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

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

Report of title. Document required before title insurance can be issued. It states the name of the owner, a legal description of the property, and the status of taxes, liens, and anything else that might affect the marketability of the title.

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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Q: How do I avoid being ripped off by a less than reputable contractor?

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

A: According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several ways to spot less than reputable contractors because these hucksters tend to do the following:

- Only accept cash payments;

- Pressure you for an immediate decision;

- Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front;

- Solicit door-to-door;

- Offer exceptionally long guarantees;

- Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job;

- Ask you to get the required building permits;

- Not list a business number in the local telephone directory;

- Offer you discounts for finding other customers;

- Suggest that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam a sure way to lose your home.

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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Last Minute Tips for Filing Your Taxes

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011-The deadline for filing your taxes is approaching quickly. April 15 is usually the last day to file your taxes, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the 2011 deadline to Monday, April 18.

The extension probably brings little relief to the millions of taxpayers who always wait until the last minute, regardless of the deadline. The following tips will help you file your taxes on time and avoid mistakes.

File an extension

-If you cannot file your taxes by the April 18 deadline, apply for an extension. This gives taxpayers six additional months to meet their tax obligations. It's better to file later than to rush and file your taxes with mistakes.

-Although the extension gives you more time to file your taxes, it does not mean you have more time to pay your taxes. The deadline for paying is still April 18. The IRS offers payment plans and installment agreements if you have trouble paying your taxes.

-To apply for an extension, you need to fill out the form 4868 and follow the instructions.

-The extension can be filed in three ways: electronically, on a personal computer by using the IRS's FreeFile online service; online or by phone, if you are able to pay part or all of your tax bill using a credit or debit card, by sending the form by traditional mail.

File your taxes online

-Filing your taxes online is not only secure and convenient, but it is also a good option if you don't have enough time to find a tax preparer. The IRS has several programs to help all taxpayers file their taxes online for free.

-So far, the 2011 tax season is showing a 6% increase in online filing as compared to 2010.

-If you're planning to file your taxes online, visit the FreeFile section on the IRS website since not all private industry software is compatible with the service.

Check the application

-The rush to file your taxes on time might increase the chances of making mistakes. While tax software might detect some errors, it won't pick up typing mistakes or other information that's incorrectly entered.

-To avoid the most common mistakes when filing your taxes, the IRS suggests the following: double check the information on the application and pay close attention to the math; if you want to get your refund via direct deposit, make sure the bank or financial institution information is correct; don't forget to include accompanying documents such as your W-2, and sign and date your tax return.

For more information, visit www.usa.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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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Moving to a New Home

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011-Now that you've found your dream home, be sure the actual moving process goes just as smoothly. From the Move Advocate, here are five mistakes to avoid when moving to your new home:

1. Getting a quote over the phone or Internet: A big mistake that consumers make, when planning their moves, is obtaining a quote over the phone or the Internet. Any quote obtained in this manner is a non-binding quote. The only way to obtain a guaranteed or binding quote is to have a visual survey of your household goods by a reputable mover. If you choose to accept a quote over the phone or Internet, you are setting yourself up for a nasty scenario when the mover shows up at your new home and demands more money.

2. Waiting too long to line up a mover: Allowing time for a visual survey, receiving a written and binding quote, and reserving a truck for your move takes a lead time of 4-6 weeks. Although moves can be arranged in a shorter period of time, many consumers find that their choices are limited by availability, especially in the busy summer months. In our current real estate market, many homes are taking longer to sell, but once sold are closing very quickly. The time to obtain estimates for your move is before your home sells so that you are prepared when it does.

3. Misrepresenting what you are moving: It is very important to show the surveyor or estimator everything you are planning to move. If you forget to show items in a basement, garage, attic, or off-site storage unit and then add those items at time of pick-up, your estimate will no longer be binding. In the same vein, if you commit to packing your own items but don't have time to finish, the van line will pack your items and charge you for the service. If you are uncertain of whether you will be taking something, or are not sure if you will have time to pack everything, ask the surveyor to put the items or service in the estimate. If you decide not to take something, or do not require the packing, the cost will be adjusted downward.

4. Paying a deposit up front: Reputable movers do not ask for payment up front to reserve trucks or dates. This is a classic red flag in moving. A reputable mover will expect payment upon delivery.

5. Finding a mover based upon price rather than reputation and service: If a mover gives you a price that is significantly lower than other movers, it is likely that you are being low-balled. If a surveyor has underestimated your weight in order to give you a lower price you may find, on moving day, that the moving truck does not have enough room for your shipment. This is called an overflow. An overflow means that your items will not all travel together, will not all arrive at the same time, and will generally just cause you a big hassle. Another way to lower cost is to compromise service. Look for a competitive bid from a professional mover who is certified and reputable. Although price is an important factor, don't base your decision on price alone.

