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

Top 4 Architectural Lighting Brands for the Modern Home

June 27, 2011 5:27 pm

Architectural lighting has become the latest trend in home design. Modern décor calls for illumination that is energy efficient (LED, fluorescent, low voltage fixtures) and effective (Dark Sky and Energy Star® rated lights). But contemporary lighting also requires a sense of play, adventure, and comfort.

Leading brands represented at the Dallas lighting show will include CSL, Bruck, Tech Lighting, LBL, and Liton Lighting. All of these manufacturers are well educated when it comes to the latest technology in green homes and employ industrious artisans to develop the next brilliant masterpiece.

Bruck Lighting is known for their variety of track lighting style monorail lighting with unique color, glass, and finish options. Recognized internationally for their energy efficient mono and dual rail systems, this brand is dedicated to creating energy-saving halogen and LED fixtures. German engineering and creativity knows no bounds when it comes to Bruck’s pendants, spot fixtures, display track light fixtures, and self-contained monorail kits. They incorporate their unique art glass into every design and the colors are breathtaking. Bruck is often the first choice for artistic professionals, because they merge unusual (sometimes even bizarre) structures with easy-to-assemble systems in a fluid composition.

Tech Lighting is an industry leader when it comes to low voltage home lighting systems. This brand is the winner of the 2011 Lightfair Innovation Awards, specifically for their “Element Envision LED Head” whose lighting module, efficient power supply, and versatile optic options make it an excellent choice for home architectural lighting. Precision engineering and innovative designs are channeled into Tech’s collection. Known for monorail and cable light systems, Tech caters to both home and commercial decorators as their fixtures have a futuristic and industrial feel.

From their beginnings as a family business in 1971, Ronald Stone’s LBL Lighting has morphed into a recognized architectural manufacturer. Prolific in their creations, LBL has published 47 catalogs to date. LBL’s new Mini Rock Candy pendant series illustrates the brand’s creative use of glass and texture. The Mini Rock Candy low-voltage pendants are mouth-blown, transparent glass rolled in clear crystal frit and flash heated for an unusual pebbled texture. LBL has embraced a more playful and elementary quality compared to the more sterile and minimalist styles of CSL and Tech. A leading designer of LED lights, LBL is committed to innovation in commercial illumination, proving that businesses can develop a style unique to their brand without sacrificing a commitment to energy efficiency.

The recipient of the 2010 Best Interior Product Award in Las Vegas, Liton Lighting is the company to consult when deciding to “go green.” Liton was given the award for their new LRLD6 Adjustable Gimbal 6” Trim Downlight, for its versatility as a retrofit and its exceptional color value. Focused on the needs of environmental architectural designers, Liton has produced a huge collection of recessed light fixtures. Specializing in high tech minimalist recessed lights, Liton is known for their miniature low voltage lights, under cabinet lights, and LED task lights.

Architectural lighting has finally found its niche in the interior design field. These brands' unique styles and ceaselessly creative artisans, combined with the ever-evolving world of energy efficient technology, are sure to keep inspiring new trends in home lighting industries.

For more information, please visit www.AffordableLamps.com

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Moving Blankets are the Main Carrier of Bedbugs

June 27, 2011 5:27 pm

Summer is upon us, which means that it is officially "moving season.” As residents begin thinking about this major undertaking, they should be sure to take precautions against bedbugs. iMoveGREEN, an agent for Bekins Van Lines and a premier green moving company in the United States, has recently discovered the main carrier of bedbugs: moving blankets. While bedbugs continue to be a pandemic across the United States, most moving companies still do not take preventative measures to aid against bedbug infestation. Moving blankets especially, are often neglected and left un-cleaned between moves, leaving your belongings susceptible.

After a routine inspection one year ago, iMoveGREEN discovered that moving blankets are the main carriers of bedbugs. Jeffrey E. Sitt, President and CEO, was notified that, while his facility and fleet of trucks were clean, a few of the company's moving blankets contained bedbugs. This shocking discovery, which could easily have been over-looked, caused iMoveGREEN to spring into action.

"We immediately quarantined the blankets, sprayed them with anti-Bed Bug spray, and heated them in the trucks," says Mr. Sitt. Now, iMoveGREEN has a new protocol, whereby after every single move, the blankets that were used are taken in large sealed bags to the company's drying department, where the blankets are sprayed down and heated in commercial dryers on high heat for 1.5 hours.

"Learning that bedbugs are primarily carried through moving blankets brings me to the terrifying realization that other moving companies may be unknowingly transporting these disgusting bugs into homes! It makes me wonder if other moving companies are aware of whether or not there are bedbugs on their blankets," cautions Mr. Sitt.

For more information, visit www.iMoveGreen.com.

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It’s Time for a Mid-Year Financial Check-Up

June 27, 2011 5:27 pm

Six Things to Look for and How to Fix Them

Most of us started the New Year with resolutions to get our financial house in order—like saving more and reducing debt. With half the year gone, says Wall Street financial consultant Sheryl Nance-Nash, it’s a good time to examine whether you are meeting your goals—and to redouble your efforts if you aren’t.

Nance-Nash provides practical ways to take your financial pulse:

• Deal with your debt – Pull out your credit card statements, see how much you owe, and take steps to reduce it—even if it’s just by paying $10 more per month on each account. Then put your credit cards in a safe place and try to do without them for as long as possible. Going even a month or two without charging can make a big financial difference.
• Get serious about saving – Savings can help you stay out of debt, and everyone needs an emergency fund. Set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings, even if it’s only $20 a month. If you have one in place, increase the transferred amount.
• Check your retirement fund – Can you sock away more into your IRA or 401k? If you need to pull in your belt to do so, do it anyway. You’ll appreciate it later!
• Tackle tax stuff early – Are you keeping receipts and records in order for your 2011 tax return? Save canceled checks, invoices and other proof of money spent on tax-deductible expenses. If planning a life-change—like a marriage, divorce or the birth of a child—check with your tax preparer now about how it may impact your tax position and what steps you should begin to take.
• Look for loopholes – Are you getting the most for your money on insurances? Flexible spending accounts? Cell phone and communication plans—even fees and commissions on investments? Take the time now to check with providers. You may be able to save a bundle while accumulating wealth.
Grapple with spending issues – Do you know where your money is going? Mid-year is a good time to figure out what you are spending and what you are spending it on—and make serious changes if that’s what’s keeping you from dealing with debt and saving more.

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Pruning Matters

June 27, 2011 5:27 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant has written a lot about landscaping, shrubbery and lawns, so now it is time to focus on a loftier target—trees. According to the U. S. Forest Service, trees are worth much more than their value of wood—25 times more than their country cousins in the forest—because trees enhance the value of real estate.

In some cases, the USFA says trees can raise the value of a lot compared to the same lot without trees by as much as 20 percent. On average, trees add between 5 and 7 percent to the value of a residential lot. Nationwide, that added value results in an extra $5,000 per lot.

Any property with trees invariably sells faster, too. So how do you enhance or best take care of the trees on your property? In this segment we’ll talk about pruning—an oft needed maintenance treatment that promotes good tree health and keeps trees and your yard safe—as well as looking good.

Just remember, pruning without a good reason is not good tree care practice. Pruning just because your neighbor is doing it may not be beneficial for the tree, and could result in too much live tree tissue being removed. This can cause the tree to become stressed, and perhaps decline.

In fact, industry tree pruning standards (ANSI A300) say no more than 25 percent of a tree’s foliage should be removed in a single season, and if the tree cannot tolerate a lot of pruning, even less should be removed.

A good arborist will work with a property owner to set an objective for the pruning job (i.e., what you want accomplished when the work is done). Pruning objectives usually include one or more of the following:

• reduce risk of damage to people or property
• manage tree health
• provide clearance for vehicles or roadways
• improve structure
• increase or improve aesthetics
• restore shape

Once tree pruning objectives are established, the arborist can provide specific details on how to prune your trees, without harming them, to get the desired result. In our next segment we’ll take a look at a common tree pruning practice that can actually take away from your real estate’s value.

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Leave Fireworks to the Professionals This Fourth of July—Tips for Fireworks Safety

June 24, 2011 5:27 pm

Each Fourth of July, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries happen each year. Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries with nearly 30 percent of these injuries to the eyes. One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness. 

July is Fireworks Eye Safety Awareness Month, and through its EyeSmart™ campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind consumers to leave fireworks to professionals.

"Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident," says Marguerite McDonald, MD, a clinical correspondent for the Academy. "Potentially blinding injuries can be avoided if families attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a home fireworks display." 

Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those fifteen years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn. 

"Among the most serious injuries are abrupt trauma to the eye from bottle rockets," according to Dr. McDonald. The rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage, and complete blindness. 

For a safe and healthy Independence Day celebration, the Academy urges observance of the following tips:
• Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
• View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
• Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
• Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
• Follow directives given by event ushers or public safety personnel.
• If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.
• If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately. 

Find Eye M.D.s in your area or ask an Eye M.D. a question by visiting www.GetEyeSmart.org.

Consumers can submit questions about eye health to an ophthalmologist at http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/ask/

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Summertime Skin Protection Tips from Faces

June 24, 2011 5:27 pm

The dreary, rainy weather of spring is finally passing into the bright, sunshiny days of summer. People are hitting the beach and enjoying barbecues, but before you grab the beach blankets and hot dogs, make sure to pack the sunscreen, hats, and umbrellas to protect from over-exposure to dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays—which can cause significant skin damage and skin cancer. Dr. J. George Smith and Faces can help you and your family keep that damage to a minimum. 

UV rays are emitted in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVA rays break down collagen and elastic fibers, while UVB rays cause sunburn. Both types of UV rays can lead to skin cancer. These rays are not specific to the sun; tanning beds emit the same dangerous rays. 

To protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, sunscreen is crucial.
“Many families are unaware of the seriousness of sun damage, so they underestimate the necessity of sunscreen and other protective measures,” says Dr. J. George Smith, founder of Faces cosmetic surgery, laser and skincare clinic. “The risk of skin damage is significantly increased in the summer months, so extra steps should be taken to prevent it.” 

Tans are no different than sunburns in that they are still considered sun damage. There is no such thing as a “healthy tan.” Tanning can even become addictive, which makes it an even more dangerous behavior. Though it may not be the popular choice, avoiding tanning beds and wearing sunscreen while exposed to the sun will greatly decrease the chances of becoming one of the more than 2 million people diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. each year. 

There are two types of sunscreens: those which are organic and chemical-free, and those which are chemical, says Dr. Smith. Chemical-free sunscreens can be advantageous in that they do not absorb into skin, which is particularly beneficial for babies and children. 

The team at faces recommends a few guidelines for protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays: 

• Apply sunscreens liberally at least 30 minutes before sun exposure so they can be fully absorbed by the skin. Sunscreens should be reapplied every 2 hours or after contact with water. 
• Use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF (Sun Protection Factor), but if you have a family history of skin cancer or accelerated aging due to sun exposure, use 45 SPF.
• Always check expiration dates—old products lose their potency.
• Babies under 6 months old should not use chemical sunscreens.
• Zinc oxide is one of the preferred ingredients in a chemical-free sunscreen and is recommended for sensitive skin.
• Purchase products that are water –resistant, as most summertime activities center around water.
• Wear comfortable protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses with UV-protection.
• Avoid the sun during the middle of the day (from about 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.), when the rays are strongest. 

The National Foundation for Cancer Research also has helpful tips for skin cancer prevention this summer, which can be found in a downloadable Summer Sun Protection Kit, available at http://www.nfcr.org/skincancerkit. Skin cancer affects more than 2 million people in the United States each year. Some of the tips include: 

• If you are outdoors and your shadow is smaller than you are, it is best to seek shade.
• Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any over-the-counter or prescription drugs you are taking may increase sun sensitivity
• Do regular skin checks to make sure there are no abnormal growths.
• Use sunscreen even on hazy days, as UV rays still penetrate in cloudy weather.
Faces supplies high-quality sun protection products for all types of skin, including children and people with a history of skin cancer. 

For more information, please visit http://www.facesdr.com.

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Frugal DIY Projects to Make Life Simpler

June 24, 2011 5:27 pm

Most consumers lead very busy lives. They are used to a world where convenience is a way of life. As saving money becomes more fashionable and necessary, so do ways to make it happen. To help with this, Kim Danger, nationally known savings expert and author of "Instant Bargains," has collaborated with Uniroyal Tire in the creation of a new e-book, "Do-it-Yourself Tips for a Simpler Life," to show consumers time- and money-saving projects everyone can do.

This e-book features the best tips on home improvement, going green in the kitchen, gardening and homemade gifts. Download the free e-book at www.UniroyalTires.com.

Every mom wants a clean kitchen, but many never stop to consider how pricey the products they're using can be. With this in mind, Danger offers up DIY kitchen-cleaning tips that are not only green, but cost effective:

• Cutting boards are a frequently used kitchen item. To clean them naturally, wipe with vinegar and microwave on high for one minute.
• To combat grimy sponges, soak with white vinegar and microwave on high for one minute.
• Remove stuck-on food from pots and pans by making a paste with water and meat tenderizer to coat the area. Allow the paste to sit for a few minutes, then scrub off and rinse.

Gardens don't have to be a luxury reserved for those with green thumbs and ample space. Follow these tips for creating and maintaining a garden that suites your location and needs:

• For windowsill gardens, the most basic thing to start with is herbs. Choose easy plants that you'll use frequently while cooking, such as basil, oregano and parsley.
• If you have a patio or deck, try container gardening. The portability of the containers allows you to adjust plants to receive their optimal amount of sun exposure.
• Grow plants that are the most expensive to purchase in grocery stores.

Who says gifts have to cost a lot of money? Homemade gifts are a thoughtful way to show you care, without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas:

• Use copies of your favorite handwritten recipe cards to create a personalized cookbook.
• Make a "25 Things I Love About You" book for someone special.
• For kids who love to dress up, fill a large tote with items such as hats, wigs, shoes and accessories that you've purchased from thrift stores and clearance racks.


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A Closer Look at Credit Unions for Home Loans

June 24, 2011 5:27 pm

With the release of the HBO movie, "Too Big to Fail," more and more consumers and homeowners are intrigued and perhaps shocked over the back room deals and manipulation of many of the nation's big name banks in the wake of the housing crisis. Many homeowners, first-time home buyers and REALTORS® are now looking to credit unions as a trusted, local lending resource in their community. Most of the nation's high-quality mortgages lending credit unions work diligently under the radar in terms of home finance alternatives. Consumers are a bit confused and unaware they in fact qualify for membership and in some cases are eligible to join more than one credit union. This well-kept secret is spreading in local communities and around the country. The Credit Union message is clear in the wake of a continuing search for an alternative trusted financial institution, "why not us and why not now."

Reports that a few "mega banks" dominate the home lending market are accurate. The question is are they earning the trust of consumers and REALTORS® or is it that most people are just unaware of the valued trusted alternative resource, namely credit unions. "Millions of people are members of credit unions and hundreds of millions more are eligible to join and likely don't even know it," says Bob Dorsa, president of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association, a non-profit association for credit union home lending advocacy. Likely "thousands of REALTORS® belong to credit unions but generally do NOT think of the credit union as a lending resource for client simply due to a lack of any working relationship," he adds.

Credit unions are found in almost every community, town and city in the country. Not all credit unions offer home loans but consumers need to pay more attention to obtaining competitive information including contacting a local Credit Union. Many credit unions operate under the radar and conserve their financial resources by NOT advertising all over the place. Instead they focus on offering better terms and lower fees to their members. The housing crisis has millions of homeowners in a state of uncertainty. First-time home buyers should not resign themselves to the thought of renting as their only option. Credit unions are among the most trusted financial institutions on the planet and deserve a chance to preserve the American Dream for every generation wanting to own their home.
Credit union membership nationwide is in excess of 90 million people. Credit Unions originated close to $200 billion in home loans in the 2 and 1/2 years, which should provide confidence and interest for millions of people who need help.

For more information as to how to find or join a credit union, contact your state's Credit union league or contact ACUMA at bdorsa@acuma.org for more information.


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Question of the Day

June 24, 2011 5:27 pm

Q: Should I consider a “B,” “C,” or “D” paper loan if I have bad credit?

A: B, C, and D paper loans are types of sub-prime loans. There was a time when they were hard to find. Then when the housing market took off, so did the number of lenders offering them. Not so today. High default rates on sub-prime mortgages made to high-risk borrowers with bad credit or those who had filed for bankruptcy or had a property in foreclosure, now have many lenders either shunning these loans or tightening credit requirements on them.

As a rule, these loans have not met the borrower credit requirements of “A” or “A-” category conforming loans. Because mortgage lending is divided into various credit grades, several factors influence whether you receive, say, a “B” or “D” designation, including past credit history, documentation, and your debt-to-income ratio. The more serious a borrower’s problems, the lower the grade of the loan and the higher the rates and fees associated with the loan.

At one time, the outrageously high rates on these loans had dropped as more lenders began to offer them. Since the credit crunch spurred by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, rates on these paper loans have shot back up, reflecting in more stark terms their heightened risks.

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Word of the Day

June 24, 2011 5:27 pm

Brokerage. Business of a broker. Also, the amount charged for a broker’s service.

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