RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
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

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

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.


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:


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).


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.


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 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

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.


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

For more information visit

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.


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

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.


Word of the Day

May 7, 2011 10:29 am

Tenants in common. Style of ownership in which two or more persons purchase a property jointly, but with no right of survivorship and separate undivided interests. They are free to will their share to anyone they choose, a principal difference between this form of ownership and joint tenancy.

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.


Question of the Day

May 7, 2011 10:29 am

Q: What about other home improvements, are they deductible?

A: Yes, but only after you have sold your home. According to the IRS, home improvements add to the basis, or value, of your home. A tax-acceptable improvement is defined as one that adds value to your home, "considerably" prolongs your home's useful life, or adapts your house to new uses. Examples include installing new plumbing or wiring or adding a bathroom. If the work done on the home is purely for maintenance, the cost cannot be deducted and generally cannot be added to the basis, or value, of your home. However, repairs done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home are considered improvements and therefore pass the deductible test.

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.


Social Networking Redefines Landscape for Job Seekers around the World

May 7, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 7, 2011-More than a quarter of people surveyed from around the world are going online in their hunt for work, but many are growing nervous about the potential career fallout from personal content on social networking sites, according to the latest survey results from global workforce solutions leader, Kelly Services .

The findings are part of a new report, The Evolving Workforce: Social Media/Networking, based on results of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which obtained the views of approximately 97,000 people in 30 countries covering the Americas, APAC and EMEA regions from October 2010 through January 2011.

In the survey, respondents were asked a series of questions relating to their use of social networking as an employment tool, including identifying what social networking sites are most frequently used for searching for jobs and by what method they obtained their last job. The survey also sought to identify the impact of social media content on people's careers, and issues regarding the use of social networking within the workplace.

Online job boards have become the dominant source for people to find work, with more than a quarter (26 percent) of respondents using them to secure their most recent job, ahead of other job search tools-word-of-mouth (22 percent), recruitment and staffing companies (17 percent), direct approaches from employers (17 percent), print advertisements (7 percent) and social media sites (1 percent).

Even though a small number of people secured their most recent job through a social networking site, almost a quarter (24 percent) of respondents say they search for work using social networking sites, with the results showing the highest use by Generation X and Baby Boomers.

The results also revealed:

  • The most popular social networking sites to find work are Facebook and LinkedIn, preferred by 33 percent and 32 percent respectively. A further 23 percent use "other" sites, 10 percent use blogs, and 3 percent use Twitter.
  • Facebook is the overwhelming preference of Generation Y participants, while LinkedIn is favored by Generation X and Baby Boomers.
  • More than a quarter of respondents (26 percent) are worried that material from their social networking page could adversely impact their careers. All generations share concerns about the potential career fallout from social networking content, but Generation Y is the most worried.
  • More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) believe it is essential to be active on social media in order to advance their careers.
  • Almost a third of respondents (30 percent) say that their employers have a social media or social networking policy that regulates use at work.
  • The vast majority of respondents (68 percent) spend an hour or less each day on social media sites, while 19 percent spend no time at all. Only 13 percent spend an hour or more each day.

For more information please visit

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.


Americans Aren't Taking Proper Care to Protect Eyes from UV Damage

May 7, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 7, 2011-Around the world, sight is valued as the most important of the five senses, along with a strong belief that good vision positively impacts quality of life. However, while 85 percent of Americans recognize that ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage their eyes, only 65 percent wear sunglasses for protection and even fewer (39 percent) make sure their children wear sunglasses.

"Short-term damage can be hard to notice, but long-term exposure to the sun is a risk factor for harm to the eye and surrounding tissue," explains Christine W. Sindt, OD, FAAO, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, University of Iowa and Chair of the American Optometric Association Contact Lens & Cornea Council. "The effects of UV radiation are cumulative over a person's lifetime, and ocular disorders such as cataracts may not manifest for years, at which point the damage is already done. That's why parents need to make sure their children get maximum protection from the sun beginning in childhood."

Compared to adults, children have larger pupils-allowing more light in their eyes-clearer lenses and are outside without eye protection for longer periods more frequently than adults. It is estimated that a significant amount of lifetime exposure to UV rays may occur by age 18 and that children's annual dose of radiation may be up to three times that of adults.

