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

Plastics Help Make Halloween a Little Less Scary for Parents

October 24, 2011 6:12 pm

Halloween can be thrilling for little superheroes, zombies, and fairies, but it can be stressful for moms and dads concerned with their safety. And with tens of millions of kids trick or treating this year, that's a lot of worried moms and dads. Plastics Make it Possible®, an initiative sponsored by the plastics industries of the American Chemistry Council, offers some tips on how a little plastic can help make Halloween a little less scary – at least for parents.


• Time To Reflect – Add reflective plastic tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags to make your kids more visible.
• Be Afraid (of fire) – Keep your little ones supervised and away from flames – candles, Jack-O-Lanterns, marshmallow roasts—and make sure all costumes, wigs and accessories are labeled flame resistant.
• Modify the Mask – Some Halloween masks can obstruct vision and breathing. Take scissors to the plastic mask to expand the eye and mouth holes so your little zombie can see and breathe.
• Dagger Danger – Make sure that your Grim Reaper's scythe or your Ghostface's dagger is soft and flexible plastic.
• Light the Night – Experts recommend that children carry a flashlight (use fresh batteries!) to help them see and be seen—or a glow stick or little flashing decorations, at least.
• Careful Contact – If your child doesn't carry an I.D., simply jot down name/ address/contact info, place it a small plastic zipper bag and slide it into a pocket. It's easy to find in an emergency, won't dissolve if wet and doesn't broadcast information to strangers.
• Phone Home – A cell phone adds another layer of safety —preset home and parent cell numbers in the phone. Although cell phones made with tough plastics hold up to rough treatment, soft plastic phone cases add further protection if your little ghoul fumbles the phone.
• Candy Care – Check all goodies before munching away. Most candy is wrapped in plastic wrappers to provide protection; treat the unwrapped treats with great suspicion.

"Halloween means costumes and candy to kids, but safety is top of mind for parents," saysSteve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council.

"Fortunately, there are many inexpensive, readily available products made with plastics that can contribute to Halloween safety and help parents achieve a bit more peace of mind."

For more information, visit www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com.

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AAA Offers Test Driving Tips for Car-Buying Consumers

October 24, 2011 6:12 pm

It is easy for car buying consumers to fall in love at first sight with the sleek styling and attractive exterior of their dream machine. In most American households today, a vehicle purchase is a major financial expense, so a second look and an extensive test drive is time well invested.

AAA Automotive experts recommend that consumers start that test drive at the computer keyboard. Valuable information about vehicle safety features, performance data, and purchase pricing and resale value can be researched online. AAA can assist consumers shopping for a vehicle by providing information they need to make an educated decision at AAA.com/AutoBuying.

"In today's economy, consumers have additional factors to consider when purchasing a vehicle, often making the selection process more difficult and extensive," says John Nielsen, AAA Director of Automotive Repair, Buying, and Consumer Information. "There is no substitute for quality research and an in-depth test drive tailored to your personal driving needs, to help make a sound financial car buying decision."

The physical test drive is the next step in the car buying research process. An extensive test drive can reveal many important factors not immediately obvious at first blush.

AAA recommends the following test driving tips:

Before You Drive. Walk around the car. Is it the right size for the needs of your family? Check the quality of the assembly and the tightness of the body panel alignment. Check for bubbles and pitting on the paint and chrome. Open and close the tailgate or trunk and doors. Does it sound solid and well made? Will the design allow for easy loading of luggage, sporting goods, and groceries?
Be a Backseat Test Driver. Ask the salesperson to take you for a preliminary test drive. You can focus on the ride without the distraction of driving, and you're more likely to notice noise and overall comfort. And, of course, you can evaluate backseat room for future passengers.
Find Your Fit. Get in and try the car on for size. Check the leg room and visibility. How easy is it to adjust the seats? Are the controls easy to read, reach and use? Try all of the accessories and options, such as air conditioning, the sound system, and navigation aids.
On The Road. Drive the exact model of the car you want to purchase. Pick your own route for the test drive. If possible, pick a route that mirrors your daily driving routine. It's a good idea to test the car's ride quality and handling on a number of different road surfaces: city streets, hills, freeways, and winding roads.
Power. Test the engine's responsiveness in real-world conditions. Is there a smooth and constant delivery of power? Try merging onto the highway, passing, and stop-and-go city driving. Spend part of the test drive with the air conditioner on to see if it drains power.
Transmission. Look for smoothness and ease of operation. Listen for hesitation or straining.
Handling. Check steering responsiveness. Practice long turns and sharp turns. Safely practice sudden swerves and gradual lane changes.
Brakes. Your life could depend on your brakes, so put them to the test. Brake both softly and decisively to gain an accurate idea of the car's stopping distance.
Noise Level. At various speeds, listen for excessive engine, road, and wind noise. Check for squeaks and rattles coming from the interior and bodywork. Listen with the windows open and closed.
Parking. Parallel park to discover any blind spots or potential difficulty in identifying the corners of the car.

