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 
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Mary's Blog

Avoid These Financial Faux Pas

April 7, 2017 3:39 pm

Managing your finances can feel like a full-time job. And, even the most fastidious types can unwittingly make a mistake that harms their current and/or future financial well-being. According to Forbes, these are some of the biggest money mistakes people make:
  • Not saving for retirement. Even if retirement is a long way off, it takes a long time to save enough money to live comfortably once you leave the workforce. Starting today, make sure to save part of every dollar you earn.
  • Not understanding the true cost of student loans. Many students and parents of students see student loans as a standard operating procedure for getting through. Make sure you and your child know exactly what your monthly payments will be—and for how long—before taking out the loan.
  • Not having a budget. You may feel that you have a good awareness of your income vs. expenses and, therefore, don’t need a budget. However, you’ll never have a true picture of how much you’re spending until you commit it to paper and track it religiously. Once you’ve taken this step, map out a budget and stick to it.
  • Not having savings. Make sure your budget includes putting at least a little money away for unexpected expenses in order to build up an emergency savings. According to Forbes, your emergency savings should be enough to cover six months' worth of income. Therefore, when your income goes up, so should your savings.
  • Not taking care of your credit score. You may think you’re doing all the right things credit-wise, but that may not be how credit-scoring firms evaluate your profile. Your balances may be too high, you may have too many credit cards, or you may have been late on a payment or two. All of these things affect your credit score, so be sure to check your credit report three times a year and dispute any mistakes you find. 
Avoiding these mistakes will help put you on the road to financial peace of mind, hopefully leaving you a little money to spare.
 
Contact me today for more financial tips you can't afford to ignore.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Things You Should Know About Your Real Estate Agent

April 7, 2017 3:39 pm

Choosing a home to buy is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life. That’s why choosing the right real estate professional to work with should be your second biggest decision.
 
On the surface, it may seem that all real estate agents basically do the same job…but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like in all professionals, experience, skills, integrity, professionalism and personality vary greatly from person to person.
 
Here are five things you should know about any prospective real estate professional you're considering working with:
  1. Their background. Real estate agents come from all walks of life. While some have been born and bred in real estate, others come from a wide variety of previous careers. Knowing an agent’s background will shed some light on what they may or may not be able to bring to the table.
  2. How many transactions they closed last year. Whether they work with buyers, sellers or both, find out how many deals your agent closed last year. This will give you a good sense as to their productivity.
  3. If they’re part of a team. Some agents work solo, some work with a partner, and others work as part of a team made up of several members. If you’re dealing with an agent team, find out what the various team members are responsible for and who you’ll be dealing with for each stage of the process.
  4. If they have any reviews. These days, reviews rule. Ask your prospective agent if they can direct you toward any online ratings and reviews. If they don’t participate in review sites, ask for past clients you can reach out to.
  5. Their tech competency. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the home-buying and -selling process. Check out your agent’s social media sites, what mobile technology they'll incorporate to facilitate the process, and how they use digital documents and web-based programs to keep the process running smoothly. 
You should also select an agent with whom you have great chemistry. You will be close allies in the process of finding and securing your home, so a great relationship matters a lot.
 
Contact me today for more tips on choosing a real estate agent to guide you through the process.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Your Home Smart and Safe

April 7, 2017 3:39 pm

Technology has paved the way for convenience in every area of our lives, from our cars to our offices to our homes. But while we take advantage of all the possibilities technology offers, there are risks involved.
 
Often referred to as “the internet of things” or “the connected world,” the integration of wireless technology that runs our homes, alarm systems, thermostats, refrigerators, lights, vehicles and more can be easily hacked, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While we’ve embraced this new technology, it has come with unintended consequences, such as the theft of personal and financial information in data breaches.
 
