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

Word of the Day

May 19, 2011 11:27 am

Urban renewal. The acquisition of run-down city areas for purposes of redevelopment.

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


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Many Americans Remain Unaware about Gout Risk Factors

May 19, 2011 11:27 am

RISMedia, May 19, 2011-A new survey from the nonprofit Gout & Uric Acid Education Society (GUAES) highlights an alarming awareness gap among Americans regarding the risk factors for gout, a chronic, potentially disabling form of arthritis which now affects an estimated 8.3 million Americans. Among the survey findings are that only one in 10 Americans correctly cited cardiovascular disease as a risk factor for gout, while only one in three Americans correctly reported that obesity is a risk factor, and less than one in five reported that diabetes and kidney disease are risk factors. GUAES released the survey findings in advance of its annual Gout Awareness Day on May 22.

Gout is a form of arthritis caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. The crystals form when there are abnormally high levels of uric acid in the body. Gout is one of the most painful forms of arthritis and the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. While gout affects more men than women, post-menopausal women and those with a family history of the disease are also are at risk. Gout can affect any joint in the body and is among the fastest-growing diseases in the United States.

People suffering from gout scored only slightly better than the general population, according to the survey findings, with one in five gout sufferers naming cardiovascular disease as a risk factor for gout, one in five citing diabetes as a risk factor, and one in two correctly reporting obesity as a risk factor.

Furthermore, the survey found that only one in five Americans are aware that family history can be a risk factor for gout, and only two of five patients knew that it can run in families. In contrast, three out of five Americans correctly reported that heart disease and diabetes can run in families.

"These survey findings are cause for concern considering that the incidence of gout has doubled twice in the past 40 years and that gout is associated with other serious health conditions which are also on the rise," says Brian F. Mandell, MD, chairman of medicine in Rheumatology and Immunologic Diseases, Center for Vasculitis Care and Research at the Cleveland Clinic, and a GUAES board member. "While it is somewhat encouraging that a majority of Americans recognize that gout is a life-long disease which requires constant treatment and attention, they are unaware of what may place them or their family members at risk."

For more information about the survey findings and educational resources for patients and medical professionals, visit www.gouteducation.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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TrendWatch: Gas Prices May Pass $4/gal Nationwide

May 19, 2011 11:27 am

RISMedia, May 19, 2011-The dreaded milestone that consumers have been hoping to avoid going into this summer may be coming faster than anyone thought: gas prices could soar to over $4/gallon nationwide within the coming week, according to a Yahoo! Finance interview with Tom Kloza, chief analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

"There's enough momentum to take us up there," says Kloza, who also notes that this weekend's 3.4-cent surge was likely a delayed reaction to deadly storms across the South that temporarily knocked out power at some oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Refineries located around the Great Lakes have also been shut down recently for scheduled maintenance, which has led to higher gas prices across the Midwest.

Prices have risen 88 cents since the beginning of the year, with no end in sight as the summer looms. Though prices are not currently expected to rise consistently throughout the summer, Kloza says that price spikes, most notably around the weekend of July 4, will drive prices up sharply from time to time.

Paul Citarella of FleetCards USA TrendWatch provides insight into the effects of a higher nationwide fuel price.

"Fleets are generally used to prices fluctuating, but crossing a threshold like the four dollar mark makes a lot of businesses stand up and take notice," says Citarella. "It makes people think harder about their fuel budgets when suddenly the price is a dollar more than they were paying just a few weeks ago."

Fleet owners have already felt the sting of higher prices nationwide. A recent survey by CNN of average prices by state showed that residents of California, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Alabama, West Virginia, Connecticut and Washington were already paying over $4/gal for gas, with Hawaiians paying the most at $4.59/gal. Mississippi residents are paying an average of 14.23 percent of their yearly income on fuel.

"The fortunate thing for businesses experiencing financial anxiety from these high prices is that the economic blow can be mitigated by smart, proactive fuel management," says Citarella.

Businesses bracing for the summer driving season should take time to examine their fuel spending and take care of any waste or inconsistency now before mistakes become even costlier. With a little bit of preparation and smart spending, the coming year can still be one of growth for fleets.

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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Home Canning Is Top Food Trend for Consumers Motivated to Eat Healthy, Fresh and Local

May 19, 2011 11:27 am

RISMedia, May 19, 2011-The resurgence of home canning continues to gain momentum with many food insiders identifying canning as a top food trend for 2011. Fueled by consumers' desire to live more healthfully and eat fresh, local foods year-round, more Americans than ever are turning to home canning. Leading the trend is Ball home canning brand with its 127-year history of producing high-quality glass jars in America's heartland. The brand will celebrate home canning by hosting the first annual National Can-It-Forward Day on August 13.

