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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

REALTORS Say Homeownership is Essential to Job Growth and Economy

March 31, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 31, 2011-Testifying before a Senate panel, National Association of REALTORS President Ron Phipps recently told members of Congress that sustainable homeownership must be the goal when considering future federal housing policies.

"As the leading advocate for homeownership, NAR wants to ensure public policies that promote responsible, sustainable homeownership and that any changes to current programs and incentives don't jeopardize a housing and economic recovery," Phipps told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Phipps believes the housing market is starting to see signs of recovery; however, he notes that the real issue facing the nation right now is that many Americans can't find meaningful work to support their families, and housing is essential to creating jobs.

"Homeownership is a pillar of our economy; our research suggests that home sales in this country generate more than 2.5 million private-sector jobs in an average year. For every two homes sold, a job is created," says Phipps. He added that, while housing alone may not pull America out of this stalled economy, hampering its recovery will severely and negatively impact the nation's recovery.

"Owning a home contributes to the strength of the nation's economy and is still one of the best ways for individuals to build long-term wealth; therefore, we need public policies that support homeownership. Making it harder for families to afford safe mortgages does not further the goal of a housing or economic recovery," he says.

Phipps agreed that reforms are required to prevent a recurrence of the housing market meltdown, but raising fees and increasing down payment requirements for well-qualified, creditworthy borrowers places an unnecessary burden on many families, especially those in high-cost urban markets.

"Home buyers need a wide variety of traditionally safe, well-underwritten products with flexible down payment requirements," notes Phipps. "Overly stringent requirements will turn away 10-15 percent of otherwise qualified buyers who have a demonstrable ability to repay-that's approximately 500,000 home sales that won't happen, further delaying the housing and economic recovery.

"We need to keep housing first on the nation's public policy agenda to ensure that housing and national economic recoveries are sustained, and that anyone in this country who aspires to own a home and can afford to do so is not denied the opportunity to build their future through homeownership," remarks Phipps.

For more information, visit www.realtor.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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Housing Survey Shows Key Changes in Americans' Attitudes toward Housing and the Economy

March 31, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 31, 2011-Fannie Mae's latest national housing survey finds that Americans are more confident about the stability of home prices than they were at the beginning of 2010, even though they lack confidence in the strength of the economy.

Over 77 percent of respondents believe housing prices will hold steady or increase over the next twelve months, up from 73 percent in January 2010; but almost two-thirds still believe the economy is on the wrong track, virtually unchanged (61 percent) from the beginning of last year.

The Fannie Mae Fourth Quarter National Housing Survey-conducted between October 2010 and December 2010-polled homeowners and renters to assess their confidence in homeownership as an investment, the current state of their household finances, views on the U.S. housing finance system and overall confidence in the economy.

"Over the course of the last year, we gained deeper insights into Americans' confidence in the strength of the housing market and the economic recovery," says Doug Duncan, Vice President and Chief Economist of Fannie Mae. "More Americans believe that housing prices will remain stable over the next year. We are also seeing encouraging signs in the positive attitudes toward homeownership among younger Americans, despite the severe impact of the housing crisis on Generation Y. But most respondents to our survey continue to lack confidence in the strength of the economic recovery, and they are less optimistic about their ability to buy a home in the years ahead. This sense of uncertainty is weighing on the housing recovery today and reshaping expectations for housing for the future."

Additional survey highlights include:

Younger Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans are generally more positive about owning a home than the general population. Nearly 60 percent of Generation Y (ages 18-34) believes buying a home has a lot of potential as an investment, even though this age group suffered the steepest decline in homeownership during the housing crisis-from nearly 44 percent when home prices peaked to under 40 percent in 2009.

More than one-third of Hispanics (34 percent) and African Americans (35 percent) say they will buy a home in the next three years, compared to only one in four (23 percent) of all other Americans.

The percentage of Americans who believe that buying a home is a safe investment declined to 64 percent over the course of the year, from 70 percent in January 2010. This is down sharply from a similar survey conducted in December 2003, when 83 percent of the general population thought buying a home was a safe investment.

During 2010, survey respondents increasingly expressed a strong belief that it will be harder for future generations to obtain a mortgage. Three-quarters of those surveyed (74 percent) believe it will be harder to get a mortgage in the future, up from just over two-thirds at the beginning of 2010.

One out of three delinquent borrowers continue to say they have considered defaulting on their mortgage. However, that number fell from 39 percent at the beginning of the year to 31 percent in the fourth quarter. The number of delinquent borrowers who say they have seriously considered defaulting has also declined, from 25 percent in January 2010 to 19 percent.

For more information, visit www.fanniemae.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

March 30, 2011 9:43 am

Real property. Land and buildings and anything permanently attached to them.

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 refinance a home loan more than once?

March 30, 2011 9:43 am

A: You most certainly can. During the most recent refinancing boom, for example, many homeowners refinanced their home loans two or three times within relatively short periods because interest rates kept treading downward, making it extremely attractive to trade in one loan for another.

Just remember that refinancing is basically like applying for a mortgage all over again. Each time you refinance, you will still have to go through the application process, get a home appraisal, and likely incur closing costs. Also, if you have a pre-payment penalty clause in your present mortgage, you will have to pay that penalty if you refinance. So be certain that it is actually worth it for you to 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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More Than 25 Percent of United States at above Average to High Risk for Flooding

March 30, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 30, 2011-The winter's elevated snowfall totals have put 14 states at above average to high risk for spring floods, according to the National Hydrologic Assessment from the National Weather Service.

The report, which is issued each spring, warns that a large portion of the North Central United States from Montana to Missouri and areas in Eastern New York and Southern New England could be impacted. National Weather Service data shows this year's snowpack in the North Central United States contains moisture levels that are among the highest in 60 years, and snowfall totals in portions of the Northeast have been far greater than usual. Experts are concerned that these factors could create increased flooding problems during the annual thaw.

"Water is a home's worst enemy," states Rhonda Hills, Kudzu.com vice president and chief marketing officer. "When water infiltrates the home it can cause structural issues, create fire hazards, ruin drywall and create unhealthy mold problems. Homeowners who live in flood-prone areas should become knowledgeable about the threats their homes face and what steps they can take to quickly restore their homes if water damage occurs."

According to the report, the Mississippi River is likely to experience major flooding from its origins near St. Paul, Minn., to St. Louis-more than 500 miles downstream. The flooding outlook in these areas and the Northeast is the result of late autumn rains which left the soil saturated prior to the winter freeze. The soaked soil will be unable to absorb the meltwater from the annual thaw and will instead force the runoff into already swollen waterways.

The home experts at Kudzu.com recommend the following steps to prepare homes in flood-prone areas:

Check sump pumps to ensure they are working properly. If your pumps are malfunctioning, contact a plumber to have them immediately repaired.

Seal basement walls with waterproofing materials. Taking this step will help prevent water from seeping through exterior walls and into your basement.

Install sewage backflow valves. These valves prevent sewage from backing up into your home through toilets and drains. These valves will need to be installed by a professional plumber.

Move furniture and other important items to higher floors or at least off the ground if possible. Also, seal important documents and valuables in plastic bags.

Learn how to turn off your gas and electrical supply. You may need to turn these off if you are forced to leave your home.

According to Kudzu.com, Homeowners who experience water damage should use these tips to help restore their homes:

Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. Your agent will want to assess your home's damage. Be sure to take pictures of everything that has been damaged so you can properly catalog your losses.

Contact a licensed electrician to assess your electrical system and appliances. Water may have damaged these sensitive items, and it's critical to have an expert review them and ensure they're safe to use.

Remove drywall and insulation that was submerged in water. Wet drywall and insulation can present a mold hazard. Drywall will need to be cut away above the flood line so the wall can be opened and the interior can begin drying.

Open windows and doors to allow air to circulate. If it is safe to employ the use of electricity, use box fans and dehumidifiers to help speed the drying process

When cleaning, wear rubber boots, long rubber gloves, safety goggles and a breathing mask. Also, be sure to clean every surface in your home. Flood waters can be contaminated with chemicals, sewage and other hazardous materials. Floors, countertops and other submerged surfaces should be disinfected and thoroughly cleaned.

For more information visit www.kudzu.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 Easy Ways to Sneak Exercise into Your Day

March 30, 2011 9:43 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 30, 2011-If you think you can't afford the time or money to work out at the gym, don't use that as an excuse to go flabby. There are plenty of ways to sneak a little exercise into your day without upsetting your busy routine or putting a strain on your wallet.

From Chicago physical therapist John Paul Tatum, here are the top 10 ways to exercise daily without even thinking about it:

1. Take the stairs At work or at home, opt for the stairs instead of using the elevator or escalator.

2. Pass up the premium parking spot park on the far side of the lot and walk further to the store or office.

3. Forge the drive-thru Get out of the car and walk into the drive-in restaurant, cleaners, bank or pharmacy.

4. Clean it yourself Instead of using a cleaning service, do that dusting and vacuuming yourself. You can even wash your own car to save money and keep moving.

5. TV with exercise instead of heading for a snack during the commercials, do some jumping jacks, crunches or push-ups.

6. Window shop Walking briskly downtown or through the mall is great exercise. Bonus points if you push a stroller.

7. Play with the kids Break out the hula hoop, the jump rope or the Frisbee. Kids can give you a great workout!

8. Let traffic be your friend Stuck in traffic? Sneak in some invisible exercise by tightening your stomach or gluteus muscles. Hold for 10 seconds, then release and repeat.

9. Stay off the phone At work, deliver messages in person to co-workers instead of using email or the phone.

10. Use that coffee break time Instead of sitting and schmoozing, use that 10 minutes to walk briskly through the corridors or around the outside of the building.

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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HUD Awards Nearly $8 Million for Asthma Intervention and to Protect Children from Health Hazards

March 30, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 30, 2011-The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding $7.8 million in grants to 14 local projects in nine states to conduct a wide range of activities such as research on the cost effectiveness of home-based interventions for children with asthma and novel strategies for reducing risks from lead-contaminated soil and house dust. For the first time, HUD is awarding $2 million of those grants to improve indoor environmental conditions and links to education and medical services for asthmatic children and other residents living in public and assisted multifamily housing.

Lead is a known toxin that can impair children's development and have effects lasting into adulthood. It's estimated that asthma alone costs the U.S. economy approximately $3.5 billion each year. Approximately 16.4 million Americans currently have asthma, including nearly seven million children 18 years of age and younger.

"Homes with lead or other health hazards can injure children and worsen conditions such as asthma and HUD wants to ensure that children have a healthy place to call home," notes Jon Gant, Director of HUD's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. "These grants will not only help to clean up lead and other home health hazards but will support the development of innovative new approaches to improve and control asthma in children."

The following is a breakdown of the funding:

Grant program and funding amount

Healthy Homes Technical Studies Grants $4,000,000

Lead Technical Studies Grants $1,795,831

Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing Grants $ 2,060,986

Through these three programs, HUD's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control supports research to eliminate dangerous lead and other key housing-related hazards from lower income homes, improves our knowledge of the benefits of green construction and maintenance practices for low income housing and stimulates the implementation and evaluation of housing management practices to improve the health of asthmatic children and the quality of life of their caregivers.

The funds are provided through HUD's, Healthy Homes Technical Studies, Lead Technical Studies and Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing grant programs.

Even though lead-based paint was banned for use in the home in 1978, HUD estimates that approximately 24 million homes still have significant lead-based paint hazards today. According to HUD, lead-contaminated dust is the primary cause of lead exposure and can lead to a variety of health problems in young children, including reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays, reduced height and impaired hearing. At higher levels, lead can damage a child's kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia, coma, convulsions and even death. However, HUD notes that lead is not the only danger threatening families and children in the home. Asthma is now recognized as a leading cause of school and work absences, emergency room visits and hospitalizations that disproportionately impacts low income, minority populations.

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 Ways to Make Budgeting Less Painful

March 30, 2011 9:43 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 30, 2011-In today's shaky economic climate, it's no wonder that many families are worried have made belt-tightening a way of life. But there are ways to ease the pain of shaving expenses, says Oregon budget counselor Owen Spangler.

"Families who share the obligation to save can be pretty creative," Spangler said. "It's possible to rein in family expenses without sacrificing family fun."

Spangler suggests the following tips for making budget cuts less painful:

Make budgeting a family affair Decide together which regular expenses can be cut. Shall we get rid of premium cable channels? Give up the morning coffee stops? Cut back on dance or karate lessons? Try to view the cuts not as a penalty, but as a means toward more important goals.

Sock it away Once you've determined how much these cutbacks will save the family monthly, make arrangements with your bank to have that amount automatically transferred from your checking account to savings.

Swap activities Take up the slack of activities cut by instituting new ones. Try a family game night or staying home for a movie and popcorn evening. Check out free activities at the local library, or give up eating out for a cook-in evening with new recipes to try.

Share the pain Friends and neighbors are going through the same hard times. Invite another family over for charades or board games. A few laughs and a little hot cocoa can do a lot to improve anyone's mood.

Set a goal A newer car? A family outing or vacation? Make the saving fun. Put up a bulletin board with pictures of the goal, and a piggy bank to which everyone can contribute. Just a few cents a day from every family member can add up to a tidy sum.

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

March 29, 2011 9:43 am

Real estate investment trust (REIT). Entity that allows a very large number of investors to pool their money in the purchase of real estate, but as passive investors. The investors do not buy directly. Instead, they purchase shares in the REIT that owns the real estate investment.

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: Should I put more or less down, if I can afford it?

March 29, 2011 9:43 am

A: Putting down as little as possible lets you take full advantage of the tax benefits of homeownership. Mortgage interest and property taxes are both fully deductible from state and federal income taxes. Also, making a small down payment frees up cash that you can use to meet unexpected home improvements.

Some real estate experts contend it is more economical, however, to make a larger down payment, thus reducing the amount of debt financed over the life of the loan. A borrower could potentially save several thousand dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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