RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
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

Candle Safety Tips to Help Prevent Fires

December 21, 2011 5:22 pm

There's a special beauty and tranquility to candles, but a lighted candle is also an open flame, and a potential fire hazard if not carefully monitored. In fact, accidental candle fires account for approximately four percent of all U.S. residential fires. NewsWatch and the National Candle Association provide some candle safety tips this holiday season to help you enjoy candles safely.

A study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that 85 percent of candle fires could be avoided if consumers followed three basic safety rules:
• Never leave a burning candle unattended.
• Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch fire.
• Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
There are some other basic tips to help avoid fire this holiday season. These tips are broken down into before, during and extinguishing phases.

Before Lighting:
• Trim the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning.
• Always use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use.
• Burn candles in a well-ventilated room.
• Place the candleholder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
• Keep the wax pool clear of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
• Avoid drafts, vents or air currents.

During Lighting:
• Never touch or move a burning candle.
• Don't burn a candle all the way down.
• Extinguish a candle if the flame becomes too high or flickers repeatedly.
• Always keep the candle within your sight.

When Extinguishing:

• Use a candle snuffer to extinguish a candle.
• Never use water to extinguish a candle.
• Make sure the candle is completely out and the wick ember is no longer glowing before leaving the room.
• Don't touch or move the candle until it has completely cooled.



Word of the Day

December 21, 2011 5:22 pm

Semidetached. One structure containing two dwelling units separated vertically by a common wall.


Question of the Day

December 21, 2011 5:22 pm

Q: Is private mortgage insurance necessary?
A: Lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) on most conventional loans with less than a 20 percent down payment. They believe there is a correlation between borrower equity and default. They have found that the less money borrowers put down, the more likely they are to default on a loan. PMI guarantees the lender will not lose money if this happens and a foreclosure is necessary.

The buyer pays this insurance, usually a small fee at the outset and a percentage of the face amount of the loan that is added to the monthly payment.

What most homeowners do not realize is that the insurance is usually no longer necessary after enough equity has built up in the property. Contact your lender if you meet this requirement and want to drop PMI.

A precaution: do not confuse PMI with mortgage life insurance. The latter pays all, or a portion, of your mortgage in the event of your death.


How to: Make the Most of Your Home Inspection

December 20, 2011 5:22 pm

According to, 77 percent of home buyers had a home inspection prior to purchasing their home. That means the majority of home buyers are making smart decisions before buying. But let’s say you have just received the results of your home inspection—now what? With all the excitement of the house purchase and the new move, many homeowners make the mistake of putting the results of their home inspection aside, thinking they will make necessary repairs later. However, they should be doing the opposite, as home inspection results are a great starting point for making necessary repairs.

Electrical Checks

Don’t take any chances with electrical systems. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), problems with electrical systems are the second most common type of problem reported nationwide. Your home inspection report should include a thorough check of your home’s wiring, circuit breaker, water heater, appliance hook-ups and lighting fixtures. Be particularly cautious if you have an older home that may have been designed under an outdated electrical code that is no longer up to par. Even if no major electrical problems show up on your report, installing safety devices such as a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) as a precaution is always a smart move.

Safety Repairs

Issues with home safety reported in your inspection should never be overlooked, and many things—radon, lead paint and asbestos—should be removed before your family moves in.

Infrastructure Issues

If your home inspector found problems with the frame or groundwork of your house, these problems should be addressed immediately. Problems like a leaky roof or basement may seem like something that can be dealt with later, but once mold or mildew sets in, it can be problematic to remove, and the future potential for water damage could set you back thousands of dollars. It’s always a smart idea to re-roof and repair and seal any cracks in your infrastructure before you begin to move your things into your new home. Areas of entrance—windows, doors and garages—are places that require special attention, as they are the most common areas that let in damaging moisture.


Don’t forget that your home inspection report is a great point of negotiation. You may be able to ask for a lower price or request that some of the major repairs—such as a faulty wiring system or leaky roof—be made on the seller’s dime before you move in.


The Last Minute Shopper; Perfect Gift, Great Price

December 20, 2011 5:22 pm

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and thus far the numbers are impressive. According to a recent comScore report, in the first 39 days of the season, U.S. consumers spent close to $25 billion on online purchases, which represents a 15% increase over last year.

For consumers who did not take advantage of deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, they still have time to find the right gift at a good price. Some last minute shopping and gift ideas from the experts at include:

• Buy online, but do it fast. Many of the large merchants offer standard shipping for Christmas Eve delivery if customers order on or before December 20. Additionally, some stores continue to offer rush delivery for orders placed today, December 21, and even tomorrow, December 22. The one downside is that free shipping is no longer available.

• Purchase an electronic gift card. Electronic gift cards are purchased exclusively online and are delivered electronically to the recipient via email or to a smartphone. Most major retailers offer this option, and the "card" can be delivered to an inbox or a phone within hours, rather than days. This option is great for those last minute Christmas Eve purchases.

• Send flowers. Some merchants will provide holiday delivery for orders on or before December 23. A beautiful arrangement of flowers can provide recipients with a holiday decoration that they are not forced to stow away at the end of the season.

• Give seats to a favorite event. Almost everyone has a sporting event, concert, or theater production that they wish they could attend, and most last-minute shoppers can easily find these tickets online. Event tickets can be mailed or paperless and make a great gift that will last past the holiday season.

• Opt for a magazine subscription. Most people would be happy to receive a subscription to their favorite magazine about a hobby or interest. Shoppers can visit sites such as to find the best magazine based on recipient, personality or price. Shoppers can also select to have a gift notification emailed directly to the recipient.



Safely Skate, Slide and Glide through Winter

December 20, 2011 5:22 pm

In many areas of the country, the snow is falling, the temperature is dropping, and it's time to pull out those skis, sleds and skates!

While winter sports provide a wonderful opportunity to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, these activities also have the potential to cause severe injury if proper safety precautions are not practiced. Common injuries from skiing, skating and sledding include sprains and muscle strains, dislocations and fractures.

More than 440,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors' offices and emergency rooms for winter sports-related injuries in 2010, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. This includes more than:

• 58,500 ice skating injuries;
• 91,000 injuries from sledding and tobogganing;
• 144,000 snow skiing injuries; and
• 148,000 snowboard injuries.

"When participating in winter sports, it's important for participants to know the weather and terrain, to stay alert for changes, and to take a break when feeling pain or fatigue," said orthopaedic surgeon A. Herbert Alexander, MD. "Before skiing, skating or sledding, make sure you're dressed appropriately, in good physical shape, know and abide by the rules of the sport in which you're participating, and seek medical attention immediately if necessary.

"And don't forget safety equipment, in particular helmets for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and even ice skating," said Dr. Alexander.

As part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons'(AAOS) on-going Prevent Injuries America!® campaign, the AAOS urges children and adults to consider these additional winter sports injury prevention tips before braving the snow:

• Check the weather for snow and ice conditions prior to heading outdoors. Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety while outdoors. Skiers and snowboarders should make adjustments for icy conditions, deep snow powder, wet snow, and adverse weather conditions.
• Dress for the occasion. Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Layering allows you to accommodate your body's constantly changing temperature.
• Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding. Also, check that all equipment, such as ski and snowboard bindings, is in good working order.
• Skiers and snowboarders should have their boots and bindings adjusted, maintained and tested by a ski shop that follows American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard job practices.
• Never participate alone in a winter sport. If possible, skiers and snowboarders should ski with a partner and stay within sight of each other. If one partner loses the other, stop and wait. Also, make sure someone who is not participating is aware of your plans and probable whereabouts before heading outdoors. Consider carrying a cell phone in case of an emergency.
• Skiers and snowboarders should observe all marked hazard and trail signs, and should never venture into closed areas. You also should respect designated slow skiing and family areas and never ski in the trees alone. Backcountry skiers and boarders should avoid avalanche zones, carry proper safety equipment and ski only with a licensed guide or partner who knows the terrain well.
• Avoid sledding near or on public streets. Sledding should be done only in designated and approved areas where there are no obstacles on the sledding path. Speeding down hills in parks that are not designed for sledding puts you at risk to be hit by cars and trucks, or to slam into parked vehicles, curbs, and fences.
• Sit in a forward-facing position when sledding and steer using your feet or the rope steering handles for better control of the sled.
• Wear a helmet. Children especially should wear a helmet for skiing, snowboarding, sledding and even skating.
• Warm up thoroughly before playing. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury. It's important that skiers and snowboarders warm up by taking it easy on the first few runs.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after outdoor activities. Don't drink alcohol as it can increase your chances of hypothermia. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, especially to avoid altitude sickness when participating in sports at a high elevation.
• Keep in shape and condition muscles before partaking in winter activities. If over the age of 50, it may be wise to have a medical check-up prior to participating in a winter sport.
• Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating.
• Learn how to fall correctly to avoid injury. Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding, to learn how to fall correctly and safely which can reduce the risk of injury. Falling techniques aim to protect your vulnerable body parts.
o If skiing, learn how to properly hold the poles with the strap to avoid "skiers thumb" – tearing an important ligament by falling onto an outstretched thumb.
o Also, don't fight a fall! Instead, try to break the fall with your arms in a flexible position, landing first on your hands and wrists, letting your elbows bend into the fall, and then rolling onto the back part of your shoulder. A fall onto stiff arms can cause a severe wrist fracture. Also, try to avoid landing with your thumb against the handle of your pole.
o Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee occur frequently in skiing, often when a skier makes a sharp sudden movement or a hard, off-balance landing. Avoiding high-risk ski behavior, maintaining balance and control, and recognizing and responding correctly to dangerous situations, can help alleviate the risk for ACL injury.
• Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone with you, is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Early frostbite symptoms include: numbness and tingling in you digits, lack of feeling and poor motion.
• Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted. Many skiers are injured on the final, "one last run"—if tired, call it a day.
• Follow-up with an orthopaedic surgeon if injured during any winter excursion, especially if pain or discomfort persists.