For more information, visit www.moveadvocate.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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10 Eco-Tips to Help Homeowners Go Green This Earth Month

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011-April 22, 2011 marks the 41st Earth Day, and celebrations and events will take place throughout the entire month of April all over the world. During Earth Month 2011, people are encouraged to help the environment by reducing pollution, protecting nature, and lowering their own personal environmental impact. Green Mountain Energy Company, one of the nation's leading competitive retail providers of cleaner energy, offers the following eco-tips that are easy for consumers to implement and make a difference for the environment.

Since 1997, Green Mountain has stood by its unique environmental mission-"to change the way power is made." Nearly 14 years later, the company remains 100% committed to this mission.

Involve all family members to learn how to make small changes inside and outside of the home. Green Mountain Energy Company suggests these simple eco-tips for Earth Month.

-Switch to cleaner electricity for your home. The production of electricity is the leading cause of industrial air pollution, but by using clean energy, customers can reduce their share of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and feel good about making a difference.

-Plant a tree. A single tree can absorb up to 2,000 pounds of CO2 over its lifetime, while also providing shade and animal habitat.

-Send e-cards. Go online and send an e-card instead of printed greeting cards to save paper and CO2 emissions associated with mailing and shipping.

-Use all-natural decoration. Buy colorful fruits and vegetables as centerpieces throughout the home. Then when they ripen, find a new recipe to enjoy them with.

-Use the real thing. Instead of using paper and plastic dinnerware, use real plates, bowls, and silverware. Not only does it decrease waste, but it looks nicer, too.

-Seal your house up. Caulking and weather stripping around doors, windows and other cracks can prevent air leaks and save on your heating and cooling bills.

-BYOB. Bring your own bags to the grocery store. It takes one 15- to 20-year-old tree to make enough paper for 700 grocery bags.

-Pay bills online. Save paper and money on stamps. If every family in the United States viewed and paid bills online, the country would save almost a billion pounds of paper and avoid 3.9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

-Practice green gift wrapping. Use old maps or newspaper and reuse gift bags to be more eco-conscious around birthdays and the holidays.

-Live every day like it's Earth Day. Take a pledge as a household to practice sustainability every day of the year. Put these simple tips to use to help the environment, decrease monthly electricity bills and make a positive impact in the community.

The History of Earth Day:

1. When did Earth Day start in the U.S.?

20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22nd, 1970.

2. Why did it start?

Senator Gaylord Nelson wanted the environment to be a higher priority for the American people and politicians.

3. When did Earth Day go global?

People from 140 countries participated in the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990.

4. What is Earth Day like today?

Earth Day has turned into a month-long celebration when people all over the world attend events, participate in helping the Earth and put the environment at the top of their priority lists.

For more information, visit www.GreenMountain.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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Tips to Get Your House in Tip Top Shape

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011-As the all-important spring selling season continues to gain momentum, sellers need to do all they can to market their home-and that includes staging it to attract and "wow" potential buyers. Home stagers know just the right moves to make to take a house from bland to grand and bring home the biggest return on investment.

"Attention to detail throughout the home can make the difference between a house that sells and one that sits on the market," explains Kate Hart, one of America's top home stagers and owner of Hart & Associates Staging & Design. "In particular, improvements to the kitchen and bath-the two rooms that sell a home-will always help bring in the buyers."

Below, Kate Hart shares some easy, effective home improvements and tricks of the trade that can make a big change without breaking the bank, and all the difference in selling a home-as well as enjoying one.

Curb Appeal: First impressions are everything, and this has never been truer than in today's market. To leave a positive impression on buyers, take care of any exterior maintenance issues before buyers arrive, such as power washing walkways and patios, cleaning your gutters, touching up peeling paint, replacing broken light bulbs, edging and mulching beds, and adding fresh annuals. Some free things you can do include polishing your front door hardware and sweeping away pesky cobwebs.

Kitchen: Give your kitchen a mini facelift on a budget by repainting your cabinets instead of replacing them. For a more contemporary look, consider a semi-gloss espresso brown. For a more traditional look, opt for a semi-gloss creamy white. Complete the makeover by adding new hardware. Considering professional help? Ask your local painter if they can spray a lacquer finish on your cabinets. This treatment is more expensive than painting the cabinets yourself but the result looks like a factory finish.

Bathroom: Give an outdated bath a pick-me-up by replacing your existing lighting, faucets and hardware with updated style.

Bedrooms: Take your bedroom from lived-in to luxurious by creating a headboard that gives your room a more complete look. Measure the width of your bed and determine the height you prefer. Purchase a inch piece of plywood fitting these dimensions (ask the store to cut if for you) and cover it with two inch foam that fits the dimensions you selected. Wrap the foam and plywood with batting that can be purchased from a craft store. Finally, staple gun a fabric of your choice around the headboard you've created. You can then hang the headboard behind the bed on the wall as if you were hanging a piece of art using "D" rings and hooks or attach it to your bed frame using bolts and washers.