"Arizona is the sunniest state in the U.S., so I always emphasize the importance of protecting eyes from UV rays to my patients, starting in childhood," says Dr. Stephen Cohen, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based optometrist and past president of the Arizona Optometric Association.

While most sunglasses can help block UV rays from entering through the lenses, most frame styles do not prevent rays from reaching the sides, top and bottom of the glasses. Hats with brims do not offer protection from UV rays reflected off surfaces like water, sand and pavement. The best protection is a combination of sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and for some, UV-blocking contact lenses. "For those who need vision correction, I recommend UV-absorbing contact lenses which provide an important measure of additional protection," adds Dr. Cohen. "However, not all contact lenses offer UV protection and, in fact, most do not. Of those that do, not all provide similar absorption levels."

On average, contact lenses without UV-blocking capability allow 90 percent of UVA radiation and 70 percent of UVB radiation to pass through the lenses to your eyes.

Both Drs. Sindt and Cohen note that although UV-blocking contact lenses provide important added protection, they should not be viewed as a stand-alone solution. Contact lenses should always be worn in conjunction with high-quality UV-blocking sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

For more information visit

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.


National Awareness Campaign to Reduce Child Deaths from Heat Stroke

May 7, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 7, 2011-Safe Kids USA, its Florida partners, and the General Motors Foundation, recently unveiled the elements to their 2011 national education and awareness campaign to help reduce the number of child vehicular deaths caused by heat stroke. Sadly, two child vehicular deaths have already occurred this year from parents accidently leaving their infants in a car during a long work day. Last year, the worst year on record, 49 children in the U.S. ages two months to six years died from heat stroke while unattended in vehicles.

Through the Safe Kids USA network of 600 coalitions and chapters, the "Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car" program will unite and mobilize a wide range of partners-police and fire, hospitals, government agencies, child care centers, businesses and others-to share with parents and other caregivers prevention messages to address the dangers to children in vehicles. The program will include an advertising campaign of billboards, print ads, web banners and radio announcements as well as tip sheets. The materials will be available in both English and Spanish.

This is a significant health concern as Safe Kids USA conservatively estimates that there are 1,000 2,000 near-misses every month," says Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA. "Safe Kids USA has confirmed 250,000 cases of children trapped in vehicles. Thankfully, most have not resulted in a death.

However, these estimates do not include calls to fire or police departments.

"There is no greater tragedy for a parent or caregiver than to suffer the loss of a child due to hyperthermia," says Administrator David Strickland, U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "It's vital that children never be left unattended in a vehicle and keys are kept out of a child's reach. We urge all parents and caregivers to make a habit of looking in the vehicle-front and back-before locking the door and walking away. If a child is missing, check the vehicle, including the trunk."

"These horrific, yet preventable tragedies can happen more often than one would think, even at temperatures as low as 57 degrees F. And unfortunately, the number of heat stroke deaths from children being unattended in vehicles is trending upwards-since 1998 over 495 young children have fallen victim to this tragedy," says Kelly Powell, Safe Kids Coordinator, Palm Beach County. "That's why our goal is to create awareness and educate the millions of drivers on ways to stop these heartbreaks."

"We're launching this program in Florida because the statistics for our state are alarming," says Sergeant Russ Mager, Delray Beach Police Department. "Since records have been kept, 56 children in Florida have died from heat stroke after being unattended in a vehicle, making Florida one of leading states. Although Florida has a law addressing unattended children, the law states that children under 6 may not be left in a motor vehicle for more than 15 minutes if the motor is not running. However, what people not always realize is that in just 10 minutes a vehicle's interior temperature can rise drastically-19 degrees F-and can continue to increase."

Appy adds, "Advanced technologies may help prevent child heat stroke deaths in vehicles and Safe Kids urges child seat manufacturers and automakers to continue research and development of these technologies. However, the near-term emphasis must remain on education and awareness as it will take years for technology solutions to become widespread."

Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car is a key component of Safe Kids Buckle Up, the comprehensive Safe Kids USA child passenger safety program sponsored by the General Motors Foundation. "Providing the support necessary for the Safe Kids coalitions and community partners to effectively educate families on how they can avoid these tragic and needless deaths is an important priority for the Foundation," says Vivian Pickard, President of the General Motors Foundation. "We commend these dedicated teams and their tireless, year-round efforts to keep children safe in and around cars."

Here's what parents and caregivers need to know and why:

Lock cars and trucks. Thirty percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle. These deaths can be prevented by simply locking the vehicle doors to help assure that kids don't enter the vehicles and become trapped.

Create reminders. Many child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child. To help prevent these tragedies parents can:

o Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or something that is needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This will help you see your child when you open the rear door and reach for your belongings.

o Set the alarm on your cell phone/smartphone as a reminder to you to drop your child off at day care.

o Set your computer calendar program to ask, "Did you drop your child off at daycare today?" Establish a plan with your daycare that if your child fails to arrive within an agreed upon time that you will be called within a few minutes. Be especially mindful of your child if you change your routine for daycare.

Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble. The body temperature of children rises 3 - 5 times faster than adults, and as a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke. Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child is missing.

For more information on preventing child heat stroke deaths, please visit

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.


Consumers Indicate Higher Satisfaction with Home Improvement Stores

May 7, 2011 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, May 7, 2011-Home improvement store shoppers are more satisfied with store facilities, merchandise and pricing in 2011, compared with 2010, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Study(SM) released recently.

The study, now in its fifth year, measures customer satisfaction with home improvement retail stores, based on performance in five factors, listed in order of importance: staff and service (including availability, courtesy, knowledge); store facility (including ease of finding merchandise and cleanliness); merchandise (including availability and product information); price; and sales and promotions.

For a fifth consecutive year, Ace Hardware ranks highest in satisfying home improvement retail store customers. Ace Hardware achieves a score of 786 on a 1,000-point scale and performs particularly well in the two most influential factors: staff and service and store facility. Lowe's improves from fourth rank position in 2010 to rank second in 2011 with a score of 771, and performs particularly well in the merchandise factor. Menards retains its third rank position from 2010 with a score of 765 and performs particularly well in the sales/promotions and price factors.

Not only has satisfaction with store facilities improved, compared with 2010, but also home improvement store customers indicate that they are more satisfied with store facilities than any other aspect of the retail experience.

"Shoppers, whether novices to home improvement or those who are more experienced, need not be intimidated by the store," says Christina Cooley, senior manager of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Retailers have invested in improving their layouts and signage to help guide customers to the products that they are looking for."

Within the store facility factor, ease of finding desired merchandise is of primary importance to shoppers at home improvement stores.

"When customers aren't able to find the merchandise on their own, it's critical that they receive assistance quickly-ideally within two minutes," says Cooley. "The highest-performing retailers are typically able to meet this threshold. In contrast, the average customer-reported wait time for assistance is four minutes. Customers should not hesitate to ask for assistance, as the study indicates that they can depend on retailers to help them when asked and that assistance comes relatively quickly."

On average, customers shop at their primary home improvement retailer two to three times per month. Although most customers indicate they visit home improvement stores on weekends, there has been an increase in the percentage of shoppers who make weekday visits. In 2011, 41 percent of customers say they shop during the week, compared with 34 percent in 2010. According to Cooley, the increased incidence of weekday shopping means that retailers need to make sure they adjust their staffing levels accordingly during the week.

There has also been an increase in 2011 in the percentage of shoppers who say they used a self-checkout kiosk (53 percent in 2011 compared with 42 percent in 2010).

"While self-checkout is meant to be more convenient for the customer, it is not uncommon that the customer still will require some intervention from store staff, so this is another area in which retailers need to ensure proper staffing," says Cooley. "To ensure a quick checkout, customers should limit using self-checkout to visits in which they are purchasing relatively few items and the bar codes are clearly identifiable on all products."

The study also finds the following key trends:

  • The average customer in 2011 has spent $1,650 at home improvement retailers within the past 12 months.
  • In 2011, customers spent a greater percentage of their overall annual expenditure at their primary home improvement store (72 percent) than in 2010 (68 percent).

The 2011 U.S. Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 6,900 consumers who purchased a home improvement product or service within the previous 12 months from a store that sells home improvement products. Consumers were asked to evaluate their primary home improvement retailer. The study was fielded in March and April 2011.

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.