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

Scare Up Some Fun with a Trick-or-Treat Party

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

Make no bones about it—Halloween is all about having some spine-tingling fun. This year, why not share the scare by hosting a Trick-or-Treat party for school friends or even the neighborhood? 

With these tips and ideas, you can throw a monster bash on a budget that's not frightening at all. 

Set a Spooktacular Scene 
Whether you want to go all-out scary or keep it all in good fun, you can combine store-bought decorations with homemade creations to save money.
• Line fake gravestones along your walkway. Buy them pre-made, or make them yourself using foam or cardboard and spray paint.
• Perch eerie, fake birds near your doorway, and hang cobwebs anywhere you can reach.
• Place creepy-crawlies, like plastic spiders, everywhere.
• Add scary inflatable figures to your yard—the designs get more elaborate every year, and they store easily when deflated.
• Turn an inexpensive, thrift-store stockpot into a spooky kitchen-table centerpiece. Just add dry ice and warm water for frightfully fun fog. Always wear gloves when you handle dry ice and always store it in a ventilated container.
• A jack-o-lantern is a Halloween classic. Easy stencils make complex witch, werewolf and scary-face designs a breeze.
• Use rechargeable outdoor tea lights and Halloween-themed string lights as safer alternatives to candles.
• Build a scarecrow—all you need is wooden garden stakes, pillows, straw and old clothes.
• Use unexpected items in a whole new way. Spray paint branches or old lamps black and orange and use them as centerpieces; make spooky skeleton cut-outs with poster board; use toilet paper to wrap someone up in a nifty mummy costume; or bring the outdoors in with hay bales and mums. 

Frightfully Fun Games
Kids and grownups alike will get a kick out of these Halloween games.
• Halloween Charades—Write down Halloween characters, places and things on pieces of paper. Fold the papers and put them in a bowl. Then have each person, in turn, pick a piece of paper and act out the written words until the game's audience guesses what's being acted out. Want more competition? Split the group into teams and award candy prizes for correct answers.
• Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin—You'll need a pumpkin (either real or made out of orange construction paper), pushpins or tape, a blindfold and several pumpkin noses (black construction paper will work). Draw eyes and a mouth on your pumpkin's face, and hang it up. Blindfold a player, spin them around, hand them a paper nose (secured with a pushpin for adults and tape for children) and direct them toward the pumpkin. The player who attaches the nose closest to the right spot wins. You could also play Pin the Wart on the Witch, or Pin the Smile on the Scarecrow.
• Pumpkin Decorating Contest—Set out markers, stickers, glue, construction paper, buttons and other household items. Give guests a pumpkin and a 30-minute decoration time frame. Award prizes for the "Prettiest," "Scariest" and "Most Interesting." Don't want winners or losers? Let kids decorate and take home their pumpkins. 

For more information, visit www.walmart.com/halloween.

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Word of the Day:

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

Mortgagor. Party or person that borrows money, giving a lien on the property as security for the loan; the borrower.

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Question of the Day

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

Q: What things do lenders view positively and negatively during the application process?

A: When you apply for a loan, long, steady employment is always seen as a plus, as is a large down payment, a good credit rating, a history of regular savings, and property located in a “good” neighborhood.

Not so good in the lender’s mind: frequent job changes without salary increases, self-employment in a new venture, bad debt history, no previous borrowing record, and dilapidated property.

Do not be discouraged. These are standard lender pre-dispositions when evaluating your application, but when it comes to making a loan decision, most lenders will tell you nothing is completely carved in stone.

Consider, too, that credit you have qualified for—say, credit cards—can work against you, even if never used. This is because those credit cards are looked upon as being open credit lines—and while they have not been used, they could be used, and potentially used up to the maximum dollar amount allowed by the credit card companies. As a result, their perceived risks lower your credit, or FICO, score.

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Have A Stress-Less Holiday Season

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

In these busy days, with many of us already juggling too many activities and assorted responsibilities, the very thought of adding holiday-related chores may be enough to put a damper on the season. The solution, say health care professionals, is in lowering expectations and simplifying the must-do chores.

“The pleasure of the holidays should be in sharing time with our families and closest friends,” says licensed clinical social worker Margaret Dougherty. “Doing things more simply, and avoiding too many social obligations may be the answer to a stress-free holiday.”

Dougherty offers the following tips to help take stress out of the season:

• Get rid of clutter – Clutter at home can be a silent but powerful stress-inducer. Just getting things off the floors and counters can help create a more peaceful environment.
• Pare holiday card list – There is no need to send a card to everyone you know. Pare the list to those you don’t see often – or don’t send cards at all. You will save money and not contribute to someone else’s clutter.
• Scale down the décor – Display only the decorative items you really love, and give away the rest. Less can be more, and a few well-placed items can create a clutter-free but festive mood.
• Clear the schedule – Learn to say no to holiday invitations you are not keen on accepting. Dinners and parties that cut into your rest and/or family time may end up being no fun at all.
• Simplify gift-giving – Float the option of drawing names instead of buying gifts for each person. Consider clutter-free gifts like theater or movie tickets that also require less shopping and wrapping time.
• Plan meals ahead – when cooking favorite family foods in the weeks before the holidays, make double batches and freeze half for a stress-free holiday warm-up. Stock up on frozen supermarket entrees for extra-busy nights, and bake and freeze holiday cookies and treats in advance on autumn evenings.
• Give from your kitchen – While you are at it, cook or bake enough extra in the weeks before the holidays to package and freeze as holiday gifts. A quart of chili in a pretty bowl, or a mug-full of homemade fudge or cookies, makes a great and much appreciated gift for neighbors, service people and friends

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5 Trends Impacting Home Exterior Colors and Materials from 2012 - 2015

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

According to national color expert Kate Smith, people have conflicting emotions regarding their homes during these economically challenging times.

Homeowners want to embrace their need for change and feel positive about their living space by purchasing new products, while at the same time being financially and environmentally responsible. Smith believes the marketplace is seeing a shift to homeowners looking for items that have high value and a long lifespan.
Smith, president of Sensational Color, says there are some distinct trends emerging that will guide homeowners during the next several years. “People naturally seek newness of colors, products and other items for their home,” says Smith. “However, this is now being balanced by our concern with greater issues than ourselves. Many of us are willing to tame our desire for newness and change in order to make decisions that have a positive impact on the greater good of the environment and our global community.”
In order to meet these conflicting emotions, homeowners are seeking out better quality products with longer life spans. “People are educating themselves more these days on the impact a single purchase will have on themselves and on the environment,” says Smith. “For example, a homeowner may desire real wood shake shingles on a roof, but they understand the lifespan of those roofing shingles is extremely limited. They’re thinking twice about how many trees would need to be harvested to make those wood shingles.
“Instead, that same homeowner is more likely to lean toward selecting a polymer shake roofing tile. These tiles are man-made and require minimal long-term maintenance. This becomes a ‘win-win’ choice for the conscientious homeowner.” 

Smith has identified several key trends related to exterior home products and colors. These include: 

1. Living Simply in a Complex World – This trend relates to people moving away from the old question of “what more do we want?” to the question of “would life be better with less?” The desire for a more streamlined life motivates people to select modern technology, products and materials that make our complex lives easier.
2. Give Me More “Me Time” – Younger buyers, who once would not be bothered by a home that was anything but brand new, are now changing their home buying strategies. These individuals are embracing older homes that they can personalize by adding newer products that require minimal maintenance. These Internet savvy people are relying on researching the best product options online for their homes. They’re looking for products that help blend the older bones of a home with their modern sensibilities in order to provide a sense of connection to history and their community.
3. Rules are Made to be Broken – Today’s homeowners are making their own rules. In the coming years, look for unusual mixing of materials and colors in ways communities haven’t previously seen. Homeowners want their homes to reflect their personalities, but they also want to express themselves on the exterior of the home. Look for attention-getting colors on front doors, a not-so-expected color on window frames and unique blends of color on the roof in the coming years as homeowners put their personal stamp on their homes.
4. Naturally Inspired and Improved – Colors and materials that harmonize with the natural surroundings of a home are increasingly important to homeowners. This goal becomes easier for people to achieve as manufacturers continue to introduce products that mimic nature (such as polymer slate roofing tiles).

Homeowners are basing their purchasing decisions on their increased understanding that the manufactured products they select will have a longer life span, thus reducing the need for replacement. And, in many situations, these man-made products that look, feel and have natural colors incorporated, require less maintenance and reduce the negative impact on the environment.
5. Inside Out Harmony – Homeowners are finding that colors and materials that harmonize with their natural surrounding are increasingly important to them. Regional colors and materials on a home exterior help anchor people to their community, providing a unity within a neighborhood or subdivision. In many cases, homeowners are also bringing the outside indoors by adding plant walls, gardens and water features into the home. On the exterior, they’re adding fire pit areas, and outdoor living and dining room spaces that blur the boundaries of the living both inside and outside the home. 

For more information, visit http://www.sensationalcolor.com.

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6 Reasons Why It's Smart to Buy a Vacation Rental Home

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

Lately, you've been thinking a lot about investing strategies. You have a small nest egg that needs to grow, but frankly you don't trust the stock market. (If you're like many investors, your 401(k) hasn't fared well in recent years.) And while real estate has been somewhat of a rocky road in recent years, it's still a solid long-term investment strategy—and clearly we're in a buyer's market. But you aren't really interested in being a landlord. What to do?

Christine Karpinski has a suggestion: Purchase a vacation home and rent it out to travelers.

"Vacation homes are almost always a good investment," says Karpinski, director of Owner Community for HomeAway—te the world's leading vacation rental marketplace—and author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment (Kinney Pollack Press, 2007, ISBN: 0-9748249-9-2, $26.00).

"First, if you're looking for a good long-term investment, real estate tends to be a good bet," she adds. "Second, vacation properties have the ability to pay for themselves, and owners often earn a profit in rental income. Third, the investment comes with the desirable perk of having a place at the beach or in the mountains to call your own. And finally, there has never been a better time to buy a vacation home—it's like the planets have all lined up perfectly."

Karpinski, who owns vacation homes in several parts of the country, says she herself is looking for new properties to invest in. Overall, she says, the vacation home rental market is a burgeoning segment of the economy.

Want to know more? Read on for a few reasons why there's never been a better time to go vacation rental house hunting:

There have never been so many properties on the market. For potential home buyers, there is a silver lining to the slow economy and the housing crisis: Most vacation markets are chock-full of buying opportunities. Once you've pinpointed the vacation rental market that is right for you—The coast? The mountains? A ski resort area?—you will likely have a lot of properties to choose from.

"There are many properties available right now in many different areas," says Karpinski. "Once you start hunting, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find. But I must offer one caveat: Before you let yourself fall in love with a property, make sure it is legal to rent it out as a vacation home. Some areas and homeowners' associations do not allow short-term rentals."

Prices aren't going to get much better. In fact, they're the lowest they've been in five to ten years. If you're pretty sure you want to buy a vacation home "someday," you might want to quit procrastinating and pull the trigger, says Karpinski.

"Prices should increase eventually," she points out. "Now is the perfect opportunity to make a really sound investment. In fact, speaking from my own perspective, I'm afraid that if I don't take the plunge now, I'll look back ten years from now and say, 'Why the heck didn't I buy back in 2010?'"

Interest rates are very favorable for purchasing. Today, mortgage interest rates are low. Bottom line: Take advantage of them while they last.

These days, you have access to the best real estate professionals. Anyone connected to the housing market who managed to survive the housing crash had to be at the top of his or her game. That means the agents left standing today—including the ones you'll be working with in your search for the perfect vacation home—are possibly the best of the best.

"Quite simply, the real estate professionals still working today are the top in the business," says Karpinski. "And because vacation home renting has become so popular, they are more knowledgeable than ever. Use their knowledge to your advantage. They are at your service when it comes to helping you hunt down the best property for you."

It's never been easier to rent your vacation home. As mentioned earlier, vacation home rentals have never been more popular. More and more consumers are choosing to stay in cozy condos, cabins, and chalets instead of cramped, impersonal hotel rooms when they travel. And as market demand has surged, organizations have sprung up to help connect vacation homeowners with these potential renters.

If you buy now, you can be ready for the 2011 peak season. It's true that the longer you wait to buy, the likelier it is that interest rates could rise. But there's another reason not to procrastinate: If you buy now, you'll have time to get your property ready for peak rental season. Experienced vacation homeowners often find that the rental fees generated during the twelve weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day pay their mortgages for an entire year—and most inquiries come in between January and March.

"Even turnkey properties aren't really turnkey," notes Karpinski. "To get your property up to your standards, there will very likely be things that you will want to spruce up. Rooms might need repainting. Decorating will need to be done. And the yard might need some work. By buying now, you will have a cushion of time to get the home ready for your guests, take great photos for your property listing, and start marketing it to potential renters."

"Someone is going to be smart enough to take advantage of the great buying opportunities available today," says Karpinski. "That person might as well be you."

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Wealthy Parents Putting Off 'Money Talk' until Children Reach Adulthood

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

According to a recent SEI publication, many wealthy parents are waiting until their children are well into adulthood before discussing how they should use their inheritance. In fact, SEI ran a recent survey that showed that just over a third (36 percent) of wealthy parents have discussed their wealth and its implications with their children before the age of 21.

SEI reports that only 16 percent of wealthy families have had that discussion with children before the age of 16. The survey results point to a growing wealth communication breakdown in high-net-worth families—one that many believe is inhibiting the ability of future generations to sustain long-term wealth. 

According to the company, their survey—which polled more than 100 individuals representing families with an average net worth of more than $20 million—was carried out by independent research firm Scorpio Partnership. It highlighted a significant communication barrier between current and future generations related to the challenges and expectations of wealth. The majority of those polled (51 percent) said they have strong expectations for how family members use the wealth they will inherit, yet only 19 percent said they have communicated their hopes and fears about wealth to their families. Only 11 percent of respondents believe their children have communicated their hopes and fears about the family's wealth with them. 

"There is a communication breakdown in many wealthy families that must be fixed if future generations are going to sustain wealth for the long term," said Michael Farrell, Managing Director for SEI Private Wealth Management. "Parents need to make talking about money a rite of passage with their children. The most successful families talk about finances early and often, making children feel involved, empowered, and better prepared for the future." 

The survey showed that when families do communicate about their wealth the results are often positive. Nearly half of those polled (43 percent) described the experience of having their families involved in financial interests as fulfilling or liberating, while slightly more than a third (39 percent) described the experience as challenging, frustrating, or uncomfortable. When families do share information about financial matters it is mostly in informal settings. Seventy-one percent of respondents said family members were made aware of financial interests through general family conversations, while 18 percent said the conversations took place in formal family meetings, and 11 percent were made aware at private bank/investor meetings. 

The survey results clearly suggest that many wealthy families lack the level of comfort or tools to effectively communicate on wealth issues with their children. To help facilitate healthier and more frequent family wealth conversations, SEI has compiled the following set of wealth-talk tips. The tips include:
Start Early -- It's never too early to start talking to your children about money. The subject matter and level of detail may change, but it's important to show children you are comfortable and approachable on the topic. Whether it's over a game of Monopoly or about a child's allowance, small conversations early will make the bigger talks you have to have later in life less daunting.
Initiate Conversations with Your Child -- If you wait for your child to start the conversation, it likely won't happen. Many children take a parent's silence on any subject, intentional or not, as a sign that the topic is off limits. Take the initiative to start a money conversation with your kids. It will break down the invisible sound barrier and lead to healthier wealth communication habits.
Communicate Your Own Values -- It's important that children understand their parents' values. Talk about what you want your wealth to do and what expectations you have for your children related to it. Sharing your values will help children embrace their own values and ultimately help create more productive financial behaviors.
Use Everyday Opportunities to Talk -- Money talk doesn't have to be confined to formal settings or family meetings. Talk about the issues and implications in the context of real life. Whether it's paying a restaurant check or monitoring the performance of your investments, use everyday occurrences as teaching opportunities. The frequency and practicality will serve your children better than any formal annual debriefing.
Don't Just Talk, Listen -- Wealth conversations or any effective conversation must be two-way. Don't mistake a lecture for a dialogue. Listen and respond to your children's questions, thoughts, and concerns. If they know you're listening they are more likely to open up, which will make the talks a lot more valuable. 

The survey results are part of an ongoing series that SEI has developed in collaboration with Scorpio Partnership to help gain front-line insights on wealth goals, behavior, and issues of ultra-high-net-worth families.
For more information, visit www.seic.com.

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Word of the Day

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

Multiple listing. Agreement that allows real estate brokers to distribute information on the properties they have listed for sale to other members of a local real estate organization. Allows the widest possible marketing of those properties. Commissions are split by mutual agreement between the listing broker and the selling broker.

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Question of the Day

October 28, 2011 6:20 pm

Q: Why do lenders require a down payment?

A: It protects them should you default on the loan, especially if you fail to make payments in the early years of the loan when more is owed on it. Foreclosure, property fix-up, and resale costs could result in a loss on the mortgage loan.

That is a bad situation the lender wants to avoid. So they have historically required cash down payments of 20 percent of a home’s purchase price.

However, if you purchase private mortgage insurance, the down payment requirement can drop to 5 or 10 percent of the purchase price.

Few lenders will lend the full value of a home unless they have special guarantees, such as that offered by the Veterans Administration (VA) under its mortgage assistance program.

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Make a Plan for Better Health

October 28, 2011 3:20 pm

When it comes to setting healthy behaviors, many people have the best of intentions. However, due to hectic schedules, stress at jobs and a variety of other influential factors, many of these changes only last a few short weeks. 

Most people know what they need to do to improve their health—taking steps like making healthier food choices and maintaining an active lifestyle. It's figuring out how to do these things and fitting these changes into the daily routine that can present the biggest challenges. 

It takes 21 days to fully incorporate a new habit. In the grand scheme of things, 21 days is a small time period to make a healthy behavior a part of your life, and the boons are extensive. Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active can help lower risk for developing a number of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and more.

Make a Plan
To reach your goal, you need a plan. How do you get started? Take these steps:
• Think about what is important to your health. What are you willing and able to do?
• Decide what your goals are. What changes do you want to make? Choose one goal to work on first.
• Decide what steps will help you reach your goal.
• Pick one step to try this week. 

Ask yourself these questions to help you shape your plan:
• Why haven't I made this change before?
• What challenges stand in my way?
• How can I work around what gets in the way?
• What's my goal?
• What might get in the way of making this change?
• How can I plan ahead to make it easier to stick to my new habits?
• How will I reward myself? 

Making healthy lifestyle choices is hard work. However, once you have your routine down, these healthy habits will become easier and easier to maintain, and the benefits—slimming down, gaining energy, cutting cancer risks, feeling healthier—are more than worth the extra effort. 

Source: www.YourDiabetesInfo.org.

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