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Mary Mastroeni

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Question of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

Q: Does the seller take the furnishings once the home is sold?

A: Normally. This is because the fixtures—personal property that is permanently attached to a home, such as built-in bookcases or a furnace—automatically stay with the house unless noted otherwise in the sales contract. Anything that is not nailed down is negotiable, including appliances that are not built in, such as washers and dryers.


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Word of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

Assessment. Tax or charge levied on property by a taxing authority to pay for local improvements such as sidewalks, streets, and sewers.

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Record Wildfire Season Impacting the U.S.

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

As wildfires continue to rage in Arizona and Florida, every state in the country now has the potential for a wildfire. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, nearly every state in the U.S. has already experienced a wildfire this year. Wildfires during the first five months of this year have burned 3.2 million acres, due to soon surpass the 3.4 million acres of land and property that burned during all of last year.
Wildfires are a serious risk to life and property throughout the United States and Canada. As the weather becomes hot and dry, so is the increased potential for wildfires. State Farm® wants to remind you that the best way to reduce property loss due to wildfire is to plan ahead. 

One of the most important steps to reduce wildfire damage is to clear and maintain a defensible space around your home and structures. Clearing or trimming vegetation reduces the chance of fire damage and provides a safety zone for firefighters. Here are several easy and inexpensive ways to create a defensible space:
• Remove dead shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches and dried leaves 30 - 100 feet around your house.
• Keep trees and shrubs properly thinned and pruned within the defensible space. 

• Remove ladder fuels—plants, low branches, and fire wood that let a fire on the ground climb into the trees.
• Clear five feet around the base of the house and fill the space with fire resistant plants or materials such as rocks or gravel. 

• Take care of the clean, open space around your home on a regular basis by raking up pine needles and removing downed branches or trees.
• Keep your roof and gutters clear of debris and remove overhanging branches.
• Keep grass and weeds mowed at a low height. 

In addition to protecting your home, review your homeowner’s insurance coverage with your agent, especially if you have made recent changes to your property. Insuring your property to at least 100 percent of its estimated replacement cost affords the greatest protection to the policyholder in the event of a loss. Remember to document your belongings by creating a home inventory. An accurate inventory and proof of ownership can make your claim settlement easier and faster. 

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) provides regional information on wildfire risks and ways to reduce loss to your home and business. State Farm is a supporter and member company of IBHS.

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Common Sense Safety Tips for Summer Travel

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

School is out, graduations are over and the official start of summer is near. More than 3 million Californians are expected to hit the roads on the Fourth of July weekend—one of the busiest travel holidays of the year. Whether you have longstanding travel plans, a last minute road trip in mind, or just sticking around town this summer, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reminds you to give some thought to your summer travel to ensure everyone arrives safely and can enjoy the trip. 

Plan Your Trip
• Plan, map and estimate the duration of your driving ahead of time and let others know your plans. You can estimate the cost of gas for your trip at http://fuelcostcalculator.aaa.com/.
• Expect to encounter roadwork, delays & detours —'Slow for the Cone Zone'
• Check road conditions, including possible road closures. Visit www.dot.ca.gov for real time highway conditions.

Prepare Your Vehicle
• Check the tires, including the spare—proper inflation and good tread can save money, time and lives.
• Inspect the engine, battery, hoses, belts and fluids for wear and proper levels. Check the A/C.
• Do a "once around" —test all the lights, wipers and clean the windows (inside and out).
• If you're not sure of what to do, consider a quick inspection by a qualified technician. A few dollars up front can mean peace of mind and safe arrivals, as well as no costly on-the-road repairs and trip interruptions.
• Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit, including jumper cables, a flashlight and plenty of bottled water.

Safety First and Always
• Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time.
• If you have a flat tire, engine problems or a fender bender, drive out of traffic lanes and off the highway if possible—freeway shoulders are not safe for repair work.
• Always plan ahead, and use a Designated Sober Driver.
• If you see drunk or dangerous drivers, it is legal and encouraged for you to call 911. Clues can help motorists detect a drunk driver: excessive weaving/swerving, especially in and out of the lane; traveling at speeds much slower than the flow of traffic; braking erratically or stopping in the lane; sudden stops for signal lights and slow starts once they change; remaining at the signal lights after they turn green—asleep at the wheel; making wide turns and/or cutting the corner striking the curb.

Buckle Up Drivers & Passengers
• Parents, grandparents and caregivers need to use the correct seat for young passengers and be sure the seat is installed properly. NHTSA and the Office of Traffic Safety recommend keeping infants, toddlers and older children in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements. Visit www.ots.ca.gov/Child_Passenger_Safety.asp for assistance with proper car seat installation in advance of your trip.
• Remember that long trips can be particularly tough on your kids, especially in the heat—pack plenty of snacks and cold drinks for the road (consider freezing juice boxes or water bottles overnight).
• Use books, toys, DVDs and video games to keep children occupied and the driver focused.
• Keep children 12 and under in the back seat—it's the safest place.
• Stopping along the drive gives everyone a chance to stretch and makes the trip easier. If you have a fussy baby, do not take them out of their car seat while driving to soothe or provide a bottle. If your child needs that level of attention, pull over in a safe place, such as a rest stop.
• Older children need to ride in a booster seat from about age four until a seat belt fits them correctly. Be sure to try the 5-Step Test at www.ots.ca.gov/Child_Passenger_Safety.asp before graduating from a booster to a seat belt.

Focus on the Road
• Don't text or talk on your cell phone while driving—even hands-free. If you need to make a call, check road or weather conditions or respond to a text, wait until you stop in safe place, such as a rest stop or parking lot.
• Don't program your mobile GPS while you are driving. Either have a passenger do it or stop in a safe place.
• Share the driving with other passengers to avoid fatigue.
• Rest—driving while drowsy can be fatal. Even a 30 minute nap can help.
• Stop for food or beverages. Avoid eating while driving.
• Don't fall into the trap of driving while angry—aggressive driving kills.

Never Leave a Child Alone In a Car—Not Even for a Minute
• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open. An outside temperature of 101 degrees can easily result in an interior temperature of 140 degrees.
• If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 911. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
• Place your cell phone, purse or other important item needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in the backseat. This triggers adults to see children when they open the rear door and reach for their belongings.
• Set your cell phone or Outlook reminder to be sure you dropped your child off at day care. Have a plan that if your child is late for daycare, you will be called within a few minutes.
• Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
• If a child is missing, check the pool first, and then your car or any other vehicles at your house, including car trunks.
• Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.

A little advance planning and preparation can keep you, your family and our roads safe during the summer months. This effort is part of the ongoing California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, where hundreds of state and local agencies, advocacy groups and private industries help develop tactics to significantly reduce deaths and injuries. For more traffic safety information log on to www.ots.ca.gov.

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Avoid Roofing Scams: 10 Questions to Ask Before Installing a New Roof

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

Following the recent severe weather, "storm chasing" contractors may begin showing up in affected areas, offering questionable products and services to homeowners looking to repair or replace a roof. Promising rock-bottom prices and quick turnaround for a new roof, these often unlicensed and untrained home improvement renegades prey on consumers when they're most vulnerable. 

Unfortunately, this is a common practice that usually results in poor installations that later cause trouble, when the installer has moved on to the next town. 

Choosing a new roof to protect your home and family is a big decision, and deserves careful consideration. 

The nonprofit Metal Roofing Alliance recommends homeowners ask these questions before signing a contract for a new roof:
1. Is the company licensed, and are the employees bonded and insured? How long has the company been in business?
2. What types of roofing materials does the company offer? The industry has evolved—there are many choices beyond the old asphalt shingle.
3. Will the contractor provide a written, final estimate?
4. Can the new roof be installed over the existing roof?
5. What are the environmental considerations of the new materials and disposal of the old roof?
6. What company manufactures the roofing material the contractor will use?
7. How long with will the new roof last? What does the warranty cover?
8. Will the company use subcontractors? If so, how will they be managed/supervised?
9. Is there pending legal action against the company?
10. Can you speak with former customers?

Even without storm damage, most homeowners will have to buy three or more roofs in their lifetime.
A growing number of homeowners are avoiding the chore of several roof installations by choosing durable and environmentally-friendly metal roofs. Resistant to cracking, shrinking and eroding, metal roofs stand up to hail, high winds and even wildfires. Today's residential metal roofing is made to look exactly like common roofing material—such as asphalt shingle, cedar shake, clay tile or slate roofing—only stronger and more durable. No matter the style, most homeowners who choose a metal roof will never have to worry about re-roofing again.
For more information, visit www.metalroofing.com.

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9 in 10 American Workers Not Expecting Salary Increase to Account for Rising Cost of Goods

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

89.9 percent of those who currently have a job say they are not counting on a salary increase next year, according to the latest American Pulse™ Survey of 5,242 respondents. Consumers are still struggling with high fuel prices and the rising cost of goods while incomes will likely remain unchanged. Only 10.1 percent think they will see a pay increase while the rest are planning to have less disposable income.
In order to prepare for higher prices and stagnant incomes, most Americans (70.5 percent) are planning to buy just the necessities. Driving less and spending less on clothing are also popular penny-pinching activities.

How to Prepare for Rising Food/Gas Prices If Salary Stays the Same :
Only buying necessities: 70.5%
Driving less: 63.4%
Spending less on clothing: 58.9%
Comparison shopping: 53.1%
Sticking to a strict budget: 50.0%
Buying more store brand/generic products: 49.9%
Spending less on groceries: 42.0%
Nothing: 6.6% 

The vast majority of consumers who expect their salaries to remain the same are planning to cut back—only 6.6% are not planning to make any changes to their spending habits. 

Further, 3 out of 4 Americans (75.7 percent) have little or no confidence that the government’s economic policies will get the economy back on track while 24.3 percent say they are confident or very confident. Confidence was at its lowest in March (21.5 percent), and has been steadily declining since June 2010 (31.2 percent). 

In addition, the majority of American consumers (68.6 percent) are somewhat/very worried that the U.S. government will slip into another recession this year. 11.8 percent are not very or not at all worried while 19.6 percent are unsure. 

The Federal Reserve has suggested printing money as a way to help get the economy back on track, but most Americans don’t think this will work. While 18.0% think creating more currency will boost the economy, over half (61.0 percent) say flooding the market with new bills will hurt the economy in the long run (21 percent aren’t sure). 

Speaker of the House John Boehner’s policy that would match any increases to the debt ceiling with equal spending cuts is mostly favorable among Adults 18+. 44.2 percent somewhat or strongly agree with this plan; 21.7 percent disagree and 34.1 percent are neutral. In order to balance the budget, Americans are willing to make cuts to public workers’ salaries and benefits (49.0 percent), welfare programs (38.9 percent) and military spending (33.8 percent).

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Question of the Day

June 14, 2011 5:27 pm

Q: What contingencies should appear in the offer?

A: When you look to purchase a home, anticipate potential problems. But protect against them so that if something does go wrong, you can cancel the contract without penalty. This is what contingencies allow you to do. They should be included in any offer you present to buy a home.
Most offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on your ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows you to have a professional inspect the property.


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Word of the Day

June 14, 2011 5:27 pm

Assessed value. A value placed on a property by an agency of the government for taxation and other purposes.

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Second Round Knock-Outs: How Public Adjusters Work for Homeowners to Gain More for Insurance Claims

June 14, 2011 5:27 pm

AAA Public Adjusting Group, Inc. would like to educate potential consumers about the roll of public adjusters. Living in a volatile environment like South Florida often makes homeowners, business owners and vacation-property owners the victims of natural disaster. In such cases the homeowners (hopefully) have insurance coverage for their valuable property. When a property owner makes a claim the insurance company usually awards them an appropriate sum for any incurred damages; however, there are many times when the insurance company offers insufficient amounts or finds loopholes as to why damages are not covered. In such cases residents of South Florida have the unique opportunity to attempt a second-round knockout of unfair settlements, by hiring a public adjuster. This freedom is not enjoyed in all 50 states and in most states a person would have to independently hire a paid-by-the-hour attorney in order to investigate unfair settlements. 

A public insurance adjuster is an authority on loss adjustments that property owners can retain to assist in preparing, filing, and adjusting their insurance claims. One's home or business is often their largest investment. What follows are six reasons to call a Public Adjuster: 
1. According to a recent Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) Report for 2005, individuals were awarded $2029 without a PA and $17,187 with PA representation for hurricane claims; for non hurricane claims individuals received $1,391 vs. $9,379—a difference of 547 percent.
2. Public Adjusters represent YOU and YOUR interests exclusively.
3. Insurance companies have the benefit of representatives protecting their interests. Why shouldn't homeowners?
4. They are knowledgeable about Insurance Contract provisions and continuously stay abreast of ever changing laws and regulations in the realm of insurance case law.
5. When the insurance company has estimated your loss or made an initial settlement offer, homeowners are not required to accept their assessment of the claim. Public Adjusters can help to properly contest or appeal Insurance Company's findings and maximize claims and settlements to adequately compensate for loss.
6. They can make sure that all required paper work and claim documentation are submitted to the insurance company in a timely manner.

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Hip to Be Square: Custom QR Codes Can Help Brand Your Product and Deliver Results

June 14, 2011 5:27 pm

Advanced Telecom Services announces its new ATS QR code service that provides custom QR codes to businesses and organizations. 

With ATS QR Codes, products and organizations can brand custom QR codes with easily recognizable logos and graphics. This gives added emphasis to the QR code and enables it to better represent the brand or product and stand out in the advertisement to secure larger amounts of scans from consumers. 

“One of the raps against QR codes has been that it is nothing more than a square box of squiggly black and white lines that don’t represent one brand over another,” says Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services. “Custom QR codes enhance the look and feel of the customer interaction.” 

According to Bentz, custom QR codes have been one of the most talked-about mobile marketing products in the last few months. Companies are using them mostly because of the unique design. And, they are enhancing the promotions with a mobile web site that shows up better on the smaller screen of the mobile phone. 

“It is important to look like your brand from the outside and the inside,” adds Frank Mazza, lead designer for Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code division. "A custom QR code does just that." 

QR codes were invented by Denso-Ware—a subsidiary of Toyota—in 1994, to track parts for vehicle manufacturing in Japan. The bar codes have been popular in Japan and Korea for many years, but are more recently becoming part of marketing efforts in the United States and Canada. 

In Canada, QR codes are used on the front page of the Canadian passport application to speed up the processing of new passports. United Airlines, among other innovative airlines, uses QR codes as boarding passes. And, when you sign up for Google Places, you’ll receive a decal QR code for your front door that links visitors to your web site.

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