The BBB outlines various ways our technology can cause risk.
  • Modern smart TVs have features that allow them to harvest information about our watching habits that can then be sold to third parties. One preventive tip involves disconnecting your television from the internet when it isn't being used.
  • Computers have built-in cameras and microphones that hackers have managed to turn on in order to spy on unwitting victims. Security-conscious users routinely keep the camera covered when they're not using it.
  • If you use a baby monitor, perhaps you’ve heard conversations and arguments coming from your neighbor's house. If so, that means they can probably hear you. High-tech baby monitors use your wireless routers and the internet to allow you to keep track of your residence when you're not at home. Unfortunately, the information sent over the internet is not encrypted. In other words, it can be intercepted.
  • We can be tracked almost anywhere we go. Billboards, stores, malls and other locations can pick up your wifi signal, collect your information and share or sell it to other parties without revealing who will use it and how.
  • Smart car entertainment centers can be hacked, allowing access to remotely steer, accelerate or hit your car's brakes. Headlights and other systems can also be infiltrated as well.
  • Wireless and internet connections can operate security cameras, lights, alarm systems, thermostats and door locks. In the wrong hands, these capabilities would be extremely dangerous. 
The best way to secure your newly-connected world, says the BBB, is to research as much as you can, contact a manufacturer if you have any security questions or concerns, and ensure that you change the passwords on your wireless routers and all of your smart devices, rather than leaving the default password. Not only can default passwords for devices easily be found online, but they can be used to compromise your personal and financial information.
 
The best defense is to understand how these new devices work and what we can do to make them as safe as possible from the prying eyes of hackers.
 
For more tips to keep your technology devices from being infiltrated by hackers, contact me today.
 
Source: The Connecticut Better Business Bureau

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Seasonal Sport Safety

April 7, 2017 1:03 pm

For those interested in seasonal sports like skiing or snowboarding, it’s important to keep safety top-of-mind in order to avoid an injury.

Knee injuries, particularly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), are the most common injury for skiers due to the twisting motion of the sport. Snowboarders typically experience more impact-related injuries to their wrists and shoulders from falls.

Meredith Bean, MD, specializes in treating injuries from sports, including skiing and snowboarding injuries. Here are Dr. Bean's top five tips to avoid skiing and snowboarding injuries:

Be prepared: The best way to prevent snow sport injuries from occurring is to be physically fit before hitting the slopes. Prior to your trip up the mountain, incorporate strengthening, agility, balance, and endurance exercises to your workout routine.

Use proper equipment: All skiers and snowboarders should use a helmet, but be aware that helmets do not provide full protection at higher speeds. She encourages snowboarders, especially beginners who may fall often, to wear wrist guards to help prevent wrist fractures, as those are the most common injury she sees for that sport. Skiers should use pole straps appropriately to avoid thumb injuries.

Keep hydrated: When it's cold, you may not feel as thirsty but your body is still losing water through sweating and breathing. If you can see your breath, that's water leaving the body. So when heading out to the slopes, drinking lots of water is important to reduce muscle fatigue and injury.

Stay in control: Know your fitness and ability limits and stay within them.

Stop if you're tired: Many snow sports injuries occur on the final run of the day. This often is due to fatigue or a change in conditions on the mountain, which can lead to a lack of focus or control and result in injuries. If you are tired, but considering one last run, it is best to play it safe and call it a day.

Source: Saint Francis Memorial Hospital 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Cleaning Tips to Save on Energy Expenditure

April 7, 2017 1:03 pm

Spring cleaning can do more than clear out your closets; it can also lower your energy expenditure, keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in the bank.  

Gentec Services recommends five things homeowners can do during spring cleaning to save money:

Clean or change heating and air conditioning filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm. Residential heating and cooling systems account for over 50 percent of the energy costs in the average Bay Area home. A properly maintained system can be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than one that is not properly taken care of.

Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills. Replacing older water fixtures with low-flowing ones is a relatively low-cost and quick way for your home to conserve water and save money. For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Reduce water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and money on heating water. It's also a good practice to wrap the water storage tank in a specially-designed, insulated thermal blanket to retain the heat.

Install a programmable thermostat to save up to 10 percent on cooling and heating costs. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

Install a security alarm system. By setting an alarm system to "arm" upon leaving the home, this event can command lights to turn off. Additionally, when you cross a predetermined "Geo Fence" (set by the homeowner) the physical location of the homeowner's phone can easily turn off lights, lamps, plugs and appliances as well. It's always good practice to turn off electronics whenever possible. A power strip can help turn off multiple items at once. In addition to turning off lights manually, you may want to consider using sensors, timers and other automatic lighting controls.

Source: Gentec Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Take a Holistic Approach to Retirement Planning

April 7, 2017 1:03 pm

(Family Features)--Although retirement is a milestone for all working adults, decades of hard work may not pay off if you haven't planned for your financial needs once a regular paycheck stops coming.

