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

Simple Tips to Turn Routine Tasks into Springboards for Success

April 11, 2011 6:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 11, 2011-Parents send their children to school with the hope that the knowledge they are acquiring in the classroom will set them up for future success. However, mom and dad may not recognize that routine activities they do at home are also helping kids make the grade.

A recent study of nearly 5,000 high school students, conducted by Dr. Alan Hirsh and the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, found top performing students (those with grade averages of A and B) overwhelmingly-84%-used words like "lemony, minty or clean" to describe the smell of their childhood homes. More than one-third (34%) of lower performing students (average of C or below) associated negative smells with their homes.

While the study focused on scent, Dr. Hirsch said it's unlikely there is something within those specific odors that causes academic success. Dr. Hirsh said a more likely explanation is that there is a positive connection between a well-cared-for home and the sort of stable family environment that promotes academic success.

"The good news for moms-and their kids-is that the hard work they put into everyday chores like scrubbing floors and washing windows results in more than just a home that looks, feels and smells clean," said Jennifer James, founder of The Mom Bloggers Club. "It's not about a clean house-it is about the powerful difference parents can make in the lives of their children."

James shares a few of her favorite ideas on how to turn routine tasks into springboards for success:

Be a cheerleader: Give your kids a "hooray" for all the hard work they are doing on their homework and chores. Remember to focus on the effort, not the achievement, to make them excited about facing future challenges. Celebrate their work in big and small ways-from buying a special treat after a big test to giving daily reminders that you love them.

Read to succeed: Let children pick out their own books and help them develop a life-long love of reading. They'll appreciate the freedom of choice, and reading engages the imagination and boosts memory.

Make meals matter: Sit down for dinner together. Studies show that if children experience regular meals with family, they are more likely to stay away from drugs and do better in school.

Encourage playtime: Your family's favorite card and board games are great opportunities to practice basic skills like spelling and counting. Make them a regular activity and watch your children improve their game while enjoying the education.

For more information, visit www.familyfeatures.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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Simple Plumbing Tips Help Homeowners Conserve Water and Save Money

April 11, 2011 6:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 11, 2011-Today's economy makes it increasingly necessary to cut back where you can. A simple step homeowners can take is not flushing their money away on unnecessary water waste in their homes. "Preventative care goes a long way to help avoid future costly problems", said Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Corporation. "It can help homeowners not only conserve water for the environment but on water bills as well." If you fear you're wasting more water than you should, take a look at these plumbing tips from Mr. Rooter service professionals:

-Turn off the tap while brushing teeth or shaving and this will save 4-11 Liters per day.

-Don't use the toilet as a garbage can. Put tissue into the trash.

-Don't take long showers. Limiting them to five minutes can save 11-26 Liters per shower.

-Check and repair leaky fixtures and toilets that run. This can save hundreds of dollars per year.

-Get a plumbing check-up to ensure water is not being wasted through minor leaks.

-Repair dripping faucets. One drip per second can waste up to 10,000 Liters per year.

-Use excess water for watering plants, or for cleaning around the house instead of pouring it out.

-Only turn on dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.

-Choose water-efficient and energy saving plumbing fixtures and appliances.

-Water lawns and gardens in the morning so the water can be absorbed before it is evaporated by the heat.

For more information, visit www.mrrooter.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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Young Home Buyers Will Lead Housing Market Recovery, Says NAHB

April 9, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 9, 2011-Generation X-young families and adults ages 31 to 45-are likely to lead the home-buying recovery as it gets underway, according to real estate experts who spoke at an educational webinar produced by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in partnership with Builder magazine.

These potential home buyers are most likely to think it's a good time to get off the fence-and have strong opinions about the design features their new homes will include.

At 32% of the population of home-buying age-generally defined as those who are at least 30 years old, the Gen X population cohort isn't the largest, but it's the most mobile, said presenter Mollie Carmichael, principal of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. "They are in full force with their careers and they need to accommodate growing families," she said.

In sharp contrast, even though they constitute 41% of prospective home buyers, Baby Boomers continue to wait for the market to improve, and their decisions to delay retirement also delay their decisions to downsize into a smaller home, Carmichael said.

