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 
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Mary's Blog

8 Great Ways to Save for a Down Payment

December 12, 2011 2:04 pm

Like many consumers today, you may be thinking this is a great time to buy your first home—and you are right. Rock-bottom prices in many areas, historically low mortgage rates, and a great selection of properties in all price ranges make this an excellent time to buy.

“The problem for many,” notes consumer finance consultant Elizabeth Ray, “is the lack of a down payment. But favorable price and mortgage conditions will likely last for a while. The smart and hopeful first-time buyer will take advantage of the opportunity to save now for that needed down payment.”

For those willing to make a few sacrifices in the short-term, Ray suggests eight possible ways to help consumers watch their savings pile up more quickly:
  • Bank the extras – Anytime you get a refund, bonus, commission or birthday check, bank it in a separate savings account.
  • Live on one income – Working couples should try to live on one income and bank the other – or half of it.
  • Get a roommate – If you’re single and living on your own, think about halving your monthly costs by taking in a roommate.
  • Ditch the second car – If possible, use public transportation and bank the sale funds or payments.
  • Do without extras – Can you do without cable? Eating out every night? That Starbucks stop every morning?
  • Pay off debt – As you pay off high interest debt to better your credit rating, you will also be saving that high interest spend. Try to bank the payments you no longer need to make.
  • Ask about a piggyback mortgage – Consult with a mortgage broker. If you can’t quite get the required percentage together for your down payment, but have a high enough monthly income, you may be able to get a piggybank loan to cover what your first mortgage won’t.
  • Check out loan assistance programs – Government organizations like Veterans Affairs and FHA offer special programs designed to help people who don’t have large down payments obtain mortgage financing. Also check with state and local housing authorities to find out what assistance they may offer.


Have a Home Office? Learn How to Maximize Your Space

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

In today’s upwardly mobile real estate environment, the ability to move around and shift is crucial. Oftentimes, agents are burning the midnight oil at home, not at the office. For this, it’s important to have a place that is functional, organized and private (if possible).

Here are some top ideas from on how to find, keep and organize your home office:

Find the perfect spot. Part of keeping organized in a home office is ensuring that you have a suitable place set aside to serve solely as your home office. It's not going to be effective if you're borrowing space anywhere, such as the kitchen table, or your child's desk while they're at school. Instead of "nomading" about the house in search of the perfect space, select one spot that is out of the way of pedestrian traffic, unaffected by noise or other sources of interference, and can be a permanent home office base for you. Purchase a table or desk (depending on your needs) that can be used just for your work tasks.

Check that everything is ergonomically suitable for you. It's easy to become despondent and start making a mess when your working arrangements make you feel uncomfortable. A chair that makes your legs feel deadened or a table that just doesn't have the space needed will soon have you wandering off and trying out other parts of the house for working in to try and improve your comfort levels.

Remove the superfluous. Clutter will make it impossible for you to remain organized in a home office. Being at home, you're at greater risk of things "migrating" into your work zone that have nothing to do with your work. Deal with this by getting rid of every object that is not useful for work. Take a close look at what you're dealing with and define carefully what you need and what you don't.

After removing the superfluous, permit yourself three beautiful objects to grace your workspace and inspire you. Keep it at three or less always, no more. If you want to rotate the inspirational things, then feel free to do so.

Manage the cables. You’ve probably found out through experience that the tangled cords under your desk are great at achieving three things: they trap dust balls, they make you look disorganized and they snag your feet, occasionally pulling over something else in the process. Don’t live with that rat’s nest of cables lurking behind your workstation; even if you’ve never thought it was possible to straighten out your office cables, give it a try.

Go wireless. Now that you’ve got that mess under your desk cleared up, think about getting rid of the cord clutter on your work surface. Wireless keyboards and computer mice are terrific gadgets that will free up both your space and your movements. Just imagine not having to tug the cord of your computer mouse free ever again.

Keep your printer off your workspace desk or table. Purchase or find a suitable printer table for it instead. If this small table or cabinet has shelves for storing printer paper and cartridges, this is even better.

Ensure adequate lighting. A home office needs good lighting to help you see properly at all hours of the day. If you're stuck in a basement or somewhere that's darker than normal, consider using a daylight bulb to brighten up your working space and to help you feel that the light is more natural.

Label everything. Stop squinting at the handwritten chicken-scratch on your file tabs and invest in a label maker instead. Having a label printer around will not only keep the contents of your filing cabinet looking neat and professional, it’s also very handy for organizing discs, office supplies and storage cabinets.

Sort. Sort through papers and shred the ones you don’t need. We’ve all dealt with it: the mountain of paper that comes from repeatedly putting off sorting through junk mail and paperwork. You have it in your power to keep that paper from piling up in the first place.

Straighten up at each day's end. Before you call it a day, do a small tidy up. By taking just a few minutes to put everything back in order, you’re making a useful transition out of your workday, and ensuring that your office will be much more pleasant place to return to the next day.


Have a Healthier Holiday Season

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

Age Management Physicians from Cenegenics Carolinas, a preventive health and age management medical facility, today released their top tips for staying healthy over the holiday season.

Staying active during the holiday season can prove to be a tough challenge.
Tip: Try to exercise for 10 minutes three times a day. A great 10-minute workout can include walking up and down stairs or jumping rope.

Drink Plenty of Water
The number one cause of daytime fatigue is dehydration.
Tip: Try to drink eight ounces of water a day and consume foods and beverages high in water.

Monitor Alcohol Consumption
Alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories and little or no nutritional value.
Tip: Moderation and smart beverage choices. Avoid beverages like eggnog and rum and coke. Instead, opt for a light beer or vodka mixed with sparkling water.

Get Enough Sleep
With the stress of the holidays sleeping can be a challenge.
Try these tips for a good night's rest:
• Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine after 2 p.m.
• Set the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Limit alcohol consumption.
• Try foods that help promote sleep.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Choose a breakfast that includes protein and healthy fats and don't skip breakfast as this can lead to overeating.

Avoid the Afternoon Lull
To beat the mid-afternoon crash, start the day with the proper nourishment and avoid heavy lunches. If in need of an energy boost, try taking a brisk walk.

Conquer Temptation
Eat a small meal before going out and plan for temptation. Studies show that when people plan out exactly what they'll do when temptation arises, they are two to three times more likely to achieve their dietary goals.

Dealing with Holiday Stress
As our cortisol (stress hormone) rises, it compromises the production of other important hormones such as DHEA, pregnenolone and progesterone. Try to increase these hormone supplements during stressful times.

Prevent Colds
Nothing's worse than getting a cold during the "most wonderful time of the year." Take precautions by eating plenty of immune-boosting foods, take a multi-vitamin and get plenty of sunshine to maintain optimal health.

Spice up the Holidays
Studies show that adding certain spices to food can help boost metabolism including: cayenne pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, black pepper and other hot peppers.



Word of the Day

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

Replacement cost. The cost at today’s prices and using today’s construction methods, of building an improvement having the same usefulness as the one being appraised.


Question of the Day

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

Q: What about the difference between a conventional and non-conventional loan?

A: They are the same as conforming and non-conforming loans. A conventional, or conforming, loan is one not insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Veterans Administration (VA), two federal government agencies that make homeownership possible and generally more affordable for a large segment of the population.

However, that said, many major banks and private lenders now offer non-conventional, or non-conforming, loans for lower-income borrowers and those with blemishes on their credit.

In fact, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now the leading sources of non-conventional loans, thereby making the process of buying a home a lot easier for more people—but not necessarily cheaper. The interest rates on these loans are much higher than rates on conventional mortgages.


Protecting Your Pet during the Holiday Season

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

Many pet owners are unaware of the health hazards for pets during the holidays. The following tips ensure your four legged friend has a happy holiday.

Holiday Havoc—The holidays can be a stressful time for pets. In many households, the holidays bring frequent visitors and major changes in the daily routine. As such, it's important to provide pets with a private area of their own. This should be a room or area of the home where guests are not allowed. Pets will find comfort in being able to retire to a quiet place where they can escape the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Above all, it's important for pet owners to allow a little extra time during the holidays to pay special attention to their pets.

Poisonous Plants—Though seemingly harmless, holiday plants can be highly toxic for our four-legged friends. Poinsettia ingestion can cause mild intestinal problems for pets and irritation to the mouth and stomach. Pets that ingest certain types of mistletoe can become ill as well. Other plants like holly, amaryllis and lilies are also known to be quite toxic to pets, so make sure that when decorating the house, these items are in areas not frequented by pets or at levels pets cannot reach.

Dangerous Decorations—Items like tinsel and ribbons may be potential choking hazards for pets, and tree ornaments, usually fragile in nature, can be hazardous if broken. Water used at the base of live Christmas trees is often stagnant and may contain fertilizers or other preservatives that can upset a pet's stomach. Lastly, curious pets can run into trouble when investigating candles or potpourri, so be sure to keep these items out of a pet's line of sight!

Fattening Foods—While it may be tempting to share a holiday meal with your dog or cat, it's probably best to rethink that strategy as many holiday foods can be unhealthy for pets. Things like chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts and even onions can be toxic to pets. Xylitol-containing sweets and gums can make pets very ill, and foods with high fat content have been known to cause pancreatitis, especially in dogs.

For more tips, visit and


Word of the Day

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

Reserve account. An account for money collected each month by a lender to pay for property taxes and property insurance as they come due.


