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 
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Mary's Blog

How Can I Avoid a Foreclosure?

May 4, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 4, 2011-Foreclosure filings spiked upward another 7 percent in March of this year; one expert believes there are alternatives that consumers can use to avoid becoming part of next month's statistic.

During March, the amount of foreclosure filings totaled 239,745, according to statistics released from RealtyTrac. This is up from February, when filings totaled 225,101. Granted, the rate of increase is slower than it was this time last year, but financial expert Deborah McNaughton, author of The Essential Credit Repair Handbook from Career Press, said that the decrease wasn't attributable to better market conditions.

"The slowdown is because there are so many foreclosures to file, it's taking lenders longer to process foreclosure proceedings," McNaughton says. "The allegations of fraud in some of these foreclosure proceedings started last September, and as a result, there was a temporary suspension of foreclosures while the fraud was investigated. There are people out there who are still in trouble, but there are ways they can avoid a foreclosure, if they're willing to do the work."

McNaughton's alternatives include:

  • Short Sale: Of course you have considered a short sale. That should be your first choice, but the downside is that there are so many players in the mix. First, you have to list the property with a real estate company. If you get a buyer, you have to submit a hardship letter and your financials to the lender along with the offer to purchase your property at a price that is lower than your balance. It may take the lender weeks-or even months-to decide if they are willing to accept the offer. By that time you may have lost your buyer. If you have not been making your mortgage payments, the lender may foreclose on your property. Unless you can overcome these issues, this alternative may not be the one for you.
  • Short Refinance: If your payments are not behind, contact a lender to see if you are eligible for a short refinance. An appraisal on the property will be ordered. If the appraisal is less than the balance you owe, the lender will tell you how much of a loan they will make. When you get a commitment letter and appraisal from the lender, submit it to your current lender requesting a reduction of your current balance. If they agree to a reduced payoff, continue with the new lender and complete your new loan with a lower loan amount and hopefully better terms.
  • Lease Purchase Option: Put your home or property on the market as a lease with an option to purchase. A lease purchase allows a buyer to purchase your property for an agreed sales price and date to complete. Ernest money is applied towards a down payment, and you would collect monthly payments. Make sure you get enough down payment money to catch up any past due payments, and continue to make the mortgage payments until the sale is complete.
  • Rental: Renting your house out may also be an option for you. If you get a renter that can cover your payments, you can rent another place for less money. When things get better and your finances loosen up you can always move back into your home.

"A lot more people are facing foreclosure than the statistics currently reflect," McNaughton notes. "As a result, everyone should be aware of the alternatives. Foreclosure can sometimes be a worst-case scenario for some, but that can be avoided simply by choosing to accept something that isn't a best-case scenario, but it's better than losing your place to live with no alternatives at all."

For more information visit www.financialvictory.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.


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Small Money Saving Tips That Add Up

May 4, 2011 10:29 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, May 4, 2011-Let's face it: A dollar only goes so far, especially these days with the price of gasoline at outrageous highs. Saving, for many, has been put on the back burner in favor of wringing the most from every dollar we have.

But savings don't have to be huge to add up in a meaningful way, says Trent Hamm, founder of the financial website simpledollar.com. Hamm offers 10 little money-saving tips that can add up to big dollars over time:

  • Switch bank accounts: Instead of paying maintenance fees and earning next to zero interest, switch to a bank like ING Direct, where you will earn interest on both savings and checking accounts.
  • Master the 30-day rule: Wait 30 days when tempted to make a significant purchase. You may find the urge to own it fades.
  • Make your own gifts: You can make food mixes, cookies, soaps and many other gifts that cost less and mean more, especially when presented to the recipient with a heartfelt note.
  • Invite friends in: Almost any activity at home costs less than going out. Have dinner. Play games. Watch a rented movie-and keep your hand out of your pocket.
  • Make a list: Don't go to the grocery store without a list. It will help you buy only what you need and discourage impulse buys.
  • Try generic brands: the only difference between a name brand and a market brand may be only the marketing, and the savings can add up.
  • Clean out closets: Clear out what you don't need and have a yard sale, give it to a consignment shop, or donate it to charity for the tax deduction.
  • Clean your car's air filter: It only takes a few minutes, and a clean air filter can save up to 7 percent on gas mileage.
  • Swap babysitting: If you live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, swapping babysitting chores with a neighbor or two will save everyone money.
  • Start a garden: It's an inexpensive hobby if you have a yard and it will provide exercise while saving you money on produce.

