Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Question of the Day

May 10, 2011 10:29 am

Q: Is it true some lenders grant loans based on very little documentation?

A: Not too long ago, they offered in abundance what are called "stated income loans," more commonly referred to as "no doc" or "low-doc" loans, mortgages that require no documentation or little documentation to verify the borrower's income and assets. In return, the borrower-who must have very good credit-makes a big down payment, generally 25 percent or more, and pays a higher interest rate.

Given current market conditions and the sub-prime debacle, these loans have become more difficult to find, cost more, and are mainly funded by hard money lenders who do not conform to bank standards.

The loans are common among self-employed borrowers who have difficulty substantiating all of their income and service industry employees, such as waiters and hair stylists, whose pay is hard to pinpoint exactly. Borrowers also may use no-doc loans when they derive most of their income from commissions or have very complicated income structures.

In reality, calling the loans "no-doc" and "low-doc" are misnomers. Some "low-doc" loans require plenty of documentation, such as tax returns and profit-and-loss statements. Even "no-doc" loans require a credit report and a property appraisal.

Copyright 2008 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Online Businesses Need to Bolster Defense against Cyber Crime

May 10, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 10, 2011-By the very definition, businesses with an online presence- including retailers, tourism, sports or financial services-rely on Internet connectivity to generate revenue. These organizations are the perfect targets for security attacks of all types including information theft, denial of service (DoS) attacks, application vulnerabilities, etc. Radware (NASDAQ: RDWR) a provider of integrated application delivery and network security solutions for business-smart networking, is recommending that all online businesses take a more offensive approach in the way they fight against these attacks by adopting a more complete solution that counters the attack at its real origin.

In addition to the broad spectrum of attacks that have developed in the past years, the motivation for these attacks has evolved from basic financial to vandalism and social activism ("Hacktivism") developing into a "power struggle" between the attacker and the object of the attack as these businesses try to fend off yet another attack. And yet, online businesses have not adjusted their network security solutions to these changes-with many still relying upon traditional defensive-only mitigation technologies. And, these security technologies based on signature detection or behavioral analysis have proven to be inadequate-at best they offer defensive-only business protection against perimeter attacks. Although effective in certain situations, i.e. mitigating the effects of an attack, they are unable to address the underlying cause itself. They are incapable of taking the reins and obtaining the advantage from the attackers.

Online businesses need to reassess the security solutions they have in place so as to best protect their businesses. And, to cite Carl von Clausewitz's adage "The best defense is a good offense," the mitigation of attacks should be done by slowing down or even completely shutting down the zombie computers that generated these attacks. This is the only way to reverse the power relationship that exists between attackers and defenders. This may even convince the attacker to stop targeting one business and attacking another which may be less secure.

Radware has created a list of tips that each online business should follow in order to instill a top-level offensive strategy in fighting cybercrime and protecting their networks.

Good Offense Tips:

1. Study normal usage patterns. Using behavioral analysis tools, profile and characterize the normal usage habits of the application as well as the behavior of users accessing online services.

2. Identify types of behavior: Create a methodology to detect deviations from normal activity of in different types of applications. This will help in clearly identifying abnormal behavior and thus identify users who appear to be acting suspiciously.

3. Analyze and mitigate the attack. Isolate the transactions of the suspicious user and block them at the network's perimeter

4. Analyze the attack tool. Analyze the use of the attack tool deployed and its weaknesses.

5. Create an offensive. Create a method that will exploit the attack tool's weakness identified previously to deactivate the tool wherever located, thus cleaning the "bad traffic" end-to-end beyond the perimeter borders.

6. Measure the effectiveness. Assess the tool used and the success rate. Make adjustments if deemed necessary.

For more information visit www.radware.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Disaster Safety and Mitigation Week of Building Safety Month

May 10, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 10, 2011-The recent outbreaks of deadly tornadoes across Southern and Midwest states are a reminder of the potential for natural disasters to cause property damage and take lives. They also serve as a reminder to take precautions that can lessen the impact.

