Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Word of the Day

August 5, 2011 5:01 pm

Deficiency judgment. Judgment issued against a borrower when the sale of foreclosed property does not bring in enough to pay the balance owed on the mortgage.

Tags:

Question of the Day

August 5, 2011 5:01 pm

Q: What are co-ops?

A: Cooperative apartments – known as co-ops – are not really owned by people as real property. Instead, people own shares of stock in the company that owns the building in which they live. But for all practical purposes, the experts say owning a co-op is almost like owning real property. Personal loans to “buy” a co-op apartment are written almost like mortgages. And the IRS treats co-op owners much like real property owners. They can deduct interest paid on their apartment loans and on their portion of the municipal taxes and mortgage interest paid by the corporation.

Shareholders in a co-op are entitled to occupy specific units, use the common areas, and have a vote in the corporation. To maintain this right, they must pay a monthly fee that covers their share of operating expenses.

As for governance, a board of directors, which is elected from among the residents, runs the co-op. Under most bylaws, the board may evict any tenant/shareholder who fails to pay the monthly maintenance fee. Everyone is expected to abide by the rules, which may prohibit pets or even children under a certain age.


Tags:

Law Offers New Protection to Short Sale Homeowners

August 5, 2011 5:01 pm

A new law signed recently by California Governor Jerry Brown offers extended protection to state homeowners who are forced to short sell their homes.

SB 458 ensures that any lender who agrees to a short sale must accept the agreed-upon short sale payment as payment in full on the outstanding balance of all loans, including second mortgages.

The previous law, SB 931, enacted in 2010, held that a first mortgage holder must accept the agreed-upon short sale amount as full payment, but the law did not extend to junior lien holders.

“The signing of this bill is a victory for California homeowners who have been forced to short sell their home only to find that the lender could pursue them after the short sale closes, and demand additional payment to subsidize the difference,” says California Association of REALTORS® President Beth L. Peerce. “The new law brings closure and certainty to the short sale process and ensures that once a lender has agreed to accept a short sale payment on a property, all lienholders—those in first position as well as in junior positions – must consider the outstanding balance as paid in full, and the homeowner will not be held responsible for any additional payments on the property.”

An urgency clause in the new law makes SB 458 effective immediately upon signing.

Tags:

Stamped Concrete Design Ideas for Last Minute Summer Projects

August 5, 2011 5:01 pm

There’s no need to put off hardscaping projects for another year; get started this summer. More and more homeowners and business owners across the globe are turning to stamped concrete to create a concrete surface that is both functional and aesthetically appealing. The availability of patterns and designs have transformed the way consumers look at stamped concrete. 

Decorative stamped concrete has come a long way since it was first introduced in the market in the 1980’s. They’ve gone from cookie-cutter patterns to intricate replicas of natural stones, at a fraction of the cost and upkeep requirements. This application is great for transforming driveways, courtyards, patios, walkways and any other concrete surface. 

For more information on stamped patterns, and ideas on incorporating stamped concrete into last minute summer projects, visit http://www.StampedConcrete.org.

Tags:

Sun Safety Tips for Upcoming School Days and Sun Rays

August 5, 2011 5:01 pm

Sun protection doesn’t stop with the end of summer and SunGrubbies.com, an online retailer of sun protective products since 1997, would like to remind parents that it is important to give children a lesson in year-round sun protection. As children head back to school, they need to be protected against exposure to dangerous UV rays. Sun exposure can occur during recess, physical education classes, field trips and fall sport activities. And, it is important to remember that children are also exposed to UV rays as they walk to and from school. 

Sun protection has no season and while skin cancer in children is rare, many skin cancers take years to develop. UVB rays will lessen during the winter months, but harmful UVA rays will be in full force all year long. Sun protection products should be on the back-to-school supply list because one severe childhood sunburn doubles the chance of developing melanoma later in life. 

SunGrubbies.com offers these sun safety tips:
• Teach children to search out shaded areas for playtime activities. The sun’s rays are especially intense between 10 am and 2 pm.
• In the morning, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays to exposed skin. If the school permits, teach your children to reapply the sunscreen at school before they head outside for recess.
• Don’t rely only on sunscreen. Sun protective clothing and sun hats with broad brims offer much more protection.
• Have your children wear sunglasses when outside. Make sure they block 99 percent or more of UV radiation.
• Lead by example. Parents should be good role models and practice sun safety themselves.
It is important for children to be educated about the dangers of excessive sun exposure. Sunburn can be prevented and sun safety measures should become part of a daily regime. 

For more information, visit http://www.sungrubbies.com. 


Tags:

Question of the Day

August 5, 2011 5:01 pm

Q: What are the benefits of having a co-op?
A: In addition to being able to take advantage of tax deductions, the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) says shareholders will find that co-ops have low turnover rates, lower real estate tax assessments, reduced maintenance costs, resident participation and control, and the ability to prevent absentee and investor ownership.

Also attractive: housing cooperatives come in all shapes, sizes, and types. They include townhouses, mid-and high-rise apartments, garden apartments, single-family homes, mobile home parks, artists’ cooperatives, and senior housing. 

For more information about co-ops contact NAHC at (202) 737-0797, or log on to www.coophousing.org.

Tags:

August Housekeeping Tips

August 4, 2011 8:01 pm

Keep your house fresh and cool through the hottest month of the year, and save a little money, with the following tips:

1. Line Dry. Take advantage of the warm weather and save energy by drying your clothes on a clothesline. Hanging clothes to dry can be a fun project with kids, and nothing beats sheets that smell like a summer breeze.

2. Collect Water. Watering plants and grass in the summer takes a ton of water. Make an eco-friendly move by placing rain buckets outside to collect water from a summer storm.

3. Make Shade. Your AC unit will have less work to do if you make your home cooler naturally. Smart landscaping—more trees, shrubs and vines—can shade your home from the outside. Additionally, retractable or removable awnings—attached to the outside of your windows—can have huge cooling benefits. Blinds and shades can do the trick as well, and of course, if financially feasible, an energy efficient roof (one with an Energy Star rating) can offset heat by reflecting light.

4. Limit electronics. You don’t realize it, but even small electronics generate heat, not to mention use power even when off. Unplug things like powerstrips, lamps, cell phone chargers and small appliances (toaster, blenders, etc.) when not in use to score cool and cost-friendly results.

5. Smart Cooking. When the temperatures are soaring, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven—which makes your AC work harder than necessary. Score some outdoor family fun by using your grill, and when you need to use the stovetop, keep pots and pans covered to retain heat.

Tags:

Avoid a Kitchen Reno Disaster with These Helpful Hints

August 4, 2011 8:01 pm

Whether homeowners are trying to sell their house or simply would like to make some improvements, TouchStone Kitchen and Baths, a kitchen and bath design and installation company, provides consumers with the seven key questions to ask any contractor before they begin any renovation this summer.
“For most homeowners, a major kitchen remodel is a once in a lifetime experience,” says Carl Smith, President of TouchStone Kitchens and Baths. “A kitchen is the nerve center of a home and if a renovation is not handled properly it can be disruptive and stressful, to say the least. It is important to choose a company that has the ability to both balance form and function in the design and complete the project professionally in consonance with the homeowner’s lifestyle and desires,” Smith continues. 

To make remodeling a kitchen, bathroom or other area of a home less stressful and more streamlined, from the first little ideas to the final masterpiece, Smith suggests consumers use these questions and answers to make an informed, cost effective, and hassle-free decision about whom they hire:
1. Insurance: How is the contractor insured?

Some contractors operate with little or no insurance coverage policies?

If there is a worker injury, a homeowner injury or a construction mishap, the liability may fall on the homeowner. 

2. Manufacturer Warranty: Is it possible to prevent the warranty from being voided?

Product manufacturers offer warranties for the products they sell, but if they have been abused or improperly installed there is no coverage. Proper training and experience by professional installers insures that all warranties will be honored. 

3. Updated Showroom: Can I see how my kitchen might look and feel before we start the work?

When you are considering products and services for a kitchen remodel it is reassuring to be able to go to a showroom that has all of the products available to touch and see to verify the quality and durability. 

4. Creative Designing: Will this contractor find the perfect blend of creativity and technical considerations?

Every kitchen remodel begins with the design or blue print for the project.

Everyone wants a beautiful end result, but it is important to make sure the kitchen will also function. 

5. Financial Stability: Will the contractor be able to complete the work?

Some contractors will rely on the homeowner’s deposit, sometimes up to half the cost of the job, and still lack the financial fortitude and strength to complete the job before they get any other payments. It becomes essential to understand that the company can complete the kitchen, on schedule, even though the final payment is paid upon completion. 

6. Accountability and Trust: How do I know I can trust this contractor?

From the first telephone call, you’ll want to be confident that the contractor is easily reachable. Upfront, you need to know how the work is going to be completed and if there are any hidden costs. 

7. The Design and Build Process: How can I be sure that the contractor has my best interest in mind?

From concept to completion, homeowners are a part of the entire process. Ask for references and talk to previous clients to feel comfortable with your decision.

For more information, visit http://www.touchstonekitchens.com.

Tags:

Deceptive HVAC Companies Leave Homeowners in a Pickle and Insurance Companies Holding the Bill

August 4, 2011 8:01 pm

Consider the following real-life scenario: 

At the peak of one of the hottest summers on record—the kind that prompt weathermen to caution against outdoor activities of any kind—your AC unit suddenly, and without warning, dies. As the temperature inside your house literally rises by the minute, you jump to action, anxious to find a quick fix to this major inconvenience. 

Lacking any real knowledge about your AC system, you scour the phone book (or Google) for someone, anyone, who can bring you relief from the oppressive and dangerous heat. At long last, you locate a local HVAC company willing to dispatch a technician and get you back on your feet. You breathe a sigh of relief, not knowing that your call has set in motion one of the oldest insurance scams in existence today. 

The rest of the story is all too familiar. The HVAC technician visits your home, briefly inspects your AC unit, and informs you that he's got good news and bad news. The bad news (predictably) is that your unit is damaged beyond repair, and you need a replacement system. The good news is that if he denotes "Lightning Damage" on his handwritten invoice, there's a very good chance that your insurance carrier will pay for it, because it's most likely covered under your homeowner's policy. 

And as you pick up the phone to call your insurance agent, you unwittingly perpetuate the continuous cycle of fraudulent HVAC claims. 

"It's been our experience that there are many honest HVAC companies out there," states Damon Stafford of HVAC Investigators of Charlotte, NC. "However, the blatant dishonesty and fraud that we encounter on a daily basis is disheartening. We see full replacement claims submitted to insurance companies where a breaker is simply tripped, or where the wiring leading to an HVAC compressor was accidentally cut by a previous repairman." 

Sadly, this is nothing new for the HVAC industry, and as insurance carriers focus more on fighting HVAC fraud, it's leaving homeowners between a rock and a hard place. What could have been a simple $75 repair has become a significant cost that your insurance company may not be responsible for ... and you could be left holding the bill. 

"Due to the significant downturn in new construction business, the temptation for HVAC companies to take advantage of these situations has exacerbated. Our research shows that insurance companies routinely overpay on HVAC claims by an average of 65%," says Stafford. "And this ultimately affects us all, and by 'all,' I mean anyone who pays property and casualty insurance premiums. It's a sad reality, and what's worse ... most homeowners don't even know they're a part of the scam. They're just looking for relief." 

For more information, visit http://www.hvacinvestigators.com.

Tags:

8 Tips toward Unplugging on Vacation

August 4, 2011 8:01 pm

You have your iPhone, your BlackBerry, your Android. You have your laptop or netbook with wifi. It's hard enough to unplug for the weekend...let alone an entire vacation. But for your own sanity and even that of your coworkers, you need to. 

There's no reason to take a vacation only to spend it working. The beach might be great, but think about how much better it would be if your phone was left in your hotel room.

Vacations are meant to help employees recharge so they can return to work re-energized and refocused. But if you're constantly checking in with the office, you won't get a real break.

To help you unplug and look forward to your vacation, here are eight tips from CareerCast.com:
1. Plan ahead. Coordinate your vacation time with your co-workers, team and other executive staff to ensure that things run smoothly while you're out.
2. Designate your main point of contact and give them a detailed account of all your projects and work commitments along with your emergency contact information.
3. Try to leave the majority of your work-related hardware at home.
4. Inform your key accounts, vendors and clients when and how long you'll be out of the office.
5. If you have a lot of projects that will need attention while you're out, consider distributing your projects among your co-workers or team.
6. If you can't resist the temptation to check in, try to set up specific times or days you will be checking messages.
7. Leave your mobile devices in your room so you can concentrate on family and friends and not be tempted to check in during the day.
8. If you receive urgent voicemails or emails while you're out, ask your main point of contact troubleshoot the issue.

Remember, your health is important, and taking a vacation may be all the help you need.

Tags: