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

Simple Steps to Home Safety

March 19, 2012 6:16 pm

Keeping your home and family safe is a high priority. If home fires, break-ins or weather-related disasters have you worried, here are some simple steps you can take to make your home a safer place.

Be Forewarned
Every home should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors, but they require some minor maintenance and don't last forever. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a home fire.
• Make sure you have smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, including the basement. The USFA recommends installing them inside and outside of sleeping areas.
• Replace your batteries regularly. While having a working smoke detector more than doubles your chance of survival, it's estimated that one third of smoke alarms are not working, often due to worn out batteries. Many people use the time change each spring and fall as a reminder to change batteries.
• Replace old smoke alarms. According to the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. It is also recommended that homes have both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms, or dual sensor smoke alarms which have both types of sensors. (Ionization alarms sound more quickly in a flaming, fast-moving fire. Photoelectric alarms are faster at sensing smoldering, smoky fires.) When the time comes to replace your detectors, consider a First Alert product. You can find affordable options with both types of sensors.
Seeking Security?
Taking precautions to protect your home extend to home security, as well. According to the Bureau of Justice, many home burglaries occur simply by a thief walking through the front door.
• Protect yourself and your family through the use of deadbolts on doors and locks on windows.
• Installing motion-sensor lights on walkways or driveways can potentially deter a thief.
• Many home security kits are available in a "do it yourself" complete package, allowing you to customize sirens, entry points and more.
• If installing an entire security system seems too much, something simple like a keyless entry system provides peace of mind and easy installation. A garage door keyless entry using fingerprint identity ensures that only the right people gain access to your home.
Weather the Storm
Protecting your home from inclement weather is an essential part of ensuring your family's safety.
• The first step is having a family discussion about safe rooms in the house and a plan in case of dangerous weather.
• According to FEMA, a weather radio with NOAA technology allows as much as eight minutes lead time before public alarms sound to move family and pets to a safe room or secure location.
• Make sure you have a weather safety kit that contains a flashlight, portable power for your electronics, an emergency radio, walkie talkies, bottled water and dry goods. Let each child choose 1 to 2 items to put in the weather prep toolkit, such as a toy, game or personal item to help keep them occupied and calm in the case you have to take shelter for a long period of time. Additional alkaline batteries are always good to have on hand in case of emergency.
Source: www.radioshack.com

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Question of the Day

March 16, 2012 6:12 pm

Q: Are up-front fees and closing costs deductible?

A: Many of the costs paid at closing are not immediately deductible.

The exception is points you pay to purchase your home loan. They are deductible for that year. Points paid when you refinance an existing mortgage must be deducted over the life of the new loan.

Some fees – including loan application, appraisal, document preparation and recording fees – that are assessed when purchasing a home can be recouped by adding them to the adjusted cost basis, the starting point for figuring a gain or less when selling the home.

Significant home improvements also can be calculated into your cost basis.

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Word of the Day

March 16, 2012 6:12 pm

Buyer’s market. Describes an excess supply of homes for sale, in which there are few buyers and many sellers. In such a market, the buyer can typically negotiate more favorable prices and terms.

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Protect Your Family against Foreign Lottery Fraud

March 16, 2012 6:12 pm

Every year thousands of Americans fall prey to scammers, with the elderly and disabled being the most vulnerable to their schemes. Luckily, there are safeguards in place to protect you, and to provide crucial guidance for spotting scams that could be targeting your family. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), founded by Benjamin Franklin, is the oldest law enforcement agency in the country. It works every day to stop these criminals from the millions of attempts they make to scam Americans.

During National Consumer Protection Week, which ends today, March 12, USPIS is making an extra effort to help you protect yourself. One of the most prevalent scams around is the Foreign Lottery Fraud, from as far away as Australia and Europe.

Scam operators target U.S. consumers by phone, Internet and direct mail to buy into high-stakes foreign lotteries. This is not only illegal, it also robs millions of Americans of billions of dollars. Lottery hustlers use victims' bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.

Tips and warning signs to protect yourself from foreign lottery fraud

Use these tips to ensure you and your family are protected against fraud. Remember to inform family members to look out for the following signs.

