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

Living on a Budget - Home Remedies Better, Cheaper

July 19, 2011 4:59 pm

At a time when it seems that prices are soaring everywhere we look, it is no wonder that cost conscious homemakers are now saying, "Ouch!" at the cost of some popular household cleaning products.
But there are proven home remedies that will do many of the same cleaning jobs-and often for pennies on the dollar. Here are some of the top picks: 

Keep chrome fixtures clean and shiny by wiping them down with new or used fabric softener sheets. For stubborn water spots, try rubbing alcohol on a paper towel. 

To remove tough stains from the inside of a vase, fill the vase with warm water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets. 

For a fog-free mirror after you shower, wipe it down a couple of times a week with a few drops of aftershave on a paper towel. 

Fill in unsightly nail holes with plain white toothpaste; smooth with a damp sponge. 

Make an effective all-purpose cleaner for countertops and appliances by filling a spray bottle with one third pine cleaner, one third ammonia and one third water. 

Prolong the life of fresh flowers by filling the vase with a quart of warm water, two tablespoons vinegar and three tablespoons sugar.
Sharpen scissors by cutting 10 times through three layers of foil or by cutting a piece of fine sandpaper into small pieces. 

Try polishing the silver with toothpaste; just rub on and wipe off.
Remove small scratches on polished wood furniture by rubbing them with a shelled walnut. 

Smelly shoes? Put a few tea leaves into nylon stockings and stuff one stocking into each shoe. Leave it there for a couple of days until the smell vanishes. 

To keep lint and dust off glass tabletops longer, clean them with a solution of one tablespoon of fabric softener and a quart of warm water. (Also works well for computer screens and TV screens.)


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Preparing a Vacation Property

July 19, 2011 4:59 pm

Whether you are an owner or a renter, if you are planning to occupy a summer rental or vacation home, you want it to look and smell fresh and clean the first time you open the door. So here are some ideas from the folks at HousingInfo.com on how to prepare your vacation property for yourself, or any seasonal renters or other family members.

When tackling the cleaning project make a cleaning checklist by area: bedrooms, living room, kitchen, etc. Then record the specific duties you’ll want to complete in each room every time a renter vacates your vacation rental. Here’s an example:

For the living area:
Sweep or vacuum floors, then mop or scrub them
Dust window sills and ledges
Dust all furniture, window dressings, picture frames, ceiling fans, and lamps.
Vacuum furniture, including under seat cushions
Check sofa bed and remove any used linens
Provide clean linens for the sofa bed
Wash all windows and glass doors
Empty and clean wastebaskets

For the bedrooms:
Change sheets and pillowcases after checking for wear and tear or stains
Vacuum floor and under beds
Check for personal belongings left in drawers and closets
Wash blankets and comforters after every 10 rentals
Dust furniture and clean mirrors
Check windows for fingerprints
Check for dead light bulbs

Bathroom cleaning tips:
Clean and sanitize toilets
Clean, scrub and sanitize all surfaces, including showers, bathtubs, vanity, and sinks
Polish chrome
Wash floors and tile walls
Stock clean linens
Empty wastebasket
Replenish liquid hand soap

Kitchen cleaning tips:
Wash floor and clean, scrub, and sanitize sinks, countertops, and backsplashes
Clean appliances, counters, cabinets, table, and chairs
Clean range top and wipe out inside of oven
Clean inside and outside of refrigerator and microwave oven
Empty dishwasher, and quickly organize cupboards
Refill dishwashing detergent, liquid dish soap, coffee filters, and trash bags
Put out clean dishtowels, and a new sponge

Cleaning tips for miscellaneous areas like a kitchen nook, library, laundry room, garage, outdoor areas, and any balcony spaces. Make sure you do the following in these spaces:
Check all light bulbs and change those that have burnt out
Change your furnace filter once a month
Ensure washer and dryer are empty and clean out dryer lint trap
Wipe off patio set, clean barbeque grill

Using this guide will ensure your rental or vacation property is welcoming and clean—whether it is you or a rental client who will be occupying the space this summer or fall.

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Question of the Day

July 18, 2011 4:59 pm

Q: How long do bankruptcies and foreclosure stay on a credit report?
A:
They can remain on your credit record for seven to 10 years.
However, a borrower who has worked hard to reestablish good credit may be shown some leniency by the lender. And the circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy may also influence a lender's decision. For example, if you went bankrupt because you were laid off from your job, the lender may be more sympathetic. If, however, you went through bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, it is unlikely the lender will readily give you a break.


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Word of the Day

July 18, 2011 4:59 pm

Competitive market analysis. A method of determining home value that looks at recent home sales, homes presently on the market, and homes that were listed but did not sell.

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How Much Do Americans Still Rely on Credit Cards?

July 18, 2011 4:59 pm

The infographic, titled “Just How Much Do We Need Our Credit Cards?” shows that American credit card debt is expected to rise to $1.177 trillion this year. The colorful diagram also breaks down other details of the American credit card industry, including who uses credit cards, how many cards the average American carries, credit card usage growth and the types of cards preferred by Americans.

First introduced in 1950 by Frank X McNamara, credit cards have quickly become ingrained into American culture. And, despite the recent popularity of extreme couponing and budgeting books, websites and television shows, Americans continue to rely on credit cards in their daily lives.

Who uses credit cards
• Young Americans are gravitating toward credit cards, with 21 being the average age that an American under the age of 35 first received a credit card; and 8 in 10 college students having at least one student credit card.
• When evaluating race, it was found that Asians are most likely to carry a credit card (87.4% have at least one) and Blacks are least likely to carry a credit card (56.7% have at least one). 

How many credit cards
• Households, on average have more than one credit card, with the breakdowns varying slightly by race (1.5 in Black households, 2.1 in Hispanic households, 2.3 in White households and 2.8 in Asian households)
• A shocking 1 in 7 Americans have more than 10 credit cards 

A decade of growth
• The number of Americans with one or more credit cards has grown by 13.84% over the past decade (181 million Americans in 2010 versus 159 million in 2000)
• While there has been a slight decrease in credit card debt in recent years, it’s still 27.35% more than in 2000 ($866 billion in 2010 versus $680 billion in 2000) 

What card is king
• Americans prefer Visa, with more than 104 million people carrying a credit card that features the Visa logo
• Master Card, Discover and American Express are the three other highest ranking brands, at 83 million, 42 million and 36 million respectively
• Store brand cards and gas credit cards also rank high on the list, with 99 million and 56 million 

Americans carrying these types of cards
The CreditDonkey infographic reveals the need for increased credit education, as expressed by 84% of undergraduates who say they need more personal finance education.

“Credit cards are powerful tools to increase your purchasing power,” says Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey. “They also carry security features that can make them safer to use than a check or cash. However, cardholders can easily fall into a pattern of overspending each month, putting them at risk of carrying more debt than they can pay off. That’s why at CreditDonkey, we place a high value on credit education and responsible credit card usage.”

For more information, go to http://www.creditdonkey.com/

View the complete infographic here http://www.creditdonkey.com/need-credit-card.html.


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The Real Truth about Bed Bugs

July 18, 2011 4:59 pm

 Bed bugs are back. Since 2000, bed bug infestations have risen 81 percent, according to The National Pest Management Association. This resurgence has consumers nationwide on high alert, seeking information on the pests and how they can protect themselves.

Gail Getty, a noted entomologist at the University of California Berkley, explains, "Bed bugs and their habits are actually very simple to understand. For the unassuming public, though, differentiating between fact and fiction is becoming ever so difficult with the amount of information available. Understanding the basics is the first line of defense a consumer has against the unwelcomed critters, which can take a toll both financially and emotionally on a victim."

Confirmed Facts
• Bed bugs can be found on bedside alarm clocks
o True: bed bugs have been known to fester in alarm clocks and other appliances and within dark crevices like coffee makers.
• Bed bugs like to hitch rides
o True: bed bugs can very easily be transferred in suitcases and on clothing, putting travelers at extra-high risk; Bedbugs do have primitive wings, but they cannot fly.
• Some people are not affected by bed bugs bites
o True: Some people do not have a physical reaction to bed bug bites and may be unaware that bed bugs are in their home until they actually see them, but everyone is at risk for having infestations as bed bugs do not discriminate based on socio-economic class.
• Bed bugs can live for many months without feeding
o True: Bed bugs can live for many months without feeding. That is why it is imperative to encase mattresses, box springs, and pillows with bed bug proof protectors. Bedding encasements effectively trap bugs that are in and on your mattress and box spring and cut them off from their food source indefinitely.
• Insect foggers provide very little control of bed bugs and may even cause the bed bug population to disperse, making control more difficult
o True: Insect foggers do not effectively control bed bugs. Most insect foggers contain a flammable propellant and some have been associated with accidental fires. The best way to control bed bug problems is to contact a pest professional, who will help with vacuuming, and steaming, laundering belongings, sealing areas and gaps where bed bugs can hide and encasing mattresses, box springs, and pillows with bed bug proof protectors, such as the entomologist tested Allergy Luxe® collection with Arm & Hammer™ odor neutralizing technology.
• Bed bugs reproduce at alarming rates
o True: Depending on conditions, bed bugs can produce three or four generations in one year; a female can produce one to five eggs a day, which are as big as a pinhead and can hardly be seen.

Myths Debunked
• Bed bugs spread deadly diseases
o Wrong: Bed bugs do not transmit disease. Bed bug bites, however, can cause allergic reaction in some people similar to a mosquito bite. Frequent scratching of the bite marks or picking the scabs can cause infections. And people with severe and/or repeated infestations can feel anxious, worried or ashamed.
• Chemicals/pesticides will kill all bed bug stages.
o Wrong: It is difficult to kill all bed bugs with only a pesticide application. Successful treatment depends on an Integrated Pest Management approach to bed bug control which involves, vacuuming, and steaming, laundering belongings, sealing areas and gaps where bed bugs can hide, homeowner, tenant, manager education and encasing mattresses, box springs, and pillows with bed bug proof protectors. Do not use home remedies such as kerosene.
• I can get rid of bed bugs by leaving my house empty for a few weeks.
o Wrong: Adult bed bugs can live as long as twelve months without a meal, so a long vacation won't provide you with relief. The only way to deal with the problem is to treat it directly and monitor results over the long haul.
• Bed bugs feed off of dirt and other grime
o Wrong: Bed bugs feed on the blood of human beings and other animals such as dogs, cats, birds, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and mice.
• Bed bugs are mostly found in beds OR found in shelters; only poor people or dirty people get them.
o Wrong: They're found close to where they feed. Typically they're found in a bed mattress, box spring, bed frames and around the bed. They're also found in electric outlets, switches and behind pictures. Bed bugs can be found in hotels, motels, dormitories, apartments, condos, private homes, and even in public places, such as retail stores, movie theaters, businesses and offices. Anyone can get bed bugs.
• Bed bugs are too small to see with the naked eye
o Wrong: The adult is about the size of an apple seed. The eggs and baby or nymph is about 1 mm long, almost entirely white and difficult to see with the naked eye. The nymph turns red as it feeds and fills with blood, making them easier to see.
• Bed bugs come out only at night
o Wrong: It's true that they are more active at night and in the early morning, but bed bugs sense the heat and carbon dioxide given off by humans and therefore may come out at any time of day.
• Bed bug bites are easily felt
o Wrong: You do not feel a bed bug biting because they inject their saliva first which contains an anesthetic, numbing chemical and an anti-clotting agent so your blood flows freely.
• Walking into a room that has bed bugs means you will get bed bugs
o Wrong: They spend 90% of their time hiding and are usually active at night. Bed bugs avoid light and do not like to be disturbed. So you will not necessarily walk away with bed bugs just by being in a room that has them.
• If you have bed bugs you need to throw away infested clothing and furniture
o Wrong: Clothing can be laundered to get rid of bed bugs. In most cases furniture can be treated and should only be discarded if there are no acceptable treatments that can rid them of bed bugs.
• It's too cold where I live for bed bugs!
o Wrong: Even in the coldest climates bed bugs can still thrive. For starters, most bed bug infestations are located indoors. Bed bugs only need to be transported for short periods of time on clothing or luggage to find a new home to infest.
• Sleeping in a metal bed will protect you from bed bugs
o Wrong: Having a metal bed will not protect you from bed bugs. In some scenarios a metal bed may actually make it harder to detect a bed bug infestation because the hollow tubing of a metal bed is a great place for bed bugs to hide.
• You can't get bed bugs from your neighbor
o Wrong: Bed bug migration from one home or apartment to another is actually more common than most people think. In apartments or shared housing such as condos, the risk of migration is even higher. Bed bugs can travel through tiny cracks in the wall, through connected vents or spaces, or in the seams of floor boards or the edges of carpet. They have even been shown to travel out a front door, down the hall and into a neighboring apartment.
• Bed bug bites all look the same
o Wrong: They can be small and red or bigger like welts. Some people don't react at all to a bed bug bite. It is almost impossible to diagnose a bed bug problem solely on the presence of bites on a human host.

For more information, please visit www.londonlux.com.


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Extreme Heat Calls for Preventive Measures

July 18, 2011 4:59 pm

 With the recent extreme heat, the Minnesota Chiropractic Association (MCA) would like to remind the public to take extra precautionary measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable summer.
MCA President, Dr. Jennifer Naas explains that "prevention is a critical part of overall health and wellness." She adds that "the Center for Disease Control has a great list to safety tips that we all could benefit from."

Safety Tips:
• Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. During conditions of extreme heat, spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, movie theaters, public libraries, or public health sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.
• Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Rapid weight loss may be a sign of dehydration. Don't drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually can cause you to lose more body fluid.
• Elderly people (65 years and older), and people with chronic health conditions are more prone to heat stress. Make frequent checks on the status of elderly or ill relatives or neighbors. If necessary, move them to an air-conditioned environment during the hottest part of the day.
• Do not leave anyone—children, disabled individuals, pets—in cars for even brief periods. Temperatures can rise to life-threatening levels in a matter of minutes.
• Use fans to increase ventilation. If the temperatures exceed 90 degrees F, instead of having a fan blow hot air in from a window, have the fan blow the hot air to the outside. At extreme high temperatures, a fan loses its ability to effectively reduce heat-related illness.
• Cool showers, baths, and sponge baths can be used to reduce body temperatures. In addition, wet clothing has a cooling effect.

For more information, visit www.mnchiro.com.

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10 Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

July 18, 2011 4:59 pm

Whether your goal is to thin out the household clutter or simply to take in some extra cash, having a garage sale is a good way to get the whole family to help you reach the goal. “Nothing motivates my kids to clean up their rooms faster than the idea that they can rake in some spending money by selling toys they no longer play with,” says Florida mom Sharon Flynn.

Flynn, who has hosted dozens of garage sales over the years, shares her 10 top tips for making your sale successful:

• Check city ordinances - Do you need a permit? Parking exceptions? Is there any rule about signage?
• Cheap advertising – Run a free ad in the community throwaway. Post notices in local launderettes and grocery stores. Prepare signs to post at cross street intersections early on the morning of the sale.
• Be prepared – Have plenty of change and singles on hand, as well as newspaper for wrapping fragile items and bags for carrying away.
• Price low – Yard sale shoppers are looking for bargains. Price your sale items accordingly.
• Expect earlybirds – It takes more time than you think to haul out and display your sale items. Price them in advance and remember that gung-ho yard sale shoppers may be gathering on your driveway by the first light of dawn. Be prepared.
• Keep the pets inside – You may have the world’s friendliest dog, but the presence of a big dog will stop some people from stopping to shop.
• Think refreshments – You—or the kids—can take in a few extra bucks by selling hot or cold beverages and/or homemade snacks.
• Don’t be trusting – Keep an eye on your cashbox at all times. Better yet, keep it tied around your waist. And don’t be tempted to let shoppers enter your home.
• Ease up on prices – Your biggest turnout will be in the early hours. If items are not moving well early on, be prepared to lower prices.
• Plan to clean up – Nothing annoys the neighbors more than signs left up for days after the sale. Get out there and remove them. Donate the leftovers to charity.


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71% of Americans Would Rather See Spending Cuts Than Stimulus: Survey

July 15, 2011 4:59 pm

Over 5,000 Americans participate in the American Pulse Survey conducted twice a month, and the most recent survey was conducted from July 5 through July 7, 2011. The latest results show that most Americans would rather see the government cut spending than try to boost the economy with more spending. Also, the majority agrees a debt ceiling is necessary, Social Security is worth saving and the U.S. should drill its own oil. 

In order to heal the wounded economy, the U.S. government could cut spending or spend more in an attempt to boost the economy. 70.7% of Americans would rather see Congress curb spending, according to the latest American Pulse™ Survey of 5,296 respondents. 84.4% of Republicans, 73.2% of Independents and 58.6% of Democrats agree: 

Which should happen first in order for recovery to happen quicker? 

Cut spending to reduce national debt
Adults 18+: 70.7%
Republicans: 84.4%
Democrats: 58.6%
Independents: 73.2% 

Spend more to stimulate the economy and job market
Adults 18+: 29.3%
Republicans: 15.6%
Democrats: 41.4%
Independents: 26.8% 

With heated debt ceiling negotiations taking place in Washington and Americans’ eagerness to cut government spending, it should come as no surprise that the majority thinks a limit on debt is needed. 70.5% say a set debt limit is “Necessary.” 80.1% of Republicans, 72.2% of Independents and 65.3% of Democrats agree. 

Further, 74.4% of Americans have little or no confidence that the government’s economic policies will get the economy back on track. 88.7% of Republicans, 77.6% of Independents and 57.9% of Democrats share this lack of confidence. 

Parties also appear to agree on some of the largest issues facing the nation.
Seven in 10 Americans (70.4%) would rather pay more in taxes in order to have Social Security available to them when they retire. 80.6% of Democrats, 70.6% of Independents and 59.1% of Republicans agree. The other 3 in 10 Americans (29.6%) would rather sacrifice Social Security benefits and pay less in taxes right now. 

83.0% of Americans would rather harvest domestic oil, and 92.0% of Republicans, 82.5% of Independents and 78.0% of Democrats agree. The other 17.0% prefer to preserve our resources and continue buying oil from overseas. 

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

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3 Reasons U.S. Economy Is Doing Better Than Perceived

July 15, 2011 4:59 pm

Newspanel's economics commentator James Park sees reasons for optimism in aspects of the U.S. economy. While not a robust rebound from global recession, Park still sees things to like in leading economic indicators. That's the premise of his latest commentary, “3 Reasons Why the U.S. Economy Is Doing Better Than You Think.” This includes increasing rates of employment growth, increasing use of consumer and corporate credit and a leveling off of energy prices. 

“There have been already some signals showing that although the teeth of the global recession still bite deep into the nation, there's hope for the future—significant improvements may not be so far off,” says Park. 

Employment growth is accelerating
The rate at which new jobs have been created in 2011 has doubled, compared to 2010, points out Park. What's more, job growth is concentrated in small businesses, the sector economists consider fundamental to the US Economy. 

“Small businesses have been hiring more than 1 million people in the last 12 months. In other words...they are moving ahead despite the obstacles laid in their path by the global recession. And this can only be good for the U.S. Economy,” Park says. 

Businesses and Consumers Are Using Credit Again
During the recent global recession, credit markets completely dried up. So the marked expansion of credit markets evident in recent months is great news for the US economy. 

“Things have improved in the last couple of months and short-term borrowing among corporations has been improving ever since the end of 2010,” says Park. “Consumers...have begun borrowing money actively in the last seven months. In fact, between December and July, consumer credit has been continuously improving.” 

This is not to say credit is rebounding to pre-global recession levels of availability. But any expansion can only be good news for the US Economy. 

Energy Prices Have Finally Stopped Increasing
While steadily increasing energy prices in the first part of 2011 made economists fear a double dip recession was inevitable, prices have recently leveled off. 

“There are signals that the much feared energy prices surge has stopped, at least for now,” says Park. “The issues that plague the Middle East could still lead to energy prices increases in the future, but more than likely these will be only short-lived.” 

While recovery from global recession is still fragile, there may be finally reasons to hope. 

“The U.S. economy, in the context of the global recession, shows clear signs that a recovery, perhaps even one as soon as the second half of this year, is not altogether improbable,” says Park.

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