Most of the 10,000 buyers and potential buyers in 27 metro areas that the consulting company surveyed were optimistic about a new home purchase, with between 85% and 89% saying that it was a good time to buy a home. Only 13% said they thought home prices would continue to fall, further evidence that it's "not all about price," she said. "They want something compelling, from a design or personalization standpoint," said Carmichael.

In addition, though the average home size is shrinking, a majority of prospective buyers said they would like a bigger home than the one they have. "These are first-time buyers or younger families looking for more room to grow," she said.

Seventy percent said that they were willing to pay $5,000 more for a green home, but those responding to the survey said that they expected new homes to already have many green technology features. They also said they would pay a premium for dark wood cabinets, a separate tub and shower and a fireplace in the living room, and more preferred a great room over formal spaces.

And while community amenities are important to Gen X buyers, 46% said they prefer a home in a large-lot, suburban development, versus the 21% looking for a traditional or "walkable" neighborhood.

Webinar panelist Heather McCune, director of marketing at Bassenian/Lagoni Architects in Newport Beach, Calif., also emphasized that design will be important in generating sales in the emerging marketplace. "The notion of 'build it and they will come' no longer works. Design matters," she said.

McCune said buyers are looking for homes with a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, even in colder climates, to create the perception of greater home size, even if the space is only usable for part of the year. They also want more storage, an open floor plan and flexibility in the garage.

"While Gen X numbers are smaller than the birth cohorts before and after them, their numbers have been enlarged by steady immigration," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Gen X may wait longer than their predecessors to establish their own household or buy a home because of the recent recession impacts, but the trends are still likely to occur as they have for past generations."

This webinar was one in a four part series entitled New Horizons: Setting a Course for Success in the New Market. The series was sponsored by Simonton Windows and ThermaTru.

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

April 9, 2011 6:43 am

Release of mortgage. Certificate from the lender stating that the loan has been repaid.

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: Can I make an all-cash purchase instead of getting a mortgage?

April 9, 2011 6:43 am

A: That certainly is an option, although not one most people can afford. The national median existing-home price was $217,000 in 2007 and much more than that in many areas of the country (Honolulu, $643,500; San Diego, $588,700; New York $469,700). Unless you're independently wealthy or have hit the jackpot, it may be difficult to make a "no-mortgage" investment. And an investment is exactly how you should view it because you get to save on mortgage interest that is usually paid over the life of the home loan interest that could amount to several thousand dollars, conceivably hundreds of thousands of dollars.

With an all-cash deal, you also save by avoiding loan origination fees, an appraisal, some closing costs and other charges imposed by the lender. You enhance your negotiating position with the seller and get to bypass the rather lengthy loan qualification process, which helps to close the deal quickly. But if you want to use the home as your primary residence, forget about taking advantage of the tax breaks available to homeowners with conventional loans. By paying cash, you basically forfeit those tax breaks.

To determine whether a no-mortgage purchase is right for you, compare it to other investments, weighing the risk, return, and liquidity.

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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Ingredients to Scrub Down the Cost of Cleaning Products

April 9, 2011 6:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 9, 2011-Buying products to clean your house shouldn't have to cost you a fortune. Next time you're in the grocery store, check out these items that will make cleaning a budget-friendly breeze: super washing soda, Mule Team borax, distilled white vinegar, mild liquid soap, bar soap, baking soda and lemon.

Many of these ingredients can be used on their own, especially for intensive spring cleaning. Baking soda can be used on carpets (just sprinkle and vacuum 15 minutes later), to cut through grease stains on appliances and clothes, or just to freshen up the refrigerator or trash can. Mix baking soda with water to create a cleaning paste for tiles and counters, or with a lemon to treat grime and disinfect your toilet bowls.

For everyday solutions, the ingredients can be mixed to make common household products from dishwasher detergent to furniture polish. Homemade cleaners may save you up to 75% of the cost of buying store cleaners. Homemade products can also help you avoid the headache of unnecessary chemicals and strong smells in the home.

"Everyone is looking for ways to be more eco-friendly these days. These products are much less expensive and more green for your home than most pre-mixed cleaning products," says Jenny Realo, executive vice president of CareOne Services Inc.

