Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Getting Your Home Ready for the Change of Season

August 2, 2011 5:01 pm

The change in seasons should bring about more than just a change of wardrobe. It's important to check out your appliances and home systems now in order to help prevent unnecessary repairs when you need those systems the most. 

To help you get your home ready for the next season, American Home Shield, one of the nation's leading providers of home warranty services, offers some tips to help you maintain your heating unit and plumbing system to ensure they're ready before the temperatures drop: 

To prepare the heating system:
• Have your system professionally cleaned and inspected.
• Move any furniture that has been placed over floor vents away to clear the air flow.
• To ensure efficient operation, check your system's air filters and clean or change them regularly.
• It's always important to check out the manufacturer's maintenance recommendations for your specific unit. This information is typically available online and in your owner's guide.
• Have a test run. Don't wait until it's cold outside to turn on your heat. Turn it on now and let it run for at least a half-hour, so you can listen for any unusual noises and make sure it is working properly. 

To prepare the plumbing system:
• Insulate pipes prone to freezing, such as those near an outside wall; those in unheated areas of your home; or any exposed plumbing such as outside faucets.
• Keep your water meter box covered with its lid to prevent the meter from freezing during cold periods.
• Be sure you know where your master valve is located so you can quickly turn your home's water off if a line does break. In most homes, this valve will be located near the water heater, near the clothes washer, or where the water service line enters your home.
• Wrap outdoor or crawl space pipes with electric heat tape or insulation to prevent freezing. 

"Plumbing and heating systems are like any other machinery; they require some basic maintenance to keep them functioning properly," says Dave Quandt, Senior VP of Field Services for American Home Shield. 

"Unfortunately, if regular maintenance doesn't take place and a system or appliance fails, it's usually at the time of need and you're left with a crisis which can require a quick and more expensive decision." 

To learn more, visit www.ahs.com.

Tags:

Word of the Day

August 2, 2011 5:01 pm

Deed. Written document that when executed and delivered conveys title to real property.

Tags:

Question of the Day

August 2, 2011 5:01 pm

Q: What are the pros and cons of owning a townhouse?

A: On the plus side, exterior maintenance and repairs are minimal; there are no neighbors above or below the home like in an apartment; and because the homes are attached, they may offer a greater sense of security.

As for the disadvantages, if there is a homeowner’s association, buyers will have to pay a homeowner’s fee. There is also less privacy than with a detached single-family home. And there are limits on how you can make exterior changes to the home.

Tags:

Gracefully Aging in Place

August 1, 2011 8:01 pm

Up in the great northwest from Oregon to Idaho, I see REALTORS® focusing on aging in place. In today’s segment on the subject, we first go to Betty Jung, a Real Estate Broker in Portland who posted the top 10 things NOT to do when decorating small spaces like an in-law apartment or small residential home for aging in place.

A few of those mistakes are:
• Leaving your walls white: White walls won’t technically make your space larger and they lack personality.
• Using small-scale accessories: Large lamps, artwork, candles, vases, and accessories will create the appearance of a larger space with more height.
• Using short shelving and cabinetry: Using full-scale shelves and cabinets that go all of the way up to the ceiling will visually draw the eye upward, making the ceiling seem higher, and your space feel larger.
• Not lighting your space effectively makes it look smaller, and if you can’t see an area in your room, it’s as if it’s not there! Capitalizing on natural light, while also bringing in artificial light is imperative. Use light to highlight architectural details and artwork.

Meanwhile, over in Boise, Ed Byington is telling his clients about a great guide to plan for aging in place published by the Mature Market Institute (MMI) at MetLife. According to that publication, the first step in planning an aging in place space is evaluating the home itself.

Is the home set up to meet your needs or do you need to make changes? A physical therapist can often help evaluate the setting based on your care needs.

Once you identify areas that need to be addressed you can evaluate possible solutions. In some cases you can consider restructuring your living environment. For instance, if the bedrooms are upstairs and you cannot use the stairs, you may be able to convert a den or another room on the first level into a bedroom.

You can also consider a stair glide to get you from one level to another if converting another room is not possible. And if you cannot navigate stairs and they are the only access into the house, you may need to put in a ramp so you can get in and out.

You may also have to widen doorways or restructure your bathroom to allow you to navigate and safely use the toilet and tub or shower. Certainly there is a lot to consider, although the benefits of aging in place for those who can manage it are many.

To review the full Mature Market Institute report on aging in place, click here.