Throughout the month of May, Building Safety Month, International Code Council Members are providing opportunities for the public and builders to learn about building safety by sharing ideas that make homes and buildings safer and energy efficient. The second week of Building Safety Month, championed by the International Code Council Foundation, is devoted to disaster safety and mitigation.

"We can't stop disasters, but by building to the latest construction codes and standards we definitely can reduce the risks to people and property," ICC CEO Richard P. Weiland says. "Many components contribute to lessening the impact of a disaster. None is more important than those made by the people most responsible for developing, adopting and enforcing building safety codes: building and fire officials, architects, engineers, designers, specifiers, contactors and others who in some way contribute to building safety and easing the impact of disasters."

"There are many things consumers can do to ensure they are prepared in the event of a natural disaster," says Leslie C. Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH )-a national non-profit organization and sponsor of Disaster Safety and Mitigation Week. "One of the most important is to include a tornado safe room in your house-a room designed to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour." Safe rooms become even more important in the southeast and other areas where basements and other below-ground shelters are not an option.

As families affected by the recent tornado outbreak in the southeast begin to recover and start plans to rebuild, FLASH encourages all to "Give an Ordinary Room an Extraordinary Purpose" by building or retrofitting bathrooms, closets, laundry rooms and other interior spaces to safe room standards. The free online resource, www.highwindsaferooms.org, provides cost estimates and sample building plans that allow families and builders to learn how these spaces can be incorporated into a structure.

Throughout Disaster Safety and Mitigation week, members of the ICCF and FLASH will be sponsoring events to educate consumers on how to: develop a family disaster plan; create a disaster preparedness kit with evacuation routes; secure windows, roofs, doors and attics from high winds and rain; prevent the opportunity for wildfire damage, and more.

"Through our work, we see first-hand the remarkable difference that a little advance planning can make in avoiding the devastating effects of natural disasters," says Henderson of FLASH .

For more information visit www.flash.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place Prevents Risk of Injury

May 10, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 10, 2011-With the arrival of spring gardening and landscaping season, Dominion Virginia Power urges customers to plan carefully and choose trees and planting locations that will not endanger people, power lines or equipment.

"Trees and branches that touch electrical lines and equipment are the number-one cause of power outages and can present a serious risk of electrical shock to anyone coming into contact with them," says Rodney Blevins, vice president, distribution operations. "Careful planning before planting can avoid future problems and help keep your lights on."

Dominion offers information on how to plant trees and shrubs with safety, beauty and energy efficiency in mind. Well-placed shrubs and trees can offer energy savings comparable to other home improvements such as insulation and weather-stripping.

Decide on placement before selecting the tree or shrub.

Before digging dial 811 to ensure you are aware of any underground lines

Plant low-growing shrubs, not trees, beneath and within 15 feet of overhead power lines

Within 50 feet of a home, trees should be no more than 50 feet tall at maturity

Leave room for safe access for maintenance when planting around pad-mounted electrical transformers

For more information visit www.dom.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Word of the Day

May 9, 2011 10:29 am

Time-sharing. Part ownership of a property coupled with a right to exclusive use of it for a specified number of days per year.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Question of the Day

May 9, 2011 10:29 am

Q: What is guaranteed replacement cost insurance?

A: The most comprehensive insurance policy is guaranteed replacement cost coverage, which will pay to rebuild your home even if the cost to rebuild is more than your policy limit.

This kind of coverage is more expensive and can cost from about $400 to $1,000 a year or more, depending on the area and the price of the home. However, even if you can afford it, this insurance is not available everywhere or for every property. For example, older homes may not be eligible. And some big insurance companies have begun to limit the amount they will pay to 120 percent of the policy's face value.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Spring Cleaning Is the Time to Dust Off the Old Estate Plan

May 9, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 9, 2011-In her latest newsletter, "Spring Cleaning for Your Estate Plan," Julia P. Wald, a Marin estate planning attorney, explains that estate documents that have been sitting around for several years need to be dusted off and examined to make sure that they still reflect the estate holder's current wishes.