Here's a look at some of the recipes that are easy to whip up at home:

Laundry Detergent

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Use a box grater to shred a bar of soap, and gradually add the soap shavings to the water as you go. Once the soap dissolves, add the mixture to a bucket filled with 3 gallons of warm water. Add 1/2 cup borax and 1 cup washing soda. Let the bucket sit, covered, for 24 hours. Then pour the mixture into old detergent containers, and shake before use. This recipe makes enough detergent for 52 loads of laundry for only $1.25-quite a price break considering an equivalent brand detergent would cost up to $10.

Dishwasher Detergent

Mix 2 cups washing soda with 2 cups borax. Store in an airtight container and use 2 tablespoons for each load. If your dishes come out cloudy, add 2 tablespoons of sugar-free lemon-flavored soft drink mix powder to the mix the citric acid cuts the etching. Save even more money by replacing your rinsing agent with a tablespoon of white vinegar. This mixture runs 16 loads of dishes for $1.20 instead of paying more than $6 for store bought dishwasher detergent.

Glass Cleaner

Instead of buying glass cleaner for upwards of $5 or more, you can make a simple glass cleaner for 50 cents. Mix 2 cups white vinegar with 2 cups water and put it in an inexpensive spray bottle. Wipe with newspaper for a streak-free shine.

All-Purpose Cleaner

For counters, tubs, sinks and appliances, make this all purpose cleaner and store it in a spray bottle. Mix together 1 cup of hot water, 1 teaspoon of borax and 1/2 teaspoon of washing soda. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to help cut down grunge. Spend less than a quarter rather than $4.

Furniture Polish

Instead of shelling out up to $8 for furniture polish, mix up a quick alternative for only 20 cents. All it takes is 3 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons olive oil (or any oil you have around the kitchen), and 4 tablespoons white vinegar.

Spot Remover

Dissolve 1/4 cup borax in 2 cups white vinegar and apply to stains or the soiled spot for 10 minutes. This remedy costs a slim 62 cents, as compared to up to $5 on a spot remover, and can be used on laundry, furniture and even carpet.

If it's the convenience that keeps you coming back to cleaning wipes, try making any of these recipes into wipes. Cut a large roll of paper towels in half and place one in a clean, empty coffee container. Pour the cleaning solution over the roll. After a few hours, you should be able to retrieve the cardboard roll from the center. Cut an 'X' in the lid of the container, and carefully pull the loose end from the center of the roll through the opening before closing the lid.

"Overall, the ingredients washing soda, borax, vinegar, soap, baking soda and lemon ring in at less than $15, and one of each is more than enough to make all six of these cleaning solutions with extra to refill as needed," says Realo. In fact, she says buying the equivalent in popular brand-name products can cost more than $60.

Although price is the most obvious perk to making your own cleaning supplies, you can say goodbye to competing scents in your house, feel safe about your children and pets becoming exposed to the products, and make extra bottles for different areas in your house to avoid lugging your supplies around.

For more information, visit www.CareOneCredit.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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Unwanted Spring Break Souvenirs Be Mindful of Pests When Returning from Vacation

April 9, 2011 6:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 9, 2011-The bags are packed, but before spring break travelers take off, pest and termite control company Arrow Exterminators cautions them against bringing home unwanted souvenirs.

Bed bugs, fleas and ants are notorious hitchhikers and can wreak havoc in a home if undetected. Arrow Exterminators encourages travelers to maintain vigilance, and offers the following pest prevention tips to avoid bringing these intruders home.

"Spring break is a great time to remind people of the many hitchhiking pests that can come home after a vacation. Bed bugs, fleas and ants can be a particular nuisance-breeding rapidly and causing health problems," said Shay Runion, Arrow Pest Expert. "While the goal of a vacation is to relax, it's important to be mindful of these pests. Many pest problems are easily avoided with a quick inspection before settling in a hotel room and by thoroughly washing all clothing-worn or not-upon returning home."

Bed bugs are the number one enemy of spring break travelers this year. Making a strong resurgence due to increased international travel, these pests can be hard to spot. The size of an apple seed, they are often found in mattresses, bed frames, suitcases and shoes. Bed bugs are not known to spread diseases but do leave behind painful, itchy welts. There can also be lasting emotional and psychological effects from an infestation. When arriving at a hotel, inspect mattresses and headboards closely. If bed bugs are detected, ask to be moved to another room away from the infested location. When returning home, vacuum suitcases before bringing inside and wash all clothing.

Fleas are another pest to be aware of. Typically associated with the family pet, flea populations have been making a comeback in recent years due to increased resistance to products on the market. Fleas leave behind painful, itchy bumps on their victims and like bed bugs they are excellent hitchhikers, quickly attaching to clothing and luggage. To avoid infestations, make sure your hotel room is vacuumed daily.

Lastly, ants are another pest that can end a vacation on a sour note. With more than 700 species in the United States, ants can be found everywhere. While most ants are considered to be a nuisance, there are a few species that can inflict harm. In particular, Red Imported Fire Ants will sting humans if they are disturbed. Like with bed bugs and fleas, it's important to inspect hotel rooms thoroughly before settling in. To prevent an ant infestation, make sure food is stored in sealed containers and trash cans are emptied daily. If indulging in room service, request for the tray to be removed from the room after dining.

For more information, visit www.arrowexterminators.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 6, 2011 9:43 am

Restrictive covenants. Clauses placed in a deed to restrict the full use of the property by controlling how future landowners may or may not use the property; also used in leases.

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: When is the best time to refinance?

April 6, 2011 9:43 am

A: Many people flock to refinance while mortgage interest rates are low, particularly when rates are two percentage points below their existing home loans.

Other factors, like when to finance, will depend on how long you plan to hold on to your home and whether you have to pay considerable fees to refinance. It also will depend on how far along you are in paying off your current mortgage.

If you expect to sell your home shortly, you are not likely to recoup the costs you incurred to refinance. And if you are more than halfway through paying your current mortgage, you probably will gain little by refinancing. However, if you are going to own your home for at least another five years, that is probably long enough to recoup any refinancing costs and realize real savings as a result of lowering your monthly payment.

In fact, if it costs you nothing to refinance, you can gain even more. Many lenders will let you roll the costs of the refinancing into the new note and still reduce the amount of the monthly payment. Plus, there are no-cost refinancing deals available.

Contact your lender, and its competitors, before you refinance.

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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6 Simple Cleaning Tips for Pet Owners

April 6, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 6, 2011-Pets add a lot of love and personality to a home, but they also add plenty that needs cleaning up. From slobbered-on chew toys to pet hair on the sofa, they definitely leave their mark on the home.

Here are some simple tips for keeping things fresh and clean, for you and your pet.

Pet toys. Wash plastic and rubber toys in a solution of four tablespoons baking soda dissolved in one quart warm water. Launder plush toys, or give them a dry shower by sprinkling on some baking soda, then brushing off after 15 minutes.

Collars, harnesses and leashes. If they are cloth or nylon, you can either hand wash them with a little dishwashing soap and water, or toss them into a nylon bag (or even a pillow case) and run them through the washing machine. Leather can be wiped down with a damp cloth, then rubbed with a little saddle soap. While you're cleaning them, check for worn areas-you may need to replace them.

Bedding. Vacuum bedding and crate pads thoroughly. Most should be washable (or have removable, washable fabric covers), so launder them along with any pet blankets. You can keep pet bedding smelling fresh in between washings by sprinkling liberally with baking soda, waiting 15 minutes, then vacuuming it up.

Outdoor shelters. If your pet has a dog house, crate or some other outdoor hangout, be sure to give that a good cleaning, too. Sweep or rake out leaves and other detritus. If it can be disassembled, take it apart, scrub it down with a non-ammonia based cleaner, then hose it down, let it dry, and put it back together.

Removing pet hair. Shedding is the bane of many pet owners' existence. Regular floor vacuuming is a must to keep it under control. For getting pet hair off of furniture, there are several things you can try: lint rollers; swiping a damp rubber glove over surfaces; using a squeegee with a rubber edge; or trying hand-held vacuums or attachments specially designed for picking up fur.

Reducing litter box odor. Litter boxes can bring the worst of smells to the house. Whenever you replace the litter, be sure to clean the litter box itself. Use a non-ammonia based cleaner. Also, consider using a different litter to help control odors better.

For more information, visit www.familyfeatures.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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