Tags:

Homeowners Can Be Held ‘At Fault’ When Hiring Unlicensed Contractors for Remodeling

August 1, 2011 8:01 pm

With an increase in home remodeling, the California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors (CALPASC) is urging homeowners to think twice before hiring contractors who may be members of the underground or semi-underground economies for remodeling projects.

California law holds that a "significant residential remodel," defined as projects including demolition and rebuilding a significant portion of the house, and new construction fall under Cal/OSHA safety regulations. As such, the homeowner is treated as an employer and required to furnish a safe place of employment. Like other employers, homeowners hiring an unlicensed independent contractor, who may hire subcontractors, will be held responsible for the workers' safety (see California Labor Code Section 2750.5), and an injured worker can bring a lawsuit against a homeowner and use evidence of the homeowner's violation of the Cal/OSHA regulations to show the homeowner is at fault.

This is in contrast to "domestic household services," such as home maintenance, both inside and outside of the house, which are exempt from Cal/OSHA regulations as are projects where homeowners are doing the work themselves. 

CALPASC is all too familiar with the negative impact of the underground and semi-underground economies, where unlicensed contractors and subcontractors thrive, and is sending a warning flare to homeowners who often are unaware of the risks associated with remodeling projects and hiring unlicensed contractors.

According to CALPASC Chief Operating Officer Cees Molenaar, "Homeowners who are remodeling their homes often are in the dark about this requirement. They assume the contractors they hire are licensed professionals and carry the necessary insurance to abide by Cal/OSHA regulations. Unfortunately, today's growing underground and semi-underground economies create opportunities for contractors and subcontractors to take advantage of homeowners."

The underground and semi-underground economies consist of contractors who refuse to comply with state laws and regulations and conduct illegal business by hiring individuals without proper certifications, not training employees, under reporting payroll, not obtaining workers' compensation insurance or paying compensation premiums and more.

"In 2010, we implemented the LEVEL Program to work closely with state agencies in cracking down on contractors who intentionally cheat California out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and take advantage of consumers," says Molenaar. "There have been some successes in cracking down on those who 'skirt the law,' but we need homeowners to be a part of the solution."

Homeowners often are unaware of the consequences of hiring unlicensed contractors and assume homeowners' policies cover unlicensed contractors, which is not the case. Besides the obvious lack of professional ethics and not abiding by California's legal standards, unlicensed contractors often generate inferior work products and services and subject homeowners to financial exposure if an injury occurs.

In a recent press release issued by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), consumers were urged to consider the following before hiring someone to work on their home:
• Hire only licensed contractors, and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
• Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers.
• Don't pay in cash, and don't let payments get ahead of the work.
• Get at least three bids, check references and get a written contract.

For more information, visit www.calpasc.org.  

Tags:

8 Money-Saving Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

August 1, 2011 8:01 pm

Summer is winding down and anticipation for a new school year is building. Back to school season means shopping for new clothes, school supplies, computers, textbooks and dorm room basics. The market research firm Morpace reported in 2010 households with school-age children spent an average of $404 on back to school items. To make the most of those dollars, shopping experts at DealTaker.com have put together these 8 tips:

1. Wherever possible, look for bargains from sites that post deals and discounts.
2. Stick to the school district's lists of required supplies, and avoid the fancy stuff. Light-up erasers, pencils with feathers, and binders that play music are a distraction for teachers and students.
3. Some teachers send home a list of supplies for specific courses such as musical instruments, art kits, graphing calculators and sports equipment, so look for these items online where you can find deals for 50%, 60% and even 70% off of retail prices.
4. Start by gathering pencils, paper, scissors and other items that are still in good condition and sitting around the house. Also, clean-out the closets and hand down clothing to younger siblings, but be sure to mix in fun new outfits too so they don't feel left out.
5. Shop for clothing and supplies during a state sponsored tax-free shopping day. Find a list of states offering a 2011 back to school tax holiday.
6. Look for bargains on name brands when quality counts. Getting a great deal on a cheap backpack isn't so great when the zipper breaks in October. Name brand crayons, color pencils, markers, binders and dry erase supplies all tend to last longer,
7. Buy in bulk at online stores to save money this year and next, but be sure to send just the items needed to school saving the rest for future semesters.
8. Once all supplies are purchased, organize and label them with each child's name. This reduces the need to purchase additional school supplies later in the year.