There are two main techniques used in a foreign lottery scam:
• They tell you that you've won and only need to send a few hundred dollars to claim your prize.
• They ask you to buy tickets to enter a foreign lottery, where the odds are better.

Either way you can't win.

If you are a caretaker to someone with diminished mental capacity, keep a close eye on warning signs that they have fallen prey to scammers. According to the USPIS these criminals are "deliberately targeting victims with dementia."

Signs include:
• Checks written or money wired internationally
• A telephone that rings constantly
• A stack of lottery or sweepstakes entries
• Calls from foreign countries, especially if they're calling your elderly family members

Scammers are constantly updating their methods:

Criminals are increasingly using new technology like VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and Caller-ID "spoofing," making it seem like the call is coming from the U.S. or even a government agency.

For more information visit www.deliveringtrust.com and postalinspectors.uspis.gov.

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Workplace Woes: Feeling Valued Links to Higher Performance

March 16, 2012 6:12 pm

Half of all employees who say that they do not feel valued at work report that they intend to look for a new job in the next year, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Conducted online among 1,714 adults between January 12 and 19, 2012 on behalf of the APA by Harris Interactive, the survey found that employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who do not feel valued by their employers.

Almost all employees (93 percent) who reported feeling valued said that they are motivated to do their best at work and 88 percent reported feeling engaged. This compares to just 33 percent and 38 percent, respectively, of those who said they do not feel valued.

Among employees who feel valued, just one in five (21 percent) said they intend to look for a new job in the next year (vs. 50 percent of those who said that they do not feel valued).

A variety of factors were linked to feeling undervalued at work, including having fewer opportunities for involvement in decision making (24 percent vs. 84 percent), being less satisfied with the potential for growth and advancement (9 percent vs. 70 percent), having fewer opportunities to use flexible work arrangements (20 percent vs. 59 percent) and being less likely to say they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (18 percent vs. 69 percent) and non-monetary rewards (16 percent vs. 65 percent). Overall, more than one in five (21 percent) working Americans said they do not feel valued by their employers.

Stress at Work

Many Americans continue to report chronic work stress, with two out of five (41 percent) employees reporting that they typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday. Commonly cited causes of work stress include low salaries (46 percent), lack of opportunities for growth or advancement (41 percent), too heavy a workload (41 percent), long hours (37 percent) and unclear job expectations (35 percent).

3 Quick Ways to De-stress:

If you’re feeling stressed at work, try the following calming methods.

Walk it out.
Walk away from your office or desk for 5 minutes. Deep breathe and take a lap around the building. When you come back, you will feel more centered.

List it. Write a list of what needs to be done in order of importance. See if you can delegate any tasks to other employees or place low-priority projects on the back burner.

Keep a smile file.
Keep a file on your computer of inspiring images, photos of family and friends, funny jokes or any material that will bring a smile to your face. Open the file when you need a quick pick-me-up.

Source: http://www.apa.org, http://www.phwa.org

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5 Tips for Mold Removal from Walls

March 16, 2012 6:12 pm

Spring is here, and that means the rainy season may very well be upon us. With rain comes water damage and with water damage comes every homeowner’s worst nightmare: mold. Okay, that might be a bit extreme, but mold is a pesky problem.

Mold is the single most common byproduct of water damage, appearing in as little as 72 hours following a water damage event (sooner if the water is sewage based), and proving extremely difficult to remediate. Even worse, mold can be the cause of all kinds of health problems, ranging from mild allergic reactions and skin irritation to more serious neurological disorders and respiratory problems.

RestorationLocal.com, a provider of water damage restoration and mold removal services, has come up with the following tips on how to best remove minor mold growths from walls and ceilings in your home and office.
• Start at the top of the wall and work your way down. This will prevent any contamination of clean areas with drips or runs as you move down the wall.
• Wear proper protective gear. Long pants, sleeves, rubber gloves, and a filtration mask are necessary items in order to prevent exposure to mold spores.
• Don’t even try to clean porous surfaces. You will not be successful. Mold gets down inside the surface and cannot be reached. Porous surfaces affected by mold will need to be cut away and replaced.
• Make sure all cleaned surfaces are properly dried out. Moisture is the single most important factor in mold growth.
• Removing mold is never just as easy as killing off the growth. The environment must be properly treated to make sure the problem doesn’t return. This involves disinfecting, sanitizing, improving the ventilation, and reducing humidity and moisture levels. Appropriate humidity levels in any residence of business should be maintained at 40-45 degrees.
Source: RestorationLocal.com

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Simple Steps to Home Safety

March 16, 2012 6:12 pm

Keeping your home and family safe is a high priority. If home fires, break-ins or weather-related disasters have you worried, here are some simple steps you can take to make your home a safer place.

Be Forewarned

Every home should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors, but they require some minor maintenance and don't last forever. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a home fire.

• Make sure you have smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, including the basement. The USFA recommends installing them inside and outside of sleeping areas.

• Replace your batteries regularly. While having a working smoke detector more than doubles your chance of survival, it's estimated that one third of smoke alarms are not working, often due to worn out batteries. Many people use the time change each spring and fall as a reminder to change batteries.

• Replace old smoke alarms. According to the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. It is also recommended that homes have both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms, or dual sensor smoke alarms which have both types of sensors. (Ionization alarms sound more quickly in a flaming, fast-moving fire. Photoelectric alarms are faster at sensing smoldering, smoky fires.) When the time comes to replace your detectors, consider a First Alert product. You can find affordable options with both types of sensors.

Seeking Security?


Taking precautions to protect your home extend to home security, as well. According to the Bureau of Justice, many home burglaries occur simply by a thief walking through the front door.

• Protect yourself and your family through the use of deadbolts on doors and locks on windows.

• Installing motion-sensor lights on walkways or driveways can potentially deter a thief.

• Many home security kits are available in a "do it yourself" complete package, allowing you to customize sirens, entry points and more.

• If installing an entire security system seems too much, something simple like a keyless entry system provides peace of mind and easy installation. A garage door keyless entry using fingerprint identity ensures that only the right people gain access to your home.

Weather the Storm

Protecting your home from inclement weather is an essential part of ensuring your family's safety.

• The first step is having a family discussion about safe rooms in the house and a plan in case of dangerous weather.

• According to FEMA, a weather radio with NOAA technology allows as much as eight minutes lead time before public alarms sound to move family and pets to a safe room or secure location.

• Make sure you have a weather safety kit that contains a flashlight, portable power for your electronics, an emergency radio, walkie talkies, bottled water and dry goods. Let each child choose 1 to 2 items to put in the weather prep toolkit, such as a toy, game or personal item to help keep them occupied and calm in the case you have to take shelter for a long period of time. Additional alkaline batteries are always good to have on hand in case of emergency.

Source: www.radioshack.com.

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7 Retail Freebies: Where to Find Them

March 14, 2012 6:08 pm

Discounts are nice, but there’s nothing better than merchandise for free—and a quick online scan of some retailer sites reveals there are plenty of freebies for the asking. Begin with these, and then spend some time online to check your favorite retailer sites. You are almost sure to find additional freebies.

• Free breakfast – IKEA, the furniture store that sells a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns for as little as 99 cents, offers the same breakfast for free on certain weekdays or Saturday mornings. Check the website to see when the freebie is offered.
• Free e-books – Amazon’s Kindle store offers thousands of e-books you can read on your Kindle for free. The list won’t include the best-sellers, but you can sort the giveaways by genre to find titles you may enjoy.
• Free undies – Subscribers to the Victoria’s Secret catalog receive coupons for free panties frequently throughout the year. If you’re a devotee, sign up for the catalog and you may never have to buy panties again.
• Free household products – Target will send you free samples by mail when you sign up at their Sample Spot online and answer a few survey questions. The samples go fast, so check the site often to receive your fair share of freebies.
• Free soaps and fragrances – Bath & Body Works gives away free samples via its Facebook page whenever they launch a new product. To be included, follow Bath & Body Works on Facebook.
• Free Chinese food – Panda Express offers coupons for a free serving whenever they launch a new menu item. Find out when by following Panda Express on Facebook.
• Free clothing – If you live near a Sears Outlet, you can get a coupon every Tuesday for one free article of clothing. Stop into an outlet and sign up to be a Shop Your Way Rewards member. Then get your coupons by following Sears Outlet Stores on Facebook. The coupons are good in stores only.

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6 Tips to Sell Your Home

March 14, 2012 6:08 pm

Tip 1: Understand the market. In strong markets, where demand outstrips supply, home sellers can old out for top dollar. In weak markets the reverse is true—there are many homes on the market and unless you price your home very competitively you'll be very unlikely to attract any buyers. Whatever the current market conditions you will be most likely to get the highest possible price if you are willing to take the time to understand each of the components of a successful home sales campaign so you can assure that you, or a real estate service provider who may be assisting you, are doing everything possible to maximize the effectiveness of the home marketing effort.

Tip 2: Aim for low interest rates. A good time to sell is during a period of low mortgage interest rates, because with lower interest rates more buyers will be qualified to buy your home. Low rates benefit buyers and sellers alike, and if you plan to purchase another home after selling yours, you will be both a seller and a buyer. A “sellers market”, where there are more buyers than homes available for sale, is also helpful. However, if you plan to purchase another home in the same area after selling yours, this competitive advantage will work against you when you become a buyer. The same principle applies in reverse to buyers markets, so if you plan to purchase another home in the same area after selling yours, it really makes little difference in the end whether it’s a buyers or a sellers market.

Tip 3: Shine your apple. Make your home look as nice as it can. Have a presale yard sale and get rid of as much clutter as possible. Keep only a minimal amount of furniture in each room—it will make the room look bigger. Store any extra furniture. Clean up and repaint with neutral colors if necessary. Open blinds and replace light bulbs with brighter substitutes. If important parts of your home are outdated consider cost effective updates. If your kitchen or bath is old or in bad shape a prudent remodel can often return over 100 percent of the investment and help you sell the home faster. But don’t over improve. There’s not much point in adding a fourth bathroom to a home that is already worth more than most of the others in the neighborhood.

Tip 4: Study. More money hangs in the balance in the selling of your home than in most financial transactions in your life. It therefore makes sense to learn as much as you can about selling your home. No matter whether you’re a self seller, or have an agent, you need to learn enough to be in command of the process. There are many excellent books on the subject in libraries and bookstores. The real estate sections of local newspapers are great sources of information about your local marketplace. The difference between understanding the process as well as your local market, versus not understanding it, can be many thousands of dollars in the eventual selling price.

Tip 5: Price it right. Price your property realistically, especially in slow markets. When markets are slow buyers are psychologically unprepared to overpay—and they apply stringent standards of value. They will heavily discount many expensive and unusual improvements unless they appeal very strongly to their own personal tastes.

Tip 6: Get it in writing. Make sure you don’t prematurely give away any bargaining leverage. All home purchase agreements must be in writing to be binding. If someone asks if you would take a specific lower figure and you agree, that’s not an enforceable contract. All you have done is to lower your asking price. The correct response should be “I’ll consider all written offers.”

Courtesy of the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance

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4 Spring Superfoods You Should Be Eating

March 14, 2012 6:08 pm

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home. Give your body a fresh start by incorporating some healthy seasonal superfoods into your diet. Find room for the following four nutritional all-stars on your plate and keep healthy all the way until summer.

Kale
This leafy green is actually in the cabbage family and has oodles of anti-cancer agents. High in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and calcium, Kale is a green that does better in the spring than the summer, so eat up now while it’s in season.

Artichokes
Spring is the season for artichokes! High in iron, artichokes are a diuretic. The artichoke also aids digestion, supports a healthy liver and gall bladder and raises your good cholesterol, HDL.

Avocadoes
This creamy fruit can lower your cholesterol, despite its high fat content. This is because most of the fat in avocadoes is monounsaturated. Avocadoes are high in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. Chop avocado and add it to your salad or sandwiches, whip up some guacamole or spread some avo on your toast in the morning.

Quinoa

Quinoa is a year-round superfood, but because it’s such a power house, I decided to include it anyway! An ancient grain, quinoa is easy to make, versatile and high in protein, fiber and iron. The grain, which is pronounced keen-wa, cooks faster than rice and has a light, nutty flavor. It’s full of zinc, vitamin E, and selenium to help control your weight and lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

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