RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
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

Brush up on Your Winter HVAC Performance Tips

January 25, 2017 12:27 am

The winter is the worst time to have your HVAC system fail. To keep everything running smoothly, follow the following five tips courtesy of Winstar Home Services.

Clean your home
Your home is a reflection of your ductwork, as dirt and debris in your air filter comes from dirt and debris in your home. Removing all dust, dirt and debris will help your air filters work more efficiently.

Change your air filter
A dirty filter can slow down airflow, causing your system to work harder to keep your home warm (which also means wasted energy and a higher utility bill). A clean filter will prevent dirt and debris from building up in the system, which helps limit expensive maintenance and avoid early system failure

Clean your outdoor HVAC unit
Take a few minutes to inspect the area around your outdoor unit. Leaves, shrubs and grass cuttings can build up on the outside of your HVAC unit, decreasing the system capacity and reducing airflow.

As a general rule, keep trees, shrubs and other outdoor elements at least two feet away from the unit so it is free to pull in air.

Seal any gaps in your home and ductwork
Inspect both the interior and exterior of your home's windows, air ducts, and exterior doors for any cracks or gaps and seal any exposures. Even a small gap can lead to warm air escaping your home, which translates into more wasted energy.

Examine your thermostat
Check to make sure your thermostat is working properly and keeping your home at the right temperature. If you still have an older mechanical thermostat, it is recommended to upgrade to digital, programmable model, as switching to a programmable thermostat can save you upwards of $200 a year.

Some new models even allow for remote operation via a cell phone, which are perfect for extremely low temperature days, since you can save energy by setting the temperature lower during the day (when your family is out of the home) and then changing it to a higher temperature before heading home.

Source: Winstar Home Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Making Life Easy With Technology at CES

January 24, 2017 12:27 am

For me, Christmas from a reporting perspective comes in January with the opening of CES - the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.

CES has served up delicious and virtually limitless content as tech watchers ogle the practical, economical, environmentally conscious, user-friendlier, and often magical innovations. In short, this Las Vegas event has become the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.

Some of the coolest items being launched or touted form this year's CES trade floor include:

- The new Grillbot Pro featuring Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity enabling the control of certain functions from a smartphone along with a replaceable cleaning cartridge. Designed for any style grill, consumers just activate the device and head back to the kitchen to prep while the grill is being scrubbed.

- The Netatmo Healthy Home Coach home air quality monitor tracks air quality, noise, temperature, and humidity, and sends that information to an app that helps you make sense of what’s happening in your house.

- Simplehuman's voice-activated trash can comes in a smaller $180 garbage-only version and a larger $240 model that handles both trash and recycling. The cans open up to requests of "Open can" or “Open sesame,” and can be verbally instructed to close or stay open as well.

- Brink’s Home Security ARRAY smart lock from Hampton Products International connects to the cloud through an existing Wi-Fi router and features a rechargeable solar power system and compatibility with iOS, Android, and Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.

- Voxx Electronics Park-Daddy precision garage parking system provides an in-car plug in with adjustable tone sounds and a flashing red to green LED, along with easy to mount infrared transmitters that ensures your vehicle is safely situated whether you're pulling or backing in.

- With Amazon Alexa built-in, the LG InstaView Fridge becomes your second hub for the innovative voice controlled system, and features the ability to peek inside the fridge using built-in cameras, share a family calendar on the massive front-facing display, browse recipes, even shop and order groceries.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cities with the Highest and Lowest Credit Card Debts

January 24, 2017 12:27 am

Those struggling with credit card debt often feel like they’re the only ones. A recent WalletHub study shed light on cities whose residents have the highest and lowest credit card debts. Where does your city land?
According to the study, San Luis, Ariz. is the city with the lowest average credit-card debt, $2,880, which is 4.8 times lower than in Darien, Conn., the city with the highest at $13,817. 

Scarsdale, N.Y., has the highest median income, $104,234, which is 8.8 times higher than in Carbondale, Ill., the city with the lowest at $11,913.
Cupertino, Calif. is the city with the shortest payoff timeline of about 10 months, which is 19.2 times shorter than in West Chester, Pa., the city with the longest at 192 months.

Cities with the Least Sustainable Debt

West Chester, Penn.
Ruston, La.
Stillwater, Okla.
Lake Placid, Fla.
Monsey, N.Y.
Milledgeville, ga.
Marquette, Mich.
Hammond, La.
Laramie, Wy.
Carbondale, Ill.
Cordele, Ga.
Warrensburg, Mo.
Auburn, Ala.
Dahlonega, Ga.
Richmond, Ky.
Ames, Iowa
Deming, N.M.
San Marcos, Texas
Beaver Falls, Penn.
Kalamazoo, Mich.

Cities with the Most Sustainable Credit-Card Debts

Cupertino, Calif.
Saratoga, Calif.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
Mountain View, Calif.
Los Altos, Calif.
Lexington, Mass.
Foster City, Calif.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Fremont, Calif.
Sammamish, Wash.
McLean, Va.
Dublin, Calif.
Chevy Chase, Md.Arlington, Mass.
Santa Clara, Calif.
Redmond, Wash.
Powell, Ohio
Belmont, Calif.
San Ramon, Calif.
Pleasanton, Calif.

