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

Cheap Alternatives to Pricey Household Cleaners

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

Grandma kept her house sparkling clean, and she did it on the cheap – long before the dawn of expensive cleansing agents and waxy aerosol sprays. She made the most of baking soda, lemon and white vinegar, which were – and are – non-toxic and eco-friendly.

From the household cleaning experts at Good Housekeeping magazine, here are eight of the cheap, easy, and effective solutions Grandma figured out that you can use to advantage for today’s cleaning challenges:

1. White rings on the table – Make a paste of salad oil and salt and rub it into the stain. Let it sit for an hour, then wipe clean with a cloth.
2. Dull copper pot bottoms – Take half a lemon, sprinkle with salt, and use to polish the copper. To keep copper shiny, rub with a little lemon oil and buff with a clean cloth.
3. Small drain clogs – Unclog by pouring ¼ cup baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of white vinegar. Cover with an upside down cup while it fizzes. Leave for 20 minutes, then flush with about a quart of boiling water. Doing this once every few months should prevent future clogs.
4. Dirty mirrors and windows – Fill a spray bottle with club soda. Spray and wipe clean with newspaper.
5. Dull wood furniture – Make a polish combining two cups of cooking oil and the juice of a lemon. Rub a little into the wood with a soft cloth.
6. Mildew on houseplants – Make a paste of a teaspoon of baking soda and a little salad oil dissolved in two cups of hot water. Spray or paint it on the leaves.
7. Funky coffeemakers – For smelly drip coffeemakers, or to improve the coffee’s burnt taste, pour a cup or two of white vinegar into the water receptacle and run it through a complete brewing cycle. Do it again, then flush it out by running two cycles using fresh water.
8. Stained garage floors – Cover oil spots with baking soda and sprinkle on warm water until a paste forms. Leave the paste on overnight, then scrub with a damp brush, rinse and wipe clean with rags.

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Life-Saving Apps for Natural Disasters

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

In cases of tragic and unforeseeable natural disasters, mobile technology has been increasingly helpful with communication. With cell phones and mobile applications abound, this technology has aided in activating relief efforts and saving lives in situations where lack of Internet or power outages have affected a majority. Here are a few examples of mobile applications you can use to continue communicating in times of need.

Signal
With the Signal application, users can combine mobile, social and email right into a single platform. During Hurricane Irene, some utility companies used Signal to further communications about power outages, going so far as even allowing its customers to opt-in for SMS updates regarding the current situation. Receiving up-to-date information during a hurricane became crucial for those without power who were cut off from the world temporarily. With text, emails and social media combined, the possibilities for advanced communication are endless.

Life360
Life360 allows users to set up private networks that allow each other to announce their location with the click of a button. Ideal for families, Life360 quickly and efficiently delivers messages throughout each private network so members can alert others that they are safe in an urgent situation.

After setting up, users simply launch the application and “Check In”—notifying your contacts of your location and safety status. For extended use, background tacking allows members to continuously share their locations with one another. In addition, a panic alert feature lets others know where a user is located and that they need immediate help. With features like these installed into a mobile device, no one is ever beyond help during a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Plerts
Plerts (short for “personal alerts) is a free app that captures image and audio from your mobile every 8-10 seconds, transmitting the data and GPS coordinates to Plerts servers. In the case of a natural disaster, users can hit an SOS button and all of the data gathered is then immediately sent to an emergency contact list, providing them with all the information necessary to help you.

Plerts can also record an automated message and deliver it immediately. If your battery dies on your cell phone, you can still get through to your contacts. Or if a cell network crashes, your location and recordings will be sent out the second the network comes back up.

In some cases, using one of these apps could be the difference between life and death. If a hurricane or other disaster is heading your way, or just to enforce a level of preparedness, have your family download one of the above applications. You may be glad you did.

Source: Mashable

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Why Don't My Credit Scores Match?

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

Interest rates are still low for people with excellent credit, so update your records and purchase a credit report from a reputable credit report provider.

However, sometimes the score you see doesn’t match up with what your lender pulls up, leaving you wondering what happened.

What Happened?
First, you need to understand a little about credit scores. Your credit score is a three-digit number that helps lending institutions assess their risk associated with lending you money. Credit scores are used for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and credit cards.

However, it doesn’t end there. Your score may also be considered for non-lending purposes, such as new utility services, cell phone services, renting an apartment, a lease, auto insurance and even to assess your character as part of a new job background check.

People with lower credit scores may pay higher interest rates or may not be approved at all. Whereas, those with higher, less-risky credit scores often qualify for lower interest rates and special options. Credit scores are calculated based on computer “predictability” models. These models are designed to compare and analyze credit information and credit utilization patterns from your credit report against thousands of other consumers. The data is then evaluated using a complex mathematical algorithm that generates a credit score the moment a report is ordered.

