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 
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Mary's Blog

Word of the Day

March 27, 2012 6:30 pm

Commission. Payment, or brokerage fees, given by the seller of a property to a real estate agent for services rendered, usually paid at the closing.

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Question of the Day

March 27, 2012 6:30 pm

Q: What should I know about zoning issues and approvals?
A: Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes, or sometimes a combination thereof. Designed to protect property owners and communities from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws can be very rigid and inflexible. 

On the other hand, they can protect your property value and ensure against the stationing of a mega-store right next to your home. Before you begin any remodeling job, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project. You can visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board to get a copy of your local ordinance and determine how you will need to seek approval for your project. Take nothing for granted; some communities even require approval to erect fences.

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5 Steps to Paying off Credit Card Debt in 90 Days or Less

March 26, 2012 6:28 pm

If you are carrying credit card debt, you are paying too much in monthly interest and robbing yourself of the extra cash that could be enhancing your lifestyle.

That’s the position of Yahoo contributor Brenda Barnes, who managed to pay off more than $3,000 in debt in 71 days without undue sacrifice or penny-pinching.

Here are the five steps Barnes recommends to get yourself out of debt fast:

1. Go through the closets – Take all outgrown or unwanted clothing in good condition to a consignment store, which may pay you up to 75 percent of the sales price. It could net you hundreds in cash you can use to pay against debt.
2. Collect the collectibles – and other dust-catchers taking up space in your home, basement, or garage. A variety of items can be sold on eBay or Craigslist, and could be worth hundreds more dollars you can use toward your debt payoff.
3. Shave personal splurges – If lunch is costing $5 to $10 a day or more, cut your cost in half by packing your lunch and save the difference. But be sure to set aside the difference each day in cash, and use it to pay against debt. ($25 in savings every week for three months equals $300!)
4. Try the barter system – If you do artwork or photography, knitting, sewing, or woodwork, take samples to display at local beauty shops or coffee stores. Pay the proprietor a percentage of the sales and use the rest of the income for debt relief.
5. Shop cheap – Barnes discovered unbelievable bargains at consignment and even thrift stores. Check them first for clothing and household goods and stow all the estimated savings for you-know-what. Also, use coupons at the grocery store and put away the cents-off amount you saved on each item.

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Keeping You Safe and Informed

March 26, 2012 6:28 pm

I was recently perusing the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website. The site—consumerfinance.gov—should not only be a resource, but a place for consumers to "tell their story," in the hope of seeing consumer issues addressed more effectively.

The central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans—whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.

The consumer bureau is working to give consumers the information they need to understand the terms of their agreements with financial companies. And working to make regulations and guidance as clear and streamlined as possible so providers of consumer financial products and services can follow the rules on their own. 

Congress established the CFPB to protect consumers by carrying out Federal consumer financial laws. Among other things, the agency: 

• Conducts rule-making, supervision, and enforcement for Federal consumer financial protection laws
• Restricts unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices
• Takes consumer complaints
• Promotes financial education
• Researches consumer behavior
• Monitors financial markets for new risks to consumers
• Enforces laws that outlaw discrimination and other unfair treatment in consumer finance

Anyone in the market for a home should be aware that the CFPB's Know Before You Owe, program is well on the way to combining two federally required mortgage disclosures into a single, simpler form that makes the costs and risks of the loan clear and allows consumers to comparison shop.
The CFPB also published a report on the Variation in credit scores sold by certain consumer reporting agencies, which also may be helpful if you are about to begin the process of buying a home. 

We'll be covering a lot more from this agency in the coming months, so stay tuned.

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Tackle Clutter Tonight; Tips to Organize Your Apartment

March 26, 2012 6:28 pm

Spring is in! That means it’s time for a little deep cleaning; time to clear away clutter, organize closets, and tackle the pantry (again!) If you are ready to tackle clutter in your apartment, now is a great time. There’s still enough of a hint of winter that you won’t succumb to Spring fever and ditch it all for a day at the park, but there’s enough warmth and daylight that you won’t mind a few trips out to the dumpster.
Marcia Bollinger, president of Apartment Finder, offers the following tips from Apartment Finder’s blog, The APT, to help usher in a nice clean Spring: 

1. Make a Plan. Decide which projects take priority. Does your closet need a massive redo? Are your kitchen drawers so filled with clutter they won’t open? Are you buried under an avalanche of assorted storage containers every time you open your kitchen cabinet? Once you decide what you want to tackle, put it on your calendar. Setting a date will keep you from finding excuses to put it off, and it will give you time to plan.

2. Be Creative. You have a target date and a list of projects—now what? Before you begin, think about what storage features you are lacking. Get imaginative. For example, try using bins to create easy weeknight meals in a basket. A bin labeled “spaghetti night” would contain pasta, a jar of sauce, and a loaf of Italian bread—an ideal solution to the “what-am-I-gonna-make-for-dinner” blues. 

3. Make Some Room. If your closet is also in serious need of attention, perhaps you’ll want to focus on this space, as well. Shoe organizers are handy in the closet, and so are storage bins. Take everything out of the closet until you have an empty space. Sort everything you haven’t worn or used in the past year into two piles: toss and give away. Place items back into your closet by type (pants, skirts, suit jackets, etc.). If you have empty wall space in your closet, add hooks (the removable type is perfect). The more hooks, the better—use these for belts, ties, and scarves. 

For more great tips on apartment living, visit Apartment Finder’s blog, The APT.

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Personal Loans Top Consumer Choice for Financial Help

March 26, 2012 6:28 pm

The ongoing economic sluggishness has left many consumers facing high levels of personal debt, burdened with bad credit scores, and buried by bills with inflexible due dates. According to ReallyBadCreditOffers.com, borrowing is up and personal loans are the overwhelming choice amongst 18-32 year olds.

But what are personal loans? Personal lending offers borrowers access to money without the hassle of requiring a security deposit that may or may not be available.

People use personal loans for a variety of different things. According to a 2009 release from Prosper.com, 49 percent of personal loan applicants are seeking a personal loan for the purpose of debt consolidation.

What is the average interest rate paid by personal loan borrowers? This, of course, depends on credit score and perceived creditworthiness. "A" borrowers pay an average of 10 percent. But "D" borrowers can pay more than 25 percent.

The most popular reasons that people turn to personal loans include: 

• Utility Bills
• Emergency Expenses
• Auto Accident Repair
• To Avoid Late Fees or Penalties
• Medical Emergencies

Source: www.reallybadcreditoffers.com, www.rebuild.org

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Word of the Day

March 26, 2012 6:28 pm

Commingle funds. Mixing of clients’ funds, or escrow, with an agent’s personal funds in an account; considered to be grounds for the suspension or revocation of the broker’s real estate license.

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Question of the Day

March 26, 2012 6:28 pm

Q: Do I have to be concerned with building codes and permits?
A: Depending on how your contract is written with the home improvement professional, either you or the contractor will be responsible for securing government approval to perform most remodeling jobs.
Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design and construction. Codes vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next, but specialized codes generally exist for plumbing, electricity, and fire. Each usually involves separate inspections and inspectors. 

In addition, permits are generally required when any structural work is planned or the basic living space of a home is altered. They generally cover new construction, repairs, alterations, demolition, and additions to a structure. 

Some jurisdictions require permits to be posted in a visible spot on the premises while the work is being done. Besides structural changes, permits also may be needed to cover the installation of foundations for tanks and equipment, as well as the construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems, or standpipe systems.

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Get Outside: Tips for Spring Family Fun

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

As the weather warms, ample opportunities arise to get your kids outside and explore, play, and adventure. According to a recent survey from L.L.Bean and the National Park Foundation, 60 percent of parents say their children spend less than an hour a day outdoors.

"Getting your children outside does not have to mean going for a long hike or needing expensive equipment, it can often be as simple as pitching a tent in your own backyard," says Rob Hutchison, Outdoor Discovery School Instructor at L.L.Bean. "By engaging your kids in the outdoors and making activities both educational and fun, they are more apt to develop a love of the outdoors and a desire to stay active."

Families can enjoy the outdoors —together— in more ways than before.

• The Sunny Day Rule – Now that the weather allows, encourage the "sunny day rule." When the sun is shining, unplug. This will get kids (and parents) away from the television, computer and video games and into the backyard.
• Clouding & Stargazing – These activities can be done from your own backyard with no equipment required. Pique your children's interest in weather, the atmosphere and space by creating a game identifying the various types of clouds and going out into the night to gaze at the stars and constellations overhead.
• Birding – Turn your backyard into a bird-friendly habitat. Birding is a family-friendly activity for those living in the city, suburbs or country. Back yards are a great place to create a safe place for birds to feed and nest. In addition to getting your family outdoors and identifying the various birding species, the maintenance aspect of this activity, including cleaning out feeders and nesting boxes, provides a good lesson in responsibility for children.
• Biking – Fun, not fitness, should set the pace for family cycling. Teach good road habits and hand signals in an empty parking lot. Play follow-the-leader on the painted lines to practice accurate steering, control and balance. And, always remember to wear a helmet.
• Family Camping – It's important to involve children early in your plans for family camping, allowing them the opportunity to engage in exploring different possible destinations and the trip prep process. Practice setting up a campsite in your backyard and teach the importance of "Leave No Trace" principles.
• Discover the National Parks – The U.S. National Park Service National Park Week is April 21-29. During this week, more than 350 national parks offer free admission, all week long. L.L.Bean's ParkFinder is a great tool that allows you to search thousands of national and state parks across the U.S. to find the one that's the right for your family's next outdoor adventure.
• Don't Be Afraid to Try Something New - Getting your kids—and yourself!—outside their comfort zones provides a great opportunity for personal growth. Check online or in your local paper for fun outdoor activities or clubs in your area. Pick a new one every week or month to keep your Spring and Summer fresh and fun. 

Source: www.llbean.com/100.

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Small Business Social Media Tips

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

If your business isn’t already implanting social media into your marketing plan, you are falling behind. With today’s consumers becoming more and more tech savvy, connecting via social media platforms is essential for business success. Here are a few simple tips: 

Know Your Audience. It is important to understand your audience and potential customer base before venturing into social media. Who is your audience? What age group? What social media platform are they most active in? What are they looking for, and what can you provide them? 

Know Your Goals. Knowing what you want—whether it’s increased sales, brand awareness, engagement or feedback—can help you better shape your social media strategy. 

Know Your Competitors. What is the competition doing with social media? And more importantly, what are they NOT doing. Know the trends in your market so that you can beat out competition and stay ahead. 

Stay Consistent. You want to be considered a valued, regular source of online content. If you start Tweeting, make sure you do it frequently so that consumers stay connected. Have a blog? Post regularly so your readers know they can depend on you for fresh, up-to-date content.

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