According to research by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), millions of Baby Boomers stepping into their retirement years have unrealistic expectations and lack a full understanding of the danger of running out of money during retirement. However, the challenges do not stop with Baby Boomers. A recent study indicated 47 percent of Gen-Xers and more than half of Millennials believe a secure retirement is beyond their reach.

"Most people recognize the need to grow their wealth before retirement, but getting there isn't always a clear path," says Cathy Weatherford, IRI president and CEO. "Starting early and taking a holistic approach to financial planning is truly essential for a safe and dignified retirement."

Experts generally concur that it's never too early to begin planning for retirement, but depending on your stage of life, your approach may vary. Consider this advice from the experts at IRI to get on a path toward financially secure retirement.

Student

Forming good money habits can set you up for a lifetime of success. An act as simple as putting spare change in a jar can help you start saving. Talk to adults you trust about how to create a budget and work toward a financial goal. Auto insurance and cell phone bills are important expenses to factor into your budget.

Building a career

Once you have a solid budget, stick to it and set aside some money to save. Compound interest adds up over time and the earlier you start compounding, the better. Credit will also start to play more of a factor in your life, as major expenses like buying a house or car, or starting a business rely greatly on your credit.

Mid-career

At this stage, your employer may offer a retirement savings plan. Whether you have various investments to manage or not, you should start to look at your building your portfolio and retirement plan. This mid-career life stage is a good time to set a retirement savings goal, and now is also the time to consider hiring a financial advisor.

A professional can help you explore less understood but worthwhile approaches to holistic retirement planning such as annuities. Annuities are essentially insurance contracts that come in different types and offer several options to meet a variety of financial objectives. They are a guarantee of income as you age.

Late career

At this stage, you probably have a better idea as to when you will be able to retire, but it's important to review your savings on an annual basis and make adjustments, if needed, to stay on track. As you approach retirement, you'll want to research Social Security, Medicare and long-term care options to ensure you have a comprehensive view of your future finances.

Ready for retirement

If you haven't already done so, the time has come to better research your Social Security benefits (and when it's best to start accessing them), Medicare coverage and long-term care options. This is the time to start making some choices, such as whether you will downsize your home and how to eliminate as much debt as possible. One of the more complex aspects surrounding retirement can be determining which of your accounts to tap and in what order, and a professional can help guide you.

Explore more resources and tools to aid your retirement planning at retireonyourterms.org.


Source: Insured Retirement Institute
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What’s the Deal with Ceiling Paper?

April 6, 2017 1:03 pm

You may have heard that wallpaper is making a comeback. But have you heard about wallpapered ceilings? Technically, this trend is called ceiling paper, and it can transform a room in the same way papered walls can.

Highlight a space. Do you have a home office tucked to one side of your family room? How about a cozy reading nook? Add colorful ceiling paper to one portion of a room to divide the space naturally.

Make a statement. Just like a colorful throw cushion on a neutral couch, jazzy ceiling paper can make a “boring” room bold. Choose a fun print or color that shows off your personality and style.

Accent, accent, accent. Tie your ceiling paper into the rest of your decorating scheme by choosing the right accent color. Whether you go with a solid, stripes or a soft pattern, a papered ceiling done up right can complete the look of a room.

When wallpapering a ceiling, it may be best to bring in a pro, as the application can be tricky. If you’re a diligent weekend warrior and feel like going DIY, make sure to properly prep your ceiling for application by removing any paint and electrical fixtures. Experts also suggest creating a ceiling blueprint for precise application.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Your Business Can Prep for an Online PR Crisis

April 6, 2017 1:03 pm

As a business owner, you’re likely in constant preparation mode. Having an online crisis plan in place is a necessity, according to MarxLayne.com. When dealing with a disrupting event that spreads online, organizations should consider the following fundamental guidelines:

1. Actively listen for "brand" mentions
If you want to mitigate trouble online, you must be alert to what is being said about your organization. Are online conversations taking place about your "brand?" If so, are they positive or negative?

2. Monitor your social spaces constantly 
It's critical to constantly monitor what people are commenting and sharing. To help expedite, numerous social medial listening tools — like Google Analytics, Social Mention, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Topsy — can identify trends.

3. Have a consisten presence
Nothing looks worse than an organization that never communicates except when absolutely forced to do so. An active and steady presence on the social pages you own will help you be better prepared for a potential crisis.

4. Respond swiftly
This is perhaps one of the most important ways to avoid a crisis. Just like with the news media, even if you don't have an immediate answer, just letting people know you are listening and care about what's going on will help soften stressful situations.

5. Include your communications and legal teams 
Being prepared for an online crisis means establishing a protocol in advance that includes not only your social/online specialists, but also your PR and legal teams. Concise messaging that is consistent with the organization's policies and positions is essential to any crisis strategy.

6. Have a plan of action 
Make certain you have a detailed plan on how you will execute if an online crisis occurs, including:

- Establishing the crisis team. In addition to your online, PR and legal teams, think about who else needs to be included. Consider every area of your organization.

- Knowing the chain of command in a crisis. What should the approval process look like? Who should be responsible for what? And what does the timeline look like?

- Brainstorming potential scenarios. In any organization, there are dozens — if not more — of potential situations that could develop into a crisis. Work with your team to identify these scenarios and develop a "response template.

Source: MarxLayne.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Home Flipping for You?

April 5, 2017 1:03 pm

While you may think that home flipping went the way of the dinosaurs after the real estate bust, flips actually rose 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2016, with gross profits averaging $62,624, according to research from ATTOM Data Solutions.

Home flipping enjoyed a boost last year thanks to low inventory in many areas of the country and an infusion of foreign and domestic capital, says ATTOM, who reported that roughly 6 percent of condo and single-family home sales in 2016 were flips - the highest share in three years.

Hot markets in California - like San Jose, San Diego, and San Francisco - along with cities such as Baltimore, Md., Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y. and Seattle, Wash. earned more than $100,000 in profits. The most flipping took place Florida and Tennessee, where it comprised 11.7 percent of all sales in Memphis, Tenn.

Are you ready to get into the flipping game? Consider these pros and cons from The Balance:

Pro: Home flipping can be very lucrative, earning you a sizable sum of money within a very short period of time

Con: Conversely, when a flip becomes a “flop,” you can lose money. This can happen when unexpected expenses for home repairs or taxes arise, or when holding costs accrue from paying the mortgage and other expenses for a longer than anticipated period of time.

Pro: Home flipping is a great learning experience and will sharpen your skills on all things real estate, including construction, related finances and the local market.

Con: The process can be very stressful. There will be bumps along the way and there is always a risk involved, so make sure you’re ready for the roller coaster ride.

If you’d like more detailed real estate information about your market, please contact me.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Tackle the 5 Peskiest Carpet Stains

April 5, 2017 1:03 pm

Most homeowners know what it’s like to find ketchup or nail polish on your favorite carpet. The following quick tips from Rainbow International can help save your area rug or wall-to-wall carpet from the peskiest stain culprits.

Gum: The most crucial ingredient when removing gum from carpets is patience. Scrape away as much of the gum as possible, using a dull object like a spoon, and apply a dry-cleaning solvent such as Goof Off. After allowing time for the solvent to soften the gym, use a white cotton cloth to pull or wipe away the gum from the carpet and repeat this process until the gum is completely removed.

Ketchup: If there are large amounts of ketchup (whether fresh or dried-on), remove it by scraping lightly with a spoon, and use a white cotton towel to blot any residual ketchup. Next, mix a solution of one teaspoon dishwashing detergent and one cup of water, and apply the mixture to the stained area. Starting at the outer edge and working inward, work the solution into the stain and rinse by dabbing with water. If the stain remains, you can attempt to remove it with a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution, but be sure to first test it in an inconspicuous part of the carpet to ensure it's safe to use.

Nail Polish: Whatever you do, don't rub the stain, as rubbing will not only cause the stain to be driven further into the carpet, but it could also cause damage to the carpet's fibers. Wipe or blot the stain from the outside in using a non-acetone nail polish. If the stain remains, you'll need to call a cleaning professional.

Lipstick: Start by removing any excess lipstick by lightly scraping it with a dull object. Then, working from the outer edges of the stain and moving toward the center, apply a dry solvent to the stain, blotting with a white cotton towel. This may take multiple attempts but the dry solvent should do the trick. Once the stain is removed, rinse by dabbing the area with a dampened cloth and blot with a dry cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. To speed up the drying process, you can use an electric fan.

Crayon: First, as with most of the previously mentioned stains, scrape away residual crayon with a dull object, and then cover the remaining crayon mark with a white paper towel. Next, heat the area with a blow dryer, which should melt the crayon and help it absorb into the paper towel.

Source: www.rainbowintl.com 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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