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

Travel Insurance? Is it Worth it?

June 14, 2017 12:36 am

The official hurricane season runs June 1 - Nov. 30, and experts advise considering an investment in travel insurance when heading to destinations in hurricane-prone areas. Some insurance plans now enable travelers to cancel a trip when the NOAA issues a hurricane warning for a particular destination, however, once a storm has been named, it’s too late to purchase hurricane coverage.

According to InsureMyTrip, 75 percent of customers will choose a comprehensive travel insurance policy for summer travel. This policy provides a variety of benefits including medical coverage, emergency travel services, baggage protection, trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage.

Here are some specific ways travel insurance can help protect your vacation investment:

- When common carriers such as airlines and cruise lines cease service due to weather
- When a destination is under a NOAA-issued hurricane warning or alert
- When a hotel, resort, or vacation rental is devastated and made uninhabitable by a storm
- When the home of a traveler sustains destructive storm damage

There is also an optional time-sensitive benefit that allows travelers to cancel a trip for any reason. This benefit includes specific eligibility requirements.

Source: www.InsureMyTrip.com

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How to Avoid Ticks This Summer

June 14, 2017 12:36 am

Time spent outdoors can relax, recharge, and refresh. Time spent outdoors worrying about ticks? Not so soothing.

To help homeowners protect their families and homes from a tick infestation this year, Arrow Exterminators recommends the following simple, proactive measures:

- Maintain your yard. This includes cutting tall grass, shrubbery, bushes and plants.

- Groom your pets such as dogs and cats. Ticks can easily latch onto pets when they are outside.

- Ticks are frequently found on rodents, so make sure your home is clean and rodent-free.

- When spending time outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and if possible, wear clothing light in color so ticks are easier to detect.

- Check yourself and pets for ticks whenever coming in from the outside. If any are found, quickly remove the tick or flea from your body with fine-tipped tweezers.

- Tumble-dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.

- Contact a local pest control professional if you suspect a tick infestation.

Source: http://www.arrowexterminators.com

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How to Create Your Own Outdoor Kitchen

June 13, 2017 12:36 am

An outdoor kitchen sounds like hours of warm-weather culinary fun. But while most of us would love a sleek, state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen, the price tag may not be doable for all. But that doesn’t mean we can’t cook and eat al fresco! Below are 5 tips for a makeshift version.

Grill upgrade. Skip the outdoor oven or stove for a nice grill. To up the versatility of your grill, consider getting a skillet top or griddle. Pancakes, anyone?

Prep space. To make it possible to prepare food in your outdoor kitchen, set up a prep station with an outdoor butcher’s block or table. If you can, place this station near your grill for ease of use.

Consider installing a sink. If you already have a hose hooked up near your outdoor eating area, it may not cost that much to have a sink installed so you can wash up easy. Hire a professional to get a quote.

Add seating. A large outdoor dining table or small cafe table will turn your DIY kitchen into an eat-in space. Looking for a space to hang? A loveseat and a few comfortable chairs will do the trick. Add an umbrella overhead for sunny days.

 Aesthetics matter. To have an outdoor kitchen that looks, well, like an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to tie your aesthetics together. Installing that outdoor butcher’s block? Choose a wood stain that matches your outdoor eating table. Section off the space with potted plants or slate patio floor so the area is clearly defined. String lights overhead for a magical vibe once the sun sets.

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6 Great Foods to Slim Down for Summer

June 13, 2017 12:36 am

Not surprisingly, summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and veggies can be your greatest ally in the drive to shed a few pounds. In fact, according one Harvard study, the right diet can be more instrumental in losing weight than spending extra time in the gym.

Nutritionists at WebMD suggest six ways to slim down – without worrying about portion size – by making the most of summer’s harvest:

Chilled soups – Refreshing and easy to make, broth and veggie-based cold soups like gazpacho or cucumber-dill make a satisfying lunch or can fill you up so you eat less at dinner. Get out your blender and find recipes online.

Watermelon – Since half of watermelon is made up of water, it can satisfy thirst as well as your sweet tooth. Eat as much as you want sliced or diced, turn it into a filling slushie, or combine it with other fruits in a salad.

Grilled veggies – An ample supply of grilled veggies, like onions, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, asparagus, and mushrooms can be the basis for vegetable pitas, veggie and goat cheese salads, veggie, ricotta and fresh herb pastas – or combine them with eggs in frittatas.

Salads – No recipes required. Just slice, dice and toss a combination of fruits, vegetables, low-fat cheese, and a handful of toasted nuts with some salad greens. Dress with a light raspberry vinaigrette, along with a whole-grain roll, and you have a meal in minutes. Add extra heartiness with canned beans or cooked quinoa.

Low and/or no-cal beverages – Stay full and satisfy your thirst with appealing drinks that shun a lot of sugar. Try a root beer or orange dream float made with a half cup of vanilla frozen yogurt in 12 ounces of diet root beer or orange soda (100 calories) – or 12 ounces of lemon sparkling water mixed with the juice of a lemon and 1/4 cup pomegranate juice, served over ice (35 calories.) A large iced skim Latte from Starbucks is just 110 calories and a white wine spritzer (5 ounces of white wine mixed with three ounces of lemon/lime seltzer water is 120 calories.

Fruity desserts – No need to skip dessert when you can have grilled pineapple, peaches or bananas with low-fat ice cream – or some frozen grapes or cherries.

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How to Protect Yourself from Door-to-Door Scams

June 13, 2017 12:36 am

While some door-to-door salespeople may be reputable, hard-working professionals, others are less ethical and looking to swindle you out of your signature on a contract. According to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), such scammers are usually armed with a clipboard and some sort of identification. Before opening the door, insist they pass their identification information to you so that you can verify their legitimacy.

The BBB advises keeping an eye out for the following front-door frauds:

- Pavers will claim they have material left over from another job in the neighborhood and offer a "today only" cut-rate discount. According to the BBB, the “discount” is usually just a ploy to get you to seal the deal and the result is substandard labor and materials. You may also be asked to make a deposit. Once you do, workers may start the work and subsequently disappear with your money.

- Deceptive sales tactics are another common door-to-door tactic, the most common being trying to sign-up consumers with electricity wholesalers or alarm monitoring services. These scammers may try to convince you to switch by saying that the company that monitors your alarm system is out of business, when in fact, it is not.

- Beware of door-to-door contractors who may be unlicensed, uninsured and unqualified to do the work they offer. Roofing contractors may make false claims that major repairs are necessary or that the roof needs replacement.

- The BBB receives numerous complaints about door-to-door alarm salespeople who sell burglar alarms but fail to disclose terms of the monitoring contract, perform shoddy work and give inadequate instructions on how to use the system.

Here are some tips from the BBB to protect yourself from the above scams and others:

Avoid making an immediate decision to buy something or sign a contract for a service. Check out the company’s credentials before committing.  

Do your research. Check with the BBB to find out if the company the salesperson is representing actually exists, and is qualified, insured and licensed to do business in your state. A legitimate company or professional will gladly provide such proof, and give you as much time as you need to do your research and make a sound buying decision.

If you need work done, services or goods, select an accredited business yourself at bbb.org. This will allow you to see what other consumers' experience was like with the company or individual.

Remember that safety is paramount. Some door-knockers are simply trying to determine whether anyone is home, with the intent to break and enter. Don't allow anyone inside your home.  

Don’t hesitate to call the police when warranted. Tell police if there is anything suspicious about the seller, such as their inability to provide proper identification, refusal to leave your property when asked or other unusual behavior.

Having the above knowledge will keep you and your family safe for the summer.

Source: Connecticut Better Business Bureau

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5 Tips to Avoid Binge-Watching Guilt

June 10, 2017 12:36 am

(Family Features)--Dozens of streaming video providers are making it easier than ever to watch the TV programming you want when you want it, and exclusive programming released an entire season at a time is transforming the way Americans watch TV. The flip side of this convenience is a surge in binge-watching, which can have some negative side effects, including binge eating. When your favorite show is available back-to-back, it's easy to let substantial blocks of time get away as you watch "just one more" episode to follow the twists and turns of the plot. In fact, according to a recent survey by Dole, the average binge-watching session clocks in around 5 hours. The same survey found that more than two-thirds of people prefer healthy snacks to fuel their marathon viewing.

Treating yourself to an occasional binge session may give your brain a well-earned break, and it's easy to do many forms of exercise in front of the screen. The trick to keeping your binge-watching session in check and getting rid of the guilt is to exercise good habits when you head to the kitchen.

- Opt for snacks that include valuable vitamins and minerals.

- Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy ingredients so you can create quick and easy snacks in between episodes or during a commercial break.

- Look for quick solutions that help trim prep time and skip the cutting, peeling and mess.

- Avoid waste or spoilage with convenient, re-sealable lids that let you use what you need for a single serving and save the rest for later.

- Get creative to satisfy cravings. Instead of reaching for cookies or cake, dip fruit in melted chocolate and pop it in the freezer. Let it sit while you watch a few episodes of your favorite show and then enjoy.

Source: DOLE

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Top Tips for Moving Out of State

June 10, 2017 12:36 am

Many moves don’t just involve driving to a new spot across town. If you have to haul yourself and your belongings across state, you’re likely facing a massive move. Below are a handful of moving tips from North Dallas Moving and Storage to help you navigate your out-of-state move.

 Choose a licensed mover. Depending on the requirements of your state, most moving companies require an active certificate of motor carrier registration, while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate movers. Make sure your moving company is licensed by these agencies.

Confirm BBB rating. Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to verify the mover's track record of customer satisfaction and complaint resolution.

Obtain a written quote. Reputable moving companies will provide you with a written proposal and quote detailing the services to be provided, pricing and payment details.

Determine liability coverage and insurance. Verify the mover's liability coverage for damage or loss, and decide whether you wish to purchase additional transit insurance.

Take advantage of free moving resources. Experienced movers understand the concerns and challenges customers face when preparing for relocation, and many offer helpful information. For example, NDMS provides detailed moving tips, including moving guides, questions to qualify a moving company, pre-packing checklists, items to keep in possession during a move, and more.

Review customer feedback. It's always wise to find out what other customers have to say about the moving company. Look for testimonials on the mover's website, check public consumer review sites and see if the mover has earned any awards that reflect client satisfaction.Source: North Dallas Moving and Storage

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How Stocked is Your Home Hurricane Kit?

June 10, 2017 12:36 am

Weathering hurricane season is no fair-weather fun. From dragging the lawn furniture inside to stocking up on non-perishables, it’s important to be ready for high winds and power outages. According to Mercury Insurance, stocking a hurricane kit is another key safety solution for hurricane season.  

The company suggests you keep the following items handy:

- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person), non-perishable food items and pet food, if applicable;
- A battery-powered or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries);
- A flashlight;
- A first aid kit;
- A whistle to signal for help;
- A can opener;
- Blankets;
- Pliers or a wrench to turn off utilities;
- $200 in cash in small bills, as power may be out, making ATMs, debit and credit cards unusable; andPrescriptions for you and your pets.

Source:  Mercury Insurance

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Closing Cost Primer: Know Your Terms

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

Buying a home is undoubtedly one of the most expensive ventures of your lifetime. But it’s important to understand that much more goes into budgeting for a new home than the price of the house itself—like closing costs.

Closing costs are fees charged by the lender at the closing of your real estate transaction, and usually amount to thousands of dollars. Your real estate agent can explain and estimate what all of your particular closing costs will be, as they vary by state, but here is a handy list of terms and definitions from Bankrate.com to help bring you up to speed. Real estate lingo can be confusing, so becoming familiar with these terms in advance will help demystify the closing process.

Origination, broker, lender or originator: A fee charged to create a home loan. It's often a set percentage of the mortgage amount.

Discount points: A fee in the form of mortgage interest paid upfront. In exchange for this fee, the lender reduces the interest rate. One point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.

Appraisal: A fee that is passed on to a company that renders an opinion about the real value of the home, independent of its listing or negotiated price. That value is then compared against what the borrower has agreed to pay.

Credit report: A fee charged to order a history of your financial life. It includes details about your behavior as a bill payer, the amount of debt you owe, your available credit and any inquiries that companies make to obtain this information, such as your mortgage lender. A good credit report means better loan terms.

Tax service: A fee to cover the cost of hiring a company to verify the amount of real estate taxes due and making sure they're paid.

Flood certification: A fee that covers the assessment of whether a property is in a flood zone. If it is, the new homeowner must buy a flood insurance policy.

Title services: Charges for administrative costs (such as title search) associated with the delivery of title insurance, as well as the services provided by a title or escrow agent.

Title insurance: A policy that guarantees that an owner has the title to a property and can legally transfer it to someone else. Should a problem arise, the title insurer pays any legal damages. A policy may protect the mortgage lender, the homebuyer, or both.

Attorney, closing or settlement: The amount paid to an attorney for witnessing the mortgage loan transaction.
Document preparation: A fee a lender charges to a borrower for producing the documents signed at the closing table.

Inspections (pest, etc.): A fee paid to a certified person who searches the dwelling for termites and other destructive creatures.

Postal/courier: This fee covers what it costs a lender to send paperwork to the other entities involved in the mortgage transaction.

Survey: A fee charged to hire a licensed surveyor to get an accurate measurement of the property and its boundaries.

Wire transfer fee: The amount charged to transfer funds needed to close on a home loan.

Contact me today for more valuable real estate information.

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What Tax Reform Could Mean for Homeowners

June 9, 2017 5:57 pm

There is so much information swirling out of Washington, D.C., these days, it’s hard for the average person to keep up, let alone determine how they will be affected by various changes to legislation. When it comes to tax reform, however, it’s important to get a handle on how proposed changes will impact your wallet—especially for homeowners.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), tax reform proposals may actually mean a tax increase for many middle-income homeowners. According to the study, “Impact of Tax Reform Options on Owner-Occupied Housing,” homeowners with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would see their taxes rise by an average of $815. The study also estimates that combined tax savings from claiming the mortgage interest deduction and real estate property tax deductions would drop 82 percent between the 2018 and 2027 period.

The study, which was commissioned by NAR and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), estimates that this tax increase would result from the interaction of several provisions in the reforms under consideration. For many homeowners that currently benefit from the mortgage interest deduction, the elimination of other itemized deductions and personal exemptions would cause their taxes to rise, even if they elected to take the increased standard deduction. For others, the elimination of the state and local tax deduction alone would result in higher federal income taxes.

In addition to increasing taxes on many middle-income homeowners, the report finds that such a proposal could cause home values to fall by an average of more than 10 percent in the near term. In areas with higher property taxes or state income taxes, the drop could be even greater. Although the study doesn’t directly analyze the “Better Way for Tax Reform” plan or the recent White House outline, it examines a proposal with many similar elements.

Those elements include lowering and consolidating marginal tax rates to only three rates, setting a top income tax rate of 33 percent, doubling the standard deduction, eliminating all itemized deductions (other than charitable contributions and mortgage interest) and personal exemptions, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, and capping the tax rate on pass-through business income at 25 percent.

PwC estimated that roughly 35 million households will claim the mortgage interest deduction in 2018, three quarters of which have incomes between $50,000 and $200,000. According to NAR, roughly 70 percent of those eligible for the mortgage interest deduction claim it in a given tax year.

Once tax reform is finalized and passed into law, be sure to consult with your accountant before filing your taxes to ensure you’re taking the proper deductions.

For even more valuable real estate information, contact me today.

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