"Summer's bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables is upon us and there's never been a better time to learn how easy and rewarding canning can be," says Brenda Schmidt, Brand Manager for Fresh Preserving at Jarden Home Brands.

Home canning enables consumers to enjoy their fresh, locally grown foods all year long. In addition, fresh preserving lets consumers limit the amount of sugar or salt in foods they prepare and cook with no preservatives.

According to industry data, home canning product sales have risen nearly 35 percent over the past three years as popularity for fresh preserving grows. Jarden Home Brands, makers of Ball brand fresh preserving products, has also seen sales of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving double in the last year.

National Can-It-Forward Day

On August 13, millions of food lovers curious about canning can learn the ease and benefits of preserving fresh food. Jarden Home Brands has teamed up with Canning Across America-a nationwide collective of cooks, gardeners and food lovers committed to the revival of the lost art of "putting up" food-to create the first annual National Can-It-Forward Day.

A free, live webcast hosted at FreshPreserving.com will feature a day of instructional canning videos as well as cooking demos. Viewers will be able to ask questions and post comments in real time as they participate along at home. The event will film at Seattle's Pike Place Market and those in the area are encouraged to participate in person.

Since canning is always more fun when shared with friends, Jarden Home Brands is also providing instructions for consumers to host their own Home Canning Parties as part of National Can-It-Forward Day. Online resources will provide simple instructions for getting started, including a checklist of necessary items, sample recipes and valuable coupons.

For more information about National Can-It-Forward Day, visit www.FreshPreserving.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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Disaster Victims Linked with Emergency Housing Hosts

May 19, 2011 11:27 am

RISMedia, May 19, 2011-Established six years ago as a free service to connect victims of Hurricane Katrina and subsequent tropical storms with homeowners volunteering to provide free temporary housing, HurricaneHousingSearch.org is now available to people driven from their homes by natural disasters of any kind under its new name, DisasterHousingSearch.org.

"This is a 100 percent grassroots, people-helping-people effort," explains Joel Lesser, CEO of the non-profit site's sponsor Creative NetVentures of Atlanta. "When we started the site to help refugees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we never dreamed how big and ongoing the response from people willing to devote a spare room, garage or other space to help strangers made homeless by the whims of Mother Nature would be. "Today, six years, many hurricanes, and thousands of helped families later, we are responding to requests from many generous temporary housing donors concerned about the plight of people driven from their homes by floods, tornadoes, and other acts of God by broadening the service to cover victims of any natural disaster, not just hurricanes."

Organized by state, DisasterHousingSearch.org offers a simple way for homeowners to list their available space and for individual victims, FEMA officials, Red Cross directors, and other care providers to access them.

"We want families who are displaced by hurricanes, floods, tornados, fires and other natural disasters to know that DisasterHousingSearch.org is, and will continue to be, available to help them locate temporary housing," Lesser notes. "All of us who populate cyberspace talk about the 'internet community' so much that the phrase sometimes has very little meaning. DisasterHousingSearch.org is our ongoing effort to make that concept a reality at critical moments of great need; moments when a sense of community-on and off the internet-is desperately needed."

For more information visit www.DisasterHousingSearch.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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Question of the Day

May 18, 2011 11:27 am

Q: How does a lease option work?

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property. The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work. Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you sign on the dotted line.

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


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Word of the Day

May 18, 2011 11:27 am

Undivided interest. Ownership by two or more persons that gives each the right to use the entire property.

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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Gas and Electrical Equipment Safety in Floods

May 18, 2011 11:27 am

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011-There are serious gas and electrical safety implications to consider if you are living or working in an area experiencing flooding. The BC Safety Authority (BCSA) reminds homeowners and businesses to take precautions with gas and electrical appliances when flooding is expected.

"Electrical equipment and gas appliances exposed to flood waters can be dangerous if they are re-energized and used without being properly inspected by a licensed contractor," says Greg Paddon, Acting VP of Technical Programs for the BC Safety Authority.

"Moisture, debris and contaminants in flood-damaged equipment or appliances can sometimes be hidden and cause serious risks," adds Paddon.

If flooding is expected and time allows, do the following:

Have a licensed gas contractor remove gas equipment and systems

Have a licensed gas contractor cap the gas pipe leading to appliances

Remove electrical appliances

Shut off the main gas and electrical supply

Secure propane tanks to a stable structure to keep them from floating away

If there is no advance warning of flooding or a licensed contractor is unavailable:

Shut off the main gas and electrical supply

Ensure that all valves and power knobs on all appliances and systems are turned off

Shut off the water leading to and from hot water tanks

Secure propane tanks to a stable structure

Extreme precautions must be taken when returning to a flood-damaged area.

If you smell natural or propane gas, leave the area immediately and call your gas utility. Natural and propane gas smell like rotten eggs

If the main power and gas supply are still turned on, shut them off and do not step on a wet area if you must touch the main electrical panel

Do not plug in or turn on any flood-damaged appliance or system. Call licensed gas and electrical contractors to do an inspection first

Have a licensed gas contractor reconnect any gas system that was removed

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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Employee Happiness Linked to Workplace Productivity and Performance

May 18, 2011 11:27 am

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011-Paul David Walker, a successful business advisor to CEOs, founder of Genius Stone Partners-a company that partners with the C-suite to build business performance-and author of "Unleashing Genius: Leading Yourself, Teams and Corporations," has defined the seven steps anyone can take to be happier and more productive, something that a 20-year Gallup poll recently indicated has a powerful effect on companies' bottom-line.

The poll indicated that happier employees are significantly more engaged and productive. Walker has known this and helped companies generate billions of dollars with more engaged employees. Now, Gallup has proven this to be the case. Leaders would be well advised to share Walker's valuable insights with employees to build personal accountability for happiness and well-being on a daily basis, rather than depending on good managers to help them, as Gallup suggests.

"Earlier studies have discovered that happiness and well-being are natural states of mind," says Walker. "All types of suffering are simply conditioned responses to our thoughts. Thoughts that we repeat to ourselves detract us from insight and our natural feelings of joy, love and gratitude."

When people repeat negative thoughts like "I'm not good enough," or "This person is an idiot," it contributes to poor moods and a cycle of negativity, according to Walker. Focus on such thoughts also keeps people from fully engaging in their lives. Instead, Walker encourages people to think of themselves as athletes in "the zone." The best athletes are able to perform at often miraculous levels because they're completely engaged in the present and don't waste energy on either distracting negative or delusional positive thinking.

When he leads executive teams at mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies, Walker shares seven important steps to cultivating greater happiness and well-being in themselves and their teams:

1. Thought is, at best, an approximation of reality. Until one knows this at a deep level, it is hard to find any true happiness. Believing one's thoughts to be real is like eating the menu instead of the food: both are real, but there is no comparing the two experiences.

2. Take your thoughts lightly. Thought is both the greatest gift and the greatest curse to humanity. While thought has allowed humans to create great works of art and science, it has also defined and imprisoned those who allow it to define them. Those who learn to treat their thoughts lightly experience greater levels of well-being and engagement in life.

3. Pain is telling you to stop something. Pain is a warning sign that something is harmful, like the burn of a flame. Psychological pain has the same purpose, warning people that their thoughts are compromising their health. Practice interrupting thoughts to bring attention back to the present.

4. Let go of your thoughts. Patterns can be difficult to break, but it's possible with practice. Notice both your negative and positive thought patterns and let them go. Effective action starts with reality, not an approximation of reality.

5. Understand your road map into wellbeing and happiness. Keeping a "Peak Life Experience" journal helps people to re-experience and learn their way back into their highest states of mind.

6. Be here now. Learning to be present makes it more likely for people to experience life instead of experiencing their thoughts about life. Thoughts about the past and the future are only approximations of reality. Living in the present is the secret.

7. There is no substitute for practice. Letting go of thoughts in the moment takes practice. Meditate, jog, walk or dance-anything to interrupt thought with some kind of practice. Holding onto positive or negative thoughts destroys happiness and wellbeing.

Sharing these tools with a company can be the first step in addressing the wellbeing issue that affects employee productivity. Practicing them on an individual basis can help company executives lead the way for a healthier, happier workplace -- and a healthier bottom line.

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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Top Trend in Kitchen Remodeling Uncovered

May 18, 2011 11:27 am

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011- For years, we've heard that if you want to sell your home, start by remodeling your kitchen. Why? Because it has the highest return on investment. But in today's age, when most homeowners are choosing to stay put longer rather than sell, how does that impact kitchen home improvement projects? And how do these projects change, depending on influences like families with young children, generational wants, sustainable trends and the like? Moen , a leading faucet brand in North America, takes a look at today's American kitchen-no longer a place to simply cook and eat, it's now the "real" living room-a place for living, working and entertaining.

