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 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Gardening Time Savers

March 29, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 29, 2011-the DIY approach to lawn and garden care has many advantages, such as saving money and offering some fresh air and exercise, but sometimes it can turn into a timely endeavor. By the time you round up tools and supplies, figure out a plan of action and get working, you could easily lose half of your day to lawn care.

By approaching lawn and garden care smartly however, you can still have time for many other activities with family and friends. Here are five best practices from the experts at Ames True Temper that are sure to be time savers for you this year:

Get organized. Nothing's more frustrating than not having a shovel or watering can on hand when you need it most. Reorganize your shed or garage on a regular basis. It will help you keep track of what you have and what you need. A quick trip to your local garden center will be more productive when armed with a shopping list.

Make a plan. Draw a map or layout of what you'd like each of your garden beds to look like. Label the plants that you'd like to use in particular areas; this way you've got clear direction.

Use multipurpose, time-saving garden tools. There are many steps when it comes to outdoor projects, and the more motions you can cut out, the better. The Ames Planter's Pal is a multipurpose hand-held tool that offers seven functions in one. Whether weeding, cutting twine, opening a bag of mulch or digging a hole, the Planters Pal has all of your needs covered. Another time saver is the Ames Water Genie, a lightweight innovative watering can that connects to your spigot. A retractable hose housed inside the watering can design allows you to walk around your yard and patio to water plants with precision, without having to walk back and forth for a water refill or to turn the spigot on and off.

Take preventive steps. Edge your gardens, and lay landscape fabric between the mulch and ground to prevent weeds from cropping up among your plants. This will help save time otherwise spent weeding.

Get the family involved. The more helping hands you have, the easier it will be to get the job done. Ames True Temper makes a line of real Kids Garden tools so it's easy for everyone to help out.

Once you're equipped with the right tools and know-how, you'll be able to create and maintain a beautiful lawn and garden in no time.

For more information visit www.ames.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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How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

March 29, 2011 9:43 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Contributing Editor

RISMEDIA, March 29, 2011-When it comes to buying a home, it pays to partner with the best real estate professional available. And since a transaction of this nature will certainly be among your most significant financial commitments, you need to choose the agent or broker who is best suited to handle the deal, and the specific desires of his or her client-you.

If you are venturing into the real estate market for the first time, and wondering what to look for in an agent, take some sage advice of Bob Stewart. He and his wife, Carolyn, have been catering to buyers and sellers in the greater Salt Lake City area for almost 15 years.

In general, he recommends first time buyers to meet many and narrow their list of candidates to a few finalists before making up their minds.

"You should find an agent with a proven track record," Stewart says. "They should work full time in the real estate field, and should have worked in real estate for some time so they have some experience."

Stewart says that since the thriving markets in recent years have brought a lot of new blood to the field, that influx may have deluded the quality of agents in Salt Lake City or anywhere else.

"So you shouldn't be afraid to tell an agent you are considering several before you make your choice," he explains. "We always assume potential clients are interviewing several others."

Agents should focus on their strengths in the interview, notes Stewart, but it's more important to look for individuals who seem comfortable and experienced.

"The potential client should get a feel for whether or not their personality meshes with the agent being interviewed-it bodes well for a good working relationship," Stewart says. "And it's important that a client not feel slighted if an agent determines they are not right for you, either. It's almost always for the best."

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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Can You Qualify for a Mortgage? It May Not Be as Difficult as You Think

March 29, 2011 9:43 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 29, 2011-throughout the past generation, there may never have been a better time to buy a home. Interest rates are low and there is plenty of inventory, which is why home prices are low as well. If you are ready to jump in, but fear you may not qualify for a mortgage loan, you should be aware that there are four main factors that will impact a mortgage decision:

Ability to make a down payment, usually between three and 20% of the purchase price.

Two years of steady employment, at the same job or in the same field.

Good (not perfect) credit score-around 660 should do it.

Monthly income between two and three times the estimated monthly mortgage payment.

If you don't quite meet all four requirements, there are several things you can do, according to editors at Business Week:

Meet with a lender anyway. Don't assume you are out of the ballpark. It can't hurt to talk with a lender to see whether you can qualify. At worst, they may give you suggestions as to how you may qualify down the line.