Work from Home? Get the Most Out of Your Job

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

A recent article in the Kansas City Star cited evidence suggesting that more and more employees are seeking opportunities to work from home, while many managers and business owners are still reluctant.

According to the Star, middle managers are fearful that allowing employees to work from home will adversely affect productivity. According to Martha Jenkins, however, this does not necessarily have to be true. Jenkins and her company, Jenkins Coaching, offer practical advice to small business owners and contractors who work from home, helping them make the best use of their time.

Jenkins says that employees wishing to work from home can take certain steps to ensure productivity, and perhaps win over their bosses.

Jenkins has offered five tips to those seeking to make home-based employment work without a lapse in productivity..”

According to Jenkins, clear communication and well-understood expectations are essential for making home-based employment work.

1. Ensure you know what your employer’s expectations are: See to it that there are no unanswered questions about work hours, breaks, company equipment, and so forth.

2. Ensure that your results are communicated to your employer: Working long hours will not matter if your boss is not aware of what you accomplish.

3. Set up an effective work space: Make sure you have a work area that is free of distractions and is also comfortable and separate from the rest of your house.

4. Establish boundaries with your family and friends: Make sure they are aware of the demands of working from home.

5. Assess your progress on a regular basis: Record your achievements and mark your progress along the way, and make regular evaluations to your work habits.

Jenkins says working from home is ultimately successful when it is treated like a job. “In order to convince an employer you are serious about it, the bottom line is to behave in as professional a manner as possible.”


Tips to Get Financially Fit In the New Year

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

With 2012 just around the corner,, a comprehensive resource for information, education and "do-it-yourself" tools for people coping with personal debt, is providing tips to help consumers reach a better financial future in the New Year. Written by industry expert and author Jean Chatzky, Director of Education for, these tips are geared to consumers looking to set realistic, achievable financial goals.

Chatzky's five tips for getting financially fit in the New Year include:

1. Make a plan for the year. Determine your overarching goal and write it down, whether it is paying down debt, putting more in retirement savings, or paying for a vacation in cash. Then, set some benchmarks by breaking that goal down into manageable pieces. If you'd like to save $5,000 by the end of the year, recognize that that's $400 a month, $100 a week. If you focus on that weekly amount, you're more likely to get there. And in all cases, it will help to track your spending for the first month by saving your receipts and recording them regularly or using an online program. Once you do, it will be easier to cut back.

2. Automate - but pay attention. Most people benefit from a relatively hands off approach to their savings. Set it up so your employer pulls money out of every paycheck and deposits it in your 401(k), or allow your IRA provider to deduct a set amount from your checking account. That way, you don't have to make the decision to save. But that's where the automation should end. You need to look at those investments once in a while and see that you're on track. Make part of this year's resolution about rebalancing your investments, either right now or on your birthday.

3. Put a windfall to work. Right now through the first few months of the New Year are ripe for windfalls. You might receive an end-of-year bonus, raise, or a tax refund. The best thing you can do with this money is pretend you never received it. Funnel a bonus or tax refund directly into savings, without giving yourself a chance to spend it (if you're carrying credit card debt, use this cash to pay it off or make a solid dent in your balance). When you get a raise, bump up your retirement contribution to match the increase in salary - research shows that otherwise, you'll adjust spending to the new amount and hardly feel like you're earning more.

4. Spend smart. Start the year with a bill audit. Look over every bill that comes in this month, paying particular attention to the ones you pay automatically with a draft from your bank account or bill pay through your bank. You'll likely find you're paying for things you don't need or didn't even know you had - extra cell phone minutes, HBO when your favorite show is in the off-season, an equipment protection program from your satellite TV provider. Call your insurance providers and see if they're willing offer you a better rate. Then make a commitment to save money every day, by clipping coupons, shopping around for the best deals, using energy efficient light bulbs and making sure your doors and windows are sealed for winter to conserve electricity.

5. Earn more. If you're truly not going overboard with the discretionary spending and you still can't get ahead, you may not be earning enough money to support yourself. If you haven't gotten a raise in a while, it's okay to ask for one now, but approach the situation lightly in this still-shaky economy. Go to your boss's office prepared with ammunition - lay out how you save (or earn) the company money and how much competitors are paying people in your position. If you work for yourself, the New Year is the perfect time to raise your rates slightly.

For more information, visit


Question of the Day

December 8, 2011 7:58 pm

Q: What should I weigh before considering an addition to my home?

A: Thoroughly assess your space. You may find you have the room you need, particularly if there is unused or under utilized areas in your home. Perhaps a garage, attic, side porch, or basement can be converted to fit the use you have in mind. Or, maybe, a small area can be carved from a larger area like a kitchen or living room to create a powder room. These improvements are certainly cheaper than a major construction job.