"Given the current economic challenges, it's no surprise that consumers are saving rather than spending. And when they do spend, they're doing so from cash on hand; rather than credit," says Jack Suvak, senior director of research and insights, Moen. "This change in spending behavior has had a dramatic impact on remodeling projects. Most homeowners are choosing to perform 'room lifts'-small updates to personalize a room-rather than undertake major remodels."

Suvak continues, "Plus, homeowners are choosing to personalize renovations to fit their needs, rather than update a room for the next family that will be living in the house. In the kitchen, this might include everything from creating solutions that better integrate the management of electronic devices, to creating 'kid level' storage areas, to adding safety features for aging boomers."

Kitchen Influences: Children, Generations and More

The kitchen has evolved from a closed-off satellite to the most open, doted-upon room in the house. How are homeowners creating live-in value in this hub of activity?

Families with Children

Moen's research found that families with children living in the home are even more engaged in their kitchens than their counterparts without kids; and are more likely to view the kitchen as a place where activities or conversations frequently happen. With regard specifically to kitchen remodeling, respondents with children are significantly more likely than those without children to have remodeled or made improvements to their kitchen in the past year, used a kitchen designer or architect, or spent more on kitchen improvements. And families with children living in the home are far more likely to say they would spend more money on their kitchen remodel if they had it to do over.

When Moen queried designers about the challenges of creating live-in value for families with children, there are clear differences for families with kids of different ages. As children grow older, the kitchen evolves from a potentially dangerous place to a space for sharing food preparation and cooking experiences. Designers stated the number one concern when remodeling kitchens for families with children in each of three age groups are:

1. Younger than five years old: Safety

2. Age five to 12 years old: Places for kids to play or work

3. Age 13 or older: Ability to have two or more cooks in the kitchen at one time

Utilizing this research, sample ideas to perform "room lifts" for families with children include: creating a "kid zone" (away from the stove) to enable room for child-friendly cooking, putting in a desk-like environment for computer work or homework, or adding an island with a faucet and sink, to allow for two prep areas.

Generational Differences

While families with children have very specific desires in terms of creating a kitchen with live-in value, so do the different generations.

By far, Millenials (age 18-34) have the highest demands in what they would want in a dream kitchen. The majority of their "wish list" items include those with technological advances, such as:

A microwave that allows for swiping a package bar code, enabling the microwave to cook to exact directions

A TV screen built into a kitchen wall or appliance

Technology that would allow putting a dish in the oven, programming it to refrigerate and then turning the heat on from a phone or computer

Boomers (age 45-64) also had specific "wish list" items, mostly around entertaining large groups. Examples include:

A cook-top with special-purpose features (built-in grill or wok, rotisserie attachment)

Commercial or professional-grade appliances

Built-in coffee pot connected directly to plumbing

An oven that dramatically reduces cooking times without microwaves

Green in Certain Categories

Contrary to what many might believe, designers say their clients are more concerned about the project costs than being green. The costs of environmentally friendly products and materials are still seen as higher than non-green products; and these higher costs discourage consumers who are already reluctant to spend more on their kitchen remodels.

That being said, there are certain categories that homeowners who are creating live-in value want to be sustainable, more than others:

Energy-efficient appliances are almost standard in product selection

Cabinetry, countertops and flooring that use sustainable or natural materials such as bamboo, cork and stone are being requested more frequently

More consumers are asking about energy-efficient lighting, as well as water-saving faucets and showering for their homes

More consumers are showing concern about air quality by requesting non-toxic, low-VOC finishes

"As the demand for water-saving functionality increases, Moen continues to introduce options to help homeowners achieve stylish looks with faucets and showerheads that feature flow optimization, without sacrificing performance," adds Suvak.

Move Over, Dining Room

Since 2004, Moen has observed that homeowners were not using their dining rooms as often, and the kitchen/family room was taking on a more significant role in the home habitat. That observation has not changed over the last decade, and even this simple thought has an impact on how remodeling projects create live-in value:

Laptops are now a kitchen utility; because homeowners don't want to be isolated in the home office or den-meaning designers must now allocate an area for laptop and mobile device recharging

Second sinks are becoming more prevalent on center islands, so the cook can interact with the family while prepping or cleaning up from a meal

The lack of good space and industrial design leads to using the sink, and area around the sink, as storage

"While REALTORS still keep tabs on the sorts of upgrades that will improve a home's resale value, we believe that consumers will continue to remodel with the idea of improving their quality of life while they 'stay put,' for quite some time," explains Suvak. "In other words, homeowners aren't making huge investments on their homes with an eye toward making more money-rather, they're remodeling to create 'live-in value.'"

For more information about kitchen trends, visit www.moen.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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