Source: WalletHub

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Job Hunting? Check out These Hiring Trends

January 24, 2017 12:27 am

If you’re looking to change companies or change careers altogether, you’ll be ahead of the game if you know what’s important to today’s employers.

"Knowing what to expect in terms of hiring trends will give you a leg up in your job search," says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, a resume writer and president of Great Resumes Fast. Hernandez advises keeping the following hiring trends in mind.

Know your high-growth industries. Employers in certain industries will be looking to hire the best of the best, so expect recruiting to be especially competitive in hospitality, manufacturing, healthcare and technology.

Fitting in matters. Maintaining the right culture is extremely important in today’s business world. No surprise then that it’s playing a big role in hiring decisions, with 60 percent of recruiters reporting culture fit of “high importance” in a recent JobVite Recruiter Nation survey. Culture fit was second only to previous job experience, which 67 percent of recruiters said was of “utmost importance” when hiring.

Employee referrals. Next to internal hires, employee referrals garner the best talent for companies, according to the study. "I encourage my clients to connect with someone they know inside a company when asking for a referral—or reaching out to someone in a company through connections on social media,” says Hernandez. “Sixty-four percent of recruiters report offering monetary bonuses to incentivize employees to help recruit top talent.”

Don’t be afraid to ask. The intense competition for the most-skilled and qualified employees means employers are willing to pay. According to the JobVite survey, 68 percent of companies reported increasing "the average salary offer for candidates over the last year, particularly industries such as hospitality, telecommunications, and software."

Supercharge your social. Recruiters are still using social media to vet prospective employees. The overwhelming majority of recruiters (87 percent) are turning to LinkedIn as the best way to research prospective employees, so make sure your profile is professional, complete and up-to-date. Facebook came in as the second-most-valuable social network for vetting potential employees, so make sure your page represents who you are as a professional.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Creating your Get-out-of-Debt Plan

January 20, 2017 12:27 am

Consumer confidence is on the rise, which is great for our economy, but may mean more debt for many over-enthusiastic buyers. A recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) revealed that 80 percent of respondents have placed debt repayment at the top of their goal list this year. That’s encouraging news, but the question is where to start?

The NFCC offers these strategies for taking on the daunting task of paying down debt:

- Knowledge is power when it comes to managing debt, so start by examining every detail related to each debt: balances, transactions, interest, fees, terms and conditions. Don’t leave any stone unturned, and be sure to ask questions along the way. This will empower you to put the right plan in place.

- Pick up the pace. High interest rates and lengthy repayment schedules are a costly combination, so make plans to accelerate the payoff of balances so they cost less over time. The key is to pay more than the minimum whenever possible.

- There is always a way.  If there is no extra money to be found for paying down debt faster, reach out to trusted sources who can help you uncover some solutions. Start with the lender to see what programs they may offer, but also work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency to help you brainstorm possibilities for affordably managing your debt. These experts will have ideas that you never thought of, so take advantage of their services.

Remember, repaying debt can be a very long process, especially when it involves a mortgage or auto loan, so devising a plan and quickly putting that plan into action is essential. Before long, you’ll begin to make progress and take back control of your finances.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Steps to Protect Yourself from Medicare Fraud

January 20, 2017 12:27 am

(Family Features)--Every day, Medicare fraud affects people with Medicare and their families across the U.S. – regardless of background – robbing them of hard-earned money and peace of mind.

Scammers know the ins and outs of the Medicare system and their attempts can be well thought-out enough that it's not always easy to know when and where fraud is occurring. By remembering some simple but effective tips, you can protect yourself against scams, including identity theft and prescription drug fraud. Remembering to protect, detect and report fraud helps everyone, including you.

Protecting your personal information is your best line of defense against health care fraud. Treat Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like credit card numbers. Never give them to a stranger and don't carry your cards unless you need them for appointments. Medicare doesn't call or visit to sell you anything. Outside of a trusted health care setting, never give this information to anyone who asks for it.

No matter how careful you are, you may be targeted for fraud. Always review your Medicare statements closely. Things to look for include charges for something you didn't purchase or receive, duplicate charges and charges for services not ordered by your doctor. Compare these documents to your personal records and receipts. Recording medical visits and procedures in a journal or on a calendar can help you keep track of what happened at each appointment and make it easier to spot inaccuracies.

If you suspect you've been a target of fraud, report it. This can help you and others at risk for fraud. If you have questions about your Medicare statements, call your health care provider.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Ways to Add Functional Style to Your Closet

January 20, 2017 12:27 am

(Family Features)--If you're one of the 57 percent of those who believe having an organized closet would make finding what you want easier and faster, there's no time like the present to stop dreaming about having a beautiful and organized closet. Take charge and start the project now.

Shine the light. A trendy light fixture can add fun and bling while providing adequate lighting to illuminate all the treasures your closet has to offer. Diffused lighting is a good way to chase away shadows and ensure none of your favorite garments and accessories get left in the dark.

Organize by color. When you're ready to hang clothes in your newly designed space, sort garments by style; group dressy tops, casual pants and so on. Then take your organization another step further by hanging like colors together. The streamlined color palette is pleasing to the eye, but it also makes it easier to select the right combinations and avoid overlooking any options.

Hang clothes with care. Give your clothes some TLC and make the switch to high-quality hangers. Not only do uniform hangers make your closet appear more organized, they help keep your wardrobe in tip-top shape by preventing stretching. Slim velvet hangers are optimal for saving space, but if you have the room, a heavier wooden version is even better.

Add some special flair. It's not just the structure that affects the overall mood of your closet. One easy way to add some personal charm is with colorful and patterned fabric drawers. They provide a home to hide and consolidate more personal belongings and add pops of color and style to your shelves.

Make creative use of wall space. If you have some unused wall space, this is the perfect place for a dream board. A simple cork surface is all you need. Add pictures of your favorite outfits so you can remember pairings that made you feel great. You can also use the space for inspiration and add wish list items from magazines or photos of looks you'd like to try.

Dedicate a container for capturing rejects. Avoid hanging on to unwanted items by designating a container to capture clothing destined for donation. When the bin is full, transfer to a cardboard box and drop off at a local charitable organization. A similar approach can be used for items that need repair; when a few items have accumulated, either haul out the sewing machine or head to the nearest seamstress for professional assistance.

Don't forget the floor. While much is made about the wall space, the floor is an important element of your closet, too. For carpeted rooms a rug may be more ornamental, but if you have hardwood floors, an area rug can be a safety feature that keeps you from slipping in your hurry to get dressed and out the door.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Your IRA Can Help You Invest in Real Estate

January 19, 2017 12:27 am

While we think of IRAs as strictly for retirement, they can actually play a role in building wealth before reaching our golden years.

According to Jason Craig at the Entrust Group, you can use your retirement dollars to invest in real estate—even if you don’t have the full cash amount. Craig offers these three strategies for funding a real estate purchase even with a small IRA:

Partner the IRA
You can partner a self-directed IRA or Real Estate IRA with other IRAs, investors’ money, or personal funds. If partnering with just one other source still doesn’t provide the amount needed, try partnering with a group. The IRA would own a fraction of the investment and share the profits and expenses with other investors in that same proportion, says Craig.

Leverage the IRA
Your IRA can actually take a non-recourse loan to complete a real estate transaction in a self-directed IRA.  A non-recourse loan is a loan in which you, as the IRA holder, are not personally liable for repayment nor guaranteeing the loan. Instead, the lender you work with will lend to your IRA, and will have no recourse against you or other assets in your IRA in the event of a default. According to Craig, the lender will only be able to recover the property and your equity in the property that has the loan.

Lend your IRA
You can also passively invest in real estate by providing capital from your IRA for a real estate transaction, says Craig. As the IRA owner, you determine the rate and terms of the loan to the investor, which is secured by the property.

Source: The Entrust Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Where Are People Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

January 19, 2017 12:27 am

Are you still living paycheck to paycheck? Many people across the country are – but where? According to the latest GOBankingRates study, Hawaii houses the most Americans living paycheck to paycheck, whereas residents of Mississippi are least likely to be living this way. Below are the studies findings.

The 10 states where Americans are most likely to live paycheck to paycheck:

1. Hawaii
2. California
3. New York
4. Massachusetts
5. Alaska
6. Maryland
7. Connecticut
9. Vermont
9. New Jersey
10. Oregon

The 10 states where Americans are least likely to live paycheck to paycheck:

1. Mississippi
2. Arkansas
3. Oklahoma
4. Tennessee
5. Indiana
6. Alabama
7. Kansas
8. Missouri
9. Kentucky
10. Michigan

Source: GOBankingRates

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Giving Your Space Heater Enough Space?

January 19, 2017 12:27 am

Those of us living in colder states know the comfort of a space heater keeping our toes warm all winter long. But CPSC estimates that portable electric heaters are involved in about 1,100 fires per year, resulting in about 50 deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property loss. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, resulting in about 80 percent of home heating fire deaths in the United States.

Below are several tips for buying and using your space heater safely.

Before you buy:
- Make sure your space heater has a seal of a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL. This ensures that it won't ignite tissue if tipped over.

- Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and inside each bedroom and test them once a month.

In the home:
- Remember, your space heater needs space! It's flaming hot! Keep material such as curtains, sofas, beds, clothes and papers at least three feet away from the front, sides and rear of the heater.

- Make sure the heater is placed on a stable, flat surface, and located where it cannot be knocked over.

- Never leave the heater on while unattended, or while sleeping. Consequences could be disastrous.

- Do not use extension cords or power strips with space heaters, to reduce the risk of fires.

- During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug, cord, wall outlet or faceplate is hot. If so, turn it off and have a qualified electrician inspect.       

Kerosene Heater Safety:

- A quick note about kerosene heater safety. Use only water-clear 1-K grade kerosene. Never use a substitute like gasoline or any other fuel.

- Never refuel heater while it is operating or hot.

- Operate only at recommended flame height.

And please remember, always operate heater with doors of rooms open to reduce exposure to indoor pollutants, such as carbon monoxide.


Published with permission from RISMedia.