Use a mortgage broker. Brokers deal with many lenders and may be able to shop around for a lender who is willing to work with you. They charge a fee, but it is well worth it if they can find you the mortgage loan you want.

Get a co-signer-This isn't easy, because if you default on a loan, the co-signer will be responsible for paying it. But if you know someone with good credit who has great faith in your ability to pay, a co-signer could be a workable option.

Plan for the future. If it turns out you cannot qualify for a home loan right now, you should at least know what you need to do to overcome the obstacles. If you make home-ownership a serious goal, you should be able to qualify in the not-too-distant future.

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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The Future of Home Buying

March 29, 2011 9:43 am

By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, March 29, 2011-Twenty-year lending industry veteran Joe Daly knows quite a bit about FHA's Streamlined 203(k) loan program-a government program that adds money into a mortgage for repairs and renovations. He's qualified to teach real estate professionals about the 203(k) program through continuing education, holds buyer seminars regularly and is a certified 203(k) specialist.

Given all of Daly's accolades, it makes sense that when he decided to work with a home improvement retailer for his borrowers' Streamlined 203(k) renovations, he made the decision to work with Lowe's and REbuildUSA, a company that has partnered with Lowe's on a national, in-store program to offer customers a one-stop destination for all of their repairs, renovation products and services needs through the FHA Streamlined 203(k) program.

"I loved the idea of incorporating a big-box store with the 203(k) program," says Daly, National 203k/Renovation Lending manager for AmeriFirst Home Mortgage.

When you have a buyer who decides to go with the Streamlined 203(k) loan, it's tough to then explain to them that they now have to get bids from a plumber, roofer, etc.-all in a reasonably short time frame. "It's especially tough if they're a first-time home buyer; they've typically never worked with housing contractors in this capacity," he explains.

But through Daly's affiliation with REbuildUSA, he can literally "push a button" and, within a short amount of time, Lowe's has already set up an appointment with the buyer, making sure the bids are submitted in time.

"With that one push of a button, a team captain at the local Lowe's is notified about a new buyer and the date of the service level agreement; they then contact the borrower to schedule an appointment," explains Daly.

In fact, Daly recalls one instance in which while he and a borrower were meeting, he had submitted the borrower's information and left his desk for a moment. Upon his return, he discovered that his client had already talked with someone at Lowe's. "It couldn't have been more than 15 minutes," he says. "It was amazing."

What's more, by working with Lowe's, Daly knows that he doesn't have to worry about contractor validation (a requirement by HUD); Lowe's contractors are already validated, so within a week of contact with the team captain, the bids are done.

"It saves me so much time," explains Daly. "I don't have to keep checking in on the contractors or borrowers to ensure the process is moving along. Someone else takes the ball and runs with it. It frees me up to complete the process-from working on the loan itself to ordering the title and being able to close within 45 days."

Another major plus: Lowe's guarantees its work for 12 months. "If you call a local contractor, they may not offer that guarantee or might give you a tough time about going back to the home and fixing something," he says. "With Lowe's, you make the call and know the job will get done."

This is the future of home buying, says Daly. "If the lender does it right, this can work for just about anyone," he says. "As a real estate professional, you shouldn't have to take a buyer to 50 showings before they find the house they want...all because 'house number three' was wonderful but it needed a new roof. The buyer can buy 'house number three' and roll the roofing repairs right into the mortgage. This is how you move inventory."

With this program, everyone wins, as long as it's managed correctly, he says. And for Daly, he knows he's with the right players.

"With Lowe's, REbuildUSA and myself, we are assisting the borrower like a train-you make stops at certain ports but you are always taken to the next destination...smoothly and on time."

For more information on the Lowe's/REbuildUSA program, please visit www.rebuildusa.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 28, 2011 9:43 am

Real estate broker. Individual who has passed a state broker's test and represents others in realty transactions. Anyone having his or her own office must be a broker.

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: What does a buyer's agent do?

March 28, 2011 9:43 am

A: A buyer's agent represents the buyer exclusively. This means he works to protect your interests in the transaction and helps to negotiate the best purchase price and terms. More information about buyers' agents is available by contacting the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents at (609) 799-4382, or log on to www.naeba.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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6 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill

March 28, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011-Grocery shopping takes a big bite out of most budgets. The average family of four spends nearly $6,000 a year at the supermarket. But you don't have to. In fact, it's easier to trim your grocery bill than to cut back on most other household expenses. The experts at Consumer Reports offer the following ways to save money on your grocery bill.

- Have a plan. Make a list before you leave home and be sure to use the supermarket flyer from your mailbox or the store's website to take advantage of weekly sales. But read it carefully-don't assume that every featured product is on sale. Manufacturers might have paid for placement.

- Get with the program. You usually have to sign up for a club card to get advertised sale prices. The programs are free, and some entitle you to extra members-only specials.

- Pace your purchases. You rarely have to pay full price for the staples you buy again and again. Products go on sale at predictable intervals that are easy to figure out if you read your store's flyer every week.

- Buy store brands. Most supermarkets offer their own private-label brands, which cost around 25% less than comparable big-name brands. We found that savings are no longer limited to canned fruit, frozen veggies, and paper towels. Stores are now putting their own names on cold cuts, baked goods, and fancy sauces.

- Clip and click coupons. Clip coupons for products you buy often. Savings will add up quickly if you redeem manufacturer and store coupons at the same time, a practice known as "stacking." You can find coupons in weekly newspaper inserts, at the store, and increasingly on retailer websites. Go to sites like Coupons.com and CoolSavings.com to search for discounts. You'll have to register to download and print coupons, which might generate some spam, so you may want to set up a separate e-mail account just for coupons.

- Shop smarter. Stores use a variety of tactics to coax you into spending more. For example, shelves are often stocked with the priciest items at eye level. So check high and low for better deals. Be aware that products on aisle ends aren't always on sale. Sometimes these "end caps" display new items at full price or stuff that's about to expire. Check unit prices-the price per ounce, per quart, or per 100 sheets-to make sure you buy the most economical size. Larger packages aren't always cheaper.

And don't be lured into buying more than you want by "three for a dollar" sales. In most cases, you don't have to buy the suggested quantity to get the discount.

For more information, visit www.consumerreports.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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5 Tips for Picking the Perfect Hotel or Resort

March 28, 2011 9:43 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011-Times are tough, and it may take months to save for next year's family vacation. Many consumers search online to find the best deals and bargains. What should you look for now to get the most bang for your hard-earned vacation bucks next year?

"With the number of promotions out there right now, you would think the decision should be easy," said a representative of the website IndependentTraveler.com. "But since every traveler has different needs, we try to break the decision down into its parts."

Independent Traveler offers these tips for making the best hotel or resort choice:

Location Do you want to spend your time at the beach? In the mountains? In a large, metropolitan city? Knowing where you want to go makes it easier to make a targeted search. Using sites like Expedia or Hotels.com gives you the ability to choose a hotel location based on its proximity to a specific lake, amusement park or city landmark.

Price Most travel websites give you the option to sort your results by price. Use them to check prices first, then call the hotel directly to see if they can go even lower. If price is your biggest concern, you may want to place a bid on Priceline.com, where you will see the hotel's rating but not its name until after you have booked it.

Amenities Most of the major hotel booking engines allow you to specify certain amenities when you're searching, such as a fitness center, swimming pool or a restaurant. Hotels.com and Travelocity make the process easier by allowing you to compare several hotels side by side so you can weigh such factors as star ratings, amenities, rates and room types.

Local flavor If you'd rather avoid the big chains, there are many B&B's, inns and small independent hotels that don't appear on the major booking engines. You can find them by typing bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals or homestays into your browser's search engine.

Recommendation Websites and guidebooks are great, but if you are interested in the reactions and opinions of other travelers, check out sites like Trip Advisor, Virtual Tourist or My Travel Guide.

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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3 Common CFL Myths Debunked

March 28, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011-When you install Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), there are financial and energy savings to be realized; however, there are a few misconceptions about CFLs that have kept some homeowners on the fence. Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, is tackling those myths in an effort to educate homeowners across the country and help them realize the positive impact switching to CFLs provides.

Myth 1: CFLs are expensive.

Fact: Energy Star qualified CFLs save money by lasting up to 10 times longer and using 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. In fact, one CFL saves about $30 in energy costs over its lifetime and will pay for itself within six months.

Myth 2: CFLs won't fit in my fixtures.

Fact: Energy Star qualified CFLs have come a long way in the last few years. These days, CFLs come in a range of sizes and styles, like dimmable, recessed, three-way, flood, and candelabra, to name a few. Plus, CFL technology has advanced dramatically to produce light that is warm and inviting without the delay, flicker, hum, or buzz common with early fluorescent lights.

Myth 3: CFLs are hazardous.

Fact: While CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury, it's less than you'll find in your average watch battery or silver tooth filling. The mercury is not emitted when the bulb is in use, intact, or being handled, which means they are safe to use. Like all products containing mercury, CFLs should not be thrown in the trash when they eventually burn out; they need to be recycled.

CFLs are less hazardous to the environment, too. In fact, if recycled properly, a CFL actually puts less mercury into our environment than an incandescent light bulb. Simply put, every time a light switch is flipped, coal is burned at a power plant to produce electricity to power the bulb. Burning coal releases mercury, carbon dioxide (CO2), and other toxins. So using a more efficient light bulb results in less coal being burned, reducing the levels of toxins in the air. Imagine the positive impact on the environment if every homeowner used CFLs.

For more information, visit www.focusonenergy.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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6 Steps to a Green Kitchen

March 28, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011-When homeowners take on a kitchen remodeling project, they are increasingly choosing eco-friendly materials and contractors; this improves the environment, their overall health and reduces energy costs

When considering a kitchen remodel, many homeowners are choosing to use eco-friendly products and contractors for a variety of reasons. Some have concern for the environment or their overall health while others have allergies or are chemically sensitive. Almost everyone remodeling their kitchen today is interested in lowering their energy consumption and their electric and water bills. KitchenRemodeling.net offers six ways homeowners can make their kitchens greener when remodeling.

1. Choose energy-efficient appliances. When purchasing a new refrigerator, dishwasher or other appliance, choose ones that are certified energy efficient. Use the water and energy-saving settings as often as possible. Plus, some states offer rebates for homeowners who use energy-efficient models.

2. Install energy-efficient lighting. When working on the kitchen remodel design in their new space, homeowners can increase their natural light to cut down on the need for electricity. Choose fixtures that are compatible with compact fluorescents (CFLs), which save 75% of the electricity that incandescent bulbs use. These are slightly higher in initial price but last eight times as long and will significantly cut down on energy bills.

3. Purchase green kitchen cupboards and cabinets. There are more eco-friendly kitchen cupboards and cabinets available today than ever before. These are constructed of rapidly renewable resources or recycled materials. Homeowners who are thinking about remodeling their kitchen should ask their contractor about wheatboard, bamboo and other green cabinet products. Additionally, they should inquire about water-based adhesives and finishes.

4. Choose green products when remodeling your kitchen. For flooring, cork is highly durable, comfortable and an excellent insulator of sound and heat. Cork is also hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly. Concrete is excellent for flooring, countertops and other areas because it does not have harmful fumes, glues or laminates. For countertops and backsplashes, homeowners can choose from a variety of durable and attractive eco-friendly options, such as vertrazzo and recycled glass tiles.

5. Remodel with hypoallergenic materials. These materials are not toxic, like some building materials, and will not lead to harmful indoor air quality. Homeowners should look for low-toxicity finishes and surfaces, and water-based adhesives and finishes without synthetic formaldehyde resins. Paints should have low-VOC or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds).

6. Choose green kitchen remodeling contractors. When a homeowner is getting quotes from contractors, they should inquire about their products and building methods to ensure they are eco-friendly. Increasingly, contractors are becoming more conscious of their materials and methods and will be able to meet a homeowner's needs.

For more information, visit www.kitchenremodeling.net.

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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