"For many, many people their estate planning documents have been gathering dust," says Wald. "Getting rid of dust is just what you do with spring cleaning, so let's think about cleaning the dust off your estate planning documents."

Wald offers the following questions for people to ask themselves to determine if their will, trust, and other documents need a thorough cleaning:

Has the composition of your family changed?

Have you changed your mind on who you want to receive the family treasures?

Have your assets changed?

Have the new estate tax laws affected your plans?

Regarding family members, Wald warns that relationship changes can make previous plans obsolete. "A remarriage invalidates a Will that does not mention the new spouse," she cautions. "The Will from your first marriage will not be enforceable!"

In addition, people may have a trust that no longer makes sense. The most typical example of a trust that is no longer needed is the trust for children which lasts until the youngest one is 25. If everyone is well past 25, it may be time to take that sub-trust out of the Living Trust and instead craft and plan a trust for the grandchildren.

The new 2010 federal estate and gift tax law provisions also make cleaning up estate documents a good idea. Wald's newsletter describes several scenarios where trusts and other estate plans made in previous years are no longer needed or no longer do what they originally intended.

At the very least, Wald says, estate documents need to be reviewed-perhaps with an attorney-for a refresher on exactly what they say.

"Happy springtime and summer vacation," Wald concludes. "Thinking of summer vacation reminds me that people often want their documents updated before taking a trip!"

For more information visit www.waldlawyers.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Home Improvement Month Upgrades

May 9, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 9, 2011-Feel like cheating? Forget what the inside of your home looks like for just a bit and focus on outside enhancements during May's National Home Improvement Month.

"The exterior of your home makes a lasting and daily impression on your friends and family, along with your neighbors," says Mark Clement, professional contractor and host of MyFixItUpLife home improvement radio show. "While the weather is good, my advice is to get outside and fix up problem areas, work on the landscaping and invest in products that make your home's exterior not only look great, but work great. Then, once the weather gets too hot during the summer months you can re-focus on interior home improvement projects."

Clement-who is in the middle of an ongoing renovation of his 100-year-old home in Pennsylvania-recommends assessing your needs and then diving in on projects. "On the exterior of the home there are three big, critical areas I recommend people evaluate every year-the roof, the windows and the entry door. Those are key areas because, along with being focal points of the home, they help protect a house from severe weather. And, if you have problems with older windows, doors or roofing tiles, you're looking at higher energy bills and growing problems that can affect your wallet long-term."

When it comes time to focus on improvements for these vital areas of the home, Clement offers these recommendations:

Roofs:

1. Check yearly (from a ladder or from a neighbor's home with binoculars) to determine the condition of your roof. Look for problem areas, such as missing or broken shingles, along with roofing tiles that may be "flapping" in the wind. These are all indications that a new roof may be in your future.

2. Don't forget to check the sides of your roof. The southern exposure weathers significantly faster than the other sides of the roof, so make sure to carefully examine this one. Also, shallower pitches weather faster than steeper pitches. So again, if your roof has a shallow pitch-like a shed dormer-make certain you can clearly see it to get a true indication of the condition of your roof.

3. If you're in the market for a new roof, investigate polymer roofing tiles as a good option. These impact-resistant slate and shake tiles are man-made in a wide variety of colors. Some tiles have a 50-year limited warranty and are ideal for all types of weather conditions, including hurricanes and hail.

4. Since the installation of a new roof exceeds the capabilities of most homeowners, make sure to research and hire a professional roofer. Check to make sure your roofer is insured, licensed and certified. Ask for a written job estimate and references along with warranty information for both the roof you select and his installation services.

Entry Doors:

1. If you can see light around your main entry door from the inside, the door is hard to close or lock, or the door itself is warped, it's time to consider a new door.

2. Even if you can't see light, air may be moving through gaps in the weather stripping at a surprising rate. On a very cold or hot day, hold the back of your hand an inch or so away from the bottom and perimeter of your door. If you can feel air moving or a significant cold spot, that's a signal your existing door could benefit from better sealing.

3. Determine what role you would like an entry door to play on your home's exterior. Do you want it to be a focal point with a splash of color? Is it important that you have decorative glass in the door system? Will you need vented sidelites to allow more light and air into your home? Search the web for "Door Designer" and "My Saved Door" online tools to help visualize how a new door will look on your home.

4. Think about the weather conditions your home's door faces along with your energy bills. If either run to the extreme, consider replacing your entryway with a high-performance fiberglass door (which has four times more insulation than wood doors).

Windows:

1. Evaluate the functionality and decorative appeal of your current windows. If you have condensation between glass panes, the windows are hard to open or close, your energy bills are soaring or if there are drafts coming in around the window units, then it's time to seriously consider replacement windows.

2. Vinyl framed windows are the category of windows with the highest growth rate in the country. Why? These frames are extremely energy-efficient and some of the best have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction. Plus, maintenance hassles are so low you'll forget the horrors of rotting frames, scraping and repainting that come with wood windows.

3. Investigate your window options and stick with a national manufacturer that can stand behind a long-term warranty. For his renovation project, Clement selected Simonton vinyl windows. The award-winning company impressed him with its 65-year history and return-on-investment with their quality ENERGY STAR qualified windows.

4. Remember that a thermally-efficient window is sealed tightest when it's locked. So, to keep your energy bills lowers, don't just close your windows, make sure to lock them.

Trim:

1. If you have the opportunity to replace your entry door or windows, make sure to finish off the job with stylish window and door trim. Lightweight and easy to install, weather-resistant synthetic mouldings, shutters and entryway surrounds from Fypon are a definite do-it-yourself project for any homeowner.

2. Take an eagle's eye look at your home. Most houses have louvers placed high above the attic or garage space to allow ventilation in those areas. And, most houses have wooden louvers that can rot with time. Replacing louvers with insect-resistant and rot-resistant synthetic louvers can improve the home's appearance and functionality.

3. Wrap it up. Clement recommends that if you have unsightly porch posts you can easily transform them into showpiece parts of your home by using Column Wrap Kits. The decorative synthetic pieces can be installed in less than 15 minutes around existing structural posts and columns to give an upgraded look to any home.

For more home improvement tips, visit www.myfixituplife.com. Established by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), National Home Improvement Month focuses on enhancements that can be made throughout the home. For details and more information, visit www.nari.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Tracking Online Behavior: Three in Four Consumers Say Using Their Information for Fraud Detection Purposes Is 'Okay'

May 9, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 9, 2011-ThreatMetrix , a provider of cloud-based fraud prevention solutions that do not require personally identifiable information (PII), recently announced that a joint study with the Ponemon Institute revealed the majority of consumers are comfortable with online behavioral tracking for fraud prevention purposes, but remain hesitant around advertising and promotional purposes. The results are outlined in a report, "Consumers' Reaction to Online Fraud."

Seventy-four percent of consumers expressed some level of concern about online advertisers collecting and using their information for future promotional activity. Survey results showed that half of respondents, however, reported that it is acceptable to use information about their online behavior as long as it's used to detect potential fraudsters. The rest of survey respondents were divided in their sentiments; 24 percent said they don't think behavioral targeting in any form is appropriate, whereas 26 percent said it is okay for online businesses to use their information to either send them ads or monitor potential fraudsters.

When asked about the extent of obtaining consent to use their online behavioral information for fraud detection, only 16 percent said advance consent was necessary for each transaction. One third said consent was not necessary at all, while the majority (36 percent) said consent only once in advance is sufficient.

The Issue of Behavioral Advertising

As a hotly contested topic, in mid-April Senators John McCain and John Kerry introduced a privacy bill focused on the security and management of personal information. In it, they outline how companies must reveal when they are collecting consumer information, in what capacity it will be used and keep that data safe from hackers. This comes in response to proposed FTC legislation in late 2010, which was initiated in response to the privacy implications arising out of behavioral advertising.

"Such legislation could have unintended consequences for those engaged in cyber security efforts," says Reed Taussig, president and CEO of ThreatMetrix. "While the recognition of the unique role of data collection for fraud prevention was recognized by the FTC staff, there will likely be tradeoffs between privacy and security."

"Businesses must be sensitive to using personal information for targeting," adds Taussig. "Consumers are generally not comfortable about receiving ads and promotions, based on our survey results, but are more open to companies using their information to verify their identity. It's just a balance of using the information appropriately, or risk losing their trust and loyalty."

The majority of consumers (70 percent) reported that if they were assured their personal information was not collected when used for fraud detection purposes, they were comfortable with an online business authenticating their identity through a digital fingerprint. Another 22 percent said they were unsure.

"Online businesses need to move toward other authentication techniques that evolve beyond using personally identifiable information, but can still prevent fraudsters from being alerted about the security precautions a company is taking," says Taussig.

When it comes to disclosing the use of a digital fingerprint, three in four consumers indicated that disclosure is not necessary, or only if such disclosure does not reduce the business's ability to fight cybercrime.

On top of that, 82 percent of consumers indicated that they would expect an online business to use alternative methods to verify their identify if they were unable to match their computer's digital fingerprint to their security system.

The research also looked at consumer sentiment about fraud prevention across the banking, social media and Web 2.0 industries and mobile channel. For more information about the findings, download a copy of the report at http://info.threatmetrix.com/ConsumerSurveyOnlineFraud2011.html.

For more information visit www.ponemon.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Recycle Materials in Your Kitchen Renovations and Save Money

May 9, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 9, 2011-If your kitchen is like a lot of kitchens across the country, you have nice sturdy cabinets, but they appear dated and clash with new appliances. Resurfacing kitchen cabinets can allow you to turn your oak kitchen cabinets into a rich mahogany, or take those discount cabinets and make them look like a beautiful walnut. So why spend money on brand new cabinetry when you can achieve your desired look with paint or stain?

The professionals at CertaPro Painters recently took part in a kitchen restoration project that would both pay homage to the rich heritage of a Victorian era home and complement the contemporary feel the homeowner wanted to achieve.

CertaPro Painters cabinet expert Patti Lank headed the design team with her knowledge of the latest in painting ideas and designs. "Today's first and foremost area of the home for family living and entertaining is the kitchen," says Patti Lank. "Personally, I love tackling a kitchen makeover when my client is open to blending old world charm with 21st century functionality. There was a lot to make new, but seeing the existing cabinetry, I felt that saving and restoring them would lend a beautiful finish to the modernized kitchen."

So when the time came for Lank to recast the cabinetry, she took an approach that was time-tested and far easier than the homeowner imagined. "Rather than toss the dark oak cabinets, we decided to restore them-but without labor-intensive sanding and without smoothing to perfection any and all surfaces with materials. We removed cabinets from the walls, cleaned them up, and then primed the surfaces with a base coat of paint. With the base applied, we added top coats of a two-color glaze finish creating a unique blond tone and low sheen that adds warmth to the entire room." This technique of interior house painting works to mimic a stained wood appearance, rather than base wood which gave the homeowner a beautiful finish.

"An added benefit of reworking cabinets in this fashion is that they don't look completely uniform-we aren't seeking perfection, we're seeking a variegated coloring-and since they're sealed and preserved, they wear like iron. Spills and marks wipe easily away from the hard finish top-glaze," says Lank.

Wall paint colors were determined based on the resulting cabinet glaze, with a lighter shade for the ceiling and a warmer, full-bodied tone for walls. Demolition had revealed interior 1880s rough brick, and that was left exposed in strategic areas.

Granite counter tops became an interesting challenge. "The island granite was an online bargain find, but a match was impossible to locate, so we mirrored the colors as opposites-dominant black granite with coral highlights for the island became dominant granite with black relief for the working counters around sink and stove," explains Lank.

For more information visit www.certapro.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Tags: