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Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Question of the Day

September 23, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: Will I be able to buy again after losing a home to foreclosure?

A: It can happen. But a lot will depend on your circumstances and the mortgage interest rate you are willing to pay. Generally, most lenders will consider your request for a home loan two to four years after your foreclosure. Predatory lenders will issue a home mortgage in less time. But beware—they routinely charge high mortgage interest rates, fees, and penalties for this privilege.

A quality lender will expect you to show that you have cleaned up your credit. Providing a reasonable explanation about the circumstances that led to the foreclosure—such as exuberant medical expenses—is also helpful


Don't Be Tricked Into Purchasing a Flood Damaged Car

September 23, 2011 2:03 pm

Summer of 2011 concluded with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee causing widespread flooding up and down the Eastern seaboard, damaging not only homes and businesses but cars as well. Unfortunately, some flood-damaged vehicles—after being sold to salvage operators and dealers—will be cleaned up and then re-sold, with the vehicle's flood-damage history illegally hidden, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"Unscrupulous salvage operators and dealers often try to conceal the fact that the vehicles they are selling have been damaged by a natural disaster," says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. "It is not illegal to sell or buy a flood-damaged car, however, it is against the law to sell a water-damaged car without letting the buyer know that the car had been damaged by a flood."

To prevent this type of fraudulent resale of cars to unsuspecting consumers around the country, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has been helping law enforcement groups and insurance companies identify and catalogue water-damaged vehicles.

"By creating VINCheck, the NICB helps protect consumers, and we've reduced the potential for this type of fraud to occur," says NICB president Joe Wehrle.
To help used-car buyers learn more about the history of a specific car and whether it has been declared as salvage by a participating NICB member insurance company, the NICB created VINCheck, which provides consumers a free search of a car's vehicle identification number (VIN).

"To avoid inadvertently purchasing a flood-damaged car, it is important that you only buy a used car from a reputable dealer, have a certified mechanic look for flood damage and check the car's VIN number by using a credible industry database," notes Salvatore.

The I.I.I. suggests you be on the lookout for the following indicators that a car may have been flooded:
• Mildew, debris and silt in places where it wouldn't normally be found, such as under the carpeting in the trunk, or around the engine compartment
• Rust on screws and other metal parts
• Water stains or faded upholstery; discoloration of seatbelts and door panels
• Dampness in the floor and carpeting; moisture on the inside of the instrument panel
• A moldy odor or an intense smell of Lysol or deodorizer; this is a tactic frequently used by dealers to cover up an odor problem

If you suspect that your local car dealer is committing fraud by knowingly selling flooded cars as regular used cars, contact your insurance company, local law enforcement agency or the NICB at 800-TEL-NICB.

For more information, visit


The Right Type of Flooring for Your Room

September 23, 2011 2:03 pm

Choosing the right type of flooring is an important part of any interior design project. You need to ensure your flooring choice suits your individual needs, lasts a long time and—most importantly—looks good. If you achieve this, your new floor will provide you with the perfect foundation for whatever else you have in store for your room.

So what type of flooring should you choose—luxury carpet, hardworking laminate or functional vinyl flooring? Your choice should depend on what room you're decorating.

Choosing a New Carpet
If you want to feel something soft, cozy and warm underfoot then nothing beats carpet. The feeling of warmth and comfort offered by a new carpet makes it the perfect flooring solution for a bedroom, living room and stairway. The wide range of colors, patterns and styles also mean a new carpet is sure to fit into any existing or future décor.

When shopping for a new carpet, you should also consider carpet remnants as they are a popular and cheaper solution if you have an odd-shaped room in your home.

Opting for Vinyl Flooring
Certain rooms in your home need practical flooring capable of withstanding a substantial amount of traffic or wear. That is why vinyl flooring is perfect for the kitchen and bathroom.

Capable of withstanding stains, heavy footfall as well as every day wear and tear, vinyl flooring is a perfect match for anyone wanting a practical flooring solution in their home. Vinyl is also water-resistant, making it the perfect choice for withstanding the effect of water spillage and steam.

Going for Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is becoming a more popular option. Suitable to multiple rooms in the home, laminate can give your room a modern and stylish look while also being practical and durable, making it perfect for the kitchen, bathroom, hall or living room.

For more information, visit


Care for Your Valuable Trees This Fall, Enjoy Gorgeous Foliage in Spring

September 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Now is the time of year to ensure that the beautiful trees in your yard will remain healthy and produce a vibrant, green canopy come springtime by treating them against insects, fungus and diseases. If trees are not cared for, pests can cause your trees to look sick and possibly die next year. The removal and replacement of a mature tree is an expensive proposition for homeowners, easily costing over $1,000 per tree.

