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

What Every Car Owner Should Know

August 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Many car owners can expertly maneuver through rush hour traffic, but far fewer can expertly navigate their way under the hood. Automotive issues can leave many of us wondering "What's that sound?" and "Do I really need this repair?" or even worse, ignoring a problem altogether. 

Championship Tips
Drew Torrey and Matt Saunders are the national champions of the 62nd annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition. Their automotive know-how helped them beat 10,000 other high school automotive technology students from across the country to earn the championship title and tens of thousands of dollars in automotive scholarships and tools. These highly qualified students offer the following advice to help car owners properly maintain their vehicles while protecting themselves, their passengers and their wallets. 

Do a little light reading. Read your owner's manual and service booklet carefully. The auto manufacturer created this information specifically for your car, and it can answer a lot of questions, including which maintenance services you can do at home and which ones require a trained service technician. Heeding this advice can save you time and money in the long run. 

Pump it up (or deflate it). Make sure your car's tires are inflated to the proper pressure (measured in pounds per square inch or PSI). Improperly inflated tires wear out more quickly and can increase the possibility of a dangerous blowout. To find the recommended inflation pressure for your tires, check the tire information decal that is likely located on the driver's doorjamb, or in your owner's manual. Do not, however, rely on the PSI figure molded into the sidewall of the tire. You'll need just one small tool—an air pressure gauge—to check your tire pressure. 

Pay attention. Do not ignore your "check engine" light just because you don't know what it means. It can actually alert you to a variety of different problems, from a loose gas cap to a faulty oxygen (02) sensor. If the check engine light comes on, first tighten the gas cap to see if that solves your problem. If that doesn't work, visit your auto technician for further diagnosis, as the problems at-hand could cause increased exhaust emissions and decrease your fuel economy by up to 40 percent (according to the U.S. Department of Energy), potentially costing you more money in the long run than a professional repair would. 

Put on the brakes. If your car's brakes squeak while you're driving but stop making noise when you apply pressure to the brake pedal, your brakes may be in need of professional service. Your auto technician will be able to make a definitive diagnosis, but it's possible you could need new front disc brake pads and additional brake system work. 

Fill 'er up. If your car's automatic transmission seems to be shifting erratically you could be low on transmission fluid. You can check the level and add fluid using the procedures described in your owner's manual. If it's time to change the fluid, visit your local automotive shop. In either case, pay attention to this condition—ignoring a small problem with your transmission now could mean you'll have to shell out the money for a whole new one later on. 

For more information on the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, visit www.autoskills.com.

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Tips for Multi-Generational Kitchen Design

August 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Parents are moving in with their adult children. College grads are coming home to Mom and Dad. Siblings are moving in with one another after a home foreclosure. Across America, the need for home design that supports multi-generational living is on the rise. 

In 2008, an estimated 49 million Americans, or 16.1 percent of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to the Pew Research Center. 

"Factors such as job losses, home foreclosures and a changing attitude toward multi-generational living have all contributed to the rise," says Sarah Reep, director of designer relations and education at KraftMaid Cabinetry. "Now families are finding relatives at both ends of the age spectrum living together under one roof." 

To understand how this collision of social, economic and generational influences will impact kitchen design, Masco Cabinetry, home of the KraftMaid, Merillat, QualityCabinets and DeNova brands, commissioned the GenShift 2011 study. 

"Living in a multi-generational home can be a great experience, but it can also be very challenging," adds Reep. "It's important to take each generation's ideas and needs into consideration, especially when it comes to home design." 

To keep multi-generational households running smoothly, Reep recommends the following tips:
Get creative with lighting. Different tasks and generations require various levels of lighting. A combination of recessed, pendant and under-cabinet lighting provides both aesthetics and functionality. Adding dimmer switches is a way to add even more flexibility. 

Add a splash of color. While monochromatic color schemes have been popular in recent years, older generations may prefer contrast between countertops and cabinets in order to maximize visual acuity.
Vary countertop heights. Lowered counters will create a workspace for small children, wheelchair users and those who prefer to sit while preparing meals. Homeowners can also use the varied heights for different tasks, such as lower counters for kneading dough and higher counters for cutting vegetables. 

Install the right hardware. Older or smaller hands may have trouble grasping or pulling certain types of kitchen hardware. Consider larger drawer and cabinet handles that are easier to grasp and more ergonomically friendly. 

