stress and aggravation as you deal with the dealer who sold you a lemon. According to Findlaw.com, just because you personally believe the car to be a lemon doesn't mean the law necessarily agrees with you.

Each state has enacted its own set of "lemon laws" to deal with the problem of irretrievably malfunctioning new cars. Some states also protect the purchase of used cars. Findlaw.com put together the following general guidelines for determining whether your car qualifies as a "lemon," and therefore whether you are afforded protection under consumer protection laws. 

While you can handle the problem yourself using the guidelines below, if you find the process too difficult or the manufacturer is acting inappropriately, you can contact an attorney with experience dealing with lemons and manufacturers, who will fight for your rights. 

What Qualifies as a Lemon?
Under the law of most states, for a vehicle to be considered a lemon, the car must 1) have a "substantial defect," covered by warranty, that occurs within a certain time after purchase, and 2) continue to have the defect after a "reasonable number" of repair attempts. What exactly constitutes a substantial defect or a reasonable number of attempts varies by state, so it is incumbent upon you to determine the law in your state. 

Substantial Defect
A substantial defect is a problem—not caused by the owner's use of the car after purchase—that impairs the car's use, value or safety. In most states, the defect must be covered under express warranty and affect a serious function or expectation of the car. For example, faulty steering or brakes qualify as a substantial defect because they affect vehicle safety, while a loose glove compartment hinge does not qualify because it is a minor problem that doesn't affect a significant function or expectation of the car. 

But what about the wide range of problems that fall somewhere between faulty brakes and loose hinges or radio knobs? The legal line drawn between "substantial" and minor problems isn't always clear and varies from state to state. Problems like a poor paint job may not seem like a substantial problem to some people, but many states have found these conditions to constitute a substantial defect. 

No matter what state in which you reside, the defect must occur within a certain time period or certain number of miles. 

Reasonable Number of Repairs 

If your car has a substantial defect as outlined above, the dealer and/or manufacturer is then given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the problem before the car can be declared a lemon. 

Generally, four repair attempts is considered reasonable, although this number may be as low as one attempt if the problem is a serious safety defect. Most states also have provisions which state that if a vehicle is in the repair shop for a certain number of days per year to fix substantial defects, the car may be deemed a lemon. 

Federal Consumer Protection
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law that protects the buyer of any product that costs more than $25 and comes with a written warranty. The Act is designed to prevent manufacturers from creating grossly unfair warranties, and also allows a consumer bringing an action under the Act to recover any attorney's fees incurred during the lawsuit. If you feel that the terms of the warranty are grossly unfair, you should contact an attorney, who can advise you as to whether the terms rise to the level of grossly unfair.
Protection for Used Cars
While the above information covers new car sales and leases only, some states have a lemon law that covers used cars as well. Some states cover vehicles purchased that have logged a certain mileage, others cover only cars which have been sold once, and still others extend protection only if the used car would have been covered by the original warranty. You will have to investigate the laws of your state to determine whether your used car is protected your state's lemon law. 

Consumer Remedies—Refund or Replacement Vehicle
If your car meets the criteria for 1) a substantial defect, and 2) reasonable number of repair attempts, then you qualify for lemon law protection and have the right to get either a refund or a replacement car. You must first notify the manufacturer of the defect (though they should already have notice because of the attempted repairs), and if you are not offered a settlement to your satisfaction, you will likely be required to go to arbitration before you can sue the manufacturer in court. 

Arbitration Process
Lemon law arbitration is a free, non-judicial (out of court) process in which either a panel or a single arbitrator analyze both sides of the dispute and reach a decision about what remedy to award you. 

Depending on state law, either the manufacturer will choose or you may select a state consumer protection agency program (although this option is becoming rare). If you have the option of choosing, the state program is preferable because they are less likely to be influenced by the manufacturer.
 
Arbitration decisions in most states are binding upon the manufacturer but appealable in court by the consumer. In other words, if you don't like the arbitrator's decision, you can to sue the manufacturer in court if you wish. On the other hand, if you decide to accept the arbitrator's ruling, the manufacturer cannot appeal and that is the end of the case. 

While you can appeal the arbitration ruling, you should be as prepared as possible in order to come to a quick and inexpensive resolution (attorneys charge hundreds of dollars an hour, while lemon law arbitration is free). Consumers who bring substantial documentation of their claims tend to do better than those who appear at the arbitration with little evidence. You should bring receipts and service records demonstrating how often the car has been in the shop; documents such as phone records indicating how often you contacted the dealer about the problem; and any ads or brochures that the car manufacturer may have created touting its product (manufacturers will most likely be held to the standards they claim in advertising). 

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.


Tags:

Word of the Day

April 23, 2012 7:56 pm

Depreciation. Gradual decline on paper in market value of real estate, especially because of age, obsolescence, wear and tear, or economic conditions.

Tags:

Question of the Day

April 23, 2012 7:56 pm

Q: Do state and local governments offer home improvement programs?
A: Just about every state now offers loans for renovation and rehabilitation at below-market interest rates through its Housing Finance Agency or a similar agency. Call your governor’s office to get the name and phone number of the agency in your area.

At the municipal level, many cities also have programs for special improvements to certain blocks and neighborhoods they are trying to spruce up. Call City Hall, as well as a Community Development Agency in your city.

Tags:

3 Ways to Boost Curb Appeal for Under $100

April 20, 2012 7:52 pm

Want to add curb appeal, but don't have much money to spend? Here are some simple things you can do for under $100. 

• Clean up the yard. Put away unused items, like lawn furniture. Clear leaves and branches out from under shrubs, other plants, and the house foundation. Make sure the lawn is free from debris and that grass clippings are not left on the driveway or sidewalk. Borrow or rent a power washer to clean off the driveway, steps, sidewalk and porch.
• Trim, prune and divide. Overgrown plants can block light from getting inside the house, and they make the house and yard look unkempt. Trim shrubs, making sure to remove dead branches. Get rid of dead or diseased plants in the landscape. If you have perennial plants that have gotten too big, divide them and plant them in other places around the landscape.
• Add new mulch. Mulch not only helps your plants, but it gives garden beds a neat and tidy finish. Wood mulch comes in different colors, but to showcase your plants the most, consider a dark brown mulch -- it resembles fresh, healthy soil, so your eyes are drawn toward the plant and not the mulch itself. 

Source: www.TruGreen.com.

Tags:

Making Smooth Moves, Part 2: Packing Your Valuables

April 20, 2012 7:52 pm

In the coming months, your RIS Consumer Confidant will be highlighting the advice of many experts whose reputation depends on ensuring your move—whether across the street, or across the nation—goes as smoothly as possible. 

We already heard from Bill Oakley of Oakley Restoration & Finishing, LLC in Litchfield County, Conn. (oakleyrestoration.com) who recently blogged about how to save your furniture and sanity during a move.
Oakley says there are a lot of things that can go wrong in a major household move, and a lot of things that can break, can be easily replaced. But when it comes to family heirlooms, antiques, art collections, jewelry, wills, stock certificates, photos, home videos, etc.—you need a little extra effort to be sure those items travel as safely as possible. 

Once you get to the point where you are engaging a moving company in a walk-through of your possessions, Oakley says it's a good time to make the company aware of your most valuable items and perhaps have a replacement value cost documented. 

If you are a collector of antique or vintage items Oakley recommends you call a professional appraiser to do either a summary appraisal stating the replacement cost, or at least an approximation of value.
But don't forget—you may already have these figures if your insurance company has scheduled these items separately on your personal property policy. Oakley says this extra effort can save so much trouble and heartache if you do have a damage or loss claim. 

When it comes to choosing a moving company to use, the best way is by a recommendation from someone you know and trust. Nothing is better than a good report on the professional care and service a mover gave to a friend. 

Lacking that, Oakley says ask for references that you can call for their testimonial. I have heard some horror stories about how unprofessional and ill-mannered movers showed up the day of the move and did not do as they promised, causing much concern, anxiety and outright damage. 

Oakley adds that if the moving company representative isn’t able to handle antiques and higher end items to your satisfaction you can use them for the bulk of your possessions and hire a mover who specializes in antiques and fine art for the good stuff.

Tags:

8 Sure-Fire Tips to Attract Hummingbirds

April 20, 2012 7:52 pm

Hummingbirds are one of the most interesting species of birds. They can hover, fly forward, backward and up and down. Not to mention their dazzling, iridescent colors. The bird experts at Duncraft offer these eight great tips so anyone can attract and enjoy these amazing “flying jewels” in their backyard. 

When hummingbirds migrate north from South and Central America in early spring, there are few insects or flower nectar for them to eat. To attract hummingbirds, nectar feeders should be put out about a week before the hummingbirds are expected to return. Hummingbirds will feed on nectar for energy until a good supply of insects is available. Although Duncraft has a complete array of instant nectar mixes, they offer this recipe for homemade nectar: Use 1 part white table sugar to 4 parts water. Bring to a boil to remove impurities in the water and to dissolve the sugar completely. Cool before filling feeders. 

Hummingbird feeders should be placed in a shady area near a shrub or tree. Hummingbirds are very territorial and will welcome a perch from which they can keep watch over “their” feeder. 

Hummingbirds return to the same location each year where they know they will find a food source. Once hummingbirds have been attracted to an area, feeders should be hung in exactly the same spot each following year. 

Planting flowers near a nectar feeder will increase the chance that hummingbirds will find a feeder. Tubular-shaped flowers of red or orange harbor the types of insects that hummingbirds feed on, attracting them to the area. 

Because hummingbirds are very territorial, they will fight at a feeder. When this happens it is best to set up another feeder in another spot to stop the fighting. Locate it at least six feet from the first feeder. 

Duncraft recommends that nectar feeders be cleaned thoroughly once a week in warm water and white vinegar to remove residue, then rinsed well. A stiff bottle brush or hand-mop is useful. Soap or detergent are not recommended. 

Change the nectar solution about every 4 days, especially in high temperatures. Old solutions can ferment or produce a mold harmful to hummers. Hummers are fussy and will not come to feeders that have been neglected. They are quickly discouraged and may leave the area when they find feeders empty so keep feeders at least half full at all times. 

Do not use pesticides on flowers that hummingbirds may visit for either nectar or insects. 

Source: Duncraft

Tags:

Word of the Day

April 20, 2012 7:52 pm

Deficiency judgment. Judgment issued against a borrower when the sale of foreclosed property does not bring in enough to pay the balance owed on the mortgage.

Tags:

Question of the Day

April 20, 2012 7:52 pm

Q: Does the federal government offer home improvement programs?
A:
Yes. Among the most popular:
- Title 1 Home Improvement Loan. HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family home and lenders make loans for basic livability improvements – such as additions and new roofs – to eligible borrowers.
- Section 203(k) Program. HUD helps finance the major rehabilitation and repair of one- to four-family residential properties, excluding condos. Owner-occupants may use a combination loan to purchase a fixer-upper "as is" and rehabilitate it, or refinance a property plus include in the loan the cost of making the improvements. They also may use the loan solely to finance the rehabilitation.
- VA loans. Veterans can get loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than that on conventional loans.
- Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loans. Funded by the Agriculture Department, these low-rate loans are available to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs. Funds are available to improve or modernize a home or to remove health and safety hazards.

Tags:

Enjoy a Green Lawn All Season Long

April 20, 2012 4:52 pm

Everyone wants a lush, green lawn come warm weather season and while many homeowners use green solutions for their home, they may forget to extend those practices beyond the brick and mortar. But using sustainable practices can lead to a green lawn your family can enjoy all season long. 

According to the 2011 Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey from the National Gardening Association (NGA), 79 percent of U.S. households report that it's important to use environmentally friendly practices on lawns and landscapes—residential, municipal and commercial. But that same survey found that only 17 percent of respondents gave their own lawn care maintenance methods a "green" grade. This is down from 28 percent, compared to the 2008 survey. 

Use these tips to help care for your lawn and garden this year—in more ways than one:
Mow tall - The correct mowing height is one of the most critical issues in keeping your lawn healthy and lush. Make sure your mower's blades are sharp and take no more than 1/3 the length of the grass off each time.
Go electric - Without the need for gas or oil to operate your outdoor equipment, you can tend to your lawn, garden and landscaping using electric products. Electric tools also save you money compared to using gas-powered outdoor equipment. 
Water slowly, deeply and less frequently - Proper watering will allow your grass to grow deeper roots, making it less vulnerable to drought. Make sure to identify the type of grass in your yard and be aware of the recommended frequency of watering for that variety. Also, water early in the morning, so less moisture evaporates throughout the course of a hot day.
Be cautious when using pesticides - Remember, all pesticides are toxic to some degree and may harm people, wildlife and pets. Pesticides can also kill beneficial organisms, such as worms, disrupting the ecological balance in your yard.
Recycle your grass clippings - According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 27 percent of landfills were filled with grass clippings and yard waste in 2011. Help to eliminate this waste by composting. Learn about composting techniques at www.epa.gov.
Choose lawn care services - If you prefer to leave your yard maintenance to the experts, choose a lawn care service company like Clean Air Lawn Care. Unlike some lawn care companies, this company utilizes electric tools, such as Black & Decker's outdoor products, and biodiesel-powered equipment for lawn mowing and landscape maintenance, and charges its equipment during the day with solar panels mounted on its service trucks. 

Source: http://blackanddecker.com/recharge and www.cleanairlawncare.com.

Tags:
TwitterFacebookGoogleLinkedinYoutubepinterest