Family Room: Make your fireplace or great view the selling feature, not your entertainment center. Chances are your family room is currently centered around the things you do everyday, such as watch TV. Before showing, rearrange your room to showcase the architectural focal point of your family room.

Dining Room: Keep this room de-cluttered and streamlined so buyers can imagine how they can enjoy this space with their families. Before showing, make sure to remove any knick-knacks and extraneous items from your china cabinet or sideboard. A rule to follow: pack up any items that are smaller than a softball such as salt and pepper shakers, wedding cake toppers, and small figurines.

Living Room: Make sure you are selling your space, not your stuff. Before showing, again, remove any family photos from the mantle, end tables and bookcases. Give this space a less cluttered look by keeping no more than three items per surface. For example, go with a piece of art and a pair of candle sticks on the mantle instead of your favorite collection.

"It's important to complete all your improvements before your home goes on the market because as the saying goes...you never have a second chance to make a first impression," continues Hart. "And once the sign goes up, you need to keep up the clean, de-cluttered look because you never know when you'll have a showing. It just takes one buyer to sell your home."

Kate Hart is a pioneer in the staging field, having helped hundreds of families and Realtors prepare homes for sale through her Philadelphia-area company, Hart & Associates Staging & Design.

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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11 Ways to Save More and Spend Less

April 11, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 11, 2011-When the financial crisis swept the nation, it left a trail of destruction from sea to shining sea. One reason it caused so much devastation is because at the time many Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, financing purchases they couldn't afford.

And while many Americans have finally gotten wise to the importance of saving a buck-today, the personal savings rate is in the 5% range-Eric Tyson wishes it hadn't taken a crisis to make the message sink in. And he's adamant that younger Americans learn from the free-spending, debt-accumulating mistakes of folks of all ages.

"For most young people, their 20s are the first time they are completely financially independent," says Tyson, author of Personal Finance in Your 20s For Dummies. "And it's not unusual to go a little crazy and start buying-or financing, as the case may be-what you want.

Here are a few tips from Tyson to help you save more and spend less.

Rent smart. When you're in your early 20s and you don't have dependents, living in a low-cost fashion is easier than it is later in life. There are many ways to minimize costs if you are renting your living space. Two great ways to keep costs down are living with relatives or having roommates. But no matter who you are living with (and certainly if you are living alone), you should minimize your monthly rent. If you find that you've allowed your champagne tastes to exceed your beer budget, so long as you're completing your current lease, there's no reason you can't move to a lower-cost rental. Just be sure to factor in all the costs of moving to and living in a new rental.

Slice homeowner expenses. If you own a home or are about to buy one, you can take many steps to keep your ownership costs down and under control without neglecting your property or living like a pauper. The first step is to buy a home that fits your budget. During the real estate boom of the early- to mid-2000s, many people bought houses they couldn't truly afford. When the market crashed, some of those people with severely stretched budgets lost their homes to foreclosure because they got in over their heads, fell on hard times and couldn't afford their monthly mortgage payments.

Cut your taxes. Alongside the costs of owning or renting a home, taxes are the other large personal expenditure for most folks. Everyone gets socked with taxes when earning income and when investing and spending money. That's the bad news-the good news is that you can reduce the amount of taxes you pay by using some relatively simple yet powerful strategies.

Cook up lower food costs. One way to reduce food expenditures is to avoid eating at restaurants and instead learn to cook for yourself. Making your own food is often healthier (if you make the right meals), and because you put in all that hard work, you end up enjoying the food more. When you go to buy the groceries you're going to cook up, avoid name-brand products and instead go for store brands. They are usually the same quality (and sometimes the same product) as the name brand at a lower price.

Get up and go for less. Getting to and fro on a daily basis can get expensive if you don't keep an eye on your expenses. Many people rely on cars for their transportation. Cars can be a tremendous financial burden, especially if you borrow to buy or lease the car. When possible, opting for public transportation is a great way to save money. And in some cities, it allows you to avoid having a car altogether. Another great option is to opt for two wheels instead of four. Riding your bike has the double benefit of saving you money and being great exercise.

Finesse your fashion finances. When you're starting your first "real" job, it's only natural to want to look your best. But looking your best doesn't have to require that you wear only the latest fashions. In fact, you really don't need to buy a lot of new clothes every year. True fashion, as defined by what people are actually wearing day-to-day, changes quite slowly. In fact, the classics never go out of style. If you want the effect of a new wardrobe every year, store last year's purchases away next year and then bring them out the year after. Or rotate your clothing inventory every third year.

Budget your fun funds. Having fun and taking time out for recreation can be money well spent. However, if you engage in financial extravagance in the name of fun, you can quickly wreck an otherwise good budget. Spending more money shouldn't be equated with having more fun. Many movies, theaters, museums and restaurants offer discount prices on certain days and times. And other recreational options, such as visiting with friends, hiking, reading and playing sports can be good for your finances as well as your mental and physical health.

Tame your technology spending. These days it seems like there is a never-ending stream of new gadgets. Unfortunately, though, the cost of these gadgets adds up. Err on the side of keeping your life simple. Doing so costs less, reduces stress and allows more time for the things that really matter in life.

Keep down insurance costs. Insurance is a major and costly part of our lives. There's health insurance, car insurance, homeowner's insurance, renter's insurance-just to name a few, and they all add up.

Seek out professional advice when needed. Although your life may be relatively simple now, sometimes you may have to deal with new challenges, and you may benefit from having a seasoned pro at your side. Tax, legal, business and financial advisors can be worth more than their expense if they know what they're doing and you pay a reasonable fee.

Be smart about healthcare expenses. When you're young and in good health, you usually don't give much thought to healthcare expenses and health insurance. But you have health insurance for a reason, and unfortunately, the cost of healthcare continues to rise faster than overall inflation.

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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5 Easy Steps to Utilize Home Security Systems

April 11, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 11, 2011-Spring has sprung, and just in time for spring cleaning, Alarm.com is encouraging homeowners to rethink the outdated security system they're growing out of and consider a smarter security system.

Feeling a little green in your knowledge about home security systems? Not a problem. Home alarm systems are simple to use. Today, it's easy to control a home security system right from a Web-enabled computer or smartphone. Learning the basics will help homeowners interact with a security system every day. To quickly get up-to-speed with the interactive security solutions available, Alarm.com offers five basic tips to protect your home and family on a daily basis:

1. Make yourself at home

Set up motion sensors throughout the home to communicate all activity that takes place. Even if the security system is disarmed, you can still find out what's going on at home. Interactive security systems can keep track of both alarm and non-alarm events at home. Find out when the kids get home from school, when the delivery truck arrives or when the cleaning crew leaves, for example. Or check to see if any doors or windows were left open.

2. Put security in your pocket

Homeowners constantly on-the-go rely on their cell phones to regularly check in with people who matter to them. Checking in on your home is no different. Simply download a free mobile app to control the security system and monitor the home when on-the-go. Today, security apps for iPhone, BlackBerry or Android devices enable arming and disarming of the security system from afar and also the ability to watch live or recorded video footage from security cameras while away from home. Or, control lights and thermostats right from a smartphone with a home automation solution integrated with a security system.

3. See your way to safety

A security system can truly become a window to your world. To watch over the house while away, use any smartphone or computer with access to the Internet to manage and monitor video surveillance cameras. Even view live video of your kids playing in the basement or save clips of visitors at the front door to know who came to the house that day. Control your camera settings right from a cell phone and, when video footage is recorded in important areas, receive clips via email and text message to stay aware of what's happening at home.

4. Use your security system to stay informed

No matter where you are, stay connected to home with a wireless home security system. Set up custom email and text message alerts to stay informed about events that matter to you. Be alerted whenever the security system is armed or disarmed. Or find out about a power failure or a water leak in the basement before it's too late.

5. Make your security system even smarter

There are endless ways to use a security system to protect your home. With home energy management features integrated into the system, lights can automatically turn off when you leave for the day. Also, use an integrated home automation solution to lock all the doors in just one click when the security system is armed at bedtime. Or turn down the thermostats according to daily routines. Additionally, it can assist in setting up personalized user codes for any visitors who come to the house when you're away, eliminating the worry about making multiple copies of the keys.

With an interactive home security system, achieve greater awareness about what's happening at home while away. Spring for convenience, control and peace of mind with easy-to-use and affordable security solutions that fit your lifestyle. Safeguard your home and family with smarter security.

For more information, visit www.alarm.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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Word of the Day

April 11, 2011 6:43 am

Rent control. Government-imposed restrictions on the amount of rent a property owner can charge.

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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Q: How do I get help for remodeling following a natural disaster?

April 11, 2011 6:43 am

A: The Small Business Administration (SBA) not only assists businesses after a natural disaster, civil disturbance, fires and other catastrophes, it also provides disaster loans to individuals including homeowners and renters. The loans, which cover uninsured or underinsured losses are issued after the President or SBA Administrator signs a disaster declaration. Homeowners can then apply for loans up to $200,000 to assist with the repair or replacement of their primary residences and receive loans up to $40,000 for personal property losses. The low-interest loans have terms up to 30 years. To begin the process, applicants must register first with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain a FEMA Registration ID number.

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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