Consider this: the Emerald Ash Borer beetle has destroyed over 30 million ash trees to date in the United States and Canada. The larvae from these pests cause the most damage to ash trees from August to October, when they are the most active and voracious. Pine Bark Beetles have multiple generations and can kill a tree within weeks. In 2010 alone, the Southern Pine Beetle, a bark beetle smaller than a grain of rice, killed 14,000 acres of pines in New Jersey. Spiraling Whitefly is causing visible damage to trees and property—especially car paint and outdoor furniture—throughout Southern Florida due to the sticky honeydew it produces. Unsightly black sooty mold later grows on the honeydew, causing further annoyance to homeowners. Fungal diseases like Oak Wilt and malnutrition weaken a tree, reducing its chances of winter survival.

Tree treatment options are plentiful, but not all are suited to fall's cool, wet conditions. Tree trunk injection is proven effective to protect trees in autumn from destructive insects, diseases, and malnutrition which are wreaking havoc across the country. The appropriate treatment formulation is injected directly into a tree's vascular system and is effective within a few short weeks. Unlike bark spraying and soil drenching, nothing is released into the air or soil during treatment when tree trunk injections are used. The active ingredient keeps working through the tree's vascular system into the spring, providing continued protection as trees begin to produce leaves. There is even one injectible treatment available that protects trees against insects for up to two years and can stop damage even if a tree is currently under attack.

Choosing to save trees by treating them is something financially and environmentally responsible that homeowners can consider right away. Professionally applied tree trunk injection treatments cost a fraction of the cost of tree removal and replacement, typically less than a month of cable television service. In addition, healthy, mature trees provide shade, which helps reduce air conditioning costs.

"Defending trees against insects, disease and malnutrition helps homeowners save money and protect their property value. Additionally, saving these trees is better for the environment than their removal," says Russ Davis, President and COO of Arborjet, which develops remedies for some of the world's most invasive pest insects and diseases. "Mature trees help reduce greenhouse gases and prevent water runoff."

In addition to treating trees, removing dropped fruit, dead branches and leaves from around your trees in the fall will help further protect them from pests. Doing so helps get rid of larvae, cocoons, and eggs that may over-winter in plant debris and soil.

To learn more about tree trunk injections, please visit


All Hands Fire Equipment Announces Wildfire Safety Tips

September 22, 2011 5:03 pm

According to FEMA, over 4,000 Americans die and over 25,000 are injured in fires each year. Property loss as a result of wildfires is estimated to be at $8.6 billion annually. With this in mind, All Hands Fire Equipment, one of the nation’s leading wildfire equipment dealers has released useful wildfire safety information to help curb the potential damages.

It is important to understand that wildfires can spread rapidly due to dry and windy conditions. Wind can have the largest impact on a fire’s behavior because of the unpredictability and because wind increases the speed and direction that fire travels.

If a wildfire occurs and an evacuation is necessary, residents will likely have very little time to collect important personal items and valuables. It is important to always be prepared and have an emergency plan, whether it is for a wildfire, a severe storm, or any similar natural disaster.

Here are some important tips regarding wildfire safety:
• It is important to be alert and aware of all surroundings. Those in areas vulnerable to wildfires need to pay extra attention to approaching wildfire danger and should check with local fire departments for their recommendations. Knowing the main roads and evacuation routes ahead of time is recommended.
• Make sure there are properly installed and working smoke detectors in the home to help protect residents from fire danger. All vegetation should be trimmed back so it is a safe distance from the home. Gutters should be free of debris and vegetation, trees and shrubs maintained, and fire wood a safe distance from any structure. Make sure flammable and combustible containers such as propane, gasoline and kerosene are properly stored and are kept at a safe distance away from a home.
• Stay indoors with the windows closed and the air conditioner running to help filter the air and protect residents from smoke and reduce the inhalation of pollutants into the body.
• If evacuation is necessary, make sure all doors and windows to the home are closed, as this will help protect it from fire spread. Take along important documents such as identification, insurance paperwork, cash and any other vital personal, home and/or business information. The use of fireproof bags or a fireproof pouch for such documents is highly recommended as it provides safe storage and keeps all important papers together in one place.
• Limit panic, especially when evacuating in a vehicle, as this will help avoid accidents. Keep the headlights on, drive slowly and try to avoid driving through thick heavy smoke.

“The most important thing for people to do in any emergency is to be prepared. Do not wait until the last minute to take drastic measures—because it will often be too late,” notes Don Colarusso, a firefighter for more than 24 years and one of the nation’s leading suppliers of Fire Boots and Fire Hoods.

For more information on emergency safety plans for any specific community, the local fire department or office of emergency management should be contacted.

For more information, visit


4 Tips on Handling Water Damage from Washing Machine Flood Emergencies

September 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Consumers expect a washing machine to clean their clothes, not their entire home. But that is what happens when malfunctioning machines cause water damage.

“A large percentage of the calls we get are related to leaking appliances,” says Todd Snyder, president of Flood Kings. “This can weaken the floors and walls of a home and cause mold and mildew to grow. We are ready to clean water damage 24/7.”

Cleaning damage quickly is essential to preserve the safety and integrity of the home. Here are four safety tips if your washer floods.

1. If you suddenly see your washing machine begin to leak, immediately shut off its water supply (the two faucets behind the unit, usually red and blue).
2. Sop up as much water as you can. However, leave cleaning water damaged carpet to a professional.
3. Call a qualified repair person or plumber to fix the washer. Check your warrantee to see if the repair is covered. Consider installing a sensor with automatic water shut-off (about $145).
4. Carefully sop up as much of the water as you can, using heavy duty towels and mops, and wringing them out frequently into a sink, tub or bucket. However, this is not enough for a serious spillage. Call immediately for state-of-the-art water extraction and professional mildew prevention treatments.

“Without complete water extraction and disinfecting treatment, materials can rot and hazardous mold and mildew can form, especially in small cramped spaces like laundry rooms,” Snyder says. “These spores can take weeks to notice, so it is important to destroy them when the water is extracted.”

For more information, visit


Word of the Day

September 22, 2011 5:03 pm

HUD. Acronym for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an agency from which almost all of the federal government’s housing programs flow.


Question of the Day

September 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What about a vacation home as an investment?

A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.

Other things to consider:
• Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
• What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
• If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?


Buying the Right Mattress for You

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

Mattresses can vary greatly in price and, because most people keep their mattresses for an average of eight to 10 years, it is important to make the right choice. When two people share a mattress, finding one that suits the needs of both can make the choice even more difficult.

“Basically, there are only three types of mattresses to choose from,” says Los Angeles mattress salesman Bruce Weyer. “If you know that going in, and take the time to test each type for a minimum of 15 minutes in the store, your decision will be that much easier.”

And, Weyer notes, some mattress stores offer an in-home trial, so be sure to check out that option.
Either way, here are some details about each of the three mattress types:
• Innerspring - Traditional innerspring mattresses come in firm, plush and pillowtop versions and vary in price based on the coil count. The higher the coil count, the higher the price. People with a higher body mass index will probably be more comfortable on a higher coil count mattress—but the most basic (read: inexpensive) innerspring mattress may be just fine for healthy younger people or for use as an occasional guest bed.
• Foam - Pricewise, foam mattresses fall between innerspring and air mattresses. They are good for people who are really sensitive to pressure, because of the way they contour to the body. They are cozy, but they are also a lot warmer to sleep in, and some people don't like the way the foam reaches around to hold the sleeper in place.
• Air mattress - Not to be confused with the blow-up air mattresses you set up in a tent or guest bedroom, today’s air mattresses are generally the most expensive option because they allow you to adjust the firmness with a remote control, increasing the amount of air. They also allow you to choose a different firmness—sometimes called a sleep number—for each side of the bed, which can be a boon if two sleeping partners have different firmness preferences.


Prep Your Home for Months Indoors

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

Shorter days and cooler nights mean more time spent indoors. For many Americans, this is the perfect season to take simple steps toward a cleaner and more efficient home. 

According to a recent survey by the Cleaning Institute Organization, 96 percent of people think it's very important to have a clean home. But with family obligations, busy work schedules and extracurricular activities, we sometimes fall short. Here are some useful tips to help prepare your home for the indoor months ahead, making it a fresher and more enjoyable place to be. 

Check the perimeter. Carefully inspect the perimeter of your house. Check window frames and entryways, since you may need to re-caulk and add additional weather strips. Clear gutters and chimneys of debris. Be sure to check for insects when putting away items such as garden hoses, outdoor toys and potted plants.
Store outdoor furniture. Before you store lawn or patio furniture, scrub each piece thoroughly with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda—this natural cleaning method means that you won't need to worry about harsh chemicals washing off onto your lawn. Baking soda can also be used to eliminate odors from seat cushions or remove grease from the grill before the off-season. 

Wash and weatherize windows. Clean window panes with a simple solution of vinegar and water, which removes the dirt and grime left behind from winds and rainstorms. Then, place storm windows securely on each frame to help keep your house cozy and warm throughout the colder months. 

Remember to deodorize. Even if it's too cold to open the windows, you'll want your home to smell fresh and clean. Baking Soda is a great option for neutralizing unpleasant odors—from the refrigerator and freezer to the carpets and furniture. Sprinkle it in sports bags, gym shoes, waste baskets, diaper pails and drains.
Shine your floors. With allergies on the rise, it's important to pay special attention to the floors—use a product that will clean deep-down to get rid of the pollen and dirt that is frequently tracked into the home. Don't forget to clean baseboards, corners, stairs, in-between the banister spindles, and other hard-to-reach locations where dust often becomes trapped. 

Unpack cold weather wear. You carefully put away all your sweaters and winter jackets last spring, but that doesn't mean they haven't been in contact with dust mites. Remember to launder clothing before returning it to your closets, and take this opportunity to wash curtains and other fabric coverings. Add one cup of Baking Soda to the wash for an added boost when trying to remove tough dirt and odors. 

For more helpful tips on using Baking Soda around the home, visit