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Mary Mastroeni

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Word of the Day

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

Exclusive-right-to-sell listing. Listing that gives the broker the right to collect a commission no matter who sells the property during the listing period.


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Question of the Day

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: Is a home equity line of credit similar to a second mortgage?

A: A home equity loan, like a second mortgage, lets you tap up to about 80 percent of the appraised value of your home, minus your current mortgage balance. But because it is set up as a line of credit, you will not be charged interest until you actually make a withdrawal against the loan, although you will be responsible for paying closing costs.
The withdrawals can be made gradually as you begin to pay contractors and suppliers for handling your remodeling project.

The interest rates on these loans are usually variable. Of particular importance: make sure you understand the terms of the loan. If, for example, your loan requires that you pay interest only for the life of the loan, you will have to pay back the full amount borrowed at the end of the loan period or risk losing your home.

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The Pros and Cons of Plastic Storage Space

August 26, 2011 5:03 pm

I recently began researching space—not the cosmos, but the appropriate type of lawn shed for storage of outdoor garden equipment, tools, potting supplies and other related items. Below are some of the pros and cons of buying a plastic shed, as reported by carportstentsandsheds.com:

Pros:
â—Plastic sheds are typically lower in price than similar style sheds constructed from wood or metal.
â—Plastic sheds will last for years with virtually no maintenance required except maybe an occasional spray with a hose to clean them off. Wood sheds must be painted or stained and resealed periodically to avoid wood rot, and you must check for insect or water damage. Metal sheds are durable but must be checked for rust, which can occur if an area of the shed is dented or scratched.
â—You can find a plastic shed in almost any size and any style. They come with different styles of doors and some even come with shelves or other accessories that can be added. They also come in different colors and different finishes to add to the variety of options.
â—Plastic sheds are easy to install. Most plastic sheds assemble with ease and only come with a few parts. They are also relatively lightweight so they are easy to transport if you purchase them from a store and if you order a plastic shed online, the lighter weight of the sheds will cost less to ship.

Cons:
â—Plastic is not as attractive as wood. While plastic sheds have come a long way when it comes to aesthetics, and many are made to resemble wood grain and come in a variety of colors, a plastic shed doesn’t have the same charm and beauty in your garden or yard as a wooden shed does.
â—Colored plastic can fade over time if left in the sun, so when it comes to plastic, it is not worth buying cheap. 

Purchasing a plastic shed from a reputable manufacturer is a wise choice to ensure that you will enjoy years of use from your shed. Some large shed manufacturers even offer warranties with their products.

If you are in the market for a plastic shed, companies including Duramax, Sentinel, Arrow, and Suncast may provide some ideas on how to get the best plastic shed for your money.

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Travel Insurance Tips for Hurricane Season

August 26, 2011 5:03 pm

After the first official hurricane of the Atlantic season, flooding, power outages and worse all along the East Coast as far north as Maine, may be impacting residents and summer vacationers alike. 

"Now is a good time to get reacquainted with your travel insurance policy," says Jim Grace, president and CEO of InsureMyTrip. "

This month marks the beginning of the peak of hurricane season, which runs through November, so if you don't have coverage for Irene, there's still time to protect your future travels from any yet-to-be-named storms.

"Trip cancellation and interruption protection is based on the occurrence of unforeseen events," explains Grace. "Once a storm has been publicly identified, it can only spell trouble for travelers without insurance protection. You need to purchase travel insurance coverage before a storm is predicted and named, not when it's bearing down on you or your intended destination."

Coverage for weather-related trip cancellations and interruptions differs by insurance company and plan. The covered cancellation reasons can include:
• Cancellation due to Weather: when common carriers such as airlines and cruise lines cease service due to weather
• Cancellation due to Hurricane Warning: cancellation of your trip if your destination is under a NOAA-issued hurricane warning
• Destination made Uninhabitable: if your hotel, resort, or vacation rental is devastated by a storm
• Primary Residence made Uninhabitable: if your own home sustains destructive storm damage
• Cancel For Any Reason– an optional benefit that allows you to choose whether or not to cancel.

To learn more about protection plans for travel during hurricane season, visit www.insuremytrip.com


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End of Season Yard Work

August 26, 2011 5:03 pm

The end of summer brings shorter days and cooler evenings. Make sure your plants are ready for the change in temperature, and spruce up your yard with the following tips.

Give furnishings a face-lift. Deck furniture looking tired after a season of wear and tear? Wipe them down and touch them up with paint. Fence missing a few posts? Time to pull out the hammer and some nails. Freshen up your yard accessories so they look crisp for fall.

Plant Grass. This is the perfect time to plant grass. In most parts of the country, the heat has broken, and seedlings will be less likely to dry out quickly. Sow seeds in those bare areas your kids have been trampling on all summer long.

Plant shrubs and trees. Nurseries often have great deals in the fall. Pick up a few new shrubs or trees and water them well to ensure healthy, fast growth.

Save Your Bulbs. While most bulbs will last through the first frost, to stay on the safe side, remove them now. Store them in a cardboard box or paper bag, packed in peat moss or shredded paper. Tuck away in a cool, dry place until spring.

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Homeowners to Address HVAC Repairs at the First Sign of Trouble

August 26, 2011 5:03 pm

Our homes’ HVAC systems are some of the hardest working machines that we use. Air conditioning units and heating units endure harsh elements year round. They also switch quickly between use and disuse; long periods of disuse contribute to mechanical failure, especially when the machines are not maintained or serviced during this period, and are not eased back into constant use.

Because these systems are manufactured to withstand both elements and periods of disuse without complications, many residents are complacent with minimal HVAC maintenance.

As the summer season winds down, many homeowners may begin to experience the first signs of trouble with their air conditioners and HVAC systems. Instead of waiting until the end of the season, or the beginning of the next summer season, homeowners who experience any trouble with their cooling system should call a serviceman immediately. A qualified serviceman or HVAC repair technician can troubleshoot a home’s HVAC system and make small adjustments and repairs as needed. Often, these early repairs can head off major problems that are more costly, and more inconvenient to homeowners.

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

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Question of the Day

August 26, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What is amortization and negative amortization?

A: When you amortize a loan, you basically pay off the principal by making regular installment payments. This typically takes place gradually over several years.

Negative amortization is when the mortgage payment is smaller than the interest that is due, which causes the loan balance to increase rather than decrease. Negative amortization only happens with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) with certain features, including an initial payment that does not cover the interest due, a feature that is supposed to increase the affordability of the loan.

With negative amortization, a persistent rise in interest rates reduces the equity in the house unless the negative amortization is offset by house appreciation.

Negative amortization has to be repaid, which means your payment will rise in the future. The larger the negative amortization, the more you will be required to amortize the loan in full.

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End of Summer Clean up Tips

August 26, 2011 2:03 pm

By Zoe Eisenberg

Get your home ready for the change of season with the following cleaning tips.

Wipe-out.You never know how dirty things really are until you give them a good wipe down. Cut up a couple of old t-shirts into rags (better for the environment than paper towels!) and start wiping down the places often overlooked--doors, window-ledges, cabinets, lighting fixtures and shutters. You will be amazed at the grime that you clear out.

De-clutter. No need to wait until the spring to get rid of junk. Go through your closet and, instead of merely packing summer clothes away for next year, get rid of anything you didn’t wear this season. Go through the garage and get rid of toys your kids have outgrown, and give away old exercise equipment, kitchen gadgets or other things you simply don’t use. Donate your old items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or hold an end-of-summer yard sale to score some extra cash.

Outdoor Details. Scrub outdoor accessories, like your grill or kiddy pool, before storing them for the winter. There is nothing worse than a grimy grill to put a damper on next year’s summer kick-off barbeque.

Stow Summer Gear. Wash your beach towels, shake out those beach bags, dry clean your sleeping bags, scrub camping equipment and knock the dirt out of those hiking boots. Store them for next season squeaky clean.

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FDA Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

August 26, 2011 2:03 pm


The FDA reminds consumers to take precautions for storing water and ensuring the safety of their food and medical supplies for themselves and their pets during and after this weekend’s expected hurricane-related rain, possible flooding and power outages.

The agency also reminds consumers that it is important to have a plan in place for emergency medication and medical supplies for both people and animals. This is especially true for those with health concerns, particularly if the power goes out.

In general, FDA encourages consumers to:

Food
• Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. If in doubt, throw it out.
• Do not eat food packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth and similar containers that have been water-damaged.
• Discard food and beverage containers with screw-caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, flip tops and home canned foods, if they have come in contact with flood water. These containers cannot be disinfected.
• Check to ensure that the freezer temperature is at or below 0 °F and the refrigerator is at or below 40 °F.
• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

Water
• Area health departments will determine whether local tap water can be used for drinking. If the water cannot be used or is questionable, and bottled water is not available, then use the directions in the next bullet to purify it.
• Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers.

Pets
• If you have to leave your home, take your pet with you if at all possible. You are the best person to take care of your pet.
• Pets should be contained in a carrier or on a leash.
• Emergencies can make pets display unexpected or uncharacteristic behaviors. It may take several weeks before your pet's behavior is back to normal.
• Allow your pet plenty of time to rest and get used to new surroundings. Provide familiar toys, if possible.

Medical Devices
• If you have a "life-supporting" or "life-sustaining" device that depends on electricity, you should contact your healthcare provider for information on how to maintain function in the event of a loss of power.
• Keep your device and supplies clean and dry. If possible, notify your local Public Health Authority to request evacuation prior to adverse weather events.

For more information, visit www.fda.gov.

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Carbon Monoxide Safety during Hurricane Season

August 26, 2011 2:03 pm

As the East Coast braces for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, consumers are heading to home improvement stores to stock up on supplies, such as portable generators. With power outages likely during the aftermath of the hurricane, it's important to operate portable generators properly to protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide.

The same was true in 2003—the last time a major hurricane made landfall on the mid-Atlantic coast. Of the 40 deaths attributed to Hurricane Isabel, eight were caused by carbon monoxide. Moreover, dozens of people were treated for CO poisoning in the aftermath of the disaster.

Carbon monoxide is called the "silent killer." It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. You can't smell it, see it or taste it. It kills more than 400 people every year and sends more than 20,000 people to the emergency room. It does not discriminate— it randomly destroys lives and forever haunts survivors.

When portable generators, gas/charcoal grills and candles are used improperly, these items can significantly increase the risk of a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Without a carbon monoxide alarm, you may never even know carbon monoxide is in the air, slowly doing its lethal work with every breath you take. Prevent problems before they happen. Here are some tips:
• Install battery-operated CO alarms on every floor and in sleeping areas to protect your family during power outages.
• Only operate the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home and protected from direct exposure to rain. Don't run portable generators on a porch, in an attached garage, basement or near an open window where wind could blow carbon monoxide fumes into the home.
• Follow the manufacturers' instructions when using generators. Use the appropriate sized and type power cords. Overloaded or covered cords could overheat and cause fires.
• Do not use a charcoal or gas grill inside your home or outside near a window where CO fumes could seep into your home.
• Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the door open.
• Ensure that storm debris hasn't blocked or sealed shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers, or blocked your vehicle's tailpipe, which could cause CO fumes to build up inside the vehicle.
• Extinguish all candles before going to sleep and when leaving the house or a room where a candle is burning for a long period of time.

For more information on Kidde and fire/CO safety during a storm-related power outage, visit www.kidde.com.

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