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

Tags:

Top 5 Tips for Summer Entertaining

August 1, 2011 8:01 pm

Summer is in full swing and so is the season for entertaining. This summer, try trading in your burgers and hot dogs for a little more glam, while remaining under budget.

Check out these tips from celebrity style and entertaining expert Robert Verdi, in partnership with Ecco Domini, to create tips for throwing the perfect fashionable fete.

1. Bottle Up the Excitement: Grab guests' attention, and evoke beachtime nostalgia, with a unique message in a bottle invitation. Use a clear glass bottle and fill it with a little bit of sand. Then roll up your invite and insert it with a string attached for easy access. For a truly personal touch, hand-deliver it to each guest!

2. Go Tribal: Tribal inspirations are making a mark on this season's attire. It's easy to bring this trend to life at home by introducing native elements into your décor such as hand-carved wooden candlesticks or animal print rugs. Make the most of your budget by picking up some tribal printed material at your local fabric store and draping it over your table. This versatile piece not only adds instant summer style to your room but can later serve as a stylish sarong making you a fashion hit at the beach.

3. Stay Cool: Creating your own style statement often means putting a new twist on traditional wardrobe items. You can apply the same concept to entertaining by using your favorite vase or pitcher (glass or ceramic are perfect) as a non-traditional wine cooler. Simply fill the container of your choice with ice and place the wine bottle inside.

4. Dine Under the Stars: Make the most of your outdoor space this season by transforming your rooftop or backyard into an outdoor cafe. A mix of citronella candles and colorful tea lights will keep the pests away and help set the mood for an intimate evening affair. For an added fashionable touch, try draping a vibrant pashmina over each chair- this adds a burst of color to your space and gives guests a way to keep warm if the night gets chilly. Finally, set all of your foods on large trays ahead of time for an easy and quick way to serve guests without making multiple trips to the kitchen.

5. International Tastes: True fashionistas take their style cues from the fashion capitals of the world. Why not do the same when it comes to your party menu? Trade in the typical barbecue burgers and hotdogs for gourmet treats with international flair. For example, create a buffet of easy-to-eat Italian treats such as caprese salad skewers with mozzarella and summer ripe tomatoes, prosciutto-wrapped melon balls or olive tapenade crostinis.

Tags:

Question of the Day

August 1, 2011 8:01 pm

Q: How do townhouses differ from condominiums?
A:
While most condominiums are apartments, a townhouse is attached to one or more houses and can run the gamut from duplexes and triplexes to communities with hundreds of homes. Buyers separately own their homes and the land on which the houses sit. With a condominium, the unit owners jointly own the land and this common interest cannot be separated from the others. 

Townhouses can be structured in many ways. Some, particularly huge communities, have common areas – such as swimming pools – that are similar to condominiums.

Tags:

Word of the Day

August 1, 2011 8:01 pm

Credit report. A past history of debt repayment used by creditors as an indicator of future readiness to responsibly repay debt.

Tags:

Four Easy, Inexpensive Ways to Spruce up Your Home for a Showing

July 29, 2011 8:01 pm

Think you need to empty out your savings to freshen up your space for selling? Think again. It’s possible to give your home a fresh face by spending only $100 dollars—or less!

First, think about the qualities most buyers look for in a home—clean, spacious, and inviting. A place they could see themselves in—not a place that reminds them of you or your family.

Here are 4 easy—and cheap—ways to create an inviting home environment for buyers.
1. Trim it right: It is amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do for your home’s interior. While $100 dollars won’t allow you to repaint all your rooms, it will get you enough to freshen up your trim, and any spots on the walls that need a touch up. Stick with clean, warm colors, such as ivory or bone.
2. Focus on the front: The first thing a buyer sees is the front of your home. For 100 dollars or less, you can repaint the door, plant a fresh flowerbed, and make sure your lawn is neat and tidy. Don’t forget to shine up details like your house numbers and mailbox—repaint or replace anything that looks tired or old.
3. Squeaky clean: Your home should be clean and clutter free for a showing. While you can de-clutter yourself, feel free to hire a cleaning service to get things gleaming.
4. Appeal to the senses. You don’t want your home to turn off buyers with a musty smell or dim lighting. Air out all your rooms before a showing and, if necessary, light a lightly scented candle—or bake a batch of fresh bread! Make sure rooms—especially the first room a buyer will enter—are well lit and bright by opening curtains and blinds and bringing in an extra floor lamp if necessary.

Tags: