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

Heat and Air Maintenance for the Holidays

November 22, 2017 7:27 am

With the holiday season right around the corner, your home will likely see more foot traffic. From friends stopping by with gifts, to parties and that yearly visit from the in-laws, your plumbing, heating and air units may be working overdrive.

"Attention to a few items in the home can help prepare you for visiting family and friends during the holidays," says Mike Nicholson, owner of Nicholson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. "Now is the time to take action on winterizing certain things in and around the home. It will give you peace of mind as the weather turns colder and holiday guests visit your home."

Nicholson offers these five tips to make sure the home is ready for colder weather and holiday visitors:

Check the plumbing: With the influx of visitors, toilets and fixtures will get a lot of use. Now is the best time to take care of any maintenance and repairs. If drains aren't flowing well and freely, plunge water into the drain first before you try to remove the trap in an attempt to clear it. Be mindful that some do-it-yourself, chemical drain cleaners can be harmful to your pipes. Instead, consider trying a natural remedy: pour equal parts salt, baking soda and vinegar to clean out a partial clog.

Tune up the heating: Winter often brings extremely cold temperatures, so you want to be sure your heating unit is working at peak efficiency. To make sure everyone is warm during the cold weather, try changing out your filters to give your system the best chance of success. You may also need a comprehensive heating system check. A system tune-up and filter replacement can go a long way toward preventing problems from putting a chill on your holiday plans.

Clean air ducts: To provide fresh, allergen-free air to your holiday houseguests, you will want to perform a thorough duct cleaning. When your ducts are filthy, your filters clog up faster and force your system to work harder to distribute air. This decreased efficiency leads to higher energy bills and excessive wear and tear on your system. Removing the registers and vacuuming the outlet is a good start, but you may want to opt for a whole-house duct cleaning to really do the job.

Seal drafty windows and doors: Applying caulk or weather stripping where cold air creeps in will help with energy savings. If cold air creeps in, that too will put a strain on the heating system's ability to keep your house warm and cozy for the holidays.

Winterize the exterior: To prevent pipes from bursting, ensure outdoor spigots are shut off as freezing weather approaches. Have some rock salt on hand to de-ice sidewalks to make sure your holiday visitors are safe.

Source: Nicholson Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning

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Fraud Prevention Tips from a Pro

November 20, 2017 7:27 am

Frank Abagnale’s life as a teenage fraudster was brought to life in the Steven Spielberg film, “Catch Me if You Can,” based on the book Abagnale wrote about his years as a youthful con artist. After being caught, incarcerated and recruited by the FBI, however, Abagnale went on to serve the U.S. by developing sophisticated methods for defeating cyber crime for government entities, banks and businesses. Having turned down three presidential pardons, his work continues tirelessly to this day.

Here are a few of Abagnale’s tips for preventing fraud and cybercrime in our everyday lives:

Shred wisely. Not all shredders are created equal. Documents shredded by ribbon-cut shredders can be reassembled fairly easily, and cross-cut shredders are not foolproof either. The only shredder that permanently destroys a document is a micro-cut shredder.

Put away your debit card. Abagnale says the only way to really protect your money is by using a credit card - that way, if the card is stolen and used for fraudulent charges, you are legally protected by the credit card company. If your debit card information is compromised, however, so are the funds in your bank account for an indefinite period of time. One obvious caveat: use your credit card, but pay the balance in full each month. The idea only works if you don’t accrue interest and debt.

Use social media wisely. For Facebook in particular, do not use a profile picture that depicts a clear headshot photo. This can easily be captured by identity thieves. Instead, use a more abstract photo of yourself or show yourself in a group with others. Abagnale also recommends not including your birthdate and place of birth in your Facebook profile - more clues that make it easier for your identity to be stolen.

Avoid writing checks. Mailing checks to pay bills means the face of your check passes through many hands - exposing your key personal and checking account information to many people. Pay electronically instead, advises Abagnale.

Remember, anyone can fall victim to identity theft and fraud, so no precautions are too extreme!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Check for Air Leaks in Your Home

November 20, 2017 7:27 am

Brrr, it's cold in here! If that's what you say every time you enter your living space, despite your heater working hard, you likely have an air leak.  

In a survey commissioned by Duck® brand and conducted online by Harris Poll, almost two-thirds of Americans live in a home that needs weatherization. Many of those homeowners aren't sure what products to buy or where to start. Don't let drafts sneak into your home this winter – follow the tips below to learn why weatherizing is important and how you can keep warm, and save on energy costs this season.

Where to start: Americans say that they feel large/fair amounts of drafts of cold air enter their homes through doors (24 percent), windows (25 percent) and attics (11 percent). Use these tactics to pinpoint the source of drafts in your home by:

- Holding your hand up to windows/doors to identify cracks or gaps – you should be able to feel a draft or temperature change.

- Look for daylight coming in through cracks/gaps – chances are if light comes through, so will drafts.

- Try blowing out a candle near windows, doors and electrical outlets – if smoke blows sideways, you have a leak.

Source: Duck brand

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4 Winter Tire-Safety Tips to Practice Today

November 20, 2017 7:27 am

Driving in the winter can be dangerous. But even if you check road conditions and remain alert while driving, you can still be at danger if your tires aren't in tip-top shape. Below are a handful of helpful reminders from Discount Tire.

Get ready now. It is important to replace all four of your vehicle's all-season tires with winter tires if you regularly drive in temperatures 45 degrees or below, snow or no snow. Winter tires are made of a softer rubber that allows the tires to stay pliable and maintain better contact with the road through any winter weather conditions. Check online listings to find the best set of winter tires specific to your vehicle make and model and have them shipped directly to you.

Don't forget the wheels. Having a set of wheels specifically for your winter tires will save you money in the long run. Pairing a separate set of wheels with your winter tires will eliminate certain changeover costs and save your expensive wheels from the wear and tear brought on by ice, slush, snow and salt during the winter months.

Know your numbers. Check your tire pressure at least once a month to make sure tires are at the appropriate inflation level. Temperature changes affect tire pressure – for every 10 degrees of temperature change, tire air pressure changes 1 PSI (pound per square inch). Low tire pressure leads to decreased steering and braking control, poor gas mileage, excessive tire wear and the possibility of tire failure. And don't forget to check your spare tire too!

Rotate, rotate, rotate. To increase tread life and smooth out your ride, rotate your tires every 6,000 miles or sooner if irregular or uneven wear develops.

Source: www.discounttire.com

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Life at Home: What's Your Recycling IQ?

November 17, 2017 3:18 pm

You might be patting yourself on the back for how good you’ve become at recycling around the house. But not so fast…there's a right and wrong way to recycle, and if you’re doing it the wrong way, you may be doing the environment more harm than good.

According to Republic Services, Inc., not following the proper steps when recycling can lead to contamination. A contaminated can or bottle tossed into the recycling bin can come into contact with other recyclables, like paper or cardboard, and potentially contaminate the entire batch. Fortunately, there are three simple steps you can take to recycle safely:

1. Completely empty the container by removing any food or liquid.
2. Clean the container by rinsing it with a small amount of water.
3. Dry the container by shaking out excess water and letting it air-dry before placing it in the recycling container.

In addition to properly prepping your recyclables, here are some other ideas to do more recycling, more efficiently, at home:
  • Think outside the box. Just because something can't be thrown in the recycling bin, it doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled. Think about reusing items instead of recycling them, and donate gently used books to libraries and schools, clothing to Goodwill, toys and DVDs to hospitals.
  • Check out local networks like Facebook Marketplace, town tag sales or Freecycle for getting rid of larger items, like furniture and tools.
  • Encourage recycling around your home by placing bins and containers in strategic areas, i.e., a large box in the laundry room for clothes that no longer fit, a collection bin for paper in your home office, and a plastic container on your patio or deck for bottles and cans during an outdoor gathering.
  • Be sure to check with your town regarding what can and cannot be recycled, like bottle caps. In some cases, the caps contain different chemicals, which your local program may not be able to recycle. 
For more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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Painting Project in the Works? Consider the Colors of 2018

November 17, 2017 3:18 pm

When it comes time to refreshing our walls with a new coat of color, we all have our favorite hues. But it’s always worth taking a look at the colors the experts choose as trending shades for the year ahead. The editors at remodeling.com compiled the 2018 picks from the top paint companies. So before you spread the drop cloth and don your coveralls, consider whether any of the following fashion-forward colors will work in your home:
 
The Green Hour: This blue-green with a healthy wash of gray from Dunn-Edwards can pass as a neutral shade, but also lends a moody or dramatic look to a room. If you’re looking for something light and airy, this isn’t it.
 
Black Magic: This choice from Olympic Paint is a shade of black that offers striking contrast when used for trim and accent furniture. You can also consider painting one or two walls in this color, depending on the size and purpose of the room in question.
 
In the Moment: Another blue-green hue, this one comes from Behr, and offers a softer, more pastel option. This versatile shade would work equally well in a bedroom, kitchen or living room—and is a nice gender-neutral option for a baby’s room.
 
Deep Onyx: This shade from Glidden is another twist on black, offering a classic, timeless approach, just like “a little black dress,” as the firm’s marketing department aptly describes it.

Caliente: Just like the name implies, this fiery red from Benjamin Moore will quickly heat up a room. It's perfect for a large dining room or any room that can handle a bright pop of color.

Oceanside: Yet one more take on a blue-green, this color from Sherwin-Williams is very deep and intense, just like its namesake.
 
If you’d like more information about homeownership, please contact me.

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Before You Set Your Alarm, Make Sure That Black Friday Deal Is Really Worth It

November 17, 2017 3:18 pm

For better or worse, the American Thanksgiving tradition now includes a midnight run to the nearest department store or electronics retailer in the hopes of nabbing the ultimate Black Friday deal. But before you join the masses in this shopping madness, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises doing the following to make sure the deal you worked so hard for doesn’t turn into a disaster.
  1. Is the discount really a discount? Make sure that the price wasn’t inflated before the store offered a percentage off. For example, if there's 20 percent off the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), that’s not much of a deal. The MSRP is a much higher price than what the store would normally sell the product for.
  2. Read the fine print. Some Black Friday sale items may only be available in limited quantities or during specific time periods. In other words, you may need to line up before the store opens to even have a chance of scoring a specific deal.
  3. Be aware of the return policy. Before you purchase, make sure you’re able to return the sale item if it turns out not to be what you wanted or if you find it cheaper somewhere else.
  4. Be safe online. Lots of Black Friday deals are offered online, as well. Be sure to pay with a credit card as opposed to your debit card—your credit card is protected in case of fraudulent activity, whereas your bank account is at risk when using your debit card—and look for the padlock icon in the browser to make sure you’re on a secure site. 
Finally, the BBB reminds us that there are many holiday shopping deals to be had beyond Black Friday. Consider Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, as well as local craft and gift fairs. Of course, the best way to avoid overspending this holiday season is to create a budget, make a list and stick to it. Remember, the most thoughtful gifts usually don’t come with high price tags...or any price tag at all.
 
If you'd like more homeowner information, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways Your Smart Speaker Can Help out Around the House

November 17, 2017 3:18 pm

From Google Home to Amazon Echo, smart speakers are hitting the market in droves. But while they seem like the next “must have,” what do they really do? And do you really need one?
 
First things first, according to WhatIs.com, a smart speaker is a wireless and smart audio playback device that uses several types of connectivity for additional functions. The original purpose was to wirelessly deliver audio content from your media library, i.e., songs from your Spotify playlist. Many have evolved, however, to now feature voice-activated digital assistants and to also be able to operate home automation programs. The term “smart speaker” now specifically refers to those speakers with voice control.
 
But how can a smart speaker improve your life at home? Here are just a few of the tasks you will be able to use it for (which will vary according to model and artificial intelligence (AI) used):
  1. DJ your next party. Place a few smart speakers in several rooms of your house, including your yard or patio, and have the same playlist piped throughout the entire expanse of your party.
  2. Control your audio-visual needs. Smart speakers may be able to end the madness of multiple remote controls, let alone the confusion regarding how to operate said remotes.
  3. Make you more energy efficient. A key component of your smart home automation, you can enlist your smart speaker in adjusting your lights and your heating and cooling system. When used wisely, this can help lower your energy bill.
  4. Organize your day. You can use a smart speaker in much the same way you use Siri—to remind you of items on your to-do list, appointments on your calendar, and give you directions to wherever you’re headed.
  5. Buy and sell real estate. An increasing number of apps will become available through smart speakers that will help you search for and buy homes in your area, contact real estate agents or visit open houses. 
As with all technology, the applications and possibilities of smart speakers will only continue to evolve, so it might be worth taking one for a test drive.
 
Hope you found these tips helpful. If you need any real estate information, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Reasons Why You Should List Your Home During the Holidays

November 17, 2017 3:18 pm

Traditional real estate wisdom may be telling you to hold off selling your home until after the holidays, but there are plenty of good reasons to list your home right now. Consider the following:
  • People who are looking for a home during the holiday season are most likely pretty serious about making a move. In fact, they may be in a bit of hurry. Putting your home on the market now might result in a faster sale at a higher price point.
  • Between family gatherings and holiday parties, you’ve probably got your home in bright and shiny, tip-top shape for entertaining. What better time to show off your home to prospective buyers, too?
  • In most areas of the country, yard maintenance decreases during the wintry holiday months. While you may have to blow a few leaves and clear away some snow from walkways, you won’t have to worry about keeping the lawn mowed, the garden beds weeded and the flowers blooming as you would if listing your home in the spring and summer.
  • The end of the year is usually a slower time for real estate professionals, so you will get lots of attention from your agent if you decide to list your home during the holiday season.
  • You will also have less competition in terms of other homes on the market, allowing your home to stand out more to prospective buyers.
  • You can stage your home to make an emotional connection to the holidays. Work with your real estate agent to tastefully decorate so that prospective buyers envision themselves hosting loving family celebrations in your home during the holidays. Stay away from overtly religious decorations and stick with decorations like small white lights, natural evergreens and a few shimmering metallics. An evergreen- or cranberry-scented candle will also emphasize that home-for-the-holidays feel. 
If you need more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Listing During the Holidays May Lead to a Faster Sale at a Higher Price Point

November 17, 2017 3:18 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines six reasons why you shouldn’t wait until after the holidays to list your home. Other topics covered this month include simple ways your smart speaker can improve your life at home and how you can up your recycling IQ to ensure you're not doing more harm than good. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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