There are literally trillions of score combinations used in the calculations. Most credit scores are calculated and provided individually by each credit bureau, including the three major ones in the U.S., which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Additionally, many lenders use third-party credit scoring systems, such as FICO, NextGen, CE Score and VantageScore. For consumers, the variations in scoring models and score ranges can create some confusion.

In 2006, the three major bureaus joined forces to create a single credit scoring system called the VantageScore. The VantageScore and FICO model lead the industry as competitive rivals in credit-scoring systems.

VantageScore provides a standardized universal mathematical formula to create a credit score from data found on reports from the three major bureaus. Your VantageScore may not be exactly the same if your lender only orders a credit report from one of the bureaus. This is because the data each bureau receives may be slightly different.

As an example, if your auto loan lender does not report your payment history to Equifax but does report it to Experian and TransUnion, it will create a difference in scores. In theory, the VantageScore should be more consistent across all three bureaus since the mathematical formula is the same.

Unlike FICOs traditional 300-850 credit score range, the VantageScore ranges from 501-990. There is no true way to compare the results of the VantageScore to a FICO score especially when the formulas are constantly changing. However, to put some perspective in place, a 650 FICO score approximately compares to a low, 800-range VantageScore.

Although the exact formulas and algorithms for calculating credit scores are closely guarded secrets, FICO and Vantage do provide general key characteristics that drive their credit scoring models. The one constant for both scoring systems is that paying your debts on time will typically be the primary factor that positively impacts your credit score.

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Word of the Day

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

Maturity date. Date on which principal and interest on a mortgage or other loan must be paid in full.

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Question of the Day

October 21, 2011 6:06 pm

Q: What are the advantages of owning a home?

A:
There are many. Among the most appealing: you own it, which gives you, instead of a landlord, control of your living space. Other benefits stem from potential tax savings and the build up of equity as your property likely appreciates in price over time. Equity can be used to help put children through college, purchase a second home, or make home improvements.

The mortgage interest paid on a home loan is tax deductible, as is the local property tax. If you get a fixed-rate home mortgage loan, you also can invest more wisely knowing your monthly mortgage payment, unlike rent, will not change substantially.

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Home Maintenance Matters; Here’s Why

October 20, 2011 6:06 pm

Outright damage to your house is just one of the consequences of neglected maintenance. But take it from me, without regular upkeep, overall property values are affected, too!

According to Mack Strickland, a professional appraiser and real estate agent in Chester, VA, if a house is in worn condition and shows a lack of preventative maintenance, the property could easily lose 10% of its appraised value—that could translate into a $15,000 or $20,000 adjustment.

In addition, a house with chipped, fading paint, sagging gutters, and worn carpeting faces an uphill battle when it comes time to sell. Not only is it at a disadvantage in comparison with other similar homes that might be for sale in the neighborhood, Strickland says a shaggy appearance is bound to turn off prospective buyers and depress the selling price.

A study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University suggests that maintenance actually increases the value of a house by about 1% each year. That means getting off the couch and heading outside with a caulking gun is more than a chore—it’s actually making you money.

Heading into fall and winter, the folks at First Weber of Wisconsin (firstweber.com) suggest these fall maintenance ideas to perk up your property in a jiffy:

1. Chimney cleaning - Before you have a fire in the fireplace, it is a good idea to have your chimney looked at each year.
2. Check windows and doors - Re-caulk as needed and add new weatherstripping around doors if needed to keep the cold air out.
3. Lawn and landscape - Fall is a great time to seed grass because the temperatures are moderate. Now is also a good time to trim bushes so that they will look great in spring.
4. Keep your gutters clean - In Wisconsin, and in many regions of the country, you never know when the first snowfall will come. Make sure you clean your gutters regularly so that rain and melting snow can drain.
5. Prune - Take a walk around your house and look for any branches that may be growing a bit too close to the house. Consider pruning these branches before mother nature has the opportunity to do it for you.
6. Patios and decks - Re-stain or power wash. Also, begin storing outdoor living items like patio table umbrellas, seat cushions and flower pots.
7. Change your furnace filter - to boost efficiency.
8. Smoke Alarms - Check these throughout your house to make sure the batteries still work.
9. Store the mower and test the snow blower to make sure it works before you really need it.

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7 Suggestions to Land You That Job

October 20, 2011 6:06 pm

Nearly everyone gets nervous at the thought of being “in the hot seat,”—and interviewing for a job certainly falls into that category.

“Selling yourself on command is tough, especially when you have to do it in a short time period,” says Monster job board advisor Margot Lester. “Preparing in advance and practicing your responses is not only wise, it’s necessary.”

Lester, and other job coaches and resume writers, offer job seekers these proven interview strategies:

• Research the company – Before you go on that interview, know all you can about the company’s mission, work, and culture. The more you know about what they do and how they do it, the more accurately you can focus on why you want to work for that company.
• Know how you can contribute – Once you know the company’s mission, focus in on the skills that would make you a good fit. Are you good at working under deadline pressure? Do you have excellent inter-personal skills? Can you speak another language that might be helpful to this company? Be prepared with brief and specific examples of how these skills helped you in former employment positions.
• Practice in advance – Before you go on the interview, practice verbalizing some answers out loud at home. Vary your tone of voice, and practice your smile as well as small gestures that help you make a point.
• Be on time – Be five to ten minutes early. Practice the drive in advance if you are not sure of the route or how traffic will affect your drive time.
• Present yourself well – Make sure your clothing is neat and appropriate to the position you want. Take along a copy of your resume, even if you have sent one in advance, and a portfolio of work samples, awards or commendations. Also, take along a pen and paper for any notes you may need to take home.
• Stay calm – Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Listen to the whole question before you answer. Don’t blurt. Take a few seconds to consider your answer before you begin.
• Follow up with a letter – send or email each of your interviewers with a brief thank-you note repeating your interest in the position and including any follow-up information that might have been requested or suggested.

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9 Ways to Balance Busy Schedules and Healthy Family Meals

October 20, 2011 6:06 pm

Family meals lead to healthier, more successful children, but finding time to eat together can be a balancing act for many families. Last week, 15 registered dietitians and parenting bloggers from the United States, Canada and New Zealand shared their tips, tricks and motivations for making time to have balanced meals with their families during the Balancing Act Blog Carnival, part of the Eat Better, Eat Together family meal campaign and blog series from Dairy Council of California. Here are the top 10 big ideas they shared, from their families to yours. 

1. Planning family meals ahead of time is essential; develop systems that make the purchasing, preparing and partaking easier.
2. Keep it simple. Family meals don't have to be elaborate to be healthy and effective. Come up with easy ways to balance your meals with simple vegetable side dishes or fruit and yogurt desserts.
3. Have healthy food on hand and eat from your freezer or pantry on busy weeknights. Prepare double batches of food when you're less rushed so you can cook once, eat twice.
4. The family meal does not have to be dinner; breakfast or lunch may work better in some households.
5. Toughen up. Prepare one meal for the whole family to enjoy. Include all five food groups and everyone should be able to find something they'll want to eat.
6. Turn off technology and tune into each other. Make conversation the focus of family meals, but keep it light. The dinner table is not the place for discipline.
7. Share the work. Enlist help from the family to plan shopping lists, make lunches, set the table, pour the milk and clean up.
8. Eating as a family is truly comforting for toddlers, teens and adults. Family meals can become a cherished tradition for the whole family.
9. Dump the guilt. Family meals may not happen every day, and that's OK. Make the most of your family meals when they occur.

For more information, visit www.MealsMatter.org.

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Costume Concerns: Decorative Contact Lenses Can Do Big Damage

October 20, 2011 6:06 pm

Wouldn’t it be cool to have Twilight vampire eyes for Halloween? Or deep violet eyes to match your purple sweater? How about your favorite sports team’s logo on your eyes just for fun? 

You can have all of these looks with decorative contact lenses (also called fashion contact lenses or color contact lenses, among other names). These lenses don’t correct vision—they just change the appearance of the eye. 

But before buying decorative lenses, here’s what you should know:
• They are not cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise. They are medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law.
• They are not “one size fits all.” An eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear. A poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including
o scratches on the cornea (the top layer of your eyeball)
o corneal infection (an ulcer on the cornea)
o conjunctivitis (pink eye)
o decreased vision
o blindness
• Places that sell decorative lenses without a prescription may give you few or no instructions on how to clean and care for your lenses.
Failure to use the proper solution to keep contact lenses clean and moist can lead to infections, says Bernard Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed., an optometrist at FDA. “Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, result in corneal ulcers, and cause blindness—sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly.”
“The problem isn’t with the decorative contacts themselves,” adds Lepri. “It’s the way people use them improperly—without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care.” 

Where Not to Buy Contact Lenses 

FDA is aware that many places illegally sell decorative contact lenses to consumers without valid prescriptions for as little as $20.
You should never buy lenses from:
• street vendors
• salons or beauty supply stores
• boutiques
• flea markets
• novelty stores
• Halloween stores
• record or video stores
• convenience stores
• beach shops
• Internet (unless the site requires a prescription)
These are not authorized distributors of contact lenses, which are prescription devices by federal law. 

How to Buy Decorative Contact Lenses Safely 

• Get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you feel your vision is perfect.
• Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. But don’t expect your eye doctor to prescribe anime, or circle, lenses. These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been approved by FDA.
• Whether you go in person or shop online, buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription.
• Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.
• See your eye doctor right away if you have signs of possible eye infection:
o redness
o eye pain that doesn’t go away after a short time
o decrease in vision 

For more information, visit www.fda.gov.

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Word of the Day

October 20, 2011 6:06 pm

Master deed. Document that converts a parcel of land into a condominium subdivision.

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