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.


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Word of the Day

May 3, 2011 10:29 am

Tax rate. The rate at which real property is taxed in a tax district or county. For example, in a certain county, real property may be taxed at a rate of 55 mills (or 0.055) per dollar of assessed valuation.

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.


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8 Things Not to Buy Used

May 3, 2011 10:29 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011-Everyone loves a bargain, and there are times when buying a previously owned item is smart in more ways than one. Buying a used car, for example, can save you money on car insurance while sparing you the cost of initial depreciation.

But not all used items are good buys, according to the financial gurus at US News and World Report. Here are ten things to avoid buying used because they could take a toll on your family's health as well as your finances:

  • Cribs and car seats: While some may be fine, you may not know whether the item has been recalled for safety issues. If you do buy a used crib, buy a new mattress for it to guard against potential health issues.
  • Mattresses and bedding: you don't want to be sleeping with someone else's mold, mites and bacteria.
  • Tires: If they were ever in a significant accident-and there's no way to know that-they may be unstable or unreliable.
  • Laptops, DVD players and digital cameras: Small electrics like these may have been dropped or banged around. Unless you know their history, or they've been refurbished, repairs down the road may cost more than the item is worth.
  • Shoes: It may be hard to resist a bargain on brand-name used shoes, but inspect carefully before you buy. Shoes molded to a previous owner's feet could cause health problems as well as discomfort.
  • Pet supplies: Old stains and odors continue to ferment even if the items are in storage. If cleanliness is an issue, say no.
  • Vacuum cleaners: These much-used, heavy duty appliances may cost more to repair than if you had bought them new.
  • Wet suits: They lose the ability to keep you warm over time. Also, if the suit was used by a devoted scuba diver, the constant change in water pressure can leave it more prone to tear.

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.


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Communities to 'Celebrate the Essential' during Drinking Water Week 2011

May 3, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011-The American Water Works Association (AWWA), the authoritative resource on safe water, recently kicked off Drinking Water Week 2011-an annual celebration of our most precious natural resource.

Throughout the week, AWWA and its partners will celebrate water by recognizing the essential role it plays in our daily lives, with special attention to the future of water, water infrastructure and the economy, careers in the water profession, and source water protection.

"Drinking Water Week is an opportunity to focus on the importance of water, which is too easily overlooked," says AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance. "A safe, reliable water supply is essential to the success of any community. In addition to keeping us hydrated, water also supports the economy, prevents fires, and provides us with the high quality of life we enjoy."

To commemorate the occasion, water utilities, environmental advocates and others will celebrate drinking water through school events, public presentations and community festivals. They will also provide their communities with important tips for protecting our water supplies and conserving resources.

About Drinking Water Week

For more than 35 years, the American Water Works Association and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week- a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives.

AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of water in North America and beyond. AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world. AWWA advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the entire water community. Through our collective strength we become better stewards of water for the greatest good of the people and the environment.

For more information visit www.awwa.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.


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Young Adults' Beliefs about Their Health Clash with Risky Behaviors

May 3, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011-Nine out of 10 Americans between ages 18-24 believe they're living healthy lifestyles-yet most eat too much fast food, drink too many alcoholic and sugar-sweetened beverages and engage in other behaviors that could put them at risk of stroke, according to a recently released American Stroke Association survey.

The results are part of a survey of 1,248 Americans ages 18-44 on their attitudes about health, including influences of and beliefs about health behaviors and their risks for stroke, a leading cause of death and disability in America.

Eight in 10 people between ages 25-44 years old believe they're living healthy lifestyles and are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors than 18-24 year olds participating in the survey.

"This survey shows the dangerous disconnect that many young Americans have about how their behaviors affect their risks for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases," says Ralph Sacco, M.D., neurologist and president of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. "Starting healthy behaviors at a young age is critical to entering middle age in good shape. The investment you make in your health now will have a large payoff as you age. We want everyone -especially young people - to strive to avoid stroke, which can affect anyone at any age."

People who make healthy lifestyle choices lower their risk of having a first stroke by as much as 80 percent compared with those who don't make healthy choices, according to AHA/ASA guidelines released in December. The healthy behaviors include eating a low-fat diet high in fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages in moderation, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight and not smoking.

Most 18-24 year olds said they want to live long and maintain quality health throughout their life. On average, they want to live to age 98. Yet, one-third of those surveyed don't believe engaging in healthy behaviors now could affect their risk of stroke in the future and 18 percent could not identify at least one stroke risk factor.

"Young adults need to make a connection between healthy behaviors and a healthy brain and healthy heart," Sacco says. "If we are not able to help young adults understand the relevance of their actions now and their risk of stroke tomorrow, then we could be looking at an increase in stroke diagnoses and deaths within the next 10 to 20 years."

"Everyone should recognize the severity of stroke, which threatens quality of life and can be prevented. People need to think in terms of striving for ideal health as well as surviving and thriving if a stroke occurs. An easier way to remember this is: Strive, Survive and Thrive," Sacco adds.

Results from the survey also revealed that as people age, they become more aware of their overall health and risk factors for heart disease and stroke:

  • Among 35-44 year olds, only 22 percent said they were not concerned about cardiovascular diseases and conditions, including heart disease/heart attack; high blood pressure; obesity; high cholesterol; diabetes; and stroke. Yet, about half (48 percent) of them are more likely to have health concerns they struggle with today.
  • Thirty-six percent of 25-34 year olds said they were not concerned about cardiovascular diseases and conditions.
  • Forty-three percent of 18-24 year olds were least concerned about cardiovascular disease.
  • All groups said that they're least worried about stroke as a personal health threat.

Long life with quality health is also a goal of many 25-44 year olds. The average age this group wishes to reach is 91. If they continue to live healthfully, they will have a better chance of reaching that goal than those under 25.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in or leading to the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot. When this happens, part of the brain can't get the blood or oxygen it needs, so it starts to die. Depending on the severity of the stroke, immobility or paralysis may occur. In the United States, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds.

For more information visit www.heart.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.


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Get Flood-Smart: Protect Now with Flood Insurance

May 3, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011-With less than one month from the beginning of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season (June 1), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials are urging U.S. residents to prepare their homes and businesses for the heightened flood risks associated with hurricanes and tropical storms. Flood insurance is essential to help protect against the devastating effects of flooding, and the time to act is now; there is typically a 30 day wait before a policy takes effect.

Past hurricane seasons have shown how the consequences of seasonal flooding can be devastating; eight of the top ten most expensive federally declared disasters were caused by hurricanes. But many residents across the U.S. still lack adequate insurance protection against flood damage, causing them to absorb significant financial losses on their own or seek limited funding from other sources to rebuild or repair after a storm.

"The spring months have already brought significant flood events to many states in the U.S. As we respond to these events, we must also look forward to summer and hurricane-related weather patterns that will heighten flood risks for many," says Ed Connor, Assistant Administrator for FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration. "We encourage all residents to have a preparedness plan that includes flood insurance as a critical financial safety net to safeguard against flood losses as hurricane season approaches. Because most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, the time to get properly protected is now."

