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

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags:

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

Tags:

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags:
TwitterFacebookGoogleLinkedinYoutubepinterest