Attention Older Adults: How to Remain Healthy in 2012

December 20, 2011 5:22 pm

The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), the professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry, searches health-and-wellness research studies every year to find the most relevant to adults ages 50-plus. This year ICAA has sorted through these studies to compile a list of tips that governments, communities, businesses, families and individuals can use to encourage older adults to achieve a healthy lifestyle in 2012 (citations available on request):

1. Expectations: If you've followed a healthy lifestyle this year, keep going. If you need to make lifestyle changes, start by anticipating success—and don't let age be a barrier. Research has shown that thinking negatively about getting older can shorten your life by as much as 7.5 years.

2. Enthusiasm: Few people are thrilled with every aspect of their lives, but many have at least one area—family, friends, work, hobbies—that they feel good about. Identify an activity or connection that sparks your enthusiasm and make it your lifeline, then do your best to extend that enthusiasm to other areas.

3. Energy: Having the energy and motivation you need to age well are hallmarks of healthy living. If you're tired all the time, don't let apathy and lethargy drag you down. Instead, get a checkup to try to determine the cause-and the solution.
4. Eating: Eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are keys to physical and mental health. If you need to lose weight or make changes in your diet, keep your expectations high. You can do it!

5. Exercise: Staying physically active fuels the body and mind. If you're already exercising regularly, keep it up. If you're getting started, know your fitness level, then set goals and progress at your own pace. The key is to be consistent.

6. Engagement: Get involved in your community. Research has shown that people who volunteer have higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction than people who don't. Volunteering and other kinds of civic and social engagement can contribute to better health.

7. Emotions: Everyone feels down at times, but full-blown depression is a major cause of disability. If you're feeling out of sorts for two weeks or more, talk with your doctor. In many instances, simply exercising and eating right can change your mood.

8. Education:
Lifelong learning is important to living an independent and fulfilling life as you advance in age. Start now to learn new subjects or physical activities-it's good for the brain.

9. Effort: Changing expectations and embarking on new behaviors take energy and effort, but the results are well worth it.

10. Enjoyment:
A healthy life generally is a joyous one. Savor the process of being or becoming active, engaged and truly alive in 2012.

Source: the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)


Word of the Day

December 20, 2011 5:22 pm

Seller’s market. One with few sellers and many buyers.


Question of the Day

December 20, 2011 5:22 pm

Q: Is it true some lenders grant loans based on very little documentation?

A: Not too long ago, they offered in abundance what are called “stated income loans," more commonly referred to as “no doc” or “low-doc" loans, mortgages that require no documentation or little documentation to verify the borrower’s income and assets. In return, the borrower, who must have very good credit, make a big down payment—generally 25 percent or more—and pay a higher interest rate.

Given current market conditions and the sub-prime debacle, these loans have become more difficult to find, cost more, and are mainly funded by hard money lenders who do not conform to bank standards.

The loans are common among self-employed borrowers who have difficulty substantiating all of their income and service industry employees, such as waiters and hair stylists, whose pay is hard to pinpoint exactly. Borrowers also may use no-doc loans when they derive most of their income from commissions or when they have very complicated income structures.

In reality, calling the loans “no-doc” and “low-doc” are misnomers. Some “low-doc” loans require plenty of documentation, such as tax returns and profit-and-loss statements. Even “no-doc” loans require a credit report and a property appraisal.


Rental Investment; What You Need to Know

December 19, 2011 5:22 pm

In this tough economy, more and more individuals are looking at the potential long-term investment of rental property to provide a supplemental revenue stream and/or tax shelter. Like anything that appears too good to be true, beware of rental rehabs.

Mark Fitzpatrick of Lenox Home Loans ( recently blogged that if you’re planning on rehabbing to rent, or purchasing investment property and are planning to take advantage of traditional bank financing, it’s important that you have your ducks in a row so the closing of the deal goes as smoothly as possible.

Fitzpatrick says taking the time to plan ahead for your traditional bank loan before you get into a deal will help hugely when you want to exit the deal. He says the following are the three biggest “gotchas” he sees when financing investment property for real estate investors:

1) Inadequate reserves.
Reserve funds, i.e. cash in the bank, are not typically required if you’re refinancing a property you live in, but it’s a different story with investment properties. Plan on the lender asking you to document reserve funds of up to 6 months worth of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance for each financed investment property you own, according to Fitzpatrick.

2) Cashing out after your rehab. It used to be that you could buy a beat-up property for cheap, rehab it, and immediately transact a cash-out loan to get your investment and profit out of the deal. Not so today. Fitzpatrick says Fannie Mae guidelines require you to own the property for at least six months before you can do a cash-out loan. So make sure to account for this in your numbers, or consider financing the purchase and repairs with hard money.

3) Inadequate equity. Fitzpatrick says Fannie Mae limits the max loan-to-value for investment properties to 85%, but when you take into account pricing and bank overlay guidelines, the effective max loan-to-value for an investment property is actually around 70% to 75% right now (sometimes 80%), depending on the scenario.

If you want to learn more, Fitzpatrick offers a number of other points as well as regular articles on financing issues through the site.