For more information, visit AAA.com.

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5 Term Life Insurance Tips to Save Money

October 24, 2011 6:12 pm

One of the best ways to protect a family's financial future is with a term life insurance policy. Renewable life insurance is affordable, can provide a lump sum to the beneficiaries, replace income, pay off credit card debts, cover housing expenses, medical costs and funeral expenses, in addition to covering the cost of a child's higher education. With a wide range of plan options, TermLifeInsurance.com offers money-saving tips for cost-conscious consumers.

TermLifeInsurance.com recommends five ways to save money on a term life insurance policy:

1. Buy as a young adult. Whether a person is just starting a family or wants to in the future, one can save money by locking in low rates when they buy as a young and healthy adult.
2. Choose the appropriate length of coverage. Term life insurance policies are flexible and can generally be purchased in increments anywhere from five to 30 years. One should consider their unique situation. An individual with young children and a home mortgage might consider enough protection to cover their mortgage and send the kids off to college.
3. Buy the right amount of coverage. When choosing between policies, think about how much coverage is actually needed to maintain the family's lifestyle and cover final expenses. Many recommend a policy amount about six to ten times the policyholder's gross annual income; however, one should only buy a plan that is affordable in their current situation.
4. Be healthy. This may seem obvious, but the savings are surprising. Some companies charge twice as much for high-risk individuals who smoke. Being smoke-free and maintaining a healthy weight can add up to hefty savings.
5. Shop around and compare rates. Get multiple quotes from competing life insurance agents and companies in order to save the most on a policy. 

For more information, visit www.TermLifeInsurance.com.

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Word of the Day

October 24, 2011 6:12 pm

Mortgage. Legal document that creates a lien on property; it secures the repayment of a loan.

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Question of the Day

October 24, 2011 6:12 pm

Q: What does a mortgage broker do?

A: Much like a stockbroker helps you buy stocks, a mortgage broker can help you purchase a home loan. Because the broker has access to many lenders, you will be able to select from a wide variety of loan types and terms that fit your specific needs. 

Note, however, that brokers are not obligated to find the best deal for you. Of course, if you agree in writing to have one act as your agent, that is an entirely different story. This is why it is important when looking for a broker to contact more than one, just as you would any other lender. 

Compare their fees and ask questions, particularly about how they will be paid. Sometimes their fees appear as points paid at closing or the compensation is factored into the interest rate, or both. In any event, haggle with the broker and the lender for the best deal. 

Real estate agents normally maintain contact with several brokers. Ask your agent for recommendations.

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A Pharmacist's Guide to Staying Well This Season

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

To help maintain health this season, it's important to get the nutrients your body needs every day, through your diet as well as through high quality vitamins and supplements. In a recent nationwide survey, three in four people agree they feel more confident about their health when they take vitamins and supplements. However, many people are not aware of what types of vitamins they need in order to support a healthy immune system. 

"Most Americans have nutrient gaps in their diet, but people can make up for the nutrients they lack by adding vitamins and supplements to a daily wellness routine," says Suzy Cohen, registered pharmacist and author of "The 24-Hour Pharmacist." "There are a variety of ways vitamins and supplements can support a healthy immune system, but when you're in the vitamin aisle it is important to look for quality products."
As the number of products in the vitamin aisle can be overwhelming, Cohen recommends first looking at the brand, seeking only those committed to science-based protocols for product development, and those that are tested and verified by third-party public health organizations such as the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP). Only products that meet the stringent criteria set forth by USP are allowed to use the USP verified mark on their label. 

Immune Supporting Supplements
Vitamin C
- A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C helps maintain a healthy immune system and protects against damaging free radicals. Additionally, Vitamin C, such as the Nature Made Vitamin C 1000mg, is necessary for the body to manufacture collagen, which is essential for healthy skin. 
Vitamin D - Supports teeth, bone and immune health, and healthy levels of Vitamin D in your body may promote your heart health as well. 
Probiotics - Certain types of probiotics supply "good bacteria" that can help maintain immune system health. 
Zinc - Maintaining healthy levels of zinc in your body is necessary for healthy growth, development and proper immune function. Zinc also provides antioxidant support which helps to protect the body against damaging free radicals. 
Echinacea - Echinacea may support healthy immune function. 

Additional Immune Boosting Techniques
• Strive to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
• Practice relaxation techniques to get rid of stress and the harmful hormones it can trigger.
• Wash your hands regularly, especially before meals.
• Eat a balanced diet. Check out the new dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.choosemyplate.gov.
• Exercise regularly. According to Harvard Health Publications, exercise may additionally support a healthy immune system by promoting healthy circulation, moving immune system cells throughout the body. 

If You Get Sick
If you do get sick this cold and flu season, there are a number of things you can do to stop the spread of the virus.
• Cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
• Wash your hands often.
• Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Try to avoid close contact with others to minimize the spread of the germs. 

For more information, visit www.NatureMade.com.

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Feeling Good by Doing Good

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

All across the country ordinary people are serving their neighbors and communities by volunteering—and it's making a big difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. 

In 2010, 62.8 million adults volunteered for almost 8.1 billion hours in local and national organizations, according to Volunteering in America. This service is valued at nearly $173 billion. 

When you volunteer, your time and effort not only helps others, but can actually benefit you in tangible ways. Studies have shown that adults who volunteer one to two hours a week have:
• Lower mortality rates.
• Greater functional ability.
• Lower rates of depression. 

Volunteer activities strengthen social connections, which protects people from a sense of isolation during hard times. And helping others not only expands your own horizons, it can make you feel better about yourself. 

What Can You Do?
There are many ways you can volunteer. Some of the most popular ways, according to Volunteering in America, include:
• Mentoring or tutoring youth.
• Helping raise money or selling items to raise money for an organization.
• Collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food.
• Providing general labor or transportation. 

You can find volunteering opportunities through your local house of worship, community center, workplace or school. You can search online at sites such as www.volunteeringinamerica.gov and www.volunteermatch.org, as well. 

Tips for Becoming a Volunteer
If you would like to volunteer but aren't sure how to get started, here are some tips to consider:
• Go with your strengths. If you have some specialized skills, such as teaching, cooking or sewing, look for places that could use those skills. Keep your own personality in mind, too—if you're an introvert that gets worn out by crowds, don't offer to be the greeter at a big event or the emcee at a banquet.
• Think about your availability. There are different levels of commitment for different types of volunteer activities. Mentoring or tutoring requires a regular, rather intensive commitment, while serving at a charity race is a much shorter-term commitment.
• Volunteer with friends or family. Volunteering with others is a great way to strengthen your relationships and help others at the same time. Consider opportunities suitable for parents and children, a husband and wife, or even a small group of friends to take on together. 

No matter where you decide to serve, as a volunteer you'll feel good knowing that you're doing good right in your own back yard. 

For more information, visit www.foresters.com.

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Word of the Day

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

Master plan. Long-range, comprehensive guide for the physical growth or development of a community.

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Question of the Day

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

Q: What’s the best way to choose a home loan?

A: A lot will depend on the length of time you plan to live in the home, other financial obligations, and potential savings gained from comparing the monthly costs of a home against the up-front costs and closing costs involved with a particular loan.

Also, you will need to be comfortable with whatever choice you decide to make. Trust your instincts and do not be pressured into signing for a loan that will not really work for you.

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Embracing Innovative Incentives in Real Estate

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

Can I interest you in an incentive? I am not one to walk away from a good idea, and across the country, we are seeing more and more innovative incentives being packed into various local or national real estate programs.

For instance, Fannie Mae is currently offering buyers an incentive of up to 3.5% in closing cost assistance through October 31, 2011. Learn more at: fanniemae.com.

There’s a great program in Baltimore, where a total of $500,000 available for the first 50 buyers of Vacants to Value properties. (baltimorehousing.org) Homeowners can qualify either by finding a recently rehabbed home that the city qualifies, or by purchasing a still-vacant home with a rehab loan or 203(k).

Guy D. Cecala, the publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry trade publication says “Everyone is coming up with incentives—mostly (for) buyers in the market for a non-distressed home who can take the most advantage of incentives.”

Cecala also suggested a few things buyers can do to make the most of the incentives available today:

Negotiate
The best approach to negotiating incentives is knowing how much sellers are willing to pay and, if this is new construction, what the builders are offering, says Cecala. Often, builders are willing to work with buyers on things like customizations and property upgrades.

Ask around
Talk to at least two or three lenders to see who will give you the best offer, Cecala says. Since real estate is very localized, the best way to find out about deals is to talk to people in your area of interest. In addition, if a friend or family member recently bought a home, find out what incentives were offered to them. Realtors are another great source of information.

Do your homework
Try to keep abreast of real estate market news. Besides this site, Cecala suggests the National Association of REALTORS®’ website, Realtor.org, and the National Association of Home Builders as good places to start.

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