Keep counters clutter-free. The GenShift 2011 study found a common theme when it comes to kitchen cabinetry accessories—more storage in a clean design style. Creative storage solutions like a wall appliance garage and pull-out cabinets create easily accessible storage places for "must-have" items. 

For more information on the GenShift 2011 study, visit www.genshiftkitchen.com. For more design tips from Sarah Reep, visit www.kraftmaidbydesign.com.

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Make Back-to-School Easy by Planning Meals in Advance

August 22, 2011 5:03 pm

For busy parents who have spent the summer months juggling work and a house full of kids, back-to-school may seem like their own vacation. But just the opposite may be true. With September around the corner, parents have work to do: school clothes need finding, and backpacks and lunchboxes need filling. Then the not-so-much-fun begins: getting breakfasts ready as early as 6 a.m., lunches packed and ready to go by around 6:30, and dinner on the table when everyone is home from work. It's a tough schedule, but it can be made easier by preparing ingredients—and even whole meals—in advance. Take some tips from some people with really tough schedules.

"The farm families who own Cabot Creamery Cooperative know what a long day is like, and they'll tell you the key to getting through it successfully is by planning ahead. Our family uses this same strategy when it comes to planning meals," says Cabot's Registered Dietitian Regan Jones. "Breakfast would never make it on the table in time for my kids to be on time for school if we weren't prepared in advance."

A good way to start off any early morning meal is by serving something that was prepared the day before. "That way, you don't have to rush out of bed, and if you burn the toast or realize you've already used the last egg in the carton, the kids won't have to go to school hungry," says Regan. "Muffins are always a good option for a quick breakfast, and they are easy to make. You can even bake them on a lazy Sunday, freeze them individually, then warm them in the toaster oven for a few minutes before serving."

When it comes to packing a lunch, simple is best. A traditional sandwich paired with a nutritious snack is the way to go. "Instead of putting prepackaged cookies or cake in your child's lunchbox, satisfy their sweet tooth with something healthy," adds Regan. "Kids love bite-sized foods, so fill a small container with grapes or berries, cubed cheese and nuts. The variety of texture and flavor will keep them interested and away from the empty calorie desserts."

For a delicious dinner after a long day, there are two key things to remember: (1) a single-dish dinner saves time, and (2) prepare your ingredients in advance. "Any chef de cuisine worth their salt keeps their kitchen running flawlessly by being prepared. Why should your kitchen be any different?" notes Regan. "If you're expecting a tough day at work, prepare your ingredients the night before. This includes chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, and getting your spices and seasonings in order. You can even take the process a step further by choosing a casserole-style single-dish meal. By preparing all the ingredients and placing them in a baking dish, all you have to do when you get home from work is heat the oven and pop in your dish." Toss together a quick side salad, and dinner is served, leaving you plenty of time to brush up on your algebra.

For more family-friendly recipes from Cabot, visit http://www.cabotcheese.coop/recipes.

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Word of the Day

August 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Equity. Value an owner has in a piece of property less the debt against it. For example, if the market value of a house is $150,000 and the owner has paid off $10,000 of a $75,000 mortgage, the owner has $85,000 equity.

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Question of the Day

August 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What is a loan-to-value ratio?
A: The loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, is the loan amount expressed as a percent of either the purchase price or the appraised value of the property. It is an important factor considered by lenders before approving a mortgage. 

Few lenders will lend the full value of a property unless they have guarantees such as those offered by the Veterans Administration (VA). Otherwise, the risks are just too high because if the borrower defaults in the early years of the loan, the lender is stuck with a bad loan. 

This is why lenders prefer a down payment of 20 percent, with an 80 percent LTV. 

Buying private mortgage insurance, which insures the lender against default, can reduce the LTV to 90 or 95 percent, making it possible to have a down payment of 10 or 5 percent.

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Tips for Fall Decorating

August 19, 2011 5:03 pm

With August winding down, it’s nearly time to focus on Fall. Get rid of any end-of-summer blues by planning a fun Fall project, like redecorating your living space. While you may want to wait for September to de-summer your space, here are a handful of fun fall decorating tips:

1. Take down summer. The first step is to go through your house and remove your summery decorations—beachy blue hues, those light white drapes or bright colored plates and pillows.

2. Incorporate orange. Orange is fun and versatile, with hues ranging from vibrant to deep. Grab an orange pillow or throw for your couch, place a few pretty orange bowls along your dining-room table and fill with fruit, or run an orange rug down your entry hall.

3. Fireplace fun. While the weather is still warm and a fire is the last thing on your mind, that doesn’t mean you need to neglect your fireplace. Place a few fun candles of varying heights inside your fireplace for a cozy effect, and decorate your mantel with fall colors and foliage.

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10 Ways to Make a Small Room Look Larger

August 19, 2011 5:03 pm

Most people have one: that room in the house that they wish was just a little larger. What many don't realize is that with a little work and some TLC, they could have exactly what they're looking for.

Here, Lowe's offers 10 designer tricks to help you make any room look larger:

1. For the illusion of a larger room, use a color scheme that is light rather than bright or dark. Pastels, neutrals and white are all color possibilities.

2. Use a monochromatic color scheme on the furniture, rugs and walls. Select different shades and textures of your single color.

3. Lighting is a key element in opening up a space. Recessed spot lighting is visually appealing and is perfect for a small space. A torchiere light is great for bouncing light off of the ceiling and back down on the room. Skylights and solar tubes are natural alternatives for adding light to a room.

4. Limit the number of accessories to avoid the cluttered feeling.

5. The floor and the ceiling are the fifth and sixth walls of every room. A light-colored flooring such as light oak or a light-colored carpet will make the room appear brighter and more open. The same applies to the ceiling—use a light color or white to "open up" the space above.

6. Increase the appearance of the size of the room by adding wall mirrors. They not only reflect images, they reflect light and color. Be a little daring! Use mirror tiles to mirror an entire wall. Your room will appear to double in size.

7. Don't place too many pieces of furniture in a small space. A love seat may work better than a full-size sofa depending on the size and shape of the room. Add two medium-sized chairs or two small wood chairs. Place the chairs closer to the wall and then pull them into the area when additional seating is needed.

8. Add paintings or prints to the walls. One large painting works better than a group of small paintings.

9. The visual balance of a room is also important. A large, brightly colored element can overwhelm a room and decrease the appearance of space.

10. A glass table, whether it is a dining, coffee or end table, will keep the appearance of an open and free space.

For more how-to project ideas, visit Lowe's How-To Library at http://www.lowes.com/cd_How+To+Library_615580068_.

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Word of the Day

August 19, 2011 5:03 pm

Encroachment. A building or other improvement that extends beyond its boundary and intrudes upon the property of another.

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Question of the Day

August 19, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What about state and local governments?

A: Just about every state now offers loans for renovation and rehabilitation at below-market interest rates through its Housing Finance Agency or a similar agency. Call your governor’s office to get the name and phone number of the agency in your area.

At the municipal level, many cities also have programs for special improvements to certain blocks and neighborhoods they are trying to spruce up. Call City Hall, as well as a Community Development Agency in your city.

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Last-Minute Summer Home Maintenance Tips

August 19, 2011 5:03 pm

The summer's not over yet. And while there's still time for some fun in the sun, this is also a good time to think about some last-minute maintenance that is sure to help you increase the longevity of your home and reduce energy costs.

Here are some tips from Andy Rathke, a former commercial and residential real estate and construction executive who now runs a HandyPro handyman franchise in Charlotte, NC.

Roof and Attic Ventilation and Insulation:
Make sure attic, soffit and roof vents are running, open and clear of debris to allow proper ventilation. Properly ventilated and insulated attics reduce heating and cooling costs.

Gutters and Downspouts:
Loose, leaking or clogged gutters can cause water damage on soffits or basement leaks. Before this happens inspect, clean and if necessary repair or replace.

Caulking and Grout:
Inspect caulking and grout around tubs, showers, sinks, windows and door. Replace if deteriorating to protect material behind the walls, avoid water damage and mold growth.

Air Conditioning System Inspection and Filter Change:
Have your air conditioning system checked by a licensed HVAC mechanic semi-annually to ensure top efficiency. Replace filters monthly to improve air quality and reduce energy costs.

Dryer Vents
If your dryer is taking more than one cycle to dry a load, there's likely lint accumulation in the dryer vent. Annual maintenance prevents dryer fires, keeps dryers running efficiently and saves money on energy bills.

"Consumers who follow these guidelines," says Rathke, "will increase the longevity of their homes and save money in the long run."


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