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 23, 2012 3:22 pm

Cloud on title. Defect in the title that impairs the owner’s ability to market the property. This might be a lien, claim, judgment, or encumbrance.

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Question of the Day

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

Q: Are property taxes deductible?

A: Yes. Like the mortgage interest paid on a home loan, property taxes are fully deductible from your income. You may deduct them every year on your primary residence, second home and other investment properties.

However, escrow money held for property taxes cannot be deducted until the money is actually used to pay the property taxes.

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Wishing You Well: Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

As more homes and neighborhoods ripple outward from America's more urban or suburban centers, more and more homeowners are finding themselves having to get their water supply from a well versus municipal water sources.

Joe Finnerty's Lehigh Valley Real Estate blog covered the subject very well this month— no pun intended. Check it out here. 

According to Finnerty's post, there are three main concerns with a well:

1) Is the water safe to drink and use (also referred to as potable)?
2) Does the well have adequate capacity?
3) What is the depth of the well? (The deeper the well, the better the water, usually.)

If purchasing a home for the first time with a well, a buyer should consider having a test done to detect Coliform— especially if the well is near a septic system.

According to Finnerty, homeowners can also test for lead, pesticides, and other chemicals. If a problem is found with the well water, an ultra-violet light (to kill bacteria) or water conditioner may be needed.

If a well does not have an adequate water supply, and it is deep (300-500 feet), Finnerty says hydrofracking may fix the problem.

If the well is shallow or hydrofracking doesn't work, a new well may be needed— typically, in the $3,500 to $5,000 range— and an estimate should be obtained for a new well and location. Usually, a permit is needed to install a new well, according to the Pennsylvania-based site— check your local building codes or office to be sure.

The Canadian city of Guelph publishes an informative downloadable guide for water sources that can help orient any new first time well owner, or a prospective buyer who is looking at a home that draws well water.

Reference that information here.

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Wallet Woes: Sell Your Home on a Budget

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

Between maintenance, cleaning and replacing those out-dating appliances, selling your home can be expensive. The following are a few wallet friendly things you can do to spruce up your home for sale.

• Declutter—remove personal items, pack up bookcases and store non essential pieces of furniture.
• Can’t afford to replace the carpets? Get them steam cleaned.
• Keep the lawn mowed.
• Replace dated light fixtures.
• The color yellow is said to be inviting. Plant yellow flowers, such as marigolds or daffodils, along the front walk or by the front door.
• Wash the exterior windows.
• Polish all hardwood or ceramic floors.
• Paint front door and replace old hardware.
• Power spray the house so it’s gleaming.
• Buy new cabinet handles, sink and bath faucets and doorknobs.
• Paint or replace the mailbox.
• Re-grout kitchen tiles.
• Re-paint rooms and trim.
• Replace any water stained shower doors or refinish a stained tub.

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Have a Safe Spring: Top Tips for Preventing a Robbery

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

Robbery is one of the greatest fears for homeowners across the country, and when it occurs, can be financially and emotionally devastating for homeowners and their families. Yet most break-ins tend to be opportunistic, rather than pre-planned, meaning that implementing the simplest measures can help to deter criminals away from your home.

Common Sense
Keeping a spare key in a plant pot may seem like a handy back-up plan, but professional burglars know all of your hiding places. Make sure you store your keys away from the front or back door and keep any spare car keys in a concealed place. It's also important to remove temptation; keep valuables out of sight of the windows and make sure they are all closed and locked securely when you leave the house.

Locks
High quality locks on all of your doors and windows are extremely important and are usually a requirement for your home insurance.

Security Lights
Dark doorways and shadowy gardens make great hiding places for an opportunistic burglar. Cheap security lights are readily available from hardware shops and are easy to fit yourself. More expensive sensor lights will draw attention to any thieves watching your home, but are usually mains operated and need to be installed by a qualified electrician.

Cameras and Alarms
Video cameras will provide you with useful evidence after a theft, but they can also help prevent the crime in the first place. If you do have an alarm or cameras make sure you clearly display signs to let criminals know that they are being watched. No alarm? You can always invest in a dummy alarm box to deter opportunistic thieves.

Deception
Put yourself in the place of a potential burglar; what type of property would be easiest to target? An unoccupied one of course. Before going away for an extended period, cancel all deliveries to stop post and milk piling up in the doorway. Install plug timers to switch on lights and radios at random periods to create the illusion that someone is at home.

Source: www.dyno.com

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Planning a Trip? Be Wary of Vacation Scam Artists

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

Spring often the time to plan your summer getaway. In an interview with Jay Kalin of Rent MyVacationHome.com, Kalin cautions consumers—both travelers and property owners—to be on the lookout for scams that are linked to summer vacation rentals and vacations.

"Internet sites, or other online classified ads, are a popular place for consumers searching for last minute rentals or homeowners trying to earn more rental income during the summer vacation season," Kalin says. "Unfortunately, they are also popular with scam artists looking to lure unsuspecting consumers into their traps.

Technology, while a powerful and helpful resource, also makes it easy for thieves to copy photos and descriptions from legitimate vacation rental websites and create false Internet ads," Kalin says. "It is important for consumers to conduct thorough research before making any payments or committing to any plans."

Scammers will structure their ads in a way that forces consumers to respond quickly and often ask that rental payments be wire-transferred in order to guarantee reservations.

Here are a few of Kalin’s tips on screening your vacation home:

Before sending payment:
1. Vacationers can ask for a electric bill account number or copy from the owner and call the electric company to verify it by name and address.
2. Ask for their insurance and agent name, policy number and phone number. Check the number and address out and call the Insurance agent to verify owner and address.
3. Ask for a copy of the homeowner’s driver’s license.
4. Ask the homeowner for his property number at the assessment office for that area, and call for address verification and name.


Consumers should also be suspicious of vacation home listings that request detailed personal data, such as social security numbers or bank account information, which may be claimed is necessary to verify your credit worthiness as a renter. In reality, these listings are a type of "phishing" scheme, used by identity thieves to steal personal information.

Source: www.rentmyvacationhome.com

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Word of the Day

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

Collateral. Something of value given or pledged to a lender as security for the repayment of a loan.

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Question of the Day

March 23, 2012 3:22 pm

Q: How does refinancing work?

A: With a refinancing, you pay off an old loan on your home and take out a new one, usually at a lower mortgage interest rate. To refinance, you will generally need to have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income. You can borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs, debt consolidate, and college tuition.
 
When you refinance, you will incur all the closing costs that go along with getting a new mortgage. So unless you're doing extensive renovations and can get a mortgage interest rate at least two points below your current loan rate, you may want to select another financing option.

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Get Creative with Wall Space

March 22, 2012 6:22 pm

I often find myself staring at the wall and thinking 'what if...?' So it was with great joy that I discovered a trove of tips and new posts about whipping one's walls into great shape at Ballard Designs this month.

According to the folks at Ballard, changing your wall decor can be the simplest, most affordable way to reinvent a room while making a statement about your personality. But before you get started, check out the following tips and tricks:

• As a general rule, hang any artwork so that the center point of the piece or grouping is at approximately eye level. You may want to consider hanging art slightly lower in a dining room, since guests will likely be sitting when looking at it.
• Test your imagined arrangement before putting hammer to nail by laying everything out on a table or on the floor. Move the pieces around until you have an arrangement that you like. Or lay the pieces on a large piece of kraft or wrapping paper, trace around each piece and mark the hanging points. Then, tape the paper to the wall and hammer in the nails. Remove the paper, and hang away.
• Art hung over a piece of furniture should not be wider than the width of the furniture. Generally art should be about 75 percent the width of the furniture.
• When hanging art over the fireplace, create a grouping about the same size as the fireplace opening. One large piece, or several small pieces that appear as one unit create a more memorable effect.
• When you are grouping four or more pieces, one above the other, consider a vertical line— the art should be visually balanced on both sides of an imaginary vertical line.
• When creating a cluster of items on a wall, make sure the pieces are similar either in color scheme, frame style, or subject matter.

For more ideas that will make you look like a decorating genius,  click here.

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Handling Bad Checks: 3 Tips to Help You Collect

March 22, 2012 6:22 pm

Bad checks can be a huge hassle for small businesses, and not just because of lost revenue. 
FindLaw.com’s Andrew Chow recently wrote on how to handle bad checks, as well as tips for accepting checks in general. 

“Bad checks generally fall into one of several categories: Insufficient funds, a closed account, stopped payment, or forgery,” wrote Chow, who explained that your options to pursue payback may include a civil lawsuit, or even a criminal complaint. 

Below are Chow’s top three tips to help kick-start your bad-check restitution case: 

1. Follow an established policy for check acceptance.
Experts recommend jotting down the customer's driver license number and phone number on the check. This gives investigators an additional way to track down the check writer, in case the check turns out to be a fraud.
Other good policies to follow include:
• Only accept checks with a complete address on the front—no P.O. Boxes.
• Only accept checks signed in your presence.
• Don't accept out-of-state checks. 

2. Notify the customer in writing.
Many states require a business owner to provide written notice to a customer who passed a bad check due to insufficient funds; written notice may also be required for other types of bad checks as well. This gives a customer time to correct an honest mistake. 

Check with your state's laws, or contact an attorney, to see what's required in a written notice where you live. 

3. Contact local prosecutors or an attorney.
If a customer fails to respond to a written notice—usually within 10 to 30 days—that generally opens the door to civil lawsuits, and perhaps criminal charges like theft or fraud. 

Some local jurisdictions have "bad check restitution programs" specifically to help small businesses collect on bad checks. Check with your local prosecutor's office, or consult a collections lawyer about which options apply in your bad-check restitution case. 

Source: www.findlaw.com

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