FEMA also stresses that flood risks associated with hurricane season extend beyond the Gulf and Southeastern coasts. The largest amounts of rainfall from hurricanes are often produced by slow moving storms that stall out miles from a shoreline. As these storms move inland, high winds and torrential rains increase the likelihood of flooding.

"Some residents who live further from the coast may think that they are immune to flood damage from hurricanes and seasonal storms. The fact is, floodwaters do not stop at coastlines or floodplain boundaries; everyone is at risk. It is important to insure your property no matter where you live," says Connor.

Flood insurance is available through more than 85 insurance companies in nearly 21,000 participating communities nationwide. Most everyone-renters, business owners, and homeowners-can purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance is affordable, with an average flood insurance policy costing around $600 a year; in moderate- to low- risk areas, homeowners can purchase low-cost Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs) starting at just $129 a year.

Learn more about your flood risk at www.FloodSmart.gov.

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.


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Americans Agree Outdoor Cooking Makes Meal Time Easier, Healthier and More Fun

May 2, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011-Outdoor cooking remains more popular than ever, with seventy percent of Americans revealing that they prefer cooking-out over eating-out to save money, according to new national poll released today by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). In fact, consumers claimed that a cookout at home is more fun and relaxing than dining out, while also beneficial for avoiding travel, dress codes and crowds.

"Outdoor cooking is a very popular pastime that unites friends and family with great tasting food that's easy and affordable," comments Leslie Wheeler, HPBA Director of Communications. "Whether it's a weekday family meal on the grill or a weekend barbecue, outdoor cooking can make preparing the meal just as easy and relaxing as enjoying the delicious food with others."

In fact, 64 percent of adults say a barbecue is a better way to spend quality-time with their friends or relatives and 36 percent associated barbecues with family tradition.The sights, smells and social value of outdoor cooking are not alone; the food itself has a central role. Forty-three percent of respondents described outdoor cooking as a "sure route to a delicious meal." That's why this May, National Barbecue Month, there's no better way to celebrate than taking it outdoors and kicking off the summer season with a community cookout.

According to poll respondents, it's no secret that adults see grilling and outdoor cooking as the ticket to an easy, delicious meal and a healthier lifestyle. The majority of Americans (81 percent) acknowledged that at least one aspect of grilling outside is easier than cooking indoors, with the most convenient parts cited as cleanup (49 percent) followed by the cooking process itself (40 percent).

Healthier Choice

Not only is cooking outside fun and social, it also encourages healthier decisions for many. Seventy percent of Americans say cooking out gets them in a healthier routine, specifically by encouraging time spent outdoors instead of cooped up in the house. Outdoor cooking also encourages adults to make smarter food choices such as eating fresh rather than frozen foods (54 percent of respondents agreed) and cooking healthier food on the grill over all (40 percent agreed). Also, for one-quarter of respondents, the quick and easy nature of outdoor cooking helps them maintain a healthy lifestyle by giving them more free time to pursue other activities.

Must-Have Grilling Gear

Americans keep it traditional when listing their "go-to" accessories for outdoor cooking ease, most frequently citing tongs (77 percent) and a spatula or brush (65 percent). A slightly smaller percentage (62 percent) reported that one of their go-to tricks of the trade was rubs and marinades to spice up their grilled or smoked meals. To a lesser extent, only nine percent cited "recipes" as a leading cooking companion.

"Accessories and new industry innovations are making outdoor cooking even easier," Wheeler says. "New grill pads and brushes cut down on cleaning time, or you can take outdoor cooking to the next level with new grill build-outs, such as add-on rotisserie systems, griddles, woks, warming plates and extra add-on side burners."

Outdoor Cooking Goes Social

Social media is growing as the preferred way to get the cookout word out. According to the 2011 HPBA national poll, nearly a quarter of Americans identified social media as the easiest way to invite friends and family to a barbecue. This marks a 22 percent increase in consumer preference for social media invitations since 2009, according to HPBA's year-to-year national data comparisons.

Joining the trend, HPBA recently unveiled "The BBQ Source"-an integrated barbecue community on Facebook and Twitter-just in time for National Barbecue Month.

For full poll results and more on HPBA, visit www.hpba.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.


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Protect Your Blossoming Plants from Deer and Other Hungry Animals

May 2, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011-With the late spring this year and summer just around the corner, your yard and garden are wide open for deer, rabbits and other problem animals to feast upon. It's important to know that these animals can potentially destroy gardens resulting in costly financial loss. One thing gardeners should always consider is that an animal will eat just about anything, if it is hungry enough.

"If food is scarce, deer and other animals can lose up to a quarter of their body weight over the winter months, and that means that they're hungry come spring, so it is prime time for problem animals to feast on your yard," says Bob Reynolds, Shake-Away, Inc., CEO. "The best way to get these pests away from your valuable plantings is to take advantage of the predator-prey relationship animals have. By using coyote urine granules, Shake-Away products recreate the predator scent, which naturally deters animals from the area where it is applied."

According to Shake-Away, the only maker of EPA-registered predator-scent animal repellents, the top garden offenders who can be damaging your garden this summer are:

  1. 1. Deer/Elk
  2. 2. Rabbits
  3. 3. Domestic cats
  4. 4. Squirrel
  5. 5. Chipmunks
  6. 6. Groundhogs
  7. 7. Possums
  8. 8. Rats
  9. 9. Shrew
  10. 10. Vole

"No gardener wants deer munching on their vegetables or cats romping through that prized flower bed," says Ron Boyce, Research Scientist, Shake-Away, Inc.

"Unsightly fences only solve the problem until the pests find a way around them. In addition, chemicals could potentially harm both animals and the plants, however, when animals smell a predator, their instinct is to stay as far away as possible."

Garden-safe and pet-friendly, Shake-Away uses 100 percent non-toxic predator urine granules, such as coyote or fox granules, that cause prey animals to instinctively leave an area where they detect a predatory threat. Shake-Away products are 100 percent natural and certified organic with no lingering yard or garden odor that is detectable by humans.

For more information visit www.shake-away.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.


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How to Master the Art of Curb Appeal

May 2, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011-With prime home selling season upon us, it's time for to make sure your property is at its best-and the smartest place to start is in your front yard. First impressions are important. You don't want potential buyers to discount a home without even getting out of the car.

According to Home and Garden Television (HGTV) an attractive and well-maintained yard can add as much as 10 percent to the value of a home. In less than one weekend, you can follow three easy steps to greener and cleaner yards -allowing you to sell your home for more money in less time.

Step One-Feed Your Grass

Spring is an important time to fertilize a yard, which leads to greener grass. GreenView Lawn Food with GreenSmart is a possible option for home sellers, with an all-new enhanced efficiency fertilizer that features Mesa a patented slow-release nitrogen ingredient. After just one application, it claims to work up to 12-weeks, setting your lawn up for success against heat, drought and additional good-weather traffic. Additionally it costs an average of 20 percent less than other brands. If you have a weed problem-you'll want to choose either Crabgrass control (pre-emergent) or Weed and Feed to help with many broadleaf weed varieties, such as dandelions, chicory and pigweed. Use just three-weeks prior to your scheduled open house to see real results.

Step Two-Trim Your Lawn & Shrubs

After you feed the grass, you'll need to maintain it for open houses and showings. Don't cut your grass too short, particularly for cool season grasses. Most common grasses do well at the 2.5 to 3 inch range. Additionally, make sure to cut back overgrowth on trees, bushes and shrubs.

Step Three-Add Some Color

Add some color with fresh mulch, new flowers and a nice welcome mat. These little touches will be noticed by prospective homebuyers and make for a more welcoming appearance to your home. For a small investment, containers with flowers a good idea too. The flower containers are great for staging, and you can take them with you when you move.

For more